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Reason and Revelation

Brownson's Quarterly Review, April, 1852.

Art. V.--La Raison Philosophique et la Raison Catholique.  Conferences prechees a Paris dans l'Annee 1851, augmentees et accompagnees de Remarques et de Notes, par le T.R.P. Ventura De Raulica, etc.,etc.  Paris.  1851

The coming generation will enter on the stage of active life under better auspices than those under which we entered.  Infidelity is going out of vogue.  There may be nearly as much of it in the world as ever; but if there is, at least it no longer carries so bold a front as formerly.  It even assumes the mask of belief; it pretends to be Christian, in order that it may appear respectable.  Now there is an immense advantage in this.  A great number of persons, particularly young persons, are governed by fashion in the formation of their opinions; and there are many who, without any pains to form opinions, allow their language and their outward actions to take their form and color from those with whom they associate.  Many a young man has been fool enough to say, not in his heart, but with his lips, "There is no truth in revelation," because he hoped to gain eclal by the bold impiety of his language.  Many a one, without knowledge, without examination, without reflection, has scoffed at all belief in miracles and mysteries, in order that he might have the name of thinking for himself, and bowing to no authority but that of his own individual reason.  Irreligion was fashionable, and therefore contagious.  Incredulity was tempting, as the shortest road to distinction.  This evil, the bad legacy of three cennturies of religious disputation, doubt, and denial, is beginning to pass away.  This openly Antichristian spirit, though not banished, has been rebuked.  A long period must yet elapse before the world will see what has been briefly, but happily, described as an "age of faith";--an age when all the civilized nations of the world shall form a Christendom once more; when all will be united in the same religious belief, and in the bonds of Christian brotherhood and charity.  We may salute that blessed epoch at a distance; we may long for its return, and each one in his own way and measure strive to hasten its advent; but none of us may rationally hope to witness its arrival,--then sing his Nunc Dimittis, and go to rest in peace.  Still we are advancing towards it.  The spirit of doubt and denial has nearly run its course.  It is time for the human mind, worn and desolate with its weary flight over the ocean of uncertainty, to return to that ark which is its only resting-place.  The idolatry of reason, of man's individual reason, must at last succumb, like the old pagan idolatries, to the divine authority of faith.

Attempting to show you the utter inadequacy of reason, whether as a substitute for faith, or as the arbiter of faith, we have no fear of laying ourselves open to the charge of being an enemy to reason.  To the right use of reason we are not opposed; to reason herself we can have no hostility.  We shall appeal to reason throughout our observations.  It is the abuse of a good thing, the idolatry of reason, that we oppose; and it is a most criminal abuse of reason to attempt to substitute her teaching for the revelation of God, or to make her the judge of him and his infallible declarations.

There is a philosophy which, fixing itself on the firm basis of revelation, so far as religion and morals are concerned, is content with hunting arguments and illustrations from history, analogy, or experience, in favor of the truths which it reveres.  It knows that the supernatural world is far above the sphere of its contracted powers, and that its true province is the wide field of nature, in which it has room enough to expatiate and employ in fruitful researches its principles of natural science, which would be only misapplied if brought to bear upon the supernatural.  It is no "scrutinizer of majesty"; it does not strive, with rash and impious hand, to lift the veil of mystery.  This is the right use of reason; this is true philosophy.  But there is also a philosophy which, professing not only ignorance, but also disbelief, of all revealed truths, undertakes to give us the speculations of pure, unaided reason, as all-sufficient to guide us through this life and prepare us for the future;--and this is the substitue which has been kindly offered us for that religion which has civilized and reformed, enlightened and blessed, mankind.  It cannot be wrong to examine what titles to our respect and confidence are possessed by this bold pretender; what certain truths requiring our belief, what lessons of wisdom to be reduced to practice, have been taught or can be taught by this philosophy of reason.

