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A RATIONAL ACCOUNT
OF THE GROUNDS OF
NATURAL AND REVEALED RELIGION.
TO WHICH IS ADDED
PART OF ANOTHER BOOK UPON THE SAME SUBJECT,
LEFT UNFINISHED BY THE AUTHOR.
· A LETTER TO A DEIST.
THE RIGHT REVEREND FATHER IN GOD
EDWARD STILLINGFLEET, D. D.
LATE LORD BISHOP OF WORCESTER.
A NEW EDITION, IN TWO VOLUMES.
AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS.
HIS MOST HONOURED FRIEND AND PATRON
SIR ROGER BOURGOINE,
KNIGHT AND BARONET.
SIR, IT was the early felicity of Moses, when exposed in an ark of Nilotic papyre, to be adopted into the favour of so great a personage as the daughter of Pharaoh : such another ark is this vindication of the writings of that divine and excellent person exposed to the world in; and the greatest ambition of the author of it is, to have it received into your patronage and protection. But although the contexture and frame of this treatise be far below the excellency and worth of the subject, (as you know the ark in which Moses was put, was of bulrushes daubed with slime and pitch,) yet, when you please to cast your eye on the matter contained in it, you will not think it beneath your favour, and unworthy your protection. For if truth be the greatest present which God could bestow, or man receive, (according to that of Plutarch, “Ως ούθεν ανθρώπω λαβείν Ρlutarch. jeitov, Xapíseolar em oeuvótepov åandelas,) then certainly Osir. those truths deserve our most ready acceptance, which are in themselves of greatest importance, and have the
de Isid, et
greatest evidence that they come from God. And although I have had the happiness of so near relation to you, as to know how little you need such discourses which tend to settle the foundations of religion, which you have raised so happy a superstructure upon; yet withal I consider what particular kindness the souls of all good men bear to such designs, whose end is to assert and vindicate the truth and excellency of religion. For those who are enriched themselves with the inestimable treasure of true goodness and piety, are far from that envious temper to think nothing valuable but what they are the sole possessors of; but such are the most satisfied themselves, when they see others not only admire, but enjoy, what they have the highest estimation of. Were all who make a show of religion in the world really such as they pretend to be, discourses of this nature would be no more seasonable, than the commendations of a great beauty to one who is already a passionate admirer of it; but, on the contrary, we see how common it is for men first to throw dirt in the face of religion, and then persuade themselves it is its natural complexion : they represent it to themselves in a shape least pleasing to them, and then bring that as a plea why they give it no better entertainment..
It may justly seem strange, that true religion, which contains nothing in it but what is truly noble and generous, most rational and pleasing to the spirits of all good men, should yet suffer so much in its esteem in the world, through those strange and uncouth vizards it is represented under: some accounting the life and practice of it, as it speaks subduing our wills to the
will of God, (which is the substance of all religion,) a thing too low and mean for their rank and condition in the world; while others pretend a quarrel against the principles of it, as unsatisfactory to human reason. Thus religion suffers, with the Author of it, between two thieves; and it is hard to define which is more injurious to it, that which questions the principles, or that which despiseth the practice of it. And nothing certainly will more incline men to believe that we live in an age of prodigies, than that there should be any such in the Christian world, who should account it a piece of gentility to despise religion, and a piece of reason to be Atheists. For if there be any such thing in the world as a true height and magnanimity of spirit, if there be any solid reason and depth of judgment, they are not only consistent with, but only attainable by a true generous spirit of religion. But if we look at that which the loose and profane world is apt to account the greatest gallantry, we shall find it made up of such pitiful ingredients which any skilful and rational mind will be ashamed to plead for, much less to mention them in competition with true goodness and unfeigned piety. For how easy is it to observe such, who would be accounted the most high and gallant spirits, to quarry on such mean preys, which only tend to satisfy their brutish appetites, or flesh revenge with the blood of such who have stood in the way of that airy title, honour! Or else they are so little apprehensive of the inward worth and excellency of human nature, that they seem to envy the gallantry of peacocks, and strive to outvie them in the gaiety of their plumes; such who are, as Seneca saith,