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me, that if God be God, he must be just and perfect ; and if I be not so too, I am not like him, and therefore must needs displease him; it being impossible any thing should please him but what is like unto him. And this difformity to the will and nature of God is that which we call sin, or which the word sin, in its proper notion, brings into my mind.
And being thus conscious to myself that I have sinned against my Maker, I may reasonably conclude, that as he is omniscient, and, by consequence, a witness of these my offences, so must he likewise be just in the punishment of them ; for it cannot stand with his justice to put up such offences, without laying suitable punishments upon the offender. And these punishments must be infinite and eternal; for, wherein doth the nature of divine justice consist, but in giving to sin its just punishments, as well as to virtue its due rewards ? Now that the punishment of sin in this world is not so much as it deserves, nor, by consequence, as much as, in justice, ought to be laid upon it, to me is clear, in that every sin being committed against an infinite God, deserves infinite punishment; whereas all the punishments we suffer in this world cannot be any more than finite, the world itself being no more than finite that we suffer them in.
Upon these grounds, therefore, it is that I am fully satisfied in my conscience that I am a sinner; that it cannot stand with the justice nor the existence of God that made me to pardon iny sins, without satisfaction made to his divine justice for them; and yet, that unless they be pardoned, it is impossible for me to be happy here or hereafter. And therefore must I look after some religion, wherein I may be sure my sins may be thus pardoned, and my soul made happy; wherein I may please God, and God may bless me.
Which that I may be the better able to discover, I shall take a brief survey of all the religions I ever heard of, or believe to be in the world.
Now, though there be as many kinds of religions as nations, yea, almost as particular persons in the world, yet may they all be reduced to these four; the Paganish, Mahometan, Jewish, and Christian religion.
As to the first, it is indeed of a very large extent, and comprehends under it all such as neither acknowledge Mahomet to be a prophet, nor expect a promised Messiah, nor believe in a crucified Jesus: and since it is the majority of numbers that usually carries the vogue, let me see whether the Paganish religion, being farther extended, and more generally professed than any, or indeed all the rest, be not the true religion, wherein God is most rightly worshipped, and I may be the most certainly saved. And here, when I take a view of this religion, as it is dispersed through several parts of Asia, Africa, and America, I find them very devout in worshipping their deities, such as they are, and they have great numbers of them: some worship the sun, others the moon and stars, others the earth and other elements, serpents, trees, and the like. And others again pay homage and adoration to images, and statues, in the fashion of men and women, hogs, horses, and other shapes; and some to the devil himself, as in Pegu, &c.
But now, to go no farther, this seems to me, at first sight, to be a very strange and absurd sort of religion ; or rather it is quite the reverse of it. For the true notion we have of religion is the worshipping the true God in a true manner; and this is the worshipping false gods in a false manner. For I cannot entertain any other notion of God than as one supreme Almighty Being, who made and governs all things, and who, as he is a Spirit, ought to be worshipped in a spiritual
And therefore, as the very supposing more deities than one implies a contradiction, so the paying divine homage in a gross carnal manner to material and corporeal beings, which are either the work of men's hands, or at best but creatures like ourselves, which can neither hear nor understand, what we say to them, inuch less give us what we desire of them, is not religion, but idolatry and superstition, or rather madness and delusion. So that this religion, I see, if I should embrace it, would be so far from making me happy, that the more zealous I should be for it, the more miserable I should be by it. For, he that niade these things cannot but be very angry at me, if I should give that worship to them which is only due to himself; and so the way whereby I expect my sins should be pardoned, they would be more increased; it being a sin against the very light of nature to prefer any thing before God, or to worship any thing in his stead: therefore, leaving these to their superstitious idolatries and diabolical delusions, I must go and seek for the true religion somewhere else.
