Christianity not Mysterious:

Or, A Treatise Showing,
That there is nothing in the
Gospel Contrary to
Nor Above it:
And that no Christian Doctrine
can be properly call'd

By John Toland

The Preface.

I believe all men will readily allow, that none should speak with more Freedom and Assurance than he that defends or illustrates the Truth. But if we credit the history of former time, or duly consider what passes in the present, we shall find none more backward to speak their minds in public than such as have right on their side. Indeed the goodness of their cause and design should fortify them, one would think, against the attacks of their enemies: nor are there wanting frequent examples of persons who with unshaken constancy suffered the most disgraceful and violent things for love of the Truth. — Yet if we make a just computation, and take in the primitive martyrs with the prophets and apostles themselves, the professed defenders of Truth, only for Truth's sake, will be found to be a small handful with respect to the numerous partisans of Error.

And such is the deplorable condition of our age, that a man dares not openly and directly own what he thinks of Divine Matters, though it be never so true and beneficial, if it but very slightly differs from what is received by any party, or that is established by Law; but he is either forced to keep perpetual silence, or to propose his sentiments to the world, by way of paradox, under a borrowed or fictitious name. To mention the least part of the inconveniences they expose themselves to, who have the courage to act more above-board, is too melancholy a theme, and visible enough to be lamented by all that are truly generous and virtuous.

The pravity of most men's dispositions, and the ambition of particular persons makes this matter seem less strange in politic and secular affairs; and yet a man may not only make new discoveries and improvements in Law or Physick, and in the other Arts and Sciences impunibly, but also for so doing be deservedly encouraged and rewarded. But wonderful! That the sacred name of Religion which sounds nothing but sanctity, peace, and integrity, should be so universally abused to patronize ambition, impiety, and contention! And that what is our highest interest perfectly to understand, should (for reasons afterwards to be laid open) both be maintained to be obscure, and very industriously made so! Nay, it is come to this, that Truth meets no where with stronger opposition, than from many of those that raise the loudest cry about it, and would be taken for no less than the only dispensers of the favors and oracles of Heaven. If any has the firmness to touch the minutest thing that brings them gain or credit, he's presently pursued with the hue and cry of heresy: and, if he values their censures, compelled to make honorable amends; or if he proves contumacious, he falls a sacrifice, at least in his reputation, to their implacable hatred.

Nor is he like, we may be sure, to receive fairer quarter from the declared antagonists of Religion, whose principles, as they trample upon all equity and truth, so they oblige 'em to hate and molest the strenuous assertors of these and all other virtues. But of such depressing considerations enough! Notwithstanding which, I have ventured to publish this discourse, designing thereby to rectify, as much as I'm able, the narrow bigoted tenets of the one, and the most impious maxims of the other.

No atheist or infidel of any kind can justly be angry with me for measuring swords with them, and attacking them only with the weapons they prescribe me. The true Christian can no more be offended, when he finds me employ Reason, not to enervate or perplex, but to confirm and elucidate Revelation; unless he is apprehensive I should render it too clear to my self, or too familiar to others, which are absurdities no body will own. I hope to make it appear, that the use of Reason is so dangerous in Religion as it is commonly represented, and that too by such as mightily extol it, when it seems to favor 'em, yet vouchsafe it not a hearing when it makes against them, but oppose its own authority to it self. These are high privileges indeed, and the surest means of having always the better of the dispute that could possibly be devised.

That the mistaken unbeliever may not say I serve a hypothesis in the defense of my Faith, like some who first imagine or receive an opinion, and then study proofs to establish it, I solemnly declare the thing is much otherwise; and that I hold nothing as an Article of my Religion, but what the highest evidence forced me to embrace. For being educated, from my cradle, in the grossest superstition and idolatry, God was pleased to make my own Reason, and such as made use of theirs, the happy instruments of my conversion. Thus I have been very early accustomed to examination and enquiry, and taught not to captivate my understanding, no more than my senses to any man or society whatsoever. Now the best method, I think, of communicating to others the Truth, is that by which a Man has learnt it himself.

That the well-meaning Christian may not suspect, as it falls out very ordinarily, that I aim at more than I declare, and cunningly disguise some bad principles under the fair pretense of defending the true Religion; I assure him that I write with all the sincerity and simplicity imaginable, being as thoroughly convinced of what I maintain, as I can be of any thing. If any good man should after this protestation persist to think hard of me, it must needs proceed from violent prepossessions: for very few can be found that are not deeply engaged in some of one sort or another, for which a due allowance must be made. How fond are we all apt to be of what we learned in our youth, as the sight or remembrance of the places where we passed that agreeable time, does strangely affect us! A mother is more charmed with the lisping half-formed words of her prattling infant, than with the best language, and most solid discourses. That any upstart, but of yesterday, should pretend to overthrow what cost the ancients so much time and breath to establish, and themselves so great pains and charges to learn, is of hard digestion to some. And when others are but prayed to explain their terms, which commonly signify nothing, or what they must be ashamed to own that would never be thought in an error, they are uneasy, as an extravagant merchant to examine his accounts; and 'tis well if they can refrain their passions. Not only a few men, but oftentimes whole societies, whilst they consider things but very superficially, set such a value upon certain sounds, as if they were the real essence of all Religion. To question or reject any of these, though never so false and inconvenient, is dangerous heterodoxy: and yet, as I hinted now, they either signify nothing, or have been invented by some leading men to make plain tings obscure, and not seldom to cover their own ignorance. What is unpardonable, the holy Scripture is put to the torture to countenance this scholastic jargon, and all the metaphysical chimeras of its authors. But the weakness of the greatest part of these prejudices is so notorious, that to mention them is sufficient confutation: nor shall I be otherwise moved with any thing of this nature, than a prudent man would be at the declamations of such as have recourse to railing when Reason fails them.

As for those Gentlemen who suggest that the credulity of Popery has frighted me to an unwarrantable distance from it; I have nothing to say for their satisfaction, but that I don't envy them the cheap and commodious Mean they boast of, while I think Truth and Error to be the two extremes. Religion is not to be modeled according to our fancies, nor to be judged of as it relates to our private designs; else there would be full as many Creeds as persons: but how little soever our notions agree, and let our worldly conveniences be what they will, Religion is always the same, like God its Author, with whom there is no Variableness, nor Shadow of changing.

If any should ask me whether I have so good an opinion of my own abilities, as to imagine that I can prove a rational account may be given of all those jarring doctrines, ambiguous terms, and puzzling distinctions which have for so many centuries sufficiently exercised the learned of all sorts: I answer, that I don't pretend (as the Title-Page can testify) that we are able to explain the terms or doctrines of this or that Age, Council, or Nation, (most of which are impervious mysteries with a witness) but the terms and doctrines of the Gospel. They are not the Articles of the East or West, Orthodox or Arian, Protestant or Papist, considered as such, that I trouble my self about, but those of Jesus Christ and his Apostles. And in managing this argument, with every other good action, I don't merely rely upon my own poor attainments, but also upon the Grace of God, who, I hope, will enable me to vindicate his revealed Will from the most unjust imputations of contradiction and obscurity. I may probably differ in many things from persons deservedly eminent for their learning, and piety; but that ought to be no advantage against me if Truth is evidently for me. Since Religion is calculated for reasonable creatures, 'tis conviction and not authority that should bear weight with them. A wise and good man will judge of the merits of a cause considered only in it self, without any regard to times, places, or persons. No numbers, no examples, no interests can ever bias his solid judgment, or corrupt his integrity. He knows no difference between Popish Infallibility, and being obliged blindly to acquiesce in the decisions of fallible Protestants. And for my own part, as I would have none by false or unfair consequences make me say what I never thought of; so I would not be told I contradict any thing but Scripture or Reason, which, I'm sure, agree very well together. Nor can it appear strange that I should insist upon these terms, since I most readily submit my self to them, and give all the world the same right over me. I am not therefore to be put out of countenance by venerable names, and pompous citations, that have no value but such as an ugly rust and color give ancient coins. God alone, and such as are inspired by him, can prescribe injunctions relating to the world to come, whilst human powers regulate the affairs of this. Now, to speak more particularly concerning the following performance, I don't expect any deference should be paid me by the world, that spares no body; much less am I desirous of abettors out of singularity: but rather if the reasons I offer be not cogent, I shall take in good part a modest and pertinent animadversion. And if I am not so happy in rendering things perspicuous to others, as they seem to my self, yet I have fairly aimed at it, and spoke what I think to be Truth without fear or favor; wherefore my good intentions will need no other apology.

Some passages in the first section or preliminary dissertations of Reason, which, in the former edition, I suspected would prove a little obscure to ordinary readers, are now rendered more familiar: and though I then declared that the understanding of those passages of no consequence to any that would reason fairly, being only inserted to prevent the foreseen wranglings of certain men, who study rather to protract and perplex than to terminate a controversy; yet I could not but readily comply at this time with the desires of those, who wished 'em more clearly expressed, though it should cost me a few words more, whereof I shall always be as sparing as I can. I have likewise every where else endeavored to speak very intelligibly, and am not without hope that my assertions do carry their own light along with them. I have in many places made explanatory repetitions of difficult words, by synonymous terms of a more general and known use. This labor, I grant, is of no benefit to philosophers, but it is of considerable advantage to the vulgar, which I'm far from neglecting, like those who in every preface tell us they neither court nor care for them. I wonder how any can speak at this rate, especially of those whose very business it is to serve the vulgar, and spare them the labor of long and painful study, which their ordinary occupations will not allow them. Lay-men pay for the books and maintenance of church-men for this very end: but I'm afraid some of the latter will no more believe this, than that magistrates too are made for the people.

Nor can any from this office of the clergy infer, that the vulgar are implicitly to receive their arbitrary dictates, no more than I am to make over my Reason to him I employ to read, transcribe, or collect for me. The learned will not, contrary to the experience of their own taste, take the brewer's or the baker's word for the goodness of bread or drink, though ignorant of their craft. And why may not the vulgar likewise be judges of the true sense of things, though they understand nothing of the tongues from when they are translated for their use? Truth is always and every where the same; and an unintelligible or absurd proposition is to be never the more respected for being ancient or strange, for being originally written in Latin, Greek, or Hebrew. Besides, a Divinity only intelligible to such as live by it, is, in human language, a Trade; and I see not how they can be angry at the name, that are so passionately in love with the thing. But of this in due place.

The poor, who are not supposed to understand philosophical systems, soon apprehended the difference between the plain convincing instructions of Christ, and the intricate ineffectual declamations of the scribes. For the Jewish Rabbis, divided at that time into Stoic, Platonic, and Pythagorean Sects, &c. did by a mad liberty of allegory, accommodate the scriptures to the wild speculations of their several masters. They made the people, who comprehended nothing of their Cabalistic observations, believe 'em to be all profound mysteries; and so taught 'em subjection to heathenish rites, whilst they set the law of God at nought by their traditions. No wonder then if the disinterested common sort, and the more ingenuous among the rulers, did reject these nonsensical superstitions, though impudently fathered upon Moses, for a Religion suited to the capacities of all, delineated, and foretold by their own prophets.

I wish no application of this could be made, in the following discourse, to the case of any Christians; much less to the purer and better sort. Whoever considers with what eagerness and rigor some men press obedience to their own constitutions and discipline, (conniving in the mean while at all nonconformity to the Divine Law) how strictly they enjoin the observation of unreasonable, unscriptural ceremonies, and the belief of those unfathomable explanations of what they stiffly hold themselves to be incomprehensible; I say, who considers all this, is vehemently tempted to suspect they drive a more selfish design than that of instructing the ignorant, or converting the sinner. That any should be hated, despised, and molested; nay, sometimes be charitably burned and damned, for rejecting those fooleries superadded, and in many cases substituted to the most blessed, pure, and practicable Religion that men could wish or enjoy, is matter of astonishment and grief to such as prefer the precepts of God to the inventions of men, the plain paths of Reason to the insuperable labyrinths of the Fathers, and true Christian liberty to diabolical and Antichristian Tyranny.

But the common method of teaching and supporting this mystery of iniquity is still more intolerable. How many voluminous systems, infinitely more difficult than the scripture, must be read with great attention by him that would be master of the present theology? What a prodigious number of barbarous words, (mysterious no doubt) what tedious and immethodical directions, what ridiculous and discrepant interpretations must you patiently learn and observe, before you can begin to understand a professor of that faculty? The last and easiest part of your labor will be, to find his sentiments in the Bible, though the holy penmen never thought of them, and you never read that sacred book since you were a school-boy. But a distrust of your own Reason, a blind veneration for those that lived before you, and a firm resolution of adhering to all the expositions of your party, will do any thing. Believe only, as a sure foundation for all your allegories, that the words of scripture, though never so equivocal and ambiguous without the context, may signify everywhere whatever they can signify: and, if this be no enough, believe that every Truth is a true sense of every passage of scripture; that is, that any thing may be made of every thing: and you'll not only find all the New Testament in the Old, and all the Old in the New; but, I promise you, there's no explication, though never so violent, though never so contradictory or perplexed, but you may as easily establish as admit.

But I will not repeat what I have expressly written of this matter in an epistolary dissertation, now lying by me, entitled, Systems of Divinity exploded. In the following discourse, which is the first of three, and wherein I prove my subject in general, the divinity of the New Testament is taken for granted; so that it regards only Christians immediately, and others but remotely, who are prayed to weigh my arguments by the said supposition. In the next discourse, equally concerning Christians and others, I attempt a particular and rational explanation of the reputed mysteries of the Gospel. And in the third, I demonstrate the verity of divine revelation against Atheists, and all enemies of revealed Religion.

This seems to me to be the best method; for the order of nature is in your systems of divinity quite inverted. They prove the authority and perfection, before they teach the contents of scripture; whereas the first is in great measure known by the last. How can any be sure that the scripture contains all things necessary to salvation, till he first reads it over? Nay, how can he conclude it to be scripture, or the Word of God, till he exactly studies it, to speak now of no other means he must use? This confusion then I have carefully avoided; for I prove first, that the true Religion must necessarily be reasonable and intelligible. Next I show, that these requisite conditions are found in Christianity. But seeing a man of good parts and knowledge may easily frame a clear and coherent system, I demonstrate, thirdly, that the Christian Religion was not formed after such a manner, but was divinely revealed from Heaven. These three subjects I handle in as many books, whereof, as I said before, the following Discourse is the first.

Before I finish, I must take notice of those gentlemen who love to call names in religion: for what are all party-distinctions, but, according to them, so many sorts of heretics, or schismatics, or worse?. But I assure them, that I am neither of Paul, nor of Cephas, nor of Apollos, but of the Lord Jesus Christ alone, who is the author and finisher of my Faith. I have as much right to have others called after my name as they to give me a denomination, and that is no right at all. I say this not to prevent being invidiously represented, according to a very common artifice, under the notion of any sect in the world that is justly or unjustly hated by others. This would be a poor consideration indeed! but it is my settled judgment, that the thing is unlawful in it self to a good Christian. Leaving others nevertheless their liberty in this point, it must, at least, be granted inconvenient: for if you go under the name of a Lutheran, for instance, though you agree with those of your communion but in the main Articles, yet their adversaries will not fail, upon occasion, to charge you with those other matters wherein you differ: and should you then declare your judgment, the rest of the Lutherans will not only be much offended, but be apt also to call your sincerity in question about everything besides; which is the known temper of most sects. The only religious title therefore that I shall ever own, for my part, is that most glorious one of being a Christian.

A word or two more I must add in answer to the malice or mistake of some, who will needs have it that I'm a declared enemy to all church-men, and consequently (say they) to all Religion, because I make 'em the sole contrivers of those inconceivable or mysterious doctrines, which I also maintain are as advantageous to themselves, as they are prejudicial to the laity. Indeed there are those, who, easily overlooking all contempt of the true Religion, are very ready to treat 'em as pernicious heretics, or unsufferable atheists, that show the least dislike of what are acknowledged additions to Christianity, whatever convenience or necessity may be pretended for their establishment. If any such understand by Religion the mysterious part of it, then truly it will be no hard matter to prove me as little favorable to this Religion, as I'm far from making any apologies for myself to the professors of it.

As for charging church-men with being the authors and introducers of the Christian mysteries, they must be my enemies for telling the truth, who are displeased at it: for there is no matter of faith more evident from every page both of the civil and ecclesiastic histories. Nor had the laity ever any hand in that business, otherwise than as confirming by legal sanctions what they were first persuaded to by the preaching of their priests; as they do now, sometimes, at their solicitation, imprison excommunicated, and prosecute erroneous persons, after the excommunication is first pronounced, and the heresy decreed or declared by the clergy. Now as all church-men are not responsible in their opinions for these practices, so I see no better Reason they have to be angry with any body for writing against them that are, than a good prince can pretend for punishing the historian of a tyrant's vices, only because the tyrant had been likewise a prince.

To all corrupt clergy-men therefore, who make a mere trade of Religion, and build an unjust authority upon the abused consciences of the laity, I'm a professed adversary; as I hope every good and wise man already is, or will be. But as I shall always remain a hearty friend to pure and genuine Religion, so I shall preserve the highest veneration for the sincere teachers thereof, than whom there is not a more useful order of men, and without whom there could not be any happy society or well constituted government in this world, to speak nothing of their relation to the world to come, nor of the double esteem which they deserve for keeping proof against the general infection of their profession. But I have no apprehensions from the sincere; and if the designing party discover their concern by their displeasure, it may well serve for a mark to distinguish them, but will not be thought an injury by me.


The State of the Question.
Sect. 1. Of Reason.
Ch. 1. What Reason is not.
2. Wherein Reason consists.
3. Of the Means of Information.
4. Of the Ground of Persuasion.
Section. II. That the Doctrines of the Gospel are not contrary to Reason.
Ch. 1. The Absurdities and effects of admitting any real or seeming contradictions in Religion.
2. Of the authority of Revelation, as it regards this controversy
3. That by Christianity was intended a rational and intelligible Religion, proved from the miracles, method and style of the New Testament.
Objections answered, drawn from the pravity of human Reason.
Section III. That there is nothing Mysterious, or above Reason in the Gospel.
Ch. 1. The History and Signification of Mystery, in the writings of the Gentiles.
2. That nothing ought to be called a Mystery, because we have not an adequate idea of all its properties, nor any at all of its essence.
3. The signification of the word Mystery, in the New Testament, and the writings of the most ancient Christians.
4. Objections brought from particular texts of Scripture, and from the Nature of Faith, answered.
5. Objections drawn from the consideration of MIRACLES, answered.
6. When, why, and by whom were Mysteries brought into Christianity.

The State of the Question.

