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the pressure of this thought, is to magnify Revelation, and accept on pure miraculous authority, what they concede they have no intellectual, moral, or spiritual apparatus to discover, or even to test. Revelation, thus resting on purely superhuman authority, and not claiming, or even allowing, any foundation in human nature, or any amenableness to human judgment, becomes its own unchecked interpreter. The Church comes in, and claims to be, by miraculous endowment, the infallible interpreter of this infallible Revelation. With this immense indorsement, the Church can describe the divine character, the conditions of salvation, the whole relations of man to God, or God to man, as it pleases; and no matter how irrational, contradictory, mysterious, or cruel its representations, it has this argument wherewith to close every human mouth: "You, a mere finite intelligence, have no standard, no measuring-rod, no test, wherewith to judge the doctrines taught you by the Church on the sole ground of positive and supernatural authority. What you call absurdities are mysteries! What your reason refuses to receive, is addressed to your submission, your ignorance, weakness, and helplessness, not to your understanding, your moral insight, your human affections! Your objections are futile, irreverent, blasphemous. You must believe without understanding and against understanding, or your faith is not genuine; is not faith at all, but only sight; is not submission at all, but only intelligent self-will; not God-worship, but will-worship."
Notwithstanding the rigid and irresistible logic of this position, of course it never could and never did gain a perfect acquiescence from any considerable class of believers. Because, in proportion as minds, even under the influence of bare authority, come truly to accept religion in the Christian form (even when most misrepresented and caricatured by ambition or ignorance), they find in it so much that liberates and enlarges their hearts and heads, so much that harmonizes with their moral and spiritual nature, that they gradually substitute the self-proving, axiomatic authority of their own direct perceptions of God and divine truth,— of Christ and Christianity, for the purely extrinsic au
thority of the Church or the Word. As the human mind and heart is the vessel into which faith has to be received, it inevitably shapes the contents poured into it. The Church has not been able long to teach what man could not believe. There have, therefore, been constant restrictions and limitations to its assumptions and dogmatic statements. And, on the whole, Infallibility itself has been very careful not to assert what it could not furnish some plausible and convincing evidence or reason for outside of its supernatural witness. There has been, accordingly, even in the Catholic Church, a constant anthropomorphic tendency. God has finally passed wholly into the man Christ Jesus, who is known and worshipped by man, because in him the divine has become human. The Word made flesh becomes a subject of human sympathy and human affections; and the very God whose infinity the finite mind could not apprehend, is finally brought home to the simplest, feeblest human intelligence, through the fellowship and communion of this incarnate Christ, the Son of God and Son of man, this divine-human Saviour. Thus have the rights of Humanity to know God vindicated themselves, under the theory of man's utter inability to know him on account of the finiteness of his faculties. God has himself become finite or human, and so man's moral and spiritual instincts and affections have their play in sympathetically understanding Christ! Thus has the old extreme theory of God's infinite removal and unintelligibleness to man revenged itself in this most affectionate, familiar, domestic idea; whose great danger is that of letting down. what is really above the height and compass of human thoughts to a complete level with Humanity.
But now let us turn to the other extreme: that asserts that man, being made in the image of God, has a perfect clew to the divine character in his own intellectual, moral and spiritual nature; that mind is mind throughout the universe; right always right; wrong always wrong; that accordingly we cannot know ourselves, and not know God, nor can we know God except as we know ourselves! Moral authority is the authority which inherently dwells in justice, truth, and good
VOL. LXXXVII. -NEW SERIES, VOL. VIII. NO. III.
You cannot make truth any more true by sealing it with miracle; nor goodness any more divine by calling it superhuman. No revelation can tell any more than man can receive; and man can receive only what is fitted to his nature; and what is fitted to his nature he will, of course, discover by studying that nature. Revelation, then, in any ordinary sense of a message ab extra, verified by miracle, is a thing not possible since the only language God can speak to a moral being is a moral language; and you might just as well send a mathematician the multiplication table verified by a miraculous indorsement, and profess that it was more true than when left to prove itself, as address a revelation to a moral and spiritual being, and think that essential, self-evident truths the only ones he can receive, and which are warranted by his nature - are going to be modified by aught that denies them, added to by aught that transcends them, or guaranteed by aught that indorses them! You cannot make truth more true, right more binding, goodness better, than they all are in themselves, and in the verdict of the human soul.
