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OCT 5 : 1 


THIS is the first volume of the "SACRED CLASSICS" 
from the pen of a layman. This circumstance, 
however, is by no means to be taken as an indica 
tion that the number of works which the secular 
genius of our country has contributed to the sup 
port of religion, is inconsiderable. So far from 
this being the case, the only difficulty is in select 
ing from so much that is excellent, those volumes 
which it is most desirable to include in the present 
series : it is less easy to stop than to begin. It is, 
in truth, one of the chief glories of England, that 
almost all the greatest names connected with her 
literature and science, have been scarcely less dis 
tinguished for their reverence for religion. 

This has been more especially the case with all 
our greatest philosophers. In these men, happily for 
themselves and for mankind, philosophy produced 
its genuine fruits. Their splendid discoveries, and 
the wonders of the universe they unfolded, only 



inspired them with a more profound reverence for 
the all-glorious Creator ; and, what is not less im 
portant, prepared them, by purifying their minds 
from prejudice, and imbuing them with a reve 
rential regard for truth wherever they might find it, 
for seriously and candidly investigating, and, as an 
inevitable consequence, for duly appreciating the 
evidences by which revealed religion sustains its 
origin. Thus, like the eastern magi, who reached 
Bethlehem under the guidance of a star, their very 
observation of nature only led them the more in 
fallibly to Christ. 

Nor is this all. Many of them have not been 
content with merely declaring their deliberate con 
viction of the truth of Christianity ; like the same 
eastern sages, they have brought their gold and 
frankincense, and myrrh, and all the precious 
things of their philosophy, and laid them with the 
profoundest homage at the feet of the Redeemer. 

Amongst the most impressive examples of this 
sublime consecration of philosophy and genius to 
the cause of God and Christianity, must be ranked 
the Honourable Robert Boyle, the illustrious author 
of the following treatises ; which, together with se 
veral others of a similar character, and composed 
with a similar design, have as much endeared his 
name to piety, as his splendid discoveries have en 
deared it to science. 

The following Essay will contain a brief sketch 


of his life; an analysis of his character; and a 
few observations on the treatises which compose 
the present volume. 

The Honourable Robert Boyle was a native of 
Lismore, in the province of Munster, Ireland. 
He was the seventh son of Richard, commonly 
called the " Great Earl of Cork ;" and was born on 
the 26th of January, 1626. His early nurture was 
such as might be expected from one who possessed 
the masculine mind and manly sentiments of his 
father; in other words, he was brought up in a 
simple and hardy manner. He himself tells us, 
in the brief narrative which he has left us of the 
early part of his life, (and the vivacity and talent 
with which it is written, make us regret that it is 
but a fragment,) that his parent " had a perfect 
aversion for their fondness who use to breed their 
children so nice and tenderly, that a hot sun or a 
good shower of rain as much endangers them, as 
if they were made of butter or of sugar." 

At three years of age he lost his mother, a most 
amiable and talented woman. When quite a child, 
he acquired a slight habit of stammering, of the 
origin of which he gives the following account : 
" The second misfortune that befel him, was 
his acquaintance with some children of his own 
age, whose stuttering habitude he so long counter 
feited, that at last he contracted it ; possibly a 



just judgment upon his derision, and turning the 
effects of God s anger into the subject-matter of 
his sport. Divers experiments, believed the pro- 
bablest means of cure, were tried with as much 
successlessness as diligence ; so contagious and 
catching are men s faults, and so dangerous is the 
familiar commerce of those condemnable customs, 
that being imitated but in jest, come to be learned 
and acquired in earnest." 

Whether this account of a habit which might 
have been the result of some slight natural defect, 
be satisfactory or not, the reflections with \vhich it 
closes are equally just. It will not have been the 
first time that sound truths have been deduced from 
inconclusive premises. 

He was not sent to school till he had acquired a 
knowledge of the Latin and French languages, and 
the usual rudiments of learning, under one of his 
father s chaplains, and a French tutor. In 1635 
he was sent to Eton, then under the superin 
tendence of the celebrated Sir Henry Wotton. 
Here his great natural abilities, and that insatiable 
thirst for knowledge, which characterized him 
throughout life, soon displayed themselves. After 
pursuing his studies at this school for more than 
three years, he was removed to his father s seat at 
Stalbridge, in Dorsetshire, and committed to the 
care of the rector of the place. At the close of the 
year 1638, he accompanied his father to London, and 


after staying with him a short time at the Savoy, was 
sent with an elder brother, Francis Boyle, and under 
the care of a tutor named Marcombas, to make the 
tour of the most celebrated countries of Europe. 
The principal places he visited were Rouen, 
Paris, Lyons, Geneva, Grenoble, Venice, Florence, 
Rome, and Genoa. At some of these places he 
made a considerable stay, more especially at Ge 
neva, where the family of his tutor, Marcombes, 
resided. In May, 1642, while at Marseilles, he re 
ceived a letter from his father, acquainting him 
with the breaking out of the Rebellion in Ireland, 
commanding his immediate return to England, and 
telling him, that in the present distracted state of 
public affairs, he had with difficulty remitted a 
sum sufficient to pay the expenses home. But 
what was far worse, these remittances never came 
to hand, and Mr. Boyle and his brother were com 
pelled to remain on the continent till 1644 ; when, 
by disposing of some jewels through the good offices 
of their tutor, Marcombes, who had, during their 
stay abroad, befriended them in the most generous 
manner, they managed to reach England : Mr. 
Boyle did not arrive, however, till after his father s 
death. The manor of Stalbridge and several con 
siderable estates in Ireland formed his share of the 
ample patrimony. Yet such was the confusion in 
which public affairs were involved, that it was 


some time before he received any money from 
these estates. 

As he was abroad for several years, it may 
readily be conceived, that one so characteristically 
eager for knowledge, did not neglect his studies. 
Not content with the information which he ac 
quired by his travels, and which must have been 
very extensive to a mind so intelligent and observant, 
he staid for a considerable time at Geneva, Venice, 
and Florence, and during his residence in these 
places pursued his studies as if he had been at 
home. Indeed, during no period of his travels 
could his ardent mind be completely restrained 
from the pursuit of knowledge. We are told that 
" during his travels, he pursued his studies with 
great vigour ; and his brother Francis, afterwards 
lord Shannon, used to say, that even then he would 
never lose any vacant time ; for if they were upon 
the road, and walking down a hill, or in a rough 
way, he would read all the way ; and when they 
came at night to their inn, he would still be study 
ing till supper, and frequently propose such diffi 
culties as he met with in his reading, to his 

During the whole of his stay abroad, Mr. Boyle 
was preserved from that levity and dissipation of 
character which are so often acquired in travel, 
and which so frequently transform the youth who 


has left home, modest and virtuous, into a cox 
comb and an infidel. Happily for him, however, 
the principles of religion, which had been so early 
instilled into his mind, kept him from paying 
for his knowledge the dear price of his virtue. 
Nay, it even appears by his own account, that 
his religious sentiments and feelings acquired 
strength and solidity during his stay on the con 
tinent. He left his native land impressed with 
every feeling of respect and reverence for religion, 
but he returned a confirmed and decided Chris 

From 1646 till 1650, he resided principally at 
his manor of Stalbridge. Here he quietly, but 
with his characteristic ardour of mind, pursued 
his studies. This period of his life too is memo 
rable as that in which he made his first essays 
in chemistry ; the science which he afterwards 
pursued with success scarcely inferior to his dili 
gence. During these years of retired study, he 
frequently made visits to Oxford and London, and 
enlarged his acquaintance and correspondence 
with learned men. He was also one of a small 
society of virtuosi, who, under the name of the "Phi 
losophical College," used to meet for the purpose 
of mutual aid and encouragement in the prosecu 
tion of science. They were afterwards incorporated 
under the well-known name of the Royal So- 


ciety." It has been often said, that there is no 
evil which is not incidentally productive of some 
good. This was eminently the case in the present 
instance ; for the immediate cause of the formation 
of the Philosophical College was the Civil War, 
from the confusion and misery of which, Boyle 
and his intellectual associates sought refuge in a 
more devoted pursuit of science. Thus, those 
very calamities, which in general so effectually 
arrest the progress of science and knowledge, as 
indeed of all else that is good, produced in this 
solitary instance the opposite effects. 

The greater part of the years 1652 and 1653 
was spent in Ireland, where, with his friend, the 
well-known Sir William Petty, he pursued, to some 
extent, the studies of anatomy and physiology. 
In 1654 he returned to England, and fixed his 
residence at Oxford, where he remained till 16G8. 
He had long meditated this step, principally that 
he might pursue his studies under more advanta 
geous circumstances, as well as for the sake of that 
philosophical society which he could not so rea 
dily find elsewhere. Here he cultivated with the 
utmost assiduity the exact sciences, and almost 
every branch of experimental philosophy, giving 
his chief attention, however, to his favourite pur 
suit, chemistry : here, by the assistance of his 
friend Hooke, he perfected the air-pump, and made 


many of his most valuable discoveries ; and here 
he produced many of his most important philoso 
phical works. 

But he did not restrict himself to science alone. 
With the aid of the great orientalist, Pococke, and the 
celebrated theologians, Barlow, afterwards bishop of 
Lincoln, and Samuel Clarke, he prosecuted the study 
of the sacred languages, of theology and of biblical 
criticism. Nor was his life merely that of a lazy 
speculatist or intellectual voluptuary. Theology 
was not with him, as it has been with too many, 
a barely speculative science ; he studied, that he 
might practise it. Its truths operated upon him 
with the force of so many powerful practical prin 
ciples. Under its influence, his ample fortune 
was constantly employed in the encouragement 
of projects of public utility, more especially such 
as had for their object the diffusion of religious 
truth and the progress of the gospel ; in a word, 
in whatever tended to promote the honour of God 
and the welfare of his species. During the period 
of the civil wars and the commonwealth, it is 
hardly necessary to say that a man whose pursuits 
were so exclusively scientific and literary, whose 
temper was so peaceful and catholic, whose life 
was so inoffensive, and who took no active part 
whatever in politics, was permitted to enjoy un 
disturbed tranquillity. 

After the restoration, he was honourably no- 


ticed by the king and several of his ministers, 
more especially by Clarendon. This nobleman 
rightly judging that one who had reflected such 
lustre on the profession of Christianity as a laij- 
man, would sustain with no less honour the cha 
racter of a clergyman, even pressed him to enter 
the church. This proposal, however, after much 
deliberation he declined. His principal reasons, 
the latter of which is abundantly creditable to that 
tenderness of conscience which distinguished him 
throughout life, were as follows : 

" He knew that the irreligious fortified them 
selves against all that was said by the clergy with 
this that it was their trade, and that they were paid 
for it. He hoped, therefore, that he might have 
the more influence, the less he shared in the patri 
mony of the church. But his main reason was, 
that he had so high a sense of the obligations, im 
portance, and difficulty of the pastoral care, that 
he durst not undertake it; especially, says bishop 
Burnet, not having felt within himself an inward 
motion to it by the Holy Ghost ; and the first 
question that is put to those who come to be ini 
tiated into the service of the church, relating to 
that motion, he, who had not felt it, thought he. 
durst not make the step, lest otherwise he should 
have lied to the Holy Ghost. So solemnly and 
seriously did he judge of sacred matters. " 

But though he refused to enter the church, he 


nevertheless filled several important public stations. 
He became one of the directors of the. East India 
Company, and in this situation exerted himself 
to the utmost to render the extension of commerce 
instrumental to the progress of religious truth 
amongst the natives of the East. He was also 
appointed governor of the Society for propagating 
the Gospel in New England and the parts adja 
cent. In 1663 the Royal Society was incorpo 
rated, and he was appointed one of the council. 
In 1664 he was elected into the company of the 
Royal Mines, and appears to have been engaged 
during the whole of that year in public business. 
In 1665 he was nominated provost of Eton College : 
this office, however, he declined, under the idea 
that its duties would interfere with the prosecution 
of his studies. 

In 1668 Mr. Boyle removed to London, where 
he spent the remainder of his clays at the house of 
his much-loved and highly-accomplished sister, 
Lady Ranelagh, in Pail-Mall. Not very long 
after his arrival in London he was seized with 
a severe paralysis, from which he very slowly re 
covered, and which did not permit him to resume 
his studies till 1671. 

He attributes his recovery to the joint influence 
of a great number of strange remedies, and, amongst 
the rest, to his taking every day, for a considerable 
period, a portion of " the flesh of dried vipers," a 


remedy which many would think hardly more toler 
able than the disease. 

From this period, until 1680, he pursued his 
studies with the same assiduity as at Oxford. 
Scarcely a year passed in which he did not pro 
duce some work or other connected with his multi 
farious scientific pursuits, while his noble fortune 
was still expended as freely as ever in various pro 
jects of beneficence and Christian philanthophy. 
Amongst the principal of these may be mentioned, 
that he ordered five hundred copies of the Gospels 
and the Acts to be translated and printed in the 
Malayan tongue, and sent to the East at his own 
charge ; and a considerable number of Pococke s 
Arabic translation, (of which he was a munificent 
patron,) to be distributed in every country in which 
that language was spoken. He also contributed 
large sums to the translation of the Welch and 
Irish Bibles. 

In 1680, the Royal Society, as a mark of the 
great esteem in which they held his character, 
elected him as their president ; but owing to some 
scruples on the subject of oaths he declined that 
honour. About this time he engaged in the noble 
attempt to aid the celebrated missionary Elliot in 
his endeavours to propagate Christianity amongst 
the aborigines of North America. The corres 
pondence between these two men, equally extraor 
dinary, and equally worthy of reverence in dif- 


ferent ways, may be seen in the Appendix to 
Birch s Life of Boyle. It is deeply interesting. 

About 1689, rinding his infirmities increasing, 
he resolved to forego some of his public engage 
ments, and much of the gratification of literary 
society, that he might obtain leisure to complete 
and digest some of his yet unfinished works. "With 
this view he published an advertisement, part of 
which runs thus : " He is also obliged further to 
intimate, that by these and other inducements he 
does at length, though unwillingly, find himself 
reduced to deny himself part of the satisfaction 
frequently brought him by the conversation of his 
friends and other ingenious persons, and to desire 
to be excused from receiving visits (unless upon 
occasions very extraordinary) two days in the week, 
namely, on the forenoon of Tuesdays and Fridays, 
(both foreign post-days,) and on Wednesdays and 
Saturdays in the afternoon, that he may have 
some time, both to recruit his spirits, to range his 
papers, and fill up the lacuna of them, and to take 
some care of his affairs in Ireland, which are very 
much disordered, and have their face often changed 
by the public calamities there." 

In the summer of 1690 the inroads on his health 
became so alarming, that he resolved to execute 
his last will ; a document which is throughout a 
noble proof of his ardent love for science and for 


religion. In the codicils attached to it, he makes 
provision for the institution of that noble lecture 
which, named from him, has blessed this country 
with so many able pieces in defence of natural 
and revealed religion. He also left considerable 
sums in aid of his favourite project for promoting 
Christianity amongst the American Indians. The 
preamble is well worthy of a Christian, and de 
serves to be quoted. 

" In the name of God, Amen. I Robert Boyle, 
of Stalbridge, in the county of Dorset, Esq., young 
est son of the late right honourable Richard, earl 
of Cork, deceased, being, God be praised, of good 
and perfect memory, and taking into due and seri 
ous consideration the certainty of death, and the 
uncertainty both of the time and manner of it ; 
being likewise desirous, when I come to die, to 
have nothing to do but to die christianly, without 
being hindered by any avoidable distractions from 
employing the last hours of my life in sending up 
my desires and meditations before me to heaven, 
do make and ordain this my last will and testa 
ment in writing, in manner and form following. 

" First and chiefly, I commend my soul to Al 
mighty God, my Creator, with full confidence of 
the pardon of all my sins in and through the 
merits and mediation of my alone Saviour Jesus 
Christ; and my body I commit to the earth, to be 


decently buried within the cities of London or 
Westminster, in case I die in England, without 
escutcheons, or unnecessary pomp, and without 
any superfluous ceremonies." 

In the autumn of the same year he appeared 
visibly sinking ; he lingered on however till the 
month of December. His end is supposed to have 
been a little hastened by the death of his beloved 
sister, the Lady Ranelagh, whom he survived 
only a week. He died on the 23rd of December, 

On the 7th of January he was buried in St. 
Mai tin s Church, in the Fields. His funeral ser 
mon was preached by his friend Bishop Burnet, 
who chose for his text, on the melancholy occa 
sion, those most appropriate words of Solomon : 
" God giveth to a man that is good in his sight, 
wisdom, knowledge, and joy." 1 

Mr. Boyle was never married, nor does he ever 
appear to have had any serious thoughts of enter 
ing into that state. He is said, however, to have 
paid his addresses to the daughter of the earl of 
Monmouth, and that it was his disappointment in 
this suit which gave rise to his little treatise, en 
titled "Seraphic Love." 

That he had determined to abstain from matri 
mony long before age would have rendered it 
ridiculous to think of it, sufficiently appears by an 
1 Eccles. ii. 26. 


amusing letter to his niece Lady Barrymore, who 
had heard a report that he had been lately mar 

" * * * It is high time for me to hasten the pay 
ment of the thanks I owe your ladyship for the 
joy you are pleased to wish me, and of which that 
wish possibly gives me more than the occasion of 
it would. You have certainly reason, madam, to 
suspend your belief of a marriage celebrated by no 
priest but fame, and made unknown to the sup 
posed bridegroom. I may possibly, ere long, give 
you a fit of the spleen upon this theme; but at 
present it were incongruous to blend such pure 
raillery, as I ever prate of matrimony and amours 
with, among things I am so serious in as those 
this scribble presents you. I shall, therefore, 
only tell you, that the little gentleman and I are 
still at the old defiance. You have carried away 
too many of the perfections of your sex, to leave 
enough in this country for the reducing so stubborn 
a heart as mine, whose conquest were a task of so 
much difficulty, and is so little worth it, that the 
latter property is always likely to deter any, that 
hath beauty and merit enough to overcome the 
former. But, though this untamed heart be thus 
insensible to the thing itself called love, it is yet 
very accessible to things very near of kin to that 
passion; and esteem, friendship, respect, and even 
admiration, are things, that their proper objects 


fail not proportionately to exact of me, and conse 
quently are qualities, which in their highest degrees 
are really and constantly paid my lady Barrymore 
by her 

" Most obliged humble Servant, 
" And affectionate Uncle, 


In person, Mr. Boyle was tall and slight, his 
countenance pale, his eyes weak, his constitution 
delicate, and demanding, throughout the greater 
part of his life, simple and regular habits, an exact 
regimen, and the most scrupulous temperance in 
diet. Under such circumstances, his prodigious 
acquisitions and unwearied labours show, in a 
striking manner, how the energies of a noble mind 
can triumph over the infirmities of a feeble body. 

To characterize or even to enumerate the various 
philosophical works which Mr. Boyle published 
during his long career would far exceed the limits 
of the present Essay, and would be wholly fo 
reign from its design. Suffice it to say, there 
are few topics connected with any of the branches 
of natural philosophy, on which he did not at 
one time or other touch. It is more to the pre 
sent purpose, to mention his theological writings. 
The principal, besides those contained in the 
present volume, are his " Christian Virtuoso;" 



" Seraphic Love ;" a tract, entitled, " Greatness of 
Mind promoted by Christianity ;" and his " Ex 
cellency of Theology, or the Preeminence of the 
Study of Divinity above that of Natural Philoso 
phy." Most of these pieces, and the same remark 
applies in great measure, to his philosophical writ- 
ing S> appeared under singularly disadvantageous 
circumstances. Some of them were written or 
commenced in very early life, though they were not 
published for many years after ; and then in such 
haste and amidst the pressure of so many engage 
ments, that the noble author had not time to re 
vise and correct them as he would otherwise have 
done, or even to purify them from those juvenilities 
which occasionally disfigure his " Seraphk Love," 
and one or two other of his theological pieces. 
Some of them were mere sections and fragments of 
larger works, which the author never found time to 
complete ; and most of them were composed while 
he was still prosecuting, with his characteristic 
ardour, his researches and studies into almost 
every branch of literature and science. It may be 
added lastly, that most of his writings were pub 
lished as peculiar exigencies demanded or leisure 
afforded opportunity. 

No complete collection was made during his life 
time, though it appears that he was earnestly soli 
cited by the celebrated Cudworth,to allow such an 


edition to be put forth. After his death, they were 
all published, together with his life, and some few- 
posthumous pieces, by Birch. 1 

We must now say a few words of the character 
of this great man. 

Though chiefly known to the world as an expe 
rimental philosopher, Boyle possessed powers whicli 
were almost equally adapted to several different 
departments of human pursuit. To him belonged 
all the noblest qualities of intellect, and none of 
them in scanty measure ; aptitudes for almost 
every branch of science and of literature, and a 
capacity to excel in them all. His was none of 
those mutilated intellects, whose tendencies are so 
exclusively in one direction, that, although almost 
more than men in some respects, they are scarcely 
better than children in others, and who present to 
us a spectacle of strength and weakness, power and 
imbecility, as humiliating as it is instructive. The 
limits of any one science, however ample, could 
not circumscribe him. In a word, he was distin 
guished by that comprehensiveness, that compass of 
mind, which, more than any other quality, has 
characterised the greatest of our British philoso 
phers, and which, while fitting them for taking the 
highest station in those particular departments of 

1 They were published in five volumes, folio, and afterwards 
in six volumes quarto. 

c 2 


science to which they have respectively devoted 
themselves, has enabled them to attain no mean 
eminence in widely different directions. 

In Boyle, this happy versatility of talent found 
its proper stimulus, for he conjoined with it the 
most ravenous appetite for knowledge. The severe 
sciences, experimental philosophy in all its branches, 
pneumatics, hydrostatics, chemistry, physio 
logy, anatomy, the study of plants and animals, 
history, theology, the learned languages, more 
especially Hebrew, Syriac, and Chaldee, and sa 
cred criticism, of which he was no mean master 
all these he prosecuted with an ardour scarcely 
second to that with which he watched the processes 
of the crucible and alembic. 

Though he cultivated poetry and police litera 
ture only in early life, his whole writings show that 
he possessed imagination and taste in a degree 
which would have secured him no mean place in 
these departments, had not circumstances deter 
mined him to pursuits still more important. 

Perhaps, considered simply as an experimental 
philosopher, great and just as is the fame he ac 
quired, the multifarious objects of his pursuit 
prevented his attaining that reputation, which a 
more exclusive devotion to some single branch 
of science would have insured him. It has been 
well remarked by an eminent philosophical writer 
of the present day, that " Boyle seemed animated 


by an enthusiasm of ardour, which hurried him 
from subject to subject, and from experiment to 
experiment, without a moment s intermission, and 
with a sort of undistinguishing appetite." 1 This 
boundless and often ill-directed curiosity was to 
be expected in an age like his, when the Baconian 
methods of discovery first turned philosophy loose 
into the wide field of nature. The philosophers 
of that period resembled the first colonists in some 
new and singularly fertile country, who wander 
about hither and thither, perplexed where to settle, 
where all is new and so much is beautiful, and 
snatching at the spontaneous fruits which the exu 
berance of nature offers. It was left to a subse 
quent period, when the votaries of science had be 
come more numerous, and discovery more rare and 
difficult, to bring every spot to the highest point of 
cultivation. This was not to be expected at first. 
Boyle and many of his contemporaries rioted and 
revelled in that first vintage of science, and threw 
away many a cluster that was only half pressed. 

Boyle was one of the very first who avowedly 
and systematically reduced to practice the Baconian 
theory of induction. He was born in the same year 
that greatest of philosophers died ; and as a certain 
writer has said, " he seemed to have been designed 
by nature to succeed to the labours and inquiries 

1 Sir John Herschell s "Discourse on the Study of Natuial 
1 hilosophy." 


of that extraordinary genius." It is true, many 
of Mr. Boyle s experiments were purely tentative, 
that is, made at random, without any sagacious 
and distinctly formed conjecture as to the result in 
which they might terminate. This was to be ex 
pected, however, from that eager and boundless 
curiosity, which the experimental method, the laws 
of which were still but imperfectly understood, 
could not fail to stimulate; and might be excused, 
when such was the ignorance of chemistry and the 
kindred sciences, that hardly any experiment could 
be totally barren. 

That Boyle, as a philosopher, did not surmount 
all the prejudices of his age ; that, for example, he 
believed in the transmutation of metals and some 
other strange things; that he sometimes speaks of the 
mysteries of his favourite science a little too much 
in the style of the empirics of the hermetic art, will 
excite little surprise in those who consider that 
even Bacon believed in witchcraft ; and none at 
all in those who reflect on the gradual progress of 
human knowledge, the slow process by which truth 
supplants error, and the, at best, partial liberty 
which the most vigorous intellect can obtain from 
the prejudices imposed by education. To expect 
the human mind, in even a Bacon or a Boyle, at 
once to put off all the prejudices of ages, and all 
the early-formed habitudes of thought, is about as 
rational as to expect that there shall be no long 


and tedious dawning between midnight and mid 

The imaginative powers of Boyle were such as 
have not often fallen to the lot of distinguished 
philosophers ; and it is evident from his early 
life, that had not peculiar circumstances come in 
aid of his strong propensities for science, it would 
have been doubtful whether literature or philoso 
phy would ultimately have obtained his suffrage. 
He tells us that in early life " he would very often 
steal away from all company, and spend four or 
five hours alone in the fields, and think at random, 
making his delighted imagination the busy scene, 
where some romance or other was daily acted ; 
which, though imputed to his melancholy, was in 
effect but an usual excursion of his yet untamed 
habitude of roving, a custom (as his own experience 
often and sadly taught him) much more easily 
contracted than destroyed." 

He also informs us, that having addicted him 
self rather too freely to the perusal of books of 
fiction, " they meeting in him with a restless fancy, 
then made more susceptible of any impressions 
by an unemployed pensiveness, accustomed his 
thoughts to such a habitude of roving, that he has 
scarce ever been their quiet master since, but they 
would take all occasions to steal away, and go 
a gadding to objects then unseasonable and imper 
tinent; so great an unhappiness it is for persons 


that are born with such busy thoughts, not to have 
congruent objects proposed to them at first." 

In order to tame his imagination, and to reclaim 
his wayward thoughts, he applied himself sedu 
lously to the severe sciences. This was undoubtedly 
an effectual remedy ; the diagrams of mathematics 
and the mystic symbols of algebra form as potent 
a spell to subdue an untamed and truant fancy, as 
ever were a magician s cabalistic characters to bind 
a rebellious and roving spirit. 

Happily for his readers, however, Boyle s imagi 
nation was only sobered, not destroyed, by this 
severe dicipline. It was still an active principle, 
and has imparted no little vivacity and beauty to 
the style of his theological works. 

The resemblances on which the imagination 
founds its illustrations will, of course, be as is the 
knowledge from which such analogies are supplied. 
It will reflect the tints and colours of the objects 
by which the mind is filled. In accordance with 
this, the comparisons and similies of Boyle are 
borrowed from science far more frequently than 
from any other source. Many of them are not 
only singularly just and happy, but from this very 
circumstance singularly impressive ; because they 
derive additional force and lustre from their novelty 
and originality. It is rarely that a poet s fancy 
ventures into the regions of science; if it did, it 
might probably find, that independently of far 


higher benefits which science could confer, it 
would not fail to augment the mere materials of 
poetical combination to a wondrous extent. It has 
been said, indeed, (with what truth the present 
writer is not able to say,) that a late celebrated 
author used sometimes to attend lecturers on sci 
ence, principally for the purpose of furnishing his 
imagination with new and beautiful illustrations. 

But Mr. Boyle s illustrations are often in the 
highest degree felicitous, even where he does not 
fetch them from the favourite realms of science. 
\Ve should particularly instance those which he 
has derived from an apt application of incidents 
and facts of the Scripture history. In this he 
resembles many of the most eminent divines of his 
day. To particularize would be endless : they oc 
cur in almost every page of the " Considerations 
on the Style of the Scripture," and the singular 
brilliancy and appropriateness of many of them 
cannot fail to arrest the attention of the reader. 

Mr. Boyle s powers of acquisition must have 
been unusually vigorous. He, himself, it is true, 
often complains of the treachery of his memory. 
It is very possible, certainly, that it may not have 
been so tenacious as in many men ; still his vast 
and very various acquisitions sufficiently prove that 
he has greatly overrated its deficiencies. 

The style of Boyle s theological writings will 
advantageously bear comparison with that of most 


of the divines of his age. In many respects, it 
far surpasses that of the generality of them. Fa 
miliar with the manners of the world, and of 
polished life, he is free from the pedantry 
which so often deforms the theological writers of 
the age, and from the formality and stiffness which 
are so characteristic of retired scholarship. His 
composition is consequently marked by a more 
easy, natural, unconstrained manner, as well as by 
greater elegance and taste than are usually found 
among the theological writers of the day. His 
method of treating a subject, too, is far superior to 
theirs. This advantage is to be attributed in great 
measure to his comparative ignorance of the school 
men. It was difficult, as almost all the theological 
productions of the age show, to be familiar with 
those writers, without becoming in some measure 
infected with their vices of manner. Boyle was 
exposed to no such hazard. Detesting their philo 
sophy, as he was bound to do as a disciple of the 
new system, Boyle was far less read in them than the 
theologians of the age, who were of course expected 
to be versed in them. The authority of their ethics 
and their divinity long outlived that of their 
physics ; and though, therefore, Boyle or any 
other philosopher might neglect, a theologian could 
not be safely ignorant of them. The consequence 
was, that many of the schoolmen s faults, in 
point of style and method, very generally charac- 


terized the compositions of the divines of the 
seventeenth century : the principal are, an affec 
tation of logical precision ; a superabundance of 
subtle distinctions and refined definitions; a need 
less parade of the forms of syllogistic reasoning, and 
all the technicalities of the school-logic, and all this 
with divisions and subdivisions, without end. From 
faults of this kind Boyle is entirely free : his me 
thod is usually remarkably simple and natural. 

The chief vices of his style are excessive copious 
ness of diction, and a wearisome length and invo 
lution in the structure of the sentences. It may 
also be noted, that with a degree of taste and ele 
gance such as rarely belonged to the writers of the 
age, he is occasionally guilty of inaccuracies such 
as very few, even of his most careless contempo 
raries fell into ; as for instance, in the formation of 
the comparatives and superlatives of adjectives. 
Thus, whatever the laxity of criticism which dis 
tinguished the day, and whatever the licence in 
which writers indulged, such comparatives as " im- 
partialler," " distanter," or " disadvantageouser ;" 
or such superlatives as " seducingest, sparklingest, 
loudliest," are not often to be met with in any 
writings but his own. Upon the whole, however, 
they are marked by a degree of taste and propriety 
very unusual in his time. 

Such briefly was Boyle s intellectual character. 
But great as he was as a philosopher, he was dis- 


tinguished by far higher qualities than any we 
have yet enumerated. He was great far beyond 
all the ordinary and vulgar estimates of greatness, 
for he was truly GOOD. His genius and his phi 
losophy were sanctified by religion, and that reli 

It is a sad proof of the degeneracy and depravity 
of our race, that intellectual excellence should in 
spire such idolatrous admiration, while moral great 
ness the highest style of greatness even where 
it is recognized and felt, receives a homage so 
much less hearty, spontaneous, and enthusiastic, 
and so rarely stimulates, as does every other species 
of character we admire, to emulation. But heaven 
will revise all the false estimates of earth ; nay, the 
time is fast coming, when the earth will correct 
them herself; when Robert Boyle shall appear 
more truly great as an eminent Christian than as 
an eminent philosopher. 

Like many other men who have distinguished 
themselves by their achievements in science, he ap 
pears to have been little troubled with his mere 
animal appetites, and to have easily subjected them 
to control. Throughout life he practised the severest 
temperance. He tells us, that he was naturally 
somewhat irascible, but that he was early taught to 
repress this tendency ; the attempt, if we may 
judge from all that has reached us of his habits in 
after-life, seems to have been completely successful. 


The early traits of Boyle s character sufficiently 
indicate a mind of unusual amiability. His dispo 
sition was open, frank, generous, affectionate, and 
gentle in a remarkable degree : he was, from 
his very earliest childhood, characterized by a 
scrupulous love of truth. 1 At what time Chris 
tianity first laid hold of these rude elements of a 
noble and virtuous mind, and transformed them 

1 A ludicrous instance of his scrupulous love of truth occurs 
in the narrative he has left us of his youth, which we shall in 
sert here for the amusement of the reader. 

" Lying was a vice both so contrary to his nature, and so in 
consistent with his principles, that as there was scarce any thing 
he more greedily desired than to know the truth, so was there 
scarce any thing he more perfectly detested, than not to speak 
it : which brings into my mind a foolish story I have heard him 
jeered with by his sister, my Lady Ranelagh, how she having 
given strict order to have a fruit-tree preserved for his sister-in- 
law, the Lady Dungarvan, he accidentally coming into the 
garden, and ignoring the prohibition, did eat half a score of 
them, for which being chidden by his sister Ranelagh, (for he 
was yet a child,) and being told by way of aggravation, that he 
had eaten half a dozen plums, Nay, truly, sister, (answers he 
simply to her,) I have eaten half a score. So perfect an enemy 
was he to a lie, that he had rather accuse himself of another 
fault, than be suspected to be guilty of that. This trivial pas 
sage I have mentioned now, not that i think, that in itself it de 
serves a relation, but because as the sun is seen best at his rising 
and his setting, so men s native dispositions are clearliest per 
ceived whilst they are children, and when they are dying. And, 
certainly, these little sudden accidents are the greatest discover 
ers of men s true humours ; for whilst the inconsiderateness of 
the thing affords no temptation to dissemble, and the sudden 
ness of the time allows no leisure to put disguises on, men s dis- 


into the brighter graces of the gospel is uncertain. 
It must have been, however, at a very tender age. 
The religious knowledge early instilled into his 
mind, seems to have been blessed to him ; but the 
decisive change, according to his own account, ap 
pears to have taken place during his stay on the 
continent. Though mercifully preserved, as we 
have already observed, from any taint of immora 
lity during the perilous period of his travels, he ac 
knowledges that his sense of the importance and 
reality of religion had at one time perceptibly de 
clined. He was excited to salutary reflection by 
the terrors of a night of fearful tempest, and from 
that time religion ruled with the force of an abiding 

Though Boyle was favoured with religious edu 
cation, and was early impressed with a sense of 
the importance of religion, his was not a mind 
which was likely to adopt any system from respect 
for his relatives, or reverence for antiquity, or in 
mere conformity with the custom of his nation or 
age, or from any thing short of a sober, well-founded 
conviction of its truth. He accordingly studied with 
diligence the whole subject of the evidences of 

positions do appear in their true genuine shape, whereas most of 
those actions, that are done before others, are so much done for 
others ; I mean most solemn actions are so personated, that we may 
much more probably guess from thence, what men desire to seem, 
than what they are ; such public formal acts much rather being 
adjusted to men s designs, than flowing from their inclinations." 


Christianity, and above all, examined with devout 
reverence, that inspired volume in which its reve 
lations are contained. An investigation thus ho 
nestly conducted, issued, as it ever will issue, with a 
candid and upright mind he gave to Christianity 
his deliberate approval, the approval of an en 
lightened intellect, not less than of a sanctified 

Seldom has Christianity produced a piety more 
elevated, or a conduct more blameless or uniformly 
consistent than it produced in Robert Boyle. His 
spirit was habitually serious and devout. Such 
was his reverence for GOD, that it is said, he 
never even casually mentioned that sacred name in 
the most ordinary conversation, without making a 
visible pause in his discourse, as though he would 
place his soul in a posture of devout and humble 
adoration, before making the slightest reference to 
a subject so awful. 

The Scriptures ever found him a diligent and 
prayerful student. That he might prosecute the 
study of it the more successfully, he obtained a 
familiar acquaintance with the languages in which 
it was written, and eagerly availed himself of all 
the aids of sacred criticism. The account he gives 
of the pains he justly thought it worth while to 
take to make himself master of the contents of the 
sacred volume is so deeply interesting, that we 
feel we should be guilty of unpardonable neglect 


if we omitted to lay it before the reader. It is ex 
tracted from some loose sheets, intended to form 
part of an "Essay on the Scriptures," of which the 
"Considerations on the Style of the Scriptures" 
published in the present volume is but a frag 
ment. "As I shall not exact (says he) the study of 
the original from those, whose want of parts or leisure 
dispenseth them from it ; so cannot I but discom 
mend those, who wanting neither abilities, time, nor 
convenience to range through I know not how 
many other studies, can yet decline this ; and who, 
sparing no toil nor watches to put it out of the 
power of the most celebrated philosophers to de 
ceive them in another doctrine, leave themselves 
obnoxious to the ignorance, fraud, or partiality of 
an interpreter in that of salvation ; and thereby 
seem more shy of taking any opinions upon trust, 
than those, in whose truth or falseness no less than 
God s glory, and peradventure their own eternal 
condition, is concerned. Methinks those that 
learn other languages, should not grudge those 
that God hath honoured with speaking to us, and 
employed to bless us with that heavenly doctrine, 
that comes from him, and leads to him. When I 
have come into the Jewish schools, and seen those 
children, that were never bred up for more than 
tradesmen bred up to speak (what hath been pecu- 
cularly called) God s tongue, as soon as their 
mother s, I have blushed to think, how many 


gown-men, that boast themselves to be the true 
Israelites, are perfect strangers to the language of 
Canaan : which I would learn, were it but to be 
able to pay God the respect usual from civil infe 
riors to princes, with whom they are wont to con 
verse in their own languages. For my part, I *** 
that have a memory so unhappy and so unfit to 
[supply] my intellectual deficiencies, and the rest of 
my disabilities, that it often strongly tempts me to 
give over my studies, and abandon an employ 
ment, wherein my slow acquists are (by the treach- 
erousness of my memory) so easily lost ; besides 
this disadvantage, I say, those excellent sciences, 
the mathematics, having been the first I addict 
ed myself to, and was fond of, and experimental 
philosophy with its key, chemistry, succeeding 
them in my esteem and applications ; my propen 
sity and value for real learning gave me so much 
aversion and contempt for the empty study of 
words, that not only I have visited divers countries, 
whose languages I could never vouchsafe to study, 
but I could never yet be induced to learn the native 
tongue of the kingdom I was bom and for some 
years bred in. But, in spite of the greatness of 
these indispositions to the study of tongues, my ve 
neration for the Scripture made one of the greatest 
despisers of verbal learning, leave Aristotle and 
Paracelsus to turn grammarian, and where he could 
not have the help of any living teacher, engaged 



him to learn as much Greek and Hebrew as suffi 
ced to read the Old and New Testament, merely 
that he may do so in the Hebrew and Greek, and 
thereby free himself from the necessity of relying on 
a translation. And after I had almost learned by 
rote an Hebrew grammar, to improve myself in 
Scripture criticisms, in the Jewish way of reading 
the oracles committed to them, I, not over-cheaply, 
purchased divers private conferences with one of 
their skilfullest doctors, (as St. Jerome had those 
nocturnal meetings, which so much helped to make 
him the solidest expositor of all the fathers, with 
Barraban or * * * the Jew,) I received of him few 
lessons that cost me not twenty miles riding, at a 
time when I was in physic, and my health very 
unsettled. A Chaldee grammar I likewise took 
the pains of learning, to be able to understand that 
part of Daniel, and those few other portions of 
Scripture, that were written in that tongue ; and I 
have added a Syriac grammar purely to be able 
one day to read the divine discourses of our Savi 
our in his own language; in which I can truly pro 
fess, with the famous publisher of the Syriac Tes 
tament, Guido Fabricius, (in his dedication of that 
book, and his version of it, to the then French king,) 
that I had no instructor to teach me so much as to 
know the letters, but have been, to use the words he 
borrows of the learned Budaeus, ai/ro& cScuToe K, 
G, have had no other living teacher but 


God and myself in the little grammatical learning 
I have acquired in those four tongues, in which the 
better understanding and relishing of the Scripture 
limit my pretensions. Nor do I at all repent my 
labour, though, to secure my progress and acquists 
in these languages, my bad memory still reduces 
me to a constant and frequent recollection of some 
choice institutions of them all. For certainly the 
satisfaction of understanding God, and those ex 
cellent persons celebrated even in his book, express 
themselves in their own very terms and proper 
languages, doth richly recompense the pains of 
learning them ; for, according to the known say 

Quamvis allata gratus sit sapor in undii, 
Dulcius ex ipso fonte bibuntur aquae. 

Though we stream-waters not unpleasant think, 
Yet with more gusto of the spring we drink. 

" It is true, that a solid knowledge of that myste 
rious language God and his prophets spake (what 
ever is given out to the contrary by superficialists, 
amongst whom I remember a Jewish professor of 
my acquaintance used to reckon many, that are 
thought and think themselves Hebricians, because 
they could without hesitation and the help of a 
translation or a dictionary read and render in their 
own tongue an Hebrew chapter) is, I say, some 
what difficult, but not so difficult but that so slow a 
proficient as I could in less than a year, of which not 

d 2 


the least part was usurped by frequent sicknesses 
and journeys, by furnaces, and by (which is none 
of the modestest thieves of time) the conversation of 
young ladies, make a not inconsiderable progress 
towards the understanding of both Testaments in 
both their originals. * * * 

" For my part, that reflect often on David s ge 
nerosity, who would not offer as a sacrifice to the 
Lord his God that which cost him nothing, I 
esteem no labour lavished, that illustrates or en 
dears to me that divine book ; my addictedness to 
which I gratulate to myself, as thinking it no treach 
erous sign, that God loves a man, that he in 
clines his heart to love the Scriptures, where the 
truths are so precious and important that the pur 
chase must at least deserve the price. And I con 
fess myself to be none of those lazy persons, that 
seem to expect to obtain from God the knowledge 
of the wonders of his book upon as easy terms, as 
Adam did a wife, by sleeping profoundly, and 
having her presented to him at his awaking." 

The Treatise " on the Style of the Scriptures," 
printed in this volume, will best show how he pro 
fited by his diligence ; with what veneration the 
sacred volume was regarded, and how well it was 
understood ! 

His whole conduct in public and private life 
adorned the religion he professed, and demon 
strated at once its power and its excellence. In 


liim Christianity bore its appropriate fruits ; and, 
as in a thousand other cases, his impressive and 
lovely example furnished a far more powerful argu 
ment for the truth of the gospel, than could be 
afforded by the cold homage of even the loftiest 
understanding. Such a spectacle of uniform gen 
tleness, humility, integrity, courtesy, and benevo 
lence, as was exhibited in his life, will extort, even 
from the most unreflecting, some admiration of 
the excellence of that religion which produced it. 

To several of his most munificent benefactions in 
the cause of Christian philanthropy, some allusion 
has been already made in the biographical sketch. 
Suffice it to say here, that over and above extraor 
dinary acts of beneficence, his charities, during by 
far the greater part of his life, never amounted to 
less than 1,000/. a-year. 

He took no part in the unhappy controversies 
which distracted the age. His serene and placid 
spirit recoiled from controversies of every kind, but 
especially from such as were alike distasteful to 
his temper and alien from his pursuits, and which 
appeared to him, as they must to every other sober 
mind, to have been prosecuted with an animosity 
and rancour so utterly disproportionate to their im 

Both his philosophy and his Christianity taught 
him the utmost tolerance towards others. Many 
passages in his writings and letters show that he 


abhorred persecution in whatsoever form disguised, 
and by whatsoever party practised. 

If, upon all this, it be said that philosophy might 
have produced this varied excellence, we ask, where 
are the men, in whom philosophy has produced 
it ? Where are the men, not merely of inoffen 
sive lives and externally decent conduct for, happily 
for society, these common fruits do not require even 
philosophy to mature them but of active benevo 
lence and solid goodness, who have been made 
such by philosophy alone ? 

And here we may add, that Boyle was emi 
nently distinguished by those species of moral ex 
cellence to which philosophy, singly considered, is 
not only not favourable, but almost uniformly un 
friendly. We refer to such traits of character as hu 
mility, meekness, patience of human infirmities and 
human prejudices, and pity for human ignorance, all 
conjoined with that unwearied benevolence which 
busies itself in endeavouring to relieve the wretched 
ness it compassionates. Whatever the peculiar 
moral excellencies philosophy may pretend to 
cherish, to such as these, she undoubtedly cannot 
lay claim as her characteristic fruits: and alas ! if 
we may judge from the prevailing dispositions of 
many of her most eminent votaries, she does not 
even wish to lay claim to them. When unsanctified 
by a far mightier principle than any she can bring 
to bear on human character, her tendencies are the 


very reverse of all this. Alone, she produces pride 
of intellect, self-sufficiency, the vain self-gratula- 
tions of supposed superiority, scorn of human in 
firmities and impatience of human ignorance. 

On the whole, it may be affirmed, that few men 
have ever been distinguished by a more blameless 
and even course of life, or by one more strongly 
marked by all the traces of true worth, than was 
Robert Boyle. He descended to his grave rich in 
all the honours which humanity should most covet, 
and followed by the benedictions of his own and of 
all coming ages. 

We cannot close this Essay without offering a 
remark or two, suggested by the character of this 
illustrious man, to those who, like him, are engaged 
in the pursuit of science. It was once a popular, 
and is still a somewhat prevalent prejudice, that the 
study of natural philosophy is in some way or 
other intimately connected with religious scepti 
cism, more especially with a disbelief of Christi 
anity. That there is any such direct connexion be 
tween the two may be safely denied ; and the sup 
position is satisfactorily confuted by the fact, that 
by far the greatest names of science are associated 
with a full belief of Christianity, after a fair inves 
tigation of its evidences. But that such pursuits 
may become accidentally the causes of scepticism, 
and that in two ways, must be admitted. 


1. They may become so, as indeed every thins? 
else may, by being made the exclusive objects of 
the mind s attention. This is not at all wonderful ; 
for it is only saying, that a man, whatever his 
knowledge of physical science, is not likely to be 
lieve that of which he knows nothing, and that he 
is not likely to know what he has never studied. 
Now Christianity, as much as those sciences of 
which the philsopher is such an idolater, appeals 
to its appropriate evidences, and submits them 
to candid examination. Is it any wonder that a 
man who has never paid the slightest attention to 
those evidences, should withhold his assent from 
them ? 

Now, it may be safely affirmed, that it is in this 
class, that by far the larger number of the sceptics 
who become such in the pursuit of natural philo 
sophy are to be ranked. The bulk of them have 
never fairly investigated the evidences of that sys 
tem of religion which they take upon them to re 
ject and to deride. They have, in flagrant and 
open inconsistency with the principles on which 
they usually philosophize, taken the " high priori 
road ;" and determined that a system, which ex 
hibits truths so widely different from those with 
which they are chiefly conversant, and which is 
substantiated by an appeal to a species, or at least a 
degree of evidence so very different from that which 
enters into their scientific reasonings, cannot be 


true. Such conduct as this, whatever such men 
may be in their own department, is any thing but 

We may easily conceive the immeasurable scorn 
with which they would regard a theologian, who, 
however well acquainted with his own science, 
should presume to pronounce on the merits of some 
philosophical hypothesis, of which he was proved to 
be ignorant. This contempt would be just ; yet not 
more just than that with which they may be visited 
when they presume to dogmatize on matters of 
which they have no adequate knowledge. The 
conduct of the one party is precisely the same with 
that of the other. 

Experimental philosophy maintains, and justly, 
that nothing shall be received but upon the basis 
of well ascertained experiments or observation ; 
and that nothing shall be rejected which has been 
thus established, however it may oppose long-rooted 
prejudice or venerable error; that no d priori rea 
soning shall be permitted to throw any doubt on 
indubitable matter of fact. Christianity claims 
the same privilege; a keen, but at the same 
time, honest investigation of its evidences, is no 
thing but the experimental philosophy applied to 
religion. If rejected at all, the Bible can be justly 
rejected only after a full and dispassionate exami 
nation of its claims to our belief. 

That by far greater number of sceptical men of 


science have been grossly ignorant of the evidences 
of Christianity, will be doubted by none who have 
had much private intercourse with such persons, or 
are versed in the writings of those among them who 
have made their books of science a vehicle of their 
infidelity. The absurd, and not unfrequently even 
childish objections they will urge objections which 
they might have seen answered over and over again 
in the merest manuals of Christian evidences, 
show that they have never entered even into the 
most cursory investigation of the subject. In the 
meantime, it should at least render them more 
modest, if it cannot persuade them to a thorough 
investigation of the matter for themselves, that all 
the greatest philosophers who have investigated 
the evidences of Christianity have proclaimed 
their deliberate and solemn conviction of its 


2. But it was hinted that the ardent pursuit of 
physical science might accidentally become, in ano 
ther way, a cause of scepticism. It is not to be de 
nied, that oftentimes the species and always the de 
gree of evidence, on which its truths depend, are of 
a very different character from any which can be 
employed to substantiate the truths of Christianity, 
or indeed any other truths \vhich can be established 
only by the same species of evidence. And as 
physical science, from its very nature, recommends 
itself chiefly to such minds as by their native ten- 


clencies are better able to appreciate the former 
species of evidence than the latter, it is not to be 
wondered at, that from the influence of this twofold 
cause, the habits of mind engendered by along-con 
tinued and almost exclusive addictedness to such 
pursuits should not only disincline the mind, but in 
some degree incapacitate it for a candid and fair in 
vestigation of that kind of evidence on which other 
truths must be established ; established, not in 
deed less conclusively to a truly philosophical and 
comprehensive mind, but only in a totally different 
way. In conformity with these remarks, it has 
been sometimes observed, that some very eminent 
mathematicians have been in some measure inca 
pable of perceiving the force of all evidence but 
such as is strictly demonstrative ; while, on the 
other hand, it has been remarked that eminent 
lawyers have been far more ready to appreciate 
the force of the Christian evidences than those who, 
distinguished for their devotedness to the pursuit of 
the pure or the mixed sciences, are tempted to de 
mand a species of proof of which the very subject 
is confessedly insusceptible. The simple fact is, 
that the one party is far better acquainted with the 
nature and force of moral evidence than the other, 
for it is the sole element of all his reasonings. 

It is no matter of surprise then, that the student 
of the exact sciences, when he withdraws his atten 
tion from his mathematical demonstrations, or turns 


his gaze from those phenomena of nature, which 
present a spectacle of harmony and uniformity so 
beautiful, to the totally different elements of that evi 
dence on which the truths of ethics and religion are 
founded, should manifest, not only a distaste for it, 
but, unless gifted with unusual comprehensiveness 
and grasp of mind, a degree of incapacity to ap 
preciate it. In balancing testimony, in harmo 
nizing contradictory statements, in weighing pro 
babilities, he sees nothing of that constancy, uni 
formity and precision, which he has been accus 
tomed to admire; and the very habits of mind 
which in the exact sciences are so useful to him, 
in some measure disqualify him for doing justice 
here. Laplace, whose gigantic powers of analysis 
were equal to any thing in his own department, 
made but a sorry figure as a public functionary. 
The sagacious remark of Napoleon is well known. 
When these tendencies of mind strongly exist, 
or have been unduly indulged by a too exclusive 
pursuit of the severe or exact sciences, the obvious 
remedy is to lose no time in familiarizing the 
mind, at least in some degree, with the nature and 
objects of moral science. At all events, before 
presuming on the strength of such habits as those 
just mentioned, to dogmatize on a theme so awful 
and so unspeakably important as the Christian 
evidences, it is the unquestionable duty of the 
philosopher fairly to investigate them. If he will 


not do so, his conduct will as well merit the rebuke 
of Apelles to the too critical cobbler, as would that 
of some eminent lawyer, who profoundly ignorant 
of astronomy, should venture an opinion on the 
Copernican theory : they may both be reminded 
that their knowledge of one subject, does not en 
title them to dogmatize on another of which they 
are ignorant. 

If the above remarks be correct, then so 
far as the authority of the votaries of physical 
science, on a subject with which, by the structure 
of their minds and their habits of thought, they 
are too often but ill-qualified to judge; we say 
so far as the authority of such men is at all de 
cisive of the question of the truth of Christianity 
the appeal should be made to the opinion of those 
amongst them who have been distinguished for 
that vastness and comprehensiveness of mind 
which could not be confined within the bound 
aries of any one science, and whose profound ac 
quaintance with many other departments of human 
knowledge entitles their judgment to respect; not 
surely to those men whose native tendencies and 
all whose habits make them great mathematicians, or 
great astronomers, or great physiologists, or great 
chemists, but nothing more. Now what would be 
the issue of such an appeal D We should be 
well content that Christianity should abide it; for 
amongst this class of philosophers, Christianity has 
found many of her warmest friends. If we look 


to these men, equally distinguished by their com 
prehensiveness of mind and prodigious knowledge ; 
if, in a word, we appeal to such men as Newton, 
or Leibnitz, or Bacon, or Boyle, who were most 
distinguished, it is true, as philosophers, but who 
were also a great deal more than philosophers, the 
argument is triumphant. Authority, at best an 
indecisive and dubious argument, is altogether 
with us. For shall we for a moment compare with 
such large and full-orbed minds, minds which 
possessed in perfection all the attributes of lofty 
intellect, those defective, and if the expression 
may be used, those mutilated intellects which may 
be capable of the highest achievements in some 
specific branch of science, but are limited by 
that? Shall we compare the mind of Newton, for 
example, with such a mind as that of Laplace on 
such a question as this ? Surely not. On the 
other hand it is almost uniformly found, that it is 
the mere mathematician, or the mere astronomer, or 
the mere physiologist, who doubts of Christianity ; 
that is, the man who has no business to venture an 
opinion at all on the subject, until he has carefully 
studied it. 

Let then the youthful enthusiasts of science re 
member, that no degree of knowledge on one sub 
ject will qualify them for pronouncing on another 
of which they are ignorant; that such conduct is 
in utter and reckless defiance of all the principles 
of that philosophy they pretend to reverence; that 


if in forgetfulness of their character as philoso 
phers, they will on this subject appeal to that 
argument from authority, which on other subjects 
they despise ; it at least becomes them to defer to 
the opinions of those men whose comprehensive 
ness of intellect and whose extent of knowledge 
best qualified them to form a judgment; and lastly, 
that if they act upon this principle, they cannot but 
admit that all those names in science which they are 
bound most to venerate, are associated with the 
belief of CHRISTIANITY. 

