December 6, 2014

Richard Baxter (1615–1691) on the Arrogancy of Some in Believing Half-Truths

"4. Another expression of this Arrogant Ignorance is, When men will not believe the several truths of God, because they are not able to reconcile them, and place each one in its own order, and see the Method and Body of Truth in its true Locations and Proportion: Nay, perhaps they will believe none, because they cannot discern the harmony.

What abundance of seeming contradictions in Scripture do rise up in the eyes of an Ignorant Infidel? as strange apparitions do to a distracted man; or as many colors do before the inflamed or distempered eye. These self-conceited ignorant Souls, do imagine all to be impossible which exceedeth their knowledge; and because they cannot see[?] the sweet consent of Scripture, and how those places do suit, and fortify each other, which to them seemed to contradict each other, therefore they think that no one else can see it; no not God himself. They are like an ignorant fellow in a Watch-makers shop, that thinks nobody can fix[?] all the loose pieces together, and make a Watch of them, because he cannot. When he hath tried many ways, and cannot[?] hit it, he casts all by, and concludeth, that it's impossible.

And upon this account many cast away particular truths, though they will not cast away all. Some cannot reconcile the efficiency of the Spirit, with that of the Word, in the Conversion and Confirmation of sinners; and therefore some exclude one, and some the other, or own by the empty names; some cannot reconcile the Law, and the Gospel: And too great a part of the Teachers, in the Christian World, have been so troubled to reconcile God's grace, with man's free-will, that of old, many did too much exclude the natural liberty of the will, upon a supposition of the inconsistency; only the names of both were still owned.

Many cannot reconcile the sufficiency of Christ's satisfaction, with the necessity of man's endeavors, and inherent righteousness; and therefore one must be strained or denied. Many cannot reconcile common love and grace, with that which is special and proper to the Elect; and therefore some deny one, and some another. The like might be said of many other cases, wherein the Arrogancy of man's wit hath cast out God's truth: If both parts be never so express, yet they are upon this unbelieving questioning strain, [How can these things be?] How can these agree together? How can both be true? when yet it is evident, that God hath owned both.

It is certain, that the Truths of God's Word are one perfect well-jointed Body; and the perfect symmetry or proportion, is much of its beauty: It is certain, that Method is an excellent help in knowing Divine things: and that no man can know God's truths perfectly, til he see them all as in one Scheme or Body, with one view, as it were, and so sees the Location of each Truth, and the respect that it hath to all the rest; not only to see that there is no contradiction, but how every Truth doth fortify the rest. All this therefore is exceeding desirable, but it is not every man's lot to attain it, nor any man's in this world perfectly, or near to a perfection: It is true, that the sight of all God's frame of the Creation, uno intuitus, in all its parts, with all their respects to each other, would acquaint us with abundance more of the glory of it, then by looking on the Members peace-meal we can attain: But who can see them thus, but God? at least, what mortal eye can do it? And we shall never in this life attain to see the full Body of Divine Revealed-Truths, in that method and due proportion, as it necessary to the knowledge of its full beauty. It is a most perfectly melodious Instrument; but every man cannot see it in tune, so as to perceive the delectable harmony.

What then? because we cannot know all, shall we know nothing, or deny all? Because we cannot see the whole frame of the world, in its junctures and proportion, shall we say, That there is no world, or, that the parts are not rightly situated: or feign one to be inconsistent with the rest? we must rather receive first that which is most clear, and labor by degrees to see through the obscurities that beset the rest. And if we first find from God, that both are truths, let us receive them, and learn how to reconcile them after, as we can: And if we cannot reach it, its arrogancy therefore to think that it is not to be done, and to be so highly conceited of our own understandings."
Richard Baxter, The Arrogancy of Reason Against Divine Revelations, Repressed. Or, Proud Ignorance the Cause of Infidelity, and of Mens Quarrelling with the Word of God (London: Printed by T. N. for Tho. Underhil, 1655), 21–24. Some of the English has been updated.


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