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chapter 15: The Light of Reason Is Directive - Nathaniel Culverwell, An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature 
An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature, ed. Robert A. Greene and Hugh MacCallum, foreword by Robert A. Greene (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001).
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The Light of Reason Is Directive
’Tis Lumen dirigens, this νόμοςγραπτὸς1 [written law], ’tis a light for the feet, and a Lanthorn for the paths. For the understanding, ’tis the τὸἡγεμονικὸν,2 the leading and guiding power of the soul. The will looks upon that as Laeander in Musaeus lookt up to the Tower for Hero’s Candle, and calls it as he doth there λήχνονἐμου̑βιότοιοφαεσφόρονἡγεμονη̑α3 [a lamp which, while I live, is my illumination and guide]. Reason doth facem praeferre, it carries a Torch before the will, nay more then so, ’tis an eye to the blinde; for otherwise ’twere in vain to light up a Candle for a Caeca potentia[blind power], to see withal. Intellectuals are first in motion αἱπύλαιφωτὸς, these gates of light must first be set open before any glorious and beautiful object can enter in for the will to court and embrace. The will doth but echo to the understanding, and doth practically repeat the last syllable of the ultimum dictamen[final decision], which makes the Moralist well determine virtutes morales non possunt esse sine intellectualibus[moral virtues cannot exist without intellectual powers]; for to the presence of moral vertues there are necessarily pre-required Intelligentia & prudentia[intelligence and prudence], the one being the knowledge of principia speculativa[theoretical principles], as the other of principia operativa[practical principles]. That action must needs be hopeful and promising when the understanding aimes before the will shoots; but he that in an implicit way rushes upon any performance, though the action it self should prove materially good, yet such a one deserves no more commendation for it, then he would do that first put out his eyes, and then contingently hit the mark. Other creatures indeed are shot more violently into their ends, but man hath the skill and faculty of directing himself, and is (as you may so imagine) a rational kinde of arrow, that moves knowingly and voluntarily to the mark of its own accord. For this very end God hath set up a distinct lamp in every soul, that men might make use of their own light: all the works of men they should olere lucernam,4 smell of this Lamp of the Lord, that is to illuminate them all. Men are not to depend wholly upon the courtesie of any fellow-creature; not upon the dictates of men; nay not upon the votes and determinations of Angels; for if an Angel from heaven should contradict first principles, though I will not say in the language of the Apostle, let him be accursed,5 yet this we may safely say, that all the sons of men are bound to  dis-believe him. All arguments drawn from testimony and authority, (created authority I mean) were alwayes lookt upon as more faint and languishing, then those that were fetcht from reason. Matters of fact indeed do necessarily depend upon testimony, but in speculations and opinions none is bound so farre to adore the lamp of another, as to put out his own for it. For when any such controversie is mov’d, when any Author is quoted and commended, all the credit and esteem that is to be given him, is founded either in the Reason, which he doth annex to his assertion, or else in this more remote and general reason, that such a one had a very clear and bright lamp, that the Candle of the Lord did shine very eminently in him; therefore what he saies is much to be attended to, for in his words, though there should not be ratio explicata[an explicit reason], yet it is to be supposed that there’s ratio subintellecta[an implicit reason]. So that the assent here is ultimately resolv’d into the reason of him that speaks, and the other that receives it; for he that complies with a naked testimony, makes a tacit acknowledgement of thus much, that he is willing to resigne up himself to anothers reason, as being surer and fuller then his own; which temper and frame of spirit is very commendable in a state of inchoation: for χρὴτὸνμανθάνονταπιστεύειν[a learner must have trust], knowledge in the cradle cannot feed it self; knowledge in its infancy must suck at the breasts of another: And babes in intellectuals must take in the ἄδολονγάλα6 [sincere milk], those spoonfuls of knowledge that are put in their mouths, by such as are to nurse and to educate them. Paul when he sits at the feet of Gamaliel must observe the prints and footsteps of the Hebrew Doctor, and must roll himself in pulvere sapientum7 [in the dust of the wise]. Knowledge in its non-age, in its pupil-age and minority must hide it self under the wing and protection of a guardian. Men use at first to borrow light, and to light their candle at the light of anothers; yet here I finde some licence and encouragement given to these first beginners, to these setters up in learning to be ξητητικοὶ,8 modestly inquisitive into the grounds and reasons of that which is delivered to them.
