[Tract No. 73 (Ad Scholas)]

II. On the Introduction of Rationalistic Principles into Revealed Religion

{30} IT is not intended in the following pages to enter into any general view of so large a subject as Rationalism, nor to attempt any philosophical account of it; but, after defining it sufficiently for the purpose in hand, to direct attention to a very peculiar and subtle form of it existing covertly in the popular religion of this day. With this view two writers, not of our own Church, though of British origin, shall pass under review,—Mr. Erskine and Mr. Jacob Abbott.

This is the first time that a discussion of (what may be called) a personal nature has appeared in this series of Tracts [Note], which has been confined to the delineation and enforcement of principles and doctrines. However, in this case, I have found that, if it was important to protest against certain views of the day, it was necessary, in order to do this intelligibly, to refer to the individuals who have inculcated them. Of these the two Authors above mentioned seemed at once the most influential and the most original; and Mr. Abbott being a foreigner, and Mr. Erskine having written sixteen years since, there seemed a possibility of introducing their names without assuming to exercise the functions of a Review. {31}

It will be my business first to explain what I mean by Rationalism, and then to illustrate the description given of it from the writings of the two Authors in question.

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§ 1. The Rationalistic and the Catholic Tempers contrasted

RATIONALISM is a certain abuse of Reason; that is, a use of it for purposes for which it never was intended, and is unfitted. To rationalize in matters of Revelation is to make our reason the standard and measure of the doctrines revealed; to stipulate that those doctrines should be such as to carry with them their own justification; to reject them, if they come in collision with our existing opinions or habits of thought, or are with difficulty harmonized with our existing stock of knowledge. And thus a rationalistic spirit is the antagonist of Faith; for Faith is, in its very nature, the acceptance of what our reason cannot reach, simply and absolutely upon testimony.

There is, of course, a multitude of cases in which we allowably and rightly accept statements as true, partly on reason, and partly on testimony. We supplement the information of others by our own knowledge, by our own judgment of probabilities; and, if it be very strange or extravagant, we suspend our assent. This is undeniable; still, after all, there are truths which are incapable of reaching us except on testimony, and there is testimony, which by and in itself, has an imperative claim on our acceptance. {32}

As regards Revealed Truth, it is not Rationalism to set about to ascertain, by the exercise of reason, what things are attainable by reason, and what are not; nor, in the absence of an express Revelation, to inquire into the truths of Religion, as they come to us by nature; nor to determine what proofs are necessary for the acceptance of a Revelation, if it be given; nor to reject a Revelation on the plea of insufficient proof; nor, after recognizing it as divine, to investigate the meaning of its declarations, and to interpret its language; nor to use its doctrines, as far as they can be fairly used, in inquiring into its divinity; nor to compare and connect them with our previous knowledge, with a view of making them parts of a whole; nor to bring them into dependence on each other, to trace their mutual relations, and to pursue them to their legitimate issues. This is not Rationalism; but it is Rationalism to accept the Revelation, and then to explain it away; to speak of it as the Word of God, and to treat it as the word of man; to refuse to let it speak for itself; to claim to be told the why and the how of God's dealings with us, as therein described, and to assign to Him a motive and a scope of our own; to stumble at the partial knowledge which He may give us of them; to put aside what is obscure, as if it had not been said at all; to accept one half of what has been told us, and not the other half; to assume that the contents of Revelation are also its proof; to frame some gratuitous hypothesis about them, and then to garble, gloss, and colour them, to trim, clip, pare away, and twist them, in order to bring them into conformity with the idea to which we have subjected them.

When the rich lord in Samaria said, "Though God shall make windows in heaven, shall this thing be?" he {33} rationalized, as professing his inability to discover how Elisha's prophecy was to be fulfilled, and thinking in this way to excuse his unbelief. When Naaman, after acknowledging the prophet's supernatural power, objected to bathe in Jordan, it was on the ground of his not seeing the means by which Jordan was to cure his leprosy above the rivers of Damascus. "How can these things be?" was the objection of Nicodemus to the doctrine of regeneration; and when the doctrine of the Holy Communion was first announced, "the Jews strove among themselves," in answer to their Divine Informant, saying, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" When St. Thomas, believing in our Lord, doubted of our Lord's resurrection, though his reason for so doing is not given, it plainly lay in the astonishing, unaccountable nature of such an event. A like desire of judging for one's self is discernible in the original fall of man. Eve did not believe the Tempter, any more than God's word, till she perceived that "the fruit was good for food."

