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themselves : since, if the revelation be false, no arguments are necessary to make it yield to nature; if true, none can be sufficient. On the same principle othergeneral objections against thegospel of Jesus Christ examined : its methods of salvation, which human sagacity cannot fathom, are matters of complaint with unbelievers : they think it unreasonable that God should propose such as objects of faith, and from this presupposed unreasonableness conclude they were not of God's contrivance, but the tricks of impostors: this objection, however, is opposed to all revelation in general, considered as a principle of religion, which adds any thing to what reason teaches us: the question then will be can it be reasonable for God to propose any articles of faith or conditions of salvation, the reason and propriety of which do not appear to man? This the case of the gospel. In the sense of the gospel, what is a mystery and what is not: it must be remembered that not human reason, but God's will is the rule and measure of religious obedience; and therefore the terms of it must be tried by their agreement with God's will rather than the narrow compass of man's reason. If reason can by any means discover that the conditions of salvation proposed to us are the will of God, its work is over, and we are bound to use the means prescribed in order to obtain the desired end : and how little soever reason may be able to penetrate into mysteries, yet if it can discover them indeed to be the mysteries of God, and proposed by him as terms of salvation, it discovers to us that these mysteries are the words of eternal life; and what more does a man look for in his religion? This, it may be said, is true, on the supposition that God requires the belief of mysteries; but how does this prove it reasonable for him so to do? Certain allowances being made on each side, the question is reduced to this, whether it can ever be necessary to reveal mysteries, in order to perfect the salvation of mankind ? whenever it is necessary, it must be reasonable, unless it be unreasonable for God to save the world. Nature of a mystery stated: no real or positive thing in nature, but merely negative with respect to ourselves: what the complaint against mysteries amounts to shown. Return to the question, whether it can be ever necessary for God to use such means for the salvation of the world, the agreeableness of which to the end proposed human reason cannot discover: this shown to be necessary by various arguments, particularly by the difficulty of reconciling it with the wisdom and justice of God so freely to pardon sin as not to leave the marks of his displeasure on it, and vindicate in the face of creation the honor of his laws and government: no religion but that which is able to adjust these difficulties can have the words of eternal life: mysteries are so far from being an objection to the gospel, that without a mystery it is impossible for us to be saved : a religion without them might serve for this life, since they are not necessary parts of religion considered only as a rule of action; but they are most necessary when considered as means of obtaining pardon and eternal glory.
PART IV. Religion acting on the soul, compared with a regimen necessary for the body—one sort proper for a sound constitution, and another for repairing a broken one: an innocent man has nothing to do but to preserve his innocency, which is his title to God's favor; his religion therefore is only a rule of life, and there is no room in it for mystery; but on the supposition of mankind becoming sinful and liable to God's wrath, religion itself becomes a new thing. Unbelievers may think that too much is required to believe that all are sinners and are fallen short of the glory of God: but this is the principle on which the gospel uniformly proceeds, and on this it must be judged. Three things, necessary to be done for a sinner in order to restore him to eternal life, considered : 1. That God be reconciled to him: 2. That he be purged from the impurity of sin : 3. That for the future he be enabled to obey God's holy laws: necessity of these conditions briefly shown. Allowing them to be necessary, and likewise that religion must contain the words or means of eternal life, it follows that the sinner's religion must contain the means of fulfilling these conditions : our notion therefore of such a religion is very imperfect, when we consider it only as a rule of action : as far as a rule of action is necessary, the gospel is shown to have it in the strictest sense of the words, and in the purest form: but a rule of life is not the only notion of religion : according to the other ideas which belong to it, it is not necessarily absurd if supposed mysterious : examined in this point of view with reference to the first of the three conditions abovementioned, or as containing the means by which God is reconciled to sinners. Though we cannot practise a law without understanding it, yet God may be reconciled to us without our comprehending every thing done for that purpose, as a malefactor may receive and profit by a pardon, without knowing what induced his prince to grant it: if a sinner could not receive mercy unless he comprehended all the reasons of it, then only would it be necessary for religion to exclude all mysteries : since the knowlege of the essence of things, and that of the existence of things, are quite distinct, our ignorance of the latter can be no argument against our belief in the former : this explained more fully. The argument carried still further; it being shown that this part of religion must necessarily be mysterious, and the means of reconcilernent such as reason and nature cannot comprehend. Reason challenged to discover any means of reconcilement, if these certain and allowed principles be laid down-viz. that it is just for God to punish sinners, and that God can do nothing but what is just : difficulty must ever remain as long as we attempt to scan the divine justice by our narrow conceptions of it: and this it is which occasions many things in the gospel to be mysterious. To redeem the world is the work of God only: he alone could find the means, and apply them : religion founded on redemption must consist of two parts-viz., an account of the redemption wrought by God, and instructions to men on what terms they may reap its benefits: as far as our own part in the gospel
goes there is nothing mysterious; we know how to act: as to the other parts of it, we are not required to comprehend and account for the means of salvation, but only to accept them: mysteries of God in redemption compared with his wonderful and mysterious works of creation, in which his ways are past finding out: strange that salvation should be the only instance in which men refuse mercy because they cannot understand the methods of obtaining it. The other two points, viz., the cleansing sinners from their iniquity, and the enabling them to live virtuously for the future, are omitted, because the same arguments will apply to them, mutatis mutandis. Conclusion --the only fair way of appreciating the gospel, is to consider the true state of mankind in the world.
