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mong Christians may ferve to prove to us the Divine Authority of our Religion, and of the Scriptures, which contain it, fince Chriftians agree in afferting their Divine Authority, and have never been so much at Unity among themselves, as to be able to agree to corrupt them, but have certainly deliver'd them down entire to us.
2. It is not Religion only, which Men difpute about, but there is nothing befides, in which they have not disagreed. It is obferv'd, that Want of Experience and Knowledge of the World, leads Men into more Inconveniencies, than Want of Parts and Abilities. And it is as certain, that a thorough Knowledge of the Debates and Contentions in Philofophy, would fooner cure moft Men of their Infidelity, than any Arguments could do. Those who raise Objections against Religion, if they would but confider, that almost every thing else has as great Difficulties, would be àfhamed to reject Religion upon Pretences, which, if they hold, muft force them to reject all other things with it, and to believe juft nothing at all. There have been Disputes in all Ages concerning Light and Motion, the Winds and Seas, and other Wonders of Nature, but it would be abfurd, for this Reason, to question, whether there be any fuch thing as Light and Motion, and whatever befides Men have difputed about. And yet it is more abfurd, if it be poffible, to allow that this is a good Argument against Religion, but against nothing else. If the Sun yield his Light, and Nature go on in her conftant Course, tho' Men differ never fo much in their Philofophy about it, what can Religion be the worse for their Difputes? No body thinks, that he sees ever the less for any Difficulties, which have been urg'd concerning Vision; and why should we be ever the lefs inclined to believe the Truth of Religion, by reafon of any Controverfies in it? Men may difpute any thing, and there is hardly any thing but it has been disputed; but no
thing is the less credible for being difputed, unless it can be difprov'd, but is rather confirm'd and advanc'd by it. Truth is never the lefs Truth for meeting with Oppofition, but is the more try'd, and the more approv'd, as Strength and Courage is by the fharpest Conflicts.
Since then there will be Vices, as long as there are Men in this World, and Differences and Diffenfions in Religion, as long as there are Vices; fince they cannot be hinder'd, but by the Omnipotent Power of God, and there are great Reasons, why he should not interpofe to prevent them; fince Differences in Religion are fo far from implying any Uncertainty in Religion, that they rather prove a Confirmation of it, and are in divers refpects made ufeful and expedient to the Edification of Chriftians, it must be great Inconfideration and Weakness, to produce them as an Objection against Religion.
There must be Herefies, and the Spirit Speaketh exprefly, that in the latter Times fome fhall depart from the Faith, giving heed to feducing Spirits, and Doctrines of Devils, fpeaking Lies in Hypocrify, having their Confcience fear'd with an hot Iron, 1 Tim. iv. 12. The Scripture could not be true, unless these things fhould happen, which are foretold in feveral places of Scripture. Behold, fays our Saviour, I have told you before, Matt. xxiv. 25. it ought to be no new nor furprizing thing to Christians, to see Herefies arise, though they be never fo wicked and abominable; becaufe we are forewarn'd to expect them, and they ferve to give a kind of Teftimony to the True Religion, in fulfilling the Predictions of it. They help to prove the Religion, which they would destroy: For if there had been no Herefies, that Religion could not be True, which has foretold them; but fince there are Herefies, our Religion is at least fo far true, as to contain exprefs Prophecies concerning them, which we fee daily fulfill'd; and as they evidently prove our Religion true in this
particular, fo they invalidate it in no other. Which is the Answer that the Chriftians anciently return'd to the Enemies of Religion, when they made this Objection against it.
Let us follow the plain, the known, and confefs'd Duties of Religion; Humility, Temperance, Righteousness, and Charity, and when once we have no Temptations to with Religion untrue, upon the account of the plain Precepts and Directions of it, we shall never fufpect it to be fo, by reafon of any Controverfies in it. For if Men will impartially confider things; that Religion which has now for fo many Ages stood out all the Affaults and Attempts, which Enemies from without, and Parties within, could make against it, has approv'd it felf much better and more gloriously, than it could have done, if there never had been either Herefies or Schifms. Let us therefore hold faft the Profeffion of our Faith without Wavering, being affured, that the Gates of Hell, that is, all the Power and Stratagems of Satan, fhall never be able to prevail against the Church of Chrift, but fhall only ferve to add to its Victories, and adorn its Triumphs. The Malice, O Lord, and Fierceness of Man fhall turn to thy Praife: And the Fierceness of them shalt thou refrain, Pfal. lxxvi. 10.
Though all Objections could not be answer'd, yet this would be no juft Cause to reject the Authority of the Scriptures.
LL Objections, which can with any Colour or Pretence be alledg'd, have been confider'd, and anfwer'd, by divers Men of great Learning and Judgment; and feveral Objections, which have made most noife in the World, as that about the Capacity of the Ark, and others, have been demonftrated to be groundless and frivolous. But though all Difficulties could not be accounted for, yet this would be no just or fufficient Caufe, why we should reject the Scriptures; because Objections for the most part are impertinent to the purpofe for which they were defign'd, and do not at all affect the Evidence which is brought in proof of the Scriptures; and if they were pertinent, yet unless they could confute that Evidence, they ought not to determine us against them.
He that with an honeft and fincere Defire to find out the Truth or Falfhood of a Revelation, enquires into it, fhould first confider impartially what can be alledg'd for it, and afterwards confider the Objections rais'd against it, that fo he may compare the Arguments in proof of it, and the Objections together, and determine himself on that fide, which appears to have moft Reason for it. But to infift upon particular Objections, collected out of difficult Places of Scripture, (though they would likewife obferve the Anfwers that have been given, which few of our Objectors have patience to do, but run away with the Objection without staying for an Anfwer) I fay, to alledge particular Objections, without attending to the main Grounds and Motives, which induce a Belief of the
Truth of the Scriptures, is a very deceitful way of Arguing: Because it is not in the leaft improbable, that there may be a true Revelation, which may have great Difficulties in it. But if fufficient Evidence be produced to convince us, that the Scriptures are indeed God's Word, and there be no proof on the contrary to invalidate that Evidence; then all the Objections besides, that can be raised, are but Objections, and no more. For if those Arguments, by which our Religion appears to be True, remain ftill in their full Force, notwithstanding the Objections, and no positive and direct Proof be brought, that they are insufficient, we ought not to reject those Arguments, and the Conclufions deduced from them upon the Account of the Objections, but to reject the Objections for the fake of those Arguments; because if those cannot be difproved, all the Objections, which can be thought of, muft proceed from fome Miftake. For when I am once assured of the Truth of a thing, by direct and pofitive Proof, I have the fame affurance, that all Objections against it must be vain and falfe, which I have, that that thing is true; becaufe every thing must be falfe, which is oppofite to Truth, and nothing but that which takes off the Arguments, by which any thing is proved to be True, can ever prove it falfe: But all Objections must be false themselves, or infignificant to the Purpose; for which they are alledged, if the Evidence for the Truth of that, against which they are brought, cannot be difproved, that is, if the Thing, against which they are brought, be True.
To fhew this in Particulars. If a Man mufter up never fo many Inconfiftencies, as he thinks, in the Scriptures, yet unless he be as well affured, at least, that these which he calls Inconsistencies, cannot be in any Book of Divine Revelation; as he may be, that the Scriptures are of Divine Revelation, he cannot in Reafon reject their Authority. And to be affured of