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truth of it, we might, it seems, have expected, that other sort of persons should have been chosen to be invested with it; or that these should, at the same time, have been endued with prudence; or, that they should have been continually restrained, and directed in the exercise of it: i. e. that God should have miraculously interposed, if at all, in a different man

or higher degree. But, from the observations made above, it is undeniably evident, that we are not judges in what degrees and manners it were to have been expected he should miraculously interpose; upon supposition of his doing it in some degree and manner.. Nor, in the natural course of Providence, are superior gifts of memory, eloquence, knowledge, and other talents of great influence, conferred only on persons of prudence and decency, or such as are disposed to make the properest use of them. Nor is the instruction and adnionition naturally afforded us for the conduct of life, particularly in our education, commonly given in a manner the most suited to recommend it; but often with circumstances apt to prejudice us against such instruction.

One might go on to add, that there is a great resemblance between the light of nature and of revelation, in several otlier respects. Practical Christianity, or that faith and behaviour which renders a man a Christian, is a plain and obvious thing"; like the common rules of conduct, with respect to our ordinary temporal affairs. The more distinct and particular knowledge of those things, the study of which the apostle calls going on unto perfection,

and of the prophetic parts of revelation, like many parts of natural and even civil knowledge, may require very exact thought and careful consideration. The hinderances, too, of natural and of supernatural light and knowledge, have been of the same kind, And as it is owned the whole scheme of Scripture is not yet under

*

* Heb. vi. I.

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stood, so, if it ever comes to be understood before the restitution of all things, and without miraculous interpositions, it must be in the same way as natural knowledge is come at; by the continuance and progress of learning and of liberty, and by particular persons attending to, comparing, and pursuing, intimations scattered up and down it, which are overlooked and disregarded by the generality of the world. For this is the way in which all improvements are made ; by thoughtful men tracing on obscure hints, as it were, dropped us by nature accidentally, or which seem to come into our minds by chance. Nor is it at all incredible, that a book, which has been so long in the possession of mankind, should contain many truths as yet undiscovered. For, all the same phenomena, and the same faculties of investigation, from which such great · discoveries in natural knowledge have been made in the present and last age, were equally in the possession of mankind several thousand years before. And possibly it might be intended, that events, as they come to pass, should open and ascertain the meaning of several parts of Scripture.

It may be objected, that this analogy fails. in a material respect for that natural knowledge is of little or no consequence. But I have been speaking of the general instruction, which nature does or does not afford us. ' And, besides, some parts of natural knowledge, in the more common restrained sense of the words, are of the greatest consequence to the ease and convenience of life. But suppose the analogy. did, as it does not, fail in this respect, yet it might be abundantly supplied from the whole constitution and course of nature ; which shews that God does not dispense his gifts according to our notions of the advantage and consequence they would be of' to us. And this in general, with his method of dispensing, knowledge in particular, would together make out an analogy full to the point before us.

* Acts ü. 21..

But it may be objected still farther, and more generally ; “ The Scripture represents the world as in a state of ruin, and Christianity as an expedient to recover it, to help in these respects where nature fails j in particular, to supply the deficiencies of natural light. Is it credible, then, that so many ages should have been let pass, before a matter of such a sort, of so great and so general importance, was made known to mankind; and then that it should be made known to so small a part of them? Is it conceivable, that this supply should be so very deficient, should have the like obscurity and doubtfulness, be liable to the like perversions, in short, lie open to all the like objections, as the light of nature itself ?"* Without determining how far this in fact is so, I answer, It is by no means incredible that it might be so, if the light of nature and of revelation be from the same hand. Men are naturally liable to diseases; for which God, in his good providence, has provided natural remedies. + But remedies existing in nature have been unknown to mankind for many ages ; are known but to few now; probably many valuable ones are not known yeta Great has been, and is, the obscurity and difficulty, in the nature and application of them. Circumstances seem often to make them very improper, where they are absolutely necessary. It is after long labour and study, and many unsuccessful endeavours, that they are brought to be as useful as they are; after high contempt and absolute rejection of the most useful we have; and after disputes and doubts, which have seemed to be endless. The best remedies, too, when unskilfully, much more if dishonestly, applied, may produce new diseases; and, with the rightest application, the success of them is often doubtful. In many cases, they are not at all effectual ; where

* Chap. b.

+ Sce Chap.5.

they are, it is often very slowly, and the application of them, and the necessary regimen accompanying it, is, not uncommonly, so disagreeable, that some will not submit to them ; and satisfy themselves with the excuse, that if they would, it is not certain whether it would be successful. And many persons, who labour under diseases, for which there are known natural remedies, are not so happy as to be always, if ever, in: the

way of them. In a word, the remedies which na: ture has provided for diseases, are neither certain, perfect, nor universal. And indeed the same principles of arguing, which would lead us to conclude, that they must be so, would lead us likewise to conclude, that there could be no occasion for them ; i. e. that there could be no diseases at all. And, therefore, our experience that there are diseases, shews, that it is credible beforehand, upon supposition nature has provided remedies for them, that these remedies may be, as by experience we find they are, not certain, nor perfect, nor universal ; because it shews, that the principles upon which we should expect the contrary, are fallacious.

And now, what is the just consequence from all these things ? Not that reason is no judge of what is offered to us as being of divine revelation. For this would be to infer, that we are unable to judge of any thing, because we are unable to judge of all things. Reason can, and it ought to judge, not only of the meaning, but also of the morality and the evidence, of revelation. First, It is the province of reason to judge of the morality of the Scripture ; ii e. not whether it contains things different from what we should have expected from a wise, just, and good Being; for objections from hence have been now obviated; but whether it contains things plainly contradictory to wisdom, justice, or goodness; to what the light of nature teaches us of God. And I know nothing of this sort objected against Scripture, excepting uch objections as are formed upon suppositions, which would equally conclude, that the constitution of nature is contradictory to wisdom, justice, or good.

ness; which most certainly it is not. Indeed, there are some particular precepts in Scripture, given to particular persons, requiring actions, which would be immoral and vicious, were it not for such precepts. But it is easy to see, that all these are of such a kind as that the precept changes the whole nature of the case and of the action ; and both constitutes and shews that not to be unjust or immoral, which, prior to the precept, must have appeared and really have been so : which may well be, since none of these precepts are contrary to immutable morality. If it were commanded, to cultivate the principles, and act from the spirit of treachery, ingratitude, cruelty; the command would not alter the nature of the case, or of the action, in any of these instances. But it is quite otherwise in precepts, which require only the doing an external action; for instance, taking away the property or life of any. For men have no right to either life or property, but what arises solely from the grant of God: When this grant is revoked, they cease to have any right at all in either; and when this revocation is made known, as surely it is possible it may be, it must cease to be unjust to deprive them of either. And though a course of external acts, which without command would be immoral, must make an immoral habit, yet a few detached commands have no such natural tendency. I thought proper to say thus much of the few Seripture precepts, which require, not vicious actions, but actions which would have been vicious had it not been for such precepts ; because they are sometimes weakly urged as immoral, and great weight is laid upon objections drawn from them. But to me there seems no difficulty at all in these precepts, but what arises from their being offences ; i. e. from their being liable to be perverted, as indeed they are, by wicked designing men, to serve the most horrid purposes, and, perhaps, to mislead the weak and enthusiastic. And objections from this head are not objections against revelation, but against the whole no

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