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consider and weigh its pretences; yea, provoked them, for its sake and their own, (at the peril of their souls, and as they tendered their own best good and safety,) to an evyvúpwv, éléraois, an equal and discreet examination thereof. Other religions have for their justification insisted on the examples of ancestors, the prescriptions and customs of times, their large extent and prevalence among multitudes of people, their establishment by civil laws, and countenance of secular powers, (arguments wholly extrinsecal and of small validity,) declining all other test or trial of reason : yea, it is remarkable how Celsus, and others who made the foresaid objection, did contradict and confute themselves, affirming men ought without scruple to conform in opinion and practice to the religion prescribed by the laws of their country, be they what they will, never so absurd or dishonest. Δεί φυλάσσειν τα εις κοινόν κεκυpwuéva, (things established by common authority must be observed :) and, τα παρ' εκάστους ορθώς αν πράττοιτο ταύτη δρώμενα, örn éxeirous pidov, (things are every where rightly done, being done according to the fashion of each place.) Such were the rules and maxims those men urged. And this was indeed exacting irrational belief; a stifling men's reason, and muzzling. their judgments; this was a method enforcing men blindly to yield consent to 'errors and inconsistences innumerable. But the teachers and maintainers of Christianity proceeded otherwise ; confiding in the pure merit of their cause, they warned men to lay aside all prejudices; to use their best understandings; in a case of such moment, to apply themselves to an industrious and impartial search of the truth : let one for the rest speak their sense: Oportet in ea re maxime, in qua vitæ ratio versatur, sibi quemque confidere, suoque judicio ac propriis sensibus niti ad investigandam et perpendendam veritatem, quam credentem alienis erroribus decipi tanquam ipsum rationis expertem : dedit omnibus Deus pro virili portione sapientium, ut et inaudita investigare possent, et audita perpendere : “We ought especially,' says he, 'every one of us in that matter, which chiefly concerns our manner of life, to confide in ourselves; and rather with our own judgment and our proper senses strive to find out and judge of the truth, than believing other men's errors to be deceived, like things void of reason :
God hath given all men a competent share of wisdom that they might both search out things not told them, and weigh what they hear.' So especially just and candid was Christianity in its first offering itself to the minds of men.
It propounds indeed and presses, as evident in itself, the worth and consequence of the matter ; but refers the decision on either part (so far as concerns every particular man) to the verdict of that reason and conscience, with which to such purposes God hath indued every man.
And that it can proceed no otherwise appears farther, from the nature of that faith it requires ; it commends faith as a great virtue, and therefore supposes it both voluntary and reasonable ; it promises ample rewards thereto, and so implies it a work not of necessity or chance, but of care and industry; it declares infidelity to be very blamable, and threatens severe punishment thereto; why? because it signifies irrational negligence or perverseness.
In fine, Christianity doth not inveigle any man by sleight, nor compel him by force, (being indeed commonly destitute of those advantages; nor being able to use them, if it would,) but fairly by reason persuades him to embrace it; it doth not therefore shun examination, nor disclaim the judgment of reason; but earnestly seeks and procures the one, cheerfully and confidently appeals to the other. • Examine all things ; hold fast that which is good.' Believe not every spirit, but try the
• spirits, whether they be of God.' • See that no man deceive you.' Be always ready, with meekness and respect, to give to every one that demands it of you an account of the hope in you. These are the maxims which Christianity goes on in the propagation and maintenance of itself.
Indeed after it hath convinced men of its truth in general, having evidenced the truth of its fundamental principles, it then requires a full and cordial assent, without exception, to its particular doctrines, grounded on or deduced from them. When, I say, it hath, to the satisfaction of a man's mind, with solid reason made good its principles, it then enjoins men to surcease farther scruple or debate concerning what it teaches or draws from them ; which is a proceeding most reasonable and eonformable to the method used in the strictest sciences : for the principles of any science being either demonstrated out of some
higher science, or evidenced by fit experiments to common sense; and being thence granted and received, it is afterward unlawful and absurd to challenge the conclusions collected from them; so if it have been proved and acknowleged that our principles are true, (for instance, that God is perfectly ve. racious, and that Christian religion hath his authority or attestation to it,) it will then be a part of absurd levity and inconsistency to question any particular proposition evidently contained therein ; and in this sense or in these cases it is true indeed that Christianity doth engage us to believe simply and purely, doth silence natural reason, and condemn curious inquiry, and prohibit dispute, especially to persons of meaner capacities or improvements. And thus, I take it, those Christians of old were to be understood, who so much commended immediate faith, excluded reason from being too busy in matters of religion, discountenanced that curiosity which searched into, and would needs sound, those inscrutable mysteries which our religion teaches. Our religion then will allow (yea it invites and · exhorts) an infidel to consider and judge of its truth, although it will not allow a Christian to be so vain and inconstant as to doubt of any particular doctrine therein; seeing by so questioning a part, he in effect renounces the whole, and subverts the foundation of his faith ; at least ceases thereby to be a steady Christian. I might then well invert our adversaries' discourse, and offer it as a good argument of our religion its truth, that it alone among all religions, with a candor and confi. dence peculiar to truth, calls us to the light, is willing, yea desirous, to undergo trial; I add, yea challenges, as its due from all men, and demands it of them as a necessary duty to hear it, to consider it seriously, to pass sentence on it ; for as commonly error and groundless conceit, being conscious of their own weakness, are timorous and suspicious, and thence ready to decline all proof and conflict of reason; so truth, knowing its own strength, is daring and resolute; enters boldly into the lists, being well assured (or hopeful) of good success in the combat.
