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P R E F A CE.
any apology for the publishing of thelé sermons. For if 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 Tee what apology is necessary; 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 fo far, as to write a whole honk » gainst it.
The design of these discourses is fourfold.
1. To thew the unreasonableness of Atheism, and of scoffing at religion ; which I am forry is fo necessary 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 public 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 practice of it from the suspicion of those grievous troubles and dif. ficulties which many imagine it to be attended withal. And this is the fubject 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, from the glorious rewards of another life; which is the design of the two next discourses.
Having given this short account of the following difcourfes, I crave leave of the reader to detain hun a little longer, whilft I vindicate a passage in the first of these sermons from the assaults of a whole book purposely writ against it. The title of the book is, Faith vindicated from the poffibility of Falsehood; the author, Mr J. S. the famous author of Sure footing. He hath indeed, in this last book of his, to my great amazement, quitted that glorious title. Not that I dare assume to myself to have put him out of conceit with it, by having convinced him of the fantasticalness of it. No; I despair to convince that man of any thing, who, after so fair an admonition, does still persist to maintain, (Letter of Thanks, P 24. &c.), that first and self-evident principles not only may, but are fit to be demongrated ; and (ibid. p. 11.) that those ridiculous identical propositions, That faith is is faith, and A rule is a rule, are first principles in this controversy of the rule of faith, without which nothing
can be folidly concluded, either about rule or faith.” But there was another reason for his quitting of that title ; and a prudent one indeed! He had forsaken the defence of Sure footing, and then it became convenient to lay aside that titlc, for fear of putting people any more in und of that buuk.
1.expected indeed, after his Letter of thanks, in which he tells us, p. 14. he “ intended to throw aside the rub“ bilh of my book, that in his answer he might the bet" ter lay open the fabric of my discourse, and have no.
thing there to do, but to speak to solid points ;” I fay, after this, I expected a full answer to the solid points (as he is pleased to call them) of my book; and that (according to his excellent method of removing the rubbish, in order to the pulling down of a building) the fa. bric of my book would long since have been demolished, and laid even with the ground. But especially when, in the conclusion of that most civil and obliging letter, he threatened “never to leave following on his blow, “ till he had either brought Dr Still, and me to lay
principles that would bear the test, or it was made «evident to all the world that we had none,” I begao,
as I had reason, to be in a terrible fear of him, and to look upon myself as a dead man, And indeed who can think himfelf so considerable, as not to dread this mighty. man of demonstration, this prince of controvertists, this great lord and professor of first principles ? But I perceive, that great minds are merciful, and do sometimes content themselves to threaten, when they could des stroy.
For, instead of returning a full answer to my book, be, according to their new mode of confuting books, manfully falls a-nibbling at one single passage in it, p. 118. Tvol. 3. p. 308. 9. of this edition) ; wherein he makes me to say, (for I say no such thing), that "the “ rule of Christian faith, and consequently faith itself, “ is pollible 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 calomny, he chargeth the same position (in equivalent terms of the possible falsehood of faith, and that as to the chiefest and most fundamental print, the tenet of a Deity, upon the fore-menticned fer
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 sermon, left the reader should have discovered the notorious falsehood and groundlessness of this calumnny: nay, he durft not so much as refer to any particular place in my sermon where such a passage 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 effect foever it may have upon him, would make any other man fufficiently alhamed.
But yet I must acknowledge, that in this position which he faktens upon me, he honours me with excellent company, my Lord Faulkland, Mr Chillingworth, and Dr Stillingfleet; persons of that admirable strength and clearness in their writings, that Mr S. when he reflects upon his own style, and way of reasoning, may blush to acknowledge that ever he has read thein. And as to this position which he charges them withal, I do not know (nor have I the leait reason upon Mr S.'s word to believe)any such thing is maintained by them.