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he mixes with other men, he finds others comprehending what is unintelligible to him; insomuch that, if he acts with them, he must admit propositions (for all motives and principles seem resolvable into propositions) which he does not comprehend; and have frequent occasion to assent to their truth. - Nay, I can fancy, that all conclusions of his experience, after which he constantly acts, concerning substances, laws of nature, &c. if formed into propositions, would appear, as propositions, to be unintelligible.
11. There is nothing, perhaps, which will make our reasoning more readily accepted, than conceiving a child to repeat his catechism. At first, the whole is unintelligible to him, and always some part: yet it is right, upon the whole, that he should repeat it. The very sound of the words, of which he hears some account at other times, makes some impression ‘upon him; and there is scarce a part, which is not the vehicle of some good sentiment. -Sentiments of order, deceney, duty, are inculcated, as well as those more immediately religious. But, as catechizing has been practised in all ages of the Christian world, the benefits of it must have been experienced, and the wisdom of it may be taken for granted; and, as it deceives no one, the innocence of it is evident; I mean, as being clear of any violation of veracity.
12. It may be proper not wholly to omit all mention of different orders in the Church : of old, the lowest were the κατηχούμενοι, the next the πιστοι, the highest the niyoúpievou :-the catechumens, the faithful, and the leaders : we have just now spoken of catechumenis, only we must conceive, that, when men of maturity embraced Christianity from conviction, they were better acquainted, even while catechumens, with its principles than children are : nevertheless, a plain man is only a degree higher : very few common men would explain our catechism well. The catechumens would have the greatest number of unintelligible doctrines to profess, the faithful more than the Leaders ; but all would have some.
nevertheless, 14. Since
Even the teacher cannot be exeinpt: in many things he is, and must be, as those that are taught: and the different ranks of teachers must differ, as the different ranks do of those, whom they instruct.
13. It may be asked, whether some propositions are not partially unintelligible ? I should be inclined to say, some are. The prophecy, that the seed of woman should bruise the Serpent's head, may be reckoned of this sort : it seems to mean something, some privilege to man; but what privilege it is, could not be understood, at least for some thousands of years. It is intelligible to say, that no time can be assigned, when God was ignorant what you would chuse; yet, when it is added, you might have chosen otherwise than you did, the moment before you fixed your choice, this, being equally intelligible, throws an obscurity over the whole. If propositions are taken as partly unintelligible, the natural consequence seems to be, that they must partake of the nature of those, which are wholly so : the less distinct ideas we have to any proposition, the less difference will there be between the affirmative and negative side of it; the less opposition or contradiction : consequently, assent to it means less ; and losing the good of social religion, or incurring any evil, on its account, is less excuseable b
a Gen. iii. 15.
• Fait-on mourir des gens pour avoir dit que Jesus est un Verbe? Voltaire, 4to. vol. XXVI. p. 129.
14. Since I first formed the reasoning in this Chapter, I have been alarmed by a passage in a Charge of Dr. Balguy's, delivered to the Clergy of his Archdeaconry in 1769, and published in 1785 : in which there seem to be some things contradictory to what I have advanced : as I distrust my own conclusions more than his, if, upon consideration, you do not judge that they are reconcileable, I must exhort you to confide in him, rather than in me.
When the views of writers are very different, they may say things, which seem to contradict each other, though they really do not. This great man speaks to the enlightened about the most perfect principles of reasoning in the mind : I take the ordinary course of things suppose mere common men to have authority, and refer all to social action.—One great end we have in common; to hinder men from fancying they understand what they really do not: this end he pursues, as a preventive of error: I, lest men should suffer needless uneasiness, when they assent to what they do not
understand; or be afraid to enter the Ministry ; in • short, lest they should be too backward, as well as too forward, to make use of reasonable liberty.
This difference of views affords hope of reconciliation : let us read the passage“ A proposition not understood, cannot be believed, or be an object of faith; in strictness, it cannot: yet we may believe, that it may be valuable; that it may have a meaning, though we do not see it; (this indeed Dr. Balguy allows ")--and this must incline us to retain unintelligible propositions, and even use them in 'some way, before we come to understand them.
Dr. Balguy instances in Transubstantiation; that instance seems too remote from scriptural expressions to rank with mine: yet I would not condemn a Romanist who, as one of the people, gave a verbal assent to it, merely in submission to authority, if he did not pretend to understand it-I hope the remarks of us both tend to hinder mysterious doctrines from perplexing weak minds, and bringing contempt upon Religion.
• Dr. Balguy. p. 231.
• Dr. B. p. 238.
Dr. Balguy says, that what is even owned to come from God, must be understood before we can believe it: in strictness, this is true. Yet, without understanding it, we may respect it, bring it into notice, keep it unadulterated, even write or repeat it, if our Governors think fit, amongst things to which we give our assento.
What is the most difficult to reconcile with my account is, that Dr. Balguy knows no medium between understanding perfectly, and not understanding at all. I cannot see how this is wrong; yet I think there are propositions, which seem to be partially unintelligible, and which, in fact, will be treated by men as such : if so, provision should be made for them, as if they really were such: obscure propositions may possibly be made clear, by rightly stating what they really mean, but then it requires very great cleárness and acuteness to do this.“ Christ is the Author of eternal salvation,” would commonly seem obscure, or partially unintelligible; though Dr. Balguy makes it seem intelligible, by clearing it of all extraneous matter: but a common man could not have done this.- We ourselves have seen how a proposition which is, when taken absolutely, unintelligible, may be intelligible taken relatively- .--" In the beginning was the Word”--
· Dr. B. says, that ordinary men must take their opinions from others. (see p. 255, Charge 5.) - Parents, teachers, &c. must “ determine for them, what they are to believe.” &c.See also Disc. vii. p. 1?1.
“ Christ is the Son of God." Whom God of old ordained to this condemnation.”—Perhaps each of these propositions might be exhibited in a form perfectly intelligible ; (sometimes, taking a negative form will give distinctness ;) but, as this is very difficult, it seems right, with a view to practice, to determine how propositions partly intelligible should be treated.
Notwithstanding this, it does seem useful, that men should be aware, how one word may render a whole sentence unintelligible, and lead to falsehood.
There is no difference between Dr. Bulguy's explanation and mine, with regard to the sense of uvothprov; but, though mystery does not always imply present ignorance, yet what is now past ignorance was once present; and present ignorance may be enlightened: in a state of ignorance, at any time, intimations of future knowledge might be couched in propositions not wholly to be understood.
Dr. Balguy says, “no advantage can arise from the use of words without ideas :" here, our different views may occasion the seeming contradiction: in reasoning, none; in practice, it seems as if there might be some. As, for instance, in catechizing: In Dr. Powell's Sermons“, published (and probably selected) by Dr. Balguy, there is mention of a child's repeating his creed, and no mark of disapprobation.
In the particular case, in which St. Paul forbids speaking in a unknown tongue, it would have done great harm; it would have defeated the ends of religious society: we recommend the not rejecting of unintelligible propositions, upon the ground, that they may promote the ends of religious society.
On the whole, I do sincerely hope, that, notwithstanding the seeming opposition between Dr.
a P. 40,