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establish the doctrine of the existence of God can never be perceived ; at least, the doctrine can never be properly defended. Without the exercise of reason, and accuracy of judgment, we can never perceive clearly the evidence of the proofs, on which we ground the divinity of revelation, and the authenticity of the books that contain it ; at least, we can never answer all the objections, which libertinism opposeth against this important subject. Without rational and accurate knowledge the true meaning of revelation can never be understood.

Without exercising reason, and accuracy of judgment, we can not distinguish which of all the various sects of christianity, hath taken the law of Jesus Christ for its rule, his oracles for its guide, his decisions for infallible decrees; at least, we shall find it extremely difficult to escape those dangers, which heresy will throw across our path, at every step: and to avoid those lurking holes, in which the most absurd sectaries lodge. Without the aid of reason, and accuracy of thought, we cannot understand the pre-eminence of christianity over natural religion. The more a man cultivates his reason, the more he feels the imperfection of his reason. The more accuracy of judgment a man acquires, the more fully will he perceive his need of a supernatural revelation to supply the defect of his discoveries, and to render his knowledge complete.

2. The pre-eminence of revelation inspires some with a cruel divinily, who persuade themselves, that all, who, they think, have not been favored with revelation, are excluded from salvation, and doomed to everlasting flames. The famous question of the destiny of those, who seem to us not. to have known any thing but natural religion, we ought carefully to divide into two questions; a question of fact; and a question of right.' The question of right is, whether a heathen, considered as a heathen, and on supposition of his having no other knowledge than that of nature, could be saved? The question of fact is, whether God, through the same mercy, which inclined him to reveal himself to us in the clearest manner, did not give to some of the heathens a knowledge superior to that of natural religion ?

What we have already heard is sufficient to determine the question of right : for, if the notion we have given of natural religion be just, it is sufficient to prove, that it is incapable of conducting inankind to salvation. This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent, John xvii. 3. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved, Acts iv. 13. The disciples of natural religion had no hope, and were without God in the world, Eph. ii. 12. A latitudinarian theology in vain opposeth these decisions by alleging some passages of scripture, which seem to favor the opposite opinion. In vain it is urged, that God never left himself without witness, in doing the heathens good ; for it is one thing to receive of God rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, Acts xiv. 17. (and the apostle speaks of these blessings only,) and it is another thing to participate an illuminating faith, a sanctifying spirit, a saving hope. In vain is that quoted, which our apostle said in his discourse in the Areopagus, that God hath determined, that the heathens should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, chap. xvi. 27. For it is one thing to find God, as him, who giveth life and breath to all mankind; as him, who hath made of one blood all nations of men: as him, in whom we live and move, and have our


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being, as him, whom gold, or silver, or slone, cannot represent, ver. 25. 28. 29: and another thing to find him, as a propitious parent; opening the .treasures of his mercy, and bestowing on us his Son. It is to no purpose to allege that the heathens are said to have been without excuse : for it is one thing to be inexcusable for changing the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things, Rom. i. 20. for giving themselves up to those excesses, which the holiness of this place forbids me to name, and which the apostle depicts in the most odious colors; and it is another thing to be inexcusable for rejecting an economy, that reveals every thing necessary to salvation. There is no difficulty, then, in the question af right. The disciple of natural religion, considered as such, could not be saved. Natural religion was insufficient to conduct men to salvation.

But the question of fact, (whether God gave any pagan knowledge superior to that of natural religion?) ought to be treated with the utmost caution.

We will not say, with some divines, that the heathens were saved by an implicit faith in Jesus Christ. By implicit faith, they mean, a disposition in a wise heathen to have believed in Jesus Christ, had Jesus Christ been revealed to him. We will not affirm, with Clement of Alexandria, that philosophy was that to the Greeks, which the law was to the Jews a schoolmaster, to bring mens unto Christ. Gal. iii. 24.

Gal. iii. 24. We will not affirm, with St. Chrysostom, that they, who, despising idolatry, adored the Creator before the coming of Christ, were saved without faith. We will not, like one of our reformers, in a letter to Francis I. king of France, place. Theseus, Hercules, Numa, Aristides, Cato, and the ancestors of the king, with the patriarchs, the virgin Mary, and the apostles; ' acting less in the character of a minister, whose office it is to declare all the counsel of God, Acts. xx. 27. than in that of an author, whose aim it is to flatter the vanity of man. Less still, do we think, we have a right to say, with St. Augustine, that the Erythrean Sybil is in heaven. Some, who now quote St. Chrysostom, St. Clement, and St. Augustine, with great veneration would anathematize any cotemporary, who should advance the same propositions, which these fathers advanced. But, after all, who dare limit the Holy one of Israet ? Psal. Ixxviii. 41. Who dare affirm, that God could not reveal himself to a heathen on bis death-bed? Who will venture to say, he hath never done 50? Let us renounce our inclination to damn mankind. Let us reject that theology, which derives its glory from its cruelty. Let us entertain sentinents more charitable than those of some divines, whocannot conceive

they shall be happy in heaven, unless they know that thousands are miserable in hell. This is the second abuse, which we wish to prevent.

But, although we ought not to despair of the salvation of those, who were not born under the economy of grace, as we are, we ought, however, (and this is the first use of our subject, to which we exhort you,) we ought to value this economy very highly, to attach ourselves to it inviolably, and to derive from it all the succor, and all the knowledge, that we cannot procure by our own speculations. Especially, we ought to seek in this oeconomy for remedies for the disorders, which sin hath caused in our souls. It is a common distemper in this age to frame arbitrary systems of religion, and to seek divine mercy, where it is not to be found. The wise christian derives his system from the gospel only. Natural reason is a very dangerous guarantee of our destiny. Nothing is more fluctuating and precarious than the salvation of mankind, if it have no better assurance than a few metaphysical speculations, on the goodness of the Supreme Being. Our notions of God, indeed include love. The productions of nature, and the conduct of Providence, concur, I grant, in assuring us, that God loves to bestow benedictions on his creatures. But the, attributes of God are fathomless, boundless oceans, in which we are as often lost, as we have the presumption to attempt to traverse them without a pilot. Nature and Providence are both labyrinths, in which our frail reason is quickly bewildered and finally entangled. The idea of justice enters no less into a notion of the Supreme Being than that of mercy. And, say what we will, that we are guilty creatures will not admit of a doubt; for conscience itself, our own conscience, pronounceth a sentence of condemnation on us, however prone we may be to flatter and favor ourselves. God condescends to terminate the doubts, which these various speculations produce in our minds. In his word of revelation he assures us, that he is merciful; and he informs us on what we may found our hopes of sharing his mercy,on the covenant he hath made with us in the gospel. Wo be to us, if by criminally refusing to bring every thought to the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor. x. 5, we forsake these fountains of living waters, which he openeth to us in religion, and persist in hewing out broken cisterns of speculations and systems ! Jer. ii. 13. The sacred books, which are in our hands, and which contain the substance of the sermons of inspired men, shew us these fountains of living waters. They attest in a manner the most clear, and level to the smallest attention of the lowest capacity, that Jesus Christ alone hath re

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