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**NE may divide men into two general claffes, fome are without any knowledge of a Deity, or fence of Religion: travellers tell ** us, that in the Weft-Indies, the eaftern parts of Tartary, and fome places of Africa, fuch people are to be found. I know this is a fact which is difputed by others, and Fabricius a divine of the Palatinate, pretends that he has folidly confuted it. If this fact fhould be thought doubtful, yet it is known at least, that fome perfons may be found here and there in the world who look upon the existence of a Deity, as upon a fable, and who ridicule all acts of religious worship whatsoever: but one may also say, that if he compare these with the rest of the world, they make the leaft and worst part of mankind, though many of them affect to live morally well.
All the reft of the world make profeffion that they own a God; that is to fay, a moft perfect, eternal, and independent Being; that he governs all things by his Providence; that there is a difference between good and evil; that man doth well or ill in thofe actions which depend on his liberty: From whence they equally conclude, that man was de fign'd for the duties of religion, that fociety without it would be pure robbery and that, as it is hard to conceive that men fhould be wholly deftroy'd by death, fo it is directly contrary to the fentiments of confcience to deny all rewards for virtue, or punishments for vice after this
All the diverfities of religion amongst men are reducible to two kinds. The firft is of those who suppose, that there is more than one God; and this is the belief of all Pagans in general.
The fecond is of thofe that acknowledge one only God, fuch are the Jews, Chriftians, and Mahometans.
Now, as for the cure of different difeafes, feveral remedies are made ufe of, fo it is visible, that to deliver men of their various prejudices, we must take very different methods.
The ignorance of those barbarous people in the Indies, Tartary, and Africa, muft be removed, by teaching them the first principles, and making them apply the little fenfe they have left them of good and evil, right and wrong, to the fundamental maxims of religion.
Athiefts must be convinced by reflexions upon thofe principles, which they admit, by fhewing, that the truths which they reject, are the natural confequences of thofe principles, which they dare not difpute.
To convince the Heathen, who fuppofe many gods, we must examine their principles, and confute them; which is the easiest thing in the world; the wifeft men having formerly acknowledged, as they also own to this very day, that there is but one God.
And indeed it seems, that the greatest part of philofophers did own a plurality of gods, only in compliance with the opinions of the people, which it was dangerous to contradict.
And as for the Jews, forafmuch as they agree with the Christians and Mahometans about the unity of God, we are only to prove to them the truth of that which is the very effence of the Chriftian Religion, in oppofition to their prejudices; one may prove this against the Jews without any trouble, because they are agreed in moft of thofe principles, which the Chriftian Religion supposes. So likewise it is easily established against the Mahometans, who grant the truth of Chriftian Religion in general, but pretend that it ought to give place to Mahometanifm, as the Law ought to give place to the Gospel, preach'd by Jefus Chrift.
My defign is not to profecute every one of thefe ways in particular. There are books enough in the world which folidly prove the neceffity of Religion against all forts of Atheists, as well thofe, who are fo through ignorance, as those who profess themselves such from love to libertinism, and to pafs for men of a mighty reach. end
There are also several famous authors, who have made it evident, that reafon alone is fufficient to overthrow all Pagan religions whatsoever. I am refolved to follow a more compendious and fure method, that is, to demonstrate the truth of the Chriftian Religion, confidered by it felf. In fhort, it is impoffible (confidering the oppofition. there is between the Chriftian Religion, and all the other religions in the world) that the Christian Religion fhould be the true, but that all others must be false in thofe articles wherein they effentially differ from it.
And on the other hand, one cannot explain thofe arguments which clearly evince the truth of Chriftianity, without convicting all other religions of falsehood, because they are deftitute of thofe proofs, which are peculiar to the Chriftian Religion.
I know very well, that there are feveral ways which lead to the end which I propofe. Men that think much, wish that a perfect conformity of the Chriftian Religion, with the confcience of man might be demonftrated, from reflexions on the heart of man, and the dictates of it, which to them would be a convincing, and demonftrative proof.
... Others apply themselves to a speculative examination of the doctrines and proofs of the Chriftian Religion, to fhew their conformity with the notions of reafon: I will not deny but that both thefe employ themselves ufually in this fort of ftudy, and that truth finds a confiderable support from their meditations.
