« AnteriorContinuar »
agreeably to prophecies foregoing,) his pretences cannot reasonably be deemed false; it is just that we assent to his words: But we plainly see and experience Jesus to be so qualified, (so to live, to speak, to do :) Therefore it is just and reasonable we believe him. This kind of discourse did de facto, and of right it ought to produce faith in those, who came under the influence of it: the being convinced by it was the virtue of faith, shewing the ingenuity and discretion of those so wrought upon; and the not
being convinced fo, was the fault for which unbelievers John xv. were liable to just condemnation ; If I had not come and
Spake to them, they had not had fin: and, if I had not done the works among them, which never any other man did, they had not had fin: that is, if my doctrine had not been very good, and my discourse very reasonable ; if my works had not discovered abundance of divine grace and power attending them; had not both ny words and works been very open and manifest to them; they had been excusable, as having no reasons cogent enough to persuade them; but now they deserve to be condemned for their unreasonable and perverse incredulity. And give me leave, by the way, to observe, that by the like fyllogism it is, that faith may (and perhaps in duty should) be produced even in us now: the major proposition is altogether the same: A person so qualified is credible ; (this is a proposition of perpetual truth, evident to common sense, such as by all men of reason and ingenuity should be admitted : otherwise no message from heaven or testimony upon earth could be received.) The minor, Jesus was a person so qualified, was indeed evident to the senses of those with whom he conversed, (to such as were not blinded with evil prejudice, and wilfully disposed to mistake;) and will now appear as true to those, who shall with due care consider the reasons by which it may be persuaded : that it is attested by so many, and in all refpccts so credible histories, yet extant and legible by us; confirmed by so clear, so general, so constant a tradition; maintained by so wonderful circumstances of Providence;
in a word, that it is evidenced by so many and so illuftrious proofs, that no matter of fact had ever the like, none ever could have greater, to assure it.
Upon these and such like premises I embrace the more plain and simple notion of the word belief ; meaning, when I say I believe, that I am in my mind fully convinced and persuaded of the truth of the propositions hereafter expressed, (or implied ;) not excluding any objects there contained under any formality, either of being apparent to sense, or demonstrable by reason, or credible by any sort of testimony,) nor abstracting from any kind of reasons persuasive of their truth. I believe there is a God, the Creator of the world; that he is infallibly wise, and perfe&tly veracious; that he hath revealed his mind and will to mankind; as well for that good reason di&tates these things unto me, as that the best authorities avow them. I believe that Jesus is the Christ, and vur Lord, and the Son of God, because the holy Scriptures do plainly so teach, and apostolical tradition thereto consents: and in like manner of the rest.
[I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Paker of
Heaven and Carth.]
WHAT the phrase I believe in doth most properly here Primus eft import, I did endeavour (the last time) somewhat to ex
scultus Deos plain : I would have deduced some corollaries, and added credere.
whanau Sen. Ep. 95. some considerations preventive of mistake, and farther ex- i plicative of that matter, if my intention hereafter to en-qui novit.
Ibid. deavour greater brevity did permit: but for that cause I" proceed to the objects of our belief: whereof in the first place, as is meet, and in the front, God is placed; the. belief of whose existence is the foundation of all religion, "Eopar bán the support of all virtue, the principal article in all the ois operatie
nown reis creeds of all the world. He that comes to God (who- sucibus. ever applies himself to any religious performance) must "ut
first of all be persuaded, that God is; as the object of his devotion, and the rewarder of his obedience. For the explication of which, we will consider, 1. What it is that we are to believe; 2. Why and upon what grounds we should believe it.
For the first : That in the world there are beings imperceptible to our senses, much fuperior to us in knowledge and power, that can perform works above, and contrary to, the course of nature, and concerning themselves sometime to do so for the interests of mankind; for these qualifications and performances deserving extraordinary respect from us, hath been a constant opinion in all places and times: to which sort of beings some one ge
neral name hath been in all languages assigned, answering ozuły de sòv to that of God among us. Of such beings, that there is
More than on one, supreme and most excellent, incomparably surpaffing é potor, in all those attributes of wisdom and power and goodArift. Me taph. xii. 7. ness; from whom the rest, and all things beside, have deDeus fun rived their beings, do depend upon, are sustained and gomum magnum, et verned by; 'the author, I say, of all being, and dispenser
Set of all good; to whom consequently supreme love, revevi, et potes-rence, and obedience is due; hath been also the general tate, &c. Tertull. ad sense of the most ancient, most wise, and most noble naverf. Marc. tions among men; to whom therefore in a peculiar and i. 3.
