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version of the pagan world, and by the progress of the gospel, and which can find no parallel in the religion of Mahomet, propagated with the sword, as is confessed by his followers, who say, that he fought sixty battles, and called himself the military prophet. Whereas Christianity was established by the prodigies of the Spirit, and by force of argument. The mysteries of the gospel are not therefore in the first class, which render a religion suspected. They do not conceal its origin. This is what we proposed to prove.
Spirit, do not proceed in this manner. Are not these ideas contradictory? No, my brethren.
If we should say, that God has but one essence, and that he has three essences, in the same sense that we maintain he has but one; if we should say, that God is three in the same sense he is one, it would be a contradiction. But this is not our thesis. We believe on the faith of a divine book, that God is one in the sense to which we give the confused name of essence. We believe that he is three in a sense to which we give the confused name of persons. We determine neither what is this essence, nor what is this personality. That surpasses reason but does not revolt it.
II. Mysteries should expose a religion to suspicion, when they imply an absurdity. Yes, and if Christianity notwithstanding the luminous proofs of its divine authority; notwith- If we should say, that God in the sense we standing the miracles of its founder; notwith-have called Essence, is become incarnate, and standing the sublimity of its doctrines; notwith-at the same time this notion is not incarnate, standing the sanctity of its moral code, the we should advance a contradiction. But this completion of its prophecies, the magnificence is not our thesis. We believe on the faith of of its promises; notwithstanding the convincing facts which prove that the books containing this religion were written by men divinely inspired; notwithstanding the number and the grandeur of its miracles; notwithstanding the confession of its adversaries, and its public monuments; if it was possible, notwithstanding all this, should the Christian religion include absurdities, it ought to be rejected. Be
a divine book, that what is called the person of the Son in the Godhead, and of which we confess that we have not a distinct idea, is united to the humanity in a manner we cannot determine, because it has not pleased God to reveal it. This surpasses reason, but does not revolt it.
We believe on the credit of a divine book, that what is called the Holy Spirit in the Godhead, and of which we confess we have no distinct idea, because it has not pleased God to give it, has procession ineffable, while what is called the Father and the Son, differing from the Holy Spirit in that respect, do not proceed. This surpasses reason, but does not revolt it.
If we should advance, that God (the Spirit) in the sense we have called Essence, proceeds from the Father and the Son, while the Father Every character of the divinity here adduc- and the Son do not proceed, we should advance ed, is founded on argument. Whatever is de-a contradiction. But this is not our thesis. monstrated to a due degree of evidence ought to be admitted without dispute. The proofs of the divine authority of religion are demonstrated to that degree; therefore the Christian religion ought to be received without dispute. But were it possible that a contradiction should exist; were it possible that a proposition, appearing to us evidently false, should be true, evidence would no longer then be the character of truth, and if evidence should no longer be the character of truth, you would have no farther marks by which you could know that a religion is divine. Consequently, you could not be assured, that the gospel is divine. To me, nothing is more true than this proposition, a whole is greater than a part. I would reject a religion how true soever it might appear, if it contradicted this fact; because, how evident soever the proofs might be alleged in favour of its divinity, they could never be more evident than the rejected proposition, that a whole is greater than a part. Our proposition is therefore confirmed, that mysteries ought to render a religion suspected when they imply absurdities. We wish you to judge of the Christian religion according to this rule.
Now if there be in our gospels a doctrine concerning which a good logician has apparent cause to exclaim, it is this; a God, who has but one essence, and who nevertheless has three persons; the Son, and the Holy Spirit who is God; and these three are but one. The Father, who is with the Son, does not become incarnate, when the Son becomes incarnate. The Son, who is with the Father, no longer maintains the rights of justice in Gethsemane, when the Father maintains them. The Holy Spirit, who is with the Father and the Son, proceeds from both in a manner ineffable: and the Father and the Son, who is with the Holy
We go even farther. We maintain not only that there is no contradiction in those doctrines, but that a contradiction is impossible. What is a contradiction in regard to us? It is an evident opposition between two known ideas. For instance, I have an idea of this pulpit, and of this wall. I see an essential difference between the two. Consequently, I find a contradiction in the proposition, that this wall, and this pulpit are the same being.