Thus that sacred writer Hierom commends Marcella though one of the weaker sex, upon this account, that she was wont to search and examine his doctrine, ita ut me sentirem (sayes he) non tam discipulum habere quam judicem9 [so that I felt I did not have a pupil so much as a critic]. Nay, a farre greater then Hierome honours the Bereans, with the title of οἱεὐγενέστεροι,10 a more noble and generous sort of Christians that would bring even Apostolical words to the touch-stone. Why is it not then lawful for them that are in statu adulto, that are come to some pregnancy and maturity in knowledge, to look upon the stamp and superscription of any opinion, to look any opinion in the face? The great and noble Verulam much complains (and not without too much cause) of those sad obstructions in learning, which arose upon the extreme doting upon some  Authors, which were indeed men of rare accomplishments, of singular worth and excellency, and yet but men, though by a strange kinde of Ἀποθέωσις[apotheosis], a great part of the world would have worshipt them as gods.11 The Canonizing of some profane Authors, and esteeming all other as Apocryphal, hath blasted many buds of knowledge, it has quencht many sparks and beams of light, which otherwise would have guilded the world, with an Orient and unspotted lustre. Farre be it from me to drop one word that should tend to the staining and eclipsing of that just glory that is due to the immortal name of Aristotle. There are those that are envious and ungrateful enough, let them do it if they please; yet this I shall say, and it shall be without any injury to him, that to set him up as a Pope in Philosophy, as a visible head of the truth militant, to give him a negative voice, to give him an arbitrary power, to quote his texts as Scripture, to look upon his works as the irreversible decrees of Learning, as if he had seal’d up the Canon, so that whoe’re addes to him, or takes one word from him, must be struck with a present Anathema; to condemn all for Hereticks that oppose him, for Schismaticks that depart from him, for Apostates that deny him; what’s all this but to forget that he was but the Candle of the Lord, and to adore him as a Sun in the firmament that was set to rule the day of knowledge? ’tis to make him an ὌνὌντων12 [the Being of beings] the causa prima, the first mover of Learning, or at least ’twas to make him such an Intellectus agens13 [active intellect], as Averroes would have, that must enforme and quicken all that come after him. Could that modest Philosopher have foreseen and prophesied, that the world would thus flatter him, tis to be fear’d, that he would have thrown his works also, his legible self into Euripus14 rather then they should have occasioned such excessive Idolatry and partiality; yet ’tis no fault of his, if the world would over-admire him; for that which first inhanc’t the price and esteem of Aristotle, was that rich veine of reason that ran along and interlin’d most of his works. Let this therefore, and this only commend him still; for this is of indelible and perpetual duration; yet if these blinde admirers of him, could have followed him fully and entirely, they might have learnt of him a braver liberty and independency of spirit; for he scorned to enslave and captivate his thoughts to the judgement of any whatsoever; for though he did not deal violently and disingenuously with the works of his predecessors, (as some affirme) yet he dealt freely with them, and was not over-indulgent to them. He came like a Refiner amongst them, he purged away their drosse, he boyl’d away their froth and scum, he gathered a quintessence out of their rude and elementary principles. How impartially did he deal with his Master Plato? and not favour him in any of his Errors, and his words are answerable to his practises, you may hear him what he saith, and professes, τοὺςπαλαιοὺςαἰδει̑σθαιμῃνδίκαιον, φρίττεινδῃοὐκἄξιον,15 to have a reverent esteeme of Antiquity is but fitting and equal,  but to stand in awe of it, is base and unworthy. Potestas senatoria[senatorial power] is very honourable and beneficial, but dictatoria potestas[dictatorial power], is not to be allowed in the Common-wealth of Learning;16 yet such hath been the intolerable tyranny and oppression of the Roman faction, as that they have enjoyn’d and engaged as many as they could to serve and torture their wits, for the maintaining of whatever such a one as pleaseth them, shall please to say: for they care not how prejudicial or detrimental they prove to Learning, so that they may but train up their schollars in an implicit faith, in a blinde obedience, in a slavish acknowledgement of some infallible judge of controversies, and may shut up and imprison the generality of people in a dark and benighted condition, not so much as allowing them the light of their own Candle, this Lamp