John Smith: Discurso III – Semelhança

Such as men themselves are, such will God Himself seem to be. It is the maxim of most wicked men, that the Deity is some way or other like themselves; their souls do more than whisper it, though their lips speak it not; and though their tongues be silent, yet their lives cry it upon the house-tops and in the public streets. That idea which men generally have of God is nothing else but the picture of their own complexion: that archetypal notion of Him which hath the supremacy in their minds, is none else but such a one as hath been shaped out according to some pattern of themselves; though they may so clothe and disguise this idol of their own, when they carry it about in a pompous procession to expose it to the view of the world, that it may seem very beautiful, and indeed anything else rather than what it is. Most men (though it may be they themselves take no great notice of it), like that dissembling monk — aliter sentire in scholis, aliter in musceis,— are of a different judgment in the schools from what they are in the retirements of their private closets. There is a double head as well as a double heart. Men’s corrupt hearts will not suffer their notions and conceptions of Divine things to be cast into that form into which a higher reason, which may sometimes work within them, would put them.1

  1. The place of search is the seeker’s own soul: this also is a cardinal maxim with the Platonists. Not by reference to external nature, nor to the abstractions of being in general, but in the depths and heights of the soul’s own life, man must look for a reflection of Divinity. Smith has a discourse on the Existence and Nature of God,” in which he expounds this, claiming to be with Plato and Plotinus. In that discourse he finds in the soul (1) reason, but deficient reason, so he must look away to infinite reason ; (2) the exercise of power, but very limited, so lie must look from that to omnipotence ; (3) love, so he must look to infinite love ; (4) and (5), limitation in place and time, so he must look to eternity and infinity; (6) a limited freedom, so he must look to perfect freedom ; and (7) ideals (imperfect and unrealised) of goodness, so he must look away to eternal goodness and perfect beauty. He closes with a preference for this last reflection. The affirmative aspect of mysticism is thus very marked in Smith ; he and his Cambridge associates found nothing congenial in the via negativa to which Neo-Platonism resorted in its later phase. For historical evidence that it is Love, and not Fear, which has predominated in Religion, see Dr. Jevons, Introduction to the History of Religion.