« FöregåendeFortsätt »
it not for the assistance of the same expedient, your friends the Deists would be hardly able to follow you.
12. And now, Sirs, what do you think of your principle? Is it not a goodly one, and richly worth all the passion and zeal you have expressed for it? You know very well that M. Abbadie, in his excellent treatise of the divinity of Christ, has shewn you that upon one of your grounds (viz. the denial of that article) the Mahometan religion is preferable to the Christian, and indeed that you are obliged by it to renounce Chriftianity, and turn Mahometans. This truly was a home-thrust. But yet you see the consequence of your general principle reaches further, as leading you not only out of Christianity, but out of all religion, when ther natural or revealed, even beyond deism, even into atheisin itself. If it does not actually lead you thither, the fault is not in the principle, whose connexion with that consequence is natural enough; but it is because you are not so consistent with yourselves as to follow it. And indeed it is a great happiness that you do not, (since if you were here better logicians, you would be worse men) though it would be a much greater, if for the danger of being more consistent with it, you would be persuaded to lay it down.
13. And that you may be so, be pleased further to consider, that though this principle of yours does not eventually carry you as far as Atheism, because perhaps the horridness of the conclusion may be a counterweight against the force of the premises, (though you see it naturally tends that way) yet there is very great danger of its leading you effectually into Deisın, that not being accounted now-a-days such a very frightful thing. For as long as you hold, that what is above human reason is not to be believed, and upon that account reject the Christian mysteries, because they are above reason ; you lie at the mercy of that argument that shall prove to you that these inysteries are indeed revealed, and that the genuine and natural sense of the facred text declares for them. For if you once come to be convinced of that, you will then be obligedt, in consequence of your principle, to renounce that religion which reveals such incredible things that is the Christian, which will be a threwd (indeed an invincible) temptation to you to throw up all revealed religion, and so to turn perfect Deists. And I pray God it inay not have that effect upon you.
14. But as to the parting with Christianity, that you will be further tempted to do upon another account. For when you have by your principle stript it, or I may say rather unbewelled it of its great and adorable mysteries, it will appear such a poor, lank, slender thing to you, that you will hardly think it consis derable enough to be revealed as a new and more perfect insti.'' tinion by God, or to be received as such by thinking and confidering men. For what will such find fo considerable in Christianity, (especially as a new institution) what so visibly peculiar and assuredly distinguishing, what that may infallibly set it above an human institution, if it be once robbed of its mysteries? They may indeed think it a good plain piece of morals, and such as exceeds any other of a known human composure, but how are they sure but that the invention of man may be able to rise lo high, as to compose such a system as this, if you set aside its mysteries? Which therefore I cannot but look upon of all the things that are intrinsic to it, (for I do not here consider miracles) as the greatest characters of its divinity. And some, perhaps, would be apt to think them such as without which it would be hardly thought worthy of reception (especially as a new inftitution) even with the help of miracles, which men are always ready, and not without reason, to suspect, when the matters for whose sake they are wrought bear not sufficient proportion to them. Which they would also perhaps be inclined to think to be the present case. For what (would they say) is there in the Christian religion that deserves so great ado, what that should engage an omnipotent arm to introduce it into the world by such mighty signs and wonders, if there be indeed nothing wonderful in it ; that is, if you take away its mysteries. What cannot a good fystem of morality (especially if only a second, and a little more correct edition of a former) be communicated to the world without alarming heaven and earth, and giving disturbance to the course of nature ? And if Christianity be no more, what proportion (say they) will it bear to its miraculous introduction ? And what will it be found to have so very confiderable as either to deferve or juftify fuch an apparatus? It must indeed be allowed by all to be a good wholcfome institution for the direction of manners, but what is there so very great and admirable in it, what that either deserves or answers to so many types, and figures, and prophetical predictions, what that so copiously fuis forth the manifold wisdom of God, and the glory of his attributes, and the nothingness of the creature ? And where are those “ deep “ things of God," that “ eye hath not seen, nor car heard, nor
$ have entered into the heart of man *,” (a place which the Apostle applies out of the prophet Isaiah to the revelations of the Gospel ;) where, I say, are those profound things which the spirit of God only that “ searcheth all things” could reveal, and which even now they are revealed, “ the angels desire to look “ into t." You will hardly find any thing of so raised a character in Christianity, if you, divest it of its mysteries, which therefore may justly be reckoned as the main pillars of it, without which it will have much ado to support itself. So that in short Christianity not Mysterious, (how fond foever a certain author is of such a religion) will make but a very little figure in proportion to its pomp and external splendor, and indeed will almost dwindle down into nothing.
