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Of the Heresies, I have nothing to say at this time. They appear at large in the ecclesiastical historian. Of the dreams of infidelity, as arising from the fumes of pride, so much is to be said, as my present subject requires of me, but this in as few words as possible.
The pride of Reason has then pronounced, (as it operated at different times, and on dif-, ferent tempers), that Revelation is unnecessary, , because Reason could see and discover by its own light all that was needful to our direction and happiness--that, if it were wanted by us, it was impossible to be given consistently with the laws of nature and experience that as to that pretended scheme of Revelation, called tlte Gospel, its morality indeed was pure enough, but that it carried no other internal marks of its divinity: that its doctrines were such as Reason would not expect, and in many cases could not understand : that it talked of divine things in a manner that was strange and extraordinary ; of a purpose to redeem mankind which, if it were needful at all, might have, been effected by more rational and less operosę methods; and to save and sanctify them by such means as seemed fanciful and delusive; that the divine nature was spoken of in high mysterious terms, which puzzle and confound
our Metaphysics ; and that the offices, in which the Godhead was employed, are either degrading, or such as imply an immoderate and inconceivable condescension.
And what then, say others, is the basis on which this incredible Revelation rests? Why on Miracles, which we cannot admit, as being violations or suspensions of those laws, by which we know the Supreme Being governs the world ; and on Prophecies, which may have been feigned, as many have been, or which imply such a prescience in the Deity of free contingent events, as is perhaps impossible. If the Gospel then is to be admitted as a truly divine Revelation, convince us, that its external proofs are above all doubt and suspicion; and that all its internal characters are such as lie open to the perfect scrutiny, and entire investigation of our faculties.
Thus does the Pride of Reason vaunt itself, against Reason. For, if to any or all of these objections (on which so many infidel systems hang) we should only say, that they are nothing to the purpose, what could the objectors reply to us? If pressed closely, they could only take refuge in this principle, that no Religion can be divine, all the reasons of which are not fully known to us ; a principle, for which they have surely no warrant from right Reason. How do they know what is necessary, or fit, or right, with regard to the divine dispensations, I mean (which is the case here) when they only silence, not contradict our Reason ? Every thing may be fit and right, and might appear to be so, if the whole scheme of Providence were fully unveiled to
It must be fit and right, whether we see it or no, if the Religion in question be credibly attested: And the credibility will depend not on our fancies or expectations of I know not what irresistible evidence (which it might be best and wisest not to give) but on the real moment of the arguments, on which it is established.
So that the last effort of Infidelity is only an appeal to the ignorance of mankind; which proves nothing but the necessity of a longforgotten virtụe, Modesty, in our researches into Religion.
We see then how the Pride of Reason has betrayed presumptuous men into a disbelief of Revelation, and how true it is that, if the Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, as well by this means, as by any other,
II. But, secondly, there is A PRIDE OF VIRTUE, as well as of Reason: and by this Pride, too, (such is the infirmity of our common nature) the Gospel may be hid from us.
On whatever foundation a man chuses to build his moral system, he easily convinces himself of the worth and excellence of moral action. The reasonableness, the utility, and the beauty of Virtue are so conspicuous, that even the vicious look up to her with respect, and the virtuous easily grow enamoured of her. Thus it came to be among the extravagances of the Stoics, its best friends in the pagan world, that virtue was not only the perfection of man's nature, but that it raised him in some sense, above the Divined. And to make their arrogant system all of a piece, they further maintained that this super-celestial virtue, in which they gloried, was their own proper acquisition ; that they derived it wholly from themselves, and that God did not, and could not give it,
& Ferte fortiter : hoc est, quo Deum antecedatis : Ille extra patientiam malorum est, vos supra patientiam. Sen, de Prov. c. vi.
& Cic. Nat. Deor. iii. 36.
This, you will say, was stoical pride; but it is, too commonly, also, the pride of virtue, of whatever denomination. Penetrated with a lively sense of its use and excellence, virtuous men, especially of a certain temperament, take fire from their own heated ideas, and flame out into a kind of moral fanaticism. They consider virtue, as the supreme and only good, absolute in itself, and independant of any other. They exalt and deify themselves in their own imaginations; and, though their language may be more decent, the sense of their hearts is truly stoical,
See, now, whether virtue, under this intoxication, be in a condition to benefit by the sober truths of the Gospel. It presents to us a frightful picture of the moral world; much is said concerning the weakness and inefficacy of moral virtue. This representation, of itself, is disgusting. But one great design of the Gospel was to reform this state of things: And thus far is well: But by what means would it reform it? Why, among others, by Faith and Hope. Yet, in Faith, the proud moralist sees no virtue, at all; and Hope, in his ideas, degrades and servilizes his adored virtue. The Gospel proposes to save us by the sacrifice of Christ: But He acknowledges no need of any