« AnteriorContinuar »
New Testament was written, by the Preaching and Working of the Apostles. But thus far perhaps we may justly argue, That Writing is the best, if not the only Method of perpetuating the Testimony, and delivering down the Doctrines of Christ uncorrupted to distant Ages: And this Way has had the Consent and Approbation of all civilized Nations; from whence it is that scripta Lex is used in the best Writers to signify an instituted Law, as distinguished from the Law of Nature arising either from Instinct or Reason.
The Gospels then were published that they might be a standing Evidence to all Ages of God's Purpose to redeem the World by sending his Son to take our Nature on him, that he might die for our Sins, and rife again for our "Justification: And it was absolutely necessary to convey this Knowledge to the World by a proper Authority; for Revelation cannot obtain the Force and Authority of Law, or any way oblige the Consciences of Men, till it be sufficiently published and declared. This is universally true of all Laws whatever, both human and divine: And the Reason of it is plain,; because otherwise Men would be bound to an Impossibility, to obey a Law before they
knew knew what the Law was. For the same Reason also it must be allowed, that the Promulgation of the Law is the proper Care and Concern of the Lawgiver: For the Law must come from the Governor to the Governed; and the Subject, till he knows the Law, that is, till it is promulged and sufficiently declared to him, can have no Concern in it. Apply this to Revelation, and you will perceive, that it is absurd to suppose that God has given any Law to the World which he has not sufficiently promulged and declared; for that would be to suppose that God intended to give, and not to give, a Law to Mankind at the same time. An insufficient Promulgation is no Promulgation; and therefore all Powers and Qualities necessary to give Credit and Authority to the Publishers of a Revelation are always supposed, when we speak of the Truth and Authority of Revelation. God may reveal what he sees fit to one. or two or more Men; but, unless such Men are commissioned and duly qualified to satisfy others that such Things have been made known to them, others are no more concerned in the Revelation, than if it had never been- made. It would take up too much of your Time to inquire particularly what are the necessary Qualifications to constitute
ffitute a proper Witness to Revelation. It may suffice to observe, that no Man is naturally qualified for it, for this plain Reason, because all,natural Qualifications are easily counterfeited to serve a Purpose. Honesty, Sincerity, and Religion may be put on in Appearance; and a Man may bear himself so well in the Disguise, as not to be discovered. Things in common Life are easily believed upon- the Report of honest Men: But then it must be considered, that the moral Probability of such Things goes a great way in rendering them credible. 'Tis no Shock to our Minds to believe that such a Thing happened at such a Time, which we know often does happen in the Course of Things, and probably might happen then. In such Cases a small Weight inclines the Mind to assent: But it requires other kind of Evidence to make the Mind submit to the Belief of Things which are supported by no moral Probability, but are quite out of the ordinary Course and Nature of Things. This shews that no Revelation can . be sufficiently promulged and declared to the World by Men, unless they are extraordinarily qualified and commissioned to that Purpose. We do not therefore rely merely upon the Honesty or Vol. I. S moral moral Character of the first Preachers of the Gospel, but on their Authority proved and supported by many wonderful Works which God enabled them to do, and on their Integrity sufficiently established by what they did and suffered for the sake of the Gospel.
But here the Question is asked, How shall we distinguish between the Pretences to Revelation, which are so many and various, all of which have an equal Right to be heard, that 'tis endless to look for Religion in such a Croud of Pretenders to it, and difficult to determine the Merit of the several Claims? So that the only sure Way is to take up with t Natural Religion, which is every-where uniformly the same, and in which there is no Danger of being deluded and misled by Imposture; for Natural Religion admits of no Counterfeit: And, since every Man's Reason is Judge in this Case, no Man can be cheated but by himself: And all Men are so much their own Friends, that in a Matter of so great Moment, which so nearly concerns their present and their future Happiness, they may securely trust themselves.
Now, to form a true Judgment upon this Cafe, it will be necessary first to state the Question right upon the Foot of this Objection, Jection, and then to examine what Weight of Reason there is in it.
First then, The Question must relate to Revelation, considered only as the Rule and Measure of Religion: For the Dispute between Nature and Revelation is confined to this one Point, Which is the best and safest Guide in Religion? 'Tis absurd therefore to bring Instances of any Revelations in this Cafe, which do not pretend to this Property, that were never given, or pretended to be given, as a Rule of Religion: For, when Men talk of the various Revelations that have been in the World, and the Difficulty of determining which they ought to obey, they cannot take into their Consideration the Answer of the Oracle to Crœsus* or the several other Answers on particular Occasions recorded in the Greek and Roman Histories, nor yet the particular Messages which God sent by the Hands of different Prophets to the People of Israel; for these Revelations* whether true or false, being confined to particular Occasions, are out of the present Question, and have no Relation to the Inquiry concerning a Rule or Measure of Religion. This Observation will in a great measure overthrow the Truth of the Fact upon which S 2 tha