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rational or intellectual savour and taste with this, that is, which as well suits with the words, agrees with the context, falls in with the scope and subject matter in hand, is as accordable with Scripture assertion elsewhere, comports as clearly with the unquestionable principles of reason, and the like, how is it possible for me in this case to conceive or believe, especially with the certainty of faith, that my sense is the mind of God, and consequently the true sense of that place, rather than that other which hath all the same characters, symptoms, and arguments of being the mind of God which mine hath? Therefore it must needs be by the exercise and acting of my reason and understanding, and by the report which they make of their discoveries in their inquiries, that I come regularly to conclude and to be satisfied that this is the mind of God in such or such a scripture, and none other.
If it be here objected and demanded, But is it meet or tolerable that the reason of man should judge in the things of God? or that the understandings of men should umpire and determine in his affairs ?
I answer, 1. If God pleaseth to impart his mind and counsels in words and writing unto men, with an injunction and charge that they receive and own them as from him, and that they take heed that they do not mistake him, or embrace either their own conceits or the minds of others instead of his, in this case for men to put a difference, by way of judging and discerning between the mind of God and that which is not his mind, is so far from being an act of authority, presumption, or unseemly usurpation in men, that it is a fruit of their deep loyalty, submission, and obedience unto God. When Christ enjoined the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians to render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and unto God the things which are God's," Matt. xxii. 21, he did not only give them a warrant and commission to judge and determine what and which were the things of God, as well as which were the things of Cæsar, but laid a charge upon them also to put this warrant in execution, and this not only by judging actually which were the things of God, but by practising and acting also upon and according to this judgment.
2. To judge of God and of the things of God in the sense we now speak, is but to acknowledge, own, and reverence God and the things of God in their transcendent excellency, goodness, and truth, and as differenced in their perfections respectively from all other beings and things. The poorest and meanest subject that is may lawfully and without any just offence judge his prince, yea, or him that is made a lawful judge over him, to be wise, just, bountiful, &c., at least when there is sufficient ground for it.
If it be yet further demanded, But is the reason or understanding of a man competent to judge of the things of God, as, for example, to determine and conclude what is the mind of God in such or such a
passage of Scripture, or in such and such a case ? Doth not the Scripture, speaking of men in their natural condition, call
them darkness, Ephes. v. 8, affirming likewise that “ the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not,” John i. 5; and elsewhere doth it not inform us that “ the natural man perceiveth” or receiveth “ not the things of the Spirit of God, because they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned ?" 1 Cor. ii. 14. And how many heathen philosophers, heretics and others, undertaking to judge of the things of God in the Gospel by the light and strength of their own reasons and understandings, have miscarried, to the everlasting perdition of their own souls, and, as is much to be feared, of many others also? To all this I answer by degrees.
First. It is a thing as unquestionable as that the sun is up at noonday, that reason and understanding in men are competent to judge of the things of God, at least of some, yea, of many of them, or rather, indeed, of all that are contained in the Scriptures, according to the degree of their discovery and manifestation there ; for, doth not God himself own them in this capacity when he appeals and refers himself unto them in several of his great and important affairs, authorizing them to judge in the case between him and his adversaries? “ And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it ?" Isa. v. 3, So again, “ Hear now, O house of Israel, is not my way equal ? are not your ways unequal ?" Ezek. xviii. 25, 29. Yet again, in the same chapter, “ O house of Israel, are not my ways equal ? are not your ways unequal ?" In these and such like appeals, he supposeth the persons appealed unto to be as capable, or, however, as well capable, of the equity and righteousness of his ways, and consequently to be in a regular capacity of justifying him, as of the unworthiness and unrighteousness of their ways, against whom he standeth in the contest. So our Saviour to the chief priests and elders, in his parable: “When the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he” (or rather, what shall he) "do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, who shall render him the fruits in their season,” Matt. xxi. 40, 41. We see these priests and elders, though men of great unworthiness otherwise, and far from believing in Christ, were yet able to award a righteous judgment, and such as our Saviour himself approved, yea and put in execution not long after, between him and his husbandmen. So in another place to the hypocritical Jews : “ Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky, and of the earth ? but how is it that ye do not discern this time? Yea and why even of” (or from)“yourselves judge ye not what is right ?” Luke xii. 56, 57. In which passage, among other things, he clearly implieth these two: 1. That had they set their minds upon things that most concerned them, they were in a sufficient capacity, by the direction and help of those characters and signs which their own prophets had long before delivered, clearly
to have discerned, that the days and times in which they now lived were indeed the days of their Messiah.
