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I. TO UNBELIEVERS AND ANTI-SCRIPTURISTS ;
BECAUSE it is a point of such high concernment, to be assured of the divine authority of the Scriptures; and all men are not of one mind in the way of proving it; and because I have not handled this so fully as the difficulty and weight of the subject doth require, as intending only a few arguments by way of digression, for the strengthening of weaker and less exercised Christjans : I have thought meet, therefore, a little more fully to express my mind in this preface, being loth to stand to enlarge the'book any further. And that which I have to say, is to three sorts of persons distinctly.
The first is, to all those that believe not the truth of the Scriptures. Open pagans live not among us : but pagans professing Christianity, are of late too common, under the name of libertines, familists, seekers, and anti-scripturists. Had I not known it by experience, and had conference with such, I should not speak it. And there is a remnant of paganism and infidelity in the best of Christians. The chief causes which pervert the understanding of men in this point, in my observation, are these two: 1. When men have deeply wounded their consciences by sinning against knowledge, and given the victory to their fleshly lusts; so that they must either deeply accuse and condemn themselves, or deny the Scriptures; they choose that which seemeth the more tolerable and desirable to them, and so rather condemn the Scripture than themselves. And what malefactor would not do the like, and except against the law which doth condemn him, if that would serve his turn? And when men that are engaged in a sinful course, do see that the word of God doth speak so terribly against it, they dare not live in that sin while they believe the Scripture, because it is still awaking and galling their guilty consciences; but when they have cast away their belief of the Scripture, then conscience will let them sin with more quietness. These men believe not the Scriptures, principally, because they would not have them to be true, rather than because they do indeed seem untrue; for their fleshly concupiscence having mastered their wills, their wills have also mastered their understandings; and so, as in a well-ordered, gracious soul, all goes straight forward ; in these men all is perverted, and moves backward. These men refuse their physic, because it is unpleasant, and not because it is unwholesome: yet at last their appetite so mastereth their reason, that they will not believe any thing can be wholesome which goes so much against their stomachs. At least this makes them the readier to pick a quarrel with it, and they are glad to hear of any argument against it. Ahab believed not the message of Micaiah, not because he spoke falsely, but because he spoke not good of him but evil : men will easily be drawn to believe that to be true, which they would fain have to be true; and that to be false, which they desire should be false. But, alas, how short and silly a cure is this for a guilty soul; and how soon will it leave them in incurable misery!
2. Another reason of those men's unbelief, is the seeming contradictions that they find in the Scriptures, and the seeming impossibilities in the doctrines of them, which so far transcend the capacity of man. To the former, let me say this much : 1. It is merely through our ignorance, that scriptures seem contradictory. I thought myself once that some places were hardly reconcilable, which now I see do very plainly agree: plainly, I say, to them that understand the true meaning of the words.
There are no human writings, but lie open to such exceptions of the ignorant. It is rather a wonder that the Scriptures seem not to you more self contradicting, if you consider, but 1. That they are written in another language, and must needs lose much in the translation, there being few words to be found in any language, which have not divers significations. 2. That it being the language also of another country, to men that know not the customs, the situation of places, the proverbial speeches, and phrases of that country, it is impossible but many words should seem dark or contradictory. 3. Also, that the Scriptures are of so exceeding antiquity, as no books else in the world are like, them. Now, who knows not that in all countries in the world, customs alter, and proverbial speeches and phrases alter; which
must needs make words seem dark, even to men of the same country and language that live so long after. We have many English proverbs, which if in after ages they should cease to be proverbs, and men finding them in our writings, shall construe them as plain speeches, they would seem to be either false, or ridiculous nonsense. The like may be said of alteration of phrases. He that reads but Chaucer, much more elder writers, will see that English is scarce the same thing now, as it was then. Though the sacred languages have had no such great alterations, yet by this it may appear, that it is no wonder, if to the ignorant they seem contrary or difficult. Do not the mathematics, and all sciences, seem full of contradictions and impossibilities to the ignorant; which are all resolved and cleared to those that understand them? It is a very foolish, audacious thing, that every novice, or young student in divinity, should expect to have all difficulties resolved presently, or else they will censure the Scriptures, and speak evil of the things they know not, instead of censuring themselves; when yet these men know, that in the easiest science, yea, or basest manufacture, they must have time to learn the reasons of them. It is usual with raw scholars in all kinds of studies, to say as Nicodemus did at first of regeneration, “How can these things be?' a Methinks such frail and shallow creatures, as all men are, should rather be so sensible of their own incapacity and ignorance, as to be readier to take the blame to themselves, than to quarrel with the truth. It is too large a work for me here to answer all the particular objections of these men against the several passages of Scripture : but if they would be at the pains to inquire of their teachers, or study what is written to that end, they might find that the matter is not so difficult as they imagine. Besides, what Althamar, Cumeranus, Sharpius, and others have purposely written for reconciling the seeming contradictions in Scripture, they may find much in ordinary expositors. Junius answereth two-and-twenty cavils, which Simplicius the pagan raised, and after him the antinomians used against Moses's ' History of the Creation.' And he was fit for the work, having for a year's
A Sed quemadmodum apud eos qui semel providentiam probe perceperunt, non minuitur, aut perit fides providentiæ ob ea quæ non comprehenduntur; ita neque scripturæ divinitati per eam totam diffusæ quidquam detrahitur, ex eo quod ad singulas dictiones imbecillitas nostra non possit adesse arcano splendori doctrinæ qui in tenui et contempta locutione delitescit.- Origen, Philocal. (per Tarinum, Græco-Lat. edit.) pp. (mibi) 12, 13,
time continued in the desperate error of atheism himself. But the fullest confutation of these blasphemous conceits, are in the primitive fathers, as Origen against Celsus, Tertul. Athanas. &e.; where they shall find that the worst of pagans brought forth these monsters, and by what weapons they were destroyed.
