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And are there not also many strange and unaccountable things in the book of nature, and in the administration of Divine Providence, the design and use of which we cannot see?(5) Nay, are there not
vitæ sequitur, et magna confusio. Atque haud scio, an pietate adversus Deos sublata, fides etiam et societas humani generis, et una excellentissima virtus, justitia, tollatur.”
(5) What if there should be some incomprehensible doctrines in the christian religion; some circumstances, which in their causes, or their consequences, pass the reach of human reason; are they to be rejected upon that account?—“ Weigh the matter fairly; and consider whether revealed religion be not, in this respect, just upon the same footing with every other object of your contemplation. Even in mathematics, the science of demonstration itself, though you get over its first principles, and learn to digest the idea of a point without parts, a line without breadth, and a surface without thickness, yet you will find yourselves at a loss to comprehend the perpetual approximation of lines, which can never meet; the doctrine of incommensurables, and of infinity of infinities, each infinitely greater, or infinitely less; not only than any finite quantity, but than each other. In physics, you cannot comprehend the primary cause of any thing; not of the light by which you see; nor of the elasticity of the air, by which you hear; nor of the fire, by which you are warmed. In physiology, you cannot tell, what first gave motion to the heart; nor what continues it; nor why its motion is less voluntary than that of the lungs; nor why you are able to move your arm, to the right or left, by a simple volition; you cannot explain the cause of animal heat; nor comprehend the principle, by which your body was first formed, nor by which it is sustained, nor by which it will be reduced to earth. In natural religion, you cannot comprehend the eternity or omnipresence of the Deity; nor easily understand how his prescience can be consistent with your freedom, or his immutability with the government of moral agents; nor why he did not make all his creatures equally perfect; nor why he did not create them sooner: in short, you cannot look into any branch of knowledge, but you will meet with subjects above your comprehension. The fall and the redemption of human kind are not more incomprehensible, than the creation and conservation of the universe ; the infinite Author of the works of providence, and of nature, is equally inscrutable, equally past our finding out in them both. And it is somewhat remarkable, tha the deepest inquirers into nature have ever thought with most reverence, and spoken with most diffidence concerning those things which, in revealed religion, may seem hard to be understood ; they have ever avoid
even some things which to us seem wrong and ill contrived? Yet we own the world was created by God, and that he is the governor thereof. And why then shall we not allow that the Scriptures may be from God, no withstanding these difficulties, and seeming incongruities? Indeed, a revelation, which we could fully comprehend, would not appear the production of an infinite mind; it would bear no resemblance to its heavenly author; and therefore we should have reason to suspect it spurious. It is extremely probable, that the three grand volumes of nature, providence, and grace, should all, in some respect or other, bear the stamp of their being derived from one source. Many things in the volumes of nature and providence far exceed our highest powers to comprehend; it is not improbable, therefore, that the volume of divine grace should be under a similar predicament. What doth the wisest man upon the earth know of the nature of God, but what the Scripture hath told him? It may be questioned whether we should have known any thing of him, had it not been for some original revelation.
“ If Christ was so necessary to the salvation of the world, why was he sent no sooner? Why, even according to your own account, were four thousand years suffered to elapse before the Sun of Righteousness arose?” Very sufficient reasons already have been and
ed that self-sufficiency of knowledge, which springs from ignorance, produces indifference, and ends in infidelity. Plato men. tions a set of men, who were very ignorant, and thought them. selves extremely wise ; and who rejected the argument for the be. ing of a God, derived from the harmony and order of the universe, as old and trite. There have been men, it seems, in all ages, who in affecting singularity, have overlooked truth; an argument, however, is not the worse for being old; and surely it would have been a more just mode of reasoning, if you had examined the external evidence for the truth of Christianity. weiched the old arguments from miracles, and from prophecies, before you had re. jected the whole account, from the difficulties you met with in it. You would laugh at an Indian, who in peeping into an history of England, and meeting with the mention of the Thames being frozen, or of a shower of hail, or of snow, should throw the book aside, as unworthy of his further notice, from his want of ability to comprehend these phenonena."
may be given, for this wise delay. It may, however, be retorted, if philosophy be medicinal to a foolish world, why were Thales, Solon, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Zeno, Antoninus, Seneca, and other ancient heathens, born no sooner, but men suffered to continue so many ages in profound ignorance, little superior to the beasts that perish? Answer this with respect to them, and you are answered with respect to the Messiah. I add, Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The efficacy of his death extends from the beginning to the end of time. He is an universal Saviour. When any of us bestow a favour upon a fellow-creature, we alone are to determine the time and circumstances of doing that favour.
