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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,S2s : TÈv dy- Plutarch.
de Isid. et θρώπω λαβείν μείζον, ή χαρίζεσθαι Θεό σεμνότερον αληθείας,) Osir.
then certainly those truths deserve our most ready acceptance, which are in themselves of greatest importance, and have the 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 shew 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 generousspirit 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, ad similitudinem parietum extrinsecus culti, who imitate the walls of their houses in the fairness of the outsides, but matter not what rubbish there lies within. The utmost of their ambition is to attain enervatam felicitatem qua permadescunt animi, such a felicity as evigorates the soul by too long steeping, it being the nature of all terrestrial pleasures, that they do éxtńzeu xei évoyesíveiv sò qpovžv, by degrees consume reason, by effeminating and softening the intellectuals. Must we appeal then to the judgment of Sardanapalus concerning the nature of felicity, or enquire of Apicius what temperance is? Or desire that Sybarite to define magnanimity, who fainted to see a man at hard labour ? · Or doth now the conquest of passions, forgiving injuries, doing good, self-denial, humility, patience under crosses, which are the real expressions of piety, speak nothing more noble and generous than a luxurious, malicious, proud, and impatient spirit? Is there nothing more becoming and agreeable to the soul of man in exemplary piety, and a holy, well-ordered conversation, than the lightness and vanity (not to say rudeness and debaucheries) of those whom the world accounts the greatest gallants? Is there nothing more graceful and pleasing in the sweetness, candour, and ingenuity of a truly Christian temper and disposition, than in the revengeful, implacable spirit of such whose honour lives and is fed by the blood of their enemies? Is it not more truly honourable and glorious to serve that God who commands the world, than to be a slave to those passions and lusts which put men upon continual hard service, and torment them for it when they have done it? Were there nothing else to commend religion to the minds of men besides that tranquillity and calmness of spirit, that serene and peaceable temper which follow a good conscience wherever it dwells, it were enough to make men welcome that guest which brings such good entertainment with it. Whereas the amazements, horrors, and anxieties of mind which at one time or other haunt such who prostitute their consciences to a violation of the laws of God, and the rules of rectified reason, may be enough to persuade any rational person that impiety is the greatest folly, and irreligion, madness. It cannot be then but matter of great pity to consider that any persons, whose birth and education hath, raised them above the common people of the world, should be so far their own enemies, as to observe the fashion more than the rules of religion, and to study compliments more than them