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That the Gentiles ought not to pervert and stifle those Natural Notions which God had implanted in their Minds, but from the Law of Nature to proceed to find out the Written Law ; and for this Reason, the Bounds of the Habitation of other Nations were determined and appoiuted by God, According to the number of the children of Israels that they might seek the Lordy and might be able to find and discover the True Religion and Way of Worship among that People to whom he had revealed himself, Dent, xxxii. 8. Aft. xvii. 25,27. They might have been less vicious than they were, without the Knowledge of a Revelation •, and therein they were inexcusable, that tho' they could not free themselves from the Power of Sin, yet they might not have given themselves so wholly up to it, as to become excluded from the Grace and Salvation to be obtained by the Revealed Will of God. And when God has revealed himself, all who will not use the Means, and by a due Improvement of their Reason endeavour from Natural Religion to arrive at Revealed, become inexcusable for their Negligence and Contempt of God, and the Abuse of those Talents and Endowments which God has bestowed upon them. For when God has once given Men warning, and directed them in the way of Salvation, and they will not regard it •, they must be wilfully ignorant if they will not fXmfidcr, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day j and it is an argument of his Patience and Long-suffering, that he doth not bring speedy Vengeance upon a disobedient and rebellious World: The Lord is not flack concerning his promise (as some men count flacknefs) but it longsuffering to us-roardf not willing that any jhould perifhy but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. Now this is very well consistent and exceedingly agreeable with all the Divine Perfections, that he should give Men warning of the Evil and Danger of Sin, and afterwards leave
them to their own choice, whether they will be Righteous and Happy, or Wicked and Miserable j and then that he should not take the first opportunity to punish them , nor lay hold of any advantage against them, but give them time for second Thoughts, and space for Consideration and Repentance: but if they abuse so much Patience and Loving-kindness, that he mould at last come upon them, when they least think of him, with a mighty and terrible Judgment, and with a sudden and unexpected Fury. But to stand by and look on unconcern'd, and then to take Men upon such a surprise, without giving them any notice of it before-hand, is a thing impossible to be accounted for, and can never be reconciled with the Divine Attributes. St. Athanafim' insists at large upon this Argument, and carries it so far as to prove the Necessity of the Incarnation of the Son of God from it: He urges, That it would have been unworthy of the Goodness of God to suffer all Mankind to be destroyed by the Fraud and Malice of the Devil, or by their own Fault and Negligence; and that it had been more consistent with his Wisdom and Goodness, never to have created Men, than to have suffered them thus toperissi: "An Earth"ly King (fays he) when he has planted a Colony, "will notcarelesly suffer his Subjects to become Slaves u to a Stranger, or to revolt from him ■■, but he will, "by his Proclamations, admonish them of their Duty, "and often-times will fend Messages to them by his "Friends *, and if there be a necessity for it, will go u to them himself, to awe them by his Presence, and 4* recal them to their Obedience. And (as he there "adds) mall not God much rather be so mindful of "his Creatures, as to use some Means to reclaim them "from their evil Ways, and regain them to his Ser'* vice \ especially when they must be utterly undone "for ever, unless he take care of them.
• S. Athm. ic Incarnatione Verbi Dei.
f St. CyriL
f St. Cyril of Alexandria speaks to the fame purpose. "It was necessary, (fays he) it was necessary, "that the good God should save those, who were lost, "and defeat the Malice of the Devil. And afterwards, " What then should the Creator of the Uni"verse do? Should he leave all Men under the Power "of impure Dæmons? and suffer the Devil's Malice ¥ to disappoint his own Designs? Should he not u stretch forth his saving Hand to those who were "down? Should he not reclaim those who were en** snared in the grossest Wickedness? Should he not "enlighten the Minds of those who were in Dark*■* ness? Should he not call back those who were ** gone astray? How then could he be Good, if ** when without the least trouble, he could effectually "do all this, he had yet had no regard for us? Why "did he at first bring Men into Being and Life, if he •* would extend no Mercy towards them in thismise"rable State?
