William Spurstowe, 1666: MEDITATION XXXIX
Upon the Bucket and the Wheel
The saying of Democritus which he spoke concerning the philosophical truth that it did you hide itself and take up it’s about in and deep well may much more be affirmative theological truth when the whole doctrine of the gospel is called the mystery of Christ and the great mystery of godliness that there should be three distinct persons in one essence [the Trinity] and two distinct natures and one person [the Incarnation]. That virginity should conceive, Eternity be born; immortality die and mortality rise from death to life. Are not these, and many more of the like intricacies, unparalleled mysteries? Maybe not justly say, As the Samaritan woman did to our savior when he asked water of her, the well is deep, and who can descend into it, or fathom it?
And yet such is the pride and arrogance he of many men, as that, not contending themselves with the simplicity of believing, many make reason the sole standard where by to measure both the principles and conclusions of faith — for which it [reason] is is unapt as the weak of a bat hold the sun when it shines in its full strength; or the bill of a small bird to receive the ocean.
These high mysteries are not to be scanned, but to be believed; the knowledge and certainty of which does not arise from the evidence of reason from the revelation made of them in the Holy Scriptures; the mouth of God — who is truth itself and cannot lie, has spoken them, and therefore it cannot be otherwise.
But must then reason be wholly shut out as a useless thing in the Christian religion, are must it be confined to the agenda matters of duty and morality, In which you cannot be denied to be both of necessity and constant use? Surely even the creeds, also the doctrines and points which are properly of the faith, do not refuse to sober use of reason, so it be employed as a handmaid and not as mistress.
I have therefore thought that faith is as the bucket, which can best to send you this deep well of mystery and that reason is as the wheel, which stands ever the mouth of it, and keeps always its certain and fixed distance: but yet by its motion is instrumental both to let down the bucket and also to draw up again.
Faith discovers the deep things of God, then reason teaches us to submit ourselves and it to the obedience of faith that so it is. But never becomes more foolish and dangerous then when it busies itself and inquiries, and makes Nicodemus question, How can these things be? Then it turns giddy and loses itself in distracted and motions.
Alas, how unlike the ways and councils of God if they were no other but such as the wisest of men could trace out? How little glory with faith also give to God, if it did not pour forth its strength in asserting his power to affect greater things than can fall within the compass of natural disquisition? Yea, how could the Gospel be acquitted of the Jews stumbling at it, as dishonorable to their law? And the Gentiles derided as absurd in their philosophy, if that reason must be the measure of its mysteries?
Nature is so far from finding out what the gospel discovers, as that he cannot yield on to it, when it is revealed without a spirit of faith to assist it.
Be wise therefore, oh Christians, and set the bounds to your reason, beyond which it may not pass: as Moses did to the Israelites, while faith descends into the deeps of Gospel Mysteries, which angels with stretched out next have a more desire to pry into than ability perfectly to understand.
Now the boundary of reason is, confer and infer: to confer one scripture with another; and to infer conclusions, and to decide instructions thence, buy a clear logical discourse. But if you go further to gays, it may justly fear to be smitten of God, and like the pioneer or bold miner who digs into far for his rich vein of ore meet with a damp which chokes him.
My prayer therefore Shelby that of the apostles to Christ
Adde nobis fidem: Lord Increase our faith.
For if my faith do not exceed my reason, though advanced as high as a pitch as her Solomon had, yet might I well be numbered among those, whom St. Peter said are blind and cannot see far off.