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HAVING, The introduction. in a former discourse, endeavoured to lay firmly the first foundations of religion, in the certainty of the existence and of the attributes of God, by proving, severally and distinctly:—

That something must needs have existed from eternity, and how great soever the difficulties are, which perplex the conceptions and apprehensions we attempt to frame of an eternal duration, yet they neither ought nor can raise in any man’s mind any doubt or scruple concerning the truth of the assertion itself that something has really been eternal:

That there must have existed from eternity some one unchangeable and independent being, because, to suppose an eternal succession of merely dependent 132beings, proceeding one from another in an endless progression, without any original independent cause at all, is supposing things that have in their own nature no necessity of existing, to be from eternity caused or produced by nothing; which is the very same absurdity and express contradiction as to suppose them produced by nothing at any determinate time:

That that unchangeable and independent being, which has existed from eternity, without any external cause of its existence, must be self-existent, that is, necessarily-existing:

That it must of necessity be infinite or everywhere present; a being most simple, uniform, invariable, indivisible, incorruptible, and infinitely removed from all such imperfections as are the known qualities and inseparable properties of the material world:

That it must of necessity be but one; because, to suppose two, or more, different self-existent independent principles may be reduced to a direct contradiction:

That it must necessarily be an intelligent being:

That it must be a free and voluntary, not a necessary agent:

That this being must of necessity have infinite power, and that in this attribute is included, particularly, a possibility of creating or producing things, and also a possibility of communicating to creatures the power of beginning motion, and a possibility of induing them with liberty or freedom of will; which freedom of will is not inconsistent with any of the divine attributes:

That he must of necessity be infinitely wise:

And lastly, that he must necessarily be a being of infinite goodness, justice, and truth, and all other moral perfections; such as become the supreme governor and judge of the world.

It remains now, in order to complete my design of proving and establishing the truth and excellency of the whole superstructure of our most holy religion, 133that I proceed, upon this foundation of the certainty of the being and attributes of God, to demonstrate in the next place the unalterable obligations of natural religion, and the certainty of divine revelation, in opposition to the vain arguings of certain vicious and profane men, who, merely upon account of their incredulity, would be thought to be strict adherers to reason, and sincere and diligent inquirers into truth; when, indeed, on the contrary, there is but too much cause to fear that they are not at all sincerely and really desirous to be satisfied in the true state of things, but only seek, under the pretence and cover of infidelity, to excuse their vices and debaucheries which they are so strongly inslaved to that they cannot prevail with themselves upon any account to forsake them: And yet a rational submitting to such truths, as just evidence and unanswerable reason would induce them to believe, must necessarily make them uneasy under those vices, and self condemned in the practice of them. It remains therefore, (I say) in order to finish the design I proposed to myself, of establishing the truth and excellency of our holy religion, in opposition to all such vain pretenders to reason as these, that I proceed at this time, by a continuation of the same method of arguing, by which I before demonstrated the being and attributes of God, to prove distinctly the following propositions:—

I. That 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 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 134so 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 appointments, to the practising or neglecting those rules.

II. That though these eternal moral obligations are, indeed, of themselves incumbent on all rational beings, even antecedent to the consideration of their being the positive will and command of God, yet that which most strongly confirms, and in practice most effectually and indispensably enforces them upon us, is this, that both from the nature of things, and the perfections of God, and from several other collateral considerations, it appears, that as God is himself necessarily just and good in the exercise of his infinite power in the government of the whole world, so he cannot but likewise positively require that all his rational creatures should in their proportion be so too, in the exercise of each of their powers in their respective spheres: That is, as these eternal moral obligations are really in perpetual force merely from their own nature and the abstract reason of things, so also they are moreover the express and unalterable will, command, and law of God to his creatures, which he cannot but expect should, in obedience to his supreme authority, as well as in compliance with the natural reason of things, be regularly and constantly observed through the whole creation.

III. That, therefore, though these eternal moral obligations are also incumbent, indeed, on all rational creatures, antecedent to any respect of particular reward or punishment, yet they must certainly and necessarily be attended with rewards and punishments; because the same reasons which prove God himself to be necessarily just and good, and the rules of justice, 135equity, and goodness, to be his unalterable will, law, and command, to all created beings, prove also that he cannot but be pleased with and approve such creatures as imitate and obey him by observing those rules, and be displeased with such as act contrary thereto; and, consequently, that he cannot but some way or other make a suitable difference in his dealings with them, and manifest his supreme power and absolute authority, in finally supporting, maintaining, and vindicating effectually the honour of these his divine laws, as becomes the just and righteous governor and disposer of all things.

