« PreviousContinue »
c with God and Christ, as Christ is with God; members of each « other; heirs of God, and coheirs with Christ; heirs of all things," &c. Expressions which, have the strongest tendency to raise in us an unbounded love to God, and an equal one to our neighbour, and which include and convey the most exalted, and at the same time the most solid, conceptions of this great system of things. And if we suppose that these high titles and privileges are, according to the Scriptures to be hereafter extended to all mankind, the divine original of the Scriptures will receive a new acceffion of evidence on this account.
TO PLEASURE, UNFOLDED IN THE SCRIPTURES, IS AN EVI.
THE Scriptures give frequent and strong intimations, that the ultimate happiness which they promise, is not to be obtained in this our degenerate state, but by a previous passage through pain. “Blessed “ are they that mourn. We must rejoice in tribulation. The " palm-bearing multitude comes out of great tribulation. The
Captain of our salvation, and therefore all his soldiers, “must be " made perfect through sufferings. Without shedding of blood, there is 46 is no remission of lins. It is good for us to be afficted, that we are “ may learn to keep the commandments of God." The Jews must en be captivated, and undergo the severest afflictions, before they can be made happy finally, as the people of God. “ Man must eat his 66 bread in the sweat of his brow all his life, and return to dust at last; 66 and yet still the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head, « and gain readmission to the tree of life, whose leaves Thall heal the " nations,” &c. &c. Now there is a surprising correspondence between such expressions as these, and many modern discoveries, which few that pain is, in general, introductory and subservient to pleasure; and particularly, that such is the present frane of our natures, and constitution of the external world, which affects our organs, that we cannot be delivered from the sensuality and selfishness that feize upon us at our first entrance into life, and advanced to spirituality and disinterestedness to the love of God and our neighbour, we cannot have our wills broken, and our faculties exalted and purified, so as to relish happiness wherever we see it, but by the perpetual correction and reformation of our judgements and desires from painful impressions and associations. And all philosophical inquiries of this kind seem to cast a peculiar light and evidence upon the Scripture-expreffions before mentioned, and to make their accuracy, and congruity with experience and observation, be much more plainly seen and felt.
eculiar liwall philor
THE MUTUAL INSTRUMENTALITY OF BEINGS TO EACH OTHER'S
TO this head is to be referred all that the Scriptures deliver con. enton cerning good and evil angels : Chrift, the Lord of all, becoming the
Redeemer of all; Adam's injuring all his posterity through his frailty;
of God; the fulness of the Gentiles being the occasion of the final ..X restoration of the Jews; and, in general, the doctrine that God pre
pares and disposes of every thing fo, as that nothing is for itself alone, och but every person and nation has various relations to others; con in operates with them through Christ, “ who is the head, and through DIE “ whom the whole body being fitly joined together, and compacted
" by that which every joint supplieth, increaseth and edifieth itself in " love, till all things, both in heaven and earth, arrive, in their "several orders, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Now, whoever compares these Scripture expressions and doctrines with the various mutual relations, subserviencies, and uses of the parts of the external world, heavenly bodies, meteors, elements, animals, plants, and minerals, to each other, cannot help seeing a wonderful
analogy between the works of God and the Scriptures, so won21derful as jultly to entitle the lalk to the appellation of " the word of
« God." 2 And thus we may perceive, that the Scripture-account of the fall
of man, his redemption by Christ, and the influences exerted upon
him by good and evil angels, is so far from affording an objection en against the Christian religion, that it is a considerable evidence for it,
when viewed in a truly philosophical light. God works in every othing by means, by those which, according to our present language
and short-sightedness, are termed bad and unfit, as well as by the good and evidently fit ones; and all these means require a definite time, before they can accomplish their respective ends. This occurs to daily observation in the course and constitution of nature. And the Scripture doctrines concerning the fall, the redemption by Christ, and the influences of good and evil angels, are only such intimations concerning the principal invisible' means that lead' man to his ultimate end, happiness in being united to God, as accelerate him in his progress thither. According to the Scriptures, Adam hurts all. through frailty; Christ faves all, from his love and compassion to all; evil angels tempt, through malice; and good ones allist and defend, in obedience to the will of God, and his original and ultimate design of making all happy. These things are indeed clothed in a considerable variety of expreflions, suited to our present ways of acting, conceiving, and speaking (which ways are, however, all of
divine divine original, God having taught mankind, in the patriarchal times, the language, as one may say, in which he spake (o them then and afterwards); but these expressions can have no greater real import, than that of signifying to us the means made use of by God; he being, according to the Scriptures, as well as reason, the one only real agent in all the transactions that relate to man, to angels, &c. And to object to the method of producing happiness by this or that means, because of the time required to accomplish the end, of the mixture of evil, &c. is to require, that all God's creatures should at once be created infinitely happy, or rather have exifted so from all eternity, i.e. should be Gods, and not creatures.
FROM THE SUPERIOR WISDOM OF THE JEWISH LAWS, CONSI-
ALL these were originals amongst the Jews, and some of them
VEALED RELIGION IS NO OBJECTION TO IT; BUT, ON THE
First, That objections of this kind ought never to be admitted
es, and under all
proposition objected to. This is therefore, at least, a strong presumption against the validity of such an objection.