The most important and deeply interesting questions to the human mind are those respecting the nature, attributes, and providence of God; our relations and duties towards him; our origin, the purpose of our present existence, our future destinies, and the causes of the evils which surround us.  These are the great problems which reason has tried to solve, from the very dawn of history to the present day.  Now, what progress has she made towards a right decision of any one of these questions?  Can it be shown that of herself she has ever discovered a single truth regarding even one of them?  and is it not demonstrably certain, that she has fallen into the most serious errors on each and every one of them?  Every scholar will admit that the wisest and best of the philosophers of pagan antiquity have done little credit to reason by their researches into these matters.  Their ignorance and blindness surprise us; their degrading errors seem to us scarcely conceivable.  Yet it must be observed, that, while the mistakes and absurdities which abound in their speculations are their own, whatever fragments of truth may be found amid their masses of error most certainly are not theirs,--are not discoveries of reason, but vestiges of revelation.  It is one thing for reason to discover a truth, and quite another thing for her to recognize the form and lineaments of truth in that which is proposed to her as such.  We should laugh at the silly arrogance of the man who should pretend to have discovered the propositions of Euclid or the theory of Newton because he believed in them and could repeat their demonstrations.

Reason herself, though unenlightened by revelation, cannot deny--on the contrary, must admit as a probability at least--that our Creator, at the very origin of our race, may have manifested something of his wisdom, power, and goodness to his rational and responsible creatures,--may have prescribed their duties towards him and towards each other,--and may have held out to them the hope of rewards and the fear of punishments hereafter.  Now this is precisley what we know to have been done, on the testimony of the inspired writings, which give us an authentic account of the facts, and are corroborated by all the monuments of traditions of our race.  The dogmas of the existence of the Creator and Ruler of the universe, of the necessity of religious worship, of the immortality of the soul and future rewards and punishments, of man's fall and promised restoration, were not the fruits of philosophic inquiry.  Revealed by the Alimighty to our first parents, to be trasmitted to all their descendents, found among the most rude and barbarous, as well as the most civilized and refined, nations of the ancient world, they were the inheritance of the human race, the traditionary religion of all mankind.  But in the course of time that same neglect and indifference in such matters which are still exhibited by so many and to which every man is liable, the power of passion and of vice to darken the mind, and the pride of reason exercised about things entirely above the sphere of its comprehension, gradually so weakeened the remembrance of these great truths of primitive revelation, blended with them so many errors and absurdities, ingrafted so many superstitions on them, that the fair image of truth was no longer to be recognized in the monstrous systems of polytheism and idolatry which prevailed in every nation but one of the ancient world, and which still prevail wherever the Christian revelation is not yet received.

