« EelmineJätka »
gies of truth; and this is the efficient cause why almost all those young men who acquire their education in schools of learning, in which natural religion forms a branch, finish their educations either sceptics, professed deists, or atheists. This is the reason why all the deistical, and natural religionist opposers of christianity, have employed so much severity against the Bible; which, in France, eventuated in atheism, and all that misrule which was marked by so much blood, and carnage. It is the cause of immorality, oppression, and licentiousness, in every quarter of Christendom; for by natural religion the light of the world, and the light of life, is stripped of its divine beams, and thereby the light becomes darkness, both in its intellectual, and moral effects, as the word of God. Natural religion excludes Jesus Christ, or divests him of his divine credentials, as a teacher come from God; and charges him with plagiarising from nature, in those lessons of supernatural, and divine truth which he professed to teach; it charges him, and the Apostle with palpable falsehood, when they declared that “no man knoweth the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him; that the world by wisdom knew not God; that it is through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which appear; that without faith it is impossible to please God;" and that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Natural religion excludes the office, and the official character of the Holy Ghost, and denies his operations in having, by an immediate exertion of power, formed the human body of Jesus Christ, the second Adam, as he did the body of the first; in having, by virtue of the death, and resurrection of the body thus prepared, and consecrated as the great sacrifice for the sins of the world, brought life, and immortality to light, and unfolded the glories of the eternal world; and in having sent embassadors to the Gentiles, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in the Redeemer, and that he will raise such to celestial glory.
The effects of natural religion have not less marred the harmony, and consistency of the christian religion in the hands of its professors, than they have subverted its truth in
of a discriminating world. To give a view of the origin of mystic divinity, scholastic theology, and natural religion, as they stand distinguished from the simplicity, and unadultered truths of christianity in its primitive state, I will here take an extract from Mosheim's Church History. The corruption of the truth seems to have taken place at a period very early, subsequent to the Apostolic day, The historian observes, “that the Christian Church was scarcely formed, when, in different places, there started up
certain pretended reformers, who, not satisfied with the simplicity of the religion which was taught by the Apostles, meditated changes of doctrine, and worship; and set up a new religion drawn from their own licentious imaginations. This we find from the writings of Paul; particularly where some were for forcing the doctrines of Christ into a conformity with philosophic systems which they had adopted. 1 Tim. 1. 3. 4. Titus 3. 9. Colos. 2. 8.” In these quotations Paul guarded those to whom he wrote againsť the profane, and vain babblings, and oppositions of science, falsely so called; and against giving heed to fables, and endless genealogies, which minister questions rather than Godly edifyings: he urged them to regard the Gospel, or to do those things which are of faith. He told them to avoid foolish questions, and to beware lest any man should spoil them through vain philosophy, and deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Mosheim ob.. serves, “that the influence of those teachers was but incon. siderable at first. During the lives of the Apostles, their attempts towards the perversion of christianity were attended with but little success; they, however, acquired credit, and influence by degrees. In the third century, the christian doctors, who applied themselves to the study of letters, and philosophy, soon abandoned the frequented paths, and struck out into the dubious wilds of fancy. They looked upon it as a noble, and glorious task to bring the doctrines of celestial wisdom into a certain subjection to the principles of their philosophy, and to make deep, and profound researches into the intricate, and hidden things of God. Origen was at the head of this speculative tribe. This great man, enchanted by the charms of the Platonic philosophy, set it up as a test of all religion, and imagined that the reasons of cach doctrine were to be found in that favourite philosophy; and their nature, and extent were to be determined by it. Origen's disciples exceeded him, and from their systems, the scholastic theology derives its origin. The same principles” (attend to this, reader,)“gave rise to another species of theology, which is called mystic. Its first promoters proceeded from that well known doctrine of the Platonic school, which was also adopted by Origen, and his disciples, that the divine nature was diffused through all the human soul, or that the faculty of reason was an emanation of God into the human soul, and comprehended in it the principles, and elements of all truth, human, and divine, (for the origin of this opinion see page 79 of this book.) This is the origin of innate ideas,” &c. These opinions of Plato were not regularly incorporated with christianity until the fourth century, in a systematic form. Its advocates were called Platonic christians. The historian proceeds; "the disciples of this divinity” (heresy he might more properly have called it,) “having entertained a doubt that it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to defend every thing contained in the sacred writings from the cavils of heretics, and inlidels, so long as they were explained, literally, according to the real import of the terms, they had recourse to the fecundity of their imaginations, and maintained that the holy scriptures were to be interpreted in an allegorical manner, peculiar to the Platonic system. They accordingly alledged ihat the notices conveyed under the outward terms, according to their literal force, and import, was not the true meaning of the sacred writer, but that it was to be sought in a hidden, nysterious sense.” This sentiment is not unlike the opinions of many in our day, (according to the mystic plan,) who
say that this hidden, mysterious sense, can only be discovered by a new revelation; or an immediate physical operation of the spirit upon the mind, by which it is qualified for perceiving this latent sense; or, as others alledge, the
spirit takes the things thus concealedly revealed, and shews them to the mind.
