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Christianity must be conducive to our Salvation.
But our Inquiry may be contracted bne Degree further; by observing that all Moral Obligations are relative to the Capacities of the Agent. From whence it follows that Men's Obligations and Knowkge keep Pace with each other; and that the former cannot extend, in any Instance, beyond the latter. If therefore any Part of Mankind have been unavoidably deficient in the Knowlege of their Duty, a proportionable Deficience in the Practice of it would, in that Cafe, be without Blame. Such Persons therefore cannot, in those Instances, be fit Objects of Puniflmcnt. It is therefore impossible that their utter Ruin should, in any Degree, depend on these involuntary Transgressions. I pretend not to set them on a Level with those who have known more, and deserved better; but I cannot think it credible that their jinal State of Happiness or Misery should depend on the Performance of such Conditions, which they could not possibly kntnu to be required of them, and were under no Obligation to fulfil.
The Question before us is now reduced to this—Does our Belief of Christianity render it more piebable, that we shall be sincere and conscientious in the Discharge of our Duty? that we shall be careful to obey the Divine Will to the best of our Knowkge, and the
best best of our Power? If it does this, it plainly conduces to our Everlasting Happiness.—Now this, I presume, will not be denied by him who considers these two Things. First, That Christianity strengthens the Motives; and Secondly, That it supplies the Means to such an Obedience, as I am here considering. I shall be very brief upon both these Particulars, because they have been fully handled by others.
1. The great Motive to an uniform Course of Virtue, is the Greatness and Certainty of it's Future Rewards: and every Degree of fresh Information adds fresh Weight to that Motive. Now whatever adds Weight to the Motives of Religion, increases our Desire of becoming religious; and whatever increases this Desire, increases the Probability of our acting religiously.—Will it then be said, that the Christian Religion has yielded us no Information on this Subject? It cannot be thought; it will not be pretended. For Natural Reason, when improved to it's utmost Perfection, can afford us very little Certainty, either as to the Nature, or Duration of the Happiness to be enjoyed after Death. That this Life is the only State of Probation; That the Life to come will be free from Pain and free from Fear; That the Blessings it contains are immensely great, exceeding every Thing we can conceive or imagine; That all past Offences will be utterly forgot, and entirely forgiven; That
we we shall enjoy the Society of Beings perseSlly virtuous, and be favoured with a more intimate Knowlege of the Deity himself; and lastly, That this happy State will continuejor ever, and improve for ever—These are Doctrines purely Scriptural; and yet tending, in the highest Degree, to allure and invite us to the Discharge of our Duty.—We might easily extend these Observations to the contrary Motive ; that, I mean, which arises from the Fear of Punishment. But, if what has been said be not sufficient, nothing of this Sort can be sufficient. I shall therefore conclude, without further Hesitation, that the Man who is animated by the Motives of Christianity, is in a fairer Way to obtain Salvation, than he who is left to the Direction of his own Reason.
2. All the Danger of transgressing our Duty arises either from Inattention to the Dictates of Reajbn, or from the prevailing Influence of our appetites and Pajjions; and whatever provides a Remedy for these Evils, will proportionably diminish that Danger. If therefore the Faith of a Christian be the Means of procuring fnch a Remedy, it is also a Means of preserving us from Sin.—Now we think we have sufficient Ground from Scripture, to suppose that the Influence of the Divine Spirit is either confined to Believers, or communicated to them in a peculiar and sig
E nal ual Manner. We are further persuaded that this Spirit frequently suggests to our Mind* those very Motives which we are apt to overlook: and at the same Time abates the Force of the contrary Temptations; by moderating the Violence of our corrupt Ajf 'ettions, and bringing them into Subjection to the Law of Reajbn. If we are mistaken in ascribing these Effects to the Spirit; yet, in general, we are very sure that he aids and encourages us in the Performance of cur Duty, and renders it less difficult to be performed.—If Faith then, by Divine Appointment, draws along with it these Advantages, it may certainly be considered as a Means of Salvation.
But the Belief of Christianity not only conduces to the Security of our Future Happiness, but also to the Increase and Improvement of it. Not only Happiness, but the
Degree os Happiness depends solely on. Moral Qualifications. As might easily be shewn, both from the Nature of the Thing, and likewise from the express Declarations of Scripture. Whatever Reasons determine the Deity to make a good Man happy, the fame Reasons will undoubtedly determine him to make a better Man more happy.—Supposing then, for the present, an Infidel and a Believer equally upright andsincere; I ask, which will be the better Man? Certainly He, whose religious Knowlege is most extensive. For in Proportion tion to the Extent of his Knowlege will be the Number of his Obligations: and therefore, supposing him honest, the Number of his Virtues will be in the Jame Proportion. If then our religious Knowlege be greatly extended by the Christian Revelation, it follows that the Christian Revelation is a Means of Moral Improvement.—I do not fay that an Infidel deserves Blame, for not discharging imperceptible Obligations; which are indeed, strictly speaking, no Obligations at all. But I maintain that a right Use and Improvement of ten Talents deserves more Praise, and more Favour too, than a proportionable Improvement of only jive. And he who shall assert the contrary, must maintain that the Virtue of the most ignorant Soul upon Earth is, or may be, equal to that of an Archangel.
How far the Doctrines of Christianity exceed the utmost Efforts of Human Reason, I shall not stay to inquire. It is enough for my Purpose that some of those Doctrines lay us under ne^o Obligations; that others strengthen the old -, and all of them uniformly tend to make the Good more Good. I am the more willing to stop here, both because these Matters have been sufficiently explained by others, and also because I am under no Neceffity of resting the whole Stress of my Cause on this Jingle Point.—I have hitherto only compared Christianity with such an imaginary ImproveE 2 ment