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Subje&t of Debate ? Could that Doctrine keep the Ground it now has there, under free Debate? Would its Fallhood, set forth in the utmost Light, have no Effect on the Understandings of the polite and ingenious Frencb. Nation? Nay, is there any Thing, that keeps up that Absurdity, and stifles the Light of Truth, but Authority? And are not the Popish Ecclefiafticks fo fenfible of the Force of Truth, and so particularly fearful of losing that Pearl of great Price, the darling Doctrine of Transubstantiation, that no Man can with Safety, where they have Influence, to his Person, Fortune, and Reputation, call it in Question?
: Did Popery get any Ground in England, by the Liberty the Papifts had in the Reign of King JAMES the second, to publish whatever they pleased in Behalf of their Religion ? On the contrary, was not Popery more exposed to Scorn and Contempt by being the Subject of Debate, than if nothing had been wrote in Behalf of it?
Does Protestantism decay in Holland, where not only the Papists themselves print what
Apologies and controversial Treatises they please, but where the Booksellers print all Manner of Popish Books, for which there is any Demand, and by Consequence chuse such Books chiefly, which the Papists themselves deem most strenuously written?
9. If Men did but consider what infinite Variety of Religions have prevail’d, and do now prevail in the World; what Variety of Notions and Practices have prevail'd, and do prevail in the same Country; what Revolutions of Opinions there have been among Christians, and how greatly divided they have always been, and now are in Sentiment, and how much departed every Sect thereof is from their primitive Institution; what a small Part of the World is possess’d by Christians, and how very inconsiderable a Part is possess’d by any one Set of Christians, and what little Figure the Church of England (whose Members are infinitely divided in Sentiment from one another) makes upon the Globe ; what monstrous Absurdities prevail in most Places, and what excessive Ignorance every where; and how this State of Things has endured among Men, who have been and are chiefly conducted by
Authority Aut’ority and compell’d by Force; it should feem, that Authority and Force are so far from being the Way to put an End to Error, or make Men wiser, that they have contributed to encrease the Errors and Follies of Men. And if This be so, I must conclude for the Necessity of introducing free Inquiry, Profef fon, and Debate ; which cannot make Men more erroneous and foolish than they are; and seems to be the only way to make Meni less erroneous and more wise than they are; and does in Fact make Men lefs erroneous and more wise in every Country, according to that Degree of it, which prevails.
A sacred Author tells us, (f) Wisdom is. glorious and never fadeth away; and is EASILY SEEN of them that love her, and FOUND of such as SEEK her, in making herself first known unto them. He that seeketh her early mall have no great Travels'; for he shall find her fitting at his Door. To think therefore on her is Perfe£tion of Wisdom, and whoso watcheth for her Mall quickly be without Care. For she goeth about seeking such as are worthy of
Wisdom 6. 12.--16.
ker, sheweth herself favourably unto them in the Ways, and meeteth them in every Thought.
10. If it be said, that it is necessary to Peace and Quiet in the State, that there fiould be no Debates about Speculations ; and that all Men mould square their Principles and Practices by what they find received in their Country; then let not Men pretend any Concern for Truth, and against Falshood; for This removes Truth and Falshood out of the Question. Let them then set up for Hobbisin or Popery; which by Force and an Inquisition, perhaps, may keep all Things quiet, as well as, certainly, most, if not all, Men ignorant. But in reality, the Allowance of free Debate is the Method to obtain a more solid and lasting Peace, (Peace flowing from Temper and Principle ) than that mere outward Form of Peace, which is sometimes obtain’d by Force andan Inquisition. For if Debates are free, That is, if no Man gets or loses by maintaining particular Opinions, the grand Motives, which make Men disturb one another about Opinions, will cease; and they will insensibly fall into a due Temper of Mind; ( which Force can never procure) and be no more angry with one another on Ac
count of different Sentiments, than for different Features of their faces or for different Proportions of their Bodies.
Besides, free Debate tends to shorten and lessen the Number of Controversies. Many Points, notwithstanding the present warm Contests, and learned Books written pro and con about them, are fo plain, that they would not then bear a long Debate; many others would be dropp'd, when it was seen that they were too obscure for the Learned to malter; and all Points of Speculation whatsoever would be dropp'd among the Vulgar; who, when Speculations cease to be recommended to them as Objects for their Zeal, and are neither Matters of Faction or Interest, will concern themselves no more about them, than they do about Mathematicks or other Matters, whereof they are incapable of understanding any Thing.
A learned (g) Author gives us the following Account of the State of religious Controversy in Greece and the Parts about it, as it is set
(8) Casaubon of Eutbufiafm, p. 6.