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SUMMARY OF SERMON XIV.
EPHESIANS, CHAP. I.-VERSE 13.
That the Christian doctrine is what St. Paul here calls it, the word of truth, is our proposition to be verified : to which purpose it has been already shown how very probable it is that God should sometime clearly and fully reveal his mind to men.
II. We now proceed another step, and assert that no other revelation of that kind and importance hath been made; that no other religion can with good probability pretend to have thus proceeded from God. There have appeared but three pretences to it: that of ancient Paganism ; that of Mahometanism; and that of Judaism. These briefly discussed.
For the first, ancient Paganism, it did indeed, (in the parcels thereof, or by retail) pretend to a kind of divine revelation : this shown : but put the whole body of that religion together, and you have nothing but a lump of confusion, deformity, filthiness, and folly, as little tending to the glory of God as to the good of man : the texture and state of it fully dilated on. If any good did appear in the conversation of some men who followed its doctrines, this is not to be imputed to the influence of that religion, but to some better cause, to the relics of a good nature; to the glimmerings of natural light breaking forth, &c. No really wise men among the heathen believed in the divine inspiration of such a religion : opinions of philosophers on this head quoted. Moreover it may be added, that all the Pagau religions vanished together with the countenance
of secular power sustaining them. And this much may suffice to show that Paganism did not proceed from divine authority.
The consideration of this case of the heathens may be of good use in confirming, what has before been urged, the great need of some full and plain revelation to the world of God's mind, &c.; and may serve to discover our great obligations to him.
The pretence just considered was ancient in standing; but there hath, even since Christianity, started up another, (Mahometanism,) which demands notice ; for it hath continued a long time, and hath greatly overspread the earth : neither is it more formidable in its looks than peremptory in its words ; vaunting itself to be a complete and ultimate declaration of God's will and pleasure, &c. But examining the substance and circumstances thereof, we shall not find it stamped with the genuine characters of divine authority.
In times of great disturbance, confusion, and impiety, in a very obscure corner of the earth, among a crew of wild robbers, &c. this doctrine had its birth and growth ; into this sort of people it was insinuated by juggling tricks, or driven by seditious violence : the first author of it had all the marks of an impostor; he was rebellious, perfidious, cruel, lascivious, pretending to enthusiasm and the working of wonders : by him it was proposed to barbarous people, with all the incitements of sensual pleasures.
Afterwards, being furnished with such champions, it diffused itself by rage and terror of arms, convincing men's minds by the sword instead of argument. On the same ground of ignorance and force it still exists ; neither offering any reason, nor admitting any examination, &c.
Now that divine wisdom should choose those black and boisterous times to publish his will, is as if a king should purposely order his proclamation to be made in a tempestuous night, when scarcely a man could stir out, or see what was
done, and hear what was said : much fitter surely to that purpose were serene and calm days, a time of general civility and peace, like that of Augustus Cæsar : similar illustration applied to the place, and to the people. Thus even the exterior circumstances of Mahometanism, belonging to its rise, growth, and continuance, ground strong presumptions against its divinity.
But farther, if we look into the matter and inward frame thereof, we shall find it a mass of absurd opinions, odd stories, and uncouth ceremonies. From Christian heresies it seems to have derived its negative doctrines, opposite to Christianity : this explained. The Jew contributed his ceremonies of circumcision, frequent worships, abstinence from swine's flesh, allowance of polygamy and divorce; together perhaps with that proud, inhuman trait of monopolising to itself divine favor and good-will; of despising and hating all the world besides its own disciples, &c. In its notion of God, his nature and attributes, Mahometanism is shown to be very peccant. Also in its description of the state of men after death ; both in matter of rewards and punishments.
Farther, how Mahomet was inspired, his stories alone will evince : these dilated on: the same may be said regarding the silly ceremonies which he prescribed. Two more considerations may be added ; 1. that whatever is good or plausible in this religion, may reasonably be supposed taken from Christianity, which is the older. 2. This religion, by its own concessions, destroys itself: for it admits Christianity once to have been a true doctrine proceeding from God: but Christianity did ever declare itself to be a general, perpetual, and immutable rule of faith and practice, to the exclusion of all others: this enlarged on. Conclusion.
and in Jesus Christ, &c.
OF THE IMPIETY AND IMPOSTURE OF
PAGANISM AND MAHOMETANISM.
EPHESIANS, CHAP. 1.-VERSE 13.
In whom ye also (trusted), having heard the word of truth, the
gospel of your salvation.
That the Christian doctrine is what St. Paul here calls it, a word of truth,' and did proceed from the God of truth, is the proposition we are endeavoring to verify and persuade. To that purpose we did first discourse, that it is very probable God should sometime clearly and fully reveal his mind to men concerning matters relating to his own glory and service, their good and happiness.
II. I now proceed another step, and assert that no other revelation of that kind and importance hath been made ; that no other religion, which hath been or is now in being, can with good probability pretend to have thus proceeded from God; so as by him to have been designed for a general, a perpetual, a complete instruction and obligation of mankind. There have appeared but three pretences thereto; that of ancient Paganism, that of Mahumetanism, and that of Judaism, (for the more particular pretensions of enthusiastical impostors have been subordinate either to Christianity itself, or to one of those : and besides having found no considerable progress or continuance in the world, nor countenance, as it were, from Providence,
are not pertinent to this consideration, besides that they are all generally disclaimed ;) but that none of those three pretences are well grounded, I shall, examining each briefly, show : (briefly, I say, for I need not insist on them largely, the matter having passed so many good pens, especially that excellent one of Grotius; however, it falling in my way and method, I shall offer what hath concerning it occurred to my thoughts.)
For the first, ancient Paganism ; it did indeed (in the parcels thereof, or by retail) pretend to a kind of divine revelation; that it derived its notions and its forms of practice from the direction of invisible powers, given to single persons or places, in several ways, (by immediate apparition, by prophetical inspiration, by significant events or prodigies ;) but it did not, nor could pretend to any one uniform revelation from the sovereign God, solemnly delivered and directed to all mankind; which is an argument, not only that those pretended revelations were imperfect and insufficient to the ends propounded, but also false and counterfeit: for we may well suspect those edicts which are clancularly set up in corners, and which run not in the king's name, nor are marked with his royal signature, to have proceeded from impostors or from rebels; especially if the matter of them doth not advance, but depress his authority; doth not promote, but prejudice his interest; doth not comport with, but contravene his pleasure, otherwise declared. And such was the manner, such the matter of those Pagan revelations. Put the whole body of that religion (if I may so call it) together, and you have nothing but a lump of confusion and inconsistency, of deformity and filthiness, of vanity and folly, little as may be therein tending to the reverence of God, or to the good of man; to the promoting virtue and goodness in human conversation, to the breeding love and good-will in men toward one another, to the maintaining justice, peace, and good order in societies; much apt to produce the contrary effects. It was not, I say, ever one simple or uniform, one fixed or constant thing, but, cording to difference of place and time, various and mutable ; diversely shaped and modelled, according to the fancy and humor, design or interest of the state that allowed it, the priests that managed it, and the people that received it; a plain sign