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the world; for it would be an endless task: and, without a word more being said, the horrible blindness of the human mind sufficiently appears from such a multiplicity of corruptions. I pass over the rude and unlearned vulgar. But among the philosophers, (s) who attempted with reason and learning to penetrate heaven, how shameful is the diversity! In proportion to the vigour of his natural genius, and the polish acquired by art and science, each of them seemed to give the more specious colouring to his own opinion: but, on a close inspection, you will find them all fading colours. The Stoics said, in their own opinion very shrewdly, that from all the parts of nature may be collected various names of God, but yet that the one God is not therefore divided, (t) As if we were not already too much inclined to vanity, without being farther and more violently seduced into error, by the notion of such a various abundance of gods. The mystical theology of the Egyptians also shews, that they all sedulously endeavoured to preserve the appearance of reason in the midst of their folly, (v) And any thing apparently probable might, at first sight, perhaps deceive the simple and incautious; but there never was any human invention by which religion was not basely corrupted. And this confused diversity emboldened the Epicureans, and other gross despisers of piety, to reject all idea of God. For, seeing the wisest of men contending with each other for contrary opinions, they hesitated not, from their dissentions, and from the frivolous and absurd doctrines maintained by the different parties, to infer, that it was vain and foolish for men to torment themselves with investigations concerning God, who does not exist. And this they thought they might do with impunity, supposing that a compendious denial of any God at all, would be better than feigning uncertain gods, and thereby occasioning endless controversies. They reason very ignorantly, or rather endeavour to conceal their own impiety behind the ignorance of men, which not at all justifies any encroachment on God. But from the general confession, that there is no subject productive of so many dis-
(«) Lactam Institut div.
(r) Seneca, lib. 4. de benef. Sec.
(v) Plutarch. Tib. 1. de Isid. W Osirid. Cie. lib. 1. de Nat. Deor.
sentions among the learned as well as the unlearned, it is inferred, that the minds of men, which err so much in investigations concerning God, are extremely blind and stupid in celestial mysteries. Others commend the answer of Si. monides, (w) who, being asked by Hiero the Tyrant, what God was, requested a day to consider it. When the tyrant, the next day, repeated the inquiry, he begged to be allowed two days longer. And, having often doubled the number of days, at length answered, "The longer I consider the subject, the more obscure it appears to me." He prudently suspended his opinion on a subject so obscure to him; yet this shews, that men, who are taught only by nature, have no certain, sound, or distinct knowledge, but are confined to confused principles; so that they worship an unknown God.
XIII. Now it must also be maintained, that whoever adulterates the pure religion, (which must necessarily be the case of all who are influenced by their own imagination,) he is guilty of a departure from the one God. They will profess, indeed, a different intention: but what they intend, or what they persuade themselves, is of little importance; since the Holy Spirit pronounces all to be apostates, who, in the darkness of their minds, substitute demons in the place of God. For this reason Paul declares the Ephesians to have been "without God" (x)-. till they had learned from the Gospel the worship of the true God. Nor should this be restricted to one nation only, since, in another place, he asserts of men in general, that they "became vain in their imaginations," (y) after the majesty of the Creator had been discovered to them in the structure of the world. And therefore the Scripture, to make room for the only true God, condemns, as false and lying, whatever was formerly worshipped as divine among the Gentiles; (z) and leaves no deity but in mount Sion, where flourished the peculiar knowledge of God. Indeed, among the Gentiles, the Samaritans, in the days of Christ, seemed to approach very nearly to true piety; yet we hear, from the mouth of Christ, that they " worshipped they knew not what:" (a) whence it follows, that they were under a vain and erroneous
(to) Cic. lib. 1. de Nat Deor. (*) Ephes. u. 12.
(y) Rom. i. 21. (it) Heb. ii. 18, 20. (a) John iv. 22.