By this combination of natural religion with Platonic mystecism, a strange chaos of divinity has been formed, from the influence of which but few, if any, of the christian creeds, since the first corruption of christianity, after the A. postolic day, have escaped; in consequence of which, religion, instead of its being intellectual, and moral in its nature, and operations, is resolved into physical agencies, and is more conversant with the imagination, and passions, than with the understanding, and the affections. The rejection of revealed religion, and the contempt in which it is held by a great portion of the intelligent orders of society in christian countries, are greatly owing to the contradictions which these systems involve. On the one hand, the natural religionist denies the necessity of revelation at all, in order to spiritual knowledge; alledging that the mind derives from nature all the ideas which revelation professes to teach: and, on the other hand, mystic divinity, uniting with natural religion, somewhat,asserts, that the scriptures are a sealed book, ora dead letter; and that, to an unregenerated mind, they are no more suited for imparting spiritual light, and knowledge, than light is qualified for producing vision to a man without eyes;---rejecting entirely the fact, that the word of God is as much the medium of mental perception, upon spiritual subjects, to our world, as the light of the sun is the medium of natural or optical vision of sensible objects; and that the word of God is itself the instrumental cause of that very regeneration; which consists in the blinded eyes (blind by nature to spiritual things) being opened, and the creature turned
from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. In this darkness the Gentiles walked, before the light of the glorious Gospel shown into their hearts, (through their understandings.) They were without strength, the servants of sin, and enemies in their mind by wicked works, being alienated from the life through the ignorance that is in thein, because of the blindness of their hearts, &c.
By the united influence of natural religion, and mystic divinity, the scriptures are deprived of the cualities of a su
pernatural communication-of an official proclamation of grace
froin the invisible world suited for, and designed to impart knowledge, of which the mind is naturally ignorant, and to disclose a destiny, and an interest which could not have been known without. By these means they no longer sustain the instrumental character of conveying light to the mind upon subjects which lie beyond the limits of time, and
It is by reason of these errors, and absurdities, that the christian religion, according to a current opinion in the world, has not, and ought not to have any connection with civil government: which is, in other words, saying that christianity affords no advantage in qualifying the public functionaries for the faithful discharge of their duties; not realizing that it is the great fundamental, and vital principle of honesty, and integrity in our world. This sentiment will continue until the scriptures are clothed with their proper character, until they are extricated from the darkness, and inconsistencies with which the profane, and vain babblings, and the oppositions of science, falsely so called, the vain philosophy, and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, &c. have surrounded them: and this never can be, until the question is settled, whether revealed religion is, in the ideas, and knowledge which it imparts, a plagiarism from nature; or every other religion, as far as spiritual ideas are concerned, plagiarisms from the revealed? When this is done, the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, will take its proper place in society; its divine authority will be felt, and acknowledged, and its practical duties observed. When apprehended in its proper character, the great Rabbis of natural religion, like the sons of Sceva, with their companions, will willingly commit to the flames their anti-christian, and deistical books, and, like little children, submit to the Gospel of Jesus Christ for instruction; for fear will fall upon îhem all, and the name of the Lord Jesus will be magnified; so mightily will grow the word of God, and prevail
. This will be a new era in the world-man will be seen rising from a state of sensuality, avarice, and ambition; froin low political intrigue, false honour, and dishonesty; from war, bloodshed, and oppression; from every thing that defileth, or whatsover worketh abomination, or maketh a lie;