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Now, without considering what is to be said in particular to the several Parts of this Train of Folly and Extravagance; what has been above intimated, is a full direct general Answer to it, namely, that we may see beforehand that we have not Faculties for this kind of Speculation. For though it be admitted, that from the first Principles of our Nature, we unavoidably judge or determine Some Ends to be absolutely in themselves preferable to Others, and that the Ends now mentioned, or if they run up into one, that this one is absolutely the best; and consequently that we must conclude the ultimate End designed, in the Constitution of Nature and Conduct of Providence, is the most Virtue and Happiness possible: Yet we are far from being able to judge, what particular Disposition of things would be most friendly and assistant to Virtue; or what Means might be absolutely necessary to produce the most Happiness in a System of such Extent as our own World may be, taking in all that is past and to come, though we should suppose it detached from the Whole of things. Indeed we are so far from being able to judge of this ; that we are not Judges what may be the necessary Means of raising and conducting one Person to the highest Perfection and Happiness of his Nature. Nay even in the little Affairs of the present Life, we find Men of different Educations and Ranks are not competenc Judges of the Conduct of each other. Our whole Nature leads us to ascribe all moral Perfection to God, and to deny all Imperfection of him. And this will for ever be a practical Proof of his moral Character, to such as will consider what a practical Proof is; because it is the Voice of God. .. speaking in us. And from hence we conclude, that Virtue must be the Happiness, and Vice the Misery, of every Creature ; and that Regularity and Order and Right cannot but prevail finally in a Universe under His Government. But we are in no sort Judges, what are the necessary Means of accomplishing this End.
Let us then, instead of that idle and not very innocent Employment of forming imaginary Models of a World, and Schemes of governing it, turn our Thoughts to what we experience to be the Conduct of Nature with respect to intelligent Creatures;
be resolved into general Laws or Rules of Administration, in the same way as many of the Laws of Nature respecting inanimate Matter may be collected from Experiments. And let us compare the known Conftitution and Course of Things, with what is said to be the moral System of Nature ; the acknowledged Dispensations of Providence, or that Government
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which we find ourselves under, with what Religion teaches us to believe and expect; and lee whether they are not analogous and of a piece. And upon such a Comparison, it will I think be found, that they are very much so: that both may be traced up to the same general Laws, and resolved into the same Principles of divine Conduct.
The Analogy here proposed to be considered, is of pretty large Extent, and consists of several Parts; in Some, more, in Others, less, exact. In some few Instances perhaps it may amount to a real practical Proof; in others not so. Yet in these it is a Confirmation of what is proved other Ways. It will undeniably show, what too many want to have shown them, that the System of Religion both natural and revealed, considered only as a System, and prior to the Proof of it, is not a Subject of Ridicule, unless That of Nature be so too. And it will afford an Answer to almost all Objections against the System both of natural and revealed Religion ; though not perhaps an Answer in so great a Degree, yet in a very considerable Degree an Answer, to the Objections against the Evidence of it: For Objections against a Proof, and Objections against what is said to be proved, the Reader will observe are different Things:
Now the divine Government of the World, implied in the Notion of Religion in general and of Christianity, contains in it; That Mankind is appointed to live in a future State"; That There, every one shall be rewarded or punished * ; rewarded or punished respectively for all that Behaviour Here, which we comprehend under the Words, Virtuous or Vitious, morally good or evil : That our present Life is a Probation, a State of Trial , and of Discipline', for that future one; Notwithstanding the Objections, which Men may fancy they have, from Notions of Necessity, against there being any such moral Plan as this at allk; And whatever Objections may appear to lie against the Wisdom and Goodness of it, as it stands fo imperfectly made known to us at present': That this World being in a State of Apostacy and Wickedness, and consequently of Ruin, and the Sense both of their Condition and Duty being greatly corrupted amongst Men, this gave Occasion for an additional Dispensation of Providence; of the utmost Importance m; proved by Miracles *; but containing in it many Things appearing to us strange and not to have been expectedo; a Dispensation of Providence, which
e Ch. i.
i Ch. v.
f Ch. ii.
& Ch. üi. b Ch. iv.
a Ch. ii,
is a Scheme or System of things ''; carried on by the Mediation of a divine Person, the Messiah, in order to the Recovery of the World ! ; yet not revealed to all Men, nor proved with the strongest possible Evidence to all those to whom it is revealed; but only to such a part of Mankind, and with such particular Evidence as the Wisdom of God thought fit'. The Design then of the following Treatise will be to Thew, that the several Parts principally objected against in this Moral and Christian Dispensation, including its Scheme, its Publication, and the Proof which God has afforded us of its Truth; that the particular Parts principally objected against in this whole Dispensation, are analagous to what is experienced in the Constitution and Course of Nature, or Providence; that the chief Objections themselves which are alledged against the former, are no other, than what may be alledged with like Justness against the latter, where they are found in Fact to be inconclufive; and that this Argument from Analogy is in general, unanswerable, and undoubtedly of Weight on the side of Religion`, notwithstanding the Objections which may seem to lie against it, and the real Ground which there may be for Difference of Opinion, as to the particular Degree of Weight
? Ch. it.
4 Ch. v.
: Ch. vi, vii.