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of a reliing from
IX. The Christian religion, considered in its primitive simplicity, and as taught in the Holy Scriptures, has all the marks and proofs of being actually and truly a divine revelation, that any divine revelation, supposing it was true, could reasonably be imagined or desired to have.
The necessary marks and proofs of a religion coming from God, are these. First, that the duties it enjoins be all such as are agreeable to our natural notions of God, and perfective of the nature and conducive to the happiness and well-being of men. And that the doctrines it teaches be all such, as, though not indeed discoverable by the bare light of nature, yet, when discovered by revelation, may be consistent with and agreeable to sound and unprejudiced reason; for otherwise no evidence whatsoever can be of so great force to prove that any doctrine is true; as its being either contradictory in itself, or wicked in its tendency, is to prove that it must necessarily be false. Secondly, for the same reason, the motives likewise, by which it is recommended to men's belief and practice, and all the peculiar circumstances with which it is attended, must be such as are suitable to theexcellent wisdom of God, and fitted to amend the manners and perfect the minds of men. Lastly, it must moreover be positively and directly proved to come from God, by such certain signs and matters of fact as may be undeniable evidences of its author's having actually a divine commission: For otherwise, as no evidence can prove a doctrine to come from God, if it be either impossible or wicked in itself, so, on the other hand, neither can any degree of goodness or excellency in the doctrine itself make it demonstrably certain, but only highly probable, to have come from God; unless it has moreover some positive and direct evidence of its being actually revealed.
The entire proof therefore of this proposition must be made by an induction of particulars, as follows.
X. First, the practical duties which the Christian
religion enjoins, are all such as are most agreeable PROP. to our natural notions of God, and most perfective of the nature, and conducive to the happiness and well-being of men. That is, Christianity even in this single respect, as containing alone, and in one consistent system, all the wise and good precepts (and those improved, augmented, and exalted to the highest degree of perfection,) that ever were taught singly and scatteredly, and many times but very corruptly by the several schools of the philosophers; and this without any mixture of the fond, absurd, and superstitious practices of any of these philosophers; ought to be embraced and practised by all rational and considering deists, who will act consistently, and steadily pursue the consequences of their own principles; as at least the best scheme and sect of philosophy that ever was set up in the world; and highly probable, even though it had no external evidence to be of divine original.
This proposition is so very evident, that the great- The proest adversaries of the Christian institution have never position been able to deny it any otherwise than by confound- in the seproved ing the inventions of men, the superstitious practices veral inof particular persons, or the corrupt additions of certain duty. particular churches or societies of Christians, with the pure and simple precepts of the gospel of Christ. In all those instances of duty which pure and uncorrupt Christianity enjoins, the proposition is manifest, and altogether undeniable; the duties of love, fear, and adoration, which the Christian religion obliges us to render unto God, are so plainly incumbent upon us from the consideration of the excellent attributes of the divine nature, and our relation to him as our creator and preserver, that no man who considers can think himself free from the obligations which our religion lays upon him to practise these duties, without denying the very being of God, and acting contrary to the reason and all the natural notions of his own mind. It is placing the true and acceptable worship of God, not so much in any positive and ritual observances, as in approaching him with pure
PROP. hearts and undefiled bodies, with unfeigned repentX. ance for all past miscarriages, and sincere resolutions of constant obedience for the future, in praying to him for whatever we want, and returning him our most hearty thanks for whatever good things we receive, with such dependence and humility, such submission, trust, and reliance, as are the proper affections of dutiful children: All this is plainly most agreeable to our natural notions and apprehensions of God; and that the prayers of sinful and depraved creatures, sincerely repenting, should be offered up to God, and become prevalent with him, through and by the intercession of a mediator, is very consonant to right and unprejudiced reason, as I shall have occasion to show more particularly hereafter, when I come to consider the articles of our belief. Again: The duties of justice, equity, charity, and truth, which the Christian religion obliges us to exercise towards men, are so apparently reasonable in themselves, and so directly conducive to