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ceive how any Inspiration, which doth not over-rule the Will and Affections, as well as convince the Understanding, should be of more Efficacy upon the Minds and Lives of such Men, than the Notion of a God is. For if Men can so stifle 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 Inspiration, or any other way of immediate Revelation, (unless it had an irresistible effect upon them, and either take it all for Fancy and Delusion, 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 obstinate Unbelievers can have least Reason to expect that God should vouchsafe them an immediate Revelation. The Jews have observed, that the Spirit of Prophecy rested only upon Men of regular and pure Affe&tions, of gentle, and meek, and tra&able Dispositions. For the Lord will be found of them that tempt him notg and Seweth himself to such as do not distrust him; for froward thoughts separate from God : into a malicious foul wisdom Mall not enter, nor dwell in the body that is subje&t unto fin. For the holy Spirit of discipline will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts that are without understanding, and will not abide when unrighteousness cometh in, Wifd. 1. 2, 3, 4, 5. And to the same purpose l Philo speaks. And for this reason, when Joseph had the Interpretation of Dreams revealed to him, i the Word of the Lord is said to try him, or to purge, to clear, and justifie him; it being evident, that God would not in that manner
8 Maimon. de Fundament. Legis. C. 7. S. 1.
Inspire one who had been guilty of the Crimes which Joseph was accused of. It is not to be imagin'd that God should farther reveal himself to all such in particular, by an immediate Inspiration, who have rejected all the Manifestations 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 sometimes, indeed, made use of wicked Men, Balaam, Caiaphas, &c. as his Instruments both in Prophecies and Miracles, to shew that they are at his disposal, and proceed from his Bounty, not from any Worth or Merit of Men ; and that he can over-rule the Designs and Intentions of the worst of Men, and make them serviceable to him, even against their Will, whenever he pleaseth : But then these are peculiar Cases, 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 Dispensations of his Providence, God dealt with them; God
them over to a reprobate Mind, Rom. i. 28. and he there fets down a Catalogue of those Sins which were the consequence of this Reprobation. The Apostle all along maintains, that they had so much knowledge of God, as to render them without Excuse; and that they would make no Improvement of it, to the attaining the knowledge of the Laws of Nature first, and then of his Revealed Will; and it was the just Judgment of God, to give them up to their own hearts lusts, to abandon them to the tyranny of their Sins, since they would take no notice of his Works, and would not abide his Counsels: And it must needs have been highly inconsistent, to send immediate Revelations, or afford particular Inspiration to all such Men as are there described. God's Spirit will not always strive with man; but he withdraws his ordinary Grace from those that
abuse it, and therefore it can never be presumed he should confer higher Favours upon them.
If Men will believe upon reasonable Motives, they have sufficient Means of Salvation allowed them; but if they will not believe without some 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 Necessities, for the Welfare and Happiness, but never for the Humours and Peevishness of Men; and those who will not be saved, but according to some new Way and Method of their own Invention, must be miserable without remedy. I doubt not but the greatest Infidels would own, that if Christ should personally speak to them in a Voice from Heaven, or appear to them upon Earth, and grant them that Convi&ion 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 consider what reason there can be, why so much Favour should be thewn to those who reject with scorn and derision all the Tenders of Grace, and Means of Salvation; and what Obligation God can be under, to save them in such a manner as themselves shall prescribe, who will not be saved in his Way, and according to the Terms of the Gospel. And if God should vouchsafe to make some immediate Revelation of himself to these infolent Offenders, and Blasphemers of his Name and Authority; how can we be assured that they would be converted ? Would they not rather find out some pretence to persuade themselves that it was no real Revelation, but the effe& of Natural Agents, or of Melancholy, and of a disturbed Imagination? For those who have so long not only rejected (that were a modest thing) but derided and reviled Moses and the Prophets, nay, the Apostles, and our Saviour himself, would not believe, though one should rise from the
dead. They might be terrified, perhaps, for the prefent, but they would soon stifle those Apprehensions with their accustomed Arguments for Atheism and Infidelity. I hope to prove, in this Discourse, That all but Atheists must be convinced of the Truth of the Revelations delivered down to us in the Old and New Testament, if they will but take the pains to consider 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 besides their being ineffectual, and never to be expected by such as this Conceit must be calculated for; this Supposition, of immediate Revelations to every Man in particular, vould fill the World with continual Impostures and Delusions, 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 sent to prophesie against the Altar at Bethel, that a Man may be deluded by the pretence of a Revelation made to another, against an express Revelation made to himself; 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 Insinuations 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 self is.
So that immediate Revelations to every particular Man would have been needless and superfluous; they would have been unsuitable to the Majesty and Honour of God; and they would have been ineffectual to the Ends for which they must be supposed to be designed, and would have given many more pretences to Impoftures than there are now in the World.
But there were many Considerations, even in a wicked World, to move the Compassions of Infinite
Mercy towards Mankind : Though all were under the dominion of Sin, and unable of themselves to become righteous, yet some 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 excuse, yet they were chiefly inexcusable, because God had always a Revealed Will
, to the Knowledge of which, he would by some 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 himself from time to time; and at last, by the Gospel, in a more wonderful and evident manner than ever he had done before, and to afford Men fuller means of Convi&ion, and greater measures of Grace to comply with it, and work out their own salvation. And God has made these Revelations of his Will
, by enduing certain Men with a Power of Prophesying, and working Miracles, who were to declare his Will to others, and to certifie 'the rest of the World that it was indeed his Will and Commandments which they delivered.
And this was the most 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; since, in the state of Innocence, they better deserved his Care, and have ever after stood in so 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 reason be objected, by those who have neso
great a mind to cavil at the Terms and Means of Salvation by the Gospel, That God should apply himself to every Person by a particular Revelation;