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that in our own Nation, there never were more free and worthy Notions of God, and his Providence; nor were the Designs, and various Dispena fations of Religion ever generally fo well understood as they are at present. Never was Learning, and real Knowledge, forfully and equally veniendi ac exponendi rationem docent, ad multo majorem perfectionem adductæ effent ; antiquiflíma illa Religionis divinitus revelatæ monumenta malto melias explicari, certioraque ex iis confectaria duci, Capitaque omnia Theologica rectius tradi cæperunt, quam unquam antea ab Apoftolorum ætate factum fuerat. Quod multo citius contigis• set, fi Majores noftri Jadicio fuo malluiffent uti quam alie
no ; neque enim ingenia defuiffe puto pofterioribus seculis,
sed artem duntaxat, quæ nimia cæcaque admiratione prio * rum oppreffa jacebat, Quare contigit idem Theologiæ Chri• ftianæ quod Philofophiæ ; quæ tum demum cum fructu, ut
par erat, excoli et perfici ccepit, cum homines coepere recor dari, fibi Rationem non minus elle datam quam Aristoteli ; excusfaque admiratione Antiquitatis, Dogmata ejus ad exa. men revocare. Ut igitur qui nunc pulcherrima Recentio
rum in Philofophia inventa oblivioni mandari vellent, ut • Ariftotelea Decreta fola iterum obtinerent, tenebras luci
præferre merito censerentur: ita qui nunc nos revocant ad Elementa, ac prima veluti tentamina Patrum Græcorum • aut Latinorum, plurisque ea fieri volunt quam quæ nunc & fcimus ; ii virum adukæ ætatis pertinaci studio longaque
experientia edoctum, ad pueritia ruditatem redire volunt; ? majorique in pretio habere quæ puer animo agitabat, quam quæ adultus maturo judicio pensitavit. Inimici sunt Pro
feflus omnis in facris Literis, adeoque ipfius Veritatis. Tálena "ta divinitus nobis data, et nuper mirum in modum aucta, 'minuere atque infodere omni ope conantur. Quod ab iis per
fici nec Deus, nec Homines finent, donec in aliquo terrarum angulo Litere et Veritatis amor vigebunt.' Clerc. Ep. Crit. 4. p. 151, &c. comp. Id. Q. Hieron.3. p. 45, &c. Id.
Differti 2. $ 13. Proleg. ad Comment. p.28. with Ibbot's B. Lect. 2. Part Serm.4. p. 119. and Lactant. de Orig. Err. L. 2. S. 7. To which may be added Wotton's two excellent Chapters on the Philol, and Theol. Learning of the Moderns. Rei, c. 28, 2nd 29. and Worthington's Essay, c. 8.
dispers’d dispers’d, among all Parties, and Profeflions of Men. Nor is there any Sect, however wild and extravagant it may have been at its first setting out, but evidently partakes of these Improvements,
And though, while the minds of Men are warm and eager in the quest of Truth, while they are in continual agitation, and daily teeming with new Inventions ; many Monsters will spring up (as may naturally enough be expected) together with it; and strange Errors and Absurdities be advanc'd, in such full Freedom of Enquiry, and Debate; and though this Increase of Knowledge be attended with an Increase of Libertinism, and Extravagance of all kinds; and an evil Spirit of Infidelity, and Prophaneness, be at the same time gone abroad; yet is this neither so uncommon, or unconformable to the course of Divine Providence in other respects, as to make us despair of seeing it attended with the usual Consequences: We have
still reason to trust, that when Truth and Know: ledge have once fully got the better of Error, and
Superstition, this Spirit of Reformation will at length reform and rectify itself; and we shall have more and more of the true Life and Spirit of our Religion, as we draw nearer to those times, wherein the sure Word of Prophecy has fix'd its Reign.
I am far from imagining that Christianity is yet come to its mature state ; that it is understood in the whole extent, or held in its itmost purity and perfection by any particular Church'. But as when
It will not be thought any imputation on Christianity, that all its Mysteries and Doctrines have not been as yet
it was first preached, Men were fit to hear, and profit by it in a competent Degree, (as we have Ihown ;) as that was a very proper time to divulge it, in order to improve the World; which it did very confiderably; excelling all former Dispenfations of Religion, and Systems of Science; refining the Notions, even of those who did not formally receive it"; and yet was itself for somewhile but partially communicated, and imperfectly understood : So now, 'tis of much greater advantage to the World in general; and yet
still capable of Increase; it waits for its own Fulness; nór shall Mankind receive the proper influence, ! so fully discover'd, and understood by the several Sects and • Parties of Chriftians, as to come to a settled Agreement • concerning them; if it be consider'd, that no human Science
hath been brought to such perfection as not to admit of ! farther Improvements, many of which began to be culti
vated long before the Commencement of Chriftianity.' Pref. to Mr. Worthington's Effay, P-7. Comp. Burnet de Fid..ct Off. c.5, p.8o. c. 8. p.177.
