« AnteriorContinuar »
shall we say of the Chinese, (a Nation that wants not either Reason or Learning, &and in some Parts of it pretends to excel the World? They have been daily improving in the Arts of Life, and in every Kind of Knowledge and Science; but yet in Religion they are ignorant and superstitious, and have but very little of what we call Natural Religion among them: And what Ground is there to imagine that Reason would have done more, made greater Discoveries of Truth, or more entirely i subdued the Paffions of Men, in England or France, or any other Country osEurope, than it has in the Eastern or Southern Parts of the World? Are not Men as reasonable Creatures in the East, as they are in the West? and have not they the same Means of exercifing and improving their Reason too P Why thenshould you think that Reason would do that now in, this Place, which it has never yet been able to do in any Time or Place whatever P ' *
This F act is so very plain and undeniable, that Icannot but think, that, would Men consider it fairly, they would soon be convinced how much they are indebted to the Revelation-of the Gospel, even for that Natural Religion which they so fondly boast of: For how Comes it to pass, that there is so
3 - (much
much Reason, such clear Natural Religion, in every Country where the Gospel is professed, and so little of both every-where else?
But is there then, you will say, no such Thing as Natural Religion? Does not St. Paul lay the Heathen World under Condemnation for not attending to the Dictates of it ? Becazss, says he, that which may he known of God is manisest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the in-vffihle Things of him
vfromthe Creation of the World are clearly seen,
heing understood hy the Things that are made, even his eternal Power and Godhead 5 sb that they are without Exeu e : Becazss- that, when they knew God, they glorisied him not as God, neither were thanhful, hat hecame 'vain in their Imaginations, and their fiolish Heart was darhened. Proflssing themstl'ves to he wist, they heeame Fools; and changed the Glory of the nncorrnjztihle God into an Image made lilze to corruptihle Man, and to Birds, and four-footed Berffis, and tree-ping Things.-A sad Account this of the State of Religion in the Heathen World, and a manifest Proof how much Nature stands in need of Affistance! What we learn from St. Paul is plainly this ; That', notwithstanding the Care which God had taken to display the. Evidences of his own Being and Godhead in every Work of the
Creation, so that Men could not but have a Notion of the Deity; yet, so little did they profit by that Knowledge, that it served only - to'render them inexcusable in their Stiperstition and Idolatry: For, when they knew God, (as indeed all the Heathen World had a Notion of a supreme Being) yet they glori/ied him not as God ; hut changed the Glory vof the uneorruptihle God into an Image made like unto corruptihle Man, and to Birds, and fourzsooted Beeffis, and creeping Things. And was not Nature an excellent Guide to follow, that thus stumbled at the very Threshold, and having from natural Reason the Notion of a supreme Deity, sought to find him among the four-fected Beasts and creeping Things of the Earth? Can you say what it was that thus- debased the Reason and Understanding of Mankind ? What Evil was it that had diffused itself through the whole Race, and so possessed their Senses, that sheing they did not perceive, and hearing r they did not understand ? Or, do you think that you alone-are exempt from this common, this universal Blindncss, and that the same Reason and Nature, that hitherto have misguided' all the World into Error and Idolatry, would lead you, out of the common Road, into Truth and pure Religion?
_ ' Is
thus, and to imagine that we alone are able to surmount the Difficulties which all the World before us has sunk under? And yet thus every Man must think, who sets up Natural Religion in oppofition to Revelation: For has mere Nature ever yet, in any one Part of the World, extricated 'itself from Error? Do the Nations of old, or those which now are, afford any Instance of this Kind? But still you think that Nature is sufficient to direct you; and what else is this but to distinguish yourself from all the World, as is you only were privileged against the common Failings' and Corruptions of Mankind ? _
But you'll say, Are there not complete Schemes of Natural Religion drawn from Principles and Axioms of Reason, without calling in the Help of Revelation? and are they not evident Demonstrations that Nature is able to furnish us with a Religion that is pure and holy and agreeable to the divine
Attributes? Allow this; but let us then be. _
informed how it came to pass, that never any System of this pure Religion was in Use and Practice in any Nation, or indeed ever fully discovered, till the Gospel vhad enlightened the World. You may boast of