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lage has its wiseman, who dictates as philosopher and divine, gains his circle of admirers, and like a Cato gives laws to his little senate. Though no writings or pompous monuments perpetuate his name to posterity, yet he lives in the memory of his own contemporaries; and tradition hands him down the Descartes or Newton of his
When a man of genius and learning takes it into his head to imagine what nature and God must be, his ambition prompts him to print. He garnishes out his notions with all the embellishments of style, and seasons them to the prevailing taste of the
age. If they happen to meet with a general run of credit, whether by the interest of some men in power, or the mere caprice of the times, no matter which, they then soon become fashionable ; for there is a mode in opinions as well as in dress. In this case the man's fame is established. He is made master of the mint of notions for his life; and whatever comes coined from his hands, passes for current. He lives the hero of his age, and is deified
at his death; his writings become the standard and test of our faith, both in philosophy and theology, till some other aspiring fellow starts up, invents a more plausible story, or the natural fickleness and giddiness of mankind, prone to novelty, receive it as such.
The last and present age afford us two notable instances of the truth of this observation; I mean Monf. Descartes and Sir Isaac Newton. The works of the former sharing the fate of their author, lie buried in dust and oblivion ; while those of the latter are fresh as his monument, and in the opinion of his admirers will last as long.
This defire, so strongly implanted in the mind of man, to know nature and its author, makes it highly reasonable to believe, that either God has given man a faculty, whereby he
may attain a satisfactory knowledge of the Creator, and his works; or otherwise, that he has been pleased, in some manner or other, to make a revelation of this so much wanted, so much desired knowledge. That man is possessed of no A 2
such faculty, seems probable from this, that, by what is handed down to us, none of the ancients could either frame a story concerning these matters, which would bear the telling, or agree in telling it; which they certainly might have done, if such knowledge was attainable by natural abilities. Their method in the search of these truths plainly shews they never dreamed of any such thing; for they ran about from place to place, to pick up what blind accounts they could from tradition, and from the hieroglyphical representations pre served in the temples of their gods; which, had they had this knowledge so nigh home, as within themselves, might have saved them the trouble of going so far abroad.
As, by their manner of enquiring, they appear to have had no notion of
such innate knowledge, so by the fruit of their enquiries we may be satisfied they had it not. Their accounts are all equally inconsistent; all equally short of the truth.
If man, by searching, could find out the
Almighty and his works to perfection, we might have expected, before this, to have had one perfect uniform scheme of philosophy and divinity, which the wisemen of all ages had agreed to, and received as truth. In fact, we find no such system; each being destructive of, and built upon the ruins of the other. How this should come to pass, if these are matters discoverable by reason and the light of nature, has not been duly considered, nor satisfactorily solved, by those, who, with so much confidence, assert the affirmative.
For a particular genius to rise up,
and give the world the light it has wanted, in points of such universal import, more than these five thousand years, for any thing appears to the contrary; fuppofing, at the same time, reason and the light of nature sufficient for the discoveries; is an hypothesis which looks more like inspiration, or a certain revelation made to a particular favourite of Heaven, than a natural faculty implanted in the minds of all men, improveable by study; and when so improved, ca
pable of the highest discoveries, both of things in this and in another state.
REASON, and the light of nature, as they are common to all men, though not in the fame degree, if they are to be the guide of our actions, the test of our faith in all matters here, and the rule whereby we are to be tried or judged hereafter, should shine so strong and clear in each individual, as to be able, if not to discover, at least to fee and approve the truth when so discover: ed; otherwise they would not be of any benefit to mankind, nor answer, to man, the design and end for which they were given. If the perfect knowledge of nature and its author was never discovered till these our present happy times; how came this common light of reason to shoot fo faint and glimmering a ray, as never before to make the discovery? If these points were known before, when, and by what means, was this knowledge loft, and by what fate happened it, that the same means could never, before now, make the same discoveries ? For it feems to be an event the most surprising,