IV. That consequently, though, in order to establish this suitable difference between the fruits or effects of virtue and vice, so reasonable in itself, and so absolutely necessary for the vindication of the honour of God, the nature of things and the constitution and order of God’s creation was originally such, that the observance of the eternal rules of justice, equity, and goodness does indeed of itself tend, by direct and natural consequence, to make all creatures happy, and the contrary practice to make them miserable; yet since, through some great and general corruption and depravation, (whencesoever that may have arisen, the particular original whereof could hardly have been known now without revelation;) since, I say, the condition of men in this present state is such, that the natural order of things in this world is an event manifestly perverted, and virtue and goodness are visibly prevented, in great measure, from obtaining their proper and due effects in establishing men’s happiness proportionable to their behaviour and practice; therefore it is absolutely impossible, that the whole view and intention, the original and the final design, of God’s creating such rational beings as men are, and placing them in this globe of earth, as the chief and principal, or indeed (may we not say) the only inhabitants, for whose sake alone this part at least of the creation is evidently fitted up and accommodated; it is absolutely 136impossible (I say) that the whole of God’s design in all this should be nothing more than to keep up eternally a succession of such short-lived generations of men as at present are, and those in such a corrupt, confused, and disorderly state of things as we see the world is now in, without any due observation of the eternal rules of good and evil, without any clear and remarkable effect of the great and most necessary differences of things, and without any final vindication of the honour and laws of God in the proportionable reward of the best, or punishment of the worst of men. And consequently it is certain and necessary, (even as certain as the moral attributes of God before demonstrated,) that, instead of continuing an eternal succession of new generations in the present form and state of things, there must at some time or other be such a revolution and renovation of things, such a future state of existence of the same persons, as that, by an exact distribution of rewards or punishments therein, all the present disorders and inequalities may be set right, and that the whole scheme of providence, which to us who judge of it by only one small portion of it, seems now so inexplicable and much confused, may appear at its consummation to be a design worthy of infinite wisdom, justice, and goodness.

V. That, though the indispensable necessity of all the great and moral obligations of natural religion, and also the certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments, be thus in general deducible even demonstrably, by a chain of clear and undeniable reasoning, (yet in the present state of the world, by what means soever it came originally to be so corrupted, of which more hereafter,) such is the carelessness, inconsiderateness, and want of attention of the greater part of mankind; so many the prejudices and false notions imbibed by evil education; so strong and violent the unreasonable lusts, appetites, and desires of sense; and so great the blindness, introduced by superstitious opinions, vicious customs, and debauched practices, through the world,—that very few 137are able, in reality and effect, to discover these things clearly and plainly for themselves; but men have great need of particular teaching, and much instruction, to convince them of the truth and certainty, and importance of these things; to give them a due sense, and clear and just apprehensions concerning them; and to bring them effectually to the practice of the plainest and most necessary duties.

VI. That, though in almost every age there have indeed been in the heathen world some wise, and brave, and good men, who have made it their business to study and practice these things themselves, and to teach and exhort others to do the like, who seem therefore to have been raised up by providence as instruments to reprove in some measure, and put some kind of check to the extreme superstition and wickedness of the nations wherein they lived: Yet none of these have ever been able to reform the world with any considerably great and universal success; because they have been but very few that have in earnest set themselves about this excellent work; and they that have indeed sincerely done it have themselves been entirely ignorant of some doctrines, and very doubtful and uncertain of others, absolutely necessary for the bringing about that great end; and those things which they have been certain of and in good measure understood, they have not been able to prove and explain clearly enough, and those that they have been able both to prove and explain by sufficiently clear reasoning, they have not yet had authority enough to enforce and inculcate upon men’s minds with so strong an impression as to influence and govern the general practice of the world.

VII. That therefore there was plainly wanting a divine revelation to recover mankind out of their universally degenerate estate, into a state suitable to the original excellency of their nature; which divine revelation, both the necessities of men and their natural notions of God gave them reasonable ground to expect and hope for, as appears from the acknowledgments 138which the best and wisest of the heathen philosophers themselves have made, of their sense of the necessity and want of such a revelation, and from their expressions of the hopes they had entertained that God would some time or other vouchsafe it unto them.

VIII. That there is no other religion now in the world, but the Christian, that has any just pretence or tolerable appearance of reason to be esteemed such a divine revelation; and therefore if Christianity be not true, there is no revelation of the will of God at all made to mankind.

IX. That the Christian religion, considered in its primitive simplicity, and as taught in the Holy Scriptures, has all the marks and proofs of its being actually and truly a divine revelation that any divine revelation, supposing it was true, could reasonably be imagined or desired to have.