But how useful foever they may be, I have rather chofen to follow another course, as thinking it of more advantage, folidly to establish the facts which the Chriftian Religion propofeth; which appears to me to be more proper to perfwade all forts of readers, and better levell'd to the ordinary capacity of thofe, who newly enter upon the examination of this truth. And as the neceffity of revelation is generally owned by heathens, and by all other nations of the world: I thought it a thing altogether unneceffary to enter upon the examination of feveral abftracted questions, fuch as thefe: whether there be any natural knowledge of God, whether men are naturally inclined to be religious, and the like? When I fhall have firmly proved, that God revealed himself, that he prescribed a fervice to the first men, who left the rules of it to all their pofterity, from whence all the religion that ever was, or is yet in the heathen world, was derived, I fhall have prevented many very unprofitable disputes, and which can only perplex the mind by their obscurity.
I have therefore confin'd my felf to certain confiderations, which do fo establish the truth of the books of the Old and New Teftament, as by their union they firmly prove the truth of the Chriftian Religion.
I hope, that it will not be thought needful for me to demonftrate, that the Mahometan religion ought not to abolish the Christian, as the Christians pretend, that the Chriftian Religion abrogated the ceremonial part of the Jewish worship.
As foon as an understanding Reader shall make some reflexions upon the nature of the arguments which demonftrate the truth of the Chriftian Religion, he may eafily perceive, that God never framed the model of that religion, which the Mahometans would obtrude upon us.
BOOKS OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURE
For the Establishing of the Truth
CHA P. I.
Concerning the FUNDAMENTALS of the CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
**E are to confider three things in the Christian Religion; the W Matters of Fact it propounds to us for true, the Promises it afxxfords us, and the Worship it commands.
The Matters of Fact it propounds to us as true, are; that God created the world, that he formed the first man, from whom the rest of mankind have been propagated, that a while after this man was created, he violated the law, God had given him; and that whereas he deserved to have perished for this his disobedience, God was pleased, instead thereof, to comfort him with the hopes of a Saviour which was to be born of the feed of his wife; that God hath actually fent this Saviour into the world, which comprehends the whole economy of Chrift, viz. His birth, life, preaching, miracles, death, refurrection, and afcenfion into heaven, &c.
The Promises it vouchfafes, are the forgiveness of our fins, the refurrection of our bodies, and a state abfolutely happy for ever in heaven.
And laftly, the Worship of divine service it prescribes confists in obedience to the law of God, in prayer for the pardon of our fins, and his protection, and in a grateful acknowledgement of what we owe him for all his benefits towards us.
The first of these three parts of the Chriftian Religion, viz. The truth of the Matters of Fact it relates, may be faid to be the foundation of the other two, viz. The Promises and commands.
It is impoffible to be perfuaded, that God hath created this world in which we live, and made mankind of one and the fame blood; that after the fall he promised to fave men, and did actually redeem them in fending Jefus Chrift, who fuffered death, and being raised the third day afcended into heaven, &c. I fay, it is impoffible to look upon these facts as true without being affured that God will accomplish the promises he hath made to us.
And it is as evident that we cannot be convinced of the truth of these matters, without being fenfible of a strong obligation laid upon us to perform all the duties of the Chriftian religion.
As foon as a man reflects upon his being God's creature, he finds himself naturally obliged, to obey God univerfally, according to his utmost ability: but when he comes further to believe, that God did not deftroy the firft man for his disobedience; but was gracioufly pleafed to promise him a Saviour for himself and all his pofterity; and when moreover he is affured, that God hath really sent this Saviour in the way and manner the gospel relates to us, we cannot conceive, but that he must find himself under the highest engagements imaginable of rendering to God a religious obedience; and believing his promises.
But there is yet another obligation whereby man is bound to obey God, to pray to him, and to offer him all manner of religious worship; God by redeeming him hath obtained a new claim to, and right over him, and a more indifpenfable obligation is laid upon man to fubmit himself to God in all religious concerns, as being not only created but also redeemed by
Reafon acknowledgeth, that if the truth of these things be once admitted, nothing can be more juft and natural, than those confequences. which the Christians thence infer.
All the difficulty therefore, that occurs in this matter, confifts in the, proof of those facts which the Christian religion propounds to us; that is to fay, in proving the creation of the world, the fall of man, the promise of a redeemer, his coming into the world, his miracles, death, refurrection, ascension into heaven, &c. which are the foundations of the Christian Religion. And indeed these are the very matters of which Atheists and Libertines require a folid proof.
And it doth the more concern us to satisfie their demands; forafmuch as the Jews, who are scatter'd throughout the whole world, do oppose our affertion, that the promise of sending the Meffiah is already accomplifh'd, tho' they agree upon the matter with us in all other articles. Moreover the performing this task may very much contribute to the con