Imágenes de páginas

tice, equity, and goodness, to be his unalterable will, INTRO. law, and command, to all created beings, prove also that he cannot but be pleased with and approve such creatures as imitate and obey him by observing those rules, and be displeased with such as act contrary thereto; and, consequently, that he cannot but some way or other make a suitable difference in his dealings with them, and manifest his supreme power and absolute authority, in finally supporting, maintaining, and vindicating effectually the honour of these his divine laws, as becomes the just and righteous governor and disposer of all things.

IV. That consequently, though, in order to establish this suitable difference between the fruits or effects of virtue and vice, so reasonable in itself, and so absolutely necessary for the vindication of the honour of God, the nature of things and the constitution and order of God's creation was originally such, that the observance of the eternal rules of justice, equity, and goodness does indeed of itself tend, by direct and natural consequence, to make all creatures happy, and the contrary practice to make them miserable; yet since, through some great and general corruption and depravation, (whencesoever that may have arisen, the particular original whereof could hardly have been known now without revelation ;) since, I say, the condition of men in this present state is such, that the natural order of things in this world is an event manifestly perverted, and virtue and goodness are visibly prevented, in great measure, from obtaining their proper and due effects in establishing men's happiness proportionable to their behaviour and practice; therefore it is absolutely impossible, that the whole view and intention, the original and the final design, of God's creating such rational beings as men are, and placing them in this globe of earth, as the chief and principal, or indeed (may we not say) the only inhabitants, for whose sake alone this part at least of the creation is evidently fitted up and accommodated; it is absolute

INTRO. ly impossible (I say) that the whole of God's design Fin all this should be nothing more than to keep up eternally a succession of such short-lived generations of men as at present are, and those in such a corrupt, confused, and disorderly state of things as we see the world is now in, without any due observation of the eternal rules of good and evil, without any clear and remarkable effect of the great and most necessary differences of things, and without any final vindication of the honour and laws of God in the proportionable reward of the best, or punishment of the worst of men. And consequently it is certain and necessary, (even as certain as the moral attributes of God before demonstrated,) that, instead of continuing an eternal succession of new generations in the present form and state of things, there must at some time or other be such a revolution and renovation of things, such a future state of existence of the same persons, as that, by an exact distribution of rewards or punishments therein, all the present disorders and inequalities may be set right, and that the whole scheme of providence, which to us who judge of it by only one small portion of it, seems now so inexplicable and much confused, may appear at its consummation to be a design worthy of infinite wisdom, justice, and goodness.

V. That, though the indispensable necessity of all the great and moral obligations of natural religion, and also the certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments, be thus in general deducible even demonstrably, by a chain of clear and undeniable reasoning, (yet in the present state of the world, by what means soever it came originally to be so corrupted, of which more hereafter,) such is the carelessness, inconsiderateness, and want of attention of the greater part of mankind; so many the prejudices and false notions imbibed by evil education; so strong and violent the unreasonable lusts, appetites, and desires of sense; and so great the blindness, introduced by superstitious opinions, vicious customs, and debauched practices, through the world,-that very few

are able, in reality and effect, to discover these things INTRO. clearly and plainly for themselves; but men have great need of particular teaching, and much instruction, to convince them of the truth and certainty, and importance of these things; to give them a due sense, and clear and just apprehensions concerning them; and to bring them effectually to the practice of the plainest and most necessary duties.

V1. That, though in almost every age there have indeed been in the heathen world some wise, and brave, and good men, who have made it their business to study and practice these things themselves, and to teach and exhort others to do the like, who seem therefore to have been raised up by providence as instruments to reprove in some measure, and put some kind of check to the extreme superstition and wickedness of the nations wherein they lived: Yet none of these have ever been able to reform the world with any considerably great and universal success; because they have been but very few that have in earnest set themselves about this excellent work; and they that have indeed sincerely done it have themselves been entirely ignorant of some doctrines, and very doubtful and uncertain of others, absolutely necessary for the bringing about that great end; and those things which they have been certain of and in good measure understood, they have not been able to prove and explain clearly enough, and those that they have been able both to prove and explain by sufficiently clear reasoning, they have not yet had authority enough to enforce and inculcate upon men's minds with so strong an impression as to influence and govern the general practice of the world.

VII. That therefore there was plainly wanting a divine revelation to recover mankind out of their universally degenerate estate, into a state suitable to the original excellency of their nature; which divine revelation, both the necessities of men and their natural notions of God gave them reasonable ground to expet and hope for, as appears from the ac

INTRO. knowledgments which the best and wisest of the heathen philosophers themselves have made, of their sense of the necessity and want of such a revelation, and from their expressions of the hopes they had entertained that God would some time or other vouchsafe it unto them.

VIII. That there is no other religion now in the world, but the Christian, that has any just pretence or tolerable appearance of reason to be esteemed such a divine revelation; and therefore if Christianity be not true, there is no revelation of the will of God at all made to mankind.

IX. That the Christian religion, considered in its primitive simplicity, and as taught in the Holy Scriptures, has all the marks and proofs of its being actually and truly a divine revelation that any divine revelation, supposng it was true, could reasonably be imagined or desired to have.

X. That the practical duties which the Christian religion enjoins, are all such as are most agreeable to our natural notions of God, and most perfective of the nature, and conducive to the happiness and well-being of men: That is, Christianity,-even in this single respect, as containing alone, and in one consistent system, all the wise and good precepts (and those improved, augmented, and exalted to the highest degree of perfection,) that ever were taught singly and scatteredly, and many times but very corruptly, by the several schools of the philosophers; and this without any mixture of the fond, absurd, and superstitious practices of any of those philosophers, ought to be embraced and practised by all rational and considering deists, who will act consistently, and steadily pursue the consequences of their own principles; as at least the best scheme and sect of philosophy that ever was set up in the world, and highly probable, even though it had no external evidence, to be of divine original.

XI. That the motives, by which the Christian religion enforces the practice of these duties, are such

as are must suitable to the excellent wisdom of God, INTRO. and most answerable to the natural expectations of


XII. That the peculiar manner and circumstances with which it enjoins these duties and urges these motives, are exactly consonant to the dictates of sound reason, or the unprejudiced light of nature, and most wisely perfective of it.

XIII. That all the [credenda, or] doctrines, which the true, simple, and uncorrupted Christian religion teaches, (that is, not only those plain doctrines which it requires to be believed as fundamental and of necessity to eternal salvation, but even all the doctrines which it teaches as matters of truths,)—are, though indeed many of them not discoverable by bare reason unassisted with revelation, yet, when discovered by revelation, apparently most agreeable to sound unprejudiced reason, have every one of them a natural tendency, and a direct and powerful influence, to reform men's lives and correct their manners, and do together make up an infinitely more consistent and rational scheme of belief than any that the wisest of the ancient philosophers ever did, or the cunningest of modern unbelievers can invent or contrive.

XIV. That as this revelation, to the judgment of right and sober reason, appears even of itself highly credible and probable, and abundantly recommends itself in its native simplicity, merely by its own intrinsic goodness and excellency, to the practice of the most rational and considering men, who are desirous in all their actions to have satisfaction, and comfort, and good hope within themselves, from the conscience of what they do; so it is moreover positively and directly proved to be actually and immediately sent to us from God, by the many infallible signs and miracles which the Author of it worked publicly as the evidence of his divine commission; by the exact completion both of the prophecies that went before concerning him, and of those that he

« AnteriorContinuar »