Page images

fuppose, that God may kindly interpose and give a revelation, when the circumstances of things render such an interposition expedient and useful to men. And this was plainly the case of the Christian Revelation. Men were greatly funk in their understandings, and greatly debauched in their affections and actions; and this rendered the Christian Revelation greatly expedient, and greatly useful to mankind. But then, the expedient of this arose, not from any defect in the natural constitution of things, fo as that man could not have done without it, supposing him to have used those abilities and advantages that nature has furnished him with; I say, that the expedience of a revelation does not arise from any such imperfection in the natural constitution of things, but only from a general corruption as aforesaid. Besides, a plain rule of action laid down, is what the bulk of the people can have easy access to, and be guided by, without reasoning upon every fact they happen to be concerned with, and this renders a promulged law of farther use to mankind. Tho' indeed, all revelation and promulged laws have their disadvantages attending them also ; viz. they are liable to be corrupted, altered, and changed, as they fall into the hands of weak or artful men, by which great mischief may accrue to our species. · And this must, in the nature of the thing, be the case of all revelation in general, and has been the cafe of the Christian Revelation in particular, as experience and fact do abundantly testify. Nothing furely has been


more tortured, and made to speak different and opposite things than the Christian Revelation, which has been very fatal in it's consequences to mankind. There has been nothing more opposite and contrary than the various principles and schemes of Christians, the adherers to which have each of them considered his principles and his scheme to be Chriftianity; and all these, tho' never so opposite, have been grounded, of at least pretended to be grounded on the Christian Revelation; by which have been led, not only into falle ways of preserving the happiness of another world, but also groundlessly to bate and persecute, and use one another ill in this. So that, tho' there are great advantages which may attend a revelation and a promulged law; yet these have their disadvan

tages allo.

But farther, Divine Revelation, so far as it comes under the denomination of a law, can be no more, nor no other than a publication, or republication, or an exemplification, of the original and primary law of nature. The law of nature or reason is a perfect law. It is a perfect law as it takes place in, and is a proper rule in all instances and cases, and under all possible circumstances where a law or rule of action is wanting, and as to all other cases that are in themselves

perfectly indifferent, legislature is not concerned with them. It would be an imperfection, even in a human legislator, to command for commanding fake, much more in the great governor of the universe, who has I 2


no vitiated affection to gratify thereby, and therefore can be under no temptation to act below his character. It is also a perfect law as it is a proper rule of action to all intelligent beings; and consequently to the Deity as fuch. It is by this law that God governs his actions, as well when he acts in his legislative, as in his creating capacity; that is, he makes the reason of things, and not capricious bumour and arbitrary pleasure, the measure of his actions in both. God can, with regard to his natural liberty, and as he is above controul, act unreasonably both in his creating and in his legirlative capacity, that is, God can create beings on purpose to make them miserable, and he can give such laws to his subjects as no way answer the ends of government to them, and which serve only to increase the burthen of his subjects duty, and enlarge their guilt upon the breach of such laws; but then we are morally certain that he never will act thus, because such a conduct is wrong in itself, and because there is nothing in nature to excite him to it. To say that God may act thus in order to try our obedience, is most weakly urged ; because, (as I have already observed) our obedience is sufficiently tryed without God's giving us any such laws, and therefore such tryal would be both needless and useless ; and because such tryal can answer no good purpose, and may answer a very bad one, viz. the greatly increasing of our guilt; and consequently there is a reason, resulting from the nature of things,


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

against God's giving any such unnecessary and useless, or rather hurtful, laws to mankind. From what I have observed, I think, it plainly appears that divine revelation, so far as it comes under the denomination of a law, can be no other, nor no more, than a publication, or republication, or an exemplification, of the original and primary law of nature.

I am sensible likewise that God may, if he please, act the part of a Physcian to his creatures, by appointing or directing them to the use of such means as are proper for their spiritual bealth; that is, for their improvement and establishment in piety and virtue. But then, these institutions, (as I have before observed) do not properly come under the denomination of laws, but rather of kind prescriptions, to mankind; these being instituted and intended to be, not so much considered as acts of how mage to God, as means of good to us. God requires the use of these, not so much confidered as acts of obedience to himself, as that we should become wiser and better in the use of them; or at least to preserve us in that good ftate in which we are. As thus, we are required or directed to eat bread and drink wine as memorials of actions that are past, in order to excite in us proper reflexions, and thereby to produce in us suitable affections and actions. Now, it is not our paying obedience to a command, by eating bread and drinking wine, and barely thinking of those things the memory of which was intended to be perpetuated



by those actions ; but it is our performing those actions fo, as to answer the end proposed by the institutor to be obtained by them, which renders the institution of use to us, and which renders us acceptable to God in the use of it. And here it is to be observed, that the institutor might if he pleased have appointed the eating flesh and drinking water, instead of appointing the eating bread and drinking wine to answer the purpose aforesaid; and if he had done so, that purpose would have been as well answered by the former, as by the latter. But then, in this case, the institutor does not act as a legislator, by commanding what is in itself indifferent, but only kindly directs us to the use of a means, which wben rightly used and applied by us, becomes subfervient to the end proposed to be obtained by it, and which would have been the case of any other means; and therefore, to urge this as an instance of God's commanding what is in itself indifferent, is, I think, exceeding weak. Where a good end is to be obtained various ways, and all those ways are equally subfervient to that end then it must be a matter of indifference which of those ways is made use of to obtain it; and were God to interpose and command, or appoint, or direct, (for whatever word is used in the present case it mattereth not, because words do not make things to be otherwise than they are in themselves,) I say, were God to appoint- or direct us to pursue that end in one or other of these ways, this would be an


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »