« AnteriorContinuar »
that a me
yet at the same time they had good hopes, that, up. PROP. on the repentance of sinners, God would accept some other satisfaction instead of the destruction of the offenders. It is therefore plainly agreeable to right reason, to believe that God, in vindication of the honour of his laws, and for a testimony of his hatred against sin, should appoint some sacrifice or expiation for sin, at the same time that he forgives the sinner upon his true repentance.
Thirdly, it cannot be thought unreasonable to be That it is believed, that a mediator or intercessor should be ap- sonable to pointed' between God and man, through and by believe, whom the prayers of sinners may be offered up, so diator as to be acceptable in the sight of God. It is well should be known, the generality of the wisest heathens thought belveen
appointed it agreeable to reason to make use of subordinate in- God and telligences, demons or heroes, by whom they put up their prayers to the superior gods, hoping, that, by the mediation of those intercessors, the unworthiness of their own persons, and the defects of these prayers might be supplied, and they might obtain such merciful and gracious answers to their prayers as they could not presume to hope for upon their own account. Wherein though those pagans laboured indeed under very great uncertainty, in doing a thing for which they had no sufficient warrant, and in using mediators whom they neither knew distinctly to have any being, nor could they however have any good security that such mediation would be acceptable to the supreme God; yet, at the same time, this undeniably proves, that it is by no means inconsistent with right reason, to believe that a mediator may by divine authority be appointed between God and sinful men, to be their intercessor and advocate with a justly offended God. Fourthly, The greatest real difficulty in this mat- of the ob
jection ter, to the judgment of right reason, seems to arise from the consideration of the dignity of the person from the whom we believe to have given himself a sacrifice dignity of and propitiation for the sins of mankind, viz. how it
PROP is possible, that the only begotten son of God should XIII. be incarnate and become man; how it is conceiv
able that God should condescend so far as to send, and believe to the son of God condescend willingly to be sent, and be our mea do such great things for his creatures; and, above all, redeemer. how it is consistent with reason, to suppose God con
descending to do so much for such frail and weak creatures as men, who, in all appearance seem to be but a very small, low, and inconsiderable part of the creation. And here indeed it must readily be acknowledged, that human reason could never have discovered such a method as this, for the reconciliation of sinners to an offended God without express revelation. But then neither, on the other side, when once this method is made known, is there any such diffi culty or inconceivableness in it as can reasonably make a wise and considerate man call in question the truth of a well attested revelation, merely upon that account; which, indeed, any plain absurdity, or contradiction in the matter of a doctrine pretended to be revealed, would, it must be confessed, unavoidably do. For as to the possibility of the incarnation of the son of God, whatever mysteriousness there confessedly was in the manner of it, yet, as to the thing itself, there is evidently no more unreasonableness in believing the possibility of it, than in believing the union of our soul and body, or any other certain truth which we plainly see implies no contradiction in the thing itself, at the same time that we are sensible we cannot discover the manner how it is affected. Again, as to the incredibility of the doctrine, that God should make so great a condescension to his creatures, and that a person of such dignity as the only begotten son of God should vouchsafe to give himself a sacrifice for the sins of men : He that duly, considers, how it is no diminution to the glory and greatness of the father of all things, to inspect, govern, and direct every thing by his all-wise providence through the whole creation; to take care even of the meanest of his creatures, so that not a sparrow
falls to the ground, or a hair of our head perishes, PROP. without his knowledge; and to observe exactly every particle, even of inanimate matter in the universe ; he (I say) who duly considers this, cannot with reason think it any real disparagement to the son of God, (though it was indeed a most wonderful and amazing instance of humility and condescension,) that he should concern himself so far for sinful men as to appear in their nature to reveal the will of God more clearly to them, to give himself a sacrifice and expiation for their sins, and to bring them to repentance and eternal life.
