Page images

certain, that many wbo talk boldly of the high-
est Points of Religion, are ignorant even of the
Principles of the Doctrine of Christ

. There sure-
can be little need for any Man to have re-
course to Error and Extravagancy for the Exer-
cise and Improvement of his Faculties, they must
be strange Faculties to want such Improvement.
Truth it self is infinite, tho' always uniform
and consistent in every part, and will afford
room enough for the free use of Reason, in ex-
amining and considering the Nature of things,
in stating particular Cases by general Rules, in
the Study of Antiquity, and in explaining par-
ticular Texts of Scriptures, according to the A-
nalogy of Faith, and the Tenour of sound Do-
&rine. And it may justly be look'd upon as a
Defect of Judgment and good Sense, or be suf-
pected (which is much worse) of want of Sin-
cerity and a good Conscience, when Men can
find nothing, by which they may recommend
themselves to the World, but by setting up for
Novelties in Religion. For what Man of an
honest Meaning, and of sufficient Abilities and
Strength of Parts, to proceed securely in direct
and approved Paths, would run out of the way
by Cunning and Artifice, to steal a despicable

Reputation, which another would be asham'd
of, and of which the best thing that can be
said, is, that, as it is never worth the having,
so it is never lasting.

After the Reception and Establishment of the
Gospel for so many Ages, we are call’d upon to
prove the Grounds and Principles of our Reli


[ocr errors]


gion all over again, and we will never decline a thing so easy to be done. But the Modern Infidels have chang’d the State of the Question: the Truth of the Miracles wrought by our Saviour and his Disciples was never deny'd by the Adversaries of Christianity of old; this was not disputed by Celsus, Porphyry, Hierocles, and Julian the Apostate ; if some of them did upon any occasion insinuate the contrary, that was so malicious and groundless a Calumny, that they were neither able to insist upon any Proof of it, nor to reconcile it to what they themselves had elsewhere faid. The Matter of Fact was acknowledg’d by the antient Jews, and has been confess’d by their Posterity ; they could not contradict the Miracles, but deny'd the Confequence of them : 'though the Men we have to deal withal, to make clear work, with much Confidence, but with as much Ignorance, deny both. Let them know then, that they are in part confuted by the Enemies of our Religion; and it were strange if its Friends should fail in the other part.

IV. I have here endeavoured to do some Right to our Religion, and to satisfie all such as are willing to be satisfied in the most difficult Points of it. And tho' I have discoursed at large upon the Subje&s of which I treat, and not in the usual Method of Objection and Answer; yet I have always had my Eye upon the Objections, which I have known, that I could think at all material. But to bring in Objedions at every Turn in plain Discourses, such

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

as these were design'd to be, as far as the Matter would permit, might have been of no good Consequence. A Man may very well be guided in the right Road, without having all the wrong and dangerous Patbs describ'd to him; and he may be directed how to recover or preserve his Health, without being presented with a Catalogue of Diseases; he

may get

safe to his Journeys end, without knowing all the Bogs and Precipices by which he might have miscarried ; and in order to be well, there is no need that he should be acquainted how many ways there are of being sick. I have heard of some that read Objections without the Answers; as lately a shameless Writer has produced the Objections of Celsus and Faustus, against the Canon of Scripture, without taking Notice of the Answers given by Origen and St. Austin, from whom he had them. And thoʻ both the Objections and Answers should be read, yet Objections are commonly in few Words, and are often remembred, when the Answers are forgotten. And indeed, tho' I were never so expert at it, I have no Ambition to try my Strength in tying a knot, that I may shew'my Skill in unlooling it. But to provide against all Exceptions, as much as it is possible, I have proved at large, that if all Obje&tions could not be answered, this would be no sufficient Reason to reject or question the Authority of our Religion.

I cannot say I must confess, that I have been able, or have been much solicitous to obviate all the Cavils which may have been started, ma


ny have been given up, and others seem never to have been serioully urged. An Author who had more Learning it seems, than Judgment to spare, wrote a Book, to prove that there were Men before Adam; but this was rejected by Ju. dicious Men, as a very absurd and ridiculous Conceit, particularly by Grotius, as the Author complains, who yet afterwards retra&ed it himself. Some, notwithstanding, are so fond of any Paradox, that they are still for maintaining it. I confess, it agrees admirably with a Tradition of the Arcadians, that their Ancestors were before the Moon; and if any Man should pretend, that this might very well be true, according to the Cartesian Hypothefis, by attempting to prove, that Arcadia might be inhabited before the Moon, of a Luminous became an Opake Body; in so curious an Age, he must have ill Luck if he should want his Applauders. If some object, that the Originals of the Books of Scripture in the Hand-writing of the several Authors, are not still remaining; doth this deserve to be answered till they can produce the Original Writings of all other Books ? or at least of all or any that are as ancient, as even the last written of the Books of the New Testament? Would they have an Office erected, to prove the Titles to all Estates by Original Deeds and upon what Period of Time will they fix for the Date of them, which will admit of any Comparison with the Date of the Manuscript Copies now extant of the Scripture? It has been obje&ed against the History


of the Flood, that America is divided from all the rest of the World by the Ocean, and that divers Beasts are found there of a different Species from any known in other parts of the World, which therefore cannot be of any of those Kinds contained in the Ark. But this Objection deserves no Answer, till those that make it, can give an Account of all the Species of Animals in the World, and an exact Description of the Limits of North America, and how it borders upon the Sea, or the adjacent Continent. In the mean time, are not Elephants Natives only of India, and of some parts of Africa? And are not divers other Animals peculiar to some Countries, and not the natural Breed of other places on the same Continent ?

It is as vain to object, that the Negroes are not descended from Noah, unless the Arguments could be confuted, by which it is prov'd, that Africa was peopled from Cham. Ægypt is the land of Cham, ( 23, 27.) or Ham, the Jupiter Hammon : i Chemmis was a great City of Thebais, and the Inhabitants were call'd": Chemmites, or Chammites. k Pliny says, that Æthiopia was denominated from Æthiops, the Son of Vulcan : which were reasonable to believe, if it could be proved, that there ever was such a Man. And there is the same Reason to think, that the Æthiopians are descended from Cham, Gince his Name carries in it the same importance with Æthiops: For Cham fignifies Hot,

Herodot. 1. ii. c. 19,

Plin. 1. vi. c. 30.


« PreviousContinue »