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of the transcendent sanctity and perfection of that GOD, against whose reason (or wisdom) and law and love, they have continually finn'd; of the evil and turpitude of that fin, which they have committed ; and of its ingratitude, and offensiveness to the great Creator, Governour and Benefactor of the world ; and of the injury it has done to the peace and welfare of their own souls.
They should hence see the impossibility of their being justified (or attaining to felicity) by the law of original nature. It must be supposed, that original nature came pure and undefiled out of the hand of the CREATOR. That the law of original nature requir'd complete obedience in order to felicity. Sin would forfeit the divine favour, and incur the pe nalty (of unhappiness) threatned by the law. The nature that is once criminal and guilty, cannot be clear'd and absoly'd by that law. It must plead guilty, and rely upon mercy and forgiveness.
2. This guilty case must lead the criminals to deep lamentation and bewailing of themselves before the Majesty, whom they have offended. While there is mere dread of his displeasure and vindictive justice, they will fly from him. But sense of unworthy deportment, attended with a sight of divine patience, and hope of plentiful forgiveness, will dissolve the soul into a sacred shame, lamentation, and contrition. I have Jurely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself.
3. This religious forrow will lead to folid repentance ; i. e, such a repentance, as restores the soul to
GOD. The more grieved these criminals are for offending the great GOD, the more concern'd they will be to please him for the future ; and the way to please him, must be to return to him as their GOD, their hope and happiness. The more solicitous they are to obtain his forgiveness, the more sincerely they inust yield up themselves to him. Thus godly sorrow will work repentance.
Then if the forgiveness be founded on a divine propitiation, reason will dictate, that there must be an hearty acceptance of it, and acquiescence in and dependence upon it, for all the ends, for which it was offered unto GOD. And so the repentance towards GOD will be intimately connected with a faith in the propitiation as the condign means of our admittance into divine favour and forgiveness.
4. Repentance will produce penitent confession of sin to GOD, whose forgiveness is to be sought. The Religion of Nature teaches prayer to GOD. The rule of truth requires the penitent petitioner to pray like himself, with humble acknowledgment of the evil that is with him, of the transgressions committed, and of his unworthiness of the pardon that is desired. This method prepares the soul for valuing and receiving the mercy. " Against thee, thee only (as the great Governor, and holy Legislator) have I Jinn'd, and done this evil in thy sight.
5. This confession will in all reason) be attended with imploration of mercy, deprecation of judginent, and supplication of blessing. Imploration of mercy ; and that, in the strongest terms, the self-conscious
soul can devise; Have mercy upon me, O GOD, according to thy loving kindness, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out mine iniquities. Deprecation of judgment; That GOD would deliver him (as inp. 120. 121.) from the evil consequences of all his transgressions and follies. Enter not into judgment with thy servant ! casi me not away from thy presence! Supplication of blessing; That he would endue me with such dispositions and powers, as may carry me innocently and safely thro' all future trials. (p. 121.) Create in me a clean heart O GOD, and renew a right (strong and stable) Spirit within me !
6. There will be a trust in the divine goodness, and reliance upon GOD's favour for compassion and forgiveness. And now, Lord, what wait I for? my. hope is in thee. Yet
7. There will be due, a sacred fear of GOD, and humble converse before him. This fear
indeed be consider'd as a profound veneration of his boundless perfections. We should behave our selves towards GOD, as being what he is. (p. 114.) But : since we have offended him, and are in danger of further provoking his displeasure, this fear may be allow'd to be inix'd with some dread of his vindictive justice. Let us serve GOD acceptably with reverence and godly fear (with religious awe) for our GOD (the GOD of grace, as well as of nature) is a consuming fire.
8. This fear will be attended and attemper'd with love, he is at once a consuming fire, and yet a beneicent, attractive Being. Perfect love indeed would cast out fear. But our love is far from being
perfect. But felf-convicted criininals must love a patient, gracious, forgiving GOD. Nor had it been amifs, that divine love (love to the most amiable Majesty) had had a more explicite place in the Religion of (restored) Nature.
9. There must be much self-denial, and mortification of sensual appetites and passions. He must use all means to cure his own defects (whether ignorance or vice) or at least to prevent the effects of them; learn to deny temptations (which surround him) or keep them at a proper distance (as conscious of his own imbecility); even mortify, where mortification is necessary (as it will be in a vitiated nature, and a tempting world) and alway carry about him the sense of being but a man. P. 175. n. 4.
10. The pardoned criminals will see abundant reason to admire and bless the GOD that has forgiven them; to joy in him through the atonement made to him (if any such there be); to study all grateful obedience ; and to be desirous to. quit this state and world, that they may be joyn’d to those purify'd fpirits, that more fully enjoy their blessed GOD.
Such would the Religion of Nature be, as founded upon the prospect and priviledge of remission of sins.. And thus we may welcome the heathen philosopher, and the natural religionist, into the inner court, or congratulate his arrival at even the porch of the temple, of the Religion of Jesus. It being the great business of His religion (as it must be, of revealed religion) to assure us of forgiveness with GOD;,
to insorin us withal, how it is founded and dispensed; and particularly, that it is founded upon a grand propitiation ; who the propitiation or Propitiator is ; how the propitiation was made, and what ensues to the Propitiator thereupon. Thence must ensue the Religion of Nature with redoubled obligation.
VII. An institution thus adjusted to the reason and circumstances of human nature, one would think, heaven might expect, should prevail in the world, by its own light, excellence, and needfulness to mankind. But many prejudices would lye against it. Many celestial truths must be discover'd, as the foundation of it. Nay, the miracle and mystery of the divine love, would be a bar to its own credibility. It has pleas'd therefore the good GOD to recommend this religion by fuitable, extrinsic evidence. As 1. He would, in some measure, prepare the world for it, by prophecy, and the pedagogy of the Jewish religion. On the first head, the reader sees the Right Reverend the Bishop of Coventry and Litchfields learned book, as also the Dean of Chichester's and Mr. Bullock’s useful discourses. 2. It was set up and established by open invincible miracle, for a long tract of time. Which evidence is considerd by the foresaid prelate's treatise and many others. 3. It is confirm'd by the holy, zealous, suffering conduct of the Founder and his iniffionaries; consider'd in Dr. Prideaux's letter, and the last of the late three letters to the Deift
. 4. There is the resurrection of the great Founder himself, which consider'd as a principal part of the system it self, may pass for an intrinsic excellence ; but consider'd as a miraculous operation, wrought in confir