The greatest enemies and deriders of Christianity have asserted things, far more incredible, to have been done upon far less occasions ; witness what Julian the apostate* thought fitto believeconcerning Æsculapius's coming down from heaven, and conversing upon earth in a visible form, only to teach men the art of healing diseases. And modern unbelievers, who seem willing, in the contrary extreme, to deny God's having any regard, or taking any care in any respect, for the welfare and happiness of his creatures, are forced, if they will go about to give any account or explication of things, to invent much more incredible hy. potheses, dishonourable to God, and utterly inconsistent with his divine attributes. Indeed, if we will consider things impartially, so far is it from being truly any diminution of the greatness and glory of God, to send his son into the world for the redemption and salvation of mankind, that, on the contrary, it is a means of bringing the very greatest honour to the laws and government of God that can be imagined. For what can be imagined more honourable, and worthy of the supreme lord and governor of all things, than to show forth his mercy and goodness, in forgiving the sins of frail and fallible creatures, and suffering himself to be reconciled to them upon
* Ο γάρ Ζεύς εξ εαυτού τον Ασκληπιον έγέννησεν εις δε την γήν διά της ηλία γονίμα ζωής ενέφηνεν ούτος επί γής εξ ουρανού ποιησάμενος πρόοδον, ενοειδώς μεν περί την Επίδαυρον εφάνη.-Julian.
PROP. their true repentance ; and yet at the same time to
cause such an expiation to be made for sin, by the sufferings and death of his own son, in their nature, as might be abundant evidence of his irreconcilable hatred against sin, a just vindication of the authority and dignity of his laws, and a sufficient and effectual warning to deter men from sin, to create in them the greatest dread and detestation of it, and for ever to terrify them from venturing upon wilful transgression and disobedience? It is true, no man can take upon him certainly to say, but God, by his absolute sovereignty and authority, might, if he had so pleased, have pardoned sin upon repentance, without any sacrifice or expiation at all. But this method of doing it by the death of Christ is more wise and fit, and evidently more proper and effectual to discountenance and prevent presumption, to discourage men from repeating their transgressions, to give them a deep sense of the heinous nature of sin, and to con, vince them of the excellency and importance of the laws of God, and the indispensable necessity of pay. ing obedience to them ; forasmuch as it shows us, that at the same time that God was willing to save the sinner, yet, lest encouragement should be given to sin by letting it go unpunished, he did not think fit to forgive the transgressions of men without great sufferings in our nature, and to put away the guilt of our sins but upon such difficult terms as the death of his own son, So that in this dispensation, justice, and mercy, and truth,are met together; righteousness and
peace have kissed each other. And by how much the greater the dignity of the person was, who gave himself thus a sacrifice for the sins of men, of so much the greater weight and force is this argument to deter men for the future from sin, and to convince them of the necessity of obedience. Wherefore, so far is it from being true, that the consideration of the dignity of the person suffering is a real objection against the credibility of the doctrine, that, on the contrary, that very consideration con
tains the highest vindication imaginable of the great- PROP. ness, and honour, and authority of the laws of God, and at the same time the greatest possible instance or expression of his mercy and compassion towards men, agreeable to our natural notions of his divine attributes. And then, as to the last part of this difficulty, viz. how it can be consistent with reason, to suppose God condescending to do so very great things for such mean and weak creatures, as men are, who in all appearance seem to be but a very small, low, and inconsiderable part of the creation ; forasmuch as the whole earth itself is but a little spot, that bears no proportion at all to the universe; and in all probability of reason, the large and numberless orbs of heaven cannot but be supposed to be filled with beings more capable than we to show forth the praise and glory of their Almighty Creator, and more worthy to be the objects of his
care and love. To this part of the difficulty, I say, the answer is very easy : That the mercy and love of the infinitely good God is extended equally over all his works ; that, let the universe be supposed as large, and the rational creatures, with which it is furnished, as many and excellent as any one can imagine ; yet mankind is plainly the chief, indeed the only inhabitant for whose sake it is evident this our globe of earth was formed into a habitable world, and this our earth is, as far as we have any means of judging, as considerable and worthy of the divine care as most other parts of the system ; and this our system as considerable as any other single system in the universe; and finally, that, in like manner as the same divine providence, which presides over the whole creation, does particularly govern and direct every thing in this our lower world, as well as in every other particular part of the universe ; so there is no real difficulty to right reason, in conceiving that the same divine logos, the word or messenger of the father, who, in various dispensations, according to the particular needs and exigencies of mankind, has