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ness, goodness, and equity. Otherwise, what reason can they have to receive a revelation which may be depended upon as true and genuine? And it must always be sufficient to induce men to receive a revelation, to show them, that it has uncontested marks and evidences of a divine original, from miraculous works performed in support of it : and that it affords men many advantages, superior to those of the light of nature. Accordingly, St. Paul was not wont to deny or contest, but to improve the natural notions which men had of religion. This we perceive in his discourse at Athens, saying: “God that made the world, and all things therein, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is he worshipped with men's hands, as if he needed any thing:” and, that “he is not far from every one of us,” Acts xvii. 24, 25. “For in him we live, and move, and have our being. As certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then, as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think, that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device,” ver. 27–29. And in another discourse to heathen people he says: “God had not [in former times] left himself without witness, [though he had not given them an express revelation,] forasmuch as he did good, and gave us rain, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness,” chap. xiv. 17. And it seems to me, that St. Paul often argues the truth and certainty of future recompences in a rational way, much in the same manner that we have now done, from the consideration of the present state of things, and the perfections of the Divine Being: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God, to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven to take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel,” 2 Thess. i. 6, 7. This, he says, is a righteous thing with God: that is, it is reasonable, and fit, and becoming the divine perfection. And in the epistle to the Hebrews it is said: “He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” Heb. xi. 6. Which is as much as to say, that there can be no religion without believing that 6. is, and that he is a rewarder of virtuous and upright, and an avenger of evil men. If therefore the light of nature does not teach these principles, there can be no natural religion; and they who have not the benefit of revelation, are excusable in their irregularities. But that is contrary to the apostle's long and full argument at the beginning of the epistle to the Romans. Wi. he says: “That which may be known of God is manifest in them: –For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. So that they are without excuse: because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God,” Rom. i. 19–21. And again: “As many as have sinned without law,” that is, who have not had the benefit of revelation, “shall also perish without law,” chap ii. 12. They shall not be judged |. a revealed law, but by the laws and rules of reason only.
3.) In the third place I proposed to take notice of some inquiries relating to this matter.
But they ...i. these three only, as of special moment. Question 1. What notion could men form of the future recompences of good and bad by the light of reason 3
I answer: it is highly probable, that their ideas would fall much short of those which revelation is able to afford. But, in general, men might refer themselves to the judgment of God, as equitable and impartial. They would, it is likely, suppose the virtuous to be separated from the wicked: and whilst these are punished with a variety of torments, they would conceive the virtuous to be disposed of in some delightful regions, and abodes, enjoying intellectual entertainments, or the pleasures of the mind: improving themselves and one another in agreeable conversation, and contemplating the Deity, the all-perfect mind, and those works of his with which they are acquainted, and continually advancing in the discovery of truth, and the improvement of virtuous habits.
Q. 2. Does reason afford any ground to suppose, that the future state of happiness for good men '...'" e eternal, or of perpetual duration?
|". it does. For life, which is to come to an end, is not a reward for a rational being, who aspires to immortality. The period in view, though at the distance of many years, or ages, as we now compute time, would blast every enjoyment, and reduce the happiness of the most agreeable situation to nothing, and render it mere vanity and emptiness.
Moreover, we suppose, these beings, in a state of recompence, to be past a state of trial, and to be so confirmed in virtue, and to be so much out of the way of temptations, as to be in little or no danger of transgressing any reasonable laws, and of thereby offending God. What reason then can
be assigned, why they should be removed, or their condition be altered for the worse? Once more: these virtuous beings, once placed in a state of great advantage, will be continually improving in knowledge and virtue. The temper of the mind, and their adorations, and all their services, will be more and more perfect and delightful; and also more acceptable to the Deity. Their love of God is continually growing more and more ardent, and their desire toward # more strong and vehement. How contrary to reason is it to suppose, that these so improved beings should be at length ". or anniol. with the approbation and by the almighty power of God 1 As the learned writer, before cited, says: “The" longer ‘virtuous men live in such a state, the fitter they must be “for life: and therefore we may presume, the less will be “ the danger of extinction. #. faculties must grow, “ their capacities enlarge, and all their improvements in* crease, through every part of duration. Great advances “must be ever made in knowledge, virtue, and happiness. “They must be continually more and more capable of con“templating, admiring and enjoying the Author of all good, ‘ and the Fountain of all perfection. To imagine, after this “ progress, and these exaltations of nature, that God should “cut the thread of their existence, and put an end to their “being, is to suppose him acting, so far as we can judge, • contrary to the reason of things, and the chief ends of the * creation.” Q. 3. Does reason teach us to hope, that good men may ass directly into a state of happiness after death ? Or, does it not leave room to apprehend, that imperfectly good men must after this life undergo some farther trial for their purification, before they enter upon a state of unmixed happiness, free from all grief and pain? Here I joi reason to be at a loss; and that it must leave this point undecided. All that can be done is for men, in that case, to resign themselves to God, and refer themselves to his equitable judgment and disposal; hoping, and believing, (if they have here endeavoured to approve themselves to him by an upright conversation,) that he will not leave them utterly to perish; and that he will some time, either immediately after death, or after some farther trials and purifications, admit and advance them to a condition of much comfort and joy. I presume, this may be a just solution of this question. * As before, p. 95.
