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THE

DIVINITY

OF THE

CHRISTIAN RELIGION.

CHAPTER I.

Religion necessary for the honour of God and happi

ness of man. The truth of the Christian religion made evident by comparing it with all other religions.

That God is the Maker of the world; that he observes our moral actions, and will require an account of them in the future state, and distribute eternal recompenses accordingly, has been proved by such invincible evidence that reason cannot resist. It follows, therefore, that religion is necessary both for the honour of God, and the happiness of man. For we cannot conceive, but that the wise Creator, in making all things, designed his own glory, both in the manifestation of his own perfections, and that they should be acknowledged and reverenced, loved and praised, by intelligent creatures. This is a natural duty, to which mankind, with an unforced consent, agrees. For, as honour, in the general, is the homage paid to conspicuous excellencies, and specially to beneficent virtues ; so religion, that is the highest honour, is justly due to God the most sovereign being in all perfections, and our sovereign Benefactor. And it is equally clear, that the happiness of man depends on religion. For if God regard the actions of men, not with a naked speculative knowledge, but with an eye of providence and judgment; if he will accept and reward our services not as profitable to him, but as the just expressions of our love, thankfulness, and obedience to him, it is requisite our prime care should be to serve him. In this, the greatest duty and supreme interest of men are inviolably united; for what obligation can possibly be equal to that of pleasing our Maker and Preserver? And what is comparable to the interest of eternity? From hence there is a general inclination in men to worship the Deity, impressed from the author of nature; but the ways are diverse. Religion assumes a different shape in different countries, and the rites that are observed by some nations as sacred, are rejected by others as impious, or vain. . Now, in this variety of religions, each contrary to the other, it is necessary to consider which is that special way of serving God that is only pleasing to him. If a traveller be distracted between several ways, he will inquire which leads to his journey's end, and not go on with uncertainty. And is it not infinitely reasonable to do that in the most important affair, which any person will do in the most ordinary? To be indifferent in a matter so deeply concerning us, is prodigious above all wonder. For if the means we use to obtain the favour of God, provoke his anger, our misery is remediless. But, alas ! no rashness is so common,

errors.

ways true.

as that of men's preferring one religion before another.

How many false religions are defended by whole nations with that zeal as if they were the most assured persons ? When the foundations of their belief and adherence are so weak, did they call reason to counsel, they must be convinced of their

They are led by vain regards to their progenitors, from whom their religion is derived; and what they receive at first without examination, they never distrust; as if the first instructions were al

Nay, the Christian religion, though shining with an extraordinary lustre, which justifies it to every one that will but

open

his

eyes to consider it, is yet as injudiciously and carelessly received, as the vainest religion in the world. There are innumerable Christians in name, without any solid conviction in their minds, or divine change in their hearts, the effects of its truth and goodness. They are disciples of Christ, as the Turks are of Mahomet, by the sole impression of example.

In discussing this matter, I shall proceed upon such principles as are evident to the human understanding. It is a common principle acknowledged by all men, • That God alone is to prescribe that way and order of service wherein he will be honoured.' For this reason, those who in any nation introduced a form of religion, always pretended to have divine direction for it. Now that God has signified his will to men in this most important matter, it is most reasonable to believe. cient philosopher observes, that such is the providence of nature, that the most necessary arts for

An an

the support of life are easily learned of all. And if the divine providence has such a tender care of man, as to make the knowledge of such things easy as are requisite for the temporal life, it is reasonable to believe he has not left him destitute of those means that are necessary for the obtaining eternal life. Now that the Christian religion alone is true, will fully appear,

I. By comparing it with other religions, that upon trial are proved to be false, or that they are infinitely excelled by the Christian in those things wherein they have any resemblance or degrees of truth and goodness.

II. By considering it directly, as to its intrinsic excellencies, and those external supernatural operations, that are the express characters of God's hand, which afford an infallible testimony of his approv

ing it.

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Before the coming of Christ into the world there were two sorts of religions, Gentilism and Judaism. The first is utterly excluded on account of its gross and palpable contrariety to the principles of sound

reason.

1. By a fundamental error in the object of worship. Idolatry then spread through all the regions under both the hemispheres. Now it is evident, by reason, there is but one true God, an infinite being, the Maker and Governor of all things, that has alone divine excellencies in himself, and a divinė empire over us, and, consequently, is alone worthy of su

And what greater indignity can be offered to him, than the placing of idols in his throne? He is a jealous God, sensible and severe; and will not suffer any partner in his worship. His

preme honour.

honour is eminently concerned to vindicate his despised Deity. It is a

It is a pitiful shift to allege that they honoured their inferior gods with a lower and imperfect worship: for all divine worship is supreme, and to be given only to the supreme God. Besides, what more debases man, than to consecrate the flower of his esteem and affections to unworthy objects, and many times to things wherein were no signs of life, much less any ray of divinity? It is evident, therefore, that the numerous sects of superstition were involved in the most wretched ignorance of God and themselves. And it is observable, that no quarrels were raised amongst the heathens about the several gods they worshipped. For the devil, the irreconcilable enemy to God's glory and man's happiness, was pleased with their deadly

Let them adore the host of heaven or of the earth, it was alike to him: for they all diverted the minds of men from the sole object of divine worship, the true God.

2. Gentilism was equally culpable in the manner of worship. Those who made gods to themselves, ordained their service according to their fancies. But the true God that made man will be worshipped according to his own appointment. Now, if we consider that unintelligible variety of religions amongst the heathens, we shall have reason to conclude, that there is no instance wherein the excess of man's native blindness and depravation is more astonishing, than in the ways he has devised for the serving of God.

The Grecians and Romans had more art and improvement than the rest, yet how frivolous and ex

errors.

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