« PoprzedniaDalej »
then he sets himself above his Creator, and he obeys, in reality, not his God, but himself.
XX. I answer, in the second place, that it was for his glory that God would bave men believe impenetrable mysteries; for it became the infinite greatness of God, to prescribe to men what they were to believe, as well as what they were to practice, and to hold its sway over their reason, as well as their will. In fulfilling, notwithstanding, the repugnances of their heart, and the revolts of their senses, the precepts which God has given them for the rule of their actions, they honour God as the Supreme Sanctity: in believing, nothwithstanding the oppositions of their reason, the mysteries which God has revealed to them, they honour him as the Sovereign Truth: thus, in the Christian religion, the whole man is, as it were, immolated to God : he immolates his understanding by faith, his heart by love, his will by the acceptation of the divine precepts, his body by the practice of all kinds of good works. The clear result of all this, is, that a religion which holds out to the belief of men incomprehensible mysteries, is more worthy of God than a religion that would propose no such mysteries, and that, of course, the former religion is more perfect, and has a character of Divinity more than the latter, whence, in the ultimate analysis, it follows, that the incomprehensibility of mysteries, so far from being a reason to reject the Christian religion, is, on the contrary, a reason the more to receive it. God is incomprehensible, not only in his own nature, but also in all his works : a religion, therefore, that emanates from God, and is, of course, the most noble work of God, must needs be marked by the first and most illustrious attribute of the Deity. Mysteries, therefore, far from being a solid objection to a religion, are rather one of the most striking cha: racteristics of the true religion: A religion that consecrates but one half of man to God, is not worthy of God, since it is the office of religion to consecrate the whole man, with all his powers, to the service of his creator. Now, a religion devested of mysteries, consecrates but half the man to the honour and glory of God, viz. the will, whilst it leaves the
most noble part of man, namely, his understanding, free and independent: for how can the understanding of man pay its tribute of honour to God, as the eternal truth, unless it be by captivating itself to the obedience of faith?
XXI. Thirdly, Since God deigned to make himself known to men, mysteries became unavoidable, it being altogether impossible for God to reveal to men his essence, his designs, the plan of his providence, the economy of his works, &c. without revealing to them things incomprehensible, and, of course, mysteries. We are much better entitled to ask: of what use would religion itself be, without these august objects of faith? It would soon be reduced to what it was in the bands of the ancient philosophers, a code of paradoxes, and problematic questions. It is by mysteries that God has fixed the faith of his people, and sheltered it from the attempts of a restless and ever-varying philosophy. When Jesus Christ appeared on earth, Philosophy, by its interminable disputes, had shaken every truth, and spared neither dogma, nor morality, whilst it called in question the most evident principles. Mysteries were necessary to impose silence on that proud and restless reason, and to make it submit to the yoke of faith.
XXII. Fourthly. The whole system of the Christian dispensation being grounded on mysteries, it is obvious, that these are as essential to the edifice of religion, as the foundations are to any superstructure. Take away, for example, the dogma of Original Sin, and of the blessed Trinity, and the whole edi. fice of religion will instantly tumble to the ground; for if there is no Original Sin, there is, manifestly no need of the mystery of the Incarnation ; and by denying these, you must necessarily deny those that essentially depend on them-I mean the mystery of the Redemption, the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ into Heaven; and, if there is no Trinity; it is as impossible to conceive those mysteries, as it is to conceive the coming of the Holy Ghost. He, therefore, that declares against mysteries, by a necessary consequence,overturns at once, the whole august and magnificent structure of Religion.
XXIII. Mysteries, far from being dry, and useless speculations, are, on the contrary, the very basis of, and the strongest incitement to, the observance of Christian Morality.
But, continues the Unitarian, must it not be confessed on all hands, that “revelation is expressly intended for our instruction, edification, rule of life, and means of happiness ?"** What then have mysteries, those barren, metaphysical, and unintelligible notions to do with a religion, which ought to be essentially practical ?
Such is the idea, the Unitarian has formed of the mysteries of religion, in general, nor ought we to be surprised at this ; since, on the contrary, it would rather appear strange that men who have accustomed themselves to view religion more as a human, than a divine institution, and who are determined to disbelieve, whatever soars above the reach of their understanding, should possibly perceive in mysteries any thing else but dry and empty speculations. But characters of this description are not competent judges to decide on a subject like this. Let us rather listen to the Fathers of the Church, to the Saints of God in past ages, and to the true faithful, who, with a lively faith, contemplate the said mysteries, and let us see whether they appeared to them as barren and uninstructive as they do to the Unitarian.
