I. DIVINE REVELATION IMPOSSIBLE AND UNNECESSARY.
The Hindoos, Egyptians, Persians, Chaldeans, Jews, and Mahomedans, and various other nations, claim to have had a special revelation of God’s will communicated to them for the benefit of the whole human race. But the following facts and arguments will tend to show that no such revelations have ever been made, and that there is none necessary:—
We will inquire, in the first place, what a divine revelation would be. Coming from a perfect being, it would of course be perfect, and perfectly adapted to the moral and spiritual wants of the whole human race. Such a revelation would be so clear, explicit, and unequivocal in its language with respect to every doctrine, principle, and precept, and every statement of fact, that no person of ordinary mind could possibly misunderstand it; and no two persons could differ for a moment with respect to the meaning of any text embraced in it. It would need no priest and no commentator to explain it; and, if any attempt should be made to explain it, it would only “darken counsel,” render the matter more obscure, and would amount to the blasphemous assumption that Omniscience can be enlightened, and his works improved. And a divine revelation should be communicated to the whole human race; for, if restricted to one nation, it would render God obnoxious to the charge of partiality. And, in order to make it practicable to communicate it to all nations, it would be necessary to comprehend it in a universal language constructed for the purpose, or else impart it to the world through all the three thousand languages in use by different nations and tribes. But, as such a revelation has never been made or known on the earth, it is at once evident that no such revelation has ever been communicated to man by Infinite Wisdom.
II. REVELATION FOR ONE AGE AND NATION NO REVELATION FOR ANOTHER.
A revelation issued two or three thousand years ago could be no revelation for this age. The Rev. Jeremiah Jones admits that “a revelation can only be a revelation to him who receives it,” and can not be made use of to convince another (Canon, p. 51). Bishop Burnet admits that a revelation to one man is no revelation to another. You can neither see nor feel a revelation made to another person. You can merely see the marks on the paper on which he has recorded what he claims to have been a revelation to him. And this is all the proof you can have in the case, which is no proof at all.
III. A REVELATION ON THE BRAIN CALLED REASON.
I know that God has inscribed a revelation on my brain called reason, as it is ever present with me. Hence I know that it was designed for me. But I can not have this testimony with regard to a written revelation, as it was not communicated to me. Hence, as a matter of certainty and safety, I should hold to my own revelation in preference to any other.
I can only be certain of my own revelation. Indeed I can not know that any other revelation was designed for me, because a dozen revelations are brought forward by different nations for my acceptance; and I can not determine to an absolute certainty which is divine and which is human. To settle the matter, I must have another revelation made expressly to me to inform me which is the true revelation. To save this extra labor, I might as well have had the original revelation itself.
IV. THE HUMAN BRAIN SUPERIOR TO ANY REVELATION.
As an idiot can not be made to understand a revelation, it is evident that a revelation presupposes a rational mind for its reception; otherwise the revelation would be perfectly useless. Hence it is evident the brain must be right before the revelation is given, or it will not be able to understand it. This makes the brain superior to, and of higher authority, than revelation.
The moment we begin to reason on the revelation of the Bible, which we are compelled to do to determine which is the true one, that moment we transfer the authority of the Bible to the brain, and the brain thus becomes its judge and jury. The reason sits in judgment over the Bible, and is thus proved to be superior to it. This is realized in the experience of every man who is superior to an idiot; and thus the question of Bible authority and superiority is at once and for ever settled. It is proved to be inferior to reason, and subordinate to it, and dare not advance a step beyond it.
V. INFALLIBLE REVELATION IMPOSSIBLE.
A Bible or revelation could only be infallible to a man or woman of infallible understanding; that is, to an infallible being. And, as no such being has ever existed, it is evident that no infallible revelation has ever been issued.
VI. EVERY THING MUST BE INFALLIBLE.
No infallible revelation could be of any practical use to any person unless all the circumstances connected with it were infallible. The language in which it is written must be infallible; the person receiving it must be infallible; and the reader, or his understanding, must also be infallible. But, as no such state of things has ever existed, it follows that no infallible revelation has ever been given to man, and is absolutely impracticable.
