Sec. 100. Now there were in this Law some Passages which seem'd to exhort Men to Retirement and a solitary Life, intimating that Happiness and Salvation were to be attain'd by it; and others which seem'd to encourage Men to Conversation, and the embracing Human Society. Asal gave himself up wholly to Retirement, and those Expressions which favour'd it were of most weight with him, because he was naturally inclin'd to Contemplation, and searching into the Meanings of Things; and his greatest hope was, that he should best attain his End by a solitary Life. Salaman, on the other side, applied himself to Conversation, and those Sayings of the Law which tended that way, went the farthest with him; because he had a natural Aversion to Contemplation, and nice sifting of things. And he thought that Conversation did drive away evil Thoughts, and banish'd that Diversity of Opinions which offer'd themselves to his Mind, and kept him from the Suggestions of evil Thoughts. In short, their Disagreement in this particular, was the occasion of their parting.
Sec. 101. Now Asal had heard of that Island, in which we have told you that Hai Ebn Yokdhan had his Breeding. He knew also its Fertility and Conveniences, and the healthful Temper of the Air, so that it would afford him such a commodious Retirement as he had in his Wishes. Thither he resolv'd to go, and withdraw himself from all manner of Conversation, the remaining part of his Days. So he took what Substance he had, and with part of it he hir'd a Ship to convey him thither, the rest he distributed among the poor people, and took his leave of his Friend Salaman, and went aboard. The Mariners transported him to the Island, and set him a-shore and left him. There he continu'd serving God, and magnifying him, and fancifying him, and meditating upon his glorious Names and Attributes, without any Interruption or Disturbance. And when he was hungry, he took what he had occasion for to satisfie his Hunger, of such Fruits as the Island afforded, or what he could hunt. And in this State he continu'd a while, in the mean time enjoying the greatest Pleasure imaginable, and the most entire Tranquillity of Mind, arising from the Converse and Communication which he had with his Lord; and every Day experiencing his Benefits and precious Gifts, and his bringing easily to his hand such things as he wanted, and were necessary for his Support, which confirm'd his Belief in him, and was a great Refreshment to him.
Sec. 102. Hai Ebn Yokdhan, in the mean time, was wholly immers'd in his sublime Speculations, and never stirr'd out of his Cell but once a Week, to take such Provision as first came to hand. So that Asal did not light upon him at first, but walk'd round the Island, and compass'd the Extremities of it, without seeing any Man, or so much as the Footsteps of any: Upon which account his Joy was increas'd, and his Mind exceedingly pleas'd, in regard of his comparing that which he had propos'd to himself, namely, to lead the most retired Life that was possible.
Sec. 103. At last it happen'd, one time that Hai Ebn Yokdhan coming out to look for Provision in the the same place whither Asal was retired, they spy'd one another. Asal, for his part, did not question but that it was some religious Person, who for the sake of a solitary Life, had retir'd into that Island, as he had done himself, and was afraid, lest if he should come up to him, and make himself known, it might spoil his Meditation, and hinder his attaining what he hop'd for. Hai Ebn Yokdhan on the other side could not imagine what it was, for of all the Creatures he had ever beheld in his whole Life, he had never seen any thing like it. Now Asal had a black Coat on, made with Hair and Wool, which Hai Ebn Yokdhan fancied was natural, and stood wondring at it a long time. Asal ran away as hard as he could, for fear he should disturb his Meditation; Hai Ebn Yokdhan ran after him, out of an innate desire he had to know the Truth of Things. But when he perceiv'd Asal make so much haste, he retir'd a little and hid himself from him; so that Asal thought he had been quite gone off, and then he fell to his Prayers, and Reading, and Invocation, and Weeping; and Supplication, and Complaining, till he was altogether taken up, so as to mind nothing else.
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Sec. 104. In the mean time Hai Ebn Yokdhan stole upon him by degrees, and Asal took no notice of him, till he came so near as to hear him read and praise God, and observ'd his humble Behaviour, and his Weeping, and heard a pleasant Voice and distinct Words, such as he had never observ'd before in any kind of Animals; Then he look'd upon his Shape and Lineaments, and perceiv'd that he was of the same Form with himself, and was satisfied that the Coat he had on, was not a natural Skin, but an artificial Habit like his own. And when he observ'd the Decency of his humble Behaviour, and his Supplication and Weeping, he did not at all question but that he was one of those Essences which had the Knowledge of the TRUE ONE; and for that Reason he had a Desire to be acquainted with him, and to know what was the matter with him, and what caus'd this Weeping and Supplication. Whereupon he drew nearer to him, till Asal perceiving it, betook himself to his Heels again, and Hai Ebn Yokdhan(answerably to his Vigour and Power both of Knowledge and Body, which God had bestow'd upon him) pursu'd him with all his Might, till at last he overtook him and seiz'd on him, and held him fast, so that he could not get away.
Sec. 105. When Asal look'd upon him, and saw him cloath'd with the Skins of wild Beasts with the Hair on, and his own Hair so long as to cover a great part of his Body, and observ'd his great Swiftness and Strength, he was very much afraid of him, and began to pacifie him with stroaking him, and entreating him, but Hai Ebn Yokdhan did not understand one word he said, nor knew any thing of his meaning, only he perceiv'd that he was afraid, and endeavour'd to allay his Fear with such Voices as he had learn'd of some of the Beasts, and stroak'd his Head, and both Sides of his Neck, and shew'd Kindness to him, and express'd a great deal of Gladness and Joy; till at last Asal's Fear was laid aside, and he knew that he meant him no harm.
Sec. 106. Now Asal long before, out of his earnest Desire of searching into the meaning of Things, had studied most Languages, and was well skill'd in them. So he began to speak to Hai Ebn Yokdhan in all the Languages which he understood, and ask him Questions concerning his way of Life, and took pains to make him understand him; but all in vain, for Hai Ebn Yokdhan stood all the while wondring at what he heard, and did not know what was the meaning of it, only he perceiv'd that Asal was pleas'd, and well-affected towards him. And thus they stood wondring one at another.
Sec. 107. Now Asal had by him some Remainder of the Provision which he had brought along with him, from the inhabited Island from whence he came; and he offer'd it to Hai Ebn Yokdhan, who did not know what to make on't, for he had never seen any such before. Then Asal eat some of it himself, and invited Hai Ebn Yokdhan by Signs to eat too. But Hai Ebn Yokdhan bethought himself of those Rules which he had prescrib'd to himself, as to matter of Diet; and not knowing the Nature of that which he offer'd him, nor whether it was lawful for him to partake of it or not, he refus'd it. Asal still continu'd urgent, and invited him kindly: Now Hai Ebn Yokdhan had a great Desire to be acquainted with him, and was afraid that his continuing too stiff in his Refusal, might alienate his Affections from him; so he ventured upon it, and eat some. And when he had tasted of it, and lik'd it, he perceiv'd that he had done amiss, in breaking those Promises which he had made to himself concerning Diet. And he repented himself of what he had done, and had Thoughts of withdrawing himself from Asal, and retreating to his former State of Contemplation.