No. 1. There is nothing that men make a greater noise about, in our time especially, than what they generally profess least of all to understand. It may be easily concluded, I mean the Mysteries of the Christian Religion. The Divines, whose peculiar province it is to explain them to others, almost unanimously own their ignorance concerning them. They gravely tell us, we must adore what we cannot comprehend: And yet some of 'em press their dubious comments upon the rest of mankind with more assurance and heat, than could be tolerably justified, though we should grant them to be absolutely infallible. The worst on't is, they are not all of a mind. If you be Orthodox to those, you are a Heretic to these. He that sides with a Party is adjudged to Hell by the rest; and if he declares for none, he receives no milder sentence from all.

2. Some of 'em say the Mysteries of the Gospel are to be understood only in the sense of the Ancient Fathers. But that is so multifarious, and inconsistent with it self, as to make it impossible for any body to believe so many contradictions at once. They themselves did caution their readers from leaning upon their authority, without the evidence of Reason: and thought as little of becoming a Rule of Faith to their posterity, as we do to ours. Moreover, as all the Fathers were not authors, so we cannot properly be said to have their genuine sense. The works of those that have written are wonderfully corrupted and adulterated, or not entirely extant: and if they were, their meaning is much more obscure, and subject to controversy, than that of the Scripture.

3. Others tell us we must be of the mind of some particular Doctors, pronounced Orthodox by the authority of the Church. But as we are not a whit satisfied with any authority of that nature, so we see these same particular Doctors could no more agree than the whole herd of the Fathers; but tragically declaimed against one another's practices and errors: that they were as injudicious, violent, and factious as other men: that they were for the greatest part very credulous and superstitious in Religion, as well as pitifully ignorant and superficial in the minutest punctilios of literature. In a word, that they were of the same nature and make with our selves; and that we know of no privilege above us bestowed upon them by Heaven, except priority of birth, if that be one, as it's likely few will allow.

4. Some give a decisive voice in the unravelling of mysteries, and the interpretation of Scripture, to a General Council; and others to one Man whom they hold to be the Head of the Church Universal upon Earth, and the infallible judge of all controversies. But we do not think such Councils possible, nor (if they were) to be of more weight than the Fathers; for they consist of such, and others as obnoxious altogether to mistakes and passions: and besides, we cannot have recourse, as to a standing rule, for the solution of our difficulties, to a wonder by God's mercy now more rarely seen than the secular Games of old. As for the one Judge of all Controversies, we suppose none but such as are strongly prepossessed by interest or education can in good earnest digest those chimerical supreme Headships, and Monsters of Infallibility. We read no where in the Bible of such delegate Judges appointed by Christ to supply his Office: and Reason manifestly proclaims them frontless usurpers. Nor is their power finally distinguished from that of Councils to this hour, by the miserable admirers of both.

5. They come nearest the thing who affirm, that we are to keep to what the Scriptures determine about these matters: and there is nothing more true, if rightly understood. But ordinarily 'tis an equivocal way of speaking, and nothing less than the proper meaning of it is intended by many of those that use it: for they make the Scriptures speak either according to some spurious philosophy, or they conform them right or wrong to the bulky systems and formularies of their several communions.

6. Some will have us always believe what the literal sense imports, with little or no consideration for Reason, which they reject as not fit to be employed about the revealed part of Religion. Others assert, that we may use Reason as the instrument, but not the Rule of our Belief; The first contend, some Mysteries may be, or at least seem to be contrary to Reason, and yet be received by Faith. The second, that no Mystery is contrary to Reason, but that all are above it. Both of 'em from different principles agree, that several doctrines of the New Testament belong no farther to the enquiries of Reason than to prove 'em divinely revealed, and that they are properly Mysteries still.

7. On the contrary, we hold that Reason is the only foundation of all certitude; and that nothing revealed, whether as to its manner or existence, is more exempted from its disquisitions, than the ordinary phenomena of nature. Wherefore, we likewise maintain, according to the title of this Discourse, that there is nothing in the Gospel contrary to Reason, nor above it; and that no Christian Doctrine can be properly called a Mystery.



1. The state of the Question being thus fairly laid, our next business is to proceed to the proof thereof. But as the distinct and brief explanation of the terms is of indispensible use in discussing all controversies; so an easy and natural method is not less pleasing than profitable. It happily falls out that the terms of the present question are disposed according to the order I design to observe; which is, first, to show what is meant by Reason, and its properties: then to prove there's no doctrine of the Gospel contrary to Reason: after that, to evince that neither is there any of them above Reason; and by consequence, that none is a Mystery.

What REASON is not.

2. To begin with the first, viz. Reason. It appears to me very odd, that men should need definitions and explanations of that whereby they define and explain all other things: or that they cannot agree about what they all pretend, in some measure at least, to possess; and is the only privilege they claim over brutes and inanimates. But we find by experience, that the word Reason is become as equivocal and ambiguous as any other; though all that are not tickled with the vanity of singularity, or itch of dispute, are at bottom agreed about the thing. I'll handle it here with what brevity I can.

3. They are mistaken who take the Soul, abstractedly considered, for Reason: for as the general idea of gold is not a Guinea, but a piece determined to a particular stamp and value; so not the Soul it self, but the Soul acting in a certain and peculiar manner, is Reason. They err likewise, who affirm Reason to be that Order, Report, or Relation which is naturally between all things: For not this, but the thoughts which the soul forms of things according to it, may properly claim that title. They speed no better who call their own inclinations, or the authority of others, by that name. But it will better appear what it is from the following considerations.

4. Every one experiences in himself a power or faculty of forming various ideas or perceptions of things: of affirming or denying, according as he sees them to agree or disagree: and so of loving and desiring what seems good unto him; and of hating and avoiding what he thinks evil. The right use of all these faculties is what we call common sense, or Reason in general. But the bare act of receiving ideas into the mind, whether by the intromission of the senses, as colors, figures, sounds, smells, &c. or whether those ideas be the simple operations of the soul about what it thus gets from without, as mere consciousness for example, knowing, affirming, or denying, without any farther considerations: this bare act, I say, of receiving such ideas into the mind, is not strictly Reason, because the soul herein is purely passive. When a proper object is conveniently presented to the eye, ear, or any other sense rightly disposed, it necessarily makes those impressions which the mind at the same time cannot refuse to lodge. And we find it can as little forbear being conscious of its own thoughts or operations concerning this object: thus when my eyes are sound and open, as at this time, I have not only an idea of the picture that is before me, but I likewise know, I perceive, and affirm that I see it, I consider it, it pleases me, I wish it were mine. Arid thus I form, or rather after this manner I have first formed, the ideas of knowing, perceiving, affirming, denying, considering, willing, desiring, and the ideas of all the other operations of the mind, which are thus occasioned by the antecedent impressions of sensible objects.

5. By the word IDEA which I make so much use of here, and shall more frequently in the following Discourse, I understand the immediate object of the mind when it thinks, or any thought that the mind employs about any thing, whether such a thought be the image or representation of a body, as is the Idea of a tree; or whether it be some sensation occasioned by any body, such as are the ideas of cold and heat, of smells and tastes; or whether, lastly, it be a merely intellectual or abstracted thought, such as are the ideas of God and created Spirits, of arguing, of suspension, of thinking in general, or the like.

Wherein REASON consists.

6. But although these simple and distinct ideas, thus laid up in the great repository of the understanding, be not, as was observed, what we call strictly Reason, yet they are the sole matter and foundation of all our Reasoning: for the mind does upon occasion compare them together, compound them into complex ideas, and enlarge, contract, or separate them, as it discovers their circumstances capable or not. So that all our knowledge is, in effect, nothing else but the perception of the agreement or disagreement of our ideas in a greater or lesser number, whereinsoever this agreement or disagreement may consist. And because this perception is immediate or mediate, our knowledge is twofold.

7. First, when the mind, without the assistance of any other idea, immediately perceives the agreement or disagreement of two or more ideas, as that Two and Two is Four, that Red is not Blue; it cannot be called Reason, though it be the highest degree of evidence: For here's no need of discourse or probation, self evidence excluding all manner of doubt and darkness. Propositions so clear of themselves as to want no proofs, their terms being once understood, are commonly known by the names of axioms and maxims. And it is visible that their number is indefinite, and not confined only to two or three abstracted propositions made (as all axioms are) from the observation of particular Instances; as, that the Whole is greater than any Part, that Nothing can have no properties.

8. But, secondly, when the Mind cannot immediately perceive the agreement or disagreement of any ideas, because they cannot be brought near enough together, and so compared, it applies one or more intermediate ideas to discover it: as, when by the successive application of a line to two distant houses, I find how far they agree or disagree in length, which I could not effect with my eye. Thus from the force of the air, and the room it takes up, I know it has solidity and extension; and that therefore it is as much a body (though I cannot see it) as wood, or stone, with which it agrees in the said properties. Here solidity and extension are the line by which I find air and body are equal, or that air is a body; because solidity and extension agree to both. We prove the least imaginable particle of matter divisible, by showing all bodies to be divisible; because every particle of matter is likewise a body: and after the like manner, is the mortality of all living bodies inferred from their divisibility. This method of knowledge is properly called Reason or demonstration, (as the former Self-evidence or intuition); and it may be defined, That faculty of the Soul which discovers the certainty of any thing dubious or obscure, by comparing it with something evidently known.

9. From this definition it is plain, that the intermediate idea can be no proof where its agreement with both the ideas of the question is not evident; and that if more than one idea be necessary to make it appear, the same evidence is required in each of them. For if the connection of all the parts of a demonstration were not indubitable, we could never be certain of the inference or conclusion whereby we join the two extremes: so though Self-evidence excludes Reason, yet all demonstration becomes at length self-evident. It is yet plainer, that when we have no notions or ideas of a thing, we cannot reason about it at all; and where we have ideas, if intermediate ones, to show their constant and necessary agreement or disagreement, fail us, we can never go beyond probability. Though we have an idea of inhabited, and an Idea of the Moon, yet we have no intermediate idea to show such a necessary connection between them, as to make us certainly conclude that this Planet is inhabited, however likely it may seem. Now, since PROBABILITY is not KNOWLEDGE, I banish all HYPOTHESES from my PHILOSOPHY; because if I admit never so many, yet my knowledge is not a jot increased: for no evident connection appearing between my Ideas, I may possibly take the wrong side of the question to be the right, which is equal to knowing nothing of the matter. When I have arrived at knowledge, I enjoy all the satisfaction that attends it; where I have only probability, there I suspend my judgment, or, if it be worth the pains, I search after certainty.

Of the Means of lNFORMATION.

10. But besides these properties of Reason which we have explained, we are yet most carefully to distinguish in it the means of information, from the ground of persuasion: for the neglect of this easy distinction has thrown men into infinite mistakes, as I shall prove before I have done. The means of information I call those ways whereby any thing comes barely to our knowledge, without necessarily commanding our assent. By the ground of persuasion, I understand that rule by which we judge of all Truth, and which irresistibly convinces the mind. The means of information are EXPERIENCE and AUTHORITY: Experience (as you may see No. 4.) is either external, which furnishes us with the ideas of sensible objects; or internal, which helps us to the ideas of the operations of our own minds. This is the common stock of all our knowledge; nor can we possibly have ideas any other way without our organs or faculties.

11. Authority, abusively so called, as if all its informations were to be received without examine, is either humane or divine: humane authority is called also moral certitude; as when I believe an intelligible relation made by my friend, because I have no reason to suspect his veracity, nor he any interest to deceive me. Thus all possible matters of fact, duly attested by coeval persons as known to them, and successively related by others of different times, nations, or interests, who could neither be imposed upon themselves, nor be justly suspected of combining together to deceive others, ought to be received by us for as certain and indubitable as if we had seen them with our own eyes, or heard them with our own ears. By this means it is, I believe there was such a city as Carthage, such a Reformer as Luther, and that there is such a Kingdom as Poland. When all these rule concur in any matter of fact, I take it then for demonstration, which is nothing else but irresistible evidence from proper proofs: but where any of these conditions are wanting; the thing is uncertain, or, at best, but probable, which, with me, are not very different.

12. The authority of God, or divine revelation, is the manifestation of Truth by Truth it self, to whom it is impossible to lie: whereof at large in Ch. 2. of the following Section. Nothing in nature can come to our knowledge but by some of these four means, viz. the experience of the senses, the experience of the mind, humane and divine revelation.

Of the Ground of PERSUASION.

13. Now, as we are extremely subject to deception, we may, without some infallible rule, often take a questionable proposition for an axiom, old wives fables for moral certitude, and humane Impostures for divine revelation. This infallible rule, or ground of all right persuasion, is evidence; and it consists in the exact conformity of our ideas or thoughts with their objects, or the things we think upon. For as we have only ideas in us, and not the things themselves, 'tis by those we must form a judgment of these.

14. Ideas therefore being representative beings, their evidence naturally consists in the property they have of truly representing their objects. Not that I think every idea has a perfect pattern to represent, as the ideas of length and motion in my mind are like the length and motion of the pen I handle; for some ideas are but the result of certain powers in the particles of bodies to OCCASION particular sensations in us; as the sweetness of sugar and the cold of ice, are no more inherent in them than pain in the knife that cuts me, or sickness in the fruit that surfeits me. But though such occasional ideas have no existence out of our imagination, yet the pleasure, pain, and other qualities they excite, show us the good or harm their subjects may do us; which renders the knowledge of them as useful as that of the properties which really exist in the things themselves. Without the heat and light of fire, what should its figure and quantity serve for? And what sets a price upon amber-greece, but the perfume? The Reason then why I believe the idea of a rose to be evident, is the true representation it gives me of that flower. I know it is true, because the rose must contain all the properties which its idea exhibits, either really, as the bulk and form, or occasionally, as the color, taste and smell. And I cannot doubt of this, because the properties must belong to the exemplary cause, or to nothing, or be the figments of my own brain: but nothing can have no properties; and I cannot make one single idea at my pleasure, nor avoid receiving Ideas when objects work on my senses: therefore I conclude the properties of the rose are not the creatures of my fancy, but belong to the exemplary cause, that is, the object.

15. The evidence of the ideas of the operations of the mind, is infallible as that of our own being; and if by any Impossibility we should call the latter in question, 'twould but serve to give us the greater assurance of it: For besides the unavoidable supposition of our existence in this very proposition, I doubt if I am; so it is clear, that whatever doubts must needs be as much something as what affirms, and this something I call my self. Let us now but strictly require this evidence in all the agreements and disagreements of our Ideas in things merely speculative, and as far as we can in matters of common practice, (for these must of necessity sometimes admit probability to supply the defect of demonstration); and we may without a lazy reliance upon authority, or a skeptical progress to infinity, successfully trace the Truth, and bring it to view the light from those subterraneous caverns where it is supposed to lie concealed. It is impossible for us to err as long as we take evidence for our guide; and we never mistake, but when we wander from it by abusing our liberty, in denying that of any thing which belongs to it, or attributing to it what we do not see in its idea. This is the primary and universal origin of all our errors.

16. But God the wise Creator of all, (ever to be named and thought upon with reverence) who has enabled us to perceive things, and form judgments of them, has also endued us with the power of suspending our judgments about whatever is uncertain, and of never assenting but to clear perceptions. He is so far from putting us upon any necessity of erring, that as he has thus privileged us on the one hand with a faculty of guarding ourselves against prepossession, or precipitation, by placing our liberty only in what is indifferent, or dubious and obscure; so he provides on the other hand, that we should discern and embrace the Truth, by taking it out of our power to dissent from an evident proposition. We must necessarily believe, that it is impossible the same thing should be and not be at once: nor can all the world persuade us to doubt of it. But we need not admit that there's no void in nature, or that the earth absolves an annual course about the sun, till we get demonstrations to that effect.

17. If people precipitate their assent, either because they find the search of Truth attended with more difficulties than they are willing to run through, or because they would not seem to be ignorant of any thing, this is their fault. Wherefore let us attribute all our false notions to our own anticipation and inattention: let us confess our destruction to be of our selves; and cheerfully thank our kind Disposer, who has put us under a law of bowing before the light and majesty of evidence. And truly if we might doubt of any thing that is clear, or be deceived by distinct conceptions, there could be nothing certain: neither conscience, nor God himself, should be regarded: no society or government could subsist. But it is as true, that if we could not suspend our assent to dubious or obscure propositions, Almighty Goodness (which is impossible) should be the real cause of all our errors.

18. If it should be asked, why assent is denied to true propositions, since evidence necessarily requires it? I answer, 'tis because they are not made evident: for perspicuity and obscurity are relative terms, and what is either to me may be the quite contrary to to another. If things be delivered in words not understood by the hearer, nor demonstrated to agree with other Truths already very clear, or now so made to him, he cannot conceive 'em. Likewise if the order of nature and due simplicity be not observed, he cannot see them evidently true or false; and so suspends his judgment, (if no affection sways him) where another, it may be, receives perfect satisfaction. Hence it is that we frequently, with indignation and wonder, attribute that to the stupidity and obstinacy of others, which is the fruit of our own confused ratiocination, for want of having thoroughly digested our thoughts; or by affecting ambiguous expressions, and using such as the other has no ideas to at all, or different ones from ours.

That the Doctrines of the Gospel are not contrary to Reason.

1. After having said so much of Reason, I need not operosely show what it is to be contrary to it; for I take it to be very intelligible from the precedent Section, that what is evidently repugnant to clear and distinct ideas, or to our common notions, is contrary to Reason: I go on therefore to prove, that the doctrines of the Gospel, if it be the Word of God, cannot be so. But if it be objected, that very few maintain they are: I reply, that no Christian I know of now (for we shall not disturb the ashes of the dead) expressly says Reason and the Gospel are contrary to one another. But, which returns to the same, very many affirm, that though the doctrines of the latter cannot in themselves be contradictory to the principles of the former, as proceeding both from God; yet, that according to our conceptions of them, they may seem directly to clash: and that though we cannot reconcile them by reason of our corrupt and limited understandings; yet that from the authority of divine revelation, we are bound to believe and acquiesce in them; or, as the Fathers taught 'em to speak, to adore what we cannot comprehend.

The absurdity and effects of admitting any real or seeming contradictions in RELIGION.

2. This famous and admirable doctrine is the undoubted source of all the absurdities that ever were seriously vented among Christians. Without the pretense of it, we should never hear of the transubstantiation, and other ridiculous fables of the Church of Rome; nor of any of the Eastern ordures, almost all received into this Western sink: nor should we be ever bantered with the Lutheran impanation, or the ubiquity it has produced, as one monster ordinarily begets another. And though the Socinians disown this practice, I am mistaken if either they or the Arians can make their notions of a dignified and creature-God capable of Divine Worship, appear more reasonable than the extravagancies of other sects touching the article of the Trinity.

