Page images

protects manufactures by duties, and makes appropriations for ex. ploring expeditions, to extend and facilitate commerce; meanwhile, what is done for agriculture ? Our mother earth seems abandoned of her ungrateful children, and is almost left to throw out her bounty spontaneously, or, afflicted by our neglect, withhold her accustomed favors. The consequence is, what we have more than once alluded to, a'deficiency of agricultural productions. We have not, during the past year, raised grain enough in our immense territory for the use of our own population, small as it is, while the little island of Britain can raise enough for her teeming swarms, and spare some for her neigh. bors. There was something deeply sarcastic in the reply of Rothschild to his agent Joseph, in New-York. In the mania of last year's specu. lation, when the nation was to get suddenly rich without production, Joseph advised Rothschild to invest a considerable amount in real estate in this country, promising him a large return. The reply was short and pithy: “ I don't think much of a country that has to import her bread.' The banker had sagacity enough to divine the result.

Now, it seems to us, an American text-book on Political Economy ought to make this subject decidedly conspicuous. True, it could not exhibit the different modes of tillage ; but still it might throw a good deal of light upon the resources of agriculture. It might exhibit its capabilities; the necessity and application of science to agriculture; the value of its products compared with other products; it might even suggest the most profitable kinds of products; it could exhibit the modes in which government might foster agriculture; not, indeed, by duties or bounties, but by premiums for new inventio and discoveries ; by the institution of pattern or model farms;* and by the diffusion of information and science on rural affairs. Moreover, by drawing his illustrations copiously from this department, he might contrive to con. vey, indirectly, a great deal of useful knowledge concerning it. A text-book on Political Economy, presenting agriculture with due pro. minence and in its proper bearings, is, in our view, still a desideratum among us.

Notwithstanding these defects, however, we consider Dr. Wayland's work decidedly superior to any other; and as such, we can cheerfully recommend it to the readers of this magazine. If they feel inclined to make themselves acquainted with a science whose principles are at the foundation of national prosperity and individual comfort ; a science so closely connected with religion, morals, intelligence, and happiness ; a science which tends, as much as any other, to illustrate the wisdom, benevolence, and unity of the divine administration, they will have cause to rejoice in the facilities afforded them by Dr. Wayland.

* The suggestion of a pattern farm seems never to have received the attention which it deserves. The project is simply this: that government shall institute a farm under the management of a competent agent, a well-educated and scientific agriculturist, on which experiments shall be made to ascertain the most successful modes of tillage. Here all kinds of agricultural implements, new inventions, discoveries, different kinds of manures, modes of culture, breeds of cattle, qualities of soil, products of every kind, and all other matters belonging to agriculture on a liberal scale would be tested, and exhibited for the benefit of the public. Such an establishment should possess every possible convenience and utility, and be in every respect, as far as possible, "a pattern farm.” For ourselves, we know of no measure by which government could give such a stimulus to the national agriculture, nor any mode in which it could more profitably or judiciously employ a portion of its surplus funds. It is in this way that the agriculture of Great Britain has been raised to such a pitch of excellence, with this difference, that there such experiments have been made by individuals. In this country, where agricultural capital is so limited in individuals, it must be done by government if it be done at all.

For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.



REVELATION is, unquestionably, of paramount importance. Nor is its importance superseded by any production of man's invention. Whenever man, with all his wisdom, aided by the light of science and the erudition and literature of preceding ages, has attempted to devise a plan by which a fallen world might be saved, he has made an entire failure. Human reason proved inadequate to the task. Revelation, whose author is God, can alone furnish man with all that information necessary for fallen beings to know in order to be saved. A revela. tion replete with such information, should be held in high estimation by every son and daughter of Adam. We design, in the following pages, to give a summary view of the superiority of that system so clearly unfolded in the Scriptures, to what is generally denominated “ natural religion.” As this term is commonly used equivocally, it becomes necessary to define before we proceed.

Some understand by the term, natural religion, those truths revealed in the Scriptures which, when once discovered and understood, may be clearly shown to have a foundation in the nature and relations of things, and which unprejudiced reason will approve when fairly presented to the mind; and accordingly very fair schemes of natural religion have been drawn up by Paley, and other Christian philoso. phers, embracing nearly the whole of revelation. In this view, natural religion is not so called because it was originally discovered by reason merely, but because, when once understood, it is what the rea. son of mankind properly exercised approves as based in truth and nature. Others take the term in a more limited sense, to signify that knowledge of God, his attributes and perfections, which, with the light of revelation, may be obtained from the works of nature. Others, again, take natural religion to mean, that religion which is discoverable by the exercise of reason without any higher assistance. This last definition we consider correct. The two preceding define not what is obtained from reason, but from revelation.

