Imatges de pàgina
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fequently must moft clearly discern the essential differences in things; and who is at perfect liberty to act from what motive he pleases; for such a being to negleet, or refuse to act agreeably to the nature, and the relations of things, and to make mere capricious humour (if I may lo speak) the rule and measure of his actions ; for fuch an one to command for commanding fake, and not because what he requires is fit, and proper to be commanded; for such an one to love and value, hate and despise, either persons or things, without regarding the suitableness or unsuitableness of the persons, or the things themselves, these are demonftrations of the want of wisdom and goodness in such a being; and yet this is the case, with respect to God, supposing true religion to be founded upon his arbitrary will and pleasure, as aforesaid. God can, with regard to his natural liberty and power, act arbitrarily with his creatures in matters of religion, that is, with respect to their duty and his acceptance; and so he can act the part of a weak and childish, or of an evil and vicious being. But he cannot act chus, and preserve his moral character; he cannot perform such a part, and yet be a wise and good being; because the doing fo is ab. solutely inconsistent with that character. Again,

Secondly, If true religion is founded on the moral fitness of things, then man, by his own natural abi, lity (consider'd as a man) is qualified to discover it, Man is a creature endow'd with a faculty or power we call understanding ; in the exercise of which, he is capable of discerning the essential difference betwixt good and evil, or fitness and unfitness, as they arise from, and are founded on the nature and the relations of things; which good and evil is call'd moral, as it is the object of the understanding, and is discover'd by it only, and as it is distinguished from that good and evil which is natural or

physical, phyheal, which is the objeĉt of our senses, and it discovered by them alone. Man being thus furnilh'd with the faculty of understanding, and true religion being founded on the moral fitnets of things he muft, of course, be qualified to discover it, becaufe it falls within the proper province of the foremention'd faculty, Let him but turn his thoughts upon himself, and consider how he is constituted and circumstanced, and how he stands naturally related to God, and to his fellow-crea. tures, and then he may, with ease, discover and certainly know, what he must be and do, to render himself acceptable to such a wise and good being, as (upon the present supposition ) God is allow'd to be; and what it is, in the nature of things which will make him a suitable and proper object of divine approbation, or diNike. I say, a man, by the exercise of his understanding, may easily know what is true religion, because it confifts in acting agreeably to his nature, relations, and circunsStances, as aforesaid; which agreeableness his understanding qualifies him to discover. It is true there may be cafes attended with such perplexing circumstances, and whose confequences may be fo very uncertain, that it may be exceeding difficul to know what is beft and fittest to be done. But then, even in these cases, if a man, after due examination, does that which, upon the whole, ap. pears to him to be beft, that is, what is most for the common good, he will not fail of divine acceptance, whatever the consequence of his behaviour may be. For, as he makes wisdom and goodness the rule and measure of his actions, fo, if God is a wise and good Being (as is here supposed) he will approve of such a conduct. On the other fide.

If true religion is founded on the arbitrary will of God, then man is not, by bis own natural abir

lity, qualify'd to discover it; he has not any foots steps to trace, or any rule to guide him in his enquiries after it. He is, in this case, in a much worse condition, than the blind man is in, when in pursuit of the objects of fight; for tho' the blind man cannot discover the object sought for, by that fense, yet, possibly, he may do it by another ; whereas, in the present case, man has not any natural faculty, which can discover what is true religion, or distinguish it from the contrary. The exercise of his understanding cannot stand him in any stead. For tho' it qualifies him to discern, and judge of moral subjects ; yet as religion, in this case, is not of moral consideration (it arising only from arbitrary pleasure) so it does not come within the reach of this discerning faculty. And therefore those men say right, who fay, that reason has not any thing to do with religion ; fuppofing true religion to be founded on arbitrary pleasure, and that by reason is meant either the exercise of the foremention'd faculty, or the object of it, viz, the moral fitness of things. To reason, in this case, is exceedingly absurd, and is the same, as if a man fhould attempt to distinguish colours by his ear. Reafon, in the nature of the thing, cannot discover, or be at all a judge in those things which depend only on the arbitrary will of God; such things as these, as they are discoverable only by divine revelation ; so it is that alone which must determine every thing concerning them. Which leads me to observe,

Thirdly, If true religion is founded on the moral fitness of things, then man is naturally qualify'd to distinguish betwixt divine revelation and delusion ; at leaft, he is qualify'd to guard aga nit all such dclusion, as is burtful to mankind. thing comes forth under the character of divine revelation, our understandings qualify us to ex

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amine and judge, whether it is agreeable with, or contrary to the nature and the relations of things. And tho' its agreeableness, with the nature of things, is no certain proof that it is divine, but only that it may be fo; yet its disagreeableness therewith is a demonstration, that it cannot possibly come from God; seeing (upon the present fuppofition) God makes the moral fitness of things the rule and measure of his actions, which such a revelation is repugnant to. For the farther illustra, tion of this point, I shall offer the following cases.

Suppose a man should come to me under the character of a heavenly messenger, and should declare it to be the will of God, that I fhould love my neighbour as myself, and do unto all men, as I would they should do unto me (taking these general rules with their proper limitations) and that in so doing I should recommend myself to. divine regard ? And, suppose this man was not fent of God, but was himself under a delusion? I examine his message, and find that it is right and fit, in the nature of things, that I should do as it requires ; and that in so doing I render my felf a suitable subject of divine favour : I likewise (from the suitableness of the message) am induced to give credit to what the man declares of himfelt, viz. that he is a messenger sent from God. Now, tho' in this latter point I am deceived, yet it is not to my hurt ; and if I am prevailed upon by it, to render myself more agreeable and useful than I should otherwise have been, the delusion will prove a benefit to me, and to those I have to do withal. Again,

Suppose a man should come to me, and pretend himself a heavenly messenger, as aforesaid, and should declare it to be the will of God, that I should affict and grieve my fellow-creatures, without any just caufe, that is, for not agreeing

with me in fome speculative points, which do not admit of abfolute certainty on either side of the question ; and in like cases, where, in the nature of the thing, there is not a proper foundation for resentment; and that in so doing I should entitle myself to divine favour? I examine this message, and find it really disagreeable, in the nature of things; and from hence conclude very justly, that this message is not divine, and consequently that the meffenger is either deluded himself, or else that he is an impostor. So that I have a plain rule to direct and guide my judgment, in distinguishing betwixt divine revelation, and all dangerous and hurtful delusions; and therefore, as I said before, tho' in this case we are not absolutely secure from all imposition, yet we are qualify'd to guard against all such as are prejudicial to mankind, as I have here shewn. Whereas, on the other side, If true religion is founded on arbitrary pleasure, then man is not qualify'd to distinguish betwixt divine revelation and delusion, and consequently lies open to, and at the mercy of every impofer. The internal characters of a revelation, whether good or bad, afford no light in this case. For, as God makes whatever he pleases the conditions of his favour, so the goodness or badness of a revelation, or of what is required by it, cannot possibly prove it to be divine, or to be the contrary. If I should take upon me to prove a revelation to be divine, or to be otherwise, from its agreeableness with, or its being contrary to truth, justice, goodness, &c. ic would be just the same, as if I attempted to prove that a man can fes, by giving several instances in which it is evident that he heard ; there being no more connexion betwixt justice, goodness, &c. and arbitrary pleasure, so as to argue from one to the other, chan there is bet vixt color and sound.

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