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sixth, and seventh chapters of St Matthew's Gospel, PROP. and judge if they do not, as it were, set before his eyes such a lovely image and representation of true virtue, as Plato said, could not but charm men with the highest degree of love and admiration imaginable.* In a word, let any man of an honest and sincere mind consider, whether that practical doctrine has not even in itself the greatest marks of a divine original; wherein whatsoever things are true, what- Phil. iv. 8. soever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any thing praiseworthy; all these, and these only are the things that are earnestly recommended to men's practice. What wise precept was ever delivered by any philosopher of any sect which is not more plainly laid down by our Saviour and his apostles? And not only so, but enforced moreover with greater efficacy and strength? founded upon nobler and more consistent principles ? urged with greater weight and authority? and pressed with more powerful and affecting arguments? Nay, neither is this all the difference, even in respect barely of the excellency of the doctrine itself. For the philosophers taught indeed many excellent moral truths, but some upon one occasion and upon one set of principles; some upon another; and every one of them were mistaken in some instances of duty, and mingled particular superstitions and false notions with their good instructions, and built their doctrine upon no sure foundation of consistent principles; and all of them (as has been before shown) were very im. perfect and deficient, and far from being able to make up an entire and complete scheme of the whole duty of man in all cases. But now, to put together all
* Formam ipsam, et tanquam faciem honesti, quæ si oculis cerneretur, mirabiles amores, ut ait Plato, excitaret sui.-Cic. de Offic. lib. 1.
† Οὐκ ὅτι ἀλλότριά ἐστι τὰ Πλάτωνος διδάγματα τα Χριστοῦ· ἀλλ ̓ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστι πάντῃ ὅμοια· ὥσπερ ἐδὲ τὰ τῶν ἄλλων. ἕκαστος γάρ τις, ἀπό
PROP. the wise and good precepts that ever were delivered X. by any wise men of any sect and in any age, to improve and exalt every one of them to the highest possible degree of excellency and perfection, to separate and lay aside all the superstitious opinions and practices that had been mixed by all or any of the different sects of philosophers, or teachers of religion in any nation, with their respective moral instruc-. tions, and to supply all those doctrines wherein both moral philosophy and the additional institutions of all religions in the world had in the whole been hitherto altogether deficient; and all this, in one plain, entire, and regular system upon the foundation of certain and consistent principles: This is the peculiar character of the Christian institution; and all this cannot, with any colour of reason, be imagined to have ever been done by any man but one sent immediately from God: Upon this consideration alone, by all sincere deists (if any such there be) who really are what they pretend to be, who believe the being and attributes of God, and are firmly convinced of the obligations of virtue and natural religion, and the certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments, must needs, by their own principles, be strongly inclined to embrace the Christian religion, to be lieve, at least to hope confidently, that a doctrine so plainly fitted to recover men out of their universally corrupt estate, and restore them to the knowledge and favour of God, is truly divine; and to entertain it with all cheerfulness, as what in itself has those manifold marks of goodness and perfection which are themselves sufficient, though not indeed to prove it demonstrably, yet to satisfy a good man,
μέρες τοῦ σπερματικοῦ θείου λόγοῦ τὸ συγγενὲς ὁρῶν, καλῶς ἐφθέγξατο
Quod si extitisset aliquis, qui veritatem sparsam per singulos per sectasque diffusam, colligeret in unum ac redigeret in corpus, is profecto non dissentiret a nobis. Sed hoc nemo facere, nisi veri peritus ac sciens, potest. Verum autem non nisi ejus scire est, qui sit doctus a Deo. Lactant. lib. 7.
that it cannot be any thing else than a revelation from PROP. God, even though it had wanted all those outward proofs,* and divine and miraculous testimonies, which shall hereafter be mentioned in their proper place.
XI. Secondly, The motives by which the Christian religion enforces the practice of the duties it enjoins are such as are most suitable to the excellent wisdom of God, and most answerable to the natural expectations of men.
