תמונות בעמוד

But when accurately defined, it is only a power bestowed on man, of comparing things, and propositions concerning things, and of deducing propositions from them. It is the faculty of discriminating one name, or thing, or attribute from another, and of forming just conceptions of it. It is not, then, a creative power. It cannot make something out of nothing. It is to the soul what the eye is to the body. It is not light, but the power of perceiving and using it. And as the eye without light, so reason without tradition or revelation, would be useless to man in all the great points which the inductive and true philosophy of nature and of fact humbly acknowledges she cannot teach. She modestly avows her inability to unfold, or even to ascertain the origin, nature, or end of any thing. Her verdict in the case before us is, ihat he who presumes to walk by the light of reason in these great matters is not more eminently sane, than he who assumes to walk by his eyes in the midst of utter darkness.

But the ennobling faculty of man is faith. This puts him in posses. sion of the experience of all other men by believing their testimony. Instinct, sense, and reason, however enlarged in their operations, are confined to a single individual of the race; and that within a very narrow circle, a mere atom of creation, and but for a moment of time; while faith encompasses the area of universal experience, and appropriates to its possession the acquisitions of all men in all ages of time.

Human knowledge, prophecy so called, consists of but two chapters. Our own individual experience furnishes the one, and faith the other. Faith, therefore, is to instinct, sense, and reason, as the experience of all mankind is to that of a single individual—the experience of a thousand millions to one. And were we to add to the experience of all living men that of all who have lived and died, or that of all who shall hereafter live and superadd to this, the experience of all angels and all other orders of intelligences. hereafter to be made, accessible to faith, how inconceivably immense the disproportion between reason and faith, as the means of enlarging the capacity and of storing the mind of man with true knowledge! In one word, then, from an invincible necessity of nature, we are indebted to faith for millions of ideas, for one obtained by our own personal sensations, observations, or reflections.

How preposterous, then, was it for the learned and ingenious author of the Treatise on Human Nature," to elaborate an essay to prove that no man could rationally believe the testimony of any number of persons affirming a supernatural fact; because, as he imagined, their testimony was contrary to universal experience! The eloquent author of the History of England seems not to have perceived the delusion he was imposing on himself, in making his own individual experience or that of a few others, equal to that of all mankind in all ages of the world, a ten thousand millionth part of which he, nor no other person, ever heard or knew! No man ever heard universal experience, consequently no man could believe it. On such a splendid sophism, on such a magnificent assumption, however, is founded the capacious temple of French, English, German, and American infidelity.

While yet we have our definitions of instinct, sense, reason, and faith before us, and this ingenious class of doubting philosophers in our eye, we must enter another demur to the sanity of their intellects, or of their logic. We have seen that instinct is a divine and infallible rule of life given to the mere animal creation-and, indeed, to the vegetable also, (as might be demonstrated were this the proper place,) for the purpose of guiding the actions of those creatures in benevolent subordination to the end of their being. Now, of this endowment man is of all creatures the most destitute: therefore, if he have not an infal. lible rule somewhere else, he is more sligtated than any other creature; nay, he is the only creature wholly neglected by his Creator, in the most important, too, of all communicated endowments. But he has not this infallible rule in his five senses-he has it not in his powers of reasoning; and unless he have it in his faith in divine testimonyin a revelation internal and external, he is an anomaly in creationthe solitary exception to a law which, but for him, would have been universal. But what makes this hypothesis still more extravagantly absurd is the fact, that, of all sublunary creatures, man is the favorite of his Maker--the head and “lord of the fowl and the brute." Now to have granted the meanest insect a perfect rule of life; to have remembered every other creature and forgoiten only man, in a point the most vital to his enjoyment of himself and of the universe, is an as. sumption, a result more incredible and marvellous than any other assumption on the pages of universal history. This is, indeed, 10 swallow the camel while straining at a gnat.

Another assumption of this speculative philosophy, another point deeply affecting the pretensions of revelation, and the most ancient and veritable traditions of the infancy of time, and of nations, is equally at fault with the instances now given, and demands a special notice. It objects to a system of religion and morals founded upon faith rather than upon philosophy, as not in harmony with human nature, on account of its liabilities to deception in all matters depending upon human testimony. It dogmatically affirms that man is more liable to be deceived by faith than by reason.