of the Lord that ought to shine in them. That great advancer of Learning whom I commended before, takes notice, that by such unhappy means as these, the more noble and liberal sciences, have made no progresse proportionable to that which more inferiour and mechanical Arts have done; for in these latter ingenia multorum in unum coeunt[the talents of many combine to one end], whereas in the former, ingenia multorum sub uno succubuerunt17 [the talents of many are over-come by one]. What brave improvements have been made in architecture, in manufactures, in printing, in the Pyxis nautica[sailor’s compass]? For here’s no limiting and restraining men to Antiquity, no chaining them to old Authors, no regulating them to I know not what prescribed formes and Canons, no such strange voices as these. You must not build better then your predecessors have done, you must not print fairer then the first Tullies Offices, that ere was printed; ’Tis not lookt upon as a transgression and a piaculum[crime], if they should chance to be a little more accurate then they were that went before them. But in speculatives, in meere Mathematicks (which one would think were farre enough from any breach of faith or manners) yet here if a Galilaeus should but present the world with a handful of new demonstrations, though never so warily and submissively, if he shall but frame and contrive a glasse for the discovery of some more lights; all the reward he must expect from Rome, is, to rot in an Inquisition, for such unlicenced inventions, for such venturous undertakings. The same strain of cruelty hath marcht more vehemently and impetuously in sacred and religious matters, for here Babylon hath heated her furnace seven times hotter, whilest under the pompous name of a Catholique Church, under the glittering pretences of Antiquity and Authority, they have as much as they could put out all the Lamps of the Lord. And that Bestian Empire hath transform’d all its Subjects into sensitive and irrational creatures. A noble Author of our own tells us in his book De Veritate, that he for his part takes them for the Catholique Church, that are constant and faithful to first principles; that common notions are the bottome and foundation upon which the Church is built.18  Excuse our diffidence here great Sir, the Church ’tis built upon a surer and higher Rock, upon a more Adamantine and precious foundation; yet thus much is acceptable and undeniable, that whoe’re they are that by any practices or customes, or traditions, or tenents, shall stop the passage of first principles, and the sound reason that flowes from them, they are in this farther from a Church then the Indians or the Americans, whilst they are not only Antichristian, but unnatural. And of the two the Church hath more security in resting upon genuine Reason, then in relying upon some spurious traditions; for think but a while upon those infinite deceits and uncertainties that such Historical conveyances are liable and exposed to, I alwayes except those sacred and heavenly volumes of Scripture, that are strung together as so many pearls, and make a bracelet for the Spouse to wear upon her hands continually: These writings the providence of God hath deeply engaged it self to keep as the apples of his own eye. And they do not borrow their certainty or validity from any Ecclesiastical or universal Tradition (which is at the most but previous and preparatory) but from those prints of Divinity in them, and specially from the seal of the same Spirit that endited them, and now assures the soul, that they were Oracles breathed from God himself. As for all other sacred Antiquity, though I shall ever honour it as much as any either did or can do justly, and with sobriety; and shall alwayes reverence a gray-headed truth; yet if Antiquity shall stand in competition with this Lamp of the Lord (though genuine Antiquity would never offer to do it) yet if it should, it must not think much if we prefer Reason, a daughter of Eternity, before Antiquity, which is the off-spring of time.19 But had not the spirit of Antichristianisme by its early twinings and insinuations wound and wrought it self into most flourishing and primitive times, into the bosome of a Virgin-Church, and had it not offered violence to the works of some sacred writers, by detracting and augmenting according to its several exigencies, by feigning and adulterating, by hiding and annihilating some of them, as much as they could, (the ordinary tricks of Antichrist, which he used alwayes more subtilly, though of late more palpably) had it not been for such devices as these, Antiquity had come flowing to us, in purer and fuller streams, in more fair and kindly derivations, and so might have run down more powerfully and victoriously then now it will. But Antichrist hath endeavoured to be the Abaddon and the Apollyon20 of all