Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

that this is the essence of all religion, should be assented to both by the will and the understanding. But this is not a fact of science, evident in and of itself. It depends on other facts which are matters of belief, and therefore must itself, as to its matter, if not as to its form, be an object of belief. Not a few Unitarian clergymen of our acquaintance understand by faith trust or confidence (fiducia), and contend, that, when we are commanded to believe in Christ, in God, &c., the meaning is that we should trust or confide in him. To believe in the Son is to confide in him as the Son of God. But I cannot confide in him as the Son of God, unless I believe that he is the Son of God; I cannot confide in God, unless I believe that he is, and that he is a protector of them that trust him. Where there is no belief, there is and can be no confidence. Confidence always presupposes faith ; for where there is no belief that the trust reposed will be responded to, there is no trust; and the fact, that the one trusted will preserve and not betray the trust, is necessarily a matter of faith, belief, not of knowledge. Faith begets confidence, but is not it; confidence is the effect or concomitant of faith, but can never exist without it. So, however these may seem to deny the necessity of belief, they all in reality imply it, presuppose it.

Moreover, all Unitarians hold, that, to be a Christian, one must be a follower of Christ. Their radical conception of Christ is that of a teacher, of a person specially raised up and commis

a sioned by Almighty God to teach, and to teach the truth. But one cannot be said to be the follower of a teacher, unless he believes what the teacher teaches. Therefore, to be a Christian, one must be a believer.

This, again, is evident from the Holy Scriptures. “For without faith,” says the blessed Apostle Paul, " it is impossible to please God.” Heb. xi. 6. So our blessed Saviour : “ He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” St. Mark, xvi. 16. “He that believeth in the Son hath eternal life ; but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life ; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” St. John, iii. 36. This is sufficient to establish our first position, namely, that, in order to be a Christian, it is necessary to be a believer, that is, to believe somewhat.

2. This somewhat, which it is necessary to believe, is not falsehood, but truth. What we are required to believe is that for not believing which we shall be condemned. But God is a God of truth, nay, truth itself, and it is repugnant to VOL. II. NO. II.

19

a

[ocr errors]

reason to assume that he will condemn us for not believing falsehood. The belief demanded is also essential to our salvation ; for it is said, “He that believeth not shall be condemn

" ed.” But it is equally repugnant to reason to maintain that a God of truth, who is truth, can make belief in falsehood essential to salvation. Therefore the belief demanded, as to its object (objectum materiale), is truth, not falsehood.

3. The truth we are required to believe is the revelation which Almighty God has made us through bis Son, Jesus Christ, or, in other words, the truth which Jesus Christ taught or revealed. The belief in question is Christian belief, that which makes one a Christian believer, a follower of Jesus, a member of the "uncounted and wide-spread congregation of all those who receive the Gospel as the law of life.

But one can be a Christian believer only by believing Christian truth; and Christian truth can be no other truth, if different truths there be, than that taught by Jesus Christ. Therefore the truth to be believed is the truth taught by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, according to the confession of Unitarians themselves, was a teacher of truth, and a teacher of nothing but truth. Then all he taught was truth. Therefore, to be truly a Christian believer, truly a follower of Christ, it is necessary to believe, explicitly or implicitly, all the truth he taught. Hence, the commission to the Apostles was to teach all nations, and to teach them to observe all things whatsoever their Master had commanded them. St. Matt. xxviii. 20.

. 4. The truth which Jesus Christ taught or revealed appertains, in part, at least, to the supernatural order. By the supernatural order we understand the order above nature, that is, above the order of creation. All beings, whether brute matter, vegetables, animals, men, or angels, are in God, and without him could neither be, live, nor move. But God has created them all “after their kinds," and each with a specific nature. What is included in this nature, or promised by it, although having its origin and first motion in God, is what is meant by natural. Supernatural is something above this, and superadded. God transcends nature, and is supernatural ; but

; regarded solely as the author, upholder, and governor of nature, he is natural, and hence the knowledge of him as such is always termed natural theology. But as the author of grace, he is strictly supernatural ; because grace, though having the same origin, is above the order of creation, is not included in it, nor promised by it. It is, so to speak, an excess of the Divine

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

Fulness not exhausted in creation, but reserved to be superadded to it according to the Divine will and pleasure. Thus God may be said to be both natural and supernatural. As natural, that is, as the author, sustainer, and governor of nature, he is naturally cognoscible, according to what Saint Paul tells us, Rom. i. 20. Invisibilia enim ipsius, a creatura mundi, per ea quæ facta sunt, intellecta, conspiciuntur ; sempiterna quoque ejus virtus, et Divinitas : “For the invisible things of God, even his eternal power and Divinity, are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made.” But as supernatural, that is, as the author of grace, he is not naturally cognoscible, and can be known only as supernaturally revealed. The fact that he is the author of

grace, or that there is grace, is not a fact of natural reason, or intrinsically evident to natural reason. It, therefore, is not and cannot be a matter of science, but must be a matter of faith. Hence, the Apostle says again, Heb. xi. 6, Credere enim oportet accedentem ad Deum quia est, et inquirentibus se remunerator sit: “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek him.” That he is as author of nature we know, but that he is as author of grace, or that he is a rewarder of them that seek him, we believe.

