« AnteriorContinuar »
more particular discuslion of which, will be the subject of some following Discourses.
I shall only beg leave at present to add an Obfervation or two, concerning a Diversity of Religion in general, and the case of those who cannot attain to the Knowledge of the Christian.
And first, Though I see no reason to affirm with some, that God takes equal delight in the various kinds of Worship, which come to be established in the World; and that a specific Difference in Religion is, in itself, and abstractly considered, equally acceptable to him, with that diversity of Beings which he constituted : on the contrary, I think he has plainly discovered one most perfect Standard, and requires all to approach as near it as they can; and may be said to approve every approach to it, and prefer that to its opposite; in the same manner as he does every other excellence, and improvement of the Human Mind; where he intends perpetual advancement, as we have seen : yet from what has been already faid, thus much will appear, viz. That one of these is in some measure a necessary consequence of the other, during the present Laws of Nature,
These Observations might be carry'd a great way towards accounting for the flow Progress of Christianity among such Nations as seem otherwise not ill qualify'd at present for the reception of it; but that they are not to be carry'd so far as those have done who pretend that Christians first taught the People of America to be wicked, see Bayle's Dict. Art. Leon. V. 3. p. 773. See Mr. Jortin's Discourses
concerning the Truth of the Christian Religion. D. 1. and Remarks on Eccl. Hift. V.3. P. 428, &c.
in the moral and intellectual World : a difference of Rank, and Capacity, among Men, must needs produce an equal difference in their Religious Notions, as was thewn above; such difference there. fore, in degree of Perfection, is made necessary by the Constitution of things, and the general Dispensations of Providence; and what by the ordinary course of Divine Providence is to Men in some circumstances render'd unavoidable, that the Divine Goodness will, in these Circumstances, most undoubtedly excuse, and accept with all its Imperfections.*
The same thing obtains remarkably in each particular System, even in those of Christianity itself, which to different Persons, and in different Times and Places, appears in a very different Light : though so much always, every where, lies level to all, as is absolutely requir’d of each; and so much also as will, or might, have a very confiderable influence upon their Lives and Manners. And the same may in a great measure be affirm’d of Modern Heathens ; the generality of whom still preserve in some degree, the great fundamental Principles of one Supreme God, a Providence, and Future State ; as Authors of the best Credit have assured us. +
2. As to the case of those People in general, we may consider, that if they have fewer and less Ad-vantages than others, their Natures and Capaci
* See Rymer's General Representation of Rev. Rel. c. 6. " 'Tis a Beauty in Providence to advance in the Dispensa
tions of Religion ; to propose various Perfections in Piety ' and Virtue upon Earth, and answer them with respective • Promotions in Heaven.' p. 152.
ties must likewise be inferior; to which their future State may be proportioned: God is not oblig'd to make all men equally perfect in the next world, any more than in this; and if their Capacity be render'd less than that of an ordinary Christian, a lower degree of Happiness may fill it. However, we need not be extremely solicitous about their Estate, much less cast any ungrateful imputation on the Governour of the World, for not having dealt so bountifully with them as with qurselves; since we know that, in all cases, every one will at length be accepted according to that he has, and not according to that he has not ; and that to whomfoever much is given, of him shall much be required. We know that all their Souls are in the Hand of a most merciful Creator, all whose ways are equal; and who will most affuredly deal with every one, according to what is just and right. But of this more hereafter.
I come in the last place, briefly to observe, the great Benefit of complying with the Terms of the Gospel, and the inexcusableness of rejecting it.
The Benefit of the Christian Institution above all others appears, in that it naturally fits Men for an higher degree of Happiness, as well as entitles them to it, by positive Covenant. It gives them more just and worthy Notions of the Divine Being, and the Relation they bear to him ; and of the Duties which result from that Relation. It explains, improves, exalts all those Virtues and
* A Collection of them may be seen in Stackhouse B. of Div. Part 3. c. 8. S. 2. 3. p. 528. &c. or Millar. Hitt. of the Prop. c. 5. &c.
good Dispositions, which are the immutable Foundation of Happiness, both in this world and the next. It directs us to add to our Faith Virtue, to Virtue Knowledge, to Knowledge Temperance, to Temperance Patience, to Patience Godliness
, to Godliness Brotherly Kindness, and to Brotherly Kindness Charity. It proposes to our Study, whatSoever things are true, - bonest, - just, - pure, lovely, - and of good report; and binds all these upon us with the strongest Sanctions : at once giving us the most ample Instruction in, and warm incitement to, the practice of our Duty; and affording all fit, neceffary Means of Grace, in order to prepare and crain us up for Glory. And thus, as St. Peter says, bath the Father given unto us all things that pertain unto Life and Godliness
, through the knowledge of him that bath called us unto Glory and Virtue; - that at length we might be partakers of the DIVINE NATURE.
The great Condition of this Covenant is express’d in the Text, and many
parts ture, by Repentance : Repentance from dead works, and serving the living God. This was the substance of our Saviour's preaching, and what the Apostles continually testified, both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, namely Repentance towards God; * that is, a thorough Reformation of Mind and Temper ; a renouncing of this World, its Vanities and Vices; and an improvement in all those Graces and good Habits, which are absolutely and indispensably necessary to fit us for the Presence of God; the society of Angels; and the Spirits of just Men made perfect.
* Acts 20. 21. v. infra Note k. p. . and Dr. Jeffery's Tracts V. 2. p. 233. or Bp. Bradford's B. Lect. Serm. 9.
How gracious a Design this ! how reasonable, just, and holy an Insticution ! How strongly must it recommend itself to every man's Judgement and Conscience, when once rightly understood! And what infinite reason have we to give continual thanks unto the Father, who hath not only prepared for us an Inheritance; but likewise laboured, to make us meet to be partakers of it, among the Saints of Light! And how shall we escape if we negleet so great Salvation? How disingenuous, and ungrateful must it be, to refuse and put it from us! How dangerous, to contemn and blafpheme it!
Rather, May the Mercies of God, in Christ Jesus, engage every one of us in time to obey the Divine Precepe in the Text; to shake off all our Vices, such as the Heathens of old delighted in, and which betray too many now a days into the like State ; and blind their Eyes, and harden their Hearts, against all possible Conviction—namely, Pride, Covetousness, and Sensuality. May we all comply with the Apostle's advice, in walking circumspe£tly towards them that are without; since the
reason assign’d is, in some respects, of as great force at present ; — because the Days are evil. As Infidelity still abounds, and the Love of many waxeth cold, we who profess the Faith of Christ, and think we have more perfect understanding of it, and are to communicate the same to others; we ought to contend so much the more earnestly for it, and labour to adorn the Doctrine of our Lord in all things. To our daily Prayers, therefare, let us add our constant Endeavours, that the Kingdom of God may come on those who have not