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fon; being, both by the manner of it, and the affurance that accompanied it, fully satisfied that it was from God.
Secondly, I observe from hence the great and necessary use of reason in matters of faith. For we fee here, that Abraham's reason was a mighty strengthening and help to his faith. Here were two revelations made to Abraham, which seemed to clash with one another ; and if Abraham's reason could not have reconciled the repugnancy of them, he could not possibly have believed them both to be from God; because this natural notion or principle, That God cannot contradict himself, every man does first, and more firmly believe, than any revelation whatsoever.
Now, Abraham's reason relieved him in this strait. So the text expressly tells us: He reasoned with himself, that God was able to raise him from the dead.
And this being admitted, the command of God con-', cerning the saying of Isaac, was, very well consistent with his former promise, That 'in Ifaac his feed should be called.
I know there hath a very rude clamour been raised by fome persons, (but of more zeal, I think, than judgment), against the use of reason in matters of faith. But how very unreasonable this is, will appear to any one that will but have patience to consider these following particulars.
1. The nature of divine revelation ; that it doth not endue men with new faculties, but propoundeth new objects to the faculties which they had before. Reason is the faculty, whereby' revelation is to be discerned; for when God reveals any thing to us, he reveals it to our understanding, and by that we are to judge of it. Therefore St. John cautions us, 1 John iv. j. not to believe every spirit; but to try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world; that is, there are many that falsely pretend to inspiration : but how can these pretenders be tried, and discerned from those that are truly inspired, but by ufing our reason in comparing the evidence for the one and the other? 2. This will farther appear, if we consider the nature
of faith. Faith (as we are now speaking of it) is an af sent of the mind to something as revealed by. God. Now, all assent must be grounded upon evidence; that is, no man can believe any thing, unless he have, or thinks he hath some reason to do so. · For to be confi. dent of a thing without reafon, is not faith ; but a prefumptuous persuasion, and obftinacy of mind. 3. This will
yet be more evident, if we consider the method that most of necessity be used to convince any man of the truth of religion. Suppose we had to deal with one that is a stranger and enemy to Chriftianity, what means are proper to be used to gain him over to it? The most natural method furely were this, to acquaint him with the holy scriptures, which are the rule of our faith and practice. He would alk us, “ Why we believe " that book ?” The proper answer would be, “Be“ cause it is the word of God.” This he could not but acknowledge to be a very good reafon, if it were true. But then he would ask, “Why we believed it to be the « word of God, rather than Mahomet's Alcoran, which
pretends no less to be of divine inspiration ? If any man now should answer, " That he could give
no reafon, why he believed it to be the word of God; “ only be believed it to be so, and so every man elfe
ought to do, without inquiring after any farther rea“ fon; becaufe reason is to be laid afide in matters of « faith : " would not the man presently reply, That " he had just as much reason as this comes to, to be“ lieve the Alcoran, or any thing else ; that is, none at all ?
· But certainly the better way would be, to fatisfy this man's reason, by proper arguments, that the scriptures are a divine revelation; and that no other book in the world can with equal reason pretend to be fo. 'And if this be a good way, then we do and must call in the afsistance of reafon for the proof of our religion.
4. Let it be considered farther, that the highest commendations that are given in fcripture to any one's faith, are given upon account of the reafonableness of it. Abs raham's faith is famous, and made a pattern to all generations, because he reasoned himself into it, notwithstanding the objections to the contrary: and he did not
blindly break through these objections, and wink hard at them; but he looked them in the face, and gave himself reasonable satisfaction concerning them.
The Centurion's faith is commended by our Saviour, Matth. viii. 9. because, when his servant was sick, he did not desire him to come to his house, but to speak the word only, and his fervant should be healed : for he reasoned thus: I am a man under authority, having soldiers una der me; and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh ; and to my servant, Do this, and he doth it. Now, if he that was himself under authority, could thus command those that were under him; much more could he that had a divine power and commislion, do what he pleased by his word. And our Saviour is so far from reprehending him, for reasoning himself into this belief, that he admires his faith so much the more for the reasonableness of it, v 10. When Jesus heard this, he marvelled, and faid to them that followed him, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, ng not in Ifrael.
