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expect in them something fit to be offered to such a personage. My Lord, I have my end, if I serve God and you, and the needs and interests of souls; but shall think my return full of reward, if you shall give me pardon, and put me into your litanies, and account me in the number of your relatives and servants; for indeed, my Lord, I am most heartily
Your Lordship's most affectionate
And most obliged Servant,
CHRISTIAN religion hath so many exterior advantages to its reputation and advancement, from the Author and from the Ministers, from the fountain of its origination and the channels of conveyance, (God being the Author, the Word Incarnate being the great Doctor and Preacher of it, his life and death being its consignation, the Holy Spirit being the great argument and demonstration of it, and the Apostles the organs and conduits of its dissemination,) that it were glorious beyond all opposition and disparagement, though we should not consider the excellency of its matter, and the certainty of its probation, and the efficacy of its power, and the perfection and rare accomplishment of its design. But I consider that Christianity is therefore very little understood, because it is reproached upon that pretence, which its very being and design does infinitely confute. It is esteemed to be a religion contrary in its principles or in its precepts to that wisdom, whereby the world is governed, and commonwealths increase, and greatness is acquired, and kings go to war, and our ends of interest are served and promoted; and that it is an institution so wholly in order to another world, that it does not at all communicate with this, neither in its end nor in its discourses, neither in the policy nor in the philosophy; and therefore, as the doctrine of the cross was entertained at first in scorn by the Greeks, in offence and indignation by the Jews, so is the whole system and collective body of Christian philosophy esteemed imprudent by
Fatis accede deisque,
Et cole felices, miseros fuge. Sidera terrà
Qui volet esse pius: virtus et summa potestas
Non coëunt. Semper metuet quem sæva pudebunt,—Lucan. 1. viii. 486,
the politics of the world, and flat and irrational by some men of excellent wit and sublime discourse; who, because the permissions and dictates of natural, true, and essential reason, are, at no hand, to be contradicted by any superinduced discipline, think that whatsoever seems contrary to their reason is also violent to our nature, and offers indeed a good to us, but by ways unnatural and unreasonable. And I think they are very great strangers to the present affairs and persuasions of the world, who know not that Christianity is very much undervalued upon this principle, men insensibly becoming unchristian, because they are persuaded, that much of the greatness of the world is contradicted by the religion. But certainly no mistake can be greater: for the holy Jesus by his doctrine did instruct the understandings of men, made their appetites more obedient, their reason better principled, and argumentative with less deception, their wills apter for noble choices, their governments more prudent, their present felicities greater, their hopes more excellent, and that duration, which was intended to them by their Creator, he made manifest to be a state of glory and all this was to be done and obtained respectively by the ways of reason and nature, such as God gave to man then, when at first he designed him to a noble and an immortal condition; the Christian law being, for the substance of it, nothing but the restitution and perfection of the law of nature. And this I shall represent in all the parts of its natural progression; and I intend it not only as a preface to the following books, but for an introduction and invitation to the whole religion.
2. For God, when he made the first emanations of his eternal being, and created man as the end of all his productions here below, designed him to an end such as himself was pleased to choose for him, and gave him abilities proportionable to attain that end. God gave man a reasonable and an intelligent nature; and to this noble nature he
b Ουκ Ἰουδαϊσμὸς, οὐχ αιρεσίς τις ἑτέρα, (scil. ante diluvium) ἀλλ ̓, ὡς εἰπεῖν, ἡ νῦν πίστις ἐμπολιτευομένη ἐν τῇ ἄρτι ἁγίᾳ τοῦ Θεοῦ καθολικῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, ἀπ ̓ ἀρχῆς οὖσα, καὶ ὕστερον πάλιν ἀποκαλυφθεῖσα.—Epiph. Panar. 1. i. tom. i. num. 5.
Nihil autem magis congruit cum hominis naturâ quàm Christi philosophia, quæ penè nihil aliud agit quàm ut naturam collapsam suæ restituat innocentiæ.-Erasm. in xi. cap. Matt.