X. That the practical duties which the Christian religion enjoins, are all such as are most agreeable to our natural notions of God, and most perfective of the nature, and conducive to the happiness and well-being of men: That is, Christianity,—even in this single respect, as containing alone, and in one consistent system, all the wise and good precepts (and those improved, augmented, and exalted to the highest degree of perfection,) that ever were taught singly and scatteredly, and many times but very corruptly, by the several schools of the philosophers; and this without any mixture of the fond, absurd, and superstitious practices of any of those philosophers,—ought to be embraced and practised by all rational and considering deists, who will act consistently, and steadily pursue the consequences of their own principles; as at least the best scheme and sect of philosophy that ever was set up in the world, and highly probable, even though it had no external evidence, to be of divine original.

XI. That the motives, by which the Christian religion enforces the practice of these duties, are such 139as are must suitable to the excellent wisdom of God, and most answerable to the natural expectations of men.

XII. That the peculiar manner and circumstances with which it enjoins these duties and urges these motives, are exactly consonant to the dictates of sound reason, or the unprejudiced light of nature, and most wisely perfective of it.

XIII. That all the [credenda, or] doctrines, which the true, simple, and uncorrupted Christian religion teaches,—(that is, not only those plain doctrines which it requires to be believed as fundamental and of necessity to eternal salvation, but even all the doctrines which it teaches as matters of truths,)—are, though indeed many of them not discoverable by bare reason unassisted with revelation, yet, when discovered by revelation, apparently most agreeable to sound unprejudiced reason, have every one of them a natural tendency, and a direct and powerful influence, to reform men’s lives and correct their manners, and do together make up an infinitely more consistent and rational scheme of belief than any that the wisest of the ancient philosophers ever did, or the cunningest of modern unbelievers can invent or contrive.

XIV. That as this revelation, to the judgment of right and sober reason, appears even of itself highly credible and probable, and abundantly recommends itself in its native simplicity, merely by its own intrinsic goodness and excellency, to the practice of the most rational and considering men, who are desirous in all their actions to have satisfaction, and comfort, and good hope within themselves, from the conscience of what they do; so it is moreover positively and directly proved to be actually and immediately sent to us from God, by the many infallible signs and miracles which the Author of it worked publicly as the evidence of his divine commission, by the exact completion both of the prophecies that went before concerning him, and of those that he 140himself delivered concerning things that were to happen after, and by the testimony of his followers, which in all its circumstances was the most credible, certain, and convincing evidence, that was ever given to any matter of fact in the world.

XV. And lastly, that they who will not, by such arguments and proofs as these, be convinced of the truth and certainty of the Christian religion, and be persuaded to make it the rule and guide of all their actions, would not be convinced, (so far as to influence their hearts, and reform their lives,) by any other evidence whatsoever; no, not though one should rise on purpose from the dead to endeavour to convince them.

I might here, Of the several sorts of deists. before I enter upon the particular proof of these several propositions, justly be allowed to premise, that, having now to deal with another sort of men than those against whom my former discourse was directed, and being consequently in some parts of this treatise to make use of some other kinds of arguments than those which the nature of that discourse permitted and required, the same demonstrative force of reasoning, and even mathematical certainty, which in the main argument was there easy to be obtained, ought not here to be expected; but that such moral evidence, or mixed proofs, from circumstances and testimony, as most matters of fact are only capable of, and wise and honest men are always satisfied with, ought to be accounted sufficient in the present case: Because all the principles indeed upon which atheists attempt to build their schemes, are such as may, by plain force of reason, and undeniably demonstrative argumentations, be reduced to express and direct contradictions. But deists pretend to own all the principles of reason, and would be thought to deny nothing but what depends entirely on testimony and evidence of matter of fact, which they think they can easily evade.

But, if we examine things to the bottom, we shall 141find that the matter does not in reality lie here. For I believe there are in the world, at least in any part of the world where the Christian religion is in any tolerable purity professed, very few such deists as will truly stand to all the principles of unprejudiced reason, and sincerely, both in profession and practice, own all the obligations of natural religion, and yet oppose Christianity merely upon account of their not being satisfied with the strength of the evidence of matter of fact. A constant and sincere observance of all the laws of reason and obligations of natural religion, will unavoidably lead a man to Christianity, if Christianity be fairly proposed to him in its natural simplicity and he has due opportunities of examining things and will steadily pursue the consequences of his own principles. And all others, who pretend to be deists without coming up to this, can have no fixed and settled principles at all, upon which they can either argue or act consistently, but must of necessity sink into downright atheism, (and consequently fall under the force of the former arguments,) as may appear by considering the several sorts of them.

