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But Pyrrho was a man given to argue on all sides, in order to have a full view of the subject, or to see what could be alleged for or against any opinion. He therefore told Theophilus, that the matter must not drop thus. For, though they seemed to be agreed, there were several who would not fall in so readily with their conclusion; and therefore he desired they might further debate the matter. Theophilus asked him what he had to say against a thing, which seemed so plain and obvious ?
Pyrrho answered, that he had often heard divines say, that in Scripture several doctrines are represented as mysteries; and that seemed inconsistent with the notion now advanced, viz. that we must understand things before we can believe them.
Theophilus with great coolness said, I acknowledge freely that the New Testament often speaks of mysteries ; but then that word, in Scripture, never signifies what is incomprehensible or unintelligible.
I have carefully examined the sense of the word mystery in all the places where it is used in the New Testament, and I am well satisfied it never signifies an unintelligible truth, but a fact which was formerly a secret, but is now made known. And when made known, it is very plain and easy to be understood. Accordingly, the Apostle speaks of a very plain and intelligible fact, when he declares, “that the Christians, who shall be found alive at Christ's second coming, shall not die, but be suddenly changed into immortal, without dying.” And, in delivering that truth, he says, Behold, I show you a mystery. And, in other places the same Apostle talks of making known the mystery of the Gospel. The truth of the case is, the Gospel is not a hidden but a revealed
mystery, made known to the world to enlighten their understandings, to lead them to the practice of universal righteousness, and thereby to their true dignity, perfection, and happiness.
In the next place Pyrrho alleged, that divines had often asserted, “that we may and ought to believe things above reason, though not contrary to it.”
Theophilus replied, that there were two senses in which this proposition might be interpreted. The one is, that faith, or what is revealed as the object of faith, contains some things which human reason alone, and of itself, could not have found out; but if known at all must be discovered by revelation. For instance,
are to be raised from the dead ; that Jesus Christ is to judge the world.” And in this sense, I suppose, all who acknowledge divine revelation are agreed, that some of the objects of faith are above human reason; or, in other words, that there are some things discovered in the Bible, which could not have been known to men, unless they had been communicated by divine revelation.
But there is another sense in which faith has by some been affirmed to be above reason ; viz. that men may, and ought to believe things, which they cannot
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understand or comprehend. And in this sense I look upon the assertion to be groundless and false; and that, in this sense, faith can no more be above reason, than it can be contrary to it.
Pyrrho proceeded in his objections, and said, there are numberless things, which exceed our capacity, or which are unintelligible and incomprehensible to us, at least in the present state ; and yet we firmly believe them, though we do not understand them; and therefore it is plain we may believe things which we do not understand.
Theophilus desired Pyrrho to name one of those many propositions, which he believed, though he did not understand it.
Pyrrho replied that, as to giving an account of his own faith, he desired to be excused; and that he was not a divine sufficiently learned and profound readily to mention such a proposition. He intimated further, that he was representing the sentiments of others, and that he had frequently met with this objection.
Theophilus acknowledged that there are many things, which we do not understand. But then, said he, as long as we do not understand them, they are the objects, not of our faith, but of our ignorance. For, as long as we understand them not, the assenting to them is in effect assenting to nothing; and that is in reality no assent at all.
Well but, Theophilus, said Pyrrho, will you not allow that there are many things, which we actually and
firmly believe, though we cannot comprehend how they are effected; or do not understand the mode or manner of their existence, with all their relations, connexions, and circumstances ? For instance, we believe that God made the world, though we do not know how he made it. We believe that the soul and body of man are united, and mutually influence one another, though we do not know how they are united, or how body and spirit can have such a mutual influ
We believe that God will raise the dead, but how he will do it, that we understand not, neither can we at present comprehend. And many more like instances might be named.
Theophilus replied, that the same answer might be returned to this objection as to the last, viz. as far as we believe, so far we must have ideas; and that, where our ideas end, there ends our assent or faith. Unless we understand what is meant by these words, God created the world, how could we talk or think about such a thing ? Unless we had the ideas affixed to the words body and spirit, we could not talk of their union. And, if we have no meaning to such words, then to say they are united, would be to talk of the union of nothing with nothing. So likewise we know what is meant by a man's being dead, and raised, or brought to life again; otherwise we should mean nothing, when we speak of the resurrection from the dead. To believe that God made the world is to believe a thing, that is both comprehensible and highly
reasonable. Who should make the world but God? Such an extensive and complicated, such a wise and glorious production must needs have been the effect of the most consummate wisdom, goodness, and power, exerted immediately by the first cause and original author of all; or by some being, that has derived his power
from the first cause. From the visible creation, we are naturally led up to the invisible cause and author of all; and here is nothing incomprehensible in all this. That God made the world is one proposition. How he made it would be another, and a quite different proposition. The first we believe and understand. The latter we know and understand nothing of. The last, therefore, is not the object of our knowledge, or of our faith, but of our ignorance. That the soul and body of man are united is one proposition. How they are united would be another, and a quite different proposition. The first we understand and believe. The latter we know nothing of. This last therefore, again, is the object of our ignorance, not of our knowledge or faith. That men are to die, and that Jesus Christ will raise them from the dead, or bring them to life again, are propositions contained in Scripture; and they are both very plain and intelligible. How Jesus Christ will raise the dead is another, and a quite different proposition, which God hath not seen fit to reveal to us.
We are not, therefore, required to know or believe anything about it. The fact, in all these cases, is one thing; the mode or manner is another