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all the wonders acted thereupon would appear in SERM. vain, should there be wanting a spectator; should_XIII. man be altogether blind or heedless; yea man's faculty itself, that his seeing faculty of mind, would signify nothing, were there not a light rendering things visible to him. Common sense hath dictated to men, that man is capable of shewing respect, of performing duty and service, to God, that also God requires and expects them from him; the same declares, that God best knows what kinds of service, what expressions of respect best please him. Reason tells, that God would have man act in the best manner, according to the design of his nature; that he would have the affairs of men proceed in some good order; that he even desires earnestly the good of men, and delights in their happiness: and if so, it is reasonable to suppose, that being most wise he should dispose fit means for accomplishing those ends; for securing himself, as it were, from disappointment; that therefore he should impart to men a competent knowledge of himself, should declare his good-will and pleasure to them, should reveal both the best way of their serving him, and the best means of their attaining happiness to themselves. So divine wisdom grounds an argument for our supposition.
3. God's justice also seems not a little to favour it every good governor thinks it just to take care that his subjects should understand his pleasure, and be acquainted with his laws; he causes them therefore to be solemnly promulgated, that all may take notice; if any of them by long disuse are become unknown, he revives the knowledge of them by new proclamations; to quicken obedience he propounds
SERM. fit rewards, and deters from disobedience by menacXIII. ing suitable punishments, knowing man's nature, resty and unapt to move without these spurs: and is it likely the sovereign Governor and Judge of all the world should observe less equity in his administrations? that he should neglect any means necessary or apt to promote his subjects' performance of their duty, to prevent the breaches of his laws? He that loves righteousness above all, he that so earnestly desires to be duly obeyed, he that infinitely delights in his subjects' good; can he fail sufficiently to declare his will, to encourage men to comply with it, to terrify them from transgressing it? will he suffer his laws to remain unknown, or uncertain; will he not consider the infirmities of his subjects, will he leave any fair apology for disobedience? No, the superlative justice of God seems to persuade the contrary.
4. I might add, that generally it seems unbecoming the Majesty Divine, that he should endure the world, his kingdom, to continue under a perpetual Acts x. 38. usurpation and tyranny; to suffer that his imperial Eph. ii. 2. throne should be possessed, his authority abused, his name insulted over, by enemies and rebels against him, (by evil spirits, whether those of hell or those on earth;) that a cruel fiend, that a cursed ghost, that a brute beast, that a chimera of man's fancy should be worshipped, while himself is forgotten and neglected, is dishonoured and despised; that iniquity and wickedness (with all the filthy brood of ignorance and error) should every where flourish and domineer, while righteousness and virtue lie prostrate, and are trampled upon this surely the King of Glory, the great Patron of goodness, will not permit
to be; sooner rather may we conceive, that, to re- SER M. move these indecencies and these mischiefs, he would XIII. presently turn the world into a desert and solitude, or pour a deluge of water over the face of the earth, or with flames of vengeance consume it into ashes.
We cannot indeed judge or determine concerning the special circumstances or limits of God's dealing toward man in this particular; concerning the time when, the manner how, the measure according to which, God will dispense those revelations of himself: those depend upon mysteries of counsel and wisdom surpassing our comprehension. That God should for Acts xvii. a while connive at men's ignorance, and suffer them xiv. 16. to grope after divine truth; to try them, as he did Deut. viii. the Israelites in the wilderness, how they would be- Exod. xvi. have themselves in that state; to prove how they would use their talent of natural light, to make them sensible of their own infirmity, to shew them whence all their welfare must proceed, on whom all their happiness depends, to make them more able to value, more desirous to embrace, the redress vouchsafed them; as also, to demonstrate his own great clemency, longsuffering, and patience; that, I say, for such Vid. Gen. purposes, and others unsearchable by our shallow understanding, God should for some time forbear with a full evidence to declare all his mind to men, is not so strange or unlikely; but that for ever, through all courses of time, he should leave men in so forlorn a condition, in such a depth of ignorance, such perplexity of doubt, such captivity under sin, such subjection to misery, seems not probable, much less can it seem unprobable that he hath done it: it cannot, I say, in any reason seem misbecoming the goodness, wisdom, or justice of God, clearly to discover to us,
XV. xvi. &c.
SERM. what he requires us to do, what good he intends for XIII. us, what way leads to our happiness, how we may
avoid misery. This consideration, if it do not prove peremptorily that God cannot but sometime make such a revelation, nor that he yet hath actually done it, (forasmuch as we cannot reach the utmost possibilities of things, nor are fit judges of what God must necessarily do; although to my apprehension this sort of reasoning, with due caution used, subsisting in general terms, and not over precisely applying it to particular cases (implicated by circumstances and specialties not falling under our judgment) hath great force;) yet it removes all obstruction to our belief, and disposes us with more readiness to admit the reasons which follow: for it being not unprobable, yea, according to the reason of the thing, very probable, that he should do it, we have cause with attention and expectation of success on this hand to regard the arguments that pretend to prove he hath done it.
This is the first step of our Discourse, at which we shall stop for the present.
And in Jesus Christ, &c.
OF THE IMPIETY AND IMPOSTURE OF
EPH. i. 13.
In whom ye also (trusted), having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.
THAT the Christian doctrine is what St. Paul here SERM. calls it, a word of truth, and did proceed from the XIV. God of truth, is the proposition we are endeavouring to verify and persuade. To that purpose we did first discourse, that it is very probable God should sometime clearly and fully reveal his mind to men, concerning matters relating to his own glory and service, their good and happiness.
II. I now proceed another step, and assert, that no other revelation of that kind and importance hath been made; that no other religion, which hath been or is now in being, can with good probability pretend to have thus proceeded from God; so as by him to have been designed for a general, a perpetual, a complete instruction and obligation of mankind. There have appeared but three pretences thereto;