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TRUTH, the great Object of all honest as well as rational Inquiries, had been long sought for in vain; when, the Search now become desperate, after the fruitless toil of the best qualified Sages, and of the most improved times, She suddenly appeared in PERSON to put these benighted Wanderers in their Way. I AM THE TRUTH, says the Saviour of the World. This was his Moral Nature; of more concern for us to know, than his Physical; and, on that account, explained more at large in his eternal Gospel.
This last book, therefore, being an attempt to explain the true NATURE AND GENIUS OF THE CHRISTIAN' RELIGION; I shall,
1. First of all, previously examine those sceptical Objections, which in the long absence of Truth, the World had begun to entertain of her very Being and existence; or at least of our capacity to discover, and get hold of her. And these being removed,
2. I shall, in the second place, lay down, under what laws, and with what disposition of mind, I have ventured' to use the aids of REASON to explain the TRUTHS OF REVELATION,
3. And, lastly, I shall attempt to remove the Prejudices which may arise against any new discoveries in support of REVELATION, which the method here em
See Sermón, concerning The Nature and Condition of Truth Serm. I. Vol. IX. of this Edit.
ployed to analyse that capital truth of all, THE FAITH, may possibly enable us to make.
That ancient Remedy against Error, a Pyrrhonian, or, if you like it better, an Academic SCEPTICISM, only added one more disorder to the human Mind; but being the last of its misbegotten issue, it became as is usual, the favourite of its Parent.
Our blessed MASTER himself was the first to encounter its attacks, and the insolence of that School has kept the Church in breath ever since.
When Jesus was carried before Pilate as a Criminal of State, for calling himself King of the Jews, he tried to shorten the intended process by pleading that his Kingdom was not of this World. But Pilate, alarmed at the names of king and kingdom, asked, Art thou a King then? The other replied,--For this cause came I into the World, that I should bear Witness unto the TRUTH, Pilate saith unto him, WHAT IS TRUTH? And when he had said this, he went out again*. For when he found that the Kingdom claimed by the supposed Criminal, was a Kingdom merely Spiritual, or, in the Roman Governor's conceit, a Kingdom only in idea, he considered the claim as no proper subject of the civil tribunal. So far he acted well, and suitably to his public Character. But when he discovered his indifference to, or rather contempt of, TRUTH, when offered to be laid before him as a private Man, by one who, he knew, had the repute of exercising every superior Power proper to enforce it, he appears, to me, in a light much less excusable.
The negligent air of his insulting question will hardly admit of an Apology.- -" You tell me (says he) of "TRUTH, a word in the mouth of every Leader and "Follower of a SECT; who all agree (though in nothing "else) to give that name to their own Opinions: While "TRUTH, if, indeed, we allow of its existence, still "wanders at large, and in disguise. Nor does the De"tection seem worth the Pains of the Search, since. "those things which Nature intended for general use "she made plain and obvious, and within the reach of "all men."
* John xviii. 38.
Sentiments like these bespoke the Ruler of an Asiatic Province, who had heard so much of TRUTH in the Schools of Philosophy; and had heard of it to so little purpose. This corrupt Governor, therefore, finding a Jewish Sage talk of bearing Witness to the Truth, (the affected office of the Grecian Sophists), was ready to conclude that Jesus was one of their mimic Followers. For it was now become fashionable amongst the learned Rabbins to inlist themselves into one or other of those celebrated Schools. Thus the famous Philo was an outrageous PLATONIST: And Jesus calling himself a KING, together with the known Purity and Severity of his Morals, probably made Pilate consider him as one of the STOICAL wise men, who alone was free, and happy, and a King.
“Liber, honoratus, pulcher, REX denique Regum."
Now, as on the one hand, the Character of the Greek Philosophy, which was of an abstract nature, and sequestered from civil business, made Pilate conclude, that these Claims of Jesus had nothing in them dangerous or alarıning; so, on the other hand, its endless disputes and quarrels about TRUTH, and which of the Sects, had her in keeping, made Men of the World, and especially those in public Stations, whose practice declined the test of any moral System whatsoever, willing to be persuaded, and ready to conclude, that this boasted TRUTH, which pretended to be the sole Directress of human conduct, was indeed no better than a shifting and fantastic Vision.
