Abbildungen der Seite

derstanding, if we would keep a conscience void of offence. Many cases of conscience are not to be solved, without the utmost exercise of our reason. The same is requisite in order to understand, and to discharge our ordinary relative duties: the duties of parents and of children; of husbands and wives, of masters and servants. In all these respects, and in all the duties of common life, God has given us our reason for a guide. And it is only by acting up to the dictates of it, by using all the understanding which God has given us, that we can have a conscience void of offence, towards God and towards man.

Here, then, is a large field indeed, wherein reason may expatiate and exercise all its powers. And if reason can do all this in civil and religious things, what is it that it cannot do? Hitherto all prejudice has been laid aside, and the matter weighed calmly and impartially. The same course let us still pursue: let us now coolly consider, without prepossession on either side, what it is, according to the best light we have, that reason cannot do.

I do not believe that reason can produce faith, though it is al. ways consistent with reason; yet I cannot believe that reason of itself can produce faith in the Scriptural sense of the word. According to the Scripture, we understand faith to be an evidence, or conviction of things not seen.

We consider it, according to scripture, a divine evidence, bringing with it a full conviction of an invisible eternal world.

It is true there may be a kind of shadowy conclusion or persuasion of this, which was the case even amongst the wiser heathens, (probably from tradition or from some gleams of light reflected from the Israelites, but it was little more than mere conjecture. It is not a firm conviction, such as I feel in my own mind, that reason in its highest state of improvement can ever produce in any

child of man. The truth of this, I think, I can venture to state, I found from sad experience, many years ago. For, after carefully heaping up the strongest arguments that I could find in either ancient or modern authors, for the very, being of a God and (w' ich is nearly connected with it) the existence of an invisible world; I have wandered up and down the Greasy-Creek Old Fields musing with myself, from day to day, and year after year, resolving at times to live the life of a hermit. I was secluded from the human family for weeks together! Seeing no human creature, my attention diverted by no. human voice, ard the Bible my constant companion. And yet I could not produce any clear and satisfactory conviction of a God and an invisible world. No; as I mused, the theme was, "what if all these things which i see around me, this earth and the heavens, yea, all this universal

frame, has existed from eternity. And how is it possible for me to be sure this is not the case?" How, (Lord,) I have often cried out in my meditations, shall I be convinced that I am not endeavouring to follow cunningly devised fables? And I have pursued the thought until there was no spirit left within me and I was ready to choose death rather than life. Yea, I have earnestly desired the king that is styled the king of terrors to come and end

my trials.


Neither can I believe that reason alone can produce hope in any child of man; that is, scriptural hope; that hope which St. Paul styles in one place, “tasting of the powers of the world to come;" in another, " the sitting in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.

That which enables us to say, “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, which is reserved in heaven for us.” This hope can only spring from Christian faith: therefore where there is not Scriptural faith there cannot be Scriptural hope. I do not deny that a self-deceiving enthusiast may work himself into a kind of hope.. He may work himself up by a lively imagination, into a sort of pleasing dream. He may as the prophet says, "encompass himself about with sparks of his own kindling. But this is of no great duration; in a little time the bubble breaks. The Scriptural hope can only spring from Scriptural faith. Consequently reason being unable to produce faith, must be equally unable to produce hope. Of this I can venture to speak also from experimental knowledge. Yea, how often did I labour, and that with all my might, to produce this hope that is full of immortality within myself. But it was lost labour. It was no more in my power to produce it, than it was, to touch the heavens with my hands. And as reason cannot produce either faith or hope, neither can it produce the love of God, since it must be from faith and hope alone, that this love can flow. It is evident, then, only when we behold by faith what manner of love the father hath bestowed upon us, in giving his only Son, that we might not perish but have everlasting life, that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us. It is only, then, when we rejoice in the hope of God, that we love him because he first loved us. But what can bare reason do in this matter? It can present us with fine ideas; it can draw a fine picture of love; but this is only a painted fire! and farther than this reason cannot go. I made this trial also; for some years I was continually collecting and reading meditations, sermons, hymns, and the Bible, with all possible seriousness and attention. But I still continued like the bones in Ezekiel's

vision; the skin covered them above, but there was no breath in them,

Once more we may observe, that as reason cannot produce the love of God, neither can it produce the love of our neighbour; that is, a calm, disinterested, generous benevolence to every child of man.

This earnest, steady good will to our fellow-creatures, never · flowed from any fountain but gratitude to God our Creator; and

if this be the very essence of virtue, it follows that virtue can have no being unless it springs from God; therefore, as reason cannot produce this love, so neither can it produce virtue. And as it cannot give either faith, hope, love, or virtue, it cannot give happiness; since, separate from these, there can be no happiness for any intelligent creature. It is true that those who are void of virtue may have pleasures, such as they are, but happiness they have not.