2. That άφ' εαυτών, from themselves, i. e. out of natural and inbred principles, whereby they were enabled to judge of things commodious and expedient for them in like cases, they were in a capacity to have come to this issue and conclusion; that it was now high time to compromise that great and weighty controversy, which of a long time had been depending between God and them by repentance. The apostle Paul willeth the Corinthians, in one place, to judge of what he saith, 1 Cor. x. 15; in another, he directeth that in their church meetings the prophets should speak two or three, and that the rest should judge, 1 Cor. xiv. 29. In both which places he clearly supposeth in them a competency of judicature or discerning about spiritual things. And when in his defence before Agrippa, he demands of him, and the rest that were present, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead ?" Acts xxvi. 8, he clearly supposeth that the resurrection itself of the dead, which yet is one of the great and deep mysteries of the gospel, was nothing but what they, consulting with the light of reason and understanding in themselves (for they were not supernaturally enlightened) might judge probable enough, and no ways unlike to be effected. When God commands, and calls upon "all men everywhere to repent," Acts xvii. 30, and so to believe, 1 John iii. 23, he must either suppose them in a capacity to distinguish and discern between the things whereof he would have them repent, and the things of which he would not have them repent, and so between what he would have them to believe, and what not; or else speak unto them as no otherwise capable of such his commands, than the stones on the earth, or beasts of the field. And how then is “ the commandment holy, and just, and good ?” Therefore certainly those noble faculties and endowments of reason and understanding in men, as they are sustained, supported, and assisted by the Spirit of God in the generality of men, are in a capacity of apprehending, discerning, understanding the things of God in the gospel. Yea and evident it is from the Scriptures, that men act beneath themselves, are remiss and slothful in awakening those principles of light and understanding that are vested in their natures, or else willingly choke, suppress, and smother them, if they remain in the snare of unbelief. “Pray for us," saith Paul to the Thessalonians, "that we may be delivered from unreasonable and evil men: for all men have not faith,” 2 Thess. iii. 2. By unreasonable (or, as the word signifieth, absurd) and evil men he plainly meaneth, not men who naturally, or in actu primo were unreasonable (such as these were not like to endanger him, or to obstruct the course of the gospel) but such as were unreasonable in actu secundo, i. e. persons who acted contrary to the light and principles of reason, and hereby became tovnpoi, industriously evil or wicked. That there were such persons as these abroad in the world, he gives this account," for all men have not faith;" which clearly implieth that men who act and quit themselves according to the true principles of that reason, which God hath planted in them, cannot but believe, and be partakers in the precious faith of the gospel. To this purpose that passage in Chrysostom is memorably worthy: “As to believe (the gospel) is the part of a raised and nobly ingenuous soul; so, on the contrary, not to believe, is the property of a soul most unreasonable, and unworthy, and depressed, or bowed down, to the sottishness of brute beasts." Therefore,
Secondly, Whereas it was objected that men in their natural estates are by the Scriptures termed darkness, and in this respect presented as unable to comprehend the light of the gospel, I answer, There is in the controversies about the extent and efficacy of the grace of God vouchsafed unto men, as great an abuse of the word natural, (and so of the word supernatural, a term not found in the scriptures, either formally or virtually,) as there is of the word orthodox in this and many others. The Scripture knoweth not the word natural in any such sense or signification, wherein it should express or distinguish the unregenerate estate of a man from the regenerate. Our translators indeed render yuxıòç äv9pwros (in the scripture adjoining, of which a touch presently) the natural man; but quo jure, nondum liquet. And however, the whole carriage of the context round about maketh it as clear as the light (as I have elsewhere argued and proved at larget) that it is not the unregenerate man, but the weak Christian, that is there spoken of and termed yuxixos, as a little after, in the same contexture of discourse, he