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ceive how any Inspiration, which doth not over-rule the Will and Affections, as well as convince the Understanding, fhould be of more Efficacy upon the Minds and Lives of fuch Men, than the Notion of a God is. For if Men can so ftifle the Notion of a God in their Minds, as to doubt whether there be any God or no, or at least to act as if there were none; no Reafon can be given why they might not as well act against any Conviction which they might receive by Infpiration, or any other way of immediate Revelation, (unlefs it had an irresistible effect upon them,) and either take it all for Fancy and Delufion, or else so harden themselves against it, as not to be reclaimed by it: And of this we have Balaam for an Example, who, notwithstanding the Revelations he received from God, loved the wages of unrighteousness, 2 Pet. ii. 15.
But, above all Men, the profane and obftinate Unbelievers can have leaft Reason to expect that God fhould vouchfafe them an immediate Revelation. The Jews have obferved, that the Spirit of Prophecy refted only upon Men of regular and pure Affections, of gentle, and meek, and tractable Difpofitions. For the Lord will be found of them that tempt him not, and Sheweth himself to fuch as do not diftruft him; for froward thoughts feparate from God: into a malicious foul wisdom fhall not enter, nor dwell in the body that is fubject unto fin. For the holy Spirit of difcipline will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts that are without understanding, and will not abide when unrighteoufnefs cometh in, Wifd. i. 2, 3, 4, 5. And to the fame purpose Philo fpeaks. And for this reason, when Jofeph had the Interpretation of Dreams revealed to him, i the Word of the Lord is faid to try him, or to purge, to clear, and justifie him; it being evident, that God would not in that manner
g Maimon. de Fundament. Legis. c. 7. §. 1.
h Quis rerum divinarum Hæres fit. Philo, p. 404.
Inspire one who had been guilty of the Crimes which Jofeph was accufed of. It is not to be imagin'd that God fhould farther reveal himself to all fuch in particular, by an immediate Inspiration, who have rejected all the Manifeftations which he has made of himself, in the Creation and Government of the World; but, that he would reserve these immediate Revelations, as peculiar Favours, to his faithful and obedient Servants. God has fometimes, indeed, made ufe of wicked Men, Balaam, Caiaphas, &c. as his Instruments both in Prophecies and Miracles, to fhew that they are at his difpofal, and proceed from his Bounty, not from any Worth or Merit of Men; and that he can over-rule the Defigns and Intentions of the worft of Men, and make them serviceable to him, even against their Will, whenever he pleaseth: But then these are peculiar Cafes, in which these Gifts were afforded for particular Ends, and for the Benefit of others, and the Men themselves were never the better for them. But as for the Disobedient, St. Paul acquaints us how, in the general Difpenfations of his Providence, God dealt with them; God gave them over to a reprobate Mind, Rom. i. 28. and he there fets down a Catalogue of thofe Sins which were the confequence of this Reprobation. The Apostle all along maintains, that they had fo much knowledge of God, as to render them without Excufe; and that they would make no Improvement of it, to the attaining the knowledge of the Laws of Nature firft, and then of his Revealed Will; and it was the juft Judgment of God, to give them up to their own hearts lufts, to abandon them to the tyranny of their Sins, fince they would take no notice of his Works, and would not abide his Counfels: And it must needs have been highly inconfiftent, to fend immediate Revelations, or afford particular Inspiration to all fuch Men as are there defcribed. God's Spirit will not always ftrive with man; but he withdraws his ordinary Grace from thofe that
abuse it, and therefore it can never be prefumed he fhould confer higher Favours upon them.