HEBREWS, CHAP. VII. VERSE 25.
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto
God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
When we consider the wonderful work of our redemption, we cannot imagine it to be the effect of mere will and arbitrary appointment, not founded in the reason and propriety of things : from our natural notions of God and his attributes, it is absurd to suppose that he could do any thing by chance, or from mere will and humor: this as true in works of grace as in those of nature; it is one thing, not to be able to discern the reasons of Providence, and another to suppose them void of reason : no religion can subsist with an opinion of this latter kind. The gospel has made an alteration in the scheme of religion by revealing the Son of God : the knowlege of his power in the creating and upholding all things became necessary for the foundation of our faith in him as the Redeemer ; for that character would be ill supported by one who had not power equal to the undertaking : the doctrines therefore of the New Testament relate to that character, of which there was no explicit declaration either before or under the Law of Moses. Natural religion leads us to acknowlege one supreme intelligent Creator of all things; and therefore all the religious duties of man in that state relate to this Being alone : but suppose
it could discover that this Being had an eternal Son, by whom he made the worlds ; would there not on that supposition necessarily arise an alteration in natural religion ? It cannot be supposed that we were created by the Son, are under his government, and shall be under his judgment, and at the same time be maintained that no service is due to him from his creatures and subjects: the conclusion therefore is, that the religion of a Christian is a natural and reasonable service. When we consider what expectations we have from our Redeemer, and what are his promises to us, it is but reasonable to ask, by what authority he does these things ? The foundation of our expectations is shown to be reasonable from Scriptural authorities; and we have thence reason to conclude that he is now as able to restore life, as he was at first to give it., The relation of Christ to mankind as Creator and Governor considered : the work of redemption could not properly have been undertaken by any other hand : this shown to be the case both from reason and from Scripture. Though the redemption of mankind be a work which seems to concern men only, yet, considered as a vindication of God's justice and goodness, it is exposed to the consideration of every'intelligent being in the universe: hence, though it relates immediately to men, it must be agreeable to all the reason and relation of things discoverable by the highest intellectual beings; and there are many such not discoverable by us. The existence of orders superior to man agrees both with reason and with Scripture; and since God's justice and equity in redemption are things which angels desire and are concerned to look into, his reasons in that great affair may be discoverable by the highest, though not by the lowest order of beings: this shown to be probable: it is next explained how well these principles and doctrines of the gospel agree together; from whence we may discern how reasonable and natural the religion of the gospel is. The belief that the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and arise to life, is the fundamental article of a Christian's faith. The hopes which nature imparts with respect to our prospects beyond the grave considered : also how these hopes are supported, confirmed, and enlarged by the gospel. Conclusion : the question put, who is this who was subject to death, and yet had power over death? How could so much power and weakness meet together? Answered; he was a man, and therefore he died; he was the Son of God, and therefore he rose from the dead, and will give life to all his true disciples. Had the gospel required us to expect from Christ the redemption of our souls and bodies, without giving us any reason to think he was endued with power equal to the task, Christians might have been justly reproached with believing they know not what. That the world was made by the Son of God, is not contrary to reason; and that he who made the world should be able to renew it, is highly consonant to reason : all the mystery lies in this that so high a person should condescend so far for the sake of man; but it becomes not us to complain of his mysterious love.
MATTHEW, CHAP. XI. VERSE 6.
CONNEXION of the words of the text with those preceding it explained : hence arise two subjects of inquiry :-I. What are the offences which are generally taken at the gospel of Christ: II. From what sources these offences come. The earliest, and it may probably be the latest objection to the gospel, was the poverty and meanness in which our Saviour appeared. Though he came with such high purposes, and to exact such strict obedience, yet he came with less attendance and show than an ordinary messenger : hence the upbraidings and reproaches he constantly met with throughout his life, and at his death : and so blinded are men with false notions, that this prejudice has prevailed in every age : when Christ crucified was preached by St. Paul, he was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness : in this case God did not act as the Greeks made their Jupiter to act, in thunder and lightning, or as God is represented in the Old Testament, with clouds and darkness round about him: here every thing had a different turn; Christ came in the likeness of a man, and in the form of a servant; whilst his doctrine was framed rather to purify the heart than to exercise the head. But these things the wise and great of this world find difficult to reconcile to their notions of God's wisdom and majesty: they ask why Christ did not appear in the power and majesty of his father -- they compare his
appearance with that of an ambassador sent by a prince, with honor and a large retinue, to awe and reclaim rebellious sūbjects—and they ask why,
if faith be a means of salvation, more reason for confidence was not given ? What foundation there is in reason for this prejudice considered : no wonder to hear men reason upon the notions that are familiar to them: power and authority are connected with ideas of pomp and splendor; and when we talk of the works of God, we naturally turn to view his wonderful works of Providence : hence men are so slow to discern his hand in the ordinary course of nature, wherein are things familiar to us. The case of Naaman the Syrian stated: not unlike to his folly is theirs who take offence at the poverty and meanness of the Author of our redemption. This
prejudice, when searched to the bottom, found to arise from a false conception of the power and majesty of God; as if the success of his purposes depended on the visible fitness of his instruments : with men the case is so; but not with God, whose foolishness, says the Apostle, is wiser than men, and weakness is stronger than men; teaching us that we should not presume to sit in judgment upon the methods of Providence, since how foolish or how weak soever they may seem to us, they will be found in his hand to be the wisest and the strongest :