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understand or comprehend. And in this sense I look upon the assertion to be groundless and false; and that, in this sense, faith can no more be above reason, than it can be contrary to it.
Pyrrho proceeded in his objections, and said, there are numberless things, which exceed our capacity, or which are unintelligible and incomprehensible to us, at least in the present state ; and yet we firmly believe them, though we do not understand them; and therefore it is plain we may believe things which we do not understand.
Theophilus desired Pyrrho to name one of those many propositions, which he believed, though he did not understand it.
Pyrrho replied that, as to giving an account of his own faith, he desired to be excused; and that he was not a divine sufficiently learned and profound readily to mention such a proposition. He intimated further, that he was representing the sentiments of others, and that he had frequently met with this objection.
Theophilus acknowledged that there are many things, which we do not understand. But then, said he, as long as we do not understand them, they are the objects, not of our faith, but of our ignorance. For, as long as we understand them not, the assenting to them is in effect assenting to nothing; and that is in reality no assent at all.
Well but, Theophilus, said Pyrrho, will you not allow that there are many things, which we actually and
firmly believe, though we cannot comprehend how they are effected; or do not understand the mode or manner of their existence, with all their relations, connexions, and circumstances ? For instance, we believe that God made the world, though we do not know how he made it. We believe that the soul and body of man are united, and mutually influence one another, though we do not know how they are united, or how body and spirit can have such a mutual influ
We believe that God will raise the dead, but how he will do it, that we understand not, neither can we at present comprehend. And many more like instances might be named.
Theophilus replied, that the same answer might be returned to this objection as to the last, viz. as far as we believe, so far we must have ideas; and that, where our ideas end, there ends our assent or faith. Unless we understand what is meant by these words, God created the world, how could we talk or think about such a thing ? Unless we had the ideas affixed to the words body and spirit, we could not talk of their union. And, if we have no meaning to such words, then to say they are united, would be to talk of the union of nothing with nothing. So likewise we know what is meant by a man's being dead, and raised, or brought to life again; otherwise we should mean nothing, when we speak of the resurrection from the dead. To believe that God made the world is to believe a thing, that is both comprehensible and highly
reasonable. Who should make the world but God? Such an extensive and complicated, such a wise and glorious production must needs have been the effect of the most consummate wisdom, goodness, and power, exerted immediately by the first cause and original author of all; or by some being, that has derived his power from the first cause. From the visible creation, we are naturally led up to the invisible cause and author of all; and here is nothing incomprehensible in all this. That God made the world is one proposition. How he made it would be another, and a quite different proposition. The first we believe and understand. The latter we know and understand nothing of. The last, therefore, is not the object of our knowledge, or of our faith, but of our ignorance. That the soul and body of man are united is one proposition. How they are united would be another, and a quite different proposition. The first we understand and believe. The latter we know nothing of. This last therefore, again, is the object of our ignorance, not of our knowledge or faith. That men are to die, and that Jesus Christ will raise them from the dead, or bring them to life again, are propositions contained in Scripture; and they are both very plain and intelligible. How Jesus Christ will raise the dead is another, and a quite different proposition, which God hath not seen fit to reveal to us.
We are not, therefore, required to know or believe anything about it. The fact, in all these cases, is one thing; the mode or manner is another
and a quite distinct thing. The former we understand and believe. The latter we neither understand nor believe; for we know nothing at all of it.
Pyrrho said, Theophilus, suppose that God should tell you, that a thing is so and so; will you not believe it, unless he acquaint you with the mode or manner of it; how it is effected or how it exists; or how it is reconcileable with all the other truths you are acquainted with? Theophilus answered, as far as God reveals anything, so far he explains or discovers it. And whatever God says, I am very ready to assent to it, for that very reason, that God hath said it. Because whatever God says must be true. But I must understand what is said, as well as be satisfied that the discovery came from God, before I can believe it as a divine revelation. If God reveals anything with its mode and manner, and all its relations and circumstances, then I believe that, with its mode and manner, and all its relations and circumstances. If God reveals part of a thing, as far as God reveals it so far I believe it. Secret things belong to the Lord our God. They are his peculiar, and we have nothing to do with them. They cannot, therefore, be the objects of our knowledge or of our faith.
Whatever contradicts a known truth, or is irreconcileable with it, that cannot possibly be part of a divine revelation. As long as I think it inconsistent with any known truth, so long I must either reject it, or suppose that I have not yet the true meaning of the words in which it is delivered. Where our ideas are clear, there our faith may be clear. Where our ideas are confused or obscure, there our faith must necessarily be confused or obscure. Where our ideas are adequate, there our faith may be adequate. Where our ideas are short or partial, there our faith must be partial, or extended only to part of a thing. But where we have no ideas at all, there we can have no faith at all.
Pyrrho smiled and said, surely, Theophilus, you are a strange man; and I could hardly have believed it of you. What, will no objection stand before you? Nor anything prove to you, that men may believe what they cannot understand ? I have one objection more, which so modest a man, as you are, will scarce know what to say to.
And that is, that fathers as well as moderns, ductors and bishops, philosophers and divines, eminently learned, great and good men, have contended for believing things which we do not understand. And surely, such wise and good men could never all be mistaken; neither can it be supposed that they would have contended for this opinion, unless there had been truth and reason in it.
You yourself have acknowledged that Tertullian said of one article, "I believe it, because it is impossible.” And that bishop Beveridge has assigned it as a reason for his believing another article of faith, “That he could not conceive or understand it."*
See the Reasonableness of the Christian Religion, &c. p. 132, &c.