The next religion that hath the most suffrages and votes on its side is the Mahometan religion, so called from one Mahomet, an Arabian, who about a thousand years ago, by the assistance of one Sergius, a Nestorian monk, compiled a book in the Arabian tongue, which he called Alcoran, which he made the rule of his followers' faith and manners, pretending that it was sent from heaven to him by the hand of the angel Gabriel.
This book I have perused, and must confess find many things in it agreeable to right reason; as, that there is but one God, gracious, and merciful, the Lord of the whole universe; that this God we are to resign ourselves wholly to; that all that obey him shall be certainly rewarded, and all that disobey him as certainly punished; and the like. But yet I dare not venture my soul upon it, nor become one of the professors of it; because, as there are many things consonant, so are there many things dissonant, to the natural light that is implanted in me; as, that God should swear by figs and olives, by mount Sinai, as this book makes him to do, in the chapter of the Figs ; that Solomon should have an army composed of men, and devils, and birds; and that he should discourse with a bird, which acquainted him with the affairs of the queen of Sheba, and the like.
As to the argument, whereby he would persuade us that this book was sent from God, viz. that there are no contradictions in it, I take it to be very false and frivolous; for, besides that there are many books compiled by men which have no contradictions in them, it is certain there are a great many plain contradictions in this book, which overthrow his supposition. Thus, in the chapter of the Table, he saith, that " all that “ believe in God, and the resurrection of the dead, and “ have done good works, shall be saved ;" but, in the chapter of Gratification, he saith, “ all that do not be“ lieve in the Alcoran shall be destroyed;" and so in the chapter of Hod. In like manner, he tells us again, in the chapter of the Table, that the books of the Old and New Testament were sent from God, and at the same time supposes, that the Alcoran was sent from him too ; which to me seems impossible: for my reason tells me, that God, who is truth and wisdom itself, cannot be guilty of falsehood or contradiction. And if these books contradict one another, as it is evident they do in many instances, it is plain God could not be the author of both; and, by consequence, if the Scripture be true, the Alcoran must of necessity be false. To instance but in one particular, the Alcoran says, in the chapter of Women, “God hath no Son;" the Scripture, in Matt. iii. 17. God said of Jesus, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased : and, Heb. iv. 14. it expressly calls that Jesus the Son of God; and so in many other things. Now it is impossible that both these should be true, or, by consequence, that that should be true which says both are
But if this were granted, there is still another objection against this religion ; and that is, that the rewards therein promised will not avail to make me happy, though I should be partaker of them. For, all the pro
mises made to us in this paradise are but mere sensible pleasures ; as, that we shall have all manner of herbs, and fruits, and drinks, and women with exceeding great and black eyes, as in the chapter of the Merciful, and of Judgment, and elsewhere, and such pleasures as these, though they may indeed affect my body, yet they cannot be the happiness of my soul. Indeed, I know not how this book should promise any higher happiness than that of the body, because it shews no means of attaining to it; it shews no way how my sins may be pardoned, and so my soul made happy. It saith, I confess, that God is gracious and merciful, and therefore will pardon them; but my reason tells me, that as God is gracious and merciful, and therefore will pardon sin, so he is also just and righteous, and therefore must punish it. And how these two can stand together, is not manifested in the Alcoran ; and therefore I dare not trust my soul with it.
Thus, upon diligent search, have I found the two religions, that are most generally professed, to have little or nothing of religion in them. I shall therefore in the next place take a view of that religion which hath the fewest followers, and that is the Jewish. A reli. gion, not established by any human laws, nor, indeed, generally professed in any nation, but only by a company of despicable people, scattered up and down the world, which, as the prophet expresses it, are become a proverb of reproach, and a by-word among all nations whither they are driven. The principles of this religion are contained in a book written in the Hebrew tongue, which they call the innin Torah, or Law, composed of several precepts, promises, and threatenings; together with histories of things past, and prophecies of things to come: this book, they say, was written by men inspired by God himself; and therefore they avouch it not to be of a human invention, but merely of divine institution.
This book also I have diligently read and examined into, and must ingenuously confess, that, at the very