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will acquiesce in; yet in this particular case, the wisdom and goodness of God has shewn itself so visibly to common aprehension, that it hath furnished us abundantly wherewithal to satisfy the 11 rious and inquilitive; who will not take a bleting, unl.is ti se instructed what need they had of it, and why it was beitowers them. The great and many advantages we receive by the rising of Jesus the Messiah, will shew, that it was not without need .... he was sent into the world.
The evidence of our Saviour's mission from heaven is so gro; in the multitude of miracles he did before all sorts of people, i.si what he delivered cannot but be received as the oracles of Going and unquestionabic verity; for the miracics he did were so ordered by the divine providence and wisdon, that they never were, nor could be, denied by any of the enemies or opposers of Christianiiy.
Though the works of nature, in every part of them, fuifciently evidence a deity, yet the world made so little use of their reason, that they saw him not, where even by the inprellions of himself he was easy to be found. Sense and luit blinded their minds in some, and a careless inadvertency in others, and fearful apprehensions in most (who either believed there were, or could not but suspect there might be, superior unknown beings), gave them up into the hands of their priests, to fill their heads with false notions of the deity, and their worihip with foolish rites, as they pleased; and what dread or craft once began, devotion soon made sacred, and religion immutable. In this Itate of darkness and ignorance of the true God, vice and superstition held the world; nor could any help be had or hoped for from "reason,” which could not be heard, and was judged to have nothing to do in the case, the pricfts every where, to secure their empire, having excluded “reason” from having arry thing to do in religion. And in the crowd of wrong notions, and invented rites, the world had almost lost the right of the one only true God. The rational and thinking part of mankind, it is true, when they fought after him, found the one, supreme, invisible Ged; but, if they acknowledged and worshipped him, it was only in their own minds. They kept this truth locked up in their own breasts as a secret, nor ever durft venture it amongst the people, much less the priests, those wary guardians of their own creeds and profitable inventions : hence we see that “ reason," speaking never so clearly to the wise and virtuous, had never authority enough to prevail on the multitude, and to persuade the focieties of mien, that there was but one God, that alone was to be owned and worshiped. The belief and worship of one God was the national religion of the Israelites alone; and, if we will consider it, it was introduced and supported amongst that people by Revelation. They were in Goihen, and had light; whilst the rest of the world were in almost Egyptian darkness, « without God in the “ world.” There was no part of mankind, who had quicker parts, or improved them more; that had a greater light of reaton, or followed it farther in all sorts of speculations, than the Athcnians; and
yet yet we find but one Socrates amongst them, that opposed and laughed at their polytheisms, and wiong opinions of the deity; and we see how they rewarded him for it. Whatsoever Plato, and the fuberest of the philosophers, thought of the nature and being of the one God, they were tain, in their outward worship, to go with the herd, and keep to the religion established by law, which what it ves, and how it had difpoted the mind of these knowing and quick-lighted Grecians, St. Paul tells us, Acts xvii. 22---29. « Ye a men of Athens," says he, “I perceive that in all things ye are u too fuperititious. For as I pasied by, and beheld your devotions, “ I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. “ K hom therefore ye ignorantly worship, nim declare I unto you. « God that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he " is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in Temples made « with hands: neither is worthiped with men's hands, as though " he needed any thing, seeing he giveth unto all life, and breath, 16 and all things; and hath made of one blood all the nations of " men, for to dwell on the face of the earth; and hath determined " the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitations ; " that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel him out, " and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” Here he tells the Athenians, that they, and the rest of the world (given up to fuperftition), whatever light there was in the works of creation and providence, to lead them to the true God, yet they few of them found him. He was every where near them; yet they were but like people groping and feeling for something in the dark, and did not see him with a full clear day-light; “ but thought the God“ head like to gold, and silver, and stone, graven by art and man's “ device.”
