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pf Men by 1 Pliny, Lucian, and Julian the Apostate himself i by those who had most narrowly enquired into their Doctrines and Practices, and were worst affected to them- And by these means , the Christians became as so many Lights in the World, to guide and direct others in the ways of Vertue: for by their Example and Doctrine , they, soon reform'd even the Heathen World to a' great degree. Morality was taught by the Philosophers in much greater Perfection than ever it had been before \ and they became so much ashamed of the Crossness of their idolatrous Worship, that they sought out all Arts to refine and excuse it. And those Vices, which made up so great a part of their idolatrous Mysteries, appear'd too abominable to pass any longer for Religion. The Oracies soon ceas'd, and the seducing Spirits confess'd, that they were hindred from giving out their Answers by the Power of Christ •, and all that Julian the Apor state could do, was ineffectual to bring the Heathen (Dracles into Reputation again. These are things before insisted upon, and so notorious in History, that they cannot be denied to be solely owing to the Power and Influence of the Christian Religion.
I shall mention but one Instance more *, and that is, the barbarous Cruelty of the Heathen Religions , which the Gospel has deliver'd the World from. For they were wont to offer up innocent Men and Children in sacrifice to their false Gods, and that frequently, and in some places daily, and in times of great Danger, and upon extraordinary occasions , they sacrifiVd so great numbers of Men at once, that it would be incredible, if we had not the Authority pf the best Historians for the Truth of it. And this Custom of sacrificing Men to their Gods, prevail'd not only here in Britain, and in other Countries , which
* Plin. Epist. ad Trajan. Jib. 10. Epist. 97. Lucian. de morte Peregrins. Julian. Epist. 45. & Fragment. Epist. p. 30$. Edit. Lips.
were were accounted barbarous, but all over Greece, and in Rome it self. It may well seem strange to us now, that such a Practice.sliould so generally prevail in. the World, yet nothing is more certain from all History, than that it did prevail, and that Men were with difficulty brought off from it. For when Mankind was thus cruelly tyrannized over by bloody Dæmons, nothing but the oniqipotent Mercy of God could rescue them. And for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil, i Joh. iii. 8. which he soon did, Beasts and Idol* were no longer worlhipp'd, and Men were no longer made Sacrifices, when once Christianity began to appear in its full Power and Efficacy in the World. The plain and humble Doctrine of him that was laid in a Manger,
ctual to reform Mankind, than all the Precepts of Philosophers, and the Wisdom and Power of Law-givers had ever been.
Those Enemies to their own Souls, who are so fond of little Cavils against the Gospel, as if they were resolv'd not to be saved by it, yet owe the Happiness of this present Life in great measure to its Influence: they would not have been so safe in their Bodies and Estates, nay, perhaps they might have been sacrific'd to some cruel Dæmon long before this, if that Religion which they resolve to despise, but will not be at the pains to understand, had not been believ'd by wiser and better Men. Of so great Advantage has the Gospel been to those, who will not be reclaim'd and .converted by it, it has destroy?d the Works of the Devil, and has disposless'd him of that Tyranny, which he held over Mankind ; it has made the unconverted World less vicious, and has banifli'd all the profess'd Patrons and Deities of Wickedness from amongst Men; it has made Idolatry less practis'd, and s reduced it to narrower Bounds, confining it to the remoter parts of the Earth: and every where, upon the
Cross, was in a ihprt time more effe
first first Approach of the Gospel, the evil Spirits are difarm'd of their Power, and flee away before it, as we Jearn from the History of Lapland , and other Count tries. So general a Blessing is the Gospel of Christ, that even Unbelievers are the better for it in this World, tho1 they exclude themselves from the Benefit of it in the next. And the Christian is the only Religion against which the common-Objection concerning the Prejudices of Education in favour of it, cannot be urged: For as it first prevail'd in the World, by conquering all the Prejudices of Education, so itstilj maintains it self against all the Opposition thatcorrupt Nature^ and a vicious Education, can make to it.
Indeed, it may seem a needless thing, to have been thus l u ge in the Proof of the Excellency of the practical Doctrine contain'd in the Scriptures •■, when God Jcnoyvs this is the greatest Exception, that most Men have against them: And if the Precepts were not so strict and holy, but they might be allow'd to live in their Sins, half the Evidence we have for the Authority of the Scriptures would satisfy them.
VII. "The highest Mysteries of the Christian Religion are not merely speculative, but have a necessary Relation to Practice", for the Advancement of Piety and Vertue amongst Men. 'As there is nothing in the practical Duties taught and enjoin'd by the Scriptures,, but what is most excellent and worthy of God, and which has rais'd arid improv'd the Nature of Man beyond what could have been attain'd to without it: so the speculative Doctrines have as evident Characters of the Wisdom and Goodness of God. Theyall tend to the Advancement of our Nature , to inake ijs better , more wise, and more happy \ and ^re not designed to gratify a vain and useless Curiosity^ but to excite in us the Love of God, and a Care and Concernment for our own Happiness. 'They set before us the Original and Creation of all things, the Innocence in which Man vyas first cjeated, and God's
Love and Compassion to him after his Fall •■, how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are concern'd in, our Redemption ; that the Father sent his Son, that the Son was born, that he liv'd a despised and persecuted Life, and at last underwent for us a most shameful and grievous Death , that he rose again and ascended into Heaven, and there continually intercedes for us, and that he sent the Holy Ghost, the Comforter , who supports and assists us under all Temptations and Dangers in our way thither, and will, if we be not wanting to our selves, safely conduct: us to Heaven, there to reign with Christ in eternal Bliss and Glory f both of Body and Soul \ but if we will be disobedient, and obstinate to our own Ruin, we must be eternally tormented with the Devil and his Angels.
The Apostles, who, without Learning or Philosophy, taught the most sublime and useful Truths more, plainly than the wisest Philosophers ever had done, fliust derive their Knowledge from a higher Principle than they did. It is impossible for the Wit of Man to contrive any thing so admirably fitted to procure the Happiness of Mankind, as their Doctrines are; no Precepts can be more righteous and holy , no Rewards more excellent, nor Punishments more formidable, than those of the Gospel} and which is above all, no Religion besides ever afforded, nor could all the Reason of Mankind ever have found out, such powerful Motives to the Love of God , which is the only true Principle of Obedience. Our Religion contains no dry and empty Speculations, but all its Mysteries are Mysteries of Love and Mercy: Others may fear God, but it is the Christian only that can truly love him, and trust in him, and in all Conditions, in. Life and in Death, look up to him, as his Father, his Savioiffc, and Comforter. This Religion places Men in the Presence of God, and entitles them to his peculiar Favour and Care •, it declares" God to be their jjjiend and Protector here, and their everlasting Rewarder
warder after Death j it promises and assures us of all the Happiness both in Body and Soul, that we are capable of j which is /the utmost that can be expected, or wifh'd for from any Revelation, and the proper and peculiar Reason, why God mould establilh Religion in the World.
It appears fromthis whole Discourse, that nothing is wanting in the Books of the Old and New Testament, which can be expected in any Revelation. They are of the greatest Antiquity, and have been preach'd throughout the World } and have abundant Evidence both by Prophecies and Miracles, of their Divine Au-» thority j and the Doctrine contain'd in them is such , as God must be supposed to reveal to Mankind, having visible Characters in it of the Divine Goodness and Holiness, and having exceedingly conduced to the Reformation of the World.