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discern 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 such Objections have been urged against every Hypothesis in some point or other, as perhaps no Man is able fully to answer. But doth any Man doubt, whether there be such a thing as Light and Heat, as Day and Night, though he cannot be satisfied whether the Sun or the Earth move? Or do Men doubt, whether they can see or not, till they can demonstrate how Vision is made? And must none be allowed to see but Mathematicians? Or do Men refuse to eat, till they are satisfied how, and after what manner they are nourished? Yet if we must be swayed 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 circumstance of it. For whatever we are ignorant of concerning it, that may, it seems, be objected a. gainst the thing it self, and may be a just Reason why we should 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 Philosophers have not been able to do; we must not presume to eat, till we can tell how Digestion and Nourishment are made. In short, this would run us into all the Extravagancies of Scepticism: For upon these Principles it was, that some doubted whether Snow be white, or Honey sweet, or any thing else be of the same Colour or Taste, which it appears to be of, because they could amuse themfelves with Difficulties, and they were too much Phi
losophers to assent to any thing that they did not understand, tho' it were confirmed by the Sense and Experience of all Mankind. They were rational Men, and it was below them to believe their Senses, 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 Reason and Philosophy, they exposed themselves to the Scorn and Derision of all who had but the common Sense of Men, without the Art and Subtilty of imposing upon themselves and others.
And it is the same 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 some Men doubt whether they be Authentick? Can they disprove 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 should not reveal himself to Mankind, than that this Revelation should be his? No ; this is not the case : 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 those Arguments, by which it is proved to him. It is not inconsistent, that that may be most true, which may have many Exceptions framed against it; but it is absurd to reject that as incredible, which comes recommended to our Belief by such Evidence as cannot be disprov'd. Till this be done, all which can be faid besides, only shews, that there are Difficulties to be met withal in the Scriptures, which was never denied by those, who most firmly and Itedfastly believe them.
But Difficulties can never alter the nature of Things, and make that which is true to become false. 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 Mathe, maticks; but shall we therefore reject this as a Science of no value nor certainty, and believe no Demonstration in Euclide to be true, unless we could square 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 Composition of it. We must not believe our Senfes, till there is nothing relating to Sensation 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 solve 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 consistent with himself, and true to those Principles of Reason, from which he argues in all other cases, he cannot reject the Authority of the Scriptures upon the account of any Difficulties that he finds in them, whilst the Arguments by which they are proved to be of Divine Authority, remain unanswered. And all the Objections, which can be invented against the Scriptures, cannot seem near so absurd to a considering Man, as to suppose that God should not at all reveal himself to Mankind; or that the Heathen Oracles, or Mahomet’s Alcoran, should be of Divine Revelation.
The Conclufion; containing an Exhortation to di
serious Confideration of these things, both from the Example of the wisest and most learned Men, and from the infinite Importance of the Things themselves.
S Wife and as Learned Men as any that ever
lived in the World, have died in the Belief of the Christian Religion, when they had no Interest to engage them to it; and many of them have led their Lives under Persecutions, and have at last been put to Death, rather than they would renounce that Faith which the Scriptures declare to us. It cannot be denied, but that there have been Men of as great Learning, and as great Numbers of them, professing the Christian Religion, as have been of all other Religions in the World : Indeed, all manner of Arts and Sciences have been more improved by Christians, than by all other forts of Men whatsoever ; and all rational and solid Learning is confined; as I may say, within Christendom. For , besides the Idolatrous Worship, and other Impieties notorious among them; whatsoever Learning is to be found among the Chinese, or other Heathen Nations, their Notions of
Things, so far as they differ from what is contained : in the Scriptures, are so obscure and confused at the
best, and so groundless, that that Christian must be very weary of his Religion, who can think of changing it for such Uncertainties.
And no Man that profess’d and called himself a Christian, ever disbelieved the Scriptures, but there were visibly other Reasons for it than there, which
the Nature of the Christian Religion could afford : It was apparent in his Life, that he wished the Christian Religion were false, before he endeavoured to persuade himself that it is not true. Some are poffefs'd with that intolerable Spirit of Pride and Contradiction, that mere Vanity and a Conceit of being wiser than others, makes them find fault with any thing that is generally received ; and the greatest Fault which these Men can find with the Christian Religion, is, that they have been bred up in it, and therefore they make lieavy Complaints of the prejudices of Education, and the hindrances which ingenuous Minds labour under, from the influences of it, in the pursuit of Truth: And these Men, perhaps, might have talk'd as much, and to as much purpose, for Christianity, as they now talk against it, if they had not been born among Christians, and been bred up in the Christian Religion ; tliey scorn to be the better for their Education, and are ashamed of nothing more than to believe and think like other Men; and they might almost be persuaded to be Christians still, if they could but be singular in being so : For the mere Affectation of Singularity makes them despise and dispute against any thing which others allow and esteem. But it will be hard to find any learned Man of tolerable Modesty and Vertue, and who was not as singular in other things, as in his Notions of Religion but he has firmly believed the Divine Authority of the Scriptures.
It concerns all, who have any Doubts about these things, to weigh the Objections with the Answers that have been given to them by divers Authors, and withal to observe the importance of the Objections, and how far they affect the main Cause; and still to Temember, that it is at every Man's own Peril, if he inake a rash and partial Judgment. If our Faith could be of no Benefit or Advantage to us, nor Infidelity any