The Use of Reason in Religion
Acts 17:2-4
And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,…

There hath been an opinion too hastily taken up, and too warmly maintained by some, that reason is very little to be hearkened to in matters of religion; that we are to believe nothing but what is expressly taught us in the Word of God, and that we are not to draw consequences from Scripture, and to make them the articles of our faith, but most strictly confine ourselves to the very language of Holy Writ, and admit of no doctrines but what are there in so many words and syllables delivered. Now, true it is that the Scriptures are the adequate rule of our faith; but then it is not also true, nor by us confessed, that nothing is to be looked upon as taught us in Scripture but what is there in so many words delivered. It is the doctrine of our Church that "the Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to our salvation; so that nothing is to be required of any man to be believed as an article of faith, which is not read therein, or which may not be proved thereby." This disjunction would be unnecessary if there were not some things which, though they are not read therein, may yet be proved thereby. What is rightly inferred from the Scriptures doth as much challenge our assent as what is literally delivered in the Scriptures.

I. I AM TO PROVE THIS DOCTRINE FROM THE AUTHORITY AND EXAMPLE OF CHRIST AND HIS APOSTLES. Christ and His apostles often make use of reasoning, both for the establishment of those truths which they taught, and for the confutation of those errors which they opposed. When the tempter took up our Saviour "into an exceeding high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them," etc. (Matthew 4:8, 9; Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 5:16). Now these reasonings of our Saviour against His worshipping Satan, and throwing Himself down, are inconclusive if we may not argue from Scripture, and if we must admit of nothing as taught therein which is not there set down in express words, since neither is it said in the former of these texts, that Satan is not to be worshipped, nor in the latter that Christ might not throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. When the Sadducees put captious questions to our Saviour about the resurrection of the dead, He showed the weakness of their objections against it by proving to them that the doctrine by them opposed was taught by Moses, whose authority they did not, and could not, dispute (Matthew 22:31, 32). But if those who are against all reasoning from Scripture, who will admit of nothing but what is directly therein contained, had been in the place of the Sadducees, they would not so easily have yielded to our Saviour's argument; they would have rejected this testimony from Moses as not direct, and would have required a more formal and plain proof. The apostles, in their writings, follow the steps of their Lord and Master, and prove the truths of the gospel against the Jews, who gainsayed them, not from any passages in the Old Testament in which the gospel truths are expressly and in so many words laid down, but by arguments and reasons drawn from the writings of Moses and the prophets. Thus St. Peter (Acts 3:22) proves the coming of Christ from those words of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), and His resurrection (Acts 2:27) from that place of the Psalms (Psalm 10:10). After the same manner St. Paul (Romans 4:7) proves that we are justified, not by the law, but by grace, from those words of the Psalmist (Psalm 32:1). He proves (Romans 9:33) the rejection of the Jews from the prophecy of Isaiah. (Isaiah 28:16), and the vocation of the Gentiles (Romans 9:25), from Hosea's having brought in God, saying (Hosea 2:23). This way of arguing he at all times, and in all parts of his writings, makes use of; from those truths which are expressly read in Scripture, by the laws of reasoning he infers other doctrines which are not there formerly read, but which do from them follow, and are therefore in them virtually contained. Now it is evident, and on all hands acknowledged, that this assertion, "Jesus is the Christ," is nowhere laid down in these very words throughout the writings of the Old Testament. Moses and the Prophets do indeed bear witness to Him, but in the testimony they give they nowhere formally declare that Jesus is the Christ. How, then, could the apostles demonstrate this proposition from their writings? Do they not refer us to such passages in the prophets from whence this doctrine, which is not in express words asserted, is by right reasoning regularly deduced? From the several parts of the Old Testament, compared one with another, they form the character of the Messiah, and then they prove that this character did truly belong to that Jesus whom they affirmed to be the Messiah. This method of proving St. Luke has expressed in very proper and apposite words, when he tells us that St. Paul "reasoned out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging." The apostle first opened to them the sense of the prophets, explained their words, and when he had thus shown what their scope was, he did then apply the prophesies thus explained to the person, doctrine, and works of Jesus; he compared the predictions with the events, the shadows with the bodies, the figures with the things prefigured; so that by this method the truth of the gospel which they preached was irrefragably demonstrated. Since, therefore, this way of arguing was made use of by Christ and His apostles, we must acknowledge that those things are rightly proved out of Scripture which do evidently follow from the doctrines taught in Scripture, though they are not in so many words anywhere to be found in the Word of God. And as we have the example of Christ and His apostles warranting us, so we have their commands enjoining us to make use of this method of reasoning. Our Saviour bids the Jews (John 5:39) to search the Scriptures, not barely to consult them, but to compare them; not only to find what they expressly, but what they implicitly taught; not only to read what was plainly said in them, but to discover what might manifestly be deduced from them. The Holy Scriptures would not be so perfect a rule of faith or manners, of what we ought to believe and do, as they are if we were left to judge of either only by what we are there in so many words expressly taught, and might not use our own reasons to infer from them some necessary truths, and some important duties which are there, though not in terms delivered. He would be thought very ridiculous who should plead his being under no obligation from the Scripture to obey the lawful commands of a sovereign princess, because, though he is there required to honour the king, he nowhere reads that he is to honour the queen, and that man is equally absurd who hath no better reason for the denial of a Trinity than that he nowhere finds She word "Trinity" in the Scriptures, though the doctrine by that word signified is therein contained.