Sec. 108. But the Vision did not easily appear to him at first, upon which he resolv'd to continue with Asal in the sensible World, till he had thoroughly satisfied himself concerning him, that so when he had no further Desire towards him, he might apply himself to his former Contemplations without any Interruption. Wherefore he applyed himself to the Society of Asal, who perceiving that he could not speak, was secure of any Damage that might come to his Religion, by keeping Company with him; and besides, had Hopes of teaching him Speech, Knowledge and Religion, and by that means, of obtaining a great Reward, and near Approach to God. He began therefore to teach him how to speak; first, by shewing him particular Things, and pronouncing their Names, and repeating them often, and perswading him to speak them: which he did applying every Word to the Thing by it signified, till he had taught him all the Nouns, and so improv'd him by degrees, that he could speak in a very short time.
Sec. 109. Then Asal began to enquire of him concerning his way of Living, and from whence he came into that Island? And Hai Ebn Yokdhan told him, that he knew nothing of his own Original, nor any Father or Mother that he had, but only that Roe which brought him up. Then he describ'd to him his manner of Living, from first to last, and by what degrees he advanc'd in Knowledge, till he attain'd the Union with God. When Asal heard him give an Account of those Truths, and those Essences which are separate from the Sensible World, and which have the Knowledge of that TRUE ONE, (whose Name be prais'd); and heard him give an account of the Essence of that TRUE ONE, and describe, as far as was possible, what he witness'd (when he had attain'd to that Union) of the Joys of those who are near united to God, and the Torments of those who are separated from him. He made no doubt but that all those things which are contain'd in the Law of God [i.e. the Alcoran] concerning his Command, his Angels, Books and Messengers, the Day of Judgment, Paradise and Hell, were Resemblances of what Hai Ebn Yokdhan had seen; and the Eyes of his Understanding were open'd, and he found that the Original and the Copy did exactly agree together. And the ways of Mystical Interpretation became easie to him, and there appeared nothing difficult to him in those Precepts which he had receiv'd, but all was clear; nor any thing shut up, but all was open; nor any thing profound, but all was plain. By this means his intellectual Faculty grew strong and vigorous, and he look'd upon Hai Ebn Yokdhan with Admiration and Respect, and assur'd himself that he was one of the Saints of God, which have no Fear upon them, neither shall they suffer Pain. Upon which he address'd himself to wait upon him, and imitate him, and to follow his Direction in the Performance of such Works as he had occasion to make use of; namely, those legal ones which he had formerly learn'd from his own Sect.
Sec. 110. Then Hai Ebn Yokdhan began to enquire of him concerning his Condition and manner of living, and Asal gave him an account of the Island from whence he came, and what manner of People inhabited it, and what sort of Life they led before that religious Sect, which we mention'd, came among them, and how it was now, since the coming of that Sect. He also gave him an Account of what was deliver'd in the Law [i.e. Alcoran] relating to the Description of the Divine World, Paradise and Hell, and the Awakening and Resurrection of Mankind, and their gathering together to Judgment, and the Balance and the Way. All which things Hai Ebn Yokdhan understood very well, and did not find any of them disagreeable to what he had seen, when in that noble Station; and he knew that he that had described these Things, and given an account of them, had given a true Account, and was a Messenger sent from his Lord; and he believ'd him, and affirm'd his Veracity, and bore Witness to his Message.
Sec. 111. Then he began to ask him concerning the Precepts which the Messenger of God had deliver'd, and the Rites of Worship which he had ordain'd. And Asal told him of Prayer, Alms, Fasting and Pilgrimage, and such other External Observances, which he receiv'd and practis'd, and took upon himself, in Obedience to his Command, of whose Veracity he was very well allured. Only there were two things stuck in his Mind, which he wonder'd at, and could not comprehend wherein the Wisdom of them did consist. The one was, why this Messenger of God, in describing most things which relate to the Divine World, us'd to express them to Men by Parables or Similitudes, and wav'd a perspicuous Explication of them; by which occasion'd Men in a great Measure to fall into that Error of asserting a Corporeity in God, and believing Things of that TRUE Being, from which he is absolutely free; and so in like manner, concerning, those Things which relate to the Rewards and Punishments of a Future State. The other was, why he went no farther than these Precepts and Rites of Worship, but gave Men leave to gather Riches, and allow'd them a Liberty as to matter of Food; by which means they employed themselves about vain Things, and turn'd away from the Truth, Whereas his Judgment was, that no Body ought to eat any thing, but only just to keep him alive; and as for Riches, He had no Opinion of them at all. And when he saw what was set down and prescrib'd in the Law, with Relation to Wealth, as Alms, and the Distribution of them, and Trading and Usury, Mulcts and Punishments; these things seem'd all very odd to him, and he judg'd them superfluous; and said, that if Men understood Things aright, they would lay aside all these vain Things, and follow the Truth, and content themselves without any thing of all this; and that no Man would challenge such a Propriety in Riches, as to have Alms ask'd of him, or to cause his Hands to be cut off, who privily stole them; or their lives to be taken away, who had openly robb'd him.
Sec. 112. Now that which prompted him to this Persuasion, was this, that he thought all Men were indu'd with an ingenuous Temper, and penetrating Understanding, and a Mind constant to itself; and was not aware how blockish and stupid they were, how ill-advis'd, and inconstant in their Resolutions; insomuch, that they are like Brute Beasts, nay, more apt to wander out of the way. Since therefore he was greatly affected with Pity towards Mankind, and desir'd that he might be an Instrument of their Salvation; a Resolution came into his Mind of going over to them, to declare and lay before them the Truth. This Intention of his he communicated to his Friend Asal and ask'd him if there could possibly be any way contriv'd to come at them.
Sec. 113. But Asal told him what sort of People they were, and how far from an ingenuous Temper, and how averse from obeying the Commands of God; but he had no Notion of that, but still his Mind was intent upon that which he hop'd to compass: And Asal desir'd that it would please God, by his means, to direct some of his Acquaintance which were of a more pliable Temper than the rest, and had more Sincerity in them, into the right way. So then he was ready to further the Design and Endeavour of Hai Ebn Yokdhan. Upon which they resolved to keep close to the Sea Shore, without stirring from it either Day or Night, till God should please to afford them an Opportunity of crossing the Sea. And all the while they were intent upon this, they continu'd praying to God to direct them in this their Business, and bring it to an happy Issue.
Sec. 114. At last, as God (whose Name be prais'd) would have it, it happen'd, that a Ship which had lost her Course, was driven by the Wind and Water upon the Shore of that Island; and as it drew nearer to Land, they who were in it, seeing two Men upon the Shore, made towards them. Then Asal spoke to them, and desir'd them to carry him and his Companion along with them in the Ship; to which they contented, and took them into the Ship, and it pleas'd God to send them a fair Wind, which, in a short time, carried them to the Isle which they desir'd. There they landed, and went into the City; and Asal's Friends came all about him, and he gave 'em an account of Hai Ebn Yokdhan, and his manner of living; so that People flock'd to him from every side, and admir'd and reverenc'd him. Then Asal told him that this Sect was superiour to all other sorts of Men in Knowledge and Sagacity; and that if he could not work upon them, there were much lesser Hopes of doing any Good upon the Vulgar.
