Tag Archives: John Dryden

A Layman’s Faith

Religio-Laici

Religio Laici, or A Layman’s Faith. John Dryden’s radical 1682 poem comprises a warrant for personal discipleship.

“For every man is building a several way; impotently conceited of his own model, and his own materials: reason is always striving, and always at a loss; and of necessity it must so come to pass, while it is exercised about that which is not its proper object. Let us be content at last, to know God, by his own methods; at least, so much of him, as he is pleased to reveal to us in the sacred Scriptures; to apprehend them to be the word of God, is all our reason has to do; for all beyond it is the work of faith, which is the seal of heaven impressed upon our human understanding.

“Yet to such as are grounded in the true belief, those explanatory Creeds, the Nicene and this of Athanasius, might perhaps be spared: for what is supernatural will always be a mystery in spite of exposition: and for my own part the plain Apostles Creed, is most suitable to my weak understanding; as the simplest diet is the most easy of digestion.

“But, by asserting the Scripture to be the canon of our faith, I have unavoidably created to myself two sorts of enemies: the papists indeed, more directly, because they have kept the Scripture from us, what they could; and have reserved to themselves a right of interpreting what they have delivered under the pretence of infallibility: and the fanatics more collaterally, because they have assumed what amounts to an infallibility in the private spirit: and have distorted those texts of Scripture, which are not necessary to salvation, to the damnable uses of sedition, disturbance, and destruction of the civil government.

“The florid, elevated, and figurative way is for the passions; for love and hatred, fear and anger, are begotten in the soul by showing their objects out of their true proportion; either greater than the life, or less; but instruction is to be given by showing them what they naturally are. A man is to be cheated into passion, but to be reasoned into Truth.”
John Dryden, Preface to Religio Laici, 1682

(Ed: One of our regular readers complained recently about the length of a typical Veracity post. His complaint was that they are too short. Well…far be it from us to ignore our readers.)
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