"truth of the very fundamentals of Christianity, "and to hear what both Jews and Turks, and "the chief sects of Christians, could allege for "their several opinions; that so, though he be"lieved more than he could comprehend, he might not believe more than he could prove, "and not owe the stedfastness of his faith to so "poor a cause as the ignorance of what might "be objected against it. He said, speaking of "those persons who want not means to enquire "and abilities to judge, that it was not a greater "happiness to inherit a good religion, than it was "a fault to have it only by inheritance, and think "it the best because it is generally embraced, "rather than embrace it because we know it to "be the best. That though we cannot always give a reason for what we believe, yet we should "be ever able to give a reason why we believe it. "That it is the greatest of follies to neglect any diligence that may prevent the being mistaken "where it is the greatest of miseries to be de❝ceived. That how dear soever things taken


upon the score are sold, there is nothing worse "taken up upon trust than religion, in which he "deserves not to meet with the true one that cares not to examine whether or no it be so." (Works, Vol. 1. p. 12.)

It is evident, I think, that a comparison of religious systems undertaken by a man who had just passed through so tremendous a conflict, and who had no professional motive for entering upon it, must have been something very different from





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a dry legal enquiry respecting the balance of probabilities in favour of one or the other. I do not mean that Boyle will not have brought to this subject all the habits of patient investigation which he ordinarily applied to the study of physical phenomena. The very anguish of his mind made it essential that he should seek for a real standing ground; and that he should not therefore strain facts for the sake of arriving at an agreeable conclusion. Indeed, it is difficult to say which conclusion would seem most agreeable to a man exercised as he was: there would be at times a bias of understanding, and even affection, as strong against Christianity, as his education could create in favour of it. But, undoubtedly, his object in questioning these different schemes of belief will have been to ascertain what each of them could do for him; what there was in it to meet the demands of his heart and reason. It was no occasion for clever special pleading; the question was to him one of life and death: when he had once resolved it, the next duty was to act upon his conviction, and to strive that all men should be better for that, which he, because he was a man, had found to be needful for himself. Upon this principle he founded these Lectures. The truth of which he had become assured, was, he believed, a permanent one; the next generation would need it as much as his own. He did not suppose that the actual relation in which that truth stood to different systems of belief could alter. But it did not follow that the enquiry


respecting the nature of that relation would be exhausted in his day. As new regions unfolded themselves to European adventure, new facts modifying or changing previous notions respecting the faiths which prevailed in them, might come to light; fresh and more trying experiences might make the past more intelligible; the same doubts respecting the justice, wisdom, or possibility of bringing other men into our religious fellowship which presented themselves to his contemporaries, might appear again and again in very different shapes, appealing to even opposite feelings and tempers.


The event, I believe, has proved that he was right. Within fifty years a prodigious change has taken place in the feelings of men generally— of philosophical men particularly-respecting Religious Systems. In the latter part of the 17th century, still more during a great part of the 18th, they were regarded by those who most gave the tone to popular thinking and who had the highest reputation for wisdom, as the inventions of lawgivers and priests. Men cleverer and more dishonest than the rest of the world found it impossible to build up systems of policy or to establish their own power, unless they appealed to those fears of an invisible world which ignorance so willingly receives and so tenderly fosters. This being the admitted maxim respecting religions generally, it seemed the office of the Christian apologist to shew that there was one exception; to explain why the Gospel could not be referred

to this origin; how entirely unlike it was to those forms of belief which were rightly considered deceptions. That many dangerous positions were confuted by works written with this object; that many of the distinguishing marks of Christianity were brought out in them; that many learnt from them to seek and to find a standing-ground in the midst of pits and morasses, it is impossible to doubt. But the demonstrations of God's providence were in this case, as in all others, infinitely broader, deeper, more effectual than those of man's sagacity. The evidence furnished by the great political Revolution at the close of the last century seems slowly to have undermined the whole theory respecting the invisible world and men's connexion with it, which possessed the teachers of that century. Men are beginning to be convinced, that if Religion had had only the devices and tricks of statesmen or priests to rest upon, it could not have stood at all; for that these are very weak things indeed, which, when they are left to themselves, a popular tempest must carry utterly away. If they have lasted a single day, it must have been because they had something better, truer than themselves, to sustain them. This better, truer thing, it seems to be allowed, must be that very faith in men's hearts upon which so many disparaging epithets were cast, and which it was supposed could produce no fruits that were not evil and hurtful. Faith it is now admitted has been the most potent instrument of good to the world; has given

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to it nearly all which it can call precious. But then it is asked, is there not ground for supposing that all the different religious systems, and not one only, may be legitimate products of that faith which is so essential a part of man's constitution? Are not they manifestly adapted to peculiar times and localities and races? Is it not probable that the theology of all alike is something merely accidental, an imperfect theory about our relations to the universe, which will in due time give place to some other? Have we not reason to suppose that Christianity, instead of being, as we have been taught, a Revelation, has its root in the heart and intellect of man, as much as any other system? Are there not the closest the most obvious relations between it and them? Is it not subject to the same law of decay from the progress of knowledge and society with all the rest? Must we not expect that it too will lose all its mere theological characteristics, and that what at last survives of it will be something of a very general character, some great ideas of what is good and beautiful, some excellent maxims of life, which may very well assimilate, if they be not actually the same, with the essential principles which are contained in all other religions, and which will also, it is hoped, abide for ever?

Notions of this kind will be found, I think, in much of the erudite as well as of the popular literature of this day; they will often be heard in social circles; they are undoubtedly floating in the minds of us all. While we entertain them, it

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