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1. Therefore settle your belief of Christianity itself; that is, of so much as baptism containeth, or importeth: this is more easily proved, than the truth of every word in the Scriptures; because there are controversies about the canon, and the various readings, and such like: and this is the natural method, which Christ and his Spirit have directed us to, and the apostles and the ancient churches used. And when this is first soundly proved to you, then you cannot justly take any textual difficulties, to be sufficient cause of raising difficulties to your faith in the essentials; but you may quietly go on in the strength of faith, to clear up all those difficulties by degrees.
I know you will meet with some who think very highly of their own mistakes, and whose unskilfulness in these things is joined with an equal measure of self-conceitedness, who will tell you that this method smells of an undervaluing of the Scripture; but I would advise you not to depart from the way of Christ, and his apostles and churches, nor to cast yourselves upon causeless hindrances, in so high a matter as saving faith is, upon the reverence of the words of any perverted factious wrangler, nor to escape the fangs of censorious ignorance. We can better justify the Holy Scriptures in the true method, than they can in their false one: and can better build up, when we have laid the right foundation, than they can who begin in the middle, and omit the foundation, and call the superstructure by that name.
2. Suspect not all church-history or tradition, in an extreme opposition of the Papists, who cry up a private unproved tradition of their own. They tell us of apostolical traditions, which their own faction only are the keepers of; and of which no true historical evidence is produced ; and this they call the tradition of the church : but we have another sort of tradition, which must not be neglected or rejected, unless we will deny humanity and reject Christianity. Our “traditio tradens,' or active tradition, is primarily nothing but the certain history or usage of the universal Christian church ; as baptism, the Lord's day, the ministry, the church assemblies, and the daily church exercises ; which are certain proofs what religion was then received by them. And 2. The Scriptures themselves. Our traditio tradita,' is nothing else but these two conjunctly: 1. The Christian re
ligion, even the faith then professed, and the worship and obedience then exercised. 2. The books themselves, of the Holy Scriptures, which contain all this, with much more. But we are so far from thinking that apostolical oral tradition, is a supplement to the Scriptures, as being larger than them, that we believe the Scriptures to be much larger than such tradition; and that we have no certainty by any other Scriptural tradition, of any more than the common matters of Christianity, which all the churches are agreed in. But he that will not believe the most universal practice and history of the church or world in a matter of fact must in reason much less believe his eyesight.
12. When you have soundly proved your foundation, take not every difficult objection which you cannot answer, to be a sufficient cause of doubting : for if the fundamentals be proved truths, you may trust to that proof, and be sure that there are ways of solving the seeming inconsistent points, though you are not yet acquainted with them. There are few truths so clear, which a sophister may not clog with difficulties; and there is scarce any man that hath so comprehensive a knowledge of the most certain truths, as to be able to answer all that can be said against it.
13. Come not to this study in a melancholy or distracted frame of mind; for in such a case you are (ordinarily) incapable of so great a work, as the trial of the grounds of faith : and therefore must live upon the ground-work before laid, and wait for a fitter time to clear it.
14. When new doubts arise, mark whether they proceed not from the advantage which the tempter findeth in your minds, rather than from the difficulty of the thing itself; and whether you have not formerly had good satisfaction against the same doubts which now perplex you: if so, suffer not every discomposure of your minds, to become a means of unbelief: and suffer not Satan to command you to dispute your faith at his pleasure ; for if he may choose the time, he
may choose the success. Many a man hath cast up a large account well, or written a learned treatise or position well, who cannot clear up all objected difficulties on a sudden, nor without books tell you all that he before wrote ; especially if he be half drunk or sleepy, or in the midst of other thoughts or business.
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15. When you are once persuaded of the truth of Christianity, and the Holy Scriptures, think not that you need not study it any more, because you do not already confidently believe it; for if your faith be not built on such cogent evidence as will warrant the conclusion, (whether it be at the present sound or not) you know not what change assaults may make upon you (as we have known them do on some ancient eminent professors of the strictest godliness, who have turned from Christ, and the belief of immortality.)
Take heed how you understand the common saying of the 'schools, that faith differeth from knowledge, in that it hath not evidence: it hath not evidence of sense indeed ; nor of the immediate evidence of things invisible, as in themselves ; but as they are the conclusions which follow the principles which are in themselves more evident. It is evident that God is true; and we can prove by good evidence, that the Christian verity is his revelation : and therefore it is evident (though not immediately in itself) that the matter of that word or revelation is true.
