« AnteriorContinuar »
God; namely, That it is just for God not to punish Sinners, and righteous in him to receive them to Favour. If Reason cannot discover nor comprehend how both these Propositions should be true at the same time with respect to the same Persons, 'tis impossible that it should discover or comprehend the Means which God makes use of to reconcile himself to Sinners; that is, it is impossible for God to make use of any Means that are not mysterious, that is, above the Reach and Comprehension of human Wisdom.
This Difficulty must for ever remain, as long as we attempt to scan the divine Justice by our narrow Conceptions of it: And this is the very Difficulty that makes many Things in the Gospel to be mysterious. The Scripture tells us, That God has been reconciled to Sinners by the Death of Christ, That be made Atonement for the Sins of the whole World. These are great Mysteries : We' cannot see that there is any Proportion between the Sufferings of one and the Sins of all; or, if there were, we cannot see the Justice of laying the Sins of the Wicked upon
the innocent Head. If we could see the Reasons
which the Justice of God proceeds in this Cafe, here would be no
Mystery : And therefore the Mysteriousness of the whole Proceeding arises only from hence, That our finite Minds cannot comprehend the Reasons and Limits of the divine Justice. Most certain it is, That, if God be reconciled to Sinners, Satisfaction must be made to his Justice; for he may as well cease to be God, as to be just. Whatever Satisfaction is made, it must be founded in the Reasons of his own Justice, that is, of Justice directed by infinite Wifdom. The Reasons of such Justice we cannot comprehend; and therefore we must either be saved by Means that are mysterious to us, or God must give us infinite Wisdom to comprehend the Reason of his Justice. You see then, that from this Notion of Religion, considered as containing the Means by which God reconciled himself to the World, 'tis so far from being absurd to suppofe it in fome Parts mysterious, that it is not possible it Thould be otherwise.
To redeem the World is the Work of God: He only could find the Means of Reconciliation, and he only could apply them : 'Tis our Part merely to accept them, and to obey the Terms and Conditions upon which he offers them. Religion therefore, which is founded upon Redemption, must
needs consist of these two Parts; An Account of the Redemption wrought by God, and Instructions to Men upon what Terms they may reap
the Benefit of the Redemption. As far as our Part goes in the Gospel, there is nothing mysterious; we have nothing to do for ourselves, but what we very well know how to do. As to the other parts of the Gospel, we are not required to comprehend and account for God's Methods of Salvation, but only to accept them; which, as I before observed, are two distinct Acts of the Mind, and not dependent upon each other.
each other. As for the Work of God in our Redemption, 'tis indeed wonderful and mysterious: And why should it seem strange to you, that it is so? Are there any other Works of God which are not mysterious ? Consider the Creation and Formation of this World : consider the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, the Works of his Hand; tell me by what secret Power they move, by what Rule their different Motions were at first impressed, and by what Secret in Nature or Providence ever since preserved. Or, if you think it hard to be sent to consider the Heavens at a Distance, do but consider the Earth, and the meanest Creatures of it: Can you tell how they are formed ? how they live, and move, and have
their Being ? Nay, can you name that Work of God, which is not mysterious? Is there any thing in Nature, the first Principles of which you can discover and see into ? If in all the Works of God there is no such Thing; why should we think it ftrange, That in his Work of Redemption he has appeared so like himself, and that in this, as in every thing else, his Ways are past finding out ? We live by the Preservation of Providence, and enjoy the Comforts and Pleasures of this Life ; and yet how myfterious is our Preservation! How little do we know of the Methods by which we are preserved! and yet the Benefits of it we enjoy, notwithstanding our Ignorance of the Means: And why is it a greater Absurdity to suppose that Men may be redeemed, without comprehending all the Means made use of in their Redemption? In all other Instances whatever, the Miraculousness of an Escape adds to the Pleasure and Joy of it, and is always remembered with a kind of Ecstasy in the Relation.' Salvation is the only Instance in which Men demur upon the Means, and are unwilling to receive the Mercy, because they cannot understand the Methods of obtaining it. In any other Case
a Man would be thought beside himself, who should act in the same Manner.
As to the two other Points, The cleansing Sinners from their Iniquity, and enabling them to live virtuously for the future; or, in other words, the Sanctification and Grace promised in the Gospel ; I shall not enter into the Consideration of them particularly, because the same way of Reasoning is ap* plicable in these Cases, mutatis mutandis ; and therefore I shall leave them to your own Reflection,
Upon the whole; The only true and fair Way of judging of the Gospel is, to consider what is the true State of Mankind in the World. If Men are in a State of Purity and Innocence, no Redemption is wanting, and the Methods prescribed in the Gospel bear no Relation to their Circumstances : But, if Men have every-where sinned, and come short of the Glory of God, the Law of Nature cannot help them to those Blessings, which by the Law of Nature are forfeited and there is manifestly a Necessity to have recourse to other Means to obtain Salvation.
It may be said, for it often is said, That, whatever Degree of Light Men have, it will make little Difference in the Case; since an equitable Judge will consider Men and