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Transgression of any Duty, which they did not, and could norj know to be their Duty; and that he would make them accountable for not, being influenced by Motives, that he had never laid before them; this would make it difficult to reconcile such a Proceeding with the di« - vine Justice. But, since the contrary to this is true; since it is indisputably certain, that he will not punish Men for their invincible Ignorance j surely he is at liberty to dispence his extraordinary Favours, at what times, and in what Measures; to what Nations, and to what Persons, he thinks fit. f For may not he do what he will with his ozvn? and why Jhould our Eye be evil, because he is good? x Why should we murmur ot complain, that he raises us to greater Degrees of Perfection, in order to advance us to greater Degrees of Happiness and Glory? And what a provoking Instance of Perverfeness is it, to refuse his Favours, for the very Reason,which ought to encreaie our Thankfulness for them, namely, that he vouchsafes them to us, and not to others?
But after all, it must be acknowledged, Ani* aN 8 that a divine Revelation is not owing ^"3 J" to the Justice or free Goodness of God, his Foreeither Jeperately or jointly consider'd, but k "w^t I i 2 to ib best.
'Matth. x\'. 15. * La<U>' Cisc of Reason.
to the Goodness, Mercy, and Justice of" God, governed and directed by his eternal Fore-knowledge of all the Effects, which any Revelation, at any time, can have. For God ordains a Revelation in this or that Manner, Time, and Place, not because it is a Justice, that he cannot refuse; not because it is a Matter of Favour and free Goodness, and therefore may be given, or with-holden at Pleasure; but because he has the whole Duration of humane Things, the whole Race of Mankind, the whole Order of humane Chances and Events, the whole Combination of all Causes and Effects of humane Tempers, all the Actions of Free-agents, and all the Consequences of every Revolution, plainly in his Sight; and according to this eternal Fore-knowledge, every Revelation receives every thing that is particular in it. He shews his Goodness in a Revelation to this part of the World, for Instance, not because it is a part, that alone wants it; not because he can bestow his Favours, as he pleases; but because, by acting in this manner with such a party he best shews his Kindness and Regard to the whole. And in like manner he reveals himself at such a time, not because he, at that time, begins to have a partial and particular Kindness,
but because, by so timing his Goodness, he best shews his Care and Concern for Mankind, throughout the who^e Duration of humane Things, from the beginning to the end of the World.
Now if, by the particular Time and Manner of any Revelation, the whole Race of Mankind receive more benefit from it; if more are raised to Happinels by it, and fewer are made miserable by a blameable use or refusal of it, than could have happened by any other time, or manner of giving it to the' World, consistent with the natural Freedom of Men j then is God, by being particular in the Time, and Place of giving it,. not merciful to a few, and cruel to many, but is most merciful to all: because he only chose iuch Time, and Place, and Persons, as, in his eternal Wisdom, he knew would be beneficial Tho* to the whole Race of Mankind, more time is than any other. i&JS-" the Lord is as a thousand Tears, and a thousand Tears as one Day, is a Position, which the Apostle desires some People not to be Ignorant of, when they seem'd uneasy at Christ's delaying his coming to Judgment: and, in like manner, tho* the Compass of 4000 Years and upwards, from the fall of Adam to the coming of Christ, be a prodigious Space, in our Imagination; yet, to him, who has all Eternity in his view, g a thousand Tears are but as Tejlerday, when it is pqsty and as a Watch in the Night.
'Tis, a long Space of Time, we may on with think, for the World to lie in such a 9od> yer» State of Darkness, as we have repre- ^ges, he sented, without any Divine Interpositi- made on; but then we are to consider, that-^'*'^ the Succession and Continuance of time veries is not, to an infinite and eternal Mind,ofhimvvhat we compute it. s One Day with the<S«• I i 3 the tih
* a Pet. iii. 8. World.
Had there indeed' been no Provifion made for Man's Information during this Intervals but the bare Light of Nature, which soon became' obscur'd, some Imputations might then fall upon God's providential Care, which would not so easily be removed fbut since he all along made such Discoveries of himself to the Patriarchs, both before and after the Flood, as they were concerned to transmit to their Posterity, there cannot any want of a sufficient Supply of Knowledge be chargeable upon God ; nor was there that Necessity for a standing Revelation then, when the Longevity of Mankind (h for Adam himself lived 5)30 Years, with whom Methuselah was contemporary
* Pfal. xeiv- 4 * TVaterland'f Scripture vindicated, Part id, in the Postscript.
temporary 243, and with him Noah 600, and Shem 100 Years) gave a better Sanction and Authority to tradition. After the Flood, Noah, who lived till within two Years of the Birth of Abrahams and Shem, who lived till Isaac was fifty Years did, ha/1 fresh Revelations given them; and the Religion of those Times was a Mixture of natural and revealed Precepts, and their Sanctions. Upon his Call, Abraham became the great Reviver and Restorer both of natural and revealed Religion, by himself and Jiis Issue, and by his Nephew hot, and his Issue, which, in Process of Time, grew up to many and great Nations. During this Period, * the holy Penman records two Perlbns of the Gentile World, "Job and Melchisedeck (and perhaps his Father-in-Law Jethro may be reckoned a third) Men of Renown for their Knowledge and Worship of the true God. Upon giving of the Law, the Jews became, as it were, a burning and Jhining Light to the rest of the World; and, by the Providence of God in all his Dispensations to that People, effectual Care was taken, that all the necessary Points of Religion, which concerned Mankind in general, mould by them be communicated to the rest of I i 4 i the
* Jtnkini Reason tbleness, Vol. 2.