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the plainest, and most important, and most rational truths in natural religion ; that, instead of aiding the suggestions of nature, and confirming the dictates of reason, it perplexed the one, and refifted the other, and that some of the greatest and most learned men of antiquity, exactly answered the description given of them in fcripture ; “ professing them“ felves to be wise, they became fools * ?” Though superior to all the rest of the world in philosophy and literary attainments, yet in some great points of religious knowledge, they sunk frequently even below the meanest of the people. They ran counter, in short, to the common sense of mankind, and philosophized themselves out of truths, which we now see, and which the bulk of men even then faw, to be conformable to the most natural sentiments of the human mind.
It was therefore highly proper, it was indispensably necessary, that God himself should interpose in a case of such infinite importance ; that Revelation should come to the aid of nature and of reason; should restore them to their original force and power; should rescue * Rom. i. 22.
them out of the hands of science, falfely so called *, whose province, in matters of religion, it has commonly been to spoil mankind with vain deceit t, and to lead those their own good sense and uncorrupted judgement would probably have directed right.
The truth is (but it is a truth which the Freethinker has always been very unwilling to admit) that Christianity has, in fact, contributed
very greatly to that improved state, and advantageous point of view, in which natural religion now appears to us ;
and those who reject the authority of the Gospel, are, without knowing it perhaps, most certainly without owning it, made wiser by its discoveries. In the present instance, particularly, the divine light of Revelation has thrown a brightness on the distant prospect beyond the grave, which has brought out to view, and rendered more distinct, even to the eye of reason, a variety of obscure points, which were before invisible to her unaffifta ed sight. Hence the remarkable difference there is between the reasonings of the antients and the moderns on this question. Hence
* I Tim. vi. 20.
+ Col. ii. 8.
the force, the clearness, the decision, that appear in the one; the perplexity, feebleness, and uncertainty that distinguish the other. Of this, no other probable cause can be assigned, than that the Pagan philosopher had nothing but the wisdom of this world to guide his researches into a future state; whereas the Christian, and even the Deistical philosopher, comes to the enquiry with his mind full of those ideas, which an early acquaintance with Revelation has imperceptibly impressed upon him. To explore a road, which is entirely unknown to us, by a feeble and a dubious light, is a totally different thing from endeavouring to trace it out again by the same light, after it has been once shown to us in broad and open day. The former is the case of the antients, and the latter of the moderns, in respect to a future life.
But besides the benefit derived from Revelation in this respect, there are other advantages, of the utmost importance, which the Gospel doctrine of LIFE AND IMMORTALITY brings along with it; and which give its evidences an infinite superiority over those of natural religion.
The principal of these are,
rewards. ist. The certainty and authority of its proofs.
After giving every possible advantage to the natural evidences of a future state, it must be acknowledged, that they amount to nothing more than great probability. They cannot afford that demonstrative certainty and asurance of this great truth, which is essentially necessary for the compleat satisfaction and comfort of the mind, in so very interesting a point, and for rendering this doctrine a motive of sufficient weight to influence the hearts and regulate the conduct of mankind. Neither of these effects could nature and reason (universally as they had diffused the belief of a future existence) produce in the heathen world. This the writings of their philosophers, and the manners of their people, incontestibly prove. To the Gospel alone we are indebted, for the entire removal of all doubt and uncertainty on this subject ; for
raising hope into confidence, and a mere speculative notion into a vital and most powerful principle of action. It is evident, that nothing less than an express revelation from God himself could do this. He who first brought us into being, can alone give us authentic information, how long that being shall be continued, and in what manner he will dispose of us hereafter. This information he has given us in the Scriptures, and has given it in such plain, and explicit, and awful terms, as must carry conviction to every unprejudiced understanding, and leave the deepest and most useful impressions on every well-disposed mind.
2. Another benefit we derive from Revela. tion, on this head, is the plainness and perspicuity of its proofs. A great part of those evidences of a future state, which reason furnishes, require a considerable degree of attention and confideration, and are therefore better adapted to men of a contemplative, philofophic turn, than to the generality of mankind, who have neither leisure, nor inclination, nor abilities, to enter into long and abstruse disquisitions on this or any other question of importance.