Sec. 115. Now Salaman (Asal's Friend, who we told you chose Conversation, rather than Solitude and Retirement, which he judg'd unlawful) was Prince and Sovereign of this Island. So Hai Ebn Yokdhan began to teach them, and explain the Mysteries of Wisdom to them; but so soon as e'er he began to raise his Discourse above External Things a little, and to inculcate that, the contrary whereof had been settled, and deeply rooted in their Minds; they began to withdraw themselves from him, and their Minds had an Abhorrence for what he spake. And though they carried themselves civilly to him, both because he was a Stranger, and out of the Observance which they thought due to their Friend Asal, yet they were angry with him inwardly in their Hearts. However, he continu'd reasoning with them mildly Night and Day, and teaching them the TRUTH, both in Private and Publick, which only increas'd their Hatred towards him, and made them avoid his Company, though otherwise they were Lovers of Goodness, and desirous of Truth. However, through the Defect of their Nature, they did not search for it after the right manner, nor apprehend it as they should do; but sought the Knowledge of it after the common way, like the rest of the World. So that he despaired of doing any Good upon them, and all his Hopes of amending them were defeated, because they were not willing to receive what he taught them.
Sec. 116. And afterwards, taking a View of the several Ranks and Orders of Men, he perceiv'd that every sort of them plac'd their Delight in those Things which they possess'd at present, and that their Appetites were their God, and that they lost themselves in gathering up the little Things of this World; and that the Desire of getting more, kept them employ'd till they came to their Graves; and that all good Counsel was lost upon them; and that disputing with them had only this Effect, that it made them the more obstinate. And as for Wisdom, there was no way for them to attain it, neither had they any Share in it. For Folly has over-whelmed them, and, what they have sought after, has covered their Hearts like Raft; God has sealed up their Hearts and their Ears, and their Eyes are dim, and they shall have sore Punishment.
Sec. 117. When therefore he saw them compass'd about with the Curtains of Punishment, and cover'd with the Darkness of the Veil; and that all of them (a few only excepted) minded their Religion no otherwise, but with regard to this present World; and cast the Observance of religious Performances behind their Backs, notwithstanding the Easiness of them, and sold them for a small Price; and that their Merchandize and Trading diverted them from thinking upon God, so that they had no fear of that Day in which both their Hearts and Eyes shall be turn'd round; he was fully satisfied, that it was to no purpose to speak to them plainly, neither that it was expedient any Works should be enjoin'd them beyond this Measure; and that the greatest Benefit which accru'd to the common sort of Men by the Law, was wholly plac'd in Relation to Things of this World, viz. that they might be in a comfortable way of Living, and that no Man might invade another's Property; and that there was but here and there one that attain'd to Happiness hereafter; namely, such an one as made it his Business in this World to provide for another, and took due care about it, and was a Believer: But that Hell was the Place for him that err'd from the Truth, and preferr'd the Life of this present World before it. And what Labour can be greater, or what Misery more compleat than his, who works, if you observe, from the time he awakes, till he goes to sleep again, you will find that he does nothing but what tends to the attaining of some one or other of these vile sensible Things; namely, either Riches, to heap them up; or Pleasure, which he may take; or Lust, which he may satisfie; or Revenge, whereby he may pacifie his Mind; or Power, to defend himself; or some outward Work commanded by the Law, whereof he may make a vain-glorious Shew; or whereby he may save his own Neck? Now all these things are Darkness upon Darkness in the Depth of the Sea, neither is there any of you that doth not enter in thither, for such is the unchangeable Decree of the Lord.
Sec. 118. And when he understood the Condition of Mankind, and that the greatest part of them were like Brute Beasts, he knew that all Wisdom, Direction and good Success, consisted in what the Messengers of God had spoken, and the Law deliver'd; and that there was no other way besides this, and that there could be nothing added to it; and that there were Men appointed to every Work, and that every one was best capable of doing that unto which he was appointed by Nature. That this was God's way of dealing with those which were gone before, and that there is no Change in his way. Whereupon returning to Salaman and his Friends, he begg'd their Pardon for what he had said to them, and desir'd to be excus'd, and told them that he was of the same Opinion with them, and went on in the same way, and persuaded them to stick firmly to their Resolution of keeping within the Bounds of the Law, and the Performance of the External Rites, and that they should not much dive into the Things that did not concern them: and that in doubtful Things they should give Credit, and yield their Assent readily; and that they should abstain from novel Opinions, and from their Appetites, and follow the Examples of their pious Ancestors, and forsake Novelties, and that they should avoid that neglect of religious Performances which was seen in the vulgar sort of Men, and the Love of the World, which he principally caution'd them against. For both he and his Friend Asal knew that this tractable, but defective sort of Men, had no other way in the World to escape, but only by this means; and that if they should be rais'd above this to curious Speculations, it would be worse with them, and they would not be able to attain to the Degree of the Blessed, but would fluctuate and be toss'd up and down, and make a bad End. But on the contrary, if they continu'd in that State in which they were till Death overtook them, they should be happy, and stand on the right Hand: But as for those that out-went them, they should also take place of them, and that they should be the next.
Sec. 119. So they took their leave and left them, and sought for an Opportunity of returning to their Island, till it pleas'd God to help them to a Convenience of passing. And Hal Ebn Yokdhan endeavour'd to attain to his lofty Station, by the same means he had sought it at first, till he recover'd it; and Asal followed his Steps, till he came near him, or wanted but very little of it; and thus they continued serving God in this Island till they died.
Sec. 120. And this is that (God assist thee and us by his Spirit) which we have receiv'd of the History of Hai Ebn Yokdhan, Asal and Salaman; which comprehends such Choice of Words, as are not found in any other Book, nor heard in common Discourse. And it is a piece of hidden Knowledge which none can receive, but those which have the Knowledge of God, nor can any be ignorant of it, but those which have not. Now we have taken a contrary Method to our pious Ancestors, as to their Reservedness in this Matter, and Sparingness of Speech. And the Reason which did the more easily persuade me to divulge this Secret, and tear the Veil, was, because of the corrupt Notions which some Pretenders to Philosophy in our Age have broach'd and scatter'd, so that they are diffus'd through several Countries, and the Mischief which arises from thence is become Epidemical. Fearing therefore lest those weak ones, who reject the Tradition of the Prophets (of Blessed Memory) and make choice of that which is delivered them by Fools, should imagine that these Opinions are that Secret, which ought to be with-held from those who are not worthy or capable of it, and so their Desire and Study of these Opinions should be increas'd. I have thought good to give them a Glimpse of this Secret of Secrets, that I might draw them into the right Way, and avert them from this other. Nevertheless, I have not so delivered the Secrets which are comprehended in these few Leaves, as to leave them without a thin Veil or Cover over them, which will be easily rent by those who are worthy of it; but will be so thick to him, that is unworthy to pass beyond it, that he shall not be able to get through it. And I desire of those my Brethren who shall see this Discourse, that they would excuse me for being so easily induc'd to explain it, and so free in the Description of it; seeing I had not done so, if I had not been elevated to such Heights, as transcend the Reach of Humane Sight. And I was willing to express it in easie Terms, that I might dispose Men, and raise a Desire in them to enter into the right Way. And I beg of God Pardon and Forgiveness, and that he would please to bring us to the true and certain Knowledge of himself, for he is gracious and liberal of his Favours. Peace be to thee, my Brother, whose Promotion is decreed, and, the Mercy find Blessing of God be upon thee,
Praise, be to God alone.
