Imatges de pÓgina
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as are holy, just and unchangeable in themselves, which yet it is impossible to have had the least suspicion of, without express Revelation. He instances in that law which commands us to worship the Son and the Holy Spirit, which certainly, however reasonable in itself, could not have been known without Revelation. Having observed this, he infers, that Heathens, invincibly ignorant of the law of nature, could not be condemned, purely because that ignorance was the confequence of a thing voluntary in its principle, vizi original sin, because if all ignorance of this fort were criminal, the ignorance of the worship due to the Son of God, and of other precepts of that nature, must be so likewise ; for even of that and fuch like precepts we could never have been ignorant, had man continued in his primitive perfection.

Since then it was poffible for the Heathens to discover the law of nature, it follows, that it must have been possible for them to know the being and perfections of God also ; for, without such knowledge, it was impoflible for them, if not to perceive a moral difference in actions, at least to learn their duties to God, which, however, make a considerable part of the law of nature.

If it be said, That it was indeed possible for the Heathens to discover the law of nature, but that this possibility did not take its rise from the natural strength of their reason, but from the opportunities they had to learn these truths by tradition, conversation with the Jews, and above all, by the care the civil magistrate used in establishing the belief of future rewards and punishments, and, the divine government of the world, without which he saw society could not subsist; if this, I lay, should be alledged, and that of confequence

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all my reasoning here is of no force against the Doctor's hypothesis, I shall grant this a sufficient reply to my argument, if the Doctor will own, that one way or other the Heathens had a power of discovering the law of nature ; for this will be sufficient to thew their inexcusableness in acting contrary to its dictates; which, methinks, it will be impoffible for one of the Doctor's principles to do, without espousing that hypothesis. But then the Doctor will be obliged, upon this hypothesis, to thew particularly in what way it was possible for the Heathens, notwithstanding the weakness of their reason, to attain such knowledge of the law of nature. A treatise on this subject, judiciously writ, wherein the several opportunities the Heathens had of informing themselves of natural religion and morality, should be traced out, and their different degrees of divine and moral knowledge, according to these different opportunities, Thewn; such a treatise, I say, would cast a new light on the origin and progress of religion amongst the Heathens, and would demonstrate, that the care of the civil magistrate, the notions of certain philosophers, the traditions preserved in the heathen world, the opportunities they enjoyed of conversing with those whom God had favoured with a revelation of his will, especially when added to the force of natural conscience, and that strength of reason, which many of the Heathens seemed endued with, were more than sufficient to shew the inexcusableness of the vices of the heathen world. But this, I'm afraid, we have no reason to expect from the Doctor, since he attempts to confute Dr. Hyde and others, (vide p. 37. 1.) who have allerted, the Heathens had right notions of mo

rality, rality, tho', at the same time, they owned these notions were not the product of rational enquiries. I shall only add, that, had I thought it the Doctor's opinion, that the Heathens, though not by their rational powers, yet by converfing with other nations, were able to acquaint themselves with natural religion, I should have heartily wished his sentiment made good. And tho' certain difficulties would have still remained, one of which is proposed in the next Section, yet, as my grand objection would have been removed, I should hardly have attempted the answering his performance.

SECTION III.

TH
HE last Section only proved, that, one way

or other, the Heathens must have been able to discover natural religion. In this it shall be shewn, that, by bare unaflisted reason, they might have made the discovery.

If then it was imposible for bare unaffifted reason to discover the being and perfections of God, or the immortality of human souls, there must be fome cause, some foundation, fome occasion of that impoffibility, and there is no cause, so far as I can see, that can be alledged to have had the remotest influence that way, fave either that these truths are so unobvious and abstruse, that it is highly improbable our weak understandings should be able to discover them; or else, that the wickednefs of mankind is so great, as neceffarily to exclude that light, which these truths would otherwise dart in upon them. The first of these can-, not be the cause; because, by bare una lifted rea

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fon, men have attained the knowledge of several geometrical and algebraical truths, which required a series of reasoning to come at them, much longer and more subtil than that by which we demonstrate the divine existence. And if reason can discover what is more difficult, why may it not discover what is more easy also ? Alk an unprejudiced enquirer, Whether he thinks he could have easilier discovered the Pythagorick theorem, or this plain propofition, that as every fingle effect must have a cause, so a whole series of things that once did not exist no less needs one! Would he, do you think, deinur about an anfwer? Would he not fee, that the latter of these truths lies much more level to his capacity, than the former?

Neither can it be said, that the wickedness of our minds fhuts out that light which these truths would otherwise dart in upon us, and thus that the corruption of our natures is to blame in our not discovering them. This, I find, is an answer in the mouths of several of those who favour the Doctor's principles. Whether he himfelf will adopt it or not, I cannot judge. When I first heard it proposed, I thought it very plaufible, but a little reflection convinced me of my mistake. Let it then be observed, that the only reason why wicked inen are averse to believe the existence of a God, the immortality of the foul, and other important articles of natural religion, is, that they see plainly, if these doctrines are true, they must either forsake their beloved vices, or expose themselves to certain ruin ; and as they have no mind to do either the one or other of these, they attempt to persuade themselves that

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religion is nothing but a cheat. So that it is only the practical consequences of the truths I have just now mentioned, that make wicked men refuse to believe them, when proposed to their confideration. Now, the case is quite otherwise with a person supposed entirely ignorant of the divine existence. By a chain of reasoning that he occasionally falls into, perhaps about motion, or some other natural phænomenon, he discovers this important truth. The wickedness of his mind cannot hinder his making the discovery, because, being entirely ignorant of the confequences of that doctrine, which are the only things he would startle at, thefe consequences can have no influence upon him to prevent his making the discovery. I grant indeed, that after the truth is discovered, they may prevail with him to reject it, and persuade him there is some flaw in the arguments which led him to the knowledge of it; or, if he does not go so far as entirely to reject it, may at least influence him to detain it in unrighteousness. Which last was certainly the case of many of the Heathens. But how a consequence can have any influence upon the mind before it is known, is, I own, past my comprehension ; and yet this must be the case, if we suppose that the practical consequences of the divine existence prevent men from finding out that truth ; unless, perhaps, it be said, that the consequences of a doctrine may be known, before the doctrine of which they are consequences. But this is as absurd in logicks, as it would be in natural philosophy, to assert, that an effect may possibly exist before the being that causes it. Since then, neither the natural abstruseness of the truths of

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