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tainty it is the first endearment of love, and the supply of all understanding. From what we see without, we know what to believe within: and no demonstration in the world can be greater than the evidence of sense. Our senses are the great arguments of virtue and vice: and if it be not safe to rely upon that evidence, we cannot tell what pleasure and pain is and a man that is born blind, may as well have the true idea of colours, as we could have of pain, if our senses could not tell us certainly; and all those arguments from heaven, by which God prevails upon all the world, as oracles, and Urim and Thummim, and still voices, and loud thunders, and the daughter of a voice, and messages from above, and prophets on earth, and lights and angels, all were nothing: for faith could not come by hearing, if our hearing might be illusions. That, therefore, which all the world relies upon for their whole religion;- that which to all the world is the great means and instrument of the glorification of God, even our seeing of the works of God, and eating his provisions, and beholding his light;-that which is the great ministry of life, and the conduit of good and evil to us;—we may rely upon for this article of the sacrament: what our faith relies upon in the whole, she may not contradict in this. Tertullian said, that "it is not only unreasonable, but unlawful, to contradict the testimony of our sense, lest the same question be made of Christ himself, lest it be suspected that he also might be deceived, when he heard his Father's voice from heaven." That, therefore, which we see upon our altars and tables, that which the priest handles, that which the communicant does taste,―is bread and wine: our senses tell us that is so; and, therefore, faith cannot be enjoined to believe it not to be so. Faith gives a new light to the soul, but it does not put our eyes out; and what God hath given us in our nature, could never be intended as a snare to religion, or to engage us to believe a lie. Faith sees more in the sacrament than the eye does, and tastes more than the tongue does, but nothing against it: and as God hath not
⚫ two wills contradictory to each other, so neither hath he given us two notices and perceptions of objects, whereof the one is affirmative, and the other negative, of the same thing.
See Real Presence,' sect. 10.
2. Whatsoever is against right reason, that no faith can oblige us to believe. For although reason is not the positive and affirmative measure of our faith, and God can do no more than we can understand, and our faith ought to be larger than our reason, and take something into her heart that reason can never take into her eye,-yet, in all our creed, there can be nothing against reason. If true reason justly contradicts an article, it is not of the household of faith.' In this there is no difficulty; but that, in practice, we take care that we do not call that reason which is not so. For although a man's reason is a right judge, yet it ought not to pass sentence in an inquiry of faith, until all the information be brought in; all that is within, and all that is without it, all that is above, and all that is below; all that concerns it in experience, and all that concerns it in act; whatsoever is of pertinent observation, and whatsoever is revealed for else reason may argue very well, and yet conclude falsely: it may conclude well in logic, and yet infer a false proposition in theology: but when our judge is fully and truly informed in all that, where she is to make her judgment, we may safely follow it whithersoever she in
If, therefore, any society of men calls upon us to believe, in our religion, what is false in our experience,—to affirm that to be done, which we know is impossible it ever can be done;-to wink hard that we may see the better;-to be unreasonable men, that we may offer to God a reasonable sacrifice; they make religion so to be seated in the will, that our understanding will be useless, and can never minister to it. But as he that shuts the eye hard, and with violence curls the eye-lid, forces a fantastic fire from the crystalline humour, and espies a light that never shines, and sees thousands of little fires that never burn,-so is he that blinds the eye of his reason, and pretends to see by an eye of faith: he makes little images of notion, and some atoms dance before him; but he is not guided by the light, nor instructed by the proposition; but sees like a man in his sleep, and grows as much the wiser as the man that dreamt of a lycan
d See this largely discoursed of in the Rule of Conscience, lib. i. chap. 2. Rule 3.
thropy, and was, for ever after, wisely wary not to come near a river. He that speaks against his own reason, speaks against his own conscience; and, therefore, it is certain, no man serves God with a good conscience, that serves him against his reason. For though, in many cases, reason must submit to faith, that is, natural reason must submit to supernatural, and the imperfect informations of art, to the perfect revelations of God;—yet, in no case, can true reason and a right faith oppose each other: and, therefore, in the article of the sacrament, the impossible affirmatives concerning transubstantiation, because they are against all the reason of the world, can never be any part of the faith of God.
