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because God had given him such bad weather for his journey. He soon reached the borders of a thick forest. What was his terror on beholding on one side of the road a robber with levelled gun aiming at him, and attempting to fire; but to his infinite joy he found that to the very rain which had so annoyed him he was indebted for his preservation—the powder was too damp to take fire!
How often do we complain as faithlessly, forgetting that in all such providences “God is his own interpreter."
JOHN HOWE'S TURN. DURING the Commonwealth, Howe was frequently applied to by men of all parties soliciting favors of one kind or another. One day the Protector said to him, “ Mr. Howe, you have asked favors for every body but yourself: pray when does your turn come?" He replied, “My turn, my lord Protector, is always come when I can serve another.”
Enquiries and Correspondence.
5. Faith and Sense. SIR,—In answer to the enquiry of Filius, allow me to say, that circumstanced as we are, we are compelled to believe many things we do not understand. We believe, for example, in the union of body and soul in one man, but who understands the nature of the union ?
As regards the doctrines of God's Word, we are required simply to receive what he has been pleased to reveal; and in doing so, we shall believe many things which, though above our reason, we may fairly assume are not contrary to it, because He who made that reason, cannot require that we should do violence to it, in believing a revelation from himself. We cannot imagine that God would propound anything requiring such an overthrow of his best gift to man. But we can easily suppose that he might require we should hold reason in abeyance when he laid down truths beyond its province.
The doctrine of the Trinity in Unity is beyond our reason, but none can affirm that it is contrary to it. As unreasonable would it be to deny the union of three or more colors in one ray of colorless light, a fact with which all are familiar; and yet who will say he perfectly comprehends it ?
This question, always important, is especially so at the present time, when so-called rationalism, and popery, and other forms of doctrine-all alike as we believe alien from the truth-S0 earnestly press their respective claims.
The enquiry is threefold, and requires a threefold reply, which I will endeavor briefly to give.
1. “We ought not to believe anything we do not understand.”
This position, though often assumed, is fallacious, as is manifest the moment we apply it to any subject whatever. If we are to reject everything in which we find a mystery, there will be but little left. If we believe what we understand, and only that, we shall believe nothing ; for what I fully comprehend I cannot be said to believe so much as to know. Faith is a remedy provided by Infinite wisdom for finite understanding. But it may be said, “ All we mean is, that we ought not to believe any proposition the terms of which we do not understand.” If this be all, the difficulty vanishes. The terms of the propositions, “There is a God, All-Wise, Almighty, ever present and eternal.” “There is a connexion between the soul and the body; these act and re-act upon each other.” “ There is moral evil in the universe,” &c., are clear enough, and none deny them. But who understands them? Who can answer the last question upon them? Therefore we believe that a man may receive what he does not understand, and what he cannot understand. In actual life and practice we do this; our nature is so constituted that we must, and he would be more than man, and therefore not a man, who is not under this law of our being.
2. “In certain things we are to take God at his word, and trust him where we cannot trace him.”
In a modified sense this is true, but not as interpreted by some. As it will not do to abandon faith, to follow reason as
alone sufficient, so neither will it be safe to abandon reason and to follow faith. As Rationalism, or rather Pyrrhonism, (i. e. universal scepticism,) will result from the former, so superstition and credulity follow the latter. There is, it would seem, no clear case in which God asks us to take him simply at his word. If he ask us to believe his promises, and those doctrines of pure revelation which the gospel contains, he also gives us the recorded experience of his saints in all ages in explanation and proof of the former ; and he gives us the recorded examples of others, and a knowledge of his character, as testimony to the latter. The fact is, that he has given us in every instance such evidence as the nature of the case required and admitted. Though personally he requires us to believe often what we have never experienced, and an example of which we have never seen.
3. “Some matters are above reason, but not contrary to it.”
