The Irrationalism of Infidelity: Section a.

Being a reply to "Phases of Faith"*

J. N. Darby.

{*London: 1853.}

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"Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." 2 Tim. 2:19.


You will not be at a loss to discover the author of this attempt at a reply to your last publication, so strangely entitled "Phases of Faith;" nor to recognize one once well known to yourself.

I have had no thought of sparing your book. You have denied and dishonoured in it the Lord that bought me, to whom I owe everything a soul can know in blessing and God reveal in grace. I have no sympathy with cold indifference in such a case. It is a duty to feel. Not to feel proves we have never felt what it seeks to pull down.

With yourself the case is somewhat different. Not that I can distinguish, as some do, between a book and its author. If the book is a guilty one, its author is guilty of it.

But there is another feeling arises as to the author, which does not as to the book. To the book I can measure out, without a pang, unmingled feelings of disgust and contempt; to the author I could not. The thought of him awakens sorrow, regret, pain, a thousand feelings which the evil I find in his work, the thoughts as to Christ once expressed by him and supposed genuine by me, and my own love to souls, however feeble, as alas! it is, contribute to produce. I do mourn; and hence it is I add these few prefatory words.

I have known you, supposed you loved Christ, took for granted (as one unsuspectingly does) you believed in Him, heard a testimony from yourself to your spiritual delight in Him, as the joy, the food, and delight of your soul. Was all a delusion? Is not your present book? Did you feel these things? Were they, as you thought, livingly linked up with a Christ known to yourself? Does your book prove a greater moral elevation? Forgive me, if I think that, independent of all dogma, it proves frightful descent from what at least restrained your steps, your lips, then, if it did not possess your heart. Can you compare what then expressed your joys with the feelings and manner of thinking (I am not talking of views or groundwork of judgment, but of their effects) which your book betrays, and feel happy at it? Take some of your own letters, and say. I have some which, of course, I cannot quote here for these expressions of your feelings. But what a difference when I read them! I cannot bring myself to believe that there was nothing real in them. My soul looks out for some gleam of such thoughts in the book your infidelity has produced; but I can only find a miserable nature let loose by it. Who can tell how deep something else may be buried by such a mass of nature's ruins and filth, which the mighty grace of God may yet disencumber and make grow, and thus the old serpent lose its natural and congenial haunt?

2 But I write that you may at least feel that my attacking your book is as far as possible from bitterness toward you. I have no desire to spare your book. I am dealing with a book — with principles and with minds that may be affected by it. I believe it a dishonour to yourself; but as regards your book, you are but a name attached to the moral condition of mind contained in it, and there presented to the public. I am not dealing with you about it, but with it before God and my reader. The thought of yourself, which intruded itself necessarily upon me in reading it, was one of deep sorrow — I trust of gracious feeling. My answer to the book was not the place to express it: I can here assure you of it. If you read my book, you must expect no concealment of a severe (I believe a just) judgment of your publication.

You have here the unfeigned expression of what I feel as regards yourself — not in its strength, as this must be public (and I hate published feeling), but at least the true character of it — pain — sorrow — I trust divine love — and a lingering clinging to the hope that, however low he may have fallen, it is impossible that one who has expressed the feelings you have in bygone times could have done so without some reality.

May the Lord, who alone has power to blot out and overcome our wretchedness, and new-create the heart, make you — as in other ways He has me — a monument of His almighty and infinite grace!

I remain, as one well known to you, and desirous of remaining unknown to others,

Yours with earnest desire in Christ. J. N. Darby.


I have no pretension to learning or leisure, yet I have written and now present to my reader a book, the size of which, when I see it complete, alarms myself. It may be asked why I undertook such a task when I knew that I had neither. My answer is this: When any one loves, confides in, and is deeply indebted to another (and in this case the debt is infinite), he will seek to defend, if he has any heart, the beloved object when it is attacked, without perhaps exactly measuring his power to be fully successful in its defence.

One qualification (none is of any value if God be not with us) I may boast of — profound, unfeigned (I believe divinely given) faith in the Bible. I have, through grace, been by it converted, enlightened, quickened, saved. I have received the knowledge of God by it to adore His perfections — of Jesus, the Saviour, joy, strength, comfort of my soul. Many have been indebted to others as the means of their being brought to God, to ministers of that gospel which the Bible contains, or to friends who delight in it. This was not my case. That work, which is ever God's, was wrought in me through the means of the written word. He who knows what the value of Jesus is will know what the Bible will be to such a one. If I have, alas! failed it, in nearly thirty years' arduous and varied life and labour — at least such, as far as the service of an unknown and feeble individual usually leads, I have never found it fail me: if it has not for the poor and needy circumstances of time, through which we feebly pass, I am assured it never will for eternity. "The word of the Lord abideth for ever." 1 Peter 1:25 If it reaches down even to my low estate, it reaches up to God's height because it comes thence: as the love that can reach even to me, and apply to every detail of my feebleness and failure, proves itself divine in doing so: none but God could, and hence it leads me up to Him. As Jesus came from God and went to God, so does the book that divinely reveals Him come from and elevate to Him. If received, it has brought the soul to God, for He has revealed Himself in it. Its positive proofs are all in itself. The sun needs no light to see it by.

This, indeed, has made me hesitate as to how far it is to the purpose to go through much of the matter of this book — that part, I mean, which takes up the objections to scripture. My only reason is, that they are thrown down before a multitude of minds, as every one knows, in these days — a heartless and sickly age, which finds its refuge, from the cold and desolate waste of infidelity and human wilfulness, in the more pleasing imagery of imposed superstition. The man of intelligence produces human infidelity. The man of imagination will give us human superstition, coloured over with the haze of antiquity, for fear what it really is should be too clearly seen. Both give me man. The scriptures alone give me God. Hence the peculiar form of modern infidelity is, attack on the written word — the scriptures Superstition takes exactly the same ground. The cry of "Bibliolatry!" sounds alike from the intellectual and from the superstitious infidel. Both have the same object of attack, both are infidels — one an intellectual, the other an imaginative one. Both would persuade me that the Bible cannot itself command my conscience and oblige me to faith as coming from God. Do they not both seek to do this? Is it not infidelity? Doubtless, through the sinfulness of man's will, without divine grace, he never will really receive the word as it is in truth — the word of God. But is that his fault or the word's? Infidels and superstitious persons will both tell me that the word itself has not divine authority over my soul; that I cannot receive it as such on its own authority without something more to prove it. It is hard to say who is guiltiest here: he who denies it is the word; or he who, not denying that it is, declares that what God has said cannot bind the conscience of man unless validated by some authority other than its own.

4 I should not certainly have entertained these objections even in order to reply to them; but they had already done positive mischief to many, and shaken the comfort, and agitated the minds, more or less, of many accustomed to confide simply in the word with real faith. Most Christians have met with examples. One which came in a painful way under my own observation led me to read, and, in result, to answer the book. Some who have read the MS. have desired that it should be printed. It was not like a book of edification, which, if it failed to attain its end, came simply under the negative charge of being profitless or stupid. It was worse than this to occupy the mind with questions, if there were not positive good to be done by it. The book is meant for those who have been already occupied with these questions. Knowing that to feed on the word is what the soul wants, not to discuss it, I have no desire that any should read it before whose mind the subject has not already come. But how large alas! this class is now as well known to most interested in these subjects.

5 I desire to add one remark here in reference to inspiration. I beg to avow, in the fullest, clearest, and distinctest manner here, my deep, divinely-taught conviction of the inspiration of the scriptures. That is, while of course allowing, if need be, for defect in the translation and the like, when I read the Bible, I read it as of absolute authority for my soul as God's word. There is no higher privilege than to have communications direct from God Himself. I say this, because, in reasoning with infidels in the body of the book, I have sometimes done so on their own ground, to shew how untenable their positions were — how unreasonable their complaints, even setting aside inspiration. Indeed, did not the scriptures claim this authority, no one would dream of calling in question their authenticity or the evidence on which they rest. Such a method might lead some unguardedly to suppose hesitation or want of depth of conviction on my part. My joy, my comfort, my food, my strength, for near thirty years, have been the scriptures received implicitly as the word of God. In the beginning of that period, I was put through the deepest exercise of soul on that point. Did heaven and earth, the visible church, and man himself, crumble into nonentity, I should, through grace, since that epoch, hold to the word as an unbreakable link between my soul and God. I am satisfied that God has given it me as such. I do not doubt that the grace of the Holy Spirit is needed to make it profitable, and to give it real authority to our souls, because of what we are; but that does not change what it is in itself. To be we when it is received, it must have been true before it was so.

