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Excerpts from Two Sermons by Friedrich August Tholuck: "What is Human Reason Worth?" (c. 1840) and "When is Greater Civic Freedom Fortunate for a People?" (1848)

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“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves
do no break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body
is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy
whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that
darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will
hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

Did you understand, my brothers, what He is telling you with these words about the worth of human reason? This is what He is telling you: it is a light for the entire inner man, if it is sound; it is a will-o-the-wisp for the entire inner man if it is unsound, and it becomes sound only when it is guided by the right pull of the heart. This our Lord has said, and now we know whom we should support in the struggles of today. We do not hold with those who say that man is supposedly born without a spiritual eye; we do not hold with those who say that man can make his spiritual eye whole by his own reason and power; but we hold with those who profess that man’s spiritual eye will be made sound by the correct pull of the heart. O You by whose light alone we can see light, we preachers and you, the listeners, enlighten our spirit! You called those under age and the children to come before you, behold, we come as those under age to take our wisdom from You!

The first thing, then, that Christ teaches about human reason is that it is a light for the entire inner man if it is sound. Man needs a light for his emotions, for what he wants and does every day. Of course, we are a far cry from man wanting what is right because he knows what is right.

To be sure, many fancy that he does so; for there are many who believe that all will be well with humanity as soon as it shall become progressively smarter and more educated, and makes progress in all arts, sciences, and skills. And that is also what they pursue themselves, learning from all books and from all masters – except that among all the things they think about, religion, their relationship to God, is last. They are ashamed if there is anything among the things on the earth and under the earth that they do not know much about; but if they don’t know much about their religion, about Holy Scripture, they are not ashamed. Do you know that our ancestors said of those who thought only about becoming smarter, not better?: “If the people get smarter, the Devil makes hell larger.” [ . . . ]

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