3. In short, this doctrine is the known refuge of some men, when they are at a loss in explaining any passage of the Word of God. Lest they should appear to others less knowing than they would be thought, they make nothing of fathering that upon the secret counsels of the Almighty, or the nature of the thing, which is, it may be, the effect of inaccurate Reasoning, unskillfulness in the tongues, or ignorance of history. But more commonly it is the consequence of early impressions, which they dare seldom afterwards correct by more free and riper thoughts: So desiring to be teachers of the Law, and understanding neither what they say, nor those things which they affirm, they obtrude upon us for doctrines the commandments of men. And truly well they may; for if we once admit this principle, I know not what we can deny that is told us in the name of the Lord. This doctrine, I must remark it too, does highly concern us of the laity; for however it came to be first established, the clergy (always excepting such as deserve it) have not been since wanting to themselves, but improved it so far as not only to make the plainest, but the most trifling things in the World mysterious, that we might constantly depend upon them for the explication. And nevertheless, they must not, if they could, explain them to us, without ruining their own design, let them never so fairly pretend it. But, overlooking all observations proper for this place, let us enter upon the immediate examen of the opinion it self.

4. The first thing I shall insist upon is, that if any Doctrine of the New Testament be contrary to Reason, we have no manner of idea of it. To say, for instance, that a ball is white and black at once, is to say just nothing; for these colors are so incompatible in the same subject, as to exclude all possibility of a real positive idea or conception. So to say, as the Papists, that children dying before baptism are damned without pain, signifies nothing at all: For if they be intelligent creatures in the other world, to be eternally excluded God's Presence, and the Society of the Blessed, must prove ineffable torment to them: But if they think they have no understanding, then they are not capable of Damnation in their sense; and so they should not say they are in Limbo-Dungeon, but that either they had no souls, or were annihilated; which (had it been true, as they can never show) would be reasonable enough, and easily conceived. Now if we have no Ideas of a thing, it is certainly but lost labor for us to trouble our selves about it: For what I don't conceive, can no more give me right notions of God, or influence my Actions, than a Prayer delivered in an unknown tongue can excite my devotion: if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? And except words easy to be understood be uttered, how shall it be known what is spoken? (1 Cor. 14.8, 9.) Syllables, though never so well put together, if they have not Ideas fixed to them, are but words spoken in the air; and cannot be the ground of a reasonable service, or Worship. (Rom. 12.1.)

5. If any should think to evade the difficulty by saying, that the ideas of certain doctrines may be contrary indeed to common notions, yet consistent with themselves, and I know not what supra-intellectual truths, he's but just where he was. But supposing a little that the thing were so; it still follows, that none can understand these doctrines except their perceptions be communicated to him in an extraordinary manner, as by new powers and organs. And then too, others cannot be edified by what is discoursed of 'em, unless they enjoy the same favor. So that if I would go preach the Gospel to the wild Indians, I must expect the the ideas of my words should be, I know not how, infused into their souls in order to apprehend me: and according to this hypothesis, they could no more, without a miracle, understand my speech than the chirping of birds; and if they knew not the meaning of my voice, I should even to them be a barbarian (1 Cor. 14.11.), notwithstanding I spoke mysteries in the Spirit. But what do they mean by consisting with themselves, yet not with our common notions? Four may be called Five in Heaven; but so the name only is changed, the thing remains still the same. And since we cannot in this world know any thing but by our common notions, how shall we be sure of this pretended consistency between our present seeming contradictions, and the theology of the world to come? for as 'tis by Reason we arrive at the certainty of God's own existence, so we cannot otherwise discern his revelations but by their conformity with our natural notices of him, which is in so many words, to agree with our common notions.

6. The next thing I shall remark is, that those, who stick not to say they would believe a downright contradiction to Reason, did they find it contained to the Scripture, do justify all absurdities whatsoever; and, by opposing one light to another, undeniably make God the author of all incertitude. The very supposition, that Reason might authorize one thing, and the Spirit of God another, throws us into inevitable skepticism; for we shall be at a perpetual uncertainty which to obey: nay, we can never be sure which is which. For the proof of the divinity of Scripture depending upon Reason, if the clear light of the one might be any way contradicted, how shall we be convinced of the infallibility of the other? Reason may err in this point as well as in any thing else; and we have no particular promise it shall not, no more than the Papists that their senses may not deceive them in every thing as well as in transubstantiation. To say it bears witness to it self, is equally to establish the Alcoran or the Poran. And 'twere a notable argument to tell a Heathen, that the Church has declared it, when all societies will say as much for themselves, if we take their word for it. Besides, it may be, he would ask whence the Church had authority to decide this matter? And if it should be answered from the Scripture, a thousand to one but he would divert himself with this circle. You must believe that the Scripture is divine, because the Church has so determined it, and the Church has this deciding authority from the Scripture. 'Tis doubted if this power of the Church can be proved from the passages alleged to that purpose; but the Church it self (a party concerned) affirms it. Hey-day! are not these eternal rounds very exquisite inventions to giddy and entangle the unthinking and the weak?

7. But if we believe the Scripture be divine, not upon its own bare assertion, but from a real testimony consisting in the evidence of the things contained therein; from undoubted effects, and not from words and letters; what is this but to prove it by Reason? It has in it self, I grant, the greatest characters of divinity. But 'tis Reason finds them out, examines them, and by its principles approves and pronounces them sufficient; which orderly begets in us an acquiescence of Faith or persuasion. Now if particulars be thus severely sifted; if not only the doctrine of Christ and his Apostles be considered, but also their lives, predictions, miracles, and deaths; surely all this labor would be in vain, might we upon any account dispense with contradictions. O! blessed and commodious system, that dischargest at one stroke those troublesome remarks about history, language, figurative and literal senses, scope of the writer, circumstances, and other helps of interpretation! We judge of a man's wisdom and learning by his actions, and his discourses; but God, who we are assured has not left himself without a witness, (Acts 14.17) must have no privileges above the maddest enthusiast, or the Devil himself, at this rate.

8. But a veneration for the very words of God will be pretended: this we are pleased. with; for we know that God is not a man that he should lie. (Numb. 23.19). But the question is not about the words, but their sense, which must be ever worthy of their Author, and therefore according to the genius of all speech, figuratively interpreted, when occasion requires it. Otherwise, under pretense of Faith in the Word of God, the highest follies and blasphemies may be deduced from the letter of Scripture; as, that God is subject to passions, is the author of sin, that Christ is a Rock, was actually guilty of and defiled with our transgressions, that we are worms or sheep, and no men. And if a figure be admitted in these passages, why not, I pray, in all expressions of the like nature, when there appears an equal necessity for it?

9. It may be demanded why I have so long insisted upon this article, since that none expressly makes Scripture and Reason contradictory, was acknowledged before? But in the same place mention is made of some who hold, that they may seem directly to clash; and that though we cannot reconcile them together, yet that we are bound to acquiesce in the decisions of the former. A seeming contradiction is to us as much as a real one; and our respect for the Scripture does not require us to grant any such in it, but rather to conclude, that we are ignorant of the right meaning when a difficulty occurs; and so to suspend our judgment concerning it, till with suitable helps and industry we discover the Truth. As for acquiescing in what a man understands not, or cannot reconcile to his Reason, they know best the fruits of it that practice it. For my part, I'm a stranger to it, and cannot reconcile my self to such a principle. On the contrary, I I am pretty sure he pretends in vain to convince the judgment, who explains not the nature of the thing.

A man may give his verbal assent to he knows not what, out of fear, superstition, indifference, interest, and the like feeble and unfair motives: but as long as he conceives not what he believes, he cannot sincerely acquiesce in it, and remains deprived of all solid satisfaction. He is constantly perplexed with scruples not to be removed by his implicit Faith; and so is ready to be shaken, and carried away with every wind of doctrine. (Ephes. 4.14). I will believe because I will believe, that is, because I'm in the humor so to do, is the top of Apology. Such are unreasonable men, walking after the vanity of their minds, having their understandings darkened, being strangers to the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their hearts. (Ephes. 4.17, 18). But he that comprehends a thing, is as sure of it as if he were himself the author. He can never be brought to suspect his profession; and, if he be honest, will always render a pertinent account of it to others.

10. The natural result of what has been said is, That to believe the divinity of Scripture, or the sense of any passage thereof, without rational proofs, and an evident consistency, is a blameable credulity, and a temerarious opinion, ordinarily grounded upon an ignorant and willful disposition, but more generally maintained out of a gainful prospect. For we frequently embrace certain doctrines not from any convincing evidence in them, but because they serve our designs better than the Truth, and because other contradictions we are not willing to quit, are better defended by their means.

Of the Authority of REVELATION, as it regards this Controversy.

11. Against all that we have been establishing in this Section, the Authority of Revelation will be alleged with great show, as if without a right of silencing or extinguishing REASON, it were altogether useless and impertinent. But if the distinction I made in the precedent Section, N. 9. be well considered, the weakness of the present objection will quickly appear, and this controversy be better understood hereafter. There I said REVELATION was not a necessitating motive of assent, but a mean of information. We should not confound the way whereby we come to the knowledge of a thing, with the grounds we have to believe it. A man may inform me concerning a thousand matters I never heard of before, and of which I should not as much as think if I were not told; yet I believe nothing purely upon his word without evidence in the things themselves. Not the bare authority of him that speaks, but the clear conception I form of what he says, is the ground of my persuasion.

12. If the sincerest person on earth should assure me he saw a cane without two ends, I neither should nor could believe him; because this relation plainly contradicts the idea of cane. But if he told me he saw a staff that, being by chance laid in the earth, did after some time put forth sprigs and branches, I could easily rely upon his veracity; because this no way contradicts the idea of a staff, nor transcends possibility.

13. I say possibility; for omnipotency it self can do no more. They impose upon themselves and others, who require assent to things contradictory, because God, say they, can do all things, and it were limiting of his power to affirm the contrary. Very good! we heartily believe God can do all things: but that mere NOTHING should be the object of his power, the very omnipotency alleged will not permit us to conceive. And that every contradiction, which is a synonym for impossibility, is pure nothing, we have already sufficiently demonstrated. To say, for example, that a thing is extended and not extended, is round and square at once, is to say nothing; for these ideas destroy one another, and cannot subsist together in the same subject. But when we clearly perceive a perfect agreement and connection between the terms of any proposition, we then conclude it possible because intelligible: so I understand God may render immediately solid, what has been hitherto fluid; make present beings cease to exist or change their forms; and call those things that are not, as though they were. (Rom 4.17). When we say then, that nothing is impossible with God, or that he can do all things, we mean whatever is possible in it self, however far above the power of creatures to effect.

14. Now, such is the nature of a matter of fact, that though it may be conceived possible enough, yet he only can with assurance assert its existence who is himself the author, or by some means of information comes first to the certain knowledge of it. That there was such an island as Jamaica, no European could ever reasonably deny: and yet that it was precisely situated In such a latitude, was watered with those rivers, clothed with these woods, bore this grain, produced that plant, no English-man before the discovery of America, could positively affirm.

15. Thus God is pleased to reveal to us in Scripture several wonderful matters of fact, as the creation of the world, the last judgment, and many other important truths, which no man left to himself could ever imagine, no more than any of my fellow-creatures can be sure of my private thoughts: For who knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of a man that is in him? even so the things of God knoweth none but the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2.11.) But as secret things belong unto the Lord; so those things which are revealed, belong unto us and to our children. (Deut. 29.29). Yet, as we discoursed before, we do not receive them only because they are revealed: For besides the infallible testimony of the revelation from all requisite circumstances, we must see in its subject the indisputable characters of DIVINE WISDOM and SOUND REASON; which are the only marks we have to distinguish the oracles and will of God, from the impostures and traditions of men.

16. Whoever reveals any thing, that is, whoever tells us something we did not know before, his words must be intelligible, and the matter possible. This RULE holds good, let God or man be the revealer. If we count that person a fool who requires our assent to what is manifestly incredible, how dare we blasphemously attribute to the most perfect being, what is an acknowledged defect in one of our selves? As for unintelligible relations, we can no more believe them from the revelation of God, than from that of man; for the conceived ideas of things are the only subjects of believing, denying, approving, and every other act of the understanding: therefore all matters revealed by God or man, must be equally intelligible and possible; so far both revelations agree. But in this they differ, that though the revelation of man should be thus qualified, yet he may impose upon me as to the truth of the thing; whereas what God is pleased to discover to me is not only clear to my reason, (without which his revelation could make me no wiser) but likewise it is always true. A man, for example, acquaints me that he has found a treasure: this is plain and possible, but he may easily deceive me. God assures me, that he has formed man of earth: This is not only possible to God, and to me very intelligible; but the thing is also most certain, God not being capable to deceive me, as man is. We are then to expect the same degree of perspicuity from God as from man, though more of certitude from the first than the last.

17. This Reason persuades, and the Scriptures expressly speak it. Those prophets or dreamers were to be stoned to death (Deut. 13.1,2,3) that should go about to seduce the people from the worship of one God to polytheism (the service of many Gods), though they should confirm their doctrine by signs and wonders. And though a prophet spoke in the name of the Lord, yet if the thing prophesied did not come to pass, it was to be a rational sign he spoke presumptuously of himself, and not of God. (Deut. 18.21,22). It was revealed to the prophet Jeremy in prison, that his uncle's son would sell his field to him (Jer. 22.7,8), but he did not conclude it to be the word of the Lord till his kinsman actually came to strike the bargain with him. The Virgin MARY, though of that sex that's least proof against flattery and superstition, did not implicitly believe she should bear a child that was to be called the son of the most High, and of whose kingdom there should be no end (Luke 1.34,35), till the angel gave her a satisfactory answer to the strongest objection that could be made: nor did she then conclude (so unlike was she to her present worshippers) it should unavoidably come to pass; but (ver. 38) humbly acknowledging the possibility, and her own unworthiness, she quietly wished and expected the event.

18. In how many plates are we exhorted to beware of false prophets (Mat. 7.14.) and teachers, seducers (2 Tim. 3.13.) and deceivers? (Tit. 1.10.) We are not only to prove or try all things, and to hold fast that which is best (1 Thess. 5.21.), but also to try the spirits whether they be of God. (1 Joh. 4.1). But how shall we try? how shall we discern? Not as the horse and mule which have no understanding (Psa. 32.9.), but as circumspect and wise men, judging what is said. (Eph. 5.15, 1 Cor. 10.15.). In a word, it was from clear and weighty reasons, both as to fact and matter, and not by a blind obedience, that the men of God of old embraced his revelations, which on the like account we are willing to receive of their hands. I am not ignorant how some boast they are strongly persuaded by the illuminating and efficacious operation of the Holy Spirit, and that they neither have nor approve other reasons of their FAITH: but we shall endeavor in its proper place to undeceive them; for no adversary, how absurd or trifling soever, ought to be superciliously disregarded by an unfeigned lover of men and truth. So far of REVELATION; only in making it a mean of information, I follow Paul himself, who tells the Corinthians, that he cannot profit them except he speaks to them by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine. (1 Cor. 14.6.)

That CHRISTIANITY was intended a Rational and Intelligible Religion; proved from the Miracles, Method and Style of the New Testament.

19. What we discoursed of REASON before, and REVELATION now, being duly weighed, all the doctrines and precepts of the New Testament (if it be indeed divine) must consequently agree with Natural Reason, and our own ordinary ideas. This every considerate and well-disposed person will find by the careful perusal of it: and whoever undertakes this task, will confess the Gospel not to be hidden from us, nor afar off, but very nigh us, in our mouths, and in our hearts. (Deut. 30.11,14.). It affords the most illustrious examples of close and perspicuous ratiocination conceivable; which is incumbent on me in the explication of its MYSTERIES, to demonstrate. And though the evidence of Christ's doctrine might claim the approbation of the Gentiles, and its conformity with the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, with all the marks of the MESSIAH concurring in his person, might justly challenge the assent of his country-men; yet to leave no room for doubt, he proves his authority and gospel by such works, and miracles as the stiff-necked Jews themselves could not deny to be divine. Nicodemus says to him, No man can do these miracles which thou dost, except God be with him (Joh. 3.2.) Some of the Pharisees acknowledged no sinner could do such things. (Joh. 9.16.) And others, that they exceeded the power of the devil. (Joh. 10.21).

20. JESUS himself appeals to his very enemies, ready to stone him for pretended blasphemy, saying; If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not: but if I do, believe not me, believe the works; that you may know, and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him (Joh. 10.37,38.): that is, believe not rashly on me, and so give a testimony to my works; but search the Scriptures, which testify of the Messiah; consider the works I do, whether they be such as become God, and are attributed to him: If they be, then conclude and believe that I am he, &c. In effect, several of the people said, that Christ when he should come could do no greater wonders; and many of the Jews believed, when they saw the miracles which he did.

21. How shall we escape, says the Apostle, if we neglect so great a Salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will? Those who heard Christ, the Author of our Religion, speak, and saw the wonders which he wrought, renounce all the hidden things of dishonesty, all craftiness and deceitful handling of the Word of God: And that they manifest nothing but Truth, they commend themselves to every man's conscience, that is, they appeal to every man's Reason, in the sight of God. Peter exhorts Christians to be ready always to give an answer to every one that asks them a Reason of their hope. Now to what purpose served all these miracles, all these appeals, if no regard was to be had of men's understandings? if the doctrines of Christ were incomprehensible, contradictory; or were we obliged to believe revealed nonsense? Now if these miracles be true, Christianity must consequently be intelligible; and if false, (which our adversaries will not grant) they can be then no arguments against us.

22. But to insist no longer upon such passages, all men will own the verity I defend, if they read the sacred writings with that equity and attention that is due to mere humane works: nor is there any different rule to be followed in the interpretation of Scripture from what is common to all other books. Whatever unprejudiced person shall use those means, will find them notorious deceivers, or much deceived themselves, who maintain the New Testament is written without any order or certain rule, but just as matters came into the apostles' heads, whether transported with enthusiastic fits, (as some would have it) or, according to others, for lack of good sense and a liberal education. I think I may justly say, that they are strangers to true method, who complain of this confusion and disorder. But the proof of the case depends not upon generalities: though, whenever it is proved, I will not promise that every one shall find a justification of the particular method he was taught, or he has chosen, to follow. To defend any PARTY is not my business, but to discover the TRUTH.

