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to no more in conclusion than this, that a divine appointment cannot be necessary, or expedient, because the objector does not discern it to be so; though he must own that the nature of the case is such, as renders him incapable of judging whe ther it be so or not; or of seeing it to be necessary, though it
It is indeed a matter of great patience to reasonable men, to find people arguing in this manner; objecting against the credibility of such particular things revealed in Scripture, that they do not see the necessity or expediency of them. For, though it is highly right, and the most pious exercise of our understanding, to inquire with due reverence into the ends and reasons of God's dispensations; yet, when those reasons are concealed, to argue from our ignorance, that such dispensations cannot be from God, is infinitely absurd. The presumption of this kind of objections seems almost lost in the folly of them. And the folly of them is yet greater, when they are urged, as usually they are, against things in Christianity analogous, or like to those natural dispensations of Providence, which are matter of experience. Let reason be kept to; and, if any part of the Scripture account of the redemption of the world by Christ can be shown to be really con trary to it, let the Scripture, in the name of God, be given up: but let not such poor creatures as we, go on objecting against an infinite scheme, that we do not see the necessity or usefulness of all its parts, and call this reasoning; and, which still farther heightens the absurdity in the present case, parts which we are not actively concerned in. For, it may be worth men tioning,
Lastly, That not only the reason of the thing, but the whol analogy of nature, should teach us, not to expect to have the like information concerning the divine conduct, as concerning our own duty. God instructs us by experience, (for it is not reason, but experience, which instructs us,) what good or bad consequences will follow from our acting in such and such manners; and by this he directs us how we are to behave ourselves. But, though we are sufficiently instructed for the common purposes of life, yet it is but ar almost infinitely small part of natural providence which we are at all let into. The case is the same with regard to revelation. The doctrine of a mediator between God and man, against which it is objected, that the expediency of some things in it is not understood, relates only to what was done on God's part in the appointment, and on the Mediator's
in the execution of it. For what is required of us, in consequence of this gracious dispensation, is another subiert, in which none can complain for want of information. The constitution of the world, and God's natural government over it, is all mystery, as much as the Christian dispensation. Yet under the first, he has given men all things pertaining to life; and under the other, all things pertaining unto godliness. And it may be added, that there is nothing hard to be accounted for in any of the common precepts of Christianity; though, if there were, surely a divine command is abundantly suf ficient to lay us under the strongest obligations to obedience. But the fact is, that the reasons of all the Christian precepts are evident. Positive institutions are manifestly necessary to keep up and propagate religion among t mankind. And our duty to Christ, the internal and external worship of him; this part of the religion of the gospel manifestly arises out of what he has done and suffered, his authority and dominion, and the relation which he is revealed to stand in to us.
Of the ant of Universality in Revelation; and of the sup posed Deficiency in the Proof of it.
IT has been thought by some persons, that if the evidence of revelation appears doubtful, this itself turns into a positive argument against it; because it cannot be supposed, that, if it were true, it would be left to subsist upon doubtful evidence And the objection against revelation, from its not being uni versal, is often insisted upon as of great weight.
Now, the weakness of these opinions may be shown, by observing the suppositions on which they are founded, which are really such as these;—that it cannot be thought God would have bestowed any favour at all upon us, unless in the degree which, we think, he might, and which, we imagine, would be most to our particular advantage; and also, that it cannot be thought he would bestow a favour upon any, unless he bestowed the same upon all: suppositions which we find contradicted, not by a few instances in God's natural government of the world, but by the general analogy of nature together.
