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Sect. 21. It affordeth us the most powerful supports and comforts in every suffering, that we may bear it patiently and with joy.
For it assureth us of the love of God, and of the pardon of our greater sufferings; it showeth us how to be gainers by all, and showeth us the glory and joy which will be the end of all. Sect. 22. It affordeth us the greatest cordials against the fears of death.
For it assureth us of endless happiness after death; and if a Socrates, or Cicero, or Seneca, could fetch any comfort from a doubtful conjecture of another life, what may a Christian do, that hath an undoubted assurance of it, and also of the nature and greatness of the felicity which we there expect! And why should he fear dying, who looks to pass into endless pleasure? And, therefore, Christianity conduceth not to pusillanimity, but to the greatest fortitude and nobleness of mind; for what should daunt him who is above the fears of sufferings and death.
Sect. 23. It containeth nothing which any man can ration◄ ally fear, or can any way be a hinderance to his salvation.
This will be more cleared, when I have answered the ob jections against it.
Sect. 24. It containeth nothing that hath the least contrariety to any natural verity or law; but contrarily comprehendeth all the law of nature, as its first and principal part, and that in the most clear and legible character, superadding much more which naturalists know not.
So that, if there be any good in other religions, (as there is some in all,) it is all contained in the christian religion, with the addition of much more. There is no truth or goodness in the religion of the philosophers, the Platonists, the stoics, the Pythagorean Bannians in India, the bonzii in Japan, or those in Siam, China, Persia, or any other parts, or among the Maho metans or Jews, which is not contained in the doctrine and religion of the Christians.
& Beati, qui habitant ibi, laudabunt Deum in secula seculorum, Amen. Regnum Dei conceditur in prædestinatione, promittitur in vocatione, ostenditur in justificatione, percipitur in glorificatione.-Bernard.
e Illæ honestæ esse voluptates putandæ sunt, quæ non sunt implicatæ dolori, nec pœnitendi causam afferunt, nec alio ullo detrimento afficiunt eos qui perfruuntur, nec ultra modum progrediuntur; nec nos multum à gravioribus negotiis abstrahunt, aut sibi servire cogunt. Propriè voluptates sunt quæ insunt, aut annexæ sunt cognitioni divini numinis, et scientiis, et virtutibus.— Nemesius de Nat. Hom, cap. 18. de Volupt.
Sect. 25. Accordingly, it hath all the real evidence which the true parts of any other religion hath, with the addition of much more supernatural evidence.
For all that is justly called the law of nature, which is the first part of the christian religion, is evidenced by the light of nature and this Christians have as well as others. And all that is of true, supernatural revelation, they have above others by its proper evidence.
Sect. 26. The style of the sacred Scripture is plain, and therefore fit for all; and yet majestical and spiritual, suited to its high and noble ends.
Were it expressed in those terms of art, which the masters of each sect have devised to transmit their opinions to posterity by, they would be fit for none but those few, who by acquaintance with such terms, esteem themselves, or are esteemed learned men and yet the men of another sect might little understand them. For most new sect-masters in philosophy devised new terms, as well as new principles or opinions: though at Athens, where the principal sects were near together, the diversity was not so great as among them at a further distance, yet was there enough to trouble their disciples. He that understandeth Zoroaster and Trismegistus, may not understand Pythagoras; and he that understandeth this, may not understand his follower, Plato; and he that understandeth him, may not understand Aristotle. And so of Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Aristippus, Antisthenes, Zeno, Chrysippus, Heraclitus, Democritus, Pyrrho, Epicurus, with all the rest. And among Christians themselves, the degenerated heretics and sectaries, that make their own opinions, do make also their own terms of art; so that, if you compare the Valentinians, Basilidians, Apollinarians, &c., and our late Wigelians, Paracelsians, Rosicrucians, Behmenists, Familists, Libertines, Quakers, &c., you shall find that he that seemeth to understand one sect, must learn, as it were, a new language before he can understand the rest. So that, if the Scripture must have been phrased according to philosophers' terms of art, who knoweth to which sect it must have been suited! and every day there riseth up a Campanella, a Thomas White, &c., who is reforming the old terms and arts, and making both new; so that nothing which is of universal use, as religion is, can be fitted to any such uncertain measure. Christ hath, therefore, dealt much better with the world, and spoken plainly the things which the simple and all must know,
and yet spoken sublimely of things mysterious, heavenly, and sublime.f
This is the true nature and character of Christianity.
Of the Congruities in the Christian Religion, which make it the more easily credible, and are great Preparatives to Faith.
BECAUSE truth is never contrary to itself, nor agreeable with error, it is a way that reason teacheth all men, in the trying of any questioned point, to reduce it to those that are unquestionable, and see whether or no they accord with those; and to mark the unquestionable ends of religion, and try how it suiteth its means thereunto: and, therefore, men of all sober professions have their determinate principles and ends, by which they try such particular opinions as Christians do by their analogy of faith. And in this trial of Christianity, I shall tell you what I find it.
Sect. 1. I find in general that there is an admirable concord between natural verity and the Gospel of Christ; and that grace is medicinal to nature; and that where natural light endeth, supernatural beginneth; and that the superstructure which Christ hath built upon nature is wonderfully adapted to its foundation.
