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SERM. VI. confeft in a vifible Glory. The fame Arguments, that prove our own Existence, demonftrate God's. How do we prove there is a vital Principle within any Perfon? Why, because he moves, he thinks and acts: And can we from these Operations conclude there fubfifts within us a Principle, which actuates and informs the Body: And fhall we not from the ftupendous Operations of the Universe conclude, there is a Being that actuates and invigorates all Nature? Matter cannot be a neceffarily exiftent Being. Because that alone is neceffarily exiftent, which exifts immutably, and cannot but be, what it is. Whereas, on the other Hand, Matter does not perfift in an uniform State of Being, but is liable to Changes, and admits of new Modifications. The infinite Variety, that there is in the World, which fhews a manifold Wifdom, is no more confiftent with the Scheme of unintelligent Neceffity; than Regularity, Uniformity and Design is with
that of Chance.
* Eft, eft profecto illa Vis; neque in his Corporibus, atque in hac imbecillitate ineft quiddam, quod vigeat ac fentiat et non ineft in hoc tanto Naturæ tam præ claro motu; nifi forte idcirco effe non putant, quia non
And if there be a God, there must be SERM. VI fome Religion; or, in other Words, fome Homage must be due from an indigent and dependent Creature, to his great Creator, Preferver and Benefactor. And if fome Religion be neceffary, it must be one that is fufficient, or is fufficiently calculated for the Generality of Mankind. Now, that natural Religion, or that Religion, which the Light of Nature dictates, is not fufficiently calculated for the Generality of Mankind, is evident from hence; that to trace a confiderable Number of Doctrines up to the Fountain-Head from which they flow, by the Strength of unaffifted Reason, and to pursue them to their remoteft Confequences, is a Task at leaft extremely difficult to Men of Letters, but I may venture to Lay impracticable to the Ignorant. Befides, pure natural Religion is a mere Utopian Scheme, which may perhaps have existed in the Minds of fome few reclufe contem→ apparet, nec cernitur: proinde quafi noftram ipfam men. tem, quâ fapimus, quâ providemus, quâ hæc ipfa agim ac dicimus, videre, aut plane qualis, aut ubi fit, fentire poffumus. Cicero pro Milone. Unde fcis tibi meffe vitale Principium? Refpondebis, quia loquor, quia ambulo, quia operor. Stulte, ex operibus corporis agnofcis viventem ; ex operibus Creationis non agnofcis Creatorem? S. Auguftinus.
but was never in Fact eftablished in any one Nation from the Foundation of the World to the present Times. As certain as it is, that there is a God; fo certainly muft he will the Belief and Practice of fome Religion: the Belief of fome Religion, and a Practice conformable to that Belief, being necessary to the Good of Mankind. And as certainly as he wills the Belief and Practice of fome Religion; he muft will the Belief and Practice of the best Religion: And what Religion is there, that equals or rivals the Chriftian Revelation ?
SERM.VI. plative Men,
::Such Reflections, as these, enable us, in fome Measure, to act in Conformity to the Apoftle's Advice; they make us ready to give an Anfwer to every Man that afketh us a Reafon of the Hope, or, as the Word here fignifies, of the Faith, that is in us.
I should enter into too fpacious a Field, if I attempted to do Juftice to all the Proofs of Revelation: It fhall therefore be my Business at present to dwell upon that Argument, which may be drawn from the intrinfic Excellency of revealed Religion. In the Profecution of which Defign,
If, I fhall confider the intrinfic Excel-SERM.VI. lency of revealed Religion, as to the Manifeftations of the divine Nature. i
IIdly, As to the beautiful Plan of Morality which is laid down in Scripture, together with the Motives and Encouragements, by which it has fupported and
enforced that Plan. N
IIIdly, I fhall confider the Force of the Argument which may be drawn from these
It, I fhall confider the intrinfic Excellency of revealed Religion, as to the Manifestations of the divine Nature.
That God is Love, or an inexhauftible Fountain of Goodness: that of Him as the great Creator, through Him as the great Preferver, and to Him as the End and Center, all Things are; that he entitles himfelf I AM, the Being who exifts abfolutely and emphatically, in Oppofition to the fleeting and precarious Existence of his Creatures, which scarce deserves the Name, in Comparison with his; that a thousand Years are with him as one Day, and one Day as a thoufand Years: that he only faid, Let there be Light, and there was Light, that whatever he commands, is finished by his commanding
SERM. VI. manding it; are some of the nobleft Ideas that we can conceive of the noblest Being that is. In thefe Expreffions there is that natural, and unlaboured; yet great and noble Simplicity, which furpaffeth the Refinements of Stile and ambitious Ornaments of profane Writers: Juft as there is a native Beauty in the Lily, which our heavenly Father has clothed; that exceeded the artificial Pride of Dress, in which Solomon appeared, when arrayed in all his Glory. Such Thoughts are ennobled by themselves, and dignified by their own inward Merit, without any need of external Pomp to embellish them. At other Times the facred Writers deliver themselves with all the Heightnings of Oratory, as particularly Job, when he is defcribing the infinite Power of God, and St. Paul, when he is fetting forth the Love of the Deity manifested in the Redemption of Man: Not that they affected Eloquence; but when the Spirit of God came upon them, and impregnated their Minds with great Ideas; they naturally broke out into fuch lofty and correfponding Expreffions, as might be a proper Clothing for their Thoughts: As when our Saviour was transfigured, and his Face fhone as the Sun; his Raiment too became as white as Snow.