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UMBERS of people appear to have
fallen into great mistakes concerning the nature of faith, and God's punishing them for the want of it.
“Faith,” 'faith the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, “is the evidence of things " not seen.” But by many persons it is esteemed the evidence of things that never were, never will, nor ever can be seen ;-of things not probable, not possible to be proved, and even impossible to be true.
What can be more prejudicial to truth or right reasoning, than receiving facts or doctrines as certainly true, which are so far from being proved, that they will not admit Dd .
of proof? yet this is frequently the case in almost all religions.
A Danish missionary asked fome Malabarian Bramins, or Priests, if they could demonstrate that their idols were true gods? The Bramins answered, that the matter being self-evident, wanted no proofs or demonftrations a. The same people boast, that they have a law written by God himself •; and the Mobammedans affert, that their Koran was so composed !. Now the first of these, instead of being a self-evident truth, is a selfevident falsehood, and the two last cannot possibly bé proved. Most certain indeed it is that they are false : for God, properly and strictly speaking, hath no more wrote books, than he has búilt houses, planted gardens, or made cloaths for men or women. If some of those,
of those, who call themselves christians, would impartially and thoroughly examine their own doctrines and creeds, how many articles, just as true and demona strable as those of the Malabarians and Mobammedans" above-mentioned, might they find in them?
THE common and most successful method of establishing faith in false facts and false doctrines, is to pretend a divine authority for the truth of them. Thus when the Malabarian Bramins have once brought the peor ple to believe, that their law was written by God; the Turkish Mufty, that the Koran was composed by the Almighty; and the Romiß Priests, that their church is infallible; there are then no facts however false, nor no doctrines however absurd, which they may nót,impose upon.the people : for those who fhould attempt to controvert any facts of doctrines contained in these books, or adopted by this church, would immediately be told, they are of divine authority, and therefore what is asserted or taught by them must not be called in question or reasoned about. Such persons or societies therefore, who would keep clear of error and delusion, should above all things resolve not to admit any law, or book, or authority, as divine, which is not evidently demonstrated so to be.
doctrines, # Conferences between the Danish Misfionaries and the Malabarian Bramins, p. 293.
. The Koran tranflated by Mr. Sale, p. 170.
oʻIbid. p. 83.
Mens faith generally increases in tion to their ignorance : the less they know, the more they believe. Those who know nothing are very apt to believe every thing.
An intemperate zeal is very productive of false faith: for as a great degree of elementary heat produces many noxious vermin, so does violent religious heat give birth to a multitude of false and pernicious opinions. Dd 2
The love of wondering is also a mighty help to belief, and on some subjects is a much shorter as well as a much furer way to it than reasoning: Tu ratiocinare, says St. Austin, ego mirer; disputa tu, ego credam.
FAITH doth not only remove mountains, but, which is a much greater work, creates abundance of things. What numbers of miracles, wizards, witches, necromancers, apparitions, demoniacs, &c. owe their very being to faith? No sooner did we in this country cease to believe in them, but, with us, they ceased to exist: and most certain it is, that if the people all the world over did no longer believe in them, they would likewise lose their existence every where.
CREDULITY is universally regarded as a mark of weakness, and greatly contemned in every thing except false religion. The reason why it is so much recommended and extolled in that is evident: an extravagant belief in fools is the source of an exorbitant power in knaves.
The corruption of the understanding is the generation of false faith: when the former is thoroughly corrupted, what monsters of the latter doth it produce !
There are two cases in which every man should be strictly upon his guard even against himself: - when he believes what he very
much true, . De carne Chrifti, §. 5. p. 310.
much wishes to be true, and when he disbelieves what he is very desirous to find false.
MANKIND have a wonderful alacrity at deceiving themselves, and scarcely on any subject more than faith. But this is certain : all belief must be according to probability and evidence: as of these latter there are several degrees, so will there be of the former.
WHATEVER some men may say or pretend, no man can believe that which to him appears impossible ; neither will a judicious person believe, in any case, without sufficient probability. The reasons therefore given by Tertullian for believing certain great mysteries are admirable : Crucifixus eft Dei filius: non pudet, says he, quia pudendum eft. Et mortuus eft Dei filius: prorsus credibile eft, quia. ineptum eft. Et sepultus resurrexit: certum eft, quia impossibile eft!!” i.e. “The Son of “ God is crucified : I am not ashamed of it, “ because it is shameful. And the Son of “God died : it is altogether credible, because • it is absurd. He also rose from the grave : “ it is certain, because it is impossible.”
PROPER objects of faith are either such probable facts as men do not know themselves, but are related to them by others; or certain propositions or opinions that may be