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And certain Men, which came down from Judea, taught the Brethren, and faid, Except ye be circumcifed after the Manner of Mofes, ye cannot be faved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no fmall Diffention and Difputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, fhould go up to Jerufalem unto the Apoftles and Elders, about this Question.

W

E learn from the Text, and 养肝 other Parts of holy Writ, That

the earliest and purest Times

of the Gospel were not free from Difputes and Controver

fies in Religion: That the Authority of the Apoftles, tho' confirmed by Signs and Wonders, was not fufficient to lay the Heats and Prejudices of Men; which, like ancient InVOL. II. habitants,

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habitants, having Poffeffion and Prescription to plead for their Right, were with great Difficulty removed: That the Apostles themfelves, however agreed in one and the fame Doctrine, were of different Opinions as to the prudential Methods of dealing with the Oppofition they found; fome giving way to the Torrent, that Men might have Time to cool, and recover the Calmnefs of Reason and Judgment; others endeavouring resolutely to ftem the Tide, and not to give way, no, not for an Hour, that the Truth of the Gospel might continue. Hence arofe the Contest between Peter and Paul; fo that, as the Apoftle of the Gentiles himself tells us, he withflood Peter to the Face.

To the fame Caufe likewise we may afcribe much of the prefent Difficulty and Obfcurity of the Books of the New Teftament For the Writers being neceffarily drawn into Controverfy by this Means, which always has, and in the Nature of the Thing must have, Reference to the Opinions and Prejudices of the Difputers; there are many Things in Scripture which appear dark to us, for want of a distinct Knowledge of the Errors and Misconceits which the Writers oppofe; many Things delivered down to us, in which it is not easy, at firft Sight, to distinguish how

far

far the holy Penman argues upon the Truth of our common Christianity, and how far upon the Principles and Conceffions of his Adversary. From whence it has come to pass, that fome Things have been taught by unskilful Interpreters of Scripture, as the Doctrines of Chriftianity, which were no better than the Errors of Judaizing Converts.

Thefe Difficulties, thus woven into the holy Writings, have furnished even to learned Men conftant Matter of Difpute and Controverfy; and fome Points have laboured under a Difference of Opinion in most Ages of the Church: And fo far has Length of Time been from diminishing thefe Difputes, that every Writer of Name and Authority has enlarged this Field of Controverfy; and to examine, adjust, and expound the Sentiment and Opinions of Men of Renown in th Church of God, who have gone before us, s left as an additional Labour and Study, and aftentimes as a fresh Matter of Contention

Add to these Caufes already recited, ne Paffions, the Weakneffes, and Prepoffeffions of Mind, which the beft Men are not free from; and which darken and obfcure Things in themselves oftentimes clear and intelligible; and will have before you, perhaps, a juft Account of the Caufes which

you

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which have filled the World with fo many Doubts and Differences in Opinion concerning the weightiest Matters of Religion.

But fince from this Account there appears little Hope of coming to an entire Harmony and Agreement of Opinion, what muft an honest Man do? Whom shall he chufe to follow? 'And, when he has chosen, with what Security and Confidence can he proceed? fince there will be always fome to tell him, That he is a blind Follower of a blind Leader. How far this Difficulty has been preffed, even to the rendering all Religion precarious and uncertain, and to the discarding the Gofpel itself, which is represented as ncumbered with fo many Doubts, fuch ifferent Comments and Expofitions, that the Vit of Man knows not how to extricate him fom this Labyrinth, and lead him to one Sot of firm Ground, whereon to reft the Sle of his Feet; how far, I say, this Argunent has been urged to this Purpose, I need nd fay: It will be more to our Purpose to cal this Matter to a fair Examination, and to affert the Grounds and Principles of our Faith, notwithstanding this fierce Affault that has been made upon them.

Now there are two Things which this Argument leads us to confider; and which, when

when fairly stated, will, I think, exhaust the whole Difficulty.

The first is with respect to the Revelation itself; to confider how far thefe Difficulties affect the Authority of the Gofpel: For if it is, as it is reprefented, fo very dark and obfcure, that common Honefty, with the Affiftance of common Senfe, cannot difcern in it what is the Will of God; then it cannot be a Rule or Measure of Religion, or defigned as fuch by God, who is too wise and too good to give Laws to the World, which can be of no Use to them, but to perplex and confound their Understandings.

The second is with refpect to Ourselves; to confider how we may attain to a certain Rule of Religion under the Gospel Revelation, notwithstanding the many Controverfies and Difputes, which are too vifible to be denied, and oftentimes too fierce to be excufed.

ז.

And if it fhall appear upon the whole, that these Difficulties do not affect the Authority of the Gospel, nor preclude us from the certain Knowledge of the Faith and Obedience required under the Gofpel; then, whatever Ufe may be made of these Controverfies, they cannot in Reason be urged as Objections against Revealed Religion, the Certainty

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