Page images

will more fully appear in the following discourse,) INTRO. would unavoidably lead them to Christianity; but, being such as they really are, they cannot possibly avoid recurring to downright atheism.

The sum is this : There is now* no such thing as a consistent scheme of deism. That which alone was once such,namely, the scheme of the best heathen philosophers, ceases now to be so, after the appearance of revelation; because (as I have already shown, and shall more largely prove in the sequel of this discourse, it directly conducts men to the belief of Christianity. All other pretences to deism may, by unavoidable consequence, be forced to terminate in absolute atheism. He that cannot prevail with himself to obey the Christian doctrine, and embrace those hopes of life and immortality which our Saviour has brought to light through the Gospel, cannot now be imagined to maintain with any firmness, steadiness, and certainty, the belief of the immortality of the soul and a future state of rewards and punishments after death; because all the main difficulties and objections lie equally against both. For the same reason, he who disbelieves the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and punishments, cannot defend, to any effectual purpose, or enforce with any sufficient strength, the obligations of morality and natural religion, notwithstanding that they are indeed incumbent upon men, from the very nature and reason of the things themselves. Then, he who gives up the obligations of morality and natural religion, cannot possibly have any just and worthy notion of the moral attributes of God, or any true sense of the nature and necessary difference of things; and he that once goes thus far has no foundation left upon which he can be sure of the natural attributes or even of the existence of God; because, to deny what unavoidably follows from the supposition of


* Ita sit, ut si ab illa rerum summa, quam superius comprehendimus, aberravercs, omnis ratio intereat, et ad nihilum omnia revertantur.-Lactan, lib. 7,

[ocr errors]



ÍNTRO. his existence and natural attributes, is in reality de

nying those 'natural attributes and that existence it. self. On the contrary, he who believes the being and natural attributes of God, must of necessity (as has been shown in my former discourse) confess his moral attributes also. Next, he who owns, and has just notions of the moral attributes of God, cannot 'avoid acknowledging the obligations of morality and natural religion. In like mamer, he who owns the obligations of morality and natural religion must needs, to support those obligations, and make them effectual in practice, believe a future state of rewards and punishments. And, finally, he who believes both the obligations of natural religion and the certainty

a future state of rewards and punishments, has no manner of reason left why he should reject the Christian revelation, when proposed to him in its original and genuine simplicity. Wherefore, since those arguments which demonstrate to us the being and attributes of God are so closely connected with those which prove the reasonableness and certainty of the Christian revelation, that there is now no consistent scheme of deism left,--all modern deists being forced to shift from one cavil to another, and having no fixedandcertain set of principles toadhere to;-I thought I could no way better prevent their ill designs, and obviate all their different shifts and objections, than by endeavouring, in the same method of reasoning by which I before demonstrated the being and attributes of God, to prove, in like manner, by one direct and continued thread of arguing, the reasonableness and certainty of the Christian revelation also.

To proceed therefore to the proof of the propositions themselves.

I. The same necessary and eternal different relations that different things bear one to another, and the same consequent fitness or unfitness of the application of different things or different relations one to another, with regard to which the will of God always


and necessarily does determine itself, to choose to PROP. act only what is agreeable to justice, equity, goodness, and truth, in order to the welfare of the whole universe, ought likewise constantly to determine the wills of all subordinate rational beings, to govern all their actions by the same rules, for the good of the public, in their respective stations; that is, these eternal and necessary differences of things make it fit and reasonable for creatures so to act: They cause it to be their duty, or lay an obligation upon them so to do, even separate from the consideration of these rules being the positive will or command of God, and also antecedent to any respect or regard, expectation or apprehension, of any particular private and personal advantage or disadvantage, reward or punishment, either present or future, annexed either by natural consequence, or by positive appointment, to the practising or neglecting of those rules.

