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without his Directions than with them. Upon this State of the Case then, a Revelation must be entirely rejected as a Forgery, or entirely submitted to; and the only Debate between Natural Religion and Revelation must be, whether we really have a Revelation, or no; and not whether Revelation or Nature be, in the nature of Things, the best and furest Foundation of Religion : Which Difpute but ill becomes our Condition, and is a vain Attempt to exalt ourselves and our own Reason above every Thing that is called God.
Since then Revelation, considered as such, must needs be the surest Guide in Religion, every reasonable Man is bound to consider the Pretensions of Revelation, when offered to him; for no Man can justify himself in relying merely on Natural Religion, till he has satisfied himself that no better Directions are to be had. For, since 'tis the Business of Religion to please God, is it not a very natural and a very reasonable Inquiry to make, whether God has any-where declared what will please him ? at least, 'tis reasonable when we are called to this Inquiry, by having a Revelation tendered to us, supported by such Evidence, which, though it may be
easily rejected without Reason, yet to Reason
any particular Revelation is excluded by those who argue against all Revelation a priori, as being inconsistent with the Wisdom of God. What they say amounts to this; That God, having given us Reason, has bound us to obey the Dictates of Reason, and tied himself down to judge us by that Rule, and that only: To suppose otherwise, they imagine, would be to maintain that God gave us an imperfect Rule at first, and which wanted to be mended ; a Thing, they imagine, inconfiftent with his Wisdom: And, the Rule of Reason being sufficient, all Revelation, they judge, must be aseless and impertinent, and consequently can never derive itself from God. But, as it is too apparent to be denied, that Reason and Natural Religion never did in any Age universally prevail ; to help out the Argument, it is farther supposed, that whatever happens in the World is agreeable to the original Design of God, and confequently, that those who have least of Reason and Natural Religion, are in the State for which God designed them; and, if so, 'tis absurd to suppose a Revelation should be
given, to take Men out of that State in which God originally designed to place them.
This is the Sum of the Argument against Revelation a priori : To consider it particularly will take more Time than can be allowed : But in brief we may observe,
1. That to argue, from the Perfection of human Reason, that we are discharged from receiving any new Laws from God, is inconfistent with as clear a Principle of Reason as any whatever, and which necessarily arises from the Relation between God and Man; which is, That the Creature is bound to obey the Creator, in which Way soever his. Will is made known to him : And this surely is true with respect to the highest Order of Beings, as well as to the lowest; for this Plea, now made for human Reason, would be presumptuous in the Mouth of an Angel, and inconsistent with the Subjection he owes to God.
2. As to the Perfection of human Reason, it cannot be, nor, I suppose, will it be maintained, that human Reason is absolutely perfect; and therefore the Meaning must be, that Reason is relatively perfect, confidered as the Rule of our Obedience. But this is frue only upon Supposition that Reason is the only Rule of our Obedience; for, if
there be any other Rule besides, mere Reason cannot be the perfect Rule of our Obedience: And therefore this Argument is really begging the Thing in question ; for it supposes there is no other Rule but Reafon, which is the Thing not to be supposed, but to be proved. As much may be said for every Law, as is said in this Case for human Reafon : Every Law, being the only Law in the Case, is a perfect Rule for the Subject's Obedience, because the Subject is bound to no more than the Law requires : But, if the Law be amended and enlarged by the fame Authority that made it, it is no longer a perfect Rule of Obedience; but, to make it such, it must be taken jointly with the Corrections and Enlargements made by the
proper Authority. 3. Hence it follows, That to alter or add to a Law once considered as a perfect Rule of Obedience, when an Alteration of Circumstances requires it, is neither useless nor impertinent, but oftentimes the Effect of Wisdom and Necessity.
4. To say that Revelation is unnecessary, because Reason is a perfect Rule, and at the same time to affirm that those who have but an imperfect Use of Reason have no Need of Revelation, is a manifest Contradiction: To say farther, that those who are
in such a State that actually they do not obey the Laws of Reason, and, morally speaking, cannot obey, are nevertheless in such a State as God intended they should be in, is not only making God the Author of Evil, but it is ascribing to him two inconsistent Intentions: For to argue that God gave Men Reason to be the Rule of their Obedience, is supposing that his original Intention is, that Men should obey Reason; to argue at the same time that those who live in Disobedience to this Law are in the State which God intended them to be in, is to suppose that God intended the Law should be obeyed, and not obeyed, at the same time. But to return :
We are not now arguing in behalf of any particular Revelation, which may be true or false for any thing that has hitherto been said : But this I urge, That Revelation is the surest Foundation of Religion ; and this wants no other Proof than an Explication of the Terms : Religion, considered as a Rule, is the Knowledge of serving and pleasing God: Revelation is the Declaration of God, how he would be served, and what will please him: And, unless we know what will please God, better than he himself does, Revelation must be the best Rule to serve