In this state of darkness and error, in reference to “ the true « God” our Saviour found the world. But the clear revelation he brought with him dissipated this darknels; made " the one in“ visible true God” known to the world, and that with such evidence and energy, that “polytheilm” and “ idolatry” hath no where been able to withstand it. But where-ever the preaching of the truth he delivered, and the light of the gospel hath come, those , milts have been dispelled. And, in effect, we see, that fince our Saviour's time, “the belief of one God” has prevailed and spread itself over the face of the earth. For even to the light that the Melfiah brought into the world with him, we must ascribe the owning and profession of “ one God,” which the Mahometan religion hath derived and borrowed from it. So that, in this sense, it is certainly and manifestly true of our Saviour, what St. John fays of him, i John ini. 8. “ For this purpofe the son of God was mani« fested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” This light the world needed, and this light it received from him, That there is but « one God,” and he “ eternal, invisible;” not like to any visible objects, nor to be represented by them.
the face of the real with him. We Mahometane, it is ce
If it be asked, whether the revelation to the Patriarchs by Moses did not teach this, and why that was not enough; the answer is obvious, that however clearly the knowledge of one invisible Gods maker of heaven an earth, was revealed to them, yet that revelation was shut up in a little corner of the world, amongst a people, by that very law which they received with it, excluded from a
commerce and communication with the rest of mankind. The - Gentile world, in our Saviour's time, and several ages before, could have no attestation of the miracles on which the Hebrews built their faith, but from the Jews themselves, a people not known to the greatest part of mankind, contemned and thought vilely of by thofe nations that did know them; and therefore very unfit and unable to propagate the doctrine of " one God” in the world, and diffuse it through the nations of the earth, by the strength and force of that ancient revelation upon which they had received it. But our Saviour, when he came, threw down this wall of partition, and did not confine bis miracles or message to the land of Canaan, or the worshippers at Jerusalem; but he himself preached at Samaria, and did miracles in the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and before multitudes of people gathered from all quarters; and after his resurrection sent his apostles amongst the nations, accompanied with miracles, which were done in all parts so frequently, and before so many witnesses of all sorts, in broad day-light, that, as I have before observed, the enemies of Christianity have never dared to deny them; no, not Julian himself, who neither wanted skill nor power to enquire into the truth, nor would have failed to have proclaimed and exposed it, if he could have detected any falshood in the history of the gospel, or found the least ground to question the matter of fact published of Christ and his apostles. The number and evidence of the miracles done by our Saviour and his followers, by the power and force of truth, bore down this mighty and accomplished cmperor, and all his parts, in his own dominions. He durft not deny so plain matter of fact; which being granted, the truth of our Saviour's doctrine and mission unavoidably follows, notwithstanding whatsoever artful suggestions his wit could invent, or malice should offer, to the contrary.
2. Next to the knowledge of one God, maker of all things, a clear, “knowledge of their duty” was wanting to mankind. This parti of knowledge, though cultivated with some care by some of the heathen philosophers, yet got little footing among the people. All men indeed, under pain of displeasing the gods, were to frequent the temples, every one went to their sacrifices and services; but the priests made it not their business to teach them “ virtue.” If they were diligent in their observations and ceremonies, punctual in their fcaits and solemnities, and the tricks of religion, the holy tribe assured them, the gods were pleased; and they looked no farther. Few went to the schools of the philosophers, to be inStructed in their duties, and to know what was good and evil in their action. The priests sold the better penny-worths, and there
fore fore had all their custom. Lustrations and proceffions were much ealier than a clean conscience, and a steady course of virtue; and an expiatory facrifice, that atoned for the want of it, was much more convenient, than a strict and holy life. No wonder then, that religion was every were distinguished from, and preferred to “ virtue,” and that it was dangerous heresy and prophaneness to think the contrary. So much “ virtue" as was necessary to hold societies together, and to contribute to the quiet of governments; the civil laws of commonwealths taught, and forced upon men that lived under magistrates. But these laws, being for the moft part made by such who had no other aims but their own power, reached no farther than those things that would serve to tie men together in subjection, or, at most, were directly to conduce to the prosperity and temporal happiness of any people. But « natural religion," in its full extent, was no where, that