And here I will add, that although it require the grace of God and the work of the Holy Ghost to give it quickening power, yet divine truth, God's word, has a hold on the natural conscience, from which it cannot escape. The light detects "the breaker-up," though he may hate it. And so the word of God is adapted to man, though he be hostile to it — adapted in grace (blessed be God!) as well as in truth. This is exactly what shews the wickedness of man's will in rejecting it. And it has power thus in the conscience, even if the will be unchanged. This may increase the dislike of it; but it is disliked because conscience feels it cannot deny its truth. Men resist it because it is true. Did it not reach their conscience, they would not need to take so much pains to get rid of and disprove it. Men do not arm themselves against straws, but against a sword whose edge is felt and feared.

6 Reader, it speaks of grace as well as truth. It speaks of God's grace and love, who gave His only-begotten Son that sinners like you and me might be with Him, know Him — deeply, intimately, truly know Him — and enjoy Him for ever, and enjoy Him now; that the conscience, perfectly purged, might be in joy in His presence, without a cloud, without a reproach, without fear. And to be there in His love, in such a way, is perfect joy. The word will tell you the truth concerning yourself; but it will tell you the truth of a God of love, while unfolding the wisdom of His counsels.

It is because I have found it all this, feeble and unworthy as I am, and because it is the scriptures that have made God thus known to me through grace, that I have ventured on ground to which I am not much accustomed; from which I gladly retire, to use the word which I here in a particular case attempt to defend. I have sometimes feared I might be a little like David with Saul's armour on. I have done it, I trust, in love to the Lord and to the souls of others, yet with some reluctance. Let me add to my reader, that by far the best means of assuring himself to the truth and authority of the word is to read the word itself.

In fine, I would say, that as I am conscious I have no claim to literary honour, so I neither pretend to nor desire it. I hope I may have been, in general, sufficiently clear to be understood. I would only beg my reader kindly to remember, that sometimes the subjects are somewhat abstract; and while he who publishes anything must expect, of course, to be criticised (if what he writes is indeed worth it), I would so far claim indulgence as one may who has snatched from hours of rest almost the whole time occupied in composing what the reader has before him (service in ministering amongst souls from day to day, and other labours in the Lord's field, needless to mention, fully occupying all ordinary hours of toil). If I am useful to any, and the Lord accepts it as service done to Him, I am content. I think one or two points are twice referred to from being connected with different subjects. It is not very material. If it be so, the reader will excuse what other labours forbid my now correcting.

I draw the attention of my reader to one point, on which this whole question of revelation greatly hangs in the reasoning of those with whom we have to do. I have noticed it in the body of the book from feeling it was really the basis of their reasonings. I have since seen it laid down as the foundation of them by a French writer of this class in his attacks on scripture. It is this — that man is not capable of other ideas than those his own mind can create or produce. These may be awakened by some occasion, but they must exist in an abstract sense. This is true, as to mathematics, because they are the expression of the relationship of quantity or form, and these are perpetually inherent in what is subject to the mind of man, and what he has the capacity of pursuing to all its consequences. But in moral facts it is quite otherwise. Every being who has a superior moral nature to mine will produce acts, of the influence of which I am susceptible, though quite incapable in virtue of being morally inferior. Nay, so true is this principle, that the same act done by beings of a superior nature or position has an entirely different moral character and effect. If that nature and position are infinitely superior, the difference is infinite, the obligation quite of another character; yet the act may be quite intelligible, even through my wants. I do not measure it, but I know a love, if the act be one of love, which is beyond my measure.

7 Thus Christianity tells us, that "God was manifest in the flesh" 1 Tim. 3:16 to fulfil a work of self-sacrifice for me. A man's sacrificing himself for me would present the highest human claim on a grateful heart; but God's doing it (that new, lovely, yet infinite fact, capable of filling the whole moral world,) puts all that world in a new condition. Again, take the moral difference merely: man could die for a benefactor perhaps, but he is not capable, in true simple-hearted love, of unostentatiously dying for an enemy; God's becoming a man to do it silences the heart, and creates, by the sovereign title of love, a new order of feeling.

The result is, that the notion that new moral thoughts which no human investigation could reach cannot be produced, cannot be communicated, is utterly and stupidly untrue; and of these truths man is abstractedly incapable of judging but by the effect and thoughts produced by them. He becomes capable of estimating them by the change which takes place in his state in virtue of them, and not by pre-existing thoughts; he receives the new moral ideas from the objects and grows up into them. This is eminently true of Christianity, as an unexampled divine act, for and in man. I reserve the answer to the French rationalist for another occasion, if God permit. He has stated more definitely the basis of the argument; and, consequently, the gross absurdity of the system is more palpable.

8 The heart and conscience, then, is capable of impressions, of effects, which neither could produce; because beings in a higher order of moral nature can act on principles, and with rights entirely above man, and yet can act on and towards him in things he was wholly ignorant of before, which meet his need, but which no moral effort could, by any possibility, have produced, because they proceed from a nature superior to his. It is a false assumption, that man is so constituted that he is not capable of a certain impression by an act of which he was wholly incapable of forming an idea before it was accomplished by another. He knows it as so accomplished by the superior being in the effect produced in his heart by it. I do not doubt that there is a divine work wrought in communicating the knowledge of it; but on that ground I do not enter here.



{*"Canst thou by searching find out God?" Job 11:7.}

When a man makes his own mind the measure of his knowledge of good, he soon sinks to the level of that by which he measures it; indeed he is already sunk there morally.

This is the case with Mr. N. He judges of what God ought to be, of what a revelation ought to be if there was one, by his own mind and feelings.

A book presents itself as a revelation from God; and he judges that it is not one. By what rule is his judgment formed? By what his own mind is, independent of revelation, which he subjects to the test of his own thoughts, when the book is presented to him as such. He can do this only in virtue of the competency of his mind to judge, before he has received it, what a revelation ought to be. That is, his own mind, and even his own mind in its present state, is the measure by which revelation is to be judged of. Were it so, the mind of God must be on a level with the mind of man, and even of the particular man who judges. But the fallacy of such a principle, as well as the excessive self-sufficiency of it, is evident.

First, the measure of what the divine Being ought to be or require (for if it be a revelation by Him, it must declare what He is, or what He requires) will vary with the moral condition or the natural disposition of each individual who seeks to form a judgment.

More than this, it will vary with the circumstances in which a man is placed, with the age of the world in which he lives, with everything through which he has passed in emerging out of the state of natural ignorance of all things in which he began his life, and which have exercised an influence in forming his character.

It would be mere folly and ignorance of human nature, blindness to the most obvious facts, not to recognize these influences in the forming and moulding of the human mind, and thus their power in colouring its judgment of all around and above h. Does Mr. N. think he has not profited by the influence of the Christianity he rejects? He miserably deceives himself if he does. But, to do him justice, he does not think so. In another volume of his (it is well the confession is absent from this) he avows (speaking of the New Testament, with the devotional parts of the Old, and declaring his intimate knowledge of it), "to it I owe the best part of whatever wisdom there is in my manhood." (Soul, p. 242.) But of this farther on. He will not suppose that he himself soars entirely above the ken of the moral discernment of others as to his own condition, since he accounts himself capable of judging what God and a revelation ought to be. He has profited, he tells us, by the wisdom and piety of this false Messiah. But he thinks he has emancipated himself from the trammels of a revelation which he does not believe, and emerged into the truthful results arrived at by the logical and philosophical workings of the human (let us say the word, of his own) mind.

