Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
The ultima ratio of Belief
By Robert South (16341716)
From Sermons preached upon Several Occasions
UPON the whole matter therefore, if by true and sound reasoning I stand assured that God has affirmed or declared a thing, all objections against the same, though never so strong (even reason itself, upon the strictest principles of it, being judge), must of necessity fall to the ground. Forasmuch as reason itself cannot but acknowledge, that men of the best wit, learning, and judgment, may sometimes take that for a contradiction, which really is not so; but still, on the other side, must own it utterly impossible for a being infinitely perfect, holy, and true, either to deceive or be deceived in any thing affirmed or attested by it. And moreover, to carry this point yet something further; if a proposition be once settled upon a solid bottom, and sufficiently proved, it will and must continue to be so, notwithstanding any after-arguments or objections brought against it, whether we can answer and clear off the said objections, or no; I say, it lessens not our obligation to believe such a proposition one jot. And if the whole body of Christians, throughout all places and ages, should with one voice declare, that they could not solve the foregoing objection urged against the resurrection, and taken from the continual transmutation of bodies into one another, or any other such like arguments, it would not abate one degree of duty lying upon them, to acknowledge and embrace the said article, as an indispensable part of their Christian faith; nor would they be at all the worse Christians, for not being able to give a philosophical account or solution thereof; so long as, with a non obstante to all such difficulties, they stedfastly adhered to and acquiesced in the article itself. For, so far as I can see, this whole controversy depends upon, and ought to be determined by the Scriptures, as wholly turning upon these two points, viz. 1st, Whether a future general resurrection be affirmed and revealed in the Scriptures, or no? And 2ndly, Whether the said Scriptures be the Word of God? And if the matter stands thus, I am sure that none can justly pretend to the name of a Christian, who in the least doubts of the affirmative in either of these two points. And consequently, if this article stands thus proved, all arguments formed against it, upon the stock of reason or philosophy, come too late to shake it; for they find the thing already fixed and proved; and being so, it cannot, by after-allegations, be disproved. Since it being also a proposition wholly founded upon revelation, and the authority of the revelation upon the authority of the revealer, all arguments from any thing else are wholly foreign to the subject in dispute; and accordingly ought by no means to be admitted, either as necessary proofs of it, or so much as competent objections against it. For whatsoever is contrary to the word of affirmation of a being infinitely knowing and essentially infallible, let it carry with it never so much shew of truth, yet it certainly is and can be nothing else but fallacy and imposture. And upon this one ground I firmly do and ought to believe a general resurrection, though ten thousand arguments from the principles of natural philosophy could be opposed to it.