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weak as could poffibly have been thought of. Thus you fay; "What I faid about private persuasion relates to the justification of the man before God, and not to the excellency of one communion above another, which it leaves just as it found it*.”

Here, my lord, you suppose that one religion may very much exceed another religion in goodness and excellency, and yet that this goodness and excellency has nothing to do with the juftification of perfons; for you fay, you was not speaking of the excellency of one communion above another, but of what relates to the juftification of a man, &c. which plainly fhews that you do not allow the excellency of religion to have any thing to do with the justification of men; for if you did, it must have been necessary to speak of the excellency of one religion above another, when you was speaking of what it is which juftifies a man before God.

Now, my lord, to grant that there is an excellency and goodness in some religion, and yet exclude this excellent and good religion, from having any more in it to justify and recommend us to the favour of God, than what is to be found in any other religion lefs excellent; is juft as good fenfe, as to allow, that fome food is much more excellent and proper than other food; and yet exclude this moft excellent proper food, from having any thing in it to preserve health and strength, more than in any other food.

For the goodness and excellency of religion, is as truly a relative goodness and excellency, as the goodnefs and excellency of food is a relative goodness and excellency. And as that food can only be faid to be better than another food, because it has a better effect upon the body than any other food; fo that religion can only be faid to be better than another, because it raises us higher in the favour of God than any other religion.

It is therefore most certain, that if any one religion can be faid to be better than another, it must be, because one religion may be of more advantage to us than another.

For as religion in general is good, because it does us good, and brings us into favour with God; fo the particular excellency and goodness of any religion, muft confift in this, that it does us a more particular good, and raises us to higher degrees of God's favour, than a lefs excellent religion would have done.

* Answer to Repr. p. 113.


So that when your lordship talks of the excellency of one religion above another, as having nothing in it, as fuch, to recommend us to higher degrees of God's favour, or effect our justification; it is fully as abfurd, as to say, that though one kind of learning may be more excellent than another kind of learning, yet no men are more excellent or valuable for having one kind of learning than another.

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For as no kind of learning can be faid to be peculiarly excellent, but because it gives fome peculiar excellency to those who are masters of it; so no kind of religion can be said to be more excellent than another, unless those who profefs it, reap fome advantage from it, which is not to be had from a religion lefs excellent.

From all this, it appears, first, that there can be no fuch thing as any goodness or excellency in one religion above another, but as it procures a peculiar good and advantage to those who profefs it.

Secondly, That your lordship can allow no other goodness or excellency in religion, even from your own exprefs words, but what implies as great an abfurdity, as to allow of good food, good learning, or good advice, which can do nobody any good at all.

For fince you exprefsly exclude the goodness or excellency of any religion from having any part in recommending us to the favour of God, and will only allow it to carry us fo far, as fincerity in a worse religion will carry us; it is certain, that this good and excellent religion, is just as good as that, which does us no good at all.

So that whether you will yet own that you have destroyed all the difference betwixt religions, or not, I cannot tell; yet I imagine every one will fee that you have only left fuch a goodness in one religion above another, as can do nobody any good at all.

The short is this; if you will own there is no excellency in one religion above another, then you are guilty of making Chriftianity no better than Mahometanifm; but if you will acknowledge a goodness and excellency in one religion above another, and yet contend that it is fincerity alone, which does us any good, or recommends us to the favour of God, in all religions alike; this is as abfurd, as to fay, fuch a thing is much better for us than any other thing, and yet affert, that any other thing will do us as much good as that.


I have, I hope, fufficiently confuted your doctrine of fincerity, from the nature of religion. I fhall now in a word or two examine it farther, by confidering the nature of private perfuafion, which can do all thefe mighty things."

And, first, I deny that perfuafion was the only thing which juftified the Proteftants, or which recommends people to the favour of God in the choice of a religion; and that, because if their private perfuafion was founded in pride, prejudice, worldly intereft, or any thing, but the real truth, and the juftice of the caufe, that their private perfuafion did not justify them before God; nor had they, upon this fuppofition, fo good a title to his favour, as those who did not reform.

