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." AND nothing, certainly, will more ine cline Men to believe that we live in an
age of Prodigies, than that there should be “ any such in the Christian World, who should
account it a piece of Gentilicy to DESPISE « RELIGION, and a piece of Reafon to be " ATHEISTS. For if there be any such Thing “ in the World as a true Heighc and MAG« NANIMITY of SPIRIT; if there be any so“ LID REASON and DEPTH of JUDGMENT ; " they are not only consistent with, but only " attainable by a true generous SPIRIT of RE« LIGION.:
“BUT if we look at that which the LOOSE 4 and PROPHANE World is apt to account the
greatest GALLANTRY, we shall find it made “ up of such pitiful Ingredients, which any " rational Mind will be ashamed to plead for, " much lels to mention them in Competition “ with. TRUE GOODNESS and UNFEIGNED PI
“ FOR, how easy is it to observe such, who « would be accounted the most HIGH and “ GALLANT SPIRITS, to quarry on such mean “ Preys, which only tend to satisfy their bru" tith Appetites ? :
“ DOTH now the CONQUEST of Pas“SIONS, FORGIVING INJURIES, DOING GOOD, " SELF-DENYAL, HUMILITY, PATIENCE unw der Crofles; which are the real Expressions « of Piety, speak nothing more NOBLE and 5 GENEROUS, chan a luxurious, malicious, " proud, and avaritious Spirit ? Is there no“thing more becoming and agreeable to the
s SOUL of MAN, in exemplary Piety, and a “ holy well-ordered Conversation, than in the « VANITY and DEBAUCHERY of those whom si the World accounts the finest Gentlemen?
" IS it not more HONOURABLE and GLO« RIOUS TO SERVE that God who COMMANDS « the WORLD, than to be a SLAVE to those « Paffions and Lusts which put Men upon a continual HARD SERVICE, and TORMENT şs them for it when they have done it?
“ WERE there nothing else to commend — Religion to the Minds of Men, besides that “ TRANQUILLITY and CALMNESS of SPIRIT, " that SERENE TEMPER which follows a good “ Conscience, wherever it dwells; it were « enough to make Men welcome that Guest, “ which brings such good entertainment with < it. Whereas the HORRORS and ANXIETIES « of Mind, which at one time or other, haunt $ such who prostitute their Conscience to a “ Violation of the Laws of God, and the « RULES of RECTIFIED REASON, may be “ enough to perswade any rational Person, “ that IMPILTY is the greaçest FOLLY, and “ IRRELIGION, MADNESS.
“IT cannot be then but Matter of great
Pity to consider ; that any Persons, whose “ Birth and EDUCATION hath raised them « above the common People of the World, “ Mould be so far their own Enemies, as co ► observe the FASHION more than the RULES « of RELIGION ; and read lewd Plays and “ ROMANCES, more thau the SACRED SCRIP“ TURES, which alone are able to make them wife y to Salvation.
« WHAT certain DIRECTIONS for PRAC« TICE should we have, what Rule to judge « of OPINIONS by, had not God, out of his “ INFINITE GOODNESS, provided and preserved “ this AUTHENTICK INSTRUMENT of his Will ." to the World? What a strange RELIGION « would CHRISTIANITY seem, should we " frame the Model of it from any other Thing " than the WORD of God? Without all con« troversy, the DISESTEEM of the SCRIPTURES, “ upon any Pretence whatsoever, has been, and " is the chief Cause of the Decay of RELI« GLON; and through many Windings and “ Turnings leads Men at last to the very « Depths of ATHEISM. Whereas the frequent " and serious converfing with the Mind of « God in his Word, is incomparably useful, " not only for keeping up in us a true NOTION “ of RELIGION (which is easily mistaken, when “ Men look upon the Face of it in any other “ Glass than that of the Scriptures) but like« wise for maintaining a POWERFUL Sence of
RELIGION in the Souls of Men, and a DUE « Valuation of it, whatever its Esteem or En« tertainment be in the World. For though “ the true genuine Spirit of CHRISTIANITY « should grow never so much out of Fashion se with the World, yet none who heartily BE« LIEVE the SCRIPTURES to be the WORD of " God, and that the Matters revealed therein « are INFALLIBLY TRUE, will ever have the « less Estimation of it.
“IT must be confessed, that the CREDIT * of RELIGION hath much SUFFERED in che
“ Age we live in, through the VAIN PRETEN“ CES of many to it, who have only ACTED " a Part in it, for the sake of some PRIVATE “ INTEREST6 of their own..
« NOTHING enlarges, more the Guloh “ of ATHEISM, than that wide Passage which “ lies between the Faith and LIVES of Men “ PRETENDING to be CHRISTIANS.
« I MUST needs say, there is nothing seems u more strange and unaccountable to me, than • that the PRACTICE of the unquestionable « DUTIES of CHRISTIANITY Ihould be put « out of Countenance, or slighted by any who « OWN, PROFESS, and contend for the PRIN“ CIPLES of it. Can the PROFESSION of that « be HONOURABLE; whose PRACTICE is not? « If the PRINCIPLES be TRUE, why are they « not PRACTISED? If they be not TRUE, why " are they PROFESSED?
· I AM sensible that there may be Imperfections in this Essay; and that some of the REFERENCES, at the first View, may be thought nat so properly applied; but am in hopes, that upon a closer Consideration, there will not many be found that are justly liable to this Objection. :
THE more I have APPLIED my thoughts to the STUDY of the SÇRIPTURES, the more I am CONVINCED, that the comparing one Part with another, is the surest and most satisfactory Way of arriving to the KNOWLEDGE of it,
by viewing the EXACT HARMONY that is to be found in these SACRED ORACLES; especially what relate to those DOCTRINES and PRECEPTS, which contain the RULE both of our Faith and PRACTICE.
THO' this Nation has been blessed with many EXCELLENT Books upon RELIGIOUS SUBJECTS; yet it must be acknowledged, that there is such a Divine FORCE and ENERGY in the Holy SCRIPTURES, that is infinitely superior to any human Composition.
THE most proper CONCLUSION I can make, is in the Words of the APOSTLE.
Heb. ii. 1. We ought to give the more EARNEST.
need to the Things which we havę HEARD,
left at any time we should let them SLIP.' 2. For if the WORD Spoken by ANGELS was
STEDFAST, and every TRANSGRESSION and
reward; 3. How shall we ESCAPE, if we NEGLECT so
great SALVATION, which at the first began to be spoken by the LORD, and was CONFIRM
ED unto us by them that HEARD him; 4. God also bearing them WITNESS, both with
SIGNs, and WONDERS, and divers Mira-
cording to his own Will? Chap. iv. 1. Let us therefore FEAR, left a Pro. Mise being left us of entring into his Rest,