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out what he should believe and what he should practice, before he can possibly judge for himself, ihan to run to his Parents and receive their Sentiments and their Directions.
You will say, this is hard indeed, that the Child of a heathen Idolater or a cruel Cannibal, is laid under a Sort of Necessity by Nature of linning against the Light of Nature; I grant it is hard indeed, but it is only owing to our original Fall and Apoftacy: The Law of Nature continues as it was in Innocence, (viz.) that a Parent should judge for his Child ; but, if the Parent judges ill, the Child is greatly exposed by it thro' that universal Disorder, that is, brought into the World by the Sin of Adam our common Father : And from the Equity and Goodness of God we may reasonably infer, that the great Judge of all will do right; he will balance the Ignorance and Incapacity of the Child with the criminal Nature of the Offence in thole puerile Instances, and will not punish beyond just Demerit.
BESIDES, what could God, as a Creator, do better for Children in their Minority, than to commit them to the Care and Instruction of Parents: None are supposed to be so much concerned for the Happiness of Children as their Parents are; therefore it is the safest Step to Happiness, according to the original Law of Creation, to follow their
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Directions, their Parents Reason acting for them before they have Reason of their own in proper Exercise; nor indeed is there any better General Rule in our fallen State by which Children are capable of being goverried, though in many particular Cafes it may lead them far astray from Virtue and Happiness.
1r Children by Providence be cast under fome happier Instructions, contrary to their Parents erroneous Opinions, I cannot say it is the Duty of such Children to follow Error, when they discern it to be Error, because their Father believes it ; what I said before is to be interpreted only of those that are under the immediate Care and Education of their Parents, and not yet arrived at Years capable of Examination; I know not how these can be freed from receiving the Dictates of parental Authority in their youngest Years, ex cept by immediate or divine Inspiration.
IT is hard to say, at what exact Time of Life, the Child is exempted from the sovereignty of parental Dictates. Perhaps it is much juster to suppose that this Sovereignty diminishes by Degrees as the Child grows in Understanding and Capacity, and is more and more capable of exerting his own intel. lectual Powers, than to limit this Matter by Months and Years. • When Childhood and Youth are so far expired, that the reasoning Faculties are
grown up to any just Measures of Maturity, it is certain that persons ought to begin to enquire into the Reasons of their own Faith and Practice in all the Affairs of Life and Religion : but as Reason does not arrive at this Power and Self-sufficiency in any single Moment of Time, so there is no single Mo. ment when a Child should at once cast off all its former Beliefs and Practices; but by Degrees and in flow Succession he should examine them as Opportunity and Advantages offer; and either confirm, or doubt of, or change them, according to the Leadings of Conscience and Reason with all its best Advantages of Information.
When we are arrived at manly Age, there is no Person on Earth, no Sett or Society of Men whatsoever, that have Power and Authority given them by God, the Creator and Governor of the World, absolutely to dictate to others their Opinions or Practices in the moral and religious Life. God has given every Man Reason to judge for himnlelf, in higher or in lower Degrees. Where less is given, less will be requir’d. But we are
chargeable with crimin Sloth and Mir improvement of the Theats, with which our Creator has inti otted us, if we take all Things for granted when ott is affert, and believe and practise all T!, which they dictate without due Examination.
II. AnoII. ANOTHER Case wherein Authority must govern our Affent, is in many Matters of Fact. Here we may and ought to be determined by the Declarations or Narratives of other Men ; tho' I must confess this is usually called Testimony rather than Authority. It is upon this foot, that every Son or Daughter among Mankind are required to believe that such and such Persons are their Parents, for they can never be inform’d of it but by the Dictates of others. It is by Testimony that we are to believe the Laws of our Country, and to pay all proper Deference to the Prince and to Magistrates in subordinate Degrees of Authority, though we did not actually see them chosen, crowned, or invested with their Title and Character. It is by Testimony that we are necessitated to believe there is such a City as Canterbury or York, though perhaps we have never been at either; that there are such Persons as Papists at Paris and Rome, and that there are many sottish and cruel Tenets in their Religion. It is by Testimony that we believe that Christianity and the Books of the Bible, have been faithfully delivered down to us through many Generations ; that there was such a Person as Christ our Saviour, that he wrought Miracles, and died on the Cross, that he rose again and ascended to Heaven.
tunities and Capacities of knowing the Truth, and are free from all Suspicion of Deceit in relating it, ought to sway our Affent; especially when Multitudes concur in the same Testimony, and when there are many other attending Circumstances which raise the Proposition which they dictate to the Degree of Moral Certainty.
But in this very Case, even in Matters of Fact and Affairs of History, we should not too easily give in to all the Dictates of Tradition, and the pompous Pretences to the Testimony of Men, till we have fairly examined the several Things which are necessary to make up a credible Testimony, and to lay a just Foundation for our Belief. There are and have been so many Fallhoods imposed upon Mankind with specious Pretences of Eye and Ear Witnesses, that should make us wisely cautious and justly suspicious of Reports, where the concurrent Signs of Truth do not fairly appear, and especially where the Matter is of considerable Imporfance. And the less Probable the Fact testified is in itself the greater Evidence may we juftly demand of the Veracity of that Testimony on which it claims to be admitted.
JII. The last Cafe wherein Authority must govern us is, when we are callid to believe what Persons under Inspiration have dictated to us. This is not properly the Authority of Men, but of God himself; and