So again, when men who profess Christianity ask how prayer can really influence the course of God's providence, or how everlasting punishment, as such, consists with God's infinite mercy, they rationalize.

The same spirit shows itself in the restlessness of others to decide how the sun was stopped at Joshua's word, how the manna was provided, and the like; forgetting what our Saviour suggests to the Sadducees,—"the power of God."


Conduct such as this, on so momentous a matter, is, generally speaking, traceable to one obvious cause. The Rationalist makes himself his own centre, not his Maker; {34} he does not go to God, but he implies that God must come to him. And this, it is to be feared, is the spirit in which multitudes of us act at the present day. Instead of looking out of ourselves, and trying to catch glimpses of God's workings, from any quarter,—throwing ourselves forward upon Him and waiting on Him, we sit at home bringing everything to ourselves, enthroning ourselves in our own views, and refusing to believe anything that does not force itself upon us as true. Our private judgment is made everything to us,—is contemplated, recognized, and consulted as the arbiter of all questions, and as independent of everything external to us. Nothing is considered to have an existence except so far forth as our minds discern it. The notion of half views and partial knowledge, of guesses, surmises, hopes and fears, of truths faintly apprehended and not understood, of isolated facts in the great scheme of Providence, in a word, the idea of Mystery, is discarded.

Hence a distinction is drawn between what is called Objective and Subjective Truth, and Religion is said to consist in a reception of the latter. By Objective Truth is meant the Religious System considered as existing in itself, external to this or that particular mind: by Subjective, is meant that which each mind receives in particular, and considers to be such. To believe in Objective Truth is to throw ourselves forward upon that which we have but partially mastered or made subjective; to embrace, maintain, and use general propositions which are larger than our own capacity, of which we cannot see the bottom, which we cannot follow out into their multiform details; to come before and bow before the import of such propositions, as if we were contemplating what is real and independent of human judgment. Such a belief, implicit, and symbolized as it is in the use of {35} creeds, seems to the Rationalist superstitious and unmeaning, and he consequently confines Faith to the province of Subjective Truth, or to the reception of doctrine, as, and so far as, it is met and apprehended by the mind, which will be differently, as he considers, in different persons, in the shape of orthodoxy in one, heterodoxy in another. That is, he professes to believe in that which he opines; and he avoids the obvious extravagance of such an avowal by maintaining that the moral trial involved in Faith does not lie in the submission of the reason to external realities partially disclosed, but in what he calls that candid pursuit of truth which ensures the eventual adoption of that opinion on the subject, which is best for us individually, which is most natural according to the constitution of our own minds, and, therefore, divinely intended for us. I repeat, he owns that Faith, viewed with reference to its objects, is never more than an opinion, and is pleasing to God, not as an active principle apprehending definite doctrines, but as a result and fruit, and therefore an evidence of past diligence, independent inquiry, dispassionateness, and the like. Rationalism takes the words of Scripture as signs of Ideas; Faith, of Things or Realities.

For an illustration of Faith, considered as the reaching forth after and embracing what is beyond the mind, or Objective, we may refer to St. Paul's description of it in the ancient Saints; "These all died in Faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth:" or to St. Peter's; "Of which salvation the Prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you, searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which {36} was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow; unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have evangelized you." Here the faith of the ancient Saints is described as employed, not merely on truths so far as mastered by the mind, but on truths beyond it, and even to the end withheld from its perfect apprehension.

On the other hand, if we would know the narrow and egotistic temper of mind to which the Rationalistic Theory of Subjective Truth really tends, we find an illustration of it in the following passage of a popular Review. Without apparently any intention of denying that the wonders of nature "declare the glory of God and show His handiwork," the writer seems to feel that there is one thing better and higher than the witness which they bear to a mere point in metaphysics; viz., the exact mathematical knowledge to which they can be subjected. He thus descants:—