10 But here a question arises: Have all emerged alike into the same thoughts of God and moral truth? Have these philosophers, these rare men few and far between (for the mass have followed stupidly some religion or other), this élite of the human race — have they all formed the same estimate of good and evil, of God and His relationship with men? Have Stoics and Epicureans, Platonists and Peripatetics, come to the same result? I might almost ask, have they come to any result? Are the rationalist infidels of Dr. Paulus's school (of which Germany is well nigh tired), or the spiritualist infidels of Dr. Strauss's (of which it has been, for the moment, enamoured), the true interpreters of what they are agreed to doubt about and cast off? Is the "desolating pantheism which is abroad" (ib. preface 12.) the same as Mr. N.'s objective relationship with a God whom he knows as a personal Deity by specific sense, but of whose mind he knows no more "than a dog does of his master's?" (Soul, pp. 119, 121.)

Mr. N. and others tell us of "following truth." (Phases, P. 116.) What is the truth they are following? Where is it? The truth they are following is truth they have not got. What is it — this truth they are seeking? They do not know. If they knew, they would not be following it.

Mr. N. may here object, that he arrives at this conclusion, that God has sympathy with individual man. (Ib. p. 201.) Now the sympathy of God with individual man is rather a vague word. God does not sympathize with sin, with lusts, with passions, with ambition, with avarice, with violence. I suppose Mr. N. will not deny that there are such in the world — alas! that they largely prevail in the world in general. Indeed, he tells us elsewhere (Soul, p. 44) that there is "prevailing wickedness." The sympathy of God is a lovely word, a gracious thought: but what is this sympathy, if it cannot be exercised in reference to so very large a portion of man's moral existence in the state in which it is actually found? Mr. N. shall tell us. "The Christian advocate," he says in the same page (Phases, p. 201), "assumes that God concerns Himself with our actions, words, thoughts — assumes, therefore, that sympathy of God with man which (it seems) can only be known by an infallible Bible." Is this the sympathy of God with individual man? He "concerns Himself with our actions, words, thoughts." No doubt He does; but this may be in the way of a judge, mere responsibility on my part, as well as sympathy on His. The law of England concerns itself about my actions and words, at least, without much sympathy. In what way does God do so? This is the serious question.

11 Now I believe there is a consciousness in man that God does concern Himself about our actions, words, and thoughts. But then, in spite of clothing this with the graceful name of "sympathy," what I am concerned to know is, Who and what is the God that does concern Himself about them? Is He a righteous Judge? By what rule does He judge? Is He love? When my conscience tells me I have sinned, when some vile wretch feels in bitterness what he has done, what resource is there for him? How is his conscience to be purged? How is he to get happy with the God he has offended? In a word, what is the God that does concern Himself about my very thoughts? This is the important point to know. All religion assumes what Mr. N. says it does, as he explains it; because all consciences feel that God does so concern Himself about our actions, words, thoughts. But in what manner? What is He who does so? For this we need revelation; but Mr. N. denies us it altogether — the only thing I want, because we have the consciousness that God concerns Himself about us.

Revelation does not tell me that I have a conscience and aspirations; it gives me the answer to them. And this is what I want, and not to be told I have got such. I do not want a book for this: I want a certainty of what God is, to answer the need of my soul. I know what He is by His revelation of Himself in Christ. Of this Mr. N. can tell me nothing; and he deprives me of that which tells me everything. There I find perfect love to me as a poor sinner, and thus have the possibility of truthfulness and honesty in a sin-conscious soul. There I find a love which is consistent with God's maintaining that absolute righteousness and hatred of sin which my soul has learnt He ought, and which my heart (now renewed in knowledge) desires Him to maintain, and could not own Him as the God I desire if He did not maintain. In Christ I am (I will not say restored to Him, but) brought to know Him in perfect peace, as nothing else could make me know Him, love Him, walk with Him, as a known God who loves me.

12 Would I exchange this with Mr. N.'s aspirations and thoughts of God? Can he give me this? Doubts he can give me (this is easy work), difficulties in scripture doubtless, uncertainty as to everything I supposed to be truth. Philosophers (like Mr. N.) think that they can prove, that what has made my heart divinely happy has made me bless God, because of a goodness I never dreamt of till I knew it in Him; that what has consecrated the hearts and lives of thousands, and changed, where the heart was not consecrated, the whole condition of the world (for men are ashamed of doing in the light what they would do in the dark, though they are not changed in heart) — they think, I say, that all this has been done by a fable, an imposture. Poor human nature! Ay, the reader will see that Mr. N. thinks this of himself. But the truth they are following — Where is it? What is it? Why, they are following it: how can they tell you what it is till they get it? True, they cannot, and I must wait.

"Rusticus expectat dum defluat amnis; at ille
Labitur, et labetur in omne volubilis aevum."

Is this all? Not quite. They are the only really honest people, save some blinded persons who are led by others (as Mr. N. once was) in an honest delusion. They are honest because they believe nothing, and are following — following they cannot tell me what. Their honesty is in following without believing anything, and in trusting all the conclusions of their own minds, in rejecting what they supposed they did believe. And their descending steps in this are called "phases of faith!"

But, perhaps, the age is enlightened. Be it so; though in philosophy and moral apprehension it may perhaps be doubted. But be it so, I repeat. Is the age's opinion of itself to content me in my measure of God, and of what a revelation of Him ought to be? Millions in previous ages have believed in a revelation — in the revelation which Mr. N. rejects — enlightened men too, philosophers even, wearied with searching after a truth they never found. They are all wrong.

13 But why am I to think we are arrived, just in our day, at the perfection of the human mind, so that we are exactly right now? Mr. N. will tell me that they were superstitious ages. The age in which Christianity was introduced or made progress among the Gentiles, was very far otherwise. Witness the various forms of mind, the Philos, the Celsuses, the Porphyries, the Alexandrian School of the Neo-Platonists, the Lucians, and others, whose reputation is publicly known (without any pretension to learning), to say nothing of earlier Grecian philosophy which led the way. But suppose it was superstition: what does that prove but this that the theory that man's mind is the measure of revelation and of what God ought to be, makes truth and error, and the very character which God ought to have, depend on the age a man lives in? I speak of facts.

Men, and men of able intellectual minds, have received the revelation which Mr. N. rejects as being unworthy of God. They have thought it very worthy of Him — have adored the God revealed there as alone worthy of adoration, as supremely worthy. I am not now seeking to prove that they are right. But the fact cannot be denied. They had minds enlarged by stores of knowledge, they were of a philosophical turn of thought, they had considered all, or almost all, the objections which Mr. N. presents in his book (for on this head there is little or nothing new in it: his objections are mostly as old as the Celsuses of the first centuries, and other such objectors); and, in spite of all, they have bowed before the God of the Bible as supremely good, supremely just and wise. Mr. N., applying his mind as the measure of it, thinks it all utterly unworthy of the God which his mind has pictured to itself: for what other has he?

Now, to say nothing of the heathen, who had gods to please their lusts, for lusts men have after all; nor of those who made God a kind of soul of the world, or who do, as there are many with a "desolating pantheism," make Him an all-pervading power or influence, so that everything is God; but to take such men as Mr. N., Sir Isaac Newton, Pascal, Paul, Justin Martyr (Mr. N. loves such associations), I must either judge that Mr. N.'s mind and judgment are the sole true measure, or that the human mind is not a competent measure of what God ought to be, or what should characterize a revelation from Him. Nay, should I think Mr. N. and his school alone right, I should not have gained much, for I should then have to consider all other minds incompetent; and he would, if he has not a revelation, be himself a Deaster, and the sole revealer of truth. What does Mr. N. think?