23. The facility of the GOSPEL is not confined only to method; for the style is also most easy, most natural, and in the common dialect of those to whom it was immediately consigned. Should any preach in Xenophon's strain to the present Greeks, or in correct English to the country-people in Scotland, 'twould cost them much more time and pains to learn the very words, than the knowledge of the things denoted by them. Of old, as well as in our time, the Jews understood Hebrew worse than the tongues of those regions where they dwelt. No pretenses therefore can be be drawn from the obscurity of the language in favor of the irrational hypothesis: for all men are supposed to understand the daily use of their Mother-Tongue; whereas the style of the learned is unintelligible to the vulgar. And the plainest authors that write as they speak, without the disguise of pompous elegance, have ever been accounted the best by all good judges. It is a visible effect of Providence that we have in our hands the monuments of the Old Testament, which in the New are always supposed, quoted, or alluded to. Nor is that all, for the Jewish service and customs continue to this day. If this had been true of the Greeks and Romans, we should be furnished with those helps to understand aright many unknown particulars of their Religion, which make us Rulers and Teachers in Israel. Besides, we have the Talmud, and other works of the Rabbins, which, however otherwise useless, give us no small light into the ancient rites and language. And if after all we should be at a loss about the meaning of any expression, we ought rather to charge it upon distance of time, and the want of more books in the same tongue, than to attribute it to the nature of the thing, or the ignorance of the author, who might be easily understood by his country-men and contemporaries. But no Truth is to be established, nor falsehood confuted from such passages, no more than any can certainly divine his fortune from the sound of bow-bell.

24. If any object, that the Gospel is penned with little or no ornament, that there are no choice of words, nor studied expressions in it; the accusation is true, and the Apostles themselves acknowledge it: nor is there a more palpable demonstration of their having designed to be understood by all. I came not to you, says Paul (1 Cor.2.1.), with excellency of speech, or wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. (Ver. 4.) My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of humane wisdom, but in demonstration, or conviction of the spirit or mind, and in power or efficacy. This he speaks in reference to the philosophers and orators of those times, whose elocution, 'tis confessed, was curious, and periods elaborate, apt to excite the admiration of the hearers, but not to satisfy their Reasons; charming indeed their senses whilst in the Theatre, or the Temple, but making them neither the better at home, nor the wiser abroad.

25. These men, as well as many of their modern successors, were fond enough of their own ridiculous systems, to count the things of God foolishness (1 Cor. 2.14.), because they did not agree with their precarious and sensual notions; because every sentence was not wrapped up in mystery, and garnished with a figure: not considering that only false or trivial matters need the assistance of alluring harangues to perplex or amuse. But they were enemies and strangers to the simplicity of Truth. All their study, as we took notice, lay in tickling the passions of the people at their pleasure with bombast eloquence, and apish gesticulations. They boasted their talent of persuading for or against any thing. And as he was esteemed the best orator that made the worst cause appear the most equitable before the judges, so he was the best philosopher that could get the wildest paradox to pass for demonstration. They were only concerned about their own glory and gain, which they could not otherwise support, but (according to an artifice that never fails, and therefore ever practiced) by imposing upon the people with their authority and sophistry, and under pretense of instructing, dexterously detaining them in the grossest ignorance.

26. But the scope of the apostles was very different: piety towards God, and the peace of mankind, was their gain, and Christ and his Gospel their glory; they came not magnifying nor exalting themselves; not imposing but declaring their doctrine: they did not confound and mislead, but convince the mind; they were employed to dispel ignorance, to eradicate superstition, to propagate Truth, and reformation of manners; to preach deliverance to captives (Luk. 4.18.), (i. e.) the enjoyment of Christian liberty to the slaves of the Levitical, and pagan priesthoods; and to declare salvation to repenting sinners.

27. I shall add here some of the characters which David gives of the law and word of God, that we may admit nothing as the will of heaven but what is agreeable to them: the law of the Lord, says he, is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever. The judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. The New Testament is so full of this language, and the contents of it are every where so conformable to it, that I shall refer the reader to the particular discussion of the whole in the second discourse. But I must remark in the mean-time that not a syllable of this language is true, if any contradictions seeming or real be admitted in Scripture. As much may be said of Mysteries; but we shall talk of that by and by.

Objections answered, drawn from the Pravity of Humane REASON.

28. There remains one objection yet, upon which some lay a mighty stress, though it's like to do them little service. Granting, say they, the GOSPEL to be as reasonable as you pretend, yet corrupt and depraved Reason can neither discern nor receive divine verities. Ay, but that proves not divine verities to be contrary to sound Reason. But they maintain that no man's Reason is sound. Wherefore I hope so to state this question, as to cut off all occasion of dispute from judicious and peaceable men. Reason taken for the principle of discourse in us, or more particularly for that faculty every one has of judging of his ideas according to their agreement or disagreement, and so of loving what seems good unto him, and hating what he thinks evil: Reason, I say, in this sense is whole and entire in every one whose organs are not accidentally indisposed. 'Tis from it that we are accounted men; and we could neither inform others, nor receive improvement ourselves, any more than brutes, without it.

29. But if by Reason be understood a constant right use of these faculties, viz. if a man never judges but according to clear perceptions, desires nothing but what is truly good for him, nor avoids but what is certainly evil: Then, I confess, it is extremely corrupt. We are too prone to frame wrong conceptions, and as erroneous judgments of things. We generally covet what flatters our senses, without distinguishing noxious from innocent pleasures; and our hatred is as partial. We gratify our bodies so much as to meditate little, and think very grossly of spiritual, or abstracted matters. We are apt to indulge our inclinations, which we term to follow nature (1 Cor. 2.14): so that the natural man, (Ψυξικος constantly signifies the animal, and never the natural state of man. It should be in this place translated 'sensual,' as it is very rightly, Jam. 3.15. and Jude. v.19.) that is, he that gives the swing to his appetites, counts divine things mere folly, calls Religion a feverish dream of superstitious heads, or a politic trick invented by statesmen to awe the credulous vulgar. For as they that after the flesh mind the things thereof (Rom. 8.5,7.), so their carnal wisdom is enmity against God. Sin easily besets us. (Heb. 12.1.) There is a law in our members (Rom. 7.23.) or body, warring against the law of our minds or Reason. And when we would do good, evil is present with us (Ver. 21). If thus we become stupid and unfit for earthly speculations, how shall we believe when we are told of heavenly things? (Joh. 3.12).

30. But these disorders are so far from being Reason, that nothing can be more directly contrary to it. We lie under no necessary fate of sinning. There is no defect in our understandings but those of our own creation, that is to say, vicious habits easily contracted, but difficultly reformed. 'Tis just with us as with the drunkard, whose I cannot give over drinking is a deliberate I will not. For upon a wager, or for a reward, he can forbear his cups a day, a month, a year, according as the consideration of the value or certainty of the expected gain does influence him. Let no man, therefore, say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for as God cannot be tempted to evil, so neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted when he is drawn away, and enticed of his own lust. (Jam. 1.13,14.)

31. Supposing a natural impotency to reason well, we could no more be liable to condemnation for not keeping the commands of God, than those to whom the Gospel was never revealed for not believing on Christ: For how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? (Rom. 10.14.) Were our reasoning faculties imperfect, or we not capable to employ them rightly, there could be no possibility of our understanding one another in millions of things, where the stock of our ideas should prove unavoidably unequal, or our capacities different. But 'tis the perfection of our Reason and Liberty that makes us deserve rewards and punishments. We are persuaded that all our thoughts are entirely free, we can expend the force of words, compare ideas, distinguish clear from obscure conceptions, suspend our judgments about uncertainties, and yield only to evidence. In a word, the deliberations we use about our designs, and the choice to which we determine our selves at last, do prove us the free disposers of all our actions. Now what is sound Reason except this be it? Doubtless it is. And no Evangelical, or other knowable Truth can prove insuperable, or monstrous to him that uses it after this manner, But when we abuse it against it self, and enslave it to our debauched imaginations, it is averse from all good. We are so habituated, I confess, to precarious and hasty conclusions, that without great constancy and exercise we cannot recover our innate freedom, nor do well, having accustomed our selves so much to evil. (Jer. 13.23.) But though 'tis said in Scripture, that we will neither know nor understand; 'tis there also said, that we may amend our ways, turn from our iniquity, and choose life. Encouragements are proposed to such as do so. We can, upon serious reflections, see our faults, and find that what we held most unreasonable, did only appear so from superficial disquisitions, or want of necessary helps; from deference to authority, and principles taken upon trust; from irregular inclinations and self-interest, or the hatred of a party.

32. But notwithstanding all this some are at a world of pains to rob themselves (if they could) of their Liberty or Freewill, the noblest and most useful of all our faculties, the only thing we can properly call ours, and the only thing that neither power nor fortune can take from us. Under whatever veil these men endeavor to hide their folly, yet they are engaged in it by extreme pride and self-love: For, not willing to own their ignorance and miscarriages, (which proceed from passion, sloth, or inconsideration) they would remove all the blame from their will, and charge it upon a natural impotency not in their power to cure. Thus they ingeniously cheat themselves, and choose rather to be ranked in the same condition with brutes or machines, than be obliged to acknowledge their humane frailties, and to mend.

33. Since therefore the perfection or soundness of our Reason is so evident to our selves, and so plainly contained in Scripture, however wrested by some ignorant persons, we should labor to acquire knowledge with more confident hopes of success. Why should we entertain such mean and unbecoming thoughts, as if Truth, like the Almighty, dwelt in light inaccessible, and not to be discovered by the sons of men? Things are always the same, how different soever the conceptions of men about them may be; and what another did not, I may happily find out. That nothing escaped the sight of former ages is a tale to be told where one person only speaks, and no body present must contradict him. The slips and errors which are taken notice of in the world every day, serve only to put us in mind that many able men did not examine the Truth with that order and application they should or might have done. There are a thousand things in our power to know, of which, through prejudice or neglect, we may be, and frequently remain ignorant all our lives; and innumerable difficulties may be made by imagining MYSTERIES where there are none, or by conceiving too discouraging and unjust an opinion of our own abilities: whereas, by a parity of Reason, we may hope to outdo all that outdid others before us, as posterity may exceed both. 'Tis no presumption therefore for us to endeavor setting things in a better light; as to know what we are able to perform is not pride, but foolishly to presume none else can equal us, when we are all upon the same level: For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? (1 Cor. 4.7.) Have we not all the same sure and certain promises of light and assistance from above, as well as the privilege of Reason in common? If any lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who gives to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. (Jam. 1.5.)

34. To conclude, let no body think to be excused by this imaginary corruruption, but learn from the Scripture, our infallible oracle, that the Gospel, if it be the Word of God, is only contrary to the opinions and wishes of lewd men, that love to walk after their own lusts; of those that speak evil of the things which they understand not (2 Pet. 3.3.), and debauch themselves in what they know in common with brutes. (Jude, v. 10). It is hid to them whose minds are blinded by the God of this world (2 Cor. 4.3,4.); and to those who live by the ignorance and simple credulity of their brethren. To be brief, it is contrary to the false reasoning of all that will not know what it is to reflect or consider; but it is not above the possibility of their Reason when they shall better improve their faculties. The creation of the world was against the system of Aristotle, the immortality of the soul against the hypothesis of Epicurus, and the liberty of the will was impugned by many ancient philosophers. [How the absolute liberty we experience in our selves, is consistent with God's omnipotency and our dependence on him, shall in due place be considered.] But is this to be contrary to Reason? Have not these men been quite baffled by as very heathens as themselves? And are not their other errors since detected and exploded by most of the learned? Besides, they wanted a principal mean of information, viz. REVELATION.

That there is nothing MYSTERIOUS, or ABOVE Reason in the GOSPEL.

1. We come at length to enquire whether any Doctrine of the GOSPEL be ABOVE, though not contrary to REASON. This expression is taken in a twofold signification. First, It denotes a thing intelligible of it self, but so covered by figurative words, types and ceremonies, that Reason cannot penetrate the veil, nor see what is under it till it be removed. Secondly, it is made to signify a thing of its own nature inconceivable, and not to be judged of by our ordinary faculties and ideas, though it be never so clearly revealed. In both these senses to be above Reason is the same thing with MYSTERY; and, in effect, they are convertible terms in divinity.

The History and Signification of MYSTERY in the Writings of the GENTILES.

2. What is meant by REASON we have already largely discoursed; but to understand aright what the word MYSTERY imports, we must trace the original of it as far back as the theology of the ancient Gentiles; whereof it was a considerable term. Those nations, who (as Paul elegantly describes them) (Rom 1. 22, 23, 25.) professing themselves wise, became fools; who changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the image and likeness of corruptible man, of birds, of beasts, and creeping things; who turned the Truth of God into a lie, and worshipped the creature as well as (and sometimes more than) Creator: Those nations, I say, ashamed or afraid to exhibit their Religion naked to the view of all indifferently, disguised it with various ceremonies, sacrifices, plays, &c. making the superstitious people believe that admirable things were adumbrated by these externals. The priests, but very rarely, and then obscurely, taught in public, pretending the injunctions of their divinities to the contrary, lest their secrets, forsooth, should be exposed to the profanation of the ignorant, or violation of the impious. They performed the highest acts of their worship, consisting of ridiculous, obscene, or inhumane rites, in the inmost recesses of temples or groves consecrated for that purpose: and it was inexpiable sacrilege for any to enter there [—Procul, O procul este Profani! Conclamat vates, totoq; absistite luco, Virg. l.6. Aeneid, v. 259. Callimach. Hymn. in Apol. v. 2.] but such as had a spedcial mark and privilege, or as much as to ask questions about what passed in them. All the excluded were forthat reason styled the PROFANE, as those not in orders with us the LAITY.

3. But the cunning priests, who knew how to turn every thing to their own advantage, thought fit to initiate or instruct certain persons in the meaning of their rites. They gave out that such as died uninitiated [Plat. in Phaedon. pag. 69. Edit. Paris. 1578. Isocrat. in Panegyr. Initiaq; ut appellantur, ita re vera principia vitae cognovimus: neq; solum cum laetitia vivendi rationem accepimus, sed etiam cum spe meliore moriendi. Cic. l. 2 de Leg. c. 14.] wallowed in infernal mire, whilst the purified and initiated dwelt with the Gods; which as well increased their veneration for, as a desire of enjoying, so great a happiness. The initiated, after some years preparation to make them value what cost so much time and patience, were devoutly sworn [Quis Cereris ritus audet vulgare Profanis? Magnaque Threieio sacra reperta Samo? Ovid. l. 2. de Arte Amand. v. 601. Aristid.] never to discover what they saw or heard under pain of death [Solipater in Divis. Quest.], though they might discourse of them amongst themselves, lest too great a constraint should tempt them to blab the secret. And do religiously they kept this oath, that some of them, after their conversion to Christianity, could hardly be brought to declare what passed at their initiation in Gentilism. The Athenians thought no torments exquisite enough to punish Diagoras [Aristophanes in Avibus; etiam Suidas in voce.] the philosopher, for divulging their mysteries; and not content to brand him with atheism for laughing at their weakness, they promised a talent as a reward to any that should kill him. 'Twas death to say Adonis was a man; some suffered upon that account: and many were torn in pieces at the Mysteries [Acarnanes duo Juvenes per Initiorum dies non Initiari Templum Cereris, imprudentes Religionis, cum caetera turba ingressi sunt. Facile eos Sermo prodidit, absurde quaedam percunctantes: Deduttiq; ad Antistites Templi, quum palam effet per errorem ingressos, tanquam ob infandum scelus intersecti sunt. Livius, lib. 31. cap. 14.] of Ceres, and the orgies [Witness the story of Pentheus, which afforded the subject of a tragedy to Euripides.] of Bacchus, for their inadvised curiosity.

4. Credible authors report, that the priests confessed to the initiated how these mystic representations were instituted at first in commemoration of some remarkable accidents, or to the honor of some great persons that obliged the world by their virtues and useful inventions to pay them such acknowledgments. But let this be as it will, Myein [Μυειν] in their systems signified to initiate: Myesis [Μυησις], initiation: Mystes [Μοσης], a name afterwards given the priests, denoted the person to be initiated, who was called an Epopt [Scholiast. in Aristophanis Ranas.] when admitted; and mystery [Μυστειον] the doctrine in which he was initiated. As there were several degrees [Schol. in Plut. Aristophan. Act. 4. Sc. 2.], so there were different sorts of mysteries. The most famous were the Samothracian, the Eleusinian, the Egyptian, and those of Bacchus, commonly known by the name of orgies [Pars obscurer cavis celebrabant Orgia cistis, Orgia quae frustra cupiunt audire Profani. Cat. Epigram. 64. v. 260.]; .though the word is sometimes put for any of the former.

5. From what has been said it is clear, that they understood by mystery in those days a thing intelligible of it self, but so veiled by others, that it could not be known without special revelation. I need not add, that in all the Greek and Roman authors it is constantly put as a very vulgar expression, for any thing sacred or profane that is designedly kept secret, or accidentally obscure. And this is the common acceptation of it still; for when we cannot see clearly into a business, we say it is a mystery to us; and that an obscure or perplexed discourse is very mysterious. Mysteries of state, science, and trades run all in the same notion.

6. But many not denying what is so plain, yet being strongly inclined out of ignorance or passion to maintain what was first introduced by the craft or superstition of their fore-fathers, will have some Christian doctrines to be still mysterious in the second sense of the word, that is, inconceivable in themselves, however clearly revealed. They think a long prescription will argue it folly in any to appear against them, and indeed custom has made it dangerous. But, slighting so mean considerations, if I can demonstrate that in the New Testament mystery is always used in the first sense of the word, or that of the Gentiles, viz. for things naturally very intelligible, but so covered by figurative words or rites, that Reason could not discover them without special revelation; and that the veil is actually taken away; then it will manifestly follow that the doctrines so revealed cannot now be properly called mysteries.

7. This is what I hope to perform in the sequel of this section, to the entire satisfaction of those sincere Christians more concerned for the Truth than the old or gainful opinion. Yet I must first remove out of my way certain common places of cavilling, with which, not only the raw beginners of the most implicit constitution raise a great dust upon all occasions, though not able to speak of anything pertinently when jolted out of the beaten road; but truly their venerable teachers are not ashamed sometimes to play at this small game, which, they know, rather amuses the prejudiced of their own side, than edifies the adversaries of any sort. I wish there were more even of a well-meaning zeal without knowledge, than of art or cunning in this conduct.

That nothing ought to be called a MYSTERY, because we have not an adequate Idea of all its Properties, nor any at all of its Essence.

