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Things themselves. Were this duly considered, it would set the great Controversy bf Religion Upon the right Foot, which ought to turn on this single Point, Whether there be sufficient Evidence of a future State, or no? For, if such a'State there be, let our Conceptions concerning it be clear, or hot clear, most certainly we shall be brought to account for all we do j which is enough, I think, to make us careful what we do. And this is the main Concern of Religion, and that which will secure whatever is necessary to it.
Since then Religion evidently depends Upon the Certainty and Reality of a future State of Rewards and Puniihments, and other the like Articles, and not? in the least upon the Knowledge of the Nature, or the philosophical Account ps these Things; it had been absurd in our Saviour, who was a Preacher of Religion only, a Teacher sent from God, to have entered into those Difficulties, which did not at all belong to his Province. And, since neither the Practice of Religion would have received any Advantage by the Discussion of these Doubts, for? if we had the Knowledge of Angels, an4 law the Heavens as plainly as they do, yet
thq the same Virtue and Holiness, without any Change, would be necessary to carry us thither; nor the Motives of Religion would have gained any new Strength, since the Evidence for the Reality of a future State is not affected by these Doubts; it is ridiculous to expect the Solution of them in the Gospel, when, if solved, they would not serve any one Point in which the Gospel is concerned, but would end in mere Philosophy and Speculation.
But perhaps it may be said, That all this is true indeed, where the Existence of Things is out of doubt: In that Cass e no Difficulties can destroy the Evidence of their Existence. But, where the Existence of Things is doubtful, there the seeming Contradictions which arise in considering the Nature of the Things, do mightily shake the Presumption of their Existence. This is a fair State of the Case, and we ought to join Issue on it.
Let us then proceed, in the third Place, to shew, That the Gospel has given us the greatest Evidence of our own Immortality, and of a future State, that can be thought on or desired. There are two Things upon which our Resurrection to Life depends, as we learn from our Saviour's Answer to the
Sadducees: Te do err, says he, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the Power of God: Which Answer is a very clear one; for we can desire no more than to know that God certainly can raise us, and that he certainly will. The first is to be learnt from our natural Notions of God; the second from the Scripture, which is the Declaration of his Will to Mankind. As to the Power of God, it cannot be brought into question, without throwing off all Pretence even to Natural Religion: For, if you allow God, that he made the World, and formed Man into a living Soul in the Beginning; you cannot deny but that He, who made Man out of nothing at first, can as easily make him again, after Death has dissolved the vital Union. It remains then to inquire after the Will of God, Whether He, who certainly can, certainly will raise us at the last Day? The Time will not permit me to enter largely into the Argument; and therefore I shall rest it upon one, but that a very clear Point. It will not be denied but that 'we have our Saviour's Promise and Word for our Resurrection often repeated in the Gospel: And consider, pray, did not he raise many dead to Life again?
Did he not at last raise himself from the Grave, after he had been three Days buried ? Is it not plain then, upon the Gospel Account, that he had the Power of raising the Dead? and is it not as plain, that he has promised to raise us Take both Propositions together then, and they will amount to this; That He, who has the Power of raising the Dead, has promised and declared that he will raise us from the Dead. God, we know, cannot lye, and therefore must ratify every Word, which he spoke by Air Aosy Child jesus : And hence arises a Security which no Doubts can shake. Besides, as to Difficulties in Nature and Philosophy, he has not indeed taught us to answer them; but he fully answered them himself, when he came from the Grave; as he who got up and walked, baffled all the Philosopher's Arguments against Motion. 'Tis true, you will say, this is very good Evidence, but you find it hard to believe: And perhaps you might have been as hard of Belief, if our Saviour had reasoned never so philosophically. The Question is, Whether any Objection lies against the Gospel for overlooking the Difficulties which learned Men raise 2 I have shewed that none can - lie, lie, and that the Gospel has given a much better Evidence than that which is desired: And this is sufficient to remove the Offence taken upon the Account of this supposed Defečt in the Gospel. If you believe not the Gospel, that alters not the Case: The Evidence is not the worse for that ; for neither would you believe perhaps, though one rose from the Dead.