Sunday, August 9, 2020
The Simple Gospel Of Jesus and His View Of God #JesusFollowers
We do not find that God has ever enjoined on men the duty of believing without evidence. We do not find that He has ever addressed them otherwise than as rational beings, capable of discerning between truth and falsehood, and expected to do so on their own responsibility.
Revelation, as we think, came not to supersede reason, or to set aside its deductions; but to enlighten its course, to expand its views, to enlarge its field of action, to dispel the earth-born mists that obscured its vision, to give it broader and more solid premises, on which to build its conclusions, and to imp its wings for a higher flight.
It never calls for the subjection of reason - the 'prostration' of understanding, to its dictates. On the contrary, it is itself subjected to the decision of reason; and must abide the test. It must be received or rejected according to the dictates of our sober judgment on the evidence presented.
And as with the evidence on which it rests, so with the doctrines it contains. These too, are subjected to the test of reason. We believe them just in so far as we understand them ; and no farther.
The provinces of faith and reason are not distinct, the one beginning where the other ends. They cover the same ground.
It seems to us a mere identical proposition to state that what is not understood, cannot be believed. In this case no object is presented to the mind for it to receive or reject.
What is not understood is to me no revelation. If a man says that he believes what he does not pretend either to explain or comprehend, he deceives himself. His faith is merely verbal and illusory.
Doubtless there may be many truths both in nature and in scripture, of which we are ignorant. But to us, so long as we remain ignorant of them, they are nothing - they are to us as though they did not exist.
We pretend not to comprehend the nature and perfections of the Divine Being, for example, but in so far as they are displayed, they are perfectly plain and intelligible. And what is not displayed is no concern of ours.
My eye cannot penetrate the deep infinitude of the space that surrounds me; but within the verge of my own horizon I can see clearly, and move freely: with what is beyond I have at present no concern. Let it not be said that we exalt reason at the expense of revelation. We do but assign to each its appropriate sphere.
Reason, we admit, was weak and inefficient by itself. And why? It lacked authority to still the clamor of the passions, that disturbed its operations. It lacked facts to render its conclusions certain. Above all, it wanted sanctions to bind them on the conscience. All this revelation has supplied; and thus completed the system of God's dispensations to man.
For those who rest their hopes on Christianity, there is one fundamental doctrine, and one only. The essentials of our creed may be stated in three words: “Jesus is the Christ; a messenger of truth and mercy from God.”
This simple proposition admitted, with unwavering assent into the mind, the whole business of Christian faith, merely and distinctively, is discharged.
If this single doctrine will not enlighten the conscience, and purify the heart, and regulate the life; if it will not tranquillize the spirit, and enkindle devotion, and awaken hope, and wing the aspirations of the soul to God; if it will not communicate strength to suffer, and a will to serve, then nothing will. We cannot believe that by making our faith more complex we should increase its practical power, even in minds capable of wider and more elaborate views.
(From a Sermon by Martin Luther Hurlbut, 1780-1843)