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P R E FACE.
Shall neither trouble the reader, nor myself, with any
they be in any measure truly serviceable to the end for which they are designed, to establish men in the principles of religion, and to recommend to them the practice of it with any considerable advantage, I do not see what apology is necesary; and if they be not so, I am sure none can be sufficient. However, if there need any, the common heads of excuse in these cases are very well known ; and I hope I have an equal right to them with other men.
I shall chuse rather in this preface to give a short account of the following discourses; and, as briefly as I can, to vindicate a single passage in the first of them from the exceptions of a Gentleman, who hath been pleased to honour it so far, as to write a whole book against it.
The design of these discourses is fourfold.
1. To shew the unreasonableness of Atheism, and of scoffing at religion ; which I am sorry is fo necessáry to be done in this age. This I have endeavoured in the two first of these discourses.
2. To recommend religion to men from the great and manifold advantages which it brings both to publick Society and to particular perfons. And this is the argument of the third and fourth.
3. To represent the excellency, more particularly, of the Christian religion; and to vindicate the praftice of it from the suspicion of those grievous troubles and difficulties which many imagine it to be attended withal. And this is the subject of the fifth and fixth.
4. To persuade men to the practice of this holy religion, from the great obligation which the profession of Christianity lays upon men to that purpose, and, more particularly, fron the glorious rewards of another life; which is the design of the two next discourses.
Having, given this short account of the following dif-
But there was another reason for his
I expected indeed, after his Letter of thanks, in which
of my book, that in his answer he might the better lay
to do, but to speak to folid points ; ” I say, after this, I
blow, till he had either brought Dr. Still, and me to lay
principles that would bear the test, or it was made evi-
professor of first principles? But I perceive, that great minds are merciful, and do sometimes content themselves to threaten, when they could destroy.
For, instead of returning a full answer to my book, he, according to their new mode of confuting books, manfully falls a-nibbling at one single passage in it, p. 118. (vol. 3. P. 308, 9. of this edition] ; wherein he makes me to say, (fór I say no such thing), that the rule of Christian faith,
and consequently faith itself, is possible to be false.” Nay in his Letter of thanks, p. 13. he says, “it is an avowed
position,” in that place, " that faith is posible to be false." And to give the more countenance to this calumny, he chargelh the same position in equivalent terms) of the pollible fallhood of faith, and that as to the chiefest and most fundamental point, the tenet of a Deity, upon the forementioned sermon. But because he knew in his conscience, that I had avowed no such position, he durft not cite the words either of my book or fermon, left the reader should have discovered the notorious falfhood and groundlessness of this calumny : nay, he durft not so much as refer to any particular place in my sermon where such a palage might be found. And yet this is the man that has the face to charge others with false citations ; to which charge, before I have done, I shall say something, which, what effečt foever it may have upon him, would make any other man sufficiently ashamed.
But yet I must acknowledge, that in this position which he fastens upon me, he honours me with excellent company, my Lord Faulkland, Mr. Chillingworth, and Dr. Stillingfleet; perfons of that admirable strength and clearnefs in their writings, that Mr. S. when he reflects upon his owiz Style, and way of reasoning, may blush to acknowledge that ever he has read them. And as to this position which he charges them withal, I do not know (nor have the least reason upon Mr. S.'s word to believe) any such thing is maintained by them.
As for myself, whom I am now only concerned to vindicate, I Mall fet down the two pasages, to which I suppose he refers.
In my fermon, (vol. 1. p. 32.] I endeavour, among other things, to fhew the unreasonableness of Atheism upon this account : “Because it requires more evidence for things
“ than they are capable of.". To make this good, I difcourse thus : “ Aristotle hath long since observed, how un“ reasonable it is to expect the same kind of proof
for every thing, which we have for some things. Mathemati“ cal things, being of an abstracted nature, are only capable “ of clear demonstration. But conclusions in natural phi“ losophy are to be proved by a sufficient induction of expe“ riments; things of a moral nature, by moral arguments; “ and matters of fact, by credible testimony, “ none of these be strict demonftration, yet have we an un“ doubted assurance of them, when they are proved by the “ best arguments that the nature and quality of the thing “ will bear. None can demonstrate to me, that there is
such an island in America as Jamaica ; yet, upon the te“ ftimony of credible persons, and authors who have written
of it, I am as free from all doubt concerning it, as from
doubting of the clearest mathematical demonstration. So " that this is to be entertained as a firm principle, by all " those who pretend to be certain of any thing at all
, That “ when any thing is proved by as good argumenis as that
thing is capable of, and we have as great assurance that “ it is, as we could posibly have supposing, it were, we 6 ought not in reason to make any doubt of the existence of “ that thing. Now to apply this to the present case: The
being of God is not mathematically demonstrable ; nor
can it be expected it should ; because only mathematical “ matters admit of this kind of evidence. Nor can it be
proved immediately by fense; because God being supposed " to be a pure spirit, cannot be the object of any corporeal
sense. But yet we have as great assurance that there is a God, as the nature of the thing to be proved is capable
of, and as we could in reason expect to have, supposing " that he were.”
Upon this passage it must be, if any thing in the sermon, that Mr. S. chargeth this position (in equivalent terms of the pollible falíhood of faith, and that as to the chiefest and most fundamental point, the tenet of a Deity. And now I appeal to the reader's eyes and judgment, whether the sum of what I have said be not this, That though the existence of God be not capable of that strict kind of demonstration which mathematical matters are ; yet that we bave an undoubted assurance of it. One would think, that