is termed σαρκικός, carnal, and νηπίος εν Χριστώ, a babe or youngling in Christ. If therefore by the natural estate of men the objection meaneth the unregenerate estate of men according to the whole compass and extent of it, and under all the differences which it admitteth, I absolutely deny that the Scripture any where termeth natural men darkness. Those Ephesians, of whom the apostle saith, they were sometime darkness, had been not only or simply unregenerate, but had walked in sins and trespasses, according to the course of this world, and after the prince that ruleth in the air, the spirit that worketh effectually in the children of disobedience, by whom their understandings had been darkened, and they possessed with many false, wicked, and blasphemous conceits concerning God and the gospel, &c. All which imply an unregenerate estate most dangerously encumbered, and from whence it argued the high and signal grace and favour of God that ever they should be delivered. The Jews also (John i. 5) are termed darkness upon a like account, viz., because they were strongly and desperately prejudiced and prepossessed with erroneous notions and conceits against Christ, and about the estate of their Messiah at his first coming unto them; whom they expecting in the form of a great monarch, rejected and
"Ωσπερ το πισεύειν υψηλής και μεγαλοφυούς ψυχής: ούτω και το άπισείν αλογω- . τάτης και ατελούς, και προς την των κτηνών άνοιαν κατενηνεγμένης. Chrysost. in Rom. Hom. 8. + Novice Presbyter, page 86, 87.
crucified in the form of a servant. It was this darkness which they had through an oscitant, loose, and sensual converse with their own Scriptures, voluntarily suffered to grow and spread itself upon the face of their minds and understandings, that was a snare upon them, and occasioned the sad event here mentioned, viz., that when the light shone unto them (i. e. when sufficient and pregnant means were vouchsafed unto them to have brought them to the acknowledgment of their Messiah,) they comprehended it not, i. e. did not by the means of it come to see and understand that, for the sight and knowledge whereof it was given them. For that, by the way, is to be observed, that the evangelist doth not say, that the darkness in which the light shined could not, or was not able, to comprehend it, but only that it did not comprehend it. Now it is a known principle in reason, that "à negatione actus, ad negationem potentiæ, non valet argumentum.” There may be a defect in action, or performance, where there is no defect of power for action. And the very observation and report which the evangelist maketh of the noncomprehension of the light by the darkness in which it shone, plainly enough imports, that the defectiveness of this darkness in not comprehending the light did not consist in, or proceed from, any natural or invincible want of power to comprehend it, but from a blindness voluntarily contracted, and willingly, if not wilfully, persisted in. For how can it be reasonably supposed that this evangelist, who flyeth an higher pitch than his fellows, in drawing up his evangelical tidings for the use and benefit of the world, should, in the very entrance of his gospel, and whilst he was thundering out on high (as one of the fathers speaks) the divinity of Christ, insert the relation of a thing that had nothing strange, nothing more than of common and ordinary observation in it?
Or is it any thing more than ordinary, or what is most obvious, that men do not fly in the air like birds, or that fishes do not speak on the earth like men? Or is it a thing of any
a more savoury consideration than these, that men void of all capacity, destitute of all power, to comprehend the light, should not comprehend it? But that there should be a generation of men whom it so infinitely concerned to comprehend the light, to acknowledge and own their Messiah being now come unto them, and who withal had a rich sufficiency of means to have done the one and the other, should notwithstanding be so stupid and unlike men as not to comprehend this light, not to acknowledge or own this their Messiah, is a matter of high admiration and astonishment, and the mention of it very commodious and proper for that subject of discourse, which the Holy Ghost had now in hand, as might be showed more at large, but that I fear the reader hath already more than his burden of an epistle.
Thirdly, Concerning that scripture, 1 Cor. ii. 14, “ But the natural man perceiveth not,” &c., if, reader, thou conceivest there is any thing in it spoken with any intent to disable reason or understanding in man, so far as to divest them of all capacity or power for the appre