Which proceeding, proper to Christianity, is in itself very plausible, and may well beget a favorable prejudice on its side ; and that it is not confident without reason will appear on
our examining the principles and grounds on which it stands. The first principle of Christianity (common thereto and all other religions) is, that there is one God, (sovereign and transcendent in all perfections, the Maker and Governor of all things.) The next (which also no religion doth not acknowlege ) is, that God is perfectly veracious, so that whatever appears to be asserted or attested to by him, is certainly true; which principles (by reasons I hope proper and sufficient) I partly have proved, and partly shall hereafter on occasion show. A third is, that God is the author of the Christian doctrine and law; that he hath revealed this doctrine to mankind, and confirmed it by his testimony; that he hath imposed this law on us, and established it by his authority. This principle (being the foundation and sum of our faith) involves matter of fact; and consequently being not evident immediately in itself, doth (for a full convic
of a man's mind, and producing therein a solid persuasion) require a rational probation ; and that it may appear we believe it like reasonable men, not (as Pagans and Mahometans, and those of other sects do,) on wilful resolution or hy mere chance, as also for settling the ground of particular articles comprehended under this, I shall endeavor to show the reasonableness thereof; advancing my discourse by several steps and degrees. I observe first, that,
I. It is reasonable to suppose that God should at some time
season fully and clearly reveal unto men the truth concerning himself and concerning them, as he and they stand related to each other; concerning his nature and will, concerning our state and duty, respectively : the nature and attributes of God, the nature and qualities of man, being compared, do persuade thus much.
It is apparent to common experience that mankind being left to itself (especially in matters of this kind) is very insufficient to direct itself; that it is apt to lie under woful ignorance, to wander in uncertainty, to fall into error, to possess itself with vain conceit, to be abused with any sort of delusion, which either the malice of wicked spirits, or the subtilty of naughty men, or the wildness of its own fond passions and desires can put on it or bring it under; it is consequently exposed to all those vices, dishonorable, hurtful, and destructive to its nature;
and to all those miseries, which from ignorance or error, from vice and wickedness, do naturally spring; especially to an estrangement from God, and an incapacity of his love and favor. The two only remedies of all these mischiefs, natural light and primitive tradition, how little they did avail to cure them ; how the one was too faint in itself, and easily lost in mists of prejudice from ill education and bad custom, prevailing generally; how the other (besides its other defects) soon was polluted, and indeed quite spoiled by adulterate mixtures of fond, impure, and vile superstitions, woful experience doth more than enough evince. We see that not only the generality of mankind did sometime lie in this sad condition, but that even the most elevated and refined wits (those among men who by all possible improvement of their reason did endeavor to raise themselves from this low estate; to rescue their minds from the common ignorance, the mistakes, the superstitions and follies of the world) could by no means in any good measure attain those ends; for what did their earnest inquiries or their restless studies produce, but dissatisfaction and perplexity of mind? wherein did their eager disputations conclude, but in irreconcilable differences of opinion, and greater uncertainties than were when they began? Most were plunged into a desperate scepticism, (a doubt and diffidence of all things ;) none arrived higher than some faint conjectures on some unsteady opinions concerning those matters of highest consequence ; such notions as were not effectual enough to produce in them a practice, in any good measure, suitable to the dignity of man's nature, to the duty be owes to God, to the capacities man hath of doing and receiving good; from which due glory to God or much benefit to man did accrue. Έματαιώθησαν εν τοις διαλογισμούς, “ they were made vain' (or, they were frustrated, deluded, befooled) in their reasonings and disputes ; the result of their busy speculations was, that their foolish heart was darkened ;' so darkened, that with all the light they had, they could not see any thing; at least not clearly discern what chiefly it concerned them to know; • The world by wisdom (by all the wisdom it could get) did not know God ;' did not acquire a requisite measure of knowlege in divine things : did not however know him so as to glorify him ; as to thank him for the benefits received from him ; as to bring