1. The acceptableness of true repentance, in the Of the acsight of God, and the certain assurance of pardon ceptableupon such repentance, which the Christian religion true reaffords us, is a most powerful and necessary motive pentauce, to frail and sinful creatures, to encourage and sup- to obediport them effectually in the practice of their duty, ence. It is indeed in general evidently most agreeable to right reason, and to men's natural notions of God, to believe him placable, and merciful, and willing to forgive. But since at the same time it cannot be proved, by any arguments from reason, that God is absolutely obliged to forgive, and it is confessedly evident that it becomes the supreme governor of the universe to vindicate the honour and authority of his laws and government, to give some evidences of his hatred and indignation against sin, and sometimes, by instances of severity, to prevent sinners from abusing his mercy and patience, no less than that it is agreeable to his infinite wisdom and goodness to suffer his anger to be by some means appeased: No motive in this case can be imagined more expedient and powerful to encourage sinners to return to the practice of their duty, and to persuade them to continue therein immoveably for the future; nothing can be imagined more seasonable and satisfactory to the mind of man, and
* Sed si vel causa id efficeret, certissime philosopharentur, et quamvis non posset divinis testimoniis illa defendere, tamen seipsam veritas illustraret suo lumine.-Lactant. lib. 7.
Of the divine as
sistance, as another
more agreeable to the excellent wisdom of God, and worthy of the supreme and infinitely merciful governor of all things, than such a positive declaration of the acceptableness of sincere repentance, and such an authentic assurance of pardon and forgiveness thereupon, as under the Christian dispensation the divine goodness and mercy has found means to afford unto us, in such manner as is at the same time abundantly consistent with the honour and dignity of the laws of God, and with his irreconcileable hatred against all unrighteousness and sin.
2. That divine and supernatural assistance, which, under the Christian dispensation, they who sincerely endeavour to obey the will of God, have encouragemotive to ment to hope for, upon all necessary occasions, is another powerful motive to support men effectually in the practice of their duty. The wisest of the philosophers were so far sensible of the great corruption and depravity of human nature in its present state; they were sensible that such was the carelessness, stupidity, and want of attention, of the greater part of mankind; so many the early prejudices and false notions taken in by evil education; so strong and violent the unreasonable lusts, appetites, and desires of sense; and so great the blindness, introduced by supperstitious opinions, vicious customs, and debauched practices through the world; that (as has been before shown,) they themselves openly confessed they had very little hope of ever being able to reform mankind with any considerably great and universal success, by the bare force of philosophy and right reason; but that, to produce so great a change, and enable men effectually to conquer all their corrupt affections, there was need of some supernatural and divine assistance, or the immediate interposition of God himself. Now this divine assistance is vouchsafed to men under the Christian dispensation, in such a manner, as (from what has been already said concerning the judgment of the wisest of the ancient philosophers in this matter,) appears to be undeniably agreeable to
the natural expectations of right reason, and suitable PROP. to the best and worthiest notions that men have ever XI: by the light of nature been able to frame to themselves, concerning the attributes and perfections of God. If Luke xi. ye, says our Saviour, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly father give the holy spirit to them that ask him? The effect of this divine assistance evidenced itself in a very visible and remarkable manner in the primitive times,* by the sudden, wonderful, and total reformation of far greater numbers of wicked men than ever were brought to repentance by the teaching and exhortations of all the philosophers in the world. And even at this day, notwithstanding all the corruption introduced among Christians, I think it can hardly be denied by any unbelievers of revelation, but that there are among us many more persons of all conditions, who worship God in sincerity and simplicity of heart, and live in the constant practice of all righteousness, holiness, and true virtue, than ever were found in any of the most civilized nations, and most improved by philosophy in
the heathen world.
3. The rewards and punishments which the Chris- of the tian religion proposes, to obedience or disobedience, clear disare a motive perfectly agreeable to men's natural future rehopes and fears, and worthy of God to make known wards and by positive and express revelation. For since it is ments, as confessedly suitable to the divine wisdom, to make another variety of creatures, indued with very different powers obedience. and faculties, and capable of very different kinds and degrees of improvement, and since all rational creatures, by reason of that natural liberty of will which is essentially necessary to their being such, cannot but be capable of exalting and improving their nature
* Da mihi virum, qui sit iracundus, maledicus, effrænatus, paucissimis Dei verbis tam placidum quam ovem reddam. Da libidinosum, &c.-Lactant. lib. 3.
Пaga μev Tois EXλnoív sïç ris, &c,—Origen, advers. Cels. lib. 1. See this passage cited above.