[Footnote 18: p .14. Sect. 6. Those who affirm that Hai Ebn Yokdhan was produced in that Island without Father or Mother—The having our Philosopher hatch'd after this manner, is a contrivance of Avicen's, who wrote this Story first, and from whom our Author has taken a great part of it. He was of Opinion that such a Formation was possible; tho' there having never been any such thing, is a sufficient Demonstration of the Impossibility of it; for since the Creation of the World the Celestial Bodies have had time enough to exert the utmost of their Power, and shed their Influence in order to such a Production, which they having never so much as attempted yet, amongst all the variety of their Operations, plainly shew us that it is not in their power. But we must give Philosophers leave sometimes to go beyond Demonstration. 'Tis observable, that our Author says nothing of the matter, but leaves it as he found it.]
[Footnote 19: God made Man after his own Image—These Words are quoted by our Author for the Words of Mahomet, though they do indeed Belong to Moses, but we must know that Mahomet was well acquainted with the Jews from whom he learned not only some Expressions us'd in the Bible, but a great part of the History of it; which he has mangled and crowded, after a confus'd manner, into his Alcoran.]
[Footnote 20: Alcoran, Chap. Alkesas.]
[Footnote 21: Our Philosophers imitating the Heavenly Bodies in their Circular Motion, would seem indeed extreamly ridiculous, but that we are to consider that the Mahometans have a superstitious Custom of going several times round the Cave of Meccah, when they go thither on Pilgrimage, and look upon it as a very necessary part of their Duty. Now our Author having resolved to bring his Philosopher as far at least as was possible for one in his Circumstances, in the Knowledge and Practice of all those things which the Mahometans account necessary, would not let him be ignorant of this Practice of moving round; but has brought it under this second sort of Imitation of the Heavenly Bodies. Now tho' our Philosopher may be excus'd for not going to the Temple at Meccah, yet so great stress is laid upon it by the Mahometans, that Alhosain Al Hallagi Ben Mansour, was, in the 309th Year of the Hegira (of Christ921) condemn'd to dye by the Vizier Alhumed, who pronounc'd Sentence upon him, having first advis'd with the Imaums and Doctors, for having asserted, that in case a Man had A Desire to go on Pilgrimage to Meccah, and could not; it would be sufficient, if he set apart any clean Room of his House for that purpose, and went round about it, and perform'd in it at the same time when the Pilgrims are at Meccah, the same things which they do there, and then fed and cloath'd 30 Orphans, and gave to each of them seven pieces of Silver. For which Heterodox Position he receiv'd a thousand Stripes, without so much as sighing or groaning, and had first one Hand cut off, and then both his Feet, and then the other Hand, then he was kill'd and burnt, and his Ashes thrown into the River Tigris, and his Head set upon a Pole in the City of Bagdad. See Abulpharagius. p. 287.]
[Footnote 22: Alcoran.]
[Footnote 23: Because Words borrowed from and us'd about sensible and material Things, would lead Men into Mistakes, when us'd to explain things Spiritual, if they be taken in a literal Sense. See Sec. 85.]
[Footnote 24: The Author means, the nearest Approach to God.]
[Footnote 25: As the Author his in the three foregoing Sections describ'd the Condition of those glorified Spirits, who continually enjoy the Beatifick Vision; so in this he describes the miserable State of those who are deprived of it, i.e. the Damn'd.]
[Footnote 26: I have omitted the following Passage, because I could not well tell how to make it intelligible; the meaning of it in gross, is still to express the miserable Condition, and horrible Confusion of those Spirits which are separated from the Vision of God. However, I shall set it down in Latin out of Mr. Pocock's Translation. Et ferris discindi inter repellendum & attrabendum; vidit etiam hic alias Essentias, praeter istas, quae cruciabantur, quae apparebant & deinde evanescebant, & connexae erant & cum dissolvebantur; & hic se cohibuit illasque bene perpendit & vidit ingentes terrores, & negotia magna, & turbam occupatam, & operationem, efficacem, & complanationem, & inflationem, & productionem, & destructionem. The particulars of this Passage, would be best explain'd by the Commentators upon the Alcoran, which I have no Opportunity of consulting.]
[Footnote 27: Alcoran, Chap. 81, and 101.]
[Footnote 28: The Arabick Words, Watathabaka indaho' 'Imekoul w'almenkoul signify, And that which was understood agreed with that which was copied. But because that way of expressing it is obscure, I have chose rather to leave the Arabick Word, and express the Sense, which is this. Hai Ebn Yokdhan, having no Advantages of Education, had acquir'd all his Knowledge by singular Industry and Application, till at last he attain'd to the Vision of God himself, by which means he saw all things relating to a future State, viz. by beholding in God the Architypal Ideas, of which all things created, and whatsoever is reveal'd to us, are suppos'd to be Copies. Now Asal, by conversing with him, found, that the Mekoul, i.e. what Hai Ebn Yokdhan saw by this sort of Speculation; and the Menkoul, i.e. what Asal had learn'd out of the Alcoran, and the Tradition of the Prophets, did exactly answer one the other, as a Copy does its Original.]
[Footnote 29: Mahomet.]
[Footnote 30: Alcoran, Chap. 2 and 83.]
[Footnote 31: This is an Expression taken out of the Alcoran, and is design'd to express the Confusion which the Wicked shall be in at the Day of Judgment.]
[Footnote 32: Alcoran, Chap. 24 and 19.]
* * * * *
In which the
AUTHOR'S NOTION concerning the Possibility of a Man's attaining to the true Knowledge of GOD, and Things necessary to Salvation, without the Use of external Means, is briefly consider'd.
By SIMON OCKLEY, M.A. Vicar of Swanesey in Cambridgshire.
LONDON, Printed in the Year, 1708.
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Sec. 1, 2. The Occasion and Design of this Discourse. Sec. 3, 4, 5. God's way of teaching his People was by Prophets. Sec. 6, 7. Prophecy not attain'd by any Applicatian or Industry, but depended upon the positive Will of God. Sec. 8. And, consequently the Vision of God, or beholding the Divine Being, which is superior to Prophesying, cannot be so attain'd. Sec. 9. That it was never mention'd as attainable, nor the Search of it recommended by the Prophet Moses, Sec. 10. Nor any other Prophets that succeeded him. Sec. 11. What was not enjoyed in the early Times of Christianity, when the Gifts of the Spirit were more plentifully poured out, cannot be expected now. Sec. 12. But such A Power, whereby a Man might (without external Helps) attain to the true Knowledge of God, and Things necessary to Salvation, was no where promis'd by our Saviour. Sec. 13. Nor enjoyed by devout Persons in the first times of the Gospel; which is prov'd from the Example of the Eunuch. Sec. 14. And Cornelius. Sec. 15. The whole Tenour of the Apostles Doctrine forbids us to expect the Vision of God in this Life. Sec. 16. From all which is inferr'd, that those Scriptures, which speak of the plentiful Effusion of the Spirit in the Gospel Times, are misunderstood by Enthusiasts. Sec. 17. Why we are not to expect Prophets now. Sec. 18. If these things be denied to Christians, they are not to be found amongst Heathens or Mahometans. Sec. 19, 20, 21, The Enthusiasm of our Author and others censured Sec. 23. Conclusion.
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Sec. 1. Tho' the preceeding History, upon the account of the lively Image and Representation which it gives of unspotted Virtue, unfeigned Love of God, and Contempt of the Things of this Life, does very well deserve to be read: So, as it contains several things co-incident with the Errors of some Enthusiasts of these present Times, it deserves to be consider'd. Upon which Account, I had no sooner suffer'd my self to be perswaded to undertake the Translation of this Book, than I determin'd to subjoin some Reflections upon such part of it as seem'd to me most worthy of Consideration. Lest otherwise, that Book, which was by me design'd for the Innocent, and not altogether unprofitable Diversion of the Reader, might accidentally prove a means of leading some into Error, who are not capable of judging aright; and of confirming others in their Mistakes, who, through their own Weakness, or the Prejudice of a bad Education, have the Misfortune to be led out of the way. And I was the more willing to do it, because there has been a bad Use made of this Book before.