And as Mr. Richard Hooker truly saith, “No man indeed believeth beyond the degree of evidence of truth which appeareth to him, how confidently soever they may talk.' I remember that our excellent Usher answered me to this case, as out of Ariminensis, that Faith hath evidence of credibility, and science hath evidence of certainty.' But undoubtedly an evidence of divine revelation, is evidence of certainty. And all evidence of divine credibility, is evidence of certainty ; though of human faith and credibility, the case is otherwise.
16. Yea, think not that you have done the settling of your faith, when once you have found out the soundest evidences, and are able to answer all objections; for you must grow still in the fuller discerning and digesting the same evidences which you have discerned ; for you may hold them so loosely, that they may easily be wrested from you : and you may see them with so clear and full a knowledge, as shall establish your mind against all ordinary causes of mutation. It is one kind (or degree rather)' of knowledge doctor hath. I am sure the knowledge which I have now of the evidences of the Christian verity, is much different from what I had fifty years ago, when perhaps I could say near as much as now ; and used the same arguments.
17. Consider well the great contentions of philosophers; and the great uncertainty of most of those notions, to which the infidels would reduce our faith, or which they would make the test by which to try it. They judge Christianity uncertain, because it agreeth not with their uncertainties, or certain errors.
18. Enslave not your reason to the objects of sense : while we are in the body, our souls are so imprisoned in flesh, and have so much to do with worldly things, that most men by averseness and disuse, can hardly at all employ their minds about any higher things than sensitive; nor go any further than sense conducteth them. He that will not use his soul to contemplate things invisible, will be as unfit for believing, as a lady is to travel a thousand miles on foot, who never went out of her doors, but in a sedan or coach.
19. Where your want of learning, or exercise, or light, doth cause any difficulties which you cannot overcome, go to the more wise and experienced believers, and pastors of the church, to be your helpers; for it is their office to be both the preservers and expounders of the sacred doctrine, and to be the helpers of the people's faith.
• The priest's lips shall preserve knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth : for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts;" Mal. ii. 7.
20. Lastly, Faithfully practice with love and alacrity what you do believe, lest God in justice leave you to disbelieve that which you would not love and practice.
So much to direct you in the method of your endeavours, for the getting and strengthening of faith.
The Evidences of Faith.
These things in the order of your inquiry being presupposed, proceed to the consideration of the evidences themselves, which fully prove the Christian verity. And here, omitting the preparatory considerations, recited at large in my
“ Reasons of the Christian Religion,” I shall only set before you the grand evidence itself, with a brief recital of
some of those means, which bring it down to our notice in these times.
The great infallible witness of Christ, is the Spirit of God, or the Holy Ghost; or that divine operation of the Holy Spirit, which infallibly proveth the attestation of God himself, as interesting him in it, as the principal cause.
As we know the coin of a prince by his image and superscription, and know his acts by his public proper seal : and as we know that God is the Creator of the world, by the seal of his likeness which is upon it; or as we know the father of a child, when he is so like him, as no other could beget: so know we Christ and Christianity to be of God, by his inimitable image or impression.
The power, wisdom and goodness of God, are the essentialities which we call the nature of God: these in their proper form, and transcendent perfection, are incommunicable: but when they produce an effect on the creature, which for the resemblance may analogically be called by the same names; the names are logically communicable, though the thing itself (which is the divine essence or perfections) be still incommunicable : but when they only produce effects more heterogeneal or equivocal, then we call those effects only the footsteps or demonstrations of their cause. So God, whose power, wisdom and goodness in itself is incommunicable, hath produced intellectual natures, which are so like him, that their likeness is called his image; and analogically (yet equivocally) the created faculties of their power, intellect and will, are called by such names, as we are fain (for want of other words) to apply to God (the things signified being transcendently and inexpressibly in God, but the words first used of, and applied to the creature). But the same God hath so demonstrated his power, and wisdom, and goodness in the creation of the material or corporeal parts of the world, that they are the 'vestigia’and -infallible proofs of his causation and perfections, (being such as no other cause without him can produce) but, yet not so properly called his image, as to his wisdom and goodness, but only of his power. But no wise man who seeth this world, can doubt whether a God of perfect power, wisdom and goodness, was the Maker of it. Even so the person
and doctrine of Christ, or the Christian religion objectively considered, hath so much of the image, and so