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HE Prejudices which Men are
apt to conceive against the T
Gospel, are of different Kinds, according to the diferent Views
under which they consider it. When they set themselves to examine the Pretensions it has to be a divine Revelation, they stumble at the Meanness and Poverty of its Author ; imagining that, if God were to send a Person into the World upon so considerable an Errand, he would clothe him with a Majesty becoming one immediately commissioned by himself, and which might better support the great Undertaking : Or, if they consider the Gospel' as the Word of Gods given to Men for their Instruction in
all Things pertaining to the Service of God, they expect to find all their Doubts and Difficulties removed, which are any way related to the Cause of Religion ; such, for Instance, as relate to the Nature of the Soul, its Manner of subsisting out of the Body, and to the Nature and Condition of the future State which we are bid to expect : And, not finding these Difficulties considered and removed, they are apt to conclude that this Revelation has not all the Marks of Wisdom which are to be expected in one coming immediately from God.
Thefe Offences have been already confidered : But, as some are offended at the Gospel for not clearing the Doubts and Difficulties which encumbered the Notions of Religion before, so others take offence at the new Doctrines introduced into Religion by the Gospel, and complain of the Hardfhip put upon them in requiring them to believe Things which are not suggested to them by natural Reason, nor are to be maintained by it. Even of our Saviour's Disciples we find many offended at his Doctrine, and complaining to each other, This is an hard Saying ; who can hear it? And so far did their Prejudice prevail, that they went back, and walked no more with him.
The Gospel, it is said, contains many mysterious Truths: And what Purpose of Religion can be served by our receiving Articles of Faith which we do not understand ? Shall we be the better Men for it? Will it make us more just or holy, or beneficent to our Brethren? Will it promote the Honour of God to represent him as requiring such Conditions from us, the End or Use of which we cannot discern? Or, will it recommend Religion to the World? Will Men be the more forward to submit, when they must first renounce their Sense and Understanding, and cease to be rational, in order to be religious ?
This is a very heavy Charge, and, were it as true as it is heavy, might possibly shake the Foundations of the Gospel. But, to set this Matter in a clear Light, I must desire you to observe the different Notions which belong to the Word Mystery in the Use of the Gospel, and in vulgar Use among
Men at this Time: And, by thus distinguishing the Use or Sense of the Word, it will appear,
First, That the Objection does not reach the Gospel Sense or Use of the Word, nor can affect the Mysteries contained in the Gospel : And,
Secondly, That the Use and Sense of the Word, which is liable to this Objection, does not any way belong to the Gospel; nor are there any such Mysteries in the Gospel as may justify the Complaint made against them.
First then, If you look into the sacred Writers, you will find, That the whole Design of the Gospel, the Dispensation of Providence in the Salvation of Mankind, is styled a Mystery; the hidden Wisdom of God, 'which was kept secret hince the World began : A Mystery 'tis called, because it was kept secret since the World began, God not having opened or declared his gracious Purposes before the Coming of Christ. With respect to this Time of Secrecy and Silence the Gospel is called a Mystery ; but, upon the Revelation of it by Christ Jesus, it is no longer looked upon as a Mystery, but as the Manifestation of God's Will and Goodness to Men. Thus you will find St. Paul speaking in the last of the Romans : The Mystery which was kept secret since the World began, but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the Prophets, according to the Commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all Nations for the Obedience of Faith: That is, This great Work was a 3
Mystery in all Ages, being kept secret in the Counsels of God, but, fince the Coming of Christ, 'tis no longer a Mystery, but is manifest and made known to all Nations and People. Here then, you fee plainly, the Opposition is between Mystery and Revelation: What God has reserved to himself, without communicating the Knowledge of it to the World, that is a Mystery; what he has revealed, is no longer a Mystery, but a Manifestation of his Will and Purpose. In this Sense, I presume, there lies no Objection against the Gospel : That it was once hidden in the secret Counsels of Providence, but is now, by the Revelation of Christ Jesus, made known to all Men, can afford us no Matter of Complaint, but may administer to us great Joy, and be a Subject of Praise and Glory to God; inasmuch as our Eyes have seen, and our - Ears heard, those Things, which many righteous Men and Prophets have desired to fee, and have not feen them, and to hear, and have not heard them.
As the Gospel itself is in this Sense styled a Mystery, fo are the several Parts of it likewise: I fhew you a Mystery, says-St. Paul; we shall not all peep, but we shall all be changed. He did not mean that he would shew them what they could not comprehend,