Sec. 2. There are a great many Errors both in his Philosophy and Divinity: And it was impossible it should be otherwise, the one being altogether Aristotelian, the other Mahometan. I shall pass over the greatest part of them, as not being likely to do any harm; and confine my self chiefly to the Examination of this Fundamental Error of my Author, viz, That God has given such a Power or Faculty to Man, whereby he may, without any external Means, attain to the Knowledge of all things necessary to Salvation, and even to the Beatifick Vision it self, whilst in this State: In doing which I shall still have regard to the Errors receiv'd concerning these things in the present Age.
Sec. 3. In order to this I shall examine the Ways and Means by which the People of God in all Ages, came to the Understanding of his Will. Now 'tis evident, from the absurd Notions which the ancient Heathens had of the Deity, and their Idolatry, that Mankind was so far degenerated and deprav'd, that they had lost the true Knowledge of God, and of his Attributes, and consequently were ignorant of their Duty towards him; for which reason, God was pleas'd, out of his infinite Love and Mercy towards Mankind, to send at sundry times Prophets; that is, Men who were inspir'd by the Holy Spirit, and had the Will of God immediately reveal'd to them; to the end that they might instruct others how to serve him (the ancient Tradition receiv'd from our first Parents, and those good Men which succeeded them, being now almost worn out, and over-grown by the increasing Wickedness of the World) and thereby avoid those Judgments which would otherwise infallibly overtake them, if they continu'd in Impenitence and Disobedience.
Sec. 4. This was the Means which the Generality of the People of God had to know his Will. They receiv'd it from the Prophets, who had it immediately from God. So that the Difference of their Knowledge consisted in the Manner of their receiving of it, not in the Things receiv'd, which were the same both to the Prophets and the People. Only the Prophets receiv'd it immediately, but not the People: for then consequently they would all have been Prophets, which it is plain they were not.
Sec. 5. And when it had pleas'd God to give a clearer and fuller Revelation of his Will to the Prophet Moses; what was deliver'd to him, was committed to the Care of the Priests, of whom both King and People were oblig'd to learn their Duty. Deut. xvii. 18. And it shall be when he sitteth upon the Throne of his Kingdom, that he shall write him a Copy of this Law in a Book, out of that which is before the Priests the Levites, and it shall be with him, and, he shall read therein all the Days of his Life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the Words of this Law, and these Statutes, to do them. And Malachi xi. 7. The Priests Lips should preserve Knowledge, and they should seek the Law at his Mouth, for he is the Messenger of the Lord of Hosts. So that they were not to seek after any other more perfect manner of Worship, than what was deliver'd in that Book, nor to expect that those Truths or Precepts which were contained in it, should be reveal'd to them anew, either by any Prophet living in their time, or by immediate Revelation; but to draw all their Instructions from the aforesaid Helps. And accordingly we never find any of the Prophets making any Alteration in the Law, or calling the people to a more perfect way of Worship. From whence 'tis plain that they were well assur'd of its Sufficiency, till the Messias, who was to compleat it should come; and their never bidding the People to look for any other way of teaching than what was to be had from that Book, and the Mouth of the Priests, proves evidently that they knew those means to be sufficient.
Sec. 6. Thus we have seen which way the generality of the People of God were taught; let us now examine by what means the Prophets attain'd their Faculty of Prophesying and wherein it did consist. Now it is most certain that the Faculty of Prophesying cannot be attain'd by any Application or Improvement of our Abilities whatsoever, but depends wholly and entirely upon the positive Will of God, who upon important and weighty Occasions, in his own due time, and to such Persons as seem best in his infinite Wisdom, does send such as he is pleas'd to set apart and qualifie for that Service, by the Inspiration of his Holy Spirit. For Prophecy came not in old time by the Will of Man; but holy Men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. It must not denyed, but that a sober, righteous and godly Life, a Heavenly Conversation, and the keeping our selves pure both in Body and Spirit, are excellent Means to invite the Holy Spirit to dwell in and abide with us. And this is agreeable to right Notions of the Purity of God, and his Love of that which is Good, and Abhorrence of that which is Evil: It is confirmed by right Reason, the Testimony of ancient Churches and Holy Scripture it self. But then the Question is, How does God dwell in those that are his? Certainly, not so as to make Prophets of them, but to strengthen them in their Holy Resolutions, and enable them to perform such Things as tend most to his Glory, and their own Salvation. And upon a due Examination, we shall find that this is all which the greatest number by far of Godly Men ever attain'd; who notwithstanding must by no means be accus'd of Slothfulness in not approving their Talent, nor of being wanting in their Endeavours to make the nearest Approaches to God that they were capable of.
Sec. 7. This will appear further, if we consider that those means which were us'd by Holy Persons of Old, in order to the Improvement of themselves or others, in the Exercise of Piety and Religion, cannot upon any account be reckon'd as means of their becoming Prophets. Tho' Samuel was dedicated to the Service of God from his Birth, and it pleas'd God to chuse him for a Prophet; yet there is no question to be made, but that there were several others so dedicated, which did never prophesy.
Tho' Daniel was heard from the first day that he did set his Heart to understand, and to chasten himself before God, and had an Angel sent to him with a Revelation, yet cannot that disciplining of himself be in any wise accounted a Cause of that Revelation; for if it were, the same Method would produce the same Effect in another Man. And tho' there were particular Advantages in being a Member of the College of Prophets; as the Prophet Amos intimates, where he says, I was no Prophet, nor A Prophet's Son (which must be interpreted The Scholar of a Prophet, for the Scholars of the Prophets are always call'd Sons of the Prophets in Scripture) yet none of these Means were sufficient to help Men to the Gift of Prophecy. The pious Parents thought it a very good way of improving their Children in the Fear and Love of God, and the Knowledge of his Will, to have them brought up under those Holy and Exemplary Men the Prophets; and accordingly they waited upon them, went on Errands and did their Service; at the same time enjoying the great Advantage of their Example and Discourse. And according to their Example, even after Prophesy was ceas'd among the Jews, the eminent Men and chief Doctors of the Law had their Scholars and Disciples, more or fewer, according to the Credit and Esteem of the Matter. So that our Blessed Saviour's chusing his twelve Disciples, was no new thing among the Jews, but had been practis'd all along, since those Schools of the Prophets. But never did any one imagine, that these means of Discipline, or any other, were Steps to the attaining the Gift of Prophecy, which always depended, not upon Mens Acquirements or Improvements in that which is good, but upon the positive Will of God.