In like manner, our Saviour commends the woman of Canaan's faith, because she inforced it so reasonably, Matth. xv. 22. She sued him to help her daughter ; but he answered her not a word: and when his disciples could not prevail with him to mind her, yet still she pressed him, saying, Lord, help me.; and when he repulsed her with this severe answer, It is not meet to take the childrens bread, and cast it to dogs, she made this quick and modest reply, Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table. She acknowledgeth her own unworthiness ; but yet believes his goodness to be such, that he will not utterly reject those who humbly seek to him: upon which he gives her this testimony, 0 woman, great is thy faith!
The Apostles were divinely inspired; and yet the Bereans are commended, because they inquired and satisfied themselves in the reasons of their belief, before they afsented to the doctrine which was delivered to them, even by teachers that certainly were infallible.
5. None are reproved in fcripture for their unbelief, but where sufficient reason and evidence was off to
them. The Ifraelites were generally blamed for their infidelity, but then it was after such mighty wonders had been wrought for their conviction.
The Jews in our Saviour's time are not condemned fimply for their unbelief, but for not believing when there was such clear evidence offered to them. So our Saviour' himself says: If I had not done amongst them the works which no other man did, they had not had sin.
Thomas indeed is blamed for the perverseness of his unbelief, because he would believe nothing but what he himself law.
6. Lastly, To shew this yet more plainly, let us consider the great inconvenience and absurdity of declining the use of reason in matters of religion. There can be no greater prejudice to religion, than to decline this trial.
To say, we have no reason for our religion, is to fay, it is unreasonable. Indeed it is reason enough for any article of our faith, that God hath revealed it ; because this is one of the strongest and most cogent reafons for the belief of any thing. But when we say, God hath revealed any thing, we must be ready to prove it, or else we fay nothing. If we turn off reason here, we level the best religion in the world with the wildest and most absurd enthusiafms.
And it does not alter the case much, to give reafon ill names, to call it blind, and carnal reason. Our best reason is but very short and imperfect : but, fince it is no better, we must make use of it as it is, and make the best of it.
Before I pass from this argument, I cannot but obferve, that both the extremes of those who differ from our church are generally great declaiiners against the use of reason in matters of faith. If they find their account in it, it is well. For our parts, we apprehend no man. ner of inconvenience in having reafon on our fide; nor need we to desire a better evidence, that any man is in the wrong, than to hear him declare against reason, and thereby to acknowledge that reason is against him. Men may vilify reason as much as they pleafe ; and though being reviled fhe reviles not again, yet, in a more still and gentle way, fhe commonly hath her full revenge upon all those that rail at her.
I have often wondered, that people can with patience endure to hear their teachers and guides talk against reason; and not only fo, but they pay them the greater submission and veneration for it. One would think this but an odd
way to gain authority over the minds of men: but some skilful and designing men have found by experience, that it is a very good way to recommend them to the ignorant; as nurses use to endear themselves to children, by perpetual noise and nonsense.
Thirdly, 1 observe, that God obligeth no man to believe plain and evident contradictions as matters of faith. 'Abraham could not reasonably have believed this second revelation to have been from God, if he had not found some way to reconcile it with the first. For though a man were never so much disposed to fubmit his reason to divine revelation ; yet it is not possible for any man to believe God against God himself.
Some men seem to think, that they oblige God mightily by believing plain contradictions. But the matter is quite otherwise. He that made man a reasonable.creature, cannot take it kindly from any man to debase his workmanship, by making himself unreasonable. And therefore, as no service or obedience, so no faith is acceptable unto God, but what is reasonable. If it be not so, it may be confidence or presumption ; but it is not faith. For he that can believe plain contradictions, may believe any thing, how abfurd foever ; because nothing can be more absurd than the belief of a plain contradiction : and he that can believe any thing, believes nothing upon good grounds, because to him truth and fallhood are all one.
Fourthly, I observe, that the great cause of the defect of mens obedience is the weakness of their faith. Did we believe the commands of God in the gospel, and his promises and threatenings, as firmly as Abraham believed God in this case, what should we not be ready to do or suffer in obedience to him?
If our faith were but as strong and vigorous as his was, the effects of it would be as great and conspicuous. Were we verily persuaded, that all the precepts of our religion are the express laws of God, and that all the promises, and threatenings of the gospel will one day be