Such being the nature of a contradiction, 1 say, it is impossible that any should be found in this proposition, that there is one divine essence in three persons: to find a contradiction, it is requisite to have a distinct idea of what ĺ call essence, and of what I call person: and, as I profess to be perfectly ignorant of the one, and the other, it is impossible I should find an absurdity. When, therefore, I affirm, that there is a divine essence in three persons, I do not pretend to explain either the nature of the unity, or the nature of the Trinity. I pretend to advance only that there is something in God which surpasses me, and which is the basis of this proposition; viz. there is a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit.
But though the Christian religion be fully exculpated for teaching doctrines which destroy themselves, the Church of Rome cannot be justified, whatever efforts her greatest geniuses may make, in placing the doctrine of the Trini
ty, on the parallel with the doctrine of transubstantiation, and in defending it against us with the same argument with which we defend the other against unbelievers.
Were we, I allow, to seek the faith of the church of Rome in the writings of some individual doctors, this doctrine would be less liable to objections. Some of them have expressed themselves, on this subject, in an undetermined way; and have avoided detail. They say in general, that the body of Christ is in the sacrament of the eucharist, and that they do not presume to define the manner.
from what we said at the commencement of this article. A Roman Catholic, consonant to his principles, has no right to believe the divine authority of the Christian religion, for the evidences of Christianity terminate on this principle, that evidence is the character of truth. But if the doctrine of transubstantiation be true, palpable absurdities ought to be believed by the Roman Catholic; evidence, in regard to him, being no longer the character of truth. If evidence in regard to him be no longer the character of truth, proofs the most evident in favour of Christianity, can carry no conviction to him, and he is justified in not believing them.
I go farther still; I maintain to the most zealous defender of the doctrine of transubstantiation, that properly speaking, he does not believe the doctrine of transubstantiation. He may indeed verbally assert his faith, but he can never satisfy his conscience: he may indeed becloud his mind by a confusion of ideas, but he can never induce it to harmonize contradictory ideas: he may indeed inadvertently adhere to this proposition, a body having but a limited circumference, is at the same time in heaven, and at the same time on earth, with the same circumfe rence. But no man can believe this doctrine, if by believing, you mean the connecting of distinct ideas; for no man whatever can connect together both distinct and contradictory.
But we must seek the faith (and it is the method which all should follow who have a controversy to maintain against those of that communion;) we must, I say, seek the faith of the church of Rome in the decisions of her general councils, and not in the works of a few individuals. And as the doctors of the council of Trent lived in a dark age, in which philosophy had not purified the errors of the schools, they had the indiscretion, not only to determine, but also to detail this doctrine; and thereby committed themselves by a manifest contradiction. Hear the third canon of the third session of the council of Trent. "If any one deny, that in the venerable sacrament of the eucharist, the body of Christ is really present in both kinds, and in such sort that the body of Christ is wholly present in every separate part of the host, let him be anathematized." Can one fall into a more manifest contradic-mysteries should render a religion suspected, tion? If you should say, that the bread is destroyed, and that the body of Christ intervenes by an effort of divine omnipotence, you might perhaps shelter yourself from the reproach of absurdity; you might escape under the plea of mystery, and the limits of the human mind. But to affirm that the substance of the bread is destroyed, while the kinds of bread, which are still but the same bread, modified in such a manner, subsist, is not to advance a mystery, but an absurdity. It is not to prescribe bounds to the human mind, but to revolt its convictions, and extinguish its knowledge.
If you should say, that the body of Christ, which is in heaven, passes in an instant from heaven to earth, you might perhaps shelter yourself from the reproach of absurdity, and escape under the plea of mystery, and of the limits of the human mind. But to affirm, that the body of Christ, while it is wholly in heaven, is wholly on earth, is not to advance a mystery, but to maintain a contradiction. It is to revolt all its convictions, and to extinguish all its knowledge.
