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We are fallen into an Age, in which there are a sort of Men who have (hewn so great a Forwardness to be no longer Christians, that they have catch'd at all the little Cavils and Pretences against Religion; and, indeed, if it were not more out of Charity to their own Souls , than for any Credit Religion can have of them, it were great pity but they should have their Wish: for they both think and live so ill, that it is an Argument for the Goodness of any Cause, that they are against it. It was urged, as a Confirmation of the Christian Religion, by Tertullian, that it was hated and persecuted by Nero, the worst of Men: And I am confident , it would be but small Reputation to it, in any Age, if such Men should be fond of it. They speak evil of the things they understand not; and are wont to talk with as much Confidence against any point of Religion, as if they had all the Learning in the World in their keeping, when commonly they know little or nothing of what has been said for that against which they dispute. They seem to imagine, that there is nothing in the World, besides Religion , that has any Difficulty in it: but this thews how little they have consider'd the Nature of Things, in which multitudes of Objections and Difficulties meet an observing Man in every Thought. And after all, Religion has but one Fault, (as they account it) which they have been able to discover in it, and that is, that it is too good and vertuous for them $ for when they have seid all they can, this is .their great Quarrel against it 5 and (as it has been truly obscrv'd) no Charity less than that of the Religion which they despise, would have much Care or Consideration for them.
Thus have some Men dishonours Religion by their Lives 5 some by an Affectation of Novelty 5 some by invalidating the Authority of Books relating true Miracles and Prophecies, and others by forging false ones: some again, by their too eager and imprudent Disputes and Contentions about Religion, whilst from 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, whilst it has been betray'd by the Vanity and Quarrels of its Friends, to the Scorn and Weakness of its Enemies.
However, in all their Opposition and Contradiction to Reveal'd 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 Christian Religion must be of Divine Revelation; and that this Religion is as certainly true, as it is, that God Himself exists 5 which is the plainest Truth, and the most universally acknowledge of any thing whatsoever. And because there is nothing so true or certain, but something may be alledg'd against it, I shall
besides discourse upon such Heads as have been most excepted against: In which I (hall endeavour to prove the Truth, in such a manner, as to vindicate it against all Cavils; 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 sufficient Answer, from the Consideration of the Doctrine against which it is urged, by applying it to particular Difficulties ^ as one Right Line is enough to demonstrate all the Variations from it to be Crooked.
It is very easy to cavil and find fault with any thing ^ and to start Objections, and ask Questions , is even to a Proverb esteem'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 5 and the weakest Arguments, with strong Inclinations to a Cause, will prove or disprove whatever 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 5 but, for their own fakes, let them have a care of mistaking Vices for Arguments, and every profane Jest for a Demonstration, I wish they would consider, whether the Concern they have, to set up Natural against Reveal'd Religion, proceed not from hence, that, by Natural Religion, they mean no more than just . " : * ." what •
what they please themselves, or what they judge convenient in every cafe and occasion: whereas Reveal'd 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 fee fit; but not for one of Divine Revelation, which will admit of no Change , but must always continue the fame, whatever they can do. Unless that were the cafe, there would be little occasion to trouble them with Books of this kind 5 for the Arguments brought against the Christian Religion, are indeed so weak and insignificant, that they rather make for it3 and it might well be said, as M. Paschal relates, by one of this fort of Men, to his Companions, If you continue to disrate at thk rate, you will certainly make the a. Christian. I (hall venture, at least, to fay of this Treatise, 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 employ'd, in the perusal of what is here offer'd, I hope that something they may meet withal, which may satisfie their Doubts, and convince them of their Errors.
But though they should despise whatever can be said to them , yet there are others, besides the profess'd Adversaries of Reveal'd Religion, to whom a Treatise of this nature may be serviceable. The Truth is, notwithstanding the great Plainness of the Christian Religion, I can^
not not but think, that Ignorance is one chief cause why it is so little valu'd and esteem'd , and its Doctrines so little obey'd: A great part of Christians content themselves with a very flight and imperfect Knowledge of the Religion they proprofess 5 and are able to give but very little Reason for that, which is the most Reasonable thing in the World 5 but they profess it rather as the Religion of their Country, than of their own Choice 5 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 cavil 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 disposed to believe and practise according to them, they would be no more moved with these Cavils, tKan 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 5 not knowing that he retains his Light, and Religion its Excellency still, fhough we be in Darkness 5 the Light may be hid from us, but can lose nothing of its own Brightness, though we suffer for want of it, and lie under the fiadorv of death.