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This, I presume, was the light in which Pilate considered the SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD. Had he suspected Jesuis of being the Founder of a public and a popular Religion, which aimed to be erected on the ruins of the established Worship, the jealousies of the Roman Court, since the loss of public liberty, had, doubtless, made this servile Minister of Power very attentive, and even officious, to suppress it in its birth.

But if the ill usage of Truth by the Philosophers could so disgust the Politician of old, as to indispose him to an acquaintance of this importance, what must we think will be her reception amongst modern Statesmen, whose views are neither more pure nor more generous ;

and whose penetration, perhaps, does not go much beyond the busy Men of Antiquity; when they see her so freely handled by those, amongst us, who call themselves her Ministers, and profess to consecrate her to the Service of Religion? Amongst such, I mean of the active no less than of the idle part of the fashionable World, Pilate's scornful question is become proverbial, when they would insinuate, that Truth, like Virtue, is nothing but a name.

What is this TRUTH, say they, of which the world has heard so much, and has received so little satisfaction ? But above all, what is that GOSPEL TRUTH, the pretended Guide of life, which its Ministers are wont so much to discredit in their very attempts to recommend ? For while objections to Religion lie level to the capacities of the Vulgar, the solution of them requires the utmost stretch of parts and learning in the Teacher to excogitate, and equal application and attention in the Learner to comprehend. From which (say they) we are naturally led to conclude, that the Gospel doctrines are no Truths, or at least, Truths of no general concern; since they are neither uniformly held by those who are employed to teach them, nor subject to the examination of such as are enjoined to receive them.

Something like this, I apprehend, may be the way of thinking, and talking too, amongst those who have more decently discarded all care and concern about the Things of Religion.

And as our acquired passions and appetites have concurred with the constitutional weakness of our nature to form these conclusions against Truth, and especially against that best part of it, RELIGIOUS TRUTH, Charity seems to call upon us to detect and lay open the general causes which have given birth to Men's prejudices against it.

I. And first, with regard to Truth in general ;—of the various hindrances to its discovery, and of Men's backwardness to acquiesce in it, when luckily found.

The first and surest Means of acquiring the good we seek, is our love and affection for the object. This quickens our industry, and sharpens our attention. On this account the LOVE OF TRUTH hath always been recommended by the Masters of Wisdom as the best means of succeeding in the pursuit of it. Hardly any one suspects that he wants this Love: get there are few whom their confidence does not deceive. We mistake the love of our Opinions for the love of Truth ; because we suppose our own Opinions, true : Yet, for the most part, we received them upon trust; and consequently, they are much more likely to be false : So that our affections being now misplaced, they are a greater hindrance in the pursuit of Truth, than if we had no affections at all concerning it.

How then shall we know when we have this love? for still it is necessary we should have it, if we would search after Truth to any good purpose. It is difficult to describe what every man must feel for himself; and yet it is as dangerous to trust our own feelings, when the Object is so easily mistaken. However, when we set out in pursuit of Truth as of a Stranger ; and not in Search of Arguments to support our Acquaintance with pre-conceived Opinions : When we possess ourselves in a perfect indifference for every thing but known and well-attested Truth; regardless of the place from whence it comes, or of that to which it seems to be going : When the Mind, I say, is in this State, no one, I think, can fairly suspect the reality of its attachment.

1. But our APPETITES rarely suffer us to observe this strict and rigid conduct. We seek the gratification of our humour even in the Laws which should correct it. Hence so many various SYSTEMS of Morality to suit every man's bent of Mind and frame of Constitution. The Indolent, the Active, the Sanguine, the Flegmatic, and the Saturnine, have all their correspondent Theories. And from thenceforth, the concern of each is not the trial, but the support of his Opinions ; which can be no otherwise provided for than by keeping the arguments in favour of them always in view, and by contriving to have those of a less benign aspect overlooked or forgotten.

2. PREJUDICES mislead the Enquirer no less than his passions. He venerates the notions he received from his Forefathers : He rests in them on the authority of those whose judgement he esteems; or, at least, wishes well to them for the sake of the honours or profits he sees attached to the profession of them. Nay, he can persuade himself to patronize what he hath once chosen, for reasons with which Truth has no manner of concern. He likes them because they are old ; because they are new ; for being plain and simple ; for being sublime and mysterious ; for being followed by the Few ; for being followed by the Many : in a word, on a thousand other accounts still more remote from the conclusions of common sense.

But then, bad as this is, since it is, at the same time, apparent, that the inipediments in pursuit of Truth are not essential, but only

accidental to the Inquiry, we may well account for our mistakes in setting out; for the slowness of our progress; and the rubs and oppositions we meet in our passage, without having recourse to any sceptical conclusions in favour of the incomprehensible nature of TRUTH, or the inaccessible situation in which the Author of all things hath been pleased to place her. For, is it any reason, that because some Truths are so deep that our haste and impatience will not allow us time to sound them; others so disguised that our dissipation will not enable us to unmask their pretences; and others again, so unfriendly to our prejudices as to indispose us to examine them : That, because some errors wear so plausible a face as to look like Truth; others, so commodious an appearance as to be readily received for Truth; and others again, so fashionable as to claim all the privileges due to TRUTH ; is, I say, all, or any thing of this, a reason for sober men to conclude, that either there is no difference between Truth and Falsehood; or that the difference is so insensible that it will not serve us for a distinction ? Our Senses, in many cases ; our Reason, in more ; and our very Hearts in almost all, will tell us the contrary.

II. Secondly, with regard to RELIGIOUS TRUTH. 1. Mistaken constancy, or more tenacious Zeal, make some men prejudiced in favour of 'less allowed Opinions : And the obliquer affections of avarice or ambition make others declare for such as are established. OPPOSITION likewise will too much dispose Both, to support what they may even suspect to be false, and to secrete what they know to be true. This draws them still further from the road of TRUTH; while all they seek is to be at distance from one another's Parties and Opinions.

