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IIIdly, That supposing, but not granting, SERM. there were some Inconsistences in little incidental Matters, and Points of no Consequence; Christianity nevertheless would itand upon a firm Bafis, as long as the principal Evidences for it remain unshaken, and the weightier Matters are worthy of God.
I/, then, I am to Thew, that it is owing to Ignorance, &c.
It has been Matter of Surprize to some, that Infidelity should spread, even among Men, who are sensible and knowing in all other Respects. The Age has been complimented as a discerning and inquisitive Age; and so it may be, but certainly, generally speaking, it is not inquisitive into fcriptural Learning, whatever it may be into other Branches of Literature. This seems a Province too much neglected, in Proportion as other Regions of Science have been cultivated. Yet without a sufficient Furniture of this Kind, a Person of very good Sense is by no Means qualified to sit in Judgment upon the Bible. The Truth of the Matter is, Men must either be content to rest in Generals, I mean, the Evidences of Revelation, and the Reasonableness of it, as to the main Substance and Design of it; as the middling Part of Mankind most commonly do: Or, if they will enter into Particulars, they should do, what
Ser M. too many of them do not, enter into them
thoroughly with all proper Helps, and fift Things to the Bottom with an Attention proportioned to the Importance of the Subject. I will not deny, that some Men of Abilities may have done this, and yet continue Infidels still: But this I will venture to say, there are not more Men of this Stamp, than there were in the last Age of those, who, though incredulous in every other Respect, were firm Believers in judicial Astrology: There are not more in Number, than there are Searchers after the Philosopher's Stone, and perpetual Motion. If the Light of the Gospel be lost to any one, after due Care and Application, it is lost commonly upon dark, unhappy, and involved Souls; which smother the Evidences, that support, enliven, and invigorate every good Christian. I would not, however, pass too general and undistinguishing a Censure ; great Allowances are to be made in many Cases, and especially for those, who have been early tinctured with Infidelity, through the Default of their Education. Poisonous. Notions may be instilled, or get Admittance into the ductile and tender Mind, as little Infects do into Amber, before it has that Firmnefs, Solidity, and Consistency, which is necessary to hinder them from insinuating themselves : And, like them too, when they have got
into it, they cannot, without much Diffi- Serm.
many Proofs, that it was once weak, unstable, and unrefisting as Water.
Let us suppose a Person of fine Natural Parts, not
little improved by polite Reading, by an enlarged Conversation, and by his great Knowledge of the World. But then it is of the World, as it is at present; for he may know no more of it as past long ago, than he does of that which is to
How easily may he, notwithstanding his Abilities, be tempted to Infidelity; if, when he looks into his Bible, instead of confidering that he is, in some Parts of it, stepping back into the very remotest Scenes of Antiquity, and travelling, as it were, into another World, quite different from this; he sits down and tries (no wonder he condemns) Authors, who were born and bred in another Age and Country, by Laws, to which they were utter Strangers, the Laws of Writing which obtain at present in our Country? How natural will it be for him, in the Fulness of his Sufficiency, to treat with Contempt such Paffages as this: Moab is my Washpot, over Ēdom will I cast out my Shoe; and to ask, with a supercilious and decisive Air, whether a Person, assisted by the Divine Spirit, could write in such a homely
SER M. and coarse Manner? But his Contempt for
this, and many other Places of Scripture, would abate, if he would study the Nature and early Use of Hieroglyphics, which gave a Tincture to the Conversation and Writings of those Times : So that a Washpot, which was used as a significant Characteristic Mark, became, when Letters more generally supplied the Use of Symbols, a Characteristic Appellation, to denote a Nation reduced to the most abject State, and employed in the most contemptible Offices. And as for Casting out the Shoe, he might find Reafon to think, that, as some have observed, That was the ancient Form of tak ing Possession of any Country, or even Piece of Ground, in Allusion to that of Moses : Every Place, on which the Soles of your Feet shall tread, shall be yours. Or perhaps, casting out the Shoe, might only signify shaking off the Dust of one's Feet, as an Indication of that Neglect and Contempt which the Edomites deserved. No Wonder fome fhould cavil at the Prophetical Schemes of Speech as strange and ridiculous, when a celebrated Roman Historian * could ascribe those pompous Titles to the absurd Pride of the Perhan King, which we may, with fome Probability, suppose were authorised by the common Language of the Orientalsó and took their Birth from bieroglyphic Ima=
* Ammianus Marcellinus,
gery, viz. † “ Sapores, Brother to the Sun Seem, “ and Moon, and Relation to the Stars, to « his Brother Conftantius Cæfar:" It being no more unusual, or out of the Way, for the Eastern People to characterize the Heads of a Nation, nay even of a private Family (as appears by Jacob's Interpretation of Josépi's Dream) by the Sun and Moon, and the Nobility by the Stars ; than it would be now to call a late eminent Writer the Light of the Philosophical World. And Authors must conform to the Laws of Composition then in Being ; otherwise they will be as short-lived, as Authors; as those Subjects, who will act in Opposition to the Statutes and Edicts then in Force. Nay we often, through our Ignorance, imagine we descry a Blemish, which, upon maturer Consideration, proves to be a confiderable Beauty and Elegance of Diction. Thus, Destroy this Temple, and in three Days į will raise it up, has been thought by some to be a ridiculous and affected Way of speaking; and it might perhaps be so in any other Person; but in our blessed Saviour it is perfectly just, and in Character. His Body being the very Temple, of which the other was only a Type, the very Temple, in which the Shechinah, or Divine Prefence,
+ Rex Regum Sapores particeps Siderum, Frater Solis & Lunæ, Constantio Cæfari Fratri meo Salutem.