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The Nature, Procedure, Extent, Va.
lue and Effects of a Rational Faith
In T W O
Preach'd before the
0 X FORD,
By WILLIAM DOD WELL M. A.
sold by Sam. Birt in Ave Marie Lane, and
1 Pet. III. 15. Be ready always to give an Answer to
Every Man that asketh You a Reason : of the Hope that is in You.
HIS was the Direction of an Apostle, who well understood the Foundation
of the Religion He was commissioned to preach; This the Method by which He proposed the Christian Faith should be received, diffused and continued in the World. The
particular Arguments, with which They were to answer Enquirers, He had elsewhere instructed them in, and He here directs Them to fix Them deep in their Minds, that they might be able to apply then upon any sudden Demand, for the Justification of themselves and the Conversion of others. Enquirers of all Sorts were naturally to be expected upon the Publication of a Religion, which prescribed such exalted Rules of Life, and enforced them with such exalted Motives. Some, for the Sake of the Hope that was in them, might be glad to see so defireable a Scheme well founded,
whilft Others would be industriously solicitous to disprove a System, which crossed their received Opinions, and forbad the Gratification of their beloved Lufts and Passions. However whether They made the Enquiry of Envy and Strife, or of Good Will towards this Dispensation, whether They asked a Reason of their Hope, of Contention, not fincerely, supposing to confound their best Expectations, or of Love, knowing the comfortable Prospect which It afforded, The Disciples of this Religion were to be provided against all Demands however intended; They were to be prepared to offer sufficient Evidence for their Faith, for the Confutation of its Enemies, and the Satisfa. ction of Those, who were disposed to be its Friends. The peculiar Circumstances of their Situation made it necessary for Them to be well-grounded in the Faith, which they might probably be called on to support at the Expence
of their Lives ; and the great Importance of the Doctrine must incline Those, who sincerely believe it Themselves, to use all Endeavours to satisfy Others of the Truth of it,
And indeed had this Scheme been proposed in any other Light, had the First Preachers of our Religion placed it on any other than a Rational Foundation, the Philosophers
had had sufficient Matter of Triumph over a new Institution, which did not pretend to be founded on Argument, and there had been still the same Room for the Ridicule of the Wits of the present Age; or rather It could never have continued for the Diversion of their Pofterity, but must have funk deservedly under the Insult, Reproach and Contempt of those Times. But now in this Case Matter of fact is an Argument of real Force. This Religion prospered against all opposition, and Those, who according to St Peter's Direction were pre. pared to give a Reason of the Hope that was in Them, did actually defend it with Success against Persecution and Misrepresentation : By Strength of Reasoning They filenced the Objections of Wit and Learning, and by the Integrity of their Lives and Constancy of their Deaths offered an Argument superior to what any other Institution had ever offered. Yet Opposition has been made to this powerful Source of Light and Virtue in this very View of it, and Difficulties have been raised concerning the Nature, Procedure, Extent, Value and Effects of a Rational Faith, which it is of great Importance to examine and explain ; for if our Religion be found defective in this Point, in vain shall We seek out for any
other A 2