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to their various and repugnant rites, tenets, traditions, and faiths, is impossible, when yet in one age it were possible (after incredible pains and expences) to learn out, and number them. On the other side, to reject all religions is as impious; there being no nation, that in some kind or other doth not worship God. So that there will be a necessity to distinguish. Not yet that any man will be able, upon comparison, to discern which is the perfectest among the many professed in the whole world; (each of them being of that large extent, that no man's understanding will serve to comprehend it in its uttermost latitude and signification,) but (at least,) that every man might vindicate and sever, in his particular religion, the more essential and demonstrative parts from the rest, without being moved so much at the threats and promises of any other religion, that would make him obnoxious, as to depart from this way; there being no ordinary method so intelligible, ready, and compendious for the conducting each man to his desired end. Having thus therefore recollected himself, and together implored the assistance of that supreme God, whom all nations acknowledge; he must labour in the next place to find out what inward means his Providence hath delivered, to discern the true not only from the false, but even from the likely and possible ; each of them requiring a peculiar scrutiny and consideration. Neither shall he fly
thus to particular reason, which may soon lead him to heresy; but after a due separation of the more doubtful and controverted parts, shall hold himself to common authentic and universal truths, and consequently inform himself what, in the several articles proposed to him, is so taught, as it is first written in the heart, and together delivered in all the laws and religions he can hear of in the whole world; for this certainly can never deceive him, since therein he shall find out how far the impressions of God's wisdom and goodness are extant in all mankind, and to what degrees his universal Providence hath dilated itself: while thus ascending to God by the same steps he descends to us, he cannot fail to encounter the Divine Majesty. Neither ought it to trouble him, if he find these truths variously coniplicated with difficulties or errors; since, without insisting on more points than what are clearly agreed, on every side, it will be his part to reduce them into method and order ; which also is not hard, they being but few, and apt for connexion ; so that it will concern our several teachers to initiate us in this doctrine, before they come to any particular direction ; lest otherwise they do like those who would persuade us to renounce day-light, to study only by their candle: it will be worth the labour, assuredly, to inquire how far these universal notions will guide us, before we conimit ourselves to any of their ob
struse and scholastic mysteries, or supernatural and
Among many rites, ceremonies, and volumes, &c.
Among the many expiations, lustrations, and propitiations for our sins taught in the several quarters of the world, in sundry times, we shall find that none doth avail without hearty sorrow for our sins, and a true repentance towards God, whom
we have offended.
And lastly, amidst the divers places and manners of reward and punishment, which former ages have delivered, we shall find God's justice and mercy not so limited but that he can extend either of them even
beyond death, and consequently recompence or chastise eternally. These therefore, as universal and undoubted truths, should in my opinion be first received. They will at least keep us from impiety and atheism, and together lay a foundation for God's service; and the hope of a better life. Besides, it will reduce men's minds from uncertain and controverted points, to a solid practice of virtue; or when we fall from it to an unfeigned repentance, and purpose through God's grace to amend our sinful life, without making pardon so easy, cheap, or mercenary, as some of them do. Lastly, it will dispose us to a general concord and peace: for when we are agreed concerning these eternal causes and means of our salvation, why should we so much differ for the rest? since as these principles exclude nothing of faith or tradition, in what age or manner soever it intervened, each nation may be permitted the belief of any pious miracle that conduceth to God's glory ; without that, on this occasion, we need to scandalize or offend each other ; the common truths in religion formerly mentioned, being firmer bonds of unity, than that any thing emergent out of traditions (whether written or unwritten) should dissolve them. Let us, therefore, establish and fix these catholic or universal notions. They will not hinder us to believe whatsoever else is faithfully tanght upon the authority of the church. So that whether the eastern, western, northern, or
southern teachers, &c. and particularly whether my
This work has deservedly obtained a high character. “ Lord Herbert (says Nicholson) acquitted himself in this history with the like reputation as the lord chancelloç Bacon gained by that of Henry VII. For in the public and martial part, this honourable author has been admirably particular and exact, from the test records that were extant; though as to the ecclesiastical, he seems to have looked upon it as a thing out of his province, and an under. taking more proper for men of another profession." This work is said to have been write ten at the request of Charles. Hence, the common sentiments of politeness towards his master, probably rendered the author more partial towards his hero, than any contemplation of his arbitrary character can justify.