The philosophers of the Grecian states and of the Roman empire were men of the greatest genius and ability.  While the world lasts, the monuments they have left us will bear witness to their Herculean powers of mind.  They were acute, subtile, earnest, persevering in their search for truth, and they devoted themselves with heart and soul to moral, metaphysical, and theological investigations.  In their ardent inquiries they could discern absurdity and folly in the religion which they practised; and by visting in person, or collecting the reports of travellers who had visited, the East, they occasionally caught some echoes of the faith of a chosen and separate people, who worshipped one only God in spirit and in truth.  And yet they were only groping in the dark, and their own conclusions were so far from satisfying their minds, from appeasing "the mighty hunger of their souls," that we find them all confessing their doubts, uncertainty, and ignorance, and some of them expressly declaring that reason had utterly failed, that philosophy could not enlighten them, that there was no hope for man but in a revelation from above.  They never dreamed of reforming the popular religion of their respective countries; they might as well have attempted to command the tempest, to chain the winds, or check the tides; for supposing them to have had, what they unquestionably had not, the will to sacrifice themselves in such a cause, and the power to force unpalatable truths on unwilling multitudes, who were ready to stone or burn them for their pains, they had no certain truths to teach, no doctrines which they firmly believed, not even on the first and fundamental points.  They had done what man left to himself in this dark world could do to arrive at truth.  We know the state of their minds, the extent of their knowledge and ignorance, for their opinions are recorded in their writings; and we confidently summon them as witness to prove the utter insufficiency of reason to guide us through this life or prepare us for the next.  Let us select one or two of those questions which are obviously most important, and would necessarily first claim attention;--for example, the doctrine of a God, Creator of all things.  This tenet was originally revealed, and was always believed by those who retained that pristine revelation.  But the attribute of creative power was too great for the comprehension of unaided reason; and that pure, simple, and sublime idea of omnipotence, which the Israelite and Christian acquire in childhood, never entered the mind of the wisest sages of antiquity.  Reason could not conceive how any thing could be created, in the proper sense of that term.  Matter exists; therefore it must have existed from eternity.  It might be shaped or fashioned into different forms, differently combined, variousy modified, as it is on a small scale by the hand of man or the machinery of man's invention; but drawn from nothing! called into being by the fiat of almighty will!--reason never reached by its own efforts this sublime, though now familiar belief.  This may appear to some a purely speculative question; but there are practical consequences of the highest moment resulting from this utter failure of reason to realize the truth of a Creator-God.  For according to any system of philosophy, or to any religion but that revealed to us, man was not the creature of God.  He owed not to him his existence, but at most his form and mode of being.  He could not therefore call God his Father.  He knew not whether the Deity cared for him or not.  He might fear his superior power, but he could not love him; he never had the idea of loving him.  There is not one phrase in all the writings of the pagans to show that the love of God, "the first and greatest command," was even thought of by them.  And looking at the evils to which he was subject, the miseries of that condition in which the Deity had placed him, and all the moral disorder of the world, man could scarcely feel that he owed either gratitude or love to a Supreme Being whom he did not know as his Creator and Father.  Another consequence of the failure of reason was an almost total ignorance of the second great command, which is like to the first.  For not recognizing a common Father in heaven, man did not know as brothers his fellow-men on earth.  Hence that heartless indifference to human suffering, that cruel barbarity, that bloodthirstiness, which disgraced every pagan nation,--exhibited by them in peace as well as in the war; in the heroism of Horatius, in the patriotism of Brutus; in the cruel treatment of prisoners and slaves; in their inhumanity to women and children; in their human sacrifices, their bloody gladiatorial shows; in the practice which universally prevailed, as it still does in China and every nation not enlightened by Divine revelation,--a practice which both law and philosophy sanctioned among Greeks and Romans in the days of their greatest refinement,--the practice of exposing infants to death as soon as they were born, which was never declared illegal until a Christian Emperor, Constantine, ascended the throne.  We have all sympathized with the Roman auditory, who rose to applaud the sentiment, "Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto,"--"I am a man, and feel an interest in all that concerns my fellow-men."  Why is it never noted, that the whole plot of this play of Terence turns on the disovery, by the father who utters this noble sentiment, of his child, supposed to be dead, because exposed to death in infancy according to custom, which was, moreover, a custom so well established and sanctioned and regulated, that, when the new-born infant was presented to its father, if he did not take it in his arms, if he turned his back on it, it was to die as a matter of course?

The idea of creative power being totally lost, all religion might have perished with it, but that the imperfect remains of traditionary truth, the feeling sense that religion is the first great want of humanity, the hunger and thirst of the soul for some object of supreme verneration and worship, the idea of Divinity originally and permanently present to the mind of the whole human race, drew men back from the dark gulf of atheism, at least practical atheism, towards which reason was hurrying them by its restless efforts to measure with its feeble powers the infinite and incomprehensible.