How far the honourable Robert Boyle was qua 
lified by nature and by habit, by the structure of 
his mind and by the degree of his knowledge, to 
form an opinion on this subject, has been already 
shown in a former part of this Essay : what that 
opinion was, will be best seen by a perusal of the 
present selection. 

Of the pieces which compose the present volume, 
it is not necessary to say more than a few words. 
The " Considerations on the Style of the Scrip 
tures/ though placed last for the sake of preserving 
a natural arrangement, is by many degrees supe 
rior to the other two pieces. Though it is, after all, 
but a fragment of a work projected on a much larger 
scale; though it was commenced, and for the most 
part written at a very early age; though, as his 
" Prefatory Letter to the Publisher" shows, it was 
both composed and published under the most 
disadvantageous circumstances; still it is a per- 


fbrmance of great power, originality, and beauty. 
There are, it is true, in the style, some few traces 
of a juvenile and unripe taste, but these are not 
very frequent. Taken altogether, the work is the 
most finished of the author s theological produc 
tions ; and in many parts, as he confesses, cost him 
far more time, and was elaborated with far greater 
care than any of the rest. It has well repaid the 
pains expended on it. It indicates a thorough 
knowledge of Scripture, not only considered as a 
collection of separate treatises, but as a coherent 
system of truth ; it contains many profound and 
beautiful views of the philosophy of the Bible of 
the reasons of its being thrown into such a form and 
contexture ; it displays, in every part, an astonish 
ing superiority to the prejudices which fettered the 
interpreters of the Scripture in that day, and in one 
or two instances even anticipates the spirit and 
the principles of modem biblical criticism. This 
superiority to many of the prejudices which beset 
the biblical critics of the age, was to be expected 
from one of his catholic, enlightened, and philoso 
phical spirit; from one who was not confined 
within the little limits of a system ; who had no pre 
conceived hypothesis to support; and who read the 
Scripture, not only with the advantage of a 
thorough critical apparatus, but simply with a view 
to ascertain its meaning. 1 

1 This little work also displays, in many parts, a knowledge 


The first treatise in the volume, entitled, " The 
Veneration Man s Intellect owes to God," was writ 
ten with much haste; and though possessing many 
passages both of force and beauty, it is, on the 
whole, far inferior to that just mentioned. That 
some few of the alleged facts, by w r hich he illus 
trates the divine wisdom and power, are not cor 
rectly stated, will easily be forgiven by those who 
recollect the vast progress which natural philosophy 
has made since his time. That they do not affect 
the conclusiveness of his reasoning need hardly be 
stated ; since, so far as he has in these instances 
failed of the truth, he has, in fact, only understated 
his own argument, every addition to science being 
a confirmation of all the grand truths of natural 
religion. Thus, for example, the stupendous proofs 
which he has brought forward of the divine power 
and wisdom from the consideration of astronomy, 
would derive far greater force, if the splendid dis 
coveries which have taken place since he wrote the 
tract in question, were substituted for his own 
defective statements. The argument, as Paley 
has justly remarked, is cumulative; every fresh 
acquisition of science is continually adding to the 

The following is the Author s apology for the 
unfinished and fragmentary form in which this tract 

of the philosophy of rhetoric, and of the higher principles of 
eloquence not often seen in writers of that period. 



was published : " The abrupt beginning of the 
following paper will not (it is hoped) be wondered 
at, when it is declared, that the whole excursion is 
to be looked upon as a fragment of a discourse, 
from which, for certain reasons, it has been sepa 
rated in its present form." 

The " Reflections on a Theological Distinction" 
is brief, but contains, not only sound and forcible 
argument, but argument somewhat more closely 
and cogently expressed, than is always to be found 
in the productions of our Author. He shows con 
clusively, that unless this distinction, which has so 
often been ridiculed by pretended philosophers, 
be admitted, not only Christianity but philosophy 
would be exposed to insurmountable difficulties ; 
in a word, that the distinction is justified by 
reason and common sense. 

H. R. 

May 23, 1835, 




is probable God may have divers attributes, and 
consequently perfections, that are as yet unknown 
to us; and 2. That of those attributes that we 
have already some knowledge of, there are effects 
and properties whose sublimity or abstruseness 
surpassing our comprehension, makes the divine 
cause or author of them deserve our highest 
wonder and veneration. 

3. To begin with the first of these : whereas 
there are two chief ways to arrive at the knowledge 
of God s attributes, the contemplation of his works, 
and the study of his word ; I think it may be 
doubted whether either or both of these will suffice 
to acquaint us with all his perfections. 

4. For, first, though philosophers have rationally 
deduced the power, wisdom, and goodness of God 
from those impresses of them that he hath stamped 
upon divers of his visible works, yet since the 
divine attributes which the creatures point at, are 
those whereof themselves have some, though but 
imperfect, participation or resemblance, and since 
the fecundity (if I may so speak) of the divine 
nature is such that its excellencies may be parti 
cipated or represented in I know not how many 
ways, how can we be sure that so perfect and 
exuberant a being may not have excellencies that 
it hath not expressed or adumbrated in the visible 
world, or any parts of it that are known to us ? 

5. This will be the more easily granted, if we 
consider that there are some of those divine at 
tributes we do know ; which being relative to the 
creatures, could scarce, if at all, be discovered by 
such imperfect intellects as ours, save by the con 
sideration of some things actually done by God. 
As, supposing that just before the foundations of 


the visible world were laid, the angels were not 
more knowing than men now are, they could 
scarce think that there was in God a power of 
creating matter (which few, if any at all of the 
Peripatetics, Epicureans, to omit others of the 
ancient philosophers, seem ever to have dreamed 
of) and of producing in it local motion, especially 
considering the puzzling difficulties that attend 
the conception of the very nature and being of the 
one, and of the other. And much less (as far as 
we can conjecture) could the angels spoken of, 
have known how the rational soul and human 
body act upon one another. Whence it seems 
probable, that if God have made other worlds, or 
rather vortices, than that which we live in, and 
are surrounded by, (as who can assure us that he 
hath not ?) he may have displayed, in some of the 
creatures that compose them, divers attributes that 
we have not discovered by the help of those works 
of his that we are acquainted with : but of this 
more hereafter. 

6. I readily grant, (that I may proceed now to 
the second help to acquire the knowledge of the 
divine attributes,) that the revelations God hath 
vouchsafed us in the holy Scripture (which we 
owe to that Spirit which searcheth all things, 
even ra ftaQr] r3 Qta, the depths of God 1 ) have 
clearly taught us divers things concerning their 
adorable author, which the mere light of nature, 
either would not have shown us at all, or would 
have but very dimly discovered to us. But the 
Scripture tells us, indeed, that the promulgators 
of the Gospel, declared to men the whole counsel 

1 1 Cor. ii. 10. 

a 2 


of God, (as far as was necessary for their salva 
tion,) but never says, that they disclosed to them 
the whole nature of God ; who is said to inhabit 
an unapproachable light, 2 which human specula 
tions cannot, penetrate. Upon which score, per 
haps, it was, that the Jews would have the proper 
name of God to be ineffable, to signify that his 
nature is incomprehensible. And, though I will 
not adopt their opinion, yet I cannot but take 
notice that it is at least no mere Talmudical 
tradition, since we find not that either our Saviour 
himself or his apostles (who are introduced so fre 
quently making mention of God in the New Tes 
tament) expressed in speaking either to him or of 
him, the nomen tetragrammaton (or four-lettered 
name !) But not to insist on conjecture, the Scrip 
ture itself, that brings so much light to things 
divine, that the Gospel is called light in the ab 
stract, the Scripture, I say, informs us, that in this 
life we know but in part, and see things but 
darkly as in a glass; 3 and that we are so far from 
being able to find out God to perfection, 4 as to 
his nature and attributes, that even the ways of 
his providence are to us untraceable. 5 

7. These are some of the considerations that 
inclined me to think that God may have attributes 
that are not known to us. And this opinion 
perhaps will appear the more allowable, because 
of what I am going to add in answer to a weighty 
objection. For 1 know it may be alleged that, 
besides the two ways 1 have mentioned, of attain 
in to the knowledge of God s attributes, there 

1 Acts, xx. 27. * 1 Tim. iv. 1C. 3 1 Cor. xiii. 12. 
4 Job, xi. 7. 5 ^Rom. xi. 33. 


may be a third way preferable to both the others, 
and that is, by considering the idea of a Beiii^- 
supremely or infinitely perfect ; in which idea it 
may be alleged, that all possible perfections arc 
contained, so that no new one can be added to it. 
But, though I readily grant, that this idea is the 
most genuine that I am able to frame of the Deity ; 
yet there may be divers attributes which though 
they are, indeed, in a general way contained in 
this idea, are not in particular discovered to us by 
it. It is true, that when, by any means whatsoever. 
any divine perfection comes to our knowledge, we 
may well conclude, that it is in a sense comprised 
in the comprehensive notion we have of a Being 
absolutely perfect; but it is possible that that per 
fection would never have come to our knowledge 
by the bare contemplation of that general idea, 
but was suggested by particularities, so that such 
discoveries are not so much derived from, as re 
ferred to, the notion we are speaking of. 

The past considerations have, I presume, per 
suaded you, that God may have, as clivers attri 
butes, so divers excellencies and perfections, that 
are not known to us. It will therefore now be 
seasonable to endeavour to show you, that of divers 
of the attributes we do know that he hath, we men 
have but an imperfect knowledge, especially in 
comparison of that he has of them : which is not 
to be wondered at, since he possesses them in a 
manner or a degree peculiar to himself, and far 
transcending that wherein we men possess them, 
or rather some faint resemblances of them. 

It would be very unsuitable to my intended 
brevity, and more disproportionate to my small 
abilities, to attempt the making this good by in- 


sisting particularly on all the divine excellencies 
that we are in some measure acquainted with. I 
therefore hope it may suffice to instance two of 
the most known ones : God s power and his 
wisdom. Which two I pitch upon, as being those 
that men are wont to look on as the principal, and 
lor which they have the greatest admiration and 
respect, because we are not able to confer them 
on ourselves, as we think we can divers other virtues 
and perfections. For every man easily believes 
that he may be as chaste, as temperate, as just, 
and in a word, as good as he pleases those virtues 
depending on his own will ; but he is sensible that 
he cannot be as knowing, as wise, and as powerful 
as he would. And thence he not irrationally con 
cludes, that power and wisdom flow from, and 
argue an excellency and superiority of nature or 
condition, The power and wisdom of God display 
themselves by what he does in reference both to 
his corporeal and his incorporeal creatures. 

Among the manifold effects of the divine power, 
my intended brevity will allow me to mention 
only two or three, which, though to discerning- 
eyes they be very manifest, are not wont to be 
very attentively reflected on. The immense quan 
tity of corporeal substance that the divine power 
provided for the framing of the universe; and the 
great force of the local motion that was imparted 
to it, and is regulated in it. 

And first, the vastness of that huge mass of 
matter that the corporeal world consists of, cannot 
but appear stupendous to those that skilfully con 
template, it. That part of the universe which has 
been already discovered by human eyes, assisted 
with dioptrical glasses, is almost inconceivably 


vast, as will be easily granted, if we assent to what 
the best astronomers, as well modern as ancient, 
scruple not to deliver. The fixed stars of the first 
magnitude, that to vulgar eyes look but like shin 
ing spangles, are by artists affirmed to exceed, 
each of them, above a hundred times in bigness 
the whole globe of the earth : and as little as these 
twinkling stars appear to our naked eyes, they do 
(which probably you will think strange) appear 
much less through our telescopes, which taking 
oft those false lights that make them look to our 
maimed sight as they are wont to be painted, 
show them little otherwise than as specks or phy 
sical points of light. And the sun, which is 
granted to be some millions of miles nearer to us 
than the other fixed stars are, though it seem at 
this lesser distance not to be half & foot broad, is, 
by the generality of mathematicians, believed U> 
be above a hundred and threescore times bigger 
than the earth. Xay, according to the more recent 
calculations of some more accurate modern artists, 
it is estimated to be eight or ten thousand times as 
big as the terraqueous globe, and by further ob 
servation, may perhaps be found yet much vaster. 
And it plainly appears by the parallaxes and 
other proofs, that this globe of earth and water 
that we inhabit, and often call the world, though 
it be divided into so many great empires, and 
kingdoms, and seas, and though, according to 
the received opinion, it be 5,401) German leagues 
in circuit, and consequently contain 10,882,080,000 
cubic miles in solid measure, and according to the 
more modern observations have a greater circum 
ference, (amounting to above 2(5,000 miles,) yet 
this globe, I say, is so far from being, for its bulk, 


a considerable part of the universe, that without 
much hyperbole, we may say that it is in compa 
rison thereof, but a physical point ; nay, those far 
greater globes of the sun and other fixed stars, and all 
the solid masses of the world to boot, if they were 
reduced into one, would perhaps bear a less pro 
portion to the fluid part of the universe than a nut 
to the ocean. Which brings into my mind the 
sentence of an excellent modern astronomer, that 
the stars of the sky, if they were crowded into one 
body and placed where the earth is, would, if that 
globe were placed at a fit distance, appear to 
us no bigger than a star of the first magnitude 
now does. And after all this, I must remind you 
that I have been hitherto speaking but of that part 
of the corporeal universe that has been already 
seen by us. And therefore I must add, that as 
vast as this is, yet all that the eye, even when 
powerfully promoted by prospective tubes, hath 
discovered to us, is far from representing the 
world of so great an extent as I doubt not but 
more perfect telescopes hereafter will do ; and 
even then the visible part of the world will be far 
enough from reaching to the bounds of the uni 
verse, to which the Cartesians and some other 
modern philosophers will not allow men to set 
any, holding the corporeal world to be (as they 
love to speak) indefinite, and beyond any bounds 
assignable by us men. 

8. From the vast extent of the universe, I now 
proceed to consider the stupendous quantity of 
local motion, that the divine power has given the 
parts of it, and continually maintains in it. Of 
this we may make some estimate by considering 
with what velocity some of the greater bodies 


themselves are moved, and how great a part of the 
remaining bodies of the universe, is also, though 
in a somewhat differing way, endowed with motion. 

As for the first of these, the least velocity that 
I shall mention, is that which is afforded by the 
Copernican hypothesis, since according to that, it 
is the earth that moves from west to east about its 
own axis (for its other motions concern not this 
discourse) in four and twenty hours. And yet 
this terraqueous globe, which we think so great 
that we commonly call it the world, and which, as 
was lately noted, by the more recent computations 
of mathematicians, is concluded to contain six or 
seven and twenty thousand miles in circuit ; some 
part of this globe, I say, moves at such a rate, that 
the learned Gassendus confesses, that a point or 
place situated in the equator of the earth, does in 
a second minute move about two hundred toises 
or fathoms ; that is, twelve hundred feet; so that a 
bullet, when shot out of a cannon, scarce flies with 
so great a celerity. 

9. But, as I was saying, the motion of the earth 
is the least swift that I had to mention, being 
indeed scarce comparable to the velocity of the 
fixed stars, if with the generality of astronomers 
we suppose them to move in four and twenty hours 
about the earth. For supposing the distance as 
signed by the famous Tycho (a more accurate 
observer than his predecessors) between us and 
the firmament to be fourteen thousand semi- 
diameters of the earth, a fixed star in the equator 
does, as Mullerius calculates it, move 3,1-03,333 
miles in an hour, and consequently in a minute 
of an hour, fifty -two thousand five hundred and 
fifty-live miles, and in a second, (which is reckoned 


to be near about a single pulsation or stroke of 
the artery of a healthy man,) eight hundred and 
seventy-five miles ; which is about, if not above, 
three thousand times faster than a cannon-bullet 
moves in the air. It is true that, according to the 
Ptolomean hypothesis, a fixed star in the equinoc 
tial doth in a second move, at most, but three 
semi-diameters of the earth ; but according to the 
learned and diligent Ricciolus, this velocity (of 
our fixed stars) is fifty times greater than in 
the Ptolomean hypothesis, and threescore and ten 
times greater than in the Tichonian hypothesis ; 
for according to Ricciolus, such a fixed star as we 
speak of moves in a second minute (or one beating 
of the pulse) 157,282 German leagues, which 
amount to 659,128 English miles. 

And now I shall add (what possibly you have 
not observed) that that portion of the universe 
which commonly passes for quiescent, and yet has 
motion put into it, is so great, that, for aught I 
know, the quantity of motion distributed among 
these seemingly quiescent bodies, may equal, if 
not exceed the quantity of motion the first mover 
has communicated to the fixed stars themselves, 
though we suppose them whirled about the earth 
with that stupendous swiftness that the Ptolomeans 
and Tychonians attribute to them ; for I reckon 
that the fixed stars and planets, or if you please, 
all the mundane globes, whether lucid or opacous, 
of which last sort is the earth, do all of them to 
gether bear but a small proportion to the inter 
stellar part of the universe; and though I should 
allow all these globes to be solid, notwithstanding 

1 See Ricciol, Almag. nov. lib. ix. sect. iv. cap. 6. 


that it can scarce be proved of any of them, and 
the Cartesians think the sun (which they take to 
he a fixed star, and therefore probably of the same 
nature with the rest) to be extremely fluid, though 
I should, I say, grant this, yet it must be confessed, 
that each of these solid globes swims in an ambient 
fluid of very much greater extent than itself is; 
so that the fluid portion of the universe will in 
bulk almost incomparably exceed the solid. And 
it we consider what is the nature of a fluid body, 
as such we shall find that it consists in having its 
minute parts perpetually and variously moved, 
some this way and some that way, so that though 
the whole body of a liquor seems to be at rest, yet 
the minute parts that compose that liquor are in a 
restless motion, continually shifting places amongst 
themselves, as has been amply shown in a late 
Tract, entitled the History of Fluidity and Firm 

10. And because the quantity of motion shared 
by the corpuscles that compose fluid bodies is not 
usually reflected on even by philosophers, it will 
not be here amiss to add that how great and ve 
hement a motion (he parts of fluid bodies (perhaps 
when the aggregates of those particles appear 
quiescent) may be endowed with, we may be as 
sisted to guess, by observing them when their 
ordinary motions happen to be disturbed, or to be 
extraordinarily excited by fit conjunctures of cir 
cumstances : this may be observed in the strange 
force and effects of boisterous winds and whirl 
winds, which yet are but streams and whirlpools 
of the invisible air, whose singly insensible parts 
are by accidental causes determined to have their 
motion made either in a straight or almost straight 


line, or, as it were, about a common centre. But an 
instance much more conspicuous may be afforded by 
a mine charged with gunpowder, where the flame 
or some subtle cethereal substance that is always 
at hand in the air, though both one and the other of 
them be a fluid body, and the powder perhaps be 
kindled but by one spark of fire, exerts a motion 
so rapid and furious as in a trice is able to toss 
up into the air whole houses and thick walls, to 
gether with the firm soil, or perchance solid rocks, 
they were built upon. 

11. But since the velocity of these discharged 
flames may be guessed at by that which the flame 
of gunpowder impresses on a bullet shot out of 
a well-charged gun, which the diligent Mersennus, 
who made several trials to measure it, defines to 
be about seventy-five toises, or fathoms (that is, 
four hundred and fifty foot) in a second, being 
the sixtieth part of a minute : if we admit the 
probable opinion of the Cartesians, that the earth 
and divers other mundane globes, as the planets, 
are turned about their own axis by the motion 
of the respective aethereal vortices or whirlpools 
in which they swim, we shall easily grant that 
the motion of the celestial matter that moves, 
for instance, upon the remote confines of the 
earth s vortex, is by a vast excess, more rapid than 
that of the surface of the earth. And yet we 
formerly observed, that a place situated under the 
equator does (if the earth turns about its own axis) 
move as swiftly as a bullet shot out of a cannon. 
But if we choose rather the Tychonian hypothesis, 
which makes the firmament, with all the vast 
globes of light that adorn it, to move about their 
common centre in twenty-four hours, the motions 


of the celestial matter must be allowed a far 
greater, and indeed a scarce imaginable rapidity. 

These things are mentioned, that we may have 
the more enlarged conceptions of the power as well 
as wisdom of the great Creator, who has both put 
so wonderful a quantity of motion into the uni 
versal matter, and maintains it therein, and is able 
not only to set bounds to the raging sea, and 
effectually say to it, Hitherto shalt thou come, and 
no further, and here shall thy proud waves be 
stayed, but what is far more, so to curb and 
moderate those stupendously rapid motions of the 
mundane globes and intercurrent fluids, that 
neither the unwieldiness of their bulk, nor celerity 
of their motions, have made them exorbitate or 
fly out, and this for many ages, during which no 
watch, for a few hours, has gone so regularly. The 
sun, for instance, moving without swerving, under 
the same circular line, that is called the ecliptic ; 
and if the firmament itself, whose motion in the 
vulgar hypothesis is by much the most rapid in 
the world, do fail of exactly completing its revolu 
tion in twenty-four hours, that retardation is so 
regulated, that since Hipparchus s time, who lived 
two thousand years ago, the first star in Aries, 
which was then near the beginning of it, is not 
yet come to the last degree of that sign. 

12. After what hath been discoursed of the 
power of God, it remains that I say something 
about his wisdom, that being the attribute to 
which those that have elevated understandings 
are wont to pay the highest veneration, when they 
meet it even in men, where yet it is still but very 

The wisdom of God which Saint Paul some- 


where justly styles TroXuTTo/iaAoe, 1 manifold or mul 
tifarious, is expressed in two differing manners or 
degrees ; for sometimes it is so manifestly dis 
played in familiar objects, that even superficial 
and almost careless spectators may take notice of 
it ; but there are many other things wherein the 
treasures of wisdom and knowledge 2 may be said 
to be hid, lying so deep that they require an in 
telligent and attentive considerer to discover them ; 
but though I think I may be allowed to make this 
distinction, yet I shall not solicitously confine 
myself to it ; because in several things both these 
expressions of the divine wisdom may be clearly 

Those objects of this wisdom that we shall at 
this time consider are of two sorts, the material 
and visible, and the invisible and immaterial 
creatures of God. 

In the first of these, whose aggregate or collec 
tion makes up the corporeal world, commonly 
called universe, I shall briefly take notice of the 
excellent contrivance of particular bodies ; of the 
great variety and consequently number of them ; 
of their symmetry, as they are parts of the world ; 
and of the connexion and dependence they have 
in relation to one another ; and though under the 
two first of these heads, I might as well as under 
the other two, take notice of many inanimate 
bodies, as well as of those that are endowed with 
vegetative and sensitive souls, (as naturalists com 
monly call them,) yet for brevity sake I shall here 
take notice only of that more perfect sort of living 
creatures that we call animals. 

1 Ephes. iii. 10. 2 Col. ii. 3. 


13. I. The contrivance of every animal, and 
especially of a human body, is so curious and 
exquisite, that it is almost impossible for any body 
that has not seen a dissection well made and ana 
tomically considered, to imagine or conceive how 
much excellent workmanship is displayed in that 
admirable engine; but of this having discoursed 
elsewhere more fully, I shall here only tell you in 
a word, (and it is no hyperbole,) that as St. Paul 
said on another occasion, That the foolish things 
of God are wiser than men, and the weak things 
of God stronger than men; 1 so we may say, that 
the meanest living creatures of God s making, are 
far more wisely contrived than the most excellent 
pieces of workmanship that human heads and 
hands can boast of. And no watch nor clock in 
the world is any way comparable for exquisiteness 
of mechanism, to the body of even an ass or a 

14. II. But God s wisdom is recommended as 
well by the variety, and consequently the number 
of the kinds of living creatures as by the fabric 
of each of them in particular ; for the skill of 
human architects and other artists is very narrow, 
and for the most part limited to one or to a few 
sorts of contrivements. Thus many an architect 
can build a house well that cannot build a ship : 
and (as we daily see) a man may be an excellent 
clock-maker that could not make a good watch, 
and much less contrive well a fowling-piece or a 

15. But now the great author of nature has not 
only created four principal sorts of living engines, 

1 1 Cor. i. 25. 


namely beasts, birds, fishes and reptiles, which 
differ exceedingly from one another, as the several 
regions or stages where they were to act their 
parts, required they should do ; but under each 
of these comprehensive genera are comprised I 
know not how many subordinate species of animals 
that differ exceedingly from others of the same 
kind, according to the exigency of their particular 
natures; for not only the fabric of a beast (as a 
lion) is very differing from that of a bird, or a fish, 
(as an eagle or a whale,) but in the same species 
the structure or mechanism of particular animals 
is very unlike. Witness the difference between 
the parts of those beasts that chew the cud, and 
those that do not ; and between the hog and the 
hare, especially in their entrails ; and so between 
a parrot and a bat, anci likewise between a whale, 
a star-fish, a lobster, and an oyster; (to mention 
no other instances;) and if with divers philoso 
phers, both ancient and modern, we admit vege 
tables into the rank of living creatures, the number 
of these being so great, that above six thousand 
kinds of vegetables were many years ago reckoned 
up, the manifold displays of the divine mechan 
ism, and so of its wisdom, will, by that great 
variety of living engines, be so mucli the more 

16. III. That which much enhances the ex 
cellent contrivances to be met with in these auto 
mata is the symmetry of all the various parts that 
each of them consists of. For an animal, though 
considered in his state of entireness, he is justly 
looked upon as one engine ; yet really this total 
machine (if I may so call it) is a complex thing- 
made up of several parts, which considered sepa- 


rately, may pass each of them for a subordinate 
engine excellently fitted for this or that particular 
use. As an eye is an admirable optical instru 
ment to enable a man to see, and the hand is so 
well framed for a multitude of mechanical uses, 
that Aristotle thought fit to call it the organ of 
organs, or instrument of instruments ; it ought 
therefore highly to recommend the wisdom of the 
great yotser hakkol, former of all things, as the 
Scripture styles him, that he has so framed each 
particular part of a man, or other animal, as not 
to let the skill bestowed on that, hinder him from 
making that part or member itself, and every other, 
neither bigger nor less, nor, in a word, otherwise 
constituted than was most expedient for the com 
pleteness and welfare of the whole animal ; which 
manifests that this great artist had the whole 
fabric under his eye at once, and did at one view 
behold all that was best to be done in order to the 
completeness of the whole animal, as well as to 
that of each member and other part, and admirably 
provided for them both at once. Whereas many 
an excellent artificer that is able to make a single 
engine very complete, may not be able to make it 
a commodious part of a complex or aggregate of 
engines : as it is not every one that can make a 
good pump that can make a good ship-pump, nor 
every chymist that can build an oven for a bake 
house, that can make one fit to be set up in a ship : 
and we see that our pendulum-clocks, that are 
moved with weights and go very regularly ashore, 
cannot yet be brought to perform their office, of 
constantly measuring of time, when set up in a 
sailing ship. 

1 Jer. x. 16. 



17. IV. The fourth way by which God manifests 
his wisdom in his corporeal creatures is, their 
mutual usefulness to one another, in a relation 
either of dependency or of co-ordination : this 
serviceableness may be considered, either as the 
parts of the animal have a relation to one another, 
and to the whole body they make up, or as entire 
and distinct bodies have reference to or depen 
dency on each other. To the first sort of utility 
belong the uses of the parts of the human body, 
for instance, which are so framed, that besides 
these public offices or functions that some of them 
exercise for the good of the whole, as the stomach 
for correcting aliments, the brain for supplying 
animal spirits to move the limbs and other parts, 
the kidneys to separate the superfluous serum of 
the blood ; there are many other particular parts 
that have that subserviency to one another, that 
no despicable portion of the books of anatomy is 
employed in the mention of them. And divers 
consents of parts and utilities that accrue from one 
to the other, are further discovered by diseases 
which, primarily affecting one part or member of 
the. body, discover that this or that other part has 
a dependence on it, or a particular relation to it, 
though perhaps not formerly taken notice of. To 
the second part of utility belong those parts that 
discriminate the sexes of animals, which parts have 
such a relation one to another, in the male and the 
female, that it is obvious they were made for the 
conjunction of both in order to the propagation of 
the species. I cannot here spend time to consider 
the fitness of the distance and situation of the sun, 
the obliquity of its motion under the ecliptic, and 
especially the compensations that nature makes by 


one thing for another, the excess of whose qualities 
would else be noxious to men ; as the great heat-; 
and dryness that reign in many pails of the torrid 
xone and some neighbouring climates, would ren 
der those countries barren and uninhabitable, as 
the ancients thought them, if they were not kept 
from being so by the etesians and the trade-winds, 
which blow regularly, though not always the same 
way, for a great part of the hottest seasons of the 
year, and are assisted by the length of the nights, 
by the copious and lasting rains that fall at set 
times, by the greatness of the rivers, some of them 
periodically overflowing their banks to great dis 
tances, and by the winds that in many places 
blow in the night from the land seaward, and in 
the morning from the sea towards the land; for 
these and some other such things do so moisten 
and refresh the ground, and contemperate the air, 
that in many of those climates which the ancients 
thought parched up and uninhabitable, there are 
large kingdoms and provinces that are both fruitful 
and populous, and divers of them very pleasant 
too. But, as I was saying, I cannot stay to prose 
cute what might be represented to show the use 
fulness of many of God s other sensible works to 
the noblest kind of them, men ; but I shall rather 
content myself by adding a few lines, to point 
further at the reference that God has been pleased 
to make many other things have to the welfare of 
men and other animals, as we see that according 
to the usual course of nature, lambs, kids, and 
many other living creatures are brought into the 
world at the spring of the year, when tender gia^s 
and other nutritive plants are provided for their 
food ; and the like may be observed in the pro- 

c 2 


duction of silk-worms, whose eggs, according 1 to 
nature s institution, are hatched when mulberry- 
trees begin to bud and put forth those leaves 
whereon these precious insects are to feed, the 
aliments being tender whilst the worms themselves 
are so, and growing more strong and substantial 
as the insects increase in vigour and bulk. 

18. There is one thing which, though it might 
perhaps have been more properly brought in be 
fore, must not here be pretermitted ; for, besides 
what was lately said of the excellent fabric of the 
bodies of men and other animals, we may de 
servedly take notice how much more wonderful 
than the structure of the grown body must be the 
contrivance of a semen animatum; since all the 
future parts, solid as well as soft, and the functions 
and many of the actions (and those to be variable 
pro re nata} of the animal to be produced must 
be durably delineated, and as it were couched in a 
little" portion of matter, that seems homogeneous, 
and is unquestionably fluid ; and that which much 
increases the wonder is, that one of these latent 
impressions or powers, namely, the plastic or pro 
lific, is to lie dormant, perhaps above thirty or 
forty years, and then to be able to produce many 
more such engines as is the animal itself. 

I have hitherto, among the corporeal works of 
God, taken notice only of those productions of his 
power and wisdom that may be observed in the 
visible world ; so that I may be allowed to con 
sider further, that not only the Peripatetics, but 
the generality of other philosophers, believe the 
world to be finite ; and though the Cartesians will 
not say it is so, but choose rather to call it inde 
finite, yet, as it is elsewhere shown, their opinion 


is rather a well-meant piece of modesty than a 
strict truth ; for in reality, the world must every 
way have bounds and consequently be finite, or it 
must not have bounds, and so be truly boundless, 
or, which is the same thing in other terms, infinite. 
And if the world be bounded, then those that be 
lieve a Deity, to whose nature it belongs to be of 
infinite power, must not deny that God is, and still 
was, able to make other worlds than this of our?. 
And the Epicureans, who admitted no Omipotent 
Maker of the world, but substituted chance and 
atoms in his stead, taught that by reason the 
causes sufficient to make a world, that is, atoms 
and space, were not wanting : chance has actually 
made many worlds, of which ours is but one ; and 
the Cartesians must, according to their doctrine of 
the indefiniteness of corporeal substance, admit 
that our visible world, or, if they please, vortex, by 
which I mean the greatest extent our eyes can 
reach to, is but a part, and comparatively but a 
very small one too, of the whole universe, which 
may extend beyond the utmost stars we can see, 
incomparably further than those remotest visible 
bounds are distant from our earth. 

Now, if we grant with some modern philoso 
phers, that God has made other worlds besides 
this of ours, it will be highly probable that he has 
there displayed his manifold wisdom in produc 
tions very differing from those wherein we here 
admire it; and even without supposing any more 
than one universe, as all that portion of it that is 
visible to us makes but a part of that vastly ex 
tended aggregate of bodies; so if we but suppose 
that some of the celestial globes, whether visible to 
us or placed beyond the reach of our sight, are 


peculiar systems, the consideration will not be 
very different; for since the fixed stars are many 
of them incomparably more remote than the 
planets, it is not absurd to suppose that, as the 
sun, who is the fixed star nearest to us, has a 
whole system of planets that move about him, so 
some of the other fixed stars may be each of them 
the centre, as it were, of another system of celestial 
globes, since we see that some planets themselves, 
that are determined by astronomers to be much 
inferior in bigness to those fixed stars I was speak 
ing of, have other globes that do, as it were, de 
pend on them, and move about them ; as, not to 
mention the earth that has the moon for its atten 
dant, nor Saturn, that is not altogether unaccom 
panied, it is plain that Jupiter has no less than 
four satellites that run their course about him ; 
and it is not to be pretermitted, that none of these 
lesser and secondary planets, if I may so call 
them, that moves about Saturn and Jupiter, is 
visible to the naked eye, and therefore they were all 
unknown to the ancient astronomers who lived 
before the invention of telescopes. Now, in case 
there be other mundane systems, if I may so 
speak, besides this visible one of ours, I think it 
may be probably supposed that God may have 
given peculiar and admirable instances of his un 
exhausted wisdom in the contrivance and govern 
ment of systems, that for aught we know may be 
framed and managed in a manner quite differing 
from what is observed in that part of the universe 
that is known to us ; for besides that here on earth 
the loadstone is a mineral so differing in divers 
affections, not only from all other stones, but from 
all other bodies that are not magnetical, that this 


heteroclite mineral scarce seems to be originary of 
this world of ours, but to have come into it by a 
remove from some other world or system ; I re 
member that some of the navigators that discovered 
America, took notice that at their first coming into 
some parts of it, though they found great store of 
animals and plants, yet they met with few of the 
latter, and scarce any of the former, of the same 
species with the living creatures of Europe. 

19. Now in these other worlds, besides that we 
may suppose that the original fabric, or that 
frame into which the Omniscient Architect at first 
contrived the parts of their matter, was very differ 
ing from the structure of our system : besides 
this, I say, we may conceive that there may be 
a vast difference betwixt the subsequent pheno 
mena and productions observable in one of those 
systems, from what regularly happens in ours, 
though we should suppose no more than that two 
or three laws of local motion may be differing in 
those unknown worlds from the laws that obtain 
in ours; for if we suppose, for instance, that every 
entire body, whether simple or compounded, great 
or small, retains always a motive power, (as philoso 
phers commonly think that the soul does, when it 
has moved the human body, and as the Epi 
cureans and many other philosophers think all 
atoms do, after they have impelled one another,) 
this power of exciting motion in another body, 
without the movent s losing its own, will appear 
of such moment to those that duly consider that 
local motion is the first and chiefest of the second 
causes that produce the phaenomena of nature, 
that they will easily grant that these phaenomena 
must be strangely diversified by springing from 


principal causes so very differingly qualified. Nor 
(to add another way of varying motion) is it ab 
surd to conceive, that God may have created some 
parts of matter to be of themselves quiescent, 
(as the Cartesians and divers other philosophers 
suppose all matter to be in its own nature,) and 
determined to continue at rest till some outward 
agent force it into motion ; and yet that he may 
have endowed other parts of the matter with a 
power like that which the atomists ascribe to 
their principles, of restlessly moving themselves, 
without losing that power by the motion they 
excite in quiescent bodies ; and the laws of this 
propagation of motion among bodies may be not 
the same with those that are established in our 
world ; so that but one half, or some lesser part, 
(as a third,) of the motion that is here communi 
cated from a body of such a bulk and velocity, 
to another it finds at rest, or slowlier moved than 
itself, shall there pass from a movent to the body 
it impells, though all circumstances, except the 
laws of motion, be supposed to be the same. Nor 
is it so extravagant a thing as at first it may seem, 
to entertain such suspicions as these ; for in the 
common philosophy, besides that the notion and 
theory of local motion are but very imperfectly 
proposed, there are laws or rules of it not well, not 
to say at all, established. 

20. And as for the Cartesian laws of motion, 
though I know they are received by many learned 
men, yet I suspect that it is rather upon the autho 
rity of so famous a mathematician as Des Cartes, 
than any ctmvictive evidence that accompanies the 
rules themselves: since to me (for reasons that 
belong not to this discourse) some of them appear 


not to be befriended, either by clear experience or 
any cogent reason ; and for the rule that is the 
most useful, namely, that which asserts, " that 
there is always the same quantity of motion in the 
world, every body that moves another losing just 
as much of its own as it produces in the other," 
the proof he offers being drawn from the immuta 
bility of (rod, seems very metaphysical, and not 
very cogent to me, who fear that the properties 
and extent of the divine immutability are not so 
well known to us mortals as to allow Cartesius to 
make it, in our present case, an argument a priori. 
And a posteriori I see not how the rule will be 
demonstrated, since, besides that it may be ques 
tioned whether it is agreeable to experience in 
divers instances that might be given of communi 
cated motions here below, I know not what expe 
rience we have of the rules by which motion is 
propagated in the heavenly regions of the world, 
among all the bodies that make up the ethereal, 
which is incomparably the greatest part of the 
universe ; so that the truth of the Cartesian rules 
being evinced neither d priori nor d posteriori, it 
appears not why it should be thought unreasonable 
to imagine, that other systems may have some pe 
culiar laws of motion, only because they differ 
from those Cartesian rules, whereof the greatest 
part are, at least, undemonstrated. 

21. But though, if we allow of suppositions and 
conjectures, such as those lately mentioned, that are 
at least not absurd, they may conduce to amplify 
some of our ideas of divine things, yet we need 
not fly to imaginary ultra mundane spaces to be 
convinced that the effects of the power and wisdom 
of God are worthy of their causes, and not near 


adequately understood by us, if with sufficient at 
tention we consider that innumerable multitude, 
and unspeakable variety of bodies, that make up 
this vast universe ; for, there being among these a 
stupendous number that may justly be looked 
upon as so many distinct engines, and many of 
them very complicated ones too, as containing 
sundry subordinate ones ; to know that all these, 
as well as the rest of the mundane matter are 
every moment sustained, guided, and governed 
according to their respective natures, and with an 
exact regard to the catholic laws of the universe ; 
to know, I say, that there is a being that doeth this 
every where and every moment, and that manages 
all things without either aberration or intermission, 
is a thing, that if we attentively reflect on, ought 
to produce in us, for that Supreme Being that can 
do this, the highest wonder and the lowliest 

The Epicureans of old did, with some colour of 
reason, as well as with much confidence, urge 
against the belief of a divine Providence, that it 
is inconceivable, and therefore incredible, that the 
gods should be sufficient for such differing and 
distracting employments, as, according to the exi 
gencies of nature s works, to make the sun shine 
in one place, the rain shower down in another, 
the winds to blow in a third, the lightning to 
flash in a fourth, the thunderbolts to fall in a fifth, 
and in short, other bodies to act and suffer accord 
ing to their respective natures. Wherefore we, 
that upon good grounds believe that God really 
does what these philosophers thought impossible 
to be done by any agents whatsoever, are much 
wanting in our duty if we do not admire an all- 


pervading- wisdom, that reaches to the utmost 
extent of the universe, and actually performing 
what philosophers professed they could not so 
much as conceive, highly merits that those diffi 
culties which they thought insuperable, and so 
a sufficient excuse for their unbelief, should be a 
powerful motive to our veneration of that trans 
cendent wisdom that without any trouble sur 
mounts them. 

22. We have seen some displays of God s 
wisdom as well as power, by what we have ob 
served in his corporeal works ; but it will be easily 
granted that some of the divine perfections could 
not be so well expressed or copied upon corporeal 
creatures as upon the rational and immaterial soul 
of man and other intellectual beings, as the picture 
of an apple or a cherry, or the character of a number, 
is not capable of receiving or containing so much of 
an excellent painter s skill as he may exhibit in a 
piece wherein the passions of the mind and the 
laws of optics and of decency may be fully ex 
pressed. And it may well be presumed, that if 
we were as familiarly acquainted with God s in 
corporeal creatures as we are with his visible ones, 
we should perceive that, as spirits are incompa 
rably more noble than bodies, so the divine 
wisdom employed in the government and conduct 
of them, is more glorious than that which we 
justly admire in the frame and management of his 
corporeal works ; and, indeed, let a portion of 
matter be never so fine, and never so well con 
trived, it will not be any more than an engine 
devoid of intellect and will, truly so called, and 
whose excellency, as well as its distinction from 
other bodies, even the grossest and most imperfect, 


can consist but in mechanical affections, such as 
the size, shape, motion and connexion of its parts, 
which can neither excite themselves into motion, 
nor regulate and stop the motion they once are in. 
Whereas true spirits, by which I here mean imma 
terial substances, have, by God s appointment, 
belonging to their nature, understanding, will, 
and an internal principle, both of acting so and so, 
and of arbitrarily ceasing from action. And 
though God, as the sole Creator of all substances, 
has, and if he please may exercise an absolute 
dominion over all his creatures, as well immaterial 
as corporeal, yet since he has thought fit to govern 
spirits according to the nature he has given them, 
which comprehends both understanding and will, 
to create such intelligent, free, and powerful 
beings, as good and bad angels, to say nothing 
now of men, and to govern them on those terms so 
effectually to make them, however they behave 
themselves, instruments of his glory, which multi 
tudes of them do as subtly as obstinately oppose ; 
to do these things, I say, requires a wisdom and 
providence transcending any that can be displayed 
in the formation and management of merely cor 
poreal beings ; for inanimate engines may be so 
contrived as to act but as we please, whereas 
angels and human souls are endowed with a 
freedom of acting, in most cases, as themselves 
please. And it is far easier for a skilful watch 
maker to regulate the motions of his watch than 
the affections and actions of his son. 

23. And here give me leave to consider, that 
angels, whether good or bad, are very intelligent 
and active beings, and that each of them is en 
dowed with an intellect capable of almost innu- 


merable notions and degrees or variations of 
knowledge, and also with a will capable of no 
less numerous exertions or acts, and of having 
various influences upon the understanding, as, on 
the other side, it is variously affected by the dic 
tates of it ; so that, to apply this consideration to 
my present purpose, each particular angel being 
successively capable of so many differing moral 
states, may be looked upon as, in a manner, a 
distinct species of the intellectual kind ; and the 
government of one demon may be as difficult a 
work, and consequently may as much declare the 
wisdom and power of God as the government of 
a whole species of inanimate bodies, such as stones 
or metals, whose nature determines them to a 
strict conformity to those primordial laws of 
motion which were once settled by the great Cre 
ator, and from which they have no wills of their 
own to make them swerve. 

The Scripture tells us that in the economy of 
man s salvation, there is so much of the mani 
fold wisdom of God expressed, that the angels 
themselves desire to pry into those mysteries. 
When our Saviour, having told his apostles that 
the day and hour of his future coming to judgment, 
and (whether of the Jewish nation or the world, 
I now enquire not,) was not then known to any, 
subjoins, No, not to the angels, of heaven, but 
to his Father only, 1 he sufficiently intimates 
them to be endowed with excellent knowledge. 


superior to that of men; and that perhaps may 
be one of the reasons why the Scripture styles 
the mangels of light. It also teaches us that the 

1 Matt. xxiv. 3G. 


good angels are vastly numerous; and that, as they 
are of differing orders, some of them being arch 
angels, and some princes of particular empires or 
nations, so that God assigns them very differing 
and important employments, both in heaven and 
in earth, and sometimes such as oblige them, in 
discharge of their respective trusts, to endeavour 
the carrying on of interfering designs. The same 
Scripture, by speaking of the devil and his angels, 
and of the great dragon, that drew down with his 
tail the third part of the stars from heaven to 
earth, and by mentioning a whole legion of devils 
that possessed a single man, and by divers other 
passages that I shall not now insist on, giving us 
ground to conclude, that there is a political go 
vernment in the kingdom of darkness, that the 
monarch of it is exceedingly powerful, whence he 
is styled the prince of this world, and some of his 
officers have the titles of principalities, powers, 
rulers of the darkness of this world, &c. that the 
subjects of it are exceedingly numerous; that they 
are desperate enemies to God and men, whence 
the devil is styled the adversary, the tempter, and 
a murderer from the beginning; that they are 
very false and crafty, w hence the devil is called the 
father of lies, the old serpent, and his stratagems 
are styled the wiles and depths of satan ; that 
their malice is as active and restless as it is great, 
whence we are told that our adversary, the devil, 
walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he 
may devour : * these things being taught us in the 
Scripture itself, though I shall not now add any 
of the inferences that may be drawn from them to 
my present purpose, we may rationally suppose, 
1 Eph. vi. 12. a 1 Pet. v. 8. 


that if we were quick-sighted enough to discern 
the methods of the divine wisdom in the govern 
ment of the angelical and of the diabolical worlds, 
or great communities, if I may so call them, we 
should be ravished into admiration how such in 
telligent, free, powerful, and immortal agents, 
should be, without violence offered to their nature, 
made in various manners to conspire to fulfil the 
laws, or at least accomplish the ends of that 
great theocracy, that does not alone reach to all 
kinds of bodies, to men, and to this or that rank 
of spirits, but comprises the whole creation, or the 
great aggregate of all the creatures of God. And, 
indeed, to make the voluntary and perhaps the 
most crafty actions of evil men and of evil spirits 
themselves subservient to his wise and just ends, 
does no less recommend the wisdom of God than 
it would the skill of a shipwright and pilot, if he 
were able to contrive and steer his ship so as to sail 
to his designed port, not only with a side-wind or 
very near a wind, as many do, but with a quite 
contrary wind, and that a tempestuous one too. 

24. Perhaps you will think it allowable, that on 
this occasion I antedate what in due time will in 
fallibly come to pass, and now briefly take some 
notice, as if it were present, of the diffused and 
illustrious manifestation of the divine wisdom, as 
well as justice and mercy, that will gloriously ap 
pear at the day of the general judgment, when every 
good Christians eyes shall be vouchsafed a much 
larger prospect than that which his Saviour himself 
had, when he surveyed in a trice, and as it were at 
one view, all the kingdoms of the world," and shall 
1 Luke, iv. f>. 


behold a much more numerous (not to say num 
berless) assembly, than that which is said to have 
consisted of all people, nations, and languages, 
that flocked in to the dedication of Nebuchad 
nezzar s golden image. 

At that great decretory day, when the whole 
offspring of Adam shall, by the loud voice and 
trumpet of the archangel, be called together, from 
the remotest ages and the most distant climates in 
the world ; when, I say, besides the fallen angels, all 
the human actors that ever lived, shall appear 
upon the stage at once, when the dead shall be 
raised, and the books shall be opened, 4 (that is, 
the records of heaven and of conscience,) then 
the wisdom of God will shine forth in its meridian 
lustre, and its full splendour. Not only the oc 
currences that relate to the lives and actions of 
particular persons, or of private families, and other 
lesser societies of men, will be there found not to 
have been overlooked by the divine Providence ; 
but the fates of kingdoms and commonwealths, and 
the revolutions of nations and of empires, will 
appear to have been ordered and overruled by an 
incomparable wisdom ; and those great politicians 
that thought to out- wit Providence by their refined 
subtleties shall find themselves taken in their 
own craftiness, shall have their deepest counsels 
turned into foolishness, and shall not be able to 
keep the amazed world from discovering, that 
whilst they thought they most craftily pursued 
their own ends, they really accomplished God s ; 
and those subtle hypocrites that thought to make 

1 Dan. iii. * Rev. xx. 12. 


pretended religion the instrument of their secular 
designs, shall find those designs both defeated and 
made truly subservient to that advancement of 
religion, which they really never aimed at. 

25. To employ and keep in order a very com 
plicated engine, such as the famous Strasburg 
clock, or a man-of-war, though all the parts of it 
be inanimate and devoid of purposes and ends of 
their own, is justly counted a piece of skill; and 
this task is more difficult, and consequently does 
recommend the conduct of the performer, in pro 
portion to the intricate structure and the number 
of pieces whereof the engine consists. At which 
rate, how astonishing and ravishing will appeal- 
that wisdom and providence that is able to guide 
and overrule many thousand millions of engines 
endowed with wills, so as to make them all be 
found, in the final issues of things, subservient to 
purposes worthy of divine providence, holiness, 
justice and goodness. 

In short, when all the actors that had their parts 
in this world, shall appear at once upon the stage, 
when all disguises shall be stripped off, all in 
trigues discovered, all hearts and designs laid 
open, then to find that this whole amazing opera, 
that has been acting upon the face of the earth 
from the beginning to the end of time, has been 
so contrived and carried on by the great Author of 
the world and of men, that their innumerably various 
actions and cross designs are brought (commonly 
without and often against their wills) to conspire 
to the accomplishment of a plot worthy of God, 
will appear an effect of so vast and so all-pervad 
ing a wisdom as human intellects will admiringly 



confess, that nothing but a divine and omniscient 
one could compass. 

26. It is like you may have taken notice, that 
among the several instances I have given of the 
wisdom of God, I have not (unless perhaps inci 
dentally and transiently) mentioned the economy 
of man s salvation by Jesus Christ; and therefore 
I think myself obliged to advertise you that, 
though for reasons to be given you, if you desire 
it, by word of mouth, I have thought fit, that sub 
ject which has been already handled by so many 
professed divines, should be left untreated of by 
me, who am a layman ; yet I did not pretermit it 
upon the score of thinking it at all inferior to 
those other manifestations of God s wisdom that I 
expressly discourse of. 

For I think that in the redemption of mankind, 
more of the divine attributes than are commonly 
taken notice of have their distinct agencies, and 
that their co-operation is so admirably directed by 
the divine wisdom, that an apostle may very justly 
call it the great mystery of godliness, 1 and that it 
no less deserves our wonder than our gratitude. 

27. I am not ignorant that many learned divines 
have largely and some of them laudably treated 
of this subject; but I confess, I doubt whether 
most of them have not been more happy in their 
care to avoid errors about it, than skilful in their 
attempts to unveil the mysteries couched in it. 
There are in the great work of man s redemption 
some characters and footsteps of the divine wisdom 
so conspicuous, not to say so refulgent, that a 
believer endowed but with a mediocrity of parts 

l Tim. iii. 16. 


may easily enough discern them. But there are 
also, in this sublime and comprehensive work. 
some depths of God, (to use a Scripture phrase,) 
and so much of the wisdom of God in a mj>tery, 
(that is, of the mysterious wisdom of God,) that .1 
cannot think it an easy matter to have a mental eye, 
so enlightened and so piercing as to treat largely 
and worthily of so vast and abstruse a subject : 
and, indeed, when I consider that a man must 
know much of the nature of spirits in general, 
and even of the Father of them, God himself; of 
the intellect, will, &c. ; of the soul of man; of the 
state of Adam in paradise, and after his fall ; of 
the influence of his fall upon his posterity ; of the 
natural or arbitrary vindictive justice of God ; of 
the grounds and ends of God s inflicting punish 
ments as a creditor, a ruler, or both ; of the ad 
mirable and unparalleled person of Christ the 
mediator ; of those qualifications and offices that 
are required to fit him for being lapsed man s 
Redeemer; of the nature of covenants, and the 
conditions of those God vouchsafed to make with 
man, whether of works or grace; of the divine 
decrees, in reference to man s final state; of the 
secret and powerful operations of grace upon the 
mind, and the manner by which the Spirit of God 
works upon the souls of men that he converts and 
brings by sanctification to glory ; to be short, 
there are so many points (for I have left divers 
unnamed) most of them of difficult speculation, 
that are fit to be discussed by him that would 
solidly and fully treat of the world s redemption 
by Jesus Christ, that when I reflect on them I am 

1 BdOij rg eP, 1 Cor. ii. 10. ii. /. 

D 2 


ready to exclaim with St. Paul, who is sufficient 
for these things; and I am so far from wondering 
that the generality of divines and other writers on 
this subject have not fully displayed the wisdom that 
God has expressed in this great work, that to have 
been able to accomplish it in so admirable a way 
as God has actually contrived and made choice of, 
is one of the chief reasons of my admiration of the 
wisdom itself. And I am persuaded that, for God 
to reconcile his inflexible justice, his exuberant 
mercy, and all those other things that seemed to 
clash inevitably about the designed salvation of 
men, and make them co-operate to it, is a stu 
pendous manifestation of wisdom, there being no 
problem in Diophantus, Alexandrinus, or Appollo- 
nius Pergaeus, in algebra or in geometry, near so 
difficult to be solved, or that requires that a greater 
number of proportions and congruities should be 
attended to at once and made subservient to the 
same ends, as that great problem propounded by 
God s infinite goodness to his divine wisdom, the 
redemption of lost and perverse mankind, upon 
the terms declared in the Gospel, which are admi 
rably fitted to promote at once God s glory and 
man s felicity. 

