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is more subject to corrupt. This is that method which hath exhibited unto us the scholastical divinity, whereby divinity hath been reduced into an art, as into a cistern, and the streams of doctrine or positions fetched and derived from thence.
In this men have sought three things, a summary brevity, a compacted strength, and a complete perfection; whereof the two first they fail to find, and the last they ought not to seek. For as to brevity, we see, in all summary methods, while men purpose to abridge, they give cause to dilate. For the sum, or abridgment, by contraction becometh obscure: the obscurity requireth exposition, and the exposition is deduced into large commentaries, or into common places and titles, which grow to be more vast than the original writings, whence the sum was at first extracted. So, we see, the volumes of the schoolmen are greater much than the first writings of the fathers, whence the master of the sentences made his sum or collection. So, in like manner, the volumes of the modern doctors of the civil law exceed those of the ancient jurisconsults, of which Trebonian compiled the digest. So as this course of sums and commentaries is that which doth infallibly make the body of sciences more immense in quantity, and more base in substance.
And for strength, it is true, that knowledges reduced into exact methods have a shew of strength, in that each part seemeth to support and sustain the other; but this is more satisfactory than substantial : like unto buildings which stand by architecture and compaction, which are more subject to ruin, than those that are built more strong in their several parts, though less compacted. But it is plain, that the more you recede from your grounds, the weaker do you conclude: and as in nature, the more you remove yourself from particulars, the greater peril of error you do incur; so much more in divinity, the more you recede from the Scriptures, by inferences and consequences, the more weak and dilute are your positions.
And as for perfection, or completeness in divinity, it is not to be sought; which makes this course of artificial divinity the more suspect. For he that will reduce a knowledge into an art, will make it round and uniform: but, in divinity, many things must be left abrupt and concluded with this: O altitudo sapientiæ et scientiæ Dei! quam incomprehensibilia sunt judicia ejus, et non investigabiles via ejus? So again the apostle saith, Ex parte scimus; and to have the form of a total, where there is but matter for a part, cannot be without supplies by supposition and presumption. And therefore I conclude, that the true use of these sums and methods hath place in institutions or introductions preparatory unto knowledge; but in them, or by deducement from them, to handle the main body and substance of a knowledge, is in all sciences prejudicial, and in divinity dangerous.
As to the interpretation of the Scriptures solute and at large, there have been divers kinds introduced and devised; some of them rather curious and unsafe, than sober and warranted. Notwithstanding, thus much must be confessed, that the Scriptures being given by inspiration, and not by human reason, do differ from all other books in the author; which by consequence doth draw on some difference to be used by the expositor. For the inditer of them did know four things which no man attains to know; which are, the mysteries of the kingdom of glory, the perfection of the laws of nature, the secrets of the heart of man, and the future succession of all ages. For as to the first, it is said, He that presseth into the light, shall be oppressed of the glory. And again, No man shall see my face and live. To the second, When he prepared the heavens I was present, when by law and compass he inclosed the deep. To the third, Neither was it needful that any should bear witness to him of man, for he knew well what was in man. And to the last, From the beginning are
known to the Lord all his works.
From the former of these two have been drawn certain senses and expositions of Scriptures, which
had need be contained within the bounds of sobriety; the one anagogical, and the other philosophical. But as to the former, man is not to prevent his time, Videmus nunc per speculum in ænigmate, tunc autem facie ad faciem; wherein, nevertheless, there seemeth to be a liberty granted, as far forth as the polishing of this glass, or some moderate explication of this enigma. But to press too far into it, cannot but cause a dissolution and overthrow of the spirit of man: for in the body there are three degrees of that we receive into it, aliment, medicine, and poison; whereof aliment is that which the nature of man can perfectly alter and overcome; medicine is that which is partly converted by nature, and partly converteth nature; and poison is that which worketh wholly upon nature, without that, that nature can in any part work upon it: so in the mind, whatsoever knowledge reason cannot at all work upon and convert, is a mere intoxication, and indangereth a dissolution of the mind and understanding.