14 I beg the reader to remark, I am not here supposing Sir Isaac Newton or Paul to be right. I only shew that they differ from Mr. N. in his idea of what a revelation ought to be (quot homines, tot sententiae); and that I learn thus that the human mind is not a competent measure of a revelation. Mr. N. and his school will surely forgive me if I do not think they stand alone in their competency to measure what becomes God. How can I tell that the author has arrived at the end of his "phases"? I humbly conceive, from his own statement, that he never has had faith at all (unless in the Irish clergyman). Would I could believe he had! How gladly would I commit all this to the fire! He may alter yet once more; light may break in upon his mind; he may learn to see a beauty in Jesus he has never seen yet. The Lord grant it may be so! What a joy to think it is true that all (even his writing against that Blessed One) would be freely forgiven! And O how does the thought of Christianity refresh the heart in the midst of all the cold logic of infidelity, if logic such confusion can be called! But all his previous estimates were false — were "phases" of the state of his own mind. And can he assure me this is not one which some subsequent illumination ("movement," p. 233, is the word) will throw into equal discredit? The Lord grant that it may be so!

Nor is this without example in history as to men in general Where superstition has bound down the will and degraded religion below the standard of natural conscience, it awaits only an adequate impulse from good or from evil to break the chains. I leave aside the good now; but the working of the mere will of man, under the impulse of evil, brought about such an event in the French Revolution. The Bible was not there as a restraining power, nor as formative of human enquiry and thought. Superstition and a hollow state of society came down with a tremendous crash, and all reverence for God was buried in its ruins. Man had emancipated himself, to have — what? Uncertainty in everything, and a ruin from which he found no resource. Conscience and the Bible, under God's good hand, had emancipated at the Reformation (imperfectly perhaps, but really); man's will without the Bible, at the French Revolution. In the country in which it burst forth superstition had continued; and society, as it was, was attacked with it, and all fell together. But man is a dependent creature; and, when he pursues his own will like a naughty child, he ere long tires himself, and is not always agreeable to his neighbours. Its energy is a feverish and feeble thing. Men as they are in general, that is, man as such, must have something certain to lean upon; he tires of uncertainty — tires of wandering he knows not whither. He is feeble, he wants rest; and, after a certain effort, he will have it. What has resulted in the case we refer to? Men have gone back, alarmed, disheartened, and weary, to the superstition which at any rate clothed itself with the certainty of Christianity; and, as far as they dare, impose on conscience, for peace' sake, what never satisfied nor purified any conscience before the God with whom men have to do. They have given an outward stability to what pretended to certainty, and had sufficient influence to make that certainty available to quiet the mass, sufficient remains of Christianity to deck itself with its name, that they may have what, at least, can be called certain, and may so far give rest to society, if not to conscience. The will broke loose; the will of tired man would have rest somewhere. Corrupt Christianity was better than nothing.

15 It will be said, "This will not endure." I believe, undoubtedly, it will not. But we are seeking what certainty the human mind can in itself secure to us, and whether this enlightened age can afford me the rest which the soul seeks after; we are enquiring into its competency to measure truth — if its present phase is really a resting-place.

And even for what this age does possess of what is morally superior to every preceding one — to what is it indebted? To Christianity. Activity of intellect was not wanting, nor acuteness either, in other times. If ever a tongue shewed nicety of thought and mental cultivation, it is the Greek. Nor was elaborate and striking speculation on the soul and on God wanting, nor development of systems of large theoretical conceptions of what is hidden from material observation in the Godhead. Philosophers will tell you that the christian scriptures (such as the gospel of John) borrowed, as to their highest elements of thought, their ideas from some of these. Civilization was not wanting, nor study. Yet who can deny that, where Christianity is received, you would find in the mass of mankind truer notions of God, and of right and wrong, beyond all comparison now than then? Yea, the peasants and beggars have a truer knowledge of God, and more real, more holy, more instructed affections when its doctrine has taken effect, than the most elevated philosophical mind in the Academy at Athens, or its imitators at Rome. This is due, Mr. N. tells us, to an enthusiastic imposture — an imposture of a most audacious character, for Jesus pretended to be Son of God (Son of man according to Daniel 7) — an imposture ill reported too. Is this credible? Does man want an imposture to bring him out of mental and moral degradation, and make him know God? Such is Mr. N.'s theory. Nay, as we have seen, he owes most of what his manhood knows of wisdom to this imposture.

16 But does not the knowledge of God — produced where Christianity or even Judaism has existed, and that even where no aspirations after God exist, where the heart is not practically changed — prove that there was a revelation of God? For it is in the knowledge of God there is such amazing general progress. It is really the statements afforded by this revelation which have drawn out Mr. N.'s aspirations. This formed his boyish mind, this communicated his manhood-wisdom. Can I believe, then, his theory? Why should this ardent piety which now attracts him, these energetic statements about God which have drawn out his soul, have sprung up among these narrow bigots of ordinance-bound Jews, rather than from the finely cultivated understanding of an academician, if there had not been a revelation of God so as to produce them? The world moralized by imposture and enthusiasm! What a world it must be! And such a mind as Mr. N.'s gets almost all his manhood-wisdom from it! What an imposture it must be!

Let us consider other religions. Mohammedanism has borrowed much from revelation; but it has met the lusts of men as on God's part, who, as He is there represented, will and does satisfy them: Christianity does so not even in thought.

Again, let us turn our eyes in another direction.

So exceedingly strong, even according to Mr. N., is the moral power of Jesus's character, or the effect produced by His agency, that the very attempt to portray it in pictures has given an entirely different tone to the ideal of those pictures, and imprinted on them a grace and expression of which the highest and most perfect works of art are otherwise entirely destitute, and such a tone of moral loveliness as was conducive to moral improvement all through the dark ages. This result he connects with the effect of the highest moral qualities of man, the absence of which in heathen statues deprived them of this power. These were wholly wanting, he says (see Soul, pp. 20, 21): "meekness, thankfulness, love, contentment, compassion, humility, patience, resignation, disinterestedness, purity, aspiration, devoutness." He does not say these were in Christ; but he is speaking of what was wanting in the Apollos and Mercuries of antiquity, in contrast with the pictures of the Saviour, conducive during centuries to the spiritual improvement of men, and the effect of the character of Jesus on the human spirit.

17 Let us now turn to see what Jesus, who produced this immense moral effect on after ages, was in Mr. N.'s judgment — what He was, in whose imperfect portrait the above enumerated graces more or less shine forth.

"The cause of all this [the mischief of present Christianity] is to be found in the claim of Messiahship for Jesus." (Phases, p. 225.) "He selected 'Son of man' as His favourite title, which is a direct annunciation to us that He based all His pretensions on the seventh chapter of Daniel, from which that title is adopted. On the whole, then, it was no longer defect of proof which presented itself, but positive disproof of the primitive and fundamental claims." (Ib. p. 198.) "My positive belief in its miracles [those of Christianity] had evaporated." (Ib. p. 187.) "He [Jesus] had receded out of my practical religion, I know not exactly when. I believe I must have disused any distinct prayers to Him, from a growing opinion that He ought not to be the object of worship, but only the way by whom we approach to the Father; and as in fact we need no such way at all, this was (in the result) a change from practical di-theism to pure theism. His mediation was to me always a mere name, and, as I believe, would otherwise have been mischievous." (Ib. p. 188.)

"Thirdly, while it is by no means clear what are the new truths for which we are to lean upon the decisions of Jesus, it is certain we have no genuine and trustworthy account of His teaching. If God had intended us to receive the authoritative dicta of Jesus, He would have furnished us with an unblemished record of those dicta." (Ib. p. 213.)

Mr. N., then, has acquired nearly all his manhood-wisdom, ages their highest moral tone, and the world its beau idéal of grace, from (the Lord forgive even the thought in one's mind!) a bold impostor — One who, having found a spurious prophecy (which, however, must have been pretty ancient to be so used), pretended to be the object of it, pretended to work miracles which He never wrought, and sent others to pretend to work them, He and they being alike incapable of doing so, whose deception was deliberate and intentional. For, speaking of riding on the ass, Mr. N. says, it was "a deed which Jesus appears to have planned with the expressed purpose of assimilating Himself to the lowly king here described." (Ib. p. 195.) What kind of piety and wisdom, which attracts and adorns his mature and manhood-thoughts, must Mr. N. have learnt from such a One? Yet this is philosophy; this is logic — the philosophy of one who has been in the East, and can tell what majnün means!

