« Prev Sect. I. Considerations touching his… Next »


Considerations touching his demonstrations in general.

§. 1. BEFORE I come to speak particularly to his demonstrations, I shall premise these two considerations: First, That (according to the principle of the patrons of tradition) no man can, by his private reason, certainly find out the true rule of faith: Secondly, That (according to Mr. S.) the way of demonstration is no certain way to find out the rule of faith. If either of these be made out, his demonstrations lose all their force. If the first be made good, then he cannot demonstrate the infallibility of tradition, nor, consequently, that that is the rule of faith: if the second, then the way of demonstration which he pretends to take, signifies nothing.

§. 2. First, No man can (according to the principles of the patrons of tradition) by his private reason, certainly find out what is the rule of faith. Suppose a heathen to be desirous to inform himself of the Christian faith; in order to which he is inquisitive after some rule by which he may take a measure of it, and come certainly to know what it is: he inquires of Christians what their rule is, and finds them divided about it, some saying that the Scripture, others that oral tradition, is the rule. In this case it is not possible (without a revelation) for 327this man to find out the rule of faith, but by his own private reason examining and weighing the arguments and pretences of both sides. And when he hath done this, unless he can by his reason demonstrate that the one is a certain and infallible rule, and the other not so, he hath not (according to Mr. S.) found out the rule of faith. But reason can never do this, according to Mr. S. For, speaking of demonstrating the certainty of tradition, he tells us,134134P. 53. “That tradition hath for its basis man’s nature, not according to his intellectuals, which do but darkly grope in the pursuit of science,” &c. And again,135135Append. 2d. p. 183. speaking how reason brings men to the rule of P183t faith, he uses this comparison: “she is like a dim-sighted man, who used his reason to find a trusty friend to lead him in the twilight, and then relied on his guidance rationally without using his own reason at all about the way itself.” So that (ac cording to him) the certainty of tradition cannot be founded on demonstration, because it is not founded in the intellectual part of man, which only can demonstrate. Besides, if it were founded in the intellectual part, yet that can never be able to demonstrate the certainty of tradition, because that faculty which is dim-sighted, and “does but grope darkly in the pursuit of science,” is incapable of framing demonstrations. Nor can any man understand how dim-sighted reason should see clearly to choose its guide any more than its way, especially if it be considered what a pretty contradiction it is, to say that reason, as it is dim-sighted, can see clearly.

But Mr. Cressy is not contented to call every man’s reason dim-sighted; he ventures a step further, 328and calls it hoodwinked and blind: for he tells us,136136Appendix, c. 6. sect. 8. “That private reason is apparently a most fallible guide;” and he pities137137Ib. sect. 9. my Lord Falkland’s case, because, in the search of the true religion, he did “betake himself to the casual conduct of blind, human, natural reason,” which afterwards he calls a138138Ib. sect. 11. “guide that two persons cannot possibly follow together, because no two persons (that ever followed any other guide be side authority) did or could think all things to be reasonable that all others thought so;” and, by consequence, “such a guide that as long as he continues in that office, there cannot possibly be any church any where: which (says he) is an infallible eviction that this is an imaginary seducing guide, since it is impossible that that should be a guide appointed for any Christian, which neither Christ nor his apostles, nor any of their followers, ever mentioned, yea, which formally destroys one of our twelve articles of the apostles’ creed, viz. ‘I believe the holy catholic church.’” Thus he does by reason clearly and infallibly evince, that reason can not be otherwise than a most blind and fallible guide. This it is to talk of things when a man looks only upon one side of them, as if, because reason has a blind side, and is uncertain in some things, therefore we ought to conclude her universally blind and uncertain in every thing; and as if, because all men cannot think all things reasonable which any one man thinks to be so, therefore it is to be doubted whether those common principles of reason be true, which mankind are generally agreed in. And that Mr. Cressy speaks here of the use of our private reason in the finding out of our rule, 329is clear from what he says in the next section, viz. “That this hoodwinked guide (inquiring into Scripture, and searching after tradition) may possibly stumble upon the way of unity and truth, that is, the true catholic church.” If this be true, why does Mr. S. pretend that he can by reason demonstrate the infallibility of tradition, and by this hood winked guide lead men to the true rule of faith?” And what a pitiful encouragement would this be to an inquisitive philosopher, (who knowing no other guide but his reason, whereby to find out whether Scripture or tradition be the true rule) to tell him that, by the help of his hoodwinked guide, he might possibly stumble upon the right!