Sec. 8. Now, if, as appears from what is already said, God has not afforded to Man, any Means whereby he can attain to the more inferior Degree of Prophecy, which consists in having only some part of his Will reveal'd; and that not constantly or habitually, but as occasion serves: How vain and fond is it then for any one to imagine that he has given him a Capacity of enjoying his Presence as he is, and of seeing all things in him? Which is as much above the Attainments of the greatest Prophets, as theirs is above the weakest of Men. For if we consider we shall find that the Prophets Business consisted in delivering a particular Message to one or more; the Contents of which sometimes they receiv'd by Day, which sort of Vision is call'd Machazeh, or, Mareeh, or else by Night in a Dream, and this was call'd Hhalom, a Dream, or Hezyon Hallaiyelah, a Nocturnal Vision. But what is either or both these to the Intuition of the Divine Presence? There is as much Difference, as there is between a great Courtier and a Favourite, who when he pleases, enjoys the Presence of his Prince, and one who is now and then sent by him on an Errand. And yet to such a degree of Enthusiasm have some gone, as our Author here in particular, and several more of the same strain in those former Ages, and the Quietists and other Mysticks and Enthusiasts in our times, that nothing will down with him less than the Intuition of the Divine-Being, and they despise Meditation, as a mean thing, and too much below one that aspires to Perfection. And this, it seems, is attainable by Application and continued Exercise; whereby they have at once set all Mankind in a Capacity of out-doing infinitely the ancient Prophets, who if they had known any thing of this way, certainly would not have been so sparing of it in their Writings, especially when their Business was to labour for the Benefit and Instruction of Mankind. But there is not one word in all their Writings which favours this Opinion, from whence we may safely conclude, that they had no such Notion; and yet it must not be in the least doubted, but that they were throughly acquainted with the Will of God, and knew more of his secret Counsel than any other Men in the World whatsoever.
Sec. 9. It must needs be acknowledg'd by us Christians, as well as by the Jews, that Moses was, without Controversie, the the greatest Prophet that ever appear'd upon Earth before our Saviour's time, and had the most frequent and greatest Revelations of the Divine Will. For tho' it was a singular Favour which God vouchsafed the other Prophets, in communicating to them some of the Secrets of his Purposes; yet Moses was the Man whom God chose to be the Instrument of the Deliverance of his People Israel, by such convincing Signs and Wonders, as were undeniable Evidences of the Divine Power by which they were wrought, and who was not only to be God's Messenger to his People in some few Particulars, but the immediate Receiver of that Law, and all the Oeconomy, both Ecclesiastical and Civil, by which God's People were to be governed without any Addition or Diminution, so many hundred Years, till the Coming of the promised Messias. God himself bears Witness to this, Numb. xii. 6. If there be a Prophet among you, I the Lord will make my self known unto him in a Vision, and will speak unto him in a Dream. My Servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine House. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark Speeches, and the Similitude of the Lord shall he behold. Now Moses had not been faithful in God's House, if he had not reveal'd the whole Will of God to his People, as it was deliver'd to him; which most certainly he did. But how? Why, he commands the People thus, Deut. vi. 17. You shall diligently keep the Commandments of the Lord your God, and his Testimonies and his Statutes which he hath commanded thee; which were, no doubt, the very same which he had received upon Mount Sinai. Nor did this Holy Man, this faithful Servant in God's House, ever recommend, or so much as hint any such Service of God, as is dream'd of by our Mysticks, or give the least Encouragement for any to hope for the Gift of Prophecy, or an Intuition or beholding the Divine Being in this State. And yet it is certain that both Moses himself, and Multitudes of others after him, were Heavenly-minded Men, and did that which was acceptable in the Sight of God, and shall be Partakers of Everlasting Glory.
Sec. 10. Nor did any of the Prophets, which came after him, ever advance any such refin'd way of Worship; but constantly blam'd the People for not observing the Law of Moses, and neglecting the Statutes and Ordinances which he had left them. And the Sum of their Prophecies consists, either in Exhorting, Reproving, Promising or Threatning, and some Hints of the Messias. But not one Syllable concerning any such abstracted Worship, nor any Mention made of Mens attaining the Beatifick Vision. Notwithstanding which, there have been, and still are, a great many deluded Souls, who imagine that the warm Conceptions of distemper'd Brains, are a great Measure of that Holy Spirit by which the old Prophets spake; and pretend to such a Familiarity and intimate Conversation with God; such an entire Communication and Intercourse, that they might, if what they said were true, seem to be glorified Spirits, rather than Prophets, subject to the like Infirmities with other Men; and to have left the Church Militant to take their place in the Triumphant. Not considering, that all this is only a pleasing sort of an Amusement, a Fool's Paradise, and grounded upon no better Reason or Foundation, than the Man that was distracted had to fancy himself an Emperor, and all that came about him his Subjects. These Men do not consider that we live in such an Age of the World, as we are not to expect such extraordinary Effusions of the Spirit: All that we can reasonably expect, or that God has promis'd, is, to give his Holy Spirit to those that ask it of him; that is, so to guide them by his gracious Assistance, as that they may overcome their Spiritual Enemies, and be crown'd hereafter with Glory and Immortality; which certainly ought to content any reasonable Man, without aspiring to Immediate Revelation, Prophecy, obtaining the Vision of God, and such like Things,which God has deny'd to us, whilst in this State.
Sec. 11. Indeed, if it were in Religion, as in Arts and Sciences, it might with a great deal more Reason have been expected; that considering the vast Distance of Time since the first planting of the Christian Religion to this present Age, we might have been improved to a Degree of Prophecy. For Arts and Sciences receive their Beginnings from very small Hints at first, and are afterwards improved proportionally to the Industry and Capacity of those who cultivate them; and therefore we may reasonably expect, that the longer they continue, the more they will be advanc'd. But the case is vastly different in Religion, which is always best and purest at its first setting out. And there is a very good Reason to be given, why it should be so; for after the first Covenant made by God with Mankind in the Person of Adam: every other Dispensation has found Men under a State of Corruption, and in the actual Possession of Errors, diametrically opposite to those Truths which it came to instruct them in; and therefore it was requisite that the means to remove these at first, should bear Proportion with the Difficulties they were to encounter. Upon which account, at the Beginning of any new Dispensation, those Persons whom God was pleas'd to employ to publish it to Mankind, have been endu'd with more Zeal and greater Abilities, than the Professors of the same Religion in after Ages. And as no Person can doubt, but that the Jewish Religion was much more perfect in the Days of Moses, and those which immediately succeeded him, than in after Times, when it was obscur'd and mudded by Pharisaical Inventions and Traditions: So must it also be confess'd, that the Christian Religion was much more perfect in the Days of the Apostles, and the Ages immediately succeeding them, than since it has been obscur'd by the Interest of the Designing on the one hand, and the Prejudice and Ignorance of the Unlearned on the other. And this is what is plainly confess'd by the Practice of most contending Parties amongst the Professors of Christianity; who constantly make their Appeals to the earliest Writers of the Primitive Christian Church, and use all means to bring them over to their own Side; which is an evident Concession that they value their Authority, and look upon them as the most competent Judges of their Controversies. Now, if I shall make it appear, that there was no such thing as is contended for by our Enthusiasts, in those early Times, when the Holy Spirit must be confess'd on all hands to be more plentifully pour'd out than in the succeeding Ages; I hope it will appear evidently to any unprejudic'd Person, that it is not at all to be expected under the Christian Dispensation.
