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tles. And that there are thousands and millions of humble, holy, faithful Christians in the world, is a truth which nothing but ignorance or malice can deny. 2. Hypocrites are no true Christians, what zeal soever they pretend: there is a zeal for self and interest, which is often masked with the name of zeal for Christ. It is not the seeming, but the real Christian, which we have to justify. 3. It is commonly a few young, inexperienced novices, who are tempted into disorders. But Christ will bring them to repentance for all, before he will forgive and save them. Look into the Scripture, and see whether it doth not disown and contradict every fault, both great and small, which you ever knew any Christian commit? If it do, (as visibly it doth,) why must Christ be blamed for our faults, when he is condemning them, and reproving us, and curing us of them. Object. XIV. The greater part of the world is against Christianity heathens and infidels are the far greater part of the earth and the greatest princes, and most learned philosophers, have been and are on the other side.
Answ. 1. The greater number of the world are not kings, nor philosophers, nor wise nor good men ; and yet that is no disparagement to kings, or learned, or good men. 2. The most of the world do not know what Christianity is, nor ever heard the reasons of it; and, therefore, no wonder if they are not Christians. And if the most of the world be ignorant and carnal, and such as have subjected their reason to their lusts, no wonder if they are not wise. 3. There is nowhere in the world so much learning as among the Christians; experience puts that past dispute with those, that have any true knowledge of the world. Mahometanism cannot endure the light of learning, and therefore doth suppress or slight it. The old Greeks and Romans had much learning, which did but prepare for the reception of Christianity, at whose service it hath continued ever since. But barbarous ignorance hath overspread almost all the rest of the world: even the learning of the Chinenses and the Pythagoreans of the East, is but childishness and dotage, in comparison with the learning of the present Christians.
illic erit et scandalum inimici.-Chrysost. in Matt. 6. Hom. 33. Sed dicet aliquis etiam de nostris excedere quosdam à regulâ disciplinæ: Desunt tum Christiani haberi apud nos. Philosophi vero illi cum talibus factis in nomine et in honore sapientiæ perseverant.-Tertul. Apol. c. 46. See a notable exhortation in Dorothæus, (Doct. 5. ne nos ipsos informemus,) How unhappy they are that go on their own heads, and want good guides in religion.—Bibl, Pat. Gr. Lat. tom. 1. p. 778.
Object. XV. For all that you say, when we hear subtle arguings against Christianity, it staggereth us, and we are not able to confute them.
Answ. That is indeed the common case of tempted men ; their own weakness and ignorance is their enemies' strength. But your ignorance should be lamented, and not the christian cause accused. It is a dishonour to yourselves, but it is none to Christ. Do your duty, and you may be more capable of discerning the evidence of truth.
Object. XVI. But the sufferings which attend Christianity are so great, that we cannot bear them: in most places they are persecuted by princes and magistrates; and it restraineth us. from our pleasures, and putteth us upon an ungrateful, troublesome life; and we are not souls that have no bodies, and therefore cannot slight these things.e
Answ. But you have souls that were made to rule your bodies, and are more worthy and durable than they; and were your souls such as reason telleth you they should be, no life on earth would be so delectable to you, as that which you account so troublesome. And if you will choose things perishing for your portion, and be content with the momentary pleasures of a dream, you must patiently undergo the fruits of such a foolish choice. And if eternal glory will not compensate whatever you can lose by the wrath of man, or by the crossing o your fleshly minds, you may let it go, and boast of your better choice as you find cause.
How much did the light of nature teach the stoics, the cynics, and many other sects, which differeth not much in austerity from Christ's precepts of mortification and self-denial? So
e An hoc usquequâque aliter in vitâ? et non ex maximâ parte de totâ judicabis. An dubium est quin virtus ita maximam partem obtineat in rebus humanis, ut reliquas obruat? Audebo quæ secundum naturam sunt bona appellare, nec fraudare suo veteri nomine, virtutis autem amplitudinem quasi in alterâ libræ lance ponere. Terram, mihi crede, ea lanx, et maria deprimet: semper enim ex eo quod maximas partes continet, latissimeque funditur, res toto appellatur. Dicimus aliquem hilarem vivere? Igitur si semel tristior effectus est, an hilara vita amissa est?-Cic. de Fin. 1. 5. p. 209. Isti ipsi qui voluptate et dolore omnia metiuntur, nonne clamant, sapienti plus semper adesse quod velit, quam quod nolit.-Id. ibid. Those that revolt from Christ because of sufferings, are like him that Cicero, (ibid.) speaks of, Nobis Heracleotes ille Dionysius flagitiose descivisse videtur à Stoicis, propter oculorum dolorem. Quasi hoc didicisset à Zenone, non dolere cum doleret! Illud audierat, nec tamen didicerat, malum illud non esse, quia turpe non esset, et esset ferendum viro.-p. 209. Qui per virtutem peritat, non interit.-Plaut. in du capt.
