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§ 7. Office of the Senses in Matters of Faith.

The question, What authority is due to the senses in matters of faith, arose out of the controversy between Romanists and Protestants. The doctrine of transubstantiation, as taught by the Romish Church, contradicts the testimony of our senses of sight, taste, and touch. It was natural for Protestants to appeal to this contradiction as decisive evidence against the doctrine. Romanists 60reply by denying the competency of the senses to bear testimony in such cases.

Protestants maintain the validity of that testimony on the following grounds: (1.) Confidence in the well-authenticated testimony of our senses, is one of those laws of belief which God has impressed upon our nature; from the authority of those laws it is impossible that we should emancipate ourselves. (2.) Confidence in our senses is, therefore, one form of confidence in God. It supposes him to have placed us under the necessity of error, to assume that we cannot safely trust the guides in which, by a law of our nature, he constrains us to confide. (3.) All ground of certainty in matters either of faith or knowledge, is destroyed, if confidence in the laws of our nature be abandoned. Nothing is then possible but absolute skepticism. We, in that case, cannot know that we ourselves exist, or that the world exists, or that there is a God, or a moral law, or any responsibility for character or conduct. (4.) All external supernatural revelation is addressed to the senses. Those who heard Christ had to trust to their sense of hearing; those who read the Bible have to trust to their sense of sight; those who receive the testimony of the Church, receive it through their senses. It is suicidal, therefore, in the Romanists to say that the senses are not to be trusted in matters of faith.

All the arguments derived from the false judgments of men when misled by the senses, are answered by the simple statement of the proposition, that the senses are to be trusted only within their legitimate sphere. The eye may indeed deceive us when the conditions of correct vision are not present; but this does not prove that it is not to be trusted within its appropriate limits.

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