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genuous opposition, from us; it is also to be considered, what conduct wisdom prescribes in such a case. Were there no guilt in treating revelation with contempi, or opposition, yet no man of prudence would wilfully deprive himself of any probable advantage for information and improvement, from whatever quarter it might come. Nor will any wise man think lightly of a scheme in. tended, as Divine Revelation is, for the important ends of republishing, with a set of authoritative fanctions, the religion of nature, and fixing beyond all dispute the duty of mankind, and the means for attaining their greatest happiness; and for communicating to them various important truths not known before, nor discoverable by human reason. That revelation has effectually. done these things, will appear by the general view of it, that will be exhibited in the second section.
A direct, explicit law, given by Divine Authority, is the very thing which such a short-fighted, and imperfect order of beings as mankind, were peculiarly in want of. Nor is any method so lit for governing a set of creatures generally unqualified for reasoning out, with proper clearness and certainty, the means of attaining happiness, as a distinct syltem of rules of conduct guarded by proper sanctions.
Is not all human government constituted on that foundation? When a new state or colony is to be settled, do the founders trust to the reason of a mised multitude for the observance of equity, the security of property, and happiness of the whole? And was it not a more effectual way to lead mankind to the love of God, and one another, to give them an express law to that purpose, than to leave it to their own reasonings, to find out their duty to their Creator, and to one another, and whether they might trifle with it, or refolve faithfully to perform it? Therefore mankind have, probably, in no age been wholly left to their own reason : but a standing positive institution has all along been kept up in one part of the world, or other; and would in all probability have been more universally, as well as more conspicuously established; but for the wickedness of mankind, which rendered themunworthy of partaking universally of this blefling, and occafioned
its being imparted to them in a more obscure and limited manner.
We are at present in a state of discipline; and every thing is intended as a part of our trial, and means of improvement. Revelation may be considered in the same light. A message from heaven is brought to our ears, attended with such evidences, as may be sufficient to convince the unprejudiced mind of its being genuine; but at the same time not so ascertained, but that pretences for cavilling at, and opposing it, may, by disingenuous men, be found. If this gives an opportunity for the exercise of honelt inquiry, and exhibits in the fairelt light the different characters of the fincere, but cautious, and inquisitive lover of truth; of the indolent, unthinking, and credulous, who believes with the multitude; and of the perverse and disingenuous, who rejects whatever is not suitable to his ways of thinking or living; if revelation does these things, is it not to be reckoned one of the noblest trials of the present state ? And is it not promulgated in the very manner it ought to have been.
Standing oracles were probably some of the firit methods which the Divine Wislom made use of to com. municate particular express informations to mankind. There was an appointed place, to which worshippers resorted, and consulting, received answers, and directions. Spiritual beings were employed in revealing the Divine Will to mankind. And in visions and dreams, communications were given to men of characters eminent for virtue and piety. A race of prophets, or persons under Divine Influence, succeeding to one another, so as there should be no long period without one or more such inspired men, kept up an impression of the superintendency of God, and of the necessity of obedience to Him. But we know of no method fo proper for communicating to mankind in general, a set of useful informations; so as to be of lasting, constant, and extensive advantage to them, as their being committed to writing, by which means they are easily accessible to all, to be consulted at all times and in all places.
The revelation, therefore, with which we are blessed, has been, by the Divine Providence directed to be penned
by Mofes, the Prophets, and Apostles; and has been wonderfully preserved for many ages, free, for any thing we know, or have reason to suspect, from material corruptions and alterations; and in it we have all informations necessary for our conduct here, and happiness hereafter.
Whoever chooses to enlarge the sphere of his inquiry as wide as possible, may examine the several schemes of religion, which have pretended to a Divine Original
, and by comparing them together, he will soon find which bears the characters of being truly from heaven.
