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principles, which are necessary to be known, effectually to support the interest of true religion, and the practice of virtue ; especially if we consider them as wholly taken up with the affairs of the present life, educated with strong pejudices in favour of superstition and error, and trained up from infancy in idolatrous practices, and criminal courses. In such circumstances, what reason may be capable of doing, I know not.
But that it hatly not in fact led men to the knowledge of all the necesfary · principles and truths of religion, is evident from the history of almost all nations, who have been deftitute of revelation: And therefore to argue against the necessity of revelation, because poffibly men's own reason * might have been sufficient without it, when in reality they did need is, is to set up meer suppolition against positive fact, and to reason from poffbilities against experience and certainty.
Reason, i.e. men's reasonable powers are unquestionably capable of great improvements, and of making very confiderable discoveries, with proper affistance and cultivation. But without suitable helps and means of information, I apprehend that no man can affirm they would lead him into the knowledge of all the necessary principles of religion. Cicero,
the greatest genius of the age in which he lived, did not owe his fupe. · rior knowledge and wisdom to 'himself only. He had the writings oi
Rome and Greece to instruct and inform him. From these he under tood the principles of the several sects of philosophers that were before him, the arguments with which they confirm’d their respective sentiments, and the objections that were urged by some against the schemes and
principles of others. Upon this foundation it was easy to reason, and * in whatever reípects his sentiments were nobler than others, they . were not properly the meer discoveries of his own mind, but inferences
from, or the improvements of the discoveries and principles of others. And I cannot help thinking, that if any men are now capable of forming to themselves a compleat scheme of rational religion and morals, they owe it to the discoveries of the Gospel Revelation, tho' they assume the glory of it entirely to their reason. . Besides, tho' Reason might possibly discover the duties of religion and virtue without any revelation, it cannot in the nature of things
certainly discover what the rewards of being religious and virtuous - Thall be. . Reason will indeed inform us, that a being perfectly virtu
ous, and who constantly acts agrecably to the reason and nature of things, without any deviation from it, cannot be finally miserable, but must be in some measure happy in the divine approbation and acceptance. But of what degree and duration that happiness thall be, depends wholly on the good pleasure of God. Being itself is the volun.
tary gift of the supreme cause, and of consequence the continuance of · being must depend on his will who first gave it. And tho' perfect vir
tue will always be entitled to a proportionable reward from God, yet that such a being, and the happiness consequent upon his virtue, shall and must be of an everlasting continuance, can never be proved from the reason and nature of things, and of consequence the knowledge of it can be derived from nothing but the voluntary discoveries of God himself.
I his I think is plain upon the supposition of a being perfectly vis
tuous. But if any reasonable beings deviate from the law of their creation, and act contrary to that fitness of things which reason assures them ought to be the rules of their actions ; in such a case reason will be so far from giving any positive assurances of a reward, that it will rather lead men to the expectations and fears of punishment, there being as natural a connection between vice and punithinent, as there is between virtue and a reward. Whether God will pardon, and upon what conditions, whether repentance and a sincere amendment for the future, shall entitle to happinels, and especially the same happiness as would have been the reward of perfect virtue, here reason can never de. termine. And of consequence, if the certain knowledge of these important articles be in any sense necessary to encourage the repentance and reformation of men, it is in the same sense absolutely necessary they
and dutieples and diti their realpendonin
If it be said, that supposing a revelation actually given, such revelation can be nothing but a revival of the principles and duties of natural religion, because men's acceptance with God can depend on nothing but their acting agreeable to the law of their reason and nature: I answer, that if by the principles and duties of natural religion, be meant such principles and duties, which when discovered appear reasonable to the minds of men, it may be allow'd that revelation doth not, and cannot place the happiness and acceptance of men with God, upon any thing that is not reasonable and fit for them to know and do, and of which they cannot in some measure discern the reasonableness and fitness; for then one certain mark of the truth of revelation would be plainly
wanting, which is its placing the happiness of men upon such a foundai tion as appears reasonable in itself, and therefore worthy of God; be
cause I cannot believe that to be worthy of God, which by reason I cannot in some measure plainly discern to be so.
