Jeremy Taylor.

The whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) online

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which our reason is instructed, and acquires the proper
notices of things. For our reason or understanding appre-
hends things three several ways : the first is called v6r t eig t or
the ' first notices' of things abstract, of principles and the
'primo intelligibilia ; ' such as are, The whole is greater than
the half of the whole ; Good is to be chosen ; God is to
be loved ; Nothing can be and not be at the same time ;


for these are objects of the simple understanding, congenite
notices, concreated with the understanding. The second is
called 6/ai/o'jjovj, or * discourse,' that is, such consequents and
emanations which the understanding draws from her first
principles. And the third is X/GTI$, that is, such things
which the understanding assents to upon the report, testi-
mony, and affirmation of others, viz. by arguments extrinsical
to the nature of the thing, and by collateral and indirect prin-
ciples. For example, I naturally know that an idol or a false
god is nothing ; that is ww^, or the act of abstract and
immaterial reason. From hence I infer, that an idol is not
to be worshipped : this my reason knows by dtavoqsig, or
illation and inference, from the first principle. But therefore,
that all monuments of idolatry are to be destroyed, was known
to the Jews by TT/VT/J, for it was not primely known, nor by
the direct force of any thing that was primely known ; but I
know it from God by the testimony of Moses, into the notice
of which I am brought by collateral arguments, by tradition,
by miracle, by voices from heaven, and the like.

21. (2.) These three ways of knowing are in all faculties
sacred and profane : for faith and reason do not divide
theology and philosophy, but in every science reason hath
notices all these ways. For in natural philosophy there are
prime principles, and there are conclusions drawn from
thence, and propositions which we believe from the authority
of Plato, or Socrates, or Aristotle ; and so it is in theology ;
for every thing in Scripture is not, in the divided sense,
a matter of faith : that the sun is to rule the day, the moon
and the stars to govern the night, I see and feel ; that God is
good, that he is one, are prime principles : that nothing but
good is to be spoken of this good God, reason draws by
a diavoqaig, or discourse and illation : but that this good God
will chastise his sons and servants, and that afflictions
sent upon us are the issues of his goodness, or that this
one God is also three in person, this is known by T/Vr/s, or
by belief; for it is not a prime truth, nor yet naturally
inferred from a prime truth, but told by God, and therefore
is an object of faith ; reason knows it by testimony, and by
indirect and collateral probations.

22. (3.) Reason knows all things as they are to be
known, and enters into its notices by instruments fitted to the


nature of things. Our stock of principles is more limited than
our stock of words ; and as there are more things than
words, so there are more ways of knowing than by princi-
ples direct and natural. Now as God teaches us many
things by natural principles, many by experience, many at
first, many more in time ; some by the rules of one faculty,
some by the rules of another ; so there are some things
which descend upon us immediately from heaven, and
they communicate with no principle, with no matter, with
no conclusion here below. Now as in the other things we
must come to notices of things, by deriving them from
their proper fountains, so must we do in these. He that
should go to revelation to prove that nine and nine make
eighteen, would be a fool; and lie would be no less, that
goes about to prove a trinity of persons by natural rea-
son. Every thing must be derived from its own fountain.
But because these things, which are derivatives from heaven,
and communicate not at all with principles of philosophy
or geometry, yet have their proper fountains, and these
fountains are too high for us to search into their bottom,
we must plainly take all emanations from them, just as they
descend. For in this case, all that is to be done, is to in-
quire from whence they come. If they come from natural
principles, I search for them by direct arguments: if they
come from higher, I search for them by indirect arguments ;
that is, I inquire only for matter of fact, whether they come
thence or no. But here my reason is set on work ; first, I
inquire into the testimony or ways of probation ; if they be
worth believing in what they say, my reason sucks it in. As
if I be told that God said, ' There are three and one in hea-
ven,' I ask, Who said it ? Is he credible ? Why ? If I find that
all things satisfy my reason, I believe him saying that God
said so ; and then T/Vr/j, or faith, enters. I believe the thing
also, not because I can prove it directly, for t cannot, but I
can prove it indirectly ; testimony and authority are my
argument, and that is sufficient. The apostles entered into
much of their faith by their senses, they saw many articles
of their creed : but as they which saw and believed were
blessed, so they which see not, but are argued and disputed
into their faith, and believe what they find reasonable to
believe, shall have the reward of their faith, while they wisely
follow their reason.


