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"This is my body," the devil shall not drive me from that. To seek to understand it is to fall away from the faith."* Ay, "the faith" must be preserved, and hence to every argument of reason and common sense the unconquerable reformer still replies: "I care little about mathematics.† My dear sirs, since my Lord Jesus Christ says Hoc est corpus meum,' I believe that his body is really there."
But how is it possible for Christ's body to be wholly in heaven and wholly on the earth at one and the same time? How is it possible for his body corporeally and wholly to exist in ten thousand places at one and the same moment, in every part of the earth where the eucharist is being administered? "I know not and I care not," replies Luther. "It is sufficient for me that Christ says Hoc est corpus meum.'§ Having become sufficiently heated by the repetition of these sounds and the opposition of reason and common sense to his doctrine, Luther can no longer restrain his impatience. Seizing the velvet cover and holding it up in the eyes of Zwingle and Ecolampadius, he exclaimed, "See, see! this is our text; you have not driven us from it as you had boasted, and we care for no other proofs."||
This is what Lord Bacon would call "a conspicuous instance." It is indeed an eminently conspicuous instance; exhibiting a blind reverence for the mere words of Scripture, and a sovereign contempt for the clearest dictates of reason, in their very highest exaltation. But since it by no means belongs to the class of "solitary instances," it may be worthy of a few serious reflections. In the first place, it shows us that Luther, as is usual in such cases, was warring with himself and his own principles at every point, as well as with the universal voice and reason of mankind. He relied upon reason, that is, upon the decision of his own individual reason,
* D'Aubigne, book xiii.
with as blind and dogmatical a confidence as ever raged in a human breast; and instead of honoring he really cast a signal dishonor upon the word of God.
First, he relied upon the decision of his own individual reason, with a blind and dogmatical confidence. It was a decision of his own mind, his own judgment, his own reason, that the words, Hoc est corpus meum," should be taken in a literal and not in a metaphorical sense. And this decision, weak as it was in itself, he confidently opposed to all other "reason," and "common sense" and mathematics, about which he cared nothing in the comparison. Practically, then, and really, it was the reason of other men which he despised and not his own. Forgetting that he himself might possibly err in the interpretation of Scripture, he insisted upon the inexorable demand that his opponents should either submit to his opinion or else be abandoned to God's judgment. "As to an understanding," said he, "I know but one means for that, and this is, let our adversaries think as we do."* "We cannot," replied the Swiss. "Well then," said Luther, "I abandon you to God's judgment, and pray that he will enlighten you."+ And in conclusion of the whole matter, the Swiss were plainly told, "You do not belong to the communion of the Christian Church: we cannot acknowledge you as brethren." "We declare to you once more," said Luther, "that our conscience opposes our receiving you as brethren." It was thus that Luther, the avowed contemner of reason and common sense, could so far rely upon the decision of his own reason as to consigħ a Zwingle and an Ecolampadius to the judgment of God, because they could presume to differ from himself in regard to the real presence!
Secondly, instead of honoring he really cast a signal dishonor upon the word of God. It is a principle of interpretation known to all jurists, and one which should be known to all theologians, that in construing mere human laws, a decent respect for the lawgiver requires that we should make
* D'Aubigne, book xiii.
his words agree, if possible, with the dictates of reason and common sense. This is most clearly and unequivocally the case, when such an agreement may be effected without the least violence to the laws or usages of language. The legislation and laws of Heaven are not less entitled to such a respectful consideration at our hands. It is certainly better to find a figure of speech in the divine word, especially if it is such a figure as is exactly suited to the occasion, and which is of frequent occurrence in other portions of the same word, than to find an absurdity therein. It is certainly better by putting such an easy and natural sense upon the words of Scripture, to make them agree with the common sense of mankind, than to array them in direct hostility against the clearest dictates of reason. This were not only to dishonor Scripture ourselves, but also to cause others to dishonor it.
