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continually promoting the univerfal benefit of the whole: that men in particular are every one obliged to make it their business, by an universal benevolence, to promote the happiness of all others: that, in order to this, every man is bound always to behave himself so towards others, as in rcaion he would defire they should in like circunstances deal with him: that, therefore, he is obliged to obey and subunit to his fupcriours in all just and right things, for the prefervation of society, and the peace and benefit of the public; to be just and honelt, equitable and fincere, in all his dealings with his equals, for the keeping inviolable the everlasting rule of righteoufness, and maintaining an universal trust and confidence, friendship and affection amongst men; and, towards his inferiors, to be gentle and kind, easy and affable, charitable and willing to afiiit as many as stand in need of his help, for the preservation of universal love and benevolence amongst mankind, and in imitation of the goodness of God, who preserves and does good to all creatures, which depend entirely upon him for their very being and all that they enjoy: that, in respect of himself, every man is bound to preserve, as much as in him lies, his own being, and the right use of all his faculties, 10 long as it fall please God, who appointed him his station in this world, to continue him therein: that therefore he is bound to have an exact government of his paffions, and carefully to abstain froin all debaucheries and abuses of himself, which tend either to the destruction of his own being, or to the disordering of his faculties, and disabling him from performing his duty, or hurrying him into the practice of unreasonable and unjust things: laitly, that accordingly as men regard or neglect these obligations, so they are proportionably acceptable or difpleasing unto God; who, being fupreme governor of the world, cannot but teftify his favour or displeasure at some time or other; and consequently, since this is not done in the present state, therefore there muít be a future state of rewards and punishments in a lite to come. But all this, the men we are now speaking of pretend to believe only so far, as it is discoverable by the light of nature alone, without believing any divine revelation. These, I say, are the only true Deists; and indeed the only persons who ought in reason to be argued with, in order to convince them of the reasonableness, truth, and certainty of the Christian revelation. But alas! there is, as [ * before said, too much reason to believe, that there are very few or none such Deifts as these among modern deniers of revelation. For fuch men as I have now described, if they would at all attend to the confequences of their own principles, could not fail of being quickly persuaded to embrace Christianity. For, being fully convinced of the obligations of natural religion, and the certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments; and yet observing, at the faine time, how little ule men generally are able to make of the light of reason, to discover the one, or to convince themselves effeétually of the certainty and importance of the other; it is impossible but they must earnestly • Page 115
defire God would be pleased, by some direct discovery of his will, to make these things more clear and plain, inore easy and obvious, more certain and evident to all capacities ; it is impoffible but they must with, God would be pleased particularly, to fignify exprelly the acceptableness of repentance, and his willingness to forgive returning finners; it is impossible but they must be very solicitous, to have some more particular and certain inforiration concerning the nature of that future state, which reason teaches them in general to expect. The consequence of this is, that they must needs be poflefied beforehand with a strong hope, that the Christian revelation may upon due examination appear to be true. They must be infinitely far from ridiculing and despising any thing that claims to be a divine revelation, before they have sincerely and thoroughly examined it to the bottom. They n uit needs be beforehand very much difpofed in its favour; and be very willing to be convinced, that what tends to the advancing and perfecting the obligations of natural religion, to the securing their great hopes, and ascertaining the truth of a future state of rewards and punishments, and can any way be made appear to be worthy of God, and consistent with his attributes, and has any reasonable proof of the matters of fact it depends upon; is really and truly, what it pretends to be, a divine revelation. And now, is it possible that any man, with these opinions and these dispositions, thould continue to reject Christianity, when proposed to him in its original and genuine fimplicity, without the mixture of any corruptions or inventions of men? Let him read the sermons and exhortations of our Saviour, as delivered in the gospels; and the discourses of the apostles preserved in their acts and their epistles; and try if he can withstand the evidence of such a doctrine, and reject the hopes of such a glorious immortality fo discovered to him. THAT THERE IS NOW NO CONSISTENT SCHEME OF DEISM IN