Now, the revelation of Jesus Christ is preëminently the revelation of God as the author and dispenser of grace, and therefore preëminently the revelation of the supernatural. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth by Jesus Christ.” St. John, i. 17. Hence, to believe the truth and all the truth which Jesus Christ taught is to believe in truth pertaining to the supernatural order.

Unitarians, it is true, eliminate from the Gospel a great part of the mysteries, and reduce the Gospel, so to speak, 10 a mere republication of the law of nature; their theology is in the main natural theology ; their faith in God is in him as the author of nature, and the immortality they look for merely a natural immortality ; but the sounder part of them, among whom we reckon the writer of the article in the Examiner, do, nevertheless, to some extent, admit that Jesus revealed truths not naturally cognoscible, and which pertain also to the supernatural order. They admit that the Gospel is itself, in some sense, a revelation of grace, and therefore a revelation of the supernatural. They also admit the necessity, in order to be Christian believers, of believing in several particular things which pertain to the supernatural order. Among these we may instance

remission of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and final beatitude, or the heavenly reward. We are not aware that they question these ; and we are sure no one can question them without losing all right to the Christian name. But these all pertain to the supernatural order.

Remission of sin, whatever else it may mean, means at least remission of the penalty which God has annexed to transgression. The penalty is annexed by God as author and sovereign of nature, or it is annexed by him as supernatural. If by God in that sense in which he transcends nature, the penalty must itself be supernatural ; and therefore he who believes in its remission must believe in the supernatural, for no man can believe in the remission of a penalty which he does not believe to exist. If God annexes the penalty as author and sovereign of nature, it is in the order of nature, and then its remission must be supernatural ; for the remission cannot be in the order of nature, since it supersedes that order. To assume that the order of nature remits it, is to assume nature to be in contradiction with herself, or to deny the remission by denying the existence of any penalty to remit. Where the remission begins, there ends the penalty. If the remission be in the order of nature, then the order of nature imposes no penalty beyond the point where the remission begins ; and then there is no remission, for nothing is remitted. To say that God as author and sovereign of nature remits what in the same character he imposes is to assume that he imposes no penalty that goes farther than the commencement of the remission. Then, in fact, no remission. The penalty, in this case, would be exhausted, not remitted. Remission, then, must be by God as supernatural, not as natural ; not as author and sovereign of nature, but as author and dispenser of grace. Remission is necessarily an act of grace, and therefore supernatural. Then, whatever view be taken of the penalty itself, he who believes in its remission must believe in the supernatural order.

So of the resurrection of the dead. We do not mean to say that by natural reason we cannot demonstrate a future continued existence, but that a fact answering to the term resurrection is naturally neither cognoscible nor demonstrable. Resurrection means rising again, and evidently pertains, not to the soul, which never dies, but to the body, and implies that the same body which died is raised; for if not, it would not be a re-surrection, but a simple surrection, or perhaps creation. Now, by no natural light we possess can we come to the knowledge

a

of the fact that our bodies shall rise again. Yet we are taught in the Gospel that such is the fact. We are assured that we sball live again. But we live only as united to the body; for the Lord God formed man a body out of the dust of the earth, before he pronounced him a living soul. The souls of the departed doubtless exist ; but they are not living again in the full sense of the term, and will not so live till united anew to the body.

Moreover, the Apostle Paul tells us that the body shall not only be raised, but it shall be raised in a supernatural condition. “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.It is to be made like to our blessed Saviour's glorious body. But a glorified body does not pertain to the order of nature ; because the natural body, it is said, is to be “made like to the body of his glory,” which implies that it must be changed from its natural to a supernatural condition, before it is a glorified body. But by what natural powers we possess do we arrive at the fact that there are glorified bodies, much more, that our vile bodies shall be changed into glorified bodies ? And by what process of reasoning, not dependent for its data on the revelation, can we, now we are told it shall be so, prove that it will be so ?

So, again, as to our final destiny. The truth we are to believe pertains to the supernatural order. St. Peter says, By whom (Jesus Christ) he hath given us very great and precious promises, that by these you may be made partakers of the Divine nature,

- efficiamini diviniæ consortes naturæ. 2 Pet. i. 4. That this is to partake of the divine nature in a supernatural sense, and not in the sense in which we naturally partake of it, in being made to the image and likeness of God, is evident from the fact that the Apostle calls it a gift, and says it is that which is promised. What pertains to nature is not a gift, and what is already possessed cannot be said to be something promised. Therefore the participation of the divine nature in question is not a natural, but a supernatural, participation. The blessed Apostle John tells us, “We are now the sons of God, and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” 1 John iii. 2. Here it is asserted that we are to be something more than sons of God in the sense we now are ; for we know not, even being sons of God, what we shall be. But this we do know, that when he shall appear we shall be like him. But this likeness is supernatural, not

« AnkstesnisTęsti »