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THE Character of a believing Christian in paradoxes and seeming contradictions is said to have appeared first in 1643, as a separate pamphlet, under Bacon's name ;1 and in 1648 it was inserted in the Remains; upon the authority no doubt of that pamphlet; which is therefore the sole authority on which it is ascribed to Bacon, and amounts in effect to no more than this that within seven years after his death somebody had either thought it was his, or thought that it might be plausibly attributed to him, and that his name on the titlepage would help the sale.
Rawley says nothing of it: and as he can hardly be supposed to have overlooked it in the collection, his silence must be understood as equivalent to a statement that it was one of the many" pamphlets put forth under his lordship's name," which "are not to be owned for his." Tenison says nothing about it. No traces of it, or of any part of it, or of anything at all resembling it, are to be found among the innumerable Baconian manuscripts, fair and foul, - fragments, rough notes, discarded beginnings, loose leaves, which may still be seen at Lambeth, in the British Museum, and 2 Resuscitatio, at the end.
1 Rémusat, p. 150. note.
in other repositories. So far as I know, if the publisher of the edition of 1643 had not put Bacon's name upon the titlepage, there would have been no reason at all for thinking that he had anything to do with it; and as it is, the reason is so slight, that if the probabilities were otherwise balanced, it would hardly turn the scale. The name on the titlepage of such a publication is enough to suggest and justify the inquiry whether there be any evidence, internal or external, to confirm the statement; but can scarcely be taken for evidence in itself, even in the absence of evidence the other way.
In the opinions and sentiments which the work implies, there is nothing from which I should infer either that it was not Bacon's or that it was. It is the work of an orthodox Churchman of the early part of the 17th century, who fully and unreservedly accepting on the authority of revelation the entire scheme of Christian theology, and believing that the province of faith is altogether distinct from that of reason, found a pleasure in bringing his spiritual loyalty into stronger relief by confronting and numbering up the intellectual paradoxes which it involved. In these days of uncertain faith it has indeed been mistaken for sarcastic, but I can have no doubt whatever that it was written (whoever wrote it) in the true spirit of the Credo quia impossibile, and not only in perfect sincerity, but also in profound security of conviction. One might as well suppose that the Athanasian Creed was written in derision of the particular doctrine of the Trinity, as that this was written in derision of the doctrines of the Christian Church in general.
As far as the opinions are concerned therefore, it might well enough have been written by Bacon: for we know that he did earnestly believe and continually insist upon the necessity of keeping the domains of Reason and Faith distinct. "As it was aptly said by one of Plato's school the sense of man resembles the sun, which openeth and revealeth the terrestrial globe, but obscureth and concealeth the celestial; so doth the sense discover natural things, but darken and shut up divine. . . Therefore attend his will as himself openeth it, and give unto faith that which unto faith belongeth; for more worthy is it to believe than to think or know, considering that in knowledge (as we now are capable of it) the mind suffereth from inferior natures; but in all belief it suffereth from a spirit which it holdeth superior and more authorised than itself."1 A dozen passages might be quoted of the same tenor. Upon which principle, to enumerate the points in which the instinct of belief, resting on that higher authority, overrules the instincts of the understanding, is to celebrate the triumph of the worthiest part of man's nature. And this, I have no doubt, is what the writer of these "Christian Paradoxes" thought he was doing.
Turning however from the subject and substance to the style, the evidence appears to me to be decidedly against the supposition that Bacon was the writer. It is impossible indeed to say that, among the thousand moods and humours which such a mind must have passed through, the whim of trying such a piece of intellectual ingenuity as this could never on any occasion have seized it. But I think I may say that in
1 Valerius Terminus of the Interpretation of Nature, cap. 1.
the whole compass of his writings, early and late, serious and playful, argumentative, rhetorical, devotional, official, familiar, public and private, there is not one to be found which at all resembles it. As this however is a point which hardly admits of proof or disproof, I must be content with stating my own opinion that the composition has none of the marks of Bacon's manner, but a manner of its own essentially unlike his; and producing in evidence the thing itself. And with this I conclude the collection of Literary Works.
CHARACTERS OF A BELIEVING CHRISTIAN,
IN PARADOXES AND SEEMING CONTRADICTIONS.1
A CHRISTIAN is one that believes things his reason cannot comprehend; he hopes for things which neither he nor any man alive ever saw: he labours for that which he knoweth he shall never obtain; yet, in the issue, his belief appears not to be false; his hope makes him not ashamed; his labour is not in vain.
He believes three to be one, and one to be three ; a father not to be elder than his son; a son to be equal with his father; and one proceeding from both to be equal with both; he believes three persons in one nature, and two natures in one person..
He believes a virgin to be a mother of a son; and
1 Remains, p. 88. Several corrections have been introduced into the text by one of the modern editors, apparently from some better copy; which I have therefore adopted: