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bers from the be mixed, men, in deviations fore there
quence of this would be fear of punishment. This fear must be in finite and boundless, as the power of God is conceived to be unlimited, and the nature and duration of the punishment would be ablolotely unknown. A consideration highly disfavodrable to all- endeavours to break off their sinful habits, and attain to the contrary habits of virtue..
However, if we could suppose men by such a fear of punilhment perfuaded to repentance, i. e. to cease from acting contrary to the fit. pess of things, and to conform themselves for the future to it; their former violation of this unalterable law of reason would remain, and can't in strict fpeaking be undone by any better behaviour afterwards ; and of consequence their fears of punilhment must remain.
If we suppose that men's natoral potions of the divine goodness, and the forbearance that God exercises in the course of his providence, would lead them to think it probable that repentance would secure them from the dreaded punishment; such probability would in the Dature of things be mixed with the greatest uncertainty, especially bccause upon consideration, men, in the circumstances we now place them, would find, after all, their deviations from the law of reason many, and their virtue imperfect ; and therefore there would ftill be Dneasy suspicions whether it be consistent with the wisdom of the fopreme governour, entirely to remit the punishment due to such repeated offences.
If we suppose that men might reason themfelves into this firm per. fuafion and hope, that a return to a sincere, tho' imperfect virtue, would secure them from the deserved evil; yet this will not lay a solid foundation to expect that happiness, and those marks of the divine favour, which might have been hoped for, if there had been no devi. ations from the rule of right and fit. Here the light of nature is at an entire loss, and can never give men the necessary assurances in this important article.
If it should appear inconsistent with the perfections of deity not to make a distinction between those who return to virtue, and those who obstinately continue to act contrary to the fitness of things ; yet the degree and manner of doing it, will still remain doubtful and uncertain, this being wholly dependant on the unknown pleasure and wil. dom of God. And of consequence the light of nature cannot determine, whether an imperfect virtue may not have suitable degrees of punishment in another State ; or if the probability should preponderate on the other side, that God would reward a lincere, tho' imperfect vit. tue, reason could never assure us, of what nature that reward should be for how long its continuance.
As every man finds himself liable to death, a resurrection could fcarcely be made appear by the light of nature probable, much less 2 resurrection accompanied with such favourable alterations as the chril. tian religion discovers. In a word, if the light of nature could allure me of a future state, it could never make me certain that it should be 2 ftate of rewards, since the virtue of this life is so very imperted, that the other life might prove a new state of fariher trial. But if it could go so far as to render it probable, that it fhould be a
vers.ed with Pue light of
Nate of recompence; yet wherein the rewards of it confift, and how long their continuance and duration shall be, it is so little capable of giving any diftinct account of, that the greatest and wifest of men, who had no other guide but this, appear to have lived and died in the greatest uacertainties about them; a full proof that the light of oature is not sufficient to instruct us in these important articles, with any clearness and certainty: the consequence of which is, that men would want the proper arguments and motives to become virtuous with steadiness and constancy, against all the difficulties and temptations of a general and universal degeneracy.
III. Since therefore the natural reason of my mind appears thus greatly defective, and insufficient, I have considered the other method of discovering the will of God, and the principles and duties of religion, viz. immediate revelation from God himself; and as 'this involves no contradiction in the nature of the thing, it must be possible to him, to whom belongs supreme and unlimited power. Shall not be that made the eye fee? He that gave us all our conversable powers, shall he not be able to converse with us himself? Shall not the father of fpirits, who is intimately present to every being, have an access to his own offspring, so as to allure the mind, that it is he himself, by such evidence, as shall make it unreasonable to deny, or impossible to doubt it? If men can make themselves known, and discover their secret thoughts to each other, surely God can make himself known to men ; else we must suppole his power more bounded than theirs, and that he wants a real perfection which they are possessed of.
