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who mistake Christianity for only a republication of the Religion of nature, must, of course, suppose the doctrine it teacheth of a future state, to be one of those which natural religion discovers. It would therefore seem a discredit to that Republication, were not the doctrine discoverable by human reason; and some men would be apt to think it was not, when the Philosophers had missed of it. But our holy Religion (as I hope to prove in the last book) is quite another thing : and one consequence of its true nature will be seen to be this, that the CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE of a future state is not in the number of those which natural Religion teacheth. The authority of the Philosophers, therefore, is entirely out of the question.
4. But again, it will be found hereafter, that this fact is so far from weakening the doctrines of Chris.. tianity, that it is a strong argument for the truth of that Dispensation.
5. Yet as we have often seen writers, deceived in their representations of Pagan Antiquity; and, while zealously busy in giving such a one as they imagined favourable to Christianity, they have been ail along disserving it ; lest I nyself should be suspected of having fallen into this cominon delusion, I shall beg leave, in the last place, to shew, that it is just such a representation of ANTIQUITY as this I have given, which can possibly be of service
to our holy Faith. And that, consequently, if what is here given be the true, it does revealed Religion much service.
This will best appear by considering the USUAL VIEWS men have had, and the consequent methods they have pursued, in bringing PAGAN ANTIQUITY into the scene.
Their design has been, either to illustrate the. REASONABLENESS, or to shew the NECESSITY of Christianity.
If the subject were REASONABLENESS, their way was to represent this Antiquity, as comprehending all the fundamental truths, concerning God and the Soul, which our holy Religion hath revealed. But as greatly as such a representation was supposed to serve their purpose, the Infidels, we see, have not feared to join issue with them on the allowed fact ; and with much plausibility of reasoning, have endeavoured to shew, that THEREFORE CHRISTIANITY
And this very advantage, , TINDAL (under cover of a principle, which some modern Divines afforded him, of Christianity's being only a republication of the Religion of nature) obr tained over some writers of considerable name.
If the design were to shew the NECESSITY of Christianity, they have then taken the other course, and (perhaps nisled by a sense of the former mischief) run into the opposite extreme; in representing Pagan Antiquity as ignorant even of the first principles of Religion, and moral duty. Nay,
WAS NOT NECESSARY.
not only, that it knew nothing, but that nothing could be known; for that human reason was too weak to make any discoveries in these matters. Consequently, that there never was any such thing as natural religion; and that what glimmerings of knowledge men have had of this kind, wete only the clying sparks of primitive Tradition. Here the Infidel again turned their own artillery upon them, in order to disinount that boasted REASONABLENESS of CHRISTIANITY, on which they had so much insisted: And indeed, what room was there left to judge of it, after human Reason had been représented as too weak and too blind to decide?
Thus while they were contending for the reasonableness, they destroyed the recessity; and while they urged the necessity, they risked the reasou... ableness of Christianity. And these infidel retortions had an irresistible force on the principles on which our Advocates seemed to go; namely, that Christianity was only at republication of primitive na tural Religion *.
It appears, then, that the only view of Antiquity which gives solid advantage to the CHRISTIAN CAUSE, is such a one as shews natural Reason to be CLEAR enough to PERCEIVE Truth, and the necessity of its deductions when proposed; but not generally STRONG enough to discover it, and draw right deductions from it. Just such a view as this,
* See note [HH] at the end of this Book.
I have here given of Antiquity, as far as relates to the point in question ; which I presunie to be the TRUE; not only in that point, but likewise with regard to the state of NATURAL RELIGION IN GENERAL: where we find human Reason could
pene: trate very far into the esseştial difference of things ; but, wanting the true principles of Religion, the Ancients neither knew the origin of obligation, nor the consequence of obedience. REVELATION hath discovered these Principles ; and we now wonder, that such prodigies of parts and knowledge could commit the gross absurdities which are to be found in their best discourses on morality. Bụt yet thiş does not hinder us from falling into a greater and a worse delusion.
For having of late seen several excellent systems of Morals, delivered as the Principles of natural Religion, which disclaim, or at least do not own, the aid of Revelation, we are apt to think them, in good earnest, the discoveries of natural Reason; and so to regard the extent of its powers as an objection to the necessity of any further light. The objection is plausible; but sure, there must be soine mistake at bottom; and the great difference in point of excellence, between these supposed productions of mere Reason, and those real ones of the most learned Ancients, will increase our suspicion. The truth is, these modern systemmakers had aids, which as they do not acknowledge, so, I will believe, they did not perceive. These aids tvere the true principles of Religion, delivered by
Revelation: principles so early imbibed, and so clearly and evidently deduced, that they are now mistaken to be amongst our first and most natural ideas: But those who have studied Antiquity know the matter to be far otherwise.
I cannot better illustrate the state and condition of the human mind, before Revelation, than by the following instance. A summary of the ATOMIC PHILOSOPHY is delivered in the Theatetus of Plato: yet being given without its principles, when Plato's writings, at the revival of learning, came to be studied and commented upon, this summary remained absolutely unintelligihle : for there had been an interruption in the succession of that School for many ages; and neither Marcilius Ficinus, nor Serranus, could give any reasonable account of the matter. But as soon as DES CARTES had revived that Philosophy, by excogitating its principles anew, the mist removed, and every one saw clearly (though Cudworth, I think, was the first who took notice of it) that Plato had given us a curious and exact account of that excellent Physiology. And Des Cartes was now thought by some, to have borrowed his original ideas from thence; though, but for the revival of the Atomic principles, that passage had still remained in obscurity. Just so it was with respect to the powers of the HUMAN MIND. Had not Revelation discovered the true principles of Religion, they had without doubt continued altogether unknown, Yet on their discovery, they appeared