Let us interrogate philosophy as to the limits of her researches on another point of immense importance and vital interest to all mankind.  Divine Providence, a superintending care of the moral and physical universe, was merely a question, on both sides of which reason had much to say.  Fate, blind, inexorable destiny, a power superior to gods as well as men, was commonly supposed to be the ruler of the universe.  Then the question of a providence was complicated by the want of a clear and firm belief in the unity of God.  The philosophers, who listened to the voice of tradition, and thus received an intimation of this important truth, still fell short of any just conception of the relative or moral attributes of the Supreme Being, whose existence and absolute attributes they indistinctly knew.  Some regarded him as the Soul of the universe, animating the whole frame of nature; others, as an inert being, indiffernet to the affairs of men or commiting their government to inferior gods.  Whether he could be propitiated by man,--whether prayer, sacrifice, or any other religious acts were ncessary or could aught avail us,--they professed themselves utterly unable to determine.  The Epicureans released all their gods from every sort of care.  The Stoics thought that man was all-sufficient for himself, and accordingly they pronounced it weakness to pray for corporeal blessings, and waste of time, and folly too, to ask Heaven for the goods of the mind.  The Peripatetics were doubtful and contradictory, and the Academicians ready, on this as on every other point, to maintain either side of the question.  In fact, there  was more of truth in the popular superstitions than in the speculations of philosophy.  The people prayed to their false deities; they called on gods that could neither hear nor help them; they preferred their petitions to beings more vicious than themselves, and oftentimes for objects most unholy.  But still they recognized the sacred duty of prayer.  The philospher, guided by pure reason, scoffed at this Divine instinct of our nature, this innate tendency of our being, this universal sentiment of our race.  He proposed to rob poor human nature of its last defence, of prayer,--the language of faith, the cry of weakness and of want, the voice of hope, the only refuge from despair,--prayer, the bond of union between man and his Creator, the homage which we offer him in concert with the heavenly host that minister around his throne, the one of all our acts or occupations which immediately and of itself prepares and practises and fits us for heaven!  And if he who at the present day acknowledges no higher philosophy than that of reason does sometimes bend the knee to his Creator in humble supplication, it is not from any certain knowledge that his philosophy gives him of the ncessity and efficacy of prayer; for how can reason assure him that the Deity wishes to be invoked, and that he who has forseen and predetermined all things will hearken to the petitions of weak and erring mortals?  When, therefore, he prays, he is obeying a higher voice than that of reason,--the voice of conscience, enlightened by some rays of revelation; he is listening to the voice of God within him.

On the question of the immortality of the soul, reason may be expected to speak a more confident language.  It is emphatically the faith of the human race.  It was clearly revealed in the beginning.  The soul whose immortality is in question is our own; and we have through consciousness some natural knowledge of it, as the substance which thinks, remembers, wills, and differs in all its ascertained properties from body or matter.  It might, then, without the help of revelation, be inferred that the soul is not liable to the decay or dissolution to which the body is subject, and could not be destroyed by the same Omnipotence which called it into being.  Yet human philosophy has been able, by its ceaseless questionings, to overshadow even this subject with its gloomy doubts.  The wisest and best men of antiquity affirmed that the mind was immaterial, and therefore indestructible; they shrunk with horror from the prospect of annihilation; they fondly hoped to live beyond the grave; they thought the universal traditionary belief must be right.  At all events, they would rather err on this side; they would cherish this delusion, if it were a delusion; they would cling to the belief of an herafter, as the only adequate motive and recompense of virtue, the solace of adversity, the support of wronged and suffering innocence, the last hope of trembling humanity.  Those who are versed in Greek and Roman lore will recognize the argument, while they will sympathize with the feelings, of these ancient advocates of the immortality of the soul.  But what is the character of this argument?  Why, it is an appeal mainly, not to reason, but to the sentiments and instincts of our race.  How different, too, is this opinion or persuasion of theirs from the firm, unwavering, and immovable confidence which revelation gives!  How unlike the Christian's "Credo in resurrectionem mortuorum et vitam aeternam,"--"I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting."  But philosophy never did and never will produce a Credo.  On this subject it held, not the language of certainty, but of hope and earnest desire, blended with fears and haunted wiht doubts, which philosophy had no power to exorcise.  For there were those who, vindicating the rights of reason, claimed some firmer foundation for their faith, and would not believe what did not present to their minds the characters of evident and indisputable truth.  "We want," these philosophers answered, "we want proof, conclusive arguments addresssed to reason, and you offer us hopes and fears, instinctive feelings, a natural dread of annihilation, vulgar superstition, and your crude notions of the substance of the soul, which we do not feel bound to admit, which you cannot prove true, and which science may herafter refute."  Pressed by such difficulties, the nobler spirits among the old philosoophers felt that reason alone wwas a treacherous guide, and turning reproachful looks upon her, and uttering a cry of distress, a prayer for help, took refuge (so to express it) in the temple of Hope, resolved to wait ther until some messenger from aboe should enlighten their ignorance.  In truth, the strongest testimonies of the absolute insufficiency of reason to dtermine this and simiar questions abound in the writings of Plato and Cicero, and may be found in the declarations of other philosophers.  On this very subject, after a full discussion of it, Cicero, though persuaded of the immortality of the soul, expressly says, "It would require a god to decide which of the opinions is true: as for ourselves, we cannot even determine which is the more probable" (Tusculanae).  Plato had previously put into the mouth of Socrates the following language, speaking also of the immortality of the soul: "The clear knowledge of these things is in this life impossible, or at least very difficult.....The philosopher should, therfore, hold to that which appears more probable, unless he has some surer light, or the word of God himself, to be his guide" (Phaedo).  Now we ask, whether reason, which could not rise to any thing more than a probability, a cherished, though possibly a delusive persuasion, on a mater so clearly proposed to it by the belief of mankind, could have ever discovered this truth, had it not been primitively revealed to our race.  It is very easy for aman at the present day to say, My reason teaches me to know and adore God, to believe in a providence, to expect an immortal life herafter.  He stands on the vantage-ground to which Christianity, not philosophy, has raised him.  he lives in the light of divine revelation, thoug, like some African tribles that we read of, he may curse the luminary which vivifies and irradiates his mind.  Had he not been reared in a Christian land, under the influence of Christian faith, he would be, with that same boastful Reason for his guide, a grovelling, superstitious idolator, or at best a doubting and bewildered inquirer after unknown truth.

