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dience to the Divine Will, and in Conformity to the Order of their Nature, should appear, is now ro more to be expected than any other Miracle : but there are frequent Apparitions of Bad Spirits in Countries where the Christian Religion is not received ; and where it is received, they appear to such as are willing to come under their Power, but very rarely to others. And if the Devil, after so much Human Blood as he has caused to be spilt in his Sacrifices, and after so many Oracles and Impostures, can yet perfuade some Men that there is no such Being; this is one of his subtilest Stratagems of all, and proves how great Power, tho' in a different kind and manner, he still retains over the Minds of Men.
Since therefore it is moft certain that there is a Being of Infinite Power, and Wisdom, and Justice, and Goodness; and that there is likewise a malicious cruel Spirit, ever watchful and industrious to abuse and destroy Mankind: it is highly reasonable to believe, that a Being of such. Infinite Perfections, after he had created Man, would communicate himself to him, would set him a Rule by which he ought to live, and prescribe him Laws whereby he might anfwer the Ends of his Creation, and attain to that Happiness which he was made capable of, and designed for by his Maker. We cannot suppose that the God of all Goodness and Wisdoin would create Man, and then leave him to himself, to follow his own Inventions, and to live at random, without any Law or Direction to frame his A&ions by, and to be exposed to all the Assaults of an implacable subtle Enemy, without any Caution and Instruction given him, or any Help and Afiftance afforded for his Defence. Man, in his Innocence, was not thus to be left to himself. And we have all the reason in the World to believe, tho' we had not the express. Word of Scripture for it, that the God of Infinite Goodness would not disregård this corrupt State of Mankind, but would use fome
Means to reclaim them from the Error of their Ways, to bring them to a knowledge of themselves, and of the Divine Majesty, to inform them of their Duty, and direct them to Happiness.
How Man became so prone to all Evil, we can know only by Revelation; and therefore since the Notion of the Pre-existence of Souls is groundless, ( as I shall hereafter prove) those who reject all Revelation, must suppose that Man was first created in this state of Sin and Misery; which is a very heinous Imputation upon the Goodness and Justice of God: but to suppose him placed in this condition, without all Help or Res medy, is to charge God still more foolishly. But how Men became fo, is not here the matter of Enquiry : it is evident, that Man is of himself in a miserable and helpless condition; and considering the great Ignorance and Wickedness which have been from the Fall of our First Parents visible continually in the World, and still reign in it; considering, I say, the notorious Wickedness and gross Ignorance of Men, which, from the earliest Records of Antiquity, have continued down to our own Times, nothing is more reasonable than to think, that a Being of Infinite Perfection would take fome Care to rectify the Mistakes, and reform the Manners of Men. Can we believe it consistent with Infinite Truth, never to manifeft it felf in the World, but to suffer all sorts of Men, of all Nations, to be exposed to all the Designs and Delusions of Impostors, and of seducing and apoftate Spirits, without any sufficient means afforded them to undeceive and rescue themselves? Can we suppose, that God, of Infinite Majesty and Power, and who is a Jealous God, and will not give his Honour to another, fhould suffer the World to be guilty of Idolatry, to make themselves Gods of Wood and Stone? nay, to offer their Sons and their Daughters unto Devils, and to commit all. manner of Wickedness in the Worship of their False Gods; and make Murther, and Adultery, and the worst of Vices, not only their
Practice, but their Religion ? Can we imagine, that the True God would behold all this, for so many Ages, among so many People, and yet not concern himsef to put a stop to so much Wickedness, and to vindicate his own Honour, and restore the Sense and Prađice of Virtue upon Earth ?
