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INTRO. tainty about them : they fancy, though there does not indeed seem to us to be any equity or proportion in
the distributions of rewards and punishments in this present life, yet that we are not sufficient judges concerning the attributes of God, to argue from thence with any assurance for the certainty of a future state. But neither does this opinion stand on any consistent principles. For if justice and goodness be not* the same in God, as in our ideas, then we mean nothing, when we say that God is necessarily just and good ; and for the same reason it may as well be said that we know not what we mean, when we affirm that he is an intelligent and wise being, and there will be no foundation at all left on which we can fix any thing. Thus the moral attributes of God, however they be acknowledged in words, yet in reality they are by these men entirely taken away ; and upon the same grounds the natural attributes may also be denied. And so upon the whole, this opinion likewise, if we argue upon it consistently, must finally recur to absolute atheism.
4. The last sort of deists are those who, if they fourth sort did indeed believe what they pretend, have just
and right notions of God, and of all the divine attributes in every respect; who declare they believe that there is one eternal, infinite, intelligent, all-powerful, and wise being, the creator, preserver, and governor of all things; that this supreme cause is a being of infinite justice, goodness, and truth, and all other moral as well as natural perfections; that he mnade the world for the manifestation of his power and wisdom, and to communicate his goodness and happiness to his creatures; that he preserves it by his continual all-wise providence, and governs it according to the eternal rules of infinite justice, equity, goodness, mercy, and truth; that all created rational beings, depending continually upon him, are bound
+ Καθ' ημάς γάρ ή αυτή αρετή έστι των μακαρίων πάντων ώστε και η avri) ágeri ev gúns nai Osz.- Orig. contr. Cel. lib. 4.
to adore, worship, and obey him, to praise him for all INTRO. things they enjoy, and to pray to him for every thing they want; that they are all obliged to promote, in their proportion, and according to the extent of their several powers and abilities, the general good and welfare of those parts of the world wherein they are placed, in like manner as the divine goodness is continually promoting the universal benefit of the whole; that men, in particular, are every one obliged to make it their business, by an universal benevolence, to promote the happiness of all others; that, in order to this, every man is bound always to behave himself so towards others, as in reason he would desire they should in like circumstances deal with him; that, therefore, he is obliged to obey and submit to his superiors in all just and right things, for the preservation of society and the peace and benefit of the public; to be just and honest, equitable and sincere, in all his dealings with his equals, for the keeping inviolable the everlasting rule of righteousness, and maintaining an universal trust and confidence, friendship and affection, amongst men ; and, towards his inferiors, to begentle, and easy, and affable,—charitable, and willing to assist as many as stand in need of his help, for the preservation of universal love and benevolence amongst mankind, and in imitation of the goodness of God, who preserves and does good to all creatures, which depend entirely upon him for their very being and all that they enjoy;that, in respect of himself, every man is bound to preserve, as much as in him lies, his own being, and the right use of all his faculties, so long as it shall please God, who appointed him his station in this world, to continue him therein ; that, therefore, he is bound to have an exact government of his passions, and carefully to abstain from all debaucheries or abuses of himself, which tend either to the destruction of his own being, or to the disordering of his faculties, and disabling him from performing his duty, or hurrying him into the practice of unreasonable and unjust things : Lastly, that accord
INTRO. ingly as men regard or neglect these obligations, sở
they are proportionably acceptable or displeasing unto God, who, being supreme governor of the world, cannot but testify his favour or displeasure at some time or other ; and, consequently, since this is not done in