2. Inveterate errors, long since sanctified by Time and Authority, concerning the nature and end of SCRIPTURE, are another occasion of the disgraces to which Revelation is become subject.

God's WRITTEN WORD is so commonly and so justly honoured with the name of THE TRUTH; and holy Writ in general so frequently recommended for its virtue in leading us into all Truth, that simple, wellmeaning men have been apt to regard it as a Treasury of Science ; and to apply to it for all the principles of human knowledge. How wretchedly, for instance, hath the Mosaic account of the Creation been dishonoured, by the wild and fanciful expositions of men besotted by this or that Sect of heathen Philosophy, or of Christian MystiCISM! Platonists, Materialists, Cartesians, Chymists, Cabalists, and all the impure Fry of Physical, Philological, and Spiritual Enthusiasts, have found each his own whimsies realised in the first and second chapters of the Book of Genesis.

Again, how impiously have the Jewish Law and the GOSPEL OF Jesus been abused by Slaves and Sycophants, to find, in one, the DIVINE RIGHT of Kings; and, in the other, the SUPREME DOMINION OF THE CHURCA.

But amidst all this folly and mischief, arising from a perversion of the Bible, to support human Systems of Philosophy and Politics, had men only reflected, that though the Bible tells us, it was written to make men wise-it addeth—unto salvation,* they would have sought for the Principles of natural and civil knowledge amongst their proper Professors ; and have studied Scripture only to investigate that Wisdom which is from above, and is first PURE, then PEACEABLE. A wisdom which, at the same time that it rectifies the understanding, purifies the heart ; and so removes all ground of contention raised by a perplexed head or a heated temper.

The first Propagators of our holy Faith, under the immediate Commission of their Master, were, in this, as in all other parts of their conduct, truly admirable. What they chiefly proposed to the People at large, was the Belief of a few clear and simple propositions, as necessary to Salvation : When they addressed themselves to those chosen Particulars, who were fitly qualified and rightly disposed, they as warmly recommend EXAMINATION :—to Search the Scriptures, I and to try all things.

Yet the only use a late Writer g could find in so sage and generous a conduct, was to abuse it, in a prophane piece of drollery, under the form of a serious question, Whether Christianity was founded in Argument or in Faith? which, however designed for Wit, was just as wise as, Whether St. Paul's Clock was constructed on MECHANISM or on MOTION? Since, if the Clock was seen to have motion, we could not but conclude that the motion arose from mechanism. So, if the vital principle of Christianity be Faith, it can be no other than such a Faith as stands upon Reason, and is supported by Argument. A wild Indian, perhaps, might fancy that St. Paul's Clock was animated, and put in motion by a Spirit : And an Enthusiast, still wilder than the Savage, may say that Faith is-but the Seal of a supernatural impression. Yet surely, none but a Fool of the old stamp, or a Fanatic of the new, would be willing to discard Reason, in pursuit of his future happiness, when he has already found it so useful in procuring his present. For both present and future Good are, alike, acquired by the proper adaption of means to ends. An operation which, all must confess, the Aid of Reason only can effectually perform. Nor hath this faithful Guide of life ever afforded cause of complaint or jealousy. When men, who profess to be under Her guidance, find themselves bewildered, they should suspect, not Her, but themselves. And, on a fair examination, I suppose, they will always find, that they

2 Tim. iii. 15.

+ James iü. 17.

1 Joho v. 39.


have been directing Reason when they should have been directed by Her. But the wayward Affections which occasion her discredit, go on in their illusions to excite our distrust.


Thus much for SCEPTICISM, that bane of human Science, which, while it boasts to be the NERVES OF THE MIND,* deprives it of all its force and vigour. I now proceed to consider the temper and disposition necessary to be acquired by us, before we can safely and profitably employ the aidS OF Reason to explain the TRUTHS OF REVELATION.

The greatest impediment to Men's advancement in the knowledge of the nature and genius of the Christian Religion hath ever been their adopting or espousing some favorite HYPOTHESIS, whereon to erect the Gospel System. For every dispensation of true Religion, consisting of means and end, the well. adapting these to each other, produceth what we call a System.

Now this may be built either on an HYPOTHEsis, which is a supposed truth, or on a fact, which is a real one. And the Systems of Theology have, for the most part, been unwarily framed on the former model ; which, as we say, have much entangled and perplexed our searches after Truth.

Into this mistake men easily fell by injudiciously applying, to the SYSTEM OF GRACE, the method which Philosophers invented, when they set upon explaining the SYSTEM OF NATURE.

They did not consider that any plausible Hypothesis in Physics hath its use, as it serves to shew from what Laws the Natural Phænomena may arise. Nor is it destitute of more particular uses ; thus the Ptolemaic Hypothesis enables Astronomers to predict Eclipses as well as the Copernican Theory.

But a mere Hypothesis, to explain the Dispensation of Grace, is not only useless, but often, hurtful.

The reason is apparent. It is agreed by all sober and intelligent Naturalists, that God is the Author of the Material System : But it is the great question in debate between Religionists and Unbelievers, Whether God be indeed the Author of the System of Grace.

At worst, therefore, a false Hypothesis in Physics only keeps hid, or leaves unexplained, the chief beauties of the Material Creation : And the disgrace, to which this Method is subject, falls only upon the successless Inquirer ; because every such false or fanciful Hypothesis carries along with it, even in the very arguments for its support, the Conviction of its falsehood. But a groundless Hypothesis, in religious matters, by affording (and it can afford no other) an unfavour

'Αρθρα ταύτα των φρενών.-EPICHARM Us.

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