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founded on the clearest Reason and Evidence, nor consequently to obey and worship him. For it is manisest, that if a Man may without blame deny a God and a Providence, he may without blame neglect to render that Obedience and Adoration that is due from reasonable Creatures to the Supreme Being. Thus our Author has found out an admirable Expedient, by freeing Men from all Obligations to believe any Principles whatsoever, to free them from all Obligations to any Religion at all. Whereas, supposing God has given Men Faculties, by a right Use and Improvement of which they are capable of discerning Truth, especially in Matters of great importance to their Conduct, and to their Happiness; then it is both in itself fit, and is what God may justly require, that they mould make a just Use of their Reason and Understanding for discerning Truth. And if through a Neglect of using and improving their Reason in a proper manner, they do not discern or acknowledge those Truths; then that Neglect or Abuse of their Reason and Understanding is really a Fault, and God may punish it as such.
What this Gentleman offers in support of his Scheme, amounts to this, that our Reason is ever nece/fJated to determine jujl as JJoe does of herself \ and is by her nature incapable either of paying Compliments, or giving Offence. That the different Light things appear in to different Men, mujl necejfarily create a different Sense of things *. And before this, he had observed, that the Determination we come to, is a neceffary and independent
Event, under no Influence of ours -j-. Upon this Foundation he asserts, that a Determination either right or wrong, in Matters that are not self-evident, or in which there is the least of Induction or Inference, and such are the most important Points of Religion, must be in itjelf equally meritorious \.
The whole Strength of his Reasoning here depends upon this Supposition, that by the very Constitution of our Nature, and the Frame of the Human Understanding, we may be unavoidably necessitated to take Error for Truth, or Truth for Error, even in Matters of the highest importance; and that, without any fault of our own, after the best, the strictest and most impartial Enquiry and Examination, we are capable of making. But this is a Supposition that ought not to be admitted, because it resolves all our Errors into the Will and Constitution of God himself j whereas I think it is much more reasonable and modest to suppose, that Men's Errors in Matters of great importance, are owing to themselves, to some wrong Affections and Dispositions of Mind, some Fault in their Enquiry. And their professing the contrary, is no Proof at all; because it cannot be expected, supposing it ever so much their own Fault, that they would be willing to own it to be so. But God, who searches their Hearts, may know it, and condemn them on the account of it. And where the Neglect of a good Practice follows upon a wrong Judgment flowing from faulty Causes, he may justly punish them both for that wrong Judgment, and for the evil Practice consequent upon it.
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For ray part, I cannot be brought to think, that Truth and Falshood is so indifferent to the Human Understanding, that we are carried with equal Innocence to believe the one and the other, after the Evidence is fairly laid before us j and this with regard to Matters of great consequence to our Duty and Happiness. Since it cannot be denied, that there are some Truths of very great importance, that lie at the Foundation of all Religion, and of a good and virtuous Practice; it is as certain, that it is the Will of God, that his reasonable Creatures should know and believe those Truths, as it is "that he would have them practise the Duties that arise upon the Acknowledgment of those Truths, and to which they are necessarily presupposed, e. g. It is as certain that it is the Will of God, that Men should believe there is a God that made and governs the World, and that there is a necessary Difference between moral Good and Evil, as that it is his Will that Men should worship him, should love and reverence him, should submit to his Authority, and obey his Laws, and should practise Virtue, and abhor Vice. I cannot therefore think, that he hath lb formed Men, and given them such Faculties, that even making the best use of them, and without any fault at all, or wrong Disposition on their parts, they may be invincibly ignorant of those Truths, or may innocently disbelieve or deny them. And as we may plainly see in numberless Instances, that Mens Affections and Appetites lead them wrong in their Actions, so I doubt not they frequently cause them to pass wrong Judgments of things. And any one that knows any thing of
Mankind, must be sensible that they are not determined by mere naked Evidence, but that some corrupt Affection, some wrong Byass of Appetite or Interest, which is really a Fault, in many instances corrupts and depraves their Judgment; and that this might be guarded against, if they used all the Care and Pains that is really and absolutely in their power, and which the Importance of the thing deserves and demands.
It is particularly certain, that with regard to Truths of a moral and religious Nature, our believing or not believing them, is ofren very much influenced by the good or bad Dispositions of the Mind, and has a great Effect upon the Practice. And therefore believing in these Cases may be an important Duty, and Unbelief may be very criminal; Nor can I see why God may not, as the supreme Legislator, interpose his Authority to require the one, and to warn Men against the other. This could not be properly called an arbitrary or unjust Proceeding, as this Writer represents it, or an erecting a Tyranny over the Understanding. To require Men to believe without Evidence, or without a Reason for believing, or to believe contrary to Reason and Evidence, is unjust; but for God to require his reasonable Creatures to believe, when he himself knows there is sufficient Evidence to engage them to believe, and that it will actually have that effect upon them, if it be not their own fault, and if they carefully attend to it with that Disposition of Mind that becomes them, has nothing in it unjust or unbecoming him as the God of Truth, the wife and righteous Governor of the World.
-For by requiring them to believe in that Case, he doth not require them to renounce or give up their
: Reason, or forbid them to make use of it; but he requires them to make a proper Use of their Reason, and of the Faculties he has given them, to lay their Minds open to Conviction and Evidence,
. and to endeavour to get them clear'd from the Influence of corrupt Inclinations, and culpable Prejudices.
I cannot therefore think, that this Part of the Author's Argument hath any thing in it to prove that Christianity is not founded on Reason, or agreeable to it. If God should in his infinite Good.ness fend a Messenger, or Messengers, to bring Doctrines and Laws of great importance to Mankind, as it may be justly expected that in such a Case he would take care, that they should be at: tended with sufficient Attestations to convince the World that he sent them; so it is very reasonable to suppose, that he would require those to whom this Revelation, with its Evidences, was made known, to believe and to obey it. For to what purpose would it be to give a Revelation, and to interpose in an extraordinary manner for confirming it with the most illustrious. Attestations of a divine Authority; if, after all, it .were left to Men as an indifferent matter, whether they believed or received it or not? And to deny that God himself has a right to require it as a Duty of Men, to believe and receive what he has revealed, and confirmed by such Evidence, as he who knows the human Mind, knows to be sufficient to convince honest and welldisposed