As to us, who live in these happy realms of knowledge and freedom of inquiry, the Religion contained in the Scripture of the Old and New Testaments offers itself more immediately, and challenges our chief and most attentive examination ; it is therefore evident, that it lies immediately upon us to inquire into its pretensions ; and that we may more safely neglect all the others; none of which the Divine Providence has given us so fair an opportunity of examining, or made so clearly our duty to inquire into. But to inquire into religion in an impartial manner, a man must begin with shaking off all prejudice, from education and general opinion, and must suppose himself a mere unprincipled Indian, not biassed to any species of religion in the world. He must likewise resolve to go through the whole of what he is to examine ; not contenting himself with a partial and imperfect view of things, which is the way to acquire imperfect and mistaken notions. He must also go directly to the fountain, if he would know the true virtues of the water of life; that is, he must, to know the religion of the Scriptures, go directly to the Scriptures, and study them more than all the Systems or Bodies of Divinity in the world.
There is no greater hindrance to the candid examination and ready reception of so pure and strict a scheme of Religion as the Chriftian, than a fatal attachment to vice. This was the original obstacle, which retarded its eftablishment in the world, at its first appearance ; has prevented its progress ever since ; has disguised and deformed its native beauty ; has almost wholly der feated its genuine intention, in one church; and raised enemies against it, even in this land of light, in an age immediately succeeding to the times, in which it stood the examination of the ableit inquirers, and came out established upon a more rational foundation, than ever it stood upon, from the apostolic age downwards. It will therefore be necessary, above all things, for the inquirer into the truth of Christianity, to purge his mind from every corrupt affection, that may prompt him to wish to find it fufpicious or false; to take no counsel with flesh and blood ; but to labour to work himself up to that pitch of heavenly-mindedness, which it requires; that so he may not only be wholly unprejudiced against it, but may be disposed to listen to reason in its favour, and may find within himself a witness to its truth.
SECT. I. Previous Objections againjt a Revelation in general, and
that of Scripture in particular, considered. Revelation had not been given to mankind, had velation should ever have been looked on as superfluous, by any person who knew the world; but on the contrary, that all such would readily acknowledge, that if it were possible to have yet another additional Revelation, or advantage for virtue, mankind would not then be at all too good. Nor can any one help seeing the real eventual advantage of Revelation, wbo knows any thing of the difference between the condition, as to knowledge and virtue, of thofe ages and nations, which have, and those which have not enjoyed the light of it, And here it is to be remembered, that in all probability it is a very small part of our knowledge that is the genuine acquisition of mere human reason, wholly unaffifted. The very use of letters seems to have pretenfions to a greater author than Cadmus, or than Mofes. And probably the whole of the religious knowledge we posless, is originally owing to revelation.
there been no need of it, in such a sense as that it must prove wholly useless. . But the question is, whether it is not an absurdity to talk of a genuine revelation's being needless, or useless, can any thing be said to be needless or useless that is calculated to improve mankind? If a set of moral instructions from one person will be of any service to me, can it be said, that more of the same kind will be useless? If I had already digested all the knowledge, that is to be got in books, and by conversation with the wise and learned of my own fpecies, would the conversation of a superior being be needless and uieless to me? Nay, if the archangel Gabriel had in his power to receive some new informations by Revelation from God, would he neglect them, as needłess and useless, because his knowledge is already immensely extensive? Those objectors to Revelation, who talk of its being unnecessary, do not seem to have clear ideas to their words. For if they had, they never would think of limiting the Divine Goodness to his creatures, or of alleging, that their advantages for happiness were too great. Nor would one think that Re
The deplorable darkness and ignorance, in which those of our species are found involved, who have lived detached from the rest of mankind, and have never enjoyed, or have wholly loft, all traces of revealed knowledge (if that be really the case of any people, which is to be doubted) is a proof of the advantage of Revelation. And it is only from what we find to be the case of those newly discovered nations, who have undoubtedly few supernatural advantages, that we can fairly judge, what the state of mankind in general would have been, if the fpecies had been left wholly to themselves. For, as to this side of the globe, it is to be questioned, if there ever was any people upon it, who could be said to be in a perfect state of nature, as will afterwards appear.
The despisers of Revealed Religion, on account of the All-sufficiency of human reason, are desired to consider the following proofs of its boasted sufficiency in matters of both belief and practice.
The only account we have of the Antediluvian manners, is that given by Mofes, viz. That all flesh corrupted their ways to such a degree, as to render it necessary to purify the earth by a general deluge. Of the partriarchal times, the only accounts we have are likewise from the same yenerable writer ; which thew