There is an ambiguity in this expression, though it is often used. Nothing is above reason, for God is the highest reasonbut much may be above our reasoning powers. In this latter sense I would understand the proposition. There are some things then about which we cannot reason, so as to explain or understand them. The doctrine of the Trinity is perhaps an example; until we can grasp the infinite we may not hope to comprehend this doctrine, yet who shall venture to pronounce it unreasonable ? or contrary to reason? We can understand the terms in which this proposition is stated there are three Persons but one God;" we can appreciate the evidence we have for the Divine origin of the book which reveals this doctrine, and perhaps more, but it is not, and was not, meant to be within the province of human reasoning to apprehend all that is intended in the proposition. Nothing that does not involve a contradiction, palpable and unremovable, is contrary to reason.
It is evident that in matters of this kind we cannot expect to know the whole, and yet we may “know in part.” The reasons of many of God's doctrines and dispensations, as well as of our duties, may be hidden from us; and yet we may have such an amount of evidence for them as shall justify faith in the one, submission to and acquiescence in the second, and a cheerful performance of the last as a “reasonable service.”
Thus I have attempted to reply to these questions. The third might be resolved into the first, but it seemed best to preserve them formally distinct.
In enquiries like this, God's word is our guide, and we shall generally find its conclusions accepted by an enlightened and pious mind: difficulties will arise, but in the case of the sincere and humble seeker for truth, they will not generally long remain, or impede him in the practical discharge of his duties to God. But see 1 Cor. 2. Let your faith be enlightened and your reason sanctified.
In conclusion, let me earnestly commend to the perusal of Filius, a small work, “Reason and Faith,” by Henry Rogers, published by Longman and Co., the author of which, while he is an amiable and accomplished man, is a philosopher and a Christian. In the former part of this work the respective provinces of faith and reason are well defined, and their claims beautifully adjusted.
B. H. C.
8. Happiness in Heaven. SIR,—It appears to me from Scripture most plain that there will be differences of rewards in heaven, and, consequently, degrees of glory. The passages whence I deduce my opinion are Daniel xii. 3; and Luke xix. 12—26. The lesson taught by the last of these, seems to be—that advantages being equal, the amount of reward will be dispensed in proportion to the amount of devoted effort. The parable in Matt. xxiv. does not contradict this; for there, the lesson evidently taught is, that difference of advantage, with equal effort, will ensure an equal reward.
The parable of the laborers in the vineyard, and Luke xx. 36, appear to me easily reconcileable with this view. The great gift of Eternal life, with its attendant happiness, will be granted equally to every redeemed child of Adam, though there may be an infinite variety in the capacity and circumstantials of that happiness; while the latter passage seems to me, also, to teach the general truth, that the redeemed church, compared collectively with the angelic family, will be found quite equal to it.
As to the second enquiry, the passages of Scripture already
quoted, most clearly teach that the diligent use of present privileges, be they few or many, will be the standard according to which the final reward will be given.
9. What shall I do to be saved ? My Dear Sir, I have long noticed how kindly you answer the letters of the numerous Correspondents to your Magazine, I therefore venture to intrude on your patience with these few lines, hoping for an answer.
Ever since quite a child I have frequently had religious impressions, I have felt very anxious about my soul, and prayed earnestly to God, and felt unhappy about my sins ; then after a short time all my good resolutions vanished as “the morning dew," and I was again as worldly and thoughtless as ever.
I often thank God for his long suffering in striving with me by his blessed Spirit. But I am not at peace: my question is—“What must I do to be saved?”. I have not faith to believe-I cannot lay hold of the precious promises of the Bible and apply them to my case. Am I to understand from this text, “ Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely,” that if I really and honestly wish to walk in the narrow way, and to serve God with my whole heart, I am to believe there is eternal life for me?
“Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners,” but these sinners must have part of the work to perform, or all would be saved. I do not mean that heaven can ever be gained by man's works, for « all his righteousness are indeed filthy rags;" but I do not understand Paul's answer to the jailor, “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
I have preferred writing on this subject to you who are an entire stranger, instead of speaking to my friends, as I do not wish to do so till I can give a reason of the hope within me.
Hoping that through God's blessing you may be instrmental in clearing up the doubts which obscure my mind,
Believe me, dear Sir,
** We are still without answers to questions 6 and 7 in our last number page 139.