eminent manner the title of God (and those which anfwer thereto) is appropriated : so that when the word is abfolutely put, without any adjunct of limitation or diminution, he only is meant and understood : to which fometimes, for fuller declaration, are added the epithets of Optimus, Maximus, Summus, Æternus, Omnipotens, Dominus, and the like; the Best, the Greatest, the Most High, the Eternal, the Almighty, the Sovereign God. Thus, according to the common sense of mankind, is the word God understood; the notion thereof including efpecially these attributes and perfections of nature; fupreme and incomprehensible wisdom, power, goodness, being the fountain and author, the upholder and governor of all things : and what is contracted with, or is confequent upon these; namely, the most excellent man
fauord. to whom
forma et ratione, et
ner of being and of activity, eternity and immortality, independency and immutability, immensity and omniprefence, spirituality and indivisibility, inceffant energy of the most excellent life, intuitive understanding, absolute freedom of will, perfect holiness and purity, justice, sincerity, veracity; as also complete happiness, (self-enjoyment and felf-sufficiency;) glorious Majesty, sovereign right of dominion; to which highest veneration and entire obedience is due. In short, whatever our mind can conceive of good, excellent, and honourable, that in the most transcendent degree is, by the consent of mankind, comprehended in the notion of God, absolutely taken, or in the last fense forementioned.
Neither doth divine revelation commend any other notion thereof to us; but explains, amplifies, and confirms this; expresfing more clearly and distinctly these attributes and perfections; with the manner of their being exerted, especially to our benefit; and determining our duty in relation to them.
Now that really such a being doth exist (that this main principle of religion is not a mere poftulatum, or precarious fuppofition, which we must be beholden to any reasonable man for to grant us) I shall endeavour to prove briefly by three or four arguments, which are indeed of all most obvious and suitable to every capacity, (for they be not grounded upon metaphysical subtlety, nor need any depth of fpeculation to apprehend them; common sense and experience will suffice to discover their force,) and yet of all that have been produced, they seem to me most forcible. The first is drawn from natural effects observable by every man; a second, from the common opinions and practices of mankind from all antiquity; a third, from particular discoveries of such a divine power attested by history; a fourth, from every man's particular experience concerning a divine Providence. And,
1. I say, that natural effects do declare such a being, incomprehensibly wise, powerful and good, from whence this visible world did proceed, and by which it subfifts and is conserved. That it is true, which the prophet Jeremiah faith, That he hath made the earth by his power, hath established the world by his wisdom, and firetched out the heavens by his discretion, Jer. X. 12. It may be assumed for a principle, which common experience suggests to us, that matter of itself doth not run into any order, &c. if not now, then not yesterday, nor from eternity: it must therefore by some counsel be digested. There is not indeed any kind of natural effect, which either singly taken, or as it stands related to the public, may not reasonably be supposed to contain some argument of this truth: we do not indeed discern the use and tendency of each particular effect; but of many, they are so plain and palpable, that we have reason to suppose them of the rest : even as of a person, whom we do plainly perceive frequently to act very wisely, at other times, when we cannot discern the drift of his proceeding, we cannot but suppose that he hath some latent reason, some reach of policy, that we are not aware of: or as in an engine, consisting of many parts curiously compacted together, whereof we do perceive the general use, and apprehend how some parts conduce thereto, we have reason, although we either do not see them all, or cannot comprehend the immediate serviceableness of each, to think they all are some way or other subservient to the artist's designs. Such an agent is God, such an engine is this visible world : we can often discover evident marks of God's wisdom; some general uses of the world are very discernible, and how that many parts thereof do contribute to them, we may easily observe: and feeing the whole is compacted in a decent and constant order, we have reason to deem the like of the rest. Our incapacity to discover all doth not argue defect, but excess of the maker's wisdom; not too little in itself, but too great perfection in the work, in respect of our capacity. The most to us observable piece of the universe is the earth, upon which we dwell; which that it was designed for the accommodation of living creatures, that are upon it, and principally of man, we cannot be ignorant or doubtful, if we be not so negligent or stupid, as to let pass unobserved those innumerable signs and arguments that