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5. That temper, which urges men to cast away the gospel, will never be easy until natural religion
goes after it
There is nothing more true, than these words of our Savior, “He that hateth me, hateth my Father also.” He who hates the character of Christ, hates the character of God. He who hates the religion of the gospel, hates the religion of nature.
The character of God, as drawn in the gospel, is such as reason must approve. If God is a Being of justice, truth, mercy and goodness, it must be his will, that his rational creatures imitate his character by the practise of these virtues. This imitation of God essentially belongs to natural religion, properly so called. The moral perfections of God are exhibited in the example of Christ, and recommended to our imitation in the precepts of his gospel. It is the substance of his religion, that we be renewed after the image of God—that we be followers of God as dear children, that we be holy as he is holy,, right, eous as he is righteous, and merciful as he is merci. ful It is manifest, then, that they who hate the gospel, because it requires a holy heart and life, must hate the character of God, and all the virtues connected with it. It is a contradiction to suppose, that a man can be an enemy to Christ, and a friend to God—a hater of revealed, and a lover of natural religion ; for God has manifested his own character in the person of Christ, and displayed the religion of nature in that of the gospel. The man who pretends to admire the character of God and the religion of reason, while he cavils at the doctrines and precepts of the gospel, is as inconsistent with himself, as a man who professes to be a friend to civil society and regular government, while he opposes every necessary measure of government, and condemns all the laws by which society is supported and preserved, Vol. IV,
6. The objections which infidels urge against the credibility of the gospel, operate as strongly against the credit of natural religion. Their objections a. gainst the Christian revelation, stop not there; they go farther ; they militate against all religion. Hence it may be concluded, that they who renounce Christianity, will eventually renounce religion at large, if they have not done it already,
Some will ask, “ Can it be supposed, that the gospel, if it were true in itself and important to men, would be confined to so small a part of the world? Is not God an impartial Being ? Why then has he made so partial a communication of his will, and of the way of salvation ?"
But this objection, if it has any weight, may as well be made against natural religion as against the Christian revelation, Men have different capacities, are placed under different circumstances, have different advantages of education ; and, were they ever so well disposed, they would make very different improvements in the knowledge of religion, as they do in all other branches of science. Among the heathens there were some, who spake and wrote excellent things on the character and government of God, and on the nature and obe ligations of virtue. Now admitting that these had attained to a competent knowledge of religion, yet had all heathens done so ? Or could they all do so? Probably 'not one in ten thousand ever did, or ever could make the same attainments by the mere ef, forts of their reason, or by all the assistance within their reach, Natural religion, then, has always been as partial and confined, as Christianity is ; and, indeed, vastly more so. For there is a much greater proportion of mankind, who enjoy the gospel, than there ever has been of heathens, who had at
tained to the same knowledge in morals, as Socrates, Plato and Seneca.
Again.-Some object against the credibility of the gospel, the mysterious doctrines, which it contains : "For surely,” they say, “ if God gives men a revelation, he will give them one which they can understand.”
This is doubtless true. And such an one he has given us. But still it must be supposed, that a rev. elation from God relating to the invisible and eternal world, and to our preparation for an entrance into it, will contain some things, which, though intelligible as far as our practice is concerned, may yet be mysterious and incomprehensible in many unessential circumstances : For, indeed, almost every thing which we see, is so. Even the religion of nature contains as great and inscrutable mysteries, as the religion of the gospel. The eternity, selfexistence, omnipresence and foreknowledge of God are as inexplicable, as the doctrine of the Trinity. The connexion of body and mind in man is as mysterious, as the union of the divine and human natures in Christ. The influence of providence in supporting our frame, directing our motions and overruling our actions is as unsearchable, as the in. fluence of the spirit in forming us to the temper, and assisting us to the duties of religion. The creation of the world and of the first man out of nothing is as inconceivable to our reason, as the resurrection of the dead after their bodies are mingled with dust. If then we reject the gospel, because we find in doctrines, which we cannot comprehend, we sha Aot long retain natural religion, whose doctrines are quite as incomprehensible.
Every man who pretends to believe any thing about religion, must believe the eternity, omnipresence, foreknowledge and universal providence of
God; the existence and immortality of a rational mind united to this mortal body; the creation of man by the immediate power of God; and our continual dependence on him for life and breath, and for all our abilities and pleasures. Without a belief of these grand truths, there is no foundation for religion. But if every thing mysterious is, for that reason, incredible, these must be discarded with the mysteries of the gospel. The infidel who cavils at the latter will not long spare the former. Again.—
The man who renounces the gospel on account of its awful threatenings, will of course explode all religion, For if there is a future state of rewards and punishments, which religion, in its very nature, supposes; then, on any scheme of religion, the sinner is justly exposed to punishment; and the infidel, by discarding the gospel, does not get rid of his guilt and danger; he only throws away
his edy and his hope.
The religion of nature teaches us, that God is a holy and righteous Being, who loves virtue and hates wickedness : It leads us therefore to expect, that he will punish the latter as well as reward the former. As exact justice is not administered in this world, it is very credible, that we are to exist in another world, where such a distribution of rewards and pun. ishments will be made, as justice requires. The Apostle says, “ The Gentiles, who have not the law, are a law to themselves; they shew the work of the law written on their hearts; their consciences excuse or accuse them, as they do good or evil ; they know the judgment of God, that they who do evil are worthy of death.” Thus far the religion of nature may go. But “all men have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” What then shall they do ? Rea, son teaches them their danger, but points out no sequrity. Repentance is a duty; but will it be a rem;
edy? If it prevent future transgression, will it also wipe off past guilt ? Carr it claim exemption from punishment already incurred, and demand a reward already forfeited by disobedience? Certainly it cannot. It is only the revelation of God, which assures us, that " whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sinis, shall find mercy”-that this mercy is exercised toward men through the death of a mediator—that the grace of God is ready to the assistance of those who seek it. The man, therefore, who, offended at the threatenings of the gospel, casts it away, casts away with it all its promises as well as threatenings; all its comforts as well as terrors. Its promises and comforts he can find no where else : Its threatenings and terrors he still will find in the law of reason and in the sense of conscience. And he will never rest, till he has suppressed and smothered these. If he is become an enemy to the gospel, because it de. nounces wrath to the impenitent, though, at the same time, it sets a hope of pardon before all; surely he cannot be a friend to natural religion, which holds forth wrath without a promise of mercy, and points out danger without providing a remedy:
It may naturally be expected, that they who re. ject the gospel, will reject all religion; for as long as they believe and realize the obligations of moral ity, the government of a providence, and a state of retribution, they cannot pacify their consciences in a course of vice. To reconcile their minds to their iniquities, they must discard these principles of reason with the doctrines of the gospel.
We see, then, the justness of our Lord's obser. vation, “ He who hateth me, hateth my Father also.” He who despises the gospel of Christ, what. ever respect he may pretend, or feel for the religion of nature, will soon trample on this, as well as the other. He first becomes an enemy to God by wick,