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if the arguments for and against a God were equal, and it were an even question, whether there were one or not; yet the hazard and danger is so infinitely unequal, that in point of prudence and interest, every man ought to incline to the affirmative, and, whatever doubts he might have about it, choose the safest side of the question, and make that the principle to live by; for he that acts wisely, and is thoroughly a prudent man, will be provided against all events, and will take care to secure the main chance, whatever happens. But the atheist, in case things should fall out contrary to his belief and expectation, hath made no provision for this case. If, contrary to his confidence, it should prove in the issue that there is a God, the man is lost and undone for ever. If the atheist, when he dies, should find that his soul remains after his body, and has only quitted its lodging, how will this man be amazed and blanked, when, contrary to his expectation, he shall find himself in a new and strange place, amidst a world of spirits, entered upon an everlasting and unchangeable state? How sadly will the man be disappointed, when he finds all things otherwise than he had stated and determined them in this world! When he comes to appear 'before that God whom he hath denied, and against whom he hath spoken as despiteful things as he could, who can imagine the pale and guilty looks of this man, and how he will shiver and tremble for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty? How will he be surprised with ter- rors on every side, to find himself thus unexpectedly and irrecoverably plunged into a state of
ruin and desperation? And thus things may happen, for all this man's confidence: for our belief or disbelief of things does not alter the nature of the thing. We cannot fancy things into being, or make them vanish into nothing by the stubborn confidence of our imaginations : things are as sullen as we are, and will be what they are, whatever we think of them; and if there be a God, a man cannot by an obstinate disbelief of him make him cease to be, any more than a man can put out the sun by winking.
DEISM AND CHRISTIANITY COMPARBD. THERE is nothing in deism but what is Christi. anity, but there is much in Christianity which is not in deism. The Christian has no doubt concerning a future state; every deist is on this subject overwhelmed with doubts insuperable by human reason, The Christian has no misgivings as to the pardon of penitent sinners, through the intercession of a mediator; the deist is harassed with apprehension lest the moral justice of God should demand, with inexorable rigour, punishment for transgression. The Christian has no doubt concerning the lawfulness and efficacy of prayer; the deist is disturbed on this point by abstract considerations concerning the goodness of God, which wants not to be entreated ; concerning his foresight, which has no need of ou information; concerning his immutability, which cannot be changed through our supplication. The Christian admits the providence of God, and the liberty of human actions : the deist is involved in great difficulties, when he undertakes the proof of either. The Christian has assurance that the spirit of God will help his infirmities; the deist does not deny the possibility that God may have access to the human mind, but he has no ground to believe the facts of his either enlightening the understanding, influencing the will, or purifying the heart.
CHRISTIANITY SUPERIOR TO NATURAL RELIGION. 1. The ideas of the ancient philosophers concerning natural religion, were not collected into a body of doctrine. One philosopher had one idea, another studious man had another idea; ideas of truth and virtue, therefore, lay dispersed. Who doth not see the pre-eminence of revelation, on this article? No human capacity either hath been, or would ever have been, equal to the noble conception of a perfect body of truth. There is no genius so narrow, as not to be capable of proposing some clear truth, some excellent maxim : but to lay down principles, and to perceive at once a chain of consequences, these are the efforts of great geniuses; this capability is philosophical perfection. If this axiom be incontestible, what a fountain of wisdom does the system of Christianity argue! It represents one lovely body, of perfect symmetry. One idea supposeth another idea; and the whole is united in a manner so compact, that it is impossible to alter one particle without defacing the beauty of all.
2. Pagan philosophers never had a system of natural religion comparable with that of modern philosophers, although the latter glory in their contempt of revelation. Modern philosophers have derived the clearest and best parts of their systems from the very revelation which they affect to despise. We grant, the doctrines of the perfections of God, of Providence, and of a future state, are perfectly conformable to the light of reason. A man, who should pursue rational tracks of knowledge to his utmost power, would discover, we own, all these doctrines : but it is one thing to grant, that these doctrines are conformable to reason; and it is another to affirm, that reason actually discovered them. It is one thing to allow, that a man, who should pursue rational tracks of knowledge to his utmost power, would discover all these doctrines; and it is another to pretend, that any man hath pursued these tracks to the ut. most, and hath actually discovered them. It was the gospel that taught mankind the use of their reason. It was the gospel that assisted men to form a body of natural religion. Modern philosophers avail themselves of these aids; they form a body of natural religion by the light of the gospel, and then they attribute to their own penetration what they derive from foreign aid.
3. What was most rational in the natural religion of the pagan philosophers was mixed with tancies and dreams. There was not a single philosopher, who did not adopt some absurdity, and communicate it to his disciples. One taught, that every being was animated with a particular soul, and on this absurd hypothesis he pretended to account for all the phenomena of nature. Another took every star for a god, and thought the soul a vapour, that passed from one body to another, ex. piating in the body of a beast the sins that were committed in that of a man. One attributed the creation of the world to a blind chance, and the government of all events in it to an inviolable fate. Another affirmed the eternity of the world, and said, there was no period in eternity, in which heaven and earth, nature and elements, were not visible. One said, every thing is uncertain; we are not sure of our own existence; the distinction between just and unjust, virtue and vice, is fanciful, and hath no real foundation in the nature of things. Another made matter equal to God; and maintained, that it concurred with the supreme Being in the formation of the universe. One took the world for a prodigious body, of which he thought God was the soul. Another affirmed the materiality of the soul, and attributed to matter the faculties of thinking and reasoning. Some denied the immortality of the soul, and the intervention of Providence; and pretended, that an infinite number of particles of matter, indivisible and indestructible, revolved in the universe; that from their fortuitous concourse arose the present world; that in all this there was no design ; that the feet were not formed for walking, the eyes for seeing, nor the hands for handling. The gospel is light without darkness. It hath nothing mean; nothing false; nothing that doth not bear the characters of that wisdom, from which it proceeds.