And as this is possible, my reason farther tells me, 'tis highly desireable, the better to instruct me what God is, and what I am my self; what I must do, and what I fall be; to save men the labour of a slow and tedious compass of observation, experience, and argument, which every one is not fit for, and which those who are, would be glad to be affifted in ; to free me from the uncertainties and fears of my mind, that arise from the consciousness of guilt, the fense of my being accountable, and the apprehensions I have of a future state; to regulate my conduct, and guide me with safety in the midst of prevailing igDorance and darkness, the mistakes and corruptions of mankind, the Snares of bad examples, and the numerous temptations to folly and vice; to establish my hopes, by fixing the rule of worship, settling the conditions of pardon, assuring me of necessary assistance, and promising. such rewards as are proper to support me under all the difficulties of my present duty. Thele things the world by wildum knew not; they were vain and mistaken in their imagination, and their foolish heart
of nethe rulemptations,
wase, vain and they
And as such a revelation is both possible and desireable, the probability that there hath been one, may be fairly argued from the universal igaorance and corruption that hath overspread the world, the characters of God as Father and Governour of mankind, the acknowledged goodness and equity of his nature, the sudden and astonishing reformation that hath once been in the world, the numerous pretences that have been made to revelation in all ages and nations, which seem to argue the general content of mankind, as to the expediency and reality
et felves to convince matter of such impond to receive it Christi
of it, and its neceflity to give Religion its proper certainty, authority, and force.
If then there be any religion in the world that fairly makes out its title to be a revelation from God, by such internal characters belonging to it, and such external proofs attending it, which are fit and proper ia themselves to convioce a reasonable and impartial enquirer, and may be justly expected in a matter of such importance; I am bound to acknowledge and submit to such a Religion, and to receive it under the honourable character of a divine revelation. And as the Christian Religion makes its pretensions to such a character. and authority, I have endeavoured fairly to examine the proofs and evidence that attend it, as they are contain'd in those books which are known by the name of the New Testament, to which christians appeal, as to the infallible rule of their faith and practice, and the sole judge of all controversies in their religion. And upon the most unprejudiced enquiry, I find,
Iy. That there is the highest reason to believe, that these books are authentick and genuine, there being the same, or rather greater proofs, of their being written by the persons whose names they bear, and to whom they are ascribed, than any other ancient books have, tho' of the clearest credit, and most unquestionable authority. This is supported by the testimony of many writers, who either were the contemporaries of the authors of the books of the New Testament, or lived immediately after them ; who frequently quote and refer to them, both amongst christians themselves, who transcribe many parts of them in their works, and amongst the Jews and Heathens, who exprelly mention them as the authors of the books ascribed to them, tho' they had the greatest aversion to the christian religion, their interest obliged them to disprove it, and they had all the opportunity and power in their hands to do it. So that here there is an universal agreement, without any contrary claim, or pretension to other authors.
That ihe accounts they have given us in these writings are genuine and true, I argue from the characters and circumstances of the writers themselves. They were perfons of undoubted integrity, as appears by the innocence of their lives, their solemn appeals to God, the strict obligations they were under to truth by the principles of their own religion, their inculcating truth and Gincerity upon others by the noblelt motives, their having no worldly interest to byass them, and their chearfully sealing the testimony they gave by their blood.
They had the most certain knowledge of the things of which they wrote, which were either doctrines that they received immediately from Christ himself, or the inspiration of his Spirit; or facts, done in their own times, and of which they were either eye witnesses, or principal · agents, and which have been preserved by public memorials and lolein riies, that have obtained in all ages of the Christian Church.
Their education, capacities, and circumstances of life, render'd it impossible for them to invent so rational, consistent and grand a scheme as the christian religion contains; they wrote at divers times and places, upon different occafions, sudden emergencies, and important con. troversies, which prevented any reasonable suspicions of combination or unjicd fraud,
ations, is evident Christians, who ever their comfort ans
The several accounts they give of the people, and affairs of the time in which, according to their own relation, the things they report, happened, entirely agree with other writers of undoubted authority, which is a very strong presumption of their being authentick and agreeable to truth.
That these writings are still the same, without any material alterations, is evident from the great value and credit they have been always in amongst Christians, who ever esteemed them as the rule of their faith and life, and the ground of their comfort and hope ; from their being publickly read in the christian churches, as a part of their folemn worship; their being early translated from authentick copies, which long continued in the Christian Church, into most of the known languages of the world, and the harmony and agreement of such translations ; from the quotations made from them, still remaining in antient writers ; from the constant appeals made to them by the Farious sects, that appeared amongst christians, in all matters controverted by them; for which reason they could not be corrupted in any material points, either by common consent, or by any particular para ties amongst themselves. So that they have no marks of fraud and imposture upon them, but are attended with every character of their being genuine and pure, and have been handed down in the main without any adulteration or mixture, thro' many successions of ages, notwithstanding the violence of persecution, the strict search and eaquiry into them, the errors and corruptions that have been introduced into the church, the interest of crafty, superstitious, and designing men to add or to take from them, and the endeavours of tyrants utterly to destroy them, by their own intrinsick excellency and evidence, and the special protection and care of providence..
