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and Motives have upon them, to engage them to the Practice of Piety and Virtue, is to them a persuasive Argument to convince them of its divine Original. But yet I think it can scarce be denied, that a Man that takes pains to consider the Evidences for Christianity, and in consequence of this firmly believes it, and goyerns himself by its excellent Rules, acts a better Part, and approves himself a better Christian, than he that is not so diligent to inform himself concerning it. But I suppose our Author would count those the best Part of Mankind, that never concern themselves about any Religion at all; which seems to be the Design, or at Jeast the Tendency of several of his Arguments.
This Writer having done all in his power to prove that the Generality of Mankind are incapable of Faith or Religion if it be rational, sets himself next to shew, that even Men of Learning, yea, the ablest and best of Men, are disqualified for fair reasoning, or judging impartially of the Evidence of Chrittianity, by their natural Prejudices. That Prejudice, ever earlier than the firjl Essays of ReaJon, is as absolute a Disqualification forsuch a Tafk, as the greateji natural Incapacity *'. What he farther offers there concerning the Power of Preju-r dice, appears to me to have no other tendency than to introduce universal Scepticism; as if no Man living was capable of realbning fairly, or judging truly. But it is not true, that the Prejudices to which all Men are in some degree subjected, do as absolutely disqualify a Man for forming a fair and equitable Judgment of Things, as the greateji
jK 2 natural
* P. 22.
natural Incapacity. In the one case it is impossible, in the other it is far from being so. Where there is an honest and an upright Mind, open to Conviction, and ready to receive the Evidence that is offered, a Man may overcome his Prejudices and judge fairly and impartially, as appears from thousands of Instances both in Religion and other Matters. And particularly there were at the first Promulgation of Christianity numerous Instances of Persons, that broke thro' the strongest Prejudices, natural Attachments to Customs, Persons and Things, to borrow this Gentleman's Expressions, overcome by the Evidence that attended it, and the Proofs of a divine Original. If we have not those Prejudices now in our way, it is an advantage we should be thankful for; and if by being educated in a regard to Christianity we rather have Prejudices in its favour, a just and fair Examination and Enquiry may be carried on notwithstanding this, as hath been already shewn.
Oar Author concludes this Part of his Attempt with observing *', that " It is to be remembred all <* along, and carried with us carefully thro' all "these Considerations, that the great Command
to believe is peremptory and absolute. No Con*4 ditions in the cafe, that we shall believe if we *e have Time, if we have Abilities, or if preceding "Prejudices have not first taken too fast hold to "prevent us.'' It is true, there are no such Conditions expressed, and it would be absurd if there were so. Supposing that upon giving a Revelation of his Will to Mankind, attended with such
• Evidence ^Evidence as he saw and knew to be sufficient if it were not their own faults, God should command them to believe and to receive it,which I have shewn in such a case he might justly do; it would not be very wise to express it thus, Believe, and receive it, if you have Time; Believe, if you have Abilities j Believe, if Prejudices have not taken too fast hold to prevent you. This would have been regarded as giving an Allowance to Unbelief and Disobedience in the Law itself. People would soon have taken advantage of it. <>nd it would have been the ready way to render them careless and negligent about it. If such a Command were designed to have any effect at all, it must be delivered in peremptory and absolute Terms, the better to awaken the Attention of Mankind, and engage them to apply themselves to consider the Evidence without delay, and to take pains to divest themselves of culpable Prejudices. If it appears, that they really had not natural Abilities, or were under an invincible Incapacity, which may be often pretended where it is far from being the case, the supreme Lawgiver will easily be able to make the proper Allowances, when he comes to judge them for their Conduct.
Nor does it follow from the Command's being expressed in general Terms, that an equal Degree of Faith is required of all Men in order to Salvation; or that all Men are required at the Peril of their Souls to be in the right; that is, to have a right Notion and Belief in all the Doctrines pro
Eosed to us to be believed. Thus our Author thinks t to represent it in his Pamphlet. But nothing is more evident, than that in Scripture it is all along supposed, that there are different Degrees of Faith and Knowledge; and that Persons may be weak in Faith, who yet are sincere, and shall be accepted. Some are represented as Babes in Christ, some as strong Men: Some as knowing only the first Principles of the Oracles of God; others, as arrived to a higher Degree of Knowledge, and going on unto Perfection; a Faith that is true and acceptable in its first Commencement, is yet represented as capable of growing exceedingly, and of receiving great Increase and continual Improvement. With regard to Truths of the highest Importance, even in natural Religion, such as the Being of a God, and a Providence, tho' some Knowledge and Belief of this is necessary, and lies at the Foundation of all Religion, yet it is not absolutely required, that al| Men should be equally right in their Notions concerning it, and in the Ideas they form of God and his Attributes. It is sufficient if there be such a Belief as engages them to love and reverence, to worship and obey him in Sincerity. The same may be said with regard to Christianity. It is not absolutely required as necessary to Salvation, that Men should believe and think rightly of all the Doctrines of the Christian Religion, tho' in themselves true and of great Importance j or that even in Points of the highest Consequence they should exactly have the same Ideas, and their Notions be alike clear and just. They may, with regard to some Things in those Doctrines, have mistaken Notions; but a merciful God will make Allowances, for their Weakness, and graciously accept their
Faith as sufficient, if they know and believe so much of these Things, as engages them to love Jesus Christ in Sincerity, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present World. Where this is the Case, Men (hall be accepted according to the Gospel-Covenant, tho' there be a great variety in their Attainments, and in the Degrees of their Faith and Knowledge.
Hitherto this Gentleman has labour'd hard to prove that a rational Faith is unattainable or impossible; but from p. 24. to p. 35. he bends himself to shew, that supposing a Man to have attained to the highest degree of a rational Faith, it would be no way sufficient to answer the End, or tofurnish out those Effects which are described in the Gospel to attend a just Belief. It will never produce that active Zeal for Religion, or that Constancy and Perseverance that is there required, or that Complacency and Satisfaction of Mind, which is the blejj'ed Effect of a true and genuine Faith. It will not be sufficient to engage a Man to mortify his depraved Appetites and Pafjions, much less to suffer Martyrdom, if called to it, for his Religion.
In what he offers to prove, that a rational Faith can never produce that Zeal which the Gospel requires, the Force of his Argument depends partly upon the wrong Account he gives of the Nature of a true Christian Zeal, as if it were a blind irrational Heat, a Zeal not according to Knowledge, and partly upon Sceptical Principles, as if no Man can ever in Reason be certain of any thing, because it is possible he may be mistaken. But if by Zeal be meant what the Gospel intends by it, a hearty