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And thus that great mystery constitutes the sum and essence of revelation. The essence of revealed religion consists in this, that men by a true faith receive this doctrine, which the apostle calls a mystery manifestly great. Therefore the . knowledge of the greatest mystery belongs to the very essence of the religion of a sinner.
How absurd do many of the doctrines of mathematicians and astronomers appear to ignorant men, when they cannot see the reason of those doctrines, although they are most true and evident, so that not the least doubt concerning them can remain in the mind of a thorough mathematician? Ibid. tom. 11. p. 560.
Since, in peligine, there are some primary truths, and others more remote, which are deduced from the former by reasoning, and so are secondary, and these last may not be known, though the primary are known, but when once they are known they cannot be denied ; it follows, that those articles which constitute religion, and so are fundamental, are to be distinguished into primary and secondary. The primary are those of which a man cannot be ignorant; consistently with true religion and his own salvation ; and they are necessary with a necessity of means: The secondary are those of which a man may be ignorant, consistently with his resting upon the foundation of true religion, and with his own salvation, and those are necessary with a necessity of command. Therefore, to the same man, certain doctrines may be now fundamental, which were not fundamental to him before he. knew them. Ibid, tóm, i, p. 524, 525.
Joh. Chr. Kirchnejerus, in his Dissert. concerning fundamental articles, says, “ They may be either reduced to fewer, or extended to more ; as often one article may include the rest; and so all may be reduced to that one ; and on the other hand, that one, according to the various truths contained in it, may be divided into several. Therefore, authors do not contradict themselves, who reduce all fundamental articles to one : For they cannot well be determined by their number ;, because as many fundamental truths are contained in one fundamental truth, as there are essential properties belonging to Vol. II,
the truths thus contained. Therefore, the holy scripture often sums up all fundamental articles in one, as in John xvii. 3. “ This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Sometimes it distinguishes them into several; as in 1 Tim. i. 5. “ Now the end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” Ibid. tom. i. p. 528.
On account of the various degrees of men's capacities, and the various circumstances of the times in which they live, one man may know truths which another cannot know. Whence it follows that the very same articles are not fundamental to all men ; but accordingly as revelation hath been more or less complete, according to the several dispensations under which men have lived, their various natural abilities, and their various modes and circumstances of living, different articles are, and have been, fundamental to different men. This is very plain from the different degrees of knowledge before and since the coming of Christ ; for before his coming, many truths lay hid, which are now set in the most clear light: And the instance of the apostles, abundantly shows the truth of what I have now advanced; who, although they were already in a state of grace, and their salvation was secured, yet for some time were ignorant of the necessity of the sufferings and death of Christ, and of the true nature of his kingdom. Whereas, he who now does not acknowledge, or perhaps denies, the necessity of Christ's death, is by all means to be considered as in a fundamental error. Therefore, as a man hath received of God greater or less natural abilities, so let the number of articles to which he shall give his assent be greater or smaller ; and as revelation hath been made, or information hath been given, to a man, more clearly or obscurely, in the same proportion is more or less required of him. Therefore, in our own case, we cught to be cautious of even the smallest errors, and to aim at the highest degree of knowledge in divine truths. In the case of others, we ought to judge concerning them with the greatest prudence, mildness, and benevolence. Hence we see, that a certain precise num
ber of articles, which shall be necessary and fundamental to every man, cannot be determined. Ibid. p. 531.
If one single article of faith be so comprehensive, that in it are involved all things necessary to salvation, a man is not to. be condemned as a latitudinarian, or as indifferent to all other doctrines, because he says that one article only is fundament, al. For instance, That by the grace of the Triune God, Jesus, the true and eternal God, having assumed the human nature, became, through his satisfaction for sin, by his sufferings and death, the only and most perfect cause of our salvation ; who, therefore, together with the whole sacred Trinity, is, in the way of self denial, to be sought, loved and worshipped. Ibid.