"To the historian of science it is permitted to penetrate the depths of past and future with equal clearness and certainty; facts to come are to him as present, and not unfrequently more assured than facts which are past. Although this clear perception of causes and consequences characterizes the whole domain of physical science, and clothes the natural philosopher with powers denied to the political and moral inquirer, yet Foreknowledge is eminently the privilege of the Astronomer. Nature has raised the curtain of futurity, and displayed before him the succession of her decrees, so far as they affect the physical universe, for countless ages to come; and the Revelations of which she has made him the instrument, are supported and verified by a never-ceasing train of predictions fulfilled. He [the Astronomer] shows us the things which will be hereafter; not obscurely shadowed out in figures and in parables, as must necessarily be the case with other Revelations, but attended with the most minute precision of time, place, and circumstance. {37} He [the Astronomer] converts the hours as they roll into an ever-present miracle, in attestation of those Laws which the Creator through him has unfolded; the sun cannot rise, the moon cannot wane, a star cannot twinkle in the firmament, without bearing testimony to the truth of his [the Astronomer's] Prophetic Records. How nobly is the darkness which envelopes metaphysical inquiries compensated by the flood of light which is shed upon the physical creation! There all is harmony, and order, and majesty, and beauty. How soothing and yet how elevating it is to turn to the splendid spectacle which offers itself to the habitual contemplation of the Astronomer! How favourable to the development of all the best and highest feelings of the soul are such objects! The only passion they inspire being the Love of Truth, and the chiefest pleasure of their votaries arising from Excursions through the imposing scenery of the universe: scenery on a scale of grandeur and magnificence, compared with which whatever we are accustomed to call sublimity on our planet, dwindles into ridiculous insignificancy. Most justly has it been said, that nature has implanted in our bosoms a craving after the Discovery of Truth, and assuredly that glorious instinct is never more irresistibly awakened than when our notice is directed to what is going on in the heavens," etc. etc. (abridged.)

The writer of these sentences cannot be said exactly to rationalize, because he neither professes belief in Revelation, nor dresses up any portion of its contents into a scientific, intelligible shape. But he lays down the principle on which rationalists proceed, and shows how superior, that principle being assumed, astronomy is to the Gospel. He tells us that knowledge, or what he calls truth, elicits "the best and highest feelings of the soul;" that the "love" and "craving" for such knowledge is the most noble of "passions," and a "glorious instinct;" that the attainments of such knowledge, say for instance, about the Milky Way or the Lost Pleďad (supposing it were possible), is emphatically "Revelation," not a mere inkling, conveyed in figures and parables, like "other" Revelations, but "soothing, and yet how elevating!" {38} opening upon the scientific "excursionist" the most splendid "scenery," a "compensation" for "metaphysical darkness;"—moreover, that the "physical universe" "eminently" gifts the astronomer with "the privilege of foreknowledge," and is converted for his use into a "prophetic record." No partial knowledge, he implies, can be so transporting as this unclouded light,—the subject-matter of our contemplations, of course, never having any bearing at all upon the transport which the contemplations create. To know the God of nature in part is a poor thing in comparison of knowing the laws of nature in full. To meditate on His power or skill, on His illimitable being and existence, on His unity in immensity, is a mere nothing compared with the ecstasy which follows on the infallible certitude of the physical philosopher, that particles of matter are attracted towards each other by a force varying inversely as the square of their distance. I do not say that the writer in question would thus express himself, when brought to book; but it is the legitimate sense of his words, and the secret thought of his heart, unless he has but enunciated a succession of magniloquent periods.


I have said he is not a rationalist; I do not call him so, because he does not own to a belief in Revealed Religion, or tamper with its contents. Rather he tends, how little soever he may realize it, to discard even Theism itself from his list of credenda. The only truth which he seems to think it worth while pursuing, is the knowledge of the universe; for a system can be more easily and thoroughly mastered than an Infinite Mind. Laws are stable; but persons are strange, uncertain, inexplicable. "Ex pede Herculem;" if I know one {39} fact about the physical world, I know a million others; but one divine act and no more carries me but a little way in my knowledge of "Summum illud et ćternum, neque mutabile, neque interiturum." There is some chance of our analyzing nature, none of our comprehending God.