Secondly, This objection seems to derive its whole force from such positions relating to the moral attributes of God, as make it neceffary for us to suppose, either that he deals with all his creatures at present
in an equally favourable manner, or, at least, that nothing shall be min ultimately wanting to their happiness. Now the first fuppofition
appears, upon the most transient view which we take of things, to face be utterly false. There are differences of all degrees at present, in
respect of all the good things which God has given us to enjoy; and therefore may be in the best of all good things, revealed religion. And indeed, if it was otherwise in respect of revealed religion, one Itrong argument in its favour would be wanting, viz. its analogy with
the course of nature. The moral attributes of God are to be deduced ou from observations made upon the course of nature. If, therefore, the
tenor of revelation be agreeable to that of nature, it must be so to the Là, moral attributes of God. But if any one fupposes, in the second ,, place, that, notwithstanding present and apparent differences in the Die circumstances of God's creatures, there are no real and ultimate
ones; at least, that the balance will ultimately be in favour of each
individual finitely, or perhaps infinitely; I answer, that this fuppofiTolation is as agreeable to revelation as to natural reason; that there are Telps as probable evidences for it in the word of God, as in his works, ly there being " no acceptance of persons with God, no difference Ed" between the Jew and the Gentile,” according to the Scriptures;
and that we may infer as strongly from the Scriptures, that Chrift Jezu will save all, as it can be inferred from philosophy, that all will be 74" made happy in any way; both which positions I shall endeavour to
establish hereafter, with the mutual illustrations and confirmations which these glorious doctrines of natural and revealed religion afford to each other. And the gradual diffusion of the Patriarchal, Judaical, and Christian revelations, compared with the prophecies relating to the future kingdom of Christ, and with the present circumstances
of things, will afford great fatisfaction and joy to every pious, bene12 volent person, who inquires into this subject. These considerations
will incline him to believe, that the Gospel will, sooner or later, be preached to “ every creature in Heaven, in Earth, under the " Earth, &c." and not only preached, but received, obeyed, and made the means of unspeakable happiness to them. And thus this objection will be removed, not only in speculation, and according to reason, but, in fact, from the present unbappy objectors; and “they " will look on him whom they have pierced."
Thirdly, having shewn that a gradual and partial promulgation is not inconsistent with the supposition of a true revelation, we may farther affirm, that the particular time and manner, in which the Several Patriarchal, Judaical, and Christian revelations, have been published to the world, are even arguments in their favour. This subject has been well handled by various learned men, particularly by Mr. Arch. Law, in his “ Considerations on the state of the world,
&c. These gentlemen have shewn, that, cæteris manentibus, which is in these things always to be previously allowed, the dispensations recorded in the Scriptures have been, as far as we can judge, perfectly fuited to the states of the world at the times when these dispensations were made respectively; i.e. to the improvement of mankind in knowledge speculative and practical, to their wants, and to their ability to profit in moral accomplishments; fo that, if we suppose either much more, or much less, light to have been afforded to mankind in a supernatural way (cæteris manentibus; and particularly their voluntary powers over their affections and actions, or free-will in the practical sense, remaining the same), their advancement in moral perfection, in voluntary obedience to, and pure love of God, would probably have been lefs : which suitableness of each revelation to the time when it was made, and to the production of the maximum of moral perfection, is an argument for the system of revelation, of the same kind with those for the goodness of God, which are drawn the mutual fitnesses of the finite and imperfect parts of the natural world to each other, and to the production of the maximum, of greatest possible quantity, of happiness,
PROP. XXVIII. THE EXCLUSION OF ALL GREAT DEGREES OF ENTHUSIASM AND IMPOSTURE FROM THE CHARACTERS OF CHRIST, THE PRO- * PHETS, AND APOSTLES, PROVES THEIR DIVINE AUTHORITY.
THAT Christ, the Prophets, and Apostles, cannot be charged with any great degrees of enthusiasm or imposture, seems allowed to me by many unbelievers; and is evident from the first view of their discourses and writings, and of history, sacred and profane. We hou might say, that much more is evident. However, for the present, 70 let us only suppose all great degrees of enthusiasm and imposture and excluded, and inquire how far their divine mission may be inferred a from that supposition. ,
First, then, if all great degrees of enthufiasm be excluded, Christ, da the Prophets, and Apostles, must know, whether or no they were under the influence of the divine spirit, so as to prophesy, speak, se and interpret languages which they had never learnt, and work miracles. Indeed to suppose them not capable of distinguishing these are powers in themselves and each other, is to charge them with down right madness.
Secondly, since then they claimed these powers every where, as the feal of their commiffion' from God; if they had them not, i.c. if they had not divine authority, they must be impostors, and endeavour to deceive the world knowingly and deliberately. And this N impofture, whether we consider the affront offered to God, or the injury done to mankind, or its duration, its audaciousness, &c. would be the deepest and blackest that has ever appeared in the world. It is therefore excluded by supposition ; and consequently, since a less degree will not account for a false claim to divine au