Sée Bp. of Lond. ad Palt. Létt, or Worthington's Essay, c.7.
a This is very visible in the Writings of those Philosophers who came after its promulgation, as Epiet. Plut. Max. Tyr. and more especially M. Ant. who is well acquainted with the Christian Virtue of Humility, among many others, and frequently insists upon it. The like may be observ'd of Porpha and Hieroc. (see
passages in Burnet de Fid. et Off. p. 29.) as also in Seneca. The like Observation is made, with great Jukice, on their Porms of Devotion by Mr. Fortin, Dilc. p. 228, 229. The same thing is own’d by the Emperor Julian, in his excellent Advice for a Reformation in their Philosophy, by taking in the Christian Morals. Ep. ad Arfac. 49. V. Cave Introd. p.32,'&c. Millar, Prop. p.402. or Long's B. Lect. S.12. p.111. Fol. add Jenkin, Part 3. c.5. P-386.
b See the several Periods of this Communication accurately settled by the Author of Misc. Sac. in his Abstract of the Sacr. Hift. of Ap. and Pref. p. 14, &c.
and advantage of it, till their Minds be much
farther open'd; their Reason more fully exercised, in this great Mystery of Divine Love.
We must sure be sensible, that the Scriptures are very far from being thoroughly understood by us, who are of so reform'd a Church; live under such an excellent Government; and in this enlightend Age; not even those parts of them which treat of part States, and Dispensations; much - less those which regard Futurity. How long is it Gince men were so very ignorant of its Doctrines, as to fix that horrid one of Absolute Reprobation, upon St. Paul himself? and 'tis to be fear'd, that almost as hard things are yet believ'd of him, and other inspired Writers. We are still apt to confine the Gospel of our Lord, as his primitive Disciples sometime did, to particular Nations, Churches, Sects, Opinions bb; to contend vehemently, either about things in their own Nature abstruse, and difficult to be underftood, and therefore less nécessary to be determin’d; or else such lighter Matters, as the Ceremonies, Circumstances, ob
. It hath been the common disease of Christians from the beginning, not to content themselves with that measure of Faith which God and Scriptures have expressly afforded
but out of a vain desire to know more than is reveal'd, they have attempted to discuss things of which we can have no light neither from Reason nor Revelation: neither have they rested here; but upon pretence of Church Authority, which is none; or Tradition, which for the most part is but figment; they have peremptorily concluded, and con
fidently imposed upon others, a necessity of entertaining * Conclusions of that nature; and to strengthen themselves,
have broken out into Divisions and Factions, oppofing • Man to Man, Synod to Synod, till the Peace of the Church * vanished, without all posibility of recal.' J. Hales, of Schism p.180.
and outward Forms of its Administration”; instead of explaining and recommending the true Nature, End, and Design of it; of being intent upon enlarging its real Kingdom; and taking care to maintain those Works, which are intrinsically good and ever profitable unto mend: instead of attending to
co The Emperor Justinian, says Joh. Claubergius, in his • Inftitutions, did us the Service, and himself the Honour,
by abrogating the scrupulous Observation of starcht subtií • Forms and Niceties, to reduce the Study and Practice of
the Law to its native fimplicity and plainness. It would be happy for the Christian world, could it find a Man who swould do so much in favour of Theology; who rejecting litigious Intricacies, needlefs Curiofities, and vain Niceties, which the School Philosophy has introduced into Theology, would reinstate it in its ancient majestick Purity. If what Hen. Alting Nightly attempted, under every head of • Divinity, verbal Controversies were separated from real;
and in every Controversy what did not concern the Questi‘on in debate, was distinguish'd from what did; a Multi
tude of Disputations would be for ever filenc'd. But this is * rather to be wish'd, than expected in our Days; as it is fa! fer to lament the faults of our Age, than to reprove them. Werenfelsius of Logomachys, p. 16. a Book well worth the reading in England. v. Stoll. Introd. ad Hift. Lit. p.571.
d Tit. 3.8,9. The great Offence-which in all Nations, * and in all Ages has hindered the Propagation of the Gospel • of Truth, has been a hypocritical Zeal to secure by Force • a fictitious Uniformity of Opinion, which is indeed im• possible in nature ; instead of the real Christian Unity of
Sincerity, Charity, and mutual Forbearance, which is che ' Bond of Perfectness.' Dr. Clarke, Serm. 18.V.6. 8vo Fol. V. 2. S. 18. And yet among thofe who have embraced the
Gospel of Chrif, there never was the least room for Difpute about any Fundamental; all Christians, at all times, and in all places, having ever been baptized into the pro. feffion of the fame Faith, and into an Obligation to obey
the same Commandments. And it being notorious that ail the contentions that ever arose in the Christian World,
have been meerly about the several Additions, which every "Seet or Party, in direct contradiction to the express com