II. BUT AGAINST WHAT HATH BEEN DELIVERED IT MAY BE URGED that if we thus give a firm assent to any truths which are not plainly and expressly taught in Scripture, but are only inferred from thence by our own reason, THEN WE MAKE OUR FAITH TO DEPEND, NOT UPON THE WORD OF GOD, BUT UPON OUR OWN REASON. But it might as well be urged that when St. Paul sayeth (Romans 10:17) that "faith cometh by hearing," we make our faith to depend, not upon the testimony of God, but upon the sense of hearing. The ear is that organ or instrument by which we perceive the Word of God preached to us; but the authority of God is that ground or reason upon which we believe the Word of God which we hear. So our reason, or our understanding, is that faculty by which we perceive and know what things are taught us in Scripture: by that we understand the sense and meaning of what is there revealed; but it is the authority of God, who inspired the penmen of Holy Writ, and who by the guidance of this Holy Spirit secured them from error, upon which we found our belief of what, by the use of our reason, we discover to be by them taught. Those who ascribe thus much and no more than this to reason demand only the liberty of opening their own eyes, and of seeing the wonderful things of God's law; they do not pretend that it is given to them to reveal any new truths to mankind, nor do they usurp an unwarrantable power of framing new articles of faith. All that they demand or ask is, that the right of making use of their own faculties, which is given to everyone by nature, and by the God of nature, may not be denied to them. There is no need that a man should be a prophet, or that he should have any extraordinary capacities of mind, or illuminations of the Spirit, to understand that the same Scriptures which teach him that all men have sinned do consequentially teach him that he is a sinner, or that the Word of God, which doth expressly deny that any "shall perish who believe in Christ," doth at the same time virtually pronounce that if he believes he shall not perish. But those who are against all reasoning from Scripture will again ask how can we be sure that the consequences which we draw from Scripture are just and regular? For may not our reason misguide us? And may we not, through mistake, infer such doctrines from Scripture which do by no means follow from it? And if we may be mistaken, why should we venture to believe anything which we think follows from Scripture, but which after all perhaps does not follow? Now, if this reasoning is good, there is an end of all certainty, not only in those inferences which are made from Scripture, and which are levelled against by this sort of arguing, but also in those things which are plainly and expressly taught in Scripture. Men have been mistaken in their judgments concerning things formally delivered in the Word of God. But will it not be said that, if there is any occasion for our drawing inferences from Scripture, then it is plain that the Scriptures are not so easy and clear as they are by the Protestants generally said to be? If we must not only believe what we read in Scripture, but what can be proved from thence, then none will be able to know what is taught in Scripture but such as have skill in drawing consequences; and at this rate we must be skilled in logic before we can pretend to "understand the Scriptures." To this I answer that those are very much mistaken who think that we, who maintain the perspicuity of the Scriptures, do assert them to be so easy, as that there should be no use of our rational faculties rightly to understand them. What St. Peter (2 Peter 3:16) saith of the Epistles of St. Paul, we believe of other parts of Holy Writ, that "there are some things in them hard to be understood," and we do not contend that everything therein delivered is suited to the apprehensions of all readers, but only that those things, which all are indispensably bound to know for their soul's health, are by all, upon the use of due diligence, intelligible. And even as to those truths which are necessarily to be known in order to our everlasting salvation, we do not affirm that wherever they are delivered in Scripture they are expressed in such terms as to leave no room for a mistake; but that somewhere or other in Holy Writ, they are so expressed that it must be our own fault if we do not rightly apprehend them. We believe, for instance, that the incarnation of Christ, His passion, and resurrection are taught by the prophets as well as by the apostles; but we do not believe that they are so explicitly and fully revealed by the prophets as by the apostles. What is obscurely hinted in the Old Testament is manifestly explained in the New. And when we affirm that the Scriptures are in some points thus intelligible by all Christians, we do not pretend that they may be understood without attention, diligence, and inquiry; but that we may be capable of knowing their sense with the use of these, and other proper methods of gaining instruction. Some truths indeed are written in so large characters that he that runs may read them; but for the discovery of other truths revealed in Scripture, the words by which they are conveyed to our understandings are to be carefully weighed, the sense of them to be nicely and accurately inquired into; all passions and prejudices that may any ways bias our judgments are to be laid aside. In the understanding of such truths as these, there being more room for mistake, there is more occasion for our caution, and the way which we are to go being more intricate, it will be proper for us to take in the assistance of a guide. What of ourselves we could not discover, we may be able to perceive when discovered to us by others, in which case we do not implicitly follow the judgment of those whom we consult, but have our own judgments informed by theirs; we do not see with other men's eyes, but those truths which before were obscure to us, are by others, of greater penetration than ourselves, placed in so clear a light that we may now plainly perceive them with our own eyes; we do not in such a ease follow our instructors, as blind men do their guides, trusting to their guidance without seeing which way they go; but we make such use of them as persons in the dark do of those who carry a light before them to show them the way and to direct their paths.

(Bp. Smalridge.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

WEB: Paul, as was his custom, went in to them, and for three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures,

The Spirit of Envy
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