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can answer all the Objections of Satan and
rebellious reason with that odd resolution I learned of Ter. tullian, Certum est, quia impossibile est. I desire to exercise my faith in the difficultest point; for to credit ordinary and visible objects is not faith, but perswasion. Some believe the better for seeing Christ's Sepulchre; and, when they have seen the Red Sea, doubt not of the Miracle. Now, contrarily, I bless my self and am thankful that I lived not in the days of Miracles, that I never saw Christ nor His Disciples. I would not have been one of those Israelites that pass'd the Red Sea, nor one of Christ's patients on whom He wrought His wonders; then had my faith been thrust upon me, nor should I enjoy that greater blessing pronounced to all that believe and saw not. 'Tis an easie and necessary belief, to credit what our eye and sense hath examined. I believe He was dead, and buried, and rose again ; and desire to see Him in His glory, rather than to contemplate Him in His Cenotaphe or Sepulchre. Nor is this much to believe; as we have reason, we owe this faith unto History: they only had the advantage of a bold and noble Faith, who lived before His coming, who upon obscure prophesies and mystical Types could raise a belief, and expect apparent impossibilities.
'Tis true, there is an edge in all firm belief, and with an easie Metaphor we may say, the Sword of Faith ; but in these obscurities I rather use it in the adjunct the Apostle gives it, a Buckler ; under which I conceive a wary combatant may lye invulnerable. Since I was of understanding to know we knew nothing, my reason hath been more pliable to the will of Faith; I am now content to understand a mystery without a rigid definition, in an easie and Platonick description. That allegorical description of Hermes pleaseth me beyond all the Metaphysical definitions of Divines. Where I cannot satisfy my reason, I love to humour my fancy: I had as live you tell me that anima est angelus hominis, est Corpus Dei, as Entelechia ;-Lux est umbra Dei, as
perspicui. Where there is an obscurity too deep
for our Reason, 'tis good to sit down with a description, periphrasis, or adumbration; for by acquainting our Reason how unable it is to display the visible and obvious effects of Nature, it becomes more humble and submissive unto the subtleties of Faith; and thus I teach my haggard and unreclaimed Reason to stoop unto the lure of Faith. I believe there was already a tree whose fruit our unhappy Parents tasted, though, in the same Chapter when God forbids it, 'tis positively said, the plants of the field were not yet grown, for God had not caus’d it to rain upon the earth. I believe that the Serpent, (if we shall literally understand it,) from his proper form and figure, made his motion on his belly before the curse. I find the tryal of the Pucellage and virginity of Women, which God ordained the Jews, is very fallible. Experience and History informs me, that not onely many particular Women, but likewise whole Nations, have escaped the curse of Childbirth, which God seems to pronounce upon the whole Sex. Yet do I believe that all this is true, which indeed my Reason would perswade me to be false; and this I think is no vulgar part of Faith, to believe a thing not only above but contrary to Reason, and against the Arguments of our proper Senses. In my solitary and retired imagination
(neque enim cum porticus aut me
Lectulus accepit, desum mihi,) I remember I am not alone, and therefore forget not to contemplate Him and His Attributes Who is ever with me, especially those two mighty ones, His Wisdom and Eternity. With the one I recreate, with the other I confound, my understanding ; for who can speak of Eternity without a solæcism, or think thereof without an Extasie ? Time we may comprehend; 'tis but five days elder then our selves, and hath the same Horoscope with the World; but to retire so far back as to apprehend a beginning, to give such an infinite start
wards as to conceive an end, in an essence that we affirm hath neither the one nor the other, it puts my
Reason to St. Paul's Sanctuary. My Philosophy dares not say the Angels can do it. God hath not made a Creature that can comprehend Him; 'tis a privilege of His own nature. I AM THAT I AM, was His own definition unto Moses; and 'twas a short one, to confound mortality, that durst question God, or ask Him what He was. Indeed, He onely is; all others have and shall be. But in Eternity there is no distinction of Tenses; and therefore that terrible term Predestination, which hath troubled so many weak heads to conceive, and the wisest to explain, is in respect to God no prescious determination of our Estates to come, but a definitive blast of His Will already fulfilled, and at the instant that He first decreed it; for to His Eternity, which is indivisible and all together, the last Trump is already sounded, the reprobates in the flame, and the blessed in Abraham's bosome. St. Peter speaks modestly, when he saith, a thousand years to GOD are but as one day; for, to speak like a Philosopher, those continued instances of time which flow into a thousand years, make not to Him one moment: what to us is to come, to His Eternity is present, His whole duration being but one permanent point, without Succession, Parts, Flux, or Division.