Ratio Dei Deus est humanis rebus consulens, quæ causa est hominibus
designed as noble an end: he intended man should live well and happily, in proportion to his appetites, and in the reasonable doing and enjoying those good things, which God made him naturally to desire. For, since God gave him proper and peculiar appetites with proportion to their own objects, and gave him reason and abilities not only to perceive the sapidness and relish of those objects, but also to make reflex acts upon such perceptions, and to perceive that he did perceive, which was a rare instrument of pleasure and pain respectively; it is but reasonable to think, that God, who created him in mercy, did not only proportion a being to his nature, but did also provide satisfaction for all those appetites and desires, which himself had created and put into him. For, if he had not, then the being of a man had been nothing but a state of perpetual affliction, and the creation of men had been the greatest unmercifulness in the world; disproportionate objects being mere instances of affliction, and those unsatisfied appetites nothing else but instruments of torment..
3. Therefore, that this intendment of God and nature. should be effected, that is, that man should become happy, it is naturally necessary that all his regular appetites should have an object appointed them, in the fruition of which felicity must consist: because nothing is felicity but when what was reasonably or orderly desired is possessed; for the having what is not desired, or the wanting of what we desired, or the desiring what we should not, are the several constituent parts of infelicity; and it can have no other constitution.
4. Now the first appetite man had in order to his great end was, to be as perfect as he could, that is, to be as like the best thing he knew as his nature and condition would permit. And although by Adam's fancy and affection to his wife, and by God's appointing fruit for him, we see the lower appetites were first provided for; yet the first appetite which man had, as he distinguishes from lower creatures, was to be like God, (for by that the devil tempted him); and
benè beatèque vivendi, si non concessum sibi munus à summo Deo negligant. -Chalcid. ad Timæ. 16.
d Ἐν τοῖς φύσει δεῖ τὸ βέλτιον, ἐὰν ἐνδέχεται, ὑπάρχειν μᾶλλον, ἡ φύσις ἀεὶ ποιεῖ τῶν ἐνδεχομένων τὸ βέλτιστον.-Αrist. de Calo.
in order to that he had naturally sufficient instruments and abilities. For although by being abused with the devil's sophistry he chose an incompetent instrument, yet because it is naturally certain, that love is the greatest assimilation of the object and the faculty, Adam by loving God might very well approach nearer him according as he could. And it was natural to Adam to love God, who was his Father, his Creator, the fountain of all good to him, and of excellency in himself; and whatsoever is understood to be such, it is as natural for us to love, and we do it for the same reasons, for which we love any thing else; and we cannot love for any other reason, but for one or both these in their proportion apprehended.
5. But because God is not only excellent and good, but, by being supreme Lord, hath power to give us what laws he pleases, obedience to his laws therefore becomes naturally, but consequently, necessary, when God decrees them; because he does make himself an enemy to all rebels and disobedient sons, by affixing penalties to the transgressors: and therefore disobedience is naturally inconsistent, not only with love to ourselves, because it brings afflictions upon us, but with love to our supreme Lawgiver: it is contrary to the natural love we bear to God so understood, because it makes him our enemy, whom naturally and reasonably we cannot but love; and therefore also opposite to the first appetite of man, which is to be like God, in order to which we have naturally no instrument but love, and the consequents of love.
6. And this is not at all to be contradicted by a pretence that a man does not naturally know there is a God; because by the same instrument by which we know that the world began, or that there was a first man, by the same we know that there is a God, and that he also knew it too, and conversed with that God, and received laws from him. For if we discourse of man, and the law of nature, and the first appetites, and the first reasons abstractedly, and in their own complexions, and without all their relations and provisions, we discourse jejunely, and falsely, and unprofitably. For as man did not come by chance, nor by himself, but from the universal Cause, so we know that this universal Cause did do all that was necessary for him, in order to the end he appointed