23. (4.) Now in all this, here is no difference in my rea-
son, save that as it does not prove a geometrical proposition
by moral philosophy, so neither does it prove a revelation by
a natural argument, but into one and the other it enters by
principles proper to the inquisition ; and faith and reason
are not opposed at all. Faith and natural reason are several
things, and arithmetical and moral reasons are as differing;
but it is reason that carries me to objects of faith, and faith
is my reason so disposed, so used, so instructed.

The Result of these Propositions is this one:

24. That into the greatest mysteriousness of our reli-
gion, and the deepest articles of faith, we enter by our rea-
son : not that we can prove every one of them by natural
reason : for to say that, were as vain as to say we ought to
prove them by arithmetic or rules of music ; but whosoever
believes wisely and not by chance, enters into his faith by
the hand of reason ; that is, he hath causes and reasons
why he believes. He indeed that hath reasons insufficient
and incompetent, believes indeed not wisely, but for some
reason or other he does it : but he that hath none, does not
believe at all : for the understanding is a rational faculty,
and therefore every act of the understanding is an act of
the rational faculty, and that is an act of reason ; as vision
is of the visive faculty; and faith, which is an act or habit of
the understanding consenting to certain propositions for the
authority of the speaker, is also as much an act of reason,
as to discourse in a proposition of Aristotle. For faith, as-
senting to a proposition for a reason drawn ' a testimonio,'
is as very a discourse, as to assent to a proposition for a rea-
son drawn from the nature of things. It is not less an act
of reason, because it uses another topic. And all this is
plain and certain, when we discourse of faith formally in
its proper and natural capacity, that is, as it is a reception
of propositions ' a testimonio.'

25. Indeed if we consider faith as it is a habit infused
by God, and by God's Holy Spirit, so there is something
more in it than thus : for so, faith is a vital principle, a ma-
gazine of secret truths, which we could never have found out
by natural reason, that is, by all that reason which is born
with us, and by all that reason that grows with us, and by
all secular experiences and conversations with the world;


but of such tilings which God only teaches, by ways super-
natural and Divine.

26. Now here is the close and secret of the question,
whether or no faith, in this sense, and materially taken, be
contrary to our worldly or natural reason, or whether is any
or all the propositions of faith to be exacted, interpreted,
and understood, according to this reason materially taken ?
That is, are not our reasons, which we rightly follow in na-
tural philosophy, in metaphysics, in other arts and sciences,
sometimes contrary to faith ? and if they be, whether shall
be followed ? Or can it, in any sense, be an article of faith, if
it be contrary to right reason ? I answer to this by several

27. (1.) Eight reason (meaning our right reason, or
human reason) is not the affirmative or positive measure of
things Divine, or of articles and mysteries of faith ; and the
reasons are plain: 1. Because many of them depend upon
the free will of God ; for which, till he gives us reasons, we
are to be still and silent, admiring the secret, and adoring
the wisdom, and expecting till the curtain be drawn, or till
Elias come and tell us all things. But he that will inquire
and pry into the reason of the mystery, and because he can-
not perceive it, will disbelieve the thing, or undervalue it,
and say it is not at all, because he does not understand the
reason of it, and why it should be so, may as well say, that
his prince does not raise an army in time of peace, because
he does not know a reason why he should ; or that God
never did suffer a brave prince to die ignobly, because it was
a thousand pities he should. There is a ' ragione di stato,' and
a ' ragione di regno,' and a ' ragione di cielo,' after which
none but fools will inquire, and none but the humble shall
ever find.

