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- The Advancement of Learning - 40/42 -


two several senses: the one, that which springeth from reason, sense, induction, argument, according to the laws of heaven and earth; the other, that which is imprinted upon the spirit of man by an inward instinct, according to the law of conscience, which is a sparkle of the purity of his first estate: in which latter sense only he is participant of some light and discerning touching the perfection of the moral law; but how? sufficient to check the vice but not to inform the duty. So then the doctrine of religion, as well moral as mystical, is not to be attained but by inspiration and revelation from God.

(4) The use notwithstanding of reason in spiritual things, and the latitude thereof, is very great and general: for it is not for nothing that the apostle calleth religion "our reasonable service of God;" insomuch as the very ceremonies and figures of the old law were full of reason and signification, much more than the ceremonies of idolatry and magic, that are full of non-significants and surd characters. But most specially the Christian faith, as in all things so in this, deserveth to be highly magnified; holding and preserving the golden mediocrity in this point between the law of the heathen and the law of Mahomet, which have embraced the two extremes. For the religion of the heathen had no constant belief or confession, but left all to the liberty of agent; and the religion of Mahomet on the other side interdicteth argument altogether: the one having the very face of error, and the other of imposture; whereas the Faith doth both admit and reject disputation with difference.

(5) The use of human reason in religion is of two sorts: the former, in the conception and apprehension of the mysteries of God to us revealed; the other, in the inferring and deriving of doctrine and direction thereupon. The former extendeth to the mysteries themselves; but how? by way of illustration, and not by way of argument. The latter consisteth indeed of probation and argument. In the former we see God vouchsafeth to descend to our capacity, in the expressing of His mysteries in sort as may be sensible unto us; and doth graft His revelations and holy doctrine upon the notions of our reason, and applieth His inspirations to open our understanding, as the form of the key to the ward of the lock. For the latter there is allowed us a use of reason and argument, secondary and respective, although not original and absolute. For after the articles and principles of religion are placed and exempted from examination of reason, it is then permitted unto us to make derivations and inferences from and according to the analogy of them, for our better direction. In nature this holdeth not; for both the principles are examinable by induction, though not by a medium or syllogism; and besides, those principles or first positions have no discordance with that reason which draweth down and deduceth the inferior positions. But yet it holdeth not in religion alone, but in many knowledges, both of greater and smaller nature, namely, wherein there are not only posita but placita; for in such there can be no use of absolute reason. We see it familiarly in games of wit, as chess, or the like. The draughts and first laws of the game are positive, but how? merely ad placitum, and not examinable by reason; but then how to direct our play thereupon with best advantage to win the game is artificial and rational. So in human laws there be many grounds and maxims which are placita juris, positive upon authority, and not upon reason, and therefore not to be disputed: but what is most just, not absolutely but relatively, and according to those maxims, that affordeth a long field of disputation. Such therefore is that secondary reason, which hath place in divinity, which is grounded upon the placets of God.

(6) Here therefore I note this deficiency, that there hath not been, to my understanding, sufficiently inquired and handled the true limits and use of reason in spiritual things, as a kind of divine dialectic: which for that it is not done, it seemeth to me a thing usual, by pretext of true conceiving that which is revealed, to search and mine into that which is not revealed; and by pretext of enucleating inferences and contradictories, to examine that which is positive. The one sort falling into the error of Nicodemus, demanding to have things made more sensible than it pleaseth God to reveal them, Quomodo possit homo nasci cum sit senex? The other sort into the error of the disciples, which were scandalised at a show of contradiction, Quid est hoc quod dicit nobis? Modicum et non videbitis me; et iterum, modicum, et videbitis me, &c.

(7) Upon this I have insisted the more, in regard of the great and blessed use thereof; for this point well laboured and defined of would in my judgment be an opiate to stay and bridle not only the vanity of curious speculations, wherewith the schools labour, but the fury of controversies, wherewith the Church laboureth. For it cannot but open men's eyes to see that many controversies do merely pertain to that which is either not revealed or positive; and that many others do grow upon weak and obscure inferences or derivations: which latter sort, if men would revive the blessed style of that great doctor of the Gentiles, would be carried thus, ego, non dominus; and again, secundum consilium meum, in opinions and counsels, and not in positions and oppositions. But men are now over-ready to usurp the style, non ego, sed dominus; and not so only, but to bind it with the thunder and denunciation of curses and anathemas, to the terror of those which have not sufficiently learned out of Solomon that "The causeless curse shall not come."

