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Such a partial revelation, say they, which was not completed or even began till after many ages and generations were passed and gone ; and which when it is given is confined to so small a part of mankind, cannot be from God, who has no respect of persons, and would not con. ceal what is necessary to be known, from the greatest part of men, while a few only are indulged with this favour, if it be one. Among other things which might be and have been said in answer to this objection, it may be sufficient only to observe the following.
1. God was under no obligation to enter on those de. signs of good and salvation, and do those things in favour of man, which are now made known: And therefore could not be obliged to make this revelation. And if he is obliged to none, he may for good reasons, known to him, though we should not see them, order things so that but few shall enjoy it, as a distinguishing sovereign favour, while others are left in that state of darkness, in which all might have justly been left.
2. It is wholly owing to the fault of man that this revelation has been so long, and still is confined to such narrow bounds, and is known to so small a part of mankind. The most essential things in this revelation were made known to the first parents of mankind. Had they been faithful, and all their posterity wise, and disposed to make a good improvement of the light, it would have continued and increased, and every one of them would have enjoyed it. And after this light was abused and rejected, and almost wholly put out, by the wickedness of man, before the flood, it was again restored to the new world in the family of Noah ; and was soon corrupted and extinguished by men, when they multiplied into nations, because they loved darkness, and hated this light. And when this revelation was renewed and enlarged, committed to writing and completed, had mankind been as desirous of knowing the truth, and as inquisitive after it, as they ought to have been ; and had they, who enjoyed it, been as ready and as much ergaged to understand and practise it, and spread and communicate it to others, as was most reasonable, and their duty, all nations would have enjoyed it fully, soon after it was published. It is not therefore owing
to divine revelation that it is so confined, and not uni. versal ; but the fault is wholly in man.
And it is to be wholly ascribed to God's merciful, irresistible interposition and care, that it has not been wholly lost and de. stroyed by men, long before this time. Therefore the scriptures being preserved as they have been, and hand. ed down to this day, and put into our hands by God's merciful, wise, sovereign interposition and direction, is both an argument that they are from God, and of our great obligations to gratitude to him for this unspeakably distinguishing favour.
3. It may be observed, that they who do not enjoy this revelation, do not live up to the light they have, but misimprove and abuse it : And therefore have no reason to complain, that they have not greater light and advan. tages; but are most righteously given up to their chosen blindness and darkness. There cannot be a person that lives, or ever has lived in the heathen world, produced, who has fully improved, and lived up to the light he has had, or might have had, were it not his own fault. Divine revelation warrants this assertion, “ The invisible things of God, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and divinity ; so that they are without excuse ; because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thank. ful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened."
Oh ! Let us not be unthankful, who enjoy so much greater light, which will render our ingratitude propor. tionably more criminal, and dreadful in its consequences. This leads to another reflection.
II. How very criminal and wretched are they who neglect or abuse this inestimable privilege of a revelation from God !-Many not only disregard it in practice, but reject and despise it, and speak evil of it: How much will the deists, who have been, and now are in the christian world, have to answer for ! What they call foolishness, is the wisdom of God; and the wisdom of which they boast, is the height of folly and madness. Would to God there were none who abused and despised the holy scriptures, but professed deists ! Multitudes, who profess to believe the Bible is a revelation from heaven, hold this truth in unrighteousness : They pay no proper regard to it, and constantly abuse it innumerable ways; and all the advantages they have by it, and concerns with it, will only serve to render their damnation greater, and unspeakably more dreadful. How much lower will they sink in eternal misery, who by their folly and impenitence perish from the countries enjoying divine revelation, than they who perish from heathen lands! This truth, though so obvious, solemn, and awakening, is too little thought of, by those who enjoy, and yet disregard and abuse the holy scriptures.
