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Ambition it is to find fault? But though the Jurisdiction of Criticks be very large and absolute; yet I have taken care not to come under it, but have purposely avoided insisting upon any Authorities which have fallen under their Disputes, unless it be, perhaps, in speaking of the Sibyls; but there I have the Consent of the best Criticks, besides evident Reafon, on my fide, fo far as I am concern'd for them. 1: 4. A Pretence to Miracles and Prophecies, without Reason or Ground for it, in behalf of fome particular Errors, has weaken'd the Belief of the True Miracles and Prophecies: and whilst laborious Endeavours have been used to shew, that the Christian Religion cannot be true, unless those Doctrines be true, which have no Foundation in it; the quite contrary has happen'd to what in Charity we must suppose these Authors design’d: for instead of owning their Religion to be true, Men, who'are convinced of the Weakness of their Pretences, have taken them at their word, and have been forward to grant them, that there is no Religion true, and therefore not theirs.
5. I shall shew at large, in due time, That the many Differences and Disputes in Religion, are no Prejudice to the Truth and Certainty of it; but they are, notwithstanding, a great Scandal and Temptation, and a great Hindrance to the Salvation of Men, especially as they are commonly managed; whilft by all imaginable Arts and Means, Men of different Parties and Opinions Atrive to run down their Adverfaries.
Those who are concern’d, would do well, I should think, to consider what mischief may ensue, through the imprudent and unchristian management of Disputes, even in a right cause, which has no need of such methods; and therefore they are the less excusable, who use them iu defence of such a Cause. If we would convince or persuade Men in any other thing, we never are wont to think it a proper Expedient, to use them ill, and give them hard Words : And is rough Usage proper only for the Propagation of the Doctrines of the Gofpel, and of a Religion of Peace, and Meekness, and Charity?
Į know what Examples may be produced to countenance this Practice; but those great Authors have Excellencies enough for our Imitation, we need not imitate their Faults. Our Blessed Saviour, indeed, himself, and his Apostles, did not always forbear severe Language; but then they spoke with a Divine Power and Authority, and knew how to speak to the Hearts, as well as to the Ears of Men, and fully perceiv'd when this was the last and only Remedy to be used; they could strike dead with their Words, and were infallible in the use of such Expressions as were proper for the present occasion, either to comfort or to terrify Sinners, or awaken them to Repentance. There is no doubt, but a seasonable Reproof or Rebuke, though it be very fevere, may be not on, ly consistent with Charity, but may also be the Effect of it; and if ever we may speak with the
Power and Authority, as well as in the meekness and gentleness of Christ, we must do it when the Truth of the Christian Religion is call'd in question, and that by Christians. We live in an Age in which Men think they have done a great thing, and enough for them to value themselves upon, if they can but start a bold Objection against the Scriptures, though it have never fo little Sense in it. We have sufficient Warrant to treat these Men as they deserve : for the Apostles were commanded (according to a Custom in use among the Jews) to soake off the duft of their feet, againit such as rejected their Doctrine: and the least we can say to them, is to let them know, that if they will not believe, we are sorry for it, but cannot help it, and that they will have the worst of it. Mr. Hobbes liimself will allow, that an Atheist ought to be banish'd as a publick Mischief, and scarce any Terms can be too severe for those who openly a poftatize from the Religion in which they have been baptized, and blafpheme that Holy Name by which they are called. We must not so debase the Gospel of Christ, as to seem to beg their Approbation, which, I'm sure, we have little need of; in the present case. I am far from thinking any thing small or inconsiderable, in which the Honour of God, and the Truth of Religion is concern'd; but certainly a great Distinction is to be made between them from whom we differ in particular Points, tho' of great moment and consequence, and those who reject the Whole. Our chief Zeal and
Strength should be employ'd against the Common Enemies, who delight in our Quarrels, and sport themselves with the mutual Wounds we so freely give one another.
6. We have a sort of Men amongst us, who from hence have taken occasion to make it their whole Business both by their Discourses and Writings, to laugh all Religion and Morality out of the World: which has made our very Wit to degenerate, though this be the only thing for which these Men seem to value themselves; and our Poems, with all their foft Numbers, and flowing Style, to be far from deserving Commendation for this way of Writing is as much against the Rules of Poetry, as ar gainst those of Vertue; and they can never anfwer it to their own Art, whatever they may do to their Consciences; but ought to be censured for being ill Poets, as well as ill Men. A fine Saying, a soft or bold Expression, or a pretty Character! Is this all we have in exchange for our Reason and Religion, which these Men have so laboriously decry'd ? Some of the best Poets of our Age have been so sensible of the Dishonour hereby done to God, the Disservice to Mankind, and the Disgrace to so Noble an Art, that they have employ'd their Genius a better way. But the extravagant Raillery against Religion has been the moré. licentious, and the more frequeut, not only because it has met with Applause from so many, who are none of the wifest part of Mankind, but because it is the easiest way of Wit, flowing fo natu
rally from the very Temper and Inclination of corrupted Minds; and any smart Reflexion may easily be taken from another Subject, and apply'd here with Advantage, because it looks more extravagant and daring, and surprizes for no other Reason, but for the bold irreverent use of it. What is there in Religion, if it were untrue, that can seem ridiculous ? What, in the awful Majesty of the Lord of Heaven and Earth, that can provoke the Laughter and Mockery of any but Fools and Mad-men? It is not obvious to conceive, why it should be thought a greater Argument of a Man's Parts, to revile his God, than his Prince; to speak Blasphemy, than it is to speak Treason; or why the Wit should atone for the Crime more in the one case than in the other. But the truth is, a very moderate share of that will serve the turn in both cases. Produce your Cause, faith the Lord; bring forth your strong Reasons, faith the God of Jacob. * 7. And indeed, from the Wit and Drollery of some, others have taken the confidence to proceed to Arguments, but they are very far from being either strong or plausible; for í néver in my life observed fo much Disingenuity, fo: vain an affectation of Learning, and so groundless a: pretence to Reafon, as in these Men. The Extravagancies of Cardan are known to all that ever heard of him: The Lust, and Pride, and base Flattery of Vaninus, is every where: visible. Aut Deus eft, aut Vaninus, is such an Expression, as ng Man besides ever used