Reason is not, then, that pillar of ight which is to guide us safely through the desert of this life to the promised land that lies beyond it.  We needed a revelation, and a revelation has been given to us.  Knowing how the wisest and beest portion of the human race had longed for the dawning of this celestial light, one would suppose that its appearance was hailed with universal joy.  But history tells us quite a different story.  And the erring reason, the prud, rebellious reason of man, was not the least potent or conspicuous among the formidable antagonists of Christianity.  The cross was indeed a "stumbling-block" to the Jews, but to the Greeks, the refined, educated, philosophic Greeks and Romans, it was absolute "folly."  It happened then, as it often happens now, that Reason was ready with her line and plummet, her compass and square, to soudn the depths and take all the dimensions of truths which reached from the highest heaven to the lowest abyss of hell; and when her line was out, she was sure tha she had fathomed the fathomless, and when her compass was stretched to the utmost, it certainly had measured infinitude itself.  It is a great question, no doubt, whether the doctrines of divine revelation are to be implicitly believed, or to be subjected to the examination of reason.  But to state the question is to solve it.  It is the most presumptuous folly that can be conceived, for any man to undertake, by the power of reason, to determine what the Almighty must say when he speaks to his rational creatures.  It is the most blasphemous invesion of order for man to attempt to give law to his Creator, to

 "Seize the balance and the rod;
 Rejudge his justice; be the God of God."

