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But a philosopher requires argument, and leaves prayer to the vulgar. Reason is too precious a gift to be offered at the shrine of religion: yet from St. Paul, to whom the Roman governor said that too much learning had turned his head, down to John Locke, the great historian of the human understanding, the greatest men the world ever produced, have believed mysteries beyond their comprehension. They all knew that God cannot lie, nor deceive mortals, but that man is liable to error. If then my reason discovers, that the motives of credibility are sufficient to induce me to believe, that God has proposed such and such a doctrine; the same reason immediately whispers, believe your God, for he can do more than you can comprehend.
In denying mysteries, because we cannot comprehend them, we may as well deny our existence. For our very existence is a mystery we can never comprehend. How many valves and springs, how many veins and arteries, what an assemblage of bones,muscles, canals, juices, nerves, fluids, tubes, vessels, are requisite to make that frail being called man? Great partizans of nature and reason (words often used to veil your ignorance), take a handful of dust and shape it in the figure of a man, bore the veins and arteries, lay the sinews and tendons, fit the joints and blow into its nostrils your philosophical breath, make it move, walk, speak, concert plans, form schemes; make it susceptible of love, fear, joy, hope, desire, &c. then we will recognize your comprehensive knowledge of the imperceptible progress, and divine mechanism, of the human frame. For the formation of each of us is as wonderful as the formation of the first. Your very bodies of which you are so fond, are mysteries in which your reason is lost; and you would fain have a religion which proposes nothing but what your reason comprehends. Thousands of years elapsed before Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood. Thousands will elapse before the delicate texture of the human frame is known.
Disengage yourselves, if you can, from the impenetrable folds and darkness of our own frames. Take a survey of all the objects that surround you; you plunge into an abyss overspread with darkness and obscurity. Explain to us how one and the same water paints and dyes the different flowers into various colours, the pink, the lilly, the tulip, the rose; or how from an inodorous earth they draw their sweet perfumes! The cell of the bee, which that little insect makes according to the nicest rules of geometry, without studying the mathematics, and in the construction whereof the curious have observed all the advantages which geometers derive from Newton's doctrine of fluxions, the minima and maxima, and the extraordinary contrivance, whereby a less quantity of surface is sufficient to contain a given quantity of honey, which saves that creature much wax and labour. The cell of the bee, the granary of the ant, the heart, lungs, liver, Etc.jaf the mite, baffle your learned researches.
From the immense bodies swimming in the azure fluid above, to the blade of grass which springs under your feet, every thing is a mystery to man.
If you range in the boundless region of the abstract sciences, what a fathomless ocean of truths which you must acknowledge, without comprehending! Lines eternally drawing near to each other, without ever meeting! Motion for ever slackening, without ever coming to a point of rest! The infinite divisibility of matter, whereby a small grain of wheat incloses in itself as many parts (though lesser in proportion) as the whole world! The smallest part of the same grain containing another world, and the least part of that part, as small, with respect to the grain, as the grain is, with respect to the entire frame of the universe, and so on,' to infinity!
If, then, the vigour of our wit must yield to an atom of matter, is it not an abuse of reason, to refuse our assent to truths propounded by an all-wise and omnipotent Being, only because they are above our conception?
If nature be, then, a mysterious Book, closed up with a seven-fold seal, is it not presumption and blindness in man not to submit to unerring wisdom? Revealed religion once secluded, a faint light and lame kind of liberty would be our boasted privilege. Wounded man could never find, in his reason, sufficient light to discover the truths of eternal life; nor in his liberty, sufficient strength to follow their dictates. Like the bleeding traveller, on the road of Jericho, he stands in need of the assistance of some foreign and healing hand.
* It is none of his fault,' says St. Austin, who had himself been a proud and voluptuous Philosopher, 'if he cannot make 'use of his broken limbs: but he is guilty, if he despises the * physician who proffers to cure him: and he is humbly to* 4 acknowledge his weakness, to obtain help. This assistance
* is ministered, not by the law of nature, but by the tree of
* life, who says of himself: I am* the vine; you are the
* branches: without me you cannot do any thing.'
