Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bible Theology and Human Reason, part 3

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

“Bible Theology Consistent with Human Reason”

Part 3

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

We might here appeal again to the sages of antiquity to show that the perverseness of man’s nature, and his tendency to do wrong, was by them all admitted as a fact, differing, as they did, only in the causes assigned in explanation of the fact. With some, the mind was a blank paper, and received from education the perverted, sinful dispositions. With others, as before stated, his nature was pure, but excess indulged in, caused the errors of his life. While with others, his evil passions were held to be his original nature, and education and culture alone transformed him from a beast into a civilized man. But we need not this testimony. We have an unerring witness in the consciousness of each individual, and this witness we propose now to examine. Let every man review his own life, take up one by one every honorable, noble, praiseworthy act which memory has retained—spread open before himself, as if to the All-seeing eye, every hidden motive conspiring upon his will, to produce his action, select the one to this own search, most free from unworthy motives, and then confess to himself whether even his own consciousness cannot discover in the hidden recesses of his heart some trace of selfish love, some taint which bars the claim of perfect purity in all its bearings. If the blurred eye of erring man can thus discern the trace of sin, how polluted must it seem to the undimmed vision of perfect holiness and purity. Strive as we may against it, with shame confess it to ourselves, and straight resolve that in the future we will not again be forced to confess so mortifying a fact, and yet again and again in our own self-communings we discover this underlying stratum of selfishness, tingeing every fountain that breaks forth from the heart.

We thus find in human nature these conflicting elements, the one indicating a pure, perfect, and holy origin, the other evidencing a depraved and corrupt principle pervading the entire soul. By the unaided light of human reason, then, we discover in man the relics and evidence of a perfect original, but so marred and defaced by error and sin as to destroy its symmetry, and almost obliterate its proportions.

What disposition will the Creator make of such a creature? This question brings us to the consideration of the third point, viz.:

III. God’s beneficent design and wish to restore man to his original purity, and the difficulty of reconciling the claims of his justice, with the designs of his mercy. (Part 4)