28. Though what has been said of the greatness 
of God s power and wisdom may justly persuade 
us that those attributes are divine and adorable, 
yet I must not deny that the representation that I 
have made of them is, upon several accounts, very 
disadvantageous : for first, there has not been said 
of them in this paper all that even I could have 
mentioned to set forth their excellency, because I 
had elsewhere treated of that subject, and was 
more willing to present you with some things I 


had not said before, than trouble you with many 
repetitions ; but if instead of so unfit a person as I, 
the manifestation of the divine wisdom had been 
undertaken by the knowingest man in the world, 
or perhaps even by an angel, he would find him 
self unable fully to make out the matchless excel 
lency of it ; for how much wisdom has been 
exercised by an Omniscient Being cannot be fully 
comprehended, or, consequently, described, but by 
an infinite understanding. Besides, I have consi 
dered the wisdom displayed by God in the works 
of his creation and providence, with respect to 
them, not to us ; for they are excellent, absolutely 
and in their own nature, and would simply upon 
that account deserve the wonder and praises of 
rational beings, as they are rational ; as Zeuxis 
justly celebrated the skill of Appelles, and modern 
geometers and mechanicians admire Archimedes. 
But in this irrelative contemplation of God s works, 
a man s mind being intent only upon the excel 
lencies he discovers in them, he is not near so 
much affected with a just sense of the inferiority 
of his to the divine intellect, as he would be if he 
heedfully consider how much of the vast subjects 
he contemplates are undiscovered by him, and 
how dim and imperfect the knowledge is, which 
he has of that little he does discover. And now, 
lastly, to the other disadvantages with which I 
have been reduced to represent, and so to blemish, 
the divine attributes, I must add, that I have in 
sisted but upon two of them, God s power and his 
wisdom, whereas we know that he has divers other 
perfections, as, besides those incommunicable ones, 
his self-experience, self-sufficiency, and indepen 
dency, his goodness to all his creatures, his mercy to 


sinful men, his justice, his veracity, &c. ; and as I 
long- since noted, we may rationally conceive, that 
he may have divers attributes and consequently 
divers perfections, whereof we have at present no 
knowledge, or perhaps so much as particular con 
jecture, the inexhaustible fecundity of the divine 
nature being such, that for aught we know, we 
are acquainted with but a small part of the pro 
ductions of an almighty power, accompanied with 
an infinite wisdom, and excited to communicate 
itself by an exuberant goodness. And indeed I see 
not why we may not say that by the notion or idea 
we have of him, and by the help of some attributes 
we already know he has, we may in general con 
ceive, that he has other perfections that we yet 
know not in particular, since, of those attributes 
that we do already know, though the irrelative 
ones, if I may so call them, such as his self- 
existence, eternity, simplicity, and independency, 
may be known by mere speculation, and as it were 
all at once, by appearing to us as comprehended 
in the notion of a being absolutely perfect, yet 
there are divers relative attributes or perfections 
that come to be known but successively, and as it 
were by experience of what he has actually done 
in relation to some of his creatures : as the mercy 
of God was not known by Adam himself before 
his fall, and God s fidelity or faithfulness to his 
promises, as particularly that of sending the 
Messiah in the fulness of time, was not (not to say 
could not be) known but in process of time, when 
some of them came to be fulfilled ; and therefore, 
since some of God s perfections require or suppose 
the respective natures and conditions of his crea 
tures, and the actings of some of them towards 


him, as well as some of his towards them, we that 
cannot be at all sure that he may not have made 
many sorts of creatures, and have had divers re 
lations to them according to their several states 
and conditions, that we are altogether unacquainted 
with, cannot know but that some of the attributes 
of God exercised towards these creatures, may 
remain unknown to us. 

29. But whether the attributes, known and un 
known, be thought to be more or fewer, it will not 
be denied, but that the natural and genuine result 
of all these divine perfections (which we conceive 
under distinct notions, because we are not able to 
see them at one view, united in God s most simple 
essence) must be a most glorious majesty, that 
requires the most lowly and prostrate venerations 
of all the great Creator s intelligent works : and ac 
cordingly we may observe, from some of the for 
merly cited texts, that the angels, who of all his 
mere creatures are the most excellent and knowing, 
are represented in the Scripture as assiduously 
employing themselves, not only in obeying and 
serving but in praising and adoring the divine 
majesty. The very name of angel in the original 
languages of the Old and New Testament, is a 
name of ministry, the Hebrew malach and the 
Greek ayyeXoc signifying properly a messenger. 
And our Saviour intimates in his most excellent 
pattern of prayer, that the will of God is done 
most obsequiously and cheerfully in heaven, since 
Christians are directed to wish, that their obe 
dience there paid him might be imitated upon 
earth. And as they style themselves the apostles 
fellow servants, 1 so these celestial envoys, if I may 
1 Rev. xix. 10. 


so call them, make no scruple of going upon the 
meanest errands, as we would think them, consi 
dering rather by whom than to whom or about 
what they are sent ; so the first angel that we read 
of, to have been sent to a particular person, was 
employed to Hagar, 1 a wandering and fugitive 
female slave, ready to perish for thirst in a wilder 
ness, to direct her to a well of water, and tell her 
somewhat that concerned her child. And another 
angel is represented as taking the part of an ass 
against a false prophet ; s nay, of this glorious 
order of creatures in general, the Scripture tells 
us, that they are all ministering spirits, sent forth 
to minister for them who shall be heirs of sal 
vation. 3 

Though the angels are creatures so glorious in 
their apparitions here below, that they use to strike 
amazement and veneration, if not terror, even into 
the excellent persons they appear to, 4 (as we may 
learn from divers passages of the Scripture, 5 where 
we are told that their presence was accompanied 
with a surprising splendour, and one of them is 
represented in the Apocalypse, as enlightening the 
earth with his glory, 6 ) and though their multitude 
be so great that sometimes the myriads of them, 
and sometimes the legions are mentioned ; and 
elsewhere we are told of thousand thousands, and 
ten thousand times ten thousand of them ; yet 
these celestial courtiers, that in comparison of us 
men are so glorious, as well as intelligent and 
spotless, when they appear in multitudes about 

1 Gen. xxi. 17, &c. * Num. xxii. 33. 

3 Heb. i. 14. "Dan. x. 9, 11,17. 

5 Luke, i. 29. 6 Rev. xviii. 1. 


the throne of God, according to that vision of the 
prophet, who told the two kings of Judah and 
Israel, that he saw the Lord sitting on his throne, 
and all the host of heaven standing by him on his 
right hand and on his left, they stand not to gaze, 
but as the prophet Daniel expressly says, to mi 
nister. * And in Isaiah s vision, the seraphims 
themselves are represented as covering their faces 3 
before their great Maker, seated on his elevated 
throne ; and we may easily guess that their em 
ployment is most humbly to adore and celebrate 
such dazzling majesty, by what we are told of 
their crying one to another, Holy, holy, holy, is 
the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of his 
glory. This profound respect of the angels is not 
to be marvelled at, since, where esteem springs 
not from ignorance but knowledge, the greater 
the ability and opportunities are of having the 
knowledge clear and heightened, the greater vene 
ration must be produced in an intelligent being, 
for the admired object, whose perfections are such, 
that even an angelical intellect cannot fully reach 
them, since as a line by being never so much ex 
tended in length cannot grow a surface, so neither 
can created perfections be by any ideas so stretched 
as to be amplified into divine ones, or ideas equal 
to them ; and, indeed, speaking in general, the 
creatures are but umbratile (if I may so speak) 
and arbitrary pictures of the great Creator, of 
divers of whose perfections, though they have 
some signatures, yet they are but such as rather 
give the intellect rise and occasions to take notice 

1 King, xxii. 19. 2 Dan. vii. 10. 3 Isa. vi. 2. 


of and contemplate the divine originals than they 
afford it true images of them ; as a picture of a 
watch or man, or the name of either of them 
written with pen and ink, does not exhibit a true 
and perfect idea of a thing, whose internal consti 
tution a surface cannot fully represent, but only 
gives occasion to the mind to think of it, and to 
frame one. And what I have said of the creatures 
in general, holds true of the angels themselves, who 
by several prerogatives do indeed much surpass 
the rest of their fellow-creatures, but yet are but 
creatures, and therefore of a nature infinitely in 
ferior to God s; as though a thousand is a far 
greater number than ten, and a million than a 
thousand, yet the latter as well as the two former 
is beyond computation distant from a number 
supposed to be infinite; since otherwise a finite 
number, that by which the lesser differs from the 
greater, would be able by its accession to make a 
finite number become infinite. But to return to 
what I was saying of the angels, I thought fit to 
mention both the nobleness of their nature, the 
splendidness of their apparitions, and the profound 
veneration and ardent devotion which they paid 
to their Creator ; because we are wont to estimate 
remote things by comparison, as modern philo 
sophers tell us, that we judge the rising or setting 
sun or moon, to be greater and more distant from 
us than when they are nearer the meridian ; be 
cause when they are in the horizon we consider 
them as placed beyond mountains or long tracts 
of land or sea, that we know to be great objects, 
and look upon as remote, ones, and yet see them 
interposed and consequently nearer than the celes- 


tial globes; for thus since the Scripture proposes 
the angels to our imitation, 1 the awful reverence 
paid to the Supreme Being- by those excellent 
spirits, who, as St. Peter tells us, are greater in 
power and might than we, * ought to admonish us 
of the ecstatic respect we mortals owe him, and 
teach us that whensoever we speak either to God 
or of him, we ought to be inwardly affected, and 
in our outward expressions appear to be so, with 
the immeasurable distance there is between a most 
perfect and Omnipotent Creator and a mere im 
potent creature, as well as between a most Holy 
God and a most sinful man. 

If the conjectures formerly proposed about 
worlds differing from ours, may pass for probable, 
then it will be so too, that God in these other 
systems may have framed a multitude of creatures, 
whose fabric and motions, and consequently whose 
properties and opt/rations must be very differing 
from what is usually met with in our world ; and 
the various contrivances wherein those differences 
consist will be so many peculiar instances, as well 
as productions, of the manifold wisdom of the 
great Former of all things, 3 or, as the original ex 
pression yoiser hackol will bear, Maker of the 
whole universe. But to add something now of 
nearer affinity to what was last said about God s 
government of spirits, how much will this archi 
tectonic wisdom, if I may so call it, exerted in 
framing and regulating an innumerable company 
of differing creatures, be recommended, if the 
other worlds or vortexes we not long since spoke 
of, and the invisible part of ours, as we may call 

1 Jude, 9. 2 Pet. xi. 11. 3 Jer. li. 10. 


the air and aether, be peopled with intelligent, 
though not visible, inhabitants ? For, though the 
Scripture seems not to speak expressly of any 
more sorts of spirits than those good ones that 
retain the name of (the whole genus) angels, and 
the apostates that are commonly called devils, be 
cause these are the two sorts of spirits that it most 
concerns us men to be informed of; yet the Scrip 
ture, that in the history of the creation does not 
clearly so much as mention the production of 
angels, and elsewhere represents them, as well the 
bad as the good, of very differing orders, (as far as 
we can guess by the several names it gives them, 1 ) 
the Scripture, I say, does not deny that there are 
any other sorts of spirits than those it expressly 
takes notice of; so that without any affront to it, 
\ve may admit there are such, if any probable ar 
guments of it be suggested to us, either by reason 
or experience ; and it seems not very likely that, 
while our terraqueous globe, and our air, are fre 
quented by multitudes of spirits, all the celestial 
globes, very many of which do vastly exceed ours 
in bulk, and all the sethereal or fluid part of the 
world, in comparison of which all the globes, the 
celestial and terrestrial put together, are inconsi 
derable for bulk, should be quite destitute of in 
habitants. I have not time to set down the opi 
nions of the ancient, as well eastern as Grecian 
writers, especially the Pythagoreans and Platonists, 
to whose master this sentence is ascribed concern 
ing the multitudes of demons, a name by them not 
confined to evil spirits, that lived in the superior 
part of the world, Aca/to^ee cc?;pior yivog. I will 

1 Eph. vi. 12, compared with Col. i. 16. 


not presume to be positive in declaring the sense 
of those two expressions which the Scripture em 
ploys, where speaking of the head of the satanical 
kingdom, it calls him the prince of the power of 
the air, (and the word air is, among the Hebrews, 
taken in a great latitude, and several times used 
for the word heaven,) and where speaking of the 
grand adversaries of the gospel, it styles the spi 
ritual wickednesses, or rather, as the Syriac reads 
it, spirits of wickedness, that is, wicked spirits, 
not in high places, as our translators have it, but 
in heavenly ; but though, as I was saying, I will 
not be positive in giving these two texts such a 
sense as may make them direct arguments for my 
conjecture, yet it seems that if they do not require, 
at least they may well bear, an interpretation 
suitable to my present purpose ; and whatever be 
come of the assertions of heathen philosophers 
and poets, it is very considerable what is noted by 
the excellent Grotius,* who quotes several Hebrew 
authors for it, that it was the opinion of the Jews, 
that all places from earth to heaven, even the 
starry heaven are full of spirits. If this be so, 
the wisdom and power of God must reach much 
further than we are commonly aware of, 3 since he 
has created, and does govern, such an inestimable 
multitude of spiritual beings of various kinds, each 
of them endowed with an intellect and will of its 
own ; especially since, for aught we know, many or 
most of them, and perhaps some whole orders of 
them, are yet in a probational state, wherein they 
have free-will allowed them, as Adam and Eve 
were in Eden, and all the angels were, before some 

1 Eph. ii. 2. Grot on Eph. ii. 2. 3 On Eph. vi. 12. 


of them, as the Scripture speaks, left their first estate 
and their own mansion ; and if to these angelical 
communities we add those others of children, idiots, 
and madmen, of whom, though all be in a sense 
rational creatures, yet the first community have 
not attained the full use of reason, for want of age, 
and the two others cannot exercise that faculty for 
want of rightly disposed organs, the wisdom and 
power of God in the divine government of such 
various and numerous communities of intellectual 
creatures, will, to a considering man, appear the 
more illustrious and wonderful. 

31. The distance betwixt the infinite Creator and 
the creatures, which are but the limited and arbitrary 
productions of his power and will, is so vast, that 
all the divine attributes or perfections do, by im 
measurable intervals, transcend those faint resem 
blances of them, that he has been pleased to im 
press, either upon other creatures or upon us men. 
God s nature is so peculiar and excellent, that 
there are qualities which, though high virtues in 
men, cannot belong to God, or be ascribed to him 
without derogation; such as are temperance, valour, 
humility, and divers others, which is the less to be 
wondered at, because there are some virtues, as 
chastity, faith, patience, liberality, that belong to 
man himself only in his mortal and infirm con 
dition. But whatever excellencies there be that 
are simply and absolutely such, and so may, with 
out disparagement to his matchless nature, be 
ascribed to God, such as are eternity, indepen 
dency, life, understanding, will, &c. we may be 
sure that he possesses them, since he is the original 
author of all the degrees or resemblances we men 
Jude, 6. 


have of any of them. And the Psalmist s ratio 
cination is good: He that planted the ear, shall 
he not hear ? He that formed the eye, shall not 
he see ? He that teacheth man knowledge, shall 
not he know? 1 since all the perfections com 
municated to, or to be found in the creatures, 
whether men, angels, or any other, being emana 
tions of the divine excellencies, do as much belong 
to God, as in a bright day all the luminous beams 
that are to be found in the air belong to the sun, 
in whom they are united, and from whom they all 
proceeded. The vast difference then between the 
perfections of the great Creator, and those that are 
analogous to them in the creatures, reaches to all 
the perfections that are, though in very differing 
manners, to be found in both ; but yet the human 
understanding, as it values itself upon nothing 
more than wisdom and knowledge, so there is 
nothing that it esteems and reverences more in 
other beings, and is less willing to acknowledge 
itself surpassed in ; for which reason, as I have in 
the foregoing part of this paper inculcated by 
more than one way, the great superiority of God s 
intellect to man s, so I think it not improper to 
prosecute the same design, by mentioning to you 
some few particulars whereby that superiority may 
manifestly appear. We may then consider, that 
besides that God knows an innumerable company 
of things that we are altogether unacquainted 
with, since he cannot but know all the creatures he 
has made, whether visible or invisible, corporeal 
or immaterial, and what he has enabled them to 
do, according to that of St. James, known unto 

1 Psalm xciv. y, 10. 


God are all his works from the beginning of the 
world ; nay, since he cannot but know the ex 
tent of his own infinite power, he cannot but know 
numberless things as possible, that he has not yet 
made, nor perhaps ever will please to make. But 
to confine myself to things actually existent, be 
sides his corporeal and immaterial creatures and 
their faculties or powers, whereof we have some 
kind of notice, and besides perhaps multitudes of 
other things whereof we have no particular idea or 
conjecture ; he knows those things whereof we men 
have also some knowledge, in a manner or degree 
peculiar to himself; as what we know but in part, 
he knows fully ; what we know but dimly, he 
knows clearly; and what we know but by fallible 
mediums, he knows most certainly. 

32. But the great prerogative of God s know 
ledge is, that he perfectly knows himself: that 
knowledge being not only too wonderful for a 
man,; as even an inspired person confesses touch 
ing himself, but beyond the reach of an an 
gelical intellect since fully to comprehend the 
infinite nature of God, no less than an infinite 
understanding is requisite ; and for the works of 
God, even those that are purely corporeal, (which 
are therefore the nearest,) our knowledge of these 
is incomparably inferior to his; for though some 
modern philosophers have made ingenious at 
tempts to explain the nature of things corporeal, 
yet their explications generally suppose the pre 
sent fabric of the world, and the laws of motion 
that are settled in it ; but God knows particularly 
both why and how the universal matter was first 

1 Acts, xv. 18. 


contrived into this admirable universe, rather than 
a world of any other of the numberless construc 
tions he could have given it, and both why those 
laws of motion, rather than others, were esta 
blished, and how senseless matter, to whose nature 
motion does not at all belong, comes to be both 
put into motion, and qualified to transfer it accord 
ing to determinate rules, which itself cannot un 
derstand ; but when we come to consider the par 
ticular and more elaborate works of nature, such 
as the seeds or eggs of living creatures, or the 
texture of quicksilver, poisons, antidotes, &c. the 
ingenious confess their ignorance, (about the man 
ner of their production and operations,) and the 
confident betray theirs. But it is like we men 
know ourselves better than what is without us ; 
but how ignorant we are at home, if the endless 
disputes of Aristotle and his commentators and 
other philosophers about the human soul, and of 
physicians and anatomists about the mechanism 
and theory of the human body, were not sufficient 
to manifest it, it were easy to be shown (as it is 
in another paper 1 ) by the very conditions of the 
union of the soul and body, which, being settled 
at first by God s arbitrary institution, and having 
nothing in all nature parallel to them, the manner 
and terms of that strange union is a riddle to phi 
losophers, but must needs be clearly known to him 
that alone did institute it, and, all the while it lasts, 
does preserve it. And there are several advan 
tages of the divine knowledge, above that of man, 
that are not here to be pretermitted. For first, we 

1 The title of this paper is, The Imperfection of Human 
Knowledge manifested by its own Light. 



men can perceive and sufficiently attend but to 

few things at once, according- to the known saying, 

" Pluribus intentus, minor est, ad singula sensus." 

And it is recorded as a wonder of some great men 
among the ancients, that they could dictate to 
two or three secretaries at once. But God s know 
ledge reaches at once to all that he can know : his 
penetrating eyes pierce quite through the whole 
creation at one look; and, as an inspired penman 
declares, There is no creature that is not manifest 
in his sight, but all things are naked, 1 and (if I 
may so render the Greek word) extroverted to his 
eyes. 2 He always sees incomparably more objects 
at one view than the sun himself endued with sight 
could do : for God beholds at once all that every 
one of his creatures, whether visible or invisible to 
us, in the vast universe, either does or thinks. 
Next, the knowledge of God is not a progressive 
or discursive thing, like that acquired by our ratio 
cinations, but an intuitive knowledge ; since, though 
we men, by reason of the limitedness and imperfec 
tions of our understandings, are fain to make the 
notice we have of one thing a step and help to acquire 
that of another, which to us is less known, as may 
easily be observed even in the forms of syllogisms ; 
yet God, whose knowledge as well as his other 
attributes are infinitely perfect, needs not know 
any one thing by the help of another ; but knows 
every thing in itself, as being the author of it : and 
all things being equally known to him, he can by 
looking, if I may so speak, into himself, see there, 
as in a divine and universal looking-glass, every 
thing that is knowable most distinctly and yet all 

1 Heb. iv. 13. 2 rra t(Tl "/o. 


at once. Thirdly, God knows men s most secret 
thoughts and intentions: whence he is called, 
Kap^iayywTqe, and the searcher of all hearts, 
that understandeth all the imaginations of the 
thoughts; 1 nay, he knows men s thoughts afar 
off, 9 and even never vented thoughts, which the 
man himself may not know ; for not only St. John 
says, that if our heart condemns us, God is 
greater than our heart and knows all things; 3 but 
God enabled Daniel to declare to Nebuchadnezzar, 
the whole series of the prophetic dream, whereof 
that monarch s own memory could not retrieve any 
part. 4 And here give me leave to observe, what 
perchance you have not minded, that even of a 
thing that happens to a man s self, and is of a nature 
capable to make the most vivid impressions on 
him, God s knowledge may surpass his; since St. 
Paul, speaking of his being caught up into Para 
dise, after having twice said, Whether in the 
body I cannot tell, or whether out of the body, I 
cannot tell, he both times subjoins, that God 
knows. 3 Our knowledge of ourselves, as well as 
that of those other creatures that are without us, 
being so defective, the confidence of some that 
dare to pretend to know God fully, by the light of 
their natural reason, will not hinder me from 
taking hence a rise to ask this short question, 
How imperfect must mere philosophers know 
ledge of God s nature be, since they know him but 
by his works, and know his works themselves but 
very imperfectly ! The other and fourth conspi 
cuous prerogative of the divine knowledge, is the 

1 1 Chr. xxviii. 9. 2 Psal. cxxxix. 2. 3 1 John, iii. 20. 
-* Dan. ii. 5, 31. 6 2 Cor. xii. 2, 3, 4. 

E 2 


prescience of future contingents, that depend upon 
the determinations and actions of free agents : for 


we men are so fur from being able to stretch our 
knowledge to the discovery of that sort of events, 
that the greatest clerks have tried their wits in 
vain to discover how God himself can foreknow 
them ; and therefore too many, even among Chris 
tians, deny that he can, though by divers accom 
plished predictions recorded in Scripture, it mani 
festly appears that he does. 

33. When I consider the transcendent excellency 
and the numerous prerogatives of the Deity, I 
cannot without wonder, as well as trouble, observe, 
that rational men professing Christianity, and 
many of them studious too, should wilfully, and 
perhaps contemptuously, neglect to acquire or 
reflect on those notices that are apt to increase 
their knowledge of God, and consequently their 
veneration for him. To aspire to a further know 
ledge of God, that we may the better adore him, 
is a great part both of man s duty and his happi 
ness. God who has put into men an innate desire 
of knowledge, and a faculty to distinguish the 
degrees of excellency in differing notices, and to 
relish those most, that best deserve it, and has 
made it his duty to search and inquire after God, 
and to love him above all things, would not have 
done this, if he had not known that those that 
make a right use of their faculties, must find him 
to be the noblest object of the understanding, and 
that which most merits their wonder and venera 
tion. And, indeed, what can be more suitable to a 
rational creature than to employ reason to con 
template that divine Being, which is both the 
author of its reason, and the noblest object, about 


\vhich it can possibly be employed ? The know 
ledge of some dead language, or some old rusty 
medal, or the opinions and customs of some na 
tions or sects, that did not perhaps reason nor live 
any better than we do no\v, are thought worthy of 
curiosity, and even of the laborious industry of 
learned men ; and the study of things merely cor 
poreal, gains men the honourable title of philoso 
phers : but whatever these objects of inquiry be in 
themselves, it is certain the greatest discoveries we 
can make of them are but trifles in comparison of 
the excellency of the knowledge of God, which 
does as much surpass that of his works as he him 
self does them : and it is the prerogative of his 
nature, to be infinitely above all that he has made, 
whether we contemplate the works of nature, or 
those of art, whereof the former are under another 
name, his more immediate works, and the others 
the effects of one of his works, and by consequence 
are originally his, though produced by the interven 
tion of man. And though it be true, that on the 
corporeal world, God has been pleased to stamp 
such impresses of his power, wisdom, and good 
ness as have justly exacted the admiration even 
of philosophers, yet the great Author of the world 
is himself incomparably superior to all his work 
manship, insomuch that, though he could have 
made, and always will be able to make, creatures 
more perfect than those he has made, by incom 
putable degrees of perfection, yet the prerogative 
of his nature will keep him necessarily superior to 
the excellentest creatures he can make, since the 
very condition of a creature hinders it from being 
(to name now no other of the divine attributes) self- 
existent and independent. It is, therefore, me- 


thinks a sad tning, that we men should grudge 
to spend now and then a few hours in the con 
templation and internal worship of that most 
glorious and perfect Being, that continually em 
ploys the devotion of angels themselves. This I 
judge probable from hence, that those blessed 
spirits are represented in the Scripture as cele 
brating, with joyful songs and acclamations, the 
nativity of the world ; and I think they may well 
be supposed to have an ardent desire to obtain a 
further knowledge of God himself, since, as an 
apostle assures us, they earnestly desire to look 
into the truths contained in the gospel, and the 
dispensations of God towards frail and mortal 

34. I know I may be told that scrutator majes- 
tatis, <5fc. and that it is a dangerous thing to be in 
quisitive about the nature of God; but not to urge 
that theLatin sentence is taken but outof an apocry 
phal book, I answer that the secret things of God 
that are to be left to himself seem to be his unre- 
vealecl purposes and decrees, and his most abstruse 
essence or substance, the scrutiny whereof I readily 
acknowledge not to belong to us : but I think 
there is a great difference between contemplating 
God out of a saucy curiosity, merely to know 
somewhat that is not common of him, and doing it 
out of an humble desire, by a further knowledge of 
him, to heighten our reverence and devotion to 
wards him. It is an effect of arrogance to endea 
vour, or so much as hope, to comprehend the 
divine perfections, so as to leave nothing in them 
unknown to the incpjirer ; but to aspire to know 
them further and further, that they may propor- 
tionably appear more and more admirable and 


lovely in our eyes, is not only an excusable but a 
laudable curiosity. The Scripture in one place 
exhorts us to grow not only in grace/ but in 
the knowledge of Christ; 1 and in another to add 
to our virtue, knowledge ; * and when Moses begged 
to be blessed with a nearer and more particular 
view of God, though part of his request was re 
fused, because the grant of it was unsuitable to 
his mortal state, and perhaps must have proved 
fatal to him whilst he was in it; yet God vouch 
safed so gracious a return to his petition, as shows 
he was not displeased with the supplicant; 3 no 
action or suffering of his having procured for him 
so glorious a view as was then vouchsafed to his 
holy curiosity. 4 And that we may aspire to great 
degrees of knowledge, even at those supernatural 
objects that we cannot adequately know, we may 
learn from St. Paul, who prays that his Ephesians, 
as all true Christians, may be able to comprehend 
what is the breadth and length and depth and 
height, and to know the love of Christ, which, says 
he in the very next words, passeth knowledge/ 
Supposing it then lawful to contemplate God, not 
wjth design to pry into his decrees and purposes, 
nor to dogmatize in points controverted among 
the learned about his nature and attributes, but to 
excite in ourselves the sentiments which his indis 
putable perfections are by a more attentive view 
qualified to produce; I consider that the devout 
contemplation of God, besides other great advan 
tages that it brings the mind, insomuch that the 
human understanding, like Moses in the Mount/ 

1 2 Pet. iii. 18. 2 2 Pet. i. 5. 3 Exod. xxxiii 1 . 

4 Exod. xxxiv. 5, 6, &c. 5 Kph. iii. 1?>. 

6 Exod. xxxiv. 29, 30, &c. 


does by an assiduous converse with God acquire 
a lasting luminousness ; besides this, I say, and 
the improving influence that this happy conver 
sation may have upon the graces and virtues of 
the mind, I take it to be one of the most delight 
ful exercises that the soul is capable of on this side 
heaven. It is generally acknowledged that admi 
ration is one of the most pleasing affections of the 
mind, which sometimes, when the object deserves 
it, is so possessed thereby as to forget all other 
things or leave them unregarded, as it often hap 
pens in masks and other pompous and surprising 
shows or spectacles ; and as upon a better ground 
it happened to St. Peter, when being ravished 
with the glorious transfiguration of his and our 
master upon Mount Tabor, he exclaimed that it 
was good for them to be there, and talked of build 
ing tabernacles for those that had heavenly man 
sions ; being so transported with the ravishing 
sight, that the evangelist expressly notes that he 
knew not what he said. Now, the pleasure that 
admiration gives, being usually proportionate to 
the uncommon nature and endearing circum 
stances of the thing admired, how can any admi 
ration afford such a contentment as that which has 
God himself for its object, and in him the most 
singular and the most excellent of all beings. The 
wonder produced in us by an humble and atten 
tive contemplation of God has two main advan 
tages above the admiration we have for any of his 
works or of our own. For first, when we admire 
corporeal things, how noble and precious soever 
they be, as stars and gems, the contentment that 

1 Luke, ix. 23. 


accompanies our wonder is alloyed by a kind of 
secret reproach grounded on that very wonder ; 
since it argues a great imperfection in our under 
standings to be posed by things that are but crea 
tures, as well as we, and which is worse, of a 
nature very much inferior to ours : whereas it is 
no disparagement at all for a human, and conse 
quently a finite intellect to be possessed with 
wonder, though it were heightened to amazement 
or astonishment, by the contemplation of that most 
glorious and infinitely perfect Being, which must 
necessarily exceed the adequate comprehension of 
any created intellect. But I consider that there is 
a further and much greater (which is the second) 
advantage of the admiration of God above that of 
other things; for other objects having but a 
bounded nature, and commonly but some one 
thing fit to be wondered at, our admiration of 
them is seldom lasting, but after a little familiarity 
with them, first languishes and then ceases : but 
God is an object whose nature is so very singular, 
and whose perfections are so immense, that no 
assiduity of considering him can make him cease 
to be admirable, but the more knowledge we ob 
tain of him, the more reason we find to admire 
him ; so that there may be a perpetual vicissitude 
of our happy acquists of further degrees of know 
ledge, and our eager desires of new ones. Because 
we give him but one name, we are apt to look 
upon him as but one object of speculation ; but 
though God be indeed but one in essence or nature, 
yet such is his immensity, and if 1 may so speak, 
fecundity, that he is unspeakably various in the 
capacity of an object. Thus heaven goes under 
one name, but contains so many fixed stars and 


planets, and they, by their diversity of motions 
exhibit so many phsenomena, that though they 
have employed the curiosity of astronomers for 
many ages, yet our times have, in the celestial part 
of the world, made discoveries as considerable, if 
not as numerous, as all those of the ancients ; and 
as our optic glasses have detected many fixed stars 
and divers planets that were unknown to former 
times, so our navigators, by their voyages beyond 
the line, have discovered divers whole constella 
tions in the southern hemisphere. So that, though 
heaven be an object that has been perpetually and 
conspicuously exposed to men s view and curi 
osity for some thousands of years, yet it still 
affords new subjects for their wonder ; and I scarce 
doubt but, by the further improvement of tele 
scopes, posterity will have its curiosity gratified 
by the discovery both of new constellations, and of 
new stars in those that are known to us already. 
We need not, therefore, fear our admiration of 
God should expire for want of objects fit to keep 
it up. That boundless ocean contains a variety of 
excellent objects, that is as little to be exhausted 
as the creatures that live in our sublunary ocean 
or lie on the shores that limit it can be numbered. 
To the wonderful excellency of God, may be 
justly applied that notion which Aristotle lays 
down as a kind of definition of infinite, namely, 
that it is that of which how much soever one takes 
there still remains more to be taken. If the in 
tellect should for ever make a further and further 
progress in the knowledge of the wonders of the 
divine nature, attributes, and dispensations, yet it 
may still make discoveries of fresh things worthy 
to be admired ; as in an infinite series or row of 


ascending 1 numbers, though you may still advance 
to greater and greater numbers ; yet all that you 
can do by that progress, is to go further and 
further, (from the first and least term of the 
progression, which in our case answers to the 
smallest degree of our knowledge of God,) without 
ever reaching, or, which may seem strange, but is 
true, so much as approaching to an infinite num 
ber, in case there were any such, or even to the 
greatest of all numbers, as will be acknowledged 
by those that have looked into the properties of 
progressions in h(finifnm. 

35. The two advantages I come from mention 
ing, which the admiration of God has in point of 
delightfulness joined to the other advantages of 
our contemplation of him, have, I hope, persuaded 
you that they are very much wanting to themselves, 
as well as to the duty they owe their Maker, that 
refuse or neglect to give their thoughts so pleasing 
as well as noble an employment : and I am apt to 
think, upon this account in particular, that reason 
is a greater blessing to other men than to atheists, 
who, whilst they are such, cannot employ it about 
God, but with disbelief or terror ; and that on this 
very score Epicurus was far less happy than Plato ; 
since whereas the latter was oftentimes, as it were, 
swallowed up in the contemplation of the Deity, 
the former had no such glorious olject, to possess 
him with an equally rational and delightful admi 

36. But now, to apply this to the scope of this 
whole discourse, though so pure and spiritual a 
pleasure is a very allowable attractive, to elevate 
our thoughts to the most glorious and amiable of 
objects, yet it ought to be both the design and the 


effect of our admiration of God, to produce in us 
less unworthy ideas and more honourable and reve 
rent thoughts of that wonderful and unparalleled 
Being, of whom the more we discover, the more 
we discern him to be superior to all his works, 
and particularly to ourselves, who are not of the 
highest order of them, and who, as mere men, are 
scarce in any thing more noble than in the capa 
city and permission of knowing, admiring, and 
adoring God ; which he that thinks a mean and 
melancholy employment, might be to seek for 
happiness in heaven itself, if so unqualified a soul 
could be admitted there. The genuine effect of a 
nearer or more attentive view of infinite excellency 
is a deep sense of our own great inferiority to it, 
and of the great veneration and fear we owe (to 
speak in a Scripture phrase) to this glorious and 
fearful name, (that is, object,) the Lord our God. 1 
And accordingly, when God had spoken to Job 
out of the whirlwind, and declared somewhat to 
him of the divine greatness, this holy philosopher 
much alters his style, and confesses that in his 
former discourses of God, he had uttered what 
he understood not; things too wonderful for him, 
which he knew not; and having hereupon im 
plored instruction from God, he declares how fit 
a nearer knowledge of him is to make a man have 
low thoughts of himself: I have heard of thee, 
says he to his Maker, by the hearing of the ear ; 
but now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore, infers he, 
I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. 2 

I know you may look upon a good part of this 
excursion as a digression ; but if it be, it will 

1 Deut xxviii. 58. 2 Job, xlii. 3, 4, 5, 6. 


quickly be forgiven, if you will pardon me for it 
as easily as I can pardon myself, for finding my 
self in David s case, when he said, My heart was 
hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned. 
As he said, then spake I with my tongue, so I 
was content to let my pen run on in so pleasant 
and noble a theme, and endeavour to excite, at 
least in myself, such a well-grounded admiration 
of God, as may perhaps be a part of my reason 
able service to him,* or rational worship of him. 
God is pleased to declare that he that offers (or as it 
is in the original, sacrifices ) praise, glorifies him ; 5 
and the Scripture expressly styles our devotion 
sacrifices of praise ; >4 and we may well suppose that 
if the calves of our lips, as our celebrations of God 
are somewhere called, are encouraged by God, 
those mental offerings that consist in high and 
honourable thoughts of him, and in lowly humble 
sentiments of ourselves in the view of his excel 
lency, will not be less acceptable to him : such 
reverence and devout fear 3 (to speak with the in 
spired writer to the Hebrews) being indeed a kind 
of adoring God in spirit and in truth ; 6 and he that 
is so employed, may with contentment compare 
his condition to that of Zacharias, when it was 
said of him that his lot was to burn incense, 7 to 
offer up to God the noblest and purest sort of the 
legal sacrifices. But that I may not too far di 
gress, I shall only add, that I think myself very 
worthily, as well as delightfully employed, when 
I am seeking, after bringing together what helps 
I can, to greaten, as much as I am able, those sen- 

1 Psal. xxxix. 3. 5 Rom. xii. 2. 3 Psal. 1. 23 

4 Feb. xiii. 15. 6 Heb. xii. 28. 6 John, iv. 23. " Luke, i. <J 


timents of wonder and veneration for God, that 
I am sure can never be great enough : especially 
since the more we know and adore that infinite 
excellency and exuberant fountain of goodness, the 
more influence and advantages we derive from it ; 
agreeably to which God is introduced in the Scrip 
ture, saying of one of his adorers, to whom in the 
same Psalm many other blessings are also pro 
mised, Because he has set his love upon me, 
therefore will I deliver him : I will set him on 
high because he has known my name. 1 

We have generally, through incogitancy, or vice, 
or prejudices, or the majesty and abstruseness of 
the subject, so great an indisposition to excite and 
cherish in ourselves an awful veneration for God, 
and a studious contemplation of his adorable attri 
butes, that it seemed no more than needful to 
employ variety of arguments, drawn from different 
topics, to engage our own and other men s minds, 
and repeated inculcations to press them to an 
exercise, which they neither are, nor are wil 
ling to be acquainted with. This consideration 
will, I hope, be my apology, if in the present 
tract I lay hold on several occasions, and make 
use of diversities of discourse, to recommend a 
duty that does very much both merit and need to 
be not only proposed but inculcated : and yet I 
will not any further lengthen this foregoing ex 
cursion, (as I hope you will think it rather than 
a mere digression,) nor any longer forget, that 
when I began it I was discoursing of the great 
caution and profound respect with which we ought 
to speak of God. 

1 Psal.xci. 14, 15, 1G. 


37. It were tedious to insist on all the argu 
ments that may be brought of the immense infe 
riority of man s intellect to God s ; and therefore 
I shall here content myself to illustrate some part 
of it by a simile borrowed from the superior and 
inferior luminaries of heaven : human reason, in 
comparison of the divine intellect, being but like 
the moon in reference to the sun ; for as the moon 
at best is but a small star in comparison of the 
sun, and has but a dim light, and that too but 
borrowed, and has her wane as well as her full, and 
is often subject to eclipses and always blemished 
with dark spots ; so the light of human reason is 
but very small and dim in comparison of his 
knowledge, that is truly called in Scripture the 
fountain as well as the Father of light: 1 and this 
light itself, which shines in the human intellect, is 
derived from the irradiation it receives from God, in 
whose light it is that we see light;* and this, as it 
is but a communicated light, is subject to be in 
creased, impaired, and oftentimes to be almost 
totally eclipsed, either by the darkening fumes of 
lusts or passions, or the suspension of the pro 
voked donor s beams, and in its best estate is 
always blemished with imperfections that make it 
incapable of an entire and uniform illumination. 

Upon these and divers other considerations, I, 
for my part, think it becomes us men, to use an 
awful circumspection, not only when we make 
philosophical inquiries or scholastic disputes about 
God, that is, when we presume to discourse of 
him, but when we solemnly design to praise him ; 
for it is one thing to say true things of God and 

1 Psal. xxxvi. 9 ; James, i. 1?. * Psal. xxxvi. 9. 


another to say things worthy of Gocl. Our ideas 
of him may be the best we are able to frame, and 
yet may far better express the greatness of our 
veneration for him than the immensity of his per 
fection : and even those notions of them that may 
be worthy of the most intelligent of men, will fall 
extremely short of being worthy of the incom 
prehensible God. The brightest and least unlike 
idea we can frame of God, is infinitely more in 
ferior in reference to him than a parhelion is in 
reference to the sun ; for, though that meteor ap 
pear a splendid and sublime thing, and have so 
much resemblance to the sun, without whose own 
beams it is not produced, as to be readily per 
ceived to be his image, exclusively to that of any 
other; yet residing in a cloud, whose station is 
near the earth, it is by an immense distance 
beneath the sun, and is no less inferior to him in 
bigness and splendour, as well as in many other attri 
butes. He has, in my opinion, the truest venera 
tion for God, not who can set forth his excellencies 
and prerogatives in the most high and pompous 
expressions ; but he who willingly has a deep and 
real sense of the unmeasurable inferiority of him 
self and his best ideas, to the unbounded and un 
paralleled perfections of his Maker. And here 
indignation prompts me to this reflection, that if, 
as is the case, even our hymns and praises of God 
the Supreme Being deserve our blushes and need 
his pardon, what confusion will one day cover the 
faces of those, that do not only speak slightly and 
carelessly, but oftentimes contemptuously, and 
perhaps drollingly, of that supreme and infinitely 
perfect Being, to whom they owe those very 
faculties and that \ut which they so ungratefully 


as well as impiously mis-employ ; and, indeed, such 
transcendent excellencies as the divine ones must 
be, might justly discourage us from offering so 
much as to celebrate them, if infinite goodness 
were not one of them. I shall not, therefore, allow 
myself the presumption of pretending to make as 
it were a panegyric of God, of whom it is very 
easy to speak too much, though it be not possible 
to say enough; contenting myself with a humble 
adoration of perfections whereof my utmost praises 
would rather express my own weakness than their 
excellency, since of this ineffable object the highest 
things that can be expressed in words, must there 
fore fall short because words cannot express them. 
Which assertion, though it be a paradox, yet I 
think it is not truly an hyperbole ; for we are not 
able to determine and reach, so much as in our 
thoughts, the greatest of all possible numbers, 
since we may conceive that any one, whatsoever 
it be, that can be pitched upon or assigned, may 
be doubled, trebled, or multiplied by some other 
number, or may be but the root of a square or 
cubical number ; by which instance, that perhaps 
you have not met with, you may perceive that 
any determinate conception that we can have (for 
example) of God s [immensity (to specify now no 
other of his attributes) must therefore be short of 
it, because it is a determined or bounded concep 
tion. It is fit, therefore, that I should at length 
put limits to my discourse, since none can be put 
to the extent or perfections of my subject 



THE result of what hath been said in the past ex 
cursion, will, I hope, amount to a sufficient justi 
fication of what hath been said at the beginning of 
this discourse, about the high veneration our 
intellects owe to God. For, since we may ( well 
think in general, that he hath divers attributes and 
perfections of which we have no knowledge or 
suspicion in particular, and since of those attri 
butes of his that are the most manifest to us, as 
his power and wisdom, we have but a very dim 
and narrow knowledge, and may clearly perceive 
that there is in these an unbounded extent of per 
fection, beyond all that we can evidently and dis 
tinctly discern of them ; how unfit must such imper 
fect creatures as we are, be to talk hastily and confi 
dently of God, as of an object that our contracted 
understandings grasp, as they are able, or pretend 
to be so, to do other objects ! And how deep a 
sense ought we to have of our inestimable infe 
riority to a Being, in reference to whom both our 
ignorance and our knowledge ought to be the 
parents of devotion ! Since our necessary igno 
rance proceeds from the numerousness and incom- 
prehensibleness of his (many of them undisco 
vered) excellencies, and our knowledge qualifies us 
but to be the more intelligent udmirers of his con 
spicuous perfections. 


If we duly and impartially consider these and 
the like things, we may clearly perceive how great 
an effect and mark of ignorance as well as pre 
sumption it is for us mortals to talk of God s 
nature and the extent of his knowledge, as of 
things that we are able to look through and to 
measure. Whereas we ought whenever we speak 
of God and of his attributes, to stand in great awe, 
lest we be guilty of any misapprehension or mis 
representation of him, that we might by any wari 
ness and humility of ours have avoided ; and lest, by 
an over-weening opinion of ourselves, we presume 
that we have a perfect, or at least a sufficient 
knowledge of every thing in God, whereof we 
have some knowledge, since this at the least consists 
in such notions as are rather suited to our limited 
faculties, than any way equal to his boundless 

That higher order of intellectual beings, the 
angels, though their minds be so illuminated and 
their knowledge so extensive, the angels them 
selves, I say, are in the Scripture affirmed to f be 
desirous to pry into the mysteries of the Gospel, 
whence we may guess how far they are from pene 
trating to the bottom of what the Scripture calls 
the depths of God, 1 and how much further they 
are from comprehending the infinite nature of 
God; and, accordingly, when in the (formerly 
mentioned) majestic vision that appeared to the 
prophet Isaiah/ they are set forth as attendants 
about the throne of God, they are represented 
covering their faces with their wings, 3 as not able 
to support, or not presuming to gaze on the claz- 

1 1 Cor. xiii. 10. 3 Isa. vi. 3 Ibid, verse 2. 

F 2 


zling brightness of the Divine Majesty; and shall 
we poor sinful mortals, who are infinitely beneath 
them, not only by the degeneracy and sinfulness of 
our lives, but even by the imperfection and infe 
riority of our nature, presume to talk forwardly or 
irreverently of the divine essence and perfections, 
without considering the immense distance betwixt 
God and us, and how unable as well as unworthy 
we are to penetate the recesses of that inscrutable 
as well as adorable nature ; and how much better it 
would become us, when we speak of objects so much 
above us, to imitate the just humility of that in 
spired poet, that said, Such knowledge is too 
wonderful for me : it is high I cannot attain unto 
it; 1 and join in that seemingly, and yet but 
seemingly, lofty celebration of God, That his 
glorious name is exalted above all blessing and 
praise. 2 

1 Psal. cxxxvi. 6. 2 Nehem. ix. 5. 







I CAN neither admire nor blame the curiosity you 
express, to receive some satisfaction about the im 
portant distinction that is made use of, in defence 
of some mysteries of the Christian religion ; namely, 
that " they are indeed above reason, but not against 
reason." For though divers learned men have, 
especially of late, employed it; yet I perceive you 
and your friends think that they have not done it so 
clearly, as both to prevent the exceptions of infidels 
or render them more groundless; and at least, to 
obviate the surmises of those others, who have been 
persuaded to look upon this distinction but as a 
fine evasion, whereby to elude some objections that 
cannot otherwise be answered. And indeed, as far 
as T can discern by the authors wherein I have met 
with it, (for I pretend not to judge of any others,) 
there are divers that employ this distinction, few 
that have attempted to explain it, (and that I fear, 
not sufficiently,) and none that has taken care to 
justify it. 

2. In order to the removal of the difficulties that 
you take notice of, I shall endeavour to do these 


two things : I. To declare in what sense I think 
our distinction is to be understood ; and, II. To 
prove that it is not an arbitrary or illusory distinc 
tion, but grounded upon the nature of things. 

Though I do not desire to impose my sentiments 
on any man, much less on you ; yet because I, as well 
as others, have had some occasions to make use of 
the distinction we are considering, I think myself 
obliged, before I go any further, to acquaint you in 
what sense I understand it. 

3. By such things then in theology, as may be 
said to be above reason, I conceive such notions 
and propositions as mere reason, that is, reason 
unassisted by supernatural revelation, would never 
have discovered to us ; whether those things be to 
our finite capacities clearly comprehensible or not. 
And by things contrary to reason, I understand 
such conceptions and propositions as are not merely 
undiscoverable by mere reason, but also, when we 
understand them, do evidently and truly appear to 
be repugnant to some principle, or to some conclu 
sion of right reason. 

4. To illustrate this matter a little, I shall pro 
pound to you a comparison drawn from that sense, 
which is allowed to have the greatest cognation 
with the understanding, which I presume you will 
readily guess to be the sight. Suppose then, that 
on a deep sea a diver should bid you tell him 
what you can see there ; that which you would an 
swer would be, that you can see into a sea-green 
liquor, to the depth of some yards, and no further: 
so that if he should further ask you, whether you 
see what lies at the bottom of the sea, you would 
return him a negative answer. If afterwards the 
diver, letting himself down to the bottom, should 


thence bring up and show you oysters or muscles 
with pearls in them ; you would easily acknow 
ledge both that they lay beyond the reach of your 
sight, and consequently argued an imperfection in 
it; though but such an imperfection as is not per 
sonal, but common to you with other men, and that 
the pearls have the genuine colour and lustre that 
naturally belongs to such gems. But if this diver 
should pretend, that each of these pearls he shows 
you, is as large as a tennis-ball, or some of them 
bijjorer than the shells they were inclosed in, and 


that they are not round but cubical, and their 
colour not white or orient, but black or scarlet ; 
you would doubtless judge what he asserts to be 
not only (or not so properly) undiscernible by 
your eyes, but contrary to the informations of them, 
and therefore would deny what he affirms. Be 
cause, that to admit it would not only argue your 
sight to be imperfect, but false and delusory ; 
though the organ be rightly qualified, and duly 
applied to its proper objects. 

5. This illustration may give you some superfi 
cial notion of the difference betwixt a thing being 
above reason, and its being contrary to it. But 
this rnay better appear, if we consider the matter 
more distinctly. And to offer something in order 
to this, I shall beg leave to say, that, in my opinion, 
the things that may be said to be above reason are 
not all of one sort, but may be distinguished into 
two kinds, differing enough from each other. 

6. For it seems to me, that there are some 
things that reason by its own light cannot dis 
cover ; and others that, when proposed, it cannot 

7. And first, there are divers truths in the 


Christian religion that reason, left to itself, would 
never have been able to find out, nor perhaps to 
have so much as dreamed of. Such as are most of 
those that depend upon the free will and ordina 
tion of God ; as that the world was made in six 
days, that Christ should be born of a virgin, and 
that in his person there should be united two such 
infinitely distant natures as the divine and human ; 
and that the bodies of good men shall be raised 
from death, and so advantageously changed, that 
the glorified persons shall be like, or equal to, the 

8. Of this kind of theological truths, you will 
easily believe, that it were not difficult for me to 
offer divers other instances ; and indeed there are 
many truths, and more I think than we are wont to 
imagine, that we want mediums, or instruments to 
discover, though if they were duly proposed, they 
would be intelligible to us : as, for my part, when 
by looking on the starry heaven, first with my 
naked eyes, and then with telescopes of differing 
lengths, I did not only descry more and more stars, 
according to the goodness of the instruments I em 
ployed, but discovered great inducements to think 
that there are, in those inestimably remote regions, 
many celestial lights, that only the want of more 
reaching telescopes conceal from our sight. 

9. And thus much I presume you will close 
with the more easily, because it disagrees not with 
the sentiments of some few (for I dare say not, 
many) orthodox divines. But I must take leave to 
add, that besides these mysterious truths, that are 
too remote and hidden to be detected by human 
reason, there is another sort of things that may 
be said to be above reason. 


10. For there are divers truths delivered by reve 
lation, (contained in the holy Scriptures,) that not 
only would never have been found out by mere 
natural reason ; but are so abstruse, that when they 
are proposed as clearly as proper and unambiguous 
expressions can propose them in, they do never 
theless surpass our dim and bounded reason, on 
one or other of those three accounts that are men 
tioned in a dialogue about things transcending 
reason ; namely either as not clearly conceivable by 
our understanding, such as the infiniteness and 
perfections of the divine nature; or as inexplicable 
by us, such as the manner how God can create a ra 
tional soul ; or how, this being an immaterial sub 
stance, it can act upon a human body, and be 
acted on by it; (which instance I rather choose, 
than the creation of matter, because it may be more 
easily proved ;) or as symmetrical, or unsociable ; 
that is, such as we see not how to reconcile with 
other things, which also manifestly are, or are by 
us acknowledged to be true; such as are the divine 
prescience of future contingents, and the liberty 
that belongs to man s will, at least in divers cases. 

1 1. It will not perhaps be improper to observe, 
on this occasion, that, as of things that are said to 
be above reason there are more kinds than one ; 
so there may be a difference in the degrees, or at 
least the discernibleness, of their abstruseness. 

12. For some things appear to surpass or dis 
tress our understandings, almost as soon as they 
are proposed, at least before they are attentively 
looked into : as, what is said to be infinite, either 
in extent or number. But there are other things, 
the notions whereof, as they first arise from the 
things considered in gross, and as it were indefi- 


nitely, are such as do not choke or perplex our un 
derstandings ; and are so far intelligible, that they 
may be usefully employed in ordinary discourse. 
But when we come to make a deep inspection into 
these, and prosecute to the uttermost the succes 
sive inferences that may be drawn from them, we 
reason ourselves into inextricable difficulties, if not 
flat repugnancies too. And to show you that I do 
not say this gratis, be pleased to consider with 
me, that we usually discourse of place, of time, 
and of motion ; and have certain general indeter 
minate conceptions of each of these, by the help 
of which, we understand one another, when we 
speak of them ; though if we will look thoroughly 
into them, and attentively consider all the difficul 
ties that may be discovered by such an inspection, 
we shall find our reason oppressed by the number 
and greatness of the difficulties into which we 
shall argue ourselves ; or, at least, may be argued 
by others ; though these men, who do make such 
shrewd objections against the hypothesis we em 
brace, will hardly be able to pitch on any that will 
not allow us to repay them in the same coin. 

13. What has been newly said, may, I hope, 
assist us to clear a difficulty or scruple, (about 
the distinction we treat of,) which, since it 
sprung up in my own mind, may very probably 
occur also to your thoughts ; namely, that if any 
theological proposition be granted to surpass our 
reason, we cannot pretend to believe it, without dis 
covering that we do not sufficiently consider what 
we say, since we pretend to exercise an act of the 
understanding in embracing somewhat that we do 
not understand, nor have a notion of. 

14. But on this occasion we may justly have 


recourse to a distinction, like that I have lately in 
timated. For in divers cases, the notions men 
have of some things may be different enough, 
since the one is more obvious and^superficial, and 
the other more philosophical or accurate. And of 
these two differing kinds of conceptions I have 
already offered some instances, in the very differing 
notions men have of place and time ; which, though 
familiar objects, I elsewhere show to be each of 
them of so abstruse a nature, that I do not wonder 
to find Aristotle himself complaining of the diffi 
culty that there is to give a clear and unexcep 
tionable notion of place, nor to find so acute a wit 
as St. Austin ingenuously confessing his disability 
to explicate the nature of time. 

15. And what is said of the great intricacies 
that encumber a deep scrutiny into these familiar 
objects of discourse, will hold, as to the divisibi 
lity of quantity, as to local motion, and as to 
some other primary things ; whose abstruseness is 
not inferior in degree, though differing as to the 
kinds of things, wherein it consists. 

16. By such instances as these, it may appear, 
that without talking as parrots, (as your friends 
would intimate that those that use our distinctions 
must do ;) or as irrational men, we may speak of 
some things that we acknowledge to be on some 
account or other above our reason ; since the no 
tions we may have of those things, however dim and 
imperfect, may yet be of use, and may be in some 
measure intelligible, though the things they relate 
to may in another respect be said to transcend our 
understanding ; because an attentive considerer 
may perceive, that something belongs to them that 


is not clearly comprehensible, or does otherwise 
surpass our reason, at least in our present state. 