There is no Attribute that adds more difficulty to the mystery of the Trinity, where, though in a relative way of Father and Son, we must deny a priority. I wonder how Aristotle could conceive the World eternal, or how he could make good two Eternities. His similitude of a Triangle comprehended in a square doth somewhat illustrate the Trinity of our Souls, and that the Triple Unity of God; for there is in us not three, but a Trinity of Souls; because there is in us, three distinct Souls, yet differing faculties, that can and do subsist apart in different Subjects, and yet in us are so united as to make but one Soul and substance. If one Soul were so perfect as to inform three distinct Bodies, that were a petty Trinity: conceive the distinct number of three, not divided nor separated by the intellect, but actually comprehended in its Unity, and
that is a perfect Trinity. I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret Magick of numbers. Beware of Philosophy, is a precept not to be received in too large a sense; for in this Mass of Nature there is a set of things that carry in their Front (though not in Capital Letters, yet in Stenography and short Characters,) something of Divinity, which to wiser Reasons serve as Luminaries in the Abyss of Knowledge, and to judicious beliefs as Scales and Roundles to mount the Pinacles and highest pieces of Divinity. The severe Schools shall never laugh me out of the Philosophy of Hermes, that this visible World is but a Picture of the invisible, wherein, as in a Pourtraict, things are not truely, but in equivocal shapes, and as they counterfeit some more real substance in that invisible fabrick.
That other Attribute wherewith I recreate my devotion, is His Wisdom, in which I am happy; and for the contemplation of this only, do not repent me that I was bred in the way of Study: the advantage I have of the vulgar, with the content and happiness I conceive therein, is an ample recompence for all my endeavours, in what part of knowledge soever. Wisdom is His most beauteous Attribute; no man can attain unto it, yet Solomon pleased God when he desired it. He is wise, because He knows all things; and He knoweth all things, because He made them all: but His greatest knowledge is in comprehending that He made not, that is, Himself. And this is also the greatest knowledge in man. For this do I honour my own profession, and embrace the Counsel even of the Devil himself: had he read such a Lecture in Paradise as he did at Delphos, we had better known our selves, nor had we stood in fear to know him. I know He is wise in all, wonderful in what we conceive, but far more in what we comprehend not; for we behold Him but asquint, upon reflex or shadow; our understanding is dimmer than Moses Eye; we are ignorant of the back-parts or lower side of His Divinity; therefore to prie into the maze of His Counsels is not only folly in
man, but presumption even in Angels. Like us, they are His Servants, not His Senators; He holds no Counsel, but that mystical one of the Trinity, wherein, though there be three Persons, there is but one mind that decrees without contradiction. Nor needs He any: His actions are not begot with deliberation, HisÐ Wisdom naturally knows what's best; His intellect stands ready fraught with the superlative and purest Ideas of goodness; consultation and election, which are two motions in us, make but one in Him, His actions springing from His power at the first touch of His will. These are Contemplations metaphysical : my humble speculations have another Method, and are content to trace and discover those expressions Hem hath left in His Creatures, and the obvious effects of Nature. There is no danger to profound these mysteries, no sanctum sanctorum in Philosophy. The World was made to be inhabited by Beasts, but studied and contemplated by Man: 'tis the Debt of our Reason we owe unto God, and the homage we pay for not being Beasts. Without this, the World is still as though it had not been, or as it was before the sixth day, when as yet there was not a Creature that could conceive or say there was a World. The Wisdom of God receives small honour from those vulgar Heads that rudely stare about, and with a gross rusticity admire His works: those highly magnifie Him, whose judicious inquiry into His Acts, and deliberate research into His Creatures, return the duty of a devout and learned admiration. Therefore,
Search while thou wilt, and let thy Reason go,