It is the finite measuring the infinite;--the weak, punny human reason declaring itself the judge and arbiter of the Divine reason.  When, therefore, any thing is proposed to me with the seal of revelation on it, if my reason cannot fathom it, if it transcend my powers of comprehension, am I to pronounce it false, to reject it as unreasonable?  Would not such a rule be destructive of revelation itself?  Would it not throw us back into the condition of the pagan philosophers, lost like them, but without their excuse, in the mazes of human opinion?  What doctrine of revealed religion is there which could stand such a test?  It has been applied to them all successively, and in consequence of its application they have all been successively rejected.  If it enable you to-day to deny some article of my belief, will it not enable some one else to-morrow to overturn your peculiar creed?  Descending step by step through all the grades of religious opinion, does it not inevitably lead to naked deism?  And since nothing is more incomprehensible than God, nothing more incredible than creation, nothing more difficult to understand than an infinite being, self-existent, eternal, omnipresent in all space and in very minutest point of space, must it not end by denying Him?  What other limit has it than downright atheism?  Reason, then, is not in this sense the judge of revelation.  No one is authorized to reject a doctrine because he cannot comprehend it.  No Christian can consistently hold a principle, which is not only false, but subversive of all divine revelation.  Reason herself, then, if truly enlightened, will direct us to believe what we cannot comprehend, when its truth is duly attested.  They who do not comprehend the truths of geometry would exhibit little wisdom in pronouncing them false.  The immense majority of men, who understand nothing of the calculation of an eclipse or of the return of a comet, ought not therefore to refuse all evidence to the predictions of astonomical science.  The tribes that live within the tropics are not admired for their extensive knowledge and profound philosophy, when they will not believe that water can become solid, so that men may walk on it or the huge elephant move securely over its stony surface, though tehy do not and cannot comprehend how this may be.  The true position evidently is, that our inability to comprehend a fact or a doctrine does not authorize us either to affirm or deny it; but when we have satisfactory evidence of its truth, then we are bound to believe it, whether we comprehend it or not.  NOw the dogmas of revealed religion must surpass our comprehension, because they relate to God and to the future life, which to us are subjects essentially mysterious and incomprehensible.  The believer is the first to proclaim that such is their nature.  He knows that, if you strip them of their character of mystery, you take away one of the most evident marks of their divine origin.  He knows, too, that mysteries are not confined to revelation.  The most familiar facts in nature are often the most incomprehensible.  The union of body and soul, and their action and reaction on each other; the secret of animal life; the principle of intelligence and affection in brutes; gravitation, electricity, magnetism, galvanism,--all the known laws of the physical universe,--are so many mysteries, in regard to which we believe the facts that have been ascertained, though we do not and cannot explain or account for them.  There is not even a blade of grass, or flower of the field, or dew-drop sparkling on its leaves, or smallest insect nestling in its chalice, that may not suggest to the reflecting beholder a multitude of questions which reason cannot answer.  And shall the mind, whihc, at every turn, at every glance, is so forcibly reminded of its ignorance and impotence, presume to inquire of the Almighty a full and perfect explanation of every truth which he declares, before it will bouchsafe to beieve his divine attestation?

There is another point of view, in which enlightened reason must admit its perfect incompetency to deal with revelation any otherwise than by submissive assent and lowly adoration.  We refer to that most extravagent of all the extravagances of the human mind, its pretended right to improve or amend, in any manner whatsoever, the doctrines and institutions, the sytem of faith and practice, once declared to us on the part of the Most High.  To believe in Christianity, because its author was the Son of God, and its promulgators his inspired Apostles, and then to maintain that what was divine at the origin of our faith must change and undergo revision and correction, that it may keep pace with the march of intellect, the progress of human knowlege, the improvement of our race,--to imagine, in a word, that at the present day we can make a more perfect Christianity than God has made for us,--is indeed to verify the expressions of our great poets, that

 "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread";--


  "Man, proud man,.....
  Plays such fantastic tricks before High Heaven
  As make the angels weep."

It would be just as rational to pronounce the sun an obsolete luminary, quite good enough to give light an dwarmth and gladness to the world some two or three thousand years ago, but now behind the age, and totally unsuited to the enlarged philosophy, the increased knowlege, and higher wants of the nineteenth century.  Why, if one of the Apostles riing from the grave, or if an angel from heaven (we are but repeating the nergetic language of him who was rapt to the third heavens),--if an angel from heaven were to offer us a new Gospel, a pretended revelation, differing but in one iota from that which the Son of God has given us, our only salutation to the innovator must be anathema.