Such is the philosophy of the writer whom I have quoted; and such is Rationalism in its action upon Scripture and the Creed. It considers faith to consist rather in the knowledge of a system or scheme, than of an agent; it is concerned, not so much with the Divine Being, as with His work. Mr. Erskine is one of the writers who are presently to engage my attention; here I will anticipate my mention of him by citing a passage from his Essay on Faith, in illustration of the parallelism, as I read him, between him and the Reviewer. He assumes the very principle of the latter, viz., that clear knowledge is the one thing needful for the human mind, and by consequence that Christian faith does not really consist in the direct contemplation of the Supreme Being, in a submission to His authority, and a resignation to such disclosures about Himself and His will, be they many or few, distinct or obscure, as it is His pleasure to make to us, but in a luminous, well-adjusted view of the scheme of salvation, of the economy of grace, of the carrying out of the Divine Attributes into a series of providential and remedial appointments. He writes as follows:—

"I may understand many things which I do not believe; but I cannot believe anything which I do not understand, unless it be something addressed merely to my senses, and not to my thinking faculty. A man may with great propriety say, I understand the Cartesian System of Vortices, though I do not believe in it. But it is absolutely impossible for him to believe in that system without knowing what it is. A man may believe in the ability of the maker of a system without understanding it; but he cannot believe in the {40} system itself without understanding it. Now there is a meaning in the Gospel, and there is declared in it the system of God's dealings with men. This meaning, and this system, must be understood, before we can believe the Gospel. We are not called on to believe the Bible, merely that we may give a proof of our willingness to submit in all things to God's authority, but that we may be influenced by the objects of our belief," etc.

That is, I cannot believe anything which I do not understand; therefore, true Christianity consists, not in "submitting in all things to God's authority," His written Word, whether it be obscure or not, but in understanding His acts. I must understand a scheme, if the Gospel is to do me any good; and such a scheme is the scheme of salvation. Such is the object of faith, the history of a series of divine actions, and nothing more; nothing more, for everything else is obscure; but this is clear, simple, compact. To preach this, is to preach the Gospel; not to apprehend it, is to be destitute of living faith.

Of course I do not deny that Revelation contains a history of God's mercy to us; who can doubt it? I only say, that while it is this, it is something more also. Again, if by speaking of the Gospel as clear and intelligible, a man means to imply that this is the whole of it, then I answer, No; for it is also deep, and therefore necessarily mysterious. This is too often forgotten. Let me refer to a very characteristic word, familiarly used by Mr. Erskine, among others, to designate his view of the Gospel Dispensation. It is said to be a manifestation, as if the system presented to us were such as we could trace and connect into one whole, complete and definite. Let me use this word "Manifestation" as a symbol of the philosophy under review; and let me contrast it with the word "Mystery," which on the other hand may be {41} regarded as the badge or emblem of orthodoxy. Revelation, as a Manifestation, is a doctrine variously received by various minds, but nothing more to each than that which each mind comprehends it to be. Considered as a Mystery, it is a doctrine enunciated by inspiration, in human language, as the only possible medium of it, and suitably, according to the capacity of language; a doctrine lying hid in language, to be received in that language from the first by every mind, whatever be its separate power of understanding it; entered into more or less by this or that mind, as it may be; and admitting of being apprehended more and more perfectly according to the diligence of this mind and that. It is one and the same, independent and real, of depth unfathomable, and illimitable in its extent.


This is a fit place to make some remarks on the Scripture sense of the word Mystery. It may seem a contradiction in terms to call Revelation a Mystery; but is not the book of the Revelation of St. John as great a mystery from beginning to end as the most abstruse doctrine the mind ever imagined? yet it is even called a Revelation. How is this? The answer is simple. No revelation can be complete and systematic, from the weakness of the human intellect; so far as it is not such, it is mysterious. When nothing is revealed, nothing is known, and there is nothing to contemplate or marvel at; but when something is revealed, and only something, for all cannot be, there are forthwith difficulties and perplexities. A Revelation is religious doctrine viewed on its illuminated side; a Mystery is the selfsame doctrine viewed on the side unilluminated. Thus Religious Truth is neither light nor darkness, but both together; {42} it is like the dim view of a country seen in the twilight, with forms half extricated from the darkness, with broken lines, and isolated masses. Revelation, in this way of considering it, is not a revealed system, but consists of a number of detached and incomplete truths belonging to a vast system unrevealed, of doctrines and injunctions mysteriously connected together; that is, connected by unknown media, and bearing upon unknown portions of the system. And in this sense we see the propriety of calling St. John's prophecies, though highly mysterious, yet a revelation.

