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this general Corruption of Nature; but the Thing itself is evident; the Impotence of Nature stands confessed; the Blindness, the Ignorance of the Heathen World are too plain a Proof of it. This general Corruption and Weakness of Nature made it necessary that Religion should be restored by some ather Means, and that Men should have other Helps to resort to, besides their own Strength and Reason. And, if Natural Religion is indeed arrived to that State of Perfection so much boasted of, it gives a strong Testimony to the Gospel, and evidently proves it to be an adequate Remedy and Support against the Evil and Corruption of Nature, For, where the Gospel prevails, Nature is restored ; and Reason, delivered from Bondage by Grace, sees and approves what is holy, just, and pure: For what else can it be ascribed to, but the Power of the Gospel, that, in every Nation that names the Name of Christ, even Reason and Nature fee and condemn the Follies, which others still, for Want of the same Help, are held in Subjection to?
Can this Trnth be evaded or denied ? And what a Return then do we make for the Blessing we have received ? and how despightfully do we treat the Gospel of
Christ, to which we owe that clear Light even of Reason and Nature which we now enjoy, when we endeavour to set up Reason and Nature in opposition to it? Ought the withered Hand, which Christ has restored and made whole, to be lifted up against him? or should the dumb Man's Tongue, just loosened from the Bonds of Silence, blafpheme the Power that set it free? Yet thus foolishly do we fin, when we make Natural Religion the Engine to batter down the Gospel; for the Gospel only could, and only has restored the Religion of Nature : And therefore there is a kind of Parricide in the Attempt, and an Infidelity heightened by the aggravating Circumstance of unnatural Baseness and Disingenuity.
Nor will the Success of the Attempt be much greater than the Wisdom and the Piety of it: For, when once Nature leaves her faithful Guide, the Gospel of Christ, it will be as unable to support itself against Error and Superstition, as it was to deliver itself from them, and will by degrees fall back into its original Blindness and Corruption. Had you a View of the Disputes that arise even upon the Principles of Natural Religion, it would shew you what the End will be; for the Wanderings of human
Reason are infinite. Under the GospelDispensation we have the immutable Word of God for the Support of our Faith and Hope. We know in whom we have believed; in Him, who can neither deceive, nor be deceived; and, poor as our Services are, we have His Word for it, that our Labour of Love shall not be forgotten. But to them who rely on Nature only, it is not evident, nor can it be, whether any future Reward shall attend their religious Service, Well therefore did St. Peter say to Christ, Thou hast the Words of eternal Life; for no other Religion can give any Security of Life and Happiness to its Votaries. Whither then shall we go from Christ, or to whom shall we seek for Succour, since he only has the Words of eternal Life?
**** HÈ second Thing to be con
sidered is, That the Excellency T
of Religion consists in affording certain Means of obtaining eter
nal Life. Religion is founded in the Principles of Reason and Nature; and, without supposing this Foundation, it would be as rational an Act to preach to Horses as to Men. A Man, who has the Use of Reason, cannot consider his Condition and Circumstances in this World, or reflect upon his Notions of Good and Evil, and the Sense he feels in himself that he is an accountable Creature for the Good or Evil he does, without asking himself, how he came into this World, and for С
what Purpose, and to whom it is that he is, or possibly may be, accountable. When, by tracing his own Being to the Original, he finds that there is one supreme all-wise Cause. of all Things; when by Experience he sees, that this World neither is, nor can be, the Place for taking a juft and adequate Account of the Actions of Men ; the Presumption that there is another State after this, in which Men shall live, grows strong and almost irresistible: When he considers farther the Fears and Hopes of Nature with respect to Futurity, the Fear of Death common to all, the Desire of continuing in Being which never forsakes us; and reflects for what Use and Purpose these strong Impressions were given us by the Author of Nature; he cannot help concluding that Man was made not merely to act a short Part upon the Stage of this World, but that there is another and more lasting State, to which he bears Relation. And from hence it must necessarily follow, that his Religion must be formed on a View of securing a future Happiness.
Since then the End that Men propose to themselves by Religion is such, it will teach us wherein the true Excellency of Religion confifts. If eternal Life and future Happiness are what we aim at, that will be the best