And, to begin with the ineffable mystery of the adorable Trinity, what a source of Heavenly joy opens to the faithful, in beholding in his God and Sovereign Good, that ineffable and eternal union, love, and joy, that exists between the three divine persons, equal and consubstantial to each other! What a noble, what a perfect pattern discovers itself in the same union, of that tender and constant love, which ought to unite all the children of men into one and the same family—a pattern proposed by Jesus Christ himself for our imitation. John, xvii. v. 11. “ That they all may be one, as thou, Father in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.?!
* Miscellany. Abstract of Unitarian Belief.
Even in the fall of man, what great and practical truths does not the attentive believer discover ? For if he is struck with awe in considering the extent of the divine justice, and the terrible consequences of one mortal sin, he is likewise enraptured in beholding the tender mercies of God breaking forth from the dark cloud of this mystery, in the cheering tidings of a future Redeemer, with which the Lord presently erected and consoled sinful man after his fall. How much does he admire the wisdom and goodness of his God, when he comes to reflect, that that very sin, which was to have been the cause of bis eternal ruin, is made, in the gracious designs of God, the very occasion of the most astonishing and amiable mystery of the incarnation, by which, a's St. Leo observes, sinful man was to gain much more than he had lost by his guilty parent.
But if these bright prospects, if the bare promise of a Saviour, was such a source of delight and comfort to all the righteous of the old law, what raptures will not be excited in the breasts of men by the accomplishment of this solemn promise, the actual incarnation of the Son of God, and his temporal birth at BethJehem! 0, what great things does not faith lay open to the faithful soul, at the astonishing spectacle of a God made man, of a God annihilated under the form of a servant, of a God under the amiable shape of an infant, of a God born in a stable, and laid in a manger! 0, it is here the faithful begins to know his God, and the admirable inventions of his tender love towards him. “God so loved the world, (it is thus he exclaims in a transport of extacy, with St. John,) as to give . his only-begotten Son, that, whoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting." John ii. v. 16. Here the Christian soul, prostrate before this Divine Infant, in profoundadoration with the shepherds, and the wise men of the East, is amazed at the wonderful designs of the Most High upon men, at the admirable contrivances of his wisdom and love for the reparation of mankind. It is here he beholds the majesty of God displayed in all its infinite greatness, seeing him, in the person of Jesus Christ, adored by an adorable God-man : Hence he
conceives the meaning of the sublime canticle, “Glory be to God in the highest, and, on earth, peace to men of good will."* It is here, he becomes able in some measure to comprehend with all the Saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth, to know also the charity of Christ, which surpasses all knowledge.f It is here, he learns more wisdom in a few minntes with St. Bernard, than all the philosophers could teach him during ages, for he, contemplating his Saviour in the manger, reasons thus : either the Incarnate Wisdom of God is deceived, or the world. But Jesus Christ cannot be deceived, therefore, the world is mistaken--the only begotten Son of God, born in a stable, in extreme poverty and suffering, despised by, and unknown to, the world: what does that mean? what else but what man could never hitherto understand, and what it was most important for him to know, viz. that the end and happiness of man do not consist in the goods of fortune, nor in sensual pleasures, nor in the esteem of men, nor in ex.. alted stations amongst them ; but rather in a generous contempt of all the empty goods, which the world so ardently pursues. It is here, the Saints of God, by the example of an humble, poor, annihilated, and suffering God, learnt the exalted science of despising riches, pleasures, and honours: it is here, they became enamoured with hardships, poverty, and all kinds of sufferings, in seeing them courted, esteemed, and loved, by the Incarnate Wisdom of God. It is here, that humility, patience, and self-denial, are enforced by an example, the force of which it is impossible to resist. For, if the Son of God, became a man of sorrows, who shall refuse to suffer? and if the infinite majesty is thus annihilated, will it not be an intolerable impudence in a filthy worm of the earth to be puffed up with pride and haughtiness ?1
If from the stable of Bethlehem, the Christian with the flambeau of faith in his hand, repairs to Mount Calvary, what a great and exalted spectacle presents itself to his view! An affectionate look at the crucifix teaches him more than vo
* St. Luke, ii. v. 14.
+ Ephes. iii. v. 14.