And such seems to be the meaning of the word Mystery in Scripture, a point which is sometimes disputed. Campbell, in his work on the Gospels, maintains that the word means a secret, and that, whatever be the subject of it in the New Testament, it is always, when mentioned, associated with the notion of its being now revealed. Thus, in his view, it is a word belonging solely to the Law, which was a system of types and shadows, and is utterly foreign to the Gospel, which has brought light instead of darkness. This sense might seem to be supported by our Lord's announcement (for instance) to His disciples, that to them was given to know the mysteries of His kingdom; and by His command to them at another time to speak abroad what they had heard from Him in secret. And St. Paul in like manner glories in the revelation of mysteries hid from the foundation of the world.

But the passages of Scripture admit, as I have suggested, of another interpretation. What was hidden altogether before Christ came, could not be a mystery; it became a Mystery, then for the first time, by being disclosed at His coming. What had never been dreamed of by "righteous men," before Him, when revealed, as {43} being unexpected, if for no other reason, would be strange and startling. And such unquestionably is the meaning of St. Paul, when he uses the word; for he applies it, not to what was passed and over, but to what was the then state of the doctrine revealed. Thus in the text, 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52, "Behold I show you a Mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump." The resurrection and consequent spiritualizing of the human body, was not dreamed of by the philosophy of the world till Christ came, and, when revealed, was "mocked," as then first becoming a mystery. Reason is just where it was; and, as it could not discover it beforehand, so now it cannot account for it, or reconcile it to experience, or explain the manner of it: the utmost it does is by some faint analogies to show that it is not inconceivable. Again, St. Paul, speaking of marriage says, "This is a great Mystery, I mean, in its reference to Christ and the Church;" that is, the ordinance of marriage has an inward and spiritual meaning, contained in it and revealed through it, a certain bearing, undefined and therefore mysterious, towards the heavenly communion existing between Christ and the Church:—as if for persons to place themselves in that human relation interested them in some secret way in the divine relation of which it is a figure. Again: "Great is the Mystery of piety; God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of Angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory" (1 Tim. iii. 16). Now is the revelation of these truths a Manifestation (as above explained) or a Mystery? Surely the great secret has, by being revealed, only got so far as to be a Mystery, nothing more; nor could become a Manifestation, (that is, a system comprehended as such by the {44} human mind,) without ceasing to be anything great at all. It must ever be small and superficial, viewed only as received by man; and is vast only when considered as that external truth into which each Christian may grow continually, and ever find fresh food for his soul.

As to the unknown, marvellous system of things spoken of in the text just quoted, it is described again, in an almost parallel passage, as regards the subject, though differently worded, in the Epistle to the Hebrews: "Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of Angels, to the full concourse and assembly of the first-born enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the perfected just, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel" (xii. 22-24). In like manner when St. Paul speaks of the election of the Gentiles as a Mystery revealed, the facts of the case show that it was still a mystery, and therefore but revealed to be a mystery, not a secret explained. We know that the Jews did stumble at it: why, if it was clear and obvious to reason? Certainly it was still a Mystery to them. Will it be objected that it had been plainly predicted? Surely not. The calling indeed of the Gentiles had been predicted, but not their equal participation with the Jews in all the treasures of the Covenant of grace, not the destruction of the Mosaic system. The prophets everywhere speak of the Jews as the head of the Gentiles; it was a new doctrine altogether (at least to the existing generation) that the election henceforth was to have no reference whatever to the Jews as a distinct people. This had hitherto been utterly hidden and unexpected; it emerged into a stumbling-block, or Mystery, {45} when the Gospel was preached, as on the other hand it became to all humble minds a marvel or mystery of mercy. Hence St. Paul speaks of the Mystery "which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel."