I must now take the liberty of speaking a few plain words ; first, to those who undervalue reason. Never declaim against this precious gift of God. Acknowledge the candle of the Lord which he has fixed in our souls for excellent purposes. I have pointed out many admirable ends that it answers; and were it only in the things of this life, of what unspeakable use is even a moderate share of reason in all our worldly employments, even from the lowest and meanest offices of life through all the intermediate branches of business, till we ascend to those of the highest importance and the greatest difficulty. When therefore, we endeavour to depreciate reason we must not imagine we are doing God service; and the least of all are we promoting the cause of God, when we are endeavouring to exclude reason out of religion. Unless we willingly shut our eyes, we cannot but see of what service it is, both in laying the foundation and raising the superstructure. We see it directs us in every point, both of faith and practice; it guides us with regard to every practice both of inward and outward holiness. Do we not glory in this, that the whole of our religion is a reasonable service? Yea, and that every part of it, when it is duly performed, is the high est exercise of our understanding.

I must also add a few words to those who overvalue reason. Why should we run from one extreme to another? Is not the middle way the best? Let reason do all that it can do; employ it as far as it will go. But at the same time let us acknowledge that it is utterly incapable of giving either faith, hope, or love, and consequently of producing either real virtue or substantial happiness. We must expect these from a higher source, even from the Father of the spirits of all flesh. We must seek and y'eceive these, not as our own acquisition, but as the gifts of God. Let us lift up our hearts to Him that giveth liberally, and upbraideth not. He alone can give that faith which is the evidence and conviction of things not seen. He alone can beget us into a lively hope of an inheritance eternal in the heavens; and He alone can shed abroad his love in our hearts, by the Holy Spirit given unto us. Ask therefore and it shall be given you; cry unto Him and you shall not cry in vain. How can you doubt? “If ye being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven, give the Holy Spirit unto them that ask him?" So shall ye be living witnesses that wisdom, boliness, and happiness are one, are inseparably connected and united, and are indeed the beginning of that eternal life which God hath given us in his Son.



If I were addressing mankind verbally, I could venture to close this subject. But when I reflect on the accountability of an Author writing on a religious subject, submitting to the world not only the views of others, but his own also, I am almost made to tremble, and my pen to falter and drop from my hand, through fear of omitting some important consideration, or advancing something erroneous, which will not only live with me, but must be sealed with my life and dying breath. What I now advance to the world is not designed to touch softly upon the ear for a moment only, and then evaporate forever; but it may remain, and be had in remembrance, when the mortal fingers that move the pen to night, shall be devoured by worms and corruption. And, considering my weakly constitution, my long indisposition, (for in ten years, I have not enjoyed one days health, I cannot expect to continue long in the land of the living. And can I be indifferent in selecting my subject which is to be submitted to the examination of mankind, not only in the time of my tabernacling in the flesh, but when this body must lie mouldering in the dust? Shall I, whose only desire is to spend the balance of my days in the faithful discharge of my duty towards my God, and my fellow mortals be indifferent towards you? I, who have endeavoured for ten years to wean all natural ties of relationship, and live a life of hermitage, in urder to become enabled to be beneficial to mankind in general, at last conclnde, with cold indiffer

ence, that you are nothing to me; and say, no matter what course you pursue,

I shall
soon leave

and then

your conduct will not affect me? God forbid that I should cease my exertion of body or mind for the universal benefit of mankind, as long as breath remains in this mortal frame. But, grant, O Lord, to enable me to perform and discharge my duty faithfully towards all sects and denominations of men. Of all the situations that man can be placed in on earth, that of an author on religious subjects is one of the greatest importance, both with respect to himself and mankind in general. If he gives an unfaithful account of the mysteries of religion; if he imparts not truth to the ignorant, and warns not the transgressor of his danger, of him may their blood be required by their master. When these reflections crowded on my mind, I have sometimes been almost ready to repent my undertaking; but what could I do, could I flee from the

presence of the Lord? Jonah had at last to go to Nineveh, and where could I go; my duty of accomplishing this work has been so strongly enforced on my mind for some years past, that I have been almost as useless to society as Jonah was when beneath the rolling billows. I tried intemperance, amusements, and various means to rid my mind of the duty, which appeared to be laid on me, but in vain; it returned with redoubled violence and I found no way to escape. In the spring of 1828, I determined to leave the state of Kentucky and return to my birth place, (Albemarle County, Virginia,) with a hope that the continual change of scenery, and the pleasure of meeting my old friends, would at length divert my attention, and release my mind from this duty. But witness ( heavens, give ear O earth! How disappointed was I in this. I do verily believe, and ever shall, that Jonah's conflicts while in the whale's belly were no greater than mine while in the state of Virginia, until I determined to return to Kentucky and do that which was so much impressed on my mind, trusting in the Lord to open the way for the accomplishment thereof. (The manner in which it was commenced, &c. I shall speak of more fully in the next and last chapter of this work.) To return to my subject. I now consider, that if an author is able from the treasures of wisdom, to inform the ignorant, warn the sinner, to scatter abroad and dispense food to the hungry, his reward is with bis God. And whilst engaged in a work of that kind he may rejoice at midnight; though sleep should forsake him, yet there is true gratification in the discharge of duty; I now feel an experimental krowledge of this. At this moment is the clock telling five, and I have been steadily engaged from midnight to the present time and do not feel the least weary; no, nor have I had the least right to complain since I first com

« ZurückWeiter »