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tion; and not be as immutable as the Author of it? Can Revelation, I say, add any Thing to a Religion thus absolutely perfect, universal, and immutable? Besides, If God has giv'n Mankind a Law, he must have giv’n chem likewise sufficient Means of knowing it ; he wou'd, otherwise, have defeated his own Intent in giving it ; since a Law, as far as it is unintelligible, ceases to be a Law. Shall we say, that God, who had the forming human Understanding, as well as his own Laws, did not know how to adjust the one to the other ?
If God, at all Times, was willing all Men Mould come to the. Knowledge of bis Truth ; cou'd not his infinite Wisdom and Power, at all Times, find sufficient Means, for making Mankind capable of knowing, what his infinite Goodness design'd they shou'd know.
B. I grant You, that God was always willing, that ALL Men shou'd come to the Knowledge of True Religion; and we say, that the Christian Religion being the Only True and Absolutely Perfect Religion, was what God, from the Beginning, design’d for all Mankind..
A. If so, it follows, That thc. Christian Religion has existed from the Beginning; and that God, both Then, and Ever fince, has continu'd to give all Mankind sufficient Means to know It; and that 'tis their Duty to know, believe, profess, and practise It; so that Christianity, tho' the Name is of a later Date, must be as old, and as extensive, as humane Nature; and as the Law of our Creation, must. have been Then implanted in us by God himself. •
B. It wou'd be too presuming in us poor Mortals, to : pretend to account for the Methods Providence takes, in Relation to the Discovery of its Will; and, therefore, a Person of less Moderation, might condemn your Questions as captious, presumptuous, and founded in Heterodoxy..
· A. IF God never intended Mankind Mou'd at any Time be. without Religion, or have false Religions; and there be but One True Religion, which ALL have been ever bound to believe, and profess; I can't see any Heterodoxy in affirming, that the Means to effect this End of infinite Wifdom, must be as universal and extensive as the End itself; or that Al Men, at all Times, must have had sufficient Means to discover whatever God design'd they shou'd know, and practise. I do not mean by. This, that All Thou'd have equal Knowledge.; but that All fou'd have what is sufficient for the Circumstances they are in.
B. Since You have ask'd me Questions, let me, in my Turn, demand of You, What are your Sentiments in this Matter? Particularly,,What are those Means, which, You fuppose, God bas, at all Times, given the whole Race of Mankind, to enable them to discover what he wills them to know, believe, profess, and practise ?
A. I ask'd You those few Questions at present, not 'to' determine the Point; but only to let you see, You had no Reason to be surpris’d at my saying, Natural, and Reveald Religion only differ as to the Manner of their being communicated: I shall now readily answer your Questions; and, as I think it my Duty never to disown my religious Sentiments, so I freely declare, that the Use of those Faculties, by which Men are diftinguish'd from Brutes, is the Only Means they have to discern whether there is a God ; and whether he concerns himself with human Affairs, or has given them any Laws; and what those Laws are ? And as Men have no other Faculties to judge with, so their using These after the best Manner they can, must answer the End for which God gave them, and justify their Conduct: For,
If God will judge Mankind as they are accountable, that is, as they are rational ; the Judgment must hold an exact Proportion to the. Use they make of their Reason. And it wou'd be in vain to use it, if the due Use of it wou'd not justify them before God; and Men wou'd be in a miserable Condition, indeed, if whether they us’d it, or not, they shou'd be alike criminal. And if God defign'd all Mankind Thou'd at all Times know, what he wills them to know, believe, profess, and practise ; and has giv’n them no other Means for this, but the Use of Reason ; Reason, human Reason, must then be that Means; for as God has made us rational Creatures, and Reafon tells us, that 'tis his Will, that we act up to the Dignity of our Natures ; so 'tis Reason must tell when we do so. What God requires us to know, believe, profess, and practise, must be in itself a reasonable Service ; but whether what is offer'd to us as fuch, be really so, 'tis Reason alone which must judge; as the Eye is the fole Judge of what is visible ; the Ear of what is audible; so Reason of what is reasonable. If then, Reason was giv'n Men to bring them to the Knowledge of God's Will, That must be sufficient to produce its intended Effect, and can never bring Men to take That for his Will, which he design'd, They, by using their Reason, shou'd avoid as contrary to it.
