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obligation to believe every thing proposed to me by a man who may be practising upon my credulity ? And upon my refusing to believe on such a foundation, shall I be taxed with being incredulous like Thomas, and with saying as he did: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. If you
would have me believe the facts which you propose, produce me the proofs which support them, if not as complete as those which assure me of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, at least such as are somewhat of a similar nature: and if you wish I should consider you as infallible, like the apostles produce me proofs of your infallibility, equivalent to those which the apostles produced of theirs. But if on examining such pretended facts, I discover that they are fictions merely; if on examining the foundation upon which your infallibility rests, I find that the men who give themselves out for infallible, while they lay claim to the infallibility of the apostles, are undermining the doctrine of the apostles, I shall not reckon myself obliged to pay the slightest deference to their decisions. The faith which these decisions attempt to produce, will be faith extorted by tyranny, and which will have no relation whatever to that faith which Jesus Christ expects from his disciples, and which is, in truth, obscure, but, nevertheless, well-founded; which is destitute, indeed, of the evidence of object, but which is ever accompanied with the evidence of testimony.
(2) In the second place, the faith of which we are treating, must be distinguished from that of the enthusiast: I mean that of certain Christians, who found the reasons which induce them to believe, entirely on such and such impulses, which
they pretend to be the operation of the Spirit of God: impulses destitute of illumination, and which determine the person thus agitated, to yield his assent to a proposition unsupported by proof, or, at most, recommended by an air of probability. One of the marks which distinguish false zeal from true, is, that this last, I mean true zeal, sacrifices its own glory to that of religion, and is infinitely better pleased to acknowledge its own error, than to spread the slightest cloud over that pure and genial light in which religion is arrayed. A man, on the contrary, who is actuated by a false zeal, sacrifices, without hesitation, the glory of religion to his own ; and maintains, at the expence of truth itself, the errors which he has advanced.
This has been found to be the case with certain eminent names, on the subject of our present discussion. The vehemence of controversies which have been carried on, respecting the operation of the Holy Spirit on the soul of believers, has frequently carried some of the disputants farther than they themselves intended. In the heat of argumentation, they have asserted, that the action of the Holy Spirit, which operates in the faithful, is carried so far as to give them a degree of faith, superior to the reasons which they have for believing. When pressed by their adversaries, they ought to have acknowledged this to be one of the propositions which one is tempted to advance in the warmth of dispute, and which candor, without hesitation, is disposed to retract, after the heat has subsided. But this were a sacrifice too great for self-love to make: it is deemed better that religion should suffer from the intemperate zeal of the sophist, than that the sophist should correct his hasty position, by the illumination of religion.
Thus, in order to support one absurdity, a still
greater absurdity has been advanced. It has been maintained, not only that the following proposition is true, namely, the impulse of the Holy Spirit gives us faith, superior to the reasons which we have for believing : but this is absolutely necessary : for, it has been alledged, that the Christian religion being destitute of proofs which enforce assent, all those who should refuse to believe what is destitute of this kind of proof, must, in so doing, refuse to believe the Christian religion.
God forbid that we should attempt to defend, with weapons so empoisoned, the truths of religion! It was not thus that they were defended by Jesus Christ and his apostles. They called on men to believe : but they, at the same time, adduced proof of what they wished to be received as the object of faith. The spirit of God, undoubtedly, operates on the soul of every one who implores his assistance; but it is by making them feel the force of the proofs, not by convincing them of what it is impossible to prove. And who could be condemned for not having believed, were Christianity destitute of sufficient proof? Would not the infidel be warranted in alledging: “I am not to blame, if I withhold my assent to such a proposition : I do not feel that impulse which engages one to believe what cannot be proved?” But the notion which we have given of faith, confounds every one who refuses to believe. We say, with Jesus Christ of the unbelievers of his time : This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil, John iii. 19.
(3) Finally, the notion which we have given of faith, distinguish it from that of the superstitious. To believe, in the view of doing honor to religion, a doctrine weakly proved, whatever may be the
origin of that doctrine, is to have a superstitious faith. Under this description may be ranked what has been denominated faith extorted by tyranny, and faith generated in the brain of the enthusiast. But we have, under this particular, a different kind of superstition in view. To believe a truth completely proved, but without having examined the proofs which support it, is to have the faith of superstition. A truth, of which I perceive not the proofs, is no truth with respect to me. ders my disposition of soul acceptable in the sight of God, when I receive what he is pleased to reveal to me, is my reception of it as an intelligent being, after having weighed the motives which induced me to give it welcome; after having discovered, on putting them in the balance with the opposite motives, that the first had greatly the preponderancy over the others. But to believe a truth with precipitation, to believe it without knowledge, is mere superstition. If it should determine you to declare yourself on the side of truth, it must be entirely by chance, and which may, to-morrow plunge you into error, as it induces you, to-day, to embrace the truth.
Obscure faith, then, is not a persuasion unsupported by proof; it is, in truth, destitute of the proofs which constitute the evidence of object; but not of those which constitute the evidence of testimony, as was from the beginning affirmed, and which it was necessary, oftener than once, to repeat.
THE BLESSEDNESS OF BELIEVING, WITHOUT
JOHN XX. 29.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me thou hast
believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and get hade believed.
We have endeavored to explain the nature of
II. To point out the excellency of this obscure faith. After having attempted to unfold the ambiguity of the expression in my text, to believe without having seen, we must endeavor to evince the truth of it, by demonstrating this proposition, announced by our blessed Lord, blessed are they zwho have not seen, and yet have believed.