If you should say, that some parts of the body of Jesus Christ are detached, and mixed with the symbols of the holy sacrament, you might perhaps avert the charge of contradiction, and escape under the plea of mystery, and the limits of the human mind. But to affirm, that the body of Christ is but one in number, and meanwhile, that it is perfect and entire in all the parts of the host, which are without number, is not to advance a mystery, it is to maintain a contradiction. It is not to prescribe bounds to the human mind, but to revolt all its convictions, and to extinguish all its knowledge.
So you may indeed conclude, my brethren,
III. We have said in the third place, that
when they hide certain practices contrary to virtue and good manners. This was a characteristic of paganism. The pagans for the most part affected a great air of mystery in their religious exercises. They said, that mystery conciliated respect for the gods. Hence, dividing their mysteries into two classes, they had their major and their minor mysteries But all these were a covert for impurity! Who can read without horror the mysteries of the god Apis, even as they are recorded in pagan authors? What infamous ceremonies did they not practise in honour of Venus, when initiated into the secrets of the Goddess? What mysterious precautions did they not adopt concerning the mysteries of Ceres in the city of Eleusis? No man was admitted without mature experience, and a long probation. It was so established, that those who were not initiated, could not participate of the secrets. Nero did not dare to gratify his curiosity on this head;* and the wish to know secrets allowed to be disclosed only by gradual approach, was regarded as a presumption. It was forbidden under the penalty of death to disclose those mysteries, and solely, if we may believe Theodoret, and Tertullian, to hide the abominable ceremonies, whose detail would defile the majesty of this place. And if the recital would so deeply defile, what must the practice be?
The mysteries of Christianity are infinitely distant from all those infamous practices. The gospel not only exhibits a most hallowing morality, but whatever mysteries it may teach, it requires that we should draw from their very obscurity motives to sanctity of life. If we say, that there are three persons who participate in
Life of Nero by Suetonius, chap. 34.
ficulties Have rational men need to be convinced, that the mysteries of religion are infinitely more defensible than the mysteries of atheism.
the divine Essence, it is to make you conceive, that all which is in God, if I may so speak, is interested for our salvation, and to enkindle our efforts by the thought. If we say, that the Word was made flesh, and that the Son of God expired on the cross, it is to make you abhor sin by the idea of what it cost him to expiate it. If we say, that grace operates in the heart, and that in the work of our salvation, grace forms the design and the execution, it is with this inference, that we should "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling." If we teach even the doctrines of God's de-argument, that God having not disdained to crees, it is "to make our calling sure," Phil. ii. 12; 1 Pet. i. 10.
Do you espouse the part of irreligion? Do you allow with Epicures, that there is a God; but that the sublimity of his Majesty obstructs his stooping to men, and the extension of his regards to our temples, and our altars? And is this the system which has no difficulties? How do you reply to the infinity of objections opposed to this system? How do you answer this
create mankind, it is inconceivable he should disdain to govern them? How do you reply to a second, the inconceivableness that a perfect being should form intelligences, and not prescribe their devotion to his glory? And what do you say to a third, that religion is completely formed, and fully proved in every man's conscience?
IV. We have lastly said, that mysteries should render a religion doubtful, when we find a system, which on rejecting those mysteries, is exempt from greater difficulties than those we would attack. We make this remark as a compliment to unbelievers, and to the impure class of brilliant wits. When we have proved, Do you take the part of denying a divine reasoned, and demonstrated; when we have revelation? And is this the system which is explaced the arguments of religion in the clearest empt from difficulties? Can you really prove degree of evidence they can possibly attain: that our books were not composed by the auand when we would decide in favour of reli-thors to whom they are ascribed? Can you gion, they invariably insinuate, that "religion has its mysteries; that religion has its difficulties;" and they make these the apology of their unbelief.
I confess, this objection would have some colour, if there were any system, which on exempting us from the difficulties of religion, did not involve in still greater. And whenever they produce that system, we are ready to embrace it.