2. And what, if you could not see how to reconcile the seeming contradictions of Scripture? When you see arguments sufficient to prove them to be the word of God (which I doubt not but you may see, if you will search impartially and humbly), methinks common reason might then conclude, that all that God speaks must needs be true, though our blindness hinders us from a distinct discerning of it. 2. The like I say of the seeming impossibilities in Scripture : is any thing too hard for Omnipotency itself? The atheist derides it, when he hears of the opening of the Red Sea, of the standing still of the sun, &c. But, dost thou believe that there is a God? If thou dost, thou must needs know that he is almighty: if not, thou hast put out the eye of reason; for most pagans in the world have acknowledged a God. Canst thou think that all things thou seest are made and preserved without a first cause? Do the heavens keep their courses, and the earth produce that variety of beautiful creatures, and the death of one cause the life of the other, and all kept in that order of superiority and inferiority, and all this without a first cause? If thou say that nature is the cause, I would fain know what it is that thou callest nature; either a reasonable being and cause, or an unreasonable. If unreasonable, it could not produce the reasonable spirits, as are angels, and the souls of men; for these would be more noble than itself : if reasonable, is it not then God himself which thou dost call by the name of nature? To be the first reason, being, and cause of all, is to be God. And then let me ask thee, dost thou not see as great works as these miracles every day and hour before thine eyes ? Is it not as great a work for the sun to move, as to stand still : to move 10,388,442 miles an hour, being 166 times bigger than all the earth? Is it not as hard a matter for the sea to move, and keep his times in ebbing and flowing, as for it to open and stand still? Is it not only the rarity and strangeness that makes us think one impossible, when we see the other daily come to pass ? If it were but usual for the sun to stand still, every man would think it a far more incredible thing that it should move, and so move. Why, then, cannot God do the lesser, who daily doth the greater? The like I might say of all the rest, but that
it were too long to insist on them; and for the truth of the history, it is proved afterwards.
2. I would further ask these men: Must not a soul that is capable of immortal happiness, have some guide in the way thereto? If they say no, then they either think God unfaithful or unskilful, who having appointed man an end, hath not given him direction thereto in the means. If they doubt whether man's soul be inmortal, and whether there be a life of happiness to some, and misery to others, to be expected after this, I have said enough against that doubt in this book following; and further let me ask them, How comes it to be the common judgment of all nations, even the most ignorant Indians, that there is a life after this, where the good and the bad shall be differently recompensed ? This the ancient barbarians believed, as Herodotus testifieth of the Getæ, (lib. iv. ;) and of the Egyptians, Diodorus Siculus, (lib. i. Biblioth. numb. 93.) The very inhabitants of Guinea, Virginia, Guiana, Peru, China, Mexico, &c., do believe this, as you may see, ' Descrip. Reg. Africæ, Guianæ,' (cap. 21, 24.;) Acost. (lib. v. c. 7, 8;) Hugh Luiscot. (part. i. cap. 25;) Joannes Lerius, (cap. 16 ;) Sir Walter Raleigh,
b Socrates being near death, (apud Platonem, Cicerone interprete,) said thus : “Magna me spes tenet, judices, bene mihi evenire quod mittar ad mortem. Necesse est enim ut sit alterum de duobus, ut aut sensus omnino mors onines auserat, aut in alium quendam locum ex his locis morte migretur. Quamobrem, sive sensus extinguitur, morsque ei somno similis est, qui nonnunquam etiam sine visis somniorum, pacatissimam quietem affert; Dii boni, quid lucri est emori? aut quam multi dies reperiri possunt, qui tali nocti anteponantur? &c. Sin vera sunt quæ dicuntur, migrationem esse mortem in eas oras, quas qui vita excesserunt, incolunt; id multo jam beatius est, te, cum ab iis, qui se judicum numero haberi volunt, evaseris, ad eos venire, qui vere judices appellentur, &c. convenireque eos qui justi et cum fide vixerint. Hæc peregrinatio mediocris vobis videri potest? Ut vero colloqui cum Orphæo, Musæo, Homero, Hesiodo, liceat, quanti tandem æstimatis ? Equidem sæpe mori si fieri posset, vellem, ut ea quæ dico), mihi liceret invenire. Quanta delectatione autem afficeret, &c. Ne vos quidem, judices, ii qui me absolvistis mortem timueritis; nec enim cuiquam bono mali quidquam evenire potest, nec vivo nec mortuo ; nec unquam ejus res à Diis immortalibus negligentur, &c. Sic Socrates. Quædam et natura nota sunt, ut immortalitas : animæ penes plures, ut Deus noster penes omnes. Utar ergo et sententia Platonis alicujus pronuntiantis, omnis anima est immortalis. Utar et conscientia populi contestantis Deum Deorum. Utar et reliquis communibus sensibus, qui Deum judicem prædicant ‘Deus videt' et 'Deo commendo. At cum aiunt mortuum quod mortuum' et 'vive dum vivis' et post mortem omnia finiuntur, etiam ipsa] tunc meminero et cor vulgi cinerem a Deo deputatum, et ipsam sapientiam seculi stultitiam pronunciatam. Tunc si et hæreticus ad vulgi vitia vel seculi ingenia confugerit, discede, dicam ab Ethnico, hæretice, etsi unum estis omnes," &c.-Tertul. lib. de Resurrect. Carn, cap. 3.