Sec. 12. To begin therefore with our Blessed Saviour himself. It is evident that he never recommended any such way of worshipping God, as is contended for by the Mysticks, nor promised to reward the most sincere of his Followers with the Vision of God whilst in this State. As for his own Life, which is certainly the most perfect Pattern, it was Active to the greatest Degree; and bating some times of Retirement, to pray or the like, was wholly spent in Conversation, and doing Good to others. Then as to the Substance of his Doctrine, it consisted in acquainting the Jews that he himself was the Messias, whose Coming was so long ago, and so often foretold by the Ancient Prophets. He also acquainted them with the Nature of his Office and Mediatorship, and shew'd them how mightily they were mistaken in their Interpretations of the Prophets concerning him. He let them know, that, contrary to their Expectation, his Kingdom was not of this World; but that his Business was to bring Men out of Darkness to Light, and from the Bondage and Slavery of Sin, to the Liberty of the Sons of God. He taught them to abandon all ungodly Lusts, and to set their Hearts upon Things above; assuring them, that if they continu'd in his Love, they should be rewarded with everlasting Happiness. And lest his Disciples,and those Churches which should be planted by their Ministry, should be destitute of necessary Encouragement and Assistance, he assures them, in most endearing Terms, of his Love towards and Care over them, and promises speedily to send them the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, which should not only assure them of his own, and the Father's Love towards them, but also enable them to work such Miracles as should be sufficient to confirm the Truth of their Mission. But no where promises the Enjoyment of the Beatifick Vision here; but bid them to expect their Reward hereafter; assuring them, that whither he went they could not follow him now, but should follow him afterwards, and that he went to prepare a place for them. Nor did he even mention his having purchas'd for Mankind such a Privilege, as that they might, by diligently improving what was given them, come to God without any other Means, but rather the quite contrary: For he says, No Man cometh to the father but by me; now certainly the way to come to Christ, is to believe in him; which, according to the Apostle S. Paul, presupposes, hearing him preach'd.
Sec. 13, And as our Blessed Saviour did never promise to reward the Endeavours of sincere Persons, with such a Power whereby they might attain, without any External Means, all Things necessary to Salvation, much less the Intuition, or beholding the Divine Presence whilst in this Life; so neither do we find that they either expected or enjoy'd it. The Method of God in teaching his People, was still the same as it ever had been, viz. by revealing his Will to some few, in order to the having it communicated by their Ministry to others. And I desire any one that thinks otherwise, to produce me one single Instance of any Person that came to the true Knowledge of God, and the necessary means of Salvation, but by this way. The contrary is evident from the Example of the Eunuch (Acts viii.) who was a devout Person, and well dispos'd; and we find his Zeal and Sincerity rewarded by God's sending to him a proper Person to instruct him.
Sec. 14. Which is still further confirmed by the Example of Cornelius(Acts x.) who being a devout Man, and one that fear'd God with all his House, and gave much Alms to the People, and pray'd to God always, was so far accepted by God, that he was graciously pleas'd to provide Means for his further Instruction in his Duty, and sent Peter to instruct him. Whereby he has plainly pointed out to us the way by which he would have us seek for the Knowledge of him, viz. by applying our selves to such as he has appointed to teach his People. Accordingly we find that Cornelius's Alms and Devotions, and incessant waiting upon God, did neither advance him to the Beatifick Vision, nor so far as to have those Truths presented to him by way of Object, immediately, which were necessary to be believ'd by him in order to his Salvation; neither is he at all encourag'd to look for or depend upon Vision or Intuition, but is sent to a Man like himself, to hear with his outward Ears, those things which concern'd his Eternal Welfare. Whereas, if God had ever granted to Mankind a Power whereby he might, by due Application and Attention, attain to a sufficient Knowledge of God, and Things necessary to Salvation; or, if such a Privilege, though deny'd before, had been purchas'd by Jesus Christ; there is no question, but Persons so extraordinarily well qualified as these two good Men, Cornelius and the Eunuch, were, would have enjoy'd the Benefit of it; and then the Event would have been, that by their constant attending upon God, and unwearied Diligence in meditating and practising good Things, they would have increas'd in Spiritual Knowledge, and made nearer Approaches to God, till they had attain'd to Perfection. But we find nothing like this, but that on the contrary they were oblig'd to be instructed by the same means which God had appointed for other Men.
Sec. 15. And then as to matter of Vision, the whole Tenor of the Apostle's Doctrine runs counter to it. S. Paul tells us, that all those noble Actions which were perform'd by the Ancient Worthies (Heb. xi.) were done thro' Faith; which as himself defines, is (v.i.) is, The Substance of Things hoped for, the Evidence of Things not seen. It is an Assent which we give to Things as true, which we can neither apprehend by our Senses, nor demonstrate by our Reasoning; so that the only Objects of our Faith are such Things as we receive upon the Credit of another; which, how far it is from Vision, is evident to common Sense. And the same Apostle tells us, that now we see through A Glass darkly; and that we know in part, and prophesie in part.
Sec. 16. Hence it is plain, that all those Texts which speak of the plentiful Effusion of the Spirit in the times of the Gospel, are quite misunderstood by all those, who interpret them after such a manner, as if God had given such a Measure of it to all Mankind, that upon a due Improvement of it, they might attain to the Knowledge of him, and of all Things necessary to Salvation. Whereas it appears, that even in the earliest Times of the Gospel, there was no such thing; but then all the Churches were planted by the Ministry of the Apostles, who ordain'd others to succeed them in their Office. If therefore in those Times it was not granted, it is a ridiculous Absurdity to expect it in this Age; and no small Degree, either of Impudence or Madness to pretend to it.
Sec. 17. Since it is not foreign to the Matter in hand, the Reader will, I hope, pardon me if I digress a little, to shew why we cannot reasonably expect Prophets now. And it seems to me, that there are several Reasons to be given why there should be Prophets during the time of the Mosaical Dispensation, rather than after the Gospel had taken Root. For, the Promises made to the Jews having Relation to their possessing the Land of Canaan, God was pleas'd to send them Prophets to quicken their Memories, and keep them in mind of their Duty, that thereby his Judgments might be averted from them; (and especially, because of the prevailing Idolatry of those Times; for after they were well fix'd in the Practice of the True Religion, and out of that Danger, we find no Prophets;) and we find that most of the Ancient Prophecies tend that way. But now we are quite upon another Bottom; we are taught, that we have here no continuing City; that, when these Tabernacles shall be dissolv'd, we have a Habitation not made with Hands, eternal in the Heavens. That we are to set our Minds on Things above, not on Things on the Earth; that we are to deny our selves, and take up our Cross and follow Christ; that, through many Tribulations we must enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, and many Passages to the same Effect. So that to have Prophets foretelling future Events, relating to the Welfare and Preservation of our Temporals, or the contrary, seems not so proper for a People, whose very Profession supposes them to have laid aside all Solicitude concerning them. Again, before the Coming of Christ, God's Will was but imperfectly reveal'd; and it was necessary that there should be Fore-runners to prepare the way against his Coming, and raise the Expectation of him in the People, that they might be the better prepar'd to receive him. But after he was once come, who was to compleat and fulfil all; after God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, had, in these last days, spoken unto us by his Son, whom he has appointed Heir of all things, &c. who was the Brightness of his Glory, and the express Image of his person, &c. I say, after God had, by this glorious Person, manifested and reveal'd his whole Will to us, and declared whatsoever he requir'd to be believ'd and done by us, whilst in these Mortal Bodies; there was no longer need of Revelation to those who had received the most perfect one that could be deliver'd. So that all those Reasons being remov'd, which were to be given for a Succession of immediately inspired Prophets before the Coming of Christ; it is altogether groundless, to say no worse of it, to expect any now he is come. What Methods God will use, when his time is come, to bring in the Fulness of the Gentiles, and to convert the Jews; or what Endowments he will bestow upon those Persons whom he shall please to make use of as his Instruments to compleat that great Work, will then be best known when it is come to pass. There is no Question but that he will use sufficient means. All that I contend for is, that those which he has already afforded, are abundantly sufficient for those who have the Happiness to be baptized, and brought up in the Profession of the Christian Faith; and consequently, that it is unreasonable to expect any other Assistances, or to seek any other means of serving God, than what are deliver'd in his Holy Word, and made use of in his Church.
