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to run into notions and terms which it is impossible for us to reconcile. And in lower matters, that are more within our knowledge and comprehension, we shall not be able to keep ourselves clear of them. To say that a curve line, setting out from a point within a hair's breadth of a right line, shall run towards that right line as swift as thought, and yet never be able to touch it, seems contrary to common sense ; and were it not clear y demonstrated in the conchoid of Nechomedes, could never be believed. Matter is infinitely divisible; and therefore a cubical inch of gold may be divided into an infinity of parts; and there can be no number greater than that which contains an infinity. Yet another cubical inch of gold may be infinitely divided also; and therefore, the parts of both cubes must be more numerous than the parts of one only. Here is a palpable contrariety of ideas, and a flat contradiction of terms. We are confounded and lost in the consideration of infinites ; and surely most of all, in the consideration of that Infinite of infinites. We justly admire that saying of the philosopher, that God is a being whose centre is everywhere, and circumference nowhere, as one of the noblest and most exalted flights of human understanding; and yet, not only the terms are absurd and contradictory, but the very ideas that constitute it, when considered attentively, are repugnant to one another. Space and duration are mysterious abysses in which our thoughts are confounded with demonstrable propositions, to all sense and reason flatly contradictory to one another. Any two points of time, though never so distant, are exactly in the middle of eternity. The remotest points of space that can be imagined or supposed, are each of them precisely in the centre of infinite space.” Deism Revealed, Vol. II. p. 109, 110, 111.
Here might have been added the mysteries of God's eternal duration, it being without succession, present, before and after, all at once: Vitæ interminabilis tota simul et perfecta possessio. See the nature of the human soul on this head.
10. To reject every thing but what we can first see to be agreeable to our reason, tends, by degrees, to bring every thing relating not only to revealed religion, but even natural religion, into doubt; to make all its doctrines appear with dim evidence, like a shadow, or the ideas of a dream, till they are all neglected as worthy of no regard. It tends to make men doubt of the several attributes of God, and so, in every respect, to doubt what kind of being God is; and to make men doubt about the forgiveness of sin, and about the duties of religion, prayer, and giving thanks, social worship, &c. It will tend at last, to make men esteem the science of religion as of no value, and so totally neglect it; and from step to step it will lead to skepticism, atheism, ignorance, and at length to barbarity, &c.
11. Concerning common sense, it is to be observed, that common inclination, or the common dictates of inclination are often called common sense. When any thing is shocking to the common dispositions or inclinations of men, that is called a contradicting of common sense. So, the doctrine of the extreme and everlasting torments of hell, being contrary to men's common folly and stupidity, is often called contrary to common sense. Men, through stupidity are insensible of the great evil of sin; and so the punishment of sin threatened in the word of God disagrees with this insensibility, and is said to be contradictory to common sense. In this case, that turn of mind which arises from a wicked disposition, goes for common sense.
“ We ought never to deny, because we cannot conceive. If this were not So, then a man born blind would reason right when he forms this syllogism, "We know the figure of bodies only by handling them; but it is impossible to
handle them at a great distance; therefore it is impossible to know the figure of far distant bodies. To undeceive the blind man, we may prove to him that this is so, from the concurrent testimony of all who surround him. never make him perceive how this is so. It is therefore a fundamental maxim in all true philosophy, that many things may be incomprehensible, and yet demonstrable; that though seeing clearly be a sufficient reason for affirming, yet, not seeing at all, can never be a reason for denying." Ramsay's Philosophical Principles of Religion, Vol. I. p. 22, 23.
12. One method used to explode every thing that is in the least difficult to the understanding, out of religion, is to ridicule all distinctions in religion. The unreasonableness of this may appear from what Mr. Locke observes concerning discerning and judgment. Hum. Underst., Book II. chap. 2: "Accurately discriminating ideas one from another, is of that consequence to the other knowledge of the mind, that, so far as this faculty is in itself dull, or not rightly made use of, for distinguishing one thing from another, so far our notions are confused, and our reason and judgment disturbed or misled. If in having ideas in the memory ready at hand, consists quickness of parts; in this of having them unconfused, and being able nicely to distinguish one thing from another, where there is but the least difference, consists in a great measure the exactness of judgment, and clearness of reason, which is to be observed in one man above another. Judgment lies in separating carefully one from another, ideas wherein can be found the least difference, thereby to avoid being misled by similitude, and by affinity to take one thing for another.”
So Dr. Turnbull in his Principles of Moral Philosophy, Part I. chap. 3, p. 94 : 6
Judgment is rightly said to lie in nicely distinguishing the disagreements and variances or differences of ideas; those especially which lie more remote from common observation, and are not generally adverted to. The man of judgment or discretion (for so discretion properly signifies) may be defined to be one who has a particular aptitude to descry differences of all kinds between objects, even the most hidden and remote from vulgar eyes.”
