Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vol. IV: Literature of the Republic, Part I., Constitutional period, 17881820
The Necessity of Divine Revelation
By Archibald Alexander (17721851)
[Born in Rockbridge Co., Va., 1772. Died at Princeton, N. J., 1851. From Evidences. Edition of 1836.]
ANOTHER argument for the necessity of a divine revelation is, that without it man must remain ignorant of his origin and his end, and utterly unable to account for the circumstances by which he is surrounded. He finds himself here upon the earth, and feels that he is borne along the stream of time with the rest of his generation, towards a dark gulf before him, which he perceives he can by no means escape. But when he inquires respecting the origin of the human race, when he seeks a solution of the enigma of his sinful, suffering, and mortal existence, he finds no one among the living or the dead, from whom he can obtain the least satisfactory information. All the traditions and histories of men are full of fables; and if they contain some rays of truth, they are so mingled with error that no man can distinguish the one from the other. Leave out of view the history contained in the Bible, and all that we can learn from others casts not a solitary ray of light on the points under consideration.
We have no means of tracing up our race to its origin, and the deist can give no rational account of the wickedness of men and their sufferings and death. The darkness and uncertainty resting on these subjects have led many, who rejected the authority of the Bible, to adopt most absurd and atheistical hypotheses respecting the origin of man. Some have professed to believe that the earth and its inhabitants have existed from all eternity; which is too absurd to require refutation. Others have amused themselves and their readers with the idea, that originally mankind were merely a species of monkey or baboon, and that by degrees they laid aside their brutal appearance and manners, and certain inhuman appendages, and having in process of time invented language and the arts most necessary to provide for the clothing and shelter of the body, they gradually rose higher and higher in the scale of improvement, until they arrived at that pitch of refinement and civilization, which has been attained by the most polished nations. These, it is true, are rather atheistical than deistical hypotheses; but they serve to show how little light reason can shed on this subject, and how much we need a divine revelation. For the deist can form no theory which can satisfy our reasonable desires. He can give no good reason for the moral condition and mortality of our race. He may say that it is the law of nature; but this is merely to declare the fact, not to account for it.