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themselves wrought, that great multitudes were converted to a doctrine, which, besides the opposition it gave to lust and passion, was borne down and persecuted for three hundred years ; and yet its force was such, that it not only weathered out all those ftorms, but even grew and spread vastly under them. Pliny, about threescore years after, found their numbers great, and their lives innocent: and even Lucian, amidst all his raillery, gives a high testimony to their charity and contempt of life, and the other virtues of the Christians; which is likewise more than once done by malice itself, Julian the apoftate.
If a man will lay all this in one balance, and compare with it the few exceptions brought to it, he will soon find how strong the one, and how slight the other. Therefore it was an improper way, to begin at some cavils about some passages in the New Testament, or the Old, and from thence to preporfess one's mind against the whole. The right method had been first to consider the whole matter, and from fo general a view to descend to more particular enquiries: whereas they suffered their minds to be forestalled with prejudices ; so that they never examined the matter impartially.
To the grçatest part of this he seemed to assent, only he excepted to the belief of mysteries in the Christian religion; which he thought no man could do, since it is not in a man's power to believe that
which he cannot comprehend, and of which he can have no notion. The believing mysteries, he said, made way for all the jugglings of priests ; for they, getting the people under them in that point, set out to them what they pleased; and giving it a hard name, and calling it a mystery, the people were tamed, and ealily believed it. The restraining a man from the use of women, except one in the way of marriage, and denying the remedy of divorce, he thought unreasonable impofitions on the freedom of mankind : and the business of the clergy, and their maintenance, with the belief of some authority and power, conveyed in their orders, looked, as he thought, like a piece of contrivance ; and why, said he, muft a man tell me, I cannot be saved, unless I believe things against my reason, and then that I must pay him for telling me of them i These were all the exceptions which at any timne I heard from him to Christianity; to which I made these answers.
For mysteries, it is plain there is in every thing fomewhat that is unaccountable. How animals or men are formed in their mothers bellies, how seeds grow in the earth, how the foul dwells in the body, and acts and moves it; how we retain the figures of many words or things in our memories, and how we draw them out so easily and orderly in our thoughts or discourses ; how fight and hearing were so quick and distinct, how we move, and how bodies were
compounded and united; these things, if we follow them into all the difficulties that we may raise about them, will appear every whit as unaccountable as any mystery of religion ; and a blind or deaf man would judge fight or hearing as incredible as any mystery may be judged by us ; for our reason is not equal to them. In the same rank, different degrees of age or capacity raise fome far above others, so that children cannot fathom the learning, nor weak persons the councils of more illuminated minds; therefore it was no wonder if we could not underItand the Divine Essence. We cannot imagine how two such different natures as a soul and body should so unite together, and be mutually affected with one another's concerns; and how the soul has one principle of reason, by which it acts intellectually, and another of life, by which it joins to the body and acts vitally: two principles so widely differing both in their nature and operation, and yet united in one and the same person. There might be as many hard arguments brought against the possibility of these things, which yet every one knows to be true, from speculative notions, as against the mysteries mentioned in the scriptures. As that of the Trinity, that in one essence there are three different principles of operation, which, for want of terms fit to express - them by, we call persons, and are called in scripture the Father, Son, and Holy Ghoft; and that the
second of these did unite himself in a inost intimate manner with the human nature of Jesus Christ; and that the sufferings he underwent were accepted of God as a sacrifice for our fins; who thereupon conferred on him a power of granting eternal life to all that submit to the terms on which he offers it ; and that the matter of which our bodies once consisted, which may as justly be called the bodies we laid down at our deaths as these can be said to be the bodies which we formerly lived in, being refined and made more spiritual, shall be reunited to our souls, and become a fit instrument for them in a more perfect estate ; and that God inwardly bends and moves our wills by such impressions as he can make on our bodies and minds.
These, which are the chief mysteries of our religion, are neither so unreasonable, that any other objection lies against them, but this, that they agree not with our common notions, nor so unaccountable that somewhat like them cannot be assigned in other things, which are believed really to be, though the manner of them cannot be apprehended: so this ought not to be any just objection to the submission of our reason to what we cannot so well conceive, provided our belief of it be well grounded. There have been too many niceties brought indeed rather to darken than explain these : they have been defended by weak arguments, and illustrated by fimilies
not always so very apt and pertinent; and new fubtilties have been added, which have rather perplexed than cleared them. All this cannot be denied; the opposition of heretics anciently occasioned too much curiosity among the fathers, which the schoolmen have wonderfully advanced of late times. But if mysteries were received rather in the simplicity in which they are delivered in the scriptures than according to the descantings of fanciful men upon them, they would not appear much more incredible than fome of the common objects of sense and perception. And it is a needless fear, that, if some mysteries are acknowledged, which are plainly mentioned in the New Testament, it will then be in the power of the priests to add more at their pleasure. For it is an abfurd inference from our being bound to assent to some truths about the Divine Essence, of which the manner is not understood, to argue that therefore in an object presented daily to our senses, such as bread and wine, we should be bound to believe, against their testimony, that it is not what our fenfes perceived it to be, but the whole Alesh and blood of Christ, an entire body being in every crumb and drop of it. It is not, indeed, in a man's power to believe thus against his sense and reason, where the object is proportioned to them, and fitly applied, and the organs are under no indispofition or disorder. It is certain that no mystery is to be