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ciple, a feed is sown, which cannot fail-in time to produce the noble and full grown plant, the excellent character above described. If the mind be thoroughly impressed with the fear of God, the two great principles, which comprise the whole of the moral law, the love of God, and of our neighbour, will in due time appear, and produce all the fruits of righteousnefs, without the leaft view to any reward whatever; and on this account will be intitled to, and will assuredly find, the greatest. This is to be most truly godlike, and the necessary consequence of being like God, of being perfect (or approaching as near to it as may be) as God is perfect, which our Saviour requires and encourages us to be, must be accompanied with a degree of happiness approaching the dia vine.
Such being the obvious use and substantial value of religion, with respect to the conduct of life, the troubles we are exposed to in it, and at the hour of death, and to form the most exalted of human characters, it certainly behoves us to examine the evidence of it, and to do this not superficially, but with the greatest attention, as a question in the decision of which we are all most deeply interested. I may add
that a virtuous and good man cannot but with that the principles of religion may appear to be well founded, because it is his interest that they should be so; and if there be this bias on our minds in this enquiry, it is a reasonable and honourable bias, such as no person need be ashamed to avow.
At the same time, the greater is the object proposed to us, the more scrupulous we shall naturally be in our enquiries concerning it. When the apostles were first informed of the resurrection of their beloved master, it is said by the historian, that they did not believe through joy; and it was not without the most irresistible evidence, that of their senses, that they were at length satisfied with respect to it. Let us act the same part, and not receive a pleasing tale merely because it is pleasing to us, but strictly examine the evidence of it; and this is what I propose to lay before you, with the greatest plainness, without concealing any difficulties that appear to me to be worthy of much notice. Christ and the apostles always appealed to the understanding of their hearers, and it can only be a spurious kind of religion that disclaims the use of reason, that faculty by which alone we are capable of religion, and C3
by which alone we are able to distinguish true religion from false, and that which is genuine, from the foreign and heterogeneous matter that has been added to it.
Of the superior Value of Revealed
He hath bewed thee, O man, what is good;
and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. Micah vi. 8.
PROPOSING to deliver a series of discourses on the evidences of revealed religion, I have begun with shewing the real value of religion in general, consisting in a belief of the being and providence of God, and of a future state of retribution. Taking it, therefore, for granted, that this faith is of real value to men, both as individuals and as members of fociety, I shall now endeavour to shew that the plan of communicating this knowledge by occasional interpositions of the Supreme Being is, in several respects, preferable to that which
unbelievers boast of as superior to it, viz. the gradual acquisition of it by the mere use of reason.
But I would previously observe that, provided the great end be gained, viz. the improvement of the human character by the attainment of such knowledge, and the forming of such habits, as will qualify men to be most happy in themselves, and dispose them to communicate the most happiness to others (which is the great object with God, the common parent of us all), the means are of no farther value. That scheme, or system, whatever it be, which best promotes this great end is, for that reason, the best; and if the two schemes be equally adapted to gain the same end, they are exactly of equal value.
Religion itself is only a means, or inftrument, to make men virtuous, and thereby happy, in such a manner as rational beings are alone capable of being made happy: and the different kinds, forms, rites, or exercises, of religion, are of no value but as they tend to make men religious, inspiring them with the fear of God, and a disposition conscientiously to observe whatever he is supposed to