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wholly unnecessary, even if it could have been satisfactorily accomplished within the limits of the single Lecture which
alone could have been given to it.
But granting for the present the main position of these Lectures, namely, that the human mind inevitably and by virtue of its essential constitution, finds itself involved in self-contra
dictions whenever it ventures on certain courses of speculation;
it may be asked, in the next place, what conclusion does this
admission warrant, as regards the respective positions of Faith
and Reason in determining the religious convictions of men. These Lectures have been charged with condemning, under the name of Dogmatism, all Dogmatic Theology; with censuring “the exercise of Reason in defence and illustration of the truths of Revelation;" with including "schoolmen and
saints and infidels alike” in one and the same condemnation.
Such sweeping assertions are surely not warranted by anything that is maintained in the Lectures themselves. Dogmatism and Rationalism are contrasted with each other, not as em
ploying reason for opposite purposes, but as employing it in
extremes. The contrast was naturally suggested by the historical connection between the Wolfian philosophy and the Kantian, the one as the stronghold of Dogmatism, the other of Rationalism. The religious philosophy of Wolf and his fol
lowers, whose system, and not that of either “schoolmen or
saints,” is cited as the chief specimen of Dogmatism, was
founded on the assumption that philosophical proofs of theological doctrines were absolutely necessary in all cases. maintained,” says a writer quoted in the Notes," that philosophy was indispensable to theology, and that, together with biblical proofs, a mathematical or strictly demonstrative dogmatical system, according to the principles of reason, was absolutely necessary." Dogmatism, as thus exemplified, is surely not the use of reason in theology, but its abuse. Unless a critic is prepared to accept, as legitimate reasoning, Canz's demonstration of the Trinity, cited at p. 232 of the present volume, or the more modern specimen of the same method
noticed at p. 51, he must surely admit the conclusion which
these instances were adduced to prove; namely, that the methods of the Dogmatist and the Rationalist are alike open to criticism,“ in so far as they keep within or go beyond those limits of sound thought which the laws of man's mind, or the
circumstances in which he is placed, have imposed upon him.”
All Dogmatic Theology is not Dogmatism, nor all use of
Reason Rationalism, any more than all drinking is drunken.
The dogmatic or the rational method may be rightly or wrongly employed, and the question is to determine the limits
of the legitimate or illegitimate use of each. It is expressly as
extremes that the two systems are contrasted: each is described
as leading to error in its exclusive employment, yet as being, in its utmost error, only a truth abused. If reason may not be used without restriction in the defence any more than in the refutation of religious doctrines; if there are any mysteries of revelation which it is our duty to believe, though we
cannot demonstrate them from philosophical premises, - this
is sufficient to show that the provinces of Faith and Reason
are not coëxtensive. But to assert this is surely not to deny.
that the dogmatic method may be and has been rightly used
within certain limits. The dogmatism which is condemned
is not system, but the extravagance of system.
matic completeness is made the end which the theologian is
bound to pursue, at every cost; if whatever is left obscure
and partial in revealed truth is, as a matter of necessity, to be cleared and completed by definitions and inferences, certain or uncertain ; if the declarations of Scripture are in
all cases to be treated as conclusions to be supported by
philosophical premises, or as principles to be developed into
philosophical conclusions, —- then indeed Dogmatic Theology
is in danger of degenerating into mere Dogmatism.
it is only the indiscriminate use of the method which is condemned, and that not simply as an employment of reason in religious questions, but as an employment beyond its just
And if, in citing instances of this misuse, it has
been occasionally necessary to point out the errors of writers
whose names are justly honored in the Church, and whose
labors, as a whole, are entitled to the reverence and gratitude of posterity, I wish distinctly to state, that the censure, such as it is, reaches only to the points directly indicated,
by reference or quotation, and is not intended to apply further.
What, then, is the practical lesson which these Lectures are designed to teach concerning the right use of reason in religious questions? and what are the just claims of a reasonable faith, as distinguished from a blind credulity ? In the first place, it is obvious that, if there is any object
whatever of which the human mind is unable to form a
clear and distinct conception, the inability equally disquali
fies us for proving or disproving a given doctrine, in all cases in which such a conception is an indispensable condi
tion of the argument.
If, for example, we can form no
positive notion of the Nature of God as an Infinite Being,
are not cntitled either to demonstrate the mystery of
the Trinity as a necessary property of that Nature, or to
reject it as necessarily inconsistent therewith.
teries clearly belong, not to Reason, but to Faith; and the
preliminary inquiry which distinguishes a reasonable from
an unreasonable belief, must be directed, not to the premises by which the doctrine can be proved or disproved as rea
sonable or unreasonable, but to the nature of the authority
on which it rests, as revealed or unrevealed.
summary of Christian Evidences contained in my concluding Lecture,' and others which might be added to them, are surely sufficient to form an ample field for the use of Reason,
1 See below, p. 214.
even in regard to those mysteries which it cannot directly
examine. If to submit to an authority which can stand the test of such investigations, and to believe it when it tells
us of things which we are unable to investigate, — if this
be censured as a blind credulity, it is a blindness which in
these things is a better guide than the opposite quality so justly described by the philosopher as “the sharp-sightedness
of little souls."
In the second place, a caution is needed concerning the
kind of evidence which reason is competent to furnish within
the legitimate sphere of its employment. If we have not
such a conception of the Divine Nature as is sufficient for
the a priori demonstration of religious truth, our rational conviction in any particular case must be regarded, not as a certainty, but as a probability. We must remember the Aris
totelian rule, to be content with such evidence as the nature
of the object matter allows. A single infallible criterion of
all religious truth can be obtained only by the possession of a perfect Philosophy of the Infinite. If such a philosophy
is unattainable; if the infinite can only be apprehended under finite symbols, and the authority of those symbols tested by finite evidences, – there is always room for error, in consequence of the inadequacy of the conception to express completely the nature of the object. In other words, we must