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this, it must be confidered, what is inconfiftent with the Evidence whereby the Authority of the Scriptures is proved to us: For whatever is not inconsistent with this Evidence, cannot be inconfiftent with their Authority. In like manner, as if a Màn fhould frame never fo many Objections against the Opinion commonly received, that Casar himself wrote the Commentaries which go under his Name, and not Julius Celfus, or any other Author; unless he can overthrow the Evidence by which Cafar appears to be the Author of them, all his Objections will never amount to a Proof, that he was not the Author. If Archimedes or Euclide had used improper Language or Solecifms, would their Demonstrations have had the lefs Weight with those, by whom they had been understood? Or, if they had fubjoined an Hiftorical Account of the Discovery and Progrefs of the Mathematicks, and had made Mistakes in the Hiftorical Part, would the Demonstrative Part have been the lefs Demonstration? And does not that Man make him felf ridiculous, who, with Epicurus and Hobbs, preténds by Reafon to overthrow Mathematical Axioms and Theorems, which he cannot understand? Upon the fame grounds; if the Substance of what the Apostles deliver be true, it will be never the lefs Truth, tho' the Expression were not always proper, and the Circumftances of Time and Place in things lefs material had been mistaken, and many things should be written which are hard to be understood.
It is very poffible for God to reveal things, which we may not be able to comprehend; and to enact Laws, especially concerning the Rites and Ceremonies enjoined a People fo many Ages past, the Reasons whereof we may not be able fully to understand; and it is very poffible likewife, that there may be greas Difficulties in Chronology, and that the Text may in divers places have a different Reading: And tho' all these things have been cleared, to the fatisfaction
of reasonable Men, by feveral Expofitors, yet let us fuppofe at prefent, to gratifie these Objectors, (and this will gratifie them, if any thing can do it,) that the Laws are utterly unaccountable, that the Difficulties in Chronology are no way to be adjusted, that the divers Readings are by no means to be reconciled; yet what doth all this prove? That Mofes wrought no Miracles? That the Children of Ifrael and the Ægyptians were not Witnesses to them? That what the Prophets foretold did not come to pass? That our Saviour never rose from the Dead, and that the Holy Ghost did not defcend upon the Apostles? Or, that any thing is contained in the Scriptures repugnant to the Divine Attributes, or to the natural Notions of -Good and Evil? Doth it prove any thing of all this? or, can it be pretended to prove it? If it cannot, (and nothing is more, plain than that it cannot,) then all the Evidence produced in proof of the Authority of the Scriptures ftands firm, notwithstanding all this mighty noise of the Obfcurity, and the Inconfiftency, and the Uncertainty of the Text of the Scriptures. And the next enquiry naturally will be, not how the Scriptures can be from God, if these things be to be found in them, (for it is already proved that they are from God, and therefore this must from henceforth be taken for granted, till it can be disproved,) but the only Enquiry will be, how thefe Paffages are to be explained, or reconciled with other Places.