1. Of the first sort of deists: And of Providence. Some men would be thought to be deists, because they pretend to believe the existence of an eternal, infinite, independent, intelligent being; and, to avoid the name of Epicurean atheists, teach also that this supreme being made the world: though100100 Omnis enim per se divûm natura necesse est Immortali ævo summa cum pace fruatur. Semota a nostris rebus, sejunctaque longe. Nam privata dolore omni, privata periclis, Ipsa suis pollens opibus, nihil, indiga nostri, Nec bene promeritis capitur, nec tangitur ira.    Lucret. lib. 1.
   Τὸ μακάριον καὶ ἄφθαρτον, οὔτε αὐτὸ πράγματα ἔχει, οὔτε ἄλλῳ παρέχει· ὥστε οὔτε ἀργαῖς, οὔτε χάρισι συνέχεται.Laert. in Vita Epicuri.

   Nor is the doctrine of those modern philosophers much different, who ascribe every thing to matter and motion, exclusive of final causes, and speak of God as an intelligentia supramundana; which is the very cant of Epicurus and Lucretius.
at 142the same time they agree with the Epicureans in this, that they fancy God does not at all concern himself in the government of the world, nor has any regard to, or care of, what is done therein. But if we examine things duly, this opinion must unavoidably terminate in absolute atheism. For though to imagine that God, at the creation of the world, or at the formation of any particular part of it, could (if he had pleased,) by his infinite wisdom, foresight, and unerring design, have originally so ordered, disposed, and adapted all the springs and series of future necessary and unintelligent causes, that, without the immediate interposition of his almighty power upon every particular occasion, they should regularly, by virtue of that original disposition, have produced effects worthy to proceed from the direction and government of infinite wisdom: though this, I say, may possibly by very nice and abstract reasoning be reconcileable with a firm belief both of the being and attributes of God, and also with a consistent notion even of providence itself; yet to fancy that God originally created a certain quantity of matter and motion, and left them to frame a world at adventures, without any determinate and particular view, design, or direction; this can no way be defended consistently, but must of necessity recur to downright atheism, as I shall show presently, after I have made only this one observation, that as that opinion is impious in itself, so the late improvements in mathematics and natural philosophy have discovered that, as things now are, that scheme is plainly false and impossible in fact. For, not to say, that, seeing matter is utterly incapable of obeying any laws, the very original laws of motion themselves cannot continue to take place but by something superior to matter, continually exerting on it a certain force of power according to such certain and determinate laws; it is now evident, beyond question, that the bodies of all plants and animals, much the most considerable parts of the world, could not possibly have 143 been formed by mere matter, according to any general laws of motion. And not only so, but that most universal principle of gravitation itself, the spring of almost all the great and regular inanimate motions in the world, answering (as I hinted in my former discourse,) not at all to the surfaces of bodies, (by which alone they can act one upon another,) but entirely to their solid content; cannot possibly be the result of any motion originally impressed on matter, but must of necessity be caused (either immediately or mediately) by something which penetrates the very solid substance of all bodies, and continually puts forth in them a force or power entirely different from that by which matter acts on matter: Which is, by the way, an evident demonstration, not only of the world’s being made originally by a supreme intelligent cause, but moreover that it depends every moment on some superior being, for the preservation of its frame; and that all the great motions in it are caused by some immaterial power, not having originally impressed a certain quantity of motion upon matter, but perpetually and actually exerting itself every moment in every part of the world. Which preserving and governing power, whether it be immediately the power and action of the same supreme cause that created the world, of him without whom not a sparrow falls to the ground, and with whom the very hairs of our head are all numbered; or whether it be the action of some subordinate instruments appointed by him to direct and preside respectively over certain parts thereof; does either way equally give us a very noble idea of providence. Those men, indeed, who, merely through a certain vanity of philosophising, have been tempted to embrace that other opinion, of all things being produced and continued only by a certain quantity of motion, originally impressed on matter without any determinate design or direction, and left to itself to form a world at adventures; those men, I say, who, merely through a vanity of philosophising, have been 144 tempted to embrace that opinion, without attending whither it would lead them, ought not, indeed, to be directly charged with all the consequences of it. But it is certain, that many, under that cover, have really been atheists; and the opinion itself (as I before said) leads necessarily, and by unavoidable consequence, to plain atheism. For if God be an all-powerful, omnipresent, intelligent, wise, and free being, (as it hath been before demonstrated that he necessarily is), he cannot possibly but know, at all times and in all places, every thing that is; and foreknow what at all times and in all places it is fittest and wisest should be; and have perfect power, without the least labour, difficulty, or opposition, to order and bring to pass what he so judges fit to be accomplished: and consequently it is impossible but he must actually direct and appoint101101   Quo confesso, confitendum est eorum consilio mundum administrari.Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. 2. every particular thing and circumstance that is in the world, or ever shall be, excepting only what by his own pleasure he puts under the power and choice of subordinate free agents. If, therefore, God does not concern himself in the government of the world, nor has any regard to what is done therein, it will follow that he is not an omnipresent, all-powerful, intelligent and wise being; and, consequently, that he is not at all. Wherefore the opinion of this sort of deists stands not upon any certain consistent principles, but leads unavoidably to downright atheism; and, however in words they may confess a God,102102   Epicurum verbis reliquisse Deos, re sustulisse.Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. 2. yet in reality and in truth they deny him.