18 It was the character of Paganism that their deities had nothing to do with conscience, unless it were a future gloomy Pluto.* They were the helpers and satisfiers of their lusts and wishes. Christianity alone acts directly and immediately on the conscience, puts God in connection with it — an immense benefit, and yet takes away fear by revealing love; and unites perfect love and perfect righteousness in the character of God in the doctrine of atonement, so that the conscience and heart may be elevated to the height of God Himself — a God known in love. What the human soul never did before for itself, what it never could do, nay, what it never ought to have supposed, Christianity has done. Another thing characterizes it as introduced into the world — its activity towards souls. Others may have since imitated this. It is not the activity of souls about God, come for money who may to learn, but the activity of God about souls. Hence it is what has (as far as this has been done in spite of human nature) moralized the world, nay, Mr. N. himself. It acts on man for good. Who and what does this? Mohammedanism is active. Ambition is active. Corruption is active. But what is that activity which has permanently moralized the world, taken in the mass of men, and elevated their notions of God? Whence did the activity flow?

{*I find the remark has been made elsewhere, that the only moral part of heathen mythology was the infernal part of it. What a tale that tells! Conscience will tell its tale, whatever lusts may seek; but it will never draw to God.}

Mr. N. has attempted to compare the progress of Christianity with that of Mohammedanism, by introducing the wars of Constantine, and the Saxon conversions by the sword of Charlemagne. But the Mohammedan conquests were the avowed principle of the religion from the beginning. The conduct of Constantine and of Charlemagne was contrary to its principles and to its practice for three hundred years. But Mr. N. is here feeble, in spite of himself. Constantine used the Christianity which existed, and which was (though suffering up to that hour, as is well known — for Diocletian's persecution had not long since been raging) strong enough for a competitor for the throne to secure his pretensions by. Mr. N. says that Constantine's christian army established Christianity. Perhaps on the throne it did; but how did the christian army come there?

19 But there is another ground on which to rest the proof of man's incapacity to measure what God and what a revelation ought to be. Men have lusts, passions, ambition, avarice: alas! though restrained by Christianity so that society is altered, yet the heart of man is still influenced by all these evil principles. Now all this must dim the spiritual perception, and render it more or less incapable of rightly judging of God and a revelation. How is it to get the thought of God which is to set it right? Christianity has no need to be ashamed of its axiom, "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God." How are the impure to be capable of judging? Mr. N. has no revelation to act on them. Is the soul, when governed by corrupt lusts, that is, corrupt desires, perhaps habits (and with how many is this true), capable of judging? If not, this large class is incompetent to form any estimate of the scriptures. These lusts will not correct those who are under their power. What is to be done for them? They may sink, on Mr. N.'s plan, to the level to which their lusts may carry them.

In fine, in whatever aspect we view man, all is uncertainty if man's mind be the measure of truth. But you will say, This is undermining everything — it is the Pyrrhonism of a Pilate.

No; the Christian believes God has spoken — has been active in love towards man; and he bows. He is not a judge, but a receiver of truth. He desires, as a new-born babe, the sincere milk of the word, that he may grow thereby, having tasted that the Lord is gracious. I am not saying he is right or wrong in receiving it, or on what ground he has done so. I am only shewing that he is not on the same ground on which he is who considers man's mind to be the measure of truth. He has said, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." 1 Sam. 3:9, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Acts 9:6 He has bowed to what he believes to be absolutely certain, and to be the truth — absolutely such. He may have a great deal yet to learn of it, but he believes it is there revealed by God. "He who hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true; for he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God." John 3:33 Faith, then, has certainty, because it bows to Him who cannot lie, and receives His word as the truth itself.

And here is the real question. Mr. N. takes the soul's thoughts, and excludes wholly God's making Himself known. The believer brings Him in, and this changes everything. On this I shall enter into some detail farther on; I merely state the real point in question here. There is not a greater fallacy, a more impudent presumption of man's self-sufficiency, than that it is the capacity of the organ (as men speak, that is, of the soul), in itself, which is the measure and limit of its knowledge; embracing even, in the word "capacity," all knowledge acquirable by its own powers, and all affections acted on by objects known within these limits. It can be acted on by that which it has no intrinsic capacity to acquire; as light enters into the eye, and gives a capacity of seeing by acting on it; as medicine or even food on the body. A susceptibility of being acted on, so as to have effects and even powers produced, is not a capacity in oneself to measure or acquire. The entering in of the word gives light and understanding to the simple. Now this is the operation of a revelation where it is really received. No doubt it is adapted to man in every sense, to his conscience, to his actual state, to his heart; but it is nothing acquirable by man as he is. God is active in communicating to him what operates on his soul, but which is true whether it operates or not, and which has no place in the soul, nor ever will, nor its effects, unless it be positively communicated. Evidently a revelation has this for its proper character, though it may enforce known responsibilities by sanctions known only by that which is revealed, or by the authority of the Revealer, whose perfections and claims are made known. Has man no need of such communications? Has God nothing to communicate which may be a blessing to man, which may morally and spiritually elevate him? Is He incapable of doing it?

20 And this leads to another very important point.

Morality, properly speaking, is relative; that is, it flows from relationships in which we stand to others, and in which we owe such and such things to them in virtue of the claim upon us which their position gives them. I do not mean by this that intrinsic purity of heart is not to be sought, and the subjugation of passions in their workings within us. No Christian could question it for a moment. It is peace in itself. We ought to be pure: it is a good in itself, and it is the practical condition of communion with God: "Be ye holy, for I am holy;" 1 Peter 1:16 and, as it is stated in a passage we have already cited, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Matt. 5:8 This claim of purity distinguishes Christianity as revealing God. No other religious system knew it; for none associated man with a God known to be light, and who called us to walk in the light as He is in the light. Love also in exercise where it is not relatively due is the proper characteristic of the Christian. And these two distinguishing characteristics flow from this blessed and glorious truth — that the Christian partakes of the divine nature, and hence is called to imitate it in practice. "That eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested to us" 1 John 1:2 (as John teaches us, in Christ, so that He should be an absolute practical example to us) is also "true in Him and in us" whose life He is, "because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth." 1 John 2:8.

21 This is the christian life. Without disputing about words, I do not call this morality, though it be really that which is the spring of and accomplishes it; because the proper and natural display of life in us is not properly obligation, though that life may, in this display, fulfil those obligations. Now morality, I apprehend, is, properly speaking, the maintenance of obligation. Of this latter we will now speak. In its nature, and by the force of the term obligation, it is, as I have said, relative.

Before entering on this point, I would notice the connection, as stated in the scriptures, between the two; that is, between our partaking of the "divine nature," and our fulfilment of moral obligation.

"Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Rom. 13:10 Here this principle of the divine nature communicated to us accomplishes what would be a moral obligation enforced by the law; but the two things are distinguished. And then love goes farther also, because there is positive active energy in it, where there is no relative obligation. While I say no obligation having this nature, I clearly have it to live in it, and so also please God, which itself is the highest obligation. Hence, "he that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." James 4:17 So the Lord Himself united both, even to the giving of His life. "But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father hath given me commandment, so I do." John 14:31 The precepts of the gospel are the guidance of this nature, according to the perfection and perfect wisdom of Him who is its source; they are heeded by us in the obscurity of our feeble nature and distracting passions, and give (as ought to be the case, as it was in Christ) to the movements of the divine nature in us the additional character of obedience.

22 It remains then true, that what is called generally and properly "moral obligation" is necessarily and in its nature a relative thing. And hence the measure of it is the claim which the being in relation to whom I stand has upon me in virtue of that relationship.

In this sense it is, though the expression be very incorrect, that morality is eternal. First, if we consider as morality our own (or, to use the modern word, our subjective) state (to which the term is hardly properly applied), the love and holiness which become a man are the communication of the nature of God Himself, and are eternal in their source and character. But secondly, morality, properly so called, drawing its source from the claims attached to certain beings with whom I am in relationship, in virtue of which they are in that relationship, is as unchangeable as the relationship itself. For "eternal" in this case has only the meaning of absolute and unchangeable when the relationship exists; that is, the relationship being known, the duty attaches to it essentially. Thus, father and son, for example, is a known relationship. The relationship of father and son cannot exist without certain relative duties necessarily arising. The obligation is inherent to the relationship of father and son amongst human beings, and so in other cases.

