صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

PAR I but little Probability of it. Lastly, every one II. observes our Liableness, if we be not upon

our Guard, to be deceived by the Fallhood of Men, and the false Appearances of things: And this Danger must be greatly increased, if there be a strong Bias within, suppose from indulged Passion, to favour the Deceit. Hence arises that great Uncertainty and Doubtfulness of Proof, wherein our temporal Interest really consists; what are the most probable Means of attaining it; and whether those Means will eventually be succefsful. And numberless Instances there are, in the daily Course of Life, in which all Men think it reasonable to engage in Pursuits, though the Probability is greatly against succeeding; and to make such Provision for themselves, as it is supposeable they may have Occasion for, though the plain acknowledged Probability is, that they never shall. Then those who think the Objection against Revelation, from its Light not being

universal, to be of Weight, should observe, that the Author of Nature, in numberless Instances, bestows That upon fome, which he does not upon others, who feem equally to stand in need of it. Indeed he appears to bestow all his Gifts, with the most promiscuous Variety, among Creatures of the fame Species: Health and Strength, Capacities of Prudence and of Knowledge, Means of Improvement, Riches, and all external Advantages. And as there are not any CHAP. two Men found, of exactly like Shape and VI. Features : -so it is probable there are not anym two, of an exactly like Constitution, Temper and Situation, with regard to the Goods and Evils of Life. Yet, notwithstanding these Uncertainties and Varieties, God does exercise a natural Government over the World: and there is such a thing as a prudent and imprudent Institution of Life, with regard to our Health and our Affairs, under that his natural Government.

ternal

As neither the jewish nor christian Revelation have been universal; and as they have been afforded to a greater or less Part of the World, at different Times: so likewise at different Times, both Revelations have had different Degrees of Evidence. The Jews who lived during the Succession of Prophets, that is, from Mofes till after the Captivity, had higher Evidence of the Truth of their Religion, than those had, who lived in the Interval between the last mentioned Period, and the Coming of Christ. And the first Christians had higher Evidence of the Miracles wrought in Attestation of Christianity, than what we have now. They had also a strong presumptive Proof of the Truth of it, perhaps of much greater Force, in way of Argument, than many think, of which we

[ocr errors]

PAR T have very little remaining ; I mean the pre-
II. fumptive Proof of its Truth, from the Ina

fluence which it had upon the Lives of the
Generality of its Professors. And we, or fu-
ture Ages, may possibly have a Proof of it,
which they could not have, from the Confor-
mity between the prophetick History, and the
State of the World and of Christianity. And
farther: If we were to suppose the Evidence,
which Some have of Religion, to amount to
little more, than seeing that it may be true;
but that they remain in great Doubts and Un-
certainties about both its Evidence and its
Nature, and great Perplexities concerning the
Rule of Life: Others to have a full Convic
tion of the Truth of Religion, with a distinct
Knowledge of their Duty:

and Others severallý
to have all the intermediate Degrees of reli-
gious Light and Evidence, which lie between
these two-If we put the Case, that for
the present, it was intended, Revelation fhould
be no more than a small Light, in the midst
of a World greatly overspread, notwithstand-
ing it, with Ignorance and Darkness: that cer-
tain Glimmerings of this Light should extend,
and be directed, to remote Distances, in such
a Manner as that those who really partook of
it, should not discern from whence it origi-
nally came; that Some in a nearer Situation
to it, should have its Light obscured, and, in
different Ways and Degrees, intercepted: and

that Others should be placed within its clearer CHAP. Influence, and be much more enlivened, VI. cheared and directed by it; but yet that even to these, it should be no more than a Light shining in a dark Place : All this would be perfectly uniform and of a piece with the Conduct of Providence, in the Distribution of its other Bleffings. If the Fact of the Cafe really were, that Some have received no Light at all from the Scripture ; as many Ages and Countries in the heathen World : that Others, though they have, by Means of it, had essential or natural Religion enforced upon their consciences, yet have never had the genuine Scripture-revelation, with its real Evidence, proposed to their confideration; and the antient Perhans, and modern Mahometans, may possibly be Instances of People in a Situation somewhat like to this : that Others, though they have had the Scripture laid before them as of divine Revelation, yet have had it with the System and Evidence of Christianity so interpolated, the System so corrupted, the Evidence fo blended with false Miracles, as to leave the Mind in the utmost Doubtfulness and Uncertainty about the whole ; which may be the State of some thoughtful Men, in most of those Nations who call themselves Chriftian: And laftly, that Others have had Christianity offered to them in its genuine Simplicity, and with its

proper

[ocr errors]

PAR T proper Evidence, as Persons in Countries and

II. Churches of civil and of christian Liberty ; mbut however that even these Persons are left

in

great Ignorance in many Respects, and have by no means Light afforded them enough to fatisfy their Curiosity, but only to regulate their Life, to teach them their Duty and encourage them in the careful Discharge of it: I say, if we were to suppose This somewhat of a general true Account of the Degrees of moral and religious Light and Evidence, which were intended to be afforded Mankind, and of what has actually been and is their Situation, in their moral and religious Capacity; there would be nothing in all this Ignorance, Doubtfulness and Uncertainty, in all these Varieties, and supposed Disadvantages of some in Comparison of others, reIpecting Religion, but may be parallelled by manifest Analogies in the natural Dispensations of Providence at present, and considering ourselves merely in our temporal Capacity.

Nor is there any thing shocking in all This, or which would seem to bear hard

upon

the moral Administration in Nature, if we would really keep in Mind, that every one shall be dealt equitably with: instead of forgetting this, or explaining it away, after it is acknowledged in Words. All Shadow of Injustice, and indeed all harsh Appearances, in

1

« السابقةمتابعة »