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man would do an almanac out of dáre; or than aSERM,
CCXXIV. man, who believes the attaining the philosopher's Itone to be impollible, would study those books that treat of it? If men dia believe that it contains plain and easy directions for the attaining of eternal happiness, and escaping eternal misery; they would converse much with it, make it their companion and their counsellor," meditate in it day and night,” read it with all diligence; and put in practice the directions of it:
So that whatever mën préterid, it it plain, that those who neglect God and religion, and contradict the precept of his word by their lives, they do not firmly believe there is a God, nor that this book is the word of God. If this faith and persuasion were firmly rooted in men, they could not live wickedly. For a man that desires happiness, cán no more neglect those means which he is convinced are necessary for the obtaining of it; than a man that desires life can neglect the means which he knows to be necefsary for the preservation of it..
Secondly, if faith have so great an influence upon religion, then the next use shall be to persuade men to believe. No man can be religious that doch noc believe these two things.
First, the principles of natural religion ; that there is a God; that his soul is immortal; and that there are future rewards.
Secondly, that the scriptures are the word of God; or, which comes all to one, that the doctrine contained in them is a divine tevelation. Therefore whoever would persuade men to be religious, he · must begin here ; and whoever would improve men
in religion and holiness, he must labour to strengthen this principle of faith. Faith is the root of all other VOL. XI.
SER M. graces; and they will Aourish, or decay, according CCXXIV:to the degrees of our faith. Now he that would
persuade a man, or prevail with him to do any thing, must do it one of these three ways ;. either by entreaty, or authority, or argument : either he must entreat him as a friend, or command him as subject to him and under his power, or convince him as a man. Now he that should go about to entreat men to believe any thing, or to charge them so to do, before he hath convinced them by sufficient arguments, that it is reasonable to do so, would, in my opinion, take .a prepofterous course. He that entreats or chargeth la man to do any thing, suppofeth that he can do the thing if he will : but a man cannot believe what he will; the nature of a human understanding is such, that it cannot affent without evidence, nor believe any thing to be true, unless it fee reason fo to do, any more than a man can see a thing without light. So that if the dearest friend that I have in the world should beg of me with the greatest importunity ; or any man, that hath the greatest authority over me, should lay his severest commands upon me to believe a thing, for which I see no reason, I could not do it ; because nothing can command assent, but evidence. So that he that would persuade men to be lieve either the principles of natural religion, or any divine revelation, must convince them of the truth of them : for it is unreasonable to desire a man to believe any thing, unļels I give him good realon why he should.
And this being the proper course which is to be taken, there are two sorts of persons to whom I shall apply myself in this exhortation : those who do not believe these things ; and those who are persuaded of shem: to the former, in order to the begetting of faith
in them; to the latter, in order to the strengthening SERM. and confirming of their faith.
Those who do not believe are of two sorts : either such as do positively disbelieve these things and make it their business to arm themselves against them with all the arguments they can ; who are so far from believing a God, or any divine revelation, that they endeavour to persuade themselves of the contrary, that there is no such thing; or else they are such as are indifferent about these matters. They have received the principles of religion by their education, and they have nothing to say against them, nor for them; they never considered them, nor the proper consequences of them; they neither believe, nor disbelieve them upon any reasonable account.
Now all these are to be dealt withal in the same way: for whatever will convince the disbeliever, will
much more persuade the indifferent, and confirm the ; weak. For faith is to be strengthened by the same
arguments by which it is wrought. Therefore I shall ? apply myself to convince unbelievers; and every Tone may apply those arguments which I use to this ; purpose, for the strengthening of their own faith.
But before I come to those arguments, I intend to offer for the conviction of those who do not believe, I think it convenient to endeavour, if possible, to remove a violent, and, I think, unreasonable prejudice which men have received against all those who endeavour to make religion reasonable. As if Bellarmine had been in the right, when he said “ that faith was “ rather to be defined by ignorance than by know" ledge.” The plain english of which is, that it is for want of understanding that men believe the gospel ; and if the world were but a little more knowing and wise, no body would be a Christian. I know
SER M. not how it comes to pass, whether through the artifice
'“ should reprove them, and make them manifeft;"
any any reason for it : but if we are to deal with Celsus, SERM.
CCXXIV. or Julian, or Porphyry, or some of our modern atheists, we should soon find how vain it would be to go about to cajole them with phrases, and to gain them over to christianity, by telling them that they must deny their reason, and lay aside their under- ,
standings, and believe they know not why. If the F: great pillars of christianity, the ancient fathers, had
taken this course in their apologies for christian religion, it had never triumphed over judaism and pa
ganism, as it did ; and whoever hath read over those i defenses and vindications of christian religion against
Jews and heathens, which were written in the first
against Celfus, and Eufebius his book De demonst, $ and Præparat, evangel, shall find that they did very
solicitously endeavour to satisfy the world by all ra
tional ways, both of the truth and reasonableness of i christian religion. And if that was a good way then,
it is so now; and never more necessary than in this age, which I fear hath as many acheists and infidels,
that go under the name of Christians, as ever were ei in any age sựnce christian religion was first planted in
design helief of chre. to speak eneral. s
But my design at present is not to persuade men particularly to the belief of christianity (that I intend hereafter, "by God's assistance, to speak to) but to persuade men to the belief of religion in general. So, that all I shall do at present, shall be, as briefly as I can, to offer some arguments and considerations to persuade men to the belief of the principles of natural religion, and of the revelation which God hath made of his mind and will in the holy scriptures.
I. To persuade men to believe the principles of natural religion ; such as the being of a God; the im