17. Having dispatched the objection that re 
quired this digression, I shall now step again into 
the way, and proceed in it by telling you, that any 
one apposite instance may suffice to clear the for 
mer part of the expression that is employed, when 
it is said that a mystery, or other article of faith, is 
above reason, but not contrary to it ; for if there be 
so much as one truth which is acknowledged to be 
such, and yet not to be clearly and distinctly com 
prehensible, it cannot justly be pretended that to 
make use of the distinction we are treating of, is to 
say something that is not intelligible, or is absurd. 
And it will further justify the expression quarrelled 
at, if we can make it appear that it is neither im 
pertinent nor arbitrary, but grounded on the nature 
of things. And this I shall endeavour to do by 
showing, that though I admit two sorts of things 
which may be said to be above reason, yet there is 
no necessity that either of them must always be 
contrary to reason. 

18. As for the first sort of things said to sur 
pass reason, I see not but that men may be unable, 
without the assistance of a more knowing in 
structor, to discover some truths, and yet be able, 
when these are revealed or discovered to them by 
that instructor, both to understand the disclosed 
propositions by their own rational faculty, and ap 
prove them for true and fit to be embraced. The 
intellect of man being such a bounded faculty 
as it is, and naturally furnished with no greater a 
stock or share of knowledge than it is able by its 
own endeavours to give itself, or acquire; it would be 


a great unhappiness to mankind, if we were obliged 
to reject, as repugnant to reason, whatever we cannot 
discover by our own natural light, and consequently, 
to deny ourselves the great benefits we may receive 
from the communications of any higher and more 
discerning intellect. An instance to my present 
purpose may be found among rational souls them 
selves, though universally granted to be all of the 
same nature. For though a person but superficially 
acquainted (for example) with geometry, would 
never have discovered by his own light that the 
diameter of a square is incommensurable to the 
side, yet when a skilful mathematician dexterously 
declares, and by a series of demonstrations proves 
that noble theorem, the disciple, by his now in 
structed reason, will be able both to understand it 
and to assent to it : insomuch, that Plato said that 
" he was rather a beast than a man, that would 
deny it." 

19. Other instances may be alleged to exem 
plify the truth newly mentioned. And indeed, 
there is not so much as a strong presumption, that 
a proposition or notion is therefore repugnant to 
reason, because it is not discoverable by it ; since 
it is altogether extrinsical and accidental to the 
truth or falsity of a proposition, that we never 
heard of it before ; or that we could never have 
found it out by our own endeavours ; but must have 
had the knowledge of it imparted to us by another. 
But then this disability to find out a thing by our 
own search, doth not hinder us from being able, by 
our own reason, both to understand it when duly 
proposed, and to discern it to be agreeable to the 
dictates of right reason. To induce you to assent 
to the latter part of this observation, I shall add, 


that these intellectual assistances may oftentimes 
not only enlighten, but gratify the mind, by giving 
it such informations as both agree with its former 
maimed or imperfect notices, and complete them. 
When, for example, an antique medal, half con 
sumed with rust, is showed to an unskilful person, 
though a scholar, he will not by his own endea 
vours be able to read the whole inscription, whereof 
we suppose some parts to be obliterated by time or 
rust, or to discover the meaning of it. But when 
a knowing medalist becomes his instructor, he may 
then know some much defaced letters, that were 
illegible to him before, and both understand the 
sense of the inscription, and approve it as genuine 
and suitable to the things whereto it ought to be 
congruous. And because divers philosophical wits 
are apt, as well as you, to be startled at the name 
of mystery, and suspect, that because it implies 
something abstruse, there lies hid some illusion 
under that obscure term, I shall venture to add, 
that agreeably to our doctrine we may observe, 
that divers things that relate to the Old Testament, 
are in the New called mysteries, because they were 
so under the Mosaic dispensation; though they 
cease to be so, now that the apostles have ex 
plained them to the world : as the calling of the 
Gentiles into the church of God, is by their apostle 
called a mystery ; because, to use his phrase, it 
had been hid from ages and generations ; though 
he adds, but now it is made manifest to his saints. 1 
And the same writer tells the Corinthians, that he 
shows them a mystery, which he immediately ex 
plains, by foretelling, that all pious believers shall 

1 Col. i. 26 ; Eph. iii. 3, 5, G. 


not die, because that those that shall be found 
alive at the coming of Christ, shall not sleep, but 
be changed ; as the other dead shall be raised in 
corruptible. Which surprising doctrine, though 
because it could not be discovered by the light of 
nature, nor of the writings of the Old Testament, 
he calls a mystery ; yet it is no more so to us, now 
that he hath so expressly foretold it, and therefore 
declared it. 

20. Other instances I content myself to point at 
the foot,* that I may pass on to confirm the obser 
vation I formerly . intimated ; that divers things 
which the Scripture teaches beyond what was 
known, or, in probability, are discoverable by na 
tural light, are so far from being against reason, by 
being, in the sense declared, above it ; that these 
discoveries ought much to recommend the Scripture 
to a rational mind ; because they do not only agree 
with the doubtful or imperfect notions we already 
had of tilings, but improve them, if not complete 
them. Nay, I shall venture to add, that these in 
tellectual aids may not seldom help us to discern, 
that some things, which not only are above reason, 
but at first sight seem to be against it, are really 
reconcileable to reason, improved by the new helps 
afforded it by revelation. To illustrate this by a 
philosophical instance, when Gallileo first made 
his discoveries with the telescope, and said, that 
there were planets that moved about Jupiter, he 
said something that other astronomers could not 
discern to be true, but nothing that they could 
prove to be false. And even when some revela 
tions are thought not only to transcend reason, but 

1 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. * See Matt. xiii. II; Kph. v. 31. 


to clash with it; it is to be considered, whether 
such doctrines are really repugnant to any absolute 
Catholic rule of reason, or only to something, which 
so far depends upon the measure of acquired infor 
mation we then enjoy, that, though we judge it to 
be irrational, yet we are not sure that the thing 
this judgment is grounded on, is clearly and 
fully enough known to us. As, to resume the 
former example, when Gallileo, or some of his dis 
ciples, affirmed Venus to be sometimes horned like 
the moon ; though this assertion were repugnant 
to the unanimous doctrine of astronomers, who 
thought their opinion very well grounded, on no 
less a testimony than that of their own eyes ; yet in 
effect the proof was incompetent, because their un 
assisted eyes could not afford them sufficient infor 
mation about this case. And so, when Gallileo 
spoke of hills and valleys, and shadows, in the 
moon, they were not straight to reject what he 
taught, but to have, if not a kind of implicit faith, 
yet a great disposition to believe what he delivered, 
as upon his own knowledge, about the figure and 
number of the planets. For they knew that he 
had, and had already successfully made use of, a 
way of discovering celestial objects, that they were 
not masters of; nor therefore competent judges of 
all the things, though they might well be of many, 
that he affirmed to be discoverable by it. And 
though they could not see in the moon what he 
observed, (valleys, mountains, and the shadows of 
these,) yet they might justly suspect, that the dif 
ference of the idea that they framed of that planet, 
and that which he proposed, might well proceed 
from the imperfection of their unaided sight ; espe- 


cially considering, that what he said of the differ 
ing constitution of what is there analogous to sea 
and land, did rather correct and improve, than ab 
solutely overthrow their former notices. For he 
allowed the spots they saw to be darker parts of 
the moon, and gave causes of that darkness ; which 
their bare eyes could not have led them to any 
such knowledge of. And the non-appearance of 
the mountainous parts of the moon in that form to 
the naked eye, might well be imputed to the great 
distance betwixt them and us, since at a far less 
distance square towers appear round, &c. 

21. It now remains that I say something that 
may both make some application of the form of 
speech hitherto discoursed of, and afford a con 
firmation of the grounds whereon, I think, it may 
be justified. This I am the rather induced to do, 
because I expect it will be objected, that he that 
acknowledges, that the thing he would have us be 
lieve transcends our reason, has a mind to de 
ceive us, and procures for himself a fair opportu 
nity to delude us, by employing an arbitrary dis 
tinction, which he may apply as he pleases. 

22. But to speak first a word or two to this 
last clause. I acknowledge that such a distinction 
is capable enough of being misapplied ; and I am 
apt to think that, by some school-divines and 
others, it has been so. But, since there are other 
distinctions that are generally and justly received 
by learned men, and even by philosophers them 
selves, without having any immunity from being 
capable to be perverted ; I know not why the dis 
tinction we are considering should not be treated 
as favourably as they. And however, the question 
at present is not, whether our distinction may pos- 


sibly be misapplied by rash or imposing men ; 
but whether it be grounded on the nature of things. 
To come then to the thing itself, I consider, that for 
an opinion to be above reason, in the sense formerly 
assigned, is somewhat that, as was noted in re 
ference to the first sort of things that surpass it, is 
extrinsical and accidental to its being true or false. 
For to be above reason, is not an absolute thing, 
but a respective one, importing a relation to the 
measure of knowledge that belongs to the human 
understanding, such as it is said to transcend ; and 
therefore it may not be above reason, in reference 
to a more enlightened intellect; such as in pro 
bability may be found in rational beings of a 
higher order such as are the angels; and, with 
out peradventure, is to be found in God ; whom, 
when we conceive to be a Being infinitely perfect, 
we must ascribe to him a perfect understanding 
and boundless knowledge. This being supposed, 
it ought not to be denied, that a superior intellect 
may both comprehend several things that we can 
not; and discern such of them to be congruous to 
the fixed and eternal ideas of truth, and conse 
quently agreeable to one another, as dim-sighted 
mortals are apt to suspect, or to think, to be sepa 
rately false ; or, when collated, inconsistent with 
one another. But to launch into this speculation 
would lead me further than I have time to go; 
and therefore I shall content myself to offer you 
one argument to prove, that of things that may be 
said to be above reason, in the sense formerly ex 
plained, it is no way impossible, that even such an 
one should be true, as is obnoxious to objections 
not directly answerable. For I consider, that of 
things above reason, there may be some which are 


really contradictory to one another, and yet each 
of them is maintainable by such arguments as 
very learned and subtle men do both acquiesce in 
and enforce, by loading the embracers of the oppo 
site opinion with objections they cannot directly 

23. This I take to be manifest in the case of 
the controversy about the endless divisibility of 
quantity ; as, suppose, of a straight line. For many 
eminent mathematicians, and a greater number of 
naturalists, and in particular almost all the Epicu 
reans, and other atomists, stifly maintain the nega 
tive. The affirmative is nevertheless asserted, and 
thought to be mathematically demonstrated by 
Aristotle, in a peculiar tract; and both by his 
school and by several excellent geometricians be 
sides. And yet in reality, the assertions of these 
two contending parties are truly contradictory ; 
since, of necessity, a straight line proposed must 
be, at least mentally, divisible, into parts that are 
themselves still further divisible; or, it must not 
be so, and the subdivisions must at length come 
to a stop ; and therefore one of the opposite 
opinions must be true. And it is plain to those 
that have, with competent skill and attention, im 
partially examined this controversy, that the side 
which is pitched upon, whichsoever it be, is liable 
to be exposed to such difficulties, and other ob 
jections, as are not clearly answerable ; but con 
found and oppress the reason of those that strive 
to defend it. 

24. I have, Sir, the more largely discoursed 
of the foregoing distinction, not only because I 
did not find myself to have been prevented by 
others, but because I look upon the explaining 


and justifying of it to be of importance, not alone 
to the defence of some mysteries of the Christian 
religion, but, what perhaps may have escaped your 
observation, of some important articles of natural 
theology itself. For though natural religion taught 
divers heathen philosophers such truths as these, 
viz. the production of the rational soul or mind, 
which is an immaterial substance ; the formation 
of the world out of the universal matter, though 
this action required that an incorporeal substance 
gave motion to a body; that God knows men s 
thoughts and intentions, how carefully soever they 
strive to hide them ; and that God foreknows the 
events of the free actions of such men as are 
not to be born these many ages; though, I say, 
these and some other sublime truths, were by di 
vers men embraced before the gospel began to be 
preached ; yet when I attentively consider how 
hard it is to conceive the modus of these things, 
and explain how some of them can be performed ; 
and also, how some of the divine attributes, as 
eternity, immensity, omnipresence, and some others, 
belong to God ; and how some actions, as the mov 
ing of bodies, and the creation of human minds, 
with all their noble faculties, are exercised by him; 
when I consider such things, I say, I acknowledge 
that, to my apprehension, there are some doctrines, 
allowed to have been discovered by the mere light 
of nature, that are liable to such objections from 
physical principles, and the settled order of things 
corporeal, as, if they be urged home, will bring 
those that are ingenuous to acknowledge, that their 
intellects are but dim and imperfect, and indeed 
disproportionate to the sublimest and most myste 
rious truths ; and that they cannot perfectly com- 


prehend them, and answer all the difficulties that 
encumber them; though they find themselves 
obliged to admit them, because of the weighty 
positive reasons that recommend those heteroclite 
truths to their assent. 

25. If you should now tell me, that, after all 
I have said, it is plain that the questioned distinc 
tion, if it were granted, might be of very bad con 
sequence; as affording shelter to any unintelli 
gible stuff, that some bold enthusiast or conceited 
philosophizer may obtrude under the venerable title 
of a mystery, above the jurisdiction of reason; 
and, that though the distinction were admitted, it 
would not be a good proof of any disputed article 
of the Christian religion ; if, I say, this shall be 
objected, I shall answer, (what in part is intimated 
already,) that I do not deny but that our distinc 
tion is liable to be ill employed ; but that this is 
no other blemish than what is common with it to 
divers other distinctions that are without scruple 
admitted because they are useful, and not rejected 
because they have not the privilege that they can 
never be misapplied ; and therefore, both in refer 
ence to those distinctions, and to that we have 
been treating of, it becomes men to stand upon 
their guard, and strictly examine how far the notion, 
or doctrine, proposed as a mystery, does require, 
and is entitled to, the benefit of this distinction. I 
shall also readily grant the greatest part of the se 
cond member of your objection ; for I think it were 
great weakness in a Christian, to urge our distinc 
tion as a positive proof; since, though it be extrinsi 
cal to an abstruse notion, to be, or not to be, above 
reason ; (as was just now noted to another purpose ;) 
yet, generally speaking, that abstruseness is less fit 


to bring credit to a conception, or a doctrine, than 
it is to make it to be distrusted. Nor are Chris 
tians such fond discoursers, as to pretend that such 
an article of religion ought to be believed because 
it is above reason, as if that were a proof of its 
truth ; but only, that if it be otherwise well 
proved, it ought to be believed, notwithstanding its 
being above reason. 

26. And this I shall represent in favour of 
those that believe those abstruse articles, that are 
clearly revealed in the Scripture, upon the authority 
of the divine Revealer; (who never deceives others, 
nor can be himself deceived;) that since, as we 
have lately shown by the contradictory opinions 
about the divisibility of quantity, some doctrines 
must be true, whose difficulties do not appear to 
be surmountable by our dim reason ; and since the 
perfectness of God s knowledge permits us not to 
doubt but that he certainly knows which of the 
two contending opinions is the true, and can de 
clare so much to men ; it would not be a sure 
ground of rejecting a revealed article, to allege, 
that it is encumbered with confounding difficulties, 
and liable to many and weighty objections. 

27. And, to add somewhat that may help to 
defend some truths of natural, and others of revealed 
religion ; that a thing may be rationally assented 
to, upon clear positive evidence, though we cannot 
directly answer the objections that a speculative 
and subtle wit may devise against it, is a truth 
which, as important as it is to religion in general, 
and the Christian religion in particular, I think 
one may sufficiently manifest by this one instance, 
that, because we can walk up and down, and so 
remove our bodies from place to place, by this one 


argument, I say, we are justly satisfied, that there 
is local motion in the world, notwithstanding all 
the specious and subtle arguments that Zeno and 
his followers have employed to impugn that 
truth ; against which they have alleged such diffi 
culties, as have not only puzzled and perplexed, 
but (for aught yet appears) nonplused the ancient 
philosophers, and, I doubt those moderns too, 
that have attempted to give clear solutions of 

28. If now, Sir, \ve look back upon what hath 
hitherto been discoursed, I hope you will allow 
me to gather thence the conclusion I aim at, which 
is, that there is no necessity that every notion or pro 
position that may be found delivered in the Holy 
Scriptures, that surpasses our reason, must therefore 
be contradictory to it; and that, in case the Chris 
tian religion be true, and its mysteries or other 
articles divinely revealed, it is not enough, for the 
confutation of any of them, to reject the expression 
that it is above reason, but not contrary to it, as if 
it involved an unintelligible or groundless distinc 
tion ; for though this will not evince the truth of a 
mystery, since that must be established upon its 
proper grounds and arguments, yet it will keep it 
from being therefore absurd or false, because it 
transcends our reason ; since to do so, may belong 
almost indifferently to a chimerical notion and a 
mysterious truth : and if the expression be em 
ployed to justify any thing that, though styled a 
mystery, is but a pretended one ; the error will lie, 
not in the groundlessness of the distinction, but 
the erroneousness of the application. I am, Sir, 

Your most, &c. 







You will perhaps think it strange, that a person, 
obsequious enough to those he loves, should be 
able to hold out so long against the importunity of 
two such powerful solicitors, as my willingness to 
own a veneration for the Scripture, and my unwil 
lingness to deny you any thing. But if you will 
give me leave to acquaint you with the considera 
tions that have hitherto dissuaded me from the 
publication of the papers you press for, you will, I 
presume, rather marvel at my resolving at last to 
comply with your desires, than that I have been 
somewhat long contesting, before I could take up 
so opposed a resolution. First, then, the treatise 
of which the papers you desire make a part, was 
written nine or ten years ago, when my green 
youth made me very unripe for a task of that na 
ture whose difficulty requires, as well as its worth 
deserves, that it should be handled by a person in 
whom nature, education, and time have happily 
matched a senile maturity of judgment with a 


youthful vigour of fancy. Next, the discourse I 
have mentioned being written to a private friend, 
who put me upon that task, I not only had a theme 
of another s choosing imposed upon me, for which 
he was pleased to think me much more fit than I 
had reason to think myself, but was, by the freedom 
allowable among friends, tempted to vent and ex 
press my thoughts with more negligence, than were 
proper to be made use of in a solemn discourse in 
tended for public view : the contrary of which 
were yet very requisite for a person, who though 
he have, by I know not what unhappy fate, been 
cast upon the learning divers languages, has yet 
too great a concern for the knowledge of things to 
be a diligent or solicitous considerer of words ; and 
so was more fit to write almost of any thing than 
of a style or of matters rhetorical. Besides, that 
my essay touching the Scripture having not been all 
written in one country, but partly in England, 
partly in another kingdom, and partly too on ship 
board, it were strange if in what I writ there did 
not appear much of unevenness; and if it did not 
betray the unleisuredness and relish of the unset- 
tledness of the wandering author, who, by thus 
rambling, was reduced, for want of a library, to 
comply with the request of his friend, who was 
more desirous to receive from the author apples 
and pears growing in his own orchard, than 
oranges and lemons fetched from foreign parts : 
whereby I was condemned not to enrich my dis 
course with what 1 might have borrowed of real 
and valuable from the eloquent composures of 


more happy pens. But these, Sir, are not all the 
determents that opposed my obeying you ; for be 
sides these disadvantages with which the discourse 
itself was written, that part of it you demand must 
appear with a peculiar, as well as great disadvan 
tage ; for in an entire and continued discourse the 
several parts that compose it do mutually afford 
light and confirmation to each other; and therefore, 
though whatsoever I here present you touching the 
style of the Scripture had been written altogether 
in some one place of the discourse, whereof it 
makes a part ; yet I could not dismember it from 
the rest without a great deal of injury, as well to it 
as to the rest of the treatise. But this is not the 
worst of my case ; for though I did in one part of 
my essay of the Scripture more professedly apply 
myself to the consideration of its style ; yet because 
divers things were interwoven even in this distinct 
part, which were not so fit for public view ; and 
because that in divers of the other parts of my 
essay, I had here and there, frequently enough, oc 
casion to say something of the same theme, I have 
been obliged, that I might obey you, not only to 
dismember, but to mangle the treatise you perused, 
cutting out with a pair of scissars here a whole 
side, there half, and in another place, perhaps, a 
quarter of one, as I found in the other parts of my 
discourse, longer or shorter passages, that appeared 
to relate to the style of the Scripture, that I might 
give you at once all those parts of my essay which 
seemed to concern that subjecct. And though I 


have here and there, by dictating to an amanuensis, 
inserted some lines or words, to make the loose pa 
pers less incoherent, where I thought it easy to be 
done, yet in many others I have only prefixed a 
short black line, to the incoherent passages, if I 
found they could not be connected with those 
whereunto I have joined them, without such 
circumlocution as either the narrowness of the 
paper would not permit, or my present distractions 
(which you know are not a few) and the weakness 
of my eyes would not allow of. For to complete 
my unfitness to obey you with any thing of accu- 
rateness, I must, to obey you at all, do it both when 
I have other composures in the press, and when 
the distemper in my eyes makes me so far from 
daring to transcribe the papers I send you, that I 
might alter them according to the exigency of your 
design in them, that I durst not so much as read 
them over but with another s eyes. To which I 
must add, that besides all these disadvantages I 
have already mentioned, I cannot but foretell that 
the following discourse may prove obnoxious to the 
censures of differing sorts of readers, and particu 
larly to those of courtiers, for too neglected, and 
those of critics, for too spruce a dress. By all 
which I presume you will be easily induced to be 
lieve with me, that I cannot expose the papers you 
desire so much to their disadvantage and my own, 
without some exercise of self-denial : since without 
needing much foresight I may well apprehend, that 
I shall hereby hazard the loss of the most part of 


whatever little reputation in this nature any of 
my former moral or devout composures may 
among favourable readers have procured me. 

But by this time, Sir, I suppose not only that you 
have left wondering at my making some difficulty 
to put the annexed papers into your hands, but that 
I owe you and my other friends an account why I 
now consent to a compliance with desires which 
such powerful considerations would dissuade my 
assenting to. 

My first inducement then to what I do, is the 
favourable character that you, and some other very 
competent judges have been pleased to give me of 
these papers, and especially your thereupon press 
ing their publication upon me, as a duty whereto 
I stand obliged to those many readers whom you 
would have me think likely to be benefited thereby. 
For in such cases, where knowing and sober per 
sons think there is a great probability of a dis 
course doing good, it is not impossible but that 
an unwillingness to have it published, may not so 
much proceed out of modesty, as from some secret 
pride, almost as unjustifiable as if a physician 
should refuse to come abroad upon an urgent occa 
sion, because he has not his best clothes on, or is not 
carefully dressed. And therefore, when I incline to 
make with you a case of conscience of the matter, 
I think myself obliged, whatever my private ap 
prehensions may be of the success, to do my duty, 
and leave events to the wise and sovereign Dis 
poser of them. It is not that I have the vanity to 
expect that I shall convert obstinate and resolved 



cavillers, nor much instruct the great clerks ; but 
since I have not yet met with such a discourse as I 
intended mine to be ; and since the greater part of 
the things I have written in it will not perhaps be 
elsewhere met with, I hope that what I have said 
may not be useless to those who have considered the 
subject I treat of less attentively than I have done ; 
and may, if not procure a veneration for the Scrip 
ture in those that are altogether indisposed to it, yet 
at least increase, or confirm it in those that have 
already entertained it, and furnish such devout per 
sons with something to allege on the Scripture s be 
half, who are better furnished with affections than 
with arguments for it. And I the less scruple to 
allow myself such a hope, because you have been 
pleased to make, not only to me but to others, such 
a mention of the following papers, that after your 
preference of them to the other pieces of devotion 
you have seen of mine, (without excepting that 
discourse of seraphic love, which yet has had the 
luck to be so favourably entertained by readers of 
all sorts,) I shall confess to you, that as some of 
them do now appear very much dislocated and 
mangled, so others were penned with more care 
than any other of my writings about matters theo 
logical. And indeed I conceived myself obliged, 
in point of gratitude as well as duty, to speak as 
advantageously as I could of the Scripture ; because, 
if I may without vanity make such an acknow 
ledgment, I am sensible I have been benefited by 
it, and might have been much more so, if I had 
been as disposed to learn as the matchless book is 


qualified to teach : and I confess to you also, that 
since the physiological writing s I have been in 
duced to publish of late, and the sort of studies to 
which (for reasons to be told you at a proper op 
portunity) I seem at present to be wholly addicted 
to, make many look upon me as a naturalist : and 
since some persons, as well philosophers as physi 
cians, have either faultily, or at least indiscreetly 
given many men occasion to think that those that 
being- speculatively studious of nature s mysteries, 
depart, as I often do, from the vulgar peripatetic 
philosophy, and especially if they seem to favour 
that which explicates the phenomena of nature bv 
atoms, are inclined to atheism, or at least to an 
unconcernedness for any particular religion ; since, 
I say, these things are so, I was not unwilling to Jay 
hold of this opportunity to give a public testi 
mony, whereby such as do not know me may be 
satisfied (for I presume all that do know me are 
so) that, if I be a naturalist, it is possible to be 
so without being- an atheist, or of kin to it; and 
that the study of the works of nature has not made 
me either disbelieve the author of them, or deny 
his providence, or so much as disesteem his word, 
which deserves our respect upon several accounts, 
and especially that of its being the grand instru 
ment of conveying to us the truths and mysteries 
of the Christian religion; my embracing of which 
I know not why I should be ashamed to own, since 
I think I can, to a competent and unprepossessed 
judge, give a rational account of my so doing. 
To all this I might subjoin some apologies, which 

ii 2 


might perhaps serve to prevent or withdraw the 
censures of some sorts of readers. 

For to critics and philologers I could represent, 
partly, that I have not a little impoverished my dis 
course, by making- use of books to shun the repe 
tition of what I found obvious already ; partly, that 
when I wrote the essay, of which the ensuing trea 
tise is a piece, I had thoughts of annexing to it an 
notations, wherein I hoped to illustrate, and by par 
ticular instances to exemplify, divers of those things 
which should appear to require it; or which else 
the reader might suspect I have slightly considered, 
because I seem to make but a transient mention of 
them ; and partly too, that I ignored not the stricter 
interpretations given by modern critics to divers 
texts by me alleged, but that (not having oppor 
tunity to criticise) I was content to use them in 
their received or obvious sense ; and have some 
times employed them but by way of allusion, or as 
arguments, ad hominem, (wherein some of my 
readers are like to acquiesce, though I do not,) 
and sometimes rather used them to express than 
prove my thoughts. And indeed, in these popular 
discourses, which are not written for, nor to be ex 
amined as regular disputations, men use not so 
much to look whether every thing be a strict truth, 
as whether it be proper to persuade or impress the 
truths they would inculcate ; and especially in com 
posures of the nature of this of mine, men have 
been rarely censured for being sometimes even in 
dulgent to the exigencies of their themes. Those 
that require more of method than they will here 


find, may be advertised, that much of this scribble 
being designed to serve particular acquaintances 
of mine, it was fit it should insist on those points 
they were concerned in ; and that, consequently, 
much of the seeming desultoriness of my method, 
and frequency of my rambling excursions, have been 
but intentional and charitable digressions out of my 
way, to bring some wandering friends into theirs, 
and may closely enough pursue my intentions, even 
when they seem most to deviate from my theme. 
And as for the longer excursions which either you 
or other judicious friends would needs have me 
leave here and there, I have, for the ease of my pe 
rusers, annexed to them some marks whereby they 
may be taken notice of to be digressions, that as I 
submit to their judgment, who think they may be 
useful to some readers, so I may comply with my 
own unwillingness to let them be troublesome to 
others, who by this means have an opportunity to 
pass by, if they please, such as they shall not ex 
pect to find themselves (either upon their own 
score or that of their acquaintances) concerned in. 
To those of the wits who, happening to be disre- 
garders of the Scripture, may find themselves upon 
that account used here with any show of slighting 
or asperity, I may add to what I have already 
said in the papers themselves, that it hath been 
but as we pinch and cast cold water on the faces 
of persons in a swoon, to bring them out of it to 
themselves again : I have done it with as harmless 
intentions as those of the angel mentioned in the 


Acts, 1 when he struck Peter on the side, not to hurt 
him but to awake him, lead him the way out of 
the prison he was bound in, and rescue him from 
imminent death. And if that will not satisfy some 
of the least judicious, or the most desperate, (for 
others I expect to find better affected, or more mo 
derate,) I am willing to leave the intelligent and pi 
ous to judge between us; assuring those that are 
so much more jealous of their own honour than of 
God s, that as I write to reclaim them, not to deprive 
them of the repute of wits, or share it with them, so 
I shall not over much deplore the being by them de 
nied a title to which I have as little pretension as 
right. And, to dispatch, I might add, that ora 
tors may not unjustly bear with some rudenesses 
in the style of a person that professes not rhetoric, 
and writes of a subject that needs few of her orna 
ments, and rejects many as indecencies misbecom 
ing its majesty ; and that severer divines may 
safely pardon some smoothness in a discourse writ 
ten chiefly for gentlemen, who would scarce be 
fond of truth in every dress, by a gentleman who 
feared it might misbecome a person of his youth 
and quality studiously to decline a fashionable 
style. And if any divine should censure me for 
intruding upon his profession, and handling my 
subject less skilfully than he would have done, I 
will not urge that to write well on this subject is 
a task, which he that shall try will perhaps find 

1 Acts, xii. 7> &c. 


far less easy than one would imagine ; but I shall 
rather tell him, that I hope I may obtain his par 
don, by assuring him that I shall be as little angry to 
be rectified in my mistakes, as to be shown the way 
when I am out of it, and as little troubled to have 
this discourse, that but skirmishes with laziness 
and profaneness, surpassed by another on the same 
subject, as to see another embracer of the same 
quarrel come in with a fresh regiment, to assist me 
against a formidable enemy in a conflict I were 
engaged in but with a troop, or bring cannon 
against a fortress I had but sakers to batter with. 
Yes, I shall be glad if my dim, short-lived match 
but serve to light another s brighter torch, and shall 
think it a happiness to have contributed, though 
but thus occasionally, towards the elucidation or 
splendour of the Scripture. And consonantly to 
this temper I would beseech any reader, that may 
so much want learning as to need such a request, 
not to measure what can be said in the defence 
and celebration of the Scripture s style, by what 
hath in the following discourse been traced by the 
callow pen of a travelling layman. For I profess 
ingenuously, that there can as little be an unwel- 
comer as an unjuster compliment placed upon me, 
than to mistake any thing that I am able to say, 
and much less what I have said, for the best that 
can be said upon such a subject. Nor is it my 
least encouragement to consent to the publication 
of such incomplete writings, that the considera 
tions already intimated will probably keep my 


readers from doing the Scripture and their own 
judgment so great an injury. 

But I see I have so far transgressed the bounds 
of a letter, that if I add any thing more of apology, 
it must be for having been so prolix already. 
Wherefore there scarce remains any thing for me 
but to mind you, that since your persuasions have 
so much contributed to my exposing the following 
tract, incomplete as it is, your own credit is some 
what concerned in it as well as mine ; and therefore 
I hope you will have a care that there be no faults of 
the printer added to those of the author, which do 
so little need additional blemishes. And especially 
that there pass no mistakes of the punctuation ; 
for in such composures as this, if the stops be 
omitted or misplaced, it does not only lessen the 
gracefulness of what is said, but oftentimes quite 
spoil the sense. And if by this care of yours, 
which your affection, both for the subject and the 
writer, makes me confident of, and by the authority 
of your approbation, I find these imperfect consi 
derations to be so favourably received as to de 
serve another edition, it will perhaps invite me to 
put them forth enlarged and recruited with what I 
may meet with pertinent to their subject, in such 
other papers of mine concerning the Scripture as 
I had not yet the conveniency to get into mine 
own hands and look over. However, though I 
pretend not here to answer all objections against 
the style of the Scripture, yet, as I hope, I have 
been so happy as to answer some of them, and 


weaken most of the rest : so, if others that are more 
able will but employ themselves as earnestly in so 
useful a work, there is great hope that some an 
swering this objection, another that, and a third 
another, they may at length be all of them satisfac 
torily replied to. And in the meantime I shall 
think my labours richly recompensed, if they either 
procure or establish a veneration for the Scripture 
in any of my readers, or do at least encourage 
those that are qualified for a far more prosperous 
making such an attempt, to undertake it, by show 
ing those of them that know me what were easy 
for them to do, whilst they see what has been done 
even by me, whom sure they will not think to be 
half so much an orator, as I hope so uneasy a 
proof of his obedience will make you think him. 

Your affectionate friend, 

And humble servant, 




THESE things, dear Theoplulus, being thus dis 
patched, I suppose \ve may now seasonably pro 
ceed to consider the style of the Scripture : a sub 
ject that will as well require as deserve some time 
and much attention ; in regard that divers witty 
men, who freely acknowledge the authority of the 
Scripture, take exceptions at its style, and by 
those and their own reputation divert many 
from studying, or so much as perusing, those sacred 
writings; thereby at once giving men injurious 
and irreverent thoughts of it, and diverting them 
from allowing the Scripture the best way of justi 
fying itself, and disabusing them ; than which 
scarce any thing can be more prejudicial to a book 
that needs but to be sufficiently understood to be 
highly venerated : the writings these men crimi 
nate, and would keep others from reading, being 
like that honey which Saul s rash adjuration with 
held the Israelites from eating, which being tasted, 
not only gratified the taste, but enlightened the 

1 1 Sam. xiv. 27, 29. 


Now those allegations against the Scripture we 
are to examine being but too various, it will be 
requisite for us to consider the style of it, not in the 
stricter acceptation, wherein an author s style is 
wont to signify the choice and disposition of his 
words, but in that larger sense, wherein the word 
style comprehends not only the phraseology, the 
tropes and figures made use of by a writer, but his 
method, his lofty or humbler character, (as orators 
speak,) his pathetical or languid, his close or inco 
herent way of writing, and in a word, almost all 
the whole manner of an author s expressing himself. 

Wherefore, though the title of an essay prefixed 
to this treatise will, I presume, invite, you to expect 
from me rather some loose considerations than any 
full and methodical discourse concerning the style 
of the Scripture ; yet I hope you will not think it 
strange if so comprehensive a theme make this part 
of the essay disproportionate to the others : espe 
cially since the nature of your commands and that 
of my design oblige me to interweave some other 
things with those that more directly regard the 
style of the Scripture, and particularly lay hold on 
all opportunities I can discreetly take, to invite you 
to study much and highly to esteem a book, which 
there is no danger you can too much study or 
esteem too highly. 

It has been a common saying among the an 
cients, that even Jupiter could not please all. But 
by the objections I meet with against the Scrip 
ture, I find that the true God himself is not 
free from the imputation of his audacious crea 
tures ; who impiously presume to quarrel as well 
with his revelations as his providence, and express 
no more reverence to what he hath dictated than 



to what he doth. For not now to mention what 
is by atheists and antiscripturists alleged to 
overthrow the truth and authority of the Scripture, 
(because it is not here, but elsewhere, that we are 
to deal with that sort of men,) even by some of 
those that acknowledge both (for with such only 
we have now to reason), there are I know not how 
many faults found with the style of the Scripture. 
For some of them are pleased to say that book is 
too obscure, others, that it is immethodical, others, 
that it is contradictory to itself, others, that the 
neighbouring parts of it are incoherent, others, that 
it is unadorned, others, that it is flat and unaffect- 
ing, others, that it abounds with things that are 
either trivial or impertinent, and also with useless 
repetitions. And indeed so many and so various 
are the faults and imperfections imputed by these 
men to the Scripture, that my wonder at them 
would be almost as great as is my trouble, if I did 
not also consider how much it is the interest of the 
great adversary of mankind, and especially of (that 
choicest part of it) the church, to depreciate com 
posures that if duly reverenced would prove so de 
structive to his kingdom and designs; and if I did 
not also remember that (such is the querulous and 
exceptious nature of men) it was Cicero himself 
that observed, Vitari non posse reprehensioncm nisi 
nih d scribendo ; " It is not possible to escape cen 
sure but by not writing at all." But as poets and 
astronomers have fancied among the celestial lights 
that adorn the firmament, bears, bulls, goats, dogs, 
scorpions, and other beasts ; so our adversaries im 
pute I know not what imaginary deformities to a 
book ennobled by its author with many celestial 


lights, fit to instruct the world, and discover to 
them the ways of truth and blessedness. Although 
I say this be so, yet since the misrepresentation 
made by these men of the Bible is not inferior to 
that made by poets and cosmographers of the fir 
mament, I hope you will be as little deterred by 
the most disparaging imputations from studying 
the Scripture, as pilots are by the name of a bear 
given to the most northern constellation, from hav- 


ing their eyes upon the pole-star, and steering their 
courses by it. 

And since you will easily believe that a person 
so averse from wrangling as I, is not like to make 
the disputing with these censurers of the Scripture- 
style any further his design, than as the invali 
dating their objections conduces to the reputation 
of that sacred book, I presume you will not think 
it at all impertinent if oftentimes I intermix with 
those things that more directly regard such objec 
tions, other things that seem to tend rather to cele 
brate than vindicate the Scripture ; for in so doing, 
I hope I shall not alone considerably, though not 
perhaps so directly, strengthen my answers, by show 
ing that we justly ascribe to the Scripture qualities 
quite opposite to the imperfections imputed to it ; 
but I shall perfectly comply with my main design, 
which I here declare once for all, is but to engage 
you to study and value the Scripture, and there 
fore obliges me to answer objections only so far 
forth as they may look like arguments to dissuade 
you from prizing and studying it. And because I 
find not that the objections to be considered have 
any great coherence with, or dependence on each 
other, I shall not scruple to mention them, and my 


reflections on them, in no other order than that 
wherein they shall chance to occur to my thoughts 
whilst I am writing. 

Of the considerations, then, that I am to lay be 
fore you, there are three or four which are of a 
more general nature, and therefore being such as 
may each of them be pertinently employed against 
several of the exceptions taken at the Scripture s 
style, it will not be inconvenient to mention them 
before the rest. 

And in the first place, it should be considered, 
that those cavillers at the style of the Scripture 
that you and I have hitherto met with, do (for 
want of skill in the original) especially in the 
Hebrew, judge of it by the translations wherein 
alone they read it. Now scarce any but a linguist 
will imagine how much a book may lose of its 
elegancy, by being read in another tongue than 
that it was written in, especially if the languages 
from which and into which the version is made, 
be so very differing, as are those of the eastern and 
these western parts of the world. But of this I 
foresee an occasion of saying something hereafter ; 
yet at present I must observe to you, that the style 
of the Scripture is much more disadvantaged than 
that of other books, by being judged of by transla 
tions : for the religious and just veneration that 
the interpreters of the Bible have had for that 
sacred book, has made them in most places render 
the Hebrew and Greek passages so scrupulously 
word for word, that for fear of not keeping close 
enough to the sense, they usually care not how 
much they lose of the eloquence of the passages 
they translate. So that whereas in those versions 
of other books that are made by good linguists, the 


interpreters are wont to take the liberty to recede 
from the author s words, and also substitute other 
phrases instead of his, that they may express his 
meaning without injuring his reputation ; in 
translating the Old Testament interpreters have 
not put Hebrew phrases into Latin or English 
phrases, but only into Latin or English words, 
and have too often besides, by not sufficiently un 
derstanding, or at least considering, the various 
significations of words, particles and tenses, in the 
holy tongue, made many things appear less cohe 
rent, or less rational, or less considerable, which by 
a more free and skilful rendering of the original, 
would not be blemished by any appearance of such 
imperfection. And though this fault of interpreters 
be pardonable enough in them, as carrying much of 
its excuse in its cause, yet it cannot but much dero 
gate from the Scripture to appear with peculiar dis 
advantages, besides those many that are common to 
almost all books by being translated. 

For whereas the figures of rhetoric are wont by 
orators to be reduced to two comprehensive sorts, 
and one of those does so depend upon the sound 
and placing of the words (whence the Greek rheto 
ricians call such figures a^^ara Xt sewg) that if 
they be altered, though the sense be retained, the 
figure may vanish ; this sort of figures, I say, which 
comprises those that orators call epanados, antana- 
clasis, and a multitude of others, are wont to be 
lost in such literal translations as are ours of the 
Bible, as I could easily show by many instances, if 
I thought it requisite. 

Besides, there are in Hebrew, as in other lan 
guages, certain appropriated graces and a peculiar 
emphasis belonging to some expressions, which 


must necessarily be impaired by any translation, 
and are but too often quite lost in those that ad 
here too scrupulously to the words of the original. 
And as in a lovely face, though a painter may well 
enough express the cheeks, and the nose, and lips, 
yet there is often something of splendour and vi 
vacity in the eyes which no pencil can reach to 
equal : so in some choice composures, though a 
skilful interpreter may happily enough render into 
his own language a great part of what he translates, 
yet there may well be some shining passages, some 
sparkling and emphatical expressions that he can 
not possibly represent to the life. And this consi 
deration is more applicable to the Bible and its 
translations, than to other books, for two particular 

For first, it is more difficult to translate the He 
brew of the Old Testament, than if that book were 
written in Syriac or Arabic, or some such other 
eastern language. Not that the holy tongue is 
much more difficult to be learned than others, but 
because in the other learned tongues we know there 
are commonly variety of books extant, whereby we 
may learn the various significations of words and 
phrases; whereas the pure Hebrew being unhappily 
lost, except so much of it as remains in the Old Testa 
ment, out of whose books alone we can but very 
imperfectly frame a dictionary and a language, 
there are many words, especially the "A;ra Xeyd- 
fjLtva, " those which occur but once," and those 
that occur but seldom, of which we know but that 
one signification, or those few acceptations wherein 
we find it used in those texts that we think we 
clearly understand : whereas if we consider the 
nature of the primitive tongue, whose words being 



not numerous, are most of them equivocal enough, 
and do many of them abound with strangely-dif 
ferent meanings ; and if we consider too how likely 
it is that the numerous conquests of David, and 
the wisdom, prosperity, fleets, and various com 
merces of his son Solomon did both enrich and 
spread the Hebrew language, it cannot but seem 
very probable, that the same word or phrase may 
have had divers other significations than interpre 
ters have taken notice of, or we are now aware of, 
since we find in the Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic, and 
other eastern tongues, that the Hebrew words and 
phrases (a little varied, according to the nature of 
those dialects) have other, and oftentimes very dif 
fering significations besides those that the modern 
interpreters of the Bible have ascribed to them. I 
say the modern, because the ancient versions be 
fore, or not long after our Saviour s time, and espe 
cially that which we vulgarly call the Septuagint, 
do frequently favour our conjecture, by rendering 
Hebrew words and phrases to senses very distant 
from those more received significations in our texts, 
when there appears no other so probable reason of 
their so rendering them, as their believing them 
capable of significations differing enough from 
those to which our later interpreters have thought 
fit to confine themselves. The use that I would 
make of this consideration may easily be conjec 
tured, namely, that it is probable that many of 
those texts whose expressions, as they are rendered 
in our translations, seem flat, or improper, or inco 
herent with the context, would appear much other 
wise, if we were acquainted with all the significa 
tions of words and phrases that were known in the 
times when the Hebrew language flourished, and 


the sacred books were written: it being very likely, 
that among those various significations some one 
or other would afford a better sense and a more 
significant and sinewy expression than we meet 
with in our translations, and perhaps would make 
such passages as seem flat or uncouth, appear elo 
quent and emphatical. Whilst I am writing this, 
our English tongue presents to my thoughts an ex 
ample which may seem to illustrate much of the 
foregoing consideration ; and it is this: that though, 
as one would easily believe, there are but a few 
forms of speaking which relate to the birth of in 
fants, yet there are five or six expressions concern 
ing that one affair, wherein very peculiar and un 
wonted notions belong to the words and phrases. 
For if I say that such a woman has looked every 
hour these ten days that yesterday she cried out 
that she had a quick and easy labour that last 
night she was brought a bed that now she lies in 
and that it is fit we should remember the lady in 
the straw; if, T say, I make use of any or all of 
these expressions, an Englishman would readily 
understand me ; but if I should literally and word 
for word translate them, I say not into Greek or 
Hebrew, but into the languages of our neighbour 
nations, French or Italian, men would not under 
stand what I mean : and if a discourse wherein they 
were employed were translated by an interpreter 
only acquainted with the genuine and more ob 
vious signification of the English .word, it would 
in such passages appear very disadvantageouslv, 
and perhaps be thought impertinent or nonsensical 
to a French or Italian reader. 

But this is not all ; for I consider, in the second 



place, that not only we have lost diverse of the sig 
nifications of many of the Hebrew words and 
phrases, but that we have also lost the means of 
acquainting ourselves with a multitude of particu 
lars relating to the topography, history, rites, 
opinions, factions, customs, &c. of the ancient Jews 
and neighbouring nations, without the knowledge 
of which we cannot, in the perusing of books of 
such antiquity as those of the Old Testament, and 
written by and principally for Jews, we cannot, I 
say, but lose very much of that esteem, delight, and 
relish with which we should read very many pas 
sages, if we discerned the references and allusions 
that are made in them to those stories, proverbs, 
opinions, &c. to which such passages may well be 
supposed to relate. And this conjecture will not I 
presume appear irrational, if you but consider how 
many of the handsomest passages in Juvenal, Per- 
sius, Martial, and divers other Latin writers (not 
to mention Hesiod, Musaeus, or other more ancient 
Greeks) are lost to such readers as are unacquaint 
ed with the Roman customs, government, and sto 
ries ; nay, or are not sufficiently informed of a great 
many particular circumstances relating to the con 
dition of those times, and of divers particular per 
sons pointed at in those poems ; and therefore it is 
that the latter critics have been fain to write com 
ments, or at least notes upon every page, and in 
some pages upon almost every line of those books, 
to enable the reader to discern the eloquence and 
relish the wit of the author. And if such diluci- 
dations be necessary to make us value writings 
that treat of familiar and secular affairs, and were 
written in an European language, and in times 


and countries much nearer to ours, how much do 
you think we must lose of the elegancy of the Book 
of Job, the Psalms of David, the Song of Solomon, 
and other sacred composures, which not only treat 
oftentimes of sublime and supernatural mysteries, 
but were written in very remote regions so many 
ages ago, amidst circumstances to most of which 
we cannot but be great strangers ? And thus 
much for my first general consideration. 

My second is this, that we should carefully dis 
tinguish betwixt what the Scripture itself says, 
and what is only said in the Scripture. For we 
must not look upon the Bible as an oration of God 
to men, or as a body of laws, like our English 
statute-book, wherein it is the legislator that all 
the way speaks to the people, but as a collection of 
composures of very differing sorts, and written at 
very distant times ; and of such composures, that 
though the holy men of God (as St. Peter calls 
them) were acted by the Holy Spirit, who both 
excited and assisted them in penning the Scrip 
ture, yet there are many others besides the author 
and the penmen introduced speaking there. For 
besides the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, 
Kings, Chronicles, the four Evangelists, the Acts of 
the Apostles, and other parts of Scripture, that are 
evidently historical, and wont to be so called, there 
are in the other books many passages that deserve 
the same name, and many others wherein, though 
they be not mere narratives of things done, many 
sayings and expressions are recorded that either 
belong not to the Author of the Scripture, or must 
be looked upon as such wherein his secretaries per 
sonate others. So that in a considerable part of 
the Scripture, not only prophets and kings and 


priests being introduced speaking; but soldiers, 
shepherds, and women, and such other sorts of per 
sons from whom witty or eloquent things are not 
(especially when they speak extempore) to be ex 
pected, it would be very injurious to impute to 
the Scripture any want of eloquence that may be 
noted in the expressions of others than its Author. 
For though not only in romances, but in many of 
those that pass for true histories, the supposed 
speakers may be observed to talk as well as the 
historian ; yet that is but either because the men 
so introduced were ambassadors, orators, generals, 
or other eminent men for parts as well as employ 
ments, or because the historian does, as it often 
happens, give himself the liberty to make speeches 
for them, and does not set down what indeed they 
said, but what he thought fit that such persons on 
such occasions should have said ; whereas the pen 
men of the Scripture, as one of them truly pro 
fesses, having not followed cunningly-devised fa 
bles in what they have written, have faithfully set 
down the sayings as well as actions they record, 
without making them rather congruous to the con 
ditions of the speakers than to the laws of truth. 

Nor is it only the style of very many passages of 
Scripture that may be justified by our second con 
sideration, but with the same distinction well ap 
plied, we may silence some of their malicious ca 
vils, who accuse the Scripture of teaching vice by 
the ungodly sayings and examples that are here 
and there to be met with in it. But as the apostle 
said, that they are not all Israel that are of Is 
rael ; so may we say, that all is not Scripture 

5 Rorn. ix. 6. 


that is in the Scripture : for many wicked persons 
and their perveter, Satan, are there introduced, 
whose sayings the Holy Ghost does not adopt, but 
barely registers; nor does the Scripture affirm 
that what they said was true, but that it is true 
they said it. And if I had not reduced some of 
these cavillers to confess that they never did them 
selves read those pieces of the Bible at some of 
whose passages they cavil, I should much more 
admire than I do to find them father, as confidently 
as they do, all they hear cited from it upon the 
enditer of it ; as if the devil s speeches were not 
recorded there, and as if it were requisite to make 
a history divinely inspired, that all the blasphemies 
and crimes it registers should be so too. As for the 
ills recorded in the Scripture, besides that wicked 
persons were necessary to exercise God s children, 
and illustrate his providence ; and besides the alle 
gations commonly made on that subject, we may 
consider that there being many things to be de 
clined as well as practised, it was fit we should be 
taught as well what to avoid as what to imitate; 
and the known rocks and shelves do as well guide 
the seamen as the pole-star. Now, as we could 
not be armed against the tempter s methods, if we 
ignored them ; so could we never safelier nor bet 
ter learn them than in his book, who can alone 
discover the wiles, and fathom the depths of Sa 
tan/ and track him through all his windings and 
otherwise untraceable labyrinths, and in that book 
where the antidote is exhibited with the poison, 
and either men s defeat or victory may teach us at 

1 Rev. ii. 24. 


others costs, and without our hazard, the true art 
of that warfare we are all so highly concerned in. 
And as chemists observe in the book of nature, that 
those simples that wear the figure or resemblance 
(by them termed signature) of a distempered part, 
are medicinal for that infirmity of that part whose 
signature they bear; so in God s other book, the 
vicious persons there mentioned still prove, under 
some notion or upon some score or other, antidotal 
against the vices notorious in them ; being, to pre 
sent it you also in a Scripture simile, like the brazen 
serpent in the wilderness, set up to cure the poison 
infused by those they resemble. Whatsoever 
things were written aforetimes, says the apostle, 
were written for our instruction. 1 And to make 
further use of our former comparison, those to whom 
the Scripture gives the names of lions, wolves, foxes, 
and other brutes, by God s assistance, prove to his 
saints as instructive beasts as doth the northern 
bear unto the wandering pilot; and as anciently, 
God fed his servant Elias sometimes by an angel, 
sometimes by a woman, and sometimes too by 
ravens ; so doth he make all persons in the Bible, 
whether good or bad or indifferent, supply his 
servants with that instruction which is the aliment 
of virtue and of souls, and makes them and their 
examples contribute to the verification of that pas 
sage of St. Paul, wherein he says that all things 
co-operate for good to them that love God. 8 

My third consideration is this, that the several 
books of the Bible were written chiefly and pri 
marily to those to whom they were first addressed, 

1 Rom. xv. 4. Ib. viii. 28. 


and to their contemporaries, and that yet the Bi 
ble, not being written for one age or people only, 
but for the whole people of God, consisting of per 
sons of all ages, nations, sexes, complexions, and 
conditions, it was fit it should be written in such 
a way as that none of all these might be quite ex 
cluded from the advantages designed them in it. 
Therefore were these sacred books so wisely as 
well as graciously tempered, that their variety so 
comprehends the several abilities and dispositions 
of men, that, as some pictures seem to have their 
eyes directly fixed on every one that looks on them 
from what part soever of the room he eyes them, 
there is scarce any frame of spirit a man can be of, 
or any condition he can be in, to which some pas 
sage of Scripture is not as patly applicable as if it 
were meant for him, or said to him, as Nathan 
once did to David, Thou art the man. 1 What 
has been thus observed touching God s design in 
the contrivance of the Scripture, may assist us to 
defend the style of a great multitude of its texts, 
and particularly of divers of those which belong 
to the five following kinds. 

And first, the several books that make up the 
canon the Scripture, being primarily designed for 
their use that lived in the times wherein they were 
divulged, it need be no wonder if each of them 
contain many things that principally concern the 
persons that then lived, and be accordingly w r ritten 
in such a way, that many of its passages allude 
and otherwise relate to particular times, places, 
persons, customs, opinions, stories, &c. which, by 

1 2 Sam. xii. 7- 


our formerly-mentioned want of a good account of 
such remote ages and regions, cannot afford us 
that instruction and satisfaction that those to whom 
such books were immediately addressed might 
easily derive from the perusal of them. 

Next, as some portions of Scripture were princi 
pally designed for ages very long since past, so 
some other parts of it, especially those that are 
yet prophetic, may probably respect future times 
much more than ours; and our posterity may ad 
mire what we cannot now relish, because we do 
not yet understand it. Moreover, there being many 
portions of Scripture, as almost the whole four last 
books of Moses, wherein God is introduced as either 
immediately or mediately giving laws to his peo 
ple or his worshippers, I suppose it will not be 
thought necessary that such parts of Scripture 
should be eloquently written, and that the supreme 
Legislator of the world, who reckons the greatest 
kings amongst his subjects, should in giving laws tie 
himself to those of rhetoric, the scrupulous obser 
vation of which would much derogate from those 
two qualities so considerable in laws, clearness and 

Besides, there being a sort of men, of which I 
hope the number will daily increase, who have such 
a desire as St. Peter tells us the angels themselves 
cherish, to look into the mysteries of religion, 1 and 
are qualified with elevated and comprehensive in 
tellects to apprehend them in some measure, it is 
not unfit that to exercise such men s abilities, and 
to reward their industry, there should be some ab- 

1 1 Pet. i. 12. 


struse texts of Scripture fitted to the capacities of 
sach speculative wits, and above the reach of vul 
gar apprehensions. 