Associate all the difficulties of which we allow religion to be susceptible. Associate whatever is incomprehensible in the doctrine of the Trinity, and in the ineffable manner in which the three persons subsist, who are the object of our worship. Add thereto whatever is supernatural in the operations of the Holy Spirit, and in the mysterious methods he adopts to penetrate the heart. Neither forget the depths into which we are apparently cast by the doctrines of God's decrees, and make a complete code of the whole.
really prove that those men have not wrought miracles? Can you really prove that the Bible is not the book the most luminous, and the most sublime, that ever appeared on earth? Can you really prove, that fishermen, publicans, and tent-makers, and whatever was lowest among the mean populace of Judea; can you prove, that people of this description, have without divine assistance, spoken of the origin of the world; and of the perfections of God; of the nature of man, his constitution, and his duties, in a manner more grand, noble, and better supported than Plato, than Zeno, than Epicurus, and all the sublime geniuses, which render antiquity venerable, and which still fill the universe with their fame?
Do you espouse the cause of deism? Do you say with the Latitudinarian, that if there be a religion, it is not shut up in the narrow bounds which we prescribe? Do you maintain that all religions are indifferent? Do you give a false gloss to the apostle's words, that "in all nations he that feareth God is accepted of him?" Acts x. 35. And is this the system which is exempt from difficulties? How, superseding the
principle? How will you maintain it against the terrors God denounces against the base, "and the fearful," Rev. xxi. 8; against the injunction "to go out of Babylon; against the duty prescribed of confessing him in presence of all men," Isa. xlviii. 20; Matt. x. 32; and with regard to the fortitude he requires us to display on the rack, and when surrounded with fire and fagots, and when called to brave them for the sake of truth! How will you maintain it against the care he has taken to teach you the truth without any mixture of lies?
To these difficulties which we avow, join all those we do not avow. Join all the pretexts you affect to find in the arguments which nature affords of the being of a God, and the re-authority of the Bible, will you maintain this ality of a providence. Join thereto whatever you shall find the most forcible against the authenticity of our sacred books, and what has been thought the most plausible against the marks of Divine authority exhibited in those Scriptures. Join to these all the advantages presumed to be derived from the diversity of opinions existing in the Christian world, and in all its sects which constantly attack one another. Make a new code of all these difficulties.Form a system of your own objections. Draw the conclusions from your own principles, and build an edifice of infidelity on the ruins of religion. But for what system can you decide which is not infinitely less supportable than religion?
Do you espouse that of atheism? Do you say, that the doctrine of the being of a God owes its origin to superstition and the fears of men? And is this the system which has no dif
Do you take the part of believing nothing? Do you conclude from these difficulties, that the best system is to have none at all. Obstinate Pyrrhonian, you are then resolved to doubt of all! And is this the system which is exempt from difficulties? When you shall be agreed with yourself; when you have conciliated your singular system with the convictions of your
mind, with the sentiments of your heart, and with the dictates of your conscience, then you shall see what we have to reply.
it is not from their approbation that they derive their authority. Meanwhile, it is a felicity, we must confess, and an anticipation of the happy period when our faith shall be changed to sight, to find in sound reason the basis of all the grand truths religion reveals, and to convince ourselves by experience, that the more we know of man, the more we see that religion was made for man. Let us return to our first principle. The narrow limits of the human mind shall open one source of light on the subject we discuss; they shall convince us, that minds circumscribed, as ours, cannot before the time penetrate far into the adorable mysteries of faith.
What then shall you do to find a light without darkness, and an evidence to your mind? Do you take the part of the libertine? Do you abandon to colleges the care of religion, and leaving the doctors to waste life deciding who is wrong, and who is right, are you determined as to yourself to rush head foremost into the world? Do you say with the profane, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die?" Do you enjoy the present without pursuing uncertain rewards, and alarming your mind with fears of miseries which perhaps may never come? And is this the system destitute of mysteries? Is this the system preferred to what is said by our apostles, our evangelists, our doctors, our pastors, and by all the holy men God has raised up "for the perfecting of the saints, and for the work of the ministry? But though the whole of your objections were founded; though the mysteries of the gospel were a thousand times more difficult to penetrate; though our knowledge were incomparably more circumscribed; and though religion should be infinitely less demonstrated than it is; should this be the part you ought to take? The sole probability of religion, should it not induce us, if not to believe it, yet at least, so to act, as if in fact we did believe it? And the mere alternative of an eternal happiness, or an eternal misery, should it not suffice to re-recting the attention, without a glance of the strict us within the limits of duty, and to regulate our life, in such sort, that if there be a hell, we may avoid its torments?
