Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

and properties of the same kind of beings, but also in the nature itself. So that, if there be a kind of created perceptive beings, in their nature vastly superior to the human, which none will deny to be possible, and a revelation should be given us concerning the nature, acts, and operations of this kind of creatures ; It would be no wonder, if such a revelation should contain some things very much out of our reach, attended with great difficulty to our reason, being things of such a kind, that no improvement of our minds, that we are capable of, will bring us to an experience of any thing like them. But, above all, if a revelation be made to us concerning that being who is uncreated and self-existent, who is infinitely diverse from and above all others, in his nature, and so infinitely above all that any advancement of our nature can give us any consciousness of: in such a revelation, it would be very strange indeed, if there should not be some great mysteries, quite beyond our comprehension, and attended with difficulties which it is impossible for us fully to solve and explain.

$ 16. It may well be expected, that a revelation of truth, concerning an infinite being, should be attended with mystery. We find, that the reasonings and conclusions of the best metaphysicians and mathematicians, concerning infinites, are attended with paradoxes and seeming inconsistencies. Thus it is concerning infinite lines, surfaces and solids, which are things external. But much more may this be expected in infinite spiritual things; such as infinite thought, infinite apprehension, infinite reason, infinite will, love, and joy, infinite spiritual power, agency, &c.

Nothing is more certain, than that there must be an unmade and unlimited being ; and yet, the very notion of such a being is all mystery, involving nothing but incomprehensible paradoxes, and seeming inconsistencies. It involves the notion of a being, self-existent and without any cause, which is utterly inconceivable, and seeins repugnant to all our ways of conception. An infinite spiritual being, or infinite understanding and will and spiritual power, must be omnipresent, without extension; which is nothing but mystery and seeming inconsistence.

The notion of an infinite eternal, implies absolute immutability. That which is in all respects infinite, absolutely perfect, to the utmost degree, and at all times, cannot be in any respect variable. And this immutability being constant from eternity implies duration without succession, and is wholly a mystery and seeming inconsistence. It seeins as much as to say, an infinitely great or long duration all at once, or all in a moment; which seems to be saying, an infinitely great in an infinitely little; or an infinitely long line in, a point without any length.

$ 17. Infinite understanding, which implies an understanding of all things past, present and future ; and of all truth and all reason and argument, implies infinite thought and reason. But, how this can be absolutely without mutation, or succession of acts, seems mysterious and absurd. We can conceive of no such thing as thinking, without successive acting of the mind about ideas. Perfect knowledge of all things, even of all the things of external sense, without any sensation, or any reception of ideas from without, is an inconceivable mystery. Infinite Inowledge, implies a perfect comprehensive view of a whole future eternity; which seems utterly impossible. For, how can there be any reaching of the whole of this to comprehend it without reaching to the utmost limits of it? But this canuot be, where there is no such thing as utmost limits. And again, if God perfectly views an eternal succession or chain of events, then he perfectly sees every individual part of that chain, and there is no one link of it hid from his sight. And

yet there is no one link that has not innumerable links beyond it; from which it would seem to follow, that there is a link beyond all the links that he sees, and consequently, that there is one link, yea, innumerable links, that he sees not; inasmuch as there are innumerable links beyond every one that he sees. And many other such seeming contradictions might be mentioned, which attend the supposition of God's omniscience.

If there be absolutely immutability in God, then there never arises any new act in God, or new exertion of himself; and yet there arise new effects: which seems an utter inconsistence. And so innumerable other such like mysteries and paradoxes are involved in the notion of an infinite and eternal intelligent being. Insomuch, that if there had never been any revelation, by which God had made known himself by his word to mankind; the most speculative persons would, without doubt, have for ever been exceedingly at a loss concerning the nature of the Supreme Being and first cause of the universe. And that some of the ancient philosophers and wiser Heathens had so good notions of God as they had, seems to be much more owing to tradition, which originated from divine revelation, than from their own invention; though human nature served to keep those traditions alive in the world, and led the more considerate to embrace and retain the imperfect traditions which were to be found in any parts remaining as they appeared, when once suggested and delivered agreeable to reason.

§ 18. If a revelation be made of the principal scheme of the supreme and infinitely wise Ruler respecting his moral kingdom, wherein his all-sufficient wisdom is displayed, in the case of its greatest trial ; ordering and regulating the said moral kingdom to its great ends, when in the most difficult circumstances; extricating it out of the most extreme calamities, in which it had been involved by the malice and subtilty of the chief and most crafty of all God's enemies, should we expect no mysteries? If it be the principal of all the effects of the wisdom of him, the depth of whose wisdom is unsearchable and absolutely infinite ; his deepest scheme, by which mainly the grand design of the universal, incomprehensibly complicated system of all his operations, and the infinite series of his aduninistrations, is most happily, completely and gloriously attained ; the scheme in which God's wisdom is mainly exercised and displayed: it may reasonably be expected, that such a revelation will contain many mysteries.

We see that to be the case, even as to many works of human wisdom and art. They appear strange, paradoxical, and incomprehensible, by those that are vastly inferior in sagacity, or are entirely destitute of that skill or art.

How are many of the effects of human art attended with many things that appear strange and altogether incomprehensible by children, and many others seeming to be beyond and against nature ; and in many cases, the effect produced not only seems to be beyond the power of any visible means, but inconsistent with it, being an effect contrary, to what would be expected: the means seems inconsistent with the end.