28. Who can tell why the devil, who is a wise and intel-
ligent creature, should so spitefully, and for no end but for
mischief, tempt so many souls to ruin, when he knows it can
do him no good, no pleasure, but fantastic ? or who can tell
why he should be delighted in a pleasure that can be nothing
but fantastic, when he knows things by intuition, not by phan-
tasm, and hath no low conceit of things as we have? or why
he should do so many things against God, whom he knows he
cannot hurt, and against souls, whose ruin cannot add one


moment of pleasure to him? and if it makes any change, it
is infinitely to the worse : that these things are so, our reli-
gion tells us ; but our reason cannot reach it why it is so, or
how. Whose reason can give an account why, or understand
it to be reasonable, that God should permit evil for good
ends, when he hates that evil, and can produce that good
without that evil ? and yet that he does so we are taught by
our religion. Whose reason can make it intelligible, that
God, who delights not in the death of a sinner, but he, and
his Christ, and all their angels, rejoice infinitely in the salva-
tion of a sinner, yet that he should not cause that every sin-
ner should be saved, working in him a mighty and a prevail-
ing grace, without which grace he shall not in the event of
things be saved, and yet this grace is wholly his own produc-

Omnipotens hominem cum gratia salvat,

Ipsa suum consummat opus, cui tempus agendi
Semper adest quae gesta velit ; non moribus illi
Fit mora.non causis anceps suspeuditur ullis.*

Why does not he work in us all to will and to do, not only that
we can will, but that we shall will? for if the actual willing
be any thing, it is his creation ; we can create nothing, we
cannot will unless he effect it in us : and why he does not do
that which so well pleases him, and for the want of the doing
of which he is so displeased, and yet he alone is to do it some
way or other ; human reason cannot give a wise or a probable

Nam prius immites populos urbesque rebelles,
Vincente obstantes animos pietate, subegit ;
Non hoc consilio tantura hortatuque benigno
Suadens atque docens, quasi normam legis haberet
Gratia, sed inutan.; intus mentem atque reformans,
Vasque novum ex fracto fingens, virtute creandi.
Non istud inonitus legis, non verba propbetae,
Non praestata sibi praestat natura, sed unus
Quod fecit reficit. Percurrat apostolus orbem,
Praedicet, hortetur, plantet, riget, increpet, instet,
Quaque viam verbo reseratam invenerit, intret;
Ut tnmen his studiis auditor promoveatur,
Non doctor neque discipulus, sed gratia sola
Efficit >

Where is the wise discourser, that can tell how it can be, that

Prosper, c. xv. de Ingrat k Prosp. de Praeiiest. Iv. c. 8.


God foreknows certainly what I should do ten years hence,
and yet it is free to me at that time, to will or not to will, to
do or not to do, that thing? Where is the discerning searcher
of secrets, that can give the reason why God should deter-
mine, for so many ages before, that Judas should betray
Christ, and yet that God should kill him eternally for effect-
ing the Divine purpose, and foredeterrnined counsel? Well
may we wonder that God should wash a soul with water, and
with bread and wine nourish us up to immortality, and make
real impresses upon our spirits by the blood of the vine, and
the kidneys of wheat ; but who can tell why he should choose
such mean instruments to effect such glorious promises?
since even the greatest things of this world had not been
disproportionate instruments to such effects, nor yet too
great for our understanding ; and that we are fain to stoop to
make these mean elements be even with our faith, and with
our understanding. Who can divine, and give us the cause,
or understand the reason, why God should give us so great
rewards for such nothings, and yet damn men for such insig-
nificant mischiefs, for thoughts, for words, for secret wishes,
that effect no evil abroad, but only might have done, or, it
may be, were resolved to be inactive : for if the goodness of
God be so overflowing in some cases, we in our reason
should not expect, that in such a great goodness there should
be so great an aptness to destroy men greatly for little things :
and if all mankind should join in search, it could never
be told why God should adjudge the heathen or the Israelites
to an eternal hell, of which he never gave them warning, nor
created fears great enough to produce caution equal to their
danger; and who can give a reason, why, for temporal and
transient actions of sin, the world is to expect never-ceasing
torments in hell to eternal ages? That these things are thus,
we are taught in Scripture, but here our reason is not in-
structed to tell why or how ; and therefore our reason is not
the positive measure of mysteries, and we must believe what
we cannot understand.

