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533 Prejudice, we might take the fame Liberty to give Credit or no Credit to what we read in the Bible, that we use in the Reading all other Books, and to receive or reject it as we think fit, or to believe only just so much, as lies even with our own Understandings and Notions of Things, and at the worst this would be but Folly in us. But it is Madness to reject our own Happiness, and make our felves miserable, because we do not perceive the Reasons of all the Means and Methods, which God has been pleas'd to use to make us happy; or are not able to understand every Word of that Book, which contains the Terms of our Salvation.
This is as if a Son should choose to live miserably, rather than to enjoy a large Estate left him by his Father, because he doth not perceive the Design and full Meaning of every Particular in his Will; he searches out for all Ways and Arts of cavilling at it, and is fond of any Pretence to cast it aside as Counterfeit, being resolv'd never to believe it to be his Father's: For his Father was a wise Man, and if it were his, such and such Clauses would not be in it, since there is no reason, that he can see, why they should be inserted ; several things mention'd in it, he believes are mistimed, the Bounds of the Lands are not described by fit Names ; besides it is interlin'd, and he never will accept of such an Estate convey'd to him by such a Will; but chooses rather to be miserable all the days of his Life. This would be such Peevishness and Perverseness, as is not to be met withal, where our Temporal Interest is concern'd : But too many are too forward to reject the Tenders, and despise the Terms of an everlasting Inheritance in Heaven, though at the fame time they become obnoxious to all the Curses threatned to Unbelievers, because the Old and New Testament contain some things which may afford matter of Exception and Cavil to captious Men.
God has sent his Prophets to call, and admonish us, and his son to reconcile us to himself, by his Death; and to offer us Eternal Peace and Happiness, and he has given us all the Evidence of it, that the nature of the things would admit. The Jews have asserted the Authority of the Old Testament from the times of Moses and the Prophets; and the Christians asserted the Truth of the Gospel, when it was. imposible for them not to know whether it were true or not; without any profpect of Advantage by it in this World ; but with a certain Expectation of all manner of Torments and Deaths; and the greatest part of the known World, was converted to the Belief of it, and became Christians; when in this World, Christians were of all Men the most miserable, and were supported only by the stedfast hope and expectation of that Happiness whichi is promis’d to us in the Scriptures after this Life. And all things consider’d, we have as sufficient grounds for the Authority of the Scriptures, as we have, not only that any other Book was compos’d by the Author, whose Name it bears, but as we have to believe any thing else in the World. Now what do these Men ? How do they receive so great a Blessing? Why, they overlook all the Evidence that can be brought to prove the Divine Authority of the Scriptures, and search up
and down for doubtful and obscure Passages to disprove it by; not considering, in the mean time, that nothing can overthrow their Authority, but that which can invalidate the Evidence, by which it is establish'd. It would be the highest Folly and Ingratitude thus to despise God's Mercy and Care over us, if there were no Danger in it, but it being a thing of infinite Danger, it is no less than Madness: For what milder Term can be found to express the desperate Folly of them, who reject a Book, which sets before us the means of Salvation, but at the same time forewarns us
upon pain of the severest effects of God's Displeasure, not to neglect them : It is Madness, I say, if we rightly consider it, to reject such a Book, and at once both to affront the Mercy, and despise the Threatnings of the infinitely Merciful, and the infinitely Great and Powerful God.
It is a good caution to the Atheist to forbear his Blasphemies, and Contempt of the Divine Majesty, for fear it should prove true , that there is a God , at last, and then it will be a dismal thing after all his profane Talking and Arguing, to be call'd before that God, whom he has so often deny’d. And it is as good Advice to those, who make it their Business to find fault with the Scriptures, to consider seriously whether they are sure that these are not God's Word, after all that can be said against them; and if they be not absolutely certain of this, the Name and Title, which they bear, and which Men as wise and as judicious as themselves, have ever thought to belong to them, should methinks keep Men within some bounds of Modesty and Discretion. For if they be indeed the Word of God, (and nothing is capable of being made more evident) then how dearly must they pay for a little cavilling Wit and Subtilty! The best and most Divine things may be despis’d and affronted by a bold and fcurrilous Wit, but can Men think it a safe or a prudent thing to ridicule and scoff at those Books, which, for ought they know, may be of Divine Reyelation, when all the Reason, of which they fancy themselves so great Masters, can never be able to confute the Arguments brought in Vindication of them ? Can they value the contemptible Reputation of a little Satyr and Drollery, at that mighty Rate, as to run the Hazard of being damnd for it?
If Men have any real Doubts or Scruples, they must needs grant, that it is too serious a thing to jest and trifle withal, when no less than the Terms of our
everlasting Happiness, or everlasting Misery is the thing in Controversy.' And what Wit there may be in it, I cannot tell ; but I am sure it is no Sign of a very wise Man to speak contemptibly of a Book, by which he can never prove, but that he must be judg'd at the last Day. As a Mad-man, says Solomon, who casteth Fire-brands, Arrows, and Death; fo is the Man that deceiveth his Neighbour, and faith, Am not I in Sport? Prov. xxvi. 18, 19. But what Description or Comparison can be found equal to his Madness, who deceiveth and destroyeth himself, and that eternally, and yet says, Am not I in Sport? Is not this the very Perfection of Wit and Raillery?
Wo unto him that striveth with his Maker, Ifai. xlv.9. Do they provoke me to Anger, saith the Lord, do they not provoke themselves to the Confusion of their own Faces? Jer. vii. 19. And thou shalt know, that I am the Lord, and that I have heard all thy Blasphemies. Thus with your Mouth ye have boasted against me, and have multiplied your Words against me, I have heard them, Ezek. XXXV. 12, 13. Do we provoke the Lord to Jealousy, are me Stronger than he ? 1 Cor. x. 22.
There shall come in the last days Scoffers, walking after their own Lusts, 2 Pet. iii. 3. But, beloved, remember ye the Words, which were spoken before of the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, how that they told you, there should be Mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly Lusts, Jude 17, 18. "If all that I have difcours'd be insufficient to convince these Men, yet let their own Arguments, and even their own Blasphemies convince them; for the very worst that they can say or do, serves to fulfil the Prophecies, and confirm the Authority of the Holy Scriptures.
F I N I S.