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with each other in order to a true understanding of them, and doctrines to be deduced, not so much from fingle and separate texts, as from the manifeft tenor of the Scriptures at large; that not unfrequently one and the same text shall be capable of different, and even oppofite conftruction; that though most places in holy writ are of universal importance, yet some are of temporary and occafional purport only; that the facred writings, ftrictly speaking, are the foundation of a rule of faith and manners, fuch as a creed, formulary, or confeffion, rather than the rule itself, as will, I truft, in due time more fully appear; and that an affent to the collective body of scripture, as true, does not imply a knowlege, or belief of all scriptural truths; when all this, to which more, were there occafion, might be added, is fairly confidered, we cannot poffibly be at a loss to account for that variety of notion, that wildnefs and abfurdity of conceit, that extravagance, or impiety of opinion, which I just now observed has more or less fo shamefully dishonoured the Chriftian name in all ages.

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Of this exuberance of folly and wickednefs Popery has ever been industrious to avail itself. From the acknowleged liableness of the Scriptures to the groffeft abuse, when in the hands of fuch as are unlearned and unftable, (to use the apostle's words,) the Church of Rome draws her moft fpecious argument against the common use of them; and would fain have us infer the neceffity, or the certainty of an infallible authority lodged in the Church for the decifion of controverfies, and ascertainment of a rule of faith, from the confeffed convenience and utility of fuch an authority. (b) But, unfortunately for her pretenfions, as much error and abfurdity has repeatedly been demonstrated to be within her pale as out of it. Wht is truth? becomes therefore with many a question of as much difficulty as importance; or, rather, of more form than importance; fome encouraging themselves in fcepticism from these circumftances, and others blindly acquiefcing in any mode of religion, or in none at all, or at best in that which is usually called natural religion, from a pretence of the utter impoffibility of


discovering the true under fuch a complica tion of perplexity.


With points of inferior confequence I shall not trouble myself; but to such as deny, or call in question the capital articles of our religion on the strength of the above confiderations, let me insist that nothing of this nature ought to fuperfede their endeavours to find the truth, and much lefs to difcourage their obedience to it when found. After inquiry we may in fome respect or other be mistaken, but without it we are inexcufable. In fact, very diverfity, or contrariety complained may be justly urged in behalf of the faith which is received in the Church. Were the doctrine of the Trinity, for inftance, impugned from one quarter only, and by consistent and uniform oppofition, infidelity would be a much more formidable thing than it is; but you may as well look for one language at Babel as for a catholic fyftem of unbelief, if I may be indulged with the expreffion. To enumerate all the herefies which have at different times torn and difmembered the Church


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Church of Chrift, is in a manner to confute them; and thefe, their common animofity against her excepted, are at perpetual enmity among themselves. Nay, what is yet more extraordinary, we shall find infidelity itself abounding in myfteries, even while it reprobates them almost with the confidence of a faith which could remove mountains! If the facred theory we are to maintain be in many refpects incomprehenfible, the fubftitutions of human wisdom will in due time be fhewn to be at least equally fo; and to require the fame degree of affent without any thing like the fame foundation.

What is truth, fay others among us, what is it but a fyftem of doctrines officially taught, and formally tranfmitted from generation to generation?

But if doctrines are true, why not officially taught, and carefully tranfmitted? Is profeffion ridiculous, or authority contemptible, as fuch? Indeed, the queftion is not, what faith the Church ?-but-what faith the

Scripture? Now by Scripture, and the earlieft antiquity, our fureft guide, and pureft precedent, we are not only willing, but wishful to be tried. It is true the bulk of Chriftians are not equal to this trial; in a certain fenfe, they care for none of these things; they take matters upon truft; they are not able to give an answer to every man that asketh a reaSon of the faith that is in them, except that they were born and bred in it, and suppose it to be unquestionable. It is with respect to this implicitnefs of affent, this tameness of acquiefcence, as it is opprobriously called, that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity has no less impiously than ludicrously been exposed to contempt under the defcription of the Trinity of the Mob! But this is very unfair representation. Surely no argument can be drawn from the incapacity, or the credulity of the many, to the disadvantage of a doctrine that, with respect to the grounds on which we defend it, folicits, demands, defies the penetration of enquiry, and the inquifitive

*See p. 16, 36, 37. in Preface to Stilling fleet's Difcourfe in vindication of the doctrine of the Trinity. B 4


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