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ment of Natural Rrason, as in Fact never subsisted. And yet, even on this Supposition, 1 fear not to pronounce it a Means of Virtue\ and, by Consequence, a Means of Salvation. But to judge rightly of the mighty Efficacy of our Religion in bringing us to God, we should consider the actual State, both of the Jewish and Gentile World, before the Coming of C'orijl; and set that in Opposition to the new Scene of Things, which was introduced by the Gospel.
And surely it will readily be granted, that, amidst the numberless Errors and Corruptions, both in Religion and Morality, which then prevailed over the whole Earth, great was the Danger of Men's neglecting their Duty.— The Jen s themselves had fallen into gross Mistakes: and Mistakes too which might easily prove fatal. For even Mistakes may be fatal. Such I am sure are all thole, which lead us to expect the Favour of God, on any other Terms than inward Righteousness. When a Man is once brought to believe that Virtue is unnecessary; he will be strongly tempted to desert it on every Occasion. His Reason indeed will still approve it; for otherwise he might desert it without Blame. But he will knowingly and frequently contradict his Reason, when it is no longer connected with his Interest.—Now we find it to have been a prevailing Opinion among the Jewish Nation,
That That a Man is justified by the Works of the Law: That outward and legal may supply the Place of inward Purity; and, That, in Consideration of an exact and punctual Performance of an infinite Variety of Rites and Ceremonies, the weightier Matters might be safely omitted. This unhappy and unaccountable Prejudice had not only tainted the Manners of the People; had not only deformed the outward Face of Religion; but diffused it's Poyfon to the very Vitals. The whole Head was fick, and the whole Heart faint: and, indeed, the extreme Difficulty of the Cure was a strong Proof that the Malady had taken fast Hold, and funk deep into the Constitution.—This Cure, great as it was, was the genuine Effect of Christian Faith; which taught them the Vanity of seeking after God in any other Way, or by any other Means, than Repentance from dead Works, and a new Life unto Holiness. A Doctrine of such signal Importance, and such powerful Influence j that had our Religion taught this, and this only, it might yet have deserved, with the utmost Propriety, the glorious Title given it by the Apostle; who calls it the Power of God to Salvation unto every one that believetb.
I Would not swell this Inquiry to an unnecessary Length, and therefore have selected one Instance out of many, in order to shew that the Salvation of the Jews was rendered E 3 .far far more secure by their embracing the Doctrines of Chrijiianity.—Should I expatiate upon the Follies of the Gentile World, and point out the Dangers they were exposed to, with regard to their Everlasting Happiness, the Subject would be almost infinite ; at least, as copious as the Errors and Absurdities of Human Kind. Some, we know, pretended to doubt of the natural Difference^ between Good and Evil; others disowned the moral Difference between Virtue and Vice: and no inconsiderable Sect, sprung too from the immortal Socrates, openly referred all their Actions to the Attainment of Bodily Pleasures. Some denied a God, others a Providence, others a Future State of Rewards and Punishments. Many Persons who acknowleged the Truth of these Things, yet explained them in such a Manner, as to render them of no Use or Efficacy in the Conduct of their Lives: and many more * dividedMorality from Religion; leaving the former destitute of Support, and the latter empty of all real Benefit, cither to the Owner or to Mankind in general. Were I disposed to crowd my Page with Quotations, J could not wish for a more favourable Opportunity.
* I am sir frogi intending in this, or any other Place, to represent Morality and Religion as the fame Thing. I only plead for an Union, not a Coincidence. Authority and Rea/ia are surely distinct Principles: and therefore a Regard'to the former should by means be confounded with a Regard to the latter.
portunity- Since I should have little to do, but to transcribe the first Places that occurred either in the Writings of the Antient Philosophers, or the Accounts of those, whose Writings have long since perished. Whether we consult the one, or the other, we shall find that Errors of the most enormous Size shoot up in every Page.—Even the Divine P/ato, who was read with Rapture for many Ages; and whose /ingle Judgment appeared to Cicero to outweigh the united Verdict of all the Rest; this God, as he was then entitled, is found at last to have been a mere Visionary: a Man who concealed his Absurdities under a false Elevation of Thought; and varnished over the Weakness of his Arguments, with all the Colours which a lively Imagination, and a beautiful Language were capable of affording. —Cicero himself, who had taken so much Pains in examining and explaining the various Systems of Philosophy then in the World; yet seems to have been strangely in the Dark, on some of the cleareji and most important Subjects. Though 1 mean not to descend to Particulars, yet I cannot forbear observing that the unnatural Separation, I just took Notice of between Religion and Morality appears no where more plainly, than in the most celebrated Writings of the Roman Orator. That great Man, the greatest perhaps that ever lived without the Light of Revela
E 4 tion, tion, seems not to have known, or not to have regarded so plain a Principle as this, That the Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom.—The Errors I have already hinted at were Philosophical Errors. Was the Condition of the Populace much better? In some Respects perhaps it was: but in many others yet worse. A Multitude of Gods, weak, vicious, changeful Beings, was the great Article of the Popular Creed. And this Article alone must do inxpreffible Harm. But when to this are added the great Uncertainty and Confusion they were in, even on those Points where they had a Glimmering of Truth; the great Reliance they had, in common with the Jews, on outward Rites and superstitious Practises; and all the other Absurdities of their traditional Theology: I presume, it is evident beyond Contradiction, that they were very impersectly secured against disobeying the Law of their Reason.—That Religion therefore, which saved the Gentiles from the Influence of such pernicious and dangerous Errors, was to them a Means of Salvation. It made them virtuous, and therefore happy.