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BOOK I. Of the Grounds of Natural and Revealed Religion.
II. Of the Credibility of the Scriptures compared with other
IV. Of the Authority of the Prophetical Writings, and other
V. Of the Authority of the Writings of the New Testament, and
CONTENTS OF BOOK I.
A general Discourse in Vindication of the Principles of Natural
and Revealed Religion ; with an Answer to the Objections of
Atheists and Deists.
The general Prejudices against Religion in our Age examined, and
the old atheistical Hypotheses considered.
The modern atheistical Hypotheses examined, and the Unreason-
ableness of them shewed.
The Reasonableness of Revealed Religion superadded to Natural ;
with an Answer to the most specious arguments against Revela-
General Considerations about the Divine Revelation contained in
the Holy Scriptures; as to Antiquity, Integrity, Consistence, and
Manner of Writing.
CONTENTS OF CHAP. I. BOOK I.
The atheistical Pretences of this Age considered and answered.
large, made out. The several Hypotheses of Democritus, and Anaximander, and
Epicurus, about the Production of Mankind, shewed to be very
unreasonable. The Opinion of the Ancient Philosophers, about the World's being
made by Chance or Providence, examined and compared ; and
the Foundations of Natural Religion asserted by the best of them. The second Pretence, that Religion is owing to Men's Ignorance
and superstitious Fear, examined. The third, that there are whole Nations without any sense of God or Religion, inquired into, and refuted by particular observations.
CHAP. II. The modern atheistica' Hypotheses examined, and the Unreason
ableness of them she.. l.
The general Prejudices against Religion in our Age exa.
mined; and the old atheistical Hypotheses considered. BEFORE I come to the particular vindication of the char. truth and authority of the holy Scriptures, which is my chief design, it will be necessary to remove, if possible, the common and general prejudices a religion in this age; as if it were only a cunnins ce of some crafty persons to support their own interest by deceiving the rest of mankind. If this were the truth of the case, none ought to be blamed for their contempt of religion, nor for their endeavours to set the minds of men free from the uneasiness and slavery of a superstitious and groundless fear; for this must be all that is implied in religion, if it were at first begun, and is still carried on by the craft of some men, and the folly of the rest. But such an imputation as this ought to be very well grounded, because it reflects on all mankind, (a very few excepted,) and ought in common justice to be proved by the most clear and convincing evidence; because no men have any reason to presume so far upon their own wit and capacity above all others, as to take it for granted
BOOK that the rest of mankind are either fools or knaves. For
this is the meaning of those who go about to persuade others that religion is nothing but an imposture, that hath appeared under several shapes and disguises; but still the machine is the same, and the same design carried on by the different actors, according to the humour and inclination of several ages.
I could be glad that all this might justly be looked on as a feigned case, only for a better introduction to the following discourses; but none that live in our age, and understand the too great prevalency of scepticism and infidelity in it, can apprehend it to be so; and therefore I shall lay down the true state of the present case, with respect to religion in general. It cannot be denied, by the greatest enemies to it, that there is still a general belief of the truth of it among mankind, however they differ in their particular notions about it. For this cannot be looked on as a new thing, or an invention of t1
sent age, since it is manifest, by the undoubt.
of former times, that the same foundations of n have been generally received by mankind; by which I understand the being of God and Providence, and the rewards and punishments of a future state; but yet not so, but that there have been in several ages such as have gone about to unsettle men's minds about them, and to represent them as an invention of politicians, to keep the world in greater awe. But they have not met with such success as they expected in their discoveries, for they have been opposed by the wisest and most thoughtful men in the several ages they appeared in; and the generality of mankind continued in the same belief which they had before. And yet they had then the same inclinations to ease and pleasure as they now have, and would have been as willing to be rid of the terrible apprehensions of
God and another world; they had the same value and chAP. esteem for themselves and their own interests, and hated all such as designed to cheat them; they fell into warm disputes and violent heats about some particular parts and modes of religion, which are apt to make them call all the rest into question. Yet under all these disadvantages, the foundations of religion have been preserved among them; and mankind cannot be. brought to look on them as an imposture. But those who think so are forced in great measure to conceal their thoughts, and to put on disguises to the world, that they may appear to be of another mind than really they are.
Whence then comes it to pass, that those who are averse to the practice of religion, yet cannot be brought to shake off the principles of it ? that those who are otherwise so fond of their own ease and interest, should abhor those atheistical principles, which are said to be very much for the advantage of both? that se nations which have had no communication with and differ so much from one another in lauguges, customs, and modes of religion, yet agree in the same common sense of God, and a future state ?
It is a ridiculous thing for any to pretend to make our religion to be an imposture, unless they can first give a just and satisfactory account of these things.
All that I can meet with to that purpose may be reduced to these three heads; which contain the great atheistical pretences of this
age. I. That the notions of religion were first started among rude and barbarous people by politicians, to keep the people in better awe; and that the priests found it their interest to support them, because they were supported by them.
II. That there are some peculiar qualities in man