페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

them to their own choice, whether they will be Righteous and Happy, or Wicked and Miserable ; and then that he fhould not take the first opportunity to punish them, nor lay hold of any advantage against them, but give them time for second Thoughts, and space for Consideration and Repentance : but if they abuse fo inuch Patience and Loving-kindness, that he Should at last come upon them, when they least think of him, with a mighty and terrible Judgment, and with a sudden and unexpected Fury. But to stand by and look on unconcern'd, and then to take Men upon fuch a surprise, without giving them any notice of it before-hand, is a thing impoflible to be accounted for, and can never be reconciled with the Divine Attributes. St. Athanafius infifts at large upon this Argument, and carries it so far as to prove the Neceflity of the Incarnation of the Son of God from it: He urges, That it would have been unworthy of the Goodness of God to suffer all Mankind to be destroyed by the Fraud and Malice of the Devil, or by their own Fault and Negligence; and that it had been more consistent with his Wisdom and Goodness, never to have created Men, than to have suffered them thus to perish! 5. An « Earthly King (says he) when he has planted a co $. lony, will not carelesly fuffer his Subjects to becoine i Slaves to a Stranger, or to revolt from him; but he 5. will, by his Proclamations, admonish them of their

Duty and often-times will send Messages to them by « his Friends; and if there be a necessity for it, will go “ to them himself, to awe them by his Presence, and « recall them to their Obedience. And (as he there adds ) « shall not God much rather be so mindful of $ his Creatures, as to use some Mean's to reclaim them “ from their evil Ways, and regain them to his Ser“ vice; especially when they must be utterly undone f St. Cyril of Alexandria speaks to the same purpose. “ It was necessary, (says he) it was necessary, is that the good God should save those, who were lost, « and defeat the Malice of the Devil. And afterwards, “ What then should the Creator of the Uni« verfe do? Should he leave all Men under the Power « of impure Dæmons ? and Tuffer the Devil's Malice “ to disappoint his own Designs ? Should he not “ stretch forth his faving Hand to those who were “ down? Should he not reclaim those who were en“ snared in the grofleft Wickedness ? Should he not

for ever, unless he take care of them?

c S. Athan. de Incarnatione Verbi Dei.

1

f St. Cyril

enlighten the Minds of those who were in Dark« nefs ? Should he not call back those who were

gone astray? How then could he be Good, if “when without the least trouble, he could effectu

ally do all this, he had yer had no regard for us?

Why did he at first bring Men into Being and Life, “ if he would exterid no Mercy towards them in this « miferable State?

It is plain then, that tho’ we had never heard of such a thing as a Miracle, or a Prophecy, or of Revealed Religion ; yet from the consideration of the State of the World, and the great Ignorance and Cors ruption of Human Nature, it would be reasonable to expect that God should some way make known his Will to Mankind; and we cannot reconcile it to his Attributes, nor conceive how it should be consistent with them, for him to be an unconcerned Spectator of so much Folly and Wickedness, without taking any care to remedy it. God cannot be obliged to force Men to obey his Commandments, and comply with his Will, but rather to leave it at their own choice, whether they will be Happy or Miserable: but it was necessary to propose the

Terms of Salvation to them,

f Contra Julian. l. 8. c. p. 278, 279. Edit. Lipf. In eandem etiam fententiam Theodotus Ancyra Episc. Homil. in Conc. Ephef. habit. C. T. 3. col. 1026.

to

to offer them their free Choice, to set before them Life and Death, Blessings and Cursings, and so to leave the Obstinate without all Excuse.