III. What obligations are we under to attend to this revelation, and make the best improvement of it; surely we ought to study it with great diligence and care, and meditate therein day and night, looking to God, the Father of lights, with sincerity, earnestness and constancy, that he would prevent our misunderstanding, and
perverting it, and direct and lead us to discern all the . truths he has revealed, and give us a heart to conform to
them in practice. We ought to pay a conscientious and sacred regard to all the directions and commands in the Bible ; to turn our feet unto these testimonies, and to improve the words of God, as to make it a constant light to our feet, and lamp to our path. Blessed are they who thus watch daily at wisdom's gates, and wait at the posts of her doors; for they shall be wise unto salvation, obtain favour of the Lord, and find eternal life.
CONCERNING THE BEING AND PERFECTIONS OF GOD.
THOUGH the evidence of the existence of God be as clear and certain as that of our own, or of any thing else whatever, and it is one of the first dictates of reason, when offered to consideration, and attended to ; and has by general consent been acknowledged by mankind in all ages, as most demonstrable and certain ; yet it is most probable that even the knowledge, and general
acknowledgment of this truth depends greatly, if not wholly on divine revelation. Mankind are so “ alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts;” and so disposed by their depravity and wickedness to sink down into brutish ignorance and stupidity with regard to every thing invisible, that if they were not first told that there is a God, they would most probably grow up without believing, or ever thinking of this truth. The general acknowledgment of the being of God, is no evi. dence that it does not originate from divine revelation ; for there are many things generally believed and practised in the heathen world, in their religion, which evidently depend on tradition; and though in many respects corrupted, had their original in divine revelation, handed down from Noah and his sons, or taken from the Jews, and the revelation given to them. But one instance shall be mentioned, viz. the practice of sacrificing beasts, or some animals, to appease the gods, or ingratiate themselves with them, which has so generally obtained in the heathen world ; and which most certainly never would have been thought of by men, had not God first instituted it by revelation; and from that it was handed down, and the practice kept up among all nations, even long after they had lost, or corrupted, the original intent and design of such sacrifices. So the belief of the being of a God may derive from the same origin, and be handed down from generation to generation the same way: The following facts seem to favour this supposition, if they do not clearly prove it.
. i. The absurd and ridiculous notions respecting God, or a plurality of gods, which have generally taken place in the heathen world: Such as the following, viz. That there are many gods both male and female—that they are embodied, like men and women have carnal affections and lusts, and commit adulteries, rapes, &c.— have cruel hatred and contentions with one anotherare taking advantage of each other by deceit and cunning, or by power to accomplish their own selfish, unreasonable inclinations and designs, &c. &c. All this can be
. well accounted for ; on supposition their belief of the being of God depends chiefly on tradition ; for this truth,
being thus handed down by tradition, would naturally and easily be corrupted, and blended with endless absurd notions, according to the foolish and wicked humours and inclinations of man; which has been the case of all religious truths among the heathen, which originated from revelation. But if we suppose all nations in the heathen world believe the existence of God by reasoning themselves into it, and attending to the clear and abundant evidence there is of this; how can it be accounted for, that they should make no use of their reason in forming their notions of Deity and determining what kind of a being a God must be; but contrary to all the dictates of reason, and the clearest evidence, embrace the greatest absurdities? If their belief, in the first instance, be founded on the dictates of reason and evidence, why is reason wholly laid aside, in the latter ; and as soon as they have reasoned themselves into the being of a God, make no further use of their reason; but
l most unreasonably believe there are many gods, and embrace the greatest absurdities respecting Deity ?
2. Those people and nations who are most out of the reach of the instruction and influence of divine revela. tion, and of the traditions which originated from it, have the most faint belief, and make the least acknowledgment of the being of a God. And historians and travel. lers tell us that there are people, and even whole nations, among whom there is not any acknowledgment of a Deity, or the least appearance of the belief of any.* These are nations, which by their situation and circum. stances, are most out of the way of receiving any advantage by revelation, and by being long unconnected, and without any intercourse with other nations, have by de. grees lost all tradition relating to every thing invisible. This seems to be a proof that if mankind were without all the light and advantages of a revelation, and traditions which originate from it, they would not pay any regard to an invisible supreme Being, or entertain any belief or notion of such a being ; but would, in every
• See Locke on the Human Understanding, Book I. Chap. IV. and the authors there quoted by him. Also Dr. Robertson's History of South America. VOL, I.