8. I shall discuss this point with all the perspicuity I am able. And, first, I affirm, that nothing can be said to be a mystery, because we have not an adequate idea of it, or a distinct view of all its properties at once; for then every thing would be a mystery. The knowledge of finite creatures is gradually progressive, as objects are presented to the understanding. Adam did not know so much in the twentieth as in the hundredth year of his age; and Jesus Christ is expressly recorded to have increased in wisdom as well as in stature (Luk. 2.52.). We are said to know a thousand things, nor can we doubt of it; yet we never have a full conception of whatever belongs to them. I understand nothing better than this table upon which I am now writing: I conceive it divisible into parts beyond all imagination; but shall I say it is above my Reason because I cannot count these parts, nor distinctly perceive their quantity and figures? l am convinced that plants have a regular contexture, and a multitude of vessels, many of them equivalent or analogous to those of animals, whereby they receive a juice from the earth, and prepare it, changing some into their own substance, and evacuating the excrementious parts. But I do not clearly comprehend how all these operations are performed, though I know very well what is meant by a tree.

9. The reason is, because knowing nothing of bodies but their properties, God has wisely provided we should understand no more of these than are useful and necessary for us; which is all our present condition needs. Thus our eyes are not given us to see all quantities, nor perhaps any thing as it is in it self, but as it bears some relation to us. What is too minute, as it escapes our sight, so it can neither harm nor benefit us: and we have a better view of bodies the nearer we approach them, because then they become more convenient or inconvenient; but as we remove farther off, we lose their sight with their influence. I'm persuaded there's no motion which does not excite some sound in ears disposed to be affected with proportionable degrees of force from the air; and, it may be, the small animals concerned can hear the steps of the spider, as we do those of men and cattle. From these and millions of other instances, it is manifest, that we have little certainty of any thing but as it is noxious or beneficial to us.

10. Rightly speaking then, we are accounted to comprehend any thing when its chief properties and their several uses are known to us: for to comprehend in all correct authors is nothing else but to know; and as of what is not knowable we can have no idea, so it is nothing to me. It is improper therefore to say a thing is above our Reason, because we know no more of it than concerns us, and ridiculous to supersede our disquisitions about it upon that score. What should we think of a man that would stiffly maintain water to be above his Reason, and that he would never enquire into its nature, nor employ it in his house or grounds, because he knows not how many particles go to a drop; whether the air passes through it, is incorporated with it, or neither? This for all the world as if I would not go because I cannot fly. Now seeing the denominations of things are borrowed from their known properties, and that no properties are knowable but. what concern us, or serve to discover such as do, we cannot be accountable for comprehending no other, nor justly required more by reasonable men, much less by the all-wise DEITY.

11. The most compendious method therefore to acquire sure and useful knowledge, is not to trouble ourselves nor others with what is useless, were it known; or what is impossible to be known at all. Since I easily perceive the good or bad effects of rain upon the earth, what should I be the better did I comprehend its generation in the clouds? for after all I could make no rain at my pleasure, nor prevent its falling at any time. A probable hypothesis will not give satisfaction in such cases: the hands, for example, of two clock-dials may have the same external motion, though the disposition of the latent springs which produce it should be very different. And to affirm this or that to be the way, will not do, unless you can demonstrate that no other possible way remains. Nay; should you hit upon the real manner, you can never be sure of it, because the evidence of matters of fact solely depends upon testimony: and it follows not that such a thing is so, because it may be so.

12. The application of this discourse to my subject admits of no difficulty; and it is, first, that no Christian doctrine, no more than any ordinary piece of nature, can be reputed a mystery, because we have not an adequate or complete idea of whatever belongs to it. Secondly, that what is revealed in Religion, as it is most useful and necessary, so it must and may be as easily comprehended, and found as consistent with our common notions, as what we know of wood or stone, of air, of water, or the like. And, thirdly, that when we do as familiarly explain such doctrines, as what is known of natural things, (which I pretend we can) we may then be as properly said to comprehend the one as the other.

13. They trifle then exceedingly, and discover a mighty scarcity of better arguments, who defend their mysteries by this pitiful shift of drawing inferences from what is unknown to what is known, or of insisting upon adequate ideas; except they will agree, as some do, to call every spire of grass, sitting and standing, fish or flesh, profound mysteries. Arid if out of a pertinacious or worse humor they will be still fooling, and call these things mysteries, I'm willing to admit as many as they please in Religion, if they will allow me likewise to make mine as intelligible to others as these are to me.

14. But to finish this point, I conclude, that neither GOD himself, nor any of his attributes, are mysteries to us for want of an adequate idea: no, not eternity. The mysterious wits do never more expose themselves than when they treat of eternity in particular. Then they think themselves in their impregnable fortress, and strangely insult over those dull creatures that cannot find a thing where it is not. For if any bounds (as beginning or end) could be assigned to eternity, it ceases immediately to be what it should; and you frame only a finite, or rather a negative idea, which is the nature of all limitation. Nor can it be said, that therefore eternity is above Reason in this respect, or that it is any defect in us not to exhaust its idea; for what greater perfection can be ascribed to Reason than to know precisely the nature of things? And does not all its errors lie in attributing those properties to a thing which it has not, or taking any away that it contains? Eternity therefore is no more above Reason because it cannot be imagined, than a circle, because it may; for in both cases Reason performs its part according to the different natures of the objects, whereof the one is essentially imaginable, the other not.

15. Now it appears that the pretended mysteriousness of eternity does not consist in the want of an adequate notion, which is all that we consider in it at present. The difficulties raised from its duration, as, that succession seems to make it finite, and that all things must exist together if it be instantaneous, I despair not of solving very easily; and rendering infinity also (which is inseparable from it, or rather a different consideration of the same thing) as little mysterious as that three and two make five. But this falls naturally into my second discourse, where I give a particular explication of the Christian tenets, : according to the general principles I am establishing in this.

16. As we know not all the properties of things, so we can never conceive the essence of any substance in the world. To avoid ambiguity, I distinguish, after an excellent modern philosopher, the nominal from the real essence of a thing. The nominal essence is a collection of those properties or modes which we principally observe in any thing, and to which we give one common denomination or name. Thus the nominal essence of the sun is a bright, hot, and round body, at a certain distance from us, and that has a constant regular motion. Whoever hears the word sun pronounced, this is the idea he has of it. He may conceive more of its properties, or not all these; but it is still a collection of modes or properties that makes his idea. So the nominal essence of honey consists in its color, taste, and other known attributes.

17. But the real essence is that intrinsic constitution of a thing which is the ground or support of all its properties, and from which they naturally flow or result. Now though we are persuaded that the modes of things must have such a subject to exist in, (for they cannot subsist alone) yet we are absolutely ignorant of what it is. We conceive nothing more distinctly than the mentioned properties of the sun, and those whereby plants, fruits, metals, &c. are known to us; but we have no manner of notion of the several foundations of these properties, though we are very sure in the mean time, that some such thing must necessarily be. The observable qualities therefore of things is all that we understand by their names, for which reason they are called their nominal essence.

18. It follows now very plainly, that nothing can be said to be a mystery, because we are ignorant of its real essence, since it is not more knowable in one thing than in another, and is never conceived or included in the ideas we have of things, or the names we give 'em. I had not much insisted upon this point, were it not for the so often repeated sophistry of some that rather merit the encomiums of great READERS than great REASONERS. When they would have the most palpable absurdities and contradictions go down with others, or make them place Religion in words that signify nothing, or what they are not able to explain, then they wisely tell them, that they are ignorant of many things, especially the essence of their own souls; and that therefore they must not always deny what they cannot conceive. But this is not all; for when they would (instead of confuting them) make those pass for ridiculous or arrogant pretenders, who maintain that only intelligible and possible things are the subject of belief, they industriously represent them as presuming to define the essence of God with that of created spirits. And after they have sufficiently aggravated this presumption of their own coining, they conclude, that if the contexture of the smallest pebble is not to be accounted for, then they should not insist upon such rigorous terms of believing, but sometimes be content to submit their Reason to their teachers, and the determinations of the Church.

19. Who perceives not the weakness and slight of this reasoning? We certainly know as much of the SOUL as we do of any thing else, if not more. We form the clearest conceptions of thinking, knowing, imagining, willing, hoping, loving, and the like operations of the mind. But we are strangers to the subject wherein these operations exist. So are we to that upon which the roundness, softness, color and taste of the grape depend. There is nothing more evident than the modes and properties of BODY, as to be extended, solid, divisible, smooth, rough, soft, hard, &c. But we know as little of the internal constitution, which is the support of these sensible qualities, as we do of that wherein the operations of the SOUL reside. And, as the great man I just now mentioned observes, we may as well deny the existence of body, because we have not an idea of its real essence, as  call the being of the soul in question for the same reason. The Idea of the soul then is every whit as clear and distinct as that of the body; and had there been (as there is not) any difference, the soul must have carried the advantage, because its properties are more immediately known to us, and are the light whereby we discover all things besides.

20. As for GOD, we comprehend nothing better than his attributes. We know not, it's true, the nature of that eternal subject or essence wherein infinite goodness, love, knowledge, power and wisdom co-exist; but we are not better acquainted with the real essence of any of his creatures. As by the idea and name of GOD we understand his known attributes and properties, so we understand those of all things else by theirs; and we conceive the one as clearly as we do the other. I remarked in the beginning of this chapter, that we knew nothing of things, but such of their properties as were necessary and useful. We may say the same of God; for every act of our religion is directed by the consideration of some of his attributes, without ever thinking of his essence. Our love to him is kindled by his goodness, and our thankfulness by his mercy; our obedience is regulated by his justice; and our hopes are confirmed by his wisdom and power.

21. I think I may now warrantably conclude, that nothing is a mystery, because we know not its essence, since it appears that it is neither knowable in it self, nor ever thought of by us: so that the divine being himself cannot with more reason be accounted mysterious in this respect than the most contemptible of his creatures. Nor am I very much concerned that these essences escape my knowledge: for I am fixed in the opinion, that what infinite goodness has not been pleased to reveal to us, we are either sufficiently capable to discover our selves, or need not understand it at all. I hope now It is very manifest that mysteries in religion are but ill argued from the pretended mysteries of nature; and that such as endeavor to support the former by the latter, have either a design to impose upon others, or that they have never themselves duly considered of this matter.

The Signification of the Word MYSTERY in the Kew Testament, and the Writings of the most ancient Christians.

22. Having so dispatched these adequate ideas, and, I know not what, real essences, we come now to the main point upon which the whole controversy chiefly depends. For the question being, whether or no Christianity is mysterious, it ought to be naturally decided by the New Testament, wherein the Christian faith is originally contained. I heartily desire to put the case upon this issue, I appeal to this tribunal: for did I not infinitely prefer the Truth I learn from these sacred records to all other considerations, I should never assert that there are no mysteries in Christianity. The Scriptures have engaged me in this error, if it be one; and I will sooner be reputed heterodox with these only on my side, than to pass for orthodox with the whole world, and have them against me.

23. Now by searching the Scriptures I find some of the evangelic doctrines called mysteries, in a more general, or in a more particular sense. They are more generally so called with respect to all mankind: for being certain matters of fact only known to God, and lodged in his decree, or such events as were quite lost and forgot in the world, it was impossible for any person, though never so wise or learned, to discover them; for the things of God knoweth none but the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2.11.), as none can find out the secret thoughts of man till he tells them himself. Such revelations then of God in the New Testament are called mysteries, not from any present inconceivableness or obscurity, but with respect to what they were before this revelation, as that is called our task which we long since performed.

24. If any should question this, let him hear the Apostle Paul declare for himself and his fellow-laborers in the Gospel; We speak, says he, the wisdom of God hid in a MYSTERY, which God ordained before the World for our Glory, which none of the Princes of the World knew, &c. And, to show that this Divine Wisdom was a Mystery for want of revealing Information, he presently subjoins, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him; but God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit. The most perspicacious philosophers were not able to foretell the Coming of Christ, to discover the resurrection of the body, nor any other matter of fact that is delivered in the Gospel: And if they happened now and then to say something like the Truth, they did but divine at best, and could never be certain of their opinion. It is a most delightful thing to consider what pains the enquiring Heathens were often at to give a Reason for what depended not in the least upon any principles in their philosophy, but was an historical Fact communicable by God alone, or such as had undoubted memoirs concerning it. Of this I think it not amiss to add the following Example.

25. The same experience that taught the Gentiles their mortal condition, acquainted them also with the frailty of their natures, and the numberless calamities constantly attending them. They could not persuade themselves that the species of man came in such deplorable circumstances out of the hands of an infinitely good and merciful Deity; and so were inclined to impute all to the wickedness of adult persons, till they perceived that death and misfortune did not spare innocent children more than robbers and pirates. At last they imagined a pre-existent state, wherein the Soul acting separately like Angels, might have contracted some extraordinary guilt, and so for punishment be thrust into the body, which they sometimes compared to a prison, but oftener to a grave. This was likewise the origin of transmigration, though in process of time the sins of this world became as much concerned in that opinion as those of the other. But nothing is more ingenious than the account which Cebes the Theban gives us of this matter in his most excellent Portraiture of humane Life. He feigns [Cebet. Tab. p. 11. Ed. Amft. 1689.] imposture sitting in a throne at the gate of life, in the shape of a most beautiful lady, holding a cup in her hand: she obligingly presents it to all that are on their journey to this world, and these as civilly accept it; but the draught proves ignorance and error, whence proceed all the disorders and misery of their lives.

26. This point was a great mystery to these honest philosophers, who had only fancy to guide them, and could not pretend to instructions from the mind of God; but the thing is now no mystery to us that have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2.16.). We know that Adam the first man became also the first sinner, and mortal; and that so the whole race propagated from him could be naturally no better than he was: By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. (Rom. 5.12.)

27. But some doctrines of the Gospel are more particularly called mysteries, because they were hid from God's peculiar people under the Mosaic economy; not that they knew nothing concerning them, for the Law had a shadow of good things to come (Heb. 10.1.); but they were not clearly and fully revealed till the New Testament times, being veiled before by various typical representations, ceremonies, and figurative expressions. Christ tells his disciples, Many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them, and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them. (Luke 10.24.) Paul says, we use great PLAINNESS of speech, and not as Moses who put a VEIL over his face (2 Cor. 3.12,13.): and then expressly adds, that this VEIL is taken away in Christ (Ver. 14.), which could not be truly affirmed, were the things revealed still inconceivable; for I know no difference between not hearing of a thing at all, and not comprehending it when you do. In another place Paul has these remarkable words; The preaching of Jesus Christ according to the REVELATION of the MYSTERY which was kept secret since the world began; but now is made MANIFEST, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, MADE KNOWN to all nations for the obedience of faith. (Rom. 16.25,26.)

28. These passages alone sufficiently prove the assertions contained in No. 6 and 7 of this Section, viz. First, that the Mysteries of the Gospel were certain things in their own nature intelligible enough, but called mysteries by reason of the veil under which they were formerly hid. Secondly, that under the gospel this veil is wholly removed. From which, Thirdly, follows the promised conclusion, that such doctrines cannot now properly deserve the name of mysteries.

29. It is observable, that the hottest sticklers for the Fathers do cite their authority only where they think it makes for them, and slight or suppress it when not favorable to their cause. Lest it should be maliciously insinuated, that I serve the Holy Scriptures after the same manner, I shall here transcribe all the passages of the New Testament where the word mystery occurs, that a man running may read with conviction what I defend. The whole may be commodiously reduced to these heads. First, mystery is read for the Gospel or the Christian religion in general, as it was a future dispensation totally hid from the Gentiles, and but very imperfectly known to the Jews: secondly, some particular doctrines occasionally revealed by the apostles are said to be manifested mysteries, that is, unfolded secrets. And, thirdly, mystery is put for any thing veiled under parables or enigmatical forms of speech. Of all these in order.

30. Mystery is read for the Gospel or Christianity in general in the following passages: Rom. 16. 25, 26. The preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the MYSTERY which was kept secret since the world began; but now is made manifest, and by the writings of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of Faith. Now, in what sense could this mystery be said to be revealed, this secret to be made manifest, to be made known to all nations by the preaching of the Apostles, if it remained still incomprehensible? A mighty favor indeed! to bless the world with a parcel of unintelligible notions or expressions, when it was already overstocked with the Acroatic discourses of Aristotle, with the Esoteric doctrines of Pythagoras, and the mysterious jargon of the other sects of philosophers; for they all made high pretenses to some rare and wonderful secrets not communicable to every one of the learned, and never to any of the vulgar. By this means the obsequious disciples apologized for all that was found contradictory, incoherent, dubious, or incomprehensible in the works of their several masters. To any that complained of inconsistency or obscurity, they presently answered, O, Sir, the philosopher said it, and you ought therefore to believe it: he knew his own meaning well enough, though he cared not, it may be, that all others should do it too: so the occasions of your scruples, Sir, are only seeming, and not real. But the Christian Religion has no need of such miserable shifts and artifices, there being nothing in it above or contrary to the strictest Reason: and such as are of another mind may as well justify the idle dreams of the philosophers, the impieties and fables of the Alcoran, or any thing as well as Christianity. The second passage is in 1 Cor. 2.7. the words were but just now read, and need not here be repeated. The third passage is in 1 Cor. 4.1. Let a man so account of us as the ministers of Christ, and the stewards or dispensers of the MYSTERIES of God; that is, the preachers of those doctrines which God was pleased to reveal. The fourth passage is in Ephes. 6.9. Praying — for me, that utterance may be given unto me that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the MYSTERY of the Gospel. Parallel to this is the fifth passage in Col. 4.3, 4. Praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance to speak the MYSTERY of Christ — that I may make it manifest as I ought to speak. The clearness of these words admits of no comment. The sixth passage is in Col. 2.2. That their hearts might be comforted being knit together in love, and unto all the riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the MYSTERY of God, and of the Father, and of Christ. Here is evidently meant the revelation of the Gospel-state: for whatever right conceptions the Jews might have of the Father, they had not that full knowledge of Christ and his doctrines, which are the inestimable privileges we now enjoy. The seventh passage is in 1 Tim. 3. 8, 9. Likewise must the Deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, nor greedy of filthy lucre, holding the MYSTERY of the Faith in a pure conscience; that is, living to what they believe. The eighth and last passage relating to this head is in 1 Tim. 3.16. And without controversy great is the MYSTERY of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of Angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into Glory. I will not now insist upon the various readings of these words, nor critically determine which is spurious or genuine. All parties (how much soever they differ about their sense) agree that the gradations of the verse are Gospel-Revelations; so that the Mystery of Godliness cannot be restrained to any one, but is common to them all: It refers not to the nature of any of them in particular, but to the revelation of 'em all in general. And it must be granted, without any dispute, that the gracious manifestation of Christ and his Gospel is not only to us wonderfully stupendous and surprising, but that it was likewise a very great Mystery to all preceding the New Testament Dispensation. From these passages it appears, that the Gospel and the following expressions are synonymous, viz. The Mystery of the Faith, the Mystery of God and Christ, the Mystery of Godliness, and the Mystery of the Gospel. No Doctrine then of the Gospel is still a Mystery (for the Apostles concealed nothing from us that was useful, and have acquainted us with the whole Counsel of God [Acts 20.20,27.]: ) but 'tis the Gospel it self that was heretofore indeed a Mystery, and cannot now after it is fully revealed, properly deserve that appellation.

