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where they are, it is often very slowly; and the application of them, and the necessary regimen accompanying it, is, not uncommonly, so disagreeable, that some will not submit to them; and satisfy themselves with the excuse, that if they would, it is not certain whether it would be successful. And many persons who labour under diseases, for which there are known natural remedies, are not so happy as to be always, if ever, in the way of them. In a word, the remedies which nature has provided for diseases, are neither certain, perfect, nor universal. And indeed the same principles of arguing, which would lead us to conclude that they must be so, would lead us likewise to conclude, that there could be no occasion for them; i.e. that there could be no diseases at all. And, therefore, our experience that there are diseases, shews, that it is credible beforehand, upon supposition nature has provided remedies for them, that these remedies may be, as by experience we find they are, not certain, nor perfect, nor universal ; because it shows that the principles upon which we should

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contrary, are fallacious. And now, what is the just consequence from all these things? Not that reason is no judge of what is offered to us as being of divine revelation. For this would be to infer, that we are unable to judge of any thing, because we are unable to judge of all things. Reason can, and it ought to judge, not only of the meaning, but also of the morality and the evidence, of revelation. First, it is the province of reason to judge of the morality of the Scripture ; i. e. not whether it contains things different from what we should have expected from a wise, just, and good Being; for objections from hence have been now obviated; but whether it contains things plainly contradictory to wisdom, justice, or goodness; to what the light of nature teaches us of God. And I know nothing of this sort objected against Scripture, excepting such objections as are formed upon suppositions, which would equally conclude, that the constitution of nature is contradictory to wisdom, justice, or goodness ; which most certainly it is not. Indeed, there are some particular precepts in Scripture, given to particular persons, requiring actions, which would be immoral and vicious, were it not for such precepts. But it is easy to see, that all these are of such a kind, as that the precept changes the whole nature of the case and of the action ; and both constitutes and shows that not to be unjust or immoral, which, prior to the precept, must have appeared and really have been so ; which may well be, since none of these precepts are contrary to immutable morality. If it were commanded, to cultivate the principles, and act from the

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spirit, of treachery, ingratitude, cruelty; the command would not alter the nature of the case, or of the action, in any of these instances. But it is quite otherwise in precepts, which require only the doing an external action ; for instance, taking away the property or life of any. For men have no right to either life or property, but what arises solely from the grant of God : When this grant is revoked, they cease to have any right at all in either; and when this revocation is made known, as surely it is possible it may be, it must cease to be unjust to deprive them of either. And though a course of external acts, which without command would be immoral, must make an immoral habit, yet a few detached commands have no such natural tendency. I thought proper to say thus much of the few Scripture precepts, which require, not vicious actions, but actions which would have been vicious had it not been for such precepts; because they are sometimes weakly urged as immoral, and great weight is laid upon objections drawn from them. But to me there seems no difficulty at all in these precepts, but what arises from their being offences ; i. e. from their being liable to be perverted, as indeed they are, by wicked designing men, to serve the most horrid purposes, and, perhaps, to mislead the weak and enthusiastic." And objections from this head are not objections against revelation, but against the whole notion of religion, as a trial ; and against the general constitution of nature. Secondly, reason is able to judge, and must, of the evidence of revelation, and of the objections urged against that evidence ; which shall be the subject of a following chapter. (Chap. vii.).

But the consequence of the foregoing observations is, that the question upon which the truth of Christianity depends, is scarce at all, what objections there are against its scheme, since there are none against the morality of it ; but what objections there are against its evidence ; or, what proof there remains of it, after due allowances made for the objections against that proof; because it has been shewn, that the objections against Christianity, as distinguished from objections against its evidence, are frivolous. For surely very little weight, if any at all, is to be laid upon a way of arguing and objecting, which, when applied to the general constitution of nature, experience shews not to be conclusive: and such, I think, is the whole way of objecting treated of throughout this Chapter. It is resolvable into principles, and goes upon suppositions, which misa lead us to think, that the Author of nature would not act, as we experience he does; or would act, in such and such cases, as no experience he does not, in like cases. But the unreasonableness of this way of objecting will appear yet more evidently from hence, that the chief things thus objected against, are justified, as shall be farther shewn, (Chap. iv. latter part, and v. vi.) by distinct, particular, and full analogies, in the constitution and course of nature.

But it is to be remembered, that as frivolous as objections of the foregoing sort against revelation are, yet, when a supposed revelation is more consistent with itself, and has a more general and uniform tendency to promote virtue, than, all circumstances considered, could have been expected from enthusiasm and political views ; this is a presumptive proof of its not proceeding from them, and so of its truth; because we are competent judges, what might have been expected from enthusiasm and political views.