A man may justly stand amazed at the inconsistency of these men’s discourses and principles. In one mood they are all for demonstration, and for convincing men in the way of perfect science, which is the true rule of faith: but then again, when another (it takes them, there is no such thing as science, human reason grows all on the sudden dim-sighted, and at the next word is struck stark-blind; and then the very utmost that it can do towards the bringing of an unprejudiced and inquisitive person to the rule of faith, is to leave him in a possibility of stumbling upon it; but if he be a heretic that makes use of private reason for his guide, then139139Appendix. c. 7. sect. 8. “it is impossible but that he with his blind guide shall fall into the pit.” I cannot, for my part, imagine how they can reconcile the blindness of human reason with all that noise which they make about science and demonstration; but this I must confess, that these kinds of discourses which I meet with in Mr. S. and Mr. Cressy, are very proper arguments to persuade 330a man of the blindness of human reason. And in deed there is one passage in Mr. Cressy, which gives me very great satisfaction concerning these matters, where he tells us,140140Appendix, c. 7. sect. 8. “That the wit and judgment of catholics is to renounce their own judgment, and depose their own wit.” Now he that professes to have done this, may write contradictions, and nobody ought to challenge him for it. However, it is a very ingenuous acknowledgment, that when he forsook our church and turned papist, he laid aside his judgment and wit; which is just such an heroic act of judgment, as if a man, in a bravery to shew his liberty, would sell himself for a slave. I am glad to understand from an experienced person, what charges a man must be at when he turns Roman catholic; namely, that whoever will embrace that religion must forfeit his reason.

§. 3. Secondly, The way of demonstration is (ac cording to Mr. S.) no certain way to find out the rule of faith. In his 4th appendix141141P. 253, 254. against my Lord of Down, one of the eight mines (as he calls them) which he lays to blow up my Lord’s Dissuasive against Popery, is this: “That the method he takes in dissuading can not be held in reason to have power to dissuade, unless it be proper to that effect, that is, not common to that effect and a contrary one. Now, that being most evidently no method or way to such an effect which many follow and take, yet arrive not at that effect; it is plain to common sense, that my Lord of Down miscalls his book a Dissuasive, and that it can have in it no power of moving the understanding one way or other, unless he can first vouch some particularity in the method he takes, above 331what is in others in which we experience miscarriage,” &c. If this be true, then his method of demonstration is no way to make men certain of what he pretends to demonstrate, because that is “most evidently no way to an effect which many follow and take, yet arrive not at that effect;” so that “it is plain to common sense” that Mr. S.’s demonstrations “can have in them no power of moving the understanding one way or other, unless he can vouch some particularity” in the demonstrations he pretends to bring, above what is in other pretended demonstrations “in which we experience miscarriage.” Do not Thomas and Scotus (as Mr. White tells us142142Exetasis, p. 24.) all along pretend to demonstrate?” And yet it is generally believed that (at least where they contradict one another) one of them failed in his demonstrations. Did not Mr. Charles Thynne pretend to have demonstrated that a man at one jump might leap from London to Rome?” And yet I do not think any one was ever satisfied with his demonstrations. And Mr. S. knows one in the world (whom I will not name, because he hath since ingenuously acknowledged his error) who thought he had demonstrated the quadrature of the circle; and was so confident of it, as to venture the reputation of his demonstrations in divinity upon it, and some of those divinity demonstrations were the very same with Mr. S.’s. Since therefore the world hath experienced so much miscarriage in the way of demonstration; before Mr. S.’s demonstrations can be allowed to signify any thing, he must (according to his own law) “vouch some particularity” in his way and method of demonstration above what is in other men’s. He hath not any where (that I remember) told us what that particularity 332is, wherein his way of demonstration is above other men s: nor can I, upon the most diligent search, find any peculiar advantage that his way has more than theirs above-mentioned, unless this be one, that he pretends to demonstrate a self-evident principle; and herein 1 think he hath plainly the advantage of Mr. Charles Thynne; and, unless this may be counted another advantage, that he has so extraordinary a confidence and conceit of his own demonstrations; and in this particular, I must acknowledge that he clearly excels all that have gone before him; in all other things his way of demonstration is but like his neighbours.

« Prev Sect. I. Considerations touching his… Next »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |