The Wisdom of John Locke

With one exception, these quotes are from John Locke’s “The Reasonableness of Christianity.”

“…they may be supposed to have had in the mouths of the speakers, who used them according to the language of that time and country wherein they lived; without such learned, artificial, and forced senses of them, as are sought out, and put upon them in most of the systems of divinity, according to the notions that each one has been bred up in.”

“…it seems a strange way of understanding a law, which requires the plainest and directest words, that by death should be meant eternal life in misery.”

“I allow to the makers of systems and their followers, to invent and use what distinctions they please, and to call things by what names they think fit. But I cannot allow to them, or to any man, an authority to make a religion for me, or to alter that which God hath revealed.”

“Though the works of nature, in every part of them, sufficiently evidence a Deity; yet the world made so little use of their reason that they saw him not, where, even by the impressions of himself, he was easy to be found.”

“The law is the eternal, immutable standard of right. And a part of that law is, that a man should forgive, not only his children, but his enemies, upon their repentance, asking pardon, and amendment. And therefore he could not doubt that the author of this law, and God of patience and consolation, who is rich in mercy, would forgive his frail offspring, if they acknowledge their faults, disapproved the iniquity of their transgressions, begged his pardon, and resolved in earnest for the future to conform their actions to this rule, which they owned to be just and right.”

“Faith, on the other side, is the assent to any proposition, not thus made out by the deductions of reason, but upon the credit of the proposer, as coming from God in some extraordinary way of communication. This way of discovering truths to men we call revelation.”

“It should seem, by the little that has hitherto been done in it, that ‘tis too hard a task for unassisted reason, to establish morality, in all its parts, upon its true foundations, with a clear and convincing light.”

“We must not cull out, as best suits our system, here and there a period or a verse, as if they were all distinct and independent aphorisms; and make these the fundamental articles of the Christian faith, and necessary to salvation, unless God has made them so. There be many truths in the Bible, which a good Christian may be wholly ignorant of, and so not believe, which, perhaps, some lay great stress on, and call fundamental articles, because they are distinguishing points of their communion.”

“[God] promised a deliverer, whom in his good time he sent; and then declared to all mankind, that whoever would believe him to be the Saviour promised, and take him now raised from the dead, and constituted the Lord and Judge of all men, to be their King and Ruler, should be saved. This is a plain intelligible proposition; and the all-merciful God seems herein to have consulted the poor of this world, and the bulk of mankind: these are articles that the laboring and illiterate man may comprehend. This is a religion suited to vulgar capacities, and the state of mankind in this world, destined to labour and travail. The writers and wranglers in religion fill it with niceties, and dress it up with notions, which they make necessary and fundamental parts of it; as if there were no way into the Church, but through the Academy or Lycaeum. The greatest part of mankind have not leisure for learning and logic, and superfine distinctions of the schools. Where the hand is used to plough and the spade, the head is seldom elevated to sublime notions, or exercised in mysterious reasoningsTis well if men of that rank (to say nothing of the other sex) can comprehend plain propositions, and a short reasonings about things familiar to their minds, and nearly allied to their daily experience.”

“Go beyond this, and you amaze the greatest part of mankind; and may as well talk Arabic to a poor day labourer, as the notions and language that the books and disputes of religion are filled with, and as soon will be understood.”

“I have talked with some of their teachers, who confess themselves not to understand the difference in debate between them; and yet the points they stand on, are reckoned of so great weight, so material, so fundamental in religion, that they divide communion, and separate upon them.”

“And if the poor had the gospel preached to them, it was, without doubt, such a gospel as the poor could understand, plain and intelligible.”

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