This is a direct assault' upon nature, and consequently upon the Author of it. For what can be much more evident than that every human being is by an insuperable necessity compelled to make the very first step in life, intellectual and moral, if noi physical, hy faith? Must an infant wait the impulses of instinct or the decisions of reason for instruction in what to choose, or what to refuse, in the nursery or infant school? Or must it depend on its own observation, experience, and reason; or upon oral tradition, for light upon food, and medicine, and poison? Must it experiment with the asp, the adder, the basilisk, the fire, the flood, the innumerable physical dangers around it, or implicitly believe its nurse, and walk by faith in her traditions? When it enters the infant school, must it prove by reason, or receive upon testimony, the names and figures of all the vowels and consonants of the alphabet? Can it by reason or instinct learn any grammar, speak any language, or make one step in human science or literature? It is must walk by faith if he walk at all. He must do this long before reason has commenced its career of examination. Now, to affirm that reason is a better guide than faith, is to charge our Creator with folly in subjecting man to an inferior guide, even in the incipient and moulding period of his being, while his mind is assuming a character, and being fashioned for future life. To do this on a model, too, that forever gives to his ears an ascendancy over sense and reason, as the channel of light and knowledge, unless he intended that faith should always have the superiority in guiding the actions of man, is, in fact, to interpose an insuperable obstacle to his own designs, and to defeat himself in any after measure to restore him to reason, from aberrations supposed to be attendant on the exercise of faith as an incompetent rule of moral action. Man, however, reason as we may, is by an insuperable necessity compelled to make the first step in physical, intellectual, and moral life by faith in tradition; and well would it have been for immense multitudes had they continued to walk by faith in the oral traditions of those moral instructors to whom God did, in the first ages of the world, confide the temporal and eternal destiny of mankind.

Lest, however, it should seem as if faith and reason were rival claimants for the absolute government of man; and, like other aspirants, were seeking to rise, each upon the ruin of his competitor, to this high office; the province of reason should be distinctly noted and under. stood. Permit me, then, to say in behalf of reason, that she assumes to be only a minister to faith, as she is to religion and morality. She examines the testimony, and decides upon its pretensions. In this sense, intellect and reason are as necessary to faith as they are to moral excellence; for a creature destitute of reason is alike incapable of faith, morality, and religion. Reason, then, in one word, examines the tradition and the testimony, whether it be that of our five senses, our memory, our consciousness, or that of other persons, faith receives that testimony, and common sense walks by it.

From the definitions, facts, and inferences now before us, may we not, gentlemen, conclude that if the physical sciences-natural philosophy in all its branches-be true science, because all founded on their own facts, observations, and inductions—that science usually called moral philosophy is not a true science, because not founded on its own facts, observations, and inductions, but on assumptions and plagiarisms from tradition and divine revelation; borrowing, instead of originating and demonstrating all its fondamental principles?

If our mode of examining its pretensions be fair and logical, as we humbly conceive it is, does it not appear by a liberal induction of witnesses from the best Pagan schools, that it has never taught, with the clearness and fulness of persuasion, nor with the authority of law or demonstration, the true doctrine of man's origin, nature, relations, obligations, and destiny? And from a careful consideration of all our powers of acquiring knowledge, is it not equally evident that he is not furnished with the power of ascertaining any one of these essential points, without the aid of a light above that of reason and nature?

And may I not farther appeal to your good sense, whether we could have instituted and pursued a fairer or more honorable course than to state the pretensions and claims of moral philosophy in her own terms, as used by her greatest and most approved masters-Grecian, Roman, and English; and then inquire singly of all her schools and renowned teachers, whether in their own experience, and in their candid conces. sions and acknowledgments, philosophy, in life and in death, has redeemed her pledges, fulfilled her promises, and sustained the expectations of her friends and admirers?

When hard pressed on these points, observing that she herself relied more on tradition than on her own resources, fastening her hopes more on the basis of what was handed down to her by the ancients, than upon all her own discoveries and reasonings, became it not espe. dent that we also should turn our thoughts to tradition, examine its history, and canvass its pretensions, so far at least as to institute a comparison between it and philosophy on the points in discussion?