If Men will believe upon reasonable Motives, they have fufficient Means of Salvation allowed them; but if they will not believe without fome immediate Revelation, they are never like to have that in this World, but in the next God will reveal himself with Terror and Vengeance upon all the workers of iniquity. God doth, both by Nature and by Revelation, provide for the Neceffities, for the Welfare and Happinefs, but never for the Humours and Peevifhnefs of Men; and those who will not be faved, but according to fome new Way and Method of their own Invention, must be miserable without remedy. I doubt not but the greatest Infidels would own, that if Chrift fhould perfonally speak to them in a Voice from Heaven, or appear to them upon Earth, and grant them that Conviction which he once granted to St. Thomas, or St. Paul, they would believe in him, as these Apostles did. But they would do well to confider what reafon there can be, why fo much Favour fhould be fhewn to those who reje&t with fcorn and derifion all the Tenders of Grace, and Means of Salvation; and what Obligation God can be under, to fave them in fuch a manner as themselves fhall prefcribe, who will not be faved in his Way, and according to the Terms of the Gofpel. And if God fhould vouchfafe to make fome immediate Revelation of himself to these infolent Offenders, and Blafphemers of his Name and Authority; how can we be affured that they would be converted? Would they not rather find out fome pretence to perfuade themselves that it was no real Revelation, but the effect of Natural Agents, or of Melancholy, and of a difturbed Imagination? For those who have fo long not only rejected (that were a modeft thing) but derided and reviled Mofes and the Prophets, nay, the Apoftles, and our Saviour himfelf, would not believe, though one fhould rife from the dead.
dead. They might be terrified, perhaps, for the prefent, but they would foon ftifle thofe Apprehenfions with their accustomed Arguments for Atheism and Infidelity. I hope to prove, in this Difcourfe, That all but Atheists must be convinced of the Truth of the Revelations delivered down to us in the Old and New Teftament, if they will but take the pains to confider them; and Atheists could never be convinced of any Revelation whatsoever: For Men must first believe that there is a God, before they can believe that he reveals himself either to themselves or others.
But befides their being ineffectual, and never to be expected by fuch as this Conceit must be calculated for; this Suppofition, of immediate Revelations to every Man in particular, would fill the World with continual Impoftures and Delufions, For if every one had a Revelation made to himself, every one may pretend to others what he pleased; and we know, from the Example of the Prophet who was fent to prophefie againft the Altar at Bethel, that a Man may be deluded by the pretence of a Revelation made to another, against an exprefs Revelation made to himfelf; and we may conclude that this would often happen, from what we every day experience: For if Men can be perverted by the Arts and Infinuations of others, against their own Reason and Judgment, they might as well be prevailed upon to act against a Revelation made to them, tho' Revelations were as common and familiar a thing amongst Men, as Reason it felf is.
So that immediate Revelations to every particular Man would have been needlefs and fuperfluous; they would have been unfuitable to the Majefty and Honour of God; and they would have been ineffectual to the Ends for which they must be supposed to be defigned, and would have given many more pretences to Impoftures than there are now in the World.
But there were many Confiderations, even in a wicked World, to move the Compaffions of Infinite
Mercy towards Mankind: Though all were under the dominion of Sin, and unable of themselves to become righteous, yet fome were more wicked than others; great numbers of Men were carried away to commit heinous Impieties, through their own Ignorance, and the Example of others; and though the Heathen were never without excufe, yet they were chiefly inexcufable, because God had always a Revealed Will, to the Knowledge of which, he would by fome means or other have brought them, if they had lived according to their Natural Knowledge of him, and of their Duty towards him; and though the Heathen had many Opportunities of becoming acquainted with the Revealed Will of God, yet much allowance was to be made for the times of Ignorance before the Gospel. God was pleased to reveal himfelf from time to time; and at laft, by the Gospel, in a more wonderful and evident manner than ever he had done before, and to afford Men fuller means of Conviction, and greater measures of Grace to comply with it, and work out their own falvation. And God has made thefe Revelations of his Will, by enduing certain Men with a Power of Prophefying, and working Miracles, who were to declare his Will to others, and to certifie the reft of the World that it was indeed his Will and Commandments which they delivered.
And this was the moft proper Method, and most worthy of God. For, as I have proved, God would not create Mankind, and then take no farther care of them; fince, in the ftate of Innocence, they better deferved his Care, and have ever after ftood in fo much need of it, and could at no time be happy, either in this World or the next, without it: And it cannot with any reafon be objected, by those who have never fo great a mind to cavil at the Terms and Means of Salvation by the Gofpel, That God fhould apply himself to every Perfon by a particular Revelation;