And on the other side, the omniscient Author of 
the Scripture, foreseeing that it would follow, from 
the condition of mankind, that the greatest part of 
the members of the church would be no great 
clerks, and many of them very weak or illiterate, 
it was but suitable to his goodness that a great 
many other passages of the books designed for 
them as well as others, should be written in such 
a plain and familiar way as may befit such readers, 
and let them see that they were not forgotten or 
overlooked by him who says, by the prophet, that 
all souls are his. 1 And yet in many even of these 
texts which seem chiefly to have been designed 
to teach the simple, scholars themselves may find 
much to learn. For nol only there are some pas 
sages that contain milk for babes, and others that 
exhibit strong meat for riper stomachs, but often 
times (as cows afford both milk and beef) the same 
texts that babes may suck milk from, strong men 
may find strong meat in. The Scripture itself, in 
some sense fulfilling the promise made us in it, 
that habenti dabitur to him that hath shall be 
given, and being like a fire that serves most men 
but to warm and dry themselves, and dress their 
meat, but serves the skilful chemist to draw quint 
essences and make extracts. 

I doubt not but you are acquainted as well as I 
with divers querulous readers, who very boldly 
find fault with this variety wherein God hath 
thought fit to exhibit his truth and declare his will 

1 Ezek. xviii. 4. 


in Holy Writ, and presume to censure some texts 
as too mysterious, very many as too plain. But 
these exceptions at the economy of the Scrip 
ture do commonly proceed from their pride that 
make them ; for that vice inclining them to fancy 
that the Bible either was or ought to have been 
written purposely for them, prompts them to make 
exceptions suitable to such a presumption ; and 
whilst they look upon their own abilities as the 
measure of all discourses, to call all that transcends 
their apprehensions dark, and all that equals it 
not, trivial. They will be always finding fault with 
the Holy Ghost s expressions, both where his con 
descensions make them clear, and where the sub 
limity of the matter leaves them obscure ; like 
bats, whose tender eyes love neither day nor night, 
and are only pleased with (what is alone propor 
tioned to their weak sight) a twilight, that is both 
or neither. But as a skilful fowler, (and the com 
parison will be excused by those that remember 
that God, in Scripture, is said to be pressed as 
a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves, and the 
Son of man to be as a thief in the night, ) ac 
cording to the differing natures of his game, so 
contrives and appropriates his stratagems, that 
some he catches with light, as larks with day-nets ; 
some with baits, as pigeons with peas ; some with 
frights, as blackbirds with a sparrow-hawk or a 
low-bell ; and some he draws in with company, as 
ducks and such like sociable birds with decoy- 
fowl: so God, knowing that some persons must 
be wrought upon by reason, others allured by 
interest; some driven in by terror, and others 

1 Amos, xi. 13. 


again brought in by imitation, hath, by a rare 
and merciful, if I may so call it, suppleness of 
wisdom, so varied the heavenly doctrine into ra 
tiocinations, mysteries, promises, threats, and ex 
amples, that there is not any sort of people that 
in the Scripture may not find religion repre 
sented in that form they are most disposed to re 
ceive impressions from ; God therein graciously 
dealing with his children not unlike the prophet 
that shrunk himself into the proportion of the 
child he meant to revive. 1 The geniuses, the ca 
pacities, and the dispositions of men, are so dis 
tinct, and oftentimes so extravagant, that there is 
scarce a passage of Scripture that is not suitable or 
appropriate to some of those numberless differ 
ences of humour the Bible was designed for, and 
in that unimaginable variety of occurrences shared 
amongst such vast multitudes finds not a proper 
object. And therefore God who, having created 
them, best knows the frame of men s spirits, hav 
ing been pleased to match them with proper texts, 
I shall not quarrel with his vouchsafing to lisp 
mysteries to those that would be deterred by any 
other way of expressing them, and to qualify his 
instruments according to the natures he designs 
them to work upon, lest he should say to me, with 
the householder in the gospel, Is thine eye evil, be 
cause I am good ? And sure it must extremely 
misbecome us to repine at the greatness of God s 
condescensions, only upon the score of a know 
ledge or attainments that we owe to it. 

By reflecting upon the three foregoing general 

1 2 Kings, iv. 34. 


considerations, you will, I presume, easily perceive 
what it is that is pretended to in what I represent 
to you in the behalf of the style of the Scripture. 
For you will easily guess by what I have hitherto 
told you, I pretend not to prove or assert that 
every text of Scripture, especially in translations, 
is embellished with the ornaments of rhetoric, but 
only to show these two things : the one, that as 
there may be drawn from divers things in the 
Scripture itself (without excluding the style) con 
siderable arguments of its having been written or 
approved by men peculiarly assisted by the Spirit 
of God ; so, if a man be persuaded either by these 
intrinsic arguments (which I may in another paper 
evince to be no slight ones) or by any others, of 
the heavenly origination of the Scripture, if, I say, 
a man be persuaded of this, he ought not in reason 
by the style of these books to be kept from dili 
gently studying of them, and highly valuing them ; 
the other (which I add as one evincement of the 
former) is, that not only the Scripture is every 
where written with as much eloquence as the chief 
author (whose omniscience qualified him to judge 
best in the case) thought fit and expedient for his 
wise ends in publishing it, but that, as we now 
have the sacred books, especially in their originals, 
very many passages of them are so far from being 
destitute of what even our western nations count 
eloquence, that they deserve to be admired for it. 
And, Theophilus, if you please to keep in your eye 
what I have now told you concerning my scope in 
writing, and to bear in your memory the three 
general considerations I have premised, I shall 
need hereafter, as often as I have occasion to men- 


tion them, only to point at them, and thereby shall 
excuse you and myself from the unwelcome trouble 
of many times repeating the same things. 

To proceed then to the more particular objec 
tions against the Scripture. The first I shall con 
sider is, that it is obscure. And this I find alleged 
by two sorts of men to two differing purposes ; 
some endeavouring by it to disgrace the Bible, and 
others only making the pretendeil darkness of many 
of its passages an excuse for their not studying it. 

To the first sort of objectors I answer, that it is 
little less than inevitable that many passages of the 
Scripture should seem obscure to us, and that it is 
but fit that divers others should be so too. 

For first, the objectors, as I formerly observed, 
reading the Bible but in translations, are desti 
tute of those helps to understand the sense of 
many passages that may be afforded by skill in the 
original languages. Besides, that even to those 
that have taken pains to understand the original 
tongues, the genuine sense of divers words and 
phrases is denied by the injury of time, through 
which (as was already noted) a greater part of the 
Hebrew and Chaldean tongues have been lost. 

Secondly, many texts appear obscure to those 
that live in these latter times, only because that by 
reason of the perishing of those writings and other 
monuments of antiquity that were contemporary 
to the books of the Old Testament, we cannot be 
sufficiently acquainted with the history, the laws 
and customs of the Jews and other nations men 
tioned in the Scripture, so that it need be no won 
der if divers passages of the Books of Genesis, 
Joshua, Judges, Samuel, the Kings, Esther, and 


other historical books of the Scripture, as also of 
the four last books of Moses, are obscure to us, 
and yet might be very intelligible to those in 
whose times they were written, and for whose use 
they were principally designed. As although 
Lucius Florus would in many places appear very 
obscure to such readers as know nothing of the 
Roman affairs but by the account given of them in 
his writings (whence divers late critics have been 
invited to illustrate him out of other Latin authors,) 
yet questionless to the Roman readers that lived in 
his time, or not very long after, his book was easy 
enough to be understood. How much the want of 
other historians contemporary to the penmen of 
the Old Testament may make things seem obscure 
that might by such stories be easily cleared up, we 
may observe from divers passages of the New 
Testament, which can scarce be well-understood 
without an account of Herod s family, and the 
changes that happened about our Saviour s time in 
Judea, which was sometimes all of it governed by 
Herod the Great that massacred the children at 
Bethlehem, and sometimes was governed by Pilate 
and other Roman magistrates, and sometimes was 
so divided that it was as to some parts only go 
verned by Herod s descendants under various 
titles ; the want of the knowledge of which, and of 
the several princes that bore the name of Herod, 
does much puzzle many readers that are strangers 
to Josephus. And it seems somewhat . strange 
to many, that Christ should in St. Luke ad 
monish his hearers to fly out of Jerusalem and 
Judea, and not resort thither from the neighbouring 
countries, when they should see Jerusalem en- 


compassed with armies, 1 since those armies would 
probably hinder the counselled retirement, at 
least as to the city. Whereas he that finds in 
the story, that the Roman forces under Gratus did 
on a sudden, and, as good authors tell us, without 
any manifest cause withdraw from the siege of 
Jerusalem, and then return to it again, and, under 
Titus, carry the town by force ; he that shall read 
also in Euseb. lib. iii. cap. 5, that the Christians of 
Jerusalem did (divinely admonished) make use of 
the opportunity presented them to quit all of 
them the city and retire to Fella on the other side 
of Jordan ; he, I say, that shall read and take 
notice of all this, will notonly clearly understand the 
reasonableness of our Saviour s warning, but ad 
mire the prophetic spirit by which he could give 
it. And as it is difficult to collect out of the Old 
Testament alone the history of those times w herein 
it was written ; so it is not to be expected, that out 
of those books we should be able to collect and 
comprehend either complete ideas of the Israelitish 
government, civil and ecclesiastical, or the true 
state of their several sects, opinions and affairs in 
matters of religion : and yet without the know 
ledge of those it cannot be but that many texts 
will seem obscure to us, which were not at all so to 
them that were cocetaneous to the penmen of those 
books. The labours of some modern critics that 
have put themselves to the trouble of making a 
thorough search into the writings of those Jewish 
rabbies that lived about our Saviour s and his 
apostles times, have by the help of this rabinical 
learning already cleared up divers texts which 

1 Luke, xxi. 21, -22. 


priate office being, as itself tells us, to enlighten 
the eyes, and make wise the simple ; and it be 
ing written for the use of the whole people of God, 
whereof the greater number are no clerks, things 
are there expressed with an evidence proportion 
able to the degree of assent that they exact, and 
are as far forth intelligible to pious and industri 
ous readers as they are necessary to be understood 
by them; and we may not unfitly say of the un 
derstanding of those cloudy passages of Scripture, 
what I remember a father said of the sacrament, 
Non privatio sed contemptus damnat, " That not the 
wanting it, but the slighting it shall condemn 
men." It is our duty to study them, but it is not, 
always, to understand them. 

And as the knowledge of those texts that are 
obscure is not necessary, so those others whose 
sense is necessary to be understood are easy enough 
to be so ; and those are as much more numerous 
than the others, as more clear. Yes, there are 
shining passages enough in Scripture to light us 
the way to heaven, though some unobvious stars 
of that bright sphere cannot be discerned without 
the help of a telescope. Since God then has been 
pleased to provide sufficiently for our instruction, 
what reason have we to repine, if we have in a 
book, not designed for us alone, things provided 
also for those who are fitted for higher attainments ; 
especially since, if we be not wanting to ourselves, 
those passages that are so obscure as to teach us 
nothing else, may at least teach us humility ? 

Nor does it misbecome God s goodness any more 
than his wisdom, to have so tempered the canonical 

1 Psalm xix. 7, 8. 


books, as therein to leave all sorts of readers an ex 
ercise for their industry, and give even the greatest 
doctors continual inducements to implore his in 
structions, and depend on him for his irradiations, 
by leaving amongst many passages that stoop unto 
our weakness, some that may make us sensible of 
it. It should, methinks, be looked upon as the 
prerogative, not the disparagement of the Scrip 
tures, that the revelation of his truth vouchsafed 
us by Ciod in them is like a river, wherein a lamb 
may quench his thirst, and which an elephant can 
not exhaust. I should think him but an ill-na 
tured child who should be angry to see strong 
meat provided for his elder brothers, because he 
himself can yet digest nothing but milk; and as 
the same child, being grown up to riper years, 
would be then troubled, that according to his first 
envious wish there were no stronger aliment pro 
vided in the family than milk; so, when by the 
attentive and repeated perusal of the Scripture, 
a child in knowledge shall attain to some higher 
measure of skill in the Scriptures, he will then be 
well pleased to have his understanding exercised by 
those most mysterious texts, of which he formerly 
complained that they surpassed it. However, since 
there are so many plain passages of Scripture 
that clearly hold forth, not only all that is neces 
sary for us to know, but I fear much more than we 
are careful to learn and practise, the zealous 
Christian would no more decline feeding on this 
heavenly food, though all the hard places should 
still remain such to him, than the Jews would 
forbear to eat the paschal lamb, though not a 
bone of it were to be broken." And, in earnest, 

1 Exod. xii. 4(!. 


the time shall come ye may remember that I told 
you of them. 1 

Fourthly, it was fit that there should be some 
obscure passages left in the inspired volume, to 
keep those from the knowledge of some of those 
divine mysteries, that are both delightful and 
useful, though not absolutely necessary, who do 
not think such knowledge worth studying for. As 
it was also fit (which I partly noted above) that 
there should be some clouded and mysterious texts 
to excite and recompense the industry and specula 
tion of elevated wits and religious inquirers. 

Lastly, there are divers obscure passages in 
Scripture, wherein the difficulty lies in the thing 
itself that is expressed, not in the Scripture s man 
ner of expressing it. For not to mention that ob- 
scureness that is wont to attend prophetic raptures, 
(of which there are many mentioned in Scripture,) 
there are divers things that we agree to be knowable 
by the bare light of nature, without revelation, 
which yet are so uneasy to be satisfactorily under 
stood by our imperfect intellects, that let them be 
delivered in the clearest expressions men can de 
vise, the notions themselves will yet appear ob 
scure. Thus in natural philosophy itself, the na 
ture of place and time, the origin of motion, and 
the manner whereby the human soul performs her 
functions, are things which no writers delivered so 
clearly, as not to leave the things somewhat ob 
scure to inquisitive and examining readers. And 
shall we then wonder, that those texts of Scripture 
that treat of the nature and decrees of God, and of 
such sublime mysteries as the trinity, the incarna- 

1 John, xxvi. 4. 


tion, the influence of the Spirit upon the soul of 
man, and such other abstruse things, which it can 
not be reasonably expected that human words 
should keep from being hard to be comprehended 
by human understandings, should be obscure to us, 
especially if we suffer our not understanding their 
full meaning at first to deter us from endeavouring 
to find it out by further study ? I am sorry I can 
addon this occasion, that divers texts are made to 
appear more dark than otherwise they would, by 
the glosses and interpretations of some that pretend 
to expound them. For there are divers subtle men, 
who being persuaded upon certain metaphysical 
notions they are fond of, or by the authority of such 
either churches or persons as they highly reverence, 
that such or such niceties are either requisite to the 
explication of this or that doctrine delivered in 
Scripture, or at least deducible from it, will make 
bold so to interpret dark texts (and sometimes even 
clear ones) that they shall seem to hold forth not 
only their own sense, but the nice speculations or 
deductions of him that quotes them : so that divers 
texts, which to a rational and unprepossessed pe 
ruser would appear plain enough, seem to contain 
inextricable difficulties to those unwary or preju- 
dicate readers, who are not careful to distinguish 
betwixt the plain sense of a text itself, and those 
metaphysical subtleties which witty and interested 
persons would father upon it, though oftentimes 
those niceties are either so groundless, that though 
there needs much wit to devise them, there needs but 
a little reason to despise them ; or so unintelligible 
as to tempt a considering man to suspect that the 
proposers either mean not what they speak, or under 
stand not what they say. And I could wish these 


metaphysical quirks, with which several, not only 
schoolmen but other writers, have perplexed the 
doctrine of predestination, of the Trinity, of the 
operation of the Spirit of God upon the will of 
man, and some other mysteries of Christian reli 
gion, did not give advantages against those doc 
trines to the opposers of them, and perhaps make 
some men opposers who otherwise would not have 
been so. And I fear that too great an opportunity 
has been afforded to atheistical wits by the unin 
telligible fancies which many have made bold to 
add to what the Scripture has revealed concerning 
the eternity and infiniteness of God ; for whilst 
men indiscreetly and unskilfully twist together as 
integral parts of the same doctrine a revealed truth, 
with their own metaphysical speculations about it, 
though these be too often such as cannot be proved, 
or perhaps be so much as understood, they tempt 
such examining readers as are rational enough to 
discern the groundlessness of one part of the doc 
trine, to reject the whole for its sake. But I fear T 
have digressed : for my intention was only to inti 
mate, that it is not oftentimes so much what the 
Scripture says, as what some men persuade others 
it says, that makes it seem obscure ; and that as to 
some other passages that are so indeed, since it is 
the abstruseness of what is taught in them that 
makes them almost inevitably so ; it is little less 
saucy upon such a score to find fault with the style 
of the Scripture, than to do so with the Author for 
making us but men. 

Thus much being said by way of answer to the 
first sort of objectors of darkness against the Scrip 
ture, it is easy to foresee that the second sort of 
them may endeavour to pervert what has been 


delivered, to apologise for their neglect of the Scrip 
ture, by alleging, that albeit what has been repre 
sented may serve to show that the obscurity of the 
Scripture is justifiable, yet the very proving it 
needful or fit that it should be obscure, is a plain 
confession that it is so. Wherefore it is requisite 
that I now say something to this sort of objectors 
also, who are so unfavourable to the Scripture and 
themselves, as that, because they cannot understand 
all of it, they will not endeavour to learn any thing 
from it. I have already acknowledged it, and shall 
not now deny that (as heaven itself is not all stars) 
there may be parts of Scripture whose clear expo 
sitions shall ennoble and bless the remotest of suc 
ceeding ages, and that perhaps some mysteries are 
so obscure, that they are reserved to the illumina 
tion and blaze of the last and universal fire. 

But here it would be considered in the first 
place, that those texts that are so difficult to be 
understood, are not necessary to be so. In points 
fundamental and indispensably necessary, the 
darkness of Scripture is no less partial than of 
Egypt, which benighted only the enemies, but in 
volved not the people of God : in such articles as 
these, If the gospel be hid, it is hid to them that 
are lost, in whom the God of this world hath blind 
ed the minds; 1 at least, in relation to such truths 
as these, we may justly apply that of Moses, where 
he tells Israel, This commandment which 1 com 
mand thee this day, is not hidden from thee, nei 
ther is it far off. But the word is very near 
unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou 
mayest do it. * And surely the Bible s appro- 

1 2 Cor. iii. 4. * Deut. xxx. 1 1 , 12, 1 3, 1 4 . 


priate office being, as itself tells us, to enlighten 
the eyes, and make wise the simple ; and it be 
ing written for the use of the whole people of God, 
whereof the greater number are no clerks, things 
are there expressed with an evidence proportion 
able to the degree of assent that they exact, and 
are as far forth intelligible to pious and industri 
ous readers as they are necessary to be understood 
by them; and we may not unfitly say of the un 
derstanding of those cloudy passages of Scripture, 
what I remember a father said of the sacrament, 
Non privatio sed contemptus damnat, " That not the 
wanting it, but the slighting it shall condemn 
men." It is our duty to study them, but it is not, 
always, to understand them. 

And as the knowledge of those texts that are 
obscure is not necessary, so those others whose 
sense is necessary to be understood are easy enough 
to be so; and those are as much more numerous 
than the others, as more clear. Yes, there are 
shining passages enough in Scripture to light us 
the way to heaven, though some unobvious stars 
of that bright sphere cannot be discerned without 
the help of a telescope. Since God then has been 
pleased to provide sufficiently for our instruction, 
what reason have we to repine, if we have in a 
book, not designed for us alone, things provided 
also for those who are fitted for higher attainments; 
especially since, if we be not wanting to ourselves, 
those passages that are so obscure as to teach us 
nothing else, may at least teach us humility ? 

Nor does it misbecome God s goodness any more 
than his wisdom, to have so tempered the canonical 

1 Psalm xix. "], 8. 


books, as therein to leave all sorts of readers an ex 
ercise for their industry, and give even the greatest 
doctors continual inducements to implore his in 
structions, and depend on him for his irradiations, 
by leaving amongst many passages that stoop unto 
our weakness, some that may make us sensible of 
it. It should, methinks, be looked upon as the 
prerogative, not the disparagement of the Scrip 
tures, that the revelation of his truth vouchsafed 
us by God in them is like a river, wherein a lamb 
may quench his thirst, and which an elephant can 
not exhaust. I should think him but an ill-na 
tured child who should be angry to see strong 
meat provided for his elder brothers, because he 
himself can yet digest nothing but milk ; and as 
the same child, being grown up to riper years, 
would be then troubled, that according to his first 
envious wish there were no stronger aliment pro 
vided in the family than milk; so, when by the 
attentive and repeated perusal of the Scripture, 
a child in knowledge shall attain to some higher 
measure of skill in the Scriptures, he w ill then be 
well pleased to have his understanding exercised by 
those most mysterious texts, of which he formerly 
complained that they surpassed it. However, since 
there are so many plain passages of Scripture 
that clearly hold forth, not only all that is neces 
sary for us to know, but I fear much more than we 
are careful to learn and practise, the zealous 
Christian would no more decline feeding on this 
heavenly food, though all the hard places should 
still remain such to him, than the Jews would 
forbear to eat the paschal lamb, though not a 
bone of it were to be broken. And, in earnest, 

1 Exod. xii. 4(*. 


would not he merit unrelieved beggary, that should 
refuse the profit of a rich mine, because all those 
of the world are not yet discovered, nor those of 
the Indies exhausted ? 

Moreover, the pretended obscureness of the Bi 
ble is a mistaken discouragement from reading it ; 
for the frequency of reading it still lessens that 
obscurity, which, like a mist, seems thicker at a 
distance than when one enters it, and attempts a 
passage through it, which in our case many pious 
students have done so prosperously, as to find, by 
welcome experience, that what at a distance de 
terred them, was not intended to frustrate indus 
try, but punish laziness. 

Besides that the Scripture being avowedly the 
best expositor of itself, our ignorance of those places 
whose sense we seek for, makes us often occasion 
ally much knowinger, and more perfect in the 
meaning of all the rest ; and makes us too so much 
more ready in the uses of them, that I cannot but 
apply to this subject the fable of that dying hus 
bandman, who, by telling his sons of a hidden 
mass of wealth he had buried in a nameless place 
of his vineyard, occasioned their so sedulous delv 
ing all the ground, and turning up the earth about 
the roots of the vines, that they found indeed a 
treasure, though not in gold, in wine : for thus out 
of hope, by the light of understood Scriptures to 
penetrate the sense of the obscurer ones, we occa 
sionally so improve our knowledge and readiness in 
the clearer passages, that our by-acquists do richly 
recompense our frustrated, or rather unsucceeding, 
pains ; since our particular disappointments hin 
der not the promotion of our general design, which 
is a greater proficiency in spiritual knowledge, and 
therefore ought not to deter us from the duty of 


those searches, in which not only to discover is 
happy, but even the unsucceeding attempts are 
gainful, whatever the event be; the pains being sel 
dom fruitless, but reaching either their end or re- 
coin pence. And this prompts me to represent to 
you further, that not only the Scripture is instruc 
tive upon the same account with other theological 
writings, but that we may hope to improve our 
understandings by it upon this score, that it is 
also the instituted means, as well of knowledge as 
of grace, and appointed for our instruction by 
him who, as sin came into the world by man s 
listening to the words of the devil, is pleased to 
make restoring grace operate chiefly by our listen 
ing to the word of God, whether heard or read. 
Wherefore those whom the intuition of this en 
couragement invites to be diligent perusers of the 
Scripture, do to their infirm understandings, as 
the inhabitants of Gennesareth did to their sick 
and weak countrymen, lay them in Jesus s way, 
and consequently in that of recovery. 1 It is of, at 
least one of the darkest books of the Scripture, that 
it is said, Blessed is he that readeth, and they 
that hear the words of this prophecy. * The eu 
nuch, in the Acts, would, though upon the high 
way, needs read the prophet Isaiah ; and though, as 
appears by his question to Philip, as then he un 
derstood not what he read, yet did the Spirit take 
thence (perhaps a rise as well as) opportunity to 
reveal Christ unto him, and both satisfy him of 
the meaning of that prediction, and acquaint him 
with the fresh and happy accomplishment of it. 
And surely this consideration of the Bible s being 

1 Mark, vi. 50. * Rev. i. 3. 


one of the conduit-pipes through which God hath 
appointed to convey his truth as well as graces to 
his children, should methinks both hugely animate 
us to the searching of the Scriptures, and equally 
refresh us in it; for, as no instrument is weak in 
an omnipotent hand, so ought no means to be 
looked upon as more promising than that which 
is like to be prospered by grace, as it is devised 
by Omniscience. We may confidently expect 
God s blessing upon his own institutions, since 
we know, < that whatsoever we ask according to 
the will of God, he will give it us; 1 and we can 
scarce ask any thing more agreeable to the will of 
God, than the competent understanding of that 
book wherein his will is contained. 

The difficulty ought not to deter us from the 
duty of searching the Scriptures, the difficultest 
commands of God being a warrant to a believer s 
confidence of being enabled acceptably, though 
not exactly, to obey them ; which St. Peter seems 
to have known well in the theory, though he failed 
in the practice, when to be enabled to walk upon 
the sea, he desires only that our Saviour would 
please to command him to come to him upon the 
water. 2 The Bible is, indeed, amongst books what 
the diamond is amongst stones, the preciousest, 
and the sparklingest, the most apt to scatter light, 
and yet the solidest, and the most proper to make 
impressions; but were it as unsuitable to its end 
as it is the contrary, I should remember, that our 
Saviour could successively employ even clay and 
spittle to illuminate blind eyes : 3 and though I 
thought the Bible to be on other accounts no more 

1 J John, v. 14. * Matt. xi. 28. 3 John, ix. G. 


than equal to other books of morality and devotion, 
God s designation would make me study it more 
hopefully, by minding me of that of the Syrian 
leper, when he would needs have Abana and 
Parphar, rivers of Damascus, likely to be as medi 
cinal for his disease as Jordan, and vainly fancied 
that God s appointment could not put a difference 
betwixt things that knew no other. 1 

I know, that because of the intermixture of some 
obscurer texts of Scripture with the clear ones, 
there are divers well-meaning-, and even devout 
persons that leave the study of it for that of other 
books of religion, which, by leaving out all such 
difficulter matters seem to promise more of instruc 
tion : but notwithstanding this, I shall not much 
scruple to affirm, that as the moon, for all those 
darker parts we call her spots, gives us a much 
greater light than the stars that seem all luminous ; 
so will the Scripture, for all its obscure passages, 
afford the Christian and divine more light than 
the brightest human authors. 

To dispatch, since the Scripture is both a natu 
rally proper, and an instituted instrument to con 
vey revealed knowledge to the studiers of it ; 
and in it many clear passages may instruct ordi 
nary capacities, and its darker ones may either 
recompense more inquisitive wits or humble them; 
I see not, why the obscureness of a small part of 
it should deter any sort of pious persons from the 
perusal of the whole. And as the Word of God 
is termed a light, 2 so hath it this property of what 
it is called, that both the plainest rustics may, if 
they w ill not w ilfully shut their eyes, by the benefit 

2 Kings, v. 12. * Psal. cxix. 105; and Prcv. vi. 23. 


of its light direct their steps, and the deepest phi 
losophers may be exercised, if not posed and daz 
zled with its abstruser mysteries. For thus in the 
Scripture the ignorant may learn all requisite 
knowledge, and the most knowing may learn to 
discern their ignorance. 


To proceed now to the second objection against 
the style of Scripture: the seemingly disjointed 
method of that book is by many much cavilled at ; 
to which, were the supposal a truth, I might reply, 
that the book of grace doth but therein resemble 
the book of nature, wherein the stars (however 
astronomers have been pleased to form their con 
stellations) are not more nicely or methodically 
placed than the passages of Scripture : that where 
there is nothing but choice flowers, in what order 
soever you find them, they will make a good posy : 
that it became not the majesty of God to suffer 
himself to be fettered to human laws of method, 
which, devised only for our own narrow and low 
conceptions, would sometimes be improper for and 
injurious to his, who may well say, as he doth in 
the prophet, that his thoughts are so far from being 
ours, that As the heavens are higher than the 
earth, so are his thoughts higher than our 
thoughts : that as a mixture of ambergris and 
musk is more redolent than the single ingredients ; 
and as in compound medicines, (as mithridate and 
treacle,) the mixture gives the electuary a higher 
virtue than the severed drugs possessed ; so often- 

Isa. lv.8, 9. 


times in morality and divinity, a complication of 
precept and example, of rhetoric and mystery, may 
operate better than their distinction would. And 
sure we should judge that man a very captious crea 
ture, that should take exception at a proffered sum, 
only because the half-crowns, shillings, and six 
pences were not sorted in distinct heaps, but huddled 
into one. This, I say, with much more, might be re 
presented, were the Scripture series as destitute of 
method, as is pretended : but the truth is, that the 
method though it be not pedantically nice, is 
proper and excellent ; if the goodness of a method 
be to be judged less by the order of the sections 
than its being in order to the author s end, and 
never swerved from but upon sufficient ground, or 
for some mysterious purpose : the laws of order in 
the Scripture being rarely declined, but as the laws 
of nature are in the world, for man s instruction. 
The historical dislocations have their particular 
reasons, and, for the most part are accounted for 
by judicious expositors: and as for the frequent, 
and sometimes long, digressions, excepted against 
in the Epistles of St. Paul, were he a bare human 
writer, I should possibly attribute his frequent ex 
cursions to his fulness upon all subjects, not his 
want of skill to prosecute any one, and compare 
his pen to those generous horses, who, though 
never so well managed, will ever be jetting out 
on this or that side of the path, not out of undis- 
ciplinedness, but purely out of mettle : but looking 
upon St. Paul under another notion, I shall rather 
choose to tell you, that as rivers are said to run to 
the sea, though oftentimes the interposition of 
hard or rising grounds or other obstacles, force 
them to such winding meanders, that thev seem to 


retreat from the ocean they tend to ; which never 
theless with increased streams they afterwards bend 
again their intermitted course to, having watered 
and fertilized by their passage the grounds through 
which they seemed to wander ; so our apostle, 
though he direct his discourse to his main scope, 
may not only without declining it, but in order 
to it, for in some cases the wisdom of the proverb 
will inform us, that the longest way about is the 
nearest way home, seem for awhile to abandon it, 
by fetching a compass to answer some obvious or 
anticipate some tacit objection, and afterwards 
more prosperously resume his former considera 
tions, now strengthened by the defeat of the inter 
posing scruples, having, by the by, happily illus 
trated and enriched those subjects which his inci 
dental excursions led him occasionally to handle. 
I must add, that in St. Paul s, as in the rest of the 
inspired writings, the mere want of heeding the 
Holy Ghost s way of writing, makes the method 
appear to us at a very great disadvantage. For 
in the historical part of Scripture, when the 
order of time is interrupted, those ^podv^epa, TrpoX?/- 
^eig and tiravolvi, and such dislocations, are used 
oftentimes only to comply with the connexion of 
the matter ; and either dispatch all that belongs to 
the same long narrative at once, or else to join pas 
sages allied in some other circumstance, though 
severed in that of time ; and sometimes too, things 
are inserted which do not readily seem pertinent to 
the series of the discourse, but are extremely .so to 
some scope of the author, and afford much light 
and excellent hints to the reader. Sometimes the 
coherence, where it appears defective, may be very 
well made out by rendering Hebrew verbs (and 


some Greek aorists) in a preterplu perfect sense 
instead of a perfect ; or by some such other gram 
matical variation of the words, as all that under 
stand Hebrew well know to be allowed by the pro 
priety of that tongue, which ignores divers moods 
and tenses, &c. of our western languages. Some 
times that which seems incoherent to a discourse, 
serves really to prevent a foreseen (though perhaps 
not always obvious) probability of misapplication 
of it ; and so must not be judged impertinent to a 
doctrine which it hinders from being either scru 
pled at or abused. Sometimes the prophets, in the 
midst of the mention of particular mercies pro 
mised to, or judgments denounced against the 
people of God, sally out into pathetical excursions 
relating to the Messias, which seem extremely ab 
rupt and incoherent with the rest, to them that 
consider not how seasonable the mention of Christ 
maybe, both in the mention of the mercies of God, of 
which he is the foundation and pinnacle, the ground 
and consummation, (and the promise made of him, 
taught the faithful to reason thus with his apostle : 
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered 
him up for us all, how shall he not with him also 
freely give us all things ?") and amidst the threats 
of the judgments of God, in which he was his peo 
ple s grand consolation. Sometimes 6 ?<cu<mt\oe, 
the teacher, that bishop of our souls, 2 who was in the 
supreme degree of perfection, which St. Paul re 
quired of a bishop, CICUKTIKOS, both fit and forward 
to teach, 3 takes a rise from any invitation, either of 
a word, expression, or theme, though belonging to 

1 Rom. viii. 32. 2 2 Pet. ii. -Jr. 

3 1 Tim. iii. 2. 



his own first subject, to give further instructions, by 
digressing a little to that occasional and inter 
vening theme; which however it related to his 
matter, suited very well with his merciful inclina 
tions to instruct dim mortals. Sometimes, nay 
oftentimes, the inspired disconrsers seem to say 
things, not only incoherent, but contradictory; 
(as is very remarkable in divers of St. Paul s epis 
tles, where be seems to praise and dispraise the 
same persons ;) whereas addressing themselves to 
mixed assemblies, wherein (as Xoah and Ham in 
the ark, and the tares and the wheat in aujro domi- 
nico) there were both good and bad men, heretics, 
especially Gnostics, and orthodox Christians, they 
only so wisely dispensed and tempered their dis 
course, that both these sorts of persons might find 
something in what was in general terms delivered, 
to appropriate to themselves in particular, which 
application was necessarily left to their own con 
sciences to make. Sometimes the order n in 
Scripture much disturbed or injured by the omis 
sion or misplacing of a parenthesis. For there not 
being any in the Hebrew copies, nor (as it is 
thought) in the original Greek ones, the publishers 
of the several editions of the Bible, have placed 
parentheses as they have judged most convenient ; 
some including in them what others leave out of 
them ; and some making long ones where others 
make none at all ; and perhaps none of them have 
been so happy as to leave no room for alterations 
that may deserve the title of corrections tad amend 
ments. And sometimes too, the seeming immetho- 
dicalness of the New Testament, (not to determine 
any thing of the antiquity, which is certainly 


great, and the authority of the accents and parti 
tion of the Old Testament, because amongst very 
able critics adhm- nub judice Us ext) is due to the 
inconvenient distinction of chapters and \ 
now in use ; which though it be a very threat help 
to the memory, and be some other ways service 
able, yet being of no greater antiquity than its 
contriver, Stephanus, and being (though now of 
general use) but of private authority, and by him 
drawn up in haste, it will be perhaps no slander to 
that industrious promoter of heavenly learning, to 
say, he hath sometimes severed matters that should 
have been left united, and united others which 
more conveniently he might have severed, and that 
his lucky attempt ought not to lay any re-traint 
upon other learned men, from making use of the 
same liberty he took in altering the former parti 
tions (for of them I speak, not of the punctuation) 
oftheXew Testament, in altering his alterations 
to the best advantage of the sense or method. 7 he 
analytical works of some (I wish I could say many) 
judicious expositors and divines upon the Scrip 
ture, may sufficiently manifest its being generally 
reducible enough to a perspicuous order ; and that 
it conforms to the known laws of method, where its 
diviner one doth not transcend them. And it were 
not impossible for me to give divers instances to 
manifest, that as the north star, though it be le 1 - * 
luminous than many others, yet, by reason of its 
position, doth better guide the pilot than even the 
moon herself: so are there some texts in Scripture 
which, though less conspicuous in themselves, are, 
by reason of their relation to a context, more in 
structive than other more radiant passages, to 

L 2 


which these would be much inferior, if they were 
not as well considerable for their being there as 


Allied to their objection who find fault with the 
Scripture for being immethodical, is theirs who 
would fain persuade us, that it is seldom coherent, 
and scarce any where discursive. And I have ob 
served with trouble, that even some pious readers 
are easily tempted to look upon the Bible as 
barely a repository of sentences and clauses, where 
divine truths lie huddled, and not ranged, and are 
too ready to apply to its texts the title Nero gave 
Seneca s style, of arena sine calce : " sand without 
lime." Whereas an intelligent and attentive pe 
ruser may clearly enough discern, both that the 
prophets and apostles do make frequent deductions 
and inferences, and that their arguments, though 
not cast into mood and figure, are oftentimes as 
cogent as theirs that use to make syllogisms in 
Barbara. I frequently entertain myself with both 
those authors, and yet methinks St. Paul reasons 
as solidly and as acutely as Aristotle : and cer 
tainly, according to David s logic, He that planted 
the ear, shall he not hear ? he that framed the eye, 
shall he not see ? he that teacheth man knowledge, 
shall not he know ?" the first and grand Author 
of reason should as well know how to manage and 
disclose that faculty, as they that possess it but by 
participation, and glister so but with some few 

1 Psalm xciv. 7, 10. 


condescending 1 beams, vouchsafed by that bright 
sun, who is indeed the Father of lights, from 
which each good and perfect gift descends. 1 But 
on this occasion to point at a few particulars, I 

1. That some ratiocinations of Scriptures remain 
undiscerned or misunderstood, because of our un- 
acquaintedness with the figurative, and oftentimes, 
abrupt way of arguing usual amongst the eastern 
people, who in their arguments used to leave much 
to the discretion and collection of those they dealt 
with, and discoursed at a wide distance from the 
logical forms of our European schools, as to per 
sons versed in their writings cannot but be noto 

2. That the seeming incoherency of many ratio 
cinations proceeds purely from the misrendering of 
the original particles, especially of the Hebrew 
conjunction copulative van, or vnf, (as it is diversely 
pronounced by the Jews, of whom I shall here ad 
vertise you once for all, that they have confessed to 
me, they differ in pronouncing Hebrew, not only 
from the Christians, but exceedingly from one ano 
ther,) for there is hardly any of those particles that 
hath not, besides the obvious, various other signifi 
cations, of which, if that were skilfully and freely in 
every text taken up that would there afford the best 
sense, the Scripture would, I am confident, appear 
much more coherent and argumentative than transla 
tions or expositors are wont to make it: and though I 
did but consider how many thousand times the 
particle vaf is used in the Scripture, and that it doth 
not only (though it do primarily) signify " and," 

1 James, i. 17- 


but hath also (I speak within compass) four or five 
and twenty other significations (as "that," "but," 
" or," " so," " when," " therefore," " yet," " then," 
" because," " now," " as," " though," &c. and that 
the sense only gives it this great diversity of accep 
tations ; I cannot but think that if we always al 
lowed ourselves an equal freedom in rendering it, 
where the motive (which is the exigency or conve- 
niency of the sense) is the same, the dexterous use 
and rendering of that one particle, would make no 
small number of texts both better understood and 
more esteemed. 

3. That sometimes, (especially in Solomon s and 
St. Paul s writings,) in many passages so penned 
as to contain (like Seneca s) a tacit kind of dia 
logue, that is unskilfully by readers, and even in 
terpreters, taken for an argument or an assertion 
which is indeed an objection. And that such a 
mistake must mightily discompose the contexture 
of a discourse, even a raw logician need not be 

4. That the omission or misplacing of paren 
theses (which the Hebrew text altogether wanting, 
interpreters have supplied and used at their own 
discretion) makes the Scripture oftentimes appear 
less discursive, as well as (what we elsewhere com 
plain of) less methodical. And the like may be 
said of the points of interrogation. For whether it 
be true or no what the critics esteem, that in the 
original Greek copies of the New Testament there 
were no such points, (as indeed I have found them 
wanting in the ancientest manuscripts I have seen,) 
it is certain that in our modern copies, both Greek 
and translated, the authors of several editions have 
variously placed them as themselves thought fit; 


ana tnough instead of the interrogative point, the 
Hebrews make use of their interrogative he ; yet that 
the sense of the words, and a certain supposed mo 
dulation, do oftentimes make an interrogation 
where that he is wanting, an Hebrician can scarcely 
ignore, no more than a logician, that the interro 
gation is not always supplied to the best advantage 
of the Scripture s logic. 

5. That the apostles and other inspired discour- 
sers in the Bible, divers times use arguments, not 
to convince opposers. but to confirm believers: 
for the persons they reason with being such, often 
times, as esteem them teachers sent from God, 
upon whose score all they teach exacts belief, they 
may without irrationality use arguments to confirm 
in their doctrine men already acquiescing in the 
principles of it, and persuaded of their integrity, 
sufficiency, and authority, that it would be impro 
per to urge against a refractory disbeliever, that is 
convinced of none of these. And as masters often 
use in instructing their scholars, arguments they 
would forbear to insist on against a professed anta 
gonist; so the apostles, dealing with those that 
thought them inspired teachers, and fully instructed 
in the mysteries of Scripture and the designed dis 
pensations of God, might justly draw inferences 
not to be urged against an infidel, from a doctrine 
first delivered by themselves, or from a text or pas 
sage wherein those they reasoned with justly sup 
posed they might know more of the mind and 
counsel of God than other men, and would teach 
nothing as such that was not so. 

fi. That arguments exquisite and (as artists term 
them) apodictical had been oftentimes less proper 
in discourses, which being addressed to popular 


auditories, required rather popular arguments ; 
which the inspired discourses employ, but as 
likely to be better understood, and more preva 
lent than those which are so logical that they re 
quire logicians to relish them. Where teaching 
and persuading is the design, not only the native 
cogency of a ratiocination is to be considered, but 
its proportion to their spirits it is addressed to, and 
its aptitude to work upon them. For as a spider 
will catch flies better than a hawk can, as a cat is 
more fit to destroy mice than a greyhound, though 
this be stronger and swifter ; and as the crowing 
of a cock will (according to famous naturalists) 
sooner fright a lion than the bellowing of a bull, 
though the latter be much the more terrifying 
noise, and proceed from the more formidable ani 
mal ; so oftentimes weaker and popular arguments 
succeed better with a resembling auditory than the 
irrefragablest syllogisms. 

7. That divers Scripture arguments do not logi 
cally and cogently prove the thing they would per 
suade, merely because they were meant only for what 
logicians call argumenta ad homiei ; (reasonings 
designed not so properly to demonstrate the opi 
nion they contend for, irrelatively and abstractedly 
considered, as to convince of the truth of that opi 
nion the persons they are addressed to ;) and conse 
quently the inspired discoursers arguing e concessis, 
from principles conceded and confessed by those 
they reason with, though the principles should be 
unsolid, the ratiocination is not. Thus there are 
divers texts of the Old Testament applied to Christ 
in the New, which, though they did not now inevi 
tably conclude against the present Jews, were with 
out any illogicalness employed against their ances- 


tors, because then the relation of those passages to 
the Messias was so acknowledged, that there 
needed but the pertinent applications made of 
them in the New Testament ; whereas the refrac 
toriness of the succeeding Jews hath taught them 
to devise so many sophistical evasions to elude the 
texts we speak of, that they now dispute not only 
the application of them, but the explication too. 
St. Jude argues with the rodomonts of his time, 
out of the story of the archangels and the devil s 
contest about the body of Moses ; and though per 
haps that story be (like the Jewish book whence it 
seems not improbable it was taken) somewhat apo 
cryphal, yet as long as they reverenced it, it was 
not irrational in him to urge them with it, and em 
ploy it to the redargution of their insolence. And 
as although there be nothing less solid and more 
fickle than the wind, yet the skilful pilot diligently 
observes it, and makes it drive on his ship more 
forcibly than the powerfulest and best contrived 
engines in the world could : so though there be 
scarce any thing more groundless and unstable 
than popular opinions and persuasions, yet a wise 
teacher neglects them not, and may sometimes 
make such use of them, as to draw thence argu 
ments more operative than the accuratest syllo 
gisms logic could devise. And indeed the most 
convincing proofs of assertions being ever afforded 
by the mediums wherein both parties agree, not 
only Socrates in Plato s Dialogues, but dexterous 
discoursers generally have often elected the drawing 
of inferences from the opinions and concessions of 
those they dealt with, as the most persuasive and 
successful way of arguing, to all which I shall 


8. That another thing which very generally 
keeps men from discerning 1 the reasonings, and 
consequently oftentimes the reasonableness and 
true sense, of Scripture texts is, the shyness of 
divines to let the context and the speaker s scope 
regulate their choice amongst all the various, 
though not equally obvious, significations of am 
biguous words and phrases. It is not that, as far 
as I have observed, men almost of all religions 
are not wont to make bold with, and perhaps for a 
need to strain or wrest, phrases and words of Scrip 
ture, when the giving them less usual notions may 
fit them to serve their turns ; but the mischief is, 
that they decline the commonest acceptations, but 
to make the texts they quit them in symphonise 
with their tenets, not with their neighbouring 
texts. It were, methinks, impartialler, if the fre 
quenter meaning of an expression be to be waved, 
as oftentimes it must, for one less current, to 
do this to make the Scripture coherent or discur 
sive : and then, for our opinions, rather to conform 
them to the sense of the Scripture than wrest the 
words of Scripture to them. But perhaps this im 
partiality would silence too many of our clamor 
ous controversies, by showing some to be ground 
less and others undeterminable, to be likely to take 
place in the heated spirits of men ; some of whom, 
I fear, whilst their feuds and fierceness last, would 
be willinger to have the texts of Scripture loose 
stones, which they may more easily throw at their 
adversaries, than built up into a structure, wherein 
they must lose that convenience, (it being difficult 
to pluck stones out of a building,) though reason 
herself were the architect. 

But to leave these eager disputants to their ani- 


mosities, we shall again repeat, that the Bible loses 
much by not being considered as a system. For 
though many other books are comparable to cloth, 
in which by a small pattern \ve may safely judge 
of the whole piece, yet the Bible is like a fair suit 
of arras, of which though a shred may assure you 
of the fineness of the colours and richness of the 
stuff, yet the hangings never appear to their true 
ads-iintnge, but when they are displayed to their 
full dimensions, and seen together. 

These things, Theophilus, among many others, 
may be represented on the behalf of the Scripture, 
against those who will needs censure it as a collec 
tion, not to say a heap, of immethodical and inco 
herent passages. But lest you should suspect me 
of partiality, I shall ingenuously confess to you, 
that there are some tilings in the economy of 
Scripture, that do somewhat distress my reason to 
rind a satisfactory account of ; and that there are 
very few things wherein my curiosity is more con 
cerned, and would more welcome a resolution 
in. But when I remember how many things I 
once thought incoherent, in which I now think 
I discern a close, though mystic, connexion ; when 
I reflect on the Author and the ends of the Scrip 
ture, and when I allow myself to imagine how ex 
quisite a symmetry, though as yet undiscerned by 
me, Omniscience doth, and after ages probably will 
discover in the Scriptures method, in spite of those 
seeming discomposures that now puzzle me ; when 
J think upon all this, I say, I think it just to check 
my forward thoughts, that would either presume 
to know all the recluse ends of Omniscience, or 
peremptorily judge of the fitness of means to ends 
unknown; and am reduced to think that economy 


the wisest, that is chosen by a wisdom so bound 
less that it can at once survey all expedients, and 
so unbiassed that it hath no interest to choose any 
but for its being fittest. I shall annex, that I think 
those must derogate hugely from the Scripture, 
who only consider the sense of the particular 
sections, or even books of it : for, I conceive that, 
as in a lovely face, though the eye, the nose, 
the lips, and the other parts singly looked on may 
beget delight and deserve praise, yet the whole 
face must necessarily lose much by not being seen 
all together ; so, though the severed leaves and por 
tions of Scripture do irrelatively and in themselves 
sufficiently betray and evidence their own heavenly 
extraction, yet he that shall attentively survey that 
whole body of canonical writings we now call the 
Bible, and shall judiciously in their system com 
pare and confer them to each other, may discern 
upon the whole matter so admirable a contexture 
and disposition, as may manifest that book to be 
the work of the same wisdom that so accurately 
composed the book of nature, and so divinely con 
trived this vast fabric of the world. The books of 
Scripture illustrate and expound each other ; Ge 
nesis and the Apocalypse are in some things reci 
procal commentaries; as in trigonometry the dis- 
tantest side and angle use best to help us to the 
knowledge one of the other; and as in the 
mariner s compass, the needle s extremity, though 
it seem to point purposely but at the north, doth 
yet at the same time discover both east and west, 
as distant as they are from it, and from each 
other : so do some texts of Scripture guide us to 
the intelligence of others, from which they are 
widely distant in the Bible, and seem so in the sense. 


It is as high as pious a satisfaction to observe how 
the sacred penmen supply each other s omissions, 
(as is very observable in the four Evangelist s men 
tion of the genealogy of Christ,) accord ing to God s 
degrees and seasons in dispensing the knowledge 
of his truths and mysteries in the several ages of 
the church ; (to which he at first vouchsafed but 
a light shining in a dark place until the day 
dawn, 1 and to winch these mutual irradiations and 
secret references persuade, that all these reputed 
authors had their pens guided by an omniscient 
hand, and were but the several secretaries of the 
same enditer,) and to find in writers severed by so 
many ages and regions, a harmony whose disso 
nances serve but to manifest the sincerity and un- 
conspiringness of the writers. And truly for my part 
I am professedly enough an impartialist, not to 
stick to confess to you, Theophilus, that I read 
the Bible and the learnedest expositors on it, with 
somewhat particular aims and dispositions. For 
besides that I come not to them with a crowd of 
articles which I am there resolved to find or make 
arguments to defend, with the overthrow of all 
antagonists, esteeming it less safe to carry my opi 
nions to the Scriptures than to take them up 
there : besides this, I say, though I neglect not 
those clear passages or arguments that may esta 
blish the doctrine of that church I most adhere to, 
yet I am much less busied and concerned to col 
lect those subtle glosses or inferences that can but 
enable me to serve one subdivision of Christians 
against another, than heedfully to make such ob 
servations, as may solidly justify to my own 

1 2 Pet. i. It). 


thoughts, and improve in them, a reverence for the 
Scripture itself, and Christianity in general : such 
observations as may disclose to me in the Bible, 
and the grand articles clearly delivered in it, a 
majesty and an excellency becoming God himself, 
and transcending any other author ; and such ob 
servations, (to dispatch,) as may unveil tome in the 
Scripture, and what it treats of, that TroAvTronaXos 
aofyia TB 8eS, manifold wisdom of God," which 
even the angels learn by the church. These are, 
I confess, the things, as to speculative divinity, 
that I gladliest meet with, and take the heed fullest 
notice of, in the writings of divines, of whatsoever 
religion, that owns the Scripture, for in this I am 
almost equally gratified by the abler expositors of 
all dissenting sects; for I can scarce think any 
pains mispent that brings me in solid evidences of 
that great truth, that the Scripture is the Word of 
God, which is, indeed, the grand fundamental ; 
all other articles generally thought so, being, if 
truths, better deducible from this one, than this 
from any of them. And I use the Scripture, not 
as an arsenal, to be resorted to only for arms and 
weapons to defend this party, or defeat its enemies, 
but as a matchless temple, where I delight to be, 
to contemplate the beauty, the symmetry, and the 
magnificence of the structure, and to increase my 
awe and excite my devotion to the Deity there 
preached and adored. 


The apostle of the Gentiles teaching us that the 
whole Scripture, for so I should rather English the 

1 Ephes. iii. 10. 


is Stowvtwtoc, divinely inspired, and 
is profitable for doctrine, for conviction, for correc 
tion, for instruction in righteousness; that the man 
of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto 
all good works; 1 and the apostle of the circumci 
sion assuring us that, Prophecy came not in old 
time by the will of man, but holy men of God 
spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; * 
ve are not to believe that so divine an enditer, by 
secretaries, most of them conspicuous by the gifts 
of prophecy or miracles, would solemnly publish to 
the world and for his church, any thing that ought 
indeed to be accounted impertinent or useless. 
And yet of these qualities, some persons, more bold 
than learned and considerate, are pleased to im 
peach many passages ol Scripture. But truly that 
God who was so precisely exact in the dimensions, 
proportions, and all other circumstances of the an 
cient tabernacle, though it were but a typical and 
temporary structure, ought to be supposed at least 
as careful to let nothing superfluous intrude into 
those volumes, which being consigned to the 
church for the perpetual use and instruction of it, 
must contain nothing unconducive to those designs, 
the least text in it being as contributory to the com 
pleting of the Bible, as every loop or pin was to the 
perfection of the tabernacle. God, by so great a 
condescension to the weakness of our capacities 
and memories, as the withholding from the canon 
so many w ritings of Solomon, and so many of the 
oracles and miracles of our Saviour ; and by so 
strangely preserving the whole Scripture, (for the 
books pretended to be lost, though written by 

1 2 Tim. iii. 15, 16. - 2 Pet. i. 21. 


never so holy men, are either in our Bibles extant 
under other names, or cannot be demonstrated to 
have ever been canonical ; that is, entrusted with 
the church as the infallible rule of faith and life,) 
does, methinks, abundantly evince his design of in- 
chasing nothing there that hath no tendency to his 
people s instruction. Were not my discourse con 
fined by my occasions and the fear of distressing 
your patience, to somewhat narrow limits, I could 
easily by several instances of texts, seemingly use 
less, show how much men have been mistaken in 
imagining them such. Many passages that at the 
first or second reading I could find or guess no 
uses of, at the third or fourth I have discovered so 
pregnant in them, that I almost equally admired 
the richness of those texts, and my not discerning 
it sooner. A superficial and cursory perusal pre 
sents us many things as trivial or superfluous, 
which a perspicacious reflection discloses to be 
mysterious. And of so precious a quality is the 
knowledge of Scripture, that no one part of it 
ought to be esteemed useless, if it may but facili 
tate or improve the understanding of any other : 
divine truths being of that worth, that the know 
ledge and acquist of a few of them as much 
outvalues a greater knowledge of other things, as a 
jeweller s skill and stock is preferred before a ma 
son s. And I consider here, that as the Bible was 
not written for any one particular time or people, 
but for the whole church militant diffused through 
all nations and ages ; as many passages (as those 
opposed to the Zabian s magical rites) have at first 
been necessary for the Jews, which lose the degree, 
at least, of that quality for us ; so there are many 
others very useful which will not perhaps be found 


so these many ages ; being possibly reserved, by 
the prophetic Spirit that endited them, (and whose 
omniscience comprises and unites in one prospect 
all times and all events,) to quell some future Core- 
seen heresy, which will not perhaps be born till 
we be dead, or resolve some yet unformed doubt, 
or confound some error that hath not yet a name : 
so that all the parts of Scripture are useful in 
some ages, and some in all. We read in the 
gospel, that at the first institution of the eucharist, it 
was expressly said to the disciples concerning the 
sacramental wine, Drink ye all of it, whereas 
upon the exhibition of the bread the particle all 
is omitted. 2 This difference, it is like, the primi 
tive Christians marvelled at, and discerning no 
reason for it, might be tempted to think the pas 
sage useless or superfluous ; but we that live in an 
age wherein the cup is denied to much the greater 
part of the communicants, are invited not only to 
absolve the recording of this particularity, but to 
admire it. The ceremonial law, with all its mystic 
rites, (which, like the manger to the shepherds, 
holds forth, wrapped in his swathing-clothes, the 
infant Jesus, 3 ) to many that bestow the reading on 
it, seems scarce worth it ; yet what use the apostles 
made of it with the Jews, and how necessary the 
knowledge of it is yet to us, in our controversies 
with them, he that is any thing versed in them 
cannot ignore. And let me tell you, Theophilus, 
that those fundamental controversies are both more 
necessary and more worthy a wise man s study, 
than most of those comparatively trifling ones that 

1 Math. xxvi. 27. 2 Mark, xiv. 23. 

3 Luke, ii. 



at present so miserably (not to say causelessly) dis 
tract Christendom. How many passages of the 
prophets, by lazy readers, are thought to have 
no use, which, as the star did the wise men, 1 lead 
the attentive considerers to Christ; and so loudly 
and harmoniously, together with Moses s typic 
shades, utter those words of the Baptist, Behold 
the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the 
world/ 2 that I meet with numerous passages in the 
New Testament, to which I cannot but apply what 
St. Matthew notes upon his narrative of our Sa 
viour s apprehension, All this was done that the 
Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled ; 3 or 
rather, now all this was so done that they were ful 
filled ; (for so oftentimes the context commands us 
to render the ha in these citations;) and which 
recal to my mind the history of the transfigura 
tion ; for as there the apostles at first saw Moses 
and Elias talking with Jesus, but at the second 
view (when the cloud was withdrawn, and he had 
spoken to them) saw none but Jesus only; 4 so 
such passages as I am speaking- of, in the law, the 
prophets, and the gospel, at first survey appear 
very distinct things, but upon a second inspection, 
and the access of more light from an attentive col 
lation of things, they do all, as it were, vanish into 
Christ; of whom (to use an apostle s terms) 
Moses in the law, and the prophets did write; 5 
and at whom those types and those predictions 
pointed. Those instances of the Old Testament, of 
the confused or dislocated mention of known pedi 
grees and stories, were possibly useless, and even 

Matt. ii. 9 John, i. 29. 3 Matt. xxvi. 56. 