But this shews the importance of a revelation.

As to the first (that is, our likeness to the divine nature), it is absolutely necessary; for God is unknown in His real perfection without it.

In the latter (that is, moral obligation properly so called), it has equal importance in another way, namely, that the revelation which God makes of Himself creates an obligation commensurate with that revelation. If the Son of God has died for me — is my Saviour and my Lord, it is clear He has a claim morally upon me, according to what He is as so revealed, and what He has done. That is, a revelation creates a part of morality; just as a woman's marriage does by her entering upon a new relationship with her husband, with this difference, that the obligation of marriage is abstractedly known in itself, whereas what is newly revealed then first begins even to be known as an obligation. The obligation takes its origin from it.

Some remarks may be added here. The mere capacity of nature to enjoy or stand in certain relationships does not constitute a base of morality; the relationship itself must exist. An orphan may have a nature susceptible of all the feelings and obligations of a child toward a parent. The moral tie does not exist, because the claim of the parent cannot be there.

23 Next, holiness in its nature, and love, as we speak of it here, suppose sin, though it may be only known as the opposite of the nature which knows it. Innocence is not holiness; it is ignorance of evil. God is holy, for He knows good and evil, and is perfectly good, and evil is perfectly abhorrent to Him. We have the knowledge of good and evil; hence naturally our conscience is bad; but if holy, and as far as holy, we abhor the evil we know, and know as evil, when it is present, in the measure of our holiness.

Love too, as we know it in God, is exercised in respect of evil; for evil exists and exists in us, and He loves us in that state.

Now, the understanding of perfect holiness by a sinful nature is, as to its own capacity, impossible. Conscience may so far understand it as to see its opposition to sin, and angrily or in terror dread the consequences; but an unholy nature does not comprehend or know a holy one in its separation from evil, as to affections — will — delight; for it has contrary ones. So, indeed, of love: "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."

To say that a man is not a sinner is mere folly and insensibility to good and evil, and the strongest possible proof of ignorance of God and hardness of conscience. "Thou thoughtest," says he whose piety Mr. N. declares he delights in (Phases, pp. 223, 232), speaking in God's name, "that I was altogether such a one as thyself; but I will reprove thee, and set before thee the things that thou hast done." Ps. 50:21 To say that he is a sinner* is to confess his incapacity of knowing God, or judging of Him, or the revelation He gives of Himself, unless sin (that is, an opposite moral nature in thought and desire — in insubjection too of will) be the capacity to know Him.

{*Mr. N. teaches that man cannot grow up sinless, but must be a sinner (pp. 100, 101).}

But if we consider morality, properly speaking, as grounded on relationship, it is clear and easily made evident that man cannot, and ought not, to suppose in his own mind the only thing which God can be to his comfort. For in that for which man is responsible to God he has failed. I ask not the cause. I am willing here to take the ground Mr. N. takes (proof as it may really be, as I shall shew, of indifference to God's presence and favour). I will suppose that sin is come in neither by following Adam, nor by inheriting his fallen nature; that it is all the pure fruit, without other cause, of man's own individual will. Be it so.

24 He has failed, then, in the relationship to God and man in which he stood as a responsible creature, and that by his own proper perverseness. He needs mercy. He needs, then, forgiveness. He needs a God of goodness, who cannot hold the guilty for innocent, and yet forgives iniquity. But if a person has sinned against One to whom he owes so much, his taking it for granted that he is to be forgiven, as a matter of course, is hardness and impudence of heart.

If my child had been very naughty and offensive to me (and it is nothing compared to sin against God), and he were to say, "Of course my father will forgive: forgiveness is a proper thing that suits his character — is becoming conduct;" would not his state be really worse than his offence — his conscience shewn to be hard? Conscience — right feeling — thinks of what we have merited from those good and gracious, when we have offended them, and judges itself, though it may be attracted by grace. The heart which coolly expects forgiveness, because it suits the character of Him we have offended, is in a state which unfits it for receiving it.

If God reveals it, it does indeed suit Him; and I bow in thankful adoration when He has shewn Himself such (but this is revelation): to expect it is to be insensible to it — to be unfit for it.

And here I may take up Christianity itself, because I only shew that, being what it is, there must be a revelation to communicate it: the sinner's mind ought not and could not judge it, or appreciate it, or suppose it, unless it were revealed. It declares a love of God which gave His only-begotten Son, One with Himself, the object of His infinite delight before the world was, for vile and polluted sinners. It declares that the Son came in the exercise of this same love, giving Himself for them to put away their sin and bring them to God — thus known to be perfect love to themselves — and with a conscience which knows that He imputes no sin to them at all (without diminishing, nay, giving a far deeper sense of His holiness), because His character had been perfectly glorified about it.

The Father did not spare His Son, but delivered Him up. He freely and in the same love gave Himself for it, to glorify God and save us. Could a sinner expect such a dealing? Would it not have been a presumption which increased his offence, and shewed his pride and the naughtiness of his heart? Revealed, it is a love which nothing else could manifest, and the glory of Him who has love for His nature.

25 That is, not only the human mind, as such, is incapable of appreciating in itself God and the revelation of Him, but, seeing we are sinners, it cannot, morally it ought not, to suppose the revelation to be such as it must be, if of any use to man, seeing he is a sinner. The supposition constitutes unfitness to enjoy and profit by what is supposed. Known by revelation, grace is the perfection of God as He manifests Himself. The expectation of it destroys its nature (for it would not then be mere goodness), and debases still further him who expects it.

All these considerations shew that the mind of man, and specially of sinful man, is incapable of estimating what God ought to be, and what the revelation which He would give of Himself should be.

Hence utter uncertainty in the soul as to what He is. This is, indeed, an unquestionable fact — He concerns Himself about our words, actions, thoughts. Solemn thought! for if He does so, it is because He has a right and a will to do so. But what is He who does? Here all is solemn or irritated silence, or an effort to believe Him good, so as to set the conscience easy and the will free.

Mr. N. would take away what I have, if he could. He will give me his thoughts instead, but no revelation of God. I must take his thoughts (worse than second-hand faith), or my own, or everybody his own: — that is, everything beyond the thought that God concerns Himself about our actions, words, and thoughts; and almighty power and Godhead are the sport of every man's mind, and of the fancies which a sinful will may have about the God men have to say to. For what else than his own notions can Mr. N. give them?

And does Mr. N. deny this horrible uncertainty, this incapacity to judge of revelation?

He cannot and he does not. I am not here supposing that he does not give us his thoughts about God: these we may hereafter examine in a measure. But we are here examining his views of revelation. On this head all is avowed uncertainty and incapacity. "There is no imaginable criterion," he tells us, "by which we can establish that the wisdom of a teacher is absolute and illimitable." (Phases, p. 213.)

Now this is not a statement that the Bible is not a revelation of God because of what it is; but that no revelation can be established as certain to man.

If there be no imaginable criterion by which it can be established, man is incapable of judging of the certainty of a revelation; for he has no criterion to judge by. I do not deny that some might be proved to be false, by evident contradictions, or such other proofs as are within the measure of man's appreciation, for which he has a criterion. If a pretended revelation declared there were many gods, and of the basest immorality and born in time, such as Jupiter and Venus,* and the like, it could not be a revelation of the one true God, whose "eternal power and Godhead" men ought to know without a revelation given by inspiration. (Rom. 1.) But for receiving a revelation as certain in a positive way, man has no criterion; that is, he is incapable of judging of it.

{*Yet, in fact men not having desired to retain God in their knowledge, they were received as gods, because man's passions, and habits, and imaginations, and associations of country, of the religion of his fathers, wants connected with his passions, are stronger in the immense mass of mankind than any calm reasoning about God from the display He has made of Himself in nature, or the workings of man's natural conscience. The Socrateses would be treated as atheists and the despisers of their country's gods, till an indifference which demoralises everything made polytheism ridiculous, and independence of God as convenient for men's passions as imaginative gods that favoured or thwarted him.}

26 It cannot be pretended that God cannot reveal anything (that is, state anything with certainty as to the past, as to the future, or as to what is unseen). Only man, according to Mr. N., has no criterion by which to judge that it is such. That is, man is incapable of judging with certainty of it; he is capable of uncertainty in such a case, and that is all.