But for the latter, it hath been extremely set on foot of late time by the school of Paracelsus, and some others, that have pretended to find the truth of all natural philosophy in the Scriptures; scandalizing and traducing all other philosophy as heathenish and profane. But there is no such enmity be tween God's word and his works; neither do they give honour to the Scriptures, as they suppose, but much embase them. For to seek heaven and earth in the word of God, whereof it is said, heaven and earth shall pass, but my word shall not pass, is to seek temporary things amongst eternal; and as to seek divinity in philosophy, is to seek the living amongst the dead; so to seek philosophy in divinity, is to seek the dead amongst the living; neither are the pots or lavers, whose place was in the outward part of the temple, to be sought in the holiest place of all, where the ark of the testimony was seated. And again, the scope or purpose of the Spirit of God is not to express matters of nature in the Scriptures, otherwise than in passage, and for application to man's
capacity, and to matters moral or divine. And it is a true rule, Auctoris aliud agentis parva auctoritas: for it were a strange conclusion, if a man should use a similitude for ornament or illustration sake, borrowed from nature or history according to vulgar conceit, as of a basilisk, an unicorn, a centaur, a Briareus, an Hydra, or the like, that therefore he must needs be thought to affirm the matter thereof positively to be true. To conclude therefore, these two interpretations, the one by reduction or enig matical, the other philosophical or physical, which have been received and pursued in imitation of the rabbins and cabalists, are to be confined with a noli altum sapere, sed time.
But the two latter points, known to God, and unknown to man, touching the secrets of the heart, and the successions of time, do make a just and sound difference between the manner of the exposition of the Scriptures and all other books. For it is an excellent observation which hath been made upon the answers of our Saviour Christ to many of the questions which were propounded to him, how that they are impertinent to the state of the question demanded; the reason whereof is, because not being like man, which knows man's thoughts by his words, but knowing man's thoughts immediately, he never answered their words but their thoughts: much in the like manner it is with the Scriptures, which being written to the thoughts of men, and to the succession of all ages, with a foresight of all heresies, contradictions, dif fering estates of the Church, yea, and particularly of the elect, are not to be interpreted only according to the latitude of the proper sense of the place, and tespectively towards that present occasion, whereupon the words were uttered, or in precise congruity or contexture with the words before or after, or in contemplation of the principal scope of the place; but have in themselves, not only totally or collectively, but distributively in clauses and words, infinite springs and streams of doctrine to water the Church in every part and therefore as the literal sense is, as it were, 小
the main stream or river, so the moral sense chiefly, and sometimes the allegorical or typical, are they whereof the Church hath most use: not that I wish men to be bold in allegories, or indulgent or light in allusions; but that I do much condemn that interpretation of the Scripture, which is only after the manner as men use to interpret a profane book.
In this part, touching the exposition of the Scriptures, I can report no deficience; but by way of remembrance, this I will add, in perusing books of divinity, I find many books of controversies, and many of common places, and treatises, a mass of positive divinity as it is made an art; a number of sermons and lectures, and many prolix commentaries upon the Scriptures, with harmonies and concordances: but that form of writing in divinity, which in my judgment is of all others most rich and precious, is positive divinity, collected upon particular texts of Scriptures in brief observations, not dilated into common places; not chasing after controversies, not reduced into method of art; a thing abounding in sermons, which will vanish, but defective in books which will remain, and a thing wherein this age excelleth. For I am persuaded, and I may speak it, with an Absit invidia verbo, and no ways in derogation of antiquity, but as in a good emulation between the vine and the olive, that if the choice and best of those observations upon texts of Scriptures, which have been made dispersedly in sermons within this your majesty's island of Britain, by the space of these forty years and more, leaving out the largeness of exhortations and applications thereupon, had been set down in a continuance, it had been the best work in divinity, which had been written since the apostles times.
The matter informed by divinity is of two kinds; matter of belief, and truth of opinion; and matter of service and adoration; which is also judged and directed by the former; the one being as the internal soul of religion, and the other as the external body thereof. And therefore the heathen religion was