delusion. In fine, though they were not all the subjects of gross vices, or open idolaters, there was no pure and approved religion, their notions being founded only in common sense. For though there were a few uninfected with the madness of the vulgar, this assertion of Paul remains unshaken, that "none of the princes of this world knew the wisdom of God." (b) But if the most exalted have been involved in the darkness of error, what must be said of the dregs of the people? Wherefore it is not surprising if the Holy Spirit reject, as spurious, every form of worship which is of human contrivance: because, in the mysteries of heaven, an opinion acquired by human means, though it may not always produce an immense mass of errors, yet always produces some. And though no worse consequence follow, it is no trivial fault, to worship, at an uncertainty, an unknown god: of which, however, Christ pronounces all to be guilty, who have not been taught by the law what god they ought to worship. And indeed the best legislators have proceeded no farther than to declare religion to be founded on common consent. And even Socrates, in Xenophon, (c) praises the answer of Apollo, which directed that every man should worship the gods according to the rites of his country, and the custom of his own city. But whence had mortals this right of determining, by their own authority, what far exceeds all the world? or who could so acquiesce in the decrees of the rulers or the ordinances of the people, as without hesitation to receive a god delivered to him by the authority of man? Every man will rather abide by his own judgment, than be subject to the will of another. Since, then, the following of the custom of a city, or the consent of antiquity, in divine worship, is too weak and frail a bond of piety, it remains for God himself to give a revelation concerning himself from heaven.
XIV. Vain, therefore, is the light afforded us in the formation of the world to illustrate the glory of its Author: which, though its rays be diffused all around us, is insufficient to conduct us into the right way. Some sparks indeed are kindled, but smothered before they have emitted any great
(A)1 Cor. ii.&
(c) Xenoph. dc Dict. ct Fact. Soertt. lib. 1. Cic. de Legib. lib. 2. Vol. I. K
degree of light. Wherefore the Apostle, in the place before cited, says, "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God;" (d) thus intimating, that the invisible Deity was represented by such visible objects, yet that we have no eyes to discern him, unless they be illuminated through faith by an internal revelation of God. Nor does Paul, where he observes that "that which may be known of God is manifest" (e) in the creation of the world, design such a manifestation as human sagacity may comprehend; but rather shews, that its utmost extent is to render men inexcuseable. The same writer also, though in one place (_/") he denies that God is to be traced as if he were at a great distance from us, yet teaches, in another place, (g) the consequences of such a proximity. God, says he, " in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness" (A) Though the Lord, then, is not destitute of a testimony concerning himself, while with various and most abundant benignity he sweetly allures mankind to the knowledge of him: yet they persist in following their own ways, their pernicious and fatal errors.
■ XV. But whatever deficiency of natural ability prevents us from attaining the pure and clear knowledge of God: yet since that deficiency arises from our own fault, we are left without any excuse. Nor indeed can we set up any pretence of ignorance, that will prevent our own consciences from perpetually accusing us of indolence and ingratitude. Truly it would be a defence worthy to be admitted, if a man should plead that he wanted ears to hear the truth, for the publication of which even the mute creatures are supplied with most melodious voices; if he should allege that his eyes are not capable of seeing what is demonstrated by the creatures, without the help of the eyes; if he should plead mental imbecility, while all the irrational creatures instruct us. Wherefore we are justly excluded from all excuse for our uncertain and extravagant deviations, since all things conspire to shew us. the right
(i0 Heb. xi. 3. (e) Rom. i. 19. (/) Rom. i. 20.
(g) Acts xvii. 27. <A)Acts xiv. 16, W.
way. But however men are chargeable with sinfully corrupting the seeds of divine knowledge, which, by the wonderful operation of nature, are sown in their hearts, so that they produce no good and fair crop; yet it is beyond a doubt, that the simple testimony magnificently borne by the creatures to the glory of God, is very insufficient for our instruction. For as soon as a survey of the world has just shewn us a deity, neglecting the true God, we set up in his stead the dreams and phantasms of our own brains; and confer on them, the praise of righteousness, wisdom, goodness, and power, due to him. We either obscure his daily acts, or pervert them by an erroneous estimate; thereby depriving the acts themselves of their glory, and their Author of his deserved praise.
The Guidance and Teaching of the Scripture necessary to lead to the Knowledge of God the Creator.
1HOUGH the light which presents itself to all eyes, both in heaven and in earth, is more than sufficient to deprive the ingratitude of men of every excuse, since God, in order to involve all mankind in the same guilt, sets before them all, without exception, an exhibition of his majesty, delineated in the creatures; yet we need another and better assistance, properly to direct us to the Creator of the world. Therefore he hath not unnecessarily added the light of his word, to make himself known unto salvation, and hath honoured with this privilege those whom he intended to unite in a more close and familiar connection with himself. For, seeing the minds of all men to be agitated with unstable dispositions, when he had chosen the Jews as his peculiar flock, he enclosed them as in a fold, that they might not wander after the vanities of other nations. And it is not without cause that he preserves us in the pure knowledge of himself by the same means; for, otherwise, they who seem comparatively to stand firm, would soon fall. For as persons who are old, or whose eyes are by any means become dim, if you shew them the most beautiful book4