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SER M. not how it comes to pass, whether through the artifice
“ should reprove them, and make them manifeft;
any reason for it : but if we are to deal with Celsus, SERM. or Julian, or Porphyry, or some of our modern atheists, we should soon find how vain it would be to go about to cajole them with phrases, and to gain them over to christianity, by telling them that they muft deny their reason, and lay aside their under-, standings, and believe they know not why. If the great pillars of christianity, the ancient fathers, had taken this course in their apologies for christian religion, it had never triumphed over judaism and paganism, as it did; and whoever hath read over those defenses and vindications of christian religion against Jews and heathens, which were written in the first ages of the church, especially the books of Origen against Celsus, and Eufebius his book De demonst, and Præparat, evangel. Ihall find that they did very folicitously endeavour to satisfy the world by all ra
tional ways, both of the truth and reasonableness of E christian religion. And if that was a good way then, 21 it is so now, and never more necessary than in this
age, which I fear hath as many acheifts and infidels, E
that go under the name of Christians, as ever were in any age since christian religion was first planted in the world.
But my design at present is not to persuade men particularly to the belief of christianity (that I intend
hereafter, by God's assistance, to speak to) but to. Ś persuade men to the belief of religion in general. So,
that all I shall do at present, shall be, as briefly as I can, to offer some arguments and considerations to persuade men to the belief of the principles of natural religion, and of the revelation which God hath made of his mind and will in the holy scriptures.
I. To persuade men to believe the principles of natyral religion ; such as the being of a God; the im
SERM. mortality of the soul; and future rewards after this
Firft, that it is most reasonable so to do.
I. As to the being of God.' Do but consider these two things, which are undeniable; that there is a world, however it came; and that mankind do generally consent in a confident persuasion that there is a God, whatever be the cause of it. Now these two things being certain, and not liable to any question, let us énquire whether a reasonable account can be given of these without a God.
1. Supposing there be no God, how came this vast and orderly frame of the world! There are but two ways that can be imagined. Either it was from eternity always of itself; or it became some time to be. That it should be always of itself ; though it may be imagined of the heavens and the earth, which as to the main are permanent, and continue the same ; yet in things that succeed one after another, it is altogether unimaginable. As in the generation of men, there can be no doubt, whether every one of them was from another, or some of themselves. Some of them must be of themselves : for whatever number of causes be imagined in orderly succession, fome of them must have no cause, but be of themselves. Now that which is of itself, and the cause of all others, is the first. So that there must be a first man; and the age of man being finite, this first man must have a beginning. So, that an infinite füccession of men should have been, is impoffible, and consequently, that men were always. But I need not insist much upon this, because few or none of our modern atheists pitck upon this way. Besides that Aristotle, who is reputed the great afferter of the
eternity of the world, doth acknowledge an infinite SERM.
CCXXIV. progress and succession of causes to be one of the greatest absurdities.
Suppose then the world began some time to be ; it muft either be made by counsel and design, that is, produced by some being that knew what it did, that did contrive and frame it as it is ; which it is easy to conceive a being that is infinitely good, and wise, and powerful, might do; but this is to own a God: or else the matter of it being supposed to have been always, and in continual motion and tumult, it at last happened to fall into this order, and the parts of matter, after various agitations, were at length entầngled and knit together in this order, in which we see the world to be. But can any man think this reasonable to imagine, that in the infinite variety which is in the world, all things should happen by chance, as well and as orderly as the greatest wisdom could have contrived them? Whoever can believe this, must do it with his will, and not with his understanding
But seeing it must be granted, that something is of itself, how easy is it to grant such a being to be of itself, as hath other perfections proportionable to necessary existence ; that is infinitely good, and wise, and powerful ? and there will be no difficulty in conceiving how such a being as this could make the world.
2. This likewife is undeniable, that mankind do generally consent in a confident perfuafion' that there is a God; whatever was the cause of this. Now the reason of so universal a confent in all places and ages of the world, 'must be one, and constant : but no one and constant reason of this can be given, unless it be from the frame and nature of man's mind and under
SER M. ftanding, which hath the notion of a Deity stampt. CCXXIV.
upon it; or, which is all one, hath such an understanding, as will in it's own free use and exercise find out' a God. And what more reasonable than to think, that if we be God's workmanship, he should fet this mark of himself upon us, that we might know to whom we belong ? and I daệe say, that this account must be much more reasonable and satisfactory to any indifferent man, than to resolve this universal consent into tradition, or state-poliçy, both which are liable to inexplicable difficulties, as I have elsewhere shewn at large *.
II. As to the immortality of the soul. Supposing a God, who is an infinite Spirit; it is easy to imagine the possibility of a finite spirit ; and supposing the goodness of God, no man can doubt, buț that when he made all things, he would make some best; and the same goodness which moved him to make things, would be a reason to continue those things for the longest duration they are capable of.
III. As to future rewards. Supposing the holiness and justice of God, that “ he loves righteousness, “ and hates iniquity ;" and that he is the magistrate and governor of the world, and concerned to countenance goodness, and discourage fin; and considering the promiscuous dispensation of his providence in this world, and “how all things happen alike to “ all;" it is most reasonable to conclude, that after this life, men shall be punished and rewarded.
Secondly, it is infinitely most prudent. In matters of great concernment a prudent man will incline to the safest side of the question. We have considered which side of these questions is most reasonable :
• See vol. I. ferm. I. where the arguments here briefly named, are handled at large.