Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

produce ! How fitly might the whole Body thus knit together and compacted, by that wbich

every Foint supplieth, increase with the Increase of God, would Man but enter into the fame great Plan of exciting Industry and Labour, and do what lies in his Power to promote it ; viz. entail Benefits and Successes as the natural consequence of these; endeavour to suit every one's Station to his respective Merit and Abilities; i.e. deal with each person clined, both by them and its own course of Operation, and will become daily more and more conformed to them, by due regular exercise; which we likewise experience; -its Operations will become as much the Objects of Foreknowledge; nor will it be much less easy to account for either the Formation, or Increase of any particular Turn of Mind, in any given situation, than if all were performed in us necessarily, and at once.

This Plan of Human Nature, which derives every thing from a few Principles, and yet makes room for that endless Variety conspicuous in it, might, I am fenfible, and will shortly, I believe, be set in a good light, and shewn to be free from some of the greatest Difficulties that must clog all others. In this view a just Uniformity is, by the Deity, so far as his immediate acts reach, always, and might be by us, preserved among all its constituent parts; our Talents suited to our Capacity of using them; our Sphere enlarged, as that increases; and regularly keeping pace with our Improvements; each Dispensation put upon a reasonable foot; and all Discoveries made in due proportion to our Qualifications for judging of them, and our Dispositions to apply them. Whereas the contrary Scheme, of bringing all things to an original, equal, and immediate Intuition ; or of fixing every Man to certain Impulses, or Instincts, independent on bis Station and Endeavours, and intirely unimprovable by them; this must be quite arbitrary, and in a great measure useless; and attended with all the inconsistencies and inconveniencies already mentioned.

Such would the Consequences be of that pretended Universal Equability, in Natural Religion ; nor is the levelling Scheme, fo much contended for in Revelation, less abfurd, as will appear below.

ac

[ocr errors]

according to what he is, and observe those Rules which the great God of Nature has established!

What Emulation must this raise, join'd with the utmost care and caution, when each finds it in his power so much to improve and advance, as well as to impair and debase his Nature ; and thereby also change his State! what eagerness to excell fome! what dread of falling below others ! what provocation for all, to make the best use of their Faculties and Opportunities ! This amicable Contest, this perpetual Struggle, must certainly make more for the good of the whole, than if all had been passive, and absolutely fix'd in any degree of Knowledge and Perfection ; or limited unalterably to any State.

Upon this Plan only could there be place for Hope or Fear, Reward or Punishment, the only proper means of governing free, rational Agents; and of conducting them to their supreme and truest Happiness, which seems entirely to consist in Agency; and which can only this way be excited. This therefore is the method most agree

a See King's Origin of Evil, Note 19. p. 121, &c. and Note Y. p. 449, &c. We may add that the supposition of any such fixed, unimprovable State of natural Good implies, strictly speaking, no less than the Subversion of all Virtue, or Moral Good; which is nothing but the chusing to communicate the former : [See King, R. 1. p. 84, 85. 3d Ed.] for which Communication there could be no place in such a State, nor consequeutly any room for any of those Ideas which are founded on it.

Nor does this Scheme any better consult the Interest of our Intellestual accomplishments; which while it feeins to be exalting them, is at the bottom taking away their Use and Exercise: while it pretends to constitute an equality among Rational Agents, is really destructive of both Rationality, and Agency.

able

[ocr errors]

able to Wisdom and Goodness, and in consequence most worthy of God.

Having thus far considered the partial Distribution of the Gifts of Nature, and consequent Diversity of Natural Religion, and offered some Hints towards explaining the Reasonableness and Necessity thereof; I proceed to Thew the same concerning Revelation.

If a Revelation were to be made at all (and I must here take it for granted that such a thing is neither impossible nor altogether unreasonable in itself, which I think may be fairly done, after what has been wrote upon the subject, both by Dr. Jenkin, vol. 1. C. 1. and the ingenious Author of an Enquiry into the Evidence of the Christian Religion, $ 8.) it must be conveyed in the method we are told it was, namely, at first communicated to fome few select Persons, and by them divulg'd, and gradually propagated to the rest of the world'; or secondly, every particular man must have it by immediate Inspiration, and be at all times, and in all cases, influenced and directed

b See King, p. 241, 338, 350, 368, 379, 393, &c. with the following Note e.

c See this described more at large in Bp. Butler's Analogy, p. 93, &c. 2d Edit.

d Mr. Chubb (on Miracles, p. 68, &c.) objects to this first method, that hereby it would be in the power of a few men to deprive the rest of all the benefits of this Revelation.