sacred antiquities, though the very reliques of those shining and burning lights that adorn’d the Church of God, have splendor enough to scatter the darknesse of Popery, that empty shadow of Religion, that arises ob defectum Luminis[from the absence of light]; yet Antiquity (setting aside those that were peculiarly θεόπνευστοι21 [inspired]) was but the first dawning of light which was to shine out brighter and brighter, till perfect day. Let none therefore so superstitiously look back to former ages, as to  be angry with new opinions and displayings of light, either in Reason or Religion. Who dares oppose the goodnesse and wisdome of God? if he shall enamour the world with the beauty of some pearls and jewels, which in former times have been hid, or trampled upon? if he shall discover some more light upon earth, as he hath let some new Stars be found in the heavens; This you may be sure and confident of, that ’tis against the minde and meaning of Antiquity to stop the progresse of Religion and Reason. But I know there are some will tell us of a visible tribunal, of an infallible head of the Church borne to determine all controversies, to regulate all men, ’tis a wonder they do not say Angels too. Others more prudently and equally resolve the final judgement of Controversies into a general and oecumenical Councel, but I shall speak to them all, in the language of the Philosopher, Δει̑τὸννόμονἄρχεινπάντων22 [the law ought to rule all], and I shall explain it according to the minde of the learned Davenant in his discourse de judice ac norma fidei & Cultus Christiani23 [On the Judge and Rule of Christian Faith and Conduct]: God only is to rule his own Church αὐτοκρατορικω̑ςκαὶνομοθετικω̑ς, judicio autoritativo, by a determining and Legislative power. Men that are fitted by God himself, are to guide and direct it ὑπηρετικω̑ςκαὶἑρμηνευτικω̑ς, judicio ministeriali, in way of subserviency to him, by an explication of his minde, yet so as that every one may judge of this ἰδιωτικω̑ςκαὶἀκροατικω̑ς, judicio privato & practicae discretionis,24 by acts of their own understanding illuminated by the Spirit of God; for there are no representatives in intellectuals and spirituals. Men may represent the bodies of others, in Civil and Temporal affairs in the acts of a Kingdome, and thus a bodily obedience is alwayes due to just authority; but there is none can alwayes represent the minde and judgement of another in the vitals and inwards of Religion; for I speak not of representations in outward order and discipline. A general councel does and may produce judicium forense[a public judgment], but still there is reserved, to every single individuum, judicium rationale25 [individual, rational judgment]; for can you think that God will excuse any one from Error upon such an account as this, such a Doctor told me thus; such a piece of Antiquity enform’d me so, such a general Councel determin’d me to this; where was thine own Lamp all this while? where was thy ratio illuminata & gubernata, secundum normas bonae & necessariae consequentiae rationali creaturae impressas[reason illuminated and directed by the logic natural to rational creatures]? Yet this must be gratefully acknowledged that these general Councels have been of publick influence, of most admirable use and advantage to the Church of God; though they are not of the very Essence of it; for ’tis well known that there were none of them till the dayes of Constantine: But herein is the benefit of Councels, that they are (or ought to be) a comparing and collecting of many Lights, an uniting and concentricating of the judgements of many holy, learned, wise  Christians with the Holy Ghost breathing amongst them, though not alwayes so fully and powerfully as that they shall be sure to be priviledg’d from every Error, but being all of them subject to frailty and fallibility, and sometime the major part of them proving the pejor part, there is none bound to give an extemporary assent to their votes and suffrages, unlesse his minde also concurre with theirs. That worthy Divine of our own, whom I mentioned before, speaks very fully and clearly to this, Ad nudam praescriptionem, aut determinationem alterius sine lumine privati judicii nemo est qui credere potest etiamsi cupiat maxime26 [not even the most willing is able to believe on the mere dictate or determination of another, without the light of private judgment]. The most eminent Mirandula will give you the reason of it; for (saies he) Nemo credit aliquid verum praecise quia vult credere illud esse verum, non est enim in potentia hominis facere aliquid apparere intellectui suo verum, quando ipse voluerit27 [no one believes precisely because he desires to believe, for it is not in the power of man to make a thing appear true to his intellect whenever he pleases]. But before there can be faith in any soul, there must