15. It may indeed even without the mysteries make a shift to subsist as a mere system of precepts, and rule of life, though even thus considered it will be greatly impaired, and suffer much difadvantage (as wanting those convincing demonstrations of God's hatred of sin, and of his love towards mankind, and withal those endearing and persuasive arguments for their returns of love, gratitude, and obedience towards him, which can only be derived from the redemption of the world by the death and satisfaction of its divine undertaker) but as a covenant of grace establifhed be" twixt God and his offending and estranged creature it cannot possibly stand, but must fall to the ground. So that though the moral or legal part (as I may call it) of Christianity may at a hard rate continue after the downfall of its mysteries, yet its federal part, and all that is properly Gospel in it, must needs be involved in the ruin, and fall with them, that being all built upon the satisfaction of Christ, as that again upon his divinity, which is therefore the very foundation of the Christian religion, as M. Abbadie has by variety of demonstratiou proved it to be. If then you would have that divine institution stand, and if you would stand fast in it, (both which I am willing to suppose) have a care how you remove its mysteries, considering how fundamental they are to the building, and how great a share of its sacred weight rests upon
them. But endeavour rather to remove your own prejudices, to inortify your understandings, to study humility, and to restrain the too free fallies of your too curious and over-venturous reason, by still and filent reflections upon God's infinite i Cor.
+ i Pet. i. 12.
Cor. ii. 9, 10.
greatness, and your own almost as great infirmities, by which one thought well pursued, you will (by the grace of God) come to a better understanding of yourselves than to reject any of his plain revelations inerely because you cannot conceive them, and so leaving light and vision to the other life, will be content with other good Christians, humbly to believe and adore in this.
16. Gentlemen, I beseech you ferionfly to consider what with Christian charity and all due civil respect I have here laid before you ; and if upon consideration of it you find any weight in it, to let it have its full force and effect upon you. Which if you do, I hope it may serve, by the blessing of God, (to whom for that end I humbly devote this labour) to convince you, or at least to put you úpon such better confiderations of your own as may. For I pretend not here to have said all, but to have left man things to the enlargement and improvement of your own meditation, considering the impropriety of doing otherwise to persons of your parts and learning, which I pray God to fanctify and increase to you. Whereby you may perceive that I am not against your making use of your reason. No; I would only have you Teason rightly, and that you may do so, would have you by all human methods to improve and cultivate your reason as much as you can, being well persuaded that as a half-view of things makes men opinionative, disputatious, and dogmatical, so a clear and thorough light makes them humble, and distrustful of themfelves; and that the more cultivated and improved any man's natural reason is, the easier it will be for himn to captivate it to the obedience of faith.
SINCE the committing of these papers to the press, I have
had the pleasure to peruse Mr. Whiston's New Theory of the Earth, for which extraordinary and truly great performance I return him all due thanks, and am very glad to see so great a master of reason and philosophy express so awful and reverential a regard to religion in general, and in particular to the sacred mysteries of it, against which both human reason and natural philofophy have been of late so abusively and profanely employed, How far this ingenious and learned author makes good his great undertaking, or whether this or the former theorist be most likely to be in the right, I shall not take upon me to examine: I only make this observation from both their wonderful attempts, that whether they are in the right or no, as to their respective accounts of things, yet they have at least gone so far, and offered so fairly towards a true explanation of them, as to convince any competent and indifferent reader that the Mosaic records concerning the greater phenomena of creation and providence, are not really of so desperate a nature as they were once presumed to be, but are in themselves capable of, and may perhaps in time actually have (if they have not already) a true natural solution. And for instance, a universal flood without a miracle, or that the world should be wholly drowned in a natural way, or according to the laws of motion already settled, and by a train of causes already lạid in nature, has been hitherto thought an incomprehensible, and accordingly an impossible thing. But now if these two mighty geniuses who have undertaken to give a natural account of this stupendous revolution, have neither of them pitched upon the very precise way and manner whereby it was brought to pass, yet I think it cannot be denied but that they have said enough between them to convince that the thing was naturally possible, and that a true natural account may be given of it, though they should be supposed not to have hit dire upon that which is fo. That is, I mean, they have represented it at least as a conceivable thing, whether they themselves have had the good fortunę to conceive of it exactly as it was or no. Upon