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E D I N B U R G i?:
A. Murray & J. Cochuk,
I Shall neither trouble the reader, nor myself, with any apology for the publishing of these sermons. For if 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 praaice of it with any considerable advantage, I do not see what apology is necessary; and if they be not so, I ana sure none can be sussicient. 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 sirst of them, from the exceptions of a gentleman, who hath been pleased to honour it so far, as to write a whole hnnV .>. gainst it.
The design of these discourses is fourfold.
1. To ihew the unreasonableness of Atheism, and of .scossising at religion; which I am sorry is so necessary to be done in this age. This I have endeavoured in the two sirst of these discourses.
2. To recommend religion to men from the great and manifold advantages which it brings both to public society and to particular persons. 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 practice of it from the suspicion of thofe grievous troubles and difficulties which many imagine it to be attended withal. And this is the subject of the sifth and sixth.
4. To persuade men to the practice of this holy religion, from the great obligation which the prosession of Christianity lays upon men to that purpose, and, more
a 2 particularly, particularly, from the glorious rewards of another lise; which is the design of the two next discourses.
Having given this short account of the following discourses, I crave leave of the reader to detain him a-little longer, whilst I vindicate a passage in the sirst of these sermons from the assaults of a whole book purpofely writ against it. The title of the book is, Faith vindicated from the possibility of Falsehood; 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 glorious title. Not that I dare assume to myself to have put him out of conceit. with it, by having convinced him of the fantasticalness of it. No; I despair to convince that man of any thing, who, aster so fair an admonition, does still persist to maintain, [Letter of Thanks* p 24. &c), that sirst and self-evident principles not only may, but are sit to be demonstrated ;.and (ihid.jp.11.) that thofe ridiculous identical propositions, That faith it is faith, and A rule is a rule, are sirst principles in this controversy of the rule of faith, without which nothing 'r can be solidly concluded, either about rule or faith." '®ut there was another reason for his quitting of that "ijtle; and a prudent one indeed! He had forfaken the desence ot Sure footing, and then it became convenient to lay aside that iiile, for sear of putting people anymore 111 mum os inat DuuX. .
I expected indeed, aster his Letter of thanks, in which he tells us, p. 14. he " intended to throw aside the rub"bish of my book, that in his answer he might the bet"ter lay open the fabric of my discourse, and have no"thing there to do, but to speak to solid points;" I fay, aster this, I expected a full answer to the solid points fas he is pleased to call them) of my book; and that (according to his excellent method of removing the rublist), in order to the pulling down of a building) the fabric 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 obliging 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 «• evident to all the world^hat we had none," I began,
as I had reason, to be in a terrible sear 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 demonstration, "this prince of .controvertists, this great lord and prosessor of sirst 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 rny book', be, according to their new.mode of consuting hooks, mansully falls a-nibbling at one singse passage in it, p. 118. (vol. 3. p. 308. 9. of this editions; wherein he makes me to fay, (for I fay 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 fays, "it is an avowed pofition," in that place, " that faith is possible to be false." And to give the more countenance to this calumny, he chargeth the fame position (/-» equivalent terms) of the possible falsehood if faith, and that as to the chiefejl and most fundamental point, the tenet of a Deiry, upon the forementioned sermon. But because he knew in his conscience, that I had avowed no such position, he durst not cite the word* either of my book or sermon, lest the reader should have discovered the notorious falsehood and groundlessness of this calumny: nay, he durst not so much as reser to any particular place in my sermon where such a passage 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 fay something, which, what effect soever it may have upon him, would make* any other man sussiciently ashamed.
But yet I must acknowledge, that in this pofition which he fastens upon me, he honours me with excellent company, my Lord Faulkland, Mr Chillingworth, and Dr Stillingfleet; persons of that admirable strength and clearness in their writings, that Mr S. when he reflects upon his own style, and way of reasoning, may blush to acknowledge that ever he has read them. And as t» this position which he charges them withal, I do not know (nor have I the least reason upon Mr S.'s word to believe)any such thing \S maintained by them.