29. Thus they are to be blamed, who make intricacies
and circles in mysterious articles, because they cannot wade
through them ; it is not to be understood why God should
send his only Son from his bosom to redeem us, to pay our
price ; nor to be told why God should exact a price of him-


self for his own creature: nor to be made intelligible to us,
why he who loved us so well, as to send his Son to save us,
should at the same time so hate us, as to resolve to damn us,
unless his Son should come and save us. But the Socinians,
who conclude that this was not thus, because they know not
how it can be thus, are highly to be reproved for their excess
in the inquiries of reason, not where she is a competent judge,
but where she is not competently instructed ; and that is the
second reason.

30. (2.) The reason of man is a right judge always when
she is truly informed ; but in many things she knows nothing
but the face of the article : the mysteries of faith are often-
times like cherubims' heads placed over the propitiatory,
where you may see a clear and a bright face and golden
wings, but there is no body to be handled ; there is light and
splendour upon the brow, but you may not grasp it ; and
though you see the revelation clear, and the article plain, yet
the reason of it we cannot see at all ; that is, the whole know-
ledge which we can have here, is dark and obscure; " We
see as in a glass darkly," saith St. Paul ; that is, we can see
what, but not why ; and what we do see, is the least part of
that which does not appear ; but in these cases our under-
standing is to submit, and wholly to be obedient, but not to
inquire further. " Delicata est ilia obedientia, qusc causas
quserit." If the understanding will not consent to a revelation,
until it see a reason of the proposition, it does not obey at
all, for it will not submit, till it cannot choose. In these
cases, reason and religion are like Leah and Rachel : reason
is fruitful indeed, and brings forth the first-born, but she is
blear-eyed, and oftentimes knows not the secrets of her Lord ;
but Rachel produces two children, faith and piety, and obe-
dience is midwife to them both, and modesty is the nurse.

31. From hence it follows, that we cannot safely con-
clude thus, 'This is agreeable to right reason, therefore this
is so in Scripture, or in the counsel of God ;' not that one
reason can be against another, when all things are equal,
but that the state of things and of discourses is imperfect ;
and though it be right reason in such a constitution of
'affairs, yet it is not so in others : that a man may repel
force by force, is right reason, and a natural right ; but
yet it follows not, that it can be lawful for a private


Christian to do it, or that Christ hath not forbidden us to
strike him that strikes us. The reason of the difference is
this; In nature it is just that it be so, because we are per-
mitted only to nature's provisions, and she hath made us
equal, and the condition of all men indifferent; and there-
fore we have the same power over another, that he hath over
us ; besides, we will do it naturally : and till a law forbade it,
it could not be amiss, and there was no reason in nature to
restrain it, but much to warrant it. But since the law of God
hath forbidden it, he hath made other provisions for our
indemnity, and where he permits us to be defenceless (as in
cases of martyrdom and the like), he hath promised a reward
to make infinite amends : so that ' we may repel force by
force,' says nature : ' we may not,' says Christ, and yet they
are not two contradictory propositions. For nature says we
may, when otherwise we have no security, and no reward
for suffering; but Christ hath given both the defence of
laws and authority, and the reward of heaven, and therefore
in this case it is reasonable. And thus we cannot conclude,
This man is a wicked man because he is afflicted, or his cause
is evil because it does not thrive ; although it be right rea-
son, that good men ought to be happy and prosperous ; be-
cause, although reason says right in it, yet no reason can
wisely conclude, that therefore so it should be in this world,
when faith and reason too tell us it may be better hereafter.
The result is this, every thing that is above our understand-
ing, is not therefore to be suspected or disbelieved ; neither
is any thing to be admitted that is against Scripture, though
it be agreeable to right reason, until all information is brought
in, by which the sentence is to be made.

32. For as it happens in dreams and madness, where the
argument is good, and the discourse reasonable oftentimes ;
but because it is inferred from weak phantasms, and trifling
and imperfect notices of things, and obscure apprehensions,
therefore it is not only desultorious and light, but insignifi-
cant, and far from ministering to knowledge : so it is in our
reason as to matters of religion ; it argues well and wisely,
but because it is from trifling, or false, or uncertain princi-
ples, and unsure information, it oftentimes is but a witty
nothing. Reason is an excellent limbec, and will extract rare
quintessences ; but if you put in nothing but mushrooms, or


eggshells, or the juice of coloquintida, or the filthy gingran,
you must expect productions accordingly, useless or unplea-
sant, dangerous or damnable.

