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Revelation, against the Cavils of Atheists and Infidels; for there are unconceivable and incomprehensible Secrets and Mysteries in them all ; and if toconceiveand comprehend the Natures of things must be made the measure and standard of true and false, we must deny our Senses and Realbn, as well as our Faith ; and if we do and must believe our Sense and Reason beyond our Comprehension, Why must we believe nothing that is Revealed, any farther than wecan conceive and comprehend the Nature and Reasons of it?
The Sum is this: Humane Knowledge, whatever the means of knowing be, whether Sense, or Reason, or Revelation , does not reach to the Philosophical Causes and Natures of things, but only to their Being, and Natural Vertues and Powers; and as a Wise man, who knows the measure of his Understanding, expects no more from Sense and Reason, than to know what things there are in the World, and what they are, as far as they fall under the notice of .Sense and Natural Reason; so we must expect: no more from Revelation , than the knowledge of such things as Sense and Natural Reason cannot discover. But we must no more expect the Philosophy of Supernatural Truths from Revelation, than we do the Mysteries of Nature from Sense and Reason.
Now since Human Knowledge is not a knowledge of the Mysterious Natures of things, but only to know what things there are, and what they are; there can be no contradiction between Sense, and Reason, and Revelation; unless one denies what the other affirms, not that one teaches more than the other teaches, or that one cannot comprehend what the other teaches. Reason teaches more than Sense teaches, or can comprehend; and Revelation teaches more than either Sense or Natural Reason teacbrej, or can comprehend; but this is no contradiction, but
only only a subordination between these different kinds and degrees of Knowledge; but as for Unconceivablenesi and Incomprehensibility, that is no argument against any thing; for Sense and Natural Reason can no more comprehend their own Objects, than they do what is revealed: And it is manifest perversenesi to make that an objection against Revelation, which we will notallow to be an objection against Sense and Reason.
This is sufficient as to the reason of the thing; but as far as it is possible to remove mens Prejudices also against believing Mysteries, I (hall brieBy answer two very popular Objections.
i. It is thought very unnatural, that when God has made us reasonable Creatures, and therefore made Natural Reason to us the measure of Truth and Falshood, he fliould require us to believe without Reason; as we must do, if he reveals such things to us as we know not, and cannot possibly know the reasons of. If we must believe with our Understanding, how can we believe things which we cannot understand?
This were a reasonable Objection, were it true; for we cannot believe what we have no knowledge, nor understanding of; for Faith is Knowledge, though not Natural Knowledge.
But do we not understand what it is we believe? Do we not know what we mean, when we fay, We believe in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? Nay, do not our Adversaries understand what we mean by it? How then come they to charge us with believing Contradictions and Impossibilities? For if they know not what we believe, they cannot know whether we believe Contradictions or not. And if we do understand what it is we believe, then we do not believe without understanding, which
D is is absolutely impossible, if we know what it is we be^ lieve.
And we know also why we believe: Our Faith is founded in ^enseand Reason , and resolved into the Authority o*God, which is the highest and most infallible Reason^ The Miracles which Christ and his Apostles wrought,were, evident to Sense, and owned by Reason to be the effects of a Divine Power; and the Answer the Blind man gave to the Pharisees, when Christ had opened his Eyes, speaks the true sense of Nature: H rein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from win nee he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind: If this man were not of God, he could do nothing, 9. John jo, Ji, $a, And all Mankind own, that the most absolute Faith is due to God, and to those who speak from God; and this, as I take it, is to believe with Reason
But still we believe such things, whose Natures we do not understand, and cannot account for by Natural Reason, and this is to believe without Reason. We believe, that God the Father hath an Eternal Son, and an Eternal Spirit; and that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are but One Eternal God; but this is what Natural Reason cannot comprehend, nor give us any notion or conception of, how God can have an Eternal Son, and an Eternal Spirit, really distinct from himself, and yet with himself One Eternal and Infinite God: Reason can give no account of the Eternal Generation of the Son, nor of the Eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit; and is not this to believe without Reason, which a reasonable Creature ought not to do, and which we ought not to think, that God who made us reasonable Creatures, expects from us?
And this I grant would be a material Objection, were Reason the Judge of the Nature and Philosophy of things; and did Reason require us to believe nothing but what we underiland and comprehend. But then we must no more believe Sense and Reason, than Revelation; for we do not comprehend the Nature of any one thing in the World, how evident soever it is to Sense and Reason, that there are such things. Nature is as great a Mystery as Revelation; and it is no greater affront to our Understandings, no more against Reason for. God to reveal such things to us as our Reason cannot comprehend, than it is to make a whole World, which Reason cannot comprehend.
When we make it an Objection against any thing, That it is without Reason, or, as we apprehend, against Reason, and contrary to Reason; we must first consider whether it be the proper Object of Reason; otherwise it is no Objection; as it is no objection against Sounds, that we cannot see them; nor against Colours, that we cannot hear them ; because Sounds are not the Objects of Sight, nor Colours of Hearing.
Now no man pretends, that the pure Natures and Essences of things, or their Essential Reasons, Properties, Unions, Operations, are the Objects of Humane Reason; for no man living knows any thing about them.
And yet this is all the Incomprehensibility men have to complain of in the Doctrine of the Trinity, and the Incarnation; That they cannot comprehend, how God can beget an Eternal Son j nor how Three Divine Persons should be so united, as to be essentially One God; nor how the Divine and Humane Nature can be united into One Person, God-man: All which concern the Essence, and Essential Properties, Operations, Unions, Relations of the Deity, which a modest man might allow to be incomprehensible, if God be Infinite, though he could com
D z prehend prehend the Natures, Essences, and Essential R easons and Properties of Created Beings; but when all Created Nature is such a Mystery to us, that we know not the purs Nature and Essence of any one thing in the World, is it an affront to our Reason^ that we cannot comprehend the Divine Nature?
Such Matters as these are neither without Reason, nor against Reason, nor contrary to Reason; because Reason has nothing to do with them, and can take no. cognizance of them: They belong not to Reason, but to that Infinite Mind, which comprehends it Self, and the Ideas of all possible Beings. A perfect comprehensive Knowledge of Nature belongs only to the Maker of all things 'r for it is not only to know what things are, but how to make them; which would be a vain Curiosity, and useless Knowledge to those, who have not a Making and Creating. Power. This is to know things a priori, with an Intuitive Ideal Knowledge, which is infinitely more superior to Reason, than Reason is to Sense: And it is the affectation of this Intuitive making Knowledge, which makes: some' men Atheists, and others Hereticks; /.
idly. Another great Objection against such a Revelation as contains matters which Natural Reason cannot comprehend, is, To what purpose such a Revelation serves? What Merit there can be in believing such Doctrines? And of what good use such a Faith can be to us?
Now I confess I cannot thinkit meritorious merely to believe things which are incomprehensible; or that God any more intended to puzzle our Faith with revealed Mysteries, than, to puzzle our Reason in making a Mysterious World. Whether we receive our information from Sense, or Natural Reason, or Revelation, it is certain we must believe Mysteries, if we believe any thing; for all things have something mysterious and incomprehensible in L . . their