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commands, but also his infinite veracity, in captivating our understanding to the belief of mysteries which we cannot comprehend ?*
Vill. But, continues the Unitarian, why should I be bound to believe that, of which I do not conceive the reason ? Would not this look like blind stupidity ?
Why? Because God is your master, and you are bis servant: he is not obliged to tell you the reasons, he has to enjoin you such and such orders : or, let me ask you, would you put up with the insolence of a servant, who would unceremoniously tell you, that he is determined not to obey you, for no other reason, than because he cannot conceive the motives you may have for giving birn such a command? What would be your reply to such a servant ? You, no doubt, would check his effrontery, and answer: I am your master, you are my servant : it is my business, not your's, tu know the reasons for which I command you to do this or that: do your duty and ask no more. Now, who has greater claims, God over his creature, or you a mortal man, over your servant? Who is more a servant, you to God, or your servant to you? How much more right, then, has your Maker to oblige you to adore and to bow down to the unfathomable mysteries of his wisdom, although he does not give you his reasons for doing so ? Are you not, therefore, a worse rebel against your God than your insolent servant is against you, when you, with so much presumption, dare reject the mysteries of revelation, for no other reason than because you cannot fathom them? Again, suppose, your son were to tell you: I will not obey you, sir, because I cannot conceive the reason, why you command this; your command appears to me irrational, because unintelligible to my mind : Do you think that such reasoning would be correct and admissible in your child ? And still this is your language to your God, when you, who are but a little child when compared to
* Corinth. ch. x. ver. 5. “And every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every understanding to the obedience of Christ.”
the infinite wisdom and knowledge of God, dare say: I will not believe what God reveals to me, because I cannot undera stand it.
IX. If God cannot reveal mysteries to men, then God cannot communicate himself, at all, to them; and if men cannot reasonably believe what is above the sphere of his reason, he can believe nothing.
The Unitarian asks the question: How can God, the sovereign reason, reveal to reason what is unintelligible to reason! Would not this seem to imply a strange absurdity ?
My answer is this: If God cannot do this, then you must, at once, deny the very possibility on the part of God, of communicating himself to men: you must adopt the impious paradox, that it is out of the power of God, to make known to men any thing, that has a relation to his divine nature, and to his ineffable perfections ; for God is essentially infinite and incomprehensible, and, of course, essentially unintelligible, not only to human reason, but to all created understandings. Now, sir, permit me, to assure you, that, of the whole unhallowed host of ancient and modern infidels, there was scarce ever any that would dare go to such lengths.
What has been hitherto advanced against the principle, which we are here discussing, admits, it would seem, of no solution, because our reasoning till now, rests altogether on the very nature of things, and on the immutable attributes of the Deity itself. Still our Unitarian friend, is far from being converted, and appears to be determined not to believe mysteries, because he conceives it derogatory to the dignity of a rational being to believe what he cannot conceive.
X. Is it then true, is it correct to assert, that the belief of mysteries is degrading to the dignity of a rational being ? To any one that would be under this impression, I would simply reply: You cannot believe what you cannot comprehend; then, sir, believe nothing at all, nothing of what you see, nothing of what is within you; believe not your very existence; and, to complete your Unitarian creed, believe not the very existence of the God who made you, for of all this you 'understand nothing. *
I say, first, that you understand nothing of what you see : this world, which you inhabit, and of which you are a component part, is incessantly exposed to your view ; it exists ; you can no more doubt of its existence than of your own; still I maintain that you cannot comprehend how it exists : for, permit me to ask you, is it very intelligible to your reason, how the world, being not as yet in existence, and being as yet nothing both as to matter and to form ; how, I say, the world issued out of nothing into existence, at the very first nod of its omnipotent Maker? Do you conceive, Sir, how, in one instant, and by one act of his divine will, God made the heavens, the earth, the seas, with all that they contain ? No, Sir, you have no idea of the creative power, and the infinite efficacy of the will of God. It is not given to a created understanding to conceive the necessary relation that exists between the eternal act, by which God decreed, that the world should exist in time, and its actual existence : you cannot comprehend, how, in virtue of these two words, ó fiat lux," “let there be light,” the light was: and as you cannot conceive this, you must, of course, deny the very existence of the world, of the light, and other creatures. You conceive not how the world exists : let us see now if you have a better conception of the laws by which it is governed.