crates could say, "Opes ac nobilitates, non solum nihil in se habere honestatis, verum omne malum ex eis aboriri. Dicebat et unicum esse bonum scientiam, malumque unicum inscitiam. Et referenti quod illum Athenienses mori decrevissent, et natura illos, inquit. Et multa prius de immortalitate animorum ac præclara disserens, cicutam bibit. Magna animi sublimitate carpentes se et objurgantes contemnebat." (Laert. 1. 2. in Socr. pp. 96, 105.) When he was publicly derided, "Omnia ferebat æquo animo." And when one kicked him, and the people marvelled at his patience, he said, "What if an ass had kicked me, should I have sued him at law?" (p. 93.) When he saw in fairs and shops what abundance of things are set to sale, he rejoicingly said, "Quam multis ipse non egeo? et cum libere quo vellet abire carcere liceret, noluit, et plorantes severe increpavit, pulcherrimosque sermones illos vinctus prosecutus est." If so many philosophers thought it a shameful note of cowardice, for a man to live and not to kill himself, when he was falling into shame or misery; much greater reason hath a true believer, to be willing to die in a lawful way, for the sake of Christ, and the hope of glory; and to be less fearful of death, than a Brutus, a Cato, a Seneca, or a Socrates, though not to inflict it on themselves. Soundly believe the promises of Christ, and then you will never much stick at suffering. To lose a feather, and win a crown, is a bargain that very few would grudge at and profanely, with Esau, to sell the birth-right for a morsel; to part with heaven for the paltry pleasures of flesh and fancy, were below the reason of a man, if sin had not unmanned him. "Whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matt. xvi. 25, 26.)
Virulent Eunapius giveth us the witness of natural reason for a holy, mortified life, whilst he maketh it the glory of the philosophers, whom he celebrateth. Of Antoninus, the son of Ædesius, he saith, "Totum se dedidit atque applicuit Diis loci gentilibus, et sacris mysticis et arcanis; citòque in Deorum immortalium contubernium receptus est; neglectâ prorsus corporis curâ, ejusque voluptatibus remisso nuntio, et sapientiæ studio profano vulgò incognitum amplexus.—Cuncti mortales hujusce viri temperantiam, constantiam et inflecti nesciam mentem demirati fuere," (Eunap. in Edes.) What a saint doth he make Jamblichus to be, of whom it was feigned, that in his prayers hẹ
would be lifted up above ten cubits from the earth, and his garments changed into a golden colour, till he had done? (Eun. in Jambl. p. 572.) Even while he raileth at the Alexandrian monks, "Ut homines quidem specie, sed vitam turpem porcorum more exigentes," &c. (p. 598,) contrary to the evidence of abundant history, he beareth witness against a vicious life. And if holiness, and mortification, or temperance, be so laudable, even in the judgment of the most bitter heathens, why should it be thought intolerable strictness, as it is more clearly and sweetly. proposed in the christian verity? And if he say of Jamblichus, "Ob justitiæ cultum, facilem ad deorum aures accessum habuit:" we may boldly say, that the righteous God loveth righteousness, and that the prayers of the upright are his delight; and that their sufferings shall not always be forgotten, nor their faithful labours prove in vain.
The reasonable Conditions required of them, who will overcome the Difficulties of Believing, and will not undo themselves by wilful Infidelity.
I HAVE answered the objections against Christianity, but have not removed the chief impediments; for recipitur ad modum recipientis; the grand impediments are within, even the incapacity, or indisposition, or frowardness of the persons that should believe. It is not every head and heart that is fit for heavenly truth and work. I will next, therefore, tell you, what conditions reason itself will require of them that would not be deceived; that so you may not lay that blame on Christ, if you be infidels, which belongeth only to yourselves.
Cond. 1. Come not, in your studies of these sacred mysteries, with an enmity against the doctrine which you must study; or at least suspend your enmity, so far as is necessary, to an impartial search and examination.f
For ill-will cannot easily believe well. Malice and partiality will blind the strongest wits, and hide the force of the plainest evidence.
Cond. 2. Drown not the truth in a vicious, fleshly heart and life; and forfeit not the light of supernatural revelation, by wilful sinning against natural light, and debauching your consciences, by abusing the knowledge which already you have.
'Non meretur audire veritatem, qui fraudulenter interrogat.—Ambros.
Sensuality, and wilful debauchery, is the common temptation to infidelity: when men have once so heinously abused God, as that they must needs believe, that if there be a God, he must be a terror to them; and if there be a judgment, and a life of retribution, it is likely to go ill with them; a little thing will persuade such men, that there is no God, nor life to come, indeed. When they once hope it is so, and take it for their interest, and a desirable thing, they will easily believe that it is so indeed. And God is just, and beginneth the executions of his justice in this world: and the forsaking of a soul that hateth the light, and wilfully resisteth and abuseth knowledge, is one of his most dreadful judgments. That man who will be a drunkard, a glutton, a whoremonger, a proud, ambitious worldling, in despite of the common light of nature, can hardly expect that God should give him the light of grace. Despiting truth, and enslaving reason, and turning a man into a beast, is not the way to heavenly illumination.g
Cond. 3. Be not ignorant of the common, natural truths, (which are recited in the first part of this book); for supernatural revelation presupposeth natural; and grace, which maketh us saints, supposeth that reason hath constituted us men; and all true knowledge is methodically attained.
It is a great wrong to the christian cause, that too many preachers of it have missed the true method, and still begun at supernatural revelations, and built even natural certainties thereupon; and have either not known, or concealed much of the fore-written natural verities. And it is an exceedingly great cause of the multiplying of infidels, that most men are dull or idle drones, and unacquainted with the common, natural truths, which must give light to Christianity, and prepare men to receive it. And they think to know what is in heaven, before they will learn what they are themselves, and what it is to be a man. Cond. 4. Get a true anatomy, analysis, or description of Christianity in your minds; for if you know not the true nature of it first, you will be lamentably disadvantaged in inquiring into the truth of it.
For Christianity, well understood in the quiddity, will illustrate the mind with such a winning beauty, as will make us meet its evidence half-way, and will do much to convince us by its proper light.
8 Read the beginning of Theophil, Antioch: Ad Autolyc.' showing that wickedness causeth further atheism, and that it blindeth sinners that they cannot know God.