We conclude. Religion has its mysteries; we acknowledge it with pleasure. Religion has its difficulties; we avow it. Religion is shook (we grant this for the moment to unbelievers, though we detest it in our hearts,) religion is shook, and ready to fall by brilliant wits. But after all, the mysteries of the gospel are not of that cast which should render a religion doubt ful. But after all, Christianity all shook, all wavering, and ready to fall, as it may appear to the infidel, contains what is most certain, and the wisest part a rational man can take, is to adhere to it with an inviolable attachment.
But how evident soever these arguments may be, and however strong this apology for the difficulties of religion may appear, there always remains a question on this subject, and indeed an important question, which we cannot omit resolving without leaving a chasm in this discourse. Why these mysteries? Why these shadows? And why this darkness? Does not the goodness of God engage to remove this stumbling-block, and to give us a religion radiant with truth, and destitute of any obscuring veil? There are various reasons, my brethren, which render certain doctrines of religion impenetrable to us.
The first argument of the weakness of our knowledge is derived from the limits of the human mind. It is requisite that you should favour me here with a little more of recollection than is usually bestowed on a sermon. It is not requisite to be a philosopher to become a Christian. The doctrines of our religion, and the precepts of our moral code, are sanctioned by the testimony of an infallible God: and not deriving their origin from the speculations of men,
We have elsewhere distinguished three faculties in the mind of man, or rather three classes of faculties which comprise whatever we know of this spirit; the faculty of thinking; the faculty of feeling; and the faculty of loving. Examine these three faculties, and you will be convinced that the mind of man is circumscribed within narrow bounds; they are so closely circumscribed, that while attentively contemplating a certain object, they cannot attend to any other.
You experience this daily with regard to the faculty of thinking. Some persons, I allow, extend attention much beyond common men; but in all it is extremely confined. This is so received an opinion, that we regard as prodigies of intellect, those who have the art of attending closely to two or three objects at once; or of di
eye, on any game, apparently less invented to unbend than to exercise the mind. Meanwhile, this power is extremely limited in all men. If the mind can distinctly glance on two or three objects at once, the fourth or the fifth confounds it. Properly to study a subject, we must attend to that alone; be abstracted from all others, forgetful of what we do, and blind to what we see.
The faculty of feeling is as circumscribed as that of thinking. One sensation absorbs or diminishes another. A wound received in the heat of battle; in the tumult, or in the sight of the general whose approbation we seek, is less acute than it would be on a different occasion. For the like reason the same pain we have borne during the day, is insupportable in the night. Violent anguish renders us insensible of a diminutive pain. Whatever diverts from a pleasing sensation diminishes the pleasure, and blunts enjoyment; and this is done by the reason already assigned; that while the faculty is attentive to one object, it is incapable of application to another.
It is the same with regard to the faculty of loving. It rarely happens that a man can indulge two or three leading passions at once: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other." So is the assertion of Jesus Christ, who knew the human heart better than all the philosophers put together. The passion of avarice, for the most part, diminishes the passion of glory; and the passion of glory, diminishes that of avarice. It is the same with the other passions.
Besides, not only an object engrossing a faculty, obstructs its profound attention to any other object related to that faculty; but when a faculty is deeply engrossed by an object, all
others, if I may so speak, remain in solitude and slumber; the capacity of the soul being wholly absorbed. A man who concentrates himself in research, in the illustration of a difficulty, in the solution of a problem, in the contemplation of a combined truth; he loses for the moment, the faculty of feeling, and becomes insensible of sound, of noise, of light. A man, on the contrary, who freely abandons himself to a violent sensation, or whom God afflicts acutely, loses for the time, the faculty of thinking. Speak, reason, and examine; draw consequences, and all that is foreign to this point: he is no longer a thinking being; he is a feeling being, and wholly so. Thus the principle we establish is an indisputable axiom in the study of man, that the human mind is circumscribed, and inclosed in very narrow limits.
