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SECT. II. Nothing can be of greater moment than religion; and therefore we ought to use our utmost endeavours to come at the true knowledge of it.

OUR business is not now with such persons as despise all religion; these have been sufficiently confuted by that great man Hugo Grotius, in the foregoing books; which whosoever 279has read, with a mind really desirous of coming at the truth, can have no doubt but that there is a God who would be worshipped by men, and, as things now are, with that very worship which is commanded by Christ; and that he has promised everlasting happiness, after this mortal life, to all who thus worship him.

Thus much being allowed, nobody can doubt but that religion is a matter of the highest concern; and, therefore, as we see that Christians do not consist of one entire body, we ought to endeavour to find out which sect of them is most agreeable, in its doctrines and precepts, to those which are left us by Jesus Christ; for we cannot have an equal regard for them all, because some of them are so very different from others both in doctrine and worship, that they accuse one another of the greatest errors, and of having corrupted the divine worship; nay, some of them speak of the rest as absolutely excluded eternal life. Now if this could be made plainly appear, without doubt, we ought to withdraw ourselves from all other sects, as soon as we can, and join with that alone which with truth makes such objections against all others. For not only this present short life lies at stake, which is subject to innumerable evils and misfortunes, let us live how we will; but we render ourselves liable to the punishments which God has threatened to those who do not believe the Gospel, and hazard that happiness which has no defect, and will have no end. Yet there are some men, not indeed very learned, nor very much addicted to reading the scriptures seriously, in order to judge of the divisions amongst Christians, and to find out on which side the truth lies; for they have no concern at all for that; but their notion of these divisions is, that they think it all one, let their opinions be what they will, and that it is the same thing whatever worship they follow: they imagine it to be quite indifferent what party of Christians we really join ourselves with, or indeed only profess to join ourselves with. I do not now speak of the common people only; there are kingdoms, in which not only the common people, but the magistrates and nobility have separated from the see of Rome, and yet in a very short time, upon having a new king, have returned to 280it again; and then after this, have been assisting to the supreme power in opposing the same see. In the reign of Henry VIII. of England, there were many acts made not only by the king, but agreed to by the parliament, against the see of Rome, which king Henry was angry with, for a reason that few people approved of. After his death, when his son, Edward VI. joined in with that party, who had not only renounced all the authority of the see of Rome, as his father had done, but also had embraced other opinions, which were condemned by that see; they likewise openly declared that they approved of them. A little after king Edward died, when queen Mary, a great bigot to the pope of Rome, succeeded her brother; this very nobility assisted this queen to oppress that party who had despised the authority of the pope, and were in so flourishing a condition when Edward was king. Some time after, upon the death of Mary, queen Elizabeth succeeded, who was of the same sect with her brother Edward, and so strongly established it by a long reign, that it remains to this day upon the same foundation on which it was then built. Whoever peruses the history of those times, will see how fluctuating the nobility of that nation were; and he will be hardly able to persuade himself, but that they were of the same mind with those that believe it to be all one with respect to their eternal salvation, what sect of Christians they join themselves with. I agree with those who ascribe these changes in a good measure to fear; but when I consider the constancy, courage, and contempt of death, which we so frequently see in the English nation I can hardly persuade myself, but that the love of this present life, and an indifference about religion, were the principal causes of these several changes.

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