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Reason not the Supreme Judge of Controversies in Religion

by Thomas Boston

1 Reason in an unregenerate man is blind in the matters of God, 1 Cor. 2:14. 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they,are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned;' Eph. 4:17, 18; Eph. 5:8. Except. This only respects reason not illustrated by divine revelation. Ans. By that illustration of reason by divine revelation, they understand either subjective or objective illustration. If they understand it of subjective illustration, they quit that article of their religion, wherein they believe that the mind of man is capable of itself, without the illumination of the Spirit, to attain sufficient knowledge of the mind of God revealed in the scripture. If of Objective illustration, by the mere revelation of these truths, then it is false that they assert: For the apostle opposes here the natural man to the spiritual man; and therefore by the natural man is understood every unregenerate man, even that has these truths revealed to him; for, says the apostle, 'they are foolishness unto him.' Now, how can he judge them foolishness if they be not revealed?

2. Reason is not infallible, and therefore cannot be admitted judge in matters concerning our souls. Reason may be deceived, Rom. 3:4, and is not this to shake the foundations of religion, and to pave a way to scepticism and atheism? Except. That is not to be feared where sound reason is admitted judge. But what talk they of sound reason? The adversaries themselves will yield, that reason is unsound in the Most part of men. We say, that it is not fully sound in the world; for even the best know but in part; darkness remains in some measure on the minds of all men.

3. Reason must be subject to the scripture, and submit itself to be judged by God speaking there, 2 Cor. 10:4, 5. 'The weapons of our warfare the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations....and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.' Matters of faith are above the sphere of reason; and therefore as sense is not admitted judge in those things that are above it, so neither reason in those things that are above it, 1 Tim. 3:16. 'And without controversy, great is the mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.'

4. If reason were the supreme judge of controversies, then our faith should be built on ourselves, and the great reason why we believe any principle of religion would be, because it appears so and so to us, which is most absurd. The scripture teaches otherwise, 1 Thess. 2:13. 'Ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God.' Most plainly does our Lord teach this, John 5:34. 'receive not testimony from men;' chap. 5:39. 'Search the scriptures.'

The orthodox assert the supreme judge of controversies in religion to be the Holy Spirit speaking in the scriptures. This is proved by the following arguments.

1. In the Old and New Testament, the Lord still sends us to this judge. So that we may neither turn to the right hand nor left from what he there speaks, Deut. 5:32. and 17:11. 'According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee;' Isa. 8:20. To the law and to the testimony,' &c.; Luke 16:29. 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them;' John 5:39. 'Search the scriptures.' Some hereto refer that passage, Matt. 19:28. 'Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' In this sense it must be meant of the doctrine they taught, as dictated to them by the Holy Ghost.

2. It was the practice of Christ and his apostles to appeal to the Spirit speaking in the scriptures, Matt. 4:where Christ still answers Satan with that, 'It is written.' And so while discoursing with the Sadducees about the resurrection, Matt. 22:31, 32. So also in John, chap. 5 and 10 and Luke 24:44. And so did others, Acts 17:11, and 26:22, 23.; 2 Pet. 1:19.; Acts 15:15, 16. A careful examination of which passages I recommend to you for your establishment in the truth.

3. To the Spirit of God speaking in the scriptures, and to him only, agree those things that are requisite to constitute, one the supreme judge. (1.) We may certainly know that the sentence which fie pronounces is true, for he is infallible, being God. (2.) We cannot appeal from him, for he is one above whom there is none. (3.) He is no respecter of persons, nor can be biassed in favour of one in preference to another.

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