Sivut kuvina

87. If things, which fact and experience make certain, such as the miseries infants are sometimes the subjects of in this world, had been exhibited only in a revelation of things in an unseen state, they would be as much disputed as the Trinity and other mysteries revealed in the Bible.

8. There is nothing impossible or absurd in the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ. If God can join a body and a rational soul together, which are of natures so heterogeneous and opposite, that they cannot, of themselves, act one upon another; may he not be able to join two spirits logether, which are of natures more similar? And, if so, he may, for ought we know to the contrary, join the soul or spirit of a man to himself. Had reason been so clear in it, that God cannot be incarnate, as many pretend, it could never have suffered such a notion to gain ground, and possess the minds of so many nations : nay, and of Julian himself, who says, that " Jupiter þegat Esculapius out of his own proper substance, and sent him down to' Epidaurus, to heal the distempers of mankind.” Reason did not hinder Spinosa, Blount, and many other modern philosophers, from asserting, that God may have a body; or rather, that the universe, or the matter of the universe, is God. Many nations believed the incarnation of Jupiter himself. Reason, instead of being utterly averse to the notion of a divine incarnation, bath easily enough admitted that notion, and suffered it to pass, almost without contradiction, among the most philosophical nations of the world.

$9."In thinking of God's raising so many myriads of spirits, and such prodigious masses of matter out of nothing, we are lost and astonished, as much as in the contemplation of the Trinity. We can follow God but one or two steps in his lowest and plainest works, till all becomes mystery and matter of amazement to us. How, then, shall we comprehend Himself? How shall we understand His nature, or account for His actions? In that He contains what is infinitely more inconceivable than all the wonders of his creation put together." Deism Revealed, edit. 2 vol. ii. p. 93, 94.

Those who deny the Trinity, because of its mysteriousness and seeming inconsistence, yet, generally own God's certain prescience of men's free actions, which they suppose to be free in such a sense, as not to be necessary. So that we may do, or may not do, that which God certainly foresees. also hold, that such a freedom without necessity, is necessary to morality; and that virtue and goodness consists in any one's doing good when he might do evil. And yet they suppose, that God acts by the eternal law of nature and reason, and

• They

that it is impossible that he should transgress that law, and do evil; because that would be a contradiction to his own nature, which is infinitely and unchangeably virtuous. Now this seems a flat contradiction. To say, that the infinite goodness of God's nature makes it utterly impossible for God to do evil, is exactly the same as to say, he is under a natural necessity not to do evil. And to say, he is morally free, is to say he may do evil. Therefore the necessity and freedom in this case being both moral, the contradiction is flat and plain; and amounts to this, that God, in respect to good and evil actions, is both a necessary and free agent. Dr. Clark, in his Treatise on the Attributes, labours to get clear of this contradiction upon these principles of liberty, but without success; and leaves it just where all men, who hold the same principles, must be forced to leave it. Therefore, they hold such mysteries, in respect to Deity, that are even harder to be conceived of, or properly expressed, and explained, than the doctrine of the Trinity.

“ When we talk of God, who is infinite and incomprehensible, it is natural 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 comprebension, we shall not be able to keep ourselves clear of them. To say that a curve line, setting out from a point within an 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 clearly demonstrated in the conchoides of Nicomedes, 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 every where, 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 yet 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, arc

[ocr errors]

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 : Vilæ interminabilis lota simul et perfecta possessio.

§ 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 to natural religion, into doubt; to make all ils 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 estcem the science of religion as of no value, and so totally neglect it; and, from step to step, it will lead to scepticism, atheism, and at length to barbarity.

§ 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 coinmon 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 it is said to be contradictory to common sense. In this case, that turn of mind which arises from a wicker 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 hin that this is so, from the concurrent testimony of all who surround him. But we can never make him perceive how this is so. It is therefore a fundamental niaxim in all true philosophy, that many things may be incomprebensible, 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 in religion that is in the least difficult to the understanding, 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 baving 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. “ 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, eyen 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.-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. 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 what is often said by some, that all things 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 necessary to salvation are clearly and plainly revealed. But it does not follow, that they shall appear to be plainly revealed to all men. No divine thing can bave evidence sufficient to appear evident to all men, however great their prejudices, 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 ; so that the truth of it no longer remains bid, though many things concerning the manner may be so. Yet many things concerning the nature of the things revealed may be clear, though many other things concerning their nature 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 whatso. ever, 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 establish 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 favour and happiness, is that to which all evangelical doctrines, all doctrines beside the truths of natural religion, have relation; 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,

« EdellinenJatka »