33. (3.) Although right reason is not the positive and
affirmative measure of any article, yet it is the negative mea-
sure of every one. So that, whatsoever is contradictory to
right reason, is at no hand to be admitted as a mystery of
faith : and this is certain upon an infinite account:

34. (1.) Because nothing can be true and false at the same
time ; otherwise it would follow that there could be two truths
contrary to each other : for if the affirmative be true, and the
negative true too ; then the affirmative is true and is not true,
which were a perfect contradiction, and we were bound to
believe a lie, and hate a truth ; and yet at the same time,
obey what we hate, and consent to what we disbelieve ; no
man can serve two such masters.

35. (2.) Out of truth nothing can follow but truth ; what-
soever therefore is truth, this is therefore safe to be followed,
because no error can be the product of it. It follows, there-
fore, that by believing one truth, no man can be tied to dis-
believe another. Whatsoever, therefore, is contrary to right
reason, or a certain truth in any faculty, cannot be a truth,
for one truth is not contrary to another ; if therefore any pro-
position be said to be the doctrine of Scripture, and con-
fessed to be against right reason, it is certainly not the doc-
trine of Scripture, because it cannot be true, and yet be against
what is true.

36. (3.) All truths are emanations and derivatives from
God ; and therefore whatsoever is contrary to any truth, in
any faculty whatsoever, is against the truth of God, and God
cannot be contrary to himself; for as God is one, so truth is
one ; for truth is God's eldest daughter, and so like himself,
that God may as well be multiplied, as abstracted truth.

37. (4.) And for this reason God does not only prove our
religion, and Jesus Christ prove his mission, by miracles, by
holiness, by verification of prophecies, and predictions of
future contingencies, and voices from heaven, and apparition
of angels, and resurrection from the grave, and fulfilling all
that WHS said of him by the prophets, that our faith might
enter into us by discourse, and dwell by love, and be nursed
and supported by reason ; but also God is pleased to verify his


own proceedings, and his own propositions, by discourses
merely like ours, when we speak according to right reason.
Thus God convinces the peevish people that spake evil of
him, by arguing concerning the justice of his ways, and ex-
poses his proceedings to be argued by the same measures and
proportions by which he judges us, and we judge one another.
38. (5.) For indeed how can it be possibly otherwise ; how
can we confess God to be just if we understand it not? but
how can we understand him so, but by the measures of
justice 1 and how shall we know that, if there be two justices,
one that we know, and one that we know not, one contrary
to another? if they be contrary, they are not justice; for
justice can be no more opposed by justice, than truth to
truth : if they be not contrary, then that which we under-
stand to be just in us, is just in God, and that which is just
once, is just for ever in the same case and circumstances :
and indeed how is it that we are, in all things of excellence
and virtue, to be like God, and to be meek like Christ, ' to
be humble as he is humble,' and to ' be pure like God,' to be
just after his example, to be ' merciful as our heavenly Father
is merciful?' If there is but one mercy, and one justice, and
one meekness, then the measure of these, and the reason, is
eternally the same. If there be two, either they are not
essential to God, or else not imitable by us: and then how
can we glorify God, and speak honour of his name, and exalt
his justice, and magnify his truth, and sincerity, and simpli-
city, if truth, and simplicity, and justice, and mercy, in him,
are not that thing which we understand, and which we are
to imitate ? To give an example : I have promised to give my
friend a hundred pounds on the calends of March : the day
comes, and he expects the donative ; but I send him answer,
that I did promise so by an open promise and signification,
and I had an inclination to do so ; but I have also a secret
will to keep my money, and instead of that to give him a
hundred blows upon his back : if he reproaches me for an
unjust and a false person, I have nothing to answer, for I
believe he would hardly take it for good payment to be an-
swered with a distinction, and told, I have two wills, an open,
and a secret will, and they are contrary to each other: he
would tell me that I were a false person for having two wills,

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) → online text (page 42 of 50)