Sec. 18. To return to our Argument. If these things, contended for by Enthusiasts, were not granted either under the Jewish or Christian Dispensation, as I hope has been sufficiently prov'd; it follows, a majori, that those who are depriv'd of those Advantages, which both Jews and Christians enjoy'd cannot have them: And therefore in vain do we search for Persons so endow'd amongst Mahometans or Heathens. For without any Breach of Charity, in respect to those Persons, who never were so happy as to have the Gospel preach'd to them; we may assure our selves, that they do not enjoy equal Privileges with us, who by our Baptism have a foederal Right to all those Assistances of the Holy Spirit promis'd to the Church in the Holy Scriptures. And yet there would not be much difference, if by their diligently adhering to any Principle or Light, which God has bestow'd upon Mankind in general, they might attain to true saving Knowledge. And for this Reason, our Author, who was himself a Mahometan, seems as little to have consulted the Honour of his Prophet Mahomet, and the necessity of believing his Doctrine, in feigning a Person brought up by himself, to have by his Application and Industry attain'd to the Knowledge of all things reveal'd to that suppos'd Prophet, as our Enthusiasts do value the Means which God has always us'd to convey his Will to Mankind. Whilst out of a groundless Charity, they do in a manner put all Men upon the Level, as to the Means of Salvation. Which Opinion of theirs, however plausible at first sight, upon the account of that specious Shew of Universal Charity to Mankind, does most certainly tend to the undervaluing and lessening those inestimable Benefits which our Blessed Saviour has purchas'd for, and promis'd to his Church; and ought no more to be receiv'd, than that charitable Opinion of Origen's who believ'd that after a certain time of Punishment, not only the wickedest of Men, but also the Devils themselves should be laved.
Sec. 19. I have now shewn that what is here held by our Author, and too many others in our times, has no manner of Foundation. That it was never promis'd nor expected, either under the Mosaical or Christian Dispensation; from whence I have inferr'd, that it cannot be expected any where else, and consequently that there is no such thing at all. If I have not spoken all the while particularly to my Author, the reason is, because I write to Christians, and chiefly have regard to those Errors, held by some of that Denomination, which are common with those of our Author. Besides, if that were requisite, 'tis only allowing for Argument sake, that the Alcoran was written by Inspiration, and that Mahomet was a Prophet, and then the same way of Arguing proves the Enthusiasm of our Author, who being a profess'd Mahometan, and they being oblig'd to believe that Mahomet is the Catimo'l anbyai, i.e. The Seal of the Prophets, and that theirs is the last Dispensation, which Mankind shall ever receive from God, has ventured to suppose the Possibility of a Man's attaining to the true Knowledge of God, and Things necessary to Salvation, and all other Things, both Spiritual and Natural, belonging either to this World, or that to come, without the Help of any outward Instruction.
Sec. 20. I need not insist upon this any longer; I shall only remark, that as true Piety is the same in all Ages and Climates, and good solid Sense too, so also is Enthusiasm. And I have sometimes wonder'd, when I have read the Whimsies and Conceits of the Arab Enthusiasts (whose numerous Sects equal those Heresies mention'd by Epiphanius, or even that plentiful Crop which the Devil has sow'd of them in our times) to find such a Harmony between them and ours at present. Such a perfect Agreement in their wild Notions, and these express'd in the very self-same Cant, may easily convince any one, that the Instruments of both were strung and tun'd by the same Hand. Another thing observable is this; Let the Enthusiast have never such great Abilities, there is always something or other which proves his Pretensions to Revelation to be false; and as they tell us, that, let the Devil change himself into what Shape he will he can never conceal his Cloven Foot; so neither can the Enthusiast make himself pass for Inspired, with any Person of tolerable discerning; but there will appear some very considerable Flaw, which shall manifestly prove him a Deceiver, or at least a Person deceiv'd. This is the Fate of them, and our Author could not avoid it. He has indeed carried his Philosopher beyond the Orb of Saturn, but he might as well have sav'd him that Trouble; for he brought nothing down with him, but what he himself was able to furnish him withal before he went; viz. Mahometan Divinity, and Aristotelian Philosophy. As to the former of these I shall not need to say any thing; but I am well assur'd, that when he talk'd of those Discoveries in the latter, made by him when in that glorious State, he never dream'd in the least of those more certain Discoveries which should be made afterwards, by the Sagacity of our Astronomers and Philosophers; and that the contrary of what he believ'd; as to those things, should be prov'd by undeniable Demonstration.
Sec. 21. Nor does it succeed better with such Pretenders in our Age; who, taught by woful Experience, have of late grown more wary, and rarely pretended to Inspirations, except in such Matters as they might be well assur'd of by other means. The safest way for them,I confess, tho' at the same time extreamly absurd and ridiculous. For if a Man pretends to know a thing by Divine Inspiration, when there are other Means of attaining it: I have much more reason to think, either that he is an Impostor and Deceiver,or else, that through warmth of Conceit, or the Delusion of the Devil, he imagines himself to be divinely inspired when he is not; rather than to believe that God, who does nothing but for most wise and excellent Ends and Purposes, should reveal a thing to any Person immediately, when he had before afforded him sufficient Means of knowing it otherwise.
Sec. 22. It remains that we beg of God to give us his Grace, and the Assistance of his Holy Spirit, that we may sincerely and heartily apply our selves to the diligent Use of those Means which he has appointed for our Instruction, in his Church. That we seek for the Knowledge of him in his holy Word, and approach to him in his Ordinances, and by a holy pious Conversation. These are the Ways which he has chalk'd out for us; and if any Persons will not be content with these Means, but will walk in By-Paths, and follow every Ignis fatuus that presents it self; if they be are the last convinc'd of their fatal Mistake when it is too late, they must blame themselves. God of his infinite Mercy lead them out of their Errors, and guide both them and us through this imperfect State, till at last we attain to the perfect Vision, and full Enjoyment of himself; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
[Footnote 33: See Sect. 84, 85, &c.]
[Footnote 34: 2 Pet. 1. 21.]
[Footnote 35: Dan. x. 12.]
[Footnote 36: Amos vii. 14.]
[Footnote 37: By seeing all things in God, I have no regard to Mr. Malebranch's Notion, but only to that of our Author. See Sect. 90, &c.]
[Footnote 38: Maimonides in Pocockii Porta Mosis, p. 171.]
[Footnote 39: See the letter concerning, the Quietists, printed with the B. of Sarum's Letters.]
[Footnote 40: John Chap. xiv, xv, xvi, xvii.]
[Footnote 41: John xiii, 36. xiv, 2.]
[Footnote 42: John xiv, 7. Rom. x, 17, 18.]
[Footnote 43: Cor. xiii, 12, 9.]
[Footnote 44: Heb. i, 1.]
[Footnote 45: See Sect. 109.]
[Footnote 46: See Sect. 90.]
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