If, Human affairs not beneath the regard of Providence. to avoid this, they will own God’s government and providence over the greater and more considerable parts of the world, but deny his inspection and regard to human affairs here upon earth, as being too minute and small for the supreme governor of 145all things to concern himself in;103103   Ἐισὶ γάρ τινες ἱ νομὶζουσιν εἷναι τὰ θεῖα, καὶ τοιαῦτα ὀ λόγος αὐτὰ ἐξεφηνεν, ἀγαθὰ, καὶ δυναμιν ἔχοντα την ἀκροτάτην, καὶ γνῶσιν την τελειοτάτην, τῶν μεντοι ἀνθροπίνων καταφρονεῖν, ὡς μικρῶν καὶ ἑυτελῶν ὄντων, καὶ ἀναξίων τῆς ἑαυτῶν ἐπιμελείας.Simplic. in Epictet. this still amounts to the same. For if God be omnipresent, all-knowing, and all-powerful, he cannot but equally know, and with equal ease be able to direct and govern,104104   Deorum providentia mundus administratur; iidemque consulunt rebus humanis; neque solum universis, verum etiam singulis.Cic. de Divinat. lib. 1. all things as any, and the minutest things105105   Ἀλλ᾽ οὐδὲν τάχ𓣽 ἄνἴσως ἔιη χαλεπὸν ἐνδείξασθαι τοῦτόγε, ὡς ἐπιμελεῖς σμικρῶν εἰσι θεοὶ, οὐκ ηπιον ἤ τῶν μεγέθει διὰφερόντωνPlato de Leg. lib.10.
   Ἐι δὲ τοῦ ὅλου κόσμου ὁ θεός οὗ πιμελεῖται ἀνάγκη καὶ τῶν μερῶν αὐτο8ῦ προνοεῖν; ὥσπερ καὶ αἱ τέχναι ποιούσι. Καὶ γὰρ ἰατρὸς τοῦ ὅλου σώματος ἐπιμεληθῆναι προθέμενος, οὖκ ἄν ἀμελήσειε τῶν μερῶν· οὐδὲ στρατηγὸς οὐευ᾽ ὀικονόμος, ἢ πολιτικὸς ἀνήρ τῷν γὰρ μερῶν ἀμελουμένων, ἀνάγκη χειρόνως τὸ ὅλον διατιθεσθαι.Simplic. in Epictet.
as the greatest. So that if he has no regard nor concern for these things, his attributes must, as before, be denied, and consequently his being. But, besides, human affairs are by no means the minutest and most inconsiderable part of the creation: For, (not to consider now, that excellency of human nature which Christianity discovers to us,) let a deist suppose the universe as large as the widest hypothesis of astronomy will give him leave to imagine, or let him suppose it as immense as he himself pleases, and filled with as great numbers of rational creatures as his own fancy can suggest; yet the system wherein we are placed will at least, for ought he can reasonably suppose, be as considerable as any other single system; and the earth whereon we dwell as considerable as most of the other planets in this system, and mankind manifestly the only considerable inhabitants on this globe of earth. Man, therefore, has evidently a better claim to the particular regard and concern of providence than any thing else in this globe of ours; and this our globe of earth as just a pretence to it as most other planets in the system; 146and this system as just a one, as far as we can judge, as any system in the universe. If therefore there be any providence at all, and God has any concern for any part of the world, mankind, even separate from the consideration of that excellency of human nature which the Christian doctrine discovers to us, may as reasonably be supposed to be under its particular care and government as any other part of the universe.

