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is manifestly impossible for man to point out, whať the wisdom of God may see fit to reveal ; and besides, it is in the highest degree probable, that an extraordinary revelation must, among others, contain some imperfect discoveries of things, which we either have not abilities, or at least occasion, in our present state, completely to understand. And since it is manifest, that every messenger from God must certainly inculcate the purest morality; the Author's supposed improbability that the same person should do both, is purely imaginary, and in the very highest degree fantastical.
As to what the Author adds, that “ Christ's general character will best determine which
part of the New Testament was his, and which “ not;"- When he asserted this, he should surely have told us, what this general character of CHRIST is, and where it is to be found. In the New Testament itself; in which the history of CHRIST is contained; we find him and his Apostles expressly represented as revealers of fupernatural truths, no less than preachers of the pureft moral doctrines. No assertion therefore can possibly be more ridiculous than this ; that " the general character of Jesus" can supply us with reason to believe, that tho' the moral precepts ascribed to him in the New Testament were his, the supernatural truths there equally ascribed to him, were not ; since the general character we have of him as positively asserts, that he was the revealer of the One, as well as the preacher of the Other. Nor is this all, that the New Testament asserts it ; but we have feen already, in the foregoing Section, that there are a great variety of facts recorded of him, of such a nature as not to admit of being forged or falsified; which prove to demonstration, that Jesus did in fact assume the
divine character of an immediate and special mesfenger from God; and deliver supernatural declarations, specifically as fuch.
Here therefore I shall leave the Author to reconsider his fundamental principle, of the truth and evidence of which he expresses so 'high an opinion, and upon which, in reality, he almost wholly depends
for the support of his cause. From what has been seen of the nature of all supernatural revelations, it must, I hope, appear, That the position; " That a supernatural revelation is neceffa“ rily unintelligible, and therefore, a contradiction “ in terms ;” is a gross falsehood :That supernatural revelations in general, and those of the New Testament in particular, are in their own nature just as proper subjects of belief, as any other declarations, not supernatural; and may be therefore as genuine parts of the religion of CHRIST, as the purest, and most obvious moral precepts the New Testament contains :
-And consequently, that the great point in dispute ; (Whether the supernatural revelations contained in the New Teftament itself actually are pure and genuine parts of the revelation of Christ ?) is a question concerning only A MERÉ MATTER OF FACT; which nothing but the external evidence of the genuineness and purity of the Books of the New Testament can determine. And since therefore it is noi torious, and on all hands confessed, that the fupernatural declarations, which the New Testament contains, have the same evidence of their Authenticity, as its plainest moral precepts; and That evidence is abundantly sufficient in itfelf to establish the authority of any writings whatever ; the consequence is inevitable, that if we believe there were such persons as Jesus and the Apostles, and that they taught the moral precepts there attributed to them ; we are indispensably bound to believe like
wise, that the supernatural revelations of the New Testament are equally genuine parts of that Revelation, which Jesus and his Apostles delivered.
The Author's Argument drawn from the RELI
GION OF NATURE considered.
THE Author, like moft other writers in the fame
caufe, has endeavoured to press into his ser, vice the Religion of Nature ; in hopes, as it should seem, by the help of that, the more effectúally to explode Revelation, properly fo called.
He often asserts, that the religion of CHŘIST
was the religion of nature ;” and that " Jesus “ was a republisher of the religion of nature ;" meaning by this, that he taught, or publifhed nothing more * -That's all Christ's doctrines
and precepts were 'republications of natural “ religion ;
And that all the duties required in the religion of CHRIST were " moral, natural, rational, and of eternal obliga
The religion of nature, taken in its most complete and comprehensive sense ; not to enter into its endless variations and degrees with respect tơ individuals'; is a collection of those principles and duties which Reason alone, in its most cultivated and perfect state, is able to discover and approve. And certain it is, that Jesus was indeed a republisher of the religion of nature, in this most comprehensive sense; Ince there is no duty, either to God, our neighbour, or ourselves, that
See p. 275, 276, 349; and the paffages quoted in Seft. I. P. 239. I P. 240.
Reason cari approve, which is not either expressly enjoined, or naturally implied in the Gospel.
But as the New Testament expressly attributes to Christ much more than the there republication of this perfect Natural Religion ; to assert that he did nothing more, is only in other words asserting the very point in debate, That every pafsage of the New Testament,'except such as contain fome moral duty, is unauthorized by Jesus, if not actually forged. This affertion therefore, though perpetually repeated by our Author; as if with design to take his reader unawäres, and prejudice him in its favour without proof; is of no weight in itself; since the truth of it rests entirely upon the strength of thofe arguments the Author has endeavoured to allege in its supports the very thief and principal of which, relating to MYSTEkies, we have already seen to be utterly ground: less and false.
But the Author further afferis --- " That myttery has no place in this pure and undefiled re
ligion, the religion of Nature *:"_" That bei de lief arid disbelief, forms and modes of worship make no part of Natural Religion + :"> That this Natural Religion, is certainly the purer “ for being unmixed with forms and ceremonics, i or with mysterious and unintelligible propofi
tions and doctrines I:"-" That the Law of ic
Nature is universally understood, fo far as to
constitute å rule perfect in its direction for the “ conduct of human life 9:"_" That the Reli
gion of Nature must be a perfect religion ; be
cause God is the Author of it 1:"And therefore, “ that if the Religion of CHRICT differs s from it, fo far as it differs it must be imper
* P: 244. : † Ibid. Ibid. $ Introd. p. 38. 1 P. 338, 339. 4 P. 338. F
Let us consider the fundamental principles of these several assertions. “Mystery,” says the Althor, “ has no place in the pure and undefiled “ religion of nature:” that is, to make him 'cortsistent with himself, the religion of nature, or cultivated reason, does not require us to believe any truths that are mysterious, like some in the New Testament; or, in other words, any truths relating to things of such a nature, as to be in any particular undiscoverable, or incomprehensible to us.
What now does this religion of reason or nature comprehend ? According to this Author it includes a thorough belief of the being and attributes of God, and all the duties that can be derived from them. That he is “ an infinitely
wise, powerful, and good Being * ;'- That he is the creator of all things, and wills the happiness of his creatures ;--That he is the first caufe ti
and self-existent, or exists himself without an efficient cause $;_That he has existed from eternity, i. e. is pofitively eternal $ ;--Nay that he has acted from all eternity || ;-That though he created every thing that exists, yet he never did begin to create ( ; but that his works are pofitively eternal as much as he himself. That reason indeed cannot give us an idea of Spirit, or consequently of the mode of God's existence but that it does acquaint us with every thing else relating to him.
But if thefe are points of natural religion, as the Author asserts, how can he assert at the same time, that mystery has no place in the Religion of Nature ? Or that the religion of nature is certain ly the purer for being unmixed with any truths
S P. 46. Ibid.
* P. 50, 344. + P. 45. I.P. 326. Ibid. & p. 224. P. 50, 51.