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Thirdly, That the Coming of Christ has
supplied these Defects, and has perfected and completed the' Hopes of Nature.
It must be allowed, That the original ReligiOn of Nature was agreeable to the Original' State of Nature: And consequently, if Natural Religion is sounded in the Confideration of Man's Sin 'and We'akness, it follows, That Man was originally formed a Sinner and weak. But farther, _ p
Supposing Men made originally to be what we see they are, upon What Grounds are we to hope for an Alteration fOr the better? For, if it was consistent with God's Good-' ness to put Men into this State originally, how is it inconsistent with his Goo'dness- to Continue that State, which Was at first, his Dwn Appointment? He could no more act inconfistently with his Goodness at the Belginning of the World, than he can at the End of it. If Reason therefore admits the Present State o'f the. World to be of God's Appointment, it must never afterwards pretend to entertain Hopes of being delivered from it; and without such Hopes all Religion is vain andiuseless. \ _
It may be thought perhaps, That, supPofing the' present State of Things tobe of God's Appointment, vsiVe cannot be answerableþ
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for what we do; for why should he blame us for doing the Work he has appointed? Allow this Reasoning ; yet no Religion can be built on it 3 for it can go no farther than to say that we ought not to be punished for, > si our Doings: It can never shew that we have any Title to be put into a better State: The utmost it can pretend to prove, is, that we are absolutely unaccountable ; and, if so, there is nothing we can do to less Purpose, than to trouble our Heads about Religion. ' Farther, If the Laws of Nature are the Precepts of Natural Religion, as Without all doubt they are, it follows, That Natural Religion can be nothing else but Obedience to the Laws of Nature 3 and, consequently, the genuine Hopes of Natural Religion must be founded in .Obedience. This must necessarily be-the Case; for all Laws are made 'to bev obeyed. No Prince was ever so absurd as to make .LaVvs with 'this View, that his Subjects might break them, and he shew his Goodness in pardoning their Transgressions: And yet this must have been the Scheme of Providence, _,_if Natural Religion was nothing else from the Beginning but an Expectation of Pardonssfor Sin. , , Secondly, Let us take a View of ctour present State, without inquiring whether any > and
and what Change has happened to put tis into this Condition 5 and let us consider what may be expected from our present Circumstances. Two Things may. be affirmed with Certainty of the present Condition of Mankind: One is, That they. have a Sense of their Obligation to obey the Laws of Reason and Nature; which is evident from the Force of natural Conscience: The other is, That very few do in any tolerable Degree, and none perfectly, Pay this Obedience.
Let us examine then how_,Religion will stand-upon these Circumstasinces. It is impossible to found the Hopes of Religion on v Innocence and Obedience 3 for ObedienCe is not paid. ct On the other hand, ahsolute Irnpunity Cannot be c'laimed for all Sins 5 much less can any Degree of Happiness, either present or future, be claimed in behalf of Offenders. The utmost Probability to which human Reason can arrive in this Case, is, That, the Goodness of God and the VVeaknefls of Man considered, God may favourably accept our Endeavours, how imperfect soever our Attainments may be. But is this Reasoning built on infallible Principles? Canany Certainty or Security arise out'of this? any . 'that _cansi give Rest or Peace to the Mind of Man, ever inquisitive after Futurity'? Will
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y0u promise Impunity to Offenders upon Repentance? Impunity, mere Impunity, is not the' Thing that Nature seeks after : She craves something more. But can the Argument from the divine Mercy be carried farther? Is it not great Mercy to pardon Sinners? Can you with Decency desire a Reward for them ? Our Saviour has told us, that, when we have done our best, we must still own that we are unpreffitaole Servants : * And, if wereflect that all our natural Powers are the Gift of God, and, consequently, our best Services are but a Debt paid to the Donor; if we consider that in all we do there is no Profit to the Most High, that His Power and Majesty are not exalted by our Service, nor lessened by our Neglect; we shall find 'that our own Reason teaches us the fame Lesson, and that, when we confess Ourselves unprofitable Servants, we give greater Evidence of our Understanding than of our Humility. And, if this be truly the Case, what are the Claims of Natural Relis =gion?,Are they not the Claims of unprofitable Servants? the Claims of those to Whom nothing is due ?
Thirdly, Let us now take a View of the Conditions and Promises of the Gospel, and see whether 'we have any Reason to be