« VorigeDoorgaan »
Divine Revelation, or any Authority due to it. A Chriftian, who believes the Gospel, is in no danger of the Philofophy of Infidels; for the Authority of God is above all Reason and Philofophy but if we fet afide Revelation, and difpute with them upon equal Terms, the Event is doubtful: Not because I fear, that, fetting afide Revelation, there are better Arguments againft the Immortality of the Soul, than there are for it; (which I hope to convince you there are not) but because all fuch Difputes are a Tryal of Skill between Man and Man, and their perfonal Abilities and Qualifications: and if an Infidel happen to be a wittier Man, and better Philofopher than a Chriftian, the Victory is like to go on that fide; and the Chriftian who lays afide his Faith, may be baffled in his Philofophy; and that too often endangers the renouncing his Faith.
2. To make you ftill more fenfible of the danger of this, I obferve, that one great Design of Revelation was to deliver us from the Uncertainties of Human Reason, and to give us a furer Foundation for our Faith. If any thing be certain by the Light of Nature, we muft acknowledge, that the Principles of Natural Religion are fo; as that there is a God, and a Providence, and a Life to come, wherein good Men fhall be rewarded, and the wicked punished. But tho' the Generality of Mankind believed these things by a kind of natural Inftinct and Senfation, yet we know what Work the Philofophers made, when they came to difpute them: That Men, who firmly believed the Being of a God and the Immortality of the Soul, without any of their Arguments, escaped well, if they believed as much after they had heard their wrangling B 4 Debates.
Debates. This very Account St. Paul gives of it, 1 Cor. i. 20, 21. Where is the Wife? Where is the Scribe? Where is the Difputer of this World? Hath not God made foolish the Wisdom of this World? For after that in the Wisdom of God, the World by Wisdom knew not God, it pleafed God by the foolishness of Preaching to fave them that believe. The meaning of which is, that the Difputes of Philofophers had by long Experience been found very ineffectual to inftruct and confirm Mankind in the Belief and Knowledge of God, and of another World, and to direct them in the way to Happiness; and therefore God in great Compaffion to our Infirmities chofe another, a more eafy, a more convincing, and more compendious Way, to teach us; not not by the Wisdom of this World, nor by the uncertain Reafonings of Philofophers, but by the Revelation of the Gospel of Chrift, by the foolishnefs of Preaching, which contained no curious Speculations, no new Theories, and never pretended to Natural Demonftrations. The Apoftles only told a plain Story of the Life, and Death, and Refurrection of Christ, and confirmed their Testimony by Miracles. The Doctrines which they taught, were plain Matters of Fact, and the Arguments whereby they proved them, were not drawn from the Secrets of Nature, but from a Divine Power, which vifibly appear'd in thofe mighty Works they did.
This is the Account St. Paul gives of his Preaching, 1 Cor. ii. 1--5. And I, Brethren, when I came to you, came not with Excellence of Speech, or of Wisdom, declaring unto you the Testimony of God. For I. determined not to know any thing among you fave Jefus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and
in fear, and in much trembling. And my Speech and my Preaching was not with enticing Words of Man's Wisdom, but in Demonftration of the Spirit and of Power, that your Faith should not stand in the Wisdom of Men, but in the Power of God. He did not preach the Gospel to them with the Excellency of Speech, or of Wisdom, not with the enticing Words of Man's Wisdom, as the Gracian Orators and Philofophers ufed to teach. He did not perfuade them to believe in Chrift with a Pomp and Flourish of Words; nor recommend Christianity to them, according to the Fashion of thofe Times, in a new Philofophical Drefs; and was refolved never to do fo, but only to preach to them Jefus Christ, and him Crucified, and that with all the plainnefs and fimplicity, which fuch a Doctrine requires. But then he had Demonftrations, beyond all the Demonftrations of Philofophy, and beyond all the Enticing Words of Man's Wisdom, the Demonftration of the Spirit, and of Power; God bearing them Witness, both with Signs and Wonders, and with divers Miracles, and Gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own Will, Heb. ii. 4. And the Reafon the Apostle gives for this, is very confiderable, that your Faith fhould not stand in the Wisdom of Men, but in the Power of God; that is, that their Faith might reft upon a fure bottom, the Teftimony and Authority of God, which nothing can ever fhake and unfettle; and not on the uncertain Reafonings of Men, which cannot create a firm and lafting Affent; which, if they were never so true, unlearned Men cannot understand, and learned Men cannot agree about; which might be perverted by Wit and Sophiftry, by Faction and Intereft; as the Example of fecular Wisdom and Philofophy did abun
dantly prove. This is the Reafon, why he would not mix Philofophy with Chriftianity; tho' that would have made it the more palatable to the wife Men of the Age; because the Reafonings of Philofophy are uncertain, and if they be once received into our Faith, or allowed any Confideration in it, as much Authority as thefe Reafonings are allowed in Faith, fo much Uncertainty they communicate to it.
Thus St. Paul preached at Athens, and thus he preached at Rome, and was not ashamed of the Gofpel of Christ, which is the Power of God unto Salvation to them that believe; and tho' he was fkilled in Secular Learning, and was no Stranger to the Writings of the Philofophers and Poets, yet we do not find that in all his Difputes with the Philofophers, he ever above once reasoned with them from the Principles of Nature, and those the most uncontefted Principles too; of which more presently.
Had he liked this way, we might reasonably have expected it from him when he made his Apology before King Agrippa, and Feftus the Roman Governor; efpecially when he undertook to defend the Credibility of the Refurrection: Why Should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God fhould raife the Dead? Acts xxvi. 8. The Infidels of our Age, had they heard him fay -fo, would certainly have expected a Philofophical Difcourfe of the Poffibility of the Resurrection, how a dead Body which is diffolved into Duft, and it may be its Atoms fcattered into the four Winds, fhould recover its ancient Shape and Form, and a new Life; and what an Entertainment would fuch a Difcourfe as this have been to thofe Great Men, who no doubt were infpired with the Curiosity and the Philofophick
Genius of the Age? But St. Paul meddles not with the Philofophy of the Refurrection, but tells them how he himself came fo fatisfied in the Truth of it, by the Appearance of Chrift to him on his way to Damafcus.
By this. Means Chriftianity prevailed in the World; for the Foolishness of God is wiser than Men, and the Weakness of God is stronger than Men, But as Philofophy crept into Religion, the feveral Sects of Philofophers divided the Church with as many Herefies and Schifms, and this brought great Uncertainty into our Faith; and Christianity owed its Progrefs more to the Publick Countenance and Authority of Government, than to its own Native Force and Power.
Our own Age is a Fatal Example of this, in the prodigious Growth of Atheism and Infidelity among us; not to mention fome other pestilent and prevailing Herefies; for it is all owing to refolving our Faith more into Natural Reafon than into Revelation. This is not the way whereby Christianity was at firft propagated, nor is it the way whereby it will ever be reftored.
Some Men who have a great Opinion of their Philofophy, think presently to convert the World by fome new witty Hypothefis: but the World was never converted by Philosophy yet; and after fo many Ages Experience, it is time to lay aside the Thoughts now. I do not blame any Mens Labours in confuting the Principles of the Atheistick Philofophy, while they do not pawn our Faith upon it, and fet afide Revelation as below a Philofopher. But we all know, that the World by Wisdom knew not God; and I do not find that the World is much wifer now than it was in thofe Days, nor its Philofophy