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templation of the truth and consideration of its evidence. God has made a revelation, and given infallible evidence that he has made it, and men refuse to believe it because they have a moral repugnance to it. Herein is the sin of unbelief. of faith is needed not to strengthen the evidence, nor even to open the eyes of the mind to its completeness, but to overcome this repugnance, and to incline the will to believe. Here, in the region of the will, divine grace is indispensable to eliciting the act of faith.
But the view which makes the grace of faith necessary to supply the defect of logical evidence cannot be admitted. If the grace bestowed in the fact of regeneration be necessary to supply the defect of evidence, it follows, that, prior to regeneration, there is no sufficient evidence for believing. But where there is no sufficient evidence for believing, the refusal to believe is not a sin. Therefore, prior to regeneration, unbelief is not a sin. The obligation to believe does not begin till the evidence be complete. The unregenerate, then, are under no obligation to believe, and do not in any manner sin by not believing. This is evidently not the Christian doctrine, for God commands all men to repent and believe in his Son.
But the fact of regeneration, according to our Calvinistic brethren, consists preëminently in the communication of the grace of faith and they would at once deny the reality of the conversion, if there were not both habitual and active faith. There is, according to them, no amissibility of grace. From which it follows, that, after regeneration, unbelief is impossible. Before regeneration it is possible, but not a sin. Therefore unbelief is never a sin, a most consoling conclusion to all infidels and misbelievers. Yet the New Testament makes want of faith in Jesus Christ, or, what is the same thing, the rejection of the Son, a ground of condemnation.
In another form, the doctrine of private illumination is made to mean not merely the confirmation of the believer's faith in a revelation previously made and propounded for his beliel, but the medium of the revelation itself. It regards all external revelation, all that may be called historical Christianity, as unnecessary, and teaches that each man has, by grace, the infallible witness in himself, that the Spirit of Truth, promised by Christ to his Apostles to lead them into all truth, is in every man, and has been in every man born into the world, from Adam to the present moment, and is in each man an infallible teacher, revealing and confirming to each man all the truth
which concerns his spiritual state, relations, and destiny. We say, by grace ; for we do not here speak of the doctrine of our modern Transcendentalists, which, though often confounded with the view we have given, the Quaker view, is yet quite distinguishable from it. The Transcendental doctrine excludes all grace, all that is supernatural, and assumes, that man, by virtue of his natural union with the Divinity, is able to apprehend intuitively all the spiritual truths that concern him. This, with a Transcendental felicity of expression, has been denominated “ Natural-supernaturalism.” But this is only another way of stating the doctrine refuted under the head of the sufficiency of reason as the vis intellectiva, or principle of intuitive knowledge. “Natural-supernatural” is a barbarism, and involves a direct contradiction. Either the truths attained are attained by the natural exercise of our natural powers, or they are not. If not, the Transcendental doctrine is false, for then the knowledge of them would be supernatural. If they are, then they are not supernatural at all. Transcendentalism, in point of fact, admits no supernatural order. Its adherents, following the sublimated nonsense of that profound opium-eater and literary plagiarist, Coleridge, define supernatural to be supersensuous; and because by science we evidently can attain to what is not sensuous, they sagely infer that we are able to know naturally the supernatural! Just as if what is naturally attained could be supernatural, either as the object known, or as the medium by which it is known ! Just as if nature could not include the supersensuous as well as the sensuous, as if the soul were not as natural as the body, an angel as man ! But this naturalsupernaturalism" which makes the fortune of Carlyle, Emerson, Parker, and we know not of how many German dreamers, is nothing but a Transcendental way of denying all supernatural revelation, and its refutation does not belong to the present discussion. It is intended to account for the phenomena presented by the religious history of mankind, without the admission of the supernatural or gracious intervention of Almighty God, and will receive some attention when we come to defend Christianity against unbelievers. We have no concern with it now, for at present we are defending the Church against heretics, not infidels.
The Quaker view is theoretically, though perhaps not practically, distinct from this Transcendental natural-supernaturalism. It does not assume that the supernatural is naturally cognoscible, nor that the supernatural is merely the supersensuous.
It admits the supernatural order, and contends that the witness in every man is distinct from human nature and human reason, and is in the proper sense of the term supernatural. Now this witness, called “ the light within,” either enables us to see intuitively the truth, or it merely witnesses to the fact of revelation. If the first, it is too much; for it would imply that the truth is matter of knowledge and not of faith, contrary to what we have proved. Moreover, it would imply that man is blest with the beatific vision in this life, and sees and knows God intuitively, which is not true ; for no man seeth God, or can see him and live. If the second, then, to the fact of what revelation does it witness ? To the revelation which God has made us through his Son Jesus Christ? Does it witness to this by an inward perception of the truth of the matter revealed ? or by simply deposing to the fact that God revealed it? Not the first, because that would make the truth revealed a matter of science. Then the second. But of this we demand proof. Do you say, that the spirit beareth witness to the fact? This may perhaps do for you, but what is it to me? How will you prove to me that it does so witness, and that the spirit witnessing in you is veritably and infallibly the spirit of God? Do you allege, the spirit is in every man testifying to the same fact, and proving itself to each man to be really and truly the infallible spirit of God? I deny it, and millions deny it with me. What have you to oppose to our denial ? Do you admit our denial ? Then you abandon your doctrine. Do you say our denial is false? Then, also, you abandon your doctrine ; for you admit that we err, and therefore cannot have in us an infallible teacher. If I deny, I deny by as high authority as you affirm ; and what reason, then, can you give why your affirmation must be received rather than my denial ?
