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appears deliberate throughout his operations; accomplishing his natural ends by slow successive steps. And there is a plan of things beforehand laid out, which, from the nature of it, requires various systems of means, as well as length of time, in order to the carrying on its several parts into execu tion. Thus, in the daily course of natural providence, God operates in the very same manner as in the dispensation of Christianity making one thing subservient to another; this, to somewhat farther; and so on, through a progressive series of means, which extend, both backward and forward, beyond our utmost view. Of this manner of operation, every thing we see in the course of nature is as much an instance, as any part of the Christian dispensation.
Of the particular System of Christianity; the Appointment of a Mediator, and the Redemption of the World by him.
THERE is not, I think, any thing relating to Christianity, which has been more objected against, than the mediation of Christ, in some or other of its parts. Yet, upon thorough consideration, there seems nothing less justly liable to it. For,
I. The whole analogy of nature removes all imagined presumption against the general notion of 'a Mediator between God and man.'* For we find, all living creatures are brought into the world, and their life in infancy is preserved, by the instrumentality of others; and every satisfaction of it, some way or other, is bestowed by the like means. So that the visible government, which God exercises over the world, is by the instrumentality and mediation of others. And how far his invisible government be or be not so, it is impossible to determine at all by reason. And the supposition, that part of it is so, appears, to say the least, altogether as credible as the contrary. There is then no sort of objection, from the light of nature, against the general notion of a mediator between God and man, considered as a doctrine of Christianity, or as an appointment in this dispensation; since we find, by experience, that God does appoint mediators, to be the instru ments of good and evil to us, the instruments of his justice and his mercy. And the objection here referred to is urged, not against mediation in that high, eminent, and peculiar sense, in which Christ is our mediator; but absolutely against the whole notion itself of a mediator at all.
II. As we must suppose, that the world is under the
*1 Tim. ii. 5.
proper moral government of God, or in a state of religion, before we can enter into consideration of the revealed doctrine concerning the redemption of it by Christ; so that supposition is here to be distinctly taken notice of. Now, the divine moral government which religion teaches us, implies, that the consequence of vice shall be misery, in some future state, by the righteous judgment of God. That such consequent punishment shall take effect by his appointment, is necessarily implied. But, as it is not in any sort to be supposed, that we are made acquainted with all the ends or reasons for which it is fit future punishment should be inflicted, or why God has appointed such and such consequent misery should follow vice; and as we are altogether in the dark, how or in what manner it shall follow, by what immediate occasions, or by the instrumentality of what means; there is no absurdity in supposing, it may follow in a way analogous to that in which many miseries follow such and such courses of action at present: poverty, sickness, infamy, untimely death by diseases, death from the hands of civil justice. There is no absurdity in supposing future punishment may follow wickedness of course, as we speak, or in the way of natural consequences, from God's original constitution of the world; from the nature he has given us, and from the condi tion in which he places us: or, in like manner, as a person rashly trifling upon a precipice. in the way of natural conse quence, falls down; in the way of natural consequence, breaks his limbs, suppose; in the way of natural consequence of this, without help, perishes.
Some good men may, perhaps, be offended, with hearing it spoken of as a supposable thing, that the future punishments of wickedness may be in the way of natural consequence; as if this were taking the execution of justice out of the hands of God, and giving it to nature. But they should remember that when things come to pass according to the course of nature, this does not hinder them from being his doing, who is the God of nature; and that the Scripture ascribes those punishments to divine justice, which are known to be natural; and which must be called so, when distinguished from such as are miraculous. But, after all, this supposition, or rather this way of speaking, is here 1ade use of only by way of illustration of the subject before us. For, since it must be adınitted, that the future punishment of wickedness is not a matter of arbitrary appointment, but of reason, equity, and justice; it comes, for aught I sce, to th
same thing, whether it is supposed to be inflicted in a way analogous to that in which the temporal punishments of vice and folly are inflicted, or in any other way. And though there were a difference, it is allowable in the present case to make this supposition, plainly not an incredible one, That future punishment may follow wickedness in the way of natural consequence, or according to some general laws of government already established in the universe.
III. Upon this supposition, or even without it, we may observe somewhat, much to the present purpose, in the constitution of nature, or appointments of Providence: the provision which is made, that all the bad natural consequences of men's actions should not always actually follow; or, that such bad consequences, as, according to the settled course of things, would inevitably have followed, if not prevented, should, in certain degrees, be prevented. We are apt, pre sumptuously, to imagine, that the world might have been so constituted, as that there would not have been any such thing as misery or evil. On the contrary, we find the Author of nature permits it. But then, he has provided reliefs, and, in many cases, perfect remedies for it, after some pains and difficulties; reliefs and remedies even for that evil, which is the fruit of our own misconduct, and which, in the course of nature, would have continued, and ended in our destruction, but for such remedies. And this is an instance both of severity and of indulgence, in the constitution of nature. Thus, all the bad consequences, now mentioned, of a man's trifling upon a precipice, might be prevented. And, though all were not, yet some of them might, by proper interposition, if not rejected; by another's coming to the rash man's relief, with nis own laying hold on that relief, in such sort as the case requires. Persons may do a great deal themselves towards preventing the bad consequences of their follies; and more may be done by themselves, together with the assistance of others, their fellow creatures; which assistance nature requires and prompts us to. This is the general constitution of the world. Now, suppose it had been so constituted, that after such actions were done, as were foreseen naturally to draw after them misery to the doer, it should have been no more in human power to have prevented that naturally consequent misery, in any instance, than it is, in all; no one can say, whether such a more severe constitution of things might not yet have been really good. But that, on the contrary, provision is made by nature, that we may and do, to so great
degree, prevent the bad natural effects of our follies; this may be called mercy, or compassion, in the original constitu tion of the world; compassion, as distinguished from goodness in general. And, the whole known constitution and course of things affording us instances of such compassion, it would be according to the analogy of nature to hope, that, however ruinous the natural consequences of vice might be, from the general laws of God's government over the universe, yet provision might be made, possibly might have been originally made, for preventing those ruinous consequences from inevitably following; at least from following universally, and in all cases.
Many, I am sensible, will wonder at finding this made a question, or spoken of as in any degree doubtful. The generality of mankind are so far from having that awful sense of things, which the present state of vice and misery and darkness seems to make but reasonable, that they have scarce any apprehension, or thought at all, about this matter, any way; and some serious persons may have spoken unadvisedly concerning it. But let us observe, what we experience to be, and what, from the very constitution of nature, cannot but be, the consequences of irregular and disorderly behaviour; even of such rashness, wilfulness, neglects, as we scarce call vicious. Now, it is natural to apprehend, that the bad consequences of irregularity will be greater, in proportion as the irregularity is
And there is no comparison between these irregularities, and the greater instances of vice, or a dissolute profligate disregard to all religion; if there be any thing at all in religion, For, consider what it is for creatures, moral agents, presump tuously to introduce that confusion and misery into the kingdom of God, which mankind have, in fact, introduced; to blas pheme the sovereign Lord of all; to contemn his authority; to be injurious to the degree they are, to their fellow-creatures, the creatures of God. Add, that the effects of vice, in the present world, are often extreme misery, irretrievable ruin, and even death: and, upon putting all this together, it will appear, that as no one can say, in what degree fatal the unprevented consequences of vice may be, according to the general rule of divine government; so it is by no means intuitively certain, how far these consequences could possibly, in the nature of the thing, be prevented, consistently with the eternal rule of right, or with what is, in fact, the moral constitution of nature. However, there would be large ground to hope, that the uni versal government was not so severely strict, but that there