Imágenes de páginas

where there is an universal want of Discipline, and a Dissoluteness of Manners; there Chriftianity cannot fubfift. Miracles were indeed necessary to gain Attention, and give Authority to it at first; but the perpetuity of them in any kind would (as we have seen) weaken that very Attention, and destroy their own Authority. When therefore a Religion has once been sufficiently promulg'd by Divine Authority, it must thenceforth be committed to human means; left to the conduct of that Nation or Society in which it is planted, and by their care be handed down to Pofterity : it must be preserv'd and propagated in a natural way, and by the ordinary Course of Providence ; or else there is no avoiding the ill consequences abovementioned; namely, perpetual Enthusiasm or gross Imposture. As a System of Divine Doca trines and Rules of Life, it must be subject to the common Methods of Instruction; and taught as all other Science is. Youth of all kinds are to be principled, and grounded in it; and some instructed in those other parts of Learning, which may fit them for a due enquiry into its original Evidence; for understanding the true Nature, Ends, and Uses of it; and conveying the fame knowledge down to future Ages. Some Orders of Men likewise must be set apart, and authorised to ex

* By being uncapable of receiving it, I mean uncapable of receiving with effect, of retaining or applying it to any valuable purpose; for which Men do not seem properly qualify'd, notwithstanding any natural capacity, without aid of Arts and liberal Accomplishments in some degree. Most of the Indians are, I doubt not, capable of understanding the Principles of our Faith at the first proposal, but scarcely qualify'd, I think, to make a right use, and receive the falutary effects thereof, to let it sink into the Hcart and form the


plain and inculcate it; to defend its Doctrines, as well as to inspect and to secure the practice of its Precepts. · From all which it appears. that ignorant, unciviliz'd, Navish and brutish Nations, are no less uncapable * of duly receiving such an Institution, than they are of all those other Sciences, Arts, Improvements, which polish and adorn the rest of Mankind, and make Life a Blessing.

Without some tolerable degree of Learning and Civility, inen do not seem qualified to reap the Benefits of the Christian Institution; and together with these, they generally do receive it; the fame human means serving to improve their Notions in Religion, which help to enlarge their knowledge in all other Subjects; and at the same time directing them to, and in a natural way, enabling them to arrive at, the most perfect Dispensation of it. - One of the chief Reasons commonly assigned for the Fitness of the Time of Christ's appearing in the World, was the extent of Learning, and Com. merce through all the then known parts of it;* which tended very much to open Mens Minds, , and qualify them to receive his Institution; as well as paved the way for a more general Communication of it : but as there were many at that time not able to hear it, so on the same account,

Temper, without some farther pains being taken to implant worthy Principles of Civil Government and focial Life a. mongit them: without which, all endeavours to introduce the purest and most perfect System of Religion seem preposterous. A sufficient proof of this may be seen in the Complete Collection of Voyages, &c. V.2. B. 1. C. 3. S. 20. p. 311. 312.

* This is more fully explained in the following Discourses, Part 2.

neither them: there is nothing so extravagant as the several Rea"fons some have given for it; but one would wonder that

neither yet are they able, nor will they be, till by reason of use they have their Senses exercised, to discern both Good and Evil: Till their rational Faculties be enlarged and improved ; their natural Genius cultivated and refined; which seems in a good measure to constitute their respective Fitness of Time.

And as- barbarous and savage Nations are unable to hear the Truth; fo vicious, debauched, immoral ones, are in like manner incapable of bringing forth the Fruits thereof. If such a People did receive the true Religion, they would soon drop it again, as many Nations molt undoubtedly have done ; at least they would lose the Spirit, Life, and Power of it; and then the bare Name,

a That the Chinese in particular, from whom some have thought that the strongest Argument might be drawn against what is here suggeited, and whose Learning and Education have been fo industriously cried up, are very far from deserving so great a Character, fee Renaudot's Differtation on their Learning. Ancient Accounts of India and China, p.200. Terry's Voyage to the East Indies, fećt. 12. and 21. Travels of several Misioners, p.180, &c. Millar's History of the Propagation of Christianity, V.2. p. 266, &c. or Le Comte's Memoirs, paffim. I shall give one Instance from the last mentioned Author in a branch of Philosophy for which they have been oft particularly celebrated. All Nations have ever been aftonished