The two fetal springs of our evils, are—the error of the mind, and the infirmity of the will. In him we find the remedy: the light of revelation to dispel our darkness, and his enlivening grace to purify the heart. You are ready to acknowledge him as the divine and inexhaustible fountain of both, if once some passages, which, in your opinion, militate against his Divinity, could be reconciled. An attempt shall be made in my next letter.
I have the honour to be, &c.
AN incarnate God, -whosebleeding wounds have paid our xansom, is one of those mysteries that stuns and disconcerts human reason, liable to stray through the winding paths of roving error, if the clew of faith do not direct our steps and minister its assistance. He appeared on earth to cancel our crimes; to nail to the cross the schedule of our condemnation; to lacerate and tear the woeful hand-writing that gave us over to rebel angels; to snatch sinful man from the hands of divine justice; and to unlock the awful gates of the eternal sanctuary, whither no mortal has access, but through the blood of the spotless Pontiff. He appeared, in fine, to raise, through his merits, all those who fell by Adam's guilt; to form a faithful and holy people, a faithful people, 'by capti
* vating their understanding to the yoke of faith,' and a holy people, whose conversation, according to St. Paul, ought to be in heaven; and who are to follow no longer the dictates of the flesh.
Our ignorance of his nature would expose us to the fatal alternativeT-^either of becoming idolaters in worshipping a man, which is the case of all Christians, if your opinion be well grounded, or of refusing God the homage that is due to him, which is your case, if you mistake and err. If Christ be not God, the Christians are in the same case with the idolatrous Tartars, who worship a living man: and if he be God above all, and blessed for ever, you may as well believe the Alcoran, as believe the Scriptures; and invoke Mahomet, as invoke the son of Mary. He declares, 'that life eternal
* consists in the knowledge of Himself, and of the Father who 4 sent him.' In such an important article, it is too hazardous to plead ignorance, in hopes of impunity: for the Scripture says, that 'there is a way which man thinks to be the right 1 one; and the end thereof are the ways of death.' The Divinity of Christ, evidenced by the accomplishment of so many oracles, and supported by the concurrent testimonies of all nations and ages, since his appearance on earth, has so many apologists, that the doctor can easily meet with some of them in every library, and, I doubt not, in his own; and that it were presumption in me to attempt going over the same ground; especially, after what Abadie and Houteville have said on this important subject. Moreover, Sir, you acknowledge the authenticity of the Scriptures; and found your doubts, either on the obscurity of some passages, or the misapplication of some prophecies, or the numberless texts, relating to Christ's humanity. In this walk, I take the liberty of attending you, step by step; and shall avoid, as much as possible, any long digression; lest we may stray too far from the path.
You affirm, that the first chapter of St. John, in which the Divinity of Christ is asserted, 'In the beginning was the
• Word; and the Word was with God; and the Word was
• God;' is intricate and obscure. It is quite the reverse; and Christ's Divinity cannot be read in more legible characters. You understand by the Word, 'the Man Jesus, whom God
• raised up in time, and to whom God imparted extraordinary
• gifts.' In understanding by the Word, the Man Jesus, you are in similar circumstances with king Agrippa, who said: 'Paul, Paul, you have made me almost a Christian.' You would be entirely a Christian, if you added to ' the Man Jesus, whom God raised up in time,' the God Jesus, who was begotten from eternity: according to the saying of the Psalmist,
• before the morning star I have begotten thee:' words which Christ applies to himself. Or you understand by the foregoing words, * In the beginning was the word,' &c. truth and righteousness, co-eternal with the Divinity. Permit me to tell you, that you explain one obscurity by another; and that, notwithstanding all your shifts, either the Evangelist did not know what he Was saying, or you must absolutely allow an eternal and pre-existent principle, united to human nature, 'in the fulness of time.'
To prove what I advanced, I shall adopt your interpretation, and place truth in the room of word. * In the begin'ning was the truth; and the truth was with God: and God 'was the truth.' Remark, here, that God and the truth are identified :-— God was the truth. In the same chapter, it is