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declining a Duty so very hard to practise, when it comes to the Cases of the last Extremity : But
yet these are but Excuses, and founded in Ignorance of the Nature of Religion, and of the great Ends to be served
Were we to estimate our Religion by the Service or Benefit done to God, we might part with it all at once : He gets no more by the Sincerity of our Hearts,. than by our outward Professions; and therefore
this View we may bid adieu to both. If you think; however, that there is something in inward Sincerity that is agreeable in his Sight, that renders Men acceptable to him, I wonder, at the same time, you should not think Hypocrisy and Dissimulation with the World odious in his Sight, and such Vices as will render us detestable to him.
To suppose inward Sincerity consistent with an external Hypocrisy toward the World, is itself a very great Absurdity. For what is Hypocrisy ? Is it not professing one thing, and meaning another? And is not this the very Case, when a Man, supposed to be right in his Faith towards God, denies his Faith before the World? Yes, you will say; but this is only dissembling towards the World, and not towards God. I beseech you, whence this
Distinction? What is diffemuiing towards God? Was ever any Man fo foolish, as to imagine that he could indeed deceive God by any kind of Diffimulation ? No Hypocrite can have this Notion. If he is an Atheist, he has no Thought of deceiving God, whose very Being he denies. If he is not an Atheist, he must needs know so much of God, as to know it to be impossible for him to impose on God. Hypocrisy therefore has no higher Aim than to deceive the World; and whoever denies the Religion he believes in his Heart, or professes one which he does not believe, is a formal Hypocrite, and subject to all the Charges and Penalties brought against Hypocrisy in Holy Writ. So that supposing a Mian obliged to say any thing about his Religion, he must necessarily say the Truth, or be liable to the Pains of Hypocrify and Diffimulation.
But it may be farther asked perhaps, How comes it to be necessary for a Man to say any thing about his Religion? How comes Confefsion with the Mouth to be made a Term of Salvation in the Gospel ? Is not Religion a Transaction between God and every
Man's own Soul; how come the rest of the World then to be concerned about my Religion ?
What Right have they to inquire about it? Or where is the Reason, why I should be bound to inform them concerning it by an open Profession of my Belief?
To come to a clear Resolution of this Question, we must consider the Nature of Religion, and the Ends proposed to be served by it. , For, if Religion be nothing else but a secret Transaction between God and the Soul of Man, no Reason can be assigned why we should publish to the World an Affair in which they have no Concern. But the Case is otherwise ; for though nothing is properly Religion but as it respects God, yet, generally speaking, the Duties of Religion regard this World, and have a very great Influence upon the Well-being of it. We must have a very strange Notion of God, if we can imagine that he requires any Duty of us merely for his own fake. What can he get by our Service? What additional Glory and Honour can accrue to the eternal Godhead from our Prayers or Praises ?
When God made us reasonable Creatures, he made us capable of knowing and obeying him. The great Character in which he appears to us of Governor of the World, is that which demands our Obedience: And
consequently consequently Religion is a Principle of Obedience to God, as Governor of the World: It cannot therefore possibly be a mere secret Concern between God and every Man's Conscience, fince it respects him in so public à Character, and must extend to every Thing in which God, as Governor of the World, is supposed to be concerned. To deny a Prince's Authority in his own Dominions is a Degree of Treason; and if Religion does in truth respect God as Governor of the World, to own his Authority in the World must needs be the principal Article of it. For surely it is impossible to pay the proper Respect and Obedience which is due to the Governor of the World, whilst we deny him, in the Face of the World, to be the Governor of it. Thus from the Nature of Religion it appears, that to profess our Belief and Faith in God as Governor of the World is an essential Article, without the Observance of which we can by no means pretend to be religious.
But farther : If any religious Obedience be due to God as Governor of the World, it must principally consist in promoting the great End of his Government. We can never be obedient Subjects to any Government, whilst we endeayour to disturb all the Ends VOL. III. Вь
and Designs which such Government was ordained to promote. Now fuppose the End of God's Government of the World, with respect to the rational Part of it, to be whatever your Reason shall suggest to
you, certain it is, that whoever teaches and encourages Men to deny God to be Governor of the World, and this every Man does who refuses to own him as such, does, in the most effectual Manner, disturb the End of his Government. And this is absolutely inconsistent with Religion, if Religion be a Principle of Obedience to God as Governor of the World.
Again : If it be really, as it is, impossible for us to do God any private Service by which he may be the better, it is very absurd to imagine that Religion can confift, or be
preserved by any secret Belief or Opinion, how cordially foever embraced.
What Thanks can be due to you for filently believing God to be the Governor of the World, whilst you openly deny it, and in your Actions disclaim it? Even this Principle, which is the Foundation of all Religion, has nothing of Religion in it, so long as it is inactive, and confists in Speculation, without bringing forth Fruits agreeable to such a Persuasion: Much less can it be Religion, whilst you openly