We may be confirmed in it by the consideration, that the doctrine of transmigrations has been very common among those who have had no other instruction than the light of nature. 4. I shall now conclude with the four following reflections. 1.) We hence perceive, that we have great reason to be thankful to God for the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Wherein there is so clear and affecting evidence of another life, suited to the capacities of all men; and also a just and attractive representation of the glory and happiness of it. A future state, as ascertained and described in the gospel, affords the best support under the afflictions, and the best assistance against the temptations, of this world. 2.) This discourse may confirm our faith in the gospelrevelation, and the assurances it gives of everlasting happiness for them that walk uprightly, or that believe in Jesus Christ, and obey his commandments. Christians who exercise their rational powers, and perceive the principles of revelation to be reasonable, cannot but be firmly established in the belief of them. They have the evidence of a two-fold argument; reason, and divine authority. Though the representation, which revelation gives of the future happiness for good men, surpasseth all that mere reason could encourage to hope for, that creates no difficulty. The thing is received with ready assent. God does not appear worse, but better; more gracious, more bountiful, than the reason of men alone presumed to think. And the mind being enlarged by the discoveries of revelation, it cheerfully admits the noblest and most delightful idea of the future recompences. 3.) This argument may deserve the serious consideration of those who reject revelation. For whether there be any revelation from God or not, there will be a reckoning, and suitable retributions after this life. Reason teaches as m oh, beyond the possibility of a fair confutation, or well grounded doubt .." question. You will come into judgment after death, and receive according to the things done in the body. Let not then any shyness of that awful proceeding, which the gospel speaks of, in a general day of judgment, form any unhappy prejudice in the minds of any. For reason itself teaches, that the actions of men will pass under a review, either in public, in one general judgment, or in particular; and that a retribution will be made accordingly.
Let all therefore attentively consider the evidences of the gospel-revelation. For if it be attested by good evidence, and should be rejected by men, to whom it is proposed, this is one thing of which they will give an account.
4.) Lastly, the argument from reason in behalf of future recompences, may be made use of as a warning to some weak and inconsiderate christians; and establish the persuasion, that “ without holiness no man shall see God,” or attain to happiness in a future state.
The cogent argument for a future state, now proposed, is founded upon the divine perfections. God is not here, in this world, an avenger of evil, or a rewarder of good, so fully as is reasonable to expect. Consequently there will be another state, and farther recompences for good and bad, according to their works here. No revelation therefore can |. an act of grace for obstinate and impenitent sinners.
eason and Revelation concur, and are entirely harmonious. Both say: “There is no peace to the wicked.” And, “It shall be well with the righteous.” But revelation excels in the justness of its descriptions of the misery of the one, and the happiness of the ...
THE GOSPEL THE TRUE WAY OF SALVATION.
..And they said: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Acts xvi. 31.
THESE words contain an answer to a very in portant question: “What must I do to be saved 7” And we have reason to think, that it is here rightly answered. It does therefore deserve our serious and attentive observation. St. Paul was now at Philippi, a Roman colony, and large city in Macedonia; where he preached the gospel, without any very great molestation that we know of, till he healed the indisposition of the maiden said to have a “spirit of divination:” by whom some artful men had made profit, pretending to answer the curious inquiries of people concerning divers matters. These, now deprived of farther gain in that way, raised a clamour against the apostle, and those with him, saying, that “they troubled the city, and taught cus