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shall we say of the Chinese, a Nation that wants not either Reason or Learning, and in fome Parts of it pretends to excel the World? They have been daily improving in the Arts of Life, and in every Kind of Knowledge and Science; but yet in Religion they are ignorant and superstitious, and have but very little of what we call Natural Religion among them: And what Ground is there to imagine that Reason would have done more, made greater Discoveries of Truth, or more entirely subdued the Passions of Men, in England or France, or any other Country of Europe, than it has in the Eastern or Southern Parts of the World! Are not Men as reasonable Creatures in the East, as they are in the West? and have not they the same Means of exercising and improving their Reason too? Why then should
think that Reason would do that now in this place, which it has never yet been able to do in
Time or Place whatever ?
This Fact is so very plain and undeniable, that I cannot but think, that, would Men consider it fairly, they would soon be convinced how much they are indebted to the Revelation of the Gospel, even for that Natural Religion which they so fondly boast of: For how comes it to pass, that there is fu
much Reason, such clear Natural Religion, in every Country where the Gospel is professed, and so little of both every-where else?
But is there then, you will say, no such Thing as Natural Religion? Does not St. Paul lay the Heathen World under Condemnation for not attending to the Dictates of it? Because, says he, that which
be known of God is manifest in them; for God bath Jewed it unto them. For the invisble Things of bim from the Creation of the World are clearly seen, being understood by the Things that are made, even bis eternal Power and Godhead; so that they are without Excuse : Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neitber were thankful, but became vain in their Imaginations, and their foolish Heart was darkened. Profesing themselves to be wise, they became Fools; and changed the Glory of the uncorruptible God into an Image made like to corruptible Man, and to Birds, and four-footed Beasts, and creeping Things.-A sad Account this of the State of Religion in the Heathen World, and a manifeft Proof how much Nature stands in need of Assistance! What we learn from St. Paul is plainly this ; That; notwithstanding the Care which God had taken to display the Evidences of his own Being and Godhead in every Work of the
Creation, so that Men could not but have a Notion of the Deity; yet; so little did they profit by that Knowledge, that it served only to render them inexcusable in their Superstition and Idolatry : For, when they knew God, (as indeed all the Heathen World had a Notion of a supreme Being) yet they glorified him not as God; but changed the Glory of the uncorruptible God into an Image made like unto corruptible Man, and to Birds, and four-footed Beasts, and creeping Things. And was not Nature an excellent Guide to follow, that thus stumbled at the very Threshold, and having from natural Reason the Notion of a fupreme Deity, fought to find him among the four-footed Beasts and creeping Things of the Earth? Can you say what it was that thus debased the Reason and Understanding of Mankind? What Evil was it that had diffused itself through the whole Race, and fo poffessed their Senses, that feeing they did not perceive, and hearing they did not understand ? Or, do
think that you alone are exempt from this common, this universal Blindnefs, and that the fame Reason and Nature, that hitherto have misguided all the World into Error and Idolatry, would lead you, out of the common Road, into Truth and pure Religion?
Is it not the utmost Presumption to think thus, and to imagine that we alone are able to surmount the Difficulties which all the World before us has funk under ? And yet thus every Man must think, who sets up Natural Religion in opposition to Revelation : For has mere Nature ever yet, in any one Part of the World, extricated itself from Error? Do the Nations of old, or those which now are, afford any Instance of this Kind? But still you think that Nature is fufficient to direct you; and what else is this but to distinguish yourself from all the World, as if you only were privileged against the common Failings and Corruptions of Mankind ?
But you'll say, Are there not complete Schemes of Natural Religion drawn from Principles and Axioms of Reason, without calling in the Help of Revelation and are they not evident Demonstrations that Nature is able to furnith us with a Religion that is pure and holy and agreeable to the divine Attributes ? Allow this; but let us then be informed how it came to pass, that never any System of this pure Religion was in Use and Practice in any Nation, or indeed ever fully discovered, till the Gospel had enlightened the World. You
You may boast of
Socrates and Plato, and some few others in the Heathen World, and tell us perhaps of their great Attainments
upon the Strength of mere Reason. Be it fo: But what is this to the present Question? Must Millions in every Age of the World be left in Ignorance, because five or fix
them may happen to extricate themselves ? Would it be reasonable to suffer a whole Nation to perish without Help in a Plague, because some few were not tainted with the Distemper? Or, will you say all Men are seven Feet high, because we see now-and-then some who are ?
I question not but the wife Creator of the World formed us for his own Service, and that he gave us whatever was requisite either to the Knowledge or the Performance of our Duty: And that there are still in Nature the Seeds and Principles of Religion, however buried under the Rubbish of Ignorance and Superstition, I as little question. But what was it, I beseech you, that oppressed this Light of Reason and Nature for so many Ages? and what is it that has now set it free? Whatever the Distemper was, Nature plainly wanted Assistance, being unable to disengage herself from the Bonds and Fetters in which she was held: We may disagree perhaps in finding a Name for this Evil,