For let us confider this way of Reafoning, which is made ufe of to difprove the Truth and Authority of the Scriptures in other things, and try whether we are wont to reafon thus in any cafe, but that of Reli-. gion, and whether we should not be ashamed of this way of arguing in any other cafe. How little is it that we throughly understand in natural Things, and yet how feldom do we doubt of the Truth and Reality of them, because we may puzzle and perplex our felves in the Explication of them? For inftance, we
difcern the Light, and feel the Warmth and Heat of the Sun, and have the Experience of the constant returns of Day and Night, and of the several Seasons of the Year; and no Man doubts but that all this is effected by the approach or withdrawing of the Sun's Influence: But whoever will go about to explain all this, and to give a particular Account of it, will find it a very hard Task; and fuch Objections have been urged against every Hypothefis in fome Point or other, as perhaps no Man is able fully to answer. But doth any Man doubt, whether there be fuch athing as Light and Heat, as Day and Night, though he cannot be fatisfied whether the Sun or the Earth move? Or do Men doubt, whether they can fee or not, till they can demonftrate how Vifion is made? And must none be allowed to fee but Mathematicians? Or do Men refuse to eat, till they are fatisfied how, and after what manner they are nourished? Yet if we must be fwayed by Objections, which do not come up to the main Point, nor affect the Truth and Reality of Things, but only fill our Minds with Scruples and Difficulties about them, we must believe nothing which we do not fully comprehend in every part and circumftance of it. For whatever we are ignorant of concerning it, that may, it feems, be objected against the thing it felf, and may be a juft Reason why we fhould doubt of it. We must have a care of being too confident, that we move, before we can give an exact account of the Cause and Laws of Motion, which the greatest Philofophers have not been able to do; we must not prefume to eat, till we can tell how Digeftion and Nourishment are made. In fhort, this would run us into all the Extravagancies of Scepticifm: For upon these Principles it was, that fome doubted whether Snow be white, or Honey fweet, or any thing else be of the fame Colour or Tafte, which it appears to be of, because they could amuse themfelves with Difficulties, and they were too much Philofophers
lofophers to affent to any thing that they did not understand, tho' it were confirmed by the Senfe and Experience of all Mankind. They were rational Men, and it was below them to believe their Senfes, unless their Reason were convinced, and that was too acute to be convinced, as long as any Difficulty, that could be started, remained unanswered. And thus, under the pretence of Reafon and Philofophy, they expofed themselves to the Scorn and Derifion of all who had but the common Senfe of Men, without the Art and Subtilty of impofing upon themselves and others.
And it is the fame thing in effect, as to Matters of Religion. The Scriptures come confirmed down to us by all the ways of confirmation, that the Authority of any Revelation at this distance of time could be expected to have, if it really were what we believe the Scriptures to be. Why then do fome Men doubt whether they be Authentick? Can they difprove the Arguments which are brought in defence of them? Can they produce any other Revelation more Authentick? Or, is it more reasonable to believe that God fhould not reveal himself to Mankind, than that this Revelation fhould be his? No; this is not the cafe : but there are several things to be found in the Scriptures, which they think would not be in them, if they were of Divine Revelation. But a wife Man will never disbelieve a thing for any Objections made against it, which do not reach the Point, nor touch thofe Arguments, by which it is proved to him. It is not inconfiftent, that that may be moft true, which may have many Exceptions framed against it; but it is abfurd to reject that as incredible, which comes recommended to our Belief by fuch Evidence as cannot be difprov'd. Till this be done, all which can be faid befides, only fhews, that there are Difficulties to be met withal in the Scriptures, which was never denied by thofe, who moft firmly and stedfaftly believe them.
But Difficulties can never alter the nature of Things, and make that which is true to become falfe. There is no Science without its Difficulties, and it is not pretended that Theology is without them. There are many great and inexplicable Difficulties in the Mathematicks; but fhall we therefore reject this as a Science of no value nor certainty, and believe no Demonstration in Euclide to be true, unless we could fquare the Circle? And yet this is every whit as reasonable, as it is, not to acknowledge the Truth of the Scriptures, unless we could explain all the Visions in Ezekiel, and the Revelations of St. John. We must believe nothing, and know nothing, if we must disbelieve and reject every thing which is liable to Difficulties. We must not believe we have a Soul, unless we can give an account of all its Operations; nor that we have a Body, unless we can tell all the Parts and Motions, and the whole Frame and Compofition of it. We muft not believe our Senfes, till there is nothing relating to Senfation but what we perfectly understand; nor that there are any Objects in the World, till we know the exact manner how we perceive them, and can folve all Objections that may be raised concerning them. And if a Man can be incredulous to this degree, it cannot be expected that he should believe the Scriptures : But till he is come to this height of Folly and Stupidity, if he will be confiftent with himself, and true to thofe Principles of Reafon, from which he argues in all other cafes, he cannot reject the Authority of the Scriptures upon the account of any Difficulties that he finds in them, whilft the Arguments by which they are proved to be of Divine Authority, remain unanfwered. And all the Objections, which can be invented against the Scriptures, cannot feem near fo abfurd to a confidering Man, as to fuppofe that God fhould not at all reveal himself to Mankind; or that the Heathen Oracles, or Mahomet's Alcoran, fhould be of Divine Revelation.