« AnteriorContinuar »
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 Superstition and Idolatry: For, when they kneia God, (as indeed all the Heathen World had a Notion of a supreme Being) yet they glorified him not as God; but changed the Glory of the uncorruptible God into an Image made like unto corruptible Man, and to Birds, and four-footed Beajls, 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-footed 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, thzt Jeeing they did not perceive, ajid hearing they did not understand? Or, do you think that you alone are exempt from this common, this universal Blindness, 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 it not the utmost Presumption to think 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 opposition 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 if you only were privileged against the common Failings and Corruptions of Mankind
But you will 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 Pračtice in any Nation, or indeed ever fully discovered, till the Gospel had enlightened the World. You may boast of
Socrates and Plato, and some few others in the Heathen World, and tell us perhaps of their great Attainments upon the Strength of mere Reason. Be it so: But what is this to the present Question? Must Millions in every Age of the World be left in Ignorance, because five or fix among them may happen to extricate themselves? Would it be reasonable to suffer a whole Nation to perish without Help in a Plague, because some few were not tainted with the Distemper ? Or, will you say all Men are seven Feet high, because we see now-and-then some who are? I question not but the wise Creator of the * World formed us for his own Service, and that he gave us whatever was requisite either to the Knowledge or the Performance of our Duty: And that there are still in Nature the Seeds and Principles of Religion, however buried under the Rubbish of Ignorance and Superstition, I as little question. But what was it, I beseech you, that oppressed this Light of Reason and Nature for so many Ages? and what is it that has now set it free ? Whatever the Distemper was, Nature plainly wanted Assistance, being unable to disengage herself from the Bonds and Fetters in which she was held : We may disagree perhaps in finding a Name for, this Evil,
this general Corruption of Nature; but the Thing itself is evident; the Impotence of Nature stands confessed; the Blindness, the Ignorance of the Heathen World are too plain a Proof of it. This general Corruption and Weakness of Nature made it necessary that Religion should be restored by some other Means, and that Men should have other Helps to resort to, besides their own Strength and Reason. And, if Natural Religion is indeed arrived to that State of Perfection so much boasted of, it gives a strong Testimony to the Gospel, and evidently proves it to be an adequate Remedy and Support against the Evil and Corruption of Nature. For, where the Gospel prevails, Nature is restored; and Reason, delivered from Bondage by Grace, sees and approves what is holy, just, and pure: For what else can it be ascribed to, but the Power of the Gospel, that, in every Nation that names the Name of Christ, even Reason and Nature see and condemn the Follies, which others still, for Want of the same Help, are held in Subjection to?
Can this Truth be evaded or denied? And what a Return then do we make for the Blessing we have received? and how despightfully do we treat the Gospel of
Christ, to which we owe that clear Light even of Reason and Nature which we now enjoy, when we endeavour to set up Reason and Nature in opposition to it? Ought the' withered Hand, which Christ has restored and made whole, to be lifted up against him? or mould the dumb Man's Tongue, just loosened from the Bonds of Silence, blaspheme the Power that set it free? Yet thus foolishly do we sin, when we make Natural Religion the Engine to batter down the Gospel; for the Gospel only could, and only has restored the Religion of Nature: And therefore there is a kind of Parricide in the Attempt, and an Infidelity heightened by the aggravating Circumstance of unnatural Baseness and Diiingenuity.
Nor will the Success of the Attempt be much greater than the Wisdom and the Piety of it: For, when once Nature leaves her faithful Guide, the Gospel of Christ, it will be as unable to support itself against Error and Superstition, as it was to deliver itself from them, and will by degrees fall back into its original Blindness and Corruption. Had you a View of the Disputes that arise even upon the Principles of Natural Religion, it would shew you what the End will be; for the Wanderings of human