by Archibald Alexander
THAT it is the right and the duty of all men to exercise their reason in inquiries concerning religion, is a truth so manifest, that it may be presumed there are none who will be disposed to call it in question.
Without reason there can be no religion: for in every step which we take, in examining the evidences of revelation, in interpreting its meaning, or in assenting to its doctrines, the exercise of this faculty is indispensable.
When the evidences of Christianity are exhibited, an appeal is made to the reason of men for its truth; but all evidence and all argument would be perfectly futile, if reason were not permitted to judge of their force. This noble faculty was certainly given to man to be a guide in religion, as well as in other things. He possesses no other means by which he can form a judgment on any subject, or assent to any truth; and it would be no more absurd to talk of seeing without eyes, than of knowing any thing without reason.
It is therefore a great mistake to suppose that religion forbids or discourages the right use of reason. So far from this, she enjoins it as a duty of high moral obligation, and reproves those who neglect to judge for themselves what is right.
It has frequently been said by the friends of revelation, that although reason is legitimately exercised in examining the evidences of revelation, and in determining the sense of the words by which it is conveyed; yet it is not within her province to sit in judgment on the doctrines contained in such a divine communication. This statement, though intended to guard against the abuse of reason, is not, in my opinion, altogether accurate. Without reason we can form no conception of a truth of any kind; and when we receive any thing as true, whatever may be the evidence on which it is founded, we must view the reception of it to be reasonable. Truth and reason are so intimately connected that they can never with propriety be separated. Truth is the object, and reason is the faculty by which it is apprehended, whatever be the nature of the truth, or of the evidence by which it is established. No doctrine can be a proper object of our faith which it is not more reasonable to receive than to reject. If a book, claiming to be a divine revelation, is found to contain doctrines which can in no way be reconciled to right reason, it is a sure evidence that those claims have no solid foundation, and ought to be rejected. But that a revelation should contain doctrines of a mysterious and incomprehensible nature, and entirely different from all our previous conceptions, and, considered in themselves, improbable, is not repugnant to reason; on the contrary, judging from analogy, sound reason would lead us to expect such things in a revelation from God. Every thing which relates to this Infinite being must be to us, in some respects, incomprehensible. Every new truth must be different from all that is already known; and all the plans and works of God are very far above and beyond the conception of such minds as ours. Natural religion has as great mysteries as any in revelation; and the created universe, as it exists, is as different from any plan which men would have conceived, as any of the truths contained in a revelation can be. But it is reasonable to believe what by our senses we perceive to exist; and it is reasonable to believe whatever God declares to be true.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I: The right use of reason in religion
CHAPTER II: It is impossible to banish all religion from the world, and if it were possible, it would be the greatest calamity which could befal the human race
CHAPTER III: If Christianity be rejected, there is no other religion which can be substituted in its place, at least no other which will at all answer the purpose for which religion is desirable
CHAPTER IV: Revelation necessary to teach us how to worship God acceptably—the nature and certainty of a future state—and especially, the method by which sinners may obtain salvation
CHAPTER V: There is nothing improbable or unreasonable in the idea of a revelation from God,
CHAPTER VI: Miracles are capable of proof from testimony
CHAPTER VII: The miracles of the Gospel are credible
CHAPTER VIII: The rapid and extensive progress of the Gospel, by instruments so few and feeble, is a proof of divine interposition
CHAPTER IX: Prophecies respecting the Jewish nation which have been remarkably fulfilled
CHAPTER X: Prophecies relating to Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, &c.
CHAPTER XI: Prophecies respecting Messiah—predictions of Christ respecting the destruction of Jerusalem
CHAPTER XII: No other religion possesses the same kind and degree of evidence as Christianity: and no other miracles are as well attested as those recorded in the Bible
CHAPTER XIII: The Bible contains internal evidence that its origin is divine
CHAPTER XIV: The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament were written by the inspiration of God
CHAPTER XV: The inspiration of the books of the New Testament
CANONICAL AUTHORITY OF THE BOOKS OF SCRIPTURE
CHAPTER XVI: The importance of ascertaining the true canon of Holy Scripture
CHAPTER XVII: The care with which the books of the Old Testament were preserved—their canonical authority—the sanction given to these books by the Saviour and his apostles—and the method of ascertaining what books were in the canon at the time of Christ's advent
CHAPTER XVIII: The books denominated apocryphal have no just claim to a place among the canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament
CHAPTER XIX: Canon of the New Testament—method of settling it
CHAPTER XX: Testimonies in favour of the canonical authority of the books of the New Testament
CHAPTER XXI:: Canonical authority of Paul's Epistles
CHAPTER XXII: The canonical authority of the seven Catholic epistles, and of the book of Revelation
CHAPTER XXIII: Recapitulation of evidence on the canon of the New Testament