3. Whatsoever is matter of curiosity, that our faith is not obliged to believe or confess. For the faith of a Christian is pure as light, plain as a commandment, easy as children's lessons; it is not given to puzzle the understanding, but to instruct it; it brings charity to it, not darkness and obscurity. Our faith in this sacrament is not obliged to inquire or to tell, how the holy bread can feed the soul, or the chalice purify our spirits; how Christ is united to us, and yet we remain imperfect even then, when we are all one with him that is perfect: there is no want of faith, though we do not understand the secret manner how Christ is really present, and yet this reality be no other but a reality of event and positive effect; though we know not that sacramental is more than figurative, and yet not so much as natural, but greater in another kind. It is not a duty of our faith to discern how Christ's body is broken into ten thousand pieces, and yet remains whole at the same time; or how a body is present by faith only, when it is naturally absent: and yet faith ought to believe things to be as they are, and not to make them what, of themselves, they are not. We need not to be amazed concerning our faith, when our overbusy reason is amazed in the article; and our faith is not defective, though we confess we do not understand how Christ's body is there incorporeally, that is, the body after the manner of a spirit,-or though we cannot apprehend how the symbols should make the grace presential, and yet
e Ubi ad profunditatem sacramentorum perventum est, omnis Platonicorum caligavit subtilitas.- S. Cyprian. de Spir. S.
that the grace of God in the receiver can make the symbols operative and energetical.
The faith that is required of those who come to the holy communion, is of what is revealed plainly, and taught use fully: what sets devotion forward, not what ministers to curiosity; that which the good and the plain, the easy and the simple man, can understand. For if thou canst not understand the reciprocations and pulses of thy own arteries; the motion of thy blood, the seat of thy memory, the rule of thy dreams, the manner of thy digestion, the disease of thy bowels, and the distempers of thy spleen, things that thou bearest about thee, that cause to thee pain and sorrow;-it is not to be expected that thou shouldest understand the secrets of God, the causes of his will, the impulses of his grace, the manner of his sacraments, and the economy of his spirit. God's works are secret, and his words are deep, and his dispensations mysterious, and, therefore, too high for thy understanding. St. Gregory Nazianzen & says of God: "the more you think you comprehend of him in your understanding, the less he is comprehended:" like the sand of a glass, which the harder you grasp, the less you can retain or like the sand of the sea, which you can never number, but by going about it, you are confounded,—and by doing something of it, you make it impossible to do the rest. Curious inquiries are like the contentions of Protogenes and Apelles 1, who should draw the smallest line; and, after two or three essays, they left this monument of their art, that they drew three lines so curiously, that they were scarcely to be discerned. And, therefore, since faith is not
Υποχωρεῖ ἀεὶ τοσοῦτον, ὅσον καταλαμβάνεται. — Orat. 1.
The circumstance to which Bishop Taylor alludes, is related by Pliny the elder, lib. xxxii. c. 10. "Scitum est inter Protogenem et (Apellem) eum, quod accidit," &c. (J. R. P.)
concerned in intrigues and hard questions, it were very well if the sacrament itself were not disguised, and charity disordered, by that which is not a help, but a temptation, to faith itself. In the holy communion, we must retain an undoubted faith, but not inquire after what manner the secrets of God are appointed. Whether it be or no,' that is the object of faith to inquire, and to accept accordingly. What it is,' he that is to teach others, and speak mysteries, may modestly dispute; but how it is,' nothing but curiosity will look after'. The Egyptians used to say, that unknown darkness is the first principle of the world; not meaning that darkness was before light; but by darkness' they mean God,' as Damascius, the Platonist, rightly observes; saying, "This darkness or obscurity is the beginning of every intellectual being, and every sacramental action: and, therefore, in their ceremonies they usually made three accla mations to the unknown darkness:" that is, to God, whose secrets are pervious to no eye; whose dwelling is in a light that is not to be discerned; whose mysteries are not to be understood by us; and whose sacraments are objects of faith and wonder, but not to be disordered by the mistaking, undiscerning eye of people, that are curious to ask after what they shall never understand.
Faith is oftentimes safer in her ignorance than in busy questions; and to inquire after the manner of what God hath plainly and simply told, may be an effect of infidelity, but never an act of faith'. If concerning the things of God we once ask, ' Why,' or How?' we argue our doubt and want of confidence: and, therefore, it was an excellent counsel of St. Cyril ", " Believe firmly in the mysteries, and
1 Oportet igitur nos, in sumptionibus divinorum mysteriorum, indubitatam retinere fidem, et non quærere quo pacto.-S. Bernardus. An sit, fidei est inquirere, quid sit, philosophi,- quomodo sit, curiosi.
k Πρώτην ἀρχὴν νομίζουσι σκότος ὑπὸ πᾶσαν νόησιν, σκότος ἄγνωστον, τρὶς τοῦτο ἐπιφημίζοντες.
1 Multa etenim benè tecta latent, nescitaque prosunt;
Prosper. advers. ingrat. 35. m Σαφὲς ἔλεγχος ἀπιστίας τὸ πῶς περὶ Θεοῦ λέγειν. ---Just. Mart. Firmam fidem mysteriis adhibentes, nunquam, in tam sublimibus rebus, illud quomodo aut cogitemus aut proferamus. — In Johan, lib. iv. c. 13.