Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Faith in Mysteries
By Sir Thomas Browne (16051682)
From Religio Medici
AS for those wingy mysteries in divinity, and airy subtleties in religion, which have unhinged the brains of better heads, they never stretched the pia mater of mine. Methinks there be not impossibilities enough in religion for an active faith: the deepest mysteries ours contains have not only been illustrated, but maintained, by syllogism and the rule of reason. I love to lose myself in a mystery; to pursue my reason to an O altitudo! Tis my solitary recreation to pose my apprehension with those involved enigmas and riddles of the Trinity, incarnation and resurrection. I can answer all the objections of Satan and my rebellious reason with that odd resolution I learned of Tertullian, Certum est quia impossibile est. I desire to exercise my faith in the difficultest point; for, to credit ordinary and visible objects, is not faith but persuasion. Some believe the better for seeing Christs sepulchre; and, when they have seen the Red Sea, doubt not of the miracle. Now contrarily, I bless myself, and am thankful, that I lived not in the days of miracles; that I never saw Christ nor His disciples. I would not have been one of those Israelites that passed the Red Sea; nor one of Christs patients, on whom He wrought His wonders: then had my faith been thrust upon me; nor should I enjoy that greater blessing pronounced to all that believe and saw not. Tis an easy and necessary belief, to credit what our eye and sense hath examined. I believe He was dead, and buried, and rose again; and desire to see Him in His glory, rather than to contemplate Him in His cenotaph or sepulchre. Nor is this much to believe: as we have reason, we owe this faith unto history: they only had the advantage of a bold and noble faith, who lived before His coming, who, upon obscure prophecies and mystical types, could raise a belief, and expect apparent impossibilities.