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PROP. and such as by their agreeableness to the rational faXIII. culties of mankind, did highly recommend themselves
to our belief; so, on the other hand, they had an immediate relation to practice, and were the genuine principles and foundation upon which all human and divine virtues were naturally to be superstructed. Particularly, what can be a more necessary and excellent foundation of true religion than that doctrine which the Christian religion clearly and distinctly teaches us, concerning the nature and attributes of the one only true God, without any of that ambiguity and doubtfulness, those various and inconsistent opinions and conjectures, those uncertain and oft-times false reasonings concerning the nature of God, which, notwithstanding the natural possibility of discovering very many of the attributes of God by the light of true reason, did yet in fact overspread the greatest part of the heathen world with polytheism or atheism ? What can be so certain a preservative against idolatry, and the worship of false gods, as the doctrine, that the universe, the heavens, and the earth, and all things contained therein, are the creatures and workmanship of the one true God, and have a continual dependence upon him for the preservation of their being ? What can be so sure a ground of true piety and reliance upon God, as the clear Christian doctrine concerning providence, concerning God's perpetually governing and directing the issues and events of all things, and inspecting with a more especial regard the moral actions of men ? Which doctrine was perplexed by the philosophers with endless disputes. What can be so just a vindication of the goodness of God, and consequently so necessary in order to our maintaining in our minds worthy and honourable notions concerning him, as the doctrine that God created man at first upright, and that the original of all evil and misery is sin ? The want of a clear knowledge of which truth extremely perplexed the heathen world, and made many recur to that most absurd fiction of a self-existent evil principle.
What can be a more proper motive to piety than the PROP. doctrine that the deluge and other remarkable calamities which have befallen mankind, were sent upon them by God's immediate direction, as punishments for their wickedness ? What can be a greater encouragement to the practice of holiness, than the doctrine that God has at several times vouchsafed to make several particular revelations of his will to men, to instruct and support them more effectually in that prac- . tice? But abo‘ve all, what doctrine could ever have been imagined so admirably fitted in all respects to promote all the ends of true religion, as that of the incarnation of the Son of God ? Which way could men have been filled with so deep a sense of the mercy and love of God towards them, and have been instructed in all divine truths in a method so well accommodated to their present infirmities, as by God's sending his only begotten Son, to take upon him our nature, and therein to make a general revelation of the will of God to mankind ? How could the honour, and dignity, and authority of the laws of God have been so effectually vindicated, and at the same time so satisfactory an assurance of pardon upon true repentance have been given unto men, as by this method of the son of God giving himself a sacrifice and expiation for sin ? What could have been a more glorious manifestation of the mercy and compassion of God, and at the same time a more powerful means to discountenance men's presumption, to discourage them from repeating their transgressions, to give them a deep sense of the heinous nature of sin, and of God's extreme hatred and utter irreconcilableness to it, and to convince them of the excellency and importance of the laws of God, and the indispensable necessity of paying obedience to them, than this expedient of saving sinners by the sufferings and death of the son of God, and by establishing with them a new and gracious covenant upon the merits of that satisfaction? How could men be better encouraged
PROP. to begin a religious life, than by having such a meXIII. diator, advocate, and intercessor for them with God,
to obtain pardon of all their frailties, and by being assured of the assistance of the Spirit of God, to enable them to conquer all their corrupt affections, and to be in them an effectual principle of a heavenly and divine life? In fine, what stronger and more powerful motives could possibly have been contrived to persuade men to live virtuously, and to deter them from vice, than the clear discovery made to is in the gospel of God's having appointed a day, wherein he will judge the world in righteousness, every man according
to his works, and that they who have done well shall be adjudged to 'everlasting happiness, and they that have done evil to endless punishment; of which the light of nature afforded men but obscure glimpses ? And may we not here, upon the whole, appeal now even to our adversaries themselves, whether, in all and every one of these doctrines, there be not a more powerful, a more effectual method laid down, for the reforming human nature, and obliging the whole world to forsake their sins, and to lead holy and virtuous lives, than was ever taught before ; nay, or than was possible to have been contrived by all the wit of mankind ? This is the great and highest recommendation of the Christian doctrine; this is what to a well disposed mind would well nigh satisfactorily prove, even without the addition of any external testimony, that the revelation of Christianity could not possibly but come from God, seeing that not only all its practical precepts, but even all its articles of belief also, tend plainly to this one and the same end, to make men universally amend and reform their lives, to recover and restore them to their original excellent state, from the corruption and misery which had been introduced by sin, and to establish upon earth the practice of everlasting righteousness, and entire and hearty obedience to the will of God; which would have been the religion of men (had they continued innocent) in paradise, and
now is the religion of angels, and for ever will be the PROP. religion of saints in heaven. Vain men may value themselves
upon their speculative knowledge, right opinions, and true and orthodox belief, separate from the practice of virtue and righteousness; but as sure as the gospel is true, no belief whatsoever shall finally be of any advantage to men, any otherwise than only so far as it corrects their practice, hinders them from being workers of iniquity, and makes them like Luke, xiii. unto God.
Lastly, all the doctrines of the Christian faith do And all of together make up an infinitely more consistent and them togerational scheme of belief than any that the wisest of the ancient philosophers ever did, or the cunningest most conof modern unbelievers can invent or contrive. This rational is evident from a summary view of the fore-mention- scheme of ed scheme of the Christian doctrines, wherein every the world. article has a just dependence on the foregoing ones, and a close connexion with those that follow ; and the whole account of the order and disposition of things, from the original to the consummation of all things, is one entire, regular, complete, consistent, and every way a most rational scheme: Whereas the wisest of the ancient philosophers, that is, those of them who hit upon the greatest number of single truths, and taught the fewest absurdities, were yet never able to make out any universal, entire, and coherent system of doctrines,* and scheme of the whole state of things, with any manner of probability : And the cunningest of modern deists, (besides that they must needs, in their own way, believe some particular things stranger, and in themselves more incredible, than any of the fore-mentioned Christian doctrines,) cannot, in the whole, as has been before shown, frame to themselves any fixed and settled principles upon which to argue consistently; but must unavoidably either be perplexed with inextricable absurdities, or confessedly
* Diversi ac diversè omnia protulerunt non annectentes nec causas rerum, nec consequentias, nec rationes; ut summam illam, quæ continet universa, et compingerent et complerent.-Lactant. lib. 7.
PROP. recur to downright atheism. There have indeed, even XIII.
among Christians themselves, been many differences and disputes about particular doctrines: (But, excepting such as have intolerably corrupted the very fun. damental doctrines, and even the main design itself of the whole Christian dispensation ; of which there are too many instances in writers of the Romish church especially ;) these disputes among Christians have not been, like those among the philosophers, de rerum summa, concerning the whole scheme and system of things, but only concerning particular explications of particular doctrines ; which kind of disputes do not at all affect the certainty of the whole religion itself,* nor ought in reason to be any manner of hindrance to the effect which the plain and weighter, and confessedly more important funda. mental doctrines ought to bave upon the hearts and lives of men.
XIV. Fifthly, As this revelation, to the judgment of right and sober reason, appears 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 public
as the evidence of bis divine commission, by the exact completion both of the prophecies that went before concerning him, and of those that he himself delivered concerning things that were to happen af.
* Sed perturbat nos opinionum varietas, hominumque dissensio. Et qua non idem contingit in sensibus, hos patura certos, putamus ; illa, quæ aliis sic, aliis secus, nec iisdem semper uno modo videntur, ficta esse dicimus. Quod est longe aliter.-Cic. de Legib. lib. 1.