Page images

agents-it is needful, not only that the general end, viz. the public good, should be known, but also, the particular design of many of the principal parts of the administration, among which we may reckon the main negociations, treaties, and changes of affairs, the cause and end of wars engaged in, the ground of treaties of peace and commerce, the design of general revolutions in the state of the kingdom, &c. Otherwise the society is not governed in a manner becoming their rational and active nature, but affairs are carried on in the dark, and the members have no opportunity to consent or concur, to approve or disapprove, to rejoice in the goodness, wisdom, and benefit of the administration, and to pay proper regards to those in whose hands the government is, &c. These things are necessary for the establishment and confirmation of the government. God's moral government over his moral kingdom on earth, cannot, in such like respects, be carried on in a visible manner, and in a way suitable to our nature, without divine history and prophecy. Without divine history, we cannot properly see the grounds and foundation of divine admi. nistrations, the first formation or erection of God's moral kingdom, the nature and manner of the main revolutions to wbich it has been subject, which are the ground of future designs, and to which future events and intended revolutions have a relation. It is also necessary, that those past events should be known, in order that the reason, wisdom, and benefit of the present state of the kingdom, and of God's present dispensations towards it, may be known. And prophecy is needful to reveal the future designs and aims of government, and what good things are to be expected.

These things are necessary, in order to the proper establishment, health and prosperity, of God's moral, intelligent kingdom. Without them, the government of an infinitely wise and good Head, is not sensible. There is no opportunity to see the effects and success of the administration. There is no opportunity to find it by experience. Neither the designs of government, nor the accomplishment of those designs, are sensible; and the government itself, with respect to fact, is not made visible.

$ 12. If it be said, that reason, and the light of nature, without revelation, are sufficient to shew us, that the end of God's government, in his moral kingdom, must be, to promote these two things among mankind, viz. their virtue, and their happiness:

In reply, I would ask, What satisfaction can men without revelation have, with respect to the design, wisdom, and success of God's government, as to these ends, when wickedness so generally prevails and reigns, through all ages hitherto, in the far greater part of the world; and the world, at all times, is so full of calamities, miseries, and death, baving no prophecies of a better state of things in wbich all is to issue at last, in the latter ages of the world; or assuring us that all these miserable changes and great confusion are guided by Infinite Wisdom to that great final issue, and without any revelation of a future state of happiness to the city of God in another world?

§ 13. Object. God does maintain a moral government over all mankind: but we see, in fact, that many are not governed by revelation, since the greater part of the world have been destitute of divine revelation : which shews tbat God does not look upon conversation as necessary in order to his moral government of mankind, as God judges for himself, and acts according to bis own judgment.

Ans. 1. What I have been speaking of, is God's moral government over a society of moral agents, which are his kingdom, or a society that have God for their King, united to them as the Head of the society; as it is with earthly kings with respect to their own kingdoms, where the union between king and subjects is not broken and dissolved; and not of a society or country of rebels, who have sorsaken their lawful sovereign, withdrawn themselves from subjection to him, and cast off his government: though they may still be under the king's power, and moral dominion, in some sense, as he may have it in his power and design, to conqner, subdue, judge, and punish them for their rebellion. But yet the sense in which such a nation is under the moral government of this king, and may be said to be his kingdom or people, is surely extremely diverse from that of a kingdom remaining in unioni with their king. In the case of a people broken off from their king, the maintaining of intercourse by conversation is in no wise in like manner requisite. The reasons for sucla intercourse, which take place in the other case, do not take place in this.

In that case, society ceases; i. e. that union ceases between God and man, by which they should be of one society. And where society ceases, there the argument for conversation ceases. If a particular member of the society were wholly cut off, and ceases to be of the society—the union being entirely broken—the argument for conversation, the great medium of social concerns, ceases. So, if the body be cut off from the head, or be entirely disunited from it, intercourse ceases. Moral government in a society is a social affair ; wherein consists the intercourse between superior and inferior constituents, between that which is original, and that which is dependent, directing and directed in the society. It is proper,

in this case, that the rebel people should have sufficient means of knowing the end of their rebellion, and that it is their duty to be subject to their king, to seek reconciliation with him, and to inquire after his will. But while they remain obstinate in their rebellion, and the king bas not received them into favour, the state of things does not require, that he should particularly declare his intentions with respect to them, or should open to them the designs and methods of his administration. It is not necessary that he should publish among them the way and terms of reconciliation; make revelations of his goodness and wisdom, and the great benefits of his government; converse with them as their friend, and so open The way for their being happy in so great a friend; or that he should so particularly and immediately publish among them, particular statutes and rules for their good, as a society of moral agents, &c. Conversation, in this sense, when there is an utter breach of the union, is not to be expected, nor is it requisite, though judging and condemning may.

Ans. 2. So far as the union between God and the Heathen world has not been utterly broken; so far they have not been left utterly destitute of all benefit of divine revelation. They are not so entirely and absolutely cast off, but that there is a possibility of their being reconciled; and God has so ordered the case, that there is an equal possibility of their receiving the benefit of divine revelation.

