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find out this way, when the silliest woman can know far more by the supernatural revelation ? Nay, had you rather have the mere dark premises to gather conclusions from, than to have God from heaven deliver you the conclusion to your hand ? Are not God's arguments and collections more certain than those of your weak understanding ? Nay, and for the evidence, do you think that natural works are more convincing than supernatural ? Can you see more of God in the ordinary course of nature, than by miracles that cross nature, or work above it? Why then do you desire miracles; and say, 'Except we see signs and wonders we will not believe?' Lord, how perverse is blind man grown by his strangeness to God! The ordinary works of God almost none regard, because they are ordinary. But they say, if God would work miracles, they would believe : if he that inade the sun move, would make it stand still; if he that made the sea flow would make it dry land ; if he would raise the dead, and show himself evidently above nature : and when God hath done so, then they are ready to say, ' For ought I know, it may be the work of the devil; I would have him reveal things to my reason by the way of law or nature.' Well, if you will not know his law, you shall know his sentence.
What I have said concerning the truth of the christian religion, and Scripture in general, will hold clearly to each particular part.
1. If Scripture be so certainly true, then those passages in it that seem to inen contradictory, must needs be true; for they do but seem so, and are not so indeed. Ignorauce makes men think all dark and self-contradicting which they read. It would make one pity some wretched souls, to hear how coulfidently they will charge some texts with contradictions, through their mere ignorance of the plain sense, which when knowing men have manifested to them, they are ashamed of their rash
It is ordinary, in all studies, for men to quarrel with that which they understand not, and say, as Nicodemus, “How can these things be?'. Which yet, when they have well studied the matter, they discern to be easy, familiar, and well reconcileable; as in resolving a riddle, or finding out some new invention. If you set a man to it without help, he studieth and vexeth himself, and at last giveth it up as impossible; but when you have showed him the mystery of it, he marvelleth at himself presently that he could not see it easily. And yet, when men are possessed with presumption, and void of a due reverence and fear of God,
though they neither understand these difficulties in the languages and phrase, which is necessary for the clearing of seeming contradictions; and though they understand not the customs of the country, nor the situation of places where Scripture facts were done, with many the like things necessary to the clear discerning of the truth; yet they are ready presently to fly in the face of God, and to charge the Scripture with contradiction: as if God understood not himself, because they understand him not: as if the Holy Ghost were as much in the dark as they
Alas! that silly man should be no more conscious of his own weakness of understanding, and no more apprehensive of the dreadful Majesty of God, and the unsearchableness of his ways, and how little it is to be expected that his mysteries should be so easily discerned by the world ! That men that know, or may know, the great diseases of their own eyes, should yet rather quarrel with the sun, when any thing seems dark or doubtful to them ! If we were reading but some indentures, or other instrument, which we knew were drawn by an able lawyer; if we met with some passages that seemed difficult or contradictory; we should presently question our own understanding, because we have not so much skill in law matters as to be able to pass a censure on it, rather than we would believe it to be a contradiction indeed : or, at least, we should think the transcriber had slipped : yet is there no seeming contradiction in Scripture, but these unbelievers may see a fair reconciliation and solution, if they will be at the labour to read expositors.
2. If our religion and Scripture be so certainly true, then the most improbable passages are true, as well as the rest : I mean those which to the ignorant seem unlikely. The opening of the sea to the Israelites; the standing still of the sun for Joshua ; Jonah's living in the belly of a whale; the raising of the dead, and the resurrection of Christ himself; the earthquake, and darkness at Christ's death, &c. Here, also, the wickedness of man's nature appeareth. If God send a prophet, or his Son, into the world to acquaint them with his will, they call for signs and wonders, and except they see these they will not believe: and they pretend, that if they could but see such miracles wrought, they would all believe: and when they are wrought, some that see them believe them; the rest will question the power that doth them; and the next age will make these very miracles the occasion of their unbelief; and say, 'These are unlikely things, I will never believe that such things were done :'
and yet these unbelieving wretches see as great works as any of these every day before their eyes. Is not the so swift moving of such a body as the sun as great a work as its standing still ? Sure, motion requireth as much power as not to move doth. Is not the course and tide of the sea, and its limitation and restraint, as great a work as its standing still, and being dried up for a passage to the Israelites? But ordinary things men take no notice of; as if God did them not at all, because he doth them every day: and so, if God do daily miracles, they are slighted, and cease to be miracles ;
“Nature doth it:' as if nature were any thing but God's creature, or the order he hath placed among his creatures; and if God do such wonders but seldom, men will not believe them. The like may be said of seeming improbable doctrines, as the resurrection, the last judgment, heaven, hell, and whatever else in Scripture flesh and blood can hardly digest. Scripture being proved true, all these must needs be true.
