« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
seau could blame us, without reproaching himself, if, arguing from the erroneous principles of his master, we should make the following declarations...." Natui ral philosophy abounds with incredible things, which “ no sensible man can either conceive or admit. I “ have arteries, it is said, which carry my blood, with 66 a sensible pulsation, from the heart to the extremi. “ ties of my body ; and veins, which without any pul66 sation, reconduct that blood to the heart : but since “ the union of the arteries and veins is, to me, an in“ conceivable mystery, I cannot admit the generally6 received opinion, respecting the circulation of the « blood. I see the needle of the compass perpetually 66 turns itself toward the pole, and I have observed “ that the loadstone communicates to it this disposi* tion : but, as it cannot be ascertained how all this is « effected, I look upon the voyages of Anson and Cook, “ which are said to have been performed by means of “ the compass, just as infidels are accustomed to look “ upon the Gospel. I will no longer increase the 4 number of those idiots, who unthinkingly pass over “ a bridge, while they are perfectly unacquainted with « the plan upon which it was built ; and who vulgarly “ depend upon their watches with regard to the re« gulation of time, without being thoroughly versed « in the mechanism of time-peices I will nerer again “ be persuaded to take a medical preparation, till I “ have penetrated into the deepest mysteries of physic « and chymistry. In short, I resolve neither to eat, « nor drink ; neither to sow my grounds, nor gaze 66 upon the sun ; till I am enabled perfectly to com16 prehend, whatever is mysterious in vegetation, light, " and digestion.” If the preceding declarations might reasonably be considered as evident tokens of a weak and puerile judgment, the following irmation undoubtedly deserves to be considered in the same point of view.... I grant that the science of physics has its "s unfathomable mysteries: but, as a philosopher of 66 the first rank, I insist upon it, that nothing of a
“ mysterious nature should be suffered to pass in re« ligion, that deep metaphysical science, which has “ for its objects, the Father of Spirits, the relation in us which those Spirits stand to their incomprehensi“ ble Parent, their properties, their light, their nou6 rishment, their growth, their distempers and their “ remedies, their degeneracy and their perfection."** Ye, who are anxious to be saluted as “ Lovers of wis. doin," if such is the absurdity of your common objec. tions against the Gospel of GOD our Saviour, what poor pretensions have you to the boasted name of “ Philosophers !”
This answer may be supported by the following observations.
In the present world, we serve a kind of spiritual apprenticeship to the truth, which is after godliness :" and it is not usual, hastily to reveal the secrets of an art to such as have but lately bound themselves to any particular profession. This privilege is justly reserved for those, whose industry and obedience have merited so valuable a testimony of their master's approbation. See John xiv. 21.
A physical impossibility of discovering, at present, certain obscure truths, forms the vail, by which they are effectually concealed from our view. In order to form a perfect judgment of the material sun, it is necessary in the first place to take, a near survey of it: but this cannot possibly be done with bodies of a like constitution with ours. The same may be said of the Father of lights. God, as a spiritual Sun, enlightens, even now, the souls of the just : but while they continue imprisoned in tenements of clay, their views of his matchless glory must necessarily be indistinct since they can only behold him through a glass darkly," Hence, we argue with St. Paul, that as spiritual things are spiritually, discerned, the natural man can never truly comprehend and embrace them, but in proportion as he becomes spiritually minded by regeneration.
The wise Author of our existence initiates us not immediately into the mysteries, which lie concealed under many of our doctrines, for the very same reason, that a mathematician conceals the most abstruse parts of his science from the notice of his less intelligent pupils. If a preceptor should affect to bring children acquainted with all the difficulties of algebra, before they had passed through the first rules of arithmetic, such an attempt would deservedly be looked upon as ridiculous and vain. And is it not equally absurd to expect, that the profoundest mysteries of the Gospel should be open to us, before we have properly digested its introductory truths, or duly attended to its lowest precepts ?
