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ters of religion, as to think every thing imporsible and absurd, which they cannot conceive. How often do we contradict the right rules of reason, in the whole course of our lives ? Reafom itself, is true and juft; but the reason of every particular man, is weak and wavering, perpetually swayed and turned by his interests, his passions, and his vices. Let any man but consider, when he hath a controversy with another, though his cause be ever so unjust, though the whole world be against him, how blinded he is, by the love of himself, to believe that right is wrong, and wrong is right, when it makes for his own advantage. Where is then the right use of his reason, which he so much boasts of, and which he would blafphemously set up to control the commands of the Almighty ?
Secondly, When men are tempted to deny the mysteries of religion, let them examine and search into their own hearts, whether they have not some favourite fin, which is of their party in this dispute, and which is equally contrary to other commands of God in the gospel. For, why do men love darkness rather than light? The scripture tells us, Because their deeds are evil; and there can be no other reason assigned. Therefore, when men are curious and inquisitive, to discover some weak fides in Christianity, and inclined to favour every thing that is offered to its disadvantage, it is plain they wish it were not true : and those willes can proceed from nothing but an
. . evit
evil conscience ; because, if there be truth in our religion, their condition must be miserable*.
And therefore, thirdly, Men should consider, that raising difficulties concerning the mysteries in religion, cannot make them more wise, learned, or virtuous; berter neighbours, or friends, or more serviceable to their country; but, whatever they pretend, will destroy their inward peace of mind, by perpetual doubts and fears arising in their breafts. And God forbid we should ever see the times so bad, when dangerous opinions in religion will be a means to get favour and preferment; although, even in such a case, it would be an ill traffic, to gain the world, and lose our own souls. So that, upon the whole, it will be impossible to find any real use towards a virtuous or happy life, by denying the mysteries of the gospel.
Fourtbly, Those strong unbelievers, who expect that all mysteries should be squared and fitted to to their own reason, might have somewhat to say for themselves, if they could satisfy the general reason of mankind in their opinions. But herein they are miserably defective, absurd, and ridiculous. They strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel: they can believe, that the world was made by chance; that God doth not concern himself with things below, will neither punish vice, nor reward virtue; that religion was invented by cunning men, to keep the world in awe ; with many other opinions equally false and detestable; against the common light of nature, as well as reason ; against the universal sentiments of all civilized nations, and offensive to the ears even of a sober Heathen.
by * It is an high encomium on reformed Christianity, and a strong argument of its superior excellence, that a corrupt life always inclines men to wish it were not true. It does not appear, that Mahometans and Papists with their religion to be false, in proportion as their lives are immoral; and it is faid of Dryden, that; not being able to fortify himself in infidelity, he died a Papist. Hawkes..
Lastly, Since the world abounds with peftilent books, particularly written against this doctrine of the Trinity, it is fit to inform you, that the authors of them proceed wholly upon a mistake. They would shew how impossible it is, that three can be one, and one can be three : whereas, the fcripture faith no such thing, at least in that manner they would make it; but only that there is some kind of unity and distinction in the divine nature, which mankind cannot possibly comprehend. "Thus, the whole doctrine is short and plain, and in itself incapable of any controversy ; since God himself hath pronounced the fact, but wholly concealed the manner. And therefore, many divines, who thought fit to answer those wicked books, have been mistaken too, by answering fools in their folly, and endeavouring to explain a mystery, which God intended to keep secret from us. And as I would exhort all men to avoid reading those wicked books written against this doctrine, as dangerous and pernicious; fo I think they may omit the answers, as unneces
sary, fary. This, I confess, will probably affect but few or none among the generality of our congre. gations, who do not much trouble themselves with books, at least of this kind. However, many, who do not read themselves, are seduced by others that do; and thus become unbelievers upon trust, and at second hand; and this is too frequent a cafe : for which reason, I have endeavoured to put this doctrine upon a short and sure foot, levelled to the meanest understanding ; by which we may, as the apostle directs, be ready always to give an answer to every man that alketh us a reason of the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear.
And thus I have done with my subject; which probably I should not have chosen, if I had not been invited to it by the occasion of this season, appointed on purpose to celebrate the mysteries of the Trinity, and the descent of the Holy Ghost, wherein we pray to be kept stedfast in this faith; and what this faith is, I have shewn you in the plainest manner I could. For, upon the whole, it is no more than this : God commands us, by our dependence upon his truth and his holy word, to believe a fact that we do not understand. And this is no more, than what we do every day in the works of nature, upon the credit of men of learning. Without faith, we can do no works acceptable to God; for if they proceed from any other principle, they will not advance our salvation; and this faith, as I have explained it, we may acquire, without giving up our senses, or
contradicting our reason. May God, of his infinite mercy, inspire us with true faith in every article and mystery of our holy religion, so as to dispose us to do what is pleasing in his fight : and this we pray through Jesus Christ; to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, the mysterious incomprehensible One God, be all honour and glory, now and for ever more. Amen.
** This is one of the best sermons in its kind. Dr. Swift feems not to have made such a plan his voluntary choice, nor to have built, suo ex motu, upon such a basis ; but he has completed the superstructure in a most masterly manner. The materials answer the dignity of the edifice; and the artificer may afsume great honour, upon the completion of so noble, so simple, and so useful a pile. The mysterious parts of our religion are apt to have dreadful effects upon weak minds. The general comments upon the facred writings, and the several sermons upon the most abstruse points of scripture, are too often composed in the gloomy style. Damnation, eternal damnation, is placed with all its horror before our eyes; and we are so terrified at the profpect, that fear makes us imagine we can comprehend myIteries, which, on this side of the grave, must be for ever denied to our limited understandings. , Swist has taken the safest, and the properest method of expounding these arcana. He advances every position that can be established upon so incomprehensible a subject. He sustains the belief, avows the doctrine, and adapts the matter of faith as well as possible to the human capacity. His manner of reasoning is masterly, and his arguments are nervous, particularly, where he says, “ It is highly “ probable, that if God should please to reveal unto us this “ great mystery of the Trinity, or some other mysteries in our “ holy religion, we should not be able to understand them, un“ less he would, at the same time, think fit to bestow on us some “ new powers or faculties of the mind, which we want at pre" sent, and are reserved till the day of resurrection to life eter“ nal.” p. 137. Orrery,