The relation of this principle to the subject we discuss, obtrudes itself on our regard. A slight reflection on the limits of the human mind will convince us, that men who make so slow a progress in abstruse science, can never fathom the deep mysteries of religion. And it is the more evident, as these limited faculties can never be wholly applied to the study of truth. There is no moment of life, in which they are not divided; there is no moment in which they are not engaged in the care of the body, in the recollection of some fugitive ideas, and on subjects which have no connexion with those to which we would direct our study.
A second reason of the limits of our knowledge arises from those very mysteries which excite obscurity, astonishment, and awe. What are those mysteries? Of what do they treat? They treat of what is the most elevated and sublime: they concern the essence of the Creator: they concern the attributes of the Supreme Being: they concern whatever has been thought the most immense in the mind of eternal wisdom: they concern the traces of that impetuous wind, "which blows where it listeth," and which moves in one moment to every part of the universe. And we, insignificant beings; we altogether obstructed, confounded, and absorbed, we affect an air of surprise because we cannot fathom the depths of those mysteries! It is not merely while on earth that we cannot comprehend those immensities; but we can never comprehend them in the other world; because God is always unlimited, always infinite, and always above the reach of circumscribed intelligences; and because we shall be always finite, always limited, always creatures circumscribed. Perfect knowledge belongs to God alone. "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know?" Job xi. 7, 8. "Where wast thou when he laid the foundations of the earth? When he shut up the sea with doors? When he made the clouds the garments thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it. When he subjected it to his laws, and prescribed its barriers, and said, hitherto shalt thou come, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?" xxxviii. 4. 9-11. Who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom, VOL. II.-46
and of the knowledge of God; how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Rom. xi. 33-35. Let us adore a Being so immense; and let his incomprehensibility serve to give us the more exalted ideas of his grandeur; and seeing we can never know him to perfection, let us, at the least, form the noble desire of knowing him as far as it is allowable to finite intelligences. And as Manoah, who, after receiving the mysterious vision recorded Judges xiii. prayed the angel of the Lord, saying, "Tell me, I pray thee, thy name;" and received the answer, "It is wonderful;" so should we say with this holy man, "I pray thee, tell me thy name," give me to know this "wonderful name." Let us say with Moses, Lord, let me see thy glory," Exod. xxxiii. 18. And with the prophet, "Lord, open thou mine eyes, that I may behold the marvels of thy law," Ps. cxix. 18.
The third cause of the obscurity of our knowledge is, that truths the most simple, and objects the least combined, have, however, certain depths and abysses beyond the reach of thought; because truths the most simple, and objects the least combined, have a certain tie with infinity, that they cannot be comprehended without comprehending this infinity. Nothing is more simple, nothing is less combined, in regard to me, than this proposition; there are certain exterior objects which actually strike my eyes, which excite certain emotions in my brain, and certain perceptions in my mind. Meanwhile, this proposition so simple, and so little combined, has certain depths and obscurities above my thought, because it is connected with other inquiries concerning this infinity, which I cannot comprehend. It is connected with this; cannot the perfect Being excite certain perceptions in my mind, and emotions in my brain without the aid of exterior objects? It is connected with another; will the goodness and truth of this perfect Being suffer certain perceptions to be excited in the mind, and emotions in the brain, by which we forcibly believe that certain exterior objects exist, when in fact, they do not exist? It is connected with divers other inquiries of like nature, which involve us in discussions, which absorb and confound our feeble genius. Thus, we are not only incapable of fathoming certain inquiries which regard infinity, but we are equally incapable of fully satisfying ourselves concerning those that are simple, because they are connected with the infinite. Prudence, therefore, requires that men should admit, as proved, the truths which have, in regard to them, the characters of demonstration. It is by these characters they should judge. But after all, there is none but the perfect Being, who can have perfect demonstration; at least, the perfect Being alone can fully perceive in the immensity of his knowledge, all the connexions which finite beings have with the infinite.
A fourth reason of the obscurity of our knowledge, is the grand end God proposed when he placed us upon the earth: this end is our sanctification. The questions on which religion leaves so much obscurity, do not devolve on simple principles, which may be comprehended in a moment. The acutest mathematician, he who can make a perfect demonstration of a given