; the present state, therefore there must be a future state of rewards and punishments in a life to come. But all this, the men we are now speaking of profess to believe only so far as it is discoverable by the light of nature alone, without believing any divine revelation. These, I say, are the only true deists, and indeed the only persons who ought in reason to be argued with, in order to convince them of the reasonableness, truth, and certainty of the Christian revelation. But, alas ! there is, as I before said, too much reason to believe, that there are very few such deists as these, among modern deniers of revelation. For such men as I have now described, if they would at all attend to the consequences of their own principles, could not fail of being quickly persuaded to embrace Christianity. For, being fully convinced of the obligations of natural religion, and the certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments; and yet observing, at the same time, how little use men generally are able to make of the light of reason, to discover the one, or to convince themselves effectually of the certainty and importance of the other; it is impossible but they must be sensible of the want of a revelation ; it is impossible but they must earnestly desire God would be pleased, by some direct discovery of his will, to make these things more clear and plain, more easy and obvious, more certain and evi. dent to all capacities; it is impossible but they must wish God would be pleased particularly to signify expressly the acceptableness of repentance, and his willingness to forgive returning sinners ; it is impossible but they must be very solicitous to havesome more particular and certain information concerning the nature of that future state, which reason teaches them in general to expect. The consequence of this, is;
that they must needs be possessed beforehand with a INTRO. strong hope that the Christian revelation may, upon a due examination, appear to be true. They must be infinitely far from ridiculing and despising any thing that claims to be a divine revelation, before they have sincerely and thoroughly examined it to the bottom. They must needs be before-hand very much disposed in its favour; and be very willing to be convinced that what tends to the advancing and perfecting the obligation of natural religion, to the securing their great hopes, and ascertaining the truth of a future state of rewards and punishments, and can any way be made appear to be worthy of God, and consistent with his attributes, and has any reasonable proof of the matters of fact it depends uponis, really and truly, what it pretends to be, a divine revelation. And now, is it possible that any man, with these opinions and these dispositions, should continue to reject Christianity, when proposed to him in its original and genuine simplicity, without the mixture of any corruptions or inventions of men ? Let him read the sermons and exhortations of our Saviour as delivered in the gospels, and the discourses of the apostles, preserved in their acts and their epistles, and try if he can withstand the evidence of such a doctrine, and reject the hopes of such a glorious immortality so discovered to him. The heathen philo- That there sophers, those few of them who taught and lived up consistent to the obligations of natural religion, had indeed a scheme of consistent scheme of deism so far as it went; and they were very brave and wise men, if any of them could keep steady and firm to it. But the case is not
The same scheme of deism is not any longer consistent with its own principles, if it does not now lead men to embrace and believe revelation, as it then taught them to hope for it. Deists, in our days, who obstinately reject revelation when offered to them, are not such men as Socrates and Tully were; but, under pretence of deism, it is plain they are generally ridiculers of all that is truly excellent even
deison in the world.
INTRO. in natural religion itself. Could we see a deist,
whose mind was heartily possessed with worthy and just apprehensions of all the attributes of God, and a deep sense of his duty towards that supreme author and preserver of his being could we see a deist who lived in an exact performance of all the duties of na. tural religion, and by the practice of righteousness, justice, equity, sobriety, and temperance, expressed in his actions, as well as words, a firm belief and expectation of a future state of rewards and punishments; in a word, could we see a deist, who, with reverence and modesty, with sincerity and impartiality, with a true and hearty desire of finding out and submitting to reason and truth, would inquire into the foundations of our belief, and examine thoroughly the pretensions which pure and uncorrupt Christianity has to be received as a divine revelation-I think we could not doubt to affirm, of such a person, as our Saviour did of the young man in the Gospel, that he was not far from the kingdom of God; and that, being willing to do his will, he should know of the doctrine whether it was of God. But, as I have said, there is great reason to doubt there are few or none such deists as these among the infidels of our days. This, indeed, is what they sometimes pretend, and seem to desire should be thought to be their
But, alas, their trivial and vain cavils; their mocking and ridiculing, without and before examination; their directing the whole stress of their objections against particular customs, or particular and perhaps uncertain opinions, or explications of opinions, without at all considering the main body of religion; their loose, vain, and frothy discourses; and, above all, their vicious and immoral lives,—show plainly and undeniably, that they are not really deists, but mere atheists; and consequently not capable to judge of the truth of Christianity. If they were truly and in earnest such deists as they pretend, and would sometimes be thought to be, those principles (as has been already shown in part, and