A poor condition to be in if God be capable of giving such a revelation! Mr. N. tells us (Phases, p. 212) it would be very "undesirable;" but he cannot say in principle that God has not revealed and does not reveal anything, for he has no criterion to judge by in order to assure himself of it.

But let us measure this proposition a little more accurately. It affirms very clearly what I have stated as to man's incapacity, supposing him to be the judge of revelation. He is, it is confessed, a totally incompetent one.

But morally (that is as regards man's responsibility before God, or his comfort or enlightening from God, and God's competency to place man under responsibility or to comfort or enlighten him,) it goes something farther; for it assumes that man's criteria are the only means of the certainty of a revelation; and, in doing that, it affirms that God is incapable of giving a revelation which can bind the conscience of man as being God's revelation to him. I say morally, because I admit that sinful corrupt-minded man is an incompetent judge of a revelation. But Mr. N. admits no other way of its reception than the à priori moral competency of man; and on this ground his proposition really declares that God is incapable of so revealing Himself to man as to make Himself known, or bind the conscience, or assure the heart, by such revelation.

27 For if there be no imaginable criterion by which man can be assured certainly of its authority, and man's judgment be the only way of receiving it, God in no imaginable way can communicate his mind or will so as to make it certain to man as such, and thus binding on him, or a comfort to him. This is a bold proposition. It is always well to know what men do really mean; sometimes it is enough to state it to see its falseness.

This statement declares God's total incapacity to communicate with man. He must remain, as far as He is concerned, an unknown, perhaps an Epicurean (i.e., an indifferent) God. Any expression of love to His creature He is debarred from, as well as that of righteousness. For any revelation of His character to instruct man He is incompetent. He has made man in such a way as that all communion to him on His part is forbidden. Would He elevate man to an increased knowledge of Him? He cannot. Would He manifest any love to him in his sins and sorrows? He must resign Himself to be silent, shut up in His own perfection, if perfection an inactive love, incapable of telling itself to the one it loves, can be called. Such is the theory of Mr. N. But this is not all.

For if God cannot reveal Himself to man, man's thoughts of God must be entirely within the limits of his own mind. I shall just now shew Mr. N.'s theory false as to fact, on ground not yet noticed, but I take it now as he states it.

Now if God be brought within the limits of man's thoughts as such, if by searching Him man can find Him out, then is He really not God at all, or man is. At least, his mind is equal to the divine infinity; for when it comes to power instead of presumptuousness, the difference is soon found out.

I remember (for I also have had my "phases of faith") when first awakened to serious and, in some measure, continued moral thought, I was reading, partly through desire of knowledge, partly alas! through the vanity which likes to possess it, Cicero's Offices," and I came to the passage, nearly the only one which remains to me unobliterated by an active life, "subjecta veritas quasi materia," that is, "truth subjected as a material" to the mind. I said to myself (or rather the divine truth flashed across my mind), "This cannot be in the case of God, for my mind must be superior to the matter which is subjected to its operations; if it be, that which is so is not God. Faith alone can put Him in His place, which, if He be God, must be above me, as much as God must be above man."

28 Is not this true? But then there must be a revelation of God in some way, or I (deplorable condition!) remain in total ignorance of Him. I am not saying man is so, but that he must be so if there be no revelation of God. I believe conscience knows that there is a God — Mr. N.'s conscience, my conscience; but it wants something more than it knows: for conscience knows responsibility, and it knows sin — sin lying on itself — on him who has the conscience of it.

Argumentatively, it is an absurdity to make man's mind the measure of God.

Morally, it is a horrible iniquity as well as a folly.

But perhaps the reader will consider it unjust in argument, and even morally, to impute to Mr N. such a thought, as that which the Psalmist, whose piety he admires, puts into the mouth of God, being inspired so to do, as a charge against the wicked, "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself."

But Mr. N. has reasoned out his principles too boldly to their consequences to conceal them. Any God known by revelation is too entirely excluded from his thoughts to make him fear to bring out his God such as He is according to his theory. He tells us, indeed, that we must regard Him as morally more perfect than man. Still his conclusion on the whole matter is, that "the perfections of God are justly called a projected image of our own highest conceptions."* (Soul, p. 41.) That is, as a fact, God is more morally perfect than man, which is not, indeed, saying much; but, adding boundlessness to our idea, our highest conceptions are the moral measure, as to kind, of His perfections, though it be a projected enlarged image of them.

{*I must be allowed to put the reader here on his guard against misapprehension, as if highest conceptions were the same thing as highest qualities. The expression does limit God's perfections to man's conceptions. All the poison of such a thought is there in full. But most of men's good qualities are inapplicable to God, as belonging to a creature: awe, reverence, gratitude, admiration, love to a superior, all that concur in adoration are necessarily excluded from the notion of God. When we partake of the divine nature, through a grace which has set us in perfect peace as to ourselves, we can love in a divine way, and love righteousness in a divine way. Otherwise we cannot. We must have a justly lovable object to call out a correspondent affection, or it will be an idolatrous passion towards an unworthy one. To love, in supreme sovereign goodness, is an absolutely divine quality. "God is love." 1 John 4:8 Hence, at once, the apostle says, "He that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God" 1 John 4:7; he derives this from Him, and He is the supreme object of it. This characterizes the divine nature as communicated to us. I can also understand and delight in righteousness in itself and holiness, being made partaker of His holiness, and renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created me in righteousness and true holiness. But while conscience has anything to say, I cannot love them simply, though that conscience may see them to be right and good, because I cannot and ought not to love to be condemned, nor be content to be defiled, supposing goodness to be as great as may be. But righteousness condemns me, and holiness shews me to be defiled.

The truth is, all this attempt to project God out of our conceptions is confusion, just because we are creatures, and excellence in a creature is a different thing. And hence there is incompetency to see what God ought to be or must be; though I may in a measure know what He may approve in me, which is another thing, but which will never carry us up to the being which approves. Secondly, we are sinful creatures; hence what God can be to us ought not even to be estimated by us. And lastly, no conception of mind can estimate love. "He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love." It never can be said, Man is love. A creature cannot be; he h bound to something else which bars him from supreme love. He may know it in supreme love to him as a sinner, and thus, but thus only, rise to its source. He knows it supreme and infinite, because it reached him: supreme, because there was nothing lovely in its effect; infinite, for nothing is so far from supreme love as enmity against it, and this was the condition of his proud heart. So even Mr. N. confesses, for he admits an antagonist will. And what else is that but open moral opposition against supreme good, and a refusal to bow to it? How is that to be loved' and if loved, is it to be sanctioned? or how reconcile entire condemnation of it, and yet perfect love to him that is in it? This the cross has solved, but not Mr. N. He has known too much of Christianity not to make all his system absurd by that which he has introduced into it, as it was, without this, by all it left out.

The cross, Mr. N. will tell us, is not just. No; it is love. But it is love exercised in such a condemnation of sin as makes its exercise consistent with righteousness, that is, the necessary and desirable display of God's opposition to evil. Christ was willing to offer Himself up, that God might be thus known and man saved.}

29 Now, the mental absurdity of this I am not answerable for; nor is it surprising in logicians and philosophers meddling with God's nature, and measuring it by their own. Absurdity is the necessary result.

But it is evident that the addition of boundlessness changes everything morally, so that the application of a limited nature to judge of a boundless one by is moral nonsense. If boundless love and boundless power go together, the result must be entirely different in kind from the responsibility by which I judge my conduct, who have but very limited power.

30 The title to use goodness sovereignly is a different thing from obligation under which I lie to God (if, indeed, Mr. N. admits any); for I am bound in my use of that by the obligation. Infinite goodness, coupled with infinite power, is free to act from itself.

But with this point I am not here concerned. I cite the passage from Mr. N.'s other book, to shew that his system does establish our mind as the moral measure of what God is, though we may attach the idea of greater degree to it.

