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moral dispositions, and bringing to light his whole character. Hence it became proper, that difficulty and temptation should arise in the course of his duty. Ample rewards were promised to virtue; but these rewards were left, as yet, in obscurity and distant prospect. The impressions of sense were so balanced against the discoveries of immortality, as to allow a conflict between faith and sense, between conscience and desire, between present pleasure and future good. In this conflict, the souls of good men are tried, improved, and strengthened. In this field, their honours are reaped. Here are formed the capital virtues of fortitude, temperance, and selfdenial; moderation in prosperity, patience in adversity, submission to the will of God, and charity and forgiveness to men, amidst the various competitions of worldly interest.
Such is the plan of divine wisdom for man's improvement. But put the case, that the plan devised by human wisdom were to take place, and that the rewards of the just were to be more fully displayed to view; the exercise of all those graces which I have mentioned, would be entirely superseded. Their very names would be unknown. Every temptation being withdrawn, every worldly attachment being subdued by the overpowering discoveries of eternity, no trial of sincerity, no discrimination of characters, would remain; no opportunity would be afforded for those active exertions, which are the means of purifying and perfecting the good. On the competition between time and eternity, depends the chief exercise of human virtue. The obscurity
which at present hangs over eternal objects, preserves the competition. Remove that obscurity, and you remove human virtue from its place. You overthrow that whole system of discipline, by which imperfect creatures are, in this life, gradually trained up for a more perfect state.
This, then, is the conclusion to which at last we arrive: that the full display which was demanded, of the heavenly glory, would be so far from improving the human soul, that it would abolish those virtues and duties which are the great instruments of its improvement. It would be unsuitable to the character of man in every view, either as an active being, or a moral agent. It would disqualify him from taking part in the affairs of the world; for relishing the pleasures, or for discharging the duties of life: in a word, it would entirely defeat the purpose of his being placed on this earth. And the question, why the Almighty has been pleased to leave a spiritual world, and the future existence of man, under so much obscurity, resolves in the end into this, why there should be such a creature as man in the universe of God ?-Such is the issue of the improvements proposed to be made on the plans of Providence. They add to the discoveries of the superior wisdom of God, and of the presumption and folly of man.
OF REVEALED RELIGION. DEISM, or the principles of natural worship, are only the faint remnants or dying flames of revealed religion in the posterity of Noah : and our modern philosophers, nay, and some of our philosophising divines, have too much exalted the faculties of our souls, when they have maintained that by their force, mankind has been able to find out that there is one supreme agent, or intellectual being, which we call God; that praise and prayer are his due worship ; and the rest of those deducements, which I am confident are the remote effects of revelation, and unattainable by our discourse, I mean as simply considered, and without the benefit of divine illumination. So that we have not lifted up ourselves to God, by the weak pinions of our reason, but he has been pleased to descend to us; and what Socrates said of him, what Plato writ, and the rest of the heathen philosophers of several nations, is all no more than the twilight of revelation, after the sun of it was set in the race of Noah. That there is something above us, some principle of motion, our reason can apprehend, though it cannot discover what it is by its own virtue. And indeed it is very improbable that we; who by the strength of our faculties cannot enter into the knowledge of any being, not so much as of our own, should be able to find out by them that supreme nature which we cannot otherwise define than by saying it is infinite; as if infinite were definable, or infinity a subject for our narrow understanding. They who would prove religion by reason, do but weaken the cause which they endeavour to support: it is to take away the pillars from our faith, and prop it only with a twig; it is to design a tower like that of Babel, which if it were possible, as it is not, to reach heaven, would come to nothing by the confusion of the workmen. For every man is building a several way; impotently conceited of his own model, and of his own materials: reason is always striving, always at a loss; and of necessity it must so come to pass, while it is exercised about that which is not its proper object. Let us be content at last to know God by his own methods; at least, so much of him as he is pleased to reveal to us in the sacred scriptures: to apprehend them to be the word of God, is all our reason has to do; for all beyond it is the work of faith, which is the seal of heaven impressed upon our human understanding.
THE BOOK OF REVELATION TO BE STUDIED IN
THE SAME MANNER AS THE VOLUME OF CREA
TION. In order to attain right conceptions of the constitution of nature, as laid before us in the volume of creation, we are not to assume hypotheses and notions of our own, and from them, as from established principles, to account for the several phenomena that occur; but we are to begin with the effects themselves, and from these, diligently collected in a variety of well chosen experiments, to investigate the causes which produce them. By such a method, directed and improved by the helps of a sublime geometry, we may reasonably hope to arrive at certainty in our physical inquiries, and on the basis of fact and demonstration, may erect a system of the world, that shall be
true, and worthy of its author. Whereas, by pursuing a contrary path, our conjectures at the best will be precarious and doubtful; nor can we ever be sure that the most ingenious theories we can frame, are any thing more than a well-invented and consistent fable.
With the same caution we are to proceed in examining the constitution of grace, as unfolded to our view in the volume of redemption. Here also we are not to excogitate conceits and fancies of our own, and then distort the expressions of holy writ, to favour our mis-shapen imaginations; but we are first to advert to what God has actually made known of himself in the declarations of his word; and from this, carefully interpreted by the rules of sound criticism and logical deduction, to elicit the genuine doctrines of revelation. By such an exertion of our intellectual powers, assisted and enlightened by the aids which human literature is capable of furnishing, we may advance with ease and safety in our knowledge of the divine dispensations, and on the rock of scripture may build a system of religion, that shall approve itself to our most enlarged understandings, and be equally secured from the injuries and insults of enthusiasts and unbelievers. On the other hand, previously to determine from our own reason what it is fit for a being of infinite wisdom to do, and from that pretended fitness to infer that he has really done it, is a mode of procedure that is little suited to the imbecility of our mental faculties, and still less calculated to lead us to an adequate comprehension of the will or works of Heaven.