The world, says the Scripture, which God made, as it were, in sport, is a problem which he has set up to men. This problem, Sir, has never as yet been solved, nor will it ever be. Each philosopher took it into his head to build a world of his own, but all these worlds tumbled down like so many edifices built on the sand. Will you succeed better in withdrawing the sacred veil of the unsearchable conduct of God in the government of this universe ? Alas! how should we be able to comprehend the world, weak mortals as we are, since the least and most insignificant of the objects, that compose it, far exceeds our intelligence ? Pray, Sir, what are those beams which enlighten us? What that air which we breathe? What the earth which supports us? These are so many mysteries, to you, to me, and to all mankind. Here, Sir, is a drop of water, a grain of said, a blade of grass : you see that I do not mean to embarrass you, and that I seize, as it were by chance, whatever falls under my hand : tell me, Sir, what is that drop of water, that grain of sand, that blade of grass ? Make me comprehend, if you can, its intrinsic nature, and all its properties ; enable me to say: I comprehend this drop of water, this grain of sand, this slender herb. Would you have an age to work and to reflect upon these mighty objects ? Would you have two ages? Would you have a thousand ? Agreed, Sir, you shall have them, and still I defy you to succeed; and I bid the same defiance to the whole body of the philosophical school.* It is then true, Sir, that you conceive nothing of what you behold with your eyes; what then will it be, if I force you to confess, that you do not conceive even yourself, nor any thing of what is within you?
* Lest Mr. J. Sparks should be tempted to affix to this phrase the same incongruous meaning, which he attached to nearly a similar sentence of Mr. William Burg, (J. Sparks' vi, letter, page 203,) I thought proper to determine the meaning of the above assertions. By the above expression, therefore, the author means not, that we can have no idea at all of the objects under consideration, for this would be absurd; but, that we can have no more idea of the mode or of the intrinsic nature of those objects than we have of mysteries.
+ Ecclesiastes, 3. v. 11. “He has delivered the world to their consideration, so that man cannot find out the work, which God has made from the beginning to the end."
Are you ready, Sir, to inform me, how your body was framed in the womb of your mother? How your soul entered into your body? How these two beings, so disproportionate in their nature, so seemingly opposed to each other, could
* « The judicious reflections of one of the greatest astronomers of the last age, is worthy of notice ; “Hinc oritur illa animorum in indagandis rebus naturæ perplexitas, mentisq; stupor, quo perculsa, quanto in intima rerum indagine plus se profecisse ratio videt, tanto a veritatis limine remotiorem adhuc se esse deprehendit.” Kirker, M. S.
+ Lib. 2, Machab. vii. v. 22. “She, (the mother of the Machabees) said to then: : I know not how you were formed in my womb, for I neither gave you breath, nor soul, nor life ; neither did I frame the limbs of every one of you, but the Creator of the world, that formed the nativity of man,” &e.
unite so closely as to constitute one and the same whole ? what is you soul? Where is it? How does it subsist ? By what sort of tie is it united to the body? Is that tie spiritual, or corporeal; and, in either case, how can it affect either of the two substances ? How can your soul command your hand or foot, which, being of their own nature, without sense or feeling, cannot understand its orders? How does your soul put in motion the nerves and muscles, which it knows not? How did your tongue, a mere lump of flesh, learn the astonishing art of beating the air to such advantage, as to form the most rapturous concerts, and to convey, by the distinct articulation of its sounds, your most secret thoughts to my mind ? You possess the faculty of thinking: What is thought, Sir? At one time you feel pleasure, and at another pain : What is pleasure, what is pain? Your eye sees colours : Why does your eye see? What are the colours which it sees? What do you know of all this? Why, no more than what the most stupid know, that is to say, nothing, nothing at all: And still you exist, Sir, and you never doubted of the existence of what surrounds you : therefore, not to comprehend, is not always a * reason not to believe. What! the world is a mystery to you:
every creature that composes it, is a mystery to you: You are yourself, a mystery to yourself, and you pretend to comprehend that supreme and eternal majesty that made the world, and that drew you out of nothing ?*
Did you ever take notice, Sir, of that wonderful stillatory which is within you, by which the nourishment, you daily take, is converted, some into your blood, some into flesh, some into bones, some into chyle, &c. ? Could you explain to me the secret of this astonishing mechanism, and who he is that presides over it ?f Is it the soul ? but your soul is spiritual, and
* Prov. xxy. v. 27. “He that is a searcher of majesty, shall be overwhelmed with glory.” And Book of Wisdom, ix. v. 16. “And hardly do we guess. aright at things that are upon earth : and with labour do we find the things that are before us. But the things that are in heaven, who shall search out?"
St. Chrysostom de incomp. Dei nat. “ Cibos comedo, quo pacto autem dividantur in petuitam, sanguinem, bumorem, ignoro. Hæc, quæ quotidie comedentes videmus, ignoramus tamen ; et Dei substantiam curiose scrutamur."