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out of superstition, or from mistake.) They did SERM. indeed, most or all of them, in their external beha- XIV. viour, comply with common practice, out of a politic discretion, for their safety and quiet sake: but in their inward thoughts and judgments they (as by many passages in their writings doth appear) believed nothing, nor liked any thing in it: they observed those things, as Seneca said, tanquam legibus jussa, non tanquam diis grata, (not as acceptable to the Gods themselves, but as commanded by the laws of their country.) And indeed this dissimulation was so notorious, that even the vulgar discerned it; and therefore seldom the wiser men were reputed among them the most religious, but liable to accusation for impiety; and some of them, ye know, suffered extremities upon that score, who could not altogether conceal that contempt, which the vanity of popular superstitions had begotten toward them in their hearts.
I might add, that all those pagan religions did vanish together with the countenance of secular authority and power sustaining them; which shews plainly enough, that they had little or no root in the hearty belief or approbation of those who professed them.
And thus much may suffice, I suppose, to declare, that paganism did not proceed from divine revelation, but from human invention or suggestion diabolical.
I shall only adjoin, that the considering this case of heathens may be of good use (and to that use indeed St. Paul hath largely applied it) in confirming what we before urged, the great need of some full and plain revelation to the world of God's mind, in
SERM. order to God's glory and man's good; as also it is of XIV. singular use, (which also the same apostle frequently did put it to,) by the contemplation thereof, to discover our great obligations to bless and thank God for his great mercy in revealing his heavenly truth to us, from whence we are freed from errors and mischiefs so deplorable; which otherwise, from human infirmity and the Devil's malice, we should easily (and in a manner necessarily) have incurred.
That pretence was ancienter in standing; but there hath, even since Christianity, started up another, (Mahometanism,) which, if not upon other accounts, yet in respect to its age, and to the port it bears in the world, demands some consideration; for it hath continued a long time, and hath vastly overspread the earth neither is it more formidable in its looks, than peremptory in its words; vaunting itself to be no less than a complete, a general, an ultimate declaration of God's pleasure, cancelling and voiding all others that have gone before. But examining both the substance and circumstances thereof, considering the quality of the instruments by whom, of the times when, it was introduced; of the places where, of the people who first or afterward did receive it; the manner of its rise, progress, and continuance; as also the matter it teaches or enjoins ; we shall not find stamped on it the genuine characters of a divine original and authority, but have great reason to deem it a brood of most lewd and impudent cozenage. In times of great disturbance and confusion, when barbarous nations, like torrents, did overflow the world, and turned all things upside down; in times of general corruption and disorder in men's minds and manners, when, even
among Christians, ignorance and superstition, dissen- SERM. sion and uncharitableness, impiety and iniquity did greatly prevail; in a very blind and obscure corner of the earth, among a crew of wild thieves and runagates, (such have those Arabians been always famed and known to be,) this sect had its birth and fosterage; among those fierce and savage overrunners of the world it got its growth and stature; into this sort of people, (being indeed in its constitution well accommodated to their humour and genius,) it was partly insinuated by juggling tricks, partly driven by seditious violence; the first author hereof being a person, according to the description given of him in their own legends, of no honest or honourable qualities, but having all the marks of an impostor; rebellious and perfidious, inhuman and cruel, lewd and lascivious, of a base education, of a fraudulent and turbulent disposition, of a vicious life, pretending to enthusiasms, and working of wonders; but these such as were both in their nature absurd and incredible, and for their use vain and unprofitable : at such a season and in such a soil, by such means and by such a person, (abetted by associates like himself, whom his arts or their interests had inveigled to join with him,) was this religion first planted; and for its propagation it had that great advantage of falling in the way of barbarous people, void of learning and civility, and not prepossessed with other notions or any sense of religion; who thence (as mankind is naturally susceptive of religious impressions) were capable and apt to admit any religion first offering itself, especially one so gross as this was, so agreeable to their furious humours and lusts. Afterward being furnished with
SERM. such champions, it diffused itself by rage and terror XIV. of arms, convincing men's minds only by the sword, and using no other arguments but blows. Upon the same grounds of ignorance and force it still subsists, neither offering for, nor taking against itself any reason; refusing all examination, and, upon extreme penalties, forbidding any dispute about its truth; being indeed so far (whether out of judgment or fatal instinct) wise, as conscious to itself, or foreboding, that the letting in of a little light, and a moderate liberty of discussing its pretences, would easily overthrow it. Now that divine wisdom should choose those black and boisterous times to publish his will, is as if the king should purposely order his proclamation to be made in a tempestuous night, when no man scarce dared to stir out, nor any man could well see what was done, or hear what was said: much fitter surely to that purpose were serene and calm day, a time of general civility and peace, like that of Augustus Cæsar. That the declaration of God's mind should issue from the deserts of Arabia, (that den of robbers,) is as if the king should cause his edicts to be set up in the blindest and dirtiest nook of the suburbs: the market-cross surely, or the exchange, (the place of most general and ordinary concourse,) such as, in respect to the world, was the flourishing empire of Rome, were more convenient, and wisely chosen for that purpose. That, passing over the more gentle and tractable part of his people, a prince should send his laws to a rabble of banditti; should pick out for his messenger a most dissolute varlet, attended with a crew of desperate ruffians, resolved to buffet and rifle all they met, were an odd way of proceeding: to com
municate his pleasure unto the better and more or- SERM. derly sort of people, (such as were the subjects of that well governed empire;) by persons of good meaning, mild disposition, and innocent behaviour, (such as were the apostles of our Lord;) in a quiet and gentle manner, (such as these only used ;) would surely better become a worthy prince. Thus even the exterior circumstances of Mahometanism, (both absolutely and in comparison,) belonging to its rise, its growth, its continuance, (so full of indecency, of iniquity, of inhumanity,) ground strong presumptions against its divinity; or rather, plainly demonstrate that it could not proceed from God, whose truth cannot need such instruments or such courses to maintain it, whose goodness certainly abhors them. But further, if we look into the matter and inward frame thereof, we shall find it a mass of absurd opinions, odd stories, and uncouth ceremonies; compounded chiefly of the dregs of Christian heresies, together with some ingredients of Judaism and Paganism confusedly jumbled, or unskilfully tempered together. From Christian heresies it seems to have derived its negative doctrines, opposite to Christianity; as for instance, when allowing Christ much respect, it yet denies his being the Son of God, and that he did really suffer; rejecting his true story, it affixes false ones upon him: as also some positive ones; for example, that unreasonable opinion, so much misbeseeming God, that God hath a body, (Mahomet, forsooth, once touched his hand, and felt it very cold,) might be drawn from the Anthropomorphites; that doctrine concerning the fatal determination of all events, (so prejudicial to all religion, subverting the foundations of justice between