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P R E FACE.

Shall neither trouble the reader, nor myself, with any

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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 see what apology is necesary; 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 so far, as to write a whole book against it.

The design of these discourses is fourfold.

1. To shew the unreasonableness of Atheism, and of scoffing at religion ; which I am sorry is fo necessáry 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 publick 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 praftice of it from the suspicion of those grievous troubles and difficulties which many imagine it to be attended withal. And this is the subject 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, fron the glorious rewards of another life; which is the design of the two next discourses.

Having

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Having, given this short account of the following dif-
courses, I crave leave of the reader to detain him a little
longer, whilft I vindicate a pasage in the first of these
sermons from the assaults of a whole book purposely writa-
gainst it. The title of the book is, Faith vindicated from
the possibility of falíhood. 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 glori-
ous title. Not that I dare alume to myself to have put him .
out of conceit with it, by having convinced him of the fan-
tafticalness 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 demon-
strated; and (ibid. p. 11.) that those ridiculous identical
propositions, That faith is faith, and, A rule is a rule, are
first principles in this controversy of the rule of faith, with-
out 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 be-
came convenient to lay aside that title, for fear of putting
people any more in mind of that book.

I expected indeed, after his Letter of thanks, in which
he tells us, p. 14. he intended to throw aside the rubbisha

of my book, that in his answer he might the better lay
open the fabrick of my discourse, and have nothing there

to do, but to speak to folid points ; I say, 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 excel-
lent method of removing the rubbish, in order to the pulling
down of a building) the fabrick 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 obli-
ging 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 evi-
« dent to all the world that we had none,I began, 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 himself
so considerable, as not to dread this mighty man of demon-
ftration, this prince of controvertists, this great lord and

profellor

professor of first principles? But I perceive, that great minds are merciful, and do sometimes content themselves to threaten, when they could destroy.

For, instead of returning a full answer to my book, he, according to their new mode of confuting books, manfully falls a-nibbling at one single passage in it, p. 118. (vol. 3. P. 308, 9. of this edition] ; wherein he makes me to say, (fór I say no such thing), that the rule of Christian faith,

and consequently faith itself, is possible 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 calumny, he chargelh the same position in equivalent terms) of the pollible fallhood of faith, and that as to the chiefest and most fundamental point, the tenet of a Deity, upon the forementioned sermon. 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 fermon, left the reader should have discovered the notorious falfhood and groundlessness of this calumny : nay, he durft not so much as refer to any particular place in my sermon where such a palage 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 effečt foever it may have upon him, would make any other man sufficiently ashamed.

But yet I must acknowledge, that in this position which he fastens upon me, he honours me with excellent company, my Lord Faulkland, Mr. Chillingworth, and Dr. Stillingfleet; perfons of that admirable strength and clearnefs in their writings, that Mr. S. when he reflects upon his owiz Style, and way of reasoning, may blush to acknowledge that ever he has read them. And as to this position which he charges them withal, I do not know (nor have the least reason upon Mr. S.'s word to believe) any such thing is maintained by them.

As for myself, whom I am now only concerned to vindicate, I Mall fet down the two pasages, to which I suppose he refers.

In my fermon, (vol. 1. p. 32.] I endeavour, among other things, to fhew the unreasonableness of Atheism upon this account : Because it requires more evidence for things

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than they are capable of.". To make this good, I difcourse thus : Aristotle hath long since observed, how unreasonable it is to expect the same kind of proof

for every thing, which we have for some things. Mathematical things, being of an abstracted nature, are only capable of clear demonstration. But conclusions in natural philosophy are to be proved by a sufficient induction of experiments; things of a moral nature, by moral arguments; and matters of fact, by credible testimony, none of these be strict demonftration, yet have we an undoubted assurance of them, when they are proved by the best arguments that the nature and quality of the thing will bear. None can demonstrate to me, that there is

such an island in America as Jamaica ; yet, upon the teftimony of credible persons, and authors who have written

of it, I am as free from all doubt concerning it, as from

doubting of the clearest mathematical demonstration. So " that this is to be entertained as a firm principle, by all " those who pretend to be certain of any thing at all

, That when any thing is proved by as good argumenis as that

thing is capable of, and we have as great assurance that it is, as we could posibly have supposing, it were, we 6 ought not in reason to make any doubt of the existence of that thing. Now to apply this to the present case: The

being of God is not mathematically demonstrable ; nor

can it be expected it should ; because only mathematical matters admit of this kind of evidence. Nor can it be

proved immediately by fense; because God being supposed " to be a pure spirit, cannot be the object of any corporeal

sense. But yet we have as great assurance that there is a God, as the nature of the thing to be proved is capable

of, and as we could in reason expect to have, supposing " that he were.

Upon this passage it must be, if any thing in the sermon, that Mr. S. chargeth this position (in equivalent terms of the pollible falíhood of faith, and that as to the chiefest and most fundamental point, the tenet of a Deity. And now I appeal to the reader's eyes and judgment, whether the sum of what I have said be not this, That though the existence of God be not capable of that strict kind of demonstration which mathematical matters are ; yet that we bave an undoubted assurance of it. One would think, that

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