3. Also, if Scripture be certainly true, then the most terrible passages in it are certainly true; nothing is more hardly believed by men than that which will be most tormenting to their minds, when it is believed that none shall be saved but the regenerate and holy; and those that live not after the flesh, but the Spirit, and love God in Christ above all the world, even their own lives; and that, besides these few, all the rest shall be tormented in hell for ever. This is the doctrine that Aesh and blood will hardly down with. They say or think they will never believe that God will be so unmerciful; as if God must needs be less merciful than man, because he is more just and holy, and will not be so indulgent to their flesh and sin as they are themselves, and would have him to be. And I have known even godly men, through the remnant of their corruption and darkness in the things of God, and the violence of temptation, much troubled with their unbelief in this particular. But God cannot lie: the Scripture being true, and the christian religion certainly true, every part of it must needs be true. But because sensual nature looks for sensible demonstration, or proof, let me ask the unbelievers this one question : ‘Do you believe that which you see and feel, and all the world feels as well as you ?' You know that all mankind liveth here a life of trouble and misery; we come into the world in a very poor condition, and we pass through it in daily labour and sorrow, and we pass out of it through the dreadful pangs of death. What incessant labour have the most of
them at plough and cart, and thrashing, and other hard work, in your several trades; and when one day's work is over, you must go to it again the next, and after all this, how much want and misery, how many a hard meal, and pinching cold and nakedness some of you undergo; how much care and grief of mind to pay debts, to provide for children, yea, to provide meat, and drink, and clothes, besides wrongs from men of high degree and low, the rich oppressing you, and your own poor neighbours often abusing you. Do you not see and feel how sicknesses do torment us? When one pain is over, another is at hand. Have you not seen some, under such terrible fits of the gout, or stone, or other diseases, that they thought no torment could be greater; some with their legs rotting, and must be cut off; some with loathsome cancers and leprosies on them many years together; some fastened to their beds five or six, yea, twelve years together; some that have lost their eyesight, have lost almost all the comfort of life; some that never could see; some that never could hear or speak? I have known some in such pain that they have cried out they did not believe there was greater in hell'; some are mad, and some idiots : are not all these in a very iniserable case ? Now, I would ask you further, if God may, without any unmercifulness, do all this to men, and that as a chastisement in the way to bring them to repentance; if he may, without unmercifulness, make a David cry out in misery, and wash his couch with his tears; and make a Job to lie scraping his sores on a dunghill ; why should you think he cannot, without uninercifulness, torment incurable sinners in hell? Further, I would ask you this question ; suppose you had lived in Adam's paradise, or some condition of pleasure and rest, where you never had tasted of sickness, or labour, or want, or feared death, if God's word had there told you but that man shall endure so much misery as I have here mentioned and men daily suffer, and should die at last for his sin ; would you have said, I will never believe God would be so unmerciful? You that say so now, would likely have said so then in this case ; for feeling the pleasure yourselves, you would on the same ground have said, 'God is unmerciful if he should make man so miserable ;' and yet you see and feel that God doth it, and we know that he is not unmerciful.
Moreover, you see how he useth your poor beasts here; how they are made your servants, and you labour them from day to day, till they are ready to lie down under it; and you beat them
at your pleasure, and at last you kill them. Nay, men will not stick to kill the most beautiful birds, or other creatures, and perhaps twenty lives must sometimes go, for to make one meal for men at their feasts; and yet consider, 1. These creatures never sinned, and so never deserved this, as wicked men deserve their torments; 2. Yet you accuse not God of unmercifulness for giving them up to this misery; 3. Nor do you accuse yourselves of unmercifulness for using them thus ; 4. Much less will any man be so mad as to say, sure this is not true, that the poor creatures suffer so much, because God is more merciful.
Yet further, I would ask you, do you not know that you and all men must die? and would you not be contented to suffer a terrible degree of misery everlastingly, rather than die? Whatsoever men may say, it is certain they would. Though not to live to us is better than to live in hell, yet men would live in very great misery, rather than not live at all, if they had their choice. We
e see men that have lived, some in extreme poverty, some in great pain, for many years, that yet had rather continue in it than die. If, then, it be so great a misery to be turned again into nothing, that you would rather suffer everlasting pain in some measure, methinks you may discern a probability that God's word should be true, which threatens yet a greater pain : for is it not likely that the judge will inflict more than the pri. soner will choose or submit to? Once more let me ask
you, did you never see a toad or snake; and do you not know there are such creatures in the world? Would you not think it a very grievous inisery to be turned into a toad or serpent ? And would you not rather endure much misery, as a man, than be such
And were he not a madman that would say, ' I will not believe that there is such a creature as a toad, because God would not be so unmerciful as to make such?' Why now consider; if God did make such creatures so far below you, when he might have made them men, and yet these creatures never sinned against him, judge yourselves, whether it be not very probable to reason, and very just, that God shonld bring men that wilfully sin in the abusing of his grace, into a far worse condition than a toad. If God might justly have made thee a toad, when he made thee a man, and continued thee so for ever, and that without any sin of thine, then how much more evident is the justness of his dealings, in dooming those to everlasting torments that have obstinately, throughout all their lives, refused his mercy. And yet