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Hopes can give us such Security of Pardon, and of Life and Immortality, as will justify us in rejecting the Light of Revelation Now, whoever depends on the Forgiveness of God, admits himself to be in a Case that wants Pardon; that is, admits himself to be a Sinner. This being the Case of Mankind in general, let it be considered,
First, That Natural Religion could not be originally founded in the Consideration of Man's being a Sinner, and in the Expectation of Pardon.
Secondly, That the Hopes which we are able to form in our present Circumstances, are too weak and imperfeót to give us entire Satisfaction. *
ThiMly, That! the Coming of Christ ha* supplied these Defects, and has perfected and1 completed the Hopes of Nature.
ft must be allowed, That the 6riglik& Religion of Nature was agreeable to the original State of Nature: And consequently, if Natural Religion is founded in the Consideration of Man's Sin and Weakness, it' follows, That Man was originally formed a Sinner and weak. But farther,
Supposing Men made originally to be what we see they are, upon what Grounds are we to hope for an Alteration for the better1? For, if it was consistent with God's Godd-w ness to put Men- into this State originally, how is it inconsistent With his GoodneiV to" continue that* State, Which was^ at first his own Appointment? He could no mores acts. inconsistently with his Goodness at the Beginning of the World, than he can at the. End of it. If Reason therefore admits. the present State of the World to be of God's" Appcintment, k must never afterwards* pretend tO' entertain Hopes of being deliverecr from it; and without such Hopes all Religion is vain and useless.
It may be thought perhaps, That, sup-'
posihg the present State of Things to be of
God's Appointment, we cannot be answerable.
N 2 sos for what we do; for why should he blame us for doing the Work he has appointed P Allow this Reasoning; yet no Religion can be built on it; for it can go no farther than to say that we ought not to be punished for our Doings: It can never shew that we have any Title to be put into a better State: The utmost it can pretend to prove, is, that we are absolutely unaccountable ; and, if so, there is nothing we can do to less Purpose, than to trouble our Heads about Religion. Farther, If the Laws of Nature are the Precepts of Natural Religion, as without all doubt they are, it follows, That Natural Religion can be nothing else but Obedience to the Laws of Nature; and, consequently, the genuine Hopes of Natural Religion must be founded in Obedience. This must necessarily be the Case; for all Laws are made. to be obeyed. No Prince was ever so absurd as to make Laws with this View, that his Subjećts might break them, and he shew his Goodness in pardoning their Transgressions: And yet this must have been the Scheme of Providence, if Natural Religion was no- thing else from the Beginning but an Expectation of Pardon for Sin. ! Secondly, Let us take a View of our present State, without inquiring whether any and
and what Change has happened to put us into this Condition; and let us consider what may be expected from our present Circumstances. Two Things may be affirmed with Certainty of the present Condition of Mankind: One is, That they have a Sense of their Obligation to obey the Laws of Reason and Nature;. which is evident from the Force of natural Conscience: The other is, That very few do in any tolerable Degree, .and none perfectly, pay this Obedience.
Let us examine then how Religion will stand upon these Circumstances. It is impossible to found the Hopes of Religion on Innocence and Obedience j for Obedience is not paid. On the other hand, absolute Impunity cannot be claimed for all Sins; much less can any Degree of Happiness, either present or future, be claimed in behalf of Offenders. The utmost Probability to which human Reason can arrive in this Case, is, That, the Goodness of God and the Weakness of Man considered, God may favourably accept our Endeavours, how imperfect soever our Attainments may be. But is this Reasoning built on infallible Principles? Can any Certainty or Security arise out of this? any that can give Rest or Peace to the Mind of Man, ever inquisitive after Futurity? Will N 3 you ypu promise Impunity to Offenders upon Repentance? Impunity, mere Impunity; is i^pt the Thing that Nature seeks after: She graves something more. Put can the Argument from !the cUvine Mercy be carried farther? Is it not great Mercy to pardpn Sinners? Can you with JDecency desire a Reward for them? Our Saviour has told us, $iat, when we have done our best, we must still own that we are unprofitable Servants: And, if we reflect that all our natural Powers are the Gift of God, and, consequently, our best Services are but a Debt paid to the Ponorj if we consider that in all we do there is no Profit to the Most High, that His Power and Majesty are not exalted by pur Service, nor lessened by our Neglect; we shall find that our own Reason teaches . us the same Lesson, and that, when we confess ourselves unprofitable Servants, we give greater Evidence of our Understanding than of our Humility. And, if this be truly the Case, what are the Claims of Natural Religion? Are they not the Claims of unprofit-r able Servants? the Claims of those to whom nothing is due?