Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bible Theology and Human Reason, part 2

From the Presbyterian Magazine, October 1858. Edited by Dr. Van Rensselaer. Pages 452-458.

"Bible Theology Consistent with Human Reason"
Part 2.

I. Man’s original creation in a state of purity and holiness.

It is a fact well known, that ancient philosophers had arrived at this truth without the revelation of the bible. Aristotle bases his system of ethics upon the assumption that all human passions are pure, and that error lays only in the excess. He carries the doctrine far beyond its legitimate results, but still it effects the purpose for which we use it, viz., to show that human reason discovers in human nature such relics of original purity as to authorize the belief of the existence of such a state. But without invoking the authority of any great name, we may arrive at this truth ourselves. Let us examine the human heart, analyze its passions, explore the deep regions of original motives, and we shall be forced to the same conclusion. As to the better feelings and affections—love, gratitude, pity, &tc.—argument is unnecessary. To the baser passions, then, let us appeal; for example, envy, revenge, hatred, avarice, covetousness. Is there a foundation of good, a corner-stone of purity, upon which such passions as these are reared? A few moments’ reflection will show that there is.

To admire the good, to seek to arrive at its attainments, is laudable. To remove real obstacles in the way is necessary to success. Real or imaginary thwart our purposes, and produce unpleasant reflections. A successful aspirant in the same race becomes in our eyes an obstacle to the attainment of the desired end, and hence Envy.

To love and protect those dependent upon and dear to us, is praiseworthy. To shield them from present harm and future injury, is pleasing and grateful to a generous heart. Every injury unprevented by us, grates harshly on these better feelings, reproaches our self-love for neglect, and demands a reparation, and hence, Revenge.

To love the right must necessarily produce a contrary feeling for the wrong. If both right and wrong make the same impression upon the heart and excite the same feeling, there could be no incitement to the one nor prevention of the other. The existence of real or imaginary wrong gives rise to this repulsive emotion of the heart, and hence, Hatred.

To provide not only for present wants, but to lay up for future necessities, is the prudent foresight of a reasonable being. So great and unexpected are the events which a day brings forth, that the teachings of experience prompt to the accumulation of more than actual necessity requires. This desire for accumulation becomes a master passion, and hence Avarice, and in its train, Covetousness.

The list might be extended until we had exhausted every passion. Sufficient illustration has been given for our purpose, viz.: to demonstrate the traces of a pure fountain for all the dark schemes flowing forth from the human heart.

While we have thus to dig deep into the foundations of the passions to seek for laudable motives, it requires but ordinary observation to arrive at the conclusion, that by some means the waters have become bitter and the streams turbid, and this brings us to our second proposition, viz.:

II. Man’s fall from this original state of purity and holiness, and the consequent corruption and depravity of his entire nature. (Part 3)