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the manner of these things? If these are matters in which the fact is believed, while the manner of it is not comprehended, are they not “ mysteries in religion” in the very same sense, although not, perhaps, to the same degree, in which the doctrine of the Trinity is a “ mystery in religion ?" — with respect to which, the case is perfectly alike, the fact being declared, while the manner of it remains an undiscovered and incomprehensible secret. In neither case does the pleasure or profit arise from “ being in the dark, and having no 66 ideas,” but from that which we know, and of which we have ideas ;—that is, from the fact, which is revealed, not from the manner of it, which is not revealed.
Mr. Yates's second general observation is that, if an 6 incomprehensible proposition be inculcated in Scripture as “ an article of implicit faith, it must be delivered in the very “ terms of the proposition.”
Ah! here I seem to perceive something like a reason for my antagonist's desire to substitute a new definition of mystery, and to transfer the incomprehensibility from the subject of the proposition to its terms. If the terms themselves are unintelligible, Mr. Yates is clearly right; for in that case it would be impossible for us to substitute other terms, with any degree of certain assurance that we were enunciating the same doctrine. The man who knows not at all the meaning of the words Ellipse, Conic, and Sections, would in vain attempt to convey, in other terms than those in which it has been an nounced to himself, the proposition that “ An Ellipse is one of the Conic Sections :"-he must satisfy himself with repeating the ipsissima verba.
But in application to our subject of controversy, the observation seems to me unworthy of my opponent's good sense.The terms themselves here are not unintelligible. And although“ reasoning" may be s out of the question,” with any view to explain the manner of the existence of a Trinity in unity, reasoning (I mean “ reasoning from the Scriptures”) may be far from being out of the question, in proof of the revealed facts, that God is one, and yet that the Father is God, that the Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. Respecting the manner in which Deity is at once One and Three, there is no proposition whatever presented to us in the Bible, to be the object of our faith ;-no proposition,-nothing which we are called to believe, with regard to that in which the mystery properly lies.—But this leads me to
Mr. Yates's third observation, which is expressed in the form of a question :-“ We may ask respecting propositions, 6 to the terms of which we annex no distinct conceptions, is it “proper to give to such propositions the name of Revelation ?
I really expected Mr. Yates would have shown himself above having recourse to this trite and puerile objection.
There never was a more complete instance of playing with words.--How often must we be obliged to repeat, that all that we affirm to be revealed is the fact; and that the fact alone is, therefore, the object of our faith :—that the plain answer to the question, so often put to us, How can a thing be revealed, and yet mysterious ?.-is, “ the truth of the proposition is “ revealed; the manner how 'tis true, is not revealed.” *6 We think it evident,” says Mr. Yates, “ that subjects which 66 we cannot understand or comprehend, to us are not reveals6 ed.” But are there no subjects (for the mystery after all, it seems, lies in the subject)—are there no-subjects which we do not comprehend as to their manner or modus, while yet they are perfectly well known to us as facts ? Mr. Yates is a believer, I
* Conybeare's Sermon on Mysteries, formerly quoted.
presume, in the existence of substance--in the reality of animal life--in the law of gravitation, in the connexion of body and mind. But can Mr. Yates inform us what substance is, what the principle of animal life is; -what the nature of the power of gravity is,- or how body and mind are united ?