Again : How do you prove that every man has this infallible witness ? From the external revelation, by passages from the Holy Scriptures ? Then you reason in a vicious circle ; for you take the inward witness to prove the Scriptures, and then the Scriptures to prove the witness. From immediate revelation to yourself? Then you must prove that you are the recipient of such revelation, which you can do only by a miracle, for a miracle is the only proper proof of such a fact. But do
you abandon the ground that it is the external revelation to which the witness deposes, and contend that it is rather the medium of a revelation made solely to the individual, than the witness to a revelation made and propounded for the belief of all men in common ? Then we must remind you that it is nothing to the purpose. Assuming its reality, it can avail only each man separately ; nothing to a common belief, and be no ground for crediting a common revelation, or for making a public or external profession of faith. But the revelation to which we are seeking a witness is not a new revelation, not a private revelation which Almighty God may see proper to make to individuals, but a revelation already made, and propounded for the belief of all men. This is the revelation to be established ; and since your private revelation does not establish this, or, if so, only by superseding it and rendering it of no value (for it can prove it even to the individual only by its being seen to be identical with what the individual receives without it), it evidently cannot be the witness we are in pursuit of. And this is the common answer to the alleged private illumination, whatever its form. It is valid only within the bosom of the individual, and can be alleged in support of no common or public faith ; therefore can be no witness in any disputed case. It inay be a private benefit, or may not be. It is a matter not to be spoken of, and a fact never to be used, when the question concerns any thing but the individual himself. The faith we are required to have is a faith propounded to all men, a public faith, and must be sustained by public evidence, by arguments which are open to all and common to all. We must, therefore, reject this third answer, as inappropriate and insufficient.
4. From what we have established it follows that the witness to the fact of revelation is not reason, the Bible interpreted by private reason, nor private illumination ; although we by no means question the fact that through grace even the understanding is illuminated. No witness, then, remains to be introduced but the Apostolic ministry, or Ecclesia docens. We do not, as we have said, deny the possibility on the part of God of adopting some other method ; but he manifestly has not adopted any other than one of the four methods we have enumerated. The first three of these four we have proved he cannot have adopted, because they are inadequate.' Then, either the last method is adopted, and the Apostolic ministry is the witness, or we have no witness. But we have a witness, as before proved. Therefore, the Apostolic ministry, or Ecclesia docens, is the witness.
This conclusion stands firm without any further proof, but we do not intend to leave it without proving it a posteriori, by plain, positive, and direct evidence. But before proceeding to do this, we must dispose of one or two preliminary difficulties. According to the principles we have laid down, the witness to the supernatural is incompetent unless it be itself supernatural, or, what is the same thing, supernaturally aided. But the Apostolic ministry is composed of men, each of whom, taken singly, is confessedly only human. The whole is only the sum
, of the parts. Therefore the ministry itself is only human. If human, natural. If natural, incompetent. Therefore the Apostolic ministry cannot be such a witness as is demanded.
This objection is founded on the supposition that the collective body of teachers are assumed to be the witness by virtue of their natural powers or endowments, which is not the fact. Lest to their natural powers, the body of teachers, taken either singly or corporately, would be altogether incompetent, however learned, wise, or pious. The competency of the body of teachers is contended for solely on the ground that Jesus Christ is with it, and supernaturally speaks in and through it ; and in and through the body rather than the teachers taken singly, because his promise, on which we rely, is made to the body, and not to the individuals taken singly. The ministry is the organ through which Jesus Christ supernaturally bears witness to his own revelation. If this be a fact, if Jesus Christ really, by his supernatural presence, be with the Ministry, if in its authoritative teachings he makes it his organ and speaks in and through it, its competency cannot be questioned ; for we then have in it the supernatural witness to the supernatural. Whether this be a fact or not will be soon considered.
But it is still further objected, that, if the witness to the supernatural must be itself supernatural, the supernatural can never be witnessed to natural reason, and therefore man can never have any good grounds for believing the supernatural, unless he be himself supernaturally elevated above his nature. For the competency of the supernatural witness is a supernatu
a ral fact which can be proved only by another supernatural witness, which in turn will require still another, and thus on, in infinitum, which is impossible. But we must distinguish between the competency of the witness to testify to the fact of revelation and the motives of the credibility of the witness. The competency of the witness depends on its supernatural character ; the motives of credibility are such as natural reason may appreciate. The credibility of the witness is supernaturally