But is not that really the case in all the other Benefits of Nature, and the ordinary Gifts of Providence? Are not most of the Bleffings of Life communicated to us by the mediation and inftrumentality of other men, who may be just and faithful in communicating them, or otherwise'? and is it not oft in the power of a single person to deprive Multitudes of Life itself, or any of its comforts; of Liberty, Peace, Plenty, Arts, Improvements, &c, and is not all this unavoidable while

men

1 1

to it internally ; or thirdly, it must be published again and again, and fresh ·Miracles worked for the Conviction of each Unbeliever in every Age.

In the Second of these methods the Inconveni. ences are very obvious : for First, This Influence, of what kind soever it be, must either be absolutely efficacious and irresistable, i.e. so strong as to subvert the natural Powers of Man, and take away his Freedom of thinking and acting; and confequently destroy all Virtue, Merit, Praise, Reward; i.e. all that is good and valuable in Religion:-- or else it would not be sufficient to answer the ends proposed; nor could it certainly and effectually secure the Interest and Salvation of men are allowed the free use of their natural Powers, which Mr. Chubb contends for? Men, he says, are not to be over-ruled in either the Publication or Reception of Religion ; and if so, he has yet to explain how that is to be given so as not to leave it in the power and pleasure of a few, sooner or later, to restrain and supprefs, to disguise and corrupt it; and consequently to prevent thousands and millions of others from sharing in the benefits thereof. ib. p. 63. On a little farther consideration Mr. Chubb may probably find that in this Scheme [of Human Liberty) it must be impossible for any thing relating cither to the Minds, or outward Circumstances of Mankind, to remain in a state of perfect Uniformity; and then he may be sensible too that the fame Causes, which among other things that concern Mankind, make their Religion unavoidably continue in this partial and unequal way, will hold as strongly for its being originally given in the same way.

Chuib's second Objection, that if Men could be supposed to be honest and faithful in the publication of a System of Revealed Religion, then there would be no occasion for such Siłem, ib. feems to be worse founded than the other; since this Revelation, notwithfanding all the Imperfections that attend its communication, may Itill be the means of conveying fuch fupcrior Benefits to those who do come to the knowledre of it, of making such Discoveries in the Nature both of God and Man, and of affording Motives for Man's attaining to such a degree of Virtue, and true rational Happiness,

Mankind. As an Illumination it must either be distinguishable from the present Effects of Reason and the ordinary Operations of the Divine Spirit, or not; if the former, this must be by striking us more forcibly, and working a more assured, infallible Conviction in the Mind: but so much as is added to that, above what may arise from the present Constitution of things, just so much must be taken from the present Choice, and Merit of believing; and the concomitant Delight and Satisfaction which we feel, and ought to feel, in giving our Affent to Truth“. Such evidence must either supersede all Action and Enquiry of our own, and overbear the Judgement beyond poffias all their Honesty, without such helps, could never raise the generality of them to.

And whether the fole end of Revelation be to bring men to a higher pitch of happiness than they could otherwise attain, or not: ib. p. 49. this Author never can prove but that this may

be one of its great ends, and that this End is in fact obtained, to as high a Degree as is consistent with his own Scheme of perfect Liberty: so that, in the last place, allowing God to foresee all the Confequences, and Events attending such an Establishment, ib. p. 62. yet this Establishment fo circumstanced may, notwithstanding any thing this Author has made out to the contrary, come from him. And indeed Mr. Chubb seems at length to be fenfible of that same boasted Objection against the Divinity of a Revelation from its non-univerfality being so very much weakened, that he is grown rather weary of it, and willing to get rid of it as handsomely as he can, by pretending that he has not even lean'd to that side of the Question in all his Debates upon it, and will take it unkindly to have such a thing so much as infinuated of him. The Author's Farewell, p. 219. Note.

• See A Bp. King's Origin. N. 19. p. 128, &c. 3d Ed. compared with N. 58. p. 349. Whence it appears that though in some cases and respects the Affent be unavoidable, and we merely paflive in the Attainment of many useful parts of Knowledge ; and which must be attended with some fatisfaction in degree proportioned to the apprehension of that use

ful

« AnteriorContinuar »