13. If any respect to the Divine Being is of importance, then speculative points are of importance ; for the only way whereby we know what he is, is by speculation. He is a speculative being in that sense. If our doctrines concerning him are not right, it will not be that Being, but some other, that we have respect for. So it may be said concerning our respect for Christ. If our doctrines concerning him, concerning his divinity, for instance, are false, we have not respect for the Christ of whom the Scriptures speak, but for an imaginary person, infinitely diverse. When it is said by some that the only fundamental article of faith is, that Jesus is the Messiah; if thereby be meant that a person called by that name, or that lived at such a time or place, was the Messiah ; that name not implying any properties or qualities of his person, the doctrine is exceedingly unreasonable ; for surely the name and the place are not of so great importance as some other things essential in his person, and have not so great concern in the identity of the object of our ideas and respect, as the person the gospel reveals. If that Jesus the gospel tells us of be a divine person, then to suppose a Jesus that is a mere man, makes the object of our ideas and regard infinitely more diverse from the gospel Jesus, than to have a different name, and to suppose him to be of a different time and place. It is one great reason why speculative points are thought to be of so little importance, that the modern religion consists so little in respect to the Divine Being, and almost wholly in benevolence to men.
14. Concerning this which is often said by some, that all things that are
necessary to salvation are plain and clear, let us consider how and in what sense this is true, and in what sense it is not true. 1st. It is true that all things that are necessary to salvation are clearly and plainly revealed. But it does not follow, that they shall appear to be plainly revealed to all men. Nothing, no divine thing, can have evidence sufficient to appear evident to all men, however great their prejudices are, and however perverse their dispositions. 2dly. If thereby is meant that all things necessary to be believed are easily comprehended, there is no reason in such an assertion, nor is it true.
Some late writers insist, that, for a thing to be revealed, and yet remain mysterious, is a contradiction; that it is as much as to say, a thing is revealed, and yet hid. I answer : the thing revealed is the truth of the doctrine : 50 that the truth of it no longer remains hid, though many things concerning the manner may
Yet many things concerning the nature of the things revealed may be clear, though many things concerning the nature of the same things may remain hid. God requires us to understand no more than is intelligibly revealed. That which is not distinctly revealed, we are not required distinctly to understand. It may be necessary for us to know a thing in part, and yet not necessary to know it perfectly.
15. The importance of all Christian doctrines whatsoever, will naturally be denied, in consequence of denying that one great doctrine of the necessity of Christ's satisfaction to divine justice, and maintaining those doctrines that estab lish men's own righteousness, as that on which, and for which, they are accepted of God. For that great Christian doctrine of Christ's satisfaction, his vicarious sufferings and righteousness, by which he offered an infinite price to God for our pardon and acceptance to eternal favor and happiness, is what all evangelical doctrines, all doctrines beside the truths of natural religion, have relation to; and they are of little importance, comparatively, any other way than as they have respect to that. This is, as it were, the centre and hinge of all doctrines of pure revelation.
16. Indeed, the Papists, who are very far from having such a notion of that evangelical faith, which is the special condition of salvation in opposition to works, and have forsaken the evangelical notion of true saving religion, yet, with fiery zeal, insist on the profession of a great number of doctrines, and sera eral of the doctrines of pure revelation, as the Trinity, &c. But this in them flows not from any regard to their influence in internal saving religion, but from quite another view, i. e., to uphold their tyranny. These are the doctrines which have been handed down among them by their church from ancient tradition; and to maintain the credit of the infallibility, and divine authority and a dominion of their hierarchy, over men's faith, they must be zealous against any that presume to deny Christ's doctrines, because they look upon it as an infringe ment on the high authority they claim. And some Protestants have a zeal for doctrines from like views; doctrines that indeed they have no great value for in themselves considered.
17. That it is not alone sufficient to believe that one article, that a person of the name of Jesus came from God to reveal his will to man, without knowing or determining what he was, or concerning his nature and qualities, is evident from this, that it is often spoken of as necessary to know Christ. It is said, “ This is eternal life, to know thee, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent."
18. There are two things especially that make modern fashionable divines look on doctrines of revealed religion of little importance. One is, their mistake about the conditions of salvation ; another is, their mistake about the nature of true virtue, placing it chiefly, and most essentially, in benevolence to men, and
so little in respect to God and Christ. If Christian virtue consists very much in a proper respect to Christ, then certainly it is of great importance to know what sort of person he is, at least, as to that particular wherein his excellency or worthiness of regard consists, which is surely his divinity, if he be a divine person. Another thing on which a proper respect to him depends, is his relation to us, and our dependence upon him; which surely chiefly depends on his satisfaction and merits for us, if he has satisfied and merited for us. The reasons or grounds of the love and honor to Christ required of us, consist chiefly in two things: 1, in what he is: and 2, in what he has done for us. Therefore, with regard to the latter, it concerns us greatly to know, at least as to the principal things, what they are. And if he has satisfied for our sins ; if he has suffered in our stead ; if he has truly purchased eternal life and happiness for us; if he has redeemed us from an extremely and perfectly sinful, miserable, helpless state, a state wherein we deserved no mercy, but eternal misery without mercy; then these are principal things.
