« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Shall neither trouble the reader, nor myself, with any apology for the publishing of thefe fermons. For if they be in any measure truly ferviceable to the end for which they are defigned, to establish men in the principles of religion, and to recommend to them the practice of it with any confiderable advantage, I do not fee what apology is neceffary; and if they be not fo, I am fure none can be fufficient. However, if there need any, the common heads of excufe in thefe cafes are very well known; and I hope I have an equal right to them with other men.
I shall chufe rather in this preface to give a fhort account of the following difcourfes; and, as briefly as I can, to vindicate a fingle paffage in the first of them, from the exceptions of a gentleman, who hath been. pleased to honour it fo far, as to write a whole hook gainst it.
The defign of thefe difcourfes is fourfold.
1. To fhew the unreasonableness of Atheism, and of fcoffing at religion; which I am forry is fo neceffary to be done in this age. This I have endeavoured in the two first of thefe difcourfes.
2. To recommend religion to men from the great and manifold advantages which it brings both to public fociety and to particular perfons. And this is the argument of the third and fourth.
3. To reprefent the excellency, more particularly, of the Chriftian religion; and to vindicate the practice of it from the fufpicion of those grievous troubles and difficulties which many imagine it to be attended withal. And this is the fubject of the fifth and fixth.
4. To perfuade men to the practice of this holy religion, from the great obligation which the profeffion of Christianity lays upon men to that purpose, and, more
particularly, from the glorious rewards of another life; which is the defign of the two next discourses.
Having given this fhort account of the following dif courfes, I crave leave of the reader to detain hum a little longer, whilft I vindicate a paffage in the first of these fermons from the affaults of a whole book purposely writ against it. The title of the book is, Faith vindicated from the poffibility of Falsehood; the author, Mr J. S. the famous author of Sure footing. He hath indeed, in this laft book of his, to my great amazement, quitted that glorious title. Not that I dare affume to myfelf to have put him out of conceit with it, by having convinced him of the fantasticalness of it. No; I defpair to convince that man of any thing, who, after fo fair an admonition, does' ftill perfift to maintain, (Letter of Thanks, P 24. &c.), that first and self-evident principles not only may, but are fit to be demonftrated; and (ibid. p. 11.) that thofe ridiculous identical propofitions, That faith is is faith, and A rule is a rule, are first principles in this controverfy of the rule of faith, without which nothing *can be folidly concluded, either about rule or faith." But there was another reafon for his quitting of that title and a prudent one indeed! He had forfaken the defence of Sure footing, and then it became convenient to lay afide that title, for fear of putting people any
more in mind of that buuk.
I expected indeed, after his Letter of thanks, in which he tells us, p. 14. he "intended to throw afide the rub"bifh of my book, that in his answer he might the bet"ter lay open the fabric of my difcourfe, and have nothing there to do, but to speak to folid points;" I fay, after this, I expected a full answer to the falid points (as he is pleased to call them) of my book; and that (according to his excellent method of removing the rubbifh, in order to the pulling down of a building) the fabric of my book would long fince have been demolished, and laid even with the ground. But efpecially when, in the conclufion of that most civil and obliging letter, he threatened "never to leave following on his blow, "till he had either brought Dr Still, and me to lay "principles that would bear the test, or it was made "evident to all the world that we had none," I began,
as I had reason, to be in a terrible fear of him, and to look upon myfelf as a dead man, And indeed who can think himself fo confiderable, as not to dread this mighty man of demonftration, this prince of controvertifts, this great lord and profeffor of firft principles? But I perceive, that great minds are merciful, and do sometimes content themselves to threaten, when they could deftroy.
For, inftead of returning a full answer to my book, be, according to their new mode of confuting books, manfully falls a-nibbling at one fingle paffage in it, p. 118. [vol. 3. p. 308. 9. of this edition; wherein he makes me to fay, (for I fay no fuch thing), that "the "rule of Chriftian faith, and confequently faith itself, "is poffible to be falfe." Nay in his Letter of thanks, P. 13. he fays, "it is an avowed pofition," in that place," that faith is poflible to be falfe." And to give the more countenance to this calumny, he chargeth the fame pofition (in equivalent terms) of the possible falsehood of faith, and that as to the chiefeft and most fundamental point, the tenet of a Deity, upon the fore-mentioned fermon. But because he knew in his confcience, that I had avowed no fuch pofition, he durft not cite the words either of my book or fermon, left the reader should have discovered the notorious falfehood and groundleffness of this calumny nay, he durft not fo much as refer to any particular place in my fermen where fuch a paffage might be found. And yet this is the man that has the face to charge others with falfe citations; to which charge, before I have done, I fhall fay fomething, which, what effect foever it may have upon him, would make any other man fufficiently afhamed.
But yet I must acknowledge, that in this pofition which he faftens upon me, he honours me with excellent company, my Lord Faulkland, Mr Chillingworth, and Dr Stillingfleet; perfons of that admirable ftrength and clearness in their writings, that Mr S. when he reflects upon his own ftyle, and way of reafoning, may blush to acknowledge that ever he has read them. And as to this pofition which he charges them withal, I do not know (nor have I the least reafon upon Mr S.'s word to believe)any fuch thing is maintained by them.