Resting on this firm foundation, the believer is delighted with every effort to enlarge the boundaries of science, and hails with joy every new discovery of truth.  He never drreams that Christianity can be endangerd by the progress of science.  He knows tha every tenet of Christian faith is an infallible truth, based on the sure authoirty of HIm who has revealed it.  How can that which is true ever be proved false?  Or how can any one truth ever be at war with any other truth?  Who imagines that the demonstrations of mathematical science will ever be refuted?  Who is afraid that any of the conclusions of geometry will be disturbed by the progress of discovery?  Yet no Christian philosopher will pretend that mathematical certainty is great than the certay of Divine revelation.  If this comparison appear bold and hazardous to any one, it can only be because he does not understand the very meaning of the true revelation.  he who holds a system of doctrines which he thinks may have been revealed, while he is not perfectly, that is infallibly, certain that they have been, cannot indeed venture on such a comparison.  The reason is obvious.  he does not believe truths divinely revealed.  But he entertains opinions respecting what has been revealed, which opinions may be in part or entirely false.  Such a one is or should be an inquirer, a seeker after the sure and prefect and infallible truths which God has revealed.  A believer, a man of Christian faith, he is not and cannot be, so long as a shadow of doubt or uncertainty rests on his mind.

But Reason still claims to be the judge of Revelation, so far at least as to feel authorized to choose among revealed dogmas,--to give a decided preference to some, and a cold, if not contemptous, look to others.  According to this niotion, some doctrines are essential and must be believed; others are unimportant, and you may believe them if you choose, or deny them, dispute about them, proclaim them false, or treat them as altogether unworthy of notice.  The first class of revealed doctrines are fundamental; this is the favorite phrase; they must be retained because they are the foundations of the whole edifice of Christianity.  Admitting the distinction, only for argument's sake, still we would ask, What are the foundations without the superstructure?  Surely the foundations of any edifice will be of very little service, where the walls, roof, and all the other parts have been taken away.  But we are also compelled to ask, How is reason to determine what doctrines are fundamental?  That which appars so to the reason of one man may seem very unimportant to another.  And experience proves this to be an insuperable difficulty; for they who have assumed the principle in question have never yet been able to designate precisely the fundamental dogmas of Christianity, or to give such as definition or description of them as may enable us to recognize and identify them.  But the principle is a bad one, not only false and impious, but clearly irrational.  It presumes a revelation, only to destroy what it presumes.  A revelation supposes that God has spoken,--that he has declared certain truths, given us certain laws, established certain institutions.  And is it not blasphemy to say, that any truths which he has declared to us are of so little consequence that they may be disputed, denied, spurned with contempt?  Is it not a bold defiance to the Omnipotent for man to disregard, to set aside as trivial and useless, to nullify, no matter on what pretext, any law that God has given him?  Is it not ingratitude and insult combined in the highest degree, to make light of and reject any institution, which he, through infinite mercy, has established for our eternal welfare?  There is wisdom in the homely saying, that "beggars should not be choosers"; only mount the beggar man upon the steed of reason, and it is not hard to tell in what direction he will gallop.  For if it be reason's privilege to play the master with the word of God, to canvass the merits and demerits of divine truths, to discuss their comparatie value and worthlessness, to sift the wheat from the chaff, to treat them as a pile of rubbish containing some hidden gems, or as a decayed and ruinous and rotten fabric, which must be cleared away to the very foundations,--then welcome deism, atheism, or any thing else which will only be consistent with itself,--which will not give the lie to its own silly pretensions!

If, then, we are asked what is the province of reason in relation to revealed religion, we answer, to seek the light of revelation, if it has not yet been found, and to follow its guidance when it is found.  If the further question is put, how shall reason distinguish and recognize revealed truth, without attempting to give a complete answer to the inquiry, we will simply say, that reason has the undoubted right to question and reject whatever comes to her in the guise of human opinion.  She cannot fairly be required to admit as revealed what does not purport to be such.  All the truths of revelation are unchangeable, infallible, divine.  Doctrines which have these charactesr stamped upon them claim the assent and submission of human reason.  But the unchangeable, infallible, divine truths of revelation are given us from heaven, not to be discussed, but to be believed,--not to be the themes of philosophic speculation or theological criticism and controversy, but to be the objects of implicit faith and humble adoration.

We find that we have exceeded our limits, and yet we have said nothing of the learned, and in many respects remarkable work, the title of which we have placed at the head of our article.  We may return to it hereafter; but we have fully accomplished our object for the present, if we have made clearer to any of our readers this great turht, that Reason must ever be ancillary to Faith,--that she can neither dispense with revelation nor pretend to be its judge.