31. We design in the second place to show, that certain matters occasionally revealed by the Apostles, were only mysterious before that revelation. The Jews, who scarce allowed other nations to be men, thought of nothing less than that the time should ever come wherein those nations might be reconciled to God (Rom. 11.15.), and be made coheirs and partakers with them of the same privileges. This was nevertheless resolved upon in the divine decree, and to the Jews was a mystery, but ceases so to continue after the revelation of it to Paul, who, in his Epistles, has openly declared it to all the world. The first passage we shall allege to that purpose is in Eph. 5.1-6,9. If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward, how that by revelation he made known unto me the MYSTERY (as I wrote before in few words, whereby, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the MYSTERY of Christ), which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as 'tis now revealed unto us, his holy apostles and prophets, by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel — and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the MYSTERY, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God. The second passage is in Rom. 11.25. For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this MYSTERY, that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. The third passage is in Col. 1. 25, 26, 27. — The Church, whereof I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, even the MYSTERY which hath been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what are the riches of the glory of this MYSTERY among the Gentiles. The fourth passage is in Eph. 1.9,10. Having made known unto us the MYSTERY of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, he might gather together into one all things in Christ. These places require no explication, for the sense of them all is, that the secret of the vocation of the Gentiles is in the Gospel made known, manifested and declared; and therefore remains no longer a Mystery. The next thing under the designation of a Mystery in the above-mentioned sense is one circumstance of the Resurrection. The Apostle having no less clearly and solidly than largely reasoned upon this subject, (1 Cor. 15.) obviates an objection or scruple that might be raised about the state of such as should be found alive on the earth at the last day. Behold, says he, ver. 51, 52. I show you a MYSTERY, I impart a secret to you; we shall not all sleep, or die, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye;—the dead shall rise, and we shall be changed. It is not the doctrine of the resurrection then, you see, that is here called a mystery, but only this particular circumstance of it, viz. that the living shall at the sound of the last trumpet put off their flesh and blood, or their mortality, without dying, and be in an Instant rendered incorruptible and immortal, as well as those that shall revive. In the fifth chapter to the Ephesians, ver. 31, 32. we learn that the mutual love and conjunction of man and wife is a type of that indissoluble union which is between Christ and his Church. This was questionless a great Mystery before we were told it, but now there is nothing more intelligible than the foundation of that resemblance or figure. The Kingdom of Antichrist in opposition to the Gospel or Kingdom of Christ is also called a Mystery, because it was a secret design carried on insensibly and by degrees: but at length, all obstacles being removed or surmounted, it appears bare-faced to the light, and (as it was divinely fore-told) ceases to continue a Mystery. Let no man deceive you by any means, says Paul to the Thessalonians, (2 Thess. 2. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.) for that day shall not come except there be a falling away or apostasy first; and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, &c. And now you know what withholdeth, that he might not be revealed in his time; for the MYSTERY of Iniquity doth already work, only he who now hindreth, will hinder till he be taken out of the way, and then shall that wicked one be revealed. These are all the passages relating to the second head.

32. Mystery is, thirdly, put for any thing veiled under parables or enigmatical expressions in these parallel places following. The first is in Mat. 13.10,11. The disciples came and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given to you to know the MYSTERIES of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given. The second passage is in Mark 4.11. And Jesus said to his disciples, Unto you is given to know the MYSTERY of the Kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables. The same words are repeated in Luk. 8.10. And it is most evident from all of 'em, that those things which Christ spoke in parables were not in themselves incomprehensible, but mysterious to them only to whom they were not unfolded, that (as it is there said) hearing they might not understand. It is now the most ordinary practice in the world for such as would not be understood by every one, to agree upon a way of speaking peculiar to themselves. Nor is there any thing more easy than the explication which Christ gave of these parables at the request of his disciples.

33. There are but two passages only left, and mystery in them has no reference to any thing in particular, but it is put for all secret things in its utmost latitude or acceptation. The first place is in 1 Cor. 13.2. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all MYSTERIES and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have no charity, I am nothing. The second, parallel to this, is in 1 Cor. 14. 2. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue, speaketh not unto men but unto God; for no man understandeth him, however in the Spirit he speaketh MYSTERIES; that is, what is intelligible enough to him, are secrets to such as understand not his language.

34. Having so particularly alleged all the passages where there is mention made of mysteries in the New Testament, if any should wonder why I have omitted those in the Revelation, to such I reply, that the Revelation cannot be properly looked upon as a part of the Gospel; for there are no new doctrines delivered in it. Far from being a Rule of Faith or Manners, it is not as much as an explanation of any point in our Religion. The true subject of that book or vision is a prophetical history of the external state of the Church in its various and interchangeable periods of prosperity or adversity. But that I may not fall under the least suspicion of dealing unfairly, I shall subjoin the few texts of the Revelation wherein the word mystery is contained. The first is in Rev. 1. 20. The MYSTERY of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks: Well, what is the mystery or secret of these stars and candlesticks? The seven stars are the Angels of the seven Churches; and the seven candlesticks, which thou sawest, are the seven Churches, namely, of Asia. Another passage is in chap. 17.5,7. And upon her forehead was a name mitten, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, &c. And the Angel said,— I will tell thee the MYSTERY of the Woman. This he performs too in the following verses, which you may consult. Nor is it undeserving our particular notice, that Mystery is here made the distinguishing mark of the false or Antichristian Church. Mystery is a name written on her forehead; that is, all her Religion consists in Mystery, she openly owns, she enjoins the belief of Mysteries. And, no doubt on't, as far as any Church allows of Mysteries, so far it is ANTICHRISTIAN, and may with a great deal of justice, though little honor, claim kindred with the scarlet Whore. The only remaining text is in chap. 10. 5, 6, 7. And the Angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth, lifted up his hand to Heaven, and swore by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created Heaven and the things that therein are, and the earth and the things that therein are, and the sea and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer; but that in the days of the voice of the seventh Angel, when he shall begin to sound, the MYSTERY of God should be finished: that is, that all the things figuratively delivered in this prophecy concerning the Gospel (which was shown above to signify the same with the Mystery of God) should have their final accomplishment, and so end with this globe and all therein contained.

35. I appeal now to all equitable persons, whether it be not evident to any that can read, that Mystery in the whole New Testament is never put for any thing inconceivable in it self, or not to be judged of by our ordinary notions and faculties, however clearly revealed: And whether, on the contrary, it does not always signify some things naturally intelligible enough; but either so veiled by figurative words and rites, or so lodged in God's sole knowledge and decree, that they could not be discovered without special revelation. Whoever retains any real veneration for the Scripture, and sincerely believes it to be the Word of God, must be ever concluded by its authority, and render himself, in spite of all prejudices, to its evidence. He that says the Gospel is his only Rule of Faith, and yet believes any thing not warranted by it, he is an arrant hypocrite, and does but slyly banter all the world.

36. Nor can a more favorable opinion be harbored of those, who, instead of submission to the dictates of Scripture and Reason, straight have recourse to such persons as they specially follow or admire, and are ready to receive or refute an opinion, as these shall please to direct them. Pray, Doctor, says one of his Parishioners, what think you of such a Book? it seems to make things plain. Ah! dear Sir, answers the Doctor, it is a very bad book; he's a dangerous man that wrote it; he's for believing nothing but what agrees with his own purblind, proud and carnal Reason. P. Say you so, Doctor? then I'm resolved to read no more of it, for I heard you often preach against Human Reason; I'm sorry, truly, it should unhappily fall into my hands, but I'll take care that none of our family set their eyes upon it. D. You'll do very well, Sir: besides, this Book is still worse than I told you, for it destroys a great many points which we teach; and should this doctrine take, (which God forbid) most of the good Books you have at home, and which cost you no less pains to read than money to purchase, would signify not a straw, and serve only for waste-paper to put under pies, or for other mean uses. P. Bless me, good Doctor, I pray God forgive me reading such a vile treatise; he's an abominable man that could write it; but what? my books worth nothing, say you? Dr. H*s Sermons, and Mr. Cs Discourses waste-paper? I'll never believe it, let who will say the contrary; Lord, why don't you excommunicate the author and seize upon his books? D. Ay, Sir, Time was, — but now it seems a man may believe according to his own sense, and not as the Church directs; there's a Toleration established, you know. P. That Toleration, Doctor, will—. D. Whist, Sir, say no more of it; I am as much concerned as you can be; but it is not safe nor expedient at this time of day to find faults.

37. There are others far from this simplicity, but as firmly resolved to stand fast by their old systems. When they tell us of Mysteries we must believe them, and there's no remedy for it. It is not the force of Reasoning that makes these for Mysteries, but some by interest; and they'll be sure to applaud and defend any author that writes in favor of their cause, whether he supports it with Reason or not. But I'm not half so angry with these men as with a sort of people that will not be at the pains of examining any thing, lest they should become more clear-sighted or better informed, and so be tempted to take up a new road. Such persons must needs be very indifferent indeed, or they make Religion come into their Scutcheons.

38. The mention of Scutcheons naturally puts me in mind of those who are little moved with any Reasons, when the judgment of the Primitive Church comes in competition. The Fathers (as they love to speak) are to them the best interpreters of the words of Scripture; "And what those honest men," says a very ingenious person [M. de Fontenelle, dans son Histoire des Oracles.], "could not make good themselves by sufficient Reasons, is now proved by their sole authority. If the Fathers foresaw this," adds the same author, "they were not to be blamed for sparing themselves the labor of reasoning more exactly than we find they commonly did." That truth and falsehood should be determined by a majority of voices, or certain periods of time, seems to me to be the most ridiculous of all follies.

39. But if antiquity can in good earnest add any worth to an opinion, I think I need not fear to stand to its decision: "For if we consider the duration of the world," (says another celebrated writer [Monsieur Perrault dans ses Parallelles des Anciens & des Modernes.]) "as we do that of man's life, consisting of Infancy, Youth, Manhood, and old Age; then certainly such as lived before us were the Children or the Youth, and we are the true Ancients of the World. And if experience" (continues he) "be the most considerable advantage which grown persons have over the younger sort, then, questionless, the experience of such as come last into the world must be incomparably greater than of those that were born long before them: for the last comers enjoy not only all the stock of their predecessors, but to it have likewise added their own observations." These thoughts are no less ingenious than they are just and solid. But if antiquity be understood in the vulgar sense, I have no Reason to despair however; for my assertion too will become ancient to posterity, and so be in a condition to support it self by this commodious privilege of prescription.

40. Yet feeling I am not likely to live till that time, it cannot be amiss to make it appear that these same Fathers, who have the good luck to be at once both the Young and the Old of the World, are on my side. 'Tis not out of any deference to their judgments, I confess, that I take these pains. I have freely declared what value I set upon their authority in the beginning of this book: but my design is to show the disingenuity of those, who pretending the highest veneration for the writings of the Fathers, never fail to decline their sentence when it suites not with their humor or interest.

41. Clemens Alexandrinus has every where the same notion of mystery that I have, that the Gentiles had, and which I have proved to be that of the Gospel. In the 5th Book of his Stromates, which merits the perusal of all that are curious to understand the nature of the Jewish and Heathen Mysteries; in that Book, I say, he puts the matter out of all doubt, and quotes several of those texts of Scripture, which I have already alleged to this purpose. Nay he tells us, that the Christian discipline was called Illumination, because it brought hidden things to light, the Master (CHRIST) alone removing the Cover of the Ark, that is, the Mystic Veil. [Page 578. edit. Col. 1688.] He adds in express words, that those things which were mysterious and obscure in the Old Testament are made plain in the New.

42. Every one knows how the Primitive Christians, in a ridiculous imitation of the Jews, turned all the Scripture into Allegory; accommodating the properties of those animals mentioned in the Old Testament to events that happened under the New. They took the same liberty principally with men, where they could discover the least resemblance between their names, actions, or state of life; and carried this fancy at length to numbers, letters, places, and what not. That which in the Old Testament therefore did, according to them, represent any thing in the New, they called the type or mystery of it. Thus TYPE, SYMBOL, PARABLE, SHADOW, FIGURE, SIGN and MYSTERY, signify all the same thing in Justin Martyr. This Father affirms in his Dialogue with Tryphon the Jew, that the name of Joshua was a mystery representing the name of Jesus; and that the holding up of Moses' [Excd. 17.11.] hands during the battle with the Amalekites in Rephidim, was a type or mystery of Christ's cross, whereby he overcame death, as the Israelites there did their enemies: and then he adds the following remark; This is to be considered, says he, concerning those two holy men and prophets of God, that neither of them was able in his single person to carry both MYSTERIES, I mean the type of his cross, and that of being called by his name. [Page 338 edit. Col. 1686.] In the same dialogue he calls the predictions of the prophets SYMBOLS, PARABLES and MYSTERIES, explained by the succeeding prophets. [Pag. 294.]

43. When Tertullian in his Apology justifies the Christians from those inhumane practices whereof their enemies most unjustly accused 'em, he cries, "We are beset, we are discovered every day;-— But if we keep always hid, how are those things known which we are said to commit? Nay, who could make them known? Such as are guilty! Not so, surely: for all Mysteries are of course under an oath of secrecy. The Samothracian, the Eleusinian Mysteries are concealed; how much rather such as being discovered would now provoke the justice of men, and might expect to meet with that of God hereafter?" [Quotidie obsidemur, quotidie prodimuct,— Si semper latemus, quando proditum est quod admittimus? Immo a quibus prodi potuit? Ab ipsis reis! Non utique; cum vel ex forma omnibus Mysteriis silentii fides debeatur, Samorthracia & Eleusinia reticentur; quanto magis talia quae prodica interim etiam Humanam animadversionem provocabunt, dum Divina servatur? Pag. 8. edit. Paris, 1675.] They are secret practices, you see, and not incomprehensible doctrines which this Father counted Mysteries.

44. Origen makes the encampments of the Israelites in their journey to the promised land to be [Lib. 6. contra Cels. pag. 291. edit Cantab. 1677.] symbols or mysteries describing the way to such as shall travel towards Heaven, or heavenly things. I need not add what he says of the writings of the prophets, of the vision of Ezekiel, or the Apocalypse in particular: for he is universally confessed to have brought this mystic or allegorical method of interpreting Scripture to its perfection, and to have furnished matter to all that trod the same path after him; an honor, in my opinion, not to be envied him. But he was so far from thinking any doctrine of our Religion a mystery in the present sense of the word, that he expressly affirms them [Lib. 3. contra Cels. pag. 135.] to agree all with COMMON NOTIONS, and to commend themselves to the assent of every well-disposed hearer.

45. The other Fathers of the three first centuries have exactly the same notions of mystery: And should they in this matter happen to contradict in one place what they established in another, (as they ordinarily do in most things) it would only serve to exclude them from being a true rule to others that were none to themselves. But what is no small prejudice in our favor, seeing we have to do with men so apt to forget, they keep very constant to this point: so that I may justly hope by this time the cause of incomprehensible and inconceivable mysteries in Religion should be readily given up by all that sincerely respect FATHERS, SCRIPTURE, or REASON.

Objections brought from particular Texts of SCRIPTURE, and from the Nature of FAITH answered

46. Some men are so fond of mysteries, and it seems they find their account in it, that they are ready to hazard any thing sooner than part with them. In the mean time, whether they know it or not, they lay nothing less than their Religion at stake by this conduct; for it is an ugly sign when people profess that what they believe is above the examination of Reason, and will suffer it by no means to come into question: It argues in themselves a distrust of their cause; and others conclude, that what dares not abide the trial of Reason, must needs it self be unreasonable at bottom.

47. Notwithstanding these consequences are so obvious, they harden themselves against them, and are not ashamed to bring even Scripture to countenance their assertion. You shall hear nothing more frequently in their mouths than these words of the Apostle, Beware lest any man spoil you by PHILOSOPHY and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Col. 2.8.) Ridiculous! as if Reason and Truth were vanity and craft! By philosophy is not here understood sound Reason, (as all interpreters agree) but the systems of Plato, of Aristotle, of Epicurus, of the Academics, &c. many of whose principles are directly repugnant to common sense and good morals. Sophistry was never more in vogue than in the days of Paul; and several out of these sects embracing Christianity, found the way to mix with it their old opinions, which they were loath to quit for good and all. The Apostle therefore had weighty grounds to warn his converts not to confound the inventions of men with the doctrine of God. It appears nevertheless that this good advice was to little purpose, for you'll find the grossest mistakes and whimsies of the Fathers to have been occasioned by the several systems of philosophy they read before their conversion, and which they afterwards foolishly endeavored to reconcile with Christianity, to the entire ruin almost of the latter, as we shall show in the following chapter.

48. But as no particular hypothesis whatsoever has a right to set up for a standard of reason to all mankind, much less may vain philosophy or sophistry claim this privilege: and so far am I from aiming at any such thing, that it is the very practice I oppose in this book. When some have advanced the metaphysical nonsense of doting philosophers into articles of faith, they raise a loud clamor against Reason, before whose evidence and light their empty shadows must disappear. For as in philosophy so in Religion every sect has its peculiar extravagancies, and the INCOMPREHENSIBLE MYSTERIES of the latter do perfectly answer the OCCULT QUALITIES of the former. They were both calculated at first for the same ends, viz. to stop the mouths of such as demand a Reason where none can be given, and to keep as many in ignorance as interest shall think convenient. But God forbid that I should impute the like nefarious designs to all that contend for mysteries now, thousands whereof I know to be the best meaning men in the universe. This sophistical or corrupt philosophy is elsewhere in the New Testament styled (1 Cor. 3.19.) the wisdom of this world, to which the Greeks were as much bigoted, as the Jews were infatuated with a fancy that nothing could be true but what was miraculously proved so: The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after Wisdom. (1 Cor. 1.22.). But this boasted Wisdom was then foolishness with God, and so it is now with considering men.

49. A passage out of the epistle to the Romans is cited likewise to prove Humane Reason not a capable judge of what is divinely revealed. The words are, The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Rom. 8.7.). But If these words bespoken of Reason, there can be nothing more false; because Reason does and ought to subject it self to the Divine Law: yet this submission argues no imperfection in Reason, as our obedience to just laws cannot be said to destroy our liberty. Reason must first understand the Law of God, and then comply with it; for a man can no more deserve punishment for not observing such laws as are unintelligible, than for not performing what was never enjoined him. The carnal mind then in this place is not Reason, but the carnal desires of lewd and wicked mean; whose practices, as they are contrary to the revealed law of God, so they are to that of sound Reason too .