at Éclipses, because they could not discover the Cause of

the Chinese, who as to Astronomy may claim Seniority over all the World befides, have reasoned as abfurdly on ' that point as the relt. They have fancied that in Heaven * there is a prodigious great Dragon, who is a professed Ene'my to the Sun and Moon, and ready at all times to eat

them up: For this reason, as foon as they perceive an • Eclipse, they all make a terrible rattling with Drums and

Brass Kettles, till the Moofter frightned at the Noise, lets .89 his Prey. Persons of Quality, who have read our Books,

and outward Form will not be worth enquiring after : nay much better would it be, if these were always quitted too, together with the other. Christianity cannot immediately transform Mens Minds, and totally change the general Temper and Complexion of any People ; but on the contrary, it will thereby itself undergo considerable alteration, and its own Influence and Effect in a great measure depend thereon : With the Pure it will be pure, and they that are otherwise will soon defile it; will either corrupt it with Fables and absurd Traditions; or turn it into Licentiousness, and carnal Policy.

Thus did the Eastern Nations, and were overwhelmed with Mehometanifm;* and thus did a

' have for these several Years been undeceived: but the old Customs (especially if the Sun loseth his Light) are still observed at Pekin, which, as is usual, are both very superstitious and very ridiculous. While the Astronomers are on the Towers to make their Obfervations, the chief Mandarines belonging to the Lipou fall on their Knees, in a Hall 'or Court of the Palace, looking attentively that way, and

frequently bowing towards the Sun, to express the pity they take of him; or rather to the Dragon, to beg him

not to moleft the World, by depriving it of so neceslary a • Planet.' Le Comte, pag.76. Ed. 1738. comp. p.93, &c. and Lett. 8.

From their notorious Ignorance of, and, by consequence, Contempt for the rest of the World, and great Averseness to any Communication with it, till of very late years, we may easily account for this flow progress of theirs, both in the Knowledge of Nature and Reveal'd Religion, notwithAtanding their having had very considerable Means of improve ing both in their hands for some time; nor are they want ing in point of Genius; as may be seen in the same excellent Author. But this will come in more largely under the 3d Part. * V. Part II



great part of Africa. To the like Causes, in all probability, as well as the Neglect and Misbeha. viour of its Propagators, and Profeffors, (which have been here but too remarkable") is it owing that true Religion makes no greater Progress in the East and West Indies. Though, it must be owned, great and good Things have been done in it of late, by Societies established for that

purpofe ; and none perhaps have been more diligent and discreet than our own.

But it were beyond the limits of this Discourse, to enquire into the State of every Heathen Country, in order to see what probable reasons might be aflign’d, for either their first rejecting, or not still retaining Christianity. Perhaps it may be enough to have given these general Hints; which though they were all founded on mere conjecture, yet till such an Hypothesis can be disproved from Fact, we ought rather to acquiesce in them, than confidently arraign Divine Providence, and censure its Ways with Man, in Matters of the last Importance. But I hope Arguments may

be drawn from them, sufficient to stop the mouths of our Adversaries, and silence each Gainsayer ; a

b Of the former, a large Account may be seen in Mil. lar's Hist, c.8. p. 274, 284, 291, &c. and c.9. P. 376, &c. Add Dr. Warburton's judicious Observation at the End of Sect. 6. p. 306, &c. of Div. Leg. 2d Ed. As to the latter, we cannot but observe the great and general Prejudice, which must prevail in both the Indies against all Europeans, from the injurious Treatment they have often received from us, as may be seen in almost every late Account of Voyages, &c. Nor are the frequent Quarrels among Christians themselves and their ill usage of each other, in the Article of Trade especially, a less prejudice against their Profession.


« AnteriorContinuar »