be cognitio propositionis credendae[a knowledge of the proposition to be believed], and there must be inclinatio intellectus ad assentiendum huic propositioni revelatae, & cognitae28 [an inclination of the intellect to assent to this proposition when revealed and ascertained]; Before you understand the termes of any proposition, you can no more believe it, then if it came to you in an unknown tongue. A Parrat may repeat the Creed thus, Corvos poetas poetridasque picas cantare credas Pegaseium melos29 [one might think that ravens and magpies were poets and poetesses and sang an inspired song]. Though such at length may very safely conclude, as that talkative bird is reported to have done by a happy and extemporary contingency, Operam & oleum perdidi30 [I have lost my labour and my oil]. This is the misery of those implicit believers amongst the Papists (and ’tis well if not among some Protestants too) that do in aliorum sententias pedibus potius quam cordibus ire[accept the opinions of others in a pedestrian fashion, rather than with their hearts], dancing in a circular kinde of faith, they believing as the Church believes, and the Church believing as they believe, &c. and this is with them, נל הארם31 [the whole duty] the whole perfection of a Roman Catholique. Yet let none be so foolish or wicked as to think that this strikes at any thing, that is truly or really a matter of faith, when as it doth only detect the wretched vanity and deceit of a Popish and implicit credulity, which commands men to put out their Lamps, to pluck out their eyes, and yet to follow their leaders, though they rush upon the mouth of hell and destruction, whereas ’tis better to be an Argus in obedience, then a Cyclops a monstrum horrendum, &c.32 [horrible monster]. An eye open is more acceptable to God then an eye shut. Why do they not as well command men to renounce their sense, as to disclaim their understandings? Were it not as easie a tyranny to  make you to believe that to be white which you see to be black, as to command you to believe that to be true, which you know to be false? Neither are they at all wanting in experiments of both; for Transubstantiation, that heap and croud of contradictions, doth very compendiously put out the eyes of sense and reason both at once: yet that prodigious Error was established in the Lateran Councel33 under Innocent the third, which (as some contend) was a general and Oecumenical Councel. And if the Pope whom they make equivalent to all Councels, nay transcendent, if he in Cathedra shall think fit to determine, that the right hand is the left, they must all immediately believe him, under pain of damnation. So that first principles, common notions with the products and improvement of them, must needs be lookt upon as of bad consequence, of pernicious influence at Rome; what, to say that two and two makes four, that totum’s majus parte[the whole is greater than the part] (especially if the Church shall determine against it) O dangerous point of Socinianisme! O unpardonable Heresie of the first magnitude! Rebellion against the Catholique Church! a proud justling against the Chair of infallibility! Away with them to the Inquisition presently, deliver them up to the Secular powers, bring fire and fagot immediately; Bonners learned demonstrations,34 and the bloody discipline of the scarlet and purple Whore. No wonder that she puts out the Candle, and loves darknesse rather then light, seeing her deeds are evil.35 She holds a Cup in her hand,36 and won’t let the world sip and taste, and see how they like it, but they must swallow down the whole Philtrum and potion without any delay at all. Thus you may see the weak reeds that Babylon leans upon, which now are breaking and piercing her thorow. But Religion fram’d according to the Gospel, did alwayes scorn and refuse such carnal supports as these are. That truth that must look the Sun in the face for ever, can you think that it will fear a Candle? must it stand in the presence of God, and will it not endure the tryal of men? Or can you imagine that the Spouse of Christ can be so unmerciful as to pull out her childrens eyes? though she may very well restrain their tongues sometimes, and their pens if they be too immodest and unruly; I shall need to say no more then this, that true Religion never was, nor will be, nor need be shy of sound Reason which is thus farre Lumen dirigens[a directive light], as that ’tis oblig’d by the will and command of God himself, not to entertain any false religion, nor any thing under pretence of Religion that is formally and irreconciliably against Reason. Reason being above humane testimony and tradition, and being only subordinate to God himself, and those Revelations that come from God; now ’tis expresse blasphemy to say that either God, or the Word of God did ever, or ever will oppose Right Reason.