* Matt. xvii. 3, 8. 5 John, i. 55. 


troublesome to the ancient Jews, but serve us ex 
tremely to silence the cavils of the modern ones, 
when they would invalidate the New Testament s 
authority ; because in St. Stephen s narrative, and 
some of the Evangelist s genealogies, the Holy 
Ghost is pleased to employ in the New Testament 
that obscure strain he had often used in the Old : 
and sure as insultingly as the Jews use to urge 
against us objections of that nature, I could readily 
retaliate and repay them in the same coin, were 
there no common enemy that might be advantaged 
by our quarrel, and employ cither s arguments 
against both. And as there are divers prophetical 
passages in the Revelation, which we know as little 
the use as meaning of, which yet doubtlessly our 
posterity will not find barren, when once the ac 
complishment shall have proved the expositor of 
those predictions, whose event will (if it do no 
thing else) attest the omniscience of their inspirer : 
so possibly, of many Mosaic constitutions, whereof 
we Christians find excellent uses, most of the old 
Jews scarce knew any ; at least my conversation 
with our modern rabbies shows me that they, 
whilst they obstinately decline referring them to 
the Messias, can scarce make any more of the in 
spired and mysterious laws of Moses (except those 
that relate to the Zahian superstition ; with which, 
too, most of their doctors are as unacquainted as 
ours) than the Egyptians or Gymnosophists could 
of their sacrifices and other ritual devotions. 

It is not that I think all the books that consti 
tute the Bible, of equal necessity or equal useful 
ness, because they are of equal extraction ; or that 
I esteem the church would lose as much in the 
prophecy of Xahum, as that of Isaiah; or in the 

M 2 


Book of Ruth, as in the Epistle to the Romans, or 
the Gospel of John ; as the fixed stars themselves, 
though of the same heaven, are not all of the same 
magnitude and lustre : but I esteem all the consti 
tuent books of Scripture necessary to the canon of 
it ; as two eyes, two ears, and the rest of the mem 
bers are all necessary to the body ; without divers 
of which it may be, but not be so perfect, and 
which are all of great, though not of equal useful 
ness. And perhaps it might without too much 
hyperbole be said yet further ; that as amongst the 
stars that shine in the firmament, though there be 
a disparity of greatness compared to one another, 
yet they are all of them lucid and celestial bodies, 
and the least of them far vaster than any thing on 
earth ; so of the two Testaments that compose the 
Bible, though there may be some disparity in re 
lation to themselves, yet are they both, heavenly 
and instructive volumes, and inestimably out 
valuing any the earth affords, or human pens ever 
traced. And J must add, that as mineralists ob 
serve, that rich mines are wont to lie hid in those 
grounds whose surface bears no fruit-trees, (too 
much maligned by the arsenical and resembling 
fumes,) nor is well stored with useful plants or 
verdure, as if God would endear those ill-favoured 
lands by giving them great portions ; so divers 
passages of Holy Writ, which appear barren and 
unpromising to our first survey, and hold not ob 
viously forth instructions or promises, being by a 
sedulous artist searched into, (and the original 
word ipevrav, used in that text of search the 
Scriptures, 1 does properly enough signify the 

1 John v. 39. 


searching for hid treasure,) afford out of their pene 
trated bowels, rich and precious mysteries of 


The next thing imputed to the Scripture is, that 
it contains many things trivial or impertinent: 
and it is not impossible, but that some things may 
seem so, though they are not : of this sort are dis 
jointed speeches and abrupt transitions observed 
in many of our Saviour s discourses ; in which also 
we sometimes read him to have answered, without 
being asked the question, (though that be otherwise 
salvable by a critic,) and sometimes to have an 
swered to a quite other question than that he was 
asked. But this is not to bethought an absurdity, 
but an excellency in the replies of Christ, who 
possessing the prerogative of discerning hearts, 
did preach after that rate : his oratory took a 
shorter way than ours can follow it in : he prose 
cuted his designs by altering his discourses, ami 
wisely measured the fitness of his heavenly ser 
mons, by their relation to his end, not his theme. 
For as he knew his hearers thoughts, he addressed 
himself to them, and reaching them in their ear 
liest formation, and as it were, their first cradle, 
before they had leisure to pass into the tongue, he 
not more convinced his auditory by answering 
their thoughts, than by thus manifesting that he 
knew them. Of his so much undervalued para 
bles, some, if not most, do, like those oysters that 
besides the meat they afford us, contain pearls, 
not only include excellent moralities, but comprise 
important prophecies. The parable of the preg- 


nant grain of mustard -seed that so suddenly grew 
to so large a plant, was a now fulfilled predic 
tion of the admirably swift progress of the Gospel, 
which from despicable beginnings, soon prospered 
to a height that rendered it almost as fit an object 
for wonder as for faith. That other parable of the 
treacherous husbandmen, clearly foretold Christ s 
death by the Jews malice, and their destruction 
for it.* And I despair not to see unheeded pro 
phecies disclosed in others of them, especially 
being informed that there is a critic, Monsieur A. B. 
now at work upon a design of manifesting many 
otherwise interpreted passages of the New Tes 
tament to be prophecies, of whom no less than the 
famousest of the modern rabbies, Menasse Ben- 
Israel, (one time I made him a visit at his own 
house in Amsterdam,) gave me this character, that 
he took him for the ablest person of the Christians. 
Those historical circumstances quarrelled with in 
Christ s parables are like the feathers that wing 
our arrows, which though they pierce not like the 
head, but seem slight things, and of a differing 
matter from the rest, are yet requisite to make the 
shaft to pierce, and do both convey it to and pene 
trate the mark. But nothing is thought more im 
pertinent in Scripture than the frequent repetitions. 
But the learned need not to be told, that many 
things seem to the ignorant bare repetitions, which 
yet ever bring along with them some light or some 
accession : in that comparable to the stars, which 
as like as they seem to vulgar gazers, are by the 
skilful astrologer taught to contain, under that 

1 Matt. xiii. 31, 32. * Matt. xxi. 33. 


colour and figure common to them all, very pecu 
liar and distinct influences. I here also consider, 
that in all languages there are some customary 
geminations and expressions, which, though to 
strangers they appear superfluous, if not absurd ; 
to the natives, and in the propriety of that speech, 
are not only current but oftentimes emphatical. 
I find withal, that there is scarce any of these 
seeming impertinencies, of which a learned and 
judicious expositor cannot assign a pertinent cause 
or reason. And T consider, too, that the books of 
Scripture being endited, not all at once, but at 
very several and distant times; according to the 
known saying, that .Vunquam sails docclur quod 
nunqiiam satis discitur, Nothing can be suffi 
ciently taught which is not sufficiently learned ; 
the repetition of the same sins and errors, required 
that of the same menaces and dissuasions, whose 
frequent enforcing, serving both to attest and to 
convince the sinner s obstinacy, was not a bare re 
peating, but such a redoubling as we are fain to 
use to drive in a nail to the head ; and the words 
of the wise are, in the wise man s words, As nails 
fastened by the masters of assemblies, where though 
in all the renewed strokes the busy hammer gives, 
the act be still the same, yet is no blow su 
perfluous, the number of them serving to com 
plete their operation. They that in perusing 
books have the learning and skill to strip them of 
what oratory or stealth hath dressed and disguised 
them in, will easily discern most of them to be 
but varied repetitions ; which, for my part, I find 
differing from those of Scripture, but in that the 

1 Kcc. xii. 1 1. 


latter do in the same words generally comprise 
new matter, whereas the former usually present us 
stale matter in new words. And I consider further, 
that our own sad experience showing us, that there 
is no single text of Scripture that subtler heretics 
sophistry cannot plausibly enough elude ; the Holy 
Ghost foreseeing this from the beginning, hath 
mercifully and wisely provided, that the funda 
mental truths of faith and manners should be held 
forth in so many places and in so much variety 
of expressions, that one or other of them must 
unavoidably intercept those evasions, and escape 
those misconstructions, that sophistry may put 
upon the rest ; which providence alone hath pre 
served many articles from the attempts of heretics, 
making them both blush to question and despair 
to disprove a truth attested by more than two 
or three witnesses, and giving orthodox believers 
the satisfaction of having their anchor tied to a 
threefold cord which is not easily broken. Most 
of the Bible s repetitions (or inculcations rather) 
teach us something or other untaught before ; and 
as in Pharaoh s vision, 1 though both the ears and 
the kine signified the same thing, yet Joseph s in 
terpretation shows that neither was superfluous, 
even those few that teach us nothing else, teach 
us at least the importance, or some other attribute, 
of those repeated points we were taught before. 
And I scruple not to compare the expressions of 
the Scripture to a rose, where though so many 
leaves nearly resemble each other, there is not one 
of them but contributes to the beauty and perfec 
tion of the flower. 

1 Gen. iv. 25, 31. 



Of contradictions presumed betwixt passages of 
Scripture. I am not unacquainted with the np 
Keri, and the iro Cethib, nor the onsD ppn Tikkun 
Soph rim, in the Old Testament, nor yet with the caries 
lectiones, especially those of the eastern and western 
Jews, as they are called, taken notice of by modern 
critics in the Hebrew text of the old, as well as in 
the Greek of the New Testament. I am not 
neither altogether a stranger to the difficulties to 
be met with in making good the citations we find 
made of divers texts of the former of those sacred 
instruments in the latter ; in which they seem not 
unfrequently to differ much from what we find ex 
tant in the ancient Testament, as to the words, and 
sometimes too as to the sense. These things, I 
say, though by some much urged against the 
Scripture, I am not ignorant of. But I think it 
not fit to consider them in this place, not only 
because those that are much better qualified for 
such a work than I, have done it already, but be 
cause these objections relating rather to the truth 
or the authority than to the style of the Scripture, 
the nature of my present task does not oblige me 
to examine them. Especially, since I have already 
said something of them, and may say more, in 
what I write on the behalf of the Christian reli 
gion. And it is upon these grounds, Theophilus, 
that I also decline at present the consideration of 
what is wont to be objected, as if there were a 
great many self-contradictions to be met with in 
the Scripture. Only I shall in the meantime in 
vite you to take notice with me, that it is not often- 


times so much the various aspects of the texts, as 
the divers prepossessions and interests of the exposi 
tors that make books seem replenished with inter 
fering passages and contradictions. For, if once 
the theme treated of do highly concern men s in 
terests, let the book be as clear as it can, subtle 
and engaged persons on both sides, perusing it 
with forestalled judgments or biassed passions, 
will be sure to wrest many passages to counte 
nance their prejudices, and serve their ends, 
though they make the texts never so fiercely fall 
out with one another, to reconcile them to their 
partial glosses. Of this I might produce an emi 
nent instance in Aristotle s physical writings, al 
leged by so many dissenting sects of schoolmen 
to countenance their jarring opinions ; the injured 
Stagirite, employed as second by every one that 
quotes him, being by every sect brought to fight 
with its antagonists, and by them all to give battle 
to himself. Thus do the dissenting sects of Maho 
metans quarrel as well about the sense of their 
Alcoran as we do about that of our Bible, and 
make the one as much a nose of wax as the Roman 
Catholics say we make the other. Which brings 
unto my mind, that not only the cW^o/jra rtva, the 
some things hard to be understood, in St. Paul s 
Epistles, but also the \6nrai ypatyai, the other 
Scriptures are by St. Peter said to be by the un 
learned and unstable wrested to their own destruc 
tion. When a sober author finds an impartial 
reader, who takes his words in their genuinely 
obvious acceptation, wherever the context doth not 
manifestly force another on them, in which then 

1 2 Peter, iii. 16. 


the reader acquiesces, the writer is easily under 
stood ; but when nimble and forestalled wits pe 
ruse an author, not to sit down with his sense, 
but to make him speak theirs, whether it be his 
own or no, and giving themselves the pains and 
leisure of considering all the possible acceptations 
of a word or phrase, and the liberty of pitching 
upon that which best serves their present turn, allow 
themselves to conclude, that because it may signify 
so and so elsewhere, therefore it does so here ; 
an author must be much warier than Homer and 
Virgil, whom Kudocia and Alexander Ross have 
made evangelists, to keep his words from being 
tortured into a confession of what was never in his 
thoughts. And a very pregnant instance of this 
truth we may observe in the law of our land, whose 
very end being to prevent or abolish strifes, and 
which being written so punctually and expressly, 
and in so peculiar and barbarous a style, clogged 
with supernumerary repetitions, that nothing but 
their being conducive to so good an end could 
make it supportable, is yet by men s concerned wits 
so misconstrued and perverted, that not only in pri 
vate men s cases we see the judges so puzzled that 
suits oftentimes outlast lustres; butthe prince s party 
and the subjects kill and execute one another ; 
and, as charity tempts me to presume, think they 
may do so by the law, and do so for the law. In 
this belief, that we often impute to the Scripture 
our own faults or deficiences, the instances of those 
anti-scripturists I have conversed with, have very 
much confirmed me; though I have still esteemed 
that the best as well as shortest way, is not to 
wrangle with them about every nicety, where the 
defeat of their objections give us no victory over 


their incredulity, and by but evidencing the Scrip 
ture s not being either false or absurd, can serve 
but to justify our reverence to them, not to im 
part it ; but by solidly asserting- the divine ori 
gination of the Scripture, reduce men to ascribe 
their scruples to the true cause, and persuade us 
to the temper of the apostles, who, when Christ 
had uttered a hard saying, which so unsettled 
many of his disciples that they deserted him upon 
it; though (their gross misapprehensions of nu 
merous other much less obscure passages will 
easily persuade us,) they relished it not aright, yet 
would by no means forsake him for their master, 
because, says their spokesman, Peter, thou hast 
the words of eternal life, and we believe, and are 
sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living- 
God: 1 teaching us with one grand and compre 
hensive truth, to silence particular scruples. And 
one thing would not be unworthy our objectors 
considering ; that the truth and authority of the 
Scriptures, and consequently their not being con 
tradictory to themselves, hath, as we may else 
where have occasion to manifest more at large, 
been immemorially believed by the learnedest men 
in the world, many of whom may be very rea 
sonably supposed to have examined opinions 
without any other concern in their inquiries than 
that of not being deceived, or any other end than 
that of finding out the truth, and most of whom, 
though by their sedulousness and their erudition 
they discovered difficulties in the Bible that our 
querists could never have dreamt of; yet did they 
all conclude the belief of the Scriptures, grounded 

1 John, vi. GO, 66, 68, 69. 


on as much reason as is consistent with a due 
latitude for the exercise of faith, which possibly 
needs some dimness or reluctancy in the under 
standing, to be an acceptable virtue of the will ; 
faith and the twilight seeming to agree in this 
property, that a mixture of darkness is requisite 
to both, which too refulgent a light would destroy, 
the one vanishing into knowledge, as the other 
into day. And now faith thus casually presents 
herself in my way, it will, perhaps, not be im 
pertinent to observe, that Christ often deals with 
new believers as he is recorded to have done with 
Nathanael; for, as when that guileless Israelite had 
acknowledged him the Messias, upon the bare evi 
dence of his having been discerned by him under the 
fig-tree, our blessed Saviour tells him, Because I 
said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, 
believest thou 3 thou shall see greater things 
than these; which in the next verse he proceeds 
to mention ; so when men once have embraced 
the persuasion of the Scripture s being divinely 
inspired, that faith is a thing so acceptable to 
God, that he often discovers to them, to confirm 
them in their belief, arguments much clearer than 
those that induced them to it, and convinces them 
of the reasonableness of having submitted their 
reason to him that gave it them. And, as if there 
were mysteries in which faith doth more prospe 
rously make way for understanding, than that is 
set a-work to introduce faith, it happens to them 
as it did to the two blind men mentioned in the 
Gospel, in whom our Saviour first required faith, 
and having found that he then opened their eyes.* 

1 John, i. 50. * Matt. ix. 27, &c. 



From the (not long since mentioned) frequent 
repetitions to be met with in the Scripture, and 
from the unusual method wherein the Aulhor of it 
has thought fit that the divine truths and precepts 
should be extant there, divers have been pleased 
to take occasion to criminate the Bible, as if, its 
bulk considered, it were but a barren book, wherein 
instructions are but sparingly scattered in compa 
rison of what is to be met with in divers other 
writings, where repetitions are avoided, and more 
of useful matter is delivered in fewer words. 
And hence it is (say these objectors) that many 
persons unquestionably religious, choose rather to 
study other books of devotion and morality, as 
containing more full and instructive precepts of 
good life. 

I might answer this allegation by representing, 
that the several particulars whereon the accusation 
is grounded, having been already examined by me, 
I need not say any thing distinctly to this accumu 
lative charge. But because I would not only de 
fend my veneration for the Scripture, but persuade 
it, I shall on this occasion offer two or three things 
to consideration. 

Although then the Scripture were less reple 
nished with excellent doctrines, and were but, as 
well as the best of other books, like mines, in the 
richest of which the golden ore is mingled with 
store of less precious materials, (and needs a labo 
rious separation from them,) yet sure it would, like 
those mines, deserve to be carefully digged in : and 
it will become the grateful Christian s zeal to imitate 


him in the parable, who having- found a treasure 
hid in a field, stuck at no price within his power, to 
purchase the whole field for the treasure s sake. 

But God be praised, this is not the case, for it is 
only our ignorance, our laziness, or our indevotion, 
that keeps us from discovering, that the Scripture 
is so far from being, as the objectors would have 
it, a wilderness or a barren soil, that it may be 
much more fitly compared to that blessed land of 
promise, which is so often said in Scripture to be 
flowing with milk and honey, things useful and 
delightful; if not to paradise itself, of which it is 
said, that there the Lord God made to grow every 
tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food ; 
the tree of life also in the midst of the garden. * 
And indeed, as the author of it was omniscient, so 
experience has taught that he has so much ex 
pressed himself to be so in the Scripture, that the 
more knowing its pious studiers have been, the 
greater store of excellent truths they have met with 
in it; the Scripture being indeed like heaven, 
where the better our eyes and telescopes are, the 
more lights we discover. And that this may not 
appear to be said gratis, let us consider, that a 
book may be instructive as well by teaching its 
readers speculative truths as practical ones, and 
that Christians ought as well to know what God 
would have us think of him and of his works, as what 
he would have them do. Now as it is past question 
that there are no speculative truths of so noble and 
elevated a nature as those that have God himself 
for their object, so there is no book from whence 
there is so much to be learned, as there is from the 

Matt. xiii. 44. Gen. ii. 9. 


Bible, of the nature, and even the thoughts of God, 
and of those deep mysteries into which, as I for 
merly noted from St. Peter, the angels themselves 
are greedy of prying. Nay, there is no other 
book whatsoever that teaches us any thing at all, 
concerning divers of these sublime subjects, that 
may be safely relied on, save in what it is beholden 
to the Scripture for. So that we cannot, without 
an extreme injury, look upon that book as barren, 
which alone contains all those revealed truths, 
wnich are of so noble and precious a nature, that 
we justly prize the composures of heathen philo 
sophers, and other authors, for being enriched with 
guesses at some few of them, though much em- 
based by the alloy whereto the truths conjecturally 
delivered are made liable, from the imperfections of 
writers always fallible, and for the most part, in 
some degree or other, actually erroneous. But of 
this more perchance elsewhere. Wherefore I shall 
now add, that whereas those we reason with are 
pleased to prefer other books of morality and devo 
tion before the Scripture, in reference to good life; 
they would probably be of another mind, if they 
duly considered, that to engage men to live well 
and holily there is much more requisite than 
barely to tell them that they ought to do so, and 
how they should do it. For since to lead a life 
truly virtuous requires, in many cases, that we deny 
and overcome our natural appetites and inclina 
tions, and requires also constancy in a course that 
is confessedly wont to be attended with many- 
hardships and dangers, it is not sufficient to engage 
a man to a good life to give him precepts of it ; 

1 1 Pet. i. 12. 


which do not so much (what is yet the main thing 
in this case) make men willing to conform to such 
precepts, as suppose them so. And he that can do 
no more, does far less than him who, besides the 
rules of good life, presents men the highest and 
the most prevalent motives to embrace piety and 
virtue, and the most powerful dissuasives from all 
that is wicked, by proposing to us such rewards 
and punishments, and satisfying us that we ought, 
according as we behave ourselves, to expect either 
the one or the other ; as to convince us that we can 
not be either wise or happy but by being good, nor 
avoid the greatest of miseries but by avoiding vice. 
Xow as we shall see anon, that as to the precepts of 
good life, the Bible is not unfurnished with them, 
so as to that most operative part of the way of 
teaching good life, the proposing of the most pre 
valent motives to good, and the most powerful dis 
suasives from evil ; not only no other book does, 
but no book not inspired can perform in that kind 
any thing near so much as the Scripture alone ; 
since we have not the same reason to believe any 
mere man as we have to believe God, touching 
those rewards and punishments which he reserves 
after death for those that conform to, or disobey 
his laws; these being matters which (whatever 
philosophers and other learned men may have 
thought to the contrary) depend upon his free 
will, and consequently are not to be explicitly 
known, but by his revelation ; which he has not, 
that appears, vouchsafed us in any other book than 
the Scripture. And therefore it is not to be won 
dered at, that St. Paul should ascribe it to our 
Saviour, Christ, that he had brought life and ini- 



mortality to light through the gospel." And 
whereas hope is that spur without which men do 
scarce ever cheerfully undertake and resolutely go 
through things, much less difficult and dangerous 
than those which a virtuous course of life is wont 
to expose men to, St. Peter makes a Christian s 
highest hope to depend upon a revealed truth, 
where he gives thanks to God for having, accord 
ing to his abundant mercy, begot us to a lively 
hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the 
dead. * And what influence such a knowledge of 
God and Christ, as, if we have it at all, we must 
owe to the Scripture, and such hopes and promises 
as none but God himself, or those he sends, can 
give a wary and intelligent person, may have upon 
good life, you may guess by that other passage of 
the same apostle, where not only he mentions 
God s having, according to his divine power, (or 
efficacy,) given unto us all things that pertain unto 
life and godliness, through the knowledge of him 
that hath called us to glory and virtue, 3 but also 
immediately after speaks of our being made parta 
kers of the divine nature, and escaping the cor 
ruption that is in the world through lust, by those 
exceeding great and precious promises that are 
given of God unto us. So that although the 
Scripture did not expressly give us such moral 
documents as ethical writers do, and taught us 
good life but by acquainting us with what God has 
revealed in those writings concerning himself, and 
by convincingly proposing to us those highest 

2 Tim. i. 10. * 1 Pet. i. 3. 

3 2 Pet. i. 3, 4. 


inducements to embrace a good, and shun an evil 
life, which (though reason may perchance make 
some weak and confused guesses at them) revela 
tion only can make examining men confidently 
depend upon ; if, I say, the Scripture did no more 
than thus engage us to resolve upon a good life, 
leaving us to derive the particular precepts of 
virtue from the inward dictates of the law of nature, 
and the exercise of our own reason, (which two to 
gether may well teach us almost as much as ethical 
books are wont to teach, of really and considerably 
useful,) the Scripture ought yet to be esteemed a 
most instructive book in reference to good life ! 
As in effect we see, that the writings of no philoso 
pher or orator ever made any thing near so many 
persons virtuous as the New Testament, though 
but a pocket-book, has been able to do ; especially 
in those primitive ages of the church, when those 
that received that book were less diverted from it 
than since they have been by the reading of others. 
The moon may, in clear weather, lend a gardener 
light enough to dig and manure his orchard, and 
perhaps to prune his trees, but none will say that 
the moon does as much contribute to his labouring 
to produce fruit as the sun ; since this nobler 
planet not only affords him light to work by, and a 
comfortable warmth whilst he is working, but ani 
mates him by the hopes he cherishes upon the 
sun s account, that in due season his diligence and 
toils shall be rewarded. The application is too 
obvious to need to be insisted on. 

But though, upon the forementioned accounts 
alone, the Scripture would deserve to be looked 
upon as highly conducive to the practice of piety 
and virtue, yet it is fur from being true that it is 

K 2 


destitute of such moral documents, which it needs 
not, to deserve to be looked upon as a book very 
instructive in reference to good life : for there 
being two sorts of virtues requisite to an embracer 
of the gospel, which have been conveniently enough 
called for distinction sake, the one Christian, and 
the other moral or ethical, I suppose it will not be 
doubted but that the rules of those virtues that are 
properly Christian, must be sought for in the Scrip 
ture ; that being acknowledged by Protestants to 
have such a sufficiency as to matters of mere reve 
lation, (which restriction too many do inconside 
rately enough leave out,) that in matters of that 
nature, divines often do, and in many cases may, 
argue negatively, as well as affirmatively from the 
Scripture; which eases us of many things obtruded 
as duties, merely by its not either expressly or by 
consequence imposing them upon us. So that, as 
to things of this nature, there is such a fulness 
in that book, that oftentimes it says much by saying 
nothing, and not only its expressions but its si 
lences are teaching; like a dial, in which the sha 
dow as well as the light informs us. Nor must we 
think that the Bible is destitute of the best sort of 
such precepts, exhortations, and dissuasives as we 
prize in ethical books, because they are not ex 
pressed and ranged in the Bible, as they are wont 
to be in systematical composures ; for not only 
there is extant in the Scripture, to them that know 
how to constellate those lights, a very excellent 
body of moral precepts, but there are likewise scat 
tered the forciblest motives to the several duties, 
and the most retracting dissuasives from the con 
trary vices. And truly, it hath long lessened my 
esteem of our heathen morals, that the ethics being- 


but the doctrine of regulating our passions and di 
recting our faculties, in order to the attainment of 

O * 

felicity, they have been hitherto handled by those 
to whom the nature of the faculties and passions of 
the mind was but very little known : whereas to 
the author of the Scripture morals, the frame and 
springs, and faculties of our souls, being intuitively 
and most perfectly known, the most proper and 
powerful ways of working on them cannot be un 
known to him : and then, certainly, one unac 
quainted with the trade, will be much less likely to 
mend a watch that is out of order than a watch 
maker. And indeed, even in reference to that 
other sort of virtues which are wont in the more 
confined sense of the word to be called moral, there 
are I know not how many excellent notions and 
directions relating to them, dispersed up and down 
in the Scripture, though by reason of their not 
being drawn up by themselves, and of their being 
mingled with other matters, they are not so readily 
taken notice of by ordinary readers. Whereas, 
those studious perusers that search the Scriptures 
witli a due diligence and attention, are not only 
wont easily enough to descry the moral counsels 
and prescriptions overlooked by the other readers, 
but take notice of many excellent documents that 
are plainly enough intimated or hinted there, to 
knowing and diligent perusers, though not clearly 
and expressly enough to be found of those that 
think them not worth seeking. 

Wherefore, as to those religious persons men 
tioned in the last proposed objection, I cannot but 
think that by neglecting the Scripture for ethical 
composures, or even books of devotion, they as well 
wrong themselves as the Scripture; and therefore 


I shall take leave to think the worse, rather of the 
practice of the men than of the book of God. 
Scarce any thing has given me a favourable! 1 cha 
racter of Luther, than his wish, that all his books 
of devotion were burnt, when he once perceived 
that the people s fondness and over- valuation of 
them produced a neglect of the study of the Bible; 
to which you will find, Theophilus, that the best 
of that nature being compared, are but (not to 
draw to our present purpose that of Seneca to his 
mother, Paribus intervallis omnia divina, ab omni 
bus humanis distant: "All things divine are distant 
from all things human by an equal, that is, infi 
nite interval") like the stars compared to the sun, 
whose emanations confer on them their lustre, but 
whose presence drowns it: for though I deny not 
books of devotion a due degree of praise and use 
fulness, yet I refuse them the superlative degree of 
either ; and since the writers of the best of that 
kind of composures, either steal their best things 
from, or acknowledge that they borrowed them of 
the Bible, I would not have Christians neglect the 
fountain for the streams, and unwisely, as well as 
unthankfully, elect to read God s word, rather in 
any book than his own, in which to encourage us 
to study the precepts of a virtuous and holy life, 
we have such peculiar and encouraging invitations. 
St. Paul seems to make it the end and the result of 
the several usefulnesses he attributes to the Scrip 
ture, that it can make the man of God perfect, 
thoroughly furnished unto all good works; and is 
able, (as he speaks a little higher) aofylaai etg 
aurnpiav, to make us wise unto salvation. * There 

1 Seneca de Cons, ad Helviam. cap. ix. 
3 2 Tim. iii. 15, 17- 


are indeed many excellent instructions given us in 
other books ; but they giving us directions only 
towards the attainment of the advantages, conve 
niences, and ornaments of life, the ignorance of 
them, only makes us miss those particular ends, 
whereto they give addresses, or whereof they faci 
litate our pursuits ; but the knowledge whose ac- 
quist or neglect imports endless joys or torments 
we need seek only from the Scripture: a Christian 
to understand the duty of his faith and life, needing 
to understand no other book than the Bible ; 
though indeed to understand the Bible well, it is 
ordinarily requisite, that a pretty number of other 
books be understood. Christians, then, have rea 
son to study most that book, which understood, all 
others are needless to salvation, and which ignored, 
they are insufficient. If St. Peter s vision had 
been a reality, he would scarce, hungry as he was, 
have ranged abroad to hunt in this desert or that 
forest for game, when he had a vessel let down to 
him from heaven, containing in itself all manner of 
four-footed beasts, and other objects of appetite, 
attended with a commanding invitation from hea 
ven, Rise, Peter, kill, and eat. So when God 
sends us from heaven, in one volume, an at least 
virtual collection of all those divine truths and holy 
precepts others scatteringly and sparingly glean 
out of human books, the Christian cannot but 
prize a book so comprehensive, which by making 
it safe for him to ignore others, by so merited an 
antonomasia, wears the title of "the book," (for so 
the Bible signifies in Greek, as the Hebrews call 
it Mikra, which by excellence signifies " what is to 

1 Acts, x. 11, 12, 13. 


be read." 1 There are precepts 

enough of virtue, and motives enough to conform to 
them, held forth in the Bible, if the contents of 
that divine book were believed and considered as 
they ought to be. It is a mistake to think that a 
large system of ethics, dissected according to the 
nice prescriptions of logic, and methodically reple 
nished with definitions, divisions, distinctions, and 
syllogisms, is requisite or sufficient to make men 
virtuous. Too many of our moralists write as if 
they thought virtue could be taught as easily, and 
much in the same way as grammar ; and leaving 
our rational motives to virtue, and determents from 
vice, with other things that have a genuine influ 
ence on the minds and manners of men, they fall 
to wrangle about the titles and precedencies of the 
parts of ethical philosophy, and things extrinsical 
enough to vice and virtue : they spend more time 
in asserting their method, than the prerogatives of 
virtue above vice ; they seem more solicitous how 
to order their chapters than their reader s actions, 
and are more industrious to impress their doctrine 
on our memories than our affections, and teach us 
better to dispute of our passions than with them. 
Whereas, as the condition of a monarch, who is pos 
sessed but of one kingdom or province, is preferable 
to that of a geographer, though he be able to dis 
course theoretically of the dimensions, situation, 
and motion, or stability of the whole terrestrial 
globe, to carve it into zones, climates, and parallels, 
to enumerate the various names and etymologies 
of its various regions, and give an account of the 
extent, the confines, the figure, the divisions, &c. of 

1 Mikra, Lectio. 


;ill the dominions and provinces of it ; so the actual 
possession of one virtue is preferable to the bare 
speculative knowledge of them all. Their master, 
Aristotle, hath herein been more plain and less pe 
dantic, who (by the favour of his interpreters) hath 
not been nice in the method of his ethics. And 
indeed, but little theory is essentially requisite to 
the being virtuous, provided it be duly understood, 
and cordially put in practice : reason and discre 
tion sufficing 1 , analogically to extend and apply it 
to the particular occurrences of life ; (which other- 
u ise being so near infinite as to be indefinite, are 
not so easily specifiable in rules :) as the view of the 
Mngle pole-star directs the heedful pilot, in almost 
all the various courses of navigation. And the sys 
tems of moralists may (in this particular) not unfitly 
be compared to heaven, where there are luminaries 
and stars obvious to all eyes, that diffuse beams suffi 
cient to light us in most ways; and as I that with mo 
dern astronomers, by an excellent telescope, have 
beheld perhaps near a hundred stars in the pleiades, 
where common eyes see but six ; and have often 
discerned in the milky-way, and other pale parts of 
the firmament, numberless little stars generally un 
seen, receive yet from heaven no more light useful 
to travel by than other men enjoy ; so there are cer 
tain grand principles and maxims in the ethics, 
w Inch both are generally conspicuous, and generally 
afford men much light and much direction ; but 
the numerous little notions (admit them truths) 
suggested by scholarship to ethical writers, and by 
them to us, though the speculation be not unplea 
sant, afford us very little peculiar light to guide 
our actions by. When I remember those ancient 
heroes that have ennobled secular, and are enno- 


bled by sacred story, and whose examples sug 
gested the precepts of virtue, before there were 
any written ones to conform to ; I am tempted to 
say, that virtue was scarce ever better practised 
than whilst men had not yet talked of the defini 
tion of it; as many an alchymist begs with rare 
notions of the nature of gold, which fills the coffers 
of merchants that never saw mine nor furnace. 
The grand precepts of morality are fruitful seeds, 
which industriously cultivated, will bring forth 
fruits still affording other seeds. And as for the 
motives to pious, and dissuasions from sinful prac 
tices, though out of the many voluminous books of 
morality, there may be divers collected, not ex 
tant in the Bible; yet may a dexterous reader find 
in that heavenly book, many more invitations to 
virtue, and determents from vice, than most men 
are aware of; and some of them of an importance 
that renders one of them as much more consider 
able than many ordinary ones ; as one fair pearl 
out of a jeweller s shop, outvalues a score of those 
little pearls that druggists sell by the ounce ; or 
doth comprise many inferior inducements, (which 
wise men judge not of by tale but value,) as a 
piece doth twenty shillings. And though human 
authors do often, in their parenetical treatises, 
allow themselves to be lavish in ornaments, to ex 
patiate into amplifications, and to drain common 
places; yet whilst they want an intimate admis 
sion, all these are too often unable to reform, I 
say not those that read them, but even those that 
write them ; whereas the experience of the primi 
tive and heroical ages of the church does glori 
ously manifest, that the inducements and dissua- 
sives held forth in the Bible, though destitute of 


those embellishments and advantages, where they 
are conscionably entertained and seriously pon 
dered, are sufficient to raise virtue to a pitch phi 
losophy durst scarcely aim at. Nor indeed is the 
number great of pertinent and rational incitements 
or determents, relating to virtue; and in discourses 
that have them for theme, how far soever the bows 
may extend, yet generally the knot lies in a little 
compass; and the analyzer that shall crack many 
of those composures, having severed the shells, 
shall find their kernels to be much alike. What 
this writer compares to one thing, that writer likens 
to another : those ungrateful persons towards God, 
that one resembles to swine, who eat the acorns 
without ever looking up to the tree they fall from ; 
another compares to cattle, that drink of the 
streams without considering what fountain they 
flow from. These but present us several dresses 
of virtue and vice, where, though the novelty and 
variety of habit serve to engage attention in all, 
and want not influence, at least, upon easy and 
flexible natures, yet in considerate and discerning 
persons, they alter not much the notion under 
which the qualities themselves are entertained. 
Nor will such be apt to quarrel with the author of 
the Scripture, because the motives and dissuasives 
extant there, are many of them old and known, or 
frequently repeated, the efficacy of them being so 
too. Were it not strange a physician should de 
cline exhibiting of mithridate, because it was a 
known medicine, and famous for its cures many 
ages since ? Doth bread less nourish us, or is it 
less used, because it was, as men suppose, con 
temporary to Adam, and the most common food of 
all nations in all ages ? And as to the repetition 


of the same allegations and inducements, as often 
as men s condition returned to need them, the pau 
city of ponderous considerations in the ethics, 
often necessitating either (disguised perhaps, yet) 
repetitions of the same, or the substitution of those 
that must be much inferior to be new; such per 
sons as little admire that reiterated employment 
of the same truths, as they would to see a soldier 
use a sword, though he and legions many ages 
before him have constantly made use of that 
weapon ; or a general encourage his engaging sol 
diers, by representing to them honour, duty, spoil, 
necessity, and those other known topics used by 
himself at the head of his army, as often as he had 
occasion to lead it on to fight. To all this I am in 
vited by this occasion to subjoin, that upon the 
score of God s being both an omniscient Spirit and 
the supreme lawgiver to the whole creation, the 
same truths, counsels, exhortations, dissuasions, 
&c. oftentimes have, and always ought to have, 
another guess efficacy and prevalence on a Chris 
tian reader, when he finds them in the Scripture, 
than if he should meet with the same in the books 
of heathen moralists, though learned and eloquent. 
And certainly, those that with such reverence 
read the writings of those great wits of antiquity, 
that have made the greatest discoveries of truth, 
because they believe them to have been endowed 
with very illuminated intellectuals, ought to pay 
them, and a book published by an omniscient en- 
diter, a reverence somewhat proportionate to the dis 
parity of their authors. Since men (as Elihu speaks 
in Job) are but of yesterday, and know little or 
nothing; a wary person reads the wisest authors 
with a reflection, that they may deceive him by 


being themselves deceived ; and undergoes a dou 
ble labour, the one in investigating the meaning, 
and the other in examining the truth of what they 
deliver : but in the Bible, \ve are eased of the 
latter of these troubles; for if \ve find the sense of 
a text of Scripture, we cannot miss a truth ; being 
never deceived by that book but when we deceive 
ourselves by presuming we understand it when in 
deed we do not. I am otherwise affected to find 
the vanity of the world proclaimed and depreci 
ated by him that enjoyed all the delights and glo 
ries of it, than when I meet with the same truth 
from some beggarly cynic, that never was admitted 
to taste those luscious and bewitching pleasures, 
and needs no great philosophy to despise a world 
he judges of by the scant share the narrowness of 
his condition allows him of the joys of it; and of 
which, consequently, his criminations should as 
little move, as a blind man s of a blackamoor; 
whom though he may, perchance, truly style ugly, 
yet he were of a somewhat easy faith that should 
think her so, barely upon the testimony of so in 
competent a witness. Thus, when God himself is 
jib used to reveal what is vice or virtue, sublime or 
despicable, truth or falsehood, happiness or misery, 
I have another guess acquiescence in his decisions, 
than in the same met with in a human author, 
who, having necessarily frailties and passions, is 
both obnoxious to mistake and capable to deceive. 
And therefore it is no wonder that the slighting 
of God s dictates should receive an aggravation, 
upon the score of their being his ; as our Saviour 
i;ave the precedency of the Ninevites converted by 
Jonah, to them that repented not at his preaching, 


because he was a greater than Jonah. And 
therefore, though I have formerly been no very 
negligent peruser of books of morality ; yet know 
ing that they have a power but to persuade, not to 
command, and that the penalties of sin or death 
are not inseparably annexed to the disobedience 
of their prescriptions, I confess I often find myself 
but faintly wrought on by them. For I must ac 
knowledge, that frequently assuming the liberty of 
questioning the reasonableness of what human 
writers, whether philosophers or fathers, are pleased 
to impose upon us, I find those specious and 
boasted allegations, the apothegms of the sages, 
the placits of the philosophers, the examples of emi 
nent persons, the pretty similes, quaint allegories, 
and quick sentences of fine wits, I find all these 
topics, I say, such two-edged weapons, that they 
are as well applicable to the service of falsehood 
as of truth, and may by ready wits be brought 
equally to countenance contrary assertions. And 
really, most moralists, except in those few duties 
that nature herself hath foretaught us, to a man 
whose restless curiosity leads his enquiries to all 
times and nations, will appear little other than 
fencers with wit; (I mean those that have any ;) for 
each of these popular topics, is such an unsolid 
or uncertain foundation, that one man can build 
little on it that an equally able antagonist may 
not, with as specious probability overthrow. And 
I fear, most of us have but too often found our 
corruptions sophisters enough to elude any such 
thing that pressed that as a duty which they had 

1 Matt xii. 42. 


no mind we should peform. But when I find any 
tiling enjoined in the Scripture, my consciousness 
to its being imposed by that Father of Spirits, 
(who has both right to enact laws, which must 
be therefore just, because he enacts them ; and 
power to punish the transgression of them with no 
less than eternal death,) I then leave roving, and 
see where to cast anchor ; I think it my part, 
without disputing them, to obey his orders, and 
acquiesce more in that imperious O.VTOQ t^/;, Thus 
saith the Lord, than a whole dialogue of Plato, or 
an epistle of Seneca. I therefore love to build my 
ethics, as well as my creed, upon the rock ; and 
esteeming nothing but the true, proper, and strict 
sense of the Scripture, and what is convincingly 
deducible from it, to be indispensably obligatory, 
either as (in matters of mere revelation) to faith or 
practice, it is no wonder if I study God s will most 
in that book wherein alone I think it revealed : 
and, truly, finding in myself no motive more justly 
prevalent to obedience than his right to exact it 
that requires it, few men are more ready than I in 
distinguishing what indeed God says from what 
man would make him say. And if I allow my 
self such liberty to discern the text from the gloss, 
in the writings of our vulgar interpreters, (of most 
of whose comments, for reasons prosecuted in an 
other paper, I am no great idolater,) and even of 
the fathers of the church ; I hope I shall not need 
to tell Theophilus, that in all other moralists I 
like the freedom to like or disapprove, as upon ex 
amination, my impartialest reason relishes them ; 
or that I frequently fear their harangues will hardly 

1 Ileb. xii. 9. 


pass for demonstrations with those wary testers, 
that like not to be cheated so much as into virtue ; 
but choose to act as rational or Christians, as well 
in relation to the inducements as to the nature of 
what they do. 

Amongst the thir 
teen articles of the Jewish creed, one acknowledges 
the very expressions of the la\v, or Pentateuch, to 
have been inspired by God. That saying of the 
rabbins is not altogether so hyperbolical as a per 
functory reader would imagine, that upon each 
tittle of the law whole mountains of doctrine hang. 
I shall not mention as any proof of this, the strange 
mysteries they fancy in the strange accenting of 
the ten commandments in the original, since their 
soberer doctors have in free discourse confessed to 
me, that it is as much a riddle to them as us. Nor 
shall I insist upon the Jews reducing the whole 
law to six hundred and thirteen precepts, affirma 
tive and negative, according to the number of the 
letters of the decalogue, thereby insinuating that 
all the laws that regulate man s duty are virtually 
or reductively comprised there; although this 
rabbinical notion (not to call it whimsey) be in 
such request amongst them, and so known to those 
that are any thing conversant in Jewish authors, 
that I have sometimes suspected that the conceit 
entertained by so many Christian divines, that all 
the precepts that relate to any part of the whole 
duty of man, are but just consequences deductible 
from the decalogue, had its rise thence. But I 
shall not, as I said, ground my opinion of the 
pregnant instructiveness of the Scripture upon 
such questionable, not to say altogether proofless 
conceits. That which may better persuade a con- 


sidering man is, that besides those more resplen 
dent and obvious truths, wherewith the Scripture 
does evidently abound, there are many instructions 
exhibited, many truths asserted, many errors con 
futed, and many mysteries hinted in the very ex 
pressions of Holy Writ, to an inquisitive and con 
cerned peruser, which a heedless vulgar reader is 
not wont to take notice of. God, who in the 
Scripture is said, to cover himself with light us 
with a garment, 1 justifies that expression in the 
Scripture, where (as the first words that he is re 
corded to have ever spoken were TIN rv yehi-or, 
Let there be light 4 ) the very words and phrases, 
that clothe the sense are not alone emphatical, 
but oftentimes mysterious. The apostle assures us, 
whatsover things were written, even in the Old 
Testament, were written for our learning. 3 But 
yet, besides those many particular sentences of the 
Bible that are not destitute of instructions, there are 
some so pregnant with them, that we may easily 
find this difference betwixt them and human writ 
ings, that those first-mentioned contain more matter 
than words, and the other more words than matter. 
Nay, many of the very flowers of rhetoric growing 
there, have (like the marigold that in hot countries 
points at the sun) a virtue of hinting the usefulest 
and the sublimest truths : the Bible being in this 
like the tree of life, (flourishing- in the New 
Jerusalem,) which not only afforded seasonable fruit, 
but of which the very leaves were for the healing 
of the nations. 4 As for those who have in this and 
the last age made bold to depreciate the Old Testa- 

Psalm civ. 2. * Gen. i. 3. 3 Rom. xv. 4. 

4 Rev. xxii. 2. 


ment, by pretending that to Christians, the New is 
sufficient ; I am at present apt to think that the 
doctrine of the gospel, together with the light of 
nature, (which it excludes not but rather supposes,) 
contains all those duties which are absolutely ne 
cessary to be performed by all Christians, in order 
to salvation. And that consequently, many divines, 
both Catholics and reformed, do inconsiderately 
enough press many things enacted in the Old Tes 
tament, as laws properly so called, which are not 
now, upon the score of their being there enacted, 
obligatory to us Christians, nor perhaps ever were 
to any but the Jews, and some kind of Jewish pro 
selytes. But I think withal, that though it be hard 
to show that any thing is a necessary duty to 
Christians, in the sense above declared, if it cannot 
be shown to be so either by the New Testament or 
the light of nature ; yet not only there are many 
particulars relating to such duties, of which the 
Old Testament may excellently assist us to give 
ourselves a more distinct and explicit instruction 
than is easy to be collected from the New ; but of 
the mysteries of our religion there are many things 
delivered more expressly or more fully in some 
passages of the Old Testament, than in any of the 
gospel, as I could easily evidence, if I thought it 
requisite. So that the use of it is very great, as 
to the credenda in divinity, though not perhaps ab 
solutely necessary as to the agenda. But I con 
sider further, that both the matters and the expres 
sions made use of in the Old Testament, are so 
very frequently and almost upon all occasions re 
lated to in the New, (as if the wisdom of God were 
like rivers and seas, that affect to flow in the same 
channels themselves had made before,) that there is 


scarce a page of the latter, to the better under 
standing of which the study of the former is not 
either absolutely necessary, or at least highly 
useful. Should God be pleased to instruct us as 
he did Jonas, by the shadow of a weed, it were our 
duty to acquiesce; how much more, then, when he 
vouchsafes to speak to us in almost as glorious a 
manner as he did to Moses ; in a Scripture that 
hath such resemblances to the sanctuary, which 
contained the law of God, exhibited the mercy- 
seat, (the type of Christ,) and ^wherein the two 
golden cherubims, like the two precious and har 
monious Testaments, looked towards one another, 
and both towards that mercy-seat that typified the 
Messias! 5 We should therefore, not only with 
acquiescence, but gratitude, look upon God s having 
appointed the Scripture to be the light in which 
his Spirit regularly shines upon his church ; since 
the luminary is as well refulgent as the choice 
of it His whose blessing can prosper any means 
of grace, as without his blessing no means of grace 
can prosper. 

And, Theophilus, since among those that are so 
far mistaken as to postpone the study of the Bible 
to that of some applauded books of morality and 
devotion, there are not wanting divers persons 
otherwise eminently religious; I hope you will 
easily excuse me, if for fear their example should 
prove a temptation to you, and add to the discou 
ragements you must expect from the darkness of 
some texts and the opposition that will be given 
you, especially at first, by the grand enemy to the 
Author and design of the Scripture, I venture to 

Jonah, iv. C. - Exod. xxv. 1C 22. 

o 2 


superadd to all that I have said already concerning 
these men s practice, that it is not only a commend 
able, but a much more improving custom than it is 
by many thought, to read daily and orderly some 
set portion or chapters of the Bible : and not to 
desist from that practice, though (asNaaman dipped 
himself six times in Jordan, without being cured 1 ) 
we should not perceive a sudden and sensible be 
nefit accruing from it; for in diseases, bodily or 
spiritual, though the mouth be out of taste, and 
cannot relish what is taken in, yet wholesome ali 
ments must be eaten, and do effectively nourish 
and strengthen, though they be then insipid (per 
haps bitter) to the distempered palate. We must 
with the eunuch read divers texts we understand not 
when we read them ; s and though at first we be not 
able to penetrate the senses of some portions of 
God s word, we must at least make our faculties 
as hospitable to it as we can ; and make our memo 
ries admit and embrace it, till our understandings 
be grown up to do the like : it becoming the dis 
ciples of our Saviour, herein to imitate his holy 
mother; of whom it is written, that They (the 
blessed Virgin and her husband) understood not 

the sayings which he spake unto them, but 

his mother kept all these sayings in her heart; 3 
and to think it may very well be, that as our Sa 
viour said to Peter, What I do, thou knowest not 
now, but thou shalt know hereafter; 4 so by the 
welcome he disposes you to give his word into 
your memory, he says to you, What I say thou 
knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter : 

1 2 Kings, v. 14. 2 Acts, viii. 30, 31. 

3 Luke, ii. 50, 51 ; see verses 18, 19. 4 John, xiii. 7- 


and the apostle s motive to hospitality, Be not 
forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some 
have entertained angels unawares/ will, without 
being overstretched, take in the texts of Scripture 
we are unacquainted with : for we may easily in 
them entertain, with Abraham and Lot,* greater 
guests than we were aware of; and who, when 
their true condition appears, may recompense our 
entertainment of them, by showering blessings on 
us, and rescuing us from the company and destiny 
of the wicked. And sure, if the pagans laid up 
with awful reverence, those dark and squinting 
oracles, that came (at least many of them) from 
the prince of darkness and father of lies, we should 
blush to refuse attentive pesusals and lodging in our 
memories, to those Aoyta favra, those lively ora 
cles, those Xdyia TOV Qeov, oracles of God, who is 
the Father of lights, and an essential truth that 
cannot lie. 3 And the most enigmatical texts we 
meet with, which seem meant purposely to pose us, 
we may make useful admonitors of our weaknesses, 
and take for welcome opportunities to evince how 
great a reverence we pay God s word, upon the 
single score of its being so. Nor let those distur 
bances with which the devil seldom fails to ob 
struct or discourage our first progress in a study 
so ruinous to his malicious ends upon us, deter us; 
for these are commonly but the throes and strug- 
glings of Christ new formed in us; or else like 
those horrid fits and outcries which preceded the 
ejection of that unclean spirit mentioned in the 
first of Mark : 4 such parting ceremonies being not 

1 Heb. xiii. 2. * Gen. xviii. and Gen. xix. 

3 Acts, vii. 38 ; Rom. iii. 2 ; James, i. 17 ; Tit. i. 2. 

4 Mark, i. 26. 


unusual to the dislodging devil, who, when he 
finds himself upon the point of being expelled, 
hath great wrath, because he knoweth he hath 
but a short time. 1 And though the God of peace/ 
however he will bruise Satan under your feet 
shortly, 2 should for a while try us even with de 
sertions in the study of the Scripture ; let us not 
for all that desert so improving a study, but reso 
lutely persevere in the constant and faithful use of 
the means of grace : as the moon, when she suffers 
an eclipse, forsakes not her orb or motion, but by 
continuing her unretarded course, regains the ir 
radiations she was deprived of. We find the word 
of God compared to seed, (that deathless seed by 
which Saint Peter saith we are born again, 3 ) and 
that, we know, may seem for a long time as well dead 
as buried in the ground, and yet afterwards spring 
and grow up into a plentiful harvest. Nor must 
our proficiency any more dispense with us, from 
the being conversant with the Scripture, than our 
frailties : I will never, saith the Psalmist, forget 
thy precepts, for with them thou hast quickened 
me. 4 And, indeed, the word of God is not to be 
used like active physic, taken once that it may not 
be taken again ; but it is compared to food, which 
indeed it is, of the soul ; in which sense it may be 
literally enough said, that man liveth not by 
bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth 
out of the mouth of God. 4 Now as our having 
fed never so well and heartily on excellent and 
nutritive meats yesterday, will not keep us from 

1 Rev. xii. 12. * Rom. xvi. 20. 

a Matt. xiii. 19, 20, &c. I Pet. 1, 2, 3. 4 Psal. cix. 93. 
5 1 Pet. ii. 2, and elsewhere; Matt. iv. 4. 


needing to eat again to-day or to-morrow, and so 
daily, as long as we continue in these ruinous cot 
tages of clay ; so in spiritual refections with full, 
without repeated meals the soul will scarcely thrive. 
And as, generally, the more healthy and lusty men 
are, the frequenter and stronger appetites they have ; 
so the best Christians, and (witness David) the 
greatest proficients in Scripture knowledge, have the 
keenest stomachs to this food of souls ; and the 
vigorousest piety, by a desuetude and neglect of it, 
is subject to faint and pine away. 8 Nor have we 
just cause to repine at any engagement to assi 
duity in the Scriptures ; for there are not near so 
many things that will require, as there are that 
will deserve and recompense a serious study in a 
book, where both the strict sense and the circum 
stances and expressions that clothe it are richly 
instructive : like that aromatical fruit, of which 
not only the kernel is a nutmeg, but the very in 
volving skin is mace. This inexhausted fulness, 
occasioned that panegyrical precept of the rabbies 
concerning the law ; ra "713 n m I sni nn ^tsn 
Turn it over, and again turn it over, for all 
is in it : concurrently to which the Jew that 
translates the Arabian Apopthegms into Hebrew 
thus pronounces : " There proceedeth not a true 
sentence out of the mouths of this world s wise 
men, that is not intimated in our law." 