the happiness of mankind, that their unalterable obligations are not only in great measure deducible from the bare light of nature and right reason, but even those men also, who have broken through all the bonds of natural religion itself, and the original obligations of virtue, have yet thought it necessary, for the preservation of society and the wellbeing of mankind, that the observation of these duties, to some degree, should be enforced by the penalties of human laws; and the additional improveMat. v. 16, ments which our Saviour has made to these duties, by commanding his disciples to be, as it were, lights in the world, and examples of good works to all men ; to be so far from injuring others, that, on the contrary, they should not indulge themselves in any degree of anger or passion; to seek reconciliation immediately upon any difference or offence that may arise; to bear injuries patiently, rather than return evil for evil; to be always willing to forgive one another their trespasses, as they all expect forgiveness at the hands of God; to be kind and charitable to all men ;
to assist readily, and be willing to do all good offices, PROP. not only to their friends, but even to their bitterest enemies also; in a word, to raise their virtue and' goodness far above the common practice of men, extending their charity universally in imitation of the goodness of God himself, who maketh the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust; these precepts, I say, are such as no unprejudiced philosopher would have been unwilling to confess were the utmost improvements of morality, and to the highest degree perfective of human nature. In like manner, the duties of sobriety, temperance, patience, and contentment, which our religion enjoins us to practise in ourselves, are so undeniably agreeable to the inward constitution of human nature, and so perfective of it, that the principal design of all true philosophy has ever been to recommend and set off these duties to the best advantage, though, as the philosophers themselves have always confessed, no philosophy was ever able to govern men's practice effectually in these respects: But the additional precepts, and the new weight and authority, which our Saviour has added to his instructions of this kind, teaching his disciples to govern Matt. v. their very thoughts, desires, and inclinations, to contemn and get above all the desires of this present 19, 24, &c. world, and to set their affections principally upon that which is to come; these are the things which, when the Christian religion was in its primitive and purest state, worked men up actually to such a pitch of cheerful and generous obedience to the laws of God, and taught them to obtain such a complete victory over the world, and over all the desires and appetites of sense, as the best philosophers have acknowledged their instructions were never able to do. Lastly, even those positive and external observances, (the two sacraments,) which are instituted in the Christian religion, as means and assistances to keep men stedfast in the practice of those great and moral duties which are the weightier matters of the
PROP. law; even those positive institutions (I say) are so X. free from all appearance of superstition and vanity, and so wisely fitted to the end for which they were designed, that no adversaries of Christianity have ever been able to object any thing at all against the things themselves, but only against certain corruptions and superstitions, which some who call them. selves Christians, have, directly in opposition to the true design of Christianity, introduced and annexed to them. For what reasonable man can pretend to say, that it is any way unreasonable or superstitious for every member of the society to be solemnly admitted into his profession, by a plain and significant rite, entitling him to all the privileges, and charging him with all the obligations, which belong to the members of that society as such? which is the design of one of the sacraments: Or that it is unreasonable and superstitious for men frequently to commemorate, with all thankfulness, the love of their greatest benefactor, and humbly and solemnly to renew their obligations and promises of obedience to him? which is the design of the other.
dence of a
Let now any impartial person judge whether this great evi- be not a wise and excellent institution of practical religion religion, highly conducive to the happiness of mancoming kind, and worthy to be established by a revelation from God; when men had confessedly corrupted themselves to such a degree, that not only the light of nature, and right reason, was altogether insufficient to restore true piety; but even that light itself (as Cicero expressly acknowledges) nowhere appeared.* Let any impartial person judge, whether a religion that tends thus manifestly to the recovery of the rational part of God's creation, to restore men to the imitation and likeness of God, and to the dignity and highest improvement of their nature, has not within itself an intrinsic and very powerful evidence of its being truly divine. Let any one read the fifth,
-Ut naturæ lumen nusquam appareat.-Cic. Tusc. Qu. lib. 3. See this passage cited before at large.