Imatges de pÓgina

liberty of human actions: the deist is involved in great difficulties, when he undertakes the proof of either. The Christian has assurance that the spirit of God will help his infirmities; the deist does not deny the possibility that God may have access to the human mind, but he has no ground to believe the facts of his either enlightening the understanding, influencing the will, or purifying the heart. Bp. Watson.


1. THE ideas of the ancient philosophers concerning natural religion, were not collected into a body of doctrine. One philosopher had one idea, another studious man had another idea; ideas of truth and virtue, therefore, lay dispersed. Who doth not see the pre-eminence of revelation, on this article? No human capacity either hath been, or would ever have been, equal to the noble conception of a perfect body of truth. There is no genius so narrow, as not to be capable of proposing some clear truth, some excellent maxim: but to lay down principles, and to perceive at once a chain of consequences, these are the efforts of great geniuses; this capability is philosophical perfection. If this axiom be incontestible, what a fountain of wisdom does the system of Christianity argue! It represents one lovely body, of perfect symmetry. One idea supposeth another idea; and the whole is united in a manner so compact, that it is impossible to alter one particle without defacing the beauty of all.

2. Pagan philosophers never had a system of natural religion comparable with that of modern philosophers, although the latter glory in their contempt of revelation. Modern philosophers have derived the clearest and best parts of their systems from the very revelation which they affect to despise. We grant, the doctrines of the perfections of God, of Providence, and of a future state, are perfectly conformable to the light of reason. A man, who should pursue rational tracks of knowledge to his utmost power, would discover, we own, all these doctrines: but it is one thing to grant, that these doctrines are conformable to reason; and it is another to affirm, that reason actually discovered them. It is one thing to allow, that a man, who should pursue rational tracks of knowledge to his utmost power, would discover all these doctrines; and it is another to pretend, that any man hath pursued these tracks to the utmost, and hath actually discovered them. It was the gospel that taught mankind the use of their reason. It was the gospel that assisted men to form a body of natural religion. Modern philosophers avail themselves of these aids; they form a body of natural religion by the light of the gospel, and then they attribute to their own penetration what they derive from foreign aid.

3. What was most rational in the natural religion of the pagan philosophers was mixed with fancies and dreams. There was not a single philosopher, who did not adopt some absurdity, and communicate it to his disciples. One taught, that every being was animated with a particular soul, and on this absurd hypothesis he pretended to ac

count for all the phenomena of nature. Another took every star for a god, and thought the soul a vapour, that passed from one body to another, expiating in the body of a beast the sins that were committed in that of a man. One attributed the creation of the world to a blind chance, and the government of all events in it to an inviolable fate. Another affirmed the eternity of the world, and said, there was no period in eternity, in which heaven and earth, nature and elements, were not visible. One said, every thing is uncertain; we are not sure of our own existence; the distinction between just and unjust, virtue and vice, is fanciful, and hath no real foundation in the nature of things. Another made matter equal to God ; and maintained, that it concurred with the supreme Being in the formation of the universe. One took

the world for a prodigious body, of which he thought God was the soul. Another affirmed the materiality of the soul, and attributed to matter the faculties of thinking and reasoning. Some denied the immortality of the soul, and the intervention of Providence; and pretended, that an infinite number of particles of matter, indivisible and indestructible, revolved in the universe; that from their fortuitous concourse arose the present world; that in all this there was no design; that the feet were not formed for walking, the eyes for seeing, nor the hands for handling. The gospel is light without darkness. It hath nothing mean;` nothing false; nothing that doth not bear the characters of that wisdom, from which it proceeds.

4. What was pure in the natural religion of the

heathens was not known, nor could be known to any but philosophers. The common people were incapable of that penetration and labour, which the investigating of truth, and the distinguishing it from that falsehood, in which passion and prejudice had enveloped it, required. A mediocrity of genius, I allow, is sufficient for the purpose of inferring a part of those consequences from the works of nature, of which we form the body of natural religion: but none, but geniuses of the first order, are capable of kenning those distant consequences, which are infolded in darkness. The bulk of mankind wanted a short way, proportional to every mind. They wanted an authority, the infallibility of which all mankind might easily see. They wanted a revelation, founded on evidence, plain and obvious to all the world. Philosophers could not show the world such a short way but revelation hath showed it. No philosopher could assume the authority, necessary to establish such a way: It became God alone to dictate in such a manner, and in revelation he hath done it. Saurin


I will confess to you, that the majesty of the Scriptures strike me with admiration, as the purity of the gospel hath its influence on my heart. Peruse the works of our philosophers with all their pomp of diction; how mean, how contemptible are they, compared with the Scripture! Is it possible that a book, at once so simple and sub

lime, should be merely the work of man? Is it possible that the sacred personage, whose history it contains, should be himself a mere man? Do we find, that he assumed the tone of an enthusiast or ambitious sectary? What sweetness, what purity in his manner! What an affecting gracefulness in his delivery! What sublimity in his maxims! What profound wisdom in his discourses! What presence of mind, what subtlety, what truth in his replies! How great the command over his passions! Where is the man, where the philosopher, who could so live, and so die, without weakness, and without ostentation? When Plato described his imaginary good man loaded with all the shame of guilt, yet meriting the highest rewards of virtue, he describes exactly the character of Jesus Christ: the resemblance was so striking, that all the fathers perceived it.

What prepossession, what blindness must it be, to compare the son of Soproniscus to the son of Mary! What an infinite disproportion is there between them! Socrates, dying without pain or ignominy, easily supported his character to the last; and if his death, however easy, had not crowned his life, it might have been doubted whether Socrates, with all his wisdom, was any thing more than a vain sophist. He invented, it is said, the theory of morals. Others, however, had before put them in practice; he had only to say, therefore, what they had done, and to reduce their examples to precepts. Aristides had been just, before Socrates defined justice: Leonidas had given up his life for his country, before Socrates

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