50. What has been discoursed of pretended wisdom and sensual minds, may be easily applied to another passage where it is said, that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth it self against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor. 10.4,5.) It is plain from the words as well as the scope of the whole, that these are the thoughts and imaginations of foolish and profane men, and should be captivated or reformed by Reason as well as Scripture; as, in effect, they often are: for such persons not ordinarily allowing of argument from Scripture, are first persuaded by Reason, and after that they receive the Scripture. But can Reason cast down or destroy it self? No; but it reduces those vain and impious sophisms which borrow its name to cover or authorize the disorders they occasion.

51. It would be extremely tedious to go one by one over all the texts which ignorant or perverse Men allege against that use of Reason in Religion which I particularly establish. Any single passage to my purpose should, one would think, give sufficient satisfaction to all Christian lovers of Truth: for the word of God must be every where uniform and self consistent. But I have quoted several in the second chapter of the second section, to speak nothing of what I performed m the foregoing chapter of the present section. Yet because because this Reasoning might be retorted, and to leave no plausible pretenses to cavillers or deceivers, I have punctually answered the strongest objections I have observed in the most celebrated pieces of divinity; I say which I have observed, for I should read the Gospel a million of times over before the vulgar notion of mystery could ever enter into my head, or any passage in that book could suggest to me that the sense of it was above Reason or enquiry. Nor do I find my self yet inclined to envy those who entertain other thoughts of it, when all the while they openly acknowledge it to be a divine revelation. But seeing the most material difficulty made to me by a friend, is, that my opinion destroys the nature of FAITH, I shall with all the brevity I can deliver my sentiments concerning this subject.

52. I will spend no time upon the ordinary divisions of faith into historical, temporary, or justifying, lively or dead, weak or strong, because most of these are not so much faith it self, as different effects thereof. The word imports belief or persuasion, as when we give credit to any thing which is told us by God or man; whence faith is properly divided into human and divine. Again, divine faith is either when God speaks to us immediately himself, or when we acquiesce in the words or writings of those to whom we believe he has spoken. All faith now in the world is of this last sort, and by consequence entirely built upon ratiocination. For we must first be convinced that those writings are theirs whose names they bear, we then examine the outward state and actions of those persons, and lastly understand what is contained to their works; otherwise we cannot determine whether they be worthy of God or not, much less firmly believe them.

53. To be confident of any thing without conceiving it, is no real faith or persuasion, but a rash presumption, and an obstinate prejudice, rather becoming enthusiasts or impostors that the taught of God, who has no interest to delude his creatures, nor wants ability to inform them rightly. I proved before, (Sect 2. Chap. 2.) that the difference between human and divine revelations did not consist in degrees of perspicuity, but in certitude. So many circumstances frequently concur in history as render it equal to intuition: Thus I can as soon deny my own being as the murder of Cicero, or the story of William the Conqueror; yet this happens only sometimes: But God speaks always Truth and certainty.

54. Now since by revelation men are not endued with any new faculties, it follows that God should lose his end in speaking to them, if what he said did not agree with their common notions. Could that person justly value himself upon being wiser than his neighbors, who having infallible assurance that something called Blictri had a being in nature, in the mean time knew not what this Blictri was? And seeing the case stands really thus, all faith or persuasion must necessarily consist of two parts, knowledge and assent. 'Tis the last indeed that constitutes the formal Act of Faith, but not without the evidence of the first: And this is the true account we have of it all over the New Testament. There we read that without Faith it is impossible to please God; but he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb. 11.6.). So the firm persuasion of a pious man that his requests will be granted, is grounded upon his knowledge of the being, goodness and power of God. It was reckoned no crime not to believe in Christ before he was revealed; for how could they believe in him of whom they had not heard? (Rom. 10.14.) But with what better Reason could any be condemned for not believing what he said, if they might not understand it? for, as far as I can see, these cases are parallel. Faith is likewise said to come by hearing (Ver. 17.); but without understanding 'tis plain this hearing would signify nothing, words and their ideas being reciprocal in all languages.

55. The Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews does not define FAITH a prejudice, opinion, or conjecture, but conviction or demonstration: Faith, says he, is the confident expectation of things hoped for, and the demonstration of things not seen. (Heb. 11.1.) These last words, things not seen, signify not (as some would have it) things incomprehensible or unintelligible, but past or future matters of fact, as the creation of the world, and the resurrection of the dead, or the belief of some things invisible to our corporeal eyes, though intelligible enough to the eyes of our understanding. This appears by all the examples subjoined to that definition. Besides, there can be properly no faith of things seen or present, for then 'tis self-evidence, and not ratiocination: Hope that is seen is not hope, for what a man sees why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for what we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. (Rom. 8. 24,25.) So the Patriarchs received not the promises, but saw them afar off, and were persuaded of them. (Heb. 11.13.)

56. Without conceiving faith after this manner, how could Christ be termed the Light of the World (John 8.12 & 9.5.), the Light of the Gentiles (Act. 13.47.)? How could believers be said to have the Spirit of Wisdom, (Eph. 1.17.) and to have the eyes of their hearts enlightened (Ver. 18.)? For the light of the heart or understanding is the knowledge of things; and as this knowledge is more or less, so the mind is proportionably illuminated. Be not unwise, says the Apostle, understanding what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5.17.) And in another place he exhorts men never to act in dubious matters till they are fully persuaded in their own minds (Rom. 14.5.)

57. But to all this will be objected that remarkable instance of Abraham's Faith, who was ready to sacrifice his only Son, notwithstanding God had promised that Kings should descend of him, and his Seed be numerous as the stars of Heaven, or the sand upon the sea shore. Did Abraham blindly obey then, without reconciling the apparent contradiction between God's present command and his former promises? Far from it: for 'tis expressly recorded, that he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten, of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy Seed be blessed [So λογισαμενος should be translated.]: Reasoning that God was able to raise him again from the dead, from whence also he had received him in a figure. (Heb. 11.1-18,19.) He rightly concluded that God was able to revive Isaac by a Miracle, as he was miraculously born, according to another promise, after his parents were past having children, (ver. 12.) and so as good as dead: therefore it is elsewhere written of Abraham, that being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb; nor staggered at God's promise through unbelief; but being strong in Faith he gave glory to God, and was fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform. (Rom. 4.19,20,21.)

58. Now what is there in all this, but very strict Reasoning from experience, from the possibility of the thing, and from the power, justice, and immutability of him that promised it? Nor can any man show me in all the New Testament another signification of Faith but a most firm persuasion built upon substantial reasons. In this sense all Christianity is not seldom styled the Faith; as now we usually say that we are of this or that PERSUASION, meaning the profession of some Religion. But surely nothing can better root and establish our persuasion than a thorough examination and trial of what we believe; whereas the weakness and instability of our Faith proceed from want of sufficient reasons for it, whereupon incredulity always follows; then fails obedience, which is the constant sign and fruit of genuine Faith; and hence spring all the irregularities of men's lives. He that faith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments is a liar — For he that faith he abideth in him, ought himself also to walk as he walked. (1 John 2. 4,6.) Nor can it possibly fall out otherwise, but that he who believes without understanding must be tossed and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight and cunning of men ready to deceive. (Eph. 4.14.)

59. Though the Authority of the New Testament be so clear in this matter, yet I shall further confirm it by the following observations. First, if Faith were not a persuasion resulting from the previous knowledge and comprehension of the thing believed, there could be no degrees nor differences in it; for these are evident tokens that men know more or less of a thing, as they have desires or opportunities to learn it. But that there are such degrees appears by the Scripture, where those that have only an imperfect and perfunctory knowledge of Religion are compared to infants who feed only upon milk (1 Cor. 3.2.); but they who arrive at a more full and accurate certainty are likened to grown men that can digest stronger food. (Heb. 5.12,13,14.)

60. My next observation is, That the Subject of Faith must be intelligible to all, since the belief thereof is commanded under no less a penalty than damnation: He that believeth nor, shall be damned. (Mark. 16.16.) But shall any be damned for the non-performance of impossibilities? Obligations to believe do therefore suppose a possibility to understand. I showed before that contradiction and nothing were convertible terms; and I may now say as much of Mystery in the theological sense: for, to speak freely, contradiction and Mystery are but two emphatic ways of saying Nothing. Contradiction expresses Nothing by a couple of ideas that destroy one another, and Mystery expresses nothing by words that have no ideas at all.

61. The third observation shall be, That if any part of Scripture were unintelligible, it could never he rightly translated, except the sound of the words, and not their sense, be looked upon as the revelation of God. Terms can by no means be understood, unless the things they denote be understood also. I may well understand things without their names, but never names without knowing their subjects. And, in good earnest, to what sort of assurance can any man pretend, that he has made a right version of what he openly professes not to conceive? It cannot be imagined how much the notion of Mystery contributes to the obscurity of Scripture in most translations. When an able linguist meets with a difficult passage, he presently takes it for a Mystery, and concludes it is to no purpose to be at more pains about what is in it self inexplicable. But an uncapable translator lays his own blundering nonsense, and all the mysterious fruits of his ignorance to God Almighty's charge. These are the wretches who plentifully furnish the Atheistical and Profane with all the matter of their objections against Scripture. But I hope in time we may see a remedy to these disorders.

62. The fourth observation is, that except Faith signifies an intelligible persuasion, we cannot give others a Reason of our hope, as Peter directs us. (1 Pet. 3.15.) To say that what we believe is the Word of God, will be to no end, except we prove it to be so by Reason; and I need not add, that if we may not examine and understand our Faith, every man will be obliged implicitly to continue of that Religion wherein he is first educated. Suppose a Siamese Talapoin (or priest) should tell a Christian Preacher that Sommonocodom (the God of the Siameses) forbad the goodness of his Religion to be tried the light of Reason; how could the Christian confute him, if he likewise should maintain that certain points of Christianity were above Reason? The question would not be then, whether Mysteries might be allowed in the true Religion, but who had more right to institute them, Christ or Sommonocodom?

63. My last observation shall be, That either the Apostles could not write more intelligibly of the reputed Mysteries, or they would not. If they would not, then 'tis no longer our fault if we neither understand nor believe them, for nothing cannot be the object of belief: and if they could not write more clearly themselves (which our adversaries will not suppose) they were so much the less to expect credit from others.

64. But 'tis affirmed, that GOD has a right to require the assent of his creatures to what they cannot comprehend: and questionless, he may command whatever is just and reasonable, for to act tyrannically does only become the Devil. But I demand to what end should God require us to believe what we cannot understand? To exercise, some say, our diligence. But this at first sight looks ridiculous, as if the plain duties of the Gospel, and our necessary occupations, were not sufficient to employ all our time. But how exercise our diligence? Is it possible for us to understand those Mysteries at last, or not? If it be, then all I contend for is gained; for I never pretended that the Gospel could be understood without due pains and application, no more than any other Book. But if it be impossible after all to understand them, this is such a piece of folly and impertinence as no sober man would be guilty of, to puzzle people's heads with what they could never conceive, to exhort to, and command the study of them; and all this to keep 'em from idleness, when they can scarce find leisure enough for what is on all hands granted to be intelligible.

65. Others say that GOD has enjoined the belief of MYSTERIES to make us mare humble. But how? By letting us see the small extent of our knowledge. But this extraordinary method is quite needless, for experience acquaints us with that every day; and I have spent a whole Chapter in the second Section of this Book, to prove that we have not an adequate idea of all the properties, and no idea of the real essence of any substance in the world. It had been a much better answer, that God would thus abridge our speculations, to gain us the more time for the practice of what we understand. But many cover a multitude of sins by their noise and heat on the behalf of such foolish, and unprofitable speculations.

66. From all these observations, and what went before, it evidently follows that Faith is so far from being an implicit assent to any thing above Reason, that this notion directly contradicts the ends of Religion, the nature of man, and the goodness and wisdom of God. But at this rate, some will be apt to say, Faith is no longer faith but knowledge. I answer, that if knowledge be taken for a present and immediate view of things, I have no where affirmed any thing like it, but: the contrary in many places. But if by knowledge be meant understanding what is believed, then I stand by it that Faith is knowledge: I have all along maintained it, and the very words are promiscuously used for one another ion the Gospel. We know, i.e. we believe, that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the World. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of it self You know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (Joh. 4.42, Rom. 14.14., 1 Cor. 15.58.)

67. Others will say that this notion of Faith makes Revelation useless. But, pray, how so? for the question is not, whether we could discover all the objects of our Faith by ratiocination: I have proved on the contrary, that no matter of fact can be known without revelation. But I assert, that what is once revealed we must as well understand as any other matter in the world, revelation being only of use to inform us whilst the evidence of its subject persuades us. Then, reply they, Reason is of more Dignity than Revelation. I answer, Just as much as a Greek Grammar is superior to the New Testament; for we make use of Grammar to understand the language, and of Reason to comprehend the sense of that Book. But in a word, I see no need of comparisons in this case, for Reason is not less from God Revelation; 'tis the candle, the guide, the judge he has lodged within every man that cometh into this world.

68. Lastly, it may be objected, that the poor and illiterate cannot have such a Faith as I maintain. Truly if this can be made out, it may pass for a greater Mystery than any system of divinity in Christendom can afford: for what can seem more strange and wonderful, than that the common people will sooner believe what is unintelligible, incomprehensible, and above their reasons, than what is easy, plain, and suited to their capacities? But the vulgar are more obliged to Christ, who had a better opinion of them than these men; for he preached his Gospel to them in a special manner; and they, on the other hand, heard him gladly (Mark 12.37.), because, no doubt, they understood his instructions better than the mysterious lectures of their priests and scribes. The uncorrupted doctrines of Christianity are not above their reach or comprehension, but the gibberish of your divinity schools they understand not. It is to them the language of the beast, and is inconsistent with their condition in his world, when their very teachers must serve above an apprenticeship to master it, before they begin the study of the Bible. How slowly must the Gospel have moved at the beginning, if such as were called to preach it had been obliged to qualify themselves after this manner! and no wonder that it has such little effects now upon men's lives, after it is so miserably deformed and almost ruined by those unintelligible and extravagant terms, notions, and rites of Pagan or Jewish original.

69. Thus I have distinctly answered the several objections made to me, and I shall add no more on this subject of Faith, when I have considered a passage in the first Epistle to Peter, where it is written, that the Angels desire to see into certain things; yet those things are not inconceivable mysteries, but the coming of Christ and the Gospel-state of salvation, which were divinely foretold to the Jews, and concerning which they carefully reasoned then; though, now those things are fulfilled, we are not permitted that liberty. Receiving the end of your Faith, says Peter, the salvation of your souls; of which salvation the prophets have enquired and diligently searched, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you; searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ, which was in them did signify, when it testified before-hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow: unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minster the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached unto you by the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven, which things the Angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1.9-12.) Now here's no great Mystery in all this, that the Angels, who being finite creatures, can know nothing but by experience, ratiocination, or revelation, should be as curious as the Jews, to penetrate into those future events of such importance, and so very obscurely revealed.

Objections, drawn from the Consideration of MIRACLES, answered.

70. When all other shifts prove ineffectual, the partisans of MYSTERY fly to MIRACLES as their last refuge: but this is too weak a place to make any long resistance, and we doubt not of beating 'em quickly thence with ease and safety. But seeing, for the most part, the state of this controversy is never distinctly laid, I shall first endeavor to give a clear notion of the nature of Miracles, and then leave it to be considered whether I have much reason to apprehend any danger from this objection. A MIRACLE then is some action exceeding all humane power, and which the Laws of NATURE cannot perform by their ordinary operations.

71. Now whatever is contrary to reason can be no miracle, for it has been sufficiently proved already, that contradiction is only another word for impossible or nothing. The miraculous action therefore must be some thing in it self intelligible and possible, though the manner of doing it be extraordinary. So for a man to walk safe in the midst of fire is conceivable, and possible too, should any thing capable of repelling the heat and flames surround him: but when such a security is not provided by art or chance, but is the immediate effect of supernatural power, then it makes a miracle. An able physician does sometimes restore sight to the blind; and a hand or foot must dry up, when the circulation of the blood and humors is too much excluded from it: but if without the ordinary time and applications those members be cured in an instant, at the command or desire of any person, such an action is truly miraculous, as well as the sudden restoration of a sick body to health, which art or nature must spend a great deal of time and pains upon.

72. No miracle then is contrary to reason, for the action must be intelligible, and the performance of it appear most easy to the author of nature, who may command all its principles at his pleasure. Therefore all those miracles are fictitious, wherein there occur any contradictions, as that Christ was born without opening any passage out of the Virgin's body; that a head spoke some days after it was severed from the body, and the tongue cut out; with multitudes of this kind that may be met with among the Papists, the , the Bramins, the Mahometans, and in all places where the credulity of the people makes 'em a merchandise to their priests.

73. Let us next consider, that God is not so prodigal of miracles, as to work any at random. The order of nature is not altered, stopped, or forwarded, unless for some weighty design becoming the divine wisdom and majesty. And, indeed, we learn from Scripture and Reason, that no miracle is ever wrought without some special and important end, which is either appointed by those for whom the miracle is made, or intended and declared by him that works it. If the Apostles had barely cured the blind, the deaf, the lame, the diseased, this would certainly procure 'em an extraordinary esteem; and in some places too divine worship, as it happened to Paul and Barnabas at Lystra, when they had cured a born cripple without any farther circumstance (Acts 14.11, &c.); but this was only a means to gain the attention of these idolaters to the doctrine they were about to preach in their city. Nor is there any miracle mentioned in the New Testament, but what served to confirm the authority of those that wrought it, to procure attention to the doctrines of the Gospel, or for the like wise and reasonable purposes.

74. By this rule the celebrated feats of goblins and fairies, of witches, of conjurers, and all the heathen prodigies, must be accounted fictitious, idle, and superstitious fables; for in all these there appears no end deserving a change in nature. Besides, they evidently contradict our idea of God, and quite subvert his providence. Diabolical delusions would hereby receive equal confirmation with divine revelation, miracles being performed in favor of both. Nay, the wonders of the Devil and his agents would infinitely exceed in number and quality those of God, and his servants: which assertion must hold true, were no stories believed but the best attested in every County of England, to speak nothing of more credulous nations; for it is very observable, that the more ignorant and barbarous any people remain, you shall find 'em most abound with tales of this nature, and stand in far greater awe of Satan than Jehovah. In a word, the heathens, after this rate, would be riveted in their idolatry, and the ugliest hag or most beggarly astrologer equalize the prophets and apostles. But why should good reasons be spent in confutation or mere fictions? for I challenge any person whatsoever to produce one instance of these lying wonders that contains all the true characters of historical evidence; and withal I dare engage as soon to prove the goodness of the Alcoran as of the Gospel, if the belief of any miracles, except divine ones, be granted me. But they must draw some advantage from the superstitious fear of the people, who so industriously cherish it.

