Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, 3rd ser. 1 (1822), 19–27.
The Substance of a Sermon Preached in Liverpool, on the 30th of July, 1820, before the Conference of the Ministers late in Connexion with the Rev. John Wesley, by John Emory, the Representative of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America [1/2]
Sermon, Abstract, Serial
Natural Theology, Ancient Authorities, Reason, Biblical Authority, Progress, Creation, Superstition
The sermon, which is on the text 1 Cor. 1. 21–24, has been published 'at the request of the [Wesleyan-Methodist] conference' (19). It begins by noting that in the present 'age of Missionary and Bible Societies a question has been revived, Whether the knowledge of God, and its happy effects, be not attainable by the mere exercise of reason, without the aid of revelation'. Emory notes that, in the quoted text, St Paul appeals to historical facts to show that 'the world by wisdom knew not God'. (19) Argues that 'The proper province of reason and science is in the service of revelation' (19–20). In this province they are both 'honourable and useful', but when they 'aspire to the ascendancy' and seek to 'supersede the necessity of revelation,—God takes care to humble their pretension, and to pour confusion on their pride'. Divides the subject of the sermon into two parts: 'The insufficiency of human wisdom for the purpose of saving knowledge' and '[t]he means by which it pleases God to enlighten and save the world'. (20) Endeavours to place the subject in a practical light. Contrasts knowledge of God before the Christian era among the Jews and the Gentiles. Dismisses the notion that the Jews had their exclusive knowledge of God as a result of intellectual superiority or from innate ideas, and asserts that it came instead from divine revelation. Points out that despite all the 'improvements' made in other branches of knowledge 'by the study and wisdom of men, none has ever been made in the knowledge of God, except by revelation of himself'. The idea of 'creation out of nothing' came from revelation, and 'hence the eternity of matter [...] was universally held by those who were unenlightened by revelation'. It is a truth which has the 'clearness and certainty' of 'proper knowledge', unlike the 'imperfection and uncertainty' characteristic of human discoveries. (22) The Jews were, like other nations, inclined to superstitions and idolatries, from which they were only reclaimed by divine revelation. Reviews the religious beliefs of the most accomplished pagans of the pre-Christian era, including the Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Pays particular attention to the views of Plato, who 'certainly said many excellent things of a supreme incorporeal intellect, whom he called God' (25). Dismisses the objection that Plato and others 'concealed their real sentiments, from fear of the fate of Socrates'. Concludes: 'So far was the world, by wisdom, from knowing God, that just where philosophy and reasoning flourished most, just there precisely did superstition and idolatry also most abound', and illustrates this from the case of Athens. (26)
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