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David observes in the twenty-fifth Psalm, “ The secret of the Lord is with them that “ fear him, and he will shew them (or make “ them know) his covenant.” In a sermon of Dr. Samuel Clarke's on this subject, that great writer proves, that a pious mind is the best help to understand the truths of religion; and observes, that in the study of every human science there is some particular previous temper, some certain cast and predisposition of mind, which makes men fit for that particular study, and apt to understand it with ease and delight; generally and principally a love to that particular science, and a high esteem of its value and usefulness. The same, he observes, holds true proportionably in religious matters; a general love of virtue, an equitable, fair, and charitable spirit, and a just sense of the necessity and reasonableness of obeying God's commands, is the first principle and beginning of religion ; the best and great preparative to open the understanding, to make men study with pleasure, comprehend with ease, and judge of divine truths with a right discernment. Such a well disposed mind, he remarks, does as naturally entertain the great truths of religion, as the eye discerns colours, and the palate relishes
tastes; or as good ground receives good seed, and feeds and nourishes it till it brings forth much fruit. Mr. Addison's mind having been of this excellent temper, and Lord Bolingbroke's entirely the reverse, is, I apprehend, the true solution of the different conclusions they formed respecting revealed religion. In the mind of Mr. Addison there was that general love of virtue, and that equitable, fair, and charitable spirit, which Dr. Clarke so justly considers as the best preparative to open the understanding, and to enable it to judge of divine truths with a right discernment. But, from the want of this fair and charitable spirit, Lord Bolingbroke entirely rejected the authority of revealed religion, and therefore could not admit as truths any of those gracious and charming declarations of God's goodness to mankind declared in the Scriptures; such as that gracious proclamation before mentioned, which God himself was pleased to make of his character by his servant Moses : neither did he believe that he possessed that exclusive goodness ascribed to him by our blessed Saviour, “. There is none good but God;" nor that declaration made of him by St. John, “ God is “ love;" on the contrary, in his philosophical
works he actually denies the goodness of God's conduct to man, by asserting, that in the scale of creation it was necessary there should be such a being as man; but that God had no particular view or design to any peculiar establishment of man's happiness when he created him, and that he does not concern himself in the promotion of it by the agency of any particular providence; with many other similar assertions to the same effect, equally false and impious, and for the insertion of which his philosophical works were most justly stigmatized with indelible disgrace, having been ordered by the legislature to be publicly burnt by the common hangman*
* President Montesquieu made the following just observation on the publication of Lord Bolingbroke's philosophical works : “ Had Lord Bolingbroke lived in a country where its religion “ was intolerant and oppressive, and where, from the institution " and operation of so malevolent an engine as the Inquisition, no “man's life or property was secure, he would have acted like a • philosopher, in endeavouring to reform the theory and practice “ of a religion so constituted. But to endeavour to unhinge and “ unsettle the religious opinions of the people of England, where
every man possesses the liberty of worshipping God in the way “ most agreeable to his reason and conscience, and where the re
ligion of his country is highly spoken of by a learned foreigner, “ (Grotius,) as being in his opinion as free, if not the freest of all “ others, from error, is a conduct equally illiberal and cruel, and “ to the last degree unphilosophical."
To be enabled to understand and receive the true meaning of Scripture, is one of the greatest blessings God confers on man; and if it was a knowledge so easily possessed as some may imagine, David, who perhaps was as wise as most freethinkers, would not have considered it so necessary as he did earnestly to implore God in various parts of his Psalms, and particularly in the 119th, to teach him the knowledge of his statutes. I wish every Sceptic, as he values the welfare of his soul, would imitate the example of this king; for otherwise, notwithstanding all his other knowledge, he will never be wise unto salvation; he will never know those invaluable truths, which, more than any thing else, will influence his mind to the acquisition of that holiness, which he must possess if he ever means to be admitted into the
presence of God, and to enjoy happiness in a future state. This doctrine of our blessed Saviour, which so strongly enjoins and insists on humility of heart, as to declare, that those who do not possess it, and “ will not receive the “ kingdom of God as a little child, shall not “ enter therein,” is peculiarly divine; such an idea would never have occurred to a mere man, and of course could not have been pro
mulgated by him ; of the truth of which observation every one must be thoroughly convinced, who will take the trouble to compare it with those proud and haughty sentiments inculcated by heathen philosophers in general, and by those of the Stoic sect in particular.
Another peculiarity deserving of notice in the doctrines of our Saviour is the following observation; “A rich man shall hardly enter “ into the kingdom of heaven. And again “ I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to “ go through the eye of a needle, than for a “ rich man to enter into the kingdom of “ God. When his disciples heard this, they “ were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who " then can be saved?” This passage, like that of “ all the world's going to be taxed," and some few others, is to be understood figuratively, and as expressive of its being so very difficult for human nature in general to resist those temptations, which in some shape or other are for ever assaulting a rich man, that not many are found to have resolution enough to withstand them; though unless they do so it is impossible they should possess that holiness, without which no man is to see God. If rich men in general considered