CHAP. IV.

OF CHRISTIANITY, CONSIDERED AS A SCHEME OR CONSTITU

TION, IMPERFECTLY COMPREHENDED.

It hath been now shewn in the foregoing chapter, that the analogy of nature renders it highly credible beforehand, that, supposing a revelation to be made, it must contain many things very different from what we should have expected, and such as appear open to great objections; and that this observation, in good measure, takes off the force of those objections, or rather precludes them. But it may be alleged, that this is a very partial answer to such objections, or a very unsatisfactory way of obviating them : because it doth not shew at all, that the things objected against can be wise, just, and good ; much less, that it is credible they are so.

It will therefore be proper to shew this distinctly, by applying to these objections against the wisdom, justice, and goodness of Christianity, the answer above, (Part i. Chap. vii.) to which this all along refers, given to the like objections against the constitution of nature ; before we consider the particular analogies in the latter, to the particular things objected against in the former. Now, that which affords a sufficient answer to objections against the wisdom, justice, and goodness of the constitution of nature, is its being a constitution, a system, or scheme, imperfectly comprehended; a scheme, in which means are made use of to accomplish ends,

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and which is carried on by general laws. For, from these things it has been proved, not only to be possible, but also to be credible, that those things which are objected against, may be consistent with wisdom, justice, and goodness ; nay, may be instances of them : and even that the constitution and government of nature may be perfect in the highest possible degree. If Christianity, then, be a scheme, and of the like kind, it is evident, the like objections against it must admit of the like answer. And,

I. Christianity is a scheme, quite beyond our comprehension. The moral government of God is exercised, by gradually conducting things so in the course of his providence, that every one, at length, and upon the whole, shall receive accord

, ing to his deserts ; and neither fraud nor violence, but truth and right, shall finally prevail. Christianity is a particular scheme under this general plan of providence, and a part of it, conducive to its completion, with regard to mankind : consisting itself also of various parts, and a mysterious economy, which has been carrying on from the time the world came into its present wretched state, and is still carrying on, for its recovery, by a divine person, the Messiah ; " who is to gather together in one, the children of God that are scattered abroad," (John xi. 52,) and establish “ an everlasting kingdom, wherein dwelleth righteousness,” (2 Peter iii. 13.) And in order to it, after various manifestations of things, relating to this great and general scheme of Providence, through a succession of many ages; “ for the Spirit of Christ, which was in the prophets, testified beforehand his sufferings, and the glory that should follow: unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things which are now reported unto us by them that have preached the gospel; which things the angels desire to look into,” (1 Peter i. 11, 12); after various dispensations, looking forward and preparatory to this final salvation, “ in the fulness of time,” when infinite wisdom thought fit, he, “ being in the form of God, made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men ; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross ; wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” (Phil. ii.) Parts likewise of this economy, are the miraculous mission of the Holy Ghost, and his ordinary assistances given to good men ; the invisible government which Christ at present exercises over his church ; that which he himself refers to in these words, (John xiv. 2) “ In my Father's house are many mansions, I go to prepare a place for you ;" and his future return to “ judge the world in righteousness," and completely re-establish the kingdom of God. “ For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son ; that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father ; (John v. 22, 23.) All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth ; (Matth. xxviii. 18.) And he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father ; when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all;" (1 Cor. xv.) Now little, surely, need be said to shew, that this system, or scheme of things, is but imperfectly comprehended by us. The Scripture expressly asserts it to be so. And, indeed, one cannot read a passage relating to this « great mystery of godliness,” (1 Tim. iii. 16,) but what immediately runs up into something which shews us our ignorance in it; as every thing in nature shers us our ignorance in the constitution of nature. And whoever will seriously consider that part of the Christian scheme which is revealed in Scripture, will find so much more unrevealed, as will convince him, that to all the purposes of judging and objecting, we know as little of it as of the constitution of nature. Our ignorance, therefore, is as much an answer to our objections against the perfection of one, as against the perfection of the other. (Page 319, &c.)

II. It is obvious, too, that in the Christian dispensation, as much as in the natural scheme of things, means are made use of to accomplish ends. And the observation of this furnishes us with the same answer to objections against the perfection of Christianity, as to objections of the like kind against the constitution of nature. It shews the credibility, that the things objected against, how foolish soever they appear to men, (1 Cor. i.) may be the very best means of accomplishing the very best ends. And their appearing foolishness is no presumption against this, in a scheme so greatly beyond our comprehension, (Page 322)

Ill. The credibility, that the Christian dispensation may

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