75. After what has been already observed, I need not add, that all miracles secretly performed, or among that party only to whose profit and advantage the belief of them turns, must be rejected as counterfeit and false; for as such cannot bear the test of moral certitude, so they contradict the very design of miracles, which are always wrought in favor of the unbelieving. But the Papists alone must be a witnesses of their own miracles, and never the heretics they would convert by them: nor is their practice less ridiculous in confirming one miracle by another, as that of Transubstantiation by several more.

76. From all this laid together, it follows, that nothing contrary to reason, whether you consider the action or design, is miraculous. But there's a good old distinction that serves all turns: though miracles are not contrary to Reason, says one, yet they are surely above it. In what sense pray? Which is above Reason, the thing, or the manner of it? If it be answered, the last, I suppose the objector thinks I mean by miracle some philosophical experiment, or some phenomenon that surprises only by its rarity. Could I tell how a miracle was wrought, I believe I might do as much my self; but what may be said to have been this or that way performed, is no miracle at all. It suffices therefore, that the truth of the action be demonstrated, and the possibility of it, to any Being able to govern nature by instantaneously extracting, mollifying, mixing, infusing, consolidating, &c. and this, it may be, by the ministry of thousands at once; for miracles are produced according to the laws of nature, though above its ordinary operations, which are therefore supernaturally assisted.

77. But finally, it will be said, that in the State of the Question, at the beginning of my Book, I maintained the manner as well as the thing was explicable. But of what? of Miracles? No surely; but of those doctrines in confirmation whereof the miracles are wrought. This I stand by still, and may add, I hope, that I have clearly proved it too: but to say as much of miracles would be to make 'em no miracles, which shows the weakness, and impertinence of this objection

When, why, and by whom were MYSTERIES brought into Christianity.

78. The end of the LAW being righteousness (Rom. 10.4.), JESUS CHRIST came not to destroy but to fulfill it (Matt. 5.17.): for he fully and clearly preached the purest morals, he taught that reasonable worship, and those just conceptions of Heaven and heavenly things, which were more obscurely signified or designed by the legal observations. So having stripped the Truth of all those external types and ceremonies which made it difficult before, he rendered it easy and obvious to the meanest capacities. His disciples and followers kept to this simplicity for some considerable time, though very early diverse abuses began to get footing amongst them. The converted Jews, who continued mighty fond of their Levitical rites and feasts, would willingly retain them, and be Christians too. Thus what at the beginning was but only tolerated in weaker brethren, became afterwards a part of Christianity if self, under the pretense of apostolic prescription or tradition.

79. But this was nothing compared to the injury done to Religion by the Gentiles; who, as they were proselyted in greater numbers than the Jews, so the abuses they introduced were of more dangerous and universal influence. They were not a little scandalized at the plain dress of the Gospel, with the wonderful facility of the doctrines it contained, having been accustomed all their lives to the pompous worship and secret mysteries of deities without number. The Christians on the other hand were careful to remove all obstacles lying in the way of the Gentiles. They thought the most effectual way of gaining them over to their side was by compounding the matter, which led them to unwarrantable compliances, till at length they likewise set up for mysteries. Yet not having the least precedent for any ceremonies from the Gospel, excepting Baptism and the Supper, they strangely disguised and transformed these by adding to them the Pagan Mystic Rites. They administered them with the strictest secrecy; and, to be inferior to their adversaries in no circumstance, they permitted none to assist at them, but such as were antecedently prepared or initiated. And to inspire their Catechumens with most ardent desires of participation, they gave out that what was so industriously hid were tremendous and unutterable mysteries.

80. Thus lest simplicity, the noblest ornament of the Truth, should expose it to the contempt of unbelievers, Christianity was put upon an equal level with the Mysteries of Ceres, or the Orgies of Bacchus. Foolish and mistaken care! as if the most impious superstitions could be sanctified by the name of Christ. But such is always the fruit of prudential and condescending terms of conversion in RELIGION, whereby the number and not the sincerity of professors is mainly intended.

81. When once the philosophers thought it their interest to turn Christians, matters grew every day worse and worse; for they not only retained the air, the genius, and sometimes the garb of their several sects, but most of their erroneous opinions too. And while they pretended to employ their philosophy in defense of Christianity, they so confounded them together, that what before was plain to every one, did now become intelligible only to the learned, who made it still less evident by their litigious disputes, and vain subtleties. We must not forget that the philosophers were for making no meaner a figure among the Christians than they did formerly among the heathens; but this was what they could not possibly effect, without rendering every thing abstruse by terms or otherwise, and so making themselves sole masters of the interpretation.

82. These abuses became almost incurable, when the supreme magistrate did openly countenance the Christian Religion. Multitudes then professed themselves of the Emperor's persuasion, only to make their court, and mend their fortunes by it, or to preserve those places and preferments whereof they were already possessed. These continued pagans in their hearts; and it may be easily imagined that they carried all their old prejudices along with them into a Religion which they purely embraced out of politic considerations: and so it constantly happens, when the conscience is forced and not persuaded, which was a while after the case of these heathens.

83. The zealous Emperors erected stately Churches, and converted the Heathen Temples, Sanctuaries, Fanes or Chapels, to the use of Christians, after a previous expiation, and placing the sign of the cross in them to assure their possession to Christ. All their endowments, with the benefices of the Priests, Flamens, Augurs, and the whole sacred tribe, were appropriated to the Christian Clergy. Nay, their very habits, [— Non discolor ulli Ante aras cultus; velantur corpora lino, Et Pelufiaco praefulget flamine vervex.Sil. Ital. lib. 3. v. 23; Alba decet Cererem vestis; Cerealibus albam, Sumine — Ovid. Fast. l. 4. v. 619; Cic. l. 2. de. Leg. cap. 18.; Lucian, de Deae Syriae Sacerdotibus; Martial: l. 12. Ep. 29.] as white linen stoles, mitres, and the like, were retained to bring those, as was pretended, to an imperceptible change, who could not be reconciled to the Christian simplicity and poverty. But indeed the design at bottom was to introduce the riches, pomp, and dignities of the clergy which immediately succeeded.

84. Things being in this condition, and the rites of Baptism and the Supper being very sensibly augmented, it will not be amiss before I pass further to lay down a short parallel of the ancient Heathen and new-coined Christian Mysteries. And I shall endeavor so to do it, as to make it evident they were one in nature, however different in their subjects.

85. First, their terms were exactly the same without any alteration: they both made use of the words initiating and perfecting. They both called their MYSTERIES myeseis, teleioseis, teleiotika, epopteiai, &c. They both looked upon initiation as a kind of deifying. And they both styled their priests mystagogue, mystes, hierotelestes, &c.

86. Secondly, the preparatives to their initiations were the same. The Gentiles used several washings and lustrations [Ovid. Fast. l. 4. v. 315, Tibul. l.2.]; they fasted, and abstained  from women before initiation; though the wiser sort did laugh at those who thought such actions could expiate sin, or appease heaven. But the Fathers, the admired Fathers, imitated them in all these things; and this was the origin of abstinence from certain kinds of meat, of your mock anniversary fasts, and the clerical celibacy.

87. Thirdly, the Christians kept their Mysteries as secret as the Heathens did theirs. Chrysostom says, We shut the doors when we celebrate our Mysteries, and exclude the uninitiated. Basil of Cesarea assures us, that the esteem of mysteries is preserved only by silence. And Synesius says, that the Gentile Mysteries were performed by night, because their veneration proceeds from men's ignorance about them [De providen. Sect. 2.]. But why should that deserve blame in others, good Synesius, which you allow in your own party? or is it that the Christians have a better right to Mysteries than the Gentiles?

88. Fourthly, the Fathers were extremely cautious not to speak intelligibly of their Mysteries before unbelievers, or the Catechumens; whence you frequently meet in their writings with these or the like expressions, The Initiated know, the Initiated understand what I say. And as the Heathens did by proclamation drive away all the profane from their mysteries, so the deacons of the primitive Church cried aloud before the celebration of Baptism, but chiefly of the Supper, Go out all you Catechumens, walk out all that are not initiated, or something to this effect, for they often varied the form. Cyril of Jerusalem has a very singular passage to our purpose, Now when catechising is rehearsed, if a Catechumen should ask you what the teachers said; tell it by no means to any that is not initiated: for we entrust you with a Mystery, and the hope of the Life to come. Keep this Mystery then to him that rewardeth: and if any should say unto you, What harm is it, if I also learn? Answer him, that so sick persons desire wine: but if it be given to any unseasonably, it makes him frantic, and so two evils happen; both the sick man is destroyed, and the physician is disparaged. Thus if a Catechumen hears of those things from any of the faithful, he grows likewise frantic; for not understanding what he heard, he argues against the thing, and laughs at what is said: so the Believer that told it him is condemned as a betrayer of secrets. Now you being one of us, see that you blab out nothing: not that what we say are not worthy to be spoken, but that others are not worthy to hear them. When you were a Catechumen your self, we never told you what was proposed. But when you have learnt by experience the sublimity of those things which are taught, you will then be convinced that the Catechumens are unworthy to hear them.

89. Fifthly, the steps and degrees in both their Initiations are the same. The Heathens had five degrees necessary to perfection. First, common Purgation; Secondly, more private Purgation; Thirdly, a liberty of standing amongst the Initiated; Fourthly, Initiation; and, Lastly, the Right of seeing every thing, or being Epopts. Among the Christians likewise there were five steps by which their penitents were re-admitted to communion. First they were obliged to remain some years separate from the congregation lamenting their sins, whence this step was called proclausis. Secondly, they were removed nearer the people, where during three years they might hear the priests, though not see them: this step was therefore called acroasis. Thirdly, for three years more they might hear and see, but not mix with the congregation: this period was called hypoptosis. Fourthly, they might stand with the people, but not receive the sacraments: this was their systasis. And, Fifthly, they were admitted to communion, which was called methexis. The new converts likewise, under preparation to participate of the mysteries, were styled catechumens; then competents; and, lastly, Epopts, perfect, or believers: which are the very degrees in name and quality, to which Pythagoras obliged his disciples.

90. I could, draw out this parallel much larger, but here's enough to show how Christianity became mysterious, and how so divine an institution did, through the craft and ambition of priests and philosophers, degenerate into mere paganism.

91. Mystery prevailed very little in the first hundred or century of years after Christ; but in the second and third it began to establish it self by ceremonies. To baptism were then added the tasting of milk and honey [Tertullian. pag. 102.], anointing, the sign of the cross, a white garment, &c. There was quickly after a farther accession of questions and answers, of antecedent fastings and watchings, kissing, and set times of administration. After baptism they did not wash for a whole week, exactly answerable to the superstition of the Gentiles, who never put off the garment in which they were initiated till it fell all to tatters [Scholiast. in Plut. Aristophan.]. Next were added injection of salt and wine into the mouths of the baptized, and a second unction, with imposition of hands. But in later times there was no end of lights, exorcisms, exsufflations, and many other extravagancies of Jewish, or Heathen original. From this source sprang not only the belief of omens, presages, apparitions, the custom of burying with three shovel-fulls of earth, with other vulgar observations among Christians; but also lights, feasts or Holy-days, consecrations, images, worshipping towards the east, altars, music, dedications of churches, and in them distinct places for the LAITY, (as they speak) and the CLERGY: for there is nothing like these in the writings of the Apostles, but they are all plainly contained in the Books of the Gentiles, and was the Substance of their Worship.

92. All the rites of the Supper, too tedious to particularize, were introduced by degrees after the same manner. So by endeavoring to make the plainest things in the world appear mysterious, their very nature and use were absolutely perverted and destroyed, and are not yet fully restored by the purest Reformations in Christendom. But we must not forget how Tertullian himself has acknowledged that for their frequent crossings and other Baptismal rites, for their scrupling to let any of the bread and wine fall to the ground, or to receive them from any hand but the priest's, with the like ceremonies, they had no color of authority from the Scriptures, but only from custom and tradition.

93. Now their own advantage being the motive that put the primitive clergy upon reviving mystery, they quickly erected themselves by its assistance into a separate and politic body, though not so soon into their various orders and degrees. For in the two first centuries we meet with no sub-deacons, readers, or the like; much less with the names or dignities of Popes, Cardinals, Patriarchs, Metropolitans, Archbishops, Primates, Suffragans, Archdeacons, Deans, Chancellors, Vicars, or their numerous dependents and retinue. But in small time mystery made way for those, and several other usurpations upon mankind, under pretense of laborers in the Lord's vineyard.

94. The degrees or constitutions concerning ceremonies and discipline, to increase the splendor of this new State, did strangely affect, stupify, and amaze the minds of the ignorant people; and made them believe they were in good earnest mediators between God and men, that could fix sanctity to certain times, places, persons, or actions. They seemed almost a different and more divine species of creatures, distinguishing themselves from other men in their garb, in their manner of living by tithes and donations, in their separate places at church, and several other ways. By this means the clergy were able to do any thing; they engrossed at length the sole right of interpreting Scripture, and with it claimed infallibility, to their body.

95. This is the true origin and progress of the Christian mysteries; and we may observe how great a share of their establishment is owing to ceremonies. These never fail to take off the mind from the substance of Religion, and lead men into dangerous mistakes: for ceremonies being easily observed, every one thinks himself religious enough that exactly performs them. But there is nothing so naturally opposite as CEREMONY and CHRISTIANITY. The latter discovers Religion naked to all the world, and the former delivers it under mystical representations of a merely arbitrary signification.

96. It is visible then that ceremonies perplex instead of explaining; but supposing they made things easier, then that would be the best Religion which had most of them, for they are generally, and may all be made, equally significative. A candle put into the hands of the baptized, to denote the light of the Gospel, is every whit as good a ceremony as to make the sign of the cross upon their fore-heads, in token of owning Christ for their Master and Saviour. Wine, milk and honey signify spiritual nourishment, strength, and gladness; as well as standing at the Gospel betokens our readiness to hear or profess it.

97. In short, there's no degree of enthusiasm higher than placing Religion in such fooleries; nor any thing so base as by their fraudulent arts to make the Gospel of no effect, unless as far as it serves a party. But I shall have a better occasion of exhausting the subject of ceremonies elsewhere, I treat of 'em here only as they made up the Gentile Mysteries, and were afterwards brought in to constitute those of the Christians. But as the vast multitudes of the latter quickly rendered all secret rites almost impossible, so to preserve the Mystery, things were purposely made downright unintelligible, or very perplexed. In this point our pretended Christians outdid all the Mysteries of the Heathens; for the honor of these might be destroyed by discovery, or the babbling tongue of any initiated person; but the new mysteries were thus securely placed above the reach of all sense and Reason. Nay, so jealous were the CLERGY of their own order, lest any of 'em should irreligiously unfold those sublime Mysteries to the profanely inquisitive LAITY, that they thought fit to put it as much out of the power bf the Holy Tribe it self, as out of ours, to understand them; and so it continues, in a great measure, to this day.


Thus I have endeavored to show others, what I'm fully convinced of my self, that there is no MYSTERY in CHRISTIANITY, or the most perfect Religion; and that by consequence nothing contradictory or inconceivable, however made an Article of Faith, can be contained in the Gospel, if it be really the Word of God: for I have hitherto argued only upon this supposition, for the reasons to be seen towards the end of the Preface.

Notwithstanding all pretenses that may be made to the contrary, it is evident that no particular instances or doctrines of any sort can serve for a proper answer to this DISCOURSE; for, as long as the reasons of it hold good, whatever instance can be alleged must either be found not mysterious, or, if it prove a MYSTERY, not divinely revealed. There is no middle way, that I can see. When those passages of Scripture I have cited for my assertion, are either reconciled to such as any would bring against me, or proved not to be understood by me; when my arguments against all inconceivable mysteries, and the absurdity of God's revealing any such Mysteries, are confuted, 'tis time enough then for others to produce examples, or for me to consider 'em. And though by convincing people that all the parts of their RELIGION must not only be in themselves, but to them also must appear, sound and intelligible, I might justly leave every one to discover to himself the reasonableness or unreasonableness of his Religion (which is no difficult business, when once men are persuaded that they have a right to do it;) yet the duties I owe GOD and the world oblige me to proceed further according as I enjoy health or leisure, without limiting my self as to any time, that being a thing in no man's power to command at his pleasure.

My next Task therefore is (God willing) to prove the doctrines of the New Testament perspicuous, possible, and most worthy of God, as well as all calculated for the highest benefits of man. Some will not thank me, it's probable, for so useful an undertaking; and others will make me a Heretic in grain for what I have performed already. But as it is duty, and no body's applause, which is the rule of my actions; so, God knows, I no more value this cheap and ridiculous nick-name of a Heretic than Paul did before me: for I acknowledge no ORTHODOXY but the TRUTH; and, I'm sure, wherever the TRUTH is, there must be also the CHURCH, of God I mean, and not any human faction or policy. Besides, the imputation of heterodoxy being now as liberal upon the slightest occasions, out of Ignorance, passion, or malice, as in the days of Ireneus and Epiphanius, it is many times instead of a reproach the greatest honor imaginable.

Some good men may be apt to say, that, supposing my opinion never so true, it may notwithstanding occasion much harm; because when people find themselves imposed upon in any part of Religion, they are ready to call the whole in question. This offense is plainly taken, not given; and my design is nothing the less good, if ill-disposed persons abuse it, as they frequently do learning, reason, scripture, and the best things in the world. But it is visible to every one that they are the contradictions and mysteries unjustly charged upon Religion, which occasion so many to become Deists and Atheists. And it should be considered likewise that when any, not acquainted with it, are dazzled by the sudden splendor of the Truth, their number is not comparable to theirs who see clearly by its light. Because several turned Libertines and Atheists when PRIEST-CRAFT was laid so open at the Reformation, were Luther, Calvin, or Zwinglius to be blamed for it? or which should weigh most with them, these few prejudiced skeptics, or those thousands they converted from the superstitions of Rome? I'm therefore for giving no quarter to ERROR under any pretense; and will be sure, wherever I have ability or opportunity, to expose it in its true colors, without rendering my labor ineffectual, by weakly mincing or softening of any thing.


You've seen how it begins, now see how it ends.
Watch the dream die.