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ON REVELATION AND NATURAL RELIGION.
He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and
that he is a rewarder of them that diligently m seek him.-HEBREWS XI. 6.
God originally made himself known to the whole human race; a revelation of his will has reached all the families of the earth; he made himself known to Adam and to the antedeluvian world. We find “ Enoch walked with God," and Noah was “a preacher of righteousness.” He also made himself known to the Jews and to others. We read in heathen authors, of bulls and of goats used as sacrifices; and this, as well as all that is excellent in their writings, or in their religion, must be traced to revelation. In a spiritual point of view, those writings present us with the noon of night, for a moment illumined by the truth of God, as flashes of lightning in midnight darkness. I combat the idea of natural religion; as if any thing short of revelation could reach the benighted soul of man, or the book of nature spiritually affect him.
It is as dangerous and blasphemous as it is absurd; and it is painful to hear scripture quoted to prove it. We find in the first chapter of Romans, twentieth verse : “ For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” This was spoken of those who had received a revelation from God; for history proves it: but if obliged to give up this argument, I would direct your attention to Hebrews xi. 1–3:-“ Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen, were not made of things which do appear.” Take the whole passage together, and you will find that the volume of inspiration is necessary to read the
volume of nature right. The link which con-- nects the Creator with the creature is too
difficult for the ken of man : he may be possessed of the genius of a Milton, a Shakspeare, or a Newton, but he must still remain a stranger to God until he has revealed himself, by revelation blessed by his Holy Spirit. Could we have discovered God without revelation, why has he employed revelation to reveal himself? All we find of good in a spiritual or moral point of view in the heathen religions, is to be traced to God; and any thing which may be wrong in their religion, can be proved to be a perversion of what is right. Without revelation we could never have known God at all : the use of this truth is to excite our lively gratitude to God for having made himself known to us, in a revelation of his will. We find the heathen philosophers, notwithstanding their abilities, altogether blind on this subject, for they maintained that matter was eternal; the Bible says it was created by God. All the arguments of infidels invariably destroy themselves. To assert that there is a natural religion, is a species of infidelity, a partial, I may say, a total rejection of the Bible as the word of truth. The infidel tells us, what we see around us clearly proves natural religion : he takes his religion from scripture, and dreams he discovers it in nature ; but had it not been for a divine revelation he could not discover a
Creator; he takes a shaft from the artillery of heaven, places it on the bow of infidelity, and then aims it at the bosom of Deity himself. The Apostle in these scriptures evidently spoke of those to whom God had made a revelation. We find the awful consequences of men turning a deaf ear to revelation ; they become totally incapable of perusing the book of nature, or their own characters. I once conversed with a peasant who told me he had never heard of Jesus Christ. If then there were such a thing as natural religion, we should find some degree of uniformity in the sentiments of all human beings, in the peasantry as well as in other classes. When the philosopher speaks of God, and the creation of the world, he derives his knowledge from revelation, and then ascribes it to a source whence it cannot proceed. The Apostle goes on to say, “ without faith we cannot please God.”
From the text I propose, First,—To consider THE BELIEF OF God.
Without revelation we could form no idea of the natural perfections of God, much less of his revealed perfections. “He that cometh to God must believe that he is.” In coming to God we must believe that we know nothing of him without revelation. When we read the book of nature by the light of the