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account of its incomprehensibility. And do you not then plainly see that your great maxim falls to the ground, that you are to believe nothing but what you can comprehend? But if yet, notwithstanding this, you will still adhere to your beloved maxim, and resolve to believe nothing but what you can adjust and clear up to your reason, then I pray consider whether this will not necessarily lead you back to that absurd, and withal odious and invidious principle, and which therefore you yourselves care not to own, viz. That your reason is the measure of truth.
5. But why do you not care to own it? Do you not see at the first cast of your eye that you are unavoidably driven upon it by your professed maxim? Or if you do not think fit to own it (as indeed it is a good handsome morsel to swallow) why do you not then renounce that maxim of yours which is the immediale consequence of it, and necessarily resolves into it? : Why will you, whose pretensions are so high to reafoil, act so directly against the laws of it, as to own that, implicitly and by consequence, which neither your head nor your heart will serve you to acknowledge in broad and express terms? Be a little more consistent with your own sentiments at least, if not with truth, and be pot yourselves a mystery, while you pretend not to believe any. If you do not care to own the principle, then deny the confequence, or if you will not let go the consequence, then stand by and own the principle. Either sp ak out boldly and roundly that your reason is the measure of truth, or if you think that too gross a defiance 10 sense, experience, religion and reason too to be profeffedly inain. tained, then be fo ingenuous to us, and so consistent with yourselves, as to renounce your maxim of believing nothing but what you can conprehend, since you cannot hold it but with that absurd principle; and which is therefore a certain argument that you olight not to hold it.
6. And are you sure that you always do, I mean so as to act by it, that you hold it in hypothefi as well as in thei? Do you never affent to any thing but what you can comprehend? Are there not many things in the sciences which you find a presling neceflity io subscribe to, though at the same time you cannot conceive their modus, or account for their posibility? But you will say perhaps, these are things of a physical and philofophical consideration, and such as have no relation to religion. True, they are so, but then belides that this visibly betrays the weakness of your ground, since if the incomprehensibility of a thing were a good arguinent against
allenting to the truth of it, it would be fo throughout, in the things of nature, as well as in the things of religion : I would here further demand of you why you are so particularly shy of admitting incomprehensible things in religion, why is it there only that you seem so stiffy and zealoully to adhere to your maxim of believing nothing but what you can comprehend? Since there are lo many inconceivable things, or if you please, mysteries, in the works of nature and of Providence, why not in religion ? Nay where should one expect to find mysteries if not there, where all the things that are revealed are revealed by God himself, and many of them concerning himself and his own infinite perfoctions And what deference do we pay to God more than man, if either we suppose that lie cannot reveal truths to us which we cannot comprehend, or if we will not believe them if he does ? Nay, may it not be rather said that we do not pay him so much, fince we think it adviseable to receive many things from our tutors and masters upon their authority only, though we do not comprehend them ourselves; and justify our doing so by that well-known and in inany cases very reasonable maxim, discentem oportet credere. But as there is no authority like the divine, so if that motto become any school, it is that of Christ.
7. Now it is in this school that you profefs to be scholars, and why then will you be such opiniative and uncompliant disciples as to refuse to receive the sublime lectures read to you, by your divine and infallible Master, merely because they are too high for you, and you cannot conceive them, when at the fame time any one of you, that is not a mathematician (pardon the fuppofition) would, I doubt not, take it upon the word of him that is so, that the dian meter of a square is incommensurable to the side, though he did not know how to demonstrate, or so much as conceive it himself. Since then you would express such implicit regard to'the authority of a fallible, though learned man, fhall not the divine weigh infinitely heavier with you; and since you would not stick to affent to things above your conception in human and natural sciences, why are you fo violently set against mysteries in religion, whereof God is not only the author, but in great meafure the object too?
8. You know very well that in the great problem of the divifibility of quantity, there are incomprehensibilities on both sides, it being inconceivable that quantity should, and it being also in: conceivable that it thould not be divided infinitely. And yet you know again, that, as being parts of a conțiadiction, one of them
muft necessarily be true. "Possibly you may not be able with the ntmost certainty, and without all hesitation, to determine which that is; but however you know in the general, that one of them, indeterminately, must be true; (which by the way is enough to convince you that the incomprehensibility of a thing is no argument against the truth of it) and you must also further grant, that God, whofe understanding is infinite, does precisely and determinately know which of them is so. Now suppose God should reveal this, and make it an article of faith. It is not indeed likely that he will, it being so much beneath the Majesty, and besides the end and intention of revelation, whose great design is the direction of our life and manners, and not the improvement of our speculation. But suppose, I say, he should, would you not believe it? If not, then you must fuppose either that there is no necessity that either of the two parts (which yet are contradictory) fhould be true, or that though one of them be true, yet that God does not know which is fo, or that though lie does know which is fo, yet he does not deal faithfully in revealing that which is the right, all which are extravagant fupponitions, and such as men of your fense and reason can never allow. But then if you say (as you must) that you would believe it, then I pray what becomes of your maxim of believing nothing but what you can compreherd, and why do you so stiffly plead the incomprehensibility of an article of faith against the belief of it, and why muft there be no mysteries in religion? I say in religion, where is any where our reason might expect to find things above its measure, unreachable heights, and unfathomable depths, and where God is not only the revealer (as in the case now supposed) but also the object revealed. For is it not reafonable to suppose that there are things more incomprehensible in God than in nature, and if you would receive an incomprehensible revelation of his concerning his works, how much rather ought you to admit the fame concerning himself?
