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plied them to the several cases of life, by argument- PROP. ation and dint of reason ? It is one thing to see that those rules of life, which are beforehand plainly and particularly laid before us, are perfectly agreeable to reason; and another thing to find out those rules merely by the light of reason, without their having first been any otherwisemade known. We see that even many of those, who profess to govern their lives by theplain written rule of an instituted and revealed religion, are yet most miserably ignorant of their duty; and how can any man be sure he should have made so good improvement of his reason, as to have understood it perfectly in all its parts, without any such help? We
. see that many of those who profess to believe firmly that great and everlasting happiness which Christ has promised to obedience, and that great andeternal misery which Christ has threatened to disobedience, are yet hurried away, by their luists and passions, to transgress the conditions of that covenant to which these promises and these threatenings are annexed: And how can any man be sure he should be able to overcome those great temptations, if these mighty motives were less distinctly known, or less powerfully enforced ? But sup. pose he could, and that by strength of reason he could demonstrate to himself these things with all clearness and distinctness, yet could all men do so ? Assuredly all men are not equally capable of being philosophers, though all men are equally obliged to be religious. At least thus much is certain, that the rewards and punishments of another world, the great motives of religion, cannot be so powerfully enforced, to the influencing the lives and practice of all sorts of men, one who shall undertake to demonstrate the reality of them by abstract reason and arguments, as by one who, showing sufficient credentials of his having been himself in that other state, shall assure them of the truth and certainty of these things. But, after all, the question does not really lie here. The truth, at the bottom, is plainly this : All the great things that modern deists affect to say of right reason, as to its sufficien
Yet God was not
су in discovering the obligations and motives of morality, is only a pretence to be made use of when they are opposing Christianity. At other times, and in reality, they have no hearty regard for morality, nor for the natural evidences of the certainty of a future státe: They are willing enough to believe that men perish absolutely at death ; and so they have no concern to support effectually the cause of virtue, nor care to make out any consistent scheme of things, but unavoidably recur, in truth, to downright atheism; at least, in the manners of most of them it is too plain and apparent that absolute libertinism is the thing they really aim at; and, however their creed may pretend to be the creed of deists, yet almost always their practice is the practice of very atheists.
4. To return therefore to the argument: From what
has been said upon this head, it appears plainly that absolutely obliged to it is agreeable to the natural hopes and expectations afford men of men, that is, of right reason duly improved, to supthe help of such a pose God making some particular revelation of his revelation. will to mankind, which may supply the undeniable
defects of the light of nature: And, at the same time, it is evident that such a thing is by no means unworthy of the divine wisdom, or inconsistent with any of the attributes of God, but rather, on the contrary, most suitable to them. Consequently, considering the manifold wants and necessities of men, and the abundant goodness and mercy of God, there is great ground, from right reason and the light of nature, to believe that God would not always leave men wholly destitute of so needful an assistance, but would at some time or other actually afford it them : Yet it does not from hence at all follow, (as some have imagined,) that God is obliged to make such a revelation ; for then it must needs have been given in all ages, and to all nations; and might have been claimed and demanded as of justice, rather than wished for and desired as of mercy and condescending goodness. But the fore-mentioned considerations are such as might afford men reasonable ground to hope
for some favour of this kind, to be conferred at such PROP. time, and in such manner, and upon such persons, as ,
VII. should seem best to supreme infinite wisdom ; at
; least they might well dispose and prepare men before-hand, whenever any doctrine should come accompanied with just and good evidence of its being such a revelation to believe and embrace it with all readiness.
It has been made use of by a modern author,* as Want of his principal and strongest argument against the universa
lity, no reasonableness of believing any revelation at all, that sufficient it is corfessed there has been no revelation univer- objection sally owned and embraced as such, either in all ages, truth of a
against the or by all nations in any age. He pretends to acknow- revelation. ledge, that if the doctrine of Christianity was universally entertained, he would not doubt of its being truly a revelation of the will of God to mankind. But since, in fact, there is no instituted religion universally received as a divine revelation, and there are several nations to whom the Christian doctrine in particular was never so much as preached, nor ever came to their knowledge at all, he concludes, that what is not universal and equally made known to all men, cannot be needful for any; and consequently, that there never was any real want of a revelation at all, nor any ground to think any further assistance necessary to enable men to answer all the ends of their creation than the bare light of nature. This is the sum and strength of this author's reasoning; and herein all the deniers of revelation agree with him. Now, (not to take notice here that it is by no means impossible but all men may be capable of receiving some benefit from a revelation, which yet a great part of them may have never heard of,) if these men's reasoning was true, it would follow, by the same argument, that neither was natural'religion necessary to enable men to answer the ends of their creation : For, though all the truths of natural religion are indeed
* Oracles of Reason, page 197, &c.
PROP. certainly discoverable by the due use of right reason
alone, yet it is evident all men are not indued with
all moral obligations, and so recur unavoidably to absolute atheism. The truth is : As God was not obliged to make all his creatures equal, to make men angels, or to indue all men with the same faculties and capacities as any, so neither is he bound to make all men capable of the same degree or the same kind of happiness, or to afford all men the very same means and opportunities of obtaining it.There is ground enough, from the consideration of the manifest corruption of human nature, to be so far sensible of the want of a divine revelation, as that right reason and the light of nature itself will lead a wise and considerate man to think it very probable that the infinitely merciful and good God may actu. ally vouchsafe to afford men some such supernatural assistance; and consequently such a person will be very willing, ready, and prepared to entertain a doctrine which shall at any time come attended with just and good evidence of its being truly a revelation of the will of God. But it does not at all from hence follow, either that God is absolutely bound to make such a revelation, or that, if he makes it, it must equally be made to all men ; or that, since in fact it is not made to all, therefore there is no reason to believe that there is any need or any probability of its being made to any.
VIII. There is no other religion now in the world PROP. 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.
This proposition will easily be granted by all modern unbelievers; and therefore I need not be particular in the proof of it.
The Mahometan religion was founded by a vicious of the person, proposes ridiculous and trifling doctrines to Mahome. be believed, was propagated merely by violence and gion. force of arms, was confirmed by no
public and incontestable miracles, promises vain and sensual rewards to its professors, and is every way encompassed with numberless such absurdities and inconsistencies (as those who have given us accounts of the life of Mahomet, and the nature of his religion, have abundantly made out; and is sufficiently evident even from the Alcoran itself ; ) that there is no great danger of its imposing upon rational and considerate men.
The Jewish religion was founded wholly upon the of the expectation of a Messiah to come : And the time of Jewish re
ligion. his appearance was limited by such plain and determinate prophecies that what difficulties soever there may be in computing the very nice and exact time of their completion, or what different periods soever may
be fixed from whence to begin several compu- • tations; yet the time of their being fulfilled is now, in all possible ways of computing, so very far elapsed, that if the Christian doctrine be false, there is no supposition left, upon which the Jewish religion can, with any colour of reason, be believed to be true.
It being evident, therefore, that either the Christian revelation is true, or else (how great want soever there may be of it) there is no such thing as revelation at all ;-it remains that I proceed to consider what positive and direct evidence there is to prove the actual truth of this divine revelation.