If the Heathen world, or any parts of it, have not only enjoyed a mere possibility of being restored to favour, but have had some advantages for it; so, a great part, yea, mostly the greater part of the Heathen world, have not been left merely to the light of nature. They have had many things, especially in the times of the Old Testament, that were delivered to mankind in the primitive ages of the world by revelation, handed down from their ancestors by tradition; and many things borrowed from the Jews. And, during those ages, by many wonderful dispensations towards the Jewswherein God did in a most public and striking manner, display himself, and shew his hand-the world had, from time to time, notices sufficient to convince them, that there was a divine revelation extant, and sufficient to induce them to seek alter it. And things sufficient to make revelation public, to spread it abroad-to extend the fame of it and its effects to the utmost end of the earth, and to draw men's attention to it have been vastly more and greater in later times, than in the primitive ages.

Ans. 3. The nations that are separated from the True God, and live in an open and obstinate full rejection of him as their Supreme Moral Governor, reject all friendly intercourse while their state is such. They are open enemies; and, so far as God treats them as such, he does not exercise any friendly moral government over them. And they have light sufficient, without revelation, for any other exercise of moral government and intercourse, besides those that are friendly, viz. in judging and condemning them. They have light sufficient for that judgment and condemnation, of which they shall be the subjects. For their condemnation shall proceed no farther, than proportioned to their light. They shall be condemned for the violation of the law of nature and nations; and the degree of their condemnation shall be only answerable to the degree of the means and advantages they have had for information of the duties of this law, and of their obligations to perform them.

Ans. 4. What has appeared in those parts of the world which have been destitute of revelation, is so far from being any evidence that revelation is not necessary, that in those nations and ages which have been most destitute of revelation, the necessity of it has most evidently and remarkably appeared, by the extreme blindness and delusion which have prevailed and reigned, without any remedy, or any ability in those nations to extricate thenisclves from their darkness.

$ 14. I think, a little sober reflection on those opinions which appear among the Deists, weighing them together with the nature of tbings, may convince us, that a general reuunciation of divine revelation, after nations bave enjoyed it, would soon bring those nations to be more absurd, brutish, and nionstrous in their notions and practices, than the heathens were before the gospel came among them. For, (1.) Those nations bad many things among them derived originally from revelation, by tradition from their ancestors, the ancient founders of nations, or from the Jews, which led them to embrace many truths contained in the scripture; and they valued such tradition. It was not in general, their humour to despise such an original of doctrines, or to contemn them because they had their first foundation in divine revelation, but they valued them the more bighly on this account; and had no notion of setting them aside, in order to the drawing of every thing from the fountain of their own reason. By this means, they had a great deal more of truth in matters of religion and morality, than ever human reason would have discovered without helps. But now, the humour of the Deists is, to reject every thing that tbey have had from supposed revelation, or any tradition whatsoever, and to receive nothing but what they can clearly see, and demonstrate from the fountain of their own unassisted reason. (2.) The heathens, by tradition, received and believed many great truths, of vast importance, that were incomprehensible; and it was no objection with them against receiving them, that they were above their comprehension. But now, it is a maxim with the free-thinkers, that nothing is to be believed but what can be comprehended; and this leads them to reject all the principles of natural religion (as it is called) as well as revealed. For there is nothing pertaining to any doctrine of natural religion, not any perfection of God, no, nor his very existence from eternity, without many things attending it that are incomprehensible. (3.) The heathens of old, in their reasonings, did not proceed in that exceeding haughtiness and dependence on their own mere singular understanding, disdaining all dependence on teaching, as our deists do; which tends to lead one to reject almost all important truths, out of an affectation of thinking freely, independently, and singularly. Some of the heathens professed their great need of teaching, and of divine teaching. (4.) The beathens did not proceed with that enmity against moral and divine truth, not baving been so irritated by it. They were willing to pick up some scraps of this truth which came from revelation, which our deists reject all in the lump.

§ 15. If we suppose that God never speaks to, or converses at all with mankind, and has never, from the beginning of the world, said any thing to them, but has perfectly let them alone, as to any voluntary, immediate, and direct signification of his mind to them, in any respect teaching, commanding, promising, threatening, counselling or answering them; such a notion, if established, would tend exceedingly to atheism. It would naturally tend to the supposition, that there is no Being that made and governs the world. And if it should nevertheless be supposed, that there is some Being who is, in some respect, the original of all other beings; yet, this notion would naturally lead to doubt of his being properly an intelligent, volitive Being; and to doubt of all duties to him implying intercourse, such as prayer, praise, or any address to him, cxternal or internal, or any respect to him at all analogous to that wbich we exercise towards rulers or friends, or any intelligent beings we here see and know; and so it would tend to overthrow every doctrine and duty of natural religion. Now, in this respect, deism has a tendency to a vastly greater degree of error and brutishness with regard to matters of religion and morality, than the ancient heathenism. . For the beathens in general had no such notion, that the Deity never at all conversed with mankind in the ways above-mentioned; but received many traditions, rules, and laws, as supposing they came from God, or the gods, by revelation,



« PreviousContinue »