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"AND. nothing, certainly, will more in"cline Men to believe that we live in an age of Prodigies, than that there fhould be any fuch in the Chriftian World, who fhould “account it a piece of Gentility to DESPISE RELIGION, and a piece of Reafon to be "ATHEISTS. For if there be any fuch Thing "in the World as a true Height and MAG"NANIMITY of SPIRIT; if there be any soLID REASON and DEPTH of JUDGMENT; they are not only confiftent with, but only "attainable by a true generous SPIRIT of RE
"BUT if we look at that which the LOOSE " and PROPHANE World is apt to account the greatest GALLANTRY, we shall find it made up of fuch pitiful Ingredients, which any "rational Mind will be afhamed to plead for, "much less to mention them in Competition "with TRUE GOODNESS and UNFEIGNED PI"ETY.
"FOR, how easy is it to obferve fuch, who "would be accounted the moft HIGH and "GALLANT SPIRITS, to quarry on fuch mean "Preys, which only tend to fatisfy their bru"tish Appetites?
"DOTH now the CONQUEST of PASSIONS, FORGIVING INJURIES, DOING GOOD, "SELF-DENYAL, HUMILITY, PATIENCE un"der Croffes; which are the real Expreffions " of PIETY, speak nothing more NOBLE and GENEROUS, than a luxurious, a luxurious, malicious, proud, and avaritious Spirit? Is there nothing more becoming and agreeable to the g 2
" SOUL of MAN, in exemplary PIETY, and a "holy well-ordered Converfation, than in the "VANITY and DEBAUCHERY of thofe whom "the World accounts the finest Gentlemen?
"IS it not more HONOURABLE and GLO"RIOUS TO SERVE that GOD who COMMANDS "the WORLD, than to be a SLAVE to those put Men upon "Paffions and Lufts which " continual HARD SERVICE, and TORMENT "them for it when they have done it?
"WERE there nothing elfe to commend "Religion to the Minds of Men, befides that "TRANQUILLITY and CALMNESS of SPIRIT, "that SERENE TEMPER which follows a good Confcience, wherever it dwells; it were enough to make Men welcome that Guest, "which brings fuch good entertainment with " it. Whereas the HORRORS and ANXIETIES "of Mind, which at one time or other, haunt "fuch who prostitute their Confcience to a "Violation of the Laws of GoD, and the "RULES of RECTIFIED REASON, may be
enough to perfwade any rational Perfon, "that IMPIETY is the greatest FOLLY, and "IRRELIGION, MADNESS.
"IT cannot be then but Matter of Pity to confider; that any Perfons, whose "BIRTH and EDUCATION hath raised them "above the common People of the World, "fhould be fo far their own Enemies, as to "obferve the FASHION more than the RULES " of RELIGION; and read lewd PLAYS and "ROMANCES, more than the SACRED SCRIP"TURES, which alone are able to make them wife " WHAT “to Salvation.
"WHAT certain DIRECTIONS for PRAC"TICE fhould we have, what RULE to judge " of OPINIONS by, had not God, out of his "INFINITE GOODNESS, provided and preferved "this AUTHENTICK INSTRUMENT of his Will " to the World? What a ftrange RELIGION "would CHRISTIANITY feem, fhould we " frame the Model of it from any other Thing " than the WORD of GOD? Without all controversy, the DISESTEEM of the SCRIPTURES, "upon any Pretence whatsoever, has been, and "is the chief Cause of the DECAY of RELI"" GLON ; and through many Windings and Turnings leads Men at laft to the very Depths of ATHEISM. Whereas the frequent " and ferious converfing with the MIND of "GOD in his WORD, is incomparably useful, "not only for keeping up in us a true NOTION
of RELIGION (which is eafily mistaken, when "Men look upon the Face of it in any other "Glass than that of the SCRIPTURES) but like"wife for maintaining a POWERFUL Sence of " RELIGION in the Souls of Men, and a DUE "Valuation of it, whatever its Efteem or En"tertainment be in the World. For though "the true genuine Spirit of CHRISTIANITY "should grow never fo much out of Fashion " with the World, yet none who heartily BE"LIEVE the SCRIPTURES to be the WORD of God, and that the Matters revealed therein "are INFALLIBLY TRUE, will ever have the "lefs Eftimation of it.
"IT must be confeffed, that the CREDIT "of RELIGION hath much SUFFERED in the
Age we live in, through the VAIN PRETEN"CES of many to it, who have only ACTED "a PART in it, for the fake of fome PRIVATE "INTERESTS of their own..
"NOTHING enlarges more the Gulph " of ATHEISM, than that wide Paffage which "lies between the FAITH and LIVES of Men "PRETENDING to be CHRISTIANS.
" I MUST needs fay, there is nothing feems "more strange and unaccountable to me, than
that the PRACTICE of the unquestionable "DUTIES of CHRISTIANITY fhould be put "out of Countenance, or flighted by any who OWN, PROFESS, and CONTEND for the PRIN"CIPLES of it. Can the PROFESSION of that "be HONOURABLE, whofe PRACTICE is not? "If the PRINCIPLES be TRUE, why are they not PRACTISED? If they be not TRUE, why are they PROFESSED?
I AM fenfible that there may be Imperfections in this ESSAY; and that fome of the REFERENCES, at the first View, may be thought not fo properly applied; but am in hopes, that upon a clofer Confideration, there will not many be found that are JUSTLY liable to this Objection.
THE more I have APPLIED my thoughts to the STUDY of the SCRIPTURES, the more I am CONVINCED, that the comparing one Part with another, is the fureft and most fatisfactory Way of arriving to the KNOWLEDGE of it,
by viewing the EXACT HARMONY that is to be found in thefe SACRED ORACLES; efpecially what relate to those DOCTRINES and PRECEPTS, which contain the RULE both of our FAITH and PRACTICE.
THO' this Nation has been bleffed with many EXCELLENT BOOKS upon RELIGIOUS SUBJECTS; yet it must be acknowledged, that there is fuch a DIVINE FORCE and ENERGY in the HOLY SCRIPTURES, that is infinitely fuperior to any human Compofition.
THE moft proper CONCLUSION I can make, is in the Words of the APOSTLE.
Heb. ii. 1. We ought to give the more EARNEST HEED to the THINGS which we have HEARD, left at any time we should let them SLIP.' 2. For if the WORD Spoken by ANGELS was STEDFAST, and every TRANSGRESSION and DISOBEDIENCE received a juft Recompence of reward;
3. How shall we ESCAPE, if we NEGLECT fo great SALVATION, which at the first began to be spoken by the LORD, and was CONFIRMED unto us by them that HEARD him; 4. GOD alfo bearing them WITNESS, both with SIGNS, and WONDERS, and DIVERS MIRACLES, and GIFTS of the HOLY GHOST, according to his own Will?
Chap. iv. 1. Let us therefore FEAR, left a PROMISE being left us of entring into his REST,