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Serm. III. are Difficulties in Christianity ; but not
Sense enough to see they are but Difficulties: And these may be confirmed Infidels, meer Reeds fhaken with the Wind; with every Blast of vain Doctrine. But where there are no insuperable Prejudices of Education in the Case; take it for granted, that Men of cool Heads, who dare think Home, who dare-follow Truth with the same Indifference, as a Traveller enquires after the best Road that leads to his Journey's End, do not think so differently in material Points as you may imagine. They may hang out false Colours ; but, depend upon it, the utmost Length Men are capable of going, who are thoroughly willing and able to drive each Argument to an Head, is to have some Doubts and Scruples, which are preponderated by an exceeding Weight of Evidence on the other side. Absolute in fallible Certainty is in Heaven, and we are upon Earth ; but there is such a Degree of moral Certainty, as is sufficient to overbalance all Doubts. We know
Objection against Christianity as well as they do ;' and there is not the least Shadow of a Demonstration against it: But the Reasons for it are so strong, that though they do
not amount to a strict Demonftration, they Serm.Ill. make near Approaches to it.
I know the Firmness of our Affent does not depend so much on outward Evidences, be they never so forcible, as on the inward Frame and Bent of the Mind. Yet I take it to be almost as impossible for a Man, supposing his Faculties to be good, and duly exercised, to be deceived intirely in a Point of Moment; as it is for him, when under the Influence of some criminal Passion, not to deceive himself in Part. The Case is the same in Relation to very material Errors, as it is in Regard to secret Vices, The latter may escape our Observation, as to any particular, distinct, explicit Knowledge of them: However, we have general, confused, indistinct Notices, that all is not right within, as to the Article of Sins in some measure unsuspected ; and this is the Reason, why we are averse to search out our Spirits ; left we should find that to be too' true, upon a mature Examination, which we mistrusted upon a careless, transient Glance of Thought. Just so it is in Matters of Belief. Where there is a moral Certainty, any wrong Affection may so far blind.even a Thinking Man, that he shall not have a thorough and F 3
Serm. III. determined Convi&tion of the Truth ; but
he cannot shut out or suppress the Evidences for it fo entirely, as not to have a general Distrust, and an implicit Suspicion, that he is in the Wrong: Which general Distrust is the Cause, that he is so unwilling to look into a Book, which is written with great Strength of Reason on the other Side, left he should let in the Enemy Truth to disturb his Repose.
There may be, however, some Exceptions to what is here laid down. Men may have something particular in their Temper : There is sometimes an unsuspected Wrongness of Understanding, which, because it does not discharge itself in Raving, escapes the Eye of common Observers; but yet
shall leaven a Man's whole Way of Thinking: And it generally falls in with the reigning Bent of the Times. When the Nation was in a Ferment about Religion, and for, what was called, a greater Purity in it, it struck in with the general Vogue of the Age, and vented itfelf in all the Extravagancies of Fanaticism : But now, when Things have taken a different Turn, and Irreligion is the prevailing Mode ; it has received a new Determination from thence.
Hence some are as distempered Bigots for Serm.III their No-Religion, or what makes near Approaches to none; as others were about a Century ago for a farther Reformation. . Some Persons who have travelled early into Countries, where Popery is established, have had Sense enough, in their younger Years, to see through the gross Impositions and Cheats, which are practised upon the Vulgar. But not being able to separate Religion itself from the undue Mixtures which were blended with it, they have unhappily contracted an Aversion for all Religion in general. They have associated with the Idea of Religion all those numerous Tricks and Fopperies, which have passed there under it's sacred Cover. And the Case of those, who by this Means, or by any other Means similar to this, have conceived an early Distaste for Religion, resembles theirs, who have contracted an Antipathy to some Meats or Liquors, however wholfom and nou. rishing, by reason of some bitter and unpalatable Draughts or Ingredients being mixed with them: The disagreeable Idea always recurs, when they see them. This is certain, that offensive Impressions, which have been given us of Religion, Learning,
or any Thing else in our tender Years, before our Minds come to a Steadiness and Consistency; are like those Marks which are made
upon the Body of an Animal in it's Mother's Womb; they are seldom or never erased, but we carry them with us to the Grave.
But whatever Allowances we may make for insuperable Prejudices, and invincible Ignorance, in this Case, and
; it is a Mistake to think, that Deists are less easy of Belief, than the rest of Mankind. There may be a certain Stock of Faith, which we bring with us into the World and as it has been observed of the Affettions, that if they be with-held from their natural Gratifications, they will often difcharge themselves on improper Objects: Just fo, if Men do not place their Faith on fuitable Objects, they will not cease to be Believers; they will misplace it on unsuitable ones and whatever they want in a true Christian Faith, they will more than make up in believing strange Absurdities; of which numerous Instances might be given both in the past and present Times. You may
have bad Books industriously thrown in your Way; and you may have