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BY WARREN SKINNER.
"Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord.'—Isaiah.
JOHN C. HASWELL.
UNREASONABLENESS OF THE DOCTRINE.
LUKE XI. 57.— Yea, and why even of yourselves
judge ye not what is right.'
The sentiment that God will punish a portion of his intelligent offspring without mercy and without end, has long and extensively prevailed in the christian world ; and, indeed, at the present day, it is considered by many one of the fundamental and essential doctrines of the gospel. Such is the veneration in which this principle is held by many professing christians, that a denial of it is considered a denial of the scriptures; and any attempts to refute, or do it away from the minds of men, are looked on as so many attempts to sap the foundation of Christianity, and to overthrow the whole superstructure.
That this principle of doctrine should have found its way into the church, in company with the mass of other corruptions, which were introduced from the philosophy of the ancients, and the theology of the pagans; and that it should have been retained as a constituent principle of Christianity during the continuance of the dark ages, is not at all surprising. But, that chris.
tians, in the present enlightened age of the world, should continue to adhere to it with such unyielding pertinacity, would be a matter of real astonishment, were not one other circumstance taken into consideration. When the arm of civil power was extended for the protection of the church, and for the propogation of that religion which was established in the world in opposition to worldly power and wisdom, an unwarrantable degree of authority was conferred on the clergy, who never could be accused of neglecting any means of increasing this authority, and rendering it permanent. For this purpose the degrading principle that, in the concerns of religion, reason should be wholly disregarded, and its clearest dictates rejected, was introduced, and strenuously urged upon the people at large.
Although, at the present day, but very few can be found, who will openly advocate and defend this principle in its full extent, yet the influence of it on ihe minds of many is plainly discoverable. To what but this shall we attribute the repugnance
which is so often seen, to reason on the subject of religion? When we urge the unreasonableness of some particular point or principle of doctrine, we are often met with the assertion that human reason is depraved—that it is an unsafe guide, and we must be cautious how we use it, or yield ourselves to its influence. On all other subjects but religion, men generally disposed to be reasonable beings; and the more important the subject the more carefully and closely they will reason. But on this the most important of all subjects which can
engage the attention of rational beings, and one which requires the most full and dispassionate use of reason, there are many who seem resolved entirely to set it aside, and to disregard its plainest dictates. Some will even go so far as to attempt a justification of this course of conduct; and will introduce a train of arguments, and a variety of reasons to convince you that they are right in rejecting reason. Thus, to borrow the pertinent language of another, they will reason against reason, use reason against the use of reason, and offer a very good reason why reason is good for nothing.'
But while some reject the proper use of reason in the affairs of religion, there are others who run into the opposite extreme, and reject every thing which is not completely within the reach, or comprehension of their reason. This is a fruitful source of skepticism and infidelity, as will be more fully seen when I come to speak more particularly of the proper use and office of reason in the affairs of revelation and religion. There are many things above the perfect comprehension of reason, and yet we know they exist. We cannot tell in what manner inert and unconscious matter could be so organized as to constitute our own living and sensitive bodies ;-how from it the beating heart and heaving lungs could be formed ; or how it could be converted into that vital fluid which circulates with such rapidity and regularity through the whole human system.
Yet of all this we are perfectly conscious; we know it is so; and! we are satisfied beyond a rational doubt of the