Having then defined natural religion to be that system which is discovered by unassisted reason, we are now led to inquire to what ex. tent this religion has prevailed? History, as well as observation, teaches the melancholy fact, that its prevalence has not been circumscribed to one nation or country. Its abetters have not been few. Sages of antiquity, and renowned philosophers of former times, have not only embraced it as the way of salvation, but it has found ad.

herents in modern times. But are the unassisted faculties of man adequate to lead him to a proper knowledge of the will and law of God, of true happiness, and of his future destination? We answer unhesitatingly, No! This is evident to every individual who will reflect on the endless differences and inconsistencies which prevailed among the most celebrated heathen philosophers, some of whom taught gross immoralities, which aided very little in rectifying the notions, and reforming the lives of mankind.

This fact is farther corroborated in the gross ignorance which extensively prevailed at the time of which we are now speaking, respecting the most important truths of revelation. Respecting the nature and worship of God, the creation of the world, the origin of evil, and the cause of the depravity and misery which actually exist among mankind, any method by which a reconciliation could be effected between God and man,—the supreme felicity of man, the certainty of future rewards and punishments, and the resurrection of the body ;-of all these they were either profoundly ignorant, or their notions were confused and imperfect. Indeed, how could it have been otherwise, while they were ignorant or destitute of divine revelation ? It may be asserted, as undeniably true, that, aside from the word of God, sufficient light on the above points cannot be obtained. It is the Bible alone which reveals the sublime truths so essential to man's salvation. Of these, to give due credit, human reason could have but a very inadequate conception.

Who that has taken but a cursory view of the history of the world, has not been forcibly impressed with the unremitting efforts which have been made to exalt and eulogize human reason? The days of polite literature, so called, seem to have been replete with panegyrics and encomiums on this faculty of man, while entire ignorance prevailed respecting its power and province. No wonder the most distinguished sages of antiquity frankly acknowledged and confessed the uncertainty of its researches. Natural religion was prevalent in the days of Christ; and, during the scholastic ages, it seems nearly to have taken the place of all other religions. Its multifarious and bewildering speculations have reached our times, and men of talents and erudition have set aside the light of revelation for its glimmerings and uncertainties. But, that we may more clearly discover the superiority of revealed to natural religion, we will examine some points in which their dissimilarity is strikingly manifested. Truth will shine increasingly bright when contrasted with error. The lustre and utility of revelation will more forcibly impress our minds when contrasted with the impotency of human


1. The first point we shall adduce to elucidate the subject is, that revelation gives us clear and correct views of the being and perfections of God; while unassisted reason, whenever it has attempted it, has not only failed, but exhibited its entire weakness and incompetency to do it. As it respects the proofs of the genuineness, authenticity, credibility, and inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, we shall say but little directly; though it is apparent to every candid inquirer that we have every evidence of their truth and divinity which can be reasonably expected or desired. We shall proceed, VOL. VIII.-October, 1837.


then, on the supposition that the Bible is what it purports to be, viz. : a revelation of God's will to man.

To possess correct knowledge of the Supreme Being, so far as he has been pleased to reveal himself to us, is of paramount importance. This has generally been acknowledged in ancient as well as modern times. The question, then, is this, viz.: Is the Bible the only source of correct information on the subject? We answer, It is. We need no farther proof of this than the fact that all, in whatever nation, country, or period, who have labored to obtain this knowledge by rational induction, whether drawn from the works of nature or metaphysical principles, have utterly failed. But it may be inquired, Cannot the being and attributes of God be demonstrated from the works of creation, which are so impressively spread out before us? We answer in the negative, aside from revelation. It is true, with the light of revelation shining upon them they speak forth their divine Original; but without it, in this respect they would leave us in awful darkness. We admit that all nations have been disposed to have their gods of veneration and worship; and, rather than to have no gods, no objects were considered too mean or insignificant to be worshipped. On this account some have chosen to define man a religious, rather than a rational animal. But the character of the “only true God” has never been understood but where the Bible has made it known.