But if by the principles and duties of natural religion, be meant such i principles and duties which natural reason, without any divine reyela
tion, will lead men to the certain knowledge of, then the assertion is : evidently false, that revelation can contain nothing but the principles and
duties of natural religion. Because, as hath been observed, one great end of revelation is to give men certainty of such important principles as
natural reason is never able to do. i. If we consider men in circumstances of degeneracy, and as having i acted contrary to the law of reason, a revelation meerly to revive the
law of nature, would evidently be insufficient for their peace and hap. piness. For tho this would be a direction of their future conduet, it would be no fecurity to them against the punishment due to them for their past transgressions, which would prove the highest discouragement to their obedience for the time to come. And of consequence a revelation from God, vouchsafed to mankind in such circumstances, muft contain more than the meer law of nature, viz. the method and conditions of God's extending his forgiveness to his finful creatures; without which it would want one essential mark of its being from God, viz. its suitableness to the wants and neceffities of mankind.
Besides, if God hath given men a revelation of his will, attended with sufficient evidence and proof, the belief of such a sevelation is a
moral duty, and a neceffary instance of respect and reverence due to God; it being as reasonable and fit, that I should attend to the voice and will of the Supreme Being in external revelation, as that I should submit to the voice and will of God by reason or internal revelation. · Upon this foundation depends that command of Jesus Chrift: Ye bes lieve in God, believe also in me. It is pofsible in hypothesis that men may govern their passions, and act well in fociety, who do not believe the being of a God. But yet to believe that God is, and that he is a re. 'warder of those who seek him, is a principle of natural religion; and, 25 1 imagine, necessary to every man's happiness in the divine acceptance. And by consequence, if it be the will of God that I should believe in Chrift, and if there be evidence to convince me of the reasonableneks of believing in him; it doth not seem more unreasonable that God should require me to believe in Chrift, than it doth that he should require me to believe in himself, in order to my receiving a reward of grace and favour from him ; because if the sufficiency of evidence be a reason for God's requiring belief in any case, it is a reason that will hold good in every one without exception.
Besides, if the observance of the religion and law of nature be allor'd to dispose and prepare men for happiness in the favour of God, and the revelation cannot set aside the obligations of the one or other, but is principally designed to recover men to the knowledge of and a conformity to the original fitness of things, yet I apprehend that revelation may enforce the practice of them by such considerations, and motives, and special precepts, as have'no certain foundation in natural reason and light; i, e. which men's reason would never have led them to have thought of, without a divine direction and command.
If the religion of nature be of God's conftitution and appointment, and results from those relations which he himself hath been pleased to order and fix, I apprehend that such positive inftitutions which have a direct tendency to establish and promote men's regard to and observance of it, may be ordained of God, and thereby become obligatory upon 'men. Because if the law of nature itself necessarily and universally obliges mankind, and their happiness depends on the observation of it; such institutions which render the observation of it more easy and practicable, however voluntary and positive in themselves, are confiftent with all our notions of the divine perfe&tions, and ought to be so far from being objections against the truth of any religion that contains them, that they are rather arguments in favour of it, as they are evident proofs of the wise and tender concern of God for the perfection and har pinefs of his creatures.
If then the peculiars of the christian religion have all of them this tendency, as I apprehend they have, it follows, that God's requiring us to obserye them is a reasonable and fit command, as it is a command resulting from his unerring wisdom, and his gracious regard to our welfare and interest. And therefore in this respect internal and external revelation, or the religion of nature and revelation may certainly difter, and the latter command what the former would never discover of oblige to. If it be objeded against the christian revelation, that it is not exp!
cite and clear, but that those who search it fall into very different sentiments and opinions as to several articles of importance, and that 'tis scarce to be supposed that God should be the author of a revelation, which, when given, is incapable of being underitood; I have this that gives my mind satisfaction and ease : that if there are any intimations of doctrines in scripture, that sincere persons who do the will of God, and lay aside all prejudice, and desire to receive the truths of God as far as they can understand them, cannot, after all their endeavour and care, come to the certain knowledge of, the knowledge of such doc
trines cannot be necessary to their acceptance and salvation ; because : Christ Jesus expressly declares, that if any man doth the will of his father, Ė he fall know of the doctrine whether it be of God or no.