The Almighty will never perform a useless work, nor ever afford an unseasonable discovery. For the practice of solid piety, it is by no means necessary, that we should be permitted to fathom the depth of every spiritual mystery. It is enough, that fundamental truths are revealed, with sufficient perspicuity, to produce in us that faith, which is the mother of charity. When the Gospel has proposed to us the truths, which give rise to this humble faith, and presented us with such motives, as evidently lead to the most disinterested charity, it has then furnished us with every thing we stand in need of to work out for ourselves a glori-ous salvation. The followers of Christ are required to tread in the steps of their master, and not deeply to speculate upon the secret things of his invisible Kingdom. • If a clear knowledge of the mysterious side of our doctrines, is no more necessary to man in his present state, than an acquaintance with every thing that rea spects the art of printing is necessary to a child, who is studying the alphabet ; why then do we peevishly complain of the sacred writers, for not having thrown light sufficient upon some particular points to satisfy an, inordinate curiosity? Our scruples on this head. should be silenced by the constant declarations of those
very writers, that the time of perfection is not yet arrived ; that they themselves were acquainted, but in part, with the mysteries of the Kingdom ; and that the language of mortality is unsuitable to the sublimity of divine things. The sea has its unfathomable abysses, and an extent unknown to the most experienced navigators : but notwithstanding all this uncertainty, the merchant is perfectly contented, if he can but glide securely over its surface to the port for which be is bound.
If we are placed here in a state of probation, it is reasonable that our understanding, as well as our will, should be brought to the trial. But how shall the Al. mighty proceed to make proof either of the self-sufficiency, or the diffidence of our understanding? No happier method can possibly be adopted, than that of pointing us to such truths, as are partly manifest and partly concealed, that we may search them out with diligence, if there is a possibility of comprehending them : or, if placed above the highest stretch of our faculties, expect with patience a future revelation of them.
To acquire, and manifest dispositions of a truly divine nature, is possible only under a religious economy, whose doctrines are in some degree mysterious, and whose morality has something in it painful to human nature. Why then, do those persons, who affect. to be wiser than their neighbours, universally take of. fence at such a religion ? If a mysterious vail is thrown over the operations of nature, and the workings of Providence ; why should we expect the more wonderful operations of grace to be laid unreservedly open to every eye ? Philosophy, it is presumed, will not dare thus foolishly to destroy the rules of analogy. Humility is necessary to the perfection of our understanding, no less than sagacity and penetration : on which account God is pleased to bring our humility to the test. And this he does, by discovering to us so: much of truth, as may enable us to recognize it on its
first appearance; at the same time, permitting the ob. jects of faith to be surrounded with clifficulties, suffie cient to leave room for the exercise of that humble confidence in his veracity, and that true poverty of spirit, which philosophers, are pleased to hold up, as just subjects of ridicule. Sound knowledge, however, and unaffected humility, will always keep pace with each other. Hence, that memorable confession of Socrates, “ All that I know, is, that I know nothing:" and hence that remarkable declaration of St. Paul, “ If any man think, that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.”
; It is impossible, that any thing should have a greater tendency to keep man at a distance from GOD, than that arrogant self-sufficiency, with which modern free-thinkers are usually puffed up. This unhappy disposition must be totally subdued, before we can come to the fountain-head of pure intelligence : and to effect this, the Almighty permits our understanding to be embarrassed and confounded, till it is constrained to bow before his supreme wisdom, in acknowledgment of its own imbecility. But it is always with the utmost difficulty, and not till after a thousand vain devices have been practised, that human nature can be forced into this state of self-abasement. Here Socrates and St. Paul may be regarded as happy companions, experiencing, in common, that submissive meekness, and that profound humility, which are: so terrible to many professors of wisdom. And it is but reasonable, that the piety of the one, and the philosophy of the other, should have been established up.. on the basis of those rare virtues, which formed the ground of the following address from Christ to his Father: “ I thank thee, O Father! Lord of Heaven and earth, because thou hast hidden these things. from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."
It becomes us so much the more to moderate the sallies of an impatient curiosity, with respect to truths