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tution, or system, whose parts have a mutual reference to each other; and there is a scheme of things gradualTy carrying on, called the course of nature, to the car. rying on of which God has appointed us, in various ways, to contribute. And when, in the daily course of natural providence, it is appointed that innocent people should suffer for the faults of the guilty, this is liable to the very same objection as the instance we are now considering. The infinitely greater importance of that appointment of Christianity which is objected against, does not hinder but it may be, as it plainly is, an appointment of the very same kind with what the world affords us daily examples of. Nay, if there were any force at all in the objection, it would be stronger, in one respect, against natural providence, than against Christianity; because, under the former, we are in many cases commanded, and even necessitated, whether we will or no, to suffer for the faults of others
; whereas the sufferings of Christ were voluntary. The world's being under the righteous government of God, does, indeed, imply, that finally, and upon the whole, every one shall receive according to his personal deserts : and the general doctrine of the whole Scripture is, that this shall be the completion of the divine government. But, during the progress, and, for aught we know, even in order to the completion of this moral scheme, vicarious punishments may be fit, and absolutely necessary. Men, by their follies, run themselves into extreme distress ; into difficulties which would be absolutely fatal to them, were it not for the interposition and assistance of others. God commands by the law of nature, that we afford them this assistance, in many cases where we cannot do it without very great pains, and labour, and sufferings to ourselves. And we see in what variety of ways one person's sufferings contribute to the relief of another; and how, or by what particular means, this comes to pass, or follows, from the constitution and laws of nature, which come under our notice: and being familiarized to it, men are not shocked with it. So that the reason of their insisting upon objections of the
foregọing kind, against the satisfaction of Christ, is, either that they do not consider God's settled and uniform appointments as bis appointments at all, or else they forget that vicarious punishment is a providential appointment of every day's experience: and then, from their being unacquainted with the more general laws of nature, or divine government over the world, and not seeing how the sufferings of Christ could contribute to the redemption of it, unless by arbitrary and tyrannical will, they conclude his sufferings could not contribute to it any other way. And yet, what has been often alleged in justification of this doctrine, even from the apparent natural tendency of this method of our redemption—its tendency to vindicate the authority of God's laws, and deter his creatures from sin; this has never yet been answered, and is, I think, plainly unanswerable : though I am far from thinking it an account of the whole of the case. But without taking this into consideration, it abundantly appears, from the observations above made, that this objection is, . not an objection against Christianity, but against the whole general constitution of nature. And if it were to be considered as an objection against Christianity, or, .considering it as it is, an objection against the constitution of nature, it amounts to no more in conclusion than this, That a divine appointment cannot be necessary, or expedient, because the objector does not discern it to be so; though he must own that the nature of the case is such, as renders him incapable of judging whether it be so or not z or of seeing it to be necessary, though it were so.
It is, indeed, a matter of great patience to reasonable men, to find people arguing in this manner, objecting against the credibility of such particular things revealed in Scripture, that they do not see the necessity or expediency of them. For, though it is biglıly right, and the most pious exercise of our understanding, to inquire with due reverence into the ends and reasons of God's dispensations ; yet, when those reasons are concealed, to argue from our ignorance, that such. dispensations cannot be from God, is infinitely absurd. The presumption of this kind of objections seems almost lost in the folly of them. And the folly of them is yet greater, when they are urged, as usually they are, against things in Christianity analogous, or like to those natural dispensations of Providence, which are matter of experience. Let reason be kept to; and, if any part of the Scripture account of the redemption of the. world by Christ can be shewn to be really contrary to it, let the Scripture, in the name of God, be given up: but let not such poor creatures as we, go on objecting against an infinite scheme, that we do not see the necessity or usefulness of all its parts, and call this reasoning; and, which still farther heightens the absurdity in the present case, parts which we are not actively concerned in. For, it may
be worth mentioning, Lastly, That not only the reason of the thing, but the whole analogy of nature, should teach us, not to expect to have the like information concerning the divine conduct, as concerning our own duty. God instructs us by experience, (for it is not reason, but experience, which instructs us) what good or bad consequences will follow from our acting in such and such manners; and by this he directs us how. we are to behave ourselves. But, though we are sufficiently instructed for the common purposes of life, yet it is but an almost infinitely small part of natural providence which we are at all let into. The case is the same with regard to revelation. The doctrine of a Mediator between God and man, against which it is objected, that the expediency of some things in it is not understood, relates only to what was done on God's part in the appointment, and on the Mediator's in the execution of it. For what is required of us, in consequence of this gracious dispensation, is another subject, in which none can complain for want of information. The constitution of the world, and God's natural government over it, is all mystery, as much as the Christian dispensation. Yet under the first, he has given men all things pertaining to life; and under the other, all things pertaining unto godli
ness. And, it may be added, that there is nothing hard to be accounted for in any of the common precepts of Christianity; though, if there were, surely a divine command is abundantly sufficient to lay us under the strongest obligations to obedience. But the fact is, that the reasons of all the Christian precepts are evident. Positive institutions are manifestly necessary to keep up and propagate religion amongst mankind. And our duty to Christ, the internal and external worship of him ; this part of the religion of the gospel manifestly arises out of what he has done and suffered, his authority and dominion, and the relation which he is revealed to stand in to us.
* Pago 147. &c.
Of the Want' of. Universality in Revelation : and of
the supposed Deficiency in the Proof of it.
It has been thought by some persons, that if the evidence of revelation appears doubtful, this itself turns into a positive argument against it; because it cannot be supposed, that, if it were true, it would be left to subsist upon doubtful evidence. And the objection against revelation, from its not being universal, is often insisted upon as of great weight.
Now, the weakness of these opinions may be shewn, by observing the suppositions on which they are found ed, which are really such as these ;--that it cannot be thought God would have bestowed any
favour at all upon us, unless in the degree which, we think, he might, and which, we imagine, would be most to our particular advantage; and also,. that it cannot be thought he would bestow a favour upon any, unless he bestowed the same upon
: suppositions which we find contradicted, not by a few instances in God's natural government of the world, but by the general analogy of nature together.
Persons who speak of the evidence of religion as doubtful, and of this supposed doubtfulness as a positive argument.against it, should be put upon considering, what that evidence indeed is, which they act upon with regard to their temporal interests. For, it is not only extremely difficult, but, in many cases, absolutely impossible, to balance pleasure and pain, satisfaction and uneasiness, so as to be able to say, on