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oblige us to believe any thing which does not agree with the Reason of our own Minds, aod the Philosophy of Nature. Those who understand the Mystery of Modern Infidelity, know that these, and such like, are the wise Reasons for which they reject and ridicule all Revealed Religion, and endeavour to rob and spoil men of one of the greatest Blessings in the World, A Divine Revelation. So that Infidelity is resolved into these vain Pretences to Philosophy, that Men will understand how to make, destroy, and govern the World better than God.
2. As these men oppose Reason and Philosophy to Revelation, so others either deny the fundamental Articles of Christianity for the fake of some Philosophical Difficulties, or corrupt the Doctrines of Christianity by a mixture of Philosophy. The Gospel of our Saviour is the plainest Revelation of the Will of God that ever was made to the World ; all its Doctrines are easily understood, without Art and Subtilty ; and yet there is not a more nice, intricate, perplext thing in the World , than what some men have made the Christian Faith : All the Subtil Disputes of Philosophy are brought into the Church; and PIato and Aristotle are become as great Apostles, as St. Peter, or St. Paul: As to give some few Instances of it; for time will not permit me to discourse it at large.
What are the Arian, Soctnian, Pelagian Controversies, but meer Philosophical Disputes', with which these PJereticks corrupted the Catholick Faith?
There is nothing more plain and express in Scripture than the Faith of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or the Dotlrine of the Trinity in Unity; and that great Art and Subtilty which has been used^tnd to so little purposc,to pervert those Texts of Scripture, wherein this Doctrine is contained, is an evident proof, That this is the plain, natural obvious sense of those Texts, since it requires so much Art
and Criticism to put any other sense on them and that will not do neither, till men are resolved rather to make any thing of Scripture, than to find a real Trinity there. If then this Faith be so plainly contained in Scripture, what makes all this dispute about it? What makes those, who profess to believe the Scripture, so obstinate against this Faith? Truly that which makes some men Infidels, makes others Hereticks, that is, a vain preteoce to Philosophy.
The first Philosophical Dispute is about the Divine Unity: We all own with the scripture, that there is but One God; but we fay further, as the Scripture teaches us, That' there are Three, Father, Son, and Holy Ghofi , each of which u true and serf elf God,. This they sky is a Contradiction; and if it be so, there is an end of this Faith, for both parts of a Contradiction can't be true: Bat to be Three and One upon different accounts, and in different senses, is no Contradiction; for thus Three,maybe One, and >One Three; and this is all the .Scripture teaches, or that we profess to believe, whatever thejvlystery of this Distinction and Unity be: But this will not satisfy these Philosophical Wits, unless they can comprehend how Father,\$hkj and Holy Ghost,: are really and distinctly Three, and essentially One, the manner of which the Scripture gives no account of, and therefore this is no Dispute in Faith, but only in Philosophy.
Another Objection concerns the Divine Generation, how God can beget a Son of his own Substance , which the Ariam thought inferred a division of the Divine Substance, i . • i :/ .
And a Third Objection concerns an Eternal Generation; how it is possible that the Father should beget aa Eternal Son ', that the Son should be begotten without any begin
ni«g ningof Being; and that the Father should not be at least some few moments before the Son,, and consequently the Son not Eternal. Now we all grant that we can give no Philosophical account of this, no more than we can of the fimple Divine Essence, or of Eternity it self; but we may believe that God has an Eternal Son, as we do that there is an Eternal God, without knowing how any thing is Eternal: These are Disputes in Philosophy, and such as none but vain men will dispute about, as being acknowledged above our Comprehension, and therefore no reasonable Objection against our Faith.
