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3. That this does prove, that God will judge the world, and render to every man according to
I. That it is so; that all men have a natural Presage of Judgment: There is indeed a very formidable Objection against this, That very few men live as if they did expect to be judged. But this is as good an Argument against mens belief of the Gospel of Christ, and the expressRevelation of a Future Judgment, as it is against the Natural Sense and Presages of Conscience; for there are too many who profess to believe the Gospel, but do not live as if they did believe a Judgment: But I need not trouble my self about this, because it is an Objection only to Atheists and Infidels, if indeed it be an Objection to them: Other bad men, who live as if they did not believe a Judgment, yet feel in themselves that they do believe it, and when they think of it, they believe and tremble too, as the Devils do; tho at other times they are overpower'd by the World and the Flesh, to act contrary to the Convictions of Conscience, and the Fears of Judgment.
The Heathens themselves, who had only the Light of Nature to direct them, were very sensible of the private Judgment of their own Gonscicnces,which did either accuse them when they did ill, and fill them with remorse and fear of 'Vengeance; or excuse, commend and applaud them when they did well, and give them great and chearful Hopes of a Reward; as St. Paul tells .us,2.Rcw.i4.iy. and is frequently observed by the Heathen Philosophers, Poets, Orators and Historians, as a thing universally acknowledged: And indeed I know no man at this day who denies it, and therefore I need not prove it. All men feel this in themselves,evenAtheists andlnfidels,whenever they are serious and thoughtful; when the Judgments of God overtake them,or they see the near Approaches of Death, and another World: The greatest Power cannot defend men from these Fears; Princes and Politicians are equally exposed to them,with meaner Subjects: Those whom no Human Power can touch, are over-awed by an invisible Justice.
II. Since this is universally acknowledged, the only Question is, To what cause to attribute these Fears and Rebukes of Conscience? The Atheists will by no means allow these Fears to be natural, but only the effects of a Superstitious Education; as they fay the belief of a God, and the differences of Good and Evil are. Men have been taught from their very Infancy, that there is an Invisible Power that governs the world,which will reward good men, and punish the wicked, and have been frighted with the Fairy Stories of Infernal Judges, and Styx and Acheron, or Hell-Fire; and this made such an Impression upon theirTender Fancies, as can never be wore out, at least not without great Industry and Resolution of Mind; and this, they fay, makes weak men conclude that they are Natural. But this is a very absurd and ridiculous Account of the Matter, as wiH appear, if you consider by what Rules we are to judge, what is Natural, and whatnot: For if these Presages of Conscience have all the marks and signs of being natural, that we can have that any thing is natural, we must either fay, that nothing is natural, or that we cannot tell what is natural, and what not; or we must confess it great Perversenefs of . F 2. Mind, Mind, to deny that to be natural, which has all the signs and marks of being natural, that any thing can have.
Now i. That is Natural which is universal, or common to the whole kind; for we have no other way of knowing what the Nature of Things are, but by observing what is common to all Creatures of the fame kind and Species; for nothing is common to all Individuals, but a common Nature: And if what is universal, and common to all Mankind is Natural, these Censures and Rebukes of Conscience are Natural, for they are common to all Men: For tho we should grant that some few Atheists have wholly conquered these Fears, and never feel the Lames and Rebukes of their own Consciences, such few and rare Examples ought to be looked on as the Corruption of Human Nature, not as the Measure and Standard of it; for it is no news to say, that Human Nature may be corrupted, that the very essential Principles of it may be depraved; and in such cases we always judge, and that with very good reason, that what is most common and universal, is natural, not what is as rare and as ominous as a Monstrous Birth.
2dly. Especially when we consider, that that is most natural which is born and bred with us, and is the Original State of Human Nature; for Nature is before Art, and before the voluntary Corruptions and Degeneracy of Nature.This Atheists fee and confess, and therefore attribute the Belief of a God, and the Checks of Conscience, and the Fears of Judgment, to Education; that these Principles were instilled into us from the beginning, and grow up with us into confirmed and setled •. _ Prejudices; Prejudices; and I readily grant, that Education has a great stroke in forming our Notions, arid in awakening and cultivating our Natural Reason; for tho we are born with a Power and Faculty of Reason, and our Minds are so framed, as to understand and assent to such Truths, wher they are proposed to us; to know and acknowledge prime and original Principles at first view, as the Eye discerns Light,and distinguishesColours; yet we are not born with the Exercise of Reason, but it must be put into Act, and formed by Education : But this I say, that it is an Argument how natural these Notions are to pur Minds, that they are the first Principles all Mankind assent to without difficulty or dispute; and such Principles as when men grow up, they find lye even and easy in their Minds: they are the first things which Atheists . themselvesdo naturally believe,. and that they do, not believe them now, is the effect of great Industry and Violence: It is a piece of Art to be an Atheist, which they are a great while a learning; which very few men, tho well disposed to it, can ever learn; but to believe a God, and to fear and reverence his invisible Power and Justice, is not Art, but Nature, and therefore common to * . all Mankind, and the first thing they learn to believe.
idly. Another Mark of what is natural is, That it is absolutely inseperable from Nature, or at least not without extream difficulty and violence j and this proves the Hopes and Fears cf good and bad men to be very natural: For how impossible it is to conquer these Fe3rs, I appeal to your own Sense and Experience: At many bad men as there are who would be ve
ry glad to get rid of these Fears, and to laugh them out of the World, there are but very few that can do it. Some men indeed stifle their Consciences, and lay them asleep by the various Arts of Superstition, whereby they hope to appease God, and to keep their Sins still ; or by the deceitful Vows and Promises of Repenting before they dye, or by perpetual Business and Entertainments, which employ their Thoughts, and keep off all melancholyReflections; or by such perpetual Debaucheries as stupifie their Minds, and make them insensible; now these Mens Fears are silenced for a while, but not conquered; whatever makes them reflect upon themselves, and consider their own State, awakens their Fears again, and makes them more outragious and tormenting than ever. The Atheist is certainly so far in the right, that there is no way to get rid of these Fears, but by banishing the Belief of a God, and of another World, out of their Minds: But few Men can do this, and Atheists themselves, when they have impudently enough derided the Superstition of the rest of the World, and think they can answer all the Arguments for the Being of a God, and a Future State, yet cannot wholly deliver their Minds from these Fears; they ever and anon recur upon them, and after all their pretended Assurance and Confidence, they are very jealous what may be, and many times some cross Accidents and Events, or the Approach of Death opens their Eyes, and makes them acknowledge a God, and tremble at the thoughts of Judgment, which they had so long despised. . , .