And this is all which I am here concerned to prove, That it is reasonable to suppose that God would reveal himself to Mankind, and that it is not conceivable how it should be consistent with the Divine Attributes for him not to do it. To own the Being of a God, and yet to deny a Providence, is so great an absurdity, that none of the Philosophers, but Epicurus, were guilty of it; and this was look'd upon, in him, as amounting to the denial of the Divine Existence. And to grant both the Being and the Providence of God, and yet to confine the Divine Care and Providence to the Bodies only, and Outward Condition of Men, and to imagine that the Spiritual and Immortal Part of Man is disregarded or neglected by him, is no less an absurdity than wholly to deny his Providence or his Existence; because this is to deny the most considerable and inestimable part of Providence, which concerns our Souls, and our Eternal State; and therefore it is, by consequence, to deny the Attributes of God, and to represent him not as he is in himself, but Unwise, Unmerciful, and Unholy. To say that there is no such thing as a Divine Revelation, is no better, in effect, than Atheism : For whoever can be of this opinion, must believe only the Being of such Gods as Epicurus owned, that never concerned themselves with Human Affairs; which was only, in other words, to say that they were no Gods at all.

It has therefore been the constant Belief and Opinion of all Nations, that their Gods did in some way or other reveal themselves to Men; and tho’ fo great a part of the World have worshipped False Gods, and have been mistaken as to the particular Revelations, which they received for Divine, yet it must proceed either from Antient Tradition, or from the Reaso nableness of the thing. it self, or from both, that all

the

the World should expect that the Divine Being should by some means communicate himself to Men, and declare his Will to them.

CH A P. II.

The Way and Manner by whicli Divine Reve

lations may be supposed to be Delivered and Preserved in the World:

Ankind had so corrupted themselves, that the

Will and Laws of God made known to them, but by some extraordinary way of Revelation. ·God had manifested himself in the Creation of the World, and by the Preservation of all things from the Beginning, according to their feveral Natures : For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things which are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, Rom. i. 20. But Men had corrupted themselves even in the plainest and most fundamental Points of all Religion, and acted against all the Didates of Natural Reason, in worshipping the vilest Parts of the Creation, rather than God himself, and in contempt and defiance of Him, had set up even four-footed beasts and creeping things instead of Gods. How then could the Power and Authority of God be asserted, but by some extraordinary way of Revelation ; since the ordinary and constant Methods of God's revealing and manifesting himself by his Providence, in the Pro servation and Government of the World, had been fo far perverted and abused, as that Men were seduced to the Worship of any thing, or of every thing, rather than of God? Mankind had neither the Will nor Ability to reform themselves, and had by their own fault brought themselves under an utter incapacity of being

reformed

reformed but by some extraordinary Revelation. Natural Reason might have taught them to be less Wicked, but nothing could make them Righteous but a Revelation ; and the gross Errors and Crimes which the wiseft Men had faln into, shew the necessity of an extraordinary Revelation from God, to inftru&t and inform the World. And the ways of extraordinary Revelation are but these two, either an immediate Revelation of the Divine Will to particular Persons; or a Power of working Miracles, and of prophesying and foretelling future Events bestowed upon some, to convince others that they are inspired, or come with a Commission from God, to instruct them in what he has revealed, either by himself, or by the Message of Angels,

1. But it cannot seem requisite that. God should immediately inspire, or make an immediate Revelation to every particular Perfon in the World: For either he must so powerfully influence their Minds and Af fections, as to take away their choice and freedom of acting, which would be to offer Violence to Humane Nature; or else Men would, for the most part, have gone on in their wicked courses still, and would have denied God in their Lives, though their Understandings were never so clearly and fully convinced of his Will and Commandments, as well as of his Eternal Power and God-head. For, as St. Paul testifies, the Heathens themselves were not ignorant of the Being of God; but when they knew God, they glorified him not as God. No Man can be more certain of any Inspiration which he can receive, than he is of the Being of that God from whom he receives it; and therefore he who denies the Being of God, must by confequence deny the Truth of any such Inspiration, unless it have that powerful impulse upon his Mind, as both to convince him and force him to an Acknowledgment at once of the Being of God, and of the Operation of his Spirit upon his Soul. And it is hard to con

[ocr errors]
« 이전계속 »