It is plain then, that tho' we had never heard of such a thing as a Miracle, or a Prophecy, or of Revealed Religion j yet from the consideration of the State of the World, and the great Ignorance and Corruption of Human Nature, it would be reasonable to expect that God should some way make known his Will to Mankind ; and we cannot reconcile it to his Attributes, nor conceive how it should be consistent with them, for him to be an unconcerned Spectator of so much Folly and Wickedness, without taking any care to remedy it. God cannot be obliged to force Men to obey his Commandments, and comply with his Will, but rather to leave it at their own choice, whether they will be Happy or Miserable: but it was necessary to propose the Terms of Salvation to them,
f Contra Julian. 1.8. c. p. 278,279. Edit. Lips. Incandefn eciani sentcntiam Theodoras Ancyrx Episc. Homil. in Cone. Ephes. habit. C. T. 3. col. 1026.
to offer them their free Choice, to set before them Life and Death, Blessings and Cursings, and so to lease the Obstinate without all Excuse.
And this is all which I am here concerned to prove, That it is reasonable to suppose that God would reveal himself to Mankind, and that it is not conceivable how it should be consistent with the Divine Attributes for hiifi not to do it. To own the Being of a God, and yet to deny a Providence, is so great an absurdity, thar. none of the Philosophers, but Epicurus, were guilty of it and this was look'dupon, in him, as amounting to the denial of the Divine Existence. And to grant both the Being and the Providence of God, and yet to confine the Divine Care and Providence to the Bodies only, and Outward Condition of Men, and to imagine that the Spiritual and Immortal Part of Man is disregarded or neglected by him, is no less an absurdity than wholly to deny his Providence or his Existence; because this is to deny the most considerable and inestimable part of Providence, which concerns our Souls, and our Eternal State \ and therefore it is, by consequence, to deny the Attributes of God, and to represent him not as he is in himself, but Unwise, Unmerciful, and Unholy. To fay that there is no such thing as a Divine Revelation, is no better, in effect, than Atheism: For whoever can be of this opinion, must believe only the Being of such Gods as Eficurm owned, that never concerned themselves with Human Affairs; which was only, in other words, to fay that they were no Gods at all.
It has therefore been the constant Belief and Opinion of all Nations, that their Gods did in some way or other reveal themselves to Men } and tho' so great a part of the World have worshipped False Gods, and have been mistaken as to the particular Revelations, which they received for Divine, yet it must proceedeither from Antient Tradition, or from the Reasonableness of the thing it self, or from both, that all
the World should expect that the Divine Being should by some means communicate himself to Men, and declare his Will to them. •
The Way and Manner by which Divine Reveta* tions may be supposed to be Delivered and Preserved in the World,
MAnkind had so corrupted themselves, that the Will and Laws of God could not be effectually made known to them, but by some extraordinary way of Revelation. God had manifested himself in the Creation of the World, and by the Preservation of all things from the Beginning, according to their several Natures: For the invisible things of him^ from the creation of the world., are clearly seen? being understood by the things which are made? even his eternal power and God-head, Rom. i. 20. But Men had corrupted themselves even in the plainest and most fundamental Points of all Religion, and acted against all the Dictates of Natural Reason, in worshipping the vilest Parts of the Creation , rather than God himself, and in contempt and defiance of Him, had set up even sow-footed beasls and creeping things instead of Gods. How then could the Power and Authority of God be asserted,' but by some extraordinary way of Revelation; since the ordinary and constant Methods of God's revealing and manifesting himself by his Providence, in the Preservation and Government of the World, had been so far perverted and abused, as that Men were seduced to the Worship of any thing, or of every thing, rather than Of God? Mankind had neither the Will nor Ability to reform themselves, and had by their Own fault brought themselves under an utter incapacity of being