Such is the necessary result of the exclusion of inspired revelation.

I have said, however, that it is really false in fact. Man does not, nor ever can, form his idea of God without his mind being acted on in the way of revelation, though it be not a direct inspired communication from God. He is surrounded by a system altogether beyond his power and control, which witnesses a Being that rises in divine supremacy beyond all his thoughts, which tells of a creating God. Yet, mark, he sees around him a confusion, a disorder, in the condition of those set as masters over the lower part of this creation, which tells a tale of their moral position before God which no wit of his can solve — too bad to be such as it ought to be, with too many signs of God having to say to it — of goodness and mercy, to think it possible it should not be a system of responsibility with which God has to do, with which He will deal otherwise than He does as yet — which put Tartarus and Elysium into the minds of the heathen, a vague and anxious future into the breasts of all: the very insoluble enigma of which shews some mighty moral relationship in disorder, proving by its very greatness that it must refer to God, and hence that it is only His coming into it which can give the key to all, or set it right, in fact.

Mr. N. admits "prevailing wickedness" (Soul, p. 44) in the creation of a Being of perfect goodness. How strange! He tells us, with cold calculation which one would think had never visited man's sorrows, that sorrow is needed to perfect man morally. A poor comfort to thousands of despairing souls, writhing in misery and complaining of God because of it! A poor answer to millions worshipping stocks and stones, and, according to Mr. N., a supposed devil,* through fear! Is this necessary for Mr. N.'s philosophical happiness and moral perfecting of man? If Christianity had produced all this, what would he have said? Had it done so, that would not alter the fact. There it is for cold-hearted drawing-room philosophers to pronounce it necessary at their ease.

{*"How could I believe in that painful and gratuitous imagination — the devil?" (Phases, p. 189.) Mr. N.'s assertions in that place will be considered elsewhere.}

31 Mr. N. tells us, indeed, that had we had it all to arrange our own way, man could not have done it better. Man could not have done it better! Is that all he has to say? Could God have done it no better? is the question, if we are to take it up as Mr. N. does, as being the original ordered system of God. Is prevailing wickedness, as the necessary result of all a supremely good God could do, the projected image of our highest conceptions? I dare say it is; but does it not then betray the true nature and competency of these conceptions? Mr. N. also declares there is an antagonist will in man. Is this also necessary to his moral perfecting?

But further, as evil is finite and transitory, Mr. N. thinks, while lamenting the actual state of the world, that in prevailing wickedness, however intense and whatever misery it causes, there is nothing to inspire rational doubt of the divine goodness. (Soul, p. 45.) Is this all the soul and its aspirations can give us? The chance that evil will be transitory taking away rational doubts of God's goodness, when what is intensely the contrary prevails, and that goodness is almost universally unknown! Is this Mr. N.'s highest conception, projected as an image with boundless proportions of abstract goodness?

The Christian has no such difficulty; he believes that there is alas! an "antagonist will" (Soul, p. 47), a rebellious and sinful nature, with all the miserable consequences of its "intense wickedness" (ib. p. 45); but he believes that God has come into the midst of it to win man's heart away from this perverse and miserable enmity to God by surpassing goodness, and to make Himself known to man as love in the midst of the fruit of his ways; yea, finding in all the misery and sin the occasion of shewing it, and at all cost of love to Himself. He does not rationally suppose God is good, because, in cold philosophy, man's sorrows are necessary to his moral perfecting. He sees in the sorrow (such as none ever had; for who could have such?) of God, come down to carry man's, and redeem and bring him out of it, the proof of that love which makes God known, alike in its greatness and its nearness, in its height above sin and its condescension to those sunk in it; according to that grace which could reach from the throne of God to the vilest of sinners, yea, to be made sin for them, and so bring up the heart, by reaching it there where it was, to the throne from which that grace had descended, and the God of whom it was the perfection. For the highest exercise (or, at least, display) of that perfection which dwells on the throne of heaven was that which visited the lost sinner upon earth, linking his soul to itself, and making known God as He is. Yes, there was a revelation, a revelation of what man wanted, and which God alone could give, and which made Him known.*

{*How much is known of God, on Mr. N.'s principles, is avowed by himself: "It is axiomatic, that man can no more understand the mind of God than a dog that of his master." (Soul, p. 119.)}

32 But I must return to the point I was upon. A certain revelation of God is necessary, and exists, and that revelation is the basis of all Mr. N.'s reasonings — that is, "the things that are made." Rom. 1. From these Mr. N. deduces design, a designer, and so on. No doubt Christianity fully recognizes this. But, then, this is only one way of God's revealing Himself — the lowest way. It reveals His eternal power and Godhead. But this raises other questions. Undoubted traces of goodness are infallibly seen in the creation; but while order reigns in the material world so as to leave no doubt of One of infinite wisdom who designed it, in the moral, such is the "intense wickedness," the confusion, and discontent that, if a man attempts to unriddle what he sees, he falls into a labyrinth from which there is no way out.

A mind which feels that God has to say to the world cannot, with the flippancy of philosophy turning despot in its despair, say, Evil is only transitory — hang the man that troubles society (as Mr. N. would do), and from the reasonableness of this deduce that God may leave the majority of mankind in such a state that even the heart that could reason thus "laments" over it, yet counts it good enough after all. (Soul, p. 43; the whole passage will be quoted hereafter as characteristic.) It cannot say, It is a part of the perfection of beasts of prey to be cruel and destroy, therefore the misery of the destroyed is intelligible; because it may say, "How is it they have such a kind of perfection? What is come in, that, in proportion as created being approaches man, evil begins to manifest itself; that where creation is without a will, all is material order, all lovely where man cannot reach; where will comes in, where man meddles, all is misery and sin? How is it that, if the beast's furious passion passes away with its occasion, man uses his intellect to perpetuate and perfect his vengeance? Is this for moral perfecting?"

33 The Christian does see that there is a revelation of God in His works which are seen, such as leaves man without excuse in not owning His eternal power and Godhead. He sees, plainly enough, that Mr. N.'s highest conceptions did not, and could not, take a step without it. But he sees that he wants something else from God to explain the riddle of the moral confusion which exists, since there is a God; and that as God has to say to it, and evidently it has to say to God (for His creatures surely have something to say to Him*), God, and God alone, can give the key and the answer to that in the midst of which his soul groans. He sees, moreover, that such as Mr. N. depend on a revelation of God as much as any: only that, in order to maintain man's importance, they take the lowest, the one morally inadequate to solve the grand question of the eternal interests of a soul with God, and reject that which would reveal God fully, and make man dependent on Him.

{*Mr. N. admits "that the God of nature is the God of our consciences, and that all wrong doing is frowned on by Him." (Soul, p. 65.)}

Why, if God has partially revealed Himself in His works, is it impossible He should reveal Himself in some other way? Is that the only possible one? If God can give in mere nature infallible evidence that it is He, why cannot He reveal Himself in some other way with adequate evidence that it is Himself who does so? This, we have seen, Mr. N. declares Him incapable of doing. But who will take his highest conceptions as an adequate guide to God? Why is he to use a partial revelation in which God has not left Himself without witness, if haply man might feel after Him and find Him, and deny all other? Mr. N., while using Christianity really to elevate his account of what God is, would reduce us to that which God's revelation points out as true, but as of the lowest kind. That is all his books amount to. The christian revelation recognizes this testimony: but it shews from the plainest facts, which Mr. N. very wisely passes over, that such a testimony, though it left man without excuse, had been perfectly useless, through man's perverseness, to elevate man above the corruptions of his own heart; that its existence had even left idolatrous revelling in abominations not fit to be named, and making gods to themselves to help them in them. Christianity owns the testimony, and shews that man's soul when in possession of it sank into the utmost degradation. Mr. N. avails himself of Christianity, from which he avows he has got almost all his manhood-wisdom, to prove the competency of this previous partial revelation to lead man up to God and render all other unnecessary, and to deny the Christianity which has given him the results and ideas to which the other never in fact led man. Which is the most philosophical, the most logical, the most true?