Thus as for the Doctrine of the Incarnation, nothing can be plainer in Scripture, than that the Son of God was made man; That the Word was made flfjb, and dwelt among its ; That God was manifest in the flejh : And all the disputes about this Article are purely Philosophical: Some men reject it, because they cannot understand how God and Man can be united in one Person: Others confound the Divine and Human Nature, as Eutyches did ; or divide the Persons, as Nestorius did; both which indeed destroy the Article of the Incarnation ; for the Word is not made Flesh, unless the fame Person, who is God, is Man too, and continues perfect God and perfect Man after this Union: But all these disputes concern the Philosophy of the Union of the Divine and Human Nature in Christ; and if we would separate between Faith and Philosophy, such disputes might soon be ended.
Thus most of the difficulties in the Pelagian and Quinparticular Controversy, are ultimately resolved into mere Philosophical disputes about Fate and Prescience, Liberty and Necessity, and God's concourse with Creatures, or the Powers of Nature and Grace: And would time permit, it were easy to shew this in most of the Controversies of Religion, That it is not what God has revealed, and what he requires us to believe, but such Nice Philosophical Questions as men raise about these matters, which occasion ail these disputes.
It has often been proposed as a means of Union to silence all disputes, To confine our selves to Scripture-Words and Expressions, without determining the signification of them: Butthis would make only an Agreement in Words, not a Consent in Opinions > nor could it secure the Peace of the Church, while all men knew, that under the fame form of Words, they had very different and contrary Meanings, which would still make them as much Hereticks to each other, as if their Words did asexprefly contradict each other, as their Faith. But would men reduce all their disputes to Scripture, and make that the only Rule of their Faith , without intermixing any Philosophical disputes with it, this would be an infallible means of Union; for it is only this vain pretence to Philosophy, which raises all these disputes, and then tempts men to pervert the Scriptures to justify their Philosophy.
In all these cases we are concerned to enquire what the true sense of the Article is; for this the Scripture teaches, and so far our Faith is concerned; and these are not only justifiable, but necessary disputes, if the true Faith be necessary: And such were the disputes of the Catholick Fathers with the SaM/ian, Jriai, and Photinian Hereticks; Whether Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, were only Three Names, or Three Appearances and Manifestations of the fame One single Person , or any other Three, but Three True, Proper, Coeternal, and Coequal Persons i Or whether He, who is in Scripture called the Son of God, be a Creature, though the most Excellent Creature; or a Son, and God by Nature, truly begotten of his Father's Substance: Or whether Christ be God Incarnate, or a meer Man: And their ancient deeds pretended to no
C more, more, than to teach what the Catholick: Faith was, not to expound the Philosophy of the Trinity and Incarnation. And thus far we must explain the Faith, as to know, and to let others know, what ft is we believe; and if to assert the ancient Catholick Faith against old. and ijew Heresies, should be called New Explications, we cannot help it; for we must explain what the Scripture teaches about these Articles -t and how the Catholick Church always understood them: But that which we are to beware of,, is, Not to mix Philosophy with our Faith,, nor to admit of any mere Philosophical Objections against the Faith, nor to attempt any Explications of these Mysteries, beyond what the. Scriptures, and the Faith and Practice of the Catholick Church will justify. 1
Indeed the Importunity of Hereticksdid very often engage the Catholick Fathers in Philosophical disputes; but this they did, not to explain the Christian Mysteries by Philosophy, but only to shew, that as incomprehensible as these Mysteries are, the Philosophy of Hereticks, and their Objections against these Articles, were very absurd: And such disputes as these may sometimes be absolutely necessary, and of great use to shame these vain Pretences to Philosophy, while we do not put the Trial of our Faith upon this Issue.
Secondly, Let us now consider what great reason we have to reject all the vain Pretences to Reason and Philosophy, when opposed to a Divine Revelation. For that is all the Apostle intends in this Caution; not to discourage the use of Reason, or the study of Philosophy, which are great Improvements, and a delightful Entertainment of Human Minds, and with a wise and prudent Conduct may be very serviceable to Religion too; but we must not set up any Conclusions in Philosophy against the Christian Faith, nor corrupt the Faith with a mixture of Philosophy,