If you fay, that perfons cannot be fincere in their perfuafions, who are influenced by pride, or prejudice, or any falfe motive, to this I anfwer;

First, That according to your own principles, that man is to be esteemed fincere, who thinks himself to be fincere. For, as it is a first principle with you, that a man is justified in point of religion, not because he observes what in its own nature is true and right religion, but because he observes that which he thinks to be true and right religion; fo according to this principle a man is to be accounted fincere, not because he acts up to true and juft principles of fincerity, but because he thinks in his own mind, that he does act up to fuch just and true principles of fincerity. So that, my lord, fincerity it feems is as truly a private perfuafion, as religion is a private persuasion; and therefore any one may as easily think himself truly fincere, and yet not have true fincerity, as he may think himself in the true religion, and yet not be in the true religion.

Unless therefore you will maintain, that a perfon who is miftaken in his fincerity, and mistaken in his religion too, who hath neither true religion, or true fincerity, hath as good a title to the favour of God, as he who is truly fincere, and in a true religion, you must give up this caufe of fincerity. For it is demonftrable from your own principles, that any one may as often happen to be mistaken in his fincerity, and take that for fincerity which is not fincerity, as he may be mistaken in his religion, and take that for religion which is not religion.

And confequently it is as reasonable to talk of fincere perfons, who are influenced by wrong motives, as to talk of perfons being justified in religion, who live in a falfe religion.

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So that, my lord, this is the refult of your doctrine, that perfons neither truly fincere, nor in the true religion, are yet entitled to the fame degrees of God's favour, with those who are truly fincere in the true religion.

The fhort is this, according to a maxim of your own, you are obliged to acknowledge that man to be fincere, who thinks himself to be fincere; because you say a man is to be esteemed religious, not because he practises true religion, but because he thinks he practises true religion; therefore you must say, that a man is fincere, not because he is truly fincere, but because he thinks himself to be fincere.

It is alfo as poffible and as likely for a man to be mistaken in those things which conftitute true fincerity, as in those things which conftitute true religion.

And therefore if this fincerity be the only and the same title to God's favour in any religion, it follows, that fincerity, though influenced by falfe motives, and in a falfe way of worship, is as acceptable to God, as a fincere perfuafion governed by right motives in a true and inftituted way of worship.

So that all the fine things which you have faid of fincerity, as implying in it all which is rational and excellent, are come to nothing; and you are as ftrictly obliged to allow that man to be fin

cre who mistakes the grounds and principles of true fincerity, because he thinks himfelf to be fincere, as to allow that perfon, to be juftified in his religion, who mistakes the true religion, because he thinks himself in the true religion.

So that it is not fincerity as it contains all that is rational and excellent which alone juftifies, but as it may be an idle, vain, whim, fical perfuafion, in which people think themselves in the right. This perfuafion, though founded in the follies, paffions, and prejudices of human nature, confecrates every way of worship, and makes the man thus perfuaded, as acceptable to God, as he who through a right use of his reafon, ferves God in that method which he has inftituted.

I fhall end this point with only this obfervation, that however hearty a friend you may be to the Christian religion yourself, this I dare fay, that the heartieft enemy it has, will thank you for thus defending it. And they who wifh all the diftinction betwixt religions confounded, and maintain that we have nothing to hope or fear but from our own perfuafions, are the only perfons who can call you their proper defender,


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Of the Reformation.


PROCEED now in a word or two to fhew, that the neceffity of communion with any particular church, and the effects of excommunication, are perfectly confiftent with the principles of the Reformation.

You fay, "If there be a church authority to oblige people to external communion-I beg to know how can the Reformation itself ́be juftified.-For there was then an order of churchmen, vested with all spiritual authority-there was therefore a church authority to oblige Chriftians, a power of fome over others. What was it therefore to which we owe this very church of England?"

To this it may be answered,

First, That this argument proceeds upon a false supposition, namely, that it is the laws of any men, which obliges us to external communion. Which I have already fhewn to be as falfe, as to fuppofe that it is the laws of any men which oblige us to be Chriftians.

Secondly, That there may be a real and a great authority which obliges us to external communion, though this authority be not founded in any human laws, for there is as real and apparent an authority for baptifm, and the fupper of the Lord, and other parts of external communion, as if they were the express matter of any human laws.

Thirdly, That the laws of men in this affair of religion, are of the fame obligation and force that they are in other matters. If they command things indifferent, they are to be obeyed for the authority of the command; if they enjoin things in their own nature good, the neceffity of obedience is greater; but if they command things unlawful, we are not to comply, but obey God

rather than man.

Fourthly, The question therefore at the Reformation was not whether the laws of the pope or the prince were on the fide of the church of Rome, but whether that faith and those inftitutions which conftitute the Chriftian religion was with the Reformers, or

Answer to Repr. p. 118.

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