VII. NO DIVINE REVELATION WITHOUT A SERIES OF MIRACLES.
A divine revelation must be miraculously inspired; and then it must be miraculously preserved from the slightest alteration by the translator or the transcriber, and from any error on the part of the printer. And, finally, the reader’s mind and understanding and judgment must be miraculously guarded from any mistake or misunderstanding or wrong conclusions relative to every text in the book. Otherwise there is no absolute certainty that the revelation is a true one, or superior to s mere human production.
VIII. OUR MORAL AND RELIGIOUS DUTIES CAN NOT BE LEARNED FROM ANY BIBLE OR REVELATION.
A critical investigation of the matter will show that our moral and religious duties are not half of them enumerated in the Bible; and to suppose that God would reveal only a portion of them, and leave us in the dark with respect to others, and compel us to find them out by chance and conjecture, is to trifle with Omniscience, and assume that he is short-sighted and imperfect.
IX. NO MORAL DUTY CLEARLY DEFINED BY THE BIBLE.
As the circumstances of each case of moral duty differ from every other case, so our courses of action must be different. Hence revelation, to be of any practical use, should have foreseen those circumstances, pointed them out, and instructed us how to act in the case. But this is not done in any case. We will illustrate: We are enjoined by the Bible to “bring up a child in the way he should go;” but that way is not pointed out or defined. We are not told which one of the thousand churches he should join; we are not told, when a man’s leg is broken, how it should be mended; we are not told what means we should use to restore the sick to health, nor instructed as to the best means to be used for the preservation of health and life. And, as these are among the first and most important duties, we should have been instructed as to the best means to be used for that purpose; but these things are omitted, and left to the province of reason. There is no case in which we are not compelled to make reason our supreme judge to decide how we shall practice the duties of revelation; and thus revelation is made a servant or subsidiary agent.
Christians sometimes tell us, “Give us something better in the place of our religion before you take it from us.” But the Bible tells them, “Cease to do evil [before you] learn to do well.” Doom error to destruction, and truth will spring out of the ashes. What would you think of a man who should say to a physician, “Stop, sir! before you administer that medicine to my child, I want to know what you are going to let it have in place of its pains and aches”? We do not propose or desire to destroy any religion as a whole, but only the deleterious weeds which are choking and poisoning the healthy plants. We do not wish to put down or arrest the progress of any truth.
The clergy sometimes assert that “we could not distinguish right from wrong, but for the Bible.” And was nothing known to the world about right and wrong, or the means of distinguishing between them, during the two thousand years which elapsed before the Bible was written? Christians place Moses, its first writer, about fourteen hundred years before Christ, while the Bible dates back 4004 B.C. And then what about those millions of the inhabitants of the globe who never had our Bible? And millions of them never had a Bible of any kind. Are they destitute of moral perception? On the contrary, reliable authority, and even Christian writers, assure us that the morals of many of those nations will put to shame the morals of any nation professing the religion of Christ. Take, for example, the Kalaos tribe of Africa, who appear to have no formal religion whatever; and yet, as Dr. Livingstone informs us, they maintain strict honesty in all their dealings with each other, and have made considerable progress in the arts and manufactures. They have never had a Bible or revelation of any kind. Look also at the inhabitants of the Arru Islands. “These people,” says Dr. Livingstone, “appear to have no religion whatever; and yet they live in brotherly peace, and respect each other’s rights,”—the rights of property in the fullest sense. The Rev. W. H. Clark, speaking of the Yoruba nation in Central Africa, says, “Their moral and even their civil rights in some respects would put to shame any Christian nation in the world.” We might present a hundred more cases of this kind; but these three cases are sufficient to show that nations witt no Bible, no revelation, and even no religion, transcend any Christian nation with respect to strict honesty and a practical sense of right and wrong. How absurd, therefore, is the idea shown to be, that a knowledge of the Christian Bible is essential to the knowledge and practice of good morals!
SOURCE: THE BIBLE OF BIBLES;OR,TWENTY-SEVEN “DIVINE” REVELATIONS: By Kersey Graves,1879.