The usefulness of divers texts is such, that we 
should not only have them in our possession, but 
in a readiness ; and as David distressed by his 
mortal enemies, took Goliath s sword from near 
the ephod, to wear it withersoever he went, so 

Job. iv. 19. s To? /w / / a< >il- Athanas. 


Christians, prosecuted by ghostly enemies, should 
be diligent, not only to have an armoury well fur 
nished with spiritual weapons, but to wear this 
sword of the Spirit 1 always by their sides, to 
ward and thrust with upon all occasions ; without 
needing to depend upon any such things as con 
cordances, which often cannot be come by, and 
oftener, not soon enough to keep us from being 
foiled by the father or the champions of lies. But 
now, to engage us to grow ready Scripturists, it is 
not only true, that as the texts of the Bible inter 
change light with one another, and every new de 
gree of Scripture-knowledge, is not only an ac- 
quist of so much, but an instrument to acquire 
more ; so is that book a theme so comprehensive 
and so fertile, that the last hour of a Christian s 
longest and industriousest life will still leave un 
discovered mysteries in it : this, I say, is not only 
true, but it is also true that the doctrines of it are 
of that importance, and find that opposition in our 
depraved nature, that even those truths that require 
but few perusals to be understood, require many 
to be duly impressed : our preposterously partial 
memories being rarely like quicksilver, wherein 
nothing will sink but (that preciousest of metals) 
gold ; for that alone is heavier than mercury. The 
word of Christ, must not be as a passenger, 2 
or sparingly entertained in our minds, but must 
dwell there, and that richly : and the word, which 
Saint James pronounces, able to save our souls, 3 
he describes as a graft", which must not only be 
closely embraced, by that wherein it is to fruc 
tify, but must continue there, to bring the stock 

1 Ephes. vi. 17. * Col. iii. 16. 3 James, i. 21. 


and graff to, if I may so speak, concorporate. 
And, indeed, we are so indisposed to admit, and 
so obnoxious to deface, religious impressions, that 
we need, during our whole life, be conversant with 
the precepts of leading it piously. But it is 
scarce more faulty in, than incident to the fro- 
ward nature of man, to be ever quarrelling with 
God s method of prosecuting his intentions; and, 
as if he were wiser than his Maker, to criminate 
his conduct in his dispensations. Even that ex 
cellent person, the gloriousest of virgins and of 
mothers, whom all ages must deservedly call 
blessed, incurred her divine Son s reprehension, 
for an intimated offer to alter his purposed me- 
tliod in disclosing himself. 1 But God is too just 
to himself and too merciful to us to degrade, as it 
were, his omniscience so fur as to suffer himself to 
be swayed against the dictates of it, by such pur 
blind and perverse tutors as we : his goodness 
concerns him too much in our instruction, to suf 
fer him to let our fancies endite his word : to 
attain his own ends, he makes choice of his own 
means and instruments, without needing our pur 
blind eyes in the election; and what with unfathom 
able wisdom he hath been pleased to contrive 
for man s instruction, w ith a gracious though often 
misunderstood constancy he persists in. He knows 
that many who are disposed to cavil at the present 
contrivance or style of Scripture, would be apt to 
take exceptions at any other : for something or 
other it must necessarily be ; and the unimaginable 
diversity of humours, judgments, and preposses 
sions is such, that as these now say, why thus, and 

1 Luke, L 48 ; John, ii. 3, 4. 


not so ? others would, in case of alteration, be ready 
to ask, why so, and not thus ? It is questionable, 
whether the Israelites were greater murmurers at 
Pharaoh in Egypt or at Moses in the desert : and 
the children complained of by their companions 
in the market-place, have had either posterity or 
predecessors in all ages, 1 which have still been of 
the disposition of those Jews, who imputed the 
more than prophet s rigidness of virtue to the 
great enemy of that lovely quality, and the greater 
than Solomon s condescensions to the vices he de 
signed them to destroy. But the great physician 
of mankind is too compassionate and wise to let 
his distracted patients prescribe their own course 
of physic ; or, to decline our fond and peevish 
quarrels, shuffle or discompose those mysterious 
and profound contrivances, whose wisdom engages 
the attention and exacts the wonders of those 
heavenly unclogged spirits, 4 that are scarce more 
advantaged over us by their native abilities than 
by the means they have of improving them. And, 
therefore our Saviour refused to descend from the 
cross, though they whose malice served to fix him 
there, the chief priests and scribes themselves, de 
clared that on those terms they would believe on 
him. 3 And though we are but too apt to fancy 
that we should be won to our duty, if it were 
taught or pressed in such or such a way, yet we 
may be pleased to remember, that it was one in 
hell that would needs have another means than the 
Scripture of having sinners preached to, and one 
in heaven, that, referring them to the Scripture, 
declared, that if men heard not Moses and the 

1 Matt.xi. 1619. 2 1 Pet. i. 12. 

3 Matt, xxvii. 42. 


prophets, neither would they be persuaded, though 
one rose from the dead to preach to them. 

If I addressed what I write, not to so intelligent 
a person as Theophilus, but to promiscuous readers, 
I should add to what I have said of the several ex 
ceptions against the Scripture, a cordial advice to 
all, whose parts and leisure give them not a ju*t 
hope of being able solidly to vindicate it either to 
themselves or others, to decline as much as dis 
creetly they can, the listening to objectors or ob 
jections, of what sort or under what disguise soever, 
against that heavenly book, especially if proposed 
by plausible and insinuating wits. For it not 
being necessary, nor indeed possible, for every 
private Christian to know the opinions and reasons 
of all dissenters about the Scripture, no more than 
for every traveller to be a geographer ; nor requisite 
to the knowledge of the way to heaven, to know 
all those in which they that miss it wander ; (as to 
learn the way from Dover to London, I need not 
teach those that lead not thither;) it is not prudent 
to run a very probable hazard of disquieting one s 
faith, and a not improbable one of subverting it, 
only to gratify a needless curiosity, an itch, which 
we are delighted to have scratched, but which is 
exasperated by being so. And frequently, though 
your design seem innocent, as only to hear with 
out believing, and please yourself with something 
of wit and novelty, yet these conversations rarely 
enough prove harmless, and, as too frequent and 
sad experience proclaims, generally either abate 
a degree of your faith, or qualify some ardour 
of your love, or lessen your reverence for that 

1 Luke, xvi. 31. 


matchless book, or put some strange and disquiet 
ing scruples into your thoughts, which it is much 
easier to confute than to silence. Wherefore, as 
in infectious times, when the plague reigns, physi 
cians use more strictly to forbid the smaller 
excesses and inordinances of diet, and the use 
of meats of ill digestion, or apt to breed any 
distemper, because every petty fever becomes, 
through the malignity of the air, apt to turn 
into the plague ; so now that anti-scripturism 
grows so rife, and spreads so fast, I hope it will 
not appear unseasonable to advise those that 
tender the safety and serenity of their faith, to be 
more than ordinarily shy of being too venturous 
of any books, or company, that may derogate from 
their veneration of the Scripture ; because by the 
predominant and contagious profaneness of the 
times, the least injurious opinions harboured of 
it are prone to degenerate into irreligion. But 
I fear you will think I preach. 


And now, Theophilus, t am arrived at that part 
of this discourse, wherein it will be fit to ex 
amine that grand objection against the style of 
the Scripture, which, though a philosopher would 
not look upon it as the most considerable, is yet 
most urged by many of its witty adversaries, es 
pecially such as are wont to exercise and gratify 
their fancy more than their reason. The objection 
itself is this, " That the Scripture is so unadorned 
with flowers of rhetoric, and so destitute of elo 
quence, that it is flat, and proves commonly ineffi- 
catious upon intelligent readers. Insomuch, that 


clivers great wits and great persons, especially 
statesmen, do either despise it, or neglect to study 
it ;" and truly, the story is famous of that cardinal, 
who flourished in the last age, that said, that once 
indeed he had read the Bible, but if he were to do 
so again, it would lose him all his Latinity. And 
amongst those great orators, as they thought them 
selves, who lived in the same age and country that 
he did, the complaint was ordinary, that the read 
ing of the Bible untaught them the purity of the 
Roman language, and corrupted their Ciceronian 
style. And I remember no obscure prince, though 
he shall here be nameless, because for other quali 
ties I honour him, in no obscure company, dis 
puted with me one day, an opinion about the style 
of the Scripture, to which the cardinal s scorn was 
a compliment. I wish these saucy expressions 
were but outlandish, and could not cross those 
seas that environ England, which is not so happily 
severed from the world s vices, as from its conti 
nent ; this profane judging so boldly that book 
men shall be judged by, being, if not a native, yet 
at least a free denizen of England ; for not only 
it was one, that I am sorry I can call our country 
man, who is recorded to have solemnly preferred 
one of the odes of Pindarus before all the Psalms 
of David ; but I could easily add divers resembling 
instances, that I have myself been troubled to meet 
with, were it not that I somewhat doubt whether 
this kind of profane sayings be not as well fitter as 
worthier to be forgotten than remembered, and to 
be suppressed than divulged ; for, not to mention 
that the recording of such enormities puts an ill 
compliment upon mankind, the satisfaction some 


men s curiosities receive by such relations, will 
scarce account for the temptation it gives others, 
to imitate what they find some had dared. For 
there are some sins whose grand determent is a 
kind of persuasion that they are too horrid to 
have been committed : and some wise legislators 
thought it better against certain crimes to use the 
silence of the laws than their threats. I shall 
therefore, without any further mention of scandalous 
particularities, take it for granted, that there have 
been, and are but too many witty disrespecters of 
the Scripture. But as for the accusation itself, 
which they are alleged to countenance, many de 
fences might be here made against it, if divers 
considerations, pertinent to that purpose among 
others, did not belong to some of those ensuing 
parts of my discourse, wherein it is not the style 
of the Scripture, but other themes that are princi 
pally and directly treated of. Yet that you may 
be assisted to refer hither such parts of the follow 
ing discourse as are applicable to the matter under 
consideration, I shall here take notice to you, that 
my answers to the objection above proposed may, 
for the most part, be reduced to these five heads of 

First, that as to divers parts of the Scripture, it 
was not requisite that they should be adorned with 
rhetorical embellishments. 

Next, that the Bible seems to have much less 
eloquence than indeed it has, to those that read it 
only in translations, especially the vulgar Latin 

Thirdly, that by reason of the differing notions 
several sorts of men, especially of distant nations 


and climates, have of eloquence, many passages 
that are thought uneloquent by us, may appear 
excellently expressed to another part of mankind. 

Fourthly, that there are in the Scripture a mul 
titude of those texts, wherein the author thought fit 
to employ the ornaments of language, conspi 
cuously adorned with such as agree even with our 
notions of eloquence. 

And lastly, that it is very far from being conso 
nant to experience, that the style of the Scripture 
does make it unoperative upon the generality of its 
readers, if they be not faultily indisposed to receive 
impressions from it. 

As to the first of these, having already above de 
clared, that there are many parts of Scripture, 
wherein it would have been improper to affect elo 
quence ; I am willing to suppose that you have not 
yet forgot what has been formerly said. And 
therefore I am unwilling to detain you on this first 
consideration. Yet I cannot but on this occasion 
take notice to you, that we allow all sorts of people 
expressions proper and fitted to their several pro 
fessions and themes. How many of us can dwell 
on lawyers, physicians, and chymists books, 
though oftentimes written in terms as harsh and as 
uncourtly as if those rudenesses were their design ? 
and yet we can neglect and scorn the Scripture, 
because in some passages we there find the myste 
ries and other matters of religion, delivered in a 
proper and theological style. I remember Machia- 
vel, in the dedication of his famous work, after he 
had (not causelessly) acknowledged to Lorenzo de 
Medici, (to whom his book is addressed,) that he 
had not stuffed it with lofty language or big words, 
nor adorned with any of those enveigling outward 


ornaments, usual to other authors in their writings, 
gives this account of the plainness of his style, 
Perche io ho voliito, o che veruna cosa la honori (la 
mia opera) o che solamente la veritd delta materia, 
et la gravitd del soggetto la faccia grata : " that he 
thought fit either that nothing at all should recom 
mend his work, or that the only truth of the dis 
course and the dignity of the subject should make 
it acceptable, and exact its welcome." If a mere 
statesman, writing to a prince upon a mere civil 
theme, could reasonably talk thus, with how much 
more reason may God expect a welcoming enter 
tainment for the least adorned parts of a book, of 
which the truth is a direct emanation from the 
essential and supreme truth, and of which the con 
tents concern no less than man s eternal happiness 
or misery ? And if our nice Italian critics them 
selves cannot, by the plainness of Machiavel s 
style, nor the forbidding of his writings by the in 
quisition, be deterred from as assiduous as prohi 
bited a study of his books, what excuse will they 
one day have, that now make the unaffected style 
of Scripture the sole excuse of their despising (or 
at least neglecting) that divine book ? 

Secondly, as to the disadvantage the Scripture 
receives by its not being read by those I now reason 
with, in their originals ; though I have said some 
thing to it already, yet I must not resume it into 
consideration, and represent, that it is no wonder 
they reverence not the Bible style as they ought, 
whilst they judge of that of an Hebrew book by 
their vulgar translation ; which (though sometimes 
causelessly enough censured by divers Protestant 
divines, that would find it no easy task to make a 
better, yet) certainly is in many places strangely 


harsh and barbarous ; and by a partial and un 
lucky affectation of literality, misseth the propriety 
both of the Hebrew speech and of the Latin : and 
to adhere to the original s words commonly injures 
its eloquence, and oftentimes its sense ; rendering 
excellent expressions in such ungraceful ones as 
would probably fright readers from it, if it could 
not very well spare fine language : so that to our 
present theme we may not ill apply that notable 
saying of Mirandula, Hebr&i bibunt f antes, Greed 
rii-os, Latini paludes. The old French rhyming 
translation of Virgil, makes not the yEneids 
much more eloquent than Hopkins and Sternhold 
have made the Psalms : which sure, being written 
by a person who (setting aside his inspiration) was 
both a traveller, a courtier, and a poet, must at 
least be allowed to contain polished and fashion 
able expressions in their own language, how coarsely 
soever they have been misrendered in ours. What 
opinion the eastern world hath of the sweet singer 
of Israel, may appear both by other hyperbolical 
fictions they believe of him, (whom, with Moses, 
Jesus, and Mahomet, they reckon amongst the four 
great prophets,) and by what Kessa?us (the fumed 
Mahometan writer of the Lives of the Fathers) 
relates concerning him, " that when David sang 
the praises of God, the hills, and birds, and beasts 
therein accompanied him." 1 Which gross literal in 
terpretation of figurative expressions in the Psalms, 
and of the Psalmist s pathetical invitations to the 
inanimate creatures to join with him in celebrating 
their common Creator, he seems to have borrowed 
from the Alcoran itself; where Mahomet brings 

Kessseus, page 99. See Psalm cxiv. 4 ; xix. 


God in, saying, We reduced the mountains to 
comply with him, who should join with him in 
praises morning and evening ; the birds also flock 
to him; all these are obsequious to him." 1 And 
though the New Testament be not written in He 
brew, yet its writers being Hebrews, have chiefly 
conformed themselves to the style of the translators 
of the Old Testament (which whether or no it con 
stitute what critics of late so dispute of under the 
name of Lingua or Dialectus Hellenistica, I pretend 
not to define) and that of the Apocryphal authors 
and other Jews writing in the same language ; who 
(except, perhaps, Josephus and Philo) wrote rather, 
if I may so speak, a Hebrew than an Attic Greek ; 
or, at least, in a dialect, which (by reason of their 
frequent references to the Septuagint s version) 
abounds, if not with Hebraisms, with expressions 
obvious in Hebrew writings, and unfrequent in 
Greek ones, and so relishes much of the Hebraic 
style ; of which, as well in the New as the Old 
Testament, those we reason with, being strangers to 
that primitive tongue, must be incompetent judges; 
there being in the idiotisms of all languages, pecu 
liar graces, which (like those most subtle spirits, 
which exhale in pouring essences out of one vessel 
into another) are lost in most (especially if literal) 
translations ; and the holy tongue being that which 
God himself made choice of to dignify with his ex 
pressions, having divers whose penetrancy is as 
little transfusible into any other as the sun s daz 
zling brightness, or the water of a diamond can be 
undetractingly painted : and having divers words 
and phrases, whose pithiness and copiousness 

1 Surat. iii. vide H. Hottin. 62, and G3. 


none in derived or other languages can match. 
Some of the Hebrew conjugations, as chiefly those 
called hiphil and hiihpael, give significations to 
verbs, which the want of answerable conjugations 
in western languages, makes us unable to fill or 
equal without paraphrases, which are very rarely 
so comprehensive as the original words; and (to 
hint this upon the by) the ignorance, or not consi 
dering of this one grammatical truth, hath kept 
men from fully understanding divers passages of 
the Xew Testament, wherein the ( Greek tongue s want 
of those conjugations, hath made active or intransi 
tive verbs be used in a transitive or reciprocal sig 
nification. How impertinently men s ignorance of 
its originals may make them censure the Scripture, 
I had once occasion to take notice of, by finding a 
famous commentator note St. Paul of impropriety 
of speech, in the beginning of that which is com 
monly thought to be his first epistle to the Thessa- 
lonians, but by the learned Grotius (in his para 
doxes, De Antichristo) not improbably esteemed to 
lie his second : for whereas instead of the Greek 
words a<p vp.wv ts /x 1 ? 1 "" 4 ^.oyoc ~ Kvpin, which 
ours have rightly Englished, From you sounded 
out the word; 1 he found in his translation, 
vobis diffamatus est sermo, not knowing Paul to 
have written in Greek, he would needs correct him 
for having written dijfamatys est, instead of divul- 
ijatus est. 

Thirdly, We may yet further consider, that as to 
many passages of Scripture accused of not ap 
pearing eloquent to European judges, it might be 
justly represented, that the eastern eloquence dif- 

1 2 Thes. i. 8. 



fers widely from the western. In those purer 
climates, where learning, that is here but a deni 
zen, was a native, the most cherished and ad 
mired composures of their wits, if judged by 
western rules of oratory, will be judged destitute 
of it. Their dark and involved sentences, their 
figurative and parabolical discourses, their abrupt 
and maimed way of expressing themselves, which 
often leaves much place to guesses at the sense, 
and their neglect of connecting transitions, which 
often leaves us at a loss for the method and cohe 
rency of what they write, are qualities that our 
rhetoricians do not more generally dislike than 
theirs practise ; there being perhaps little less dis 
parity in our opinions than in our ways of writing ; 
for their pens (as if it were a presage of the dif 
ferent changes the Jews and Greeks have made in 
point of religion) move from the right hand to 
wards the left; ours (therein imitated by those of 
the Ethiopians) from the left towards the right ; 
so that we think they write backwards, and they, 
that we do so. Of this difference of the notions, 
that the eastern and western colonies of the sons 
of Adam have harboured concerning eloquence, I 
shall need to mention but one instance, that one is 
so remarkable ; and that is the Alcoran. How 
much the Mahometan world boasts the eloquence 
of that book, can scarce be unknown to those that 
have, though but a little, busied their curiosity in 
that sort of enquiries. The ablest Arabian ex 
positors and other authors tells us, that all the wit 
and art of men and demons, would be unable to 
hinder that book from being matchless. 1 Mahomet 

1 Beidavi, Ahmedibn, Edris, and others. 


himself was so proud of it, that in some passages 
in it, he defies its opposers to equal one surat or 
section of it, and seems to make its peerlessness 
an argument of its not being of barely human au 
thority; 1 and the Saracens, pressed with their reli 
gion s being destitute of attesting miracles, will not 
scruple to reply, that, though there were no other 
miracle to manifest the excellency of their reli 
gion above that taught by the prophets, yet the 
Alcoran itself were sufficient, as being a lasting 
miracle that transcends all other miracles.* How 
charming its eloquence may be in its original I 
confess myself too unskilful in the Arabic tongue 
to be a competent judge; my other studies and 
distractions having made me forget most of the 
little knowledge I had once acquired of that flou 
rishing language. But though the Alcoran have 
stolen too much from the Bible not to contain divers 
excellent things, which is one inducement to me to 
cite it the oftener, yet certainly, not only the ancient 
Latin version of it, made by orders of the abbot Pe- 
trus Cluniacensis, and published in the last age, by 
the procurement of Bibliander, (and of which this 
is the grand critic Scaliger s exclamation, Deitm 
immortalem, qunm inepta est vulgaris ilia, quam 
habemus, interpretation 3 ) would scarce, by our Eu 
ropean orators, be thought so much as of kin to 
eloquent; but the recent translations I have seen 

1 S. Suratx.S. ll,andS. 17. 

* Etsi nihil prater solum Alkoranum (adduxisset) 

satis hoc foret ad eximiam excellentiam supra reliqua, qua; 
prophetae adduxcrunt : nam ille miraculum est, quod in secula 
durat prse omnibus aliis miraculis. H. Hotting. Hist. Orient, 
pagina circitet 300. 

3 J. Scaliger Kpist. 362 ; apud Theod. Hackspan in libro 
cui Titulus, Fides et Leges Mohamaedis, p. 2. 


of it in French, and, as to divers of it in Latin, 
elaborated by great scholars, and accurate Arabi- 
cians, by making it very conformable to its eastern 
original, have not so rendered it, but that persons 
that judge of rhetoric by the rules of it current in 
these western parts of the world, would, instead of 
extolling it for the superlative, not allow it the 
positive degree- of eloquence; would think the 
style as destitute of graces, as the theology of 
truth ; and would possibly as much admire the 
Saracen s admiration as they do the book. And 
not only what I have seen of the eminent East- 
Indians, is strangely incongruous to our notions of 
eloquence, but what I have perused of the famous 
literati (as they call the learned men) of China, 
though written with great care by the authors, and, 
as it seems, translated with no less by the knowing 
interpreters, would, to an ordinary European ora 
tor, appear rather ridiculous than eloquent. But 
to content ourselves with the examples we formerly 
selected out of the less remote parts of the east ; 
since Mahomet, whose eloquence, almost as pros 
perous as his sword, was able to bring credit and 
proselytes even to such a religion as his; since 
Moses, that so celebrated legislator, bred up in the 
refining court and all the famed wisdom of the 
Egyptians ; since Solomon, who had such incom 
municable advantages to improve himself, and 
whose wisdom (esteemed capable to have go 
verned more kingdoms than his had subjects) the 
western world hath for so many ages admired, and 
the eastern only not idolized ; and since the pro 
phet Daniel, whose promising youth was not only 
cultivated by the instructions of the Chaldean 
sages, but enjoyed the diviner tutorage of God b 


Spirit; and whose matchless abilities preferred 
him from a captive, to be the chief as well of the 
Chaldean wise men as the Median princes : since 
these applauded writers, I say, whom the eastern 
nations so much and so justly admired, by many 
of our Latinists are not thought good writers, be 
cause of our differing notions of eloquence; nay, 
if amongst Europeans themselves, Cicero hath 
found many censurers, and a book hath been pub 
lished to prove that Tully was not eloquent, may 
not we rationally enough suppose, that the Gre 
cian and Roman style amongst the eastern writers 
may not be much better relished than theirs is 
amongst us; and that, consequently, in those parts 
of the Scripture whose eloquence is not obvious to 
us Europeans, the pretended want of eloquence 
may be but a differing and eastern kind of it ? 
Especially if we consider that the ancientest wri 
ters in prose now extant amongst us, were scarce 
contemporary to the latest writers of the Old Tes 
tament; and yet that eloquence, the dress of our 
thoughts, like the dress of our bodies, differs not 
only in several regions, but in several ages. And 
oftentimes in that, as in attire, what was lately 
fashionable is now ridiculous, and what now 
makes a man look like a courtier, may within these 
few lustres make him look like an antic: though 
how purely it is the mode that makes such things 
appear handsome or deformed, may be readily col 
lected from the vicissitudes observable in modes ; 
men by intervals relapsing into obsolete fashions. 
That there are great changes in that mode of writ 
ing men commonly mistake for eloquence, I shall 
produce no less illustrious a witness than Seneca, 
who in his hundred and fourteenth epistle, (to 


omit other passages in his works,) not only proves 
it at large, but shows that in some ages, even the 
faulty ways of expression, conspired in by the 
wits of those times, have passed for eloquence. 
The Scripture style, then, though it were not elo 
quent now, may have excellently suited the genius 
of those times its several books were written in ; 
and have been very proper for those people it was 
primarily designed to work upon. And if I would 
presume to be paradoxical in a thing I so little 
pretend skill in as eloquence, I might further re 
present on this occasion, that rhetoric being but an 
organical or instrumental art, in order chiefly to per 
suasion, or delight, its rules ought to be estimated 
by their tendency and commensurateness to its end, 
and consequently are to be conformed to by a wise 
man, but so far forth as he judgeth them seasonable 
and proper to please or to persuade ; which, when 
he sees he can do better by declining them than 
by practising them, as orators, like hunters, must 
oftentimes leave the most beaten paths, if they will 
not lose their game, he should not scruple to prefer 
the end to the means, the scope of the artist to 
what the schools are pleased to call the scope of 
the art, and to think it more eligible to speak 
powerfully than to speak regularly. And we may 
hence consider, that it may be somewhat incon 
siderate to judge of all eloquence by the rules of 
it that Cicero s admirers impose on us, and con 
found their systems of precepts with the art of 
rhetoric, as if they were equivalent or of the same 
extent. For Cicero being reputed, and that deserv 
edly, an eloquent man, and very successful in per 
suading his thus and thus qualified hearers, divers 
whose modesty or despair kept them from aspiring 


to more than imitation, observing that Tully often 
made use of such and such a contrivance, and such 
and such figurative forms of speaking, took the pains 
to reduce those observations into rules, which being 
highly applauded by their successors, and by them 
recruited with some resembling rules drawn from 
the practice of a few other orators, were afterwards 
compiled into an art, which as I deny not to be a 
great help to the imitation of Tully and Demosthenes, 
or those others from whose structure and fashions of 
speech such institutions have been drawn, so I shall 
no more take it foracomplete systemof rhetoric than 
any instructions deducible from the journals of 
Solomon s Tarshish fleets, and from the Grecian 
and Romans sea-voyages, for the true and entire 
art of navigation. For if other persons, either by 
an endowment or improvement of nature, can find 
other equally or more happy and powerful or mov 
ing, though never so differing, ways of expressing 
themselves, they ought as little to be confined by 
the prescriptions acquiesced in before them, as 
Columbus thought himself obliged to be by the 
rules or practice of ancient navigators, whose 
methods and voyages, had he not boldly ventured 
to vary from and pass beyond, how vast and rich 
a portion of the world had his conformity left un 
discovered ! And on this occasion, Theophilus, I 
must mention one thing that I have observed, 
which perhaps you will not think either despicable 
or impertinent ; and it is, that though the people 
of China be esteemed the most numerous, the most 
flourishing, and, very few if any excepted, the 
most civilized nation in the world, though amongst 
them the greatest part of preferments be attainable 
by verbal learning, and though they have books 


in their language, how well written I know not, 
having never read any of them, of almost all kind 
of liberal arts and sciences ; yet I find by the late 
traveller in China that writ the Italian history of 
that kingdom, and by other authors that mention 
their literature, that this populous and ingenious 
nation, that has been so long settled in a flourishing 
condition, and more than any other people allows 
encouragements and recompences to learned men, 
has not cared to receive rhetoric into the number of 
their arts and sciences ; presuming, as one may 
guess, that the confining men s expressions to estab 
lished rules would not be so likely to enable those to 
express themselves eloquently, that nature has in 
disposed to do so, as to hinder others from express 
ing themselves, as well as were they left to their 
full liberty they would do. I will not say, never 
theless, that our strict Ciceronian rules are crutches 
that may be helps to weak or lame fancies, but are 
clogs or burdens to sound and active ones : but 
this I observe, that these Utopian laws of oratory 
are seldom rigorously imposed by any that publish 
other books that may be examined by them : and 
that wise men, as well in the west as in the east, 
will not easily lose good thoughts or good expres 
sions, because they are not reducible to them. And 
this I the rather press, because I have found but 
too many so blindly servile as to imitate without 
discretion or reserve, in applauded authors, as well 
the bad as the good ; create such artist s errors, 
rules of art; and make one man s particular fancies, 
or perhaps failings, confining laws to others, and 
convey them as such to their succeeders, who are 
afterwards bold to missname all unobsequiousness 
to their incogitancy, presumption ; as Seneca tells 


us of divers imperfections of style, which being fa 
miliar to some one \vho at that time hath the 
vogue for eloquence, are upon his score copied by 
his imitators, and by them taught to others; 1 as, 
(says he) when Sallust flourished, his style made 
maimed and abrupt sentences, words surprisingly 
misplaced, and an obscure brevity pass for orna 
ments : and indeed, it is not uneasy for any man to 
observe the very weeds of cried up rhetoricians, 
cried up for flowers of rhetoric. But having al 
ready wandered, perhaps, too far in this digression, 
I shall now conclude it ; though since it is for the 
Scripture, and with its enemies that I am contending, 
I shall venture to do it with minding our cardinal, 
and those that so undervalue the Scripture s way> 
of expression in comparison of Tully s, because his 
books do so regularly express the rules of elo 
quence; that it is no marvel they should find Ci 
cero s writings to be so conformable to their law> 
of art, whilst they frame those laws of art out of 
his writings. 

But, Theophilus, I fear I have detained you too 
long in a digression "whereinto I slipped but occa 
sionally, which is not so necessary to my present 
argument, but that I am content you should look 
upon the paradox as any thing rather than an 
opinion or reasoning w hereon I lay any great stress. 

In the fourth place then, let me represent to you. 
that there are very few, if any, books in the world, 
that are no more voluminous, in which there is 
greater plenty of figurative expressions than in the 

- Haec \itia unus aliquis inducit, sub quo tune elo- 
quentia est : cseteri imitantur, et alter alteri tradunt. Sic Sallustio 
vigente, amputate? sententiae, et verbaante exspectatum cadentia, 
et obscura brevitas, fuere procultu. Seneca. Epist. cxiv. 


Bible. Though this may seem strange, it is no 
more than may be made good by more than some 
hundreds of instances ; there being few tropes or 
figures in rhetoric of which numerous examples 
are not collectible out of the expressions of holy 
writ. I insist not upon this, because a bare cata 
logue of the rhetorical passages I could enumerate 
would too much swell an essay ; and I am informed 
that task hath been already prosperously under 
taken by abler pens. Wherefore I shall now only 
say, that the eloquence of the Scripture hath been 
highly celebrated by no small number of persons, 
highly celebrated for eloquence ; and that many, 
who thought themselves as intelligent in oratory as 
those that censure the Scripture, have suspected 
their own eloquence of insufficiency worthily to 
extol that of the prophet Isaiah ; and some of them, 
(amongst whom I cannot but name that excellent 
prince of Mirandula, whom even the greatest rabbi 
of this age 1 styles the phoenix of his age,) who after 
having unsatisfiedly travelled through all sorts of 
human volumes, have rested and acquiesced only 
in these divine ones: which will not a little recom 
mend the Scripture, since we may apply to books 
what an excellent poet says of mistresses, 

" Tis not that which first we love, 
But what dying we approve," * 

that we express the highest value of. And 
indeed, the best artists making two parts of ora 
tory ; the one which consists in the embellish 
ments of our conceptions, and the other that con 
sists in the congruity of them to our design and 

1 Menasse Ben-Israel. 2 Waller, 


method, and the suitable accommodation of them 
to the various circumstances considerable in the 
matter, the speaker, and the hearers ; this latter is pe 
culiarly and inimitably practised in the Scripture ; 
and as much of the former (which is not only less 
considerable, but is changeable and unagreed of, as 
\ve have newly seen) is made use of as is requisite 
to the author s purposes, and to manifest that deli 
cacy or smoothness never ceases to be the property 
of his style, but because in some cases it would be 
incongruous to his design. And where these verbal 
ornaments are spared, they are not missed ; for as 
there are some bodies so well shaped and fashioned 
that any clothes become them much better than 
the most fine and graceful would do ordinary, 
much more crooked or mishapen, persons ; so 
there are writings whose matter and structure are 
such, that the plainest language can scarce misbe 
come them so as to hinder them from eclipsing a 
trifling or ill-matched subject, with the sprucest 
and gaudiest expressions that can be lavished on 
it. But the truth is, that this florid eloquence is 
great in many texts, where it is not at all conspi 
cuous, being hidden in the matter, as in roses of 
diamonds, the jewels often times keep us from 
minding the flower and the enamel, and appears 
not great, but because it is not the greatest. Some 
famous writers have challenged Demosthenes and 
Cicero to compare with the prophet Isaiah, in 
whom they have not only admired that lofty strain 
which artists have termed the sublime character, 
but even that harmonious disposition and sound of 
words, I mean in their original, which the French 
prettily call La cadence des periodes. 

Wherefore, Theophilus, whereas I have formerly 


acknowledged that there are some witty men that 
speak very disrespectfully of the Scripture, I hope 
that if you meet with any such, you will consider, 
that it has, among the wits, as well celebrators and 
admirers as disregarders. And that you may 
think this desire of mine the more reasonable, be 
pleased to consider with me, that there are divers 
things which ought to lessen the authority of the 
disparagers of the Scripture, in the case under con 

For first, how few of them, think you, are wont 
to read it in its originals, and how much less a 
number is there of those who both know and duly 
consider all those particulars represented in the 
past discourse on the behalf of the Scripture s 
style ! So that in a great many men of parts, 
their undervaluation of the Scripture proceeds not 
from their having great wits, but from their not 
having a competent information of what can be 
alleged for its justification. 

But though we should suppose those we speak 
of not to want information, yet we may well sup 
pose many of them not to be free from vanity and 
envy, there scarce being any fault so incident to 
great wits as the ambition of being thought still 
more and more so, and the unwillingness that any 
composures but their own, or those they have a 
hand in, should be celebrated : as if all praises 
were injurious to them that are given to any 
other. It need be no great wonder then if so ex 
cellent a book as the Scripture, have as well enviers 
as admirers ; and if there be divers who cavil at it 
and seem to undervalue it, out of a criminal fond 
ness of the over-ambitioned title of a wit, which 
they hope to acquire by unherding and keeping 


out of the road, and owning their being able to 
slight and disgrace that which so many others re 
verence and venerate. 

But, thirdly, it is sufficiently notorious, that of 
the opposers of the Scripture, there is a great part 
whose vanity and envy, though no small faults, are 
not their greatest crimes ; but who live so disso 
lutely and scandalously that the suspicion cannot 
but be obvious, that such decry the Scripture for 
fear of being obliged, at least, for mere shame, to 
live more conformably to it. And that it were no 
slander to affirm it to lie their interest, not their 
reason, that makes them find fault with a book that 
finds so much fault with them ; and they who 
are sensible of the truth of that of our Saviour, 
where he says, That many love darkness rather 
than light, because their deeds are evil: and that 
he that doth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh 
to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved, will 
not be much moved to find conscious malefactors 
find fault with the statute-book, but will rather 
look upon these sinners censures of the Scripture 
a^ apologies they judge necessary to palliate their 
sins, or as acts of revenge, for their being exposed 
in all their deformity to the eyes of the world, and 
of their own consciences, in the Bible ; and conse 
quently will be inclined to think that their irreli 
gious expressions do rather show what they would 
have men believe of them, than what they believe 
of the Scripture, by seeming to slight which they 
hope to have their vices imputed rather to a supe 
riority of their reason over that of others, than i\ 
servitude of their reason to their passions. 

1 John, 19, 20. 


A long Digression against Profaneness, as it 
relates to the Scripture. 

Here I thought to pass on to another argu 
ment, but, to express myself in David s words, 
while I was musing, the fire burned, and my zeal 
for the Scripture, together with the charity it has 
taught me to exercise even towards its opposers, 
suffers me not, with either silence or languid re 
sentments, to see how much that incomparable 
book loses of the opinion of less discerning men, 
upon the account of their disrespects, who are, 
whether deservedly or not, looked upon as wits. 
And therefore to what I have represented to invali 
date the authority of those few persons, otherwise 
truly witty, that undervalue the Scripture, I am 
obliged to add, that besides them there is a number 
of those that slight the Scripture, who are but 
looked upon as wits, without being such indeed : 
nay, who many of them would not be so much as 
mistaken for such, but for the boldness they take 
to own slighting of the Scripture and to abuse the 
words of it to irreligious senses, and perhaps pass 
ing to the impudence of perverting inspired ex 
pressions, to deliver obscene thoughts. But to 
knowing and serious men, this prevaricating with 
the Scripture will neither discredit it nor much re 
commend the profane prevaricator ; for a book s 
being capable of being so misused, is too unavoid 
able to be a disparagement to it. Nor will any 
intelligent reader undervalue the charming poems 
of Virgil or of Ovid, because by shuffling and dis 
guising the expressions, some French writers have 

1 Psal. xxxix. 3. 


of late been pleased out of rare pieces to compose 
whole books of what they call i-ers burlesques, de 
signed by their ridiculousness to make their readers 
sport ; and on the other side, to abuse dismembered 
words and passages of any author to meanings 
he never dreamed of, is a thing so easy that 
almost any man may have the wit to talk at that 
profane rate, that will but allow himself the sauci- 
ness to do so. And indeed experience shows, that 
if this vice itself do not make its practisers sus 
pected of being necessitous of the quality they put 
it on to be thought masters of, yet at least persons 
intelligent and pious, will not be apt to value any 
discourse as truly witty, that cannot please the 
fancy without offending the conscience, and will 
never admire his plenty that cannot make an en 
tertainment, without furnishing out the table with 
unclean meats; and considering persons will scarce 
think it a demonstration of a man s being a wit, 
that he will venture to be damned to be thought 
one. And that which aggravates these men s pro- 
faneness, and leaves them excuseless in it, is, that 
there are few of these fools (for so the wise man 
calls them that make a mock of sin) that have 
said in their hearts that there is no God ; or that 
the Scripture is not his word ; their disrespect to 
the Scripture springing from their vanity, not their 
incredulity. They affect singularity for want of 
any thing else that is singular; and finding in them 
selves strong) desires of conspicuousness with small 
abilities to attain it, they are resolved, with Eros- 
tratus, that fired Diana s temple to be talked of for 
having done so, to acquire that considerableness 

1 Psal. xiv 1. 


by their sacrilege, which they must despair of from 
their parts. And indeed there want not many 
who have so little wit as to cry up all this sort of 
people for great wits. And as withes, whilst they 
are sound, grow unregarded trees ; but when they 
once are rotten, shine in the night ; so many of 
these pretenders, whilst they were not very profane, 
were, and that justly, esteemed very dull ; but now 
that their parts are absolutely corrupted and per 
verted, they grow conspicuous, only because they 
are grown depraved. And I shall make bold to 
continue the comparison a little further, and ob 
serve, that as this rotten wood shines but in the 
night; so many of these pretenders pass for wits 
but amongst them that are not truly so. For per 
sons really knowing, can easily distinguish be 
twixt that which exacts the title of wit from our 
judgments, and that which but appears such to our 
corruptions. And how often the discourse we cen 
sure is of the latter sort, they need not be in 
formed that have observed how many will talk 
very acceptably in derogation of religion, whom, 
upon other subjects, their partiallest friends ac 
knowledge very dull ; and who are taken notice of 
for persons that seldom say any thing well but 
what it is ill to say. And questionless there is no 
small number of these scorners, whose censures of 
the Scripture s style are little less guilty of pre 
sumption than profaneness. I have of late years 
met with divers such vain pretenders, who blush 
not to talk of rhetoric more magisterially than 
Aristotle or Tully would ; and superciliously to 
deride, in comparison of their own writings and 
theirs who write like them, not the Bible only, 
but the most venerated authors of antiquity; and, 


to use Asaph s words, They speak loftily, they 
set their mouth against the heavens, and their 
tongue vvalketh through the earth;" they speak 
arrogantly and censoriously both of God and men ; 
whilst themselves oftentimes understand no tongue 
but their mother s, and are strangers enough to 
rhetoric, not to know the difference betwixt a trope 
and a figure, betwixt a prosopopoeia and a meta 
phor, or betwixt a climax and a metonymy. Nor 
is our wonder like to cease, to find these trans 
cendent wits (as they are pleased to think them 
selves) so undervalue the Scripture, by consider 
ing the rare composures they despise it for; these 
being commonly no other than some drunken song 
or paltry epigram, some fawning love-letter, or 
some such other flashy trifle, that doth much more 
argue a depressed soul than an elevated fancy. 
Some of these gallants, by their tavern-songs, use 
the muses like anchovies, only to entice men to 
drink. Another, with more solemnity and ap- 
pluuse, makes the muses (what the French call) 
the confidants of his amours, prostitutes his wit to 
evince and celebrate the defeat of his retwon, and 
never considering how apt self-love makes us to 
magnify any thing that magnifies us, is proud to 
have wit ascribed him by as bribed as incompe 
tent judges of it ; and takes it for as high a proof 
as desirable a fruit of eloquence, to persuade a 
vain mistress that she is handsome and adored, to 
whom it were eloquence indeed to be able to per 
suade the contrary. Divers of the Jews are wont 
to mention the names of deceased sinners with that 
brand taken out of the Proverbs, May the name 

Psalm Ixxiii. 8, 9. 

Q 2 


of the wicked rot; but as the filthiest swine after 
their death are salted, and the gammons made of 
their flesh are served in, all stuck with bays; so 
divers that have lived notorious epicures, have too 
often, after their death, not only their names salted 
(not to say embalmed) with flattering epitaphs, 
and, I wish, seldomer, as flattering funeral ser 
mons ; but have their drunken or lustful rhymes 
extolled with such eulogies by their surviving re- 
semblers, that not only good Christians but good 
poets cannot but grieve and blush, thus to see 
bays, that should be appropriated to and crown 
that heavenly gift called poetry, when, mindful of 
its dignity and extraction, it endears to us by our 
fancies, truths that should have an influence on 
our affections, (by clothing excellent thoughts in 
suitable and winning dresses,) prostituted and de 
graded to make wreaths for those who have no bet 
ter title to them than a few sensual rhymes, where 
the dictates of Horace are as little conformed to 
as the example of David ; and the laws of art little 
less violated than those of religion. It is pleasant 
to obserfte in how many of such copies of verses 
the themes appear to have been made to the con 
ceits, not the conceits for the themes ; how often 
the words are not so properly the clothes of the 
matter, as the matter the stuffing of the words; 
how frequently sublime nonsense passes for sub 
lime wit; and (though, according to my notion 
of it, that is indeed true wit which it is more 
easy to understand than it is not to admire it) 
how commonly confused notions, and abortive or 
unlicked conceptions are, in exotic language or am 
biguous expressions, exposed to the uncertain adop 
tion of the courteous reader; which the writers are 


emboldened to expect favourable, by finding men 
once thought (whether deservedly or otherwise) 
lofty wits, to have so often the luck of parrots and 
of those that talk in their sleep, who are not seldom 
understood by others when they do not understand 
themselves. And very much of kin to their verses 
is their prose. For though I am far from denying 
that those that have store of wit, may express some 
of it in an address to a great man, or in writing to 
a mistress ; yet as for such profane persons I am 
now speaking of, who rather would be thought 
wits than are so, it is easy to discern that very 
many of their almost as much flattered as flatter 
ing letters of love and compliment, are but pro 
logues to, and paraphrases of the subscription, "your 
humble servant." Though love be universally 
thought to make the fancy soar, (lovers like sealed 
pigeons, flying the higher for having been blinded.) 
and though even the wiser observe, that, like war 
which is wont as well to raise soldiers of fortune as 
to ruin men of fortune, love warms and elevates 
lesser wits, though it too often infatuate the great 
ones ; yet a witty lady did not scruple to say fre 
quently, that give her but leave to bar half a score 
words, such as she pleased to name ; and she would 
undertake to spoil all the fine letters of our amorous 
gallants. I applaud not the severity of this lady ; 
and think her challenge relishes as much of vanity 
as skill ; but yet, to express the sense of these few 
words, " I desire you should think I can write well, 
am_a civil person, and your humble servant," being 
the drift and substance of most of these ceremonial 
papers ; these (oftentimes as tedious as servile) am- 
plificators, with all their empty multiplicity of fine 
words, do but, like market-people, pay a piece in 


twenty shillings. In wits not blessed with solid reason 
and learning, (that is, in most readers,) fancy being 
the predominant faculty, makes them relish those 
writings most where fancy unrivalled reigns. And 
therefore, though I dare not say that it requires no 
great parts for those to write high and acceptable 
compliments, that think nothing fit to be endea 
voured in compliments, but to make them accept 
able by making them high enough ; (flattery and 
profaneness seeming in such composures what 
spots are in leopards, blemishes that make a great 
part of their beauty ;) or for a flatterer to persuade 
those vain persons that will readily believe a man, 
even when he doth not believe himself; yet sure it 
gives much latitude and liberty to a writer, not to 
be obliged to believe what he says, nor say but 
what he thinks either will be or ought to be be 
lieved. And truly, they that exercise their pens 
on either sort of themes (I mean those that require 
only new or pleasing fancies and smooth language; 
and those that require learning and knowledge per 
tinently and handsomely expressed ) do, I doubt not, 
find it much less difficult for writers to delight, 
where they propose themselves no higher end, and 
scruple at nothing they judge conducive to that in 
ferior one, than to please, where to do so is but a 
subordinate end, which men allow not themselves 
even the use of all proper means to attain ; nor 
do I question but such persons find it far more 
easy to write acceptably on subjects where they 
are not tied to speak either reason or truth, than 
to write well on a theme where men are con 
fined to write nothing but what they judge useful, 
and what they can make good ; as considering that 
they may be called to account by men for what 


they publish, if not by God, both for their own 
time and that of their readers. And, indeed, when 
I compare the most applauded trifles of these un- 
dervaluers of the Scripture style, with the celebra 
ting discourses of it extant in the learned writings 
of St. Austin, St. Jerome, Tertullian, Lactantius, 
Chrysostom, Mirandula, and others, whose pene- 
trant and powerful arguments defeat not God s 
enemies, as Samson did the Philistines with a jaw 
bone of an ass, nor as Shamgar with an ox-goad ? 
(I mean with blunt and despicable weapons,) but 
as Elias did, with fire from heaven ; 3 and whose 
apologetical defences of the spiritual Jerusalem are 
glittering and solid, as the wall of the heavenly 
Jerusalem is described to be of jasper, and the 
foundations of the wall garnished with all manner 
of precious stones: 4 when I compare, I say, the 
composures of our frothy censurers with those of 
the sacred orators ; methinks I discern such a dif 
ference betwixt them, as I have observed betwixt 
those justly admired statues I have seen in the 
Capitol, and the larger sort of babies that we find 
in the Exchange : for the former, besides their vast- 
ness, are so recommended by the worth and per 
manency of their matter, the excellency of the 
workmanship, and the nobleness of what they re 
present, that they are most prized by the best 
artists, and time is not only unable to consume 
them, but still increases men s value of them ; 
whereas the latter are little trifles, scarce welcome 
to any but children in understanding ; and ad 
mired only for a gaudy effeminate dress, which 

1 Judges, xv. 15. 5 Ibid. iii. 31. 3 2 Kings, i. 10. 
4 Rev. xxi. 10, 18, 19. 


will quickly either be sullied or worn out ; and a 
fashionableness which within a short while will 
perhaps be ridiculous. But, supposing at length 
that the profane aspirer should be so lucky, or so 
successful, (for happy T cannot think it,) as to at 
tain the so criminally courted notedness, yet will 
he have no great cause to boast the purchase, when 
he seriously considers, that the devil, who seduces 
other sinners like men with current coin or spark 
ling jewels, (something that either advantages 
their interests or delights their senses,) hath in 
veigled him, like a child, with a whistle ; a trifle 
that only pleases with a transient and empty sound; 
and, that fame is a blessing only in relation to the 
qualities and the persons that give it : since other 
wise, the tormented prince of devils himself were 
as happy as he is miserable ; and famousness un 
attended with endearing causes is a quality so un 
desirable, that even infamy and folly can confer it. 
As Momus is little less talked of than Homer ; the 
unjust Pilate is more famous than Aristides the 
Just ; and Barabbas s name is signally recorded in 
Scripture, whereas the penitent thief is left unmen- 
tioned. And sure the highest favours that applause 
can impart, and the being (though never so loudly) 
cried up fora wit, will hardly so repair the punish 
ment of profaneness, but that its wretched sufferer 
will find but small satisfaction in having his name 
celebrated in other books, whilst it is blotted out of 
that of life. And as for those (you know whom I 
mean) that aspiring to posthumous glory, endeavour 
to acquire it by irreligious writings, destinated not to 
see the light till their authors be gone to the region 
of darkness, I cannot but admire to see an ambi 
tion that projects beyond the grave, stop short of 


heaven ; and cannot but think those wits the great 
est fools, who to tempt praises they shall never 
hear, provide themselves torments that they shall 
ever feel. For, though profaneness by those that 
are guilty of it be too often thought but a small 
sin, because they look upon it but as a verbal one, 
yet I could easily represent it under another notion, 
if I would here repeat what I have discoursed 
touching indulgence to reputedly small and verbal 
sins in another paper, from which, though I will 
not now transcribe any thing, yet I cannot but 
wish it wt-re well considered how affronting speeches 
concerning God s word are like to be looked upon 
in that great day, when (to borrow St. J tide s 
terms) the Lord shall come with ten thousands of 
his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to 
convince all that are ungodly among them, not 
only of all their ungodly deeds which they have 
ungodly committed ; but also of all their hard 
speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against 
him. 1 And, indeed, these presumed peccadillos, 
though oftentimes in health and prosperity, they 
appear not to us to blemish much our consciences, 
yet, when in our distresses or at the approaches of 
death, God comes, as the prophet speaks, to search 
men s hearts as it were with candles, and punish 
the men that are settled upon their lees, 4 (which 
whilst a liquor is, it may look clear, and be taken 
for defecated, but a little agitation of the vessel 
strait makes it troubled and muddy,) they appear 
in a terrifying form. For as paper written upon 
with juice of lemons may wear white (the livery of 
innocence) whilst it is kept from the fire, but 

1 Jude, ver. 14, 15. * Zeph. i. 12. 


being held to it, black lines do presently appear ; 
so out of many consciences that seem clear in 
prosperity, the fire of adversity draws out the latent 
blacknesses, and makes us read things undiscerned 
there before. And questionless, if, as the Scripture 
informs us, there are sins whose cry is able to reach 
heaven/ so loud a crime as the profaneness I am 
now speaking of, is likely to do more than whisper 
there ; especially since it is much to be feared, that 
many of these scoffers (as they seem to be called in 
the Scripture, which they bear witness to, by 
cavilling at it) do rebel against the light, and 
kick against the pricks 2 of their own consciences ; 
such a crime, I say, will be so far from whispering 
in heaven, that it will rather give an alarm that 
will rouse up provoked justice ; whose inflictions, 
like stones tumbled down from the towers of an 
assaulted place, the longer they are in falling on 
men, the more fatally they oppress them ; in which 
regard, perhaps, the feet of our Saviour in the Apo 
calypse are described to be like unto fine brass, as 
if they burned or glowed in a furnace ; 3 to intimate, 
that though he be very slow in his march to destroy 
the wicked, yet he is as sure, when once he pleases 
to tread them under foot, to crush and consume 
them. If there be no injury that more exasperates 
than contempt, and no contempt that more pro 
vokes than that which offends directly and imme 
diately, (the affronters thereby proclaiming that 
they are neither ashamed nor afraid of angering,) 
how provoking may we think that crime which 
makes God the subject of our derision ; and that 

Gen. xviii. 21. 2 Pet. iii. 3; Judc, ver. 17, 18. 
3 Rev. i. 15. 


with so little circuition, as to abuse that word 
which he so solemnly declared his mind by toman- 
kind ! Plutarch, to manifest how much some idola 
ters did more incense the Deity than some atheists, 
tells us, he should esteem himself less injured by 
the man that should doubt or deny that there was 
ever any such man as Plutarch ; than by him that 
should affirm that there was such a one indeed, but 
that he was an old fellow, that used, like the poet s 
Saturn, to devour his children ; and was guilty of 
those other crimes imputed by the heathen to their 
gods. Upon a like account we may esteem God 
less provoked by their unbelief that doubt or reject 
the Scripture, than by their profaneness that make 
so sacrilegiously bold with it ; since the latter im 
pute to God the enditing of what they endeavour 
to make men think fit to have sport made with. 
This of profaneness is so empty and unprofitable a 
sin, that it scarce gets the practiser any thing but 
an ill name amongst good men upon earth, and a 
worse place amongst bad men in hell ; by making 
his enmity to piety so malicious and so disinterest 
ed, that he will endeavour to do religion harm, 
though it be to do himself no good. He is such a 
volunteer sinner, that he hath neither the wit nor 
the excuse of declining his conscience in compli 
ment to his senses ; and though he ever makes but 
an ill bargain that gets in hell to boot; yet those 
I would reclaim, come far short of the comparative 
wisdom of their folly, who to gain so considerable 
(though yet over-purchased) a possession as the 
whole world, should part with their own souls. 
And sure a sin that is injurious to God s glory, 
and is apt to subvert (what he and good men prize 
next) the dearly purchased, immortal, and invalu- 


able souls of men ; and to destroy them for whom 
Christ died;" will not, by being verbal, be pro 
tected from being heinous; and to those that prac 
tise it, I shall recommend the latter half of the 
epistle of Jude; which, though it seem properly to 
relate to the Gnostics or Carpocratians of his time, 
will deserve a trembling attention from those that 
revive the sins there condemned in ours ; and who 
would do well, by seasonably considering the fate 
there threatened to their predecessors, to tremble at 
their crime. But for fear of losing it, I shall not 
spend more time in endeavouring to disabuse our 
scorners ; whom I should have left to the quiet 
enjoyment of their unenvied self-admiration, had 
not their despising the Scripture upon a pre 
sumption of their own matchless wit, (like Jero 
boam that forsook that incomparable structure, 
the temple, where God did so gloriously and pecu 
liarly manifest himself to men, to worship calves 
of his own making, 8 ) engaged me, in conformity 
to the wise man s counsel in such cases, to an 
swer the fool according to his folly, lest he be wise 
in his own conceit: 3 for my reproofs are addressed 
to those called wits, but as they are traducers or 
undervalues of the Scripture ; not as they either 
pretend to, or enjoy a quality which I have the 
justice to esteem, though not the happiness to pos 
sess; and which my value for it, and my charity 
for men, makes me troubled to see arrogated by 
many that want it; and by too many that have it, 
prostituted to gratify other people s pride, or their 
own lusts. 