" If the gospel, and our natural passions,(6) both come from one source, why doth the former oppose the latter ?”
While the inferior powers of human nature assume dominion over the superior, no man can be happy. The intention of the gospel is, not to destroy the affections of men, but to regulate, and restore them to due order and harmony, and so to promote the felicity of human life. And, wherever it hath its proper, full, and natural effect, there it always forms a virtuous, respectable, and happy character. The grand intention of it, is to train mankind for glory and immortality in a future state of existence.
“ If the human race are all sprung from one original pair, and if the several species of animals, insects,
(6) See a most remarkable deliverance from the dominion of indulged and long continued lust, in the case of Colonel Gardiner. Every man, who is living under the tyrannical dominion of his lusts, and wishes to obtain deliverance, should not fail to consult this extraordinary emancipation. Nothing is too hard for divine grace to accomplish.
and birds, were produced in the garden of Eden, as the Bible seems to insinuate, how is it possible they should be found dispersed into the several countries of the world at an immense distance, and, in
many cases, separated by extensive oceans?”
If we refuse to believe in God, till we understand all the difficulties attending his existence, and in Jesus Christ, till we are acquainted with all the mysteries of Providence and grace, we must continue, not unbelievers only, but atheists to eternity. How often must it be repeated, that our comprehension is not the standard of truth? The evidence for the genuineness and authenticity of the sacred records must be the measure of our faith.
“ Is it at all probable, that we, and the several kinds of black men, should be sprung from the same parents, as the Bible affirms all human creatures
At first view, this is a considerable difficulty, but it has been accounted for upon principles perfectly satisfactory, which we cannot stop to detail.
Why is the gospel attended with so many difficulties? and why did not infinite wisdom, if infinite wisdom had
any concern in the business, take care to make every thing plain and easy to the meanest capacity:"(7)
Every thing necessary to salvation is plain and easy to the most common apprehension, if we are humbly disposed to submit our will and understandings to the will and understanding of God. And if there are some things in the Sacred Writings, and in the schemo of redemption, difficult to comprehend, it is not less
(7) The religion of Jesus Christ, any more than the dispen. sation of Moses, was never intended to be free from difficulties. It was rather designed to be a touchstone for ingenuous and curable dispositions. If we are honest inquirers after saving truth, and persevere in our pursuit, we shall not be disappointed. What we know not to-day, we shall know to-morrow,
so in the course of nature, and in the principles of unrevealed religion. , But if the gospel of Christ were attended with abundantly more difficulties than it is, still there could be no solid objection against substantial proof. A poor illiterate man, in a dark corner of the earth, has preached a scheme of doctrines and morals superior to all human wisdom, and calculated to make all mankind happy, if all mankind would submit to its authority. This he hath spread abroad to the ends of the world, in opposition to all the powers of earth and hell. Let any man account for this phenomenon, on principles merely human, if he
“Has not the gospel been the cause of the greatest misery and destruction to the human race, upon various occasions, almost ever since it was introduced?"
It has. And this is among the proofs that it came from above. The author of it predicted that so it should be. But the gospel itself was no otherwise the cause of misery and destruction to the human race, than as philosophy was the cause of misery and destruction to the inhabitants of France. As in the latter case, it was not philosophy, but the abuse of it, that has done so much mischief; so in the former, it was not the gospel, but a most wicked perversion of its pure and benevolent doctrines, that has produced so much havoc among mankind.(8) And though it has
(8) The Roman emperors of the three first centuries after the birth of Christ, are somewhere said by Jerome, to have martyred 5000 Christians a day every day in the year, except one; that is, they put to death at different times, during those centuries, 1,820,000 souls !-These Heathens, however, according to this calculation, were not half so bloody as the Papists have been.The infidel philosophers, who are evermore charging the gospel with cruelty and murder, though it prohibits every thing of the kind under the most awful sanctions, by a most tremendous retan. ation, have turned their arms one against another, and have mur. dered upwards of two millions in the course of seven years. Hence