§ 19. If God reveal the exact truth in those things which, in the language of the Heathen sages, are matters of philosophy, especially, things concerning the nature of the Deity, and the nature of man as related to the Deity, &c. it may most reasonably be expected, that such a revelation should contain many mysteries and paradoxes, considering how many mysteries the doctrines of the greatest and best philosophers, in all ages, concerning these things, have contained ; or at least, how very mysterious, and seemingly repugnant they are to the reason of the vulgar, and persons of less understanding ; and considering how mysterious the principles of philosophers, even concerning matters far inferior to these, would have appeared in any former age, if they had been revealed to be true, which however are now received as the most undoubted truths.

If God gives mankind his word in a large book, consisting of a vast variety of parts, many books, histories, prohecies, prayers, songs, parables, proverbs, doctrines, promises, sermons, epistles, and discourses of very many kinds, all connected to gether, all united in one grand drift and design; and one part having a various and manifold respect to others; so as to become one great work of God, and one grand system; as is the system of the universe, with its vast variety of parts connected in one grand work of God : it may well be expected that there should be mysteries, things incomprehensible and exceeding difficult to our understanding ; analogous to the mysteries that are found in all the other works of God, as the works of creation and providence ; and particularly such as are analogous to

VOL. VII.

35

the mysteries that are observable in the system of the natural world, and the frame of man's own nature.

$ 20. If it be still objected, that it is peculiarly unreasonable that mysteries should be supposed in a revelation given to mankind; because, if there be such a revelation, the direct and principal design of it must be, to teach mankind, and to inform iheir understandings, which is inconsistent with its delivering things to man which he cannot understand: and which do not inform but only puzzle and confound his understanding : I answer,

Ist. Men are capable of understanding as much as is pretended to be revealed ; though they cannot understand all that belongs to the things rerealed. For instance, God may reveal, that there are three who have the same nature of the Deity, whom it is most proper for us to look upon as three persons ; though the particular manner of their distinction, or how they differ, may not be revealed. He may reveal that the Godhead was united to man, so as to be properly looked upon as the same person ; and yet not reveal how it was effected.

2d. No allowance is made in the objection, for what may be understood of the word of God in future ages, which is not now understood. And it is to be considered, that divine revelation is not given only for the present or past ages.

3d. The seeming force of this objection, lies wholly in this, that we must suppose whatever God does, tends to answer the end for which he does it; but that those parts of a revelation which we cannot understand, do not answer the end, inasmuch as informing our understandings is the very end of a revelation, if there be any such thing.

$ 21. But this objection is no other, than just equivalent to an objection which may be made against many parts of the creation, particularly of this lower world. It is apparent, the most direct and principal end of this lower world was, to be for the habitation, use, and benefit of mankind, the head of this lower world. But there are some parts of it that seem to be of no use to man, but are rather inconvenient and prejudicial to him; as, the innumerable stones and rocks that overspread so great a part of the earth, which as to any thing known, are altogether useless, and oftentimes are rather an inconvenience than benefit.

Thus, it is reasonable to expect, that, in such a revelation, there should be many things plain and easy to be understood ; and that the revelation should be most intelligible, wherein it is most necessary for us to understand it, in order to our guidance and direction in the way to our happiness; but that there should also be many incomprehensible mysteries in it, many things understood in part, but yet that room should be left for vast improvement in the knowledge of them, to the end of the world. It is reasonable to expect, that the case should actually be the same as concerning the works of nature :

that many things which were formerly great and insuperable difficulties, unintelligible mysteries, should now, by further study and improvement, be well cleared up, and cease longer to remain difficulties; and that other difficulties should be considerably diminished, though not yet fully cleared up.

It may be expected that, as in the system of nature so in the system of revelation, there should be many parts whose use is but little understood, and many that should seem wholly useless, yea, and some that should seem rather to do hurt than good. I might further observe, that if we have a revelation given in ancient languages, used among a people whose customs and phraseology are but very imperfecily understood, many difficulties will arise from hence. And, in a very concise history, in which only some particular facts and circumstances that concern the special purpose of that revelation, are mentioned--and innumerable others are omitted that would be proper to be mentioned, if the main design were to give a full, clear, connected, continued history of such a people, or such affairs as the history mentions—it is no wonder that many doubts and difficulties arise.

§ 22. Tindal's main argument against the need of any revelation, is, that the law of nature is absolutely perfect. But how weak and impertinent is this arguing, that because the law of nature (which is no other than natural rectitude and obligation) is perfect, therefore the light of nature is sufficient. To say, that the law of nature is perfect, yea, absolutely perfect, is no more than to say, that what is naturally fit and right in itself, is indeed right; and that what is in itself, or in its own nature perfectly and absolutely right, is absolutely right. But this is an empty, insipid kind of doctrine. It is an idle way of spending time, ink, and paper, to spend them in proving, that what is in its own nature perfectly true, is perfectly true ; and what is in its nature perfectly good, is perfectly good ; or that what is, is, and is as it is. But this is all that can be meant by the law of nature being perfect.

And how far is this from having any reference to that question, whether we have by mere nature, without instruction, all that light and advantage ihat we need, clearly and fully to know what is right, and all that is needful for us to be and to do, in our circumstances as sinners, &c. in order to the forgiveness of sin, the favour of God, and our own happiness? What, according to the nature of things, is fittest and best, may be most perfect; and yet our natural knowledge of this, may be most imperfect.

İf Tindal, or any other deist, would assert, and urge it upon mankind as an assertion that they ought to believe, that the light of nature is so sufficient to teach all mankind what they ought, or in any respect need to be, and to believe and practise

« AnteriorContinua »