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John iii. 16. God so loved the World, that he gave bis only
begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him fhould not perish, but have everlasting Life.
N this Passage of Scripture, and in many others, the Redemption of the World by Christ Jesus is
ascribed to the Love and Goodness of God towards Mankind. Whatever other Difficulties Men may find in the Gospel, one would suppose that it might be admitted to be, at least, a good Representation of the divine Mercy towards Mankind, and fully to display that Tenderness and Compassion to our Weaknesses and Infirmities, which we all hope for, and with
fome Reason expect to receive, from our great Creator, whose Mercy is over all his Works.
The Case being so, who would expect to hear any Objection against the Gospel derived from the Topics of divine Mercy and Goodness? Yet some there are, who think the Mercy of the Gospel to be imperfect, and that Nature gives far better Hopes to all her Children. They conceive the Infirmities of human Nature to be unavoidable, and the Mercy of God to be infinite ; and from these Considerations they raise Hopes as unbounded as they conceive the Mercy to be. As they derive these strong Assurances from natural Reason, they conceive all Promises of Mercy to be unnecessary, and therefore to be fuspected; and the Argument is worked up not only to be an Objection against the Gospel Revelation, but against all Revelations, either past or to come.
There is nothing of more Consequence to the Credit and Authority of Revelation, than to reconcile it to the natural Notions and the natural Hopes and Expectations of Mankind; and indeed the Promises of the Gospel and the Hopes of Nature are founded on the fame common Principles. Afk a Christian,
why did God redeem Mankind by sending his Son into the World ? he must answer, because Men were Sinners, weak, and miserable, and unable to rescue themselves from their wretched Condition. Ask him, what moved God to express so much Concern for such worthless Objects ? he must' resolve it into the Goodness, and Tenderness,' and paternal Affection of God, with which he embraces all the Sons of Men.
Ask the Deist, upon what Grounds he lias Hope and Confidence towards God? he will reply, That he conceives it impoffible for a beneficent Being to be rigorous and severe towards the Crimes and Follies of such weak, foolish, and impotent Creatures, as Men: That their Iniquities, though against the Light of Nature, yet flow from a Defect in the Powers of Nature ; since 'tis no Man's Fault that he is not stronger, or wiser, or better, than he was made to be: And therefore, though the Light of Reason renders him accountable for his Actions, yet his Want of Power to do what his Reason
approves, will make his Defects excufable in the Sight of his equitable Judge.
You see how nearly Natural Religion and the Gospel are allied in the Foundation of
their Hopes and Expectations. 'Tis pity such near Friends, who have one common Interest, should have any Disputes. But Disputes there are.
Far be from us to weaken the Hopes of Nature. The Gospel is no Enemy to these Hopes; fo far otherwise, that all the Hopes and Expectations of Nature are so many Preparations to the Gofpel of Christ, and lead us to embrace that Mercy offered by Christ, which Nature so long and so earnestly has sought after.
But the Question is, whether these natural Hopes can give us such Security of Pardon, and of Life and Immortality, as will justify us in rejecting the Light of Revelation? Now, whoever depends on the Forgiveness of God, admits himself to be in a Case that wants Pardon; that is, admits himself to be a Sinner. This being the Case of Mankind in general, let it be considered,
First, That Natural Religion could not be originally founded in the Consideration of Man's being a Sinner, and in the Expectation of Pardon.
Secondly, That the Hopes which we are able to form in our present Circumstances, are too weak and imperfect to give us entire Satisfaction.