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only by experience, which often teaches when it is too late.
But in the affairs of life, you will say, we have a very great degree of assurance, a moral certainty almost, that men in general will not deceive us: it is the universal interest to keep up the faith of social commerce. I allow it— I only want to show, that faith is at the bottom of all human commerce; that is, such a faith, as, I shall by and by show, we are capable of getting, with regard to Divine discoveries.
In all matters of faith whatever, a man, if he pleases, may disbelieve, or act at least, as if he disbelieves. There is no irresistible conviction, beyond the circle, the very narrow circle, of intuition and personal knowledge. And if it be a just principle, that every thing is incredible which we cannot understand, the man acts a rational part, who disbelieves the existence of things and R 3 places,
places, which lie beyond the sphere of his own researches.
There cannot be a more narrow, debasing, or fallacious principle. The human faculties are in a state of progression. When I was a child, says St. Paul, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. i. Cor. xiii. ii. We rise by a slow and tedious process from infant ignorance into some degrees of useful knowledge, and many of us into wide extended discoveries. And is the lamp of knowledge thus kindled and lighted up in every human breast, with so much painful industry and assiduous toil,—only to be extinguished at once in the shadow of darkness and of death? No, we are taught, by what we know of ourselves, to look forwards, and to expect that faculties so important, and unfolding in such a regular manner, will receive higher improvements, and that new
scenes, scenes, to which we are at present strangers, will be opened to our enlarged perceptions! That the mysteries of our manhood and improved years will be done away like the mysteries of our childhood! and human knowledge ripened into the maturity of angelical perfection!
Mystery is a relative term: what is mystery to a child or a mechanic, is not such to a person of enlarged observation. If mysteries, as mysteries, are incredible, there is an end of all instruction, all practical knowledge. You have no business to instruct your child; for what he does not know is mystery. The common artisan has no business to aid his natural strength with machines of complicated construction: for he knows nothing of the mechanical powers, but their effects and uses. A plain man has no business to aid his natural eye with glasses: for he knows nothing of the laws of refraction. The philosoR 4 pher pher has no business to believe, that the planets are vast opake bodies, and that some of them, which appear Jingle to the naked eye, are attended with a train of satelites. His natural organ gives him no such intelligence: the artificial composition of glasses, which enlarge his views, may possibly deceive him. A man has no business to be virtuous: because what constitutes the nature and essence of virtue is to this day a dispute even amongst the learned. A man needs not worship God: for there are none of his attributes, which lie not far above our comprehension.
II. Such absurdities, as these, flow from establishing the principle, that mysteries, as mysteries, are not credible. The grounds of the error lie, as I conceive, in not distinguishing aright in this matter. Whether such and such a pretended mystery be a real part of religion is one thing, and whether mystery
tery at all be credible, is another. The first, under the conduct of a proper temper, is a fair and laudable enquiry: it is necessary, amidst human weakness and corruption, to prevent the introduction of errors. But to deny the credibility of mysteries, as mysteries, is the highest contradiction to the common maxims of human life and knowledge.
The mysteries, which are contended for in religion, are exactly similar to those of life and nature. We are capable of being assured, that they stand for things, which really are: we shall hereafter in a maturer stage either understand them, or see the reasons, why we cannot; and we can now in our present state of ignorance with regard to their nature, apply them to valuable and important purposes.
If this be the common method of life, why should we not admit of it in religion?
The manner, how the Divine being