(8) Divinity hath two principal parts: the matter informed or revealed, and the nature of the information or revelation; and with the latter we will begin, because it hath most coherence with that which we have now last handled. The nature of the information consisteth of three branches: the limits of the information, the sufficiency of the information, and the acquiring or obtaining the information. Unto the limits of the information belong these considerations: how far forth particular persons continue to be inspired; how far forth the Church is inspired; and how far forth reason may be used; the last point whereof I have noted as deficient. Unto the sufficiency of the information belong two considerations: what points of religion are fundamental, and what perfective, being matter of further building and perfection upon one and the same foundation; and again, how the gradations of light according to the dispensation of times are material to the sufficiency of belief.

(9) Here again I may rather give it in advice than note it as deficient, that the points fundamental, and the points of further perfection only, ought to be with piety and wisdom distinguished; a subject tending to much like end as that I noted before; for as that other were likely to abate the number of controversies, so this is likely to abate the heat of many of them. We see Moses when he saw the Israelite and the Egyptian fight, he did not say, "Why strive you?" but drew his sword and slew the Egyptian; but when he saw the two Israelites fight, he said, "You are brethren, why strive you?" If the point of doctrine be an Egyptian, it must be slain by the sword of the Spirit, and not reconciled; but if it be an Israelite, though in the wrong, then, "Why strive you?" We see of the fundamental points, our Saviour penneth the league thus, "He that is not with us is against us;" but of points not fundamental, thus, "He that is not against us is with us." So we see the coat of our Saviour was entire without seam, and so is the doctrine of the Scriptures in itself; but the garment of the Church was of divers colours and yet not divided. We see the chaff may and ought to be severed from the corn in the ear, but the tares may not be pulled up from the corn in the field. So as it is a thing of great use well to define what, and of what latitude, those points are which do make men mere aliens and disincorporate from the Church of God.

(10) For the obtaining of the information, it resteth upon the true and sound interpretation of the Scriptures, which are the fountains of the water of life. The interpretations of the Scriptures are of two sorts: methodical, and solute or at large. For this divine water, which excelleth so much that of Jacob's well, is drawn forth much in the same kind as natural water useth to be out of wells and fountains; either it is first forced up into a cistern, and from thence fetched and derived for use; or else it is drawn and received in buckets and vessels immediately where it springeth. The former sort whereof, though it seem to be the more ready, yet in my judgment is more subject to corrupt. This is that method which hath exhibited unto us the scholastical divinity; whereby divinity hath been reduced into an art, as into a cistern, and the streams of doctrine or positions fetched and derived from thence.

(11) In this men have sought three things, a summary brevity, a compacted strength, and a complete perfection; whereof the two first they fail to find, and the last they ought not to seek. For as to brevity, we see in all summary methods, while men purpose to abridge, they give cause to dilate. For the sum or abridgment by contraction becometh obscure; the obscurity requireth exposition, and the exposition is deduced into large commentaries, or into commonplaces and titles, which grow to be more vast than the original writings, whence the sum was at first extracted. So we see the volumes of the schoolmen are greater much than the first writings of the fathers, whence the master of the sentences made his sum or collection. So in like manner the volumes of the modern doctors of the civil law exceed those of the ancient jurisconsults, of which Tribonian compiled the digest. So as this course of sums and commentaries is that which doth infallibly make the body of sciences more immense in quantity, and more base in substance.

(12) And for strength, it is true that knowledges reduced into exact methods have a show of strength, in that each part seemeth to support and sustain the other; but this is more satisfactory than substantial, like unto buildings which stand by architecture and compaction, which are more subject to ruin than those that are built more strong in their several parts, though less compacted. But it is plain that the more you recede from your grounds, the weaker do you conclude; and as in nature, the more you remove yourself from particulars, the greater peril of error you do incur; so much more in divinity, the more you recede from the Scriptures by inferences and consequences, the more weak and dilute are your positions.

(13) And as for perfection or completeness in divinity, it is not to be sought, which makes this course of artificial divinity the more suspect. For he that will reduce a knowledge into an art will make it round and uniform; but in divinity many things must be left abrupt, and concluded with this: O altitudo sapientiae et scientiae Dei! quam incomprehensibilia sunt juducua ejus, et non investigabiles viae ejus. So again the apostle saith, Ex parte scimus: and to have the form of a total, where there is but matter for a part, cannot be without supplies by supposition and presumption. And therefore I conclude that the true use of these sums and methods hath place in institutions or introductions preparatory unto knowledge; but in them, or by deducement from them, to handle the main body and substance of a knowledge is in all sciences prejudicial, and in divinity dangerous.

(14) As to the interpretation of the Scriptures solute and at large, there have been divers kinds introduced and devised; some of them rather curious and unsafe than sober and warranted. Notwithstanding, thus much must be confessed, that the Scriptures, being given by inspiration and not by human reason, do differ from all other books in the Author, which by consequence doth draw on


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