« AnteriorContinuar »
my soul are exactly known and manifest. Never did a thought lurk so secretly in my heart, but that his all-seeing eye could espy it out: even at this time, he knows what I am now thinking of, and what I am doing, as well as myself. And indeed, well may he know what I think, and speak, and do, when I can neither think, nor speak, nor do any thing, unless himself be pleased to give me strength to do it. He is the glory of might and power, who did but speak the word, and there presently went out that commanding power from him, by which this stately fabric of the world was formed and fashioned. And as he created all things by the word of his power, so I believe he preserves and governs all things by the power of the same word: yea, so great is his power and sovereignty, that he can as easily frown my soul from my body into hell, or nothing, as I can throw this book out of my hand to the ground: nay, he need not throw me into nothing ; but as, if I should let go my hold, the book would presently fall; so, should God but take away his supporting hand from under me, I should of myself immediately fall down to nothing. This therefore is that God, whom I believe to be the Being of all beings ; and so the Creator, Preserver, Governor, and Disposer of all things in the world.
ARTICLE II. I believe, that whatsoever the most high God would
have me to believe or do, in order to his glory and my happiness, he hath revealed to me in his holy
Scriptures. UPON the same account that I believe there is a God, I believe likewise that this God is to be worshipped ; the same light that discovers the one, discovering the other too.
And therefore it is, that as there is no nation or people in the world but acknowledge some deity; so there is none but worship that deity which they acknowledge ; yea, though it be but a stick or a stone, yet if they fancy any thing of divinity in it, they presently perform worship and homage to it. Nay, that God is to be worshipped, is a truth more generally acknowledged than that there is a God. No nation, I confess, ever denied the latter, but no particular person ever denied the former : so that the very persons who, through diabolical delusions, and their own prevalent corruptions, have suspected the existence of a Deity, could not but acknowledge that he was to be worshipped if he did exist; worship being that which is contained in the very notion of a Deity; which is, that he is the Being of all beings, upon whom all other things or beings do depend, and unto whom they are beholden, both for their essence and subsistence. And if there be such a Being that is the spring and fountain of all other beings, it is necessary that all other should reverence and worship him, without whom they could not subsist. And therefore it is, that men are generally more superstitious in their worshipping than they ought to be, rather than deny that worship to him which they ought to give.
That therefore there is a God, and that this God is to be worshipped, I do not doubt ; but the great question is, who is this God whom I ought to worship? and, what is that worship which I ought to perform unto him? The former I have resolved upon in the foregoing article, as the light of reason and my natural conscience suggested to me; the latter I am resolved to search out in this, viz. which of all the several kinds of worship that men perform to the Deity, and the several religions that men profess in the world, I had best make choice of to profess and adhere to. The general inclinations which are naturally implanted in my soul to some religion it is impossible for me to shift off; but there being such a multiplicity of religions in the world, I desire now seriously to consider with myself, which of them all to restrain these my general inclinations to.
And the reason of this my enquiry is not that I am in the least dissatisfied with that religion I have already embraced, but because it is natural for all men to have an overbearing opinion and esteem for that particular religion they are born and bred up in. That therefore I
may not seem biassed by the prejudice of education, I am resolved to prove and examine them all, that I may see and hold fast to that which is best. For though I do not in the least question but that I shall, upon enquiry, find the Christian religion to be the only true religion in the world, yet I cannot say it is, unless I find it, upon good grounds, to be so indeed. For, to profess myself a Christian, and believe that Christians are only in the right, because my forefathers were so, is no more than the Heathens and Mahometans have to say for themselves.
Indeed, there was never any religion so barbarous and diabolical, but it was preferred before all other religions whatsoever by them that did profess it; otherwise they would not have professed it. The Indians, that worship the Devil, would think it as strange doctrine to say that Christ is to be feared more than the Devil, as such as believe in Christ think it is to say the Devil is to be preferred before Christ. So do the Mahometans call all that believe not in Mahomet, as well as Christians call those that believe not in Christ, infidels. And why, say they, may not you be mistaken as well as we? especially, when there is at the least six to one against your Christian religion ; all of which think they serve God aright, and expect happiness thereby, as well as you. So that to be a Christian only upon the grounds of birth or education, is all one as if I was a Turk or a Heathen; for if I had been born amongst them, I should have had the same reason for their religion as now I have for my own : the premises are the same, though the conclusion be never so different. It is still upon the same grounds that I profess religion, though it be another religion which I profess upon these grounds ; so that I can see but very little difference betwixt being a Turk by profession, and a Christian only by education ; which commonly is the means and occasion, but ought by no means to be the ground of any religion. And hence it is, that in my looking out for the truest religion, being conscious to myself how great an ascendant Christianity hath over me beyond the rest, as being that religion whereinto I was born and baptized; that which the supreme authority has enjoined, and my parents educated me in; that which every one I meet withal highly approves of, and which I myself have, by a longcontinued profession, made alınost natural to me; I am resolved to be more jealous and suspicious of this religion than of the rest, and be sure not to entertain it any longer, without being convinced, by solid and substantial arguments, of the truth and certainty of it.
That therefore I may make diligent and impartial enquiry into all religions, and so be sure to find out the best, I shall for a time look upon myself as one not at all interested in any particular religion whatsoever, much less in the Christian religion ; but only as one who desires in general to serve and obey him that made me in a right manner, and thereby to be made partaker of that happiness my nature is capable of. In order to this, it will be necessary to propose to myself some certain marks or characters, whereby I may be able to judge and make choice of the religion I intend to embrace : and they are in general these two, viz.
First, That is the best religion wherein God is worshipped and served most like himself, i.e. most suitably and conformably to his nature and will. And,
Secondly, Since all men naturally desire and aspire after happiness, and our greatest happiness consists in the fruition of God, that is certainly the best religion which gives me the best and most comfortable assurances of being happy with God to all eternity.
To embrace a religion without these marks would be worse than to have no religion at all ; for better it is to perform no worship to God, than such as is displeasing to him; to do him no service, than such as will be ineffectual to make me happy, and not only frustrate my expectations of bliss, but make me for ever miserable.
The religion then that I am to look after must be such a one wherein I may be sure to please God, and to be made happy with him, and, by consequence, such a one wherein all the cause of his displeasure and my misery may be removed, and that is sin : for sin being infinitely opposite to him, as he is a Being of infinite purity and holiness, must certainly set me at the greatest distance from him, and render me most odious in his sight; and whatsoever does so must make me as miserable as misery can make me. For, as our holiness consisteth in likeness, so doth our happiness in nearness to God: and if it be our happiness to be near unto him, it must certainly be our misery to be at a distance from him. In enjoying him we enjoy all things, he being and having all things in himself; and so in not enjoying him, we are not only deprived of all that we can enjoy, but made liable to the punishments that are the consequence of it.
That there is no such thing in nature as virtue and vice, as good and evil, as grace and sin, is what I can by no means persuade myself to ; for my conscience tells me that there is: and not only mine, but every one that ever yet lived upon the face of the earth ; all people, of whatsoever nation or language, still acknowledging sin to be sin, and that the displeasing the deity which they worship is indeed an evil that ought to be carefully avoided. And therefore the very Heathens did not only upbraid others with it, but likewise often checked themselves for it: and all men naturally desire to seem, though not to be, holy. But let others say what they will, I for my own part cannot but see sin in myself by the very light of nature. For my reason tells