Another reason why doctrines are thought to be of little importance, is a notion of sincerity wherein true virtue consists, as what may be prior to any means of it that God grants; as if it was what every man had in his power, antecedently to all means; and so the means are looked upon as of little importance. But the absurdity of this may be easily manifested. If it be independent of all means, then it may be independent of natural inforınation, or of the truths of the light of nature, as well as of revealed religion; and men may sincerely regard and honor they know not what. The truths of natural religion, wherein Christians differ from the most ignorant, brutish, and deluded idolaters, the most savage aud cruel of the heathen nations, may be of little importance. And the reason why they have this notion of sincerity antecedent to means, and so independent on means is, that they have a notion that sincerity is independent on God, any otherwise than as they depend on him for their creation. They conceive it to be independent on his sovereign will and pleasure. If they, were sensible that they depend on God to give it according to his pleasure, it would be easy and natural to acknowledge, that God gires it in his own way, and by his own means.
19. If any article of faith at all concerning Jesus Christ be of importance, it must be of importance to know or believe something concerning his person; who he is, and what he was; what sort of a person or being he was. And if any thing concerning him be of importance to be known and believed, it must be something wherein his excellency or worthiness of regard consists : for nothing can be of importance to be known or believed about him, but in order to some regard or respect of heart. But most certainly, if any thing of his excellency and dignity be of importance to be known or believed, it must be of importance at least to know so much about him, as to know whether he be God or a mere creature; for herein lies the greatest difference, as to dignity, that possibly can be. This difference is infinite. If it be of importance to know how worthy he is, then it doubtless is of importance that we should not be ignorant of, and deny, as it were, all his dignity, or so much of it, that what remains shall be absolutely as nothing to that which is denied. It is of importance that we love Christ, or have respect to him as one that is excellent, and worthy of esteem and love. The apostle says, “ If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha." And doubtless, true love to Christ is in some respect suitable to the worthiness and excellency of his person. Therefore it is of importance to believe, and not to deny those doctrines which exhibit his worthiness. It is of importance that we do not in effect deny the whole of his worthiness.
20. How many things were believed by the ancient philosophers about divine matters, even the most rational of them more mysterious than the doctrine of the Trinity, chiefly because such things were handed to them by the Phenicians, Egyptians, Chaldeans, or Persians, or on the authority of some great master! Yet these things were imbibed without much difficulty, the incomprehensibleness of the doctrines being no objection to their receiving them.
21. There are things evidently true concerning the nature of our own souls, that seem strange paradoxes, and are seeming contradictions; as, that our souls are in no place, and yet have a being; or, if they are supposed to be in a place, that yet they are not confined to place, and limited to certain space; or, if they be, that they are not of a certain figure; or, if they are figurate, that their properties, faculties, and acts, should or should not be so too.
22. If many things we all see and know of the mortality of mankind, the extreme sufferings of infants, and other things innumerable in the state of the world of mankind, were only matter of doctrine which we bad no notice of any other way than by revelation, and not by fact and experience; have we not reason to think, from what we see of the temper of this age, that they would be exceedingly, quarrelled with, objected mightily against, as inconsistent with God's moral perfections, not tending to amiable ideas of the Godhead, &c. &c.
23. The definition of a mystery, according to Stapferus, Theo. Polem. p. 263, and 858, is this: a mystery is a religious doctrine, which must be made known by immediate revelation, and cannot be known and demonstrated from the principles of reason, but is above reason, and which in this whole universe has nothing like itself, but differs from all those truths which we discover in this system of the world.
Ibid. p. 859. It appears from the definition, that whatever is known by divine revelation, and is not certain from the principles of reason, is a mystery ; otherwise it could not be said to be revealed.
Revelation cannot be conceived of without mysteries ; and mysteries are the first thing which we conceive concerning revelation ; for no revelation can be conceived without mysteries, and therefore they constitute the sum and essence of revelation.
It is to be observed, that we ought to distinguish between those things which were written in the sacred books by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and those which were only committed to writing by the direction of the Holy Spirit. To the former class belong all the mysteries of salvation, or all those things which respect the means of our deliverance taught in the gospel, which could not be known from the principles of reason, and therefore must be revealed. But to the other class those things belong, which either are already known from natural religion, but are of service to inculcate duty on man, and to demonstrate the necessity of a revelation of the means of salvation; or are histories, useful to illustrate and to assure us of the doctrines revealed, and which point out the various degrees of revelation, the different dispensations of salvation, and the various modes of governing the church of God; all which are necessary to be known in the further explanation of mysteries.
Mysteries constitute the criterion of divine revelation : so absurdly do they act, who allow a revelation and deny mysteries ; or deny revelation for this reason, that it contains mysteries. What the sum and essence of revelation, or of revealed religion, are, is plain from the end of it, which is this, to point out to sinful men the means of obtaining salvation, and of recovering the divine favor. But this means is, that Jesus Christ is the only and most perfect cause of salvation, to be received by a true faith. This doctrine, however, is a mys