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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 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 it 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. But we can 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.
6 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
2 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 judg. ment, 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 Philosoplay, 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 signi. fies,) 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.—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 Mes. siah, 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. Ist. 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 have 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 hid, 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 con
cerning 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 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 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 with fiery zeal, insist on the profession of a great number of doctrines, and several 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 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 infringement on the high authority they claim. And some Protestants have a zeal for doctrines from like views ; doctrines, indeed, for which they have no great value, in themselves considered.
§ 17. That it is not alone sufficient to believe this 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
The reasons, or grounds, of the love and honour 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 sinful, miserable, helpless state ; a state wherein we deserved no mercy, but eternal misery, 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 import
But the absurdity of this may be easily manifested. If it be independent of all means, then it may be independent of natural information, or of the truths of the light of nature, as well as of revealed religion ; and men may sincerely regard and honour they know not what. The truths of natural religion, wherein Christians differ from the most ignorant, brutish, and deluded idolaters, the most savage and 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 of means, is, that they have a notion that sincerity is independent of God, any otherwise than as they depend on him for their creation. They conceive it to be independent of 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 gives 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 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 doubt. less 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 excel. lency 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 Phænicians, 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 had 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.?
§ 23. The definition of a mystery, according to Stapferus, Theol. 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