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to any,

think, is evident enough, from what hath been said,

but one who is resolved not to admit of a conviction. And indeed seeing our reason is the noblest faculty we have, it would be very strange if God should not allow it to intermeddle in the highest and most important affair wherein he hath engaged us; and seeing it is our reason only that renders us capable of religion, what an odd thing would it be for God to forbid us making use of our reason in the most important concerns of religion, that is, in distinguishing what is true religion from what is false, and what we ought to believe, from what we ought to reject! I know it is pretended by those who urge the absolute necessity of submitting our reason to the church, that they allow men to make use of their own reason and judgment in discovering which the true church is, and that all they contend for is only this, that when once men have found the true church, they ought to inquire no further, but immediately to deliver

up their reason and understanding to it, and believe every thing it believes, without any further examination. So that before men come into their church, it seems they are allowed to see for themselves, but after they are in, they must wink and follow their guides, and depute them to see and understand for them; which, to such men as are not quite sick of their own reason and understandings, should methinks be a great temptation to keep them out of their church for ever: for if I may judge for myself while I am out of it, but must not while I am in it, I must be very fond of parting with my own eyes and reason, if ever I come into it at all. But suppose I was always in it, and had been bred up in its communion from my infancy, will they allow me,


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when I come to the full use of my reason, fairly to question whether theirs be the only true church or no, and to hear the reasons, and examine the scriptures, and consult the doctors on both sides ? No, by no means; this I am forbid, under the penalty of being deprived of the benefit of priestly absolution. So that, in short, they will allow me to make use of my reason, if I have been bred an heretic, in order to my reconciliation to their church, but if I have never been an heretic, I must never use my reason to examine the truth either of my church or religion ; that is to say, I may use my reason when there is no other remedy, and I must continue a heretic if I do not: but it were much better that I had never had occasion to use my reason at all. So that according to these men, the use of our reason in religion is only the least of two evils; it is not so bad as to continue a heretic, but if I had never been one it would be very bad, and a certain way to make me one; which methinks looks very odd, that the use of my reason should be necessary to reduce me from heresy, and the disuse of it as necessary, when I am reduced, to preserve me from relapsing into heresy. It is a memorable passage of the bishop of St. Mark in the council of Trent, “ that seculars are obliged “ humbly to obey that doctrine of faith which is

given them by the church, without disputing or

thinking further of it.” Where by the church he means the clergy assembled in that council. So that, according to this man's doctrine, the faith of the people is a mere beast of burden, that, right or wrong, must bear all the load that the priests shall agree to lay upon it ; and though it should feel itself oppressed


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by them with never such gross contradictions or absurdities, it must think no further of it, but tamely trudge on without starting or boggling. At this rate, what tricks may not the priests play with the faith of the people ? Let them invent what doctrines they please, to serve the interest of their own ambition and covetousness, the people must believe them without asking why; or if they should ask why, they must expect no other answer but this, Because we have thought fit to define and declare them. For it is by no means allowable that the people should exercise any private judgment of their own, about matters of faith; no, I confess it is not, where the matters proposed to their faith are false and erroneous; because it is a thousand to one, but, one time or other, the people will discover the frauds and impostures of the priests; and this would spoil all. But if the matters of faith are true, in all probability the further the people inquire into them, the better they will be satisfied about them; and if in the exercise of their private judgments they should in some particulars err, that is far more tolerable, than that they should be utterly deprived of the means of being able to give an answer to every one that asks them a reason of the hope that is in them. But when God hath given the people reasonable faculties, on purpose that by them they may be able to distinguish what is true from what is false, for any party of men to forbid them the use of these faculties, in distinguishing what is true from what is false in religion, in which above all things they are most highly concerned, it is a most injurious usurpation upon the common rights of human nature. For by this means our best

faculty is rendered useless to us in our greatest concerns; and whereas God gave it to us on purpose to guide and direct us, we are utterly deprived of its guidance where we have most need of it, and where it will prove most fatal to us, if we should happen to err and go astray.



1 TIMOTHY I. 19.

Holding faith, and a good conscience ; which some having

put away concerning faith have made shiproreck. THESE words are a part of St. Paul's charge to his son Timothy, wherein he pathetically exhorts him, as a valiant bishop, to take all possible care to preserve the purity of the Christian doctrine in his diocese of Ephesus, which at that time abounded with false teachers, whose business it was to sow the tares of heresy and false doctrine in that large and fruitful field, the cultivation whereof St. Paul had committed to his charge. And that he might discharge this office the more effectually, the apostle warns him in the first place to take care of himself, that he did not suffer his own faith and manners to be depraved and corrupted by those lewd and irreligious principles which those antichristian seminaries were then scattering among his people; that so he might be an example to his flock, as well as a teacher of pure and undefiled religion. And this, ver. 18. he presses upon him, from the consideration of what had been foretold of him by divine inspiration, before ever he entered upon his ministry, viz. that he should war a good warfare, that is, prove a constant and courageous champion of the Christian faith; which prophecies he exhorts him to use his utmost endeavour to verify, both in his profession and practice, by holding, or, as it is in the original,

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