1 Romans, xv. 15. Q 1 Kings, xii. 28, 32. 

3 Proverbs, xxvi. 5. 


In Appendix to the former Digression, inviting one 
sort of witty men to make amends for the profane- 
ness of another. 

How much happier were it for persons of 
choice parts to employ them, as Bezaleel and 
Aholiab did theirs, in working for the sanctu 
ary ; in asserting and embellishing divinity ! The 
structure will not alone deserve the skilfullest 
hand; hut though it reject not goats hair, and 
coloured badgers skins, will admit not only purple 
and fine twined linen, but gold, silver, and pre 
cious stones : the richest ornaments that learning 
and eloquence can grace theology with, being not 
only merited by that heavenly subject, but being 
applicable to it, as much to their own advantage 
as to that of their theme. We see how ambitious 
are men to leave a good name behind them, and 
appear in the habit of virtue to their own and after 
times. Witness the artifices and hypocrisy men 
generally veil or disguise their sins with, and the 
flattering epitaphs with which so many vicious 
persons endeavour to convey themselves to the 
opinion of posterity. Now, they that write piously 
as well as handsomely, have the advantage of get 
ting themselves the reputation as well of virtuous 
as of able men ; and besides that double recom- 
pence, may expect a third, transcending both, in 
heaven, where they that, in the true Scripture sense, 
be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firma 
ment, and they that turn many to righteousness, 
as the stars for ever and ever. 4 It is the general 
complaint and grief of persons truly zealous, that 

1 Exod. xxiii. 3, 4, 5, &c. - Dan. xii. 3. 


there are many more wits and grandees now-a-days, 
who, by perverting God s gifts to the service of 
idols (of pride or pleasure) of their own setting 
up, resemble the degenerate Jewish church, of 
whom God complains by Hosea, that she did 
not know that he gave her the corn and wine and 
oil, and multiplied her silver and her gold which 
they prepared for Baal ; than that, by an hum 
ble dedication of their choicest abilities to God s 
service, imitate holy David and his princes ; who, 
having consecrated their gold and silver and pre 
cious stones, towards the enriching and embellish 
ing of the temple, perfumed that vast offering 
with this acknowledgment to God ; All things 
come of thee, and thine own have we given thee. ,* 
But though now I know divers great persons and 
great wits amongst us, who, very unmindful of 
that text, * What hast thou that thou didst not re 
ceive ? 3 like those ungrateful clouds that obscure 
the sun that raised them, oppose the glory of that 
God who elevated them to that height ; yet I do 
not absolutely despair, that as God hath been 
pleased to make use of several royal pens for the 
tracing of his word, and to make a person learned 
in all the wisdom of the Egyptians his first secre 
tary ; so he will one day engage both the grandees 
and the wits to strive to expiate, by their devo 
tion and service to the Scripture, the injuries that 
irreligious parts and greatness have done it. I 
will not tell you, Theophilus, that an early study 
of religion would gain to its party most of those 
many wits that will be sure to contend for what 
ever opinion is expressed by the wittiest things 

1 Hosea, ii. 8. * 1 Chron. xxix. 14. 3 1 Cor. iv. 7. 


they can say. But I will tell you, that a particu 
lar consideration that makes me wish to see witty 
writers more generally employ their pens on the 
behalf of religion, is, that the services they do it 
endear it to them ; for as Macchiavel smartly ob 
serves, and as the love of parents and nurses to 
children may evince; La natura Jegli hiinmini < 
cosi obligarsi per i benefici che si fanno, come per 
ifuelli che .s7 ricerono. " It is natural to men to be 
as well engaged by the kindnesses they do as by 
those they receive." And for the encouragement 
of the possessors of great parts to employ them on 
religious themes, such as the Holy Scripture, I 
shall represent to them, that even that immortality 
of name which worldly writers, for the most part, 
solely aim at, is not by pious writers less found for 
being last sought : their theme contracts not their 
fame by a true diminution, but only by compari 
son to a greater good : their looking upon their 
own glory but as an accession to God s, not hinder 
ing others from praising that wit and eloquence 
they praise God with; as beauty makes itself ad 
mirers, though in vestals ; and a rare voice may 
ravish us with a psalm ; or as the jewels that 
adorned it, shone with their wonted lustre on 
Aaron s breast-plate. Yes, as godliness is pro 
fitable unto all things, having promise of the 
life that now is, and of that which is to come; * 
and as the hundred-fold now in this time, is 
very consistent with the eternal life in the world 
to come; 3 so is it very possible for the same pi 
ous writer to have his name written, at once in 

Nicholo Macchiavelli, nel libro del principe, c. 19. 
* 1 1 im. iv. 8. 3 Mark, x. 3 . 


both those immortal books of life and fame; and, 
like the inspired poet, holy David, wear as well 
here a crown of laurel, as hereafter, TOV apapcn rivov 
rijje or/e ^i^tavov, that unfading crown of glory 
St. Peter speaks of. 1 And though we are too gene 
rally now-a-days, grown so sinful, that we scarce 
relish any composure that endeavours to reclaim us 
from being so ; yet less licentious and more discern 
ing times, which may be, perhaps, approaching, will 
repair the omissions and fastidiousness of the pre 
sent, by an eminent gratitude to the names of 
those that have laboured to transmit to others, in 
the handsomest dress they durst give them, the 
truths themselves most valued. And I observe, 
that though Solomon himself delivered so many 
thousand songs and proverbs, and the nature of 
beasts, birds, reptiles, and fishes, together with the 
history of plants from the cedar of Lebanon, 
even to the hysop that springeth out of the wall ; * 
yet those three only treatises, designed peculiarly 
for the instruction of the church, survive their lost 
companions. And, as anciently the manna which 
the Israelites gathered to employ in their domes 
tic uses, lasted not unputrefied above a day or 
two ; but that which they laid up in the sanctuary, 
to perpetuate or secure God s glory, continued 
whole ages uncorrupted ; 3 so the books written to 
serve our private turns of interest or fame, are 
oftentimes short-lived ; when those consecrated to 
God s honour are, for that end s sake, vouchsafed 
a lastingness and kept from perishing. And those 
many dull and uneloquent glosses and expositions 

1 Pet. v. 4. 2 1 Kings, iv. 31, 32, 33. 

3 Exod. xvi. 20, 33, 34. 


of the ancient Jews, that the merit of their theme 
hath preserved for so many ages, may assure us, 
that the Scripture doth often make their names 
and writings that illustrate it, partakers of its own 
prerogative of immortality. Not to mention that 
(according to that of the Psalmist, I have more 
understanding than all my teachers; because thy 
testimonies are my meditation, 1 ) such an em 
ployment of parts doth oftentimes invite God 
to increase them ; as he that had most talents 
committed to him, for improving them to his 
Lord s service, was trusted with more of them;* 
and he who employed some few cups of his wine 
to entertain our Saviour, had whole vessels of his 
water turned into better wine. 3 Certainly, tran 
scendent wits, when once they addict themselves to 
theological composures, improve and grace most 
excellently themes so capable of being so improved. 
They need small time to signalize their pens ; for 
possessing already in a sublime degree all the re 
quisites and appropriates of rate writers, they need 
but apply that choice knowledge and charming 
eloquence to divine subjects, to handle them to ad 
miration; as Hiram successfully used the skill he 
had learned in Tyre, in the building and adorning 
of God s temple; 4 and Jephthah victoriously em 
ployed the military gallantry and art that had 
made him considerable in the land of Tob, in de 
fending the cause, and defeating the enemies of 
God/ Of this truth the primitive times afford us 
numerous and noble instances; but especially that 
stupendous wit St. Austin, (whom I dare oppose 

I salm cxix. 99. * Mart. xxv. 2fi. 3 John, ii. 1 10. 
4 1 Kings, vii. 13, 14, &c. " Judges, xi. 



to any of the wits that have dared to oppose the 
Scripture,) the production of whose wit in his un- 
regenerate state, and after his conversion to the 
Catholic faith and piety, oblige me to resemble him 
to Aaron s rod, which, supposing the truth of their 
opinion that think it to be the same that Moses 
used, whilst it was employed abroad, did indeed 
for a while work wonders, that made it much ad 
mired ; but when once it came to be laid up in the 
tabernacle, unconfined to the usual laws of other 
plants, it shot forth and afforded permanent fruit in 
a night. 1 But, Theophilus, to recover myself at 
length from my over-prolix digression, I must re 
member, that it was objected, that as well divers 
great princes and great statesmen, as many great 
wits disesteem, or at least neglect, the Scripture ; 
and, indeed, though I am sorry it cannot, yet it 
must not be denied, that notwithstanding all the 
prerogatives of the Bible, there needs not much ac 
quaintance with great men, to show many of them, 
that though they deny not God to be the author, 
deny themselves the blessing of being readers of 
it : some out of laziness, and others out of pride ; 
both which lurk under the pretext of multiplicity 
of important avocations. But since your quality, 
Theophilus, and station in the world, may either 
make you need to be armed against this temptation, 
or give you opportunities to assist those that are 
endangered by it, give me leave on this occasion 
to tell you, that those grandees that pretend want 
of leisure for their neglect of the reading of the 
Scripture, must be able to give a rare account of 
all the portions of their time, to make those pass 
for a misemployment of it that are laid out to- 

1 Xumb. xvii. 4, 8. 


wards the purchase of a happy eternity, which it is 
not over modest for those to expect from God, that 
grudge him the rent of that time of which they are 
but his tenants at will. But to manifest how un 
likely this pretence is to pass current, I shall re 
present, that in the self-same chapter where God 
fashions a king lit to govern his own people ; he 
enjoins concerning the book of the law, that it 
shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the 
days of his life; 1 which the next verse intimates 
bhall be thereby prolonged ; s and, indeed, it often 
happens, that as Samuel s barren mother, for lend 
ing one of her children freely unto the Lord, was 
blessed with many others ; 3 so the days consecrated 
to God s service rather improve than impoverish 
our stock of time. Xay, the king was (in that 
place of Deuteronomy 4 ) not only obliged to read 
the law, but to write it too : upon which subject, 
if I misremember not, the learnedest of the rabbies 
tells us, that the king (as indeed God usually 
charges eminence of place with eminence of piety) 
was bound to write it out himself, and that as king; 
for, though before his ascending the throne, as any 
other Israelite, he had a transcript of his own 
writing, yet was there annexed to the acquist of 
the regal sceptre, a duty of copying with the same 
hand that swayed it/ To Joshua, both a general 
and a judge, who was to wield the swords both ot 
Astrea and of Bellona ; to govern one numerous 
people and conquer seven ; the words of God are 
very remarkable : This book of the law shall not 
depart out of thy mouth, but thou shall meditate 

1 Deut. xvii. 18, 19. 2 Verse 20. 3 1 Sam. ii. 20, 21. 
4 Verse 18. 4 Rambam ; or, Rabbi Moses ben Ma:mon. 



therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to 
do according to all that is written therein ; for then 
thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then 
thou shalt have good success. l David was a 
shepherd, a conqueror, and a king, and had cer 
tainly no unfrequent distractions, both before he 
came to the crown, (whilst he lived a despised 
younger brother, an envied courtier, a diffident fu 
gitive, and a distrusted captain,) and after, whilst 
he wore, lost, and regained it ; but how little the 
time employed in the study of the Scripture pre 
judiced his secular affairs his story and successes 
may attest ; and how large a portion of his time 
that study shared, you maybe plentifully informed 
by himself, and save me the transcribing much of 
the Book of Psalms. He gathered bays both on 
Parnassus and in the field of honour; and equally 
victorious in duels and in battles, his exploits and 
his conquests were such, as (transcending those in 
romances almost as much in their strangeness as 
their truth) needed an infallible historian to exact 
a belief which their greatness and their number 
would dissuade; he added to his regal crown of 
gold, two others (of bays and laurel) which his 
successful sword and numerous pen, making him 
both a conqueror and a poet, gained him from 
victory and the muses ; and yet for all this great 
ness and this fame, and that multitude of distrac 
tions that still attends them, the (then extant) 
Scripture was so unseveredly his study, and he so 
duly matched in his practice what the apostle 
couples in his precept, diligence in business, and 
fervency in Spirit, 2 that it is not easy fitlier to re- 

1 Josh, i. (5. 2 Rom. xii. 


semble him, than to the winged cherubims in the 
old tabernacle, \vhom all the gold and jewels that 
glittered about them, and all the clouds of incense 
that fumed before them, could never divert from a 
fixed posture towards the ark of the testimony that 
contained the law, and the mercy-seat that repre 
sented Christ. 1 

And indeed, it is a saying equally ancient and 
true, that none should know things better and 
better things than princes. For their virtues and 
their vices participate the eminence and authority 
of their condition; and by an influential exem- 
plariness, so generally fashion and sway their sub 
jects, that as we find in sacred story that the Jews 
served God or Baal as their kings did ; so profane 
history tells us, that Rome was warlike under 
Romulus, superstitious under Numa, and so suc 
cessively moulded into the dispositions of her 
several princes. Subjects, all the world over, be 
ing apt to think imitation a part of the duty of 
obedience ; and being generally but too sensible 
of the requisiteness of their being like their prince 
to the being liked by him ; a state, like Nebuchad 
nezzar s mysterious image, should have the head 
of gold, and the inferior members of a value pro 
portionate to their vicinity to that noblest part. 5 
When once I shall see such monarchies and com 
monwealths no rarities, and see the addictedness of 
princes to the study of the Scripture, furthering the 
ulterior accomplishment of that part of it which 
once promised God s people, that kings should 
be its nursing fathers, and their queens its nurs- 

1 Deut. xxv. 18 21. * Dan. ii. 31, 32, &c. 









3 * TfiMST 


i , amt 



of his mouth more than my necessary food. 1 I 
will not urge that Daniel, whose vast abilities had 
a resembling theatre, and who surpassed other 
statesmen as much in the number and weight of 
the affairs he had to manage, as in the excellent 
spirit and dexterity wherewith he managed them, 
amidst transactions that busied six score princes, 
who loaded him with a weight of business capable 
to have crushed Atlas, could yet find leisure to 
study the prophet Jeremiah :* because it will be 
perhaps more proper to mention, that even Mac- 
chiavel himself, that secretary and reputed oracle 
of state, could find time not only to read but to 
write plays, (some of which I have seen in Italian,) 
such as I would not think excellent, though a per 
son from whom so much might be expected had 
not written them. Let us not then think our busi 
ness or our recreations a sufficient dispensation 
from an employment, for which, were they incon 
sistent, they ought both to be declined ; since it is 
both more concerning than the first, and more 
satisfying than the latter. But that which is often 
the true, though seldom the avowed cause of these 
men s neglect of the Scripture, is not their unlei- 
suredness, but their pride ; which makes them 
think it too mean and trivial an employment for 
one that is great and wise enough to counsel and 
converse with princes, and have a vote or hand in 
those great enterprises and transactions that make 
such a noise in the world, and are the loud themes 
of the people s talk and wonder, to amuse them 
selves to examine the significations of words and 
phrases. For my part I am no enemy to the call- 

1 Job, xxiii. 12. s Dan. vi. 3; ix. 2. 


ing of statesmen ; I think their profession as re 
quisite as others in a commonwealth ; and should 
think it very injurious to deny them any part of a 
purchase they pay their care and time for : nor 
perhaps have I so little studied the improvements 
of quiet, as to think myself less obliged than others 
are, to those whose watchings or protection affords it 
or secures it me. But after all this is said, I love 
to look upon the world with his eyes that is justly 
said to humble himself (when he vouchsafes) 
to behold the things that are done in heaven and 
in earth; 1 and to take measure of the dimensions 
of things by the scale his word holds forth. Now 
in the esteem of him that hath made all things for 
himself, and of whom his Spirit by his prophet 
truly says, that the nations are as a drop of a 
bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the 
balance; nay, that all nations before him (are) 
as nothing, and they are counted to him less than 
nothing and vanity; 2 the importantest employ 
ments are the study and the glory of God. He 
created this vast fabric of the world to manifest his 
wisdom, power, and goodness ; and in it created 
man, that it may have an intelligent spectator, and 
a resident whose rational admiration of so divine 
a structure may accrue to the glory of the om 
niscient and almighty Architect. And as he 
created the world to manifest some of his attri 
butes, so doth he uphold and govern it to disclose 
others of them. The revolution of monarchies, the 
fates of princes, and destinies of nations, are but 
illustrious instances and proclamations of his provi 
dence. The whole earth once perished by water to 

1 Psalm cxiii. 6. * Isaiah, xl. 13, 1?. 


signalise his justice on his enemies ; and the whole 
world shall one day perish by fire to exercise that 
former attribute and evidence his goodness to his 
children ; for whom his faithfulness to his promises 
will oblige him to build a gloriouser mansion for 
such glorified residents. The angels, some of whom 
the visions of Daniel represent as at the helm of 
kingdoms and of empires, 1 and whose power is so 
great, that one of them could in one night destroy 
a force capable, if divided, to have made half a 
dozen formidable armies:* these glorious spirits, 
I say, whose nature so transcends ours, that the 
very devil can, without the assistance of virtue, 
despise the objects of our ambition by a supe 
riority of nature only ; for all their high preroga 
tives and employments think the mysteries unfolded 
in Scripture worthy their bowing as well as desire 
to look into, 3 think not themselves too emi 
nent to be messengers and heralds, of what 
fond mortals think themselves too eminent to 
read : and, being all ministering spirits sent forth 
to minister to them who shall be heirs of salva 
tion, 4 disdain not to think our instruction worth 
their concern, whilst we disdain a concern for our 
own instruction ; nay, the very Messias, whose 
style is King of kings and Lord of lords. 5 
though he be not recorded to have ever read but 
once, 1 did yet read the Scripture; and think it 
worthy his expositions and recommending; and 
well may any think that book worth the reading 
that God himself thought worth the enditing. 
When Moses and Elias left their (local not real) 

1 Dan. x. 13. * 2 Kings, xix. 35. 3 irapcuetyai, 1 Pet. i. 12. 
4 Heb. i. 14. 5 Rev. xvii. 14. 6 Luke, iv. 17, &c. 


heaven, and appeared in glory to converse with 
our transfigured Saviour on the Mount, their dis 
course was not of the government of kingdoms, or 
the raising of armies for the subversion of empires, 
or of those other solemn trifles, which heaven places 
as much beneath men s thoughts as residence ; but 
of (the inspired book s chief theme) his decease 
which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. l And 
after that St. Paul had been caught up to the third 
heaven, 4 and had been blest and refined with his 
ineffable entertainment there, I wonder not to 
find him profess so resolutel) , that he counteth all 
things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge 
of Jesus Christ his Lord ; 3 in whom faith comet h 
by hearing, and that hearing of the Word of God ; 4 
and who addresses men to the Scriptures, as those 
which testify of him. And perhaps our Saviour 
used so frequently to conclude his divine dis 
courses, with that just epiphonema, He that hath 
ears to hear, let him hear, 5 but to teach us that 
there is no employment of our faculties that more 
deserve their utmost attention, than the scrutiny of 
divine truths. That which is pretended to by this 
discourse, is to impress this truth, that where God 
is allowed to be an intelligent and equal valuer of 
things, a man cannot have so great an employment 
as to give him cause to think the study of the 
Scripture a mean one : since, thus saith the Lord, 
Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither 
let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the 
rich man glory in his riches ; but let him that 
glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and 

1 Luke, ix. 31. - 2 Cor. xii. 2. 3 Phil. iii. 8. 
4 Rom x. 17. 3 John, v.39. 


knoweth me. 1 For sure, if the knowledge of God 
be so glorious a thing, the study of that book 
whence that knowledge is extracted, and where it 
it is most refulgent, is not a despicable employment : 
which sure (to add that upon the by) it is some 
what injuriously thought by those who are so in 
dustrious and proud in profane histories and other 
political books, to discover, or even guess at, those 
intrigues which commonly but tell us by what crafty 
arts a knave cozened a fool. Nor (to mention this by 
the by) even in relation to his own profession, is the 
Scripture unable to recompense the study of a Chris 
tian statesman ; for to omit the (perhaps too) extolling 
mention Machiavel himself makes of Moses amongst 
the famousest legislators, the historical part of the 
Bible being endited by an omniscient and unerring 
Spirit, lays clearly open the true and genuine 
causes of the establishment, flourishing, and vi 
cissitudes of the princes and commonwealths it 
relates the story of; whereas other histories (for 
reasons insisted on in other papers) are liable to 
great suspicions in the judgment of those that 
duly ponder the several narratives made often of the 
same transaction or event by several eye-witness 
es : and that the true secret of counsels is so closely 
locked up, or so artificially disguised, that to have 
interest enough to discern (w r hat statesmen mind 
and build on) the truth and mystery of affairs, one 
must be biased and engaged enough to be shrewdly 
tempted to be a partial relater of them. But Theo- 
philus, I perceive I have slipped into too long a di 
gression, which yet I hope you will pardon as the 
effect of an indiscreet, perhaps, but however a great 
concern for a person, to whom nature, education, 
and fortune have been so indulgent, that I cannot 
Jer. xix. 23, 24. 


but look upon his condition as liable to the tempta 
tions which either parts or employments singly, 
and much more both together, are wont to expose 
men to. But to return. 

You may remember, Theophilus, that among 
the answers which I told you might be made to 
those that objected against the Scripture, " That 
it is so unadorned, and so ill-furnished with elo 
quent expressions, that it is wont to prove ineffi 
cacious, especially upon intelligent readers." The 
fifth and last was this, " That it is very far from 
being agreeable to experience, that the style of the 
Scripture does make it unoperative upon the gene 
rality of its readers, if they be not faultily indis 
posed to receive impressions from it." 

To make good this reply, I must take notice to 
you, that that part of the objection which inti 
mates that intelligent readers are not wont to be 
wrought upon by the Scripture, has been in great 
part answered already ; for I have lately observed 
to you, that as it may be granted that some witty 
men who have read the Scripture, have, instead of 
admiring it, quarrelled with it ; so it cannot be 
denied that many persons as eminent for wit as 
they, have upon reading it entertained a high ve 
neration for it. So that I see not why the celebra 
tions of those wits that admire it, may not counter 
balance the disrespects of those that cavil at it. 
Especially if we consider, that as to most of those 
that are looked upon as the witty disregarders of 
the Scripture, scarce any thing so much as the 
vanity and boldness of owning that they disregard 
it, makes them (but undeservedly) be looked upon 
as wits. 

But to this, I shall now add, that whereas the 
objection speaks of intelligent readers, the greatest 


part of such have not that quickness which is wont 
to make men pass for wits, though they may have 
other abilities more solid and desirable. And yet 
that the Bible has a great influence upon this lat 
ter sort of intelligent readers, I presume you will 
easily believe, if you consider how many great 
scholars, not only professed divines, but others, 
have, by their learned comments and other writings, 
endeavoured either to illustrate or recommend the 
Scripture ; and how much a greater number of un 
derstanding and sober men, that never published 
books, have evinced the Scripture s power over 
them, partly by their sermons and other discourses, 
public and private, and partly by endeavouring to 
conform their lives to the dictates of it : which last 
clause I add, because you can scarce make a better 
estimate of what power the Scripture has upon men, 
than by looking at what it is able to make them 
part with. For not to anticipate what we shall 
ere long have occasion to mention, let us but con 
sider what numbers of intelligent persons almost 
every age, without excepting our own, (as degene 
rate as it is,) has produced who have been taught 
and prevailed with by the Scripture, and consider 
ations drawn thence, to renounce all the greatest 
sinful pleasures, and embrace a course of life that 
oftentimes exposes them to the greatest dangers, 
and very frequently to no small hardships. 

And, indeed, there is scarce any sort of men on 
which the Scripture has not had a notable influence, 
as to the reforming and improving many particular 
persons belonging to it; and to the giving them an 
affectionate veneration for the book whereunto 
they owed their instruction. The accounts eccle 
siastical history gives us of the rate at which devout 


persons, both in former and latter ages, would pur 
chase the Bible, when it was dangerous, and per 
haps capital, to be found possessed of it, would, if 
I should here repeat them, much confirm what I 
say, and might equally create our wonder and our 
blushes. Those sorts of professed Christians that 
seem the most evidently to be liable to temptations 
to neglect or disregard the Scripture, are either 
those that do, or would pass for wits, or those that 
live in courts. The former oftentimes thinking 
themselves too wise to be taught, especially by a 
book they think not eloquent ; and among the lat 
ter there being but too many whose pleasures are 
so bewitching, or so dear to them, that they like 
nothing that would divert, much less divorce them 
from their pursuit, or else whose business is so 
much and perhaps so important, that they have not 
leisure enough to learn, or have too much pride to 
think they need do it ; but yet even among those 
that have worn crowns either of gold or bays, or 
(what perhaps some value above both) of myrtle, 
the Bible has not wanted votaries ; for not to repeat 
the names of those whom I have formerly men 
tioned to have been as well lovers of the Scripture 
as favourites of the muses, among the other sort 
of men, those that (to speak in our Saviour s 
terms) are gorgeously apparelled, lived delicately, 
and are in kings courts, there have been divers 
persons, upon whom the power of the Scripture 
has been almost as conspicuous as their station 
among men. I will not mention that devout trea 
surer of the ./Ethiopian queen, who even upon the 
highway (whose length neither deterred nor tired 

1 Luke, vii. 25. 


his devotion) could not forbear to read the prophet 
Isaiah, and inquire even of a mere stranger that 
passed by alone, and on foot, the meaning of a pas 
sage of whose sense he doubted. Nor will I urge 
any other instances of great men s studiousness of 
the Scripture, afforded us by sacred story. And 
therefore I shall not press the example of that 
great and wise Daniel, whose matchless parts not 
only cast upon him the highest employment of 
the world s monarchy, and disengaged him from 
the ruins of it; but (what has scarce a precedent 
amongst the very wisest statesmen) continued him 
in as much greatness as ever he possessed under 
the predecessor, under the successor ; and such a 
successor too as made his predecessor s carcass the 
ascent to his throne ; I will not, I say, at present, 
urge the examples extant in the sacred records of 
great men s studiousness of them, because even 
secular and more recent histories may inform us, 
that even in courts all men s eyes have not been so 
dazzled by the glittering vanities that are wont to 
abound there, but that some of them have dis 
cerned, and practically acknowledged the preroga 
tives of the Scripture. Though I cannot say that 
many kings have been of this number, because 
there have been but few kings in all, in respect of 
the numbers that compose the inferior conditions 
of men : yet, even among these, and in degenerate 
ages, some have been signally studious of the 
Bible; such was that Sixth Edward, who imitated 
the early active piety of Joash, without imitating 
his defection from it, and whose short heavenly 
life manifests how soon, even amidst the tempta 
tions of courts, grace can ripen men for glory ; and 


such was that learned king, 1 whose having more 
than perfunctorily studied the Scripture, his solid 
defence of divers of its truths against its misinter- 
preters, have sufficiently proclaimed to the world. 
Nay, even in those darker times that preceded the 
Reformation, that excellent Aragonian king, Al- 
phonsus, the honour both of his title and his times, 
in spite of his contemplations and his wars, could, 
(as himself used to glory) spare time from studies 
and his distractions, to read the Bible forty times 
with comments and glosses on it: being not, for all 
his astronomy, so taken up with the contemplation 
of heaven, as to deny himself leisure to study in 
his book that made it the ways of getting thither. 
Nor shall I forbear to mention here the last pope, 
(Urban the Eighth,) who, when being cardinal, he 
wanted not the hopes of becoming both temporal 
and ecclesiastical lord of that proud city, which 
(as if she were designed to be still, one way or 
other, the world s mistress,) doth still rule little 
less of the world upon the score of religion, than 
she did before upon that of arms; in the midst of 
affairs perhaps more distracting than busied most 
potentates, and honours almost as great as are 
paid to monarchs, could find room in a head 
crowded with affairs enough to have distressed 
Machiavel, for reflections upon the Scripture; 
some of whose portions I have delighted to read in 
the handsome paraphrases of his pious muse. 
Which I scruple not to acknowledge, because that 
though I did, which I do not, look upon every one 
that dissents from me, as an enemy ; yet I should 

1 King James. 


be apt to think that they can scarce love virtue 
enough, that love it not in their very enemies; con 
gruously to which we find that Hannibal had 
statues erected in Rome itself: and, though I were 
so uncharitable and so unexperienced as to think a 
man that holds an error can scarce have any good 
qualities, yet, upon such a kind of score as that 
which made David so angry with him that took 
away the poor man s single lamb, the fewer com 
mendable qualities I see in my adversaries, the 
more scruple I would make to rob them of any 
way of them. Nor hath that very sex that so 
often makes divertisements its employments, been 
altogether barren in titled votaries to the Scrip 
ture. Not to mention that Grecian princess, 1 whose 
proselyted muse made Homer turn evangelist, how 
conversant that excellent mother and resembling 
daughter, Paula and Eustocliium, were in the 
sacred rolls, is scarce unknown to any that are not 
strangers to the writings of St. Jerome ; for some 
of whose learned comments on the Scripture we 
are indebted to the charitable importunity of their 
requests. And even in our times, that so much 
degenerate from the primitive ones, how eminent 
a student and happy a proficient in the study of 
the Bible, that glory of princesses, and the envy 
of the princes of her time, Queen Elizabeth was, 
her life and reign sufficiently declare. Her sister s 
predecessor, that matchless lady Jane, who had all 
the qualities the best patriots could desire in a 
queen, but an unquestionable title, and in whose 
sad fate, besides her sex and the graces that ena 
mour ours of it, her country, philosophy, virtue, 

1 Eudoxia, wife to the emperor Theodosius. 



and religion, did all sustain a loss, was a conspi 
cuous studier of the inspired books ; wherein her 
prospered sedulousness gave her an understanding 
much above her age and sex, though not above her 
virtue. And besides Eudoxia, there have been 
divers other persons of the highest quality of that 
sex, and even some of those on whom nature or 
fortune, or rather beauty or providence, had con 
ferred a sovereignty, whom the splendour, the 
pleasures, and the avocations of courts could not 
keep from searching in God s word preservatives 
against the contagion of their condition, and partly 
history, and partly even conversation have some 
times with delight made me observe, how some of 
those celebrated ladies, whose fatal beauties have 
made so many idolaters, have devoutly turned 
those fair eyes, that were, and did such wonders, 
upon those severe writings that depreciate all but 
the beauty of the soul, from those flattering ascrip 
tions that deified that of the body. And it is not 
to be marvelled at, that such readers as are not 
infidels, by reading the Bible once should be pre 
vailed with to read it oftener, not only because of 
the inviting excellency of what it teaches, but be 
cause its author does so earnestly in it enjoin the 
study of it, that scarce any can think the neglect of 
it no fault, save those that are guilty of it. Nor is 
their so assiduous perusal of the Scripture so much 
to be marvelled at, as commended, in persons of 
that softer sex, which is perhaps more susceptible 
than ours of strong impressions of devotion. For 
sure, if we loved God, I do not say as we ought to 
love Him, but as we can and do love inferior 
things, it would hugely endear the Scripture to us, 
that the object of our devotion is the author of that 


book. When a true flame, though but for a fad 
ing object, doth once possess a fervent lover s 
breast ; what a fondness doth his passion for his 
mistress give him for all things related to her. Her 
residences, her wajks, her colours, and the least 
trifles that have belonged to her, exact a kindness 
that is not due to trifles, though it be but for pre 
senting to his memory its almost only object, 
and refreshing him with an ideal in the absence of 
an immediater presence of her. But if the fa 
voured amourist be blest with any lines dignified by 
that fair hand (give me leave to talk of lovers in 
their own language) especially if they be kind as 
well as hers, how assiduously, and with what rap 
tures do his greedy eyes peruse them, tasting each 
several expression with its own transport, and find 
ing in each line at each new reading some new de 
light or excellency : this welcome letter grows 
sooner old than stale ; and although his two fre 
quent kisses have worn it to tatters, (in which he 
preserves it, if not worships it too, as a relic,) \\ith 
I resh and still insatiate avidities doth the unwearied 
lover prize that, too often, either deluding or insig 
nificant writing, above the noblest raptures of 
princes, and liberallest patents of poets; and (not 
to urge the superstitious devotion of our worshippers 
of relics) certain!} if we had for God but half as 
much love as we ought, or even pretend to have, 
we could not but frequently, if not transportedly, 
entertain ourselves with his leaves, which (as par- 
helions to the sun) are at once his writings and 
his picture, both expressing his vast and unme 
rited love to us, and exhibiting the most approach 
ing or least unresembling idea of our beloved, that 
the Deity hath framed for mortals to apprehend. 

s 2 


It was the devout quarrel of a devout father to some 
of the choicest composures antiquity hath left us, 
that he could not find Christ named there ; and if, 
as it is not to be doubted, divers of the devout ladies 
I was lately speaking of, were of his mind, sure at 
that rate they were not ordinarily kind to the 
Scripture ; where the prophets and the apostles, 
those darker and more clear evangelists, do so 
unanimously and assiduously celebrate the Mes 
siah, that when I read and confer them, I some 
times fancy myself present at our Saviour s 
triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, where both 
those that went before him, and those that fol 
lowed after him, sung Hosannah to the Son of 
David. 1 

Wherefore, since even great wits, great princes, 
and great beauties, have not still, by all those temp 
tations to which these attributes exposed them, 
been kept from being also great votaries to the 
Scripture, it cannot charitably be doubted, but that 
in most ages some pious persons have been able to 
say truly to God, in Jeremiah s terms, Thy words 
were found, and I did eat them ; and thy word was 
to me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: 2 and 
if the persons I mention have been but few, I can 
attribute that fewness but to the paucity of wise 
and good men ; and as for persons of other ranks 
in ecclesiastical stories, the instances are not so 
rare of the addictedness of God s children to his 
word, but that we might thence produce them al 
most in throngs, if we had not nobler inducements 
to the reading of the inspired volume than ex 
ample : and if it were not less to be venerated, 

1 Mark, xxi. 9 ; xi. 9. ; Jerem. xv. 16*. 


because so many saints have studied it, as because 
the study of it made many of those men saints, 
(I mean not nominal but real ones,) which we 
need not much wonder at, whilst such a saint as 
Saint Paul was, assures us, that it is all of it di 
vinely inspired and improveable to all the uses 
requisite to the entire accomplishment of God s 
servants. 1 But, Theophilus, to return to what I was 
formerly discoursing of, the transforming power 
the Scripture has upon many of its readers, I must 
subjoin, that though through the goodness of God, 
these be far more numerous than the professed ad 
versaries and contemners of the Scripture, yet these 
make not so great a part of those that acknowledge 
the Bible, as it were well they did ; because both 
experience and our Saviour s parable have suffi 
ciently taught us, that good seed does not always 
fall into good ground, and that many intervening 
accidents may, after it has been sown, make it mis 
carry and prove fruitless; but when you find (as I 
fear you may but too often) that the Scripture has 
not upon its readers, and especially upon those that 
are profane, that power which I seemed to ascribe 
to it, and which it ought to have, you may be 
pleased to remember, that 1 plainly suppose in my 
fifth answer, that those to whom the Scripture is 
addressed must not be culpably indisposed to be 
wrought upon by it; which that profane persons 
are, I presume you will easily grant; for when our 
Saviour said, that If any man will do the will of 
him that sent him, he shall know of the doctrine, 
whether it be of God, or no: * he clearly intimates 
that there is required a disposition as \\ell in the 

1 2 Tiro. iii. 16. " John, vii. 17. 


eye of his soul (if I may so speak) as in the ob 
ject proposed, to make a man discern the excel 
lency and origination of what is taught, how 
valuable soever. Saint Paul, speaking of himself 
and other penmen and teachers of the Scriptures, 
affirms, that they speak wisdom among them that 
are perfect; and though not this world s wisdom, 
yet, the wisdom of God in a mystery, even that 
hidden one which God ordained before the world, 
unto our glory. 1 But for these scorners, it is no 
wonder they so fruitlessly read the Scripture, with 
out descrying any of this mysterious wisdom, it 
being a sentence of the Scripture itself, that a 
scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not, * (the 
expression is odd in the original, but I must not 
stay to descant upon it,) as the Sodomites could 
not find the angels, when once they sought them 
to prostitute and defile them. 3 

But besides profane wits, there are too many 
other readers who are, more or less, guilty of op 
posing the reforming and improving influence of 
the Scripture, upon their own hearts; either upon 
the score of their not sufficiently believing the 
truths contained in the Scripture, or upon that of 
their not duly pondering them. That unbelief is 
the fruitful mother of more sins than are wont to 
be imputed to it, and that many baptized persons 
are not free from greater degrees of it than they 
are suspected of by others, or even by themselves, 
I could here easily manifest, if I had not professedly 
discoursed of that subject in another place. And 
indeed, there needs but a comparing of most men s 
lives with the promises and threats held forth in 

1 1 Cor. ii. 7. * Prov. xiv. 6. 3 Gen. xix. 5, 11. 


the Scripture of no less than everlasting 1 joys ami 
endless torments, to make us believe that there are 
multitudes of professed Christians, to whom may 
be applied what the writer to the Hebrews says of 
the perverse Jews of Old, That what they heard 
did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in 
them that heard it, or (as the Greek will bear) 
because they were not united by faith to the things 
they heard. But this is not all ; for oftentimes 
the doctrines of the Scripture lose much of their 
efficacy, even where they are cordially believed, 
because they are not sufficiently laid to heart. 
The disparity of the influences of the bare lie- 
lief and the due perpension of a truth, is, me- 
thinks, conspicuous enough in men s thoughts 
of death. For though that they shall die is so 
truly believed that it cannot seriously be doubted, 
yet how doth men s inadvertency make them live 
here as if they were to do so always ! whereas, 
when once grace, sickness, the sight of a dying 
friend, or some other tragic spectacle, hath seri 
ously minded them of death, it is amazing to ob 
serve how strange an alteration is produced in their 
lives by the active and permanent impression of 
that one obvious and unquestioned truth, that 
those lives must have a period ; and to see how 
much the sober thoughts of death contribute to fit 
men for it: it being so imperious an inducement 
to deny ungodly and worldly lusts, and to live 
awfypuvwc; KO.I ciKaiwg te ivat^wq iv rw vvv alGtvi, so 
berly, righteously, and godly in this present 
world, * that we must one day leave it; that I ad 
mire not much that father s celebrated strictness 

1 2. s Tit. ii. 12. 


and austerity, who tells us, that he fancied always 
sounding in his inward ears, that dreadful alarum 
of, Surgite mortui et venite ad judicium, Arise, ye 
dead, and come to judgment. 

Yet, notwithstanding the indisposition of many 
readers to reverence and obey the Scripture, and 
notwithstanding that in divers passages of it, the 
ornaments of language are, for reasons above spe 
cified, purposely declined ; yet we find not but that 
the Scripture for all these disadvantages, is by the 
generality of its readers both esteemed and obeyed 
at another guess rate than any other book of ethics 
or devotion. And multitudes, even of those whose 
passions or interests will not suffer them to be in 
some points guided by it, are notwithstanding 
swayed by it, to forbear or practise divers things 
in cases wherein other books would not prevail 
with them. As Herod, though the Baptist could 
not persuade him to quit his Herodias, did yet, 
upon John s preaching, do many other things, and 

heard him gladly. 1 I was 

going to say, that we may not unfitly apply to the 
word of God what divines have observed of God 
the word ; for as those accidents that loudliest pro 
claimed our Saviour s having assumed our human 
nature and infirmities, were attended with some cir 
cumstances that conspicuously attested his divinity ; 
so in those passages in which the majesty of the 
author s style is most veiled and disguised, there is 
yet some peculiarity that discloses it. But I shall 
less scruple to tell you, that in divers of those pas 
sages in which the Holy Ghost (who in the Greek 
father s wonted expression, does often 

1 M^rk, xii. 37. 


aiveiv rip tv, stoop to our capacity, and, as it were, 
sink himself down to our level) seems most to have 
vouchsafed a condescension to the style of men ; 
and to have commanded his secretaries, as he once 
did the prophet Isaiah, to write, u>JN tonra bc-clueret 
etwsh, with a man s pen; 1 in divers of those very 
places, I say, there is something so awful, and 
so peculiarly his, that the sun, even when he de 
scends into the west, remains still lucider than any 
of the stars; so the Divine Inspirer of the Scrip 
tures, even when his style seems most to stoop to 
our capacities, doth yet retain a prerogative above 
merely human writings. Known unto God are 
all his works from the beginning of the world/ a 
says an apostle; and God, whose attribute is to be 
Kapctoyvw<;r), the knower of hearts/ and whose 
prerogative it is to form the spirit of man within 
him, understancleth our thoughts afar off. 3 Cer 
tainly, then, if we consider God as the creator of 
our souls, and so likeliest to know the frame and 
springs, and nature of his own workmanship, we 
shall make but little difficulty to believe, that in 
the book written for and addressed to men, he 
hath employed very powerful and appropriated 
means to work upon them. And in effect, there is 
a strange movingness, and, if the epithet be not 
too bold, a kind of heavenly magic is to be found 
in some passages of the Scripture which is to be 
found no where else ; and will not easily be better 
expressed than in the proper terms of the Scripture ; 
For the word of God, says it, is quick and pow 
erful, and sharper than any two-eged sword, pierc 
ing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, 
and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of 

1 Isaiah, yiii. 1. * Acts, xv. 18. 

J Acts, i. 24 ; Zech. i. 1 ; Psalm xiii. 2. 


the thoughts and intents of the heart: 1 wherefore, 
thatJunius (as himself relates) was converted from 
a kind of atheist to a believer, upon the reading of 
the first chapter of John ; that a rabbi, by his own 
confession, was converted from a Jew to a Chris 
tian, by the reading of the fifty-third of Isaiah ; 
that St. Austin was changed from a debauchee into 
a saint, by that passage of the thirteenth to the 
Romans and the thirteenth verse; and that ano 
ther father, whose fear had made him disclaim his 
faith, burst out publicly into a shower of tears, 
opon the occasional reading of the sixteenth verse 
of the fiftieth Psalm, are effects that I do not so 
much admire, as I do that such are produced no 
oftener. And truly, for my own part, the reading 
of the Scripture hath moved me more, and swayed 
me more powerfully to all the passions it would in 
fuse, than the wittiest and eloquentest composures 
that are extant in our own and some other lan 
guages. Nay, so winning is the majesty of the 
Scripture, that many (like those that fall in love 
in earnest with the ladies they first courted but out 
of what the French call gallantry) who began to 
read it out of curiosity, have found themselves en 
gaged to continue that exercise out of conscience; 
and not a few of those that did at first read the 
New Testament only to learn some unknown lan 
guage it is translated into, or for some such tri 
vial purpose, have been, by the means that they 
elected, carried beyond the end that they de 
signed, and met a destiny not ill resembling that of 
Zacheus, who, climbing up into a sycamore grow 
ing in our Saviour s way, only to look upon him, 
passed thence to be his proselyte and convert, and 
to entertain him joyfully, both in his house and 

1 Heb. iv. J2. 


heart. 1 And though it be true that the church s 
testimony be commonly our first, yet it is not al 
ways our chief inducement to believe the divinity 
of holy writ; its own native prerogatives height 
ening that into faith which the church s authority 
left but opinion. To which purpose I remember 
a handsome observation of some of the ancients ; 
that the Samaritans that first believed in Christ 
upon the woman s report, when afterwards they 
were blessed with an immediate conversation with 
himself, they exultingly told the woman, Now 
we believe, not because of thy saying ; for we have 
heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed 
the Christ, the Saviour of the world : * for so di 
vers that first believed the Scripture but upon the 
church s score, are afterwards by acquaintedness 
brought to believe the Scripture upon its own 
score, that is, by the discovery of those intrinsic- 
excellencies and prerogatives that manifest its hea 
venly origination This sacred 

book, even where it hath not embellishments of 
language, doth not want them ; being so much re 
commended by its imperious persuasiveness with 
out them, that it is more ennobled by their need- 
lessness, than it would be by their affluence. And, 
if to some passages of Scripture we must apply 
that of St. Paul, (whereby yet he thought to re 
commend his ministry to the Corinlhians,) that 
his speech and his preaching was not with the en 
ticing words of man s wisdom, but iv cnrodsi&t 
irvevfuiTos *, tivvapewt, in demonstration of the 
spirit of power; 3 we may also remember, that he 

1 Luke, xix. a v. 1, ad. 10; Matt. xiii. 19, 20, &c. 
John, iv. 3942. 3 1 Cor. ii. 14. 


subjoins as the reason that moved him to use this 
plain and unadorned way of teaching his Corin 
thians, that their faith might not stand in the 
wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 1 And 
truly, the efficacy and operations of the Bible, in 
comparison of those of all other books, duly consi 
dered, we may esteem, that as God oftentimes doth 
in the Scripture, what in the Scripture he is said 
to do, draw us with the cords of a man, (pas 
sages wreathed with flowers of rhetoric,) so is it 
not unfit, that he should sometimes employ expres 
sions that, carrying away our obedience, our rever 
ence, and our assent in spite of our indispositions 
to them, might manifest their derivation from him, 
who is not tied to such means as men would think 
necessary, but can compass his ends as well by as 
without any : nor can I often consider the instances 
experience affodrs us of the efficacy of many texts, 
(which some that pretend to eloquence accuse of 
having none,) without sometimes calling to mind, 
how in the book of nature God has veiled in an ob 
scure and homely stone an attractiveness (unvouch- 
safed to diamonds and rubies) which the stubbom- 
est of metals does obsequiously acknowledge. And, 
as the loadstone not only draws what the sparkling- 
est jewels cannot move, but draws stronglier, where 
armed with iron than crowned with silver, so the 
Scripture, not only is movinger than the glittering- 
est human styles, but hath oftentimes a potenter 
influence on men in those passages that seem quite 
destitute of ornaments, than in those where rhetoric 
is conspicuous. 

1 1 Cor. ii. 5. 


The Conclusion of one part of the Discourse concern 
ing the Scripture and the transition to the next. 

I should now, Theophilus, immediately pass on 
to the other things I am to discourse to you of, 
concerning the Scripture, but that the curiosity 
wherewith you are wont to take notice of my prac 
tices, and to make inquiries after my private 
opinions, makes me imagine you telling me, that I 
do often read, and do much oftener commend books 
of devotion, notwithstanding all the prerogatives I 
have attributed to the Scripture ; wherefore to this 
I shall answer, that I esteem indeed the truths of 
Scripture so important and valuable, that I cannot 
be troubled to see them presented to us in variety 
of dresses, that we may the more frequently and 
the more attentively take notice of them. And, 
though some devout composures are so unskilfully 
written as to be much filter to express the devotion 
of the writer than to excite it in the reader, yet 
there are others so handsomely and so pathetically 
penned, that a good man can scarce read them with 
out growing better, and even a bad man must be 
very much so, without becoming less so by perusing 
them. Nor do I at all design to disparage books 
of devotion, when I prefer the Scripture to them, 
that being so noble and matchless a work, that a 
book may attain to a high degree of excellence, 
whilst it remains inferior to the Scripture, of whose 
pre-eminences I have already on several occasions 
named divers to you ; and therefore shall at pre 
sent only recommend to your observation this one 
advantage of the Scripture, even as to those things 
that are also to be met with in other books of devo- 


wherein God vouchsafed to reveal himself to mor 
tals, and was adorned with so much cunning 1 work 


in gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen, 
that the contrivance and workmanship lent a lustre 
to the glittering materials, without being obscured 
by them. This experiment keeps me from won 
dering to find in the inspired poet s description of 
the man he attributes a blessedness to, that his 
chapatz, his delight is in the law of the Lord, and 
in his law will he meditate day and night. 1 For 
the word other translations render voluntas et slu- 
dium, ours Englishes delight, and indeed the 
Hebrew ysn will bear both senses, and seems there 
emphatically to signify a study replenished with so 
much delight to the devout and intelligent prose 
cutors of it, that, like the hallelujahs of the blessed, 
it is at once a duty and a pleasure, an exercise and 
a recompence of piety. And, indeed, if God s 
blessing upon the devout Christian s study of that 
book do, according to the Psalmist s prayer, open 
his eyes to discern the niN^BJ Niplaot, hidden 
wonders contained in it, 2 he should, in imitation of 
him that in the same Psalm says of his God, I 
rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil, - 
be as satisfied as navigators that discover unknown 
countries. And I must confess, that when some 
times with the apostles in the mount, I contem 
plate Moses and Elias talking with Christ, I mean 
the law and prophets symphonizingwith the gospel, 
I cannot but (resemblingly transported with a like 
motive) exclaim with Peter, It is good for me to 
be here, 4 and cease to think the Psalmist an hy- 
perbolist, for comparing the transcendant sweet- 

1 Psal. i. 2. 2 Psal. cxix. 8. 

3 Verse 162. 4 Matt. xvii. 4. 


ness of God s word to that inferior one of honey, 
which is like it in nothing more than in that of 
both their suavities, experience gives much advari- 
tageouser notions than descriptions can. 

But, Theophilus, upon condition you will not 
call this excursion of your own occasioning a fit of 
devotion. I will no longer detain you on one sub 
ject, but forthwith proceed to discourse of those 
other things that I am to consider in the Scripture 
besides the style. For though this be such as I 
have been representing it, yet I hope we shall in 
our progress find, that it will be far less fit to apply- 
to this matchless book that of the heathen poet, 

1 Materiam superabus opus 

than that sacred one of the Psalmist, where he as 
well says, that the king s daughter is all glorious 
within, as that her clothing is of wrought gold. 2 

1 Psal. cxix. 103. Psal.-xlv. 13. 


J. Rickerby, Pi inter, Sherbourn Lane, London. 


wherein God vouchsafed to reveal himself to mor 
tals, and was adorned with so much cunning work 
in gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen, 
that the contrivance and workmanship lent a lustre 
to the glittering materials, without being obscured 
by them. This experiment keeps me from won 
dering to find in the inspired poet s description of 
the man he attributes a blessedness to, that his 
chapatz, his delight is in the law of the Lord, and 
in his law will he meditate day and night. 1 P or 
the word other translations render voluntas et stu- 
dium, ours Englishes delight, and indeed the 
Hebrew van will bear both senses, and seems there 
emphatically to signify a study replenished with so 
much delight to the devout and intelligent prose 
cutors of it, that, like the hallelujahs of the blessed, 
it is at once a duty and a pleasure, an exercise and 
a recompence of piety. And, indeed, if God s 
blessing upon the devout Christian s study of that 
book do, according to the Psalmist s prayer, open 
his eyes to discern the niN^QJ Niplaot, hidden 
wonders contained in it, 2 he should, in imitation of 
him that in the same Psalm says of his God, T 
rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil, 3 
be as satisfied as navigators that discover unknown 
countries. And I must confess, that when some 
times with the apostles in the mount, I contem 
plate Moses and Elias talking with Christ, I mean 
the law and prophets symphonizingwith the gospel, 
I cannot but (resemblingly transported with a like 
motive) exclaim with Peter, It is good for me to 
be here, 4 and cease to think the Psalmist an hy- 
perbolist, for comparing the transcendant sweet- 

1 Psal. i. 2. 2 Psal. cxix. 8. 

3 Verse 162. " Matt. xvii. 4. 


ness of God s word to that inferior one of honey, 
which is like it in nothing more than in that of 
both their suavities, experience gives much advan- 
tageouser notions than descriptions can. 

But, Theophilus, upon condition you will not 
call this excursion of your own occasioning a fit of 
devotion, I will no longer detain you on one sub 
ject, but forthwith proceed to discourse of those 
other things that I am to consider in the Scripture 
besides the style. For though this be such as I 
have been representing it, yet I hope we shall in 
our progress find, that it will be far less fit to apply 
to this matchless book that of the heathen poet, 

Materiam superabus opus 

than that sacred one of the Psalmist, where he as 
well says, that the king s daughter is all glorious 
within, as that her clothing is of wrought gold. 2 

1 Psal. cxix. 103. - Psal.-xlv. la. 


J. Rickerby, Piinter, Shertxmrn Lane, London.