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so there is nothing to be set against them on the side of vice. A moral scheme of government then is visibly established, and in some degree carried into execution; and this, together with the essential tendencies of virtue and vice duly considered, naturally raise in us an apprehension, that it will be carried on farther towards perfection in a future state, and that every one shall there receive according to his deserts. And if this be so, then our future and general interest, under the moral government of God, is appointed to depend upon our behaviour, notwithstanding the difficulty which this may occasion of securing it, and the danger of losing it, just in the same manner as our temporal interest, under his natural government, is appointed to depend upon our behaviour, notwithstanding the like difficulty and danger. For, from our original constitution, and that of the world which we inhabit, we are naturally trusted with ourselves, with our own conduct and our own interest. And from the same constitution of nature, especially joined with that course of things which is owing to men, we have temptations to be unfaithful in this trust, to forfeit this interest, to neglect it, and run ourselves into misery and rụin. From these temptations arise the difficulties of behaving so as to secure our temporal interest, and the hazard of behaving so as to miscarry in it. There is therefore nothing incredible in supposing, there may be the like difficulty and hazard with regard to that chief and final good which religion lays before us. Indeed the whole account, how it came to pass that we were placed in such a condition as this, must be beyond our comprehension; but it is in part accounted for by what religion teaches us, that the character of virtue and piety must be a necessary qualification for a future state of security and happiness under the moral government of God, in like manner as some certain qualifications or other are necessary for every particular condition of life under his natural government; and that the present state was intended to be a school of discipline for improving in ourselves that character. Now this intention of nature is rendered highly credible by observing, that we are plainly made for improvement of all kinds; that it is a general appointment of Providence that we cultivate practical principles, and form within ourselves habits of action, in order to become fit for what we were wholly unfit for before; that in particular, childhood and youth is naturally appointed to be a state of discipline for mature age; and that the present world is peculiarly fitted for a state of moral disci. pline. And whereas objections are urged against the whole notion of moral government and a probation state, from the opinion of neces. sity, it has been shewn, that God has given us the evidence, as it

of experience, that all objections against religion on this head are vain and delusive. He has also, in his natural government, sug, gesied an answer to all our short sighted objections against the equity and goodness, of his moral government; and in general he has exemplified to us the latter by the former.

These things, which, it is to be remembered, are matters of fact, ought, in all common sense, to awaken mankind; to induce them to consider in earnest their condition, and what they have to do. It is absurd, absurd to the degree of being ridiculous, if the subject were not of so serious a kind, for men to think themselves secure in 8

vicious life, or even in that immoral thoughtlessness which far the greatest part of them are fallen into. And the credibility of religion, arising from experience and facts here considered, is fully sufficient, in reason, to engage them to live in the general practice of all virtue and piety; under the serious apprehension, though it should be mixed with some doubt,* of a righteous administration established in nature, and a future judgment in consequence of it; especially when we copsider how very questionable it is, whether any thing at all can be gained by vice;t how unquestionably little, as well as precarious, the pleasures and profits of it are at the best; and how soon they must be parted with at the longest. For, in the deliberations of reason, concerning what we are to pursue and what to avoid, as temptations to any thing from mere passion, are supposed out of the cases0 inducements to vice, from cool expectations of pleasure and interest so small and uncertain and short, are really so insignificant, as, in the view of reason, to be almost nothing in themselves; and in comparison with the importance of religion, they quite disappear and are lost. Mere passion indeed may be alleged, though not as a reason, yet as an excuse, for a vicious course of life. And how sorry an excuse it is will be manifest by observing, that we are placed in a condition, in which we are unavoidably inured to govern our passions, by being necessitated to govern them; and to lay ourselves under the same kind of restraints, and as great ones too, from temporal regards, as virtue and piety in the ordinary course of things require. The plea of ungovernable passion then, on the side of vice, is the poorest of all things; for it is no reason, and but a poor excuse. But the proper motives to religion are the proper proofs of it, from our moral nature, from the presages of conscience, and our natural apprehension of God under the character of a righteous governor and judge; a nature and conscience and apprehension given us by him; and from the confirmation of the dictates of reason, by life and immortality brought to light by the Gospel; and the wrath of God revealed from heaven, against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of m?n.

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SOME persons, upon pretence of the sufficiency of the light of Da. ture, avowedly reject all revelation, as in its very notion incredible, and what must be fictitious, And indeed it is certain no revelation would have been given, had the light of nature been sufficient in such a sepse as to render one not wanting and useless. But no man, in seriousness and simplicity of mind, can possibly think it so, who considers the state of religion in the heathen world, before revelation, and its present state in those places which have borrowed no light from it; particularly the doubtfulness of some of the greatest men concerning things of the utmost importance, as well as the natural inattention and ignorance of mankind in general. It is impose sible to say who would have been able to have reasoned out that whole system, which we call natural religion, in its genuine simplicity, clear of superstition; but there is certainly no ground to affirm that the generality could. If they could, there is no sort of probability that they would. Admitting there were, they would highly want a standing admonition, to remind them of it, and inculcate it upon them. And farther still, were they as much disposed to attend to religion as the better sort of men are, yet even upon this supposition there would be various occasions for supernatural instruction and assistance, and the greatest advantages might be afforded by them. So that to say, revelation is a thing superfluous, what there was no need of, and what can be of no service, is, I think, to talk quite wildly and at random. Nor would it be more extravagant to affirm, that mankind is so entirely at ease in the present state, and life so completely happy, that it is a contradiction to suppose our condition capable of being in any respect, better.