Many of the most learned heathen philosophers entertained the most confused notions of the true character of God, while others rejected the idea of a Supreme Being altogether. Hiero, the tyrant of Syracuse, once asked the philosopher and poet, Simonides, that important question, What is God? The prudent philosopher required a day's time to consider it; the next day he asked two; and so on increasing in the same proportion. Hiero, weary of procrastination, required the reason of this delay. “Because," said the philosopher, “ the more I reflect on it the farther the subject appears from my comprehension.” Socrates, who was properly denominated the hero of the pagan world, in regard to moral virtues, though he expresses a belief in the one only God, eternal, invisible Creator of the universe, and Supreme Director and Arbiter of all events, yet he dare not give public testimony to these great truths. At times he expresses doubts of the existence of such a Being. All the true light received on this important doctrine, in this distinguished age of philosophy, was unquestionably received from traditional notices, handed down from previous ages. The Greek philosophy rejected the idea of a God as Creator of all things. The Ionic, Pythagoric, Platonic, and Stoic schools all agree in asserting the eternity of matter. They taught that matter was eternally coexistent with God. That matter was created out of nothing seems never to have entered their minds. Reason never informed them that God created all things. Suppose a person,

whose powers of ratiocination are improved to the utmost pitch of human capacity, but who has received no idea of the existence or attributes of God from revelation, tradition, or inspiration ; how is he to convince himself that God is and whence is he to learn what God is? That of which, as yet, he knows no. thing cannot be a subject of his thoughts, his reasonings, or his con

[ocr errors]

versation. He could get no idea of immateriality from matter, neither could one's self suggest the idea of spirit. For what knowledge the heathens had of a Supreme Intelligence, they were not indebted to unassisted reason, but to revelation, though unwilling to acknowledge it. Cicero declares that "a pure mind, thinking, intelligent, and pure from body, was altogether inconceivable.” We may say, with another celebrated author, “Every thing about us being finite, we could have none but finite ideas; and it would be an act of omnipotence to stretch them to infinite."

The above facts undeniably show the insufficiency of human reason in tracing the existence and attributes of God. But there is, as we have already intimated, a higher source from whence we may obtain this information. The doctrine of one supreme, all-wise, and uncontrollable Providence, shines from the sacred pages with unexampled lustre. It may be traced on every page.

Thus the superiority of that religion unfolded in the Scriptures is discoverable to reason with all its boastings.

2. As human reason is not sufficient to trace the existence and attributes of God, so it is not adequate to ascertain the true character of man,-the provisions of the gospel for his final restoration to the divine image, -his true and proper immortality. That man is a fallen, unholy, and depraved being, seems never to have been a part of those creeds so justly entitled the productions of reason. And, strange as it may appear, the doctrine of human depravity was not only discarded by philosophers and moralists during the dark ages, and when science was in its incipiency, but most of the moral systems of modern times have failed in recognising this important truth. They are based on the hypothesis that man, though fallen, is capable, without relying exclusively on revelation, of ascertaining the true standard of moral rectitude, and the only rule by which mankind are to be governed in their duties to God and man. Among the numerous systems which may be enumerated are those of Cud. worth, Clark, and Price, who labored to resolve virtue into agree. ment with eternal fitnesses of things ;-of Adam Smith, Dr. Brown, Dr. Hutcheson, Dr. Dwight, and Bishop Butler, who, notwithstanding the penetration of a discriminative intellect, a superfluous refinement of metaphysical abstraction, and with the elegance of a scholar's erudition and a poet's fancy, have erred in substituting human nature in its present state in the place of revelation, as a standard of moral rectitude. Dr. Wardlaw, in his valuable work entitled “ Christian Ethics," has ably reviewed these systems with others, to which my readers are referred.

But while reason, with all its boastings, fails in unfolding the true character of fallen beings, revelation is very explicit on this point. The inspired penmen seem to have dipped their pens in “color's native well” while portraying the true character of man. Here man is “painted to the life.”

But, admitting the fact that man is what the Scriptures represent him to be, how could reason have made a development of a sure way by which he might be reconciled to God? How God could be "just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus,” could never be ascertained only by the light of revelation. Here the mystery is explained. Here the provisions of the gospel are clearly unfolded.

« EelmineJätka »