The Limits of Man’s Reason

Proverbs 3:5
      Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

 THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): Carnal reason is an enemy to faith: it is ever crossing and contradicting it…No man can understand spiritual mysteries by carnal reason.

 THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): Reason is a short and defective light, not only actually ignorant, but unable to conceive of them.

 BLAISE PASCAL (1623-1661): The supreme achievement of reason is to bring us to see that there is a limit to reason…Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things that are beyond it.

 JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): There is nothing in the Word or in the works of God that is repugnant to sound reason, but there are some things in both which are opposite to carnal reason, as well as above reason; and therefore our reason never shows itself more unreasonable than in summoning those things to its bar which transcend its sphere and capacity.

 JOHN ROSS (1842-1915): The Chinese regard the doctrines implied in the cross of Christ as ‘reasonable’. As a people they always appeal to Reason—or “li,” as they call it. If anything is conformable to Reason, they will accept it…The agnostic scholar, like the Greek of old, cannot see the reasonableness of the Cross. Virtue he understands, and he exalts man’s duty to man. The doctrine of the depravity of man, and the Fall implied in it, are to him not accordant with Reason. But the far more numerous Chinese, who recognize failure and wrong in themselves, are ready to admit that man is fallen. They profess the reasonableness of the adoption by God of some extraordinary method to save men. There is a common saying that in “God’s nature is inherent the virtuous quality of delight in the welfare of man.” This refers not only to the existence of man by some form of creation, but to the preservation of that existence by the rich and varied provision made for its sustenance. Reasoning from God’s care for the lower part of man, they at once grant it to be reasonable that God should make provision for the higher life—seeing that man himself is incapable of attaining to the perfection of that higher nature. When thinking people understand all that we understand about the cross of Christ, as the revelation and proof of the love of God, they accept it gladly and believe it fully…That God, whose nature is good, should devise a plan of salvation for man out of his guilt and misery, is, to the Chinese, ‘reasonable.’ That the plan should be one beyond the wit of man to devise, and the power of man to consummate, is also ‘reasonable.’

 MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): That old witch—Lady Reason!

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): No one has ever been ‘reasoned’ into the Kingdom of God; it is impossible. It has never happened, it never will happen.

 ASAHEL NETTLETON (1783-1844): Persuasion is not sufficient to make men new creatures.

 JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): The best words that men can speak are ineffectual till explained and applied by the Spirit of God. He alone can open the heart…Regeneration, or that great change without which a man cannot see the kingdom of God, is the effect of Almighty power. Neither education, endeavours, nor arguments, can open the eyes of the blind. It is God alone, who at first caused light to shine out of darkness, who can shine into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, II Corinthians 4:6.

 BLAISE PASCAL: It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. That is what faith is: God perceived by the heart, not by the reason.

 BROWNLOW NORTH (1810-1875): The end of human reason is outer darkness.

 GRIFFITH JOHN (1831-1912) (Shanghai, circa 1860): [The Chinese] are as hard as steel. They are eaten up both soul and body, by the world…To them our doctrine is foolishness, our preaching contemptible, our talk jargon, our thoughts insanity, and our hopes and fears mere brain phantoms…[They are] the most proud, superstitious, and godless people of the human race. Sometimes I am ready to give up in despair and think that China is doomed to destruction, that to raise it out of its state of moral and spiritual degradation is a matter of impossibility.

 C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Gird up the loins of your mind, and stand fast…Nothing is impossible to the power of God.

 WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): Nothing is too hard for the Lord…He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think, Ephesians 3:20.

 AUGUSTINE (354-430): God does not expect us to submit our faith to Him without reason, but the very limits of our reason make faith a necessity.

 GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Where reason ends, faith begins.

 JOHN FLAVEL: Reason can never show itself more reasonable than in ceasing to reason about things which are above reason.

  MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: What does it mean? It means that we are in the hands of God, and therefore anything can happen. “With God nothing is impossible,” Matthew 19:26. “Ask great things of God,” as William Carey said, and go on to “expect great things from God,” and He will lead you on from surprise to surprise.


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