« PreviousContinue »
in Cels. lib.
Ο τα Ti
out their eyes, or to shut them close; no, nor even SERM.
tant. ii. 6.
a Quæ omnia sapiens servabit tanquam legibus jussa, non tanquam Diis grata. Sen. apud Aug. de Civ. Dei, vi. 10.
SERM. Δεῖ φυλάσσειν τὰ εἰς κοινὸν κεκυρωμένα, (things established by common authority must be observed:) and, tà παρ' ἑκάστοις ὀρθῶς ἂν πράττοιτο ταύτῃ δρώμενα, ὅπῃ ἐκείνοις φίλον, (things are every where rightly done, being done according to the fashion of each place.) Such were the rules and maxims those men urged. And this was indeed exacting irrational belief; a stifling men's reason, and muzzling their judgments; this was a method enforcing men blindly to yield consent to errors and inconsistencies innumerable. But the teachers and maintainers of Christianity proceeded otherwise; confiding in the pure merit of their cause, they warned men to lay aside all prejudices; to use their best understandings; in a case of such moment, to apply themselves to an industrious and impartial search of the truth: let one for the rest speak their Lact. ii. 7. sense: Oportet in ea re maxime, in qua vitæ ratio versatur, sibi quemque confidere, suoque judicio ac propriis sensibus niti ad investigandam et perpendendam veritatem, quam credentem alienis erroribus decipi tanquam ipsum rationis expertem : dedit omnibus Deus pro virili portione sapientiam, ut et inaudita investigare possent, et audita perpendere: We ought especially, says he, every one of us in that matter, which chiefly concerns our manner of life, to confide in ourselves; and rather with our own judgment and our proper senses strive to find out and judge of the truth, than believing other
Omnem istam ignobilem Deorum turbam, quam longo ævo longa superstitio congessit sic (inquit) adorabimus, ut meminerimus cultum ejus magis ad morem, quam ad rem pertinere. Id. 16.
-Colebat quod reprehendebat, agebat quod arguebat, quod culpabat adorabat. Aug. ib. de Seneca.
men's errors to be deceived, like things void of SERM. reason: God hath given all men a competent share XIII. of wisdom, that they might both search out things not told them, and weigh what they hear. So especially just and candid was Christianity in its first offering itself to the minds of men. It propounds indeed and presses, as evident in itself, the worth and consequence of the matter; but refers the decision on either part (so far as concerns every particular man) to the verdict of that reason and conscience, with which to such purposes God hath indued every man. And that it can proceed no other-"Eği ρετική μετά wise appears further, from the nature of that faithit requires: it commends faith as a great virtue, and you, is συγκατάθεtherefore supposes it both voluntary and reasonable; . Clem. it promises ample rewards thereto, and so implies it a work not of necessity or chance, but of care and industry; it declares infidelity to be very blameable, and threatens severe punishment thereto; why? because it signifies irrational negligence or perverse
In fine, Christianity doth not inveigle any man by sleight, nor compel him by force, (being indeed commonly destitute of those advantages; nor being able to use them, if it would,) but fairly by reason persuades him to embrace it; it doth not therefore shun examination, nor disclaim the judgment of reason; but earnestly seeks and procures the one, cheerfully and confidently appeals to the other. Examine all 1 Thess. v. things; hold fast that which is good. Believe not i John iv.1. every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they be of God. See that no man deceive you. Be always Mat.xxiv. 4. ready, with meekness and respect, to give to every 1Pet. iii.15. one that demands it of you an account of the hope
Eph. v. 6.
you. These are the maxims which Christianity goes upon in the propagation and maintenance of itself.
Indeed after it hath convinced men of its truth in general, having evidenced the truth of its fundamental principles, it then requires a full and cordial assent, without exception, to its particular doctrines, grounded upon or deduced from them. When, I say, it hath, to the satisfaction of a man's mind, with solid reason made good its principles; it then enjoins men to surcease further scruple or debate concerning what it teaches or draws from them; which is a proceeding most reasonable and conformable to the method used in the strictest sciences: for the principles of any science being either demonstrated out of some higher science, or evidenced by fit experiments to common sense; and being thence granted and received, it is afterward unlawful and absurd to challenge the conclusions collected from them; so if it have been proved and acknowledged that our principles are true, (for instance, that God is perfectly veracious, and that Christian religion hath his authority, or attestation to it,) it will then be a part of absurd levity and inconsistency to question any particular proposition evidently contained therein; and in this sense or in these cases it is true indeed that Christianity doth engage us to believe simply and purely, doth silence natural reason, and condemn curious inquiry, and prohibit dispute, especially to persons of meaner capacities or improvements. And thus, I take it, those Christians of old were to be understood, who so much commended immediate faith, excluded reason from being too busy in matters of religion, discountenanced that curiosity which
searched into, and would needs sound, those inscrut- SERM. XIII. able mysteries which our religion teaches. Our religion then will allow (yea it invites and exhorts) an Bas. in Ps. infidel to consider and judge of its truth, although 15. it will not allow a Christian to be so vain and inconstant, as to doubt of any particular doctrine therein; seeing by so questioning a part, he in effect renounces the whole, and subverts the foundation of his faith; at least ceases thereby to be a steady Christian. I might then well invert our adversaries' discourse, and offer it as a good argument of our religion its truth, that it alone among all religions, John iii. with a candour and confidence peculiar to truth, calls us to the light, is willing, yea desirous, to undergo trial; I add, yea challenges, as its due from all men, and demands it of them as a necessary duty, to hear it, to consider it seriously, to pass sentence upon it; for as commonly error and groundless conceit, being conscious of their own weakness, are timorous and suspicious, and thence ready to decline all proof and conflict of reason; so truth, knowing its own strength, is daring and resolute; enters boldly into the lists, being well assured (or hopeful) of good success in the combat.
Which proceeding, proper to Christianity, is in itself very plausible, and may well beget a favourable prejudice on its side; and that it is not confident without reason, will appear upon our examining the principles and grounds on which it stands. The first principle of Christianity (common thereto and all other religions) is, that there is one God, (sovereign and transcendent in all perfections; the Maker and Governor of all things.) The next (which also no religion doth not acknowledge) is, that God