The several parts of this proposition may be, proved distinctly, in the following manner.



differences of

I. That there are differences of things, and differ- That there ent relations, respects, or proportions, of some things and neces! towards others, is as evident and undeniable as that one magnitude or number is greater, equal to, or

things. smaller than another. That from these different relations of different things there necessarily arises an agreement or disagreement of some things with others, or a fitness or unfitness of the application of different things or different relations one to another, is likewise as plain as that there is any such thing as proportion or disproportion in geometry and arithmetic, or uniformity or difformity in comparing together the respective figures of bodies. Further, that there is a fitness or suitableness of certain circumstances to certain persons, and an unsuitableness of others, founded in the nature of things and the qualifications of persons antecedent to all positive appointment whatsoever; also, that, from the different. relations of different persons one to another, there necessarily arises a fitness or unfitness of certain man


PROP. ners of behaviour of some persons towards others;

is as manifest as that the properties which flow from the essences of different mathematical figures have different congruities or incongruities between them selves, or that, in mechanics, certain weights or powers have very different forces, and different effects one upon another, according to their different distances, or different positions and situations in respect of each other: For instance ; that God is infinitely superior to men is as clear as that infinity is larger than a point, or eternity longer than a moment; and it is as certainly fit that men should honour and worship, obey and imitate God, than on the contrary in all their actions endeavour to dishonour and disobey him, as it is certainly true that they have an entire dependence on him, and he, on the contrary, can in no respect receive any advantage from them; and not only so, but also that his will is as certainly and unalterably just and equitable in giving bis commands as his power is irresistible in requiring submission to it. Again : It is a thing absolutely and necessarily fitter in itself, that the supreme author and creator of the universe should govern, order, and direct all things to certain and constant regular ends, than that every thing should be permitted to go on at adventures, and produce uncertain effects merely by chance and in the utmost confusion, without any determinate view or design at all. It is a thing manifestly fitter in itself, that the all-powerful governor of the world should do always what is best in the whole, and what tends most to the universal good of the whole creation, than that he should make the whole continually miserable, or that, to satisfy the unreasonable desires of any particular depraved natures, he should at any time suffer the order of the whole to be altered and perverted. Lastly, it is a thing evidently and infinitely more fit, that any one particular innocent and good being should, by the supreme ruler and disposer of all things, be placed and preserved in an easy and happy estate, than that,


[ocr errors]


without any fault or demerit of its own, it should PROP. be made extremely, remedilessly, and endlessly miserable. In like manner, in men's dealing and conversing one with another, it is undeniably more fit, absolutely and in the nature of the thing itself, that all men should endeavour to promote the universal good and welfare of all, than that all men should be continually contriving the ruin and destruction of all. It is evidently more fit, even before all positive bargains and compacts, that men should deal one with another according to the known rules of justice and equity, than that every man, for his own present ad-" vantage, should, without scruple, disappoint the most reasonable and equitable expectations of his neighbours, and cheat and defraud, or spoil by violence, all others, without restraint. Lastly, it is, without dispute, more fit and reasonable in itself, that I should preserve the life of an innocent man, that happens at any time to be in my power, or deliver him from any imminent danger, though I have never made him any promise so to do, than that I should suffer him to perish, or take away his life, without any reason or provocation at all.

These things are so notoriously plain and self-evi- The abdent that nothing but the extremest stupidity of surdity of mind, corruption of manners, or perverseness of spi- deny the rit, can possibly make any man entertain the least eternal and doubt concerning them. For a man indued with necessary reason, to deny the truth of these things, is the very of things. same thing as if a man that has the use of his sight should, at the same time that he beholds the sun, deny that there is any such thing as light in the world; or as if a man that understands geometry or arithmetic, should deny the most obvious and known proportions of lines or numbers, and perversely contend that the whole is not equal to all its parts, or that a square is not double to a triangle of equal base and height. Any man of ordinary capacity, and unbiassed judgment, plainness, and simplicity, who had never read, and had never been told, that there were

those who


« PreviousContinue »