« 이전계속 »
have been able to discover in it, and that is, that it is too good and vertuous for them; for when they have said all they can, this is their great Quarrel against it; and (as it has been truly observ’d) no Charity less than that of the Religion which they despise, would have muchi Care or Consideration for them.
Thus have some Men dishonour'd Religion by their Lives; some by an Affectation of Novelty; some by invalidating the Authority of Books relating true. Miracles and Prophecies , and others by forging false ones : fome again, by their too eager and imprudent Disputes and Contentions about Religion, whilst froin hence others have taken the Liberty to ridicule it, and to dispute against it, but so as to expose themselves, whilst they would expose Religion, And thus has the clearest and most necessary Truth been obscured and despised, whilft it has been betray'd by the Vanity and Quarrels of its Friends, to the Scorn and Weakness of irs Enemies.
However, in all their Opposition and Contradiction to Reveald Religion, I find it asserted by these Men, that Atheism is so absurd a thing, that they question whether there ever were, or can be an Atheist in the World. I have therefore here proved, from the Attributes , of God, and the Grounds of Natural Religion, that the Chriftian Religion must be of Divine Revelation; and that this Religion is as certainly true, as it is, that God Himself exists; which is the plainest Truth, and the most uni
versally acknowledg’d of any thing whatsoever. And because there is nothing so true or certain, but something may be alledg’d against it, I shall befides discourse úpon such Heads as have been most excepted againft: In which I shall endeavour to prove the Truth, in such a manner, as to vindicate it against all Gavils; though I shall not take notice of particular Objections, which is both a needless and indeed an endless Labour, for there is no end of Cavils: but if the Truth be well and fully explain'd, any Objection may receive a fufficient Answer, from the Confideration of the Doctrine against which it is urged, by applying it to particular Difficulties; as one Right Line is enough to demonstrate all'the Va. riations from it to be Crooked.
It is very easy to cavil and find fault with a. ny thing; and to start Objections, and ask Queftions, is even to a Proverb ésteem'd the worst Sign that can be of a great Wit, or a found Judgment. Men are unwilling to believe any thing to be true, which contradicts their Vices'; and the weakest Arguments, with strong Inclinations to a Cause, will prove or disprove what. ever they have a mind it should. But let Men first practise the Vertues, the Moral Vertues which our Religion enjoins, and then let them disprove it, if they can: nay, let them disprove it now, if they can, for it stands in no need of their favour; but, for their own sakes, let them have a care of mistaking Vices for Arguments, and every profane Jest for a Demonstration. Í wilh they would consider, whether the Concern they have, to fet up Natural against Reveald Religion, proceed not from hence, that, by Natural Religion, they mean no more than just what they please themselves, or what they judge convenient in every case and occasion : whereas Reveald Religion is a fix'd and determin'd thing, and prescribes certain Rules and Laws for the Government of our Lives. The plain Truth of the matter is, that they are for a Religion of their own Contrivance, which they may-alter as they see fit ; but not for one of Divine Revelation, which will admit of no Change, but must always continue the fame, whatever they can do. Unlefs that were the cafe, there would be little occasion to trouble them with Books of this kind; for the Arguments brought against the Christian Religion, are indeed fo weak and insignificant, that they rather make for it; and it might well be said, as M. Pafchat relates, by one of this fort of Men, to his Companions, If you continue to difpate at this rate', you will certainly make me a Christian. I shall venture, at least, to say of this Treatife, in the like manner as he does of his, That if these Men would be pleas’d to spend but a little of that time, which is so often worse employd, in the perufal of what is here offer'd, I hope that something they may meer withal, which may satisfie their Doubts, and convince them of their Errors.
But though they should defpise whatever can be said to them, yet there are others, besides the profess’d Adversaries of Reveald Religion ,
to whom a Treatise of this nature may be ferviceable. The Truth is, notwithstanding the great Plainness of the Christian Religion, I cannot but think, that Ignorance is one chief cause why it is so little valu'd and esteem'd, and its Doétrines so little obey'd: A great part of Chriftians content themselves with a very flight and imperfect Knowledge of the Religion they profess; and are able to give but very little Reason for that, which is the most Reasonable thing in the World; but they profess it rather as the Religion of their Countrey, than of their own Choice; and because they find it contradicts their sensual Desires, they are willing to believe as little of it as may be; and when they hear others cavit and trifle with it, partly out of Ignorance, and partly from Inclination, they take every idle Objection, if it be but bold enough, for an unanswerable Argument. Whereas, if Christians were but throughly acquainted with the Grounds of their Religion, and sincerely difposed to believe and practise according to them, they would be no more moved with these Cas vils, than they would be persuaded to think the worse of the Sun, if some Men should take a Fancy to make that the Subject of their Raillery. To have the more doubtful and wavering Thoughts of Religion, because it is expos'd to the Scorn and Contempt of ill Men, is as if we should despise the Sun for being under a Cloud, or suffering an Eclipse; not knowing that he retains his Light, and Religion its Excellency still, though we be in Darkness; the Light may, bę
hid from us, but can lose nothing of its own Brightness, though we suffer for want of it, and lie under the shadow of death.
The Consideration of the Grounds and Reasons of our Religion is useful to all sorts of Men: for if ever we would be seriously and truly Religious, we must lay the Foundation of it in our Understandings, that, by the rational Conviction of our Minds, we may (through the Grace of God assisting us) bring our Wills to a Submission, and our Affections to the Obedience of the Gospel of Christ; and the more we think of, and consider these things, the more we shall be convinced of them, and they will have the greater Power and influence in the Course of our Lives. For though the Truth of the Christian Religion cannot, without greae Sin and Ignorance, be doubted of by Christians; yet it is a Confirmation to our Faith, and adds a, new Life and Vigour to our Devotions, when we recollect
upon what good Reasons we are Chriftians; and are not such by Custom and Education only, but upon Principles which we have throughly consider’d, and must abide by, unless we will renounce our Reason with our Religion.
And what Subject can be more useful, or more worthy of a rational and considering Man's Thoughts? These things, which are now made matter of Cavil and Dispute, will be the Subject of our Contemplation, and of our Joy and Happiness to all Eternity in the other World. We İhall then have clear and distinct Apprehensions of the Means and Methods of our Salvation, and