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and Puffendorff. The supposing the knowledge of the main principles of religion to have been originally owing to a Divine Revelation, does not at all deny that those principles are really founded in the nature of things, and confirmed by the dictates of pure and unprejudiced reason. These things are perfectly consistent; and when taken together, give one a more extensive view of the wisdom and goodness of God in his dispensations towards mankind, and the various ways that have been taken for leading men into the knowledge of religion and morals. That this is most agreeable to the Mosaic accounts, is sufficiently shown both in the former volume and in this. And that there were very ancient traditions among the Heather nations, concerning some of the main principles of religion, though in process of time, greatly depraved and corrupted, appears from the accounts that are given us by the Heathen writers themselves.

But there is another objection which I have met with, and which deserves to be more particularly considered. It is this, That the making such a representation as I have done, of the state of the Pagan world, may possibly be turned to the disadvantage of natural religion itself, and may tend to the weakening those principles which lie at the foundation of all religion and morality.

If by natural religion be meant religion as it is founded in nature, and which may be proved to be agreeable to the best and soundest principles of human reason, there is nothing in this work that can bring any real prejudice to it. And though I am far from thinking that the gospel is merely a republication of the law of nature, yet this may be safely affirmed, and is what I have endeavoured in the course of this work to show, that it is one excellent design of the Christian Revelation to confirm and establish it, to place it in the properest light, and to clear it from that amazing load of rubbish which had been heaped upon it in a long succession of ages. No where is natural religion, taken in the sense I have mentioned, so well understood, so clearly explained, and so strongly asserted, as where the Christian Religion is duly entertained and professed.

But if by natural religion be understood religion as it stands merely on the foot of the powers of unassisted reason, entirely independent on Divine Revelation, and as it was actually taught and professed by those who made the highest pretences to reason

and religion in the Pagan world, I confess it has been one principal part of my design in this work to show its weaknesses and defects. And as a high admiration of the ancient philosophers, especially those who flourished in the celebrated nations of Greece and Rome, has inspired many with a contempt of the holy Scriptures, and caused them to entertain mean and undervaluing thoughts of the gospel of Christ, I cannot but think it a real service to religion, to show how unfit those boasted lights of the Pagan world were to be the guides of mankind; and that they fell vastly short of the first teachers and publishers of Christianity, mean and illiterate as some have esteemed them.

The Scriptures make the most striking representations of the darkness and corruptions of the Heathen world. And the ancient apologists for Christianity give the same account of the state of the Pagan nations. They set themselves to expose their gross idolatry and polytheism, the impurities and abominations of their religion and worship, their great corruption and dissoluteness of morals, and the uncertainties and contradictions of their best writers, and thence argue the great usefulness and necessity of the Christian Revelation, and the advantage it was of to mankind. And whoever would have a just and full view of the inestimable benefits and privileges we are made partakers of by the gospel, ought by no means to lose sight of this.

It is not the intention of any thing that is said in this book to degrade and vilify human reason, as if it were of no use in religion, and only fit to lead men astray. I am fully persuaded that reason, duly exercised and improved, is very friendly to religion and morals: and that the main principles of the Christian Religion, if set before men in a proper light, will approve themselves to right reason, when freed from vicious and sinful prejudices. It is by reason that we are enabled to detect false revelations, and to discern the proofs and evidences of the true, and the glorious characters of wisdom and goodness, of purity and truth, which shine in it. But I confess, I am far from conceiving so high an opinion of reason, if left merely to itself in the present state of mankind, as some have entertained of it. I am fully convinced by arguments, drawn from undeniable fact and experience, that reason, when puffed up with a presumptuous conceit of its own ability and strength, and neglecting or despising proper assistances, or when boldly intruding into things too high for

it, or led aside by corrupt custom and mere human authority, by vicious prejudices, and passions, and carnal interests, is often apt to pass very wrong judgments on things, especially in divine matters. Nor do I apprehend that it is any disparagement to reason, to lay open the faults and errors of those who have made the greatest pretensions to it, or that it follows from this, that reason is a vain thing, and has no certain foundations to rely upon.

Thus, for example, if some that have professed to govern themselves by reason, have entertained very wrong notions of God, of his perfections, attributes, and providence, it by no means follows that the proofs of the divine nature and perfections, or of God's governing providence, are not built upon sure and solid grounds, or that reason is not able to discern the force of those proofs, when clearly set before it. In like manner, with regard to morals, it would be wrong to conclude that there is no certainty in any moral principles, because some persons of great name have passed very false judgments in matters which appear to be of great importance in morality; or that there is nothing base or deformed in vicious actions or affections, because in some nations and ages, and in the opinion of persons pretending to superior wisdom, they have been regarded as matters of indifferency, and as either, no faults at all, or very slight ones.

