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the plaineft, and most important, and most rational truths in natural religion; that, instead of aiding the fuggeftions of nature, and confirming the dictates of reason, it perplexed the one, and refifted the other; and that fome of the greatest and most learned men of antiquity, exactly answered the description given of them in fcripture; "profeffing them"felves to be wife, they became fools?" Though fuperior to all the reft of the world. in philofophy and literary attainments, yet in fome great points of religious knowledge, they funk frequently even below the meanest of the people. They ran counter, in short, to the common sense of mankind, and philofophized themselves out of truths, which we now fee, and which the bulk of men even then faw, to be conformable to the most natural fentiments of the human mind.
It was therefore highly proper, it was indifpenfably neceffary, that God himself should interpofe in a cafe of fuch infinite importance; that Revelation fhould come to the aid of nature and of reafon; fhould restore them to their original force and power; fhould rescue
• Rom. i. 22.
them out of the hands of fcience, falfely fo called, whofe province, in matters of religion, it has commonly been to spoil mankind with vain deceit, and to lead those wrong, whom their own good fenfe 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 many of those who reject the authority of the Gospel, are, without knowing it perhaps, most certainly without owning it, made wifer by its difcoveries. In the present inftance, particularly, the divine light of Revelation has thrown a brightness on the diftant profpect beyond the grave, which has brought out to view, and rendered more distinct, even to the eye of reafon, a variety of obfcure points, which were before invifible to her unaffifted fight. Hence the remarkable difference there is between the reasonings of the antients and the moderns on this question. Hence
+ Col. ii. 8.
1 Tim. vi. 20.
the force, the clearness, the decifion, that appear in the one; the perplexity, feebleness, and uncertainty that diftinguish the other. Of this, no other probable caufe can be affigned, than that the Pagan philosopher had nothing but the wisdom of this world to guide his researches into a future ftate; whereas the Christian, and even the Deistical philofopher, comes to the enquiry with his mind full of those ideas, which an early acquaintance with Revelation has imperceptibly impreffed 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 fame light, after it has been once shown to us in broad and open day. The former is the cafe of the antients, and the latter of the moderns, in refpect to a future life.
But befides 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 fuperiority over those of natural religion.
The principal of these are,
ift. The certainty and authority of its proofs.
2dly. Their plainness and perfpicuity. 3dly. The nature and duration of its rewards.
ift. The certainty and authority of its proofs. After giving every poffible advantage to the natural evidences of a future ftate, it must be acknowledged, that they amount to nothing more than great probability. They cannot afford that demonftrative certainty and afurance of this great truth, which is essentially neceffary for the compleat satisfaction and comfort of the mind, in fo very interefting a point, and for rendering this doctrine a motive of fufficient weight to influence the hearts and regulate the conduct of mankind. Neither of thefe effects could nature and reafon (univerfally as they had diffused the belief of a future existence) produce in the heathen world. This the writings of their philofophers, and the manners of their people, inconteftibly prove. To the Gospel alone we are indebted, for the entire removal of all doubt and uncertainty on this fubject; for M 2
raifing hope into confidence, and a mere fpeculative notion into a vital and most powerful principle of action. It is evident, that nothing less than an exprefs revelation from God himfelf 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 bas given us in the Scriptures, and has given it in fuch plain, and explicit, and awful terms, as must carry conviction to every unprejudiced understanding, and leave the deepest and most ufeful impreffions on every well-difpofed
2. Another benefit we derive from Revelation, on this head, is the plainnefs and perfpicuity of its proofs. A great part of those evidences of a future ftate, which reason furnishes, require a confiderable 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 leifure, nor inclination, nor abilities, to enter into long and abftrufe difquifitions on this or any other question of importance. But