This, I presume, was the light in which Pilate considered the SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD. Had he suspected Jesus of being the Founder of a public and a popular Religion, which aimed to be erected on the ruins of the established Worship, the jealousies of the Roman Court, since the loss of public liberty, had, doubtless, made this servile Minister of Power very attentive, and even officious, to suppress it in its birth.
But if the ill usage of TRUTH by the Philosophers could so disgust the Politician of old, as to indispose bitn to an acquaintance of this importance, what must we think will be her reception amongst modern Statesmen, whose views are neither more pure nor more generous; and whose penetration, perhaps, does not go much
beyond the busy men of Antiquity; when they see her so freely handled by those, amongst us, who call themselves her Ministers, and profess to consecrate her to the Service of Religion? Amongst such, I mean of the active no less than of the idle part of the fashionable World, Pilate's scornful question is become proverbial, when they would insinuate, that TRUTH, like Virtue, is nothing but a
What is this TRUTH, say they, of which the world has heard so much, and has received so little satisfaction? But above all, what is that GOSPEL TRUTH, the pretended Guide of life, which its Ministers are wont so much to discredit in their very attempts to recommend? For while objections to Religion lie level to the capacities of the Vulgar, the solution of them requires the utmost stretch of parts and learning in the Teacher to excogitate, and equal application and attention in the Learner to comprehend. From which (say they) we are naturally ledto conclude, that the Gospel doctrines are no Truths, or at least, Truths of no general concern; since they are neither uniformly held by those who are employed to teach them, nor subject to the examination of such as are enjoined to receive them.
Something like this, I apprehend, may be the way of thinking and talking too, amongst those who have more decently discarded all care and concern about the Things of Religion.
And as our acquired passions and appetites have con-curred with the constitutional weakness of our nature to form these conclusions against TRUTH, and especially against that best part of it, RELIGIOUS TRUTH, Charity seems to call upon us to detect and lay open the general causes which have given birth to Men's prejudices against it.
I. And first with regard to TRUTH in general;-of the various hindrances to its discovery, and of Men's backwardness to acquiesce in it, when luckily found.
The first and surest Means of acquiring the good we seck, is our love and affection for the object. This quickens our industry, and sharpens our attention. On this account the LOVE OF TRUTH hath always been recommended by the Masters of Wisdom as the best means
of succeeding in the pursuit of it. Hardly any one suspects that he wants this Love; yet there are few whom their confidence does not deceive. We mistake the love, of our Opinions for the love of Truth; because we suppose our own Opinions, true: Yet, for the most part, we received them upon trust; and consequently, they are much more likely to be false: So that our affections. being now misplaced, they are a greater hindrance in the pursuit of TRUTH, than if we had no affections at all concerning it.
How then shall we know when we have this love? for still it is necessary we should have it, if we would search after TRUTH to any good purpose. It is difficult to describe what every man inust feel for himself; and yet it is as dangerous to trust our own feelings, when the Object is so easily mistaken. However, when we set out in pursuit of TRUTH as of a Stranger; and not in search of Arguments to support our Acquaintance with preconceived Opinions: When we possess ourselves in a perfect indifference for every thing but known and well-attested TRUTH; regardless of the place from whence it, comes, or of that to which it seems to be going: When the Mind, I say, is in this State, no one, I think, can fairly suspect the reality of its attachment.
1. But our APPETITES rarely suffer us to observe this strict and rigid conduct. We seek the gratification of, our humour even in the Laws which should correct it.; Hence so many various SYSTEMS OF MORALITY to suit every man's bent of Mind and frame of Constitution. The Indolent, the Active, the Sanguine, the Flegmatic, and the Saturnine, have all their correspondent Theories. And from thenceforth, the concern of each is not the trial; but the support of his Opinions; which can be no otherwise provided for than by keeping the arguments in favour of them always in view, and by contriving to have those of a less benign aspect overlooked or forgotten.
2. PREJUDICES mislead the Enquirer no less than his passions. He venerates the notions he received from his Forefathers: He rests in them on the authority of those whose judgment he esteems; or, at least, wishes well to them for the sake of the honours or profits he sees attached to the profession of them. Nay, he can persuade him