2. Of the second sort of deists. Some others there are that call themselves deists, because they believe, not only the being, but also the providence of God; that is, that every natural thing that is done in the world is produced by the power, appointed by the wisdom, and directed by the government of God. Though not allowing any difference between moral good and evil, they suppose that God takes no notice of the morally good or evil actions of men; these things depending, as they imagine, merely on the arbitrary constitution of human laws. But how handsomely soever these men may seem to speak of the natural attributes of God, of his knowledge, wisdom, and power, yet neither can this opinion be settled on any certain principles, nor defended by any consistent reasoning; nor can the natural attributes of God be so separated from the moral but that he who denies the latter may be reduced to a necessity of denying the former likewise. For since (as I have formerly proved,) there cannot but be eternal and necessary differences of different things, one from another, and, from these necessary differences of things, there cannot but arise a fitness or unfitness of the application of different things or different relations one to another; and infinite knowledge can no more fail to know, or infinite wisdom to choose, or infinite power to act, according to these eternal reasons and proportions of things, than knowledge can be ignorance, wisdom be folly, or power weakness; and consequently the justice and goodness of God are as certain and necessary as his wisdom and power;—it follows unavoidably, 147that he who denies the justice or goodness of God, or, which is all one, denies his exercise of these attributes in inspecting and regarding the moral actions of men, must also deny, either his wisdom, or his power, or both; and, consequently, must needs be driven into absolute atheism: For though in some moral matters men are not indeed to be judged of by the consequences of their opinions, but by their profession and practice, yet in the present case(106106   Quasi ego id curem, quid ille aiat aut neget: Illud quæro, quid et consentaneum sit dicere, qui, &c.Cic. de Finib. lib. 2. it matters not at all what men affirm, or how honourably they may seem to speak of some particular attributes of God; but what, notwithstanding such profession, must needs in all reason be supposed to be their true opinion; and their practice generally appears answerable to it.

For, Profane and debauched deists not capable of being argued with. concerning these two sorts of deists, it is observable, that as their opinions can terminate consistently in nothing but downright atheism, so their practice and behaviour is generally agreeable to that of the most openly professed atheists. They not only oppose the revelation of Christianity, and reject all the moral obligations of natural religion, as such, but generally they despise also the wisdom of all human constitutions made for the order and benefit of mankind, and are as much contemners of common decency as they are of religion. They endeavour to ridicule and banter all human as well as divine accomplishments; all virtue and government of a man’s self, all learning and knowledge, all wisdom and honour, and every thing for which a man can justly be commended or be esteemed more excellent than a beast. They pretend commonly, in their discourse and writings, to expose the abuses and corruptions of religion; but (as is too manifest in some of their books as well as in their talk, they aim really against all virtue in general, and all good manners, and against whatsoever is truly 148valuable and commendable in men. They pretend to ridicule certain vices and follies of ignorant or superstitious men; but the many very profane and very lewd images, with which they industriously affect to dress up their discourse, show plainly that they really do not so much intend to expose and deride any vice or folly, as on the contrary to foment and please the debauched and vicious inclinations of others as void of shame as themselves. They discover clearly, that they have no sense at all of the dignity of human nature, nor of the superiority and excellency of their reason above even the meanest of the brutes. They will sometimes in words seem to magnify the wisdom, and other natural attributes of God, but in reality, by ridiculing whatever bears any resemblance to it in men, they show undeniably that they do not indeed believe there is any real difference in things, or any true excellency in one thing more than in another. By turning every thing alike, and without exception, into ridicule and mockery, they declare plainly that they do not believe any thing to be wise, any thing decent, any thing comely or praiseworthy at all. They seem not to have any esteem or value for those distinguishing powers and faculties; by induing them wherewith God has “taught them more than the beasts of the field, and made them wiser than the fowls of heaven.”107107   Job xxxv. 11. In a word; “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise;”108108   Phil. iv. 8. these things they make the constant subject of their mockery and abuse, ridicule and raillery. On the contrary, whatsoever things are profane, impure, filthy, dishonourable, and absurd; these things they make it their business to represent as harmless and indifferent, and to laugh men out of their natural shame and abhorrence of them; nay, even to recommend 149them with their utmost wit. Such men as these are not to be argued with, till they can be persuaded to use arguments instead of drollery: For banter is not capable of being answered by reason; not because it has any strength in it, but because it runs out of all the bounds of reason and good sense, by extravagantly joining together such images as have not in themselves any manner of similitude or connexion; by which means all things are alike easy to be rendered ridiculous, by being represented only in an absurd dress. These men, therefore, are first to be convinced of the true principles of reason before they can be disputed with; and then they must of necessity either retreat into downright atheism, or be led by undeniable reasoning to acknowledge and submit to the obligations of morality, and heartily repent of their profane abuse of God and religion.