It is affirmed by Mr. Yates (p. 45.), “ Mr. Wardlaw in" timates (page 20.) that if we make it a rule to understand 6 the terms of a proposition before believing it, we must a« bandon some of the fundamental truths even of natural “ religion.” And from this alleged sentiment of mine the most fearful results are conjured up to the apprehensions of the pious mind :—the whole fabric of religion totters; its very foundations are in danger of giving way; and a basis is laid for a system of universal scepticism. To lay these unreal phantoms, and calm the perturbed spirits of the reader, it may be enough to notice, that I have said no such thing as that which is here imputed to me. My words are: “ If the “mysterious nature of the doctrine in question be a sufficient “ reason for its rejection, then may this reason be, with safety, “ generalized, and reduced to a principle of universal applica« tion. The principle will be: every thing that is mysterious 6 and incomprehensible ought to be disbelieved. Supposing, “ then, for a moment, the correctness of this principle, let us “ see what will become of some of the fundamental truths of 6 natural religion.”-Such is the passage which Mr. Yates translates into—“ if we make it a rule to understand the terms “ of a proposition before believing it, we must abandon some 6 of the fundamental truths even of natural religion.”—But what is in reality said ?-that if we make it a rule, that before assenting to the truth of any proposition we must not merely understand the terms in which it is expressed, but comprehend elearly the nature of the thing itself which the proposition af
firms,—the rule will more than bring into doubt some of the fundamental truths of natural religion. The instance which I have adduced in illustration, is that of the Divine omnipresence; about which enough will come to be said in a future part of this work.--I now refer it to the reader, whether the sentiment thus expressed gave any just occasion for Mr. Yates's entering his “ protest,” in terms of severe and sweeping censure, “ against those desolating pleas for religious mys6 tery, which tend to sap the foundation of all human know56 ledge, and to introduce an irksome scepticism on every sub66 ject.” (P. 45.) Nothing, indeed, can be more unfortunate than representing the sentiment in question as tending to scepticism. For it is the opposite sentiment that is the very principle and basis of scepticism-if it be proper to apply the term basis to a system of doubts. It is the sentiment that nothing is to be believed that we do not fully comprehend,—it is this sentiment that leads to the scepticism which Mr. Yates so feelingly deprecates. It is this that unsettles the mind, and throws it loose from all sure belief and stable principle. There are so many things the nature of which is beyond the apprehension of our limited faculties,--so few, indeed, a-, bout which puzzling difficulties may not be started, that such a sentiment must necessarily leave us very little to believe. It is somewhat curious, that while Mr. Yates represents my views on the subject of mysteries in religion, as calculated to “ introduce an irksome scepticism on every subject," I happen to have mentioned, in the very context of the passage which he quotes,-or rather which he garbles and mistranslates, their tendency to universal scepticism as one of the evils of the sentiments which I was opposing.'Incalculable mischief “ has arisen from men's aspiring at knowledge beyond the 6 reach of their own, or of any finite powers, and beyond
o the limits of the Divine declarations. Yet the attempt to o comprehend the mode in which the Divine unity subsists in “ three persons, is certainly not more foolish, than it is to re66 fuse credence to the fact, because it exceeds our compre6 hension. He who does so, on such a subject as this, must 66 either, as we have seen, be guilty of the most palpable and 6 glaring inconsistencies, or else the limits of his belief must be “ narrow indeed. There is hardly a point, in fact, at which 6 a man of this description can consistently stop, short of uni"versal scepticism.” (Discourses, p. 24.)-The reader is left to judge, whether an humble readiness in the mind, to receive as true, on sufficient evidence, what yet it cannot comprehend, be a disposition likely to involve it in endless uncertainty and hesitation ;-whether faith is the direct road to scepticism ;-belief the high way to doubt.--I might safely, indeed leave the respective tendencies of the Unitarian and the orthodox system, in this particular, to the decision of fact. On which side is it that the greatest measure is to be found of a free-thinking (I use the word in malam partem) and sceptical turn of mind ?
Mr. Yates adopted his own definition of mystery in preference to mine, because it was “better accommodated to the 6 tenor of my reasonings.”—Erratum—for tenor read subversion. So, I doubt not, Mr. Yates thought it. He has substituted his own definition for mine; and has made it mine, by inserting it in my argument where mine should have stood. He has made his opponent say what he would have him say, 6 and then reasoned from his own misrepresentation," * doing what lay in his power to make me argue inconclusively, and to fasten on me sentiments widely different from those which
* Brown's Strictures, p. 23.