Imatges de pàgina
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tions were true, and consequently all that the Prophets had spoken was true in the sense of the proposer ; but yet as they did not understand what the fense and meaning of those prophecies were, which related to the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Christ, so they did not afsent to, or believe them.' So far as they were low to understand, fo far they were flow to believe what the Prophets had spoken. And this our Lord upbraided them with, Luke xxiv. 25. saying, O fools, and Now of beart, to believe all that ibe Propbets, &c.

And as the shortness of their faith was occafioned from the fhortness of their underftandings; fo our Lord, to cure this evil, and remove this infidelity, helped their understand ings, by explaining to them those prophecies, and giving them the sense and meaning of them, verje 27. Beginning at Mofes and all the Propbets, be expounded unto tbem in all the scriptures, tbe things corcerning bimself: Or, as it is faid, verse 45. He opened their understandings, that they might understand ibe scriptures, saying unto them, Tbus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, &c. And in so doing he made that the object of their faith, or made them capable of believing it, which before was not fo.

Again, I say, a man can afsent so far, and to fuch a degree, as things are thus reveal'd to his understanding, and no farther ; chat is, he can extend his affent so far as his understanding, goes into things, and no farther. For suppose God had made a declaration to men, which they understood but in part, then, I say, they can affent to but part of that declaration, viz. to that part they do understand the sense and meaning of; and they must suspend their assent to the other part, 'till such time as they do understand it. For example, suppose this proposition (biętry is mielry] was con

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tain'd in God's Word; and suppose these two terms bietry and miltry have no known fignification; I say, so far as our understanding goes into this proposition, that is, fo far as we do apprehend the fente and meaning of it, so far we are capable of believing it, and no farther. That biEtry [is] miętry we apprehend, that is, we apprehend that God uses these two words to express one and the same thing, and this we believe or affent to, because God hath declar'd that he doth fo. ' But then, as we do not underftand what either of these terms do signify, lo we cannot believe the least tittle about the thing itself, which is express’d by them; and consequently we can believe but part of the foregoing proposition, viz. that part which we do tinderstand ; and, as to the other part, we must suspend our assent, 'till such time as we do understand one or other of these terms : I say, one or other, because if we understand one of them, then we should understand the whole proposition; as fuppose it was express’d thus [biętry is defamation] here, as we understand that bittry and defamation express the fame thing, so we likewise understand what bietry means, viz. the blasting a person's reputation ; and consequently, we can affent to the truth of all the proposition, because we do under stand it wholly.

Again, If God declares a thing but in part, and does not declare the whole of the thing, in such a case our affent can also extend no farther than to that which is declar'd; for example, God hath declar'd, that there shall be a resurrection from the dead, but hath not declar'd the precise time when that great work shall be effected; here, so far as God as reveal'd this matter to us, we can believe it, viz. that he will raise the dead; but when he will do it, as the (when) is not reveald, so it is what we cannot allent to. The precise time,

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when God will raise the dead, is a secret, which is not yet disclos'd, and therefore we are incapable of believing it ; so that as far as we are ignorant of things, so far our assent must be suspended, let what will be the ground of that ignorance, and consequently of the infidelity occasion’d by it, whether carelesness; prejudice, or any other cause; whether it be our misfortune, or our crime, the case in this respect is the same if we are ignorant; and so far as we are so, so far, in the present circumstance of things, we are incapable of giving our affent to the truth of any proposition whatever. Upon the whole, I think it abundantly evident, that in the present circumstances of things, which suppose the impediments to faith remaining, a man can, or his capable of believing all those divine propositions, and only those, which are reveal'd to his understanding, and which he doth actually apprehend the sense and meaning of; and only so far, and to that degree, as they are thus apprehended; therefore all such propositions, and only such, in this reepect, are the object of faith.,

Thirdly; What a mystery is? In answer to this enquiry, I say, the word mystery, as I conceive, in its proper sense, signifies a hidden thing. Any thing which is spoken to us, which we do not understand, is called a mystery, that is, it is to us hidden or conceald ; and any thing which is done, that we do not conceive how, or in what manner it is done, the manner of the doing of that thing is also call'd a mystery ; because bow, or in what manner it is done, is hid from us; not but that the word mystery is often used in an improper sense, and that in several respect; as, first, when a thing is spoken or done in such a manner, as that it is difficult to conceive and apprehend it, this is often callid a mystery, whether we apprehend it, or not. Secondly, That which was not discover

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able by humán reason, without the help of divine revelation, is likewise call'd a mystery, after it is reveald and understood ; thus the grace of God in Christ to mankind, and that the Gentiles fhould be sharers in this grace, is call'd a mystery, which. had been hid froni ages and generations, but now was made manifest by the preaching of the gospel. Thirdly, Any thing which was a mystery, before We did apprehend it, is likewise improperly callid a mystery, after we do apprehend it; not that it is then really so, but because it was so, antecedent to our apprehending of it. But when the word mystery is applied to any thing that we do actually understand, I think it is so only in an improper sense,and that, strictly fpeaking, a myftery is properly that which our understandings do not actually conceive or apprehend.

Fourt bly, Whether a mystery is the object of faith? Note, By the object of faith, in this place I do not mean with respect to what a man ought to beleive, nor what he can, or is capable of beleiving, supposing all impediments were remov'd but only with respect to what a man does believe or is capable of believing, in the prefent circumftances of things, which suppose the impediments to faith still remaining. This being premised, in answer to the enquiry, I say, we need only make application of what hath been observed already, under the former heads. For 'tis evident, first, when the word mystery is used in a proper sense, then a mystery is not the object of faith, a myltery being that which we do not apprehend, and the object of faith, being always that which we do apprehend. Indeed, that, which is a mystery may become the object of faith, when it is apprehended, but then it ceases to be a mystery properly so call'd. Secondly, When the word mystery is used in an improper sense, then it may be the

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object of faith, or it may not. If it be improper ly used to signify a thing difficult to be understood, then, if we de actually apprehend that difficult thing, it is the object of faith, because we do actually apprehend it; but if we do not apprehend it, then it becomes a mystery in a proper sense, and fo is not the object of faith. Again, if the word mystery be improperly used to lignify that which was not discoverable by human reason alone, without the help of divine revelation ; if the propofition is apprehended by us, it is the object of faith; but if it is not actually apprehended by us, it is then a mystery in the proper sense, and so is not the object of faith at all, whilft it thus continues hid from us. Again, if the word mystery be improperly used to signify that which was a mystery, before it was apprehended, and is so called after it is apprehended, upon that account, then it is the ob- , ject of faith always. So then upon the whole it appears, that a mystery, properly and strictly speak ing, is not the object of faith, while it continues fo; and likewise what a weak excuse men make, when they excuse the obscurity, abfurdity, and contradiction of their opinions with this plea, that 'tis a mystery, and that, as such, it is our duty to believe it, and not curiously to search into it; because say they, mysteries, at least mysteries in religion, are above the reach of human understandings, and therefore to be believed, and not reason'd upon.

If to what is here said it should be replied, that there are several articles of faith, which, as chris; tians, we are obliged to assent to, and which we do actually exercise our faith upon, and yet we do not apprehend them, so that they are mysteries in a proper sense ; such as the conception of our Saviour in the womb of the Virgin, by the powe er of the holy Ghost, the resurrection of the body,

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