3. Of the third sort of deists. Another sort of deists there are, who, having right apprehensions concerning the natural attributes of God, and his all-governing providence, seem also to have some notion of his moral perfections also. That is, as they believe him to be a being infinitely knowing, powerful, and wise, so they believe him to be also in some sense a being of infinite justice, goodness, and truth, and that he governs the universe by these perfections, and expects suitable obedience from all his rational creatures. But then, having a prejudice against the notion of the immortality of human souls, they believe that men perish entirely at death, and that one generation shall perpetually succeed another, without any thing remaining of men after their departure out of this life, and without any future restoration or renovation of things. And imagining that justice, and goodness in God, are not the same as in the ideas we frame of these perfections, when we consider them in men, or when we reason about them abstractly in themselves, but that in the supreme governor of the world they are something transcendent, and of which we cannot make any true judgment, nor argue with any certainty 150about them: they fancy, though there does not indeed seem to us to be any equity or proportion in the distributions of rewards and punishments in this present life, yet that we are not sufficient judges concerning the attributes of God, to argue from thence with any assurance for the certainty of a future state. But neither does this opinion stand on any consistent principles. For if justice and goodness be not109109   Καθ᾽ ἡμᾶς γὰρ ἡ αὐτὴ ἀρετὴ ἐστι τῶν μακαρίων πάντων· ὥστε καὶ ἡ αὐτὴ ἀρετὴ ἀνθρώπου καὶ Θεοῦ.Orig. contr. Cel. lib. 4. the same in God, as in our ideas, then we mean nothing, when we say that God is necessarily just and good; and for the same reason it may as well be said that we know not what we mean, when we affirm that he is an intelligent and wise being, and there will be no foundation at all left on which we can fix any thing. Thus the moral attributes of God, however they be acknowledged in words, yet in reality they are by these men entirely taken away; and upon the same grounds the natural attributes may also be denied. And so upon the whole, this opinion likewise, if we argue upon it consistently, must finally recur to absolute atheism.