B. If Men, having done all in their Power, all that God requires of 'em to find out his Will, shou'd fall into opposite Sentiments ; must it not be the Will of God that it shou'd be fo ? Can God will such a previous Examination, and not will what he foreknows must be the necessary Consequence ?
A. There is, I think, no Way to avoid this Objection, of God's willing Contrarieties ; but by supposing he requires nothing of Men, but what is founded on the Nature of Things, and the immutable Relations they bear to one another; and what, consequently, they are, as far as concerns 'em, capable of knowing. But this Objection is unanswerable by those, who believe the Will of God is not always thus founded ; but may contain many merely positive Things ; since Men may, after having taken all poflible Care to be in the right, have very opposite Sentiments; and be oblig'd, by the Will of God, to hold, and act Contrarieties.
B. Tho' this Subject is attended with the utmost Difficulties, yet I find little, or nothing, said to solve 'em ; I, for my Part, know not how to deny Mens being acceptable to God, whatever their Opinions may be, after having us’d all the Means God has endow'd 'em with for the Discovery of his Will ; and yet I don't know how to admit it: For then, what Religion soever Men are of, if they have duly us’d such Means as God ordain'd for the Discovery of his Will; That, I say, how opposite soever to Christianity, must be the Religion God design'd 'em. And on the other Hund, shou'd I own, that the duly using those Means wou'd have caus’d Men to have been all of one Religion ; yet I can't see how That cou'd be the Christian Religion, except It has existed from the Beginning; and all Men, at all Times, have had sufficient Means to discover it. For,
If God was always willing, That All Men Nould come to the Knowledge of his. Truth; and there never was a Time, when God intended Men shou'd have no Religion ; or such an imperfect Religion, which cou'd not answer the End of its being instituted by an infinitely wise Legislator ; This seems to my bewilder'd Reason to imply, that there was from the Beginning but One True Religion, which all Men might know was their Duty to embrace; and if This is true, I can't well conceive, how this Character can consist with Christianity ; without allowing it. at the same Tme, to be as old as the Creation. And yet notwithstanding all these seeming Difficulties, I am confident the Christian Religion is The Only True Religion ; but since these Difficulties are of your raising, I may, in Justice, expect that You shou'd folve 'cm. .
A. Thus, I must own, is a difficult Point; however, I Mall tell you my Sentiments ; which, I, far from being a Dogmatizer, am ready to give up, if You can frame any other Hypothesis not liable to the fame Objections ; or Others equally strong ; tho’ I may venture to say, that I take mine to be the Only One, which can give any tolerable Satisfaction to your present Doubts. And there.fore, I shall attempt to New You, That Men, if they fincerely endeavour to discover the Will of God, will perceive, that there's a Law of Nature, or Reason ; which is so call’d, as being a Law, which is common, or naTural, to all racional Creatures ; and That this Law, like its Author, is absolutely perfect, eternal, and unchangeable ; and That the Design of the Gospel was not to add to, or take from this Law; but to free Men from that Load of Superstition, which had been mix'd with it : So that True CHRISTIANITY is not a Religion of Yesterday, but what God, at the Beginning, dictated, and fill continues to dictate to Christians, as well as Others. If I am so happy as to succeed in this Attempt, I hope, not only fully to fatisfy yonr Doubts, but greatly to advance the Honour of External Revelation ; by shewing the perfect Agreement between That, and Internal Revelation ; and by so doing, destroy one of the most succetstul Attempts that has been made on Religion, by setting she Laws of God at Variance.