Upon these considerations, I am abundantly convinced, that the books of the New Testament have all the evidence which any ancient writings have or can have, of their being authentick and genuine; and that therefore 'tis unreasonable to call this matter into question, when so many other writings are universally owned upon much less evidence ; no man of common sense pretending to doubt of the genuineness and truth of them. And therefore, whatsoever account these writings give of the nature of the Christian Religion, I am bound to receive as the true account, and to examine its authority by those facts, which they relate as the proper evidence and proof of it. Now as I would natu. rally expect to find in a revelation that is really from God, suitable and worthy accounts of his perfections and attributes ; so
V. I farther find to my great satisfaction, that the things spoken of God in the christian revelation, are suitable to those notions of him, which I can prove the truth of by the reason of my own mind, and which have been entertained by the wiselt and best of men in all ages and nations of the world. The light of nature can firmly demonstrate, and the inost thoughtful and learned heathens have agreed in, the necessity of God's existence, the absolute perfection of his nature, his immenQty and absolute unchangeableness ; his comprehensive knowledge, his infinite wisdom, and his almighty power; the recitude of his Rature, his boundless and extensive goodaess, and his impartial equity
tue, and ready to as the observer As upholding all
and justice ; his being the creator of the world; his being the supreme Lord and governor of universal nature, and the father and friend of mankind; his being a lover of virtue, and determined finally to accept and reward it. .
Now the records of the christian revelation are so far from contain ing any thing contrary to these apprehensions, that they confirm, en. large and enforce them. They speak of his necessary existence in a non ble and comprehensive way. They describe him as filling all things, and as, without the least variableness or Shadow of turning. As the King immartul, invisible, and eternal. As having life in himself. As the fearcher of the heart, and knowing all things. As God only, i. e. fue premely, infinitely wise. As irresistible in power. As absolutely holy. As rich in goodness. As just in his procedure. As the creator of the worlds visible and invisible. As upholding all things by the word of his power. As the observer of men's actions, a lover of their virtue, and ready to allilt them in it and reward it. It gives the noblelt representations of his claims of worship and obedience from all bis reasonable creatures, of his peculiar love to, mankind, and his especial favour to all the virtuous and good. It describes him to our minds as feated on his throne of grace, as sending a person of the highest cha. racter, to lead men by his example and instructions to knowledge and piety, to peace of conscience and eternal happiness. As dispensing by bim pardon to the penitent, comsort to the afflicted, hope to the miserable, and life to finners under the condemnation of lin and death. As having appointed a day for univerfal judgment, as judging all in righteousness according to their deeds, and the advantages they enjoy, as the final punisher of the impenitently wicked, and as the everlaiting portion and reward of all, who by a patient continuance in well doing, Juck after glory, honour and immortality. These representations of God my mind and reason highly approve of, and when I read them in the christian records, they awaken my admiration, fill my soul with the warmest love, and excite within me a becoming reverence and godly fear.
VI. As the Christian Religion gives the noblelt representations of the attributes of God, I farther find that it requires the most rational and excellent worship of him, the worshippers whom the Father declares he now seeks, being such only as worship him in Spirit and truth. The rule of the gospel extends only to decency and order, but contains no directions about external pomp and pageantry. The method of woró ship it prescribes is not so much by positive rites and ceremonies, that
into describeskind, and to
and worthy apprehensions of his perfections and providence, by fervent love, by reverence and godiy fear, by hope in his mercy, by submillion to his will, by the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart, by grati. tyde, adoration, and praise, and by fervent humble fupplication and prayer. In a word, by the exercise of all holy difpo Gtions, by purity of soul, and a constant careful imitation of God in all the virtues of an holy life.
I find all the writings of the New Testament abound with precepts of this kind; and as to such positive instiiutions as are enjoined by ,