"Our Understandings have a Natural, which is a Fallible-light; and therefore often leads us wrong."

— Leslie, Charles (1650-1722)

Place of Publication
Printed for C. Brome, W. Keblewhite, and G. Strahan.
"Our Understandings have a Natural, which is a Fallible-light; and therefore often leads us wrong."
Metaphor in Context
But how then does he Answer the Objection, which he puts against himself, of the many False Religions in the world? It was not the True Light which guided men into them. And if they have no other Light, how came they by them? He says, it was because they did not follow the True Light. But why did they not follow it? How could they help following of it, if they had nothing else to follow? What was it that Resisted It? Or, what could Resist It, if we have no Natural Light or Understanding to Refuse its Dictates? But suppose our No Light or Understanding could shut its eyes, and not follow this light; then it might lose the True Religion: But could no understanding invent another Religion? For that is something Positive; and something must Guide and Direct Men to it. The Absence of Light is Darkness, not a False-light. But an Ignis Fatuus, or Will i'th Wisp, is a Light that leads Men wrong. Men that are in Error follow a Light, but it is Falselight, and they think themselves to be in the Right. Our Understandings have a Natural, which is a Fallible-light; and therefore often leads us wrong. What else is the meaning of Prov. 3. 5. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own Understanding. It is true, that Understanding and the Natural light of it, was given us by God: And he made it Right and True; but Fallible, else it could never be mistaken. God has placed a Natural light, as a Candle in our Hearts; and His Supernatural light does Influence and Direct it, [Page 262 (135)] when we seek to Him for it, and serve Him according as He has commanded: Solomon says, Prov. xx. 27. The Spirit of man is the Candle of the Lord, searching all the Inward Parts. You will not call the Spirit of Man the Eternal Light, which is GOD. This was the Mistake which drove George Fox to make our Soul aPart of God. without Beginning, and Infinite in it self, &c. as shewn in The Snake, Sect. ii. and to make us even Equal with God, as shewn, Sect. iii. And Mr. Penn, p. 15. of this Book, ( Primit. Christian. ) allows no Natural light to the Understanding, For (says he) Man can no more be a Light to his Mind than he is to his Body: And thence infers, that as the Eye has no Light in it self, so neither the Understanding: He makes our Nature and Minds wholly Dark of themselves, only succeptible of Super-natural light, when sent into our Understanding: And that all the Light we have is thus Supernatural; and only called Natural, because, as he says, It is natural to Man to have a Supernatural-light. I will not take advantage of the Philosophy of this; for, I suppose his meaning to be, that it is Natural to the Understanding to Receive a Light that is infused into it, as for the Eye to see by an Extraneous light; that is, it is an Organ fitted to Receive Light, tho' it has none in it self; as the Understanding to Apprehend, tho' it has no Reason or Light in it self Thus he expresses it, p. 50. All men have Reason, (says he) but all Men are not Reasonable; which must be taken with the same grains of Allowance. For every Man is a Reasonable Creature, that is, the Definition of a Man. But according to His Hypothesis, tho' all men have Reason, yet not Natural. but supernaturally put into their Understanding: And so, tho they have Reason, yet are they not Reasonable, because that Reason is none of their own, only as Gifted, that is, Accidental, but not Natural to them; and so they can no more be called Rational, than a Bag can be called Rich, that has Money in it. For he says, p. 15. That God, is the Light of our Nature, of our minds, and understandings. If it were meant as an Assistant, Guide or Director, to the Light of our Understanding, there were no differance betwixt us: But quite to put out the Natural light of our understandings, and make it but only Passive, that is, succeptible of another light, that is the point on which I would Reason now with Mr. Penn. It is said 1 Cor. 1. 21. That the world by Wisdom knew not God. What Wisdom was this? it could not be a Divine light; and if Man have no Natural light; it must be the Quaker third sort of light, that is, No light at all. But if by Wisdom here, you mean Mens Natural light or Reason, the Text is Plain and Easy.

It is Written, 1 John. 3. 20. If our Heart Condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Now, by Heart, here must be meant the Natural light; because, if it means the Light which is God, God is not Greater than Himself. And it is supposed here that the Heart does not Know all Things: Therefore this must be meant of our Natural Conscience, and not of God. And now here is a Natural light, which does Reprove of Evil, which Mr. Penn supposes cannot be shewn, p. 30. Our Saviour says, Luk. xii. 57. Yea, and why even of your selves judge not what is Right? But why of your selves, if we have no Light at all of our selves whereby to Judge?
Ad Fontes: Digital Library of Classic Protestant Texts
Leslie, Charles, Five discourses by the author of The snake in the grass: viz. On water-baptism; Episcopacy; Primitive heresie of the Quakers; Reflections on the Quakers; A brief account of the Socinian trinity. London: Printed for C. Brome, W. Keblewhite, and G. Strahan, 1700. [University of Oxford, Bodleian Library: Vet. A3 e.1249.]
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The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.