I shall, in due place, prove at-large, That Mankind have in all Ages had the greatest necessity for a Revelation to direct and reform thein; and, That the Philosophers themselves taught abominably wicked DoEtrines, who yet were the best Teachers and Instruetors of the Heathen World. And we have no true Notion of God, if we do not believe him to be a God of infinite Power, and Knowledge, and Holiness, and Mercy, and Truth; and yet we may as well believe there is no God at all, as imagine that the God of Infinite Knowledge should take no notice of what is done here below; that Infinite Power should suffer it self to be affronted and despised, without requiring any Satiffaction; that Infinite Holiness should behold the whole World lie in Wickedness, and find out no way to remedy it; and that Superstition and Idolatry, and all the Tyranny of Sin and Satan, for so long a time, should enslave and torment the Bodies and Souls of Men, and there fhould be no Compassion in Infinite Mercy, nor any Care over an erroneous and deluded World, in the God of Truth. - Would a wife and good Father see his Children run on in all manner of Folly and Extravagancy, and take no care to reclaim them, nor give them any Advice, but leave them wholly to themselves, to pursue their own Ruin? And if this be unworthy to suppose of Natural Parents, how much more unreasonable is it to imagine this of God himself, whom we cannot but represent to our selves, a's beholding our forlorn Estate with all the Compassions of the tendereft Father or Mother, without the Weakness and Infirmities that accompany them in Human Parents? How unreasonable is it to entertain such a Thought of Almighty God, Infinite in Goodness and Mercy, as to suspect that he would suffer Mankind to make themselves as miserable as they can, both in this world and the next, without putting any stop to fo fatal a course of Sin and Misery, or interposing any thing for their Direction, to shew them the way to escape Destruction, and to obtain Happiness! The Fall of our First Parents is known to us only by Revelation, and therefore is not to be taken into consideration, when we argue upon the mere Principles of Reason. But I consider Mankind, as we find it in Fact (setting aside the Advantages of Revelation) Wicked, and abandoned to Wickedness, in the snares of the devil, -taken captive by him at his will, unable to work out their own salvation ; loft and undone, without Power or Strength, without any Help or Remedy. And in this ftate of the World, however it came to pass, is there no Reason to believe that Infinite Goodness should take some course, and not disregard all Mankind lying in this condition?
The great Argument of the Scoffers of the last Days, St. Peter tells us, would be this, That all things go on in their constant course, and that God doth not meddle or concern himself with them. Where is the promise of his coming ? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the creation? 2 Pet. iii. 4. And if no Promise had ever been made, they would have had some Reason in their Arguing. For that which render'd the Heathen without Excuse, was, That they did not make use of the Natural Knowledge that they had of God, to lead them to the Knowledge of his Revealed Will, which they had frequent Opportunities of becoming acquainted withal, and had many Memorials of it amongst them in every Nation: but, they did not like to retain God in their knowledge. And this is the force of St. Paui's Argument, Act. xvii. and Rom.i. (unless this latter Chapter were to be understood, as Dr. Hammond interprets it, of the Gnoftick Hereticks)
That the Gentiles ought not to pervert and stifle those Natural Notions which God had implanted in their Minds, but from the Law of Nature to proceed to find out the Written Law; and for this Reafon, the Bounds of the Habitation of other Nations were determined and appointed by God, according to the number of the children of Israel, that they might seek the Lord, and might be able to find and discover the True Religion and Way of Worship among that people to whom he had revealed himself, Deut.xxxii. 8. A&.xvii. 26, 27, They might have been less vicious than they were, without the Knowledge of a Revelation; and therein they were inexcusable, that tho' they could not free themfelves from the Power of Sin, yet they might not have given themselves so wholly up to it, as to become excluded from the Grace and Salvation to be obtained by the Revealed Will of God. . And when God has revealed himfelf, all who will not use the Means, and by a due Improvement of their Reason endeavour from Natural Religion to arrive at Revealed, become inexcufable for their Negligence and Contempt of God, and the Abuse of those Talents and Endowments which God has bestowed upon them. For when God has once given Men warning, and directed them in the way of Salvation, and they will not regard it ; they must be wilfully ignorant if they will not consider, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousard years as one day, and it is an argument of his Patience and Long-suffering, that he doth not bring speedy Vengeance upon a disobedient and rebellious World: The Lord is not pack concerning bis promise (as some men count Nackness) but is longfuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. Now this is very well confiftent and exceedingly agreeable with all the Divine Perfections, that he should give Men warning of the Evil and Danger of Sin, and afterwards leave