THE WORLD. The heathen philosophers, those few of them who taught and lived up to the obligations of natural religion, hud indeed a confiftent scheme of Deilin so far as it went; and they were very brave, and wise men, if any of them could keep steady and firm to it. But the case is not so now. The same scheme of Deism is not any longer consistent with its own principles, if it does not now lead men to embrace and believe revelation, as it then taught them to hope for it, Deists, in our days, who obftinately reject revelation when offered to them, are not such men as Socrates and Tully were; but, under pretence of Deism, it is plain, they are generally ridiculers of all that is truly excellent even in natural religion itself. Could we see a Deist, whose mind was heartily, pofleft with worthy and just apprehensicns of all the attributes of God, and a de p sense of his duty towards that supreme author and preserver of his being : could we see a Deist, who lived in an exact performance of all the duties of natural religion; and by the practice of righteousness, justice, equity, sobriety, and temperance, expressed in his actions, as well as words,
a firm belief and expectation of a future state of rewards and punishments: in a word, could we see a Deist, who with reverence and modefty, with sincerity and impartiality, with a true and hearty defire of finding out and submitting to reason and truth, would inquire into the foundations of our belief, and examine thoroughly the pretentions which pure and uncorrupt Christianity has to be received as a divine revelation; I think we could not doubt to afirm of such a person, as our Saviour did of the young man in the gospel, that he was “not far from the kingdom of God;" and that, being “ willing to do his will, he should know of the doctrine, « whether it was of God.” But, as I have said, there is great reafon to doubt, there are no such Deists as these among the infidels of our days. This indeed is what they sometimes pretend, and seem to desire should be thought to be their case: But, alas ! their trivial and vain cavils; their mocking and ridiculing, without and before examination; their directing the whole stress of their objections against particular customs, or particular and perhaps uncertain opinions, or explications of opinions, without at all considering the main body of religion; their loose, vain, and frothy discourses; and, above all, their vicious and immoral lives; show plainly and undeniably, that they are not really Deists but mere Atheists; and consequently not capable to judge of the truth of Christianity. If they were truly and in earnest such Deists as they pretend and would sometimes be thought to be; those principles (as has been already fhown in part, and will more fully appear in the following dilcourse) would unavoidably lead them to Christianity. But, being such as they really are, they cannot poslibly avoid recurring to downright Atheism.
The sum is this. There is now * no such thing, as a consistent scheme of Deilin. That which alone was once fuch, namely, the fcheme of the best heathen philosophers, ceases now to be fo, after the appearance of revelation : because (as I have already shown, and thall more largely prove in the sequel of this discourse) it directly conducts men to the belief of Christianity. All other pretences to Deism may by unavoidable consequence be forced to terminate in abfolute Atheism. He that cannot prevail with himself to obey the Christian doctrine, and einbrace those hopes of life and immortality, which our Saviour has brought to light through the gospel, cannot now be imagined to maintain with any firmness, steadiness, and certainty, the belief of the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and punishments after death; because all the main difficulties and objections lie equally against both. For the same reason, he who disbelieves the immortality of the soul, and a future State of rewards and punithments, cannot defend, to any effectual purpose, or enforce with any suficient strength, the obligations of morality and natural religion; notwithstanding that they are indeed incun.bent upon men, from the very nature and reason of the
* " Ita fit, ut fi ab illa rerum fumma. quam fuperius comprehendimus, abberraveris; " omnis ratio intereat, et ad nihilum omnia revertantur." Lactant. lib. VII.
has no foundationes of things. And the sense of
things themselves. Then; he who gives up the obligations of morality and natural religion cannot posibly have any just and worthy notion of the moral attributes of God, or any true sense of the nature and necessary differences of things. And he that once goes thus far has no foundation left, upon which he can be sure of the natural attributes or even of the existence of God: because, to deny what unavoidably follows from the supposition of his existence and natural attributes, is in reality denying those natural attributes and that existence itself. On the contrary: he who believes the being and natural attributes of God muft of necessity (as has been fhown in my former discourse) confess his moral attributes also. Next: he who owns and has just notions of the moral attributes of God cannot avoid acknowledging the obligations of morality and natural Teligion. In like manner; he who owns the obligations of morality and natural religion must needs, to support those obligations and make them effectual in practice, believe a future state of rewards and punishments. And, finally; he who believes both the obligations of natural religion, and the certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments, has no manner of reason left, why he should reject the Christian revelation, when proposed to him in its original and genuine fimplicity. Wherefore fince those arguments which demonstrate to us the being and attributes of God are so closely connected with those which prove the reasonableness and certainty of the Christian revelation, that there is now no consistent scheme of Deism left; all modern Deists being forced to shift from one cavil to another, and having no fixt and certain set of principles to adhere to; I thought I could no way better prevent their ill designs, and obviate all their different shifts and objections, than, by endeavouring, in the fame method of reasoning by which I before demonstrated the being and attributes of God, to prove in like manner, by one direct and continued thread of arguing, the reasonableness and certainty of the Christian revelation also.
To proceed therefore to the proof of the propositions themselves.
I. The same necessary and eternal different relations, that different things bear one to another; and the fame consequent fitness or unfitness of the application of different things or different relations one to another; with regard to which, the will of God always and necessarily does determine itself, to choose to act only what is agreeable to justice, equity, goodness, and truth, in order to the welfare of the whole universe; ought likewise constantly to determine the wills of all subordinate rational beings, to govern all their actions by the fame rules, for the good of the public, in their respective stations. That is, these eternal and neceffary differences of things make it fit and reasonable for creatures fo to act; they cause it to be their duty, or lay an obligation upon them, fo to do; even separate from the confideration of these rules being the positive will or command of God; and also antecedent to any respect or regard, expectation or apprehension, of any particular private and
personal advantage or disadvantage, reward or punishment, either present or future, annexed cither by natural consequence, or by positive appointment, to the practising or negle&ting of those rules.
The several parts of this propolition may be proved distinctly in the following manner. 1. THAT THERE ARE ETERNAL AND NECESSARY DIFFERENCES
OF THINGS. That there are differences of things, and different relations, respects or proportions, of some things towards others, is as evident and undeniable as that one inagnitude or number is greater, equal to, or Imaller than another. 'I hat from these different felations or different things, there nicellarily arifes an agreement or disagreement of some things with others, cr a fitness or unfitness of the application of different things or different relations one to another, is likewise as plain, as that there is any such thing as proportion or disproportion in geometry and arithinetic, or uniformity or difformity in comparing together the respective figures of bodies. Further, that there is a fitness or suitabienets of certain circumniiances to certain persons, and an unsuitableness of others; founded in the nature of things and the qualifications of persons, antccedent to all positive appointment whatsoever; allo that from the different relations of different persons one to another, there necesarily arifes a fitness or unfitness of certain manners of behaviour of some perfons towards ethers; is as manifcit, as that the properties which How from the effences of different mathematical figures have different congruities or incongruities between themselves; or that, in mechanics, certain weights or powers have very different forces, and different effects one upon another, according to their different diftances, or different politions and lituations in respect of each other. For instance: that God is infinitely fuperior to men, is as clear, as that infinity is larger than a point, or cternity longer than a moment. And it is as certainly fit, that men should honour ard worship, obey and imitate God, rather than on the contrary in all their actions endeavour to dishonour and disobey him; as it is certainly true, that they have an entire dependence on him, and he on the contrary can in no respect receive any advantage from them; and not only so, but also that his will is as certainly and unalterably just and cquitable in giving his commands, as his power is irretittible in requiring fubmith.on to it. Again: it is a thing absolutely and neceliarily fitter in itself, that the supreme author or creator of the universe Thould govern, order, and direct all things to certain constant and regular ends; than that every thing should be permitted to go on at adventures, and produce uncertain effects merely by chance and in the utmost confufion, without any determinate view or design at all. It is a thing manifestly fitter in itself, that the all-powerful governor of the world should do always what is best in the whole, and what tends most to the univerfal good of the whole creation; than that he should make the whole continually miserable; or that, to satisfy the unreasonable desires of any particular depraved natures, he llou!ú