9. And this gives me occasion to say something to you concerning the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This great article of the Christian faith you have a particular prejudice against, and will not believe, and that because it so utterly transcends the force of reason to conceive how the fame undivided and numeria cally One simple essence of God should be communicated to Three really distinct Persons, so as that there should be both a Unity in Trinity, and a Trinity in Unity. This however, as inconceivable as it seems, foune will not yield to be so far above reason
but that a rational and intelligible account may be given of it, which accordingly they have essayed to do by several hypotheses. But I decline at present all advantage that may be had from them, or any other that may be invented to render this an intelligible article. You know I reason all along upon the contrary fuppofition, that those articles of the Christian faith which we call mysteries, are really incomprehensible, and only go to invalidate the consequence that is drawn from thence in prejudice of their belief. Well then for once we will. give you what you stand for, that the do&rine of the Trinity is indeed utterly above reason. You have our leave to suppose it as incomprehensible as you please. But then you are to consider (besides what has hitherto been discoursed concerning the nullity of the consequence from the incomprehensibility of a thing to its incredibility) that this is a re- ; velation of God concerning himself, and do you pretend to comprehend the nature and essence of God? If you do, then your understanding is as infinite as the divine. But if you do not, then the incomprehensibility of this mysterious article ought to be no objection with you against the belief of it, since if it be, you must be driven to say that you comprehend the nature of God, which I hope you have too much religion as well as reason to affirm.
10. And indeed if we meet with so many insuperable difficulties in the search of nature, much more may we in the comtemplation of its author; if the works of God do so puzzle and battle our understandings, much more may they confess their deficiency when God himself is their object ; and if we are not able to explain creation, or give an account how the material world issued in time from the great Fountain of being, much less may we be supposed able to explain the eternal and ineffable generation of his divine and consubftantial word. But what then, shall we not belicve it? Or rather shall we not say upon this occasion, with the pious and ingenious Mr. Wesley *,
« Ineffable the way, for who
“ Th’ Almighty to perfection ever knew?
Nay, to go lower yet, if there be so many things relating to extenfion, motion and figure (of all which we have clear ideas) which we cannot comprehend, and there result from them propo
* Life of Christ, p. 184.
fitions which we know not what to make of, with how much greater reason may we expect to find what we cannot understand in the nature of an infinite Being, whereof we have no adequate idea. And indeed we meet with so many incomprehensibles in the school of nature, that one would think we should be too much familiarized to them to think them strange in that of religion, and God seems on purpose to exercise and discipline our understandings with what is above them in natural things, that so we might be the less furprized to find what passes our conception in his own infinite ellence. Here then at lealt you may confess your ignorance, and that withont any reproach to your understandings, which were indeed intended for the contemplation, but not for the comprehension of an infinite object. You need not therefore here be backward to own, that you meet with what you cannot comprehend (it would indeed be a mystery if you should not) nor think it any disgrace to have your eyes dazzled with that light at the insupportable glory of which even the seraphin veil and cover theirs.
11. You may perceive by this that your denial of the doctrine of the Trinity, because of the incomprehensibility of it, proceeds upon no good consequence; but you are allo further defired to consider the very bad one that it naturally leads to. You refuse to receive this article, because you cannot comprehend it; but besides that your reason for this your refusal is not good unless you could be supposed to comprehend every thing, even “ the “ deep things of God.” Pray consider what the consequence will be if you pursue your principle to the utmost, and conduct yourselves entirely by its measures. Will it not inevitably lead you to the denial of all religion? This, perhaps, may startle you, but think again. Will not this necessarily lead you to the denial of God, the foundation of all religion? For if you will not believe the trinal distinction of persons in the divine essence, because you cannot conceive how such a thing can be, then may you not for the same reason refuse as well to believe the divine effence itself, some of whose incommunicable attributes, such as his felf-existence; eternity, immensity, &c. are as incomprehenfible as any thing in the notion of the Trinity can be. So that if you will but follow your measure from the denial of three, you may be quickly brought to deny even one. So directly does your principle of believing nothing but what you can comprehend lead to Atheism, and that with such swift and wide ftrides, that were