This is made manifest in all the first part of this treatise. Reason, which is our nature, is not destroyed, but repaired, illuminated, elevated, and improved by the christian faith. Freewill, which is our nature, is made more excellently free by Christianity. Self-love, which is our nature, is not destroyed, but improved by right conduct and help to our attainment of its
f How excellently doth Seneca speak against a vain curiosity of speech, in divers of his epistles; and with what contempt and vehement indignation. This is also to be applied to the spirituality and plainness of the christian way of worship. In exordio nascentis ecclesiæ, non eo quo nunc modo vel ordine sacra celebrabantur missarum solemnia; teste Gregorio, &c. - Et fortasse primis temporibus, solius Pauli Epistolæ legebantur, postmodum intermixtæ aliæ lectiones sunt, &c.—Berno Ab. Augiens. de quibus.ad Missam pertin. c. 1. p. 698. Bib. Pat. Orationes autem quas collectas dicimus, à diversis auctoribus compositæ creduntur, à Gelasio præsule Romano, et beato Gregorio Papa.-Id. ibid. lege et Microlog. Eccles. observat. c. 12, et 13, et Hugo à S. Victore de Offic. in Romana Ecclesia. 1. 2. c. 16. Una tantum dicitur collecta, nisi, &c.
8 Deus est principium Effectivum in creatione, Refectivum in redemptione, Perfectivum in sanctificatione.-Joh. à Combis Comp. Theolog. 1. 4. c. 1.
ends. The natural part of religion is so far from being abrogated by Christianity, that the latter doth but subserve the former. Christ is the way to God, the Father: the duty which we owe by nature to our Creator, we owe him still; and Christ came to enable and teach us to perform it. The love of God, our Creator, with all our hearts, is still our duty; and faith in Christ is but the means to the love of God, and the bellows to kindle that holy fire. The Redeemer came to recover us to our Creator: he taketh not the book of the creatures or nature out of our hands, but teacheth us better to read and use it. And so it is through all the rest.
Sect. 2. I find also, that the state of this present world is exceedingly suitable to the Scripture character of it; that it is exceedingly evil, and a deluge of sin and misery, doth declare its great necessity of a Saviour, and showeth it still to be a place unmeet to be the home and happiness of saints.1
Of all the parts of God's creation, this earth doth seem to be next to hell certainly, it is greatly defiled with sin, and overwhelmed with manifold calamities; and though God hath not totally forsaken it, nor turned away his mercy as he hath done from hell, yet is he much estranged from it; so that those who are not recovered by grace are next to devils: and, alas! how numerous and considérable are they to denominate it 'An evil world.' Those that Christ calleth out of it, he sanctifieth, and maketh them unlike the world; and his grace doth not give them a worldly felicity, nor settle them in a rest or kingdom here; but it saveth them from this world, as from a place of snares, and a company of cheaters, robbers, and murderers; and from a tempestuous sea, whose waves seem ready still to drown us.i
I. I find it is a world of sin. II. And of temptation. III. And of calamity.
I. For sin, it is become, as it were, its nature; it liveth with men from the birth to the grave. It is an ignorant world that wandereth in darkness, and yet a proud, self-conceited world,
Read chap. 16, with the Citations.
i Nam vitiis nemo sine nascitur: optimus ille
Qui minimis urgetur.-Horat.
The badness of the world occasioned the Manichees to think that God made it not; and Arnobius, with them to run into that error, to hold, that God made not man, which he so vehemently defendeth; (lib.2. 'Advers. Gentes ;') yet professing, that he who made us, and whence evil cometh, is a thing to us unknown.
that will not be convinced of its ignorance; and is never more furiously confident, than when it is most deceived and most blind. Even natural wisdom is so rare, and folly hath the major vote and strength, that wise men are wearied with resisting folly, and ready, in discouragement, to leave the foolish world unto itself, as an incurable Bedlam: so fierce are fools against instruction, and so hard is it to make them know that they are ignorant, or to convince men of their mistakes and The learner thinks his teacher doteth, and he that hath but wit enough to distinguish him from a brute, is as confident as if he were a doctor. The learned themselves, are, for the most part, but half-witted men, who either take up with lazy studies, or else have the disadvantage of incapable temperatures and wits, or of unhappy teachers, and false principles received by ill education, which keep out truth; so that they are but fitted to trouble the world with their contentions, or deceive men by their errors and yet have they not the acquaintance with their ignorance, which might make them learn of such as can instruct them; but if there be among many but one that is wiser than the rest, he is thought to be unfit to live among them if he will not deny his knowledge, and own their errors, and confess that modesty and order require that either the highest or the major vote are the masters of truth, and all is false that is against their opinions.
It is an atheistical, ungodly world, that knoweth not its Maker; or forgetteth, contemneth, and wilfully disobeyeth him, while in words it doth confess him and yet an hypocritical world, that will speak honourably of God, and of virtue and piety, of justice and charity, while they are neglecting and rejecting them, and cannot endure the practice of that which their tongues commend. Almost all sorts will prefer the life to come in words, when, indeed, they utterly neglect it, and prefer the fleshly pleasures of this life; they cry out of the vanity and vexation of the world, and yet they set their hearts upon it, and love it better than God and the world to come. They will have some religion, to mock God, and deceive themselves, which
Unicuique dedit vitium natura creato.—Propert.
Sed quia cæcus inest vitiis amor, omne futurum,
Et ruit in vetitum damni secura libido.-Claud. 2. Eur.
Hoc monstrum puero, vel miranti sub aratro
Piscibus inventis, et fœtæ comparo mulæ.—Juven. Sut. 13.