It might seem that the end of this conception of man's relation to God was to shut man up in himself, and say to him, "Your universe is your own soul. You cannot get out of it! make the most of it! Explore it, read the inscriptions on its inner chambers, and so learn who and what you are; and as much of your Maker as you may! For what you do not learn so you cannot know at all." But this would not be doing full justice to the idea; because it is, particularly of late, connected with the idea of God as immanent as ever, communicating himself to man. Man is not, then, complete in himself or shut up in himself: God dwells in him. He need not go out of himself to find God, for God comes to him and dwells in him and with him. There is, in California, a curious little fungus found at the bottom of a certain well, which looks more like a bit of manna than any thing besides. The least grain of this put into a bottle of water soon converts it into a kind of beer, potable and refreshing; but the most curious thing is, that the little substance which works this miracle of effervescence reproduces itself almost indefinitely,
so that in a month a spoonful of the fungus is precipitated in the vessel, and each particle of it is capable of producing the same effect, and of reproducing its own image in an indefinite manner. It is a homely image of the power of that heavenly leaven which is God's presence in the human soul. It grows with its own working. It converts the water of humanity into the wine of heaven; it is infinitely divisible and transferrible, and cannot be exhausted, nor any limit put to its working.
There is a great truth and a great fascination in this extreme view of man's knowledge of God, through the sympathetic interpretation of his own nature. But it has one enormous danger in it, which makes it hardly less perilous than the other extreme, and indeed soon drives those that attempt to rest in it back to the first position. The error is this: it makes man the starting-point and centre of the universe, around whom turns the panorama of existence: God himself being only the greatest, and, alas! the most distant, object that sweeps into his view. Man is the fixture, the solid staple, in the rock; God, angels, moral and religious opinions, Christ, Christianity, are mere links hanging by this hook, and if they do not match it, or if they more than match it, they are to be hammered into shape, clipped of their superfluous matter, and allowed to come into the chain only as far as they will lie easily and harmoniously in its coil. God comes thus to owe his very existence to man's consent. His dealings with his creature are regulated by that creature himself, who presently, unless largely endowed with natural piety, loses alike his awe and his obedience towards a speculative Deity, a gigantic reflection of his own image on the misty horizon. It is as when the earth was deemed the centre of the planetary and stellar universe, all the motions of stars and celestial orbs being supposed tributary to her ruling sphere. What but pride, conceit, narrowness, and irreverence can come from such a swollen sense of man's place and importance? And how shallow are likely to be the swift, precipitate conclusions in regard to the ever open questions which, in our finite ignorance, it is only presumption in us to shut! Such
a question is the existence of moral evil. Because man, judging by his own nature and feelings, cannot see how he could justly create a moral being who should have liberty to sin, and bring such consequences of sin upon himself, as to convert his existence into a sorrow and a curse; he straightway concludes that God cannot do it. It is a logical conclusion from his assumption that his own nature is the perfect image of God's; and having arrived at this point, he proceeds in the face and eyes of the most solemn facts and the most instinctive protests, to deny the very existence of evil, nay, the very existence of liberty. There is no moral evil. It is an hallucination of the senses; a mere earthly shadow passing over the unclouded stars! God has no knowledge of it; does not even know what we mean by it, or sympathize with our feelings about it. Our remorse, so far as he is concerned, is all superfluous; our solicitude thrown away! Conscience is a human convenience; sin, an earth-born, conventional inconvenience, which is checked by a sentiment of disapprobation highly useful to society. Liberty of action is a fiction which Divine Necessity permits us to indulge ourselves in the conceit of enjoying; but there is no such thing in reality.
To talk of revelation in its historical and ordinary sense to such proud philosophers, is merely to excite their scorn and ridicule. A revelation to a being who has God in his own nature, in the only form in which he can ever know any thing of him, and probably in the only form in which he exists at all, —if indeed his existence is not, radically viewed, simply our existence; God coming to consciousness as some German thinkers have it, in man alone! Christ, a living Saviour, still animating his disciples from his heavenly throne, comforting and guarding them with actual and direct communications according to his promises, - how absurd and incredible the thought! And thus, every plain and intelligible idea, every instinctive, spontaneous thought and feeling, level to human wants and weaknesses, — all that for thousands of years has passed for reverence and piety toward God; all that for eighteen hundred years has passed for Christianity, is brushed away like the cobwebs of a June morning; and a grand,