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Eustathius, a man made wholly of brass, who had a trick of going into the fire, and staying there till he was as hot as that could make him, and then rushing out to embrace those whom he would destroy.
Beside the dangerous tendency of their principles, these venders of new opinions shew themselves to be very unfit instructors for a well-meaning man, by the disingenuous artifices and double dealing wherewith they make all their proselytes. They declare, in the most solemn manner, for any system of principles, though never so contrary to their real sentiments, if place and profit happen to be annexed to it; and then, without the least scruple, employ all the credit that place can give them, to inculcate a contrary system, but under such disguises as give them, in the eyes of the undiscerning, some shew of believing and acting in conformity to their declarations. Base enough to do this, they have also the assurance publicly to defend it when done, and to repeat it, in the face of mankind. Shall a man of honest intentions give himself up to these mercenary, these self-detected deceivers, and refuse to hear or read any thing, but that which they think fit to recommend? It is impossible. The partisans of a known impostor are always impostors themselves.
For men, thus deceiving, or wishing to be deceived, the following Discourses were neither written, nor published; but for those only who honestly look for the truth, and prefer a painful ruffle, at the entrance, to the most pleasing doze in error. The Author, conscious that the principles he maintains are true and necessary; that the Almighty Being not only authorizes, but prescribes the defence of them; and that the dignity of a cause so highly noble and important merits the service of much greater talents than hath been bestowed on him; writes therefore freely and boldly, at the full stretch of those he hath.
However, he submits his performances, first, to you, Gentlemen, and then to every other sensible and honest peruser; earnestly wishing, the abilities had been equal to the spirit that gave them birth; and humbly hoping, that, while the dullest treatises on the side of heresy and irreligion are devoured, with a kind of greediness, these, which speak for God and truth, may possibly meet with ac
ceptance; especially in case they shall happen to seem not less rational, less spirited, or entertaining.
He will bless God for your approbation, Gentlemen, if he shall be so happy as to obtain it; and will esteem it the greatest comfort of his life. But as to the censures of the dishonest, of whom alone he writes with severity, he will consider them as applause; believing what he says hath pierced to the quick when the hardened dissembler is forced to complain.
To conclude this already too tedious address, I most earnestly beseech God to bless and preserve that church, whereof he hath shewn himself so long remarkably the protector, and in nothing more, than in giving you to be its pastors. May he make it, by your ministry, fruitful in faith and good works, for the sake of Him who purchased it with his blood. I am,
Right reverend, and reverend Gentlemen,
Your most sincere well-wisher,
And most faithful, and dutiful, humble servant,
HOW THE TRUE RELIGION MAY BE DISTINGUISHED FROM SUCH AS ARE FALSE.
1 THESS. V. 21.
Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.
THIS precept of the Apostle contains sound and useful advice, in regard to all branches of knowledge, and all kinds of choice. He does but throw a die for his own happiness, who neglects the former part of; and he who acts against the latter, hath no right to complain of the thief and the robber: but the force and beauty of the precept lies in the connexion between its parts. He can never be rationally tenacious of his choice, who hath not made it on due examination; because he can never be sure it is judiciously made, if chance or others have made it for him; and firmly to adhere to that which he neither is nor can be sure is right, is obstinacy and folly.
As, however, the Apostle intended this most excellen piece of advice for a religious purpose only; and as our Saviour, with the same view, says, 'Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?' we are to interpret both as an appeal to the sense and understandings of mankind, in relation to the evidence whereby one religion may be distinguished, as true and genuine, from others that are false and spurious. Be the evidence of Christianity what it will, its Author had the confidence to submit it to the reason, nay, to the very senses, of all men. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. If I do not the works of my Father,
believe me not; but if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works. Go and shew John the things ye do hear and see; the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk,' &c. It is plain from hence, that Christ appealed to our senses and reason, in order to the full conviction of such as should believe on him; and desired this conviction in his disciples, to the end that, having found the religion he preached to be true and good, they might hold it fast,' as the Apostle advises.
There is no one now, I believe, who will dispute the justness of this rule, whether he submits to the authority of those who delivered it, or not. Every one must allow the rule to be good in itself. Yet what all are ready to grant in speculation, very few are willing to reduce to practice; I mean in matters of religion. In other things, indeed, as if they were of more value, we use all the sense and reason we have. If we are sick, we are not so attached to the name of a drug, or a physician, as not to postpone either to a better, for the sake of health. If we are to purchase an estate, we examine, without any manner of prejudice, the goodness and extent of the lands, and what they may be set for; nor will we close the bargain, till we have the opinion of the best lawyer concerning the title. We make it no objection to his judgment, that his name is spelled after this or that manner. If we buy any piece of goods, its properties are thoroughly examined. If we sell one, the money is not received, till it is carefully viewed and inspected. We shew surprising sharpness, and go to an hair's breadth, in our disputes about property; and if they run to a lawsuit, the very father of lies and deceits must be employed against us, or no advantage can be taken of us. But examine us in religious matters, and behold, we are almost idiots. Here we know little or nothing; can give no reason for what we maintain, or, for the most part, a very weak one; are destitute of common sense and understanding. Here names, not things, are received, are loved, are contended for. Here names, not things, are rejected, hated, and even persecuted in those who adhere to them, not because we are sensible of any material difference between their persuasion and our own, but because they spell theirs with other letters, than we employ in the name of ours. Truth and error are here