Having thus placed these two great sources of intelligence in con. trast and comparison, and finding on the side of tradition, as defined by us, incontestible and decided advantages, incomparably superior claims and pretensions, what more natural and conclusive than to ex. amine the human constitution, with special reference to these two; and if possible, to ascertain whether the Creator intended man to walk by hypothetical philosophy or authentic tradition? Such, then, has been our method; and what now, on summing up the whole, are the legitimate results and conclusions?

Does it not appear that moral philosophy never removed any doubts except those which she had created? Like the spear of Achilles, she healed only the wounds which herself had inflicted. That it cast not a single ray of light upon a single cardinal point in the whole science of happiness? That it failed in all the three great lines of the Ionic, Italic, and Eleatic orders; and most essentially failed, even in the best branches of the Ionic school, even in the hands of the great masters-Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, and Epicurus?

Nay, does it not appear that the age of doubting was the era of phi. losophy?-that men never began to start hypotheses till they had lost their way?—that mankind walked safely by the light of tradition from a divine origin for many years before philosophy was born?—that those ancient traditions were kept pure for thousands of years in one great line of the human race; but were finally corrupted by Priests, and disguised by Poets, and thus became the basis of the Chaldean, Indian, Phenician, Egyptian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman philosophy?

And is it not most of all evident, that man is not constituted by his Creator to be led by instinct, sense, or reason; but by faith in infallible tradition, in all these points of vital importance in the philosophy of bliss; and that such arrangement is in good keeping with the preeminent superiority of the most ennobling of all the endowments of man, whether we consider the immense compass, the infinite variety of its acquisitions, or that high certainty and assurance to which it often And may I now be permitted to add, that the study of these five poinis opens to the human mind the purest, sweetest, and most copious fountains of delight. They connect themselves with the whole universe of God, and place it all under tribute to our happiness.

With the telescope of faith to our eye, looking back to our origin beyond the Solar System, beyond all the systems of the heavens, we descry the archetype of our being in the remote and unfathomable depths of the bosoin and mysterious nature of that divine and transcendant Being, whose temple is the Universe, and whose days are all the ages of Eternity.

While inan stands upon this earth and breathes this material breath of life, and sees and feels much in his outward frame in common with the beasts that perish, he feels within himself an unearthly principlean inward man-a heaven-descended mind-a nature more than ethereal-a spirit ever panting, thirsty, longing after the affinity of his Father's spirit, whence, as a spark of intelligence, it was stricken off, and made to illumine its little mansion in the vast temple of Creation.

The intellectual nature vouchsafed to man communes with the Supreme Intelligence in all his various and boundless works; and such is its love of new ideas, of new conceptions of the almighty source of its being and bliss, that if it could only imagine any fixed summit of its attainments, even in the heavens, beyond which it could add no new discoveries, that summit would be the boundary of its career of glory and of bliss; and repining, as did the Grecian Chief, that no new worlds were yet to be conquered, heaven itself would cease to be the place of infinite delight, the ultimate and eternal home

The relations of man are, as a necessary consequence, equally sublime and comprehensive with his origin and nature. He touches every point in the universe, whether material or immaterial, animal, intellectual, or moral-temporal, spiritual, or eternal. He not only derives pleasure from all these sources, but feels that he is related to God, angels, and all natures, by ties, and sympathies, and nice dependencies, from which arise innumerable pleasures, duties, and obligations; each of which becomes a new source of delight to him who, reconciled to the government of the rightful Sovereign, seeks the en. joyment of all things in subordination to his will.

The destiny of man is in harmony with his nature, relations, and origin. True, indeed, there is a dark, cheerless, and gloomy mansion, 10 which his mortality is for a season confined. But should he learn in this life the science of happiness, and regulate his actions according to the philosophy of bliss; beyond that land of darkness and of night, that dreary bourne of his follies, misfortunes, and sins, "there is a land of pure delight," a more blissful paradise than that of ancient Eden, in which man will freely eat of the fruit of a more delicious tree of life, breathe à purer air, see a brighter sun, and enjoy, without the intervention of a cloud, the light of ihat divine and glorious countenance which illumines all the suns of all the systems of universal nature. There, in the midst of kindred spirits of a celestial mould, of a divine temper-the mighty intellects--the refined and cultivated genii of the skies—the true nobility of creation, he will converse, and in the seraphic pleasures of a taste and an imagination of which all

of man.

« הקודםהמשך »