In the course of this work, especially in that part of it which relates to the state of morality in the Heathen world, I have been under a necessity of taking notice of several things which can scarce be mentioned without being offensive to virtuous minds, though frequently practised among those that have passed for the most learned and polite of the Heathen nations, and even by many of the philosophers themselves. The subject was so disagreeable to me, that I intended more than once to have passed it over altogether, or to have mentioned it very slightly, and only in a general way. But what determined me to insist upon a full proof was, that otherwise the charge might have been looked upon to be groundless and calumnious. And not only have some real friends to Christianity attempted to clear them from it, but others of a different character have taken occasion to censure the apostle Paul, as having made an unjust and odious representation of the state of the Gentile world, beyond what can be justified by truth and fact. The proofs I have brought are from the ancient Heathen writers themselves, and not from any Christian authors, except as far as they are supported by the former. Nor can I think there is any danger of what some good persons might possibly be apprehensive of, that this might tend to diminish the horror of vices, which are justly accounted most detestable and odious. The only inference that can justly be drawn from it is, that the bias of corrupt customs, and vicious appetites and passions, are apt to over-rule the moral' sentiments of the human mind, and tend to stifle the remonstrances of conscience, and even to bribe reason to judge too favourably concerning practices which it would otherwise reject with abhorrence. It also shows that a Divine Revelation, and an express law of God, enforced by the strongest sanctions, may be of great use in point of morals, even with respect to the restraining men from those things, the evil and turpitude of which seem to be most apparent to reason and nature. · Notwithstanding the corruptions that have prevailed among many who have taken upon them the name of Christians, and which some have taken pains to exaggerate, the most abominable vices have been far from being so general among them, as they were in those that have been esteemed the most refined nations of Paganism. It is not to be doubted, but that vast numbers of those who believe the gospel have been and are preserved by the purity of its precepts, and the power of its sanctions, from vices to which otherwise they would have given a boundless indulgence. Nor can any who believe the Christian religion allow themselves in vicious practices, without sinning against the clear. est light, and breaking through the strongest engagements. I do not see, therefore, how they can be accounted real friends to the purity of morals, who are for taking away or diminishing the force of those motives and sanctions which the gospel proposes, and which, where they are really believed, 'tend both to animate good men to a holy and virtuous practice by the most glorious hopes and prospects, and to deter the wicked from their evil courses by the most amazing denunciations of God's righteous vengeance.

When we consider the strange fluctuations of persons of the greatest abilities in the Pagan world, with respect to several important points of religion and morality, and to the retributions of a future state, it ought surely to make us highly thankful that we have a written well-attested Revelation in our hands,'to which we may have recourse, both for assisting us to form a right judg

ment in matters of the greatest consequence, and for regulating our practice. And it has pleased God, in his great wisdom and goodness, to establish its divine authority by such an abundance and variety of proofs, as are every way suitable to the impordance of the case, and are amply sufficient to engage though not to constrain the assent. Christianity is not afraid of the light, or of a free and impartial examination and enquiry. It has always met with the best reception from those who have examined it, in the integrity of their hearts, with that seriousness and at. tention which the great importance of it well deserves. Let us therefore, with minds freed as far as possible from vicious prejudices, consider the nature and excellency of the Christian religion, the spirituality and heavenliness of its doctrines, the discoveries that are there made to us of those things which it is to the highest concernment to us to know, especially relating to the wonderful methods of the divine wisdom and grace for our redemption and salvation, the unquestionable excellency of its morals, and purity of its laws, the power of those motives by which the practice of them is enforced, and the admirable tendency of the whole to promote the glory of God, and the cause of righteousness, piety, and virtue in the world ; let us then make proper reflections on the holy and spotless life, and most perfect and sublime character of the great Founder of our religion, and also on the character of his disciples, who published it to the world in his name ; that they appear to have been persons of great probity and simplicity, incapable of carrying on an artful imposture, or of being themselves the inventors of that scheme of religion which they taught, and which was contrary in several instances to their own strongest prejudices: nor is there any thing in their whole temper and conduct, in the doctrine they preached, or in the manner of propagating it, that savours of the views of worldly policy, or that is cunningly accommodated to humour men's prejudices and vicious passions, and gratify their ambition and sensuality. But especially let us consider the illustrious attestations given from heaven to the divine mission, both of the first Author and publishers of the Christian religion, by a series of the most wonderful works, done in express confirmation of the religion they taught, and which manifestly transcended all human power or skill, and bore the

evident tokens of a divine interposition ; and that the truth of , these facts is ascertained to us with all the evidence that can be

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