4. Of the fourth sort of deists. The last sort of deists are those who, if they did indeed believe what they pretend, have just and right notions of God, and of all the divine attributes in every respect; who declare they believe that there is one eternal, infinite, intelligent, all-powerful, and wise being, the creator, preserver, and governor of all things; that this supreme cause is a being of infinite justice, goodness, and truth, and all other moral as well as natural perfections; that he made the world for the manifestation of his power and wisdom, and to communicate his goodness and happiness to his creatures; that he preserves it by his continual all-wise providence, and governs it according to the eternal rules of infinite justice, equity, goodness, mercy, and truth; that all created rational beings, depending continually upon him, are bound 151to adore, worship, and obey him, to praise him for all things they enjoy, and to pray to him for every thing they want; that they are all obliged to promote, in their proportion, and according to the extent of their several powers and abilities, the general good and welfare of those parts of the world wherein they are placed, in like manner as the divine goodness is continually promoting the universal benefit of the whole; that men, in particular, are every one obliged to make it their business, by an universal benevolence, to promote the happiness of all others; that, in order to this, every man is bound always to behave himself so towards others, as in reason he would desire they should in like circumstances deal with him; that, therefore, he is obliged to obey and submit to his superiors in all just and right things, for the preservation of society and the peace and benefit of the public; to be just and honest, equitable and sincere, in all his dealings with his equals, for the keeping inviolable the everlasting rule of righteousness, and maintaining an universal trust and confidence, friendship and affection, amongst men; and, towards his inferiors, to be gentle, and easy, and affable,—charitable, and willing to assist as many as stand in need of his help, for the preservation of universal love and benevolence amongst mankind, and in imitation of the goodness of God, who preserves and does good to all creatures, which depend entirely upon him for their very being and all that they enjoy; that, in respect of himself, every man is bound to preserve, as much as in him lies, his own being, and the right use of all his faculties, so long as it shall please God, who appointed him his station in this world, to continue him therein; that, therefore, he is bound to have an exact government of his passions, and carefully to abstain from all debaucheries or abuses of himself, which tend either to the destruction of his own being, or to the disordering of his faculties, and disabling him from performing his duty, or hurrying him into the practice of unreasonable and unjust things: Lastly, that accordingly 152as men regard or neglect these obligations, so they are proportionably acceptable or displeasing unto God, who, being supreme governor of the world, cannot but testify his favour or displeasure at some time or other; and, consequently, since this is not done in the present state, therefore there must be a future state of rewards and punishments in a life to come. But all this, the men we are now speaking of profess to believe only so far as it is discoverable by the light of nature alone, without believing any divine revelation. These, I say, are the only true deists, and indeed the only persons who ought in reason to be argued with, in order to convince them of the reasonableness, truth, and certainty of the Christian revelation. But, alas! there is, as I before said, too much reason to believe, that there are very few such deists as these, among modern deniers of revelation. For such men as I have now described, if they would at all attend to the consequences of their own principles, could not fail of being quickly persuaded to embrace Christianity. For, being fully convinced of the obligations of natural religion, and the certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments; and yet observing, at the same time, how little use men generally are able to make of the light of reason, to discover the one, or to convince themselves effectually of the certainty and importance of the other; it is impossible but they must be sensible of the want of a revelation; it is impossible but they must earnestly desire God would be pleased, by some direct discovery of his will, to make these things more clear and plain, more easy and obvious, more certain and evident to all capacities; it is impossible but they must wish God would be pleased particularly to signify expressly the acceptableness of repentance, and his willingness to forgive returning sinners; it is impossible but they must be very solicitous to have some more particular and certain information concerning the nature of that future state, which reason teaches them in general to expect. The consequence of this, is; 153that they must needs be possessed beforehand with a strong hope that the Christian revelation may, upon a due examination, appear to be true. They must be infinitely far from ridiculing and despising any thing that claims to be a divine revelation, before they have sincerely and thoroughly examined it to the bottom. They must needs be before-hand very much disposed in its favour; and be very willing to be convinced that what tends to the advancing and perfecting the obligation of natural religion, to the securing their great hopes, and ascertaining the truth of a future state of rewards and punishments, and can any way be made appear to be worthy of God, and consistent with his attributes, and has any reasonable proof of the matters of fact it depends upon— is, really and truly, what it pretends to be, a divine revelation. And now, is it possible that any man, with these opinions and these dispositions, should continue to reject Christianity, when proposed to him in its original and genuine simplicity, without the mixture of any corruptions or inventions of men? Let him read the sermons and exhortations of our Saviour as delivered in the gospels, and the discourses of the apostles, preserved in their acts and their epistles, and try if he can withstand the evidence of such a doctrine, and reject the hopes of such a glorious immortality so discovered to him. That there is now no consistent scheme of deism in the world. The heathen philosophers, those few of them who taught and lived up to the obligations of natural religion, had indeed a consistent scheme of deism so far as it went; and they were very brave and wise men, if any of them could keep steady and firm to it. But the case is not so now. The same scheme of deism is not any longer consistent with its own principles, if it does not now lead men to embrace and believe revelation, as it then taught them to hope for it. Deists, in our days, who obstinately reject revelation when offered to them, are not such men as Socrates and Tully were; but, under pretence of deism, it is plain they are generally ridiculers of all that is truly excellent even 154in natural religion itself. Could we see a deist, whose mind was heartily possessed with worthy and just apprehensions of all the attributes of God, and a deep sense of his duty towards that supreme author and preserver of his being,—could we see a deist who lived in an exact performance of all the duties of natural religion, and by the practice of righteousness, justice, equity, sobriety, and temperance, expressed in his actions, as well as words, a firm belief and expectation of a future state of rewards and punishments; in a word, could we see a deist, who, with reverence and modesty, with sincerity and impartiality, with a true and hearty desire of finding out and submitting to reason and truth, would inquire into the foundations of our belief, and examine thoroughly the pretensions which pure and uncorrupt Christianity has to be received as a divine revelation,—I think we could not doubt to affirm, of such a person, as our Saviour did of the young man in the Gospel, that he was not far from the kingdom of God; and that, being willing to do his will, he should know of the doctrine whether it was of God. But, as I have said, there is great reason to doubt there are few or none such deists as these among the infidels of our days. This, indeed, is what they sometimes pretend, and seem to desire should be thought to be their case. But, alas, their trivial and vain cavils; their mocking and ridiculing, without and before examination; their directing the whole stress of their objections against particular customs, or particular and perhaps uncertain opinions, or explications of opinions, without at all considering the main body of religion; their loose, vain, and frothy discourses; and, above all, their vicious and immoral lives,—show plainly and undeniably, that they are not really deists, but mere atheists; and consequently not capable to judge of the truth of Christianity. If they were truly and in earnest such deists as they pretend, and would sometimes be thought to be, those principles (as has been already shown in part, and 155will more fully appear in the following discourse,) 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 now110110   Ita sit, ut si ab illa rerum summa, quam superius comprehendimus, aberravercs, omnis ratio intereat, et ad nihilum omnia revertantur.Lactan, lib.7. 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 156his existence and natural attributes, is in reality denying those natural attributes and that existence itself. 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 manner, 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 of 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 fixed and certain set of principles to adhere 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.


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