As to those doctrines, upon the acknowledgment of which the New . Testament writings do expressly make salvation to depend, I find to my
very great comfort that they are very plain and intelligible in themselves, such as the existence of one God, the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and there being one mediator between God and man, thro’ whom God dispenses all blessings to his creatures. These and other truths of like importance are set in the clearest light; and if any have obscured
and perplexed them by intricate distinctions, and philosophical specue lations, the gospel of Christ gives no sanction to them, and the plain
christian hath no concern and business with them.
If it be said that the christian religion hath no better effect upon mankind than the light of nature had, and that therefore it can scarcely b- imagined that God would be the author of so ineffectual an institution ; I answer, that I suppose it can never be made appear that mankind are now as universally in the same circumstances of ignorance and vice, as they were before the revelation of the gospel.
The knowledge of one God, the universal creator and father, doth ! certainly more universally obtain than it did in the times of deep Pa. ganism and Idolatry; the precepts of religion and virtue are more generally understood; and the rewards and punishments of a future life more certain as to their evidence, and more extensive as to the acknowledgment of them.
And tho' many who profess to believe these things act contrary to their own principles, yet there have been many in every age, and now are, who, under the influence of this faith, live foberly, righteously and godly in the present world.
And as to those who do not, 'tis not owing to the insufficiency of the principles and motives of christianity, but to the want of consideration and a serious regard to them, and to those powerful habits which they have contracted, and continue to strengthen by a wilful and allowed indulgence.
And therefore if the gospel be objected against as insufficient to reform men, and engage them to the love and practice of religion and virtue, it must be because it doth not necessitate and compel them, and lay an irresistible force on the mind to comply with it. Whereas if this were the case, it would be an unanswerable objection against it, because this would destroy that freedom and choice of the mind, which is essenYoL, JII, Hh
tially necessary to give virtue itself its proper value, and render it capa. ble of a reward from God. And of confequence if the christian reli. gion contains every argument and motive that is proper to be laid before and influence reasonable and free creatures, its not always proving effectual is no argument of its insufficiency, nor the least shadow of proof that it is not worthy of and actually from God.
And lastly, if it be objected that it háth been the occasion of such confusions, disorders, mischiefs and calamities in the world, as that it can never be imagined that God would be the author of an institution that should be attended with such fatal consequences ; I answer, That genuine christianity hath never been the cause of any of the distractions and miseries that have afflicted mankind, since its entrance into the world; tho' that which hath been substituted in the room of christianity too often hath. Nothing is more visible and plain, than that the christian religion is designed to calm the pillions, and cure the vices of mankind. And if its principles were but duly attended to, and its precepts heartily submitted to, christians would maintain the most excel. lent dispositions, and lead the most inoffensive and blameless lives; and this world would be, what I please myself the next world shall be, an habitation of righteousness, peace and joy. The perfection of the christian law as to all its moral precepts, and important motives, abun. dantly justifies the wisdom and goodness of God in giving it ; and he is no more answerable for men's corrupting and abusing it, and refusing to act agree.:ble to it, than he is for their abusing the bleslings of his common providence.
Upon a fuil view therefore of these and other objections, I think they are capable of a satisfactory answer; and as the evidence for the truth and certainty of the Christian Religion ftands in full force, I think myself bound to receive it as a revelation from God, and to regulate my faith, and hope, and practice by it.
XII. And that I might not be chargeable with partiality in my regards and attachment to Christianity, I have not only carefully examined the credentials it brings to prove its divine original, but I have also endeavoured honestly to compare it with other religions that are in the world, as far as I am capable of understanding and judging concerring them; and this comparison confirms me in the belief of the christian religion, and increases my esteem and value for it.
Paganism carries in it innumerable marks of its impiety and fallehood. The number of gods it hath introduced, the superstitions it countenances, the impure and barbarous rites it warrants and prefcribes, are demonstrative proofs it hath no foundation in the realon and nature of things, and cannot be the appointment of or agrecable to the will of God, the fupreme unchangeable purity, wisdom and goodness.
As to Mahometanism, tho' it pretends to the character of a revelation from God, yet it hath all the evident marks of a real impofture. The character of its author appears too suspected ever to support the honour of his being a meilinger from God. His disclaiming miracles to attest the truth of his mimon, is a plain acknowledgment of the