This is not all. There was a still greater dishonor cast upon the word of God by the intemperate zeal with which it was espoused by Luther. He committed the very common, but still very flagrant error, of insisting that his interpretation of the divine word should be invested with an authority equal to that of the word itself. He forgot that "the meaning of the Bible is the Bible;" that it is not a mere collection of empty sounds, or of senseless scrawls, into which we may project our own thoughts or notions or prejudices; and then claim for these a divine authority. In short, he forgot to reverence the word of God, which never can be truly done by us, until we learn to distinguish between our interpretation of that word, and the word itself.
As usual in such cases, Luther was ever ready to avail himself of the assistance of reason, as often as it made in his favor; and it was only when it uttered a voice different from his own that he rejected and despised its authority. But he was never able to do so with impunity. In the very act of pouring contempt on reason, he was secretly resting, as we have seen, upon the decision of his own fallible judgment; and in the very act of lauding revelation, he was casting a dishonor upon its supreme and unrivalled authority. So difficult is it,
either to honor reason, or revelation, without honoring both. We might were it necessary, adduce other instances by the hundred, of the errors and self-contradictions of those who set revelation in opposition to common sense, and require us to sacrifice reason to faith. But it has been our object to illustrate principles, and not to multiply instances.
On the other hand the exclusive friends of reason, instead of putting honor, have brought disgrace upon their own As Luther disparaged the divine word by raising his own interpretations to a level with it; as he obscured the glory of its supreme authority, by claiming it for his own invented and inconceivable dogma of consubstantiation; so the friends of reason have too often brought disgrace upon their idol, by uttering oracles of their own in her stead. Nothing, indeed, has brought such lasting discredit upon the sacred cause of human reason, or aimed such fatal blows at her inherent and inalienable rights, as the multiform and innumerable absurdities which have been put forth in her name. Endless swarms of crude fancies and wild conceits, and dark bewildering dreams, have come forth in the name of reason; and overrun every department of human thought; covering them like the locusts of Egypt, with clouds of darkness; until reasonable men are become almost ashamed to plead her cause. It is from her friends; her ill-advised and injudicious friends, that reason has received this mortal harm, far more than from all her enemies combined. "Look," has always been the cry of its adversaries, "what reason left to itself has been able to do! Look at the wild wilderness of contradictions in which she delights to wander !" But we will venture to say, that this stone is not wisely cast by the exclusive friends of revelation. For how easy and obvious the retort: "Look what revelation left to itself, has been able to accomplish! Look at the innumerable host of errors, so dark and confounding to weak minds, with which, not a rational devotion to the sense, but a mere blind reverence for the word of revelation, has flooded the world in all ages of its history."
Indeed neither should be left to itself; for God designed that both the greater and the lesser light should form parts of one and the same grand system of truth. Hence, as we selected, for the purpose of salutary warning, a "conspicuous instance" from among the friends of the one, so shall we adduce a conspicuous instance from among the too exclusive advocates of the other. Dr. William Ellery Channing shall be our example. We shall do him no wrong; at least, we shall endeavor to do him, as we have done Luther, but strict justice.
It is the boast of its friends, that Unitarianism is a rational system."Unitarianism," says Dr. Channing, "is Christianity stripped of those corrupt additions which shock reason and our moral feelings. It is a rational and amiable system, against which no man's understanding, or conscience, or charity, or piety revolts." Now there may be this easy, this perfect, this glorious correspondency between the reason of Unitarians and their own system, just because their system has been exclusively derived from their reason, and consequently bears its impress and image. If any man should instantly and at once reject every thing which appeared absurd to him or inconsistent with the dictates of reason, he might indeed with a clear conscience boast, that there was not the least shadow of any thing left in his system to shock his reason. And yet, after all, his system might be exceedingly meagre and superficial; it might present merely the surface glory of reason without any thing of the divine life and power of reason within.
Something of this kind, we apprehend, will be found in the scheme of Dr. Chauning. Trinity is one of those "corrupt additions"-one of those insane fictions-one of those shocking absurdities which Dr. Channing rejects with the most peremptory scorn. "I could as soon believe," he somewhere says, "that the whole human race are but one person," as to embrace such a doctrine. This doctrine, no doubt, as conceived by Dr. Channing, was absurd; but it does not hence follow that it was so monstrously absurd in itself, or as main