In these remarks on the meaning of the word Mystery, some of the chief doctrines of the Gospel Revelation have been already enumerated; before entering, however, into the discussion which I have proposed to myself, it may be right briefly to enumerate the revealed doctrines in order, according to the Catholic, that is, the anti-rationalistic, notion of them. They are these: the Holy Trinity; the Incarnation of the Eternal Son; His atonement and merits; the Church as His medium and instrument through which He is converting and teaching mankind; the Sacraments, and Sacramentals (as Bishop Taylor calls them), as the definite channels through which His merits are applied to individuals; Regeneration, the Communion of Saints, the Resurrection of the body, consequent upon the administration of them; and lastly, our faith and works, as a condition of the availableness and efficacy of these divine appointments. Each of these doctrines is a Mystery; that is, each stands in a certain degree isolated from the rest, unsystematic, connected with the rest by unknown intermediate truths, and bearing upon subjects unknown. Thus the Atonement:—why it was necessary, how it operates, is a Mystery; that is, the heavenly truth which is revealed, extends on each side of it into an unknown world. We see but the skirts of God's glory in it. The virtue of the Holy Communion; how it conveys {46} to us the body and blood of the Incarnate Son crucified, and how by partaking it body and soul are made spiritual. The Communion of Saints; in what sense they are knit together into one body, of which Christ is the head. Good works; how they, and how prayers again, influence our eternal destiny. In like manner what our relation is to the "innumerable company of Angels," some of whom, as we are told, minister to us; what to the dead in Christ, to the "spirits of the just perfected," who are ever joined to us in a heavenly communion; what bearing the Church has upon the fortunes of the world, or, it may be, of the universe.

That there are some such mysterious bearings, not only the incomplete character of the Revelation, but even its documents assure us. For instance. The Christian dispensation was ordained, "to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. iii. 10). Such is its relation to the Angels. Again to lost spirits; "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness in this world, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places" (Eph. vi. 12). In like manner our Lord says, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against" the Church (Matt. xvi. 18); implying thereby a contest. Again, in writing the following passage, had not St. Paul thoughts in his mind, suggested by the unutterable sights of the third heaven, but to us unrevealed and unintelligible? "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor principalities, nor powers, not things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us" (that is, the Church,) "from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. viii. 38, 39). {47}

The practical inference to be drawn from this view is, first, that we should be very reverent in dealing with Revealed Truth; next, that we should avoid all rash theorizing and systematizing as relates to it, which is pretty much what looking into the Ark was under the Law: further, that we should be solicitous to hold it safely and entirely; moreover, that we should be zealous and pertinacious in guarding it; and lastly, which is implied in all these, that we should religiously adhere to the form of words and the ordinances under which it comes to us, through which it is revealed to us, and apart from which the Revelation does not exist, there being nothing else given us by which to ascertain or enter into it.

Striking indeed is the contrast presented to this view of the Gospel by the popular theology of the day! That theology is as follows: that the Atonement is the chief doctrine of the Gospel; again, that it is chiefly to be regarded, not as a wonder in heaven, and in its relation to the attributes of God and to the unseen world, but in its experienced effects on our minds, in the change it effects when it is believed. To this, as if to the point of sight in a picture, all the portions of the Gospel system are directed and made to converge; as if this doctrine were so fully understood, that it might fearlessly be used to regulate, adjust, correct, complete, everything else. Thus, the doctrine of the Incarnation is viewed as necessary and important to the Gospel, because it gives virtue to the Atonement; of the Trinity, because it includes the revelation, not only of the Redeemer, but also of the Sanctifier, by whose aid and influence the Gospel message is to be blessed to us. It follows that faith is nearly the whole of religious service, for through it the message or Manifestation is received; on the other hand, the scientific language of Catholicism, concerning the Trinity {48} and Incarnation, is disparaged, as having no tendency to enforce the effect upon our minds of the doctrine of the Atonement, while the Sacraments are limited to the office of representing, and promising, and impressing on us the promise of divine influences, in no measure of conveying them. Thus the Dispensation, in its length, depth, and height, is practically identified with its Revelation, or rather its necessarily superficial Manifestation. Not that the reality of the Atonement, in itself, is formally denied, but it is cast in the background, except so far as it can be discovered to be influential, viz., to show God's hatred of sin, the love of Christ, and the like; and there is an evident tendency to consider it as a mere Manifestation of the love of Christ, to the denial of all real virtue in it as an expiation for sin; as if His death took place merely to show His love for us as a sign of God's infinite mercy, to calm and assure us, without any real connexion existing between it and God's forgiveness of our sins. And the Dispensation thus being hewn and chiselled into an intelligible human system, is represented, when thus mutilated, as affording a remarkable evidence of the truth of the Bible, an evidence level to the reason, and superseding the testimony of the Apostles. That is, according to the above observations, that Rationalism, or want of faith, which has in the first place invented a spurious gospel, next looks complacently on its own off-spring, and pronounces it to be the very image of that notion of the Divine Providence, according to which it was originally modelled; a procedure, which, besides more serious objections, incurs the logical absurdity of arguing in a circle.

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