There are other persons, not to be ranked with these, who seem to be getting into a way of neglecting, and, as it were, overlooking rev. elation as of small importance, provided natural religion be kept too. With little regard either to the evidence of the former, or to the objections against it, and even upon supposition of its truth," the only design of it,” say they, “ must be to establish a belief of the moral system of nature, and to enforce the practice of natural piety and virtue. The belief and practice of these things were, perhaps, much promoted by the first publication of Christianity; but whether they are believed and practised, upon the evidence and motives of nature or revelation, is no great matter."* This way of considering revelation, though it is not the same with the former, yet borders nearly upon it, and very much, at length, runs up into it, and requires to be particularly considered, with regard to the persons who seem to be getting into this way. The consideration of it will likewise farther shew the extravagance of the former opinion, and the truth of the observations in answer to it, just mentioned. And an inquiry into the importance of Christianity, cannot be an improper introduction to a treatise concerning the credibility of it.

Now if God has given a revelation to mankind, and commanded those things which are commanded in Christianity, it is evident, at first sight, that it cannot in any wise be an indifferent matter, whether we obey or disobey those commands, unless we are certainly assured that we know all the reasons for them, and that all those reasons are now ceased, with regard to mankind in general, or to ourselves in particular. And it is absolutely impossible we can be as. sured of this. For our ignorance of these reasons proves nothing in the case, since the whole analogy of nature shews, what is indeed in itself evident, that there may be infinite reasons for things, with which we are not acquainted.

But the importance of Christianity will more distinctly appear, by considering it more distinctly. First, as a republication and external institution of natural or essential religion, adapted to the present circumstances of mankind, and intended to promote natural piety and virtue: and, secondly, as containing an account of a dispensation of things, not discoverable by reason, in consequence of which several distinct precepts are enjoined us. For though natural religion is the foundation and principal part of Christianity, it is not in any sense the whole of it.

I. Christianity is a republication of natural religion. It instructs mankind in the moral system of the world; that it is the work of an infinitely perfect Being, and under his government that virtue is his law; and that he will finally judge mankind in righteousness, and render to all according to their works, in a future state. And, which is very material, it teaches natural religion in its genuine simplicity, free froin those superstitions with which it was totally corrupted, and under which it was in a manner lost.

* Invenis multosapropterea noile fieri Christianos, quia quasi sufficiunt sibi de bona vita sua. Bene vivere opus est, ait. Quid mihi præcepturus est Christus? Ut bene vivamı? Jam bene vivo. Quid mihi necessarius est Christus? Nullum homicidium, mullum furtum, nullam rapinam facio, res alienas non concupisco, nullo adulterio contaminor. Nam inveniatur in vita mes aliquid qnori reprehendatur, et qui reprehenderit faciat Christianum.

AUG. IN P, xxxi.

Revelation is farther an authoritative publication of natural reli. gion, and so aftords the evidence of testimony for the truth of it. Indeed the miracles and prophecies recorded in Scripture were in. tended to prove a particular dispensation of Providence, the redemp. tion of the world by the Messiah; but this does not hinder but that they may also prove God's general providence over the world, as our moral governor and judge. And they evidently do prove it, because this character of the author of nature is necessarily connected with and implied in that particular revealed dispensation of things; it is likewise continually taught expressly, and insisted upon, by those persons who wrought the miracles and delivered the prophecies. So that in:leed natural religion seems as much proved by the Scripture revelation, as it would have been had the design of revelation been nothing else than to prove it.

But it may possibly be disyuted, how far miracles can prove natural religion, and notable objections inay be urged against this proof of it, considered as a matter of speculation; but considered as a practical thing, there can be none. For suppose a person to teach natural religion to a nation, who had lived in total ignorance or forget. fulness of it, and to declare he was commissioned by God so to do suppose him, in proof of his commission, to foretel things future which no human foresight could have guessed at, to divide the sea with a word, feed great multitudes with bread from heaven, cure all manner of diseases, and raise the dead, even himself, to life would not this give additional credibility to his teaching, a credibility beyond what that of a common man would have, and be an authoritative publication of the law of nature, i. e. a new proof of it? It would be a practical one, of the strongest kind, perhaps, which human creatures are capable of having given them. The Law of Moses then, and the Gospel of Christ, are authoritative publications of the religion of nature; they afford a proof of God's

general providence, as moral governor of the world, as well as of his particular dispensations of providence towards sinful creatures, revealed in the Law and the Gospel. As they are the only evidence of the latter, so they are an additional evidence of the former.

To shew this further, let us suppose a man of the greatest and most improved capacity, who had never heard of revelation, convinced upon the whole, notwithstanding the disorders of the world, that it was under the direction and moral government of an infinitely perfect Being, but ready to question whether he were not got beyond the reach of his faculties--suppose him brought, by this suspia cion, into great danger of being carried away by the universal bad example of almost every one around him, who appeared to have no sense, no practical sense at least, of these things and this, perhaps, would be as advantageous a situation with regard to religion, as na: ture alone ever placed any man in. What a confirmation now must it be to such a person, all at once to find that this moral system of things was revealed to mankind, in the name of that infinite Being, whom he had from principles of reason believed in; and that the publishers of the revelation proved their commission from him, by making it appear, that he had entrusted them with a power of syspending and changing the general laws of nature.


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