So far then, from a highly intellectual age being a favourable atmosphere for the Gospel, intellect, like every mere natural power, is, unless in so far as Christ subdues it to Himself, in necessary antagonism to the Gospel, both as a whole, and in its parts. The special temptation of high intellect is, to think that, because by its natural powers it understands natural things and the visible creation, therefore it is qualified, more than others, to understand things above nature, and the Mind of the Creator. And therefore it will judge, what should be the evidence, the character, the extent, the contents, the effects of a Revelation from God ; what sort of miracles are to be expected and are conformable to reason and to the Nature of God ; what should be the structure or clearness of prophecy ; what doctrines are consistent with the Nature of God ; what God could or could not have taught ; whether He could have dispensed with His own laws, or ordinary ways of working ; what duties He could have imposed ; what He could have praised; what rational beings, good or evil, there can be, higher than man ; what the intercourse or influence of such agents towards man could be; whether a relation, which the natural intellect of itself would reject, could come from God ; what dealings with His creatures are consistent with love or justice in God ; whether the Eternal Existence of God, in Himself, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, is true or self-contradictory ; whether the Unchangeable God can hear prayer.
Natural intellect judges, for itself, all these and many such questions, allowing freely to God what ever does not interfere with itself, granting to God that He is greater than itself, allowing its obligations to Him, that He has made it, and set it in a course wherein, without help from Him, it may attain, as it thinks, to its ultimate perfection. It treats with Him much as one might with a more powerful sovereign; it owns, in some sort, its dependence upon Him, yet so as to maintain an independence of its own. It will own what it cannot help, and will claim for itself all which it is not forced to yield up. It selects from the Attributes of God, what it wills to acknowledge; and what it will not, it denies. Its own will is its measure of Almighty God. And so it claims to judge, to criticise, to condemn, in the Revelation of God, whatever it assumes to be out of harmony with the Mind of God, because its own has nothing akin to it. Its God then is, in truth, its own creation; its Creator is the creature of its own mind. It invests Him with dignity, intelligence, benevolence, marvellous powder, wisdom of contrivance, as a sort of great Architect of the visible world. It will acknowledge gladly all which it likes, so that it is not required to acknowledge any thing which it does not like. But it has no idea of One Incomprehensible Being, containing all things, but contained by none; the Rule of all things, but measured by nothing; of Whose very Being, in that He is a Spirit, man can have no thought ; the Mysteries of Whose Nature cannot contradict man's reason, because man has no capacity by which to estimate them; Whose "judgments are a great deep," in which human reason cannot wade ; Whose " Wisdom is unsearchable, and His ways past finding out." It has no awe, no reve ence, no subjection. It admires, not adores : it is pleased with its own intelligence in admiring, and worships itself and its own wisdom, instead of shrinking into its nothingness in the Presence of its God, to hearken to what God will say to it.
We think it strange now, that, because this earth has its moon rolling around it, and we see the sun and stars in their seeming circuit, man should have thought that sun and stars also circled around this small earth, as the centre of the whole visible creation. And men do not think it strange, that man's reason should be the centre, around which all things seen and unseen should revolve ; so that from it, all things should be beheld in their due harmony and relations ; all should be understood by reference to it ; all should be measured by it, the Infinite by the finite. And well were it, were it only the Infinite ! But the very ground of the ignorance is that, not contemplating, not meditating, not adoring, not bowing down itself and all its powers before its Maker, its Deity is a mere inanimate abstraction, not He Who Alone Is, and Who, in His Infinite Love and Goodness, made us out of nothing, to have our being in Him.