Persons who speak of the evidence of religion as doubtful and of this supposed doubtfulness as a positive argument against it, should be put upon considering, what that evidence indeed is, which they act upon with regard to their temporal interests. For, it is not only extremely difficult, but, in many cases, absolutely impossible, to balance pleasure and pain, satisfaction and uneasiness, so as to be able to say, on which side the overplus is. There are the like difficulties and impossibilities, in making 'he due allowances for a change of temper and taste, for satiety, disgusts, ill health; any of which render men incapable of enjoying, after they have obtained, what they most eagerly desired. Numberless, too, are the accidents, besides that one of untimely death, which may even probably disappoint the best concerted schemes; and
strong objections are often seen to lie against them, not to be removed or answered, but which seem overbalanced by reasons on the other side; so as that the certain difficulties and dangers of the pursuit are, by every one, thought justly disregarded, upon account of there appearing greater advantages in case of success, though there be but little probability of it. Lastly, Every one observes our liableness, if we be not upon our guard, to be deceived by the falsehood of men, and the false appearances of things; and this danger must be greatly increased, if there be a strong bias within, suppose from indulged passion, to favour the deceit. Hence arises that great uncertainty and doubtfulness of proof, wherein our temporal interest really consists; what are the most probable means of attaining it; and whether those means will eventually be successful. And numberless instances there are, in the daily course of life, in which all men think it reasonable to engage in pursuits, though the probability is greatly against succeeding; and to make such provision for themselves, as it is supposable they may have occasion for, though the plain acknowledged probability is, that they never shall. Then those who think the objection against revelation, from its light not being universal, to be of weight, should observe, that the Author of nature, in numberless instances, bestows that upon some, which he does not upon others, who seem equally to stand in need of it. Indeed, he appears to bestow all his gifts with the most promiscuous variety, among creatures of the same species health and strength, capacities of prudence and of knowledge, means of improvement, riches, and all external advantages. And as there are not any two men found of exactly like shape and features, so, it is probable, there are not any two of an exactly like constitution, temper, and situation, with regard to the goods and evils of life. Yet, notwithstanding these uncertainties and varieties, God does exercise a natural government over the world; and there is such a thing as a prudent and imprudent institution of life, with regard to our health and our affairs, under that his natural government.
As neither the Jewish nor Christian revelation have been universal, and as they have been afforded to a greater or less part of the world, at different times, so, likewise, at different times, both revelations have had different degrees of evidence. The Jews who lived during the succession of prophets, that is, from Moses till after the Captivity, had higher evidence of the truth of their religion, than those had who lived in the interval between the last-mentioned period and the coming of
Christ. And the first Christians had higher evidence of the miracles wrought in attestation of Christianity than what we have now. They had also a strong presumptive proof of the truth of it, perhaps of much greater force, in way of argument, than many may think, of which we have very little remaining; I mean, the presumptive proof of its truth from the influence which it had upon the lives of the generality of its professors. And we, or future ages, may possibly have a proof of it, which they could not have, froin the conformity between the prophetic history, and the state of the world, and of Christianity. And farther: If we were to suppose the evidence, which some have of religion, to amount to little more than seeing that it may be true, but that they remain in great doubts and uncertainties about both its evidence and its nature, and great perplexities concerning the rule of life; others to have a full conviction of the truth of religion, with a distinct know ledge of their duty; and others severally to have all the intermediate degrees of religious light and evidence, which lie between these two.-If we put the case, that for the present it was intended revelation should be no more than a small light, in the midst of a world greatly overspread, notwithstanding it, with ignorance and darkness; that certain glimmerings of this light should extend, and be directed, to remote distances, in such a manner as that those who really partook of it should not discern from whence it originally came; that some, in a nearer situation to it, should have its light obscured, and, in different ways and degrees, intercepted; and that others should be placed within its clearer influence, and be much more enlivened, cheered, and directed by it; but yet, that even to these it should be no more than 'a light shining in a dark place:' all this would be perfectly uniform and of a piece with the conduct of Providence, in the distribution of its other blessings. If the fact of the case really were, that some have received no light at all from the Scripture; as many ages and countries in the heathen world: that others, though they have, by means of it, had essential or natural religion enforced upon their consciences, yet have never had the genuine Scripture revelation, with its real evidence, proposed to their consideration; and the ancient Persians and modern Mahometans may possibly be instances of people in a situation somewhat like to this: that others, though they have had the Scripture laid before them as of divine revela tion, yet have had it with the system and evidence of Chris tianity so interpolated, the system so corrupted, the evidenca