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instance of his kindness and good-will towards us, as hereby he would shew himself to be concerned for our well-doing. But then, to urge this as an instance of God's acting the part
of an absolute and arbitrary governor, "is, I think, greatly below a man of understanding; because, in truth, there is nothing in it; seeing, it is only contending for such absolute fovereignty in the Deity, as, I presume, no man of understanding ever denied that he might exercise, when the circumstances of things rendered it proper that he should, which is the present case:
i I am alfo fensible, that in difficult and complex cases our discerning faculty is sometimes incapable of distinguishing betwixt truth and error, right and wrong, and consequently is liable to err with respect to both. But then, this is the case as well with as without divine, revelation, there not 'having been any divine revelation yet given to the world, which has discharged us of those difficulties. And, as to revelation itself, our discerning faculty is absolutely necessary to direct us in the use and application of it, for otherwise we are in great danger of being misled by it. Thus for 'example, in the Christian revelation, (which is allowed to be the most perfect of any revela tion that has hitherto come forth under a heavenly character,) we are required to love our enemies, to do good to them that hate us, to take no thought for the morrow, not to resist evil and the like ; which precepts were we not to exercise our discerning faculty in order to discover when, and bow far, and under what circumstances they are to be rules of action to us, we should be in great danger of being misled by them, both to our own, and the publick hurt. So that divine revelation is only intended to asst and help our discerning faculty, and not to supersede it and set it aħde. Our discerning faculty, or in other words our reason, was intended to be our guide, as well in religious matters, as in all other affairs ; and were we to lay it aħide, or suffer it to be overruled, we should lay ourselves open to all delupon. By suffering our reason to be over-ruled, I mean, when we receive that for truth, which appears to our discerning faculty to be error ; that for right, which appears to us to be wrong; such a submission puts us off our guard, and lays us open to all fraud and impofation. As to darkness and mysteries in religion, these, as I have already observed, may answer the purposes of cunning crafty men, but they by no means comport with the wisdom and goodness of God, who has no purpose to anfwer to himself, by any revelation he makes to his creatures, and therefore, can only intend bis creatures good by such revelation, which end darkness and mysteries would not promote, but disappoint. And to argue from mysteries in nature, to mysteries in religion, would be most unsafe; because it tends to disarın us of what God and nature has provided for our fecurity, by rendering, our discerning faculty useless. in
all enquiries about religion. For, if mysteries in religion are to be admitted, because there are mysteries in nature, then the grubest wickedness may be put upon us as religious, and we could have no just objection against it, seeing, in this view of the case, it is to be considered as a mystery, or a religious injunction, that we cannot see the fitness nor reasonableness of. And, tho' it appears plainly to us to be evil, yet that will not be a proper ground for us to reject it; because mysteries in religion are what our discerning faculty cannot comprehend, nor form any judgment about; and therefore it is not to be made use of with respect to them. And there is scarce any thing how vile and wicked foever it may appear to be, but something or other in nature may be found out, and be repesented as analogous to it. That there are, and will be, mysteries in nature is most certain, because in a multitude of cases nature is above the reach of our discerning faculty, and in those instances it must and will be mysterious to us: but will it therefore follow that there may be mysteries in Religion? by no means. Religion is of moral confideration, and is what each individual of our species is particularly interested in, and therefore, in the nature of the thing, it ought to be plain and obvious ; because so far as it is otherwise, as it does not come within the reach of our discerning faculty, so far it can be of no uje nor concern to us." And God would act very preposterously, were he to be at all dark,
where the reason of the thing requires he should be all light. Besides, divine revelation, surely, must be intended to inform and instruct us, and not to amase, perplex, and confound us, which are the produce of darkness and mysteries in religion.
And, though in difficult and complex cases our discerning faculty is sometimes incapable of distinguishing betwixt truth and error, right and wrong, and consequently is liable to err with respect to both, which, as I have already observed, is the case as well with as without divine revelation, and which, indeed, must appear to be the case of man, when we consider how he is to attain knowledge, and how many things there are in his way that are liable to mislead him ; yet, notwithstanding this, his case is by no means desperate. Man (as I have thewn above) is an accountable creature, and, as such, reason requires that he should have fair play for his life, that is, reason requires that he should be dealt with in a way of justice and equity. And therefore, let a man be in what circumstances he will, whether with or without divine revelation, if he does bis best to have his understanding rightly informed as to truth and good, that is, if he does all that in reason and equity can be expected from him in his circumstances to obtain such information, and if he acts honestly and uprightly according to it, he must and will be accepted and approved of God, even though he Thould err with respect to both. I say,
such a man must and will be approved and accepted of God; and the reason is most obvious, because, by such a conduct, he renders himself the suitable and proper object of God's approbation and affection. This must and will be the case, whether men be of high or. low rank in the world, or whether their advantages in it be more or less. And this must and will be the case, in all ages, and under all dispensations, and in all worlds, if I
so speak; because God is equally disposed at all times, even from everlasting to everlasting, to accept and approve of every creature, who. renders himself the suitable and proper object of his approbation and affection, and to difapprove or reprobate every creature, who by his misbehaviour renders himself the suitable and proper object of his dislike and resentment. And though divine revelation may asist and belp our discerning faculty in the discovery of truth and good, and in distinguishing them from their contraries; yet it cannot possibly alter the grounds of our acceptance with God, because that is eternally and unchangeably the same.
But farther, as there are many things that are liable to millead the understandings of men, and as there are many and strong temptations with which men are surrounded, and by which they are in great danger of being sometimes betrayed into folly; fo this renders it unreasonable to expect that man, in his present circumstances, ħould be either infallible or impeccable ;