I know, taken care of by the force of natural reason. It should seem, by the little that has hitherto been done in it, that it is too hard a task for unassisted reason to establisb morality, in all its parts, upon its true foundations, with a clear and convincing light. And it is at least a surer and shorter way, to the apprehentions of the vulgar, and mass of mankind, that one manifestly fent from God, and coming with visible authority from him, should, as a king and lawmaker, tell them their duties, and require their obedience, than leave it to the long, and sometimes intricate deductions of reason, to be made out to them: such strains of reasonings the greatest part of mankind have neither leisure to weigh, nor, for want of education and use, skill to judge of. We fee how unsuccessful in this the attempts of philosophers were before our Saviour's time. How short their several systems came of the perfection of a true and complete “morality.” is very visible. And if, since that, the Christian plilosophers have much outdone them, yet we may observe, that the first knowledge of the truths they have added are owing to revelation; though, as soon as they are heard and considered, they are found to be agreeable to reason, and such as can by no ineans be contradicted. Every one may observe a great many truths which he receives at first from others, and readily asients to, as consonant to reason, which he would have found it hard, and perhaps beyond his strength, to have difcovered himself. Native and original truth is not so easily wrought out of the mine, as we who have it delivered ready dug and fashioned into our hands are apt to imagine. And how often, at fifty or threescore years old are thinking men told what they wonder how they could miss thinking of, which yet their own contemplations did not, and possibly never would have helped them to! Experience Thews that the knowledge of morality, by mere natural light (how agreeable soever it be to it), makes but a flow progrels, and little advance in the world. And the reason of it is not hard to be found, in men's necessities, passions, vices, and inistaken interests, which turn their thoughts another way. And the designing leaders, as well as the following herd, find it not to their purpole to employ much of their meditations this way. Or whatever else was the cause, it is plain in fact, that human reason unailisted failed men in its great and proper business of “ morality.” It never, fron unquestionable principles, by clear deductions, made out an entire body of “the law of nature.” And he that shall collect all the moral rules of the philosophers, and compare them with those contained in the New Testament, will find them to come short of “the « morality” delivered by our Saviour, and taught by his apostles : a college made up for the most part of ignorant, but inspired fishernien.
Though yet, if any one should think, that, out of the sayings of the wife Heathens, before our Saviour's time, there might be a col. lection made of all those rules of " morality” which are to be found in the Christian religion; yet this would not at all hinder, but that the world nevertheless stood as much in need of our Saviour, and “ the morality” delivered by him. Let it be granted (though not true) that all « the moral precepts” of the gospel were known by somebody or other, amongst mankind, before. But where, or how, or of what use, is not confidered. Suppose they may be pickt up here and there; fome from Solon and Bias in Greece; others from Tully in Italy; and, to complete the work, let Confucius, as far as China, be consulted; and Anacharfis the Scythian contribute his share. What will all this do, to give the world « a complete morality,” that may be to mankind the unquestionable rule of life and manners? I will not here urge the impossibility of collecting from men, so far distant from one another, in time, and place, and languages. I will suppose there was a Stobæus in those times, who had gathered “ the moral sayings” froin all the sages of the word. What would this amount to, towards being a steady rule, a certain transcript of a law that we are under? Did the saying of Aristippus, or Confucius, give it an authority? Was Zeno a lawgiver to mankind ? If not, what he or any other philofopher delivered, was but a saying of his. Mankind might hearken to it or reject it, as they pleased, or as it suited their interest, passions, principles, or humours: they were under no obligation; the opinion of this or that philosopher was of no authority: and, if it were, you must take all he faid under the same character. All his dictates must go for law, certain and true, or none of them. And then, if you will take any of the moral sayings of Epicurus (many whereof Seneca quotes with esteem and approbation) for precepts of " the law of nature,” you must take all the rest of his doctrine for such too, or else his authority ceases: and so no more is to be received from him, or any of the lages of old, for parts of “ the law of nature,” as carrying with it an obligation to be obeyed, but what they prove to be lo. But such a body of Ethicks, proved to be the law of nature, from principles of reason,
and reaching all the duties of life, I think nobody will say the world · had before our Saviour's time. It is not enough, that there were up
and down scattered sayings of wise men, conformable to right rea