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est Impediments. To this it was owing that Children and Babes (as our Saviour beautifully calls them) enjoyed a clear Revelation of those Truths, which were bid from the Eyes of the Rulers themselves. That Hiding might be partly judicial, as a just Reward of Hypocrisy and Villany. But doubtless it was chiefly occasioned by a wilful Perversion of their own Faculties —In short, if Miracles are sufficient for the Conviction of a reasonable Man ; but not sufficient for the Satisfaction os an unreajonable one: then it must be allowed that our Saviour's Ministry afforded Room for the Exercise of those Virtues, on which I found the Excellence of Faith.
One Thing more I think it needful to observe, before I quit this Part of my Subject.— It may possibly be thought that the Virtue of Faith, as I have here explained and desended it, belongs only to Philosophers and Scholars. But this, I presume, is far from the Truth. The Quantity of Knowlege actually gained cannot indeed be considerable in the Bulk of Mankind. But the good Dispositions of Mind, from whence it's Moral Worth is deduced, are of as great Extent as any other: nay, they are frequently the mofl conspicuous in the illiterate Part of Mankind. Humility and Learning have long been considered as Rivals. And if we would search for Instances of the highest and most unreasonable PartiaD 3 lityt lity, we shall but too often find it intimately joined with the largest and most comprehensive Erudition. It is further to be considered, that Men of Learning may be influenced by wrong Motives. Perhaps they only want the Fame of Learning: perhaps they have some selfifi View to serve: perhaps they Jear to discover the Truth; lest the Discovery should incapacitate them for what they esteem more valuable than Truth. Such Men, however disqualified for the Acquisition of true Wisdom; yet are not disqualified for that which wears her Masque, and by common Eyes is mistaken for her. — For the Attainment of what is vulgarly called Learning, little more than Diligence can be reputed necessary. And when it is attained, it is often instrumental in producing the very contrary Qualities, to those which I consider as the Sources of Knowlege. The very Pains it costs us, is enough to give us an immoderate Value for it ; and the gularity of the Accomplishment raises that Value still higher. Till in a little Time we begin to think our selves incapable of all further Information: and what we think, we are.—Is it better then to avoid so dangerous a Qualification, and to fit down contented without it ? By no means. I am not endeavouring to depretiate Learning. It is of great and excellent Use to a Mind -willing to make a right Use of it. But the best Things jn the
World World are liable to Abuse; and, when this happens, they become the worjl.—If the Progress we make in Human Learning does not engage us to relinquish those better Qualities, which have been already enumerated; nor take us off from the Pursuit of more important Truths: if, on 'vthe contrary, all other Studies are pursued in constant Subordination to that which is the chief of all, the Study of our Maker and our selves—the Improvement of our Faith cannot but keep Pace with the Improvement of our Underflandings; nor will it fail of producing it's genuine Effect, in making us wijer and better Men.
The Sum of what has been said amounts to this.—That, by a very natural Figure of Speech, the Excellence of the Cause is often transserred to the Eff'eSl: That no sufficient Reason appears, why the fame Way of speaking may not be used on the Subject before us: That Religious Knowlege in general proceeds from the noblefl Causes , whether we consider the Motive on which it is pursued, or the Means by which it is obtained: That the Faith of a Christian involves these Excellencies in a still greater Degree: That a right Belief of particular Doctrines presupposes, even in our own Times, a considerable Share of Virtue and Discretion: That in the earlier Ages a general Belief in Chrijl deserved all the Praises which are bestowed upon it in the New D 4 Testament: Testament: And lastly, that the particular Instances, which occur there, contain nothing inconsistent with the Account here given; but, on the contrary, confirm and support it.
IT was farther affirmed that Christian Faith was not only the Effect, but the Ground of Virtue; and on this Account also morally excellent. But the Prosecution of this Part of my Subject will fall in under the next Head.— Before I enter upon that, it may be proper to take Notice, that the Sense in which I have hitherto understood Faith, and in which I have attempted to vindicate it's Excellence, is not the only Sense which occurs in Scripture. There are three others in which the Signification of the Word is a little more restrained and Particular. * For,
ifi, Because a Belief of God's Veracity lies at the Foundation of all Faith whatever; therefore we sometimes find Faith used for the Belief of this single Article; and especially of God's Faithfulness in performing Promises.
zdly, Because a speculative or habitual Faith will not answer the Ends of Faith; it has therefore been brought to signify an actual Knowlege, frequently present to the Mind, of the most important Doctrines in Religion.
%dly, Because the Doctrine of a Future
• A11 these Senses of the Word suppose or imply the Assent of the Understanding. I have taicen no Notice of anv ctber Senses, because they are usually attended with no Difficulty.
State is more important than any other; Faitb therefore signifies, yet more particularly, a practical Belief of this very Doctrine. So that to have Faitb, according to this Interpretation, is frequently to recollect, carefully to consider, and earnestly to regard the Joys that are set before us in another Life.
Besides these Instances, in which Faith is considered subjectively, it is also in some Places taken objectively; and denotes the Truths themselves, either in whole or in part, which are revealed under the Gospel Dispensation.
I N which of these Senses the Word is to be understood, in any particular Passage, can only be determined from the Context.—But the 1/? Kind of Faith here mentioned is plainly included in that Religious Knowkge, which has been so particularly considered: The id and 3</ have a peculiar Merit of their own: and the lajl is entirely foreign to our Purpose.— I conclude therefore, upon the whole, that the Moral Excellence of Faith, as represented to us in Scripture, is seen and confessed by Right Reason. I ought not to dissemble that some of the best Judges have chosen to explain this Matter in a Way somewhat different from mine. Instead of deriving the Excellence of Faith from the good Dispositions of Mind, by which it is produced, they have maintained that the Word, which we render Faiths may properly signify those