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Which from all stink can, with peculiar art,
Rochester I despise for want of wit,
4 Probably Sir George, who was called beau Hewet. See Censura Literaria, vol. i. p. 174. 5 Perhaps Jacob Hall, the famous rope-dancer.
A life so infamous is better quitting,
How vain a thing is Man, and how unwise !
A LAYMAN'S FAITH.
A POEM with so hold a title, and a name prefixed, from which the bandling of so serious a subject would not be expected, inay reasonably oblige the Author to say somewhat in defence both of himself and of his undertaking. In the first place, if it be objected to me, that being a layman, I ought not to have concerned myself with speculations which belong to the profession of divinity; I could answer, that, perhaps, laymen, with equal advantages of parts and knowledge, are not the most incompetent judges of sacred things. But in the due sense of my own weakness and want of learning, I plead not this; I pretend not to make myself a judge of faith in others, but only to make a confession of my own. I lay no unballowed hand npon the ark; but wait on it, with the reverence that becomes me, at a distance. In the next place, I will ingenuously confess, that the helps I have used in this small treatise were many of them taken from the works of our own reverend divines of the church of England: so that the weapons with which I combat irreligion are already consecrated; though, I suppose, they may be taken down as lawfully as the sword of Goliath was by David, when they are to be employed for the common cause against the enemies of piety. I intend not by this to entitle them to any of my errors; which yet, I hope, are only those of charity to mankind; and such as my own charity has caused me to commit, that of others may more easily excuse.
Being naturally inclined to scepticism in philosophy, I have no reason to impose my opinions in a subject which is above it: but, whatever they are, I submit them with all reverence to my Mother-church, accounting them no farther mine thap as they are authorized, or at least uncondemned, by her. And, indeed, to secure myself on this side, I have used the necessary precaution of showing this paper before it was published to a judicious and learned friend, a man indefatigably zealous in the service of the Church and State, and whose writings have highly deserved of both. He was pleased to approve the body of the discourse, and I hope he is more my friend than to do it out of complaisance. Tis true, he had too good a taste to like it all; and amongst some other faults, recommended to my second view what I have written, perhaps too boldly, on St. Athanasius, which he advised me wholly to omit. I am sepsible enough that I had done more pra
dently to have followed his opinion; but then I could not have satisfied myselt that I had done honestly, not to have written what was my own. It has always been my thought that heathens, who never did, nor without miracle could, hear of the name of Christ, were yet in a possibility of salvation. Neither will it enter easily into my belief, that before the coming of our Saviour, the whole world, excepting only the Jewish nation, should lie under the inevitable necessity of everlasting punishment, for want of that revelation which was confined to so small a spot of ground as that of Palestine. Among the sons of Noah we read of one only who was accursed; and if a blessing in the ripeness of time was reserved for Japheth, (of whose progeny we are) it seems unaccountable to me why so niany generations, of the same offspring, as preceded our Saviour in the flesh, should be all involved in one common condemnation, and yet that their posterity should be entitled to the hopes of salvation: as it a bill of exclusion had passed only on the fathers, which debarred not the sons from their succession; or that so many ages had been delivered over to hell, and so many reserved for heaven; and that the devil had the first choice, and God the next. Truly, I am apt to think, that the revealed religion which was taught by Noah to all his sovs inight continue for some ages in the whole posterity: that afterwards it was included wholly in the family of Shem is manifest; but when the progenies of Cham and Japhet swarmed into colonies, and those colonies were subdivided into many others, in process of time their descendents lost, by little and little, the