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natural religion. For it is evident there are principles in religion of great consequence, distinct from the propositions immediately relating to the duties or precepts of it. The propositions and principles relating to the being, the attributes, and the providence of God, the immortality of the soul, and a future state, are not in this sense moral truths, that is, they do not directly and immediately affirm any moral duty or obligation, and yet I believe he will scarce deny that these things are of considerable importance in religion, and that we may have sufficient evidence of their being true.

Or does he mean by the moral truth and righteousness of doctrines that they have a good moral tendency ; a tendency to promote the practice of morality and righteousness, and that this tendency is the only evidence of their truth? But neither can this be maintained. For though no doctrine is to be admitted into religion that is manifestly subversive of morality and righteousness, yet the good tendency of a principle or doctrine is not of itself alone a sufficient proof or evidence of the truth of that principle or doctrine. For many things might be mentioned which would have a good tendency supposing them to be true, but this alone would not prove them true. And the man would be ridiculous, that when required to prove or demonstrate the truth of them, would only attempt to show that if they were true they would tend to promote the practice of moral goodness, and that therefore this is a full proof and evidence that they are actually true. He would not be thought a very proper advocate for the existence of a God and a Providence, that should produce no other argument to prove them than that they are of a good moral tendency. The truth of these principles must be proved from other topics, and by other arguments, and then it will be a farther recommendation of them, and a great advantage, to show the good influence these principles must have upon mankind, and the practice of righteousness and virtue. All the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, where they are sincerely received and entertained, have a good effect on morality, and the practice of real holiness, and tend to strengthen and improve good affections and dispositions in the mind; and many good men have found it to be so in their own experience; but this alone is not the proper evidence of their truth. This must be proved by other arguments, and then their good tendency will be proper to show their usefulness and importance.

But after all he sometimes talks as if by the moral truth of doctrines and principles, he meant no more than the reasonableness of those doctrines, or the evidence of the doctrines arising from the reason of the thing. The moral truth, reason, and fitness of things,' and the moral truth, reasonableness, and fitness of the doctrines themselves,' are used by him as terms of the same signification, see pp. 10, 86, 94. Where by moral truth he seems to mean that which he calls the natural reasonableness and fitness of the thing,' and which he represents as a sufficient proof of its coming from God,' p. 84. And yet he there also distinguisheth

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between the natural reasons' and moral fitnesses of things, and allows each of these, i.e. the natural reasonableness and fitness of the thing, and its being morally true and fit, to be a proper sufficient evidence of its coming from God. Where he plainly sets up two criterions of divine truth, the natural and moral truth and fitness of the thing itself; and how this is consistent with what he so often affirms, that moral truth and fitness is the only evidence and criterion of divine truth, he would do well to explain. Indeed, it is hard to fix the idea of the word moral as used by this author and applied to truth. It seems only to be put in because it is a word of a good sound, and to make an appearance of saying something, whilst in reality, as he useth it, it serves only to perplex and confound the question concerning the proper evidence or proof of doctrines and principles. But that we may get out of this confusion, I shall take it as if he had said that the reasonableness of the doctrine itself appearing to the understanding is the only evidence of its being a divine truth,' or of its coming from God.' And here again it may be asked, what he means by a divine

• truth,' or a truth as 'coming from God ? Does he mean a truth that came by immediate revelation from God? So he ought to understand it if he would speak to the purpose ; since the question, as he himself seems to put it, is concerning the proper proofs and evidences of a divine revelation, or how we may know that a doctrine is revealed from God. And according to this state of the case, the principle advanced by our author is to be understood thus, that a doctrine's being reasonable in itself, and appearing to our understanding to be true by arguments drawn from the nature and reason of the thing, is the only proof of its coming by immediate revelation from God. Whereas in reality this is no proof of its being thus revealed at all. For a thing may be very true and very reasonable in itself, and yet not have come by immediate revelation from God. So that to say, that this is the only proof or evidence of divine revelation, is to say, that there can be no proof of any doctrine as coming by immediate revelation from God at all. And this seems to be the author's intention. But is it not very

odd to see him assume this all along without proving it, and argue from it as a principle that cannot be contested, when it is the very point in question?

Having thus endeavoured to detect the confusion and obscurity this writer attempts to throw upon the question relating to the way by which we may come to know that any thing is revealed by God, I shall now proceed to treat this matter more distinctly.

It is a principle here supposed (and which the author pretendeth not to contest) that a revelation from God may be of great use in the present corrupt and degenerate state of mankind, to direct men in true religion, and instruct them in things which it is of considerable importance for them to know. And this is what I have proved at large elsewhere.* Now supposing that God should in

See Answer to Christianity as old as the Creation,' Vol. I. chap. v. vi,

his great goodness see fit to give an extraordinary revelation for the use of mankind, the most likely way of publishing that revelation for general use seems to be this : that God should first communicate the knowledge of his will by immediate inspiration to some person or persons, and then appoint or commission them to instruct mankind, and to communicate to others what they themselves received, at the same time furnishing them with sufficient proofs or credentials, to convince others that they were indeed sent of God, and that what they thus deliver to the world in his name, is not their own invention, but that which they received by immediate revelation from God himself. It was in this method that the Christian Revelation was published to the world, the usefulness of which this writer would be thought to acknowledge.

There are two questions therefore to be distinctly considered. The one is, whether those to whom the original revelation is immediately made, may have a sufficient certainty that what they receive by immediate inspiration is indeed a revelation from God: the other is, whether other persons besides those to whom the original revelation was made, may have a sufficient ground of reasonable assurance, that what those persons published to the world as by revelation from God, is indeed a revelation from God, and is therefore to be received and submitted to as such.

As to the first question; That God can communicate the knowledge of things by immediate revelation or inspiration in such a manner, that the person or persons to whom such a revelation is immediately made may be certain that it is indeed a revelation from God, cannot reasonably be denied. For it would be the most unreasonable and the most presumptuous thing in the world to say, That when one man hath a power of conveying his thoughts to another so as to make him sensible that it is he and no other person that speaks to him, God himself, the author of our natures, should have no way of communicating his will to his own creatures, so as to make them know that it is he that revealeth himself to them. Nor is it any objection against this, that we cannot distinctly explain or account for the way in which he doth it. We have little notion of the way in which spirits communicate their thoughts to one another, but must we therefore conclude that they have no way at all of doing it, because we cannot now comprehend or explain the manner of it, and because they have not the organs of bodily speech as we have? No doubt they have far nobler and more perfect ways of communicating their ideas to one another, than one man hath of conveying his thoughts to another here on earth. And we may be sure that God hath a far nearer access to the human mind, and a far more intimate and effectual way of operating upon it, or exciting and impressing ideas there, than any created spirit can have; or than one man can have of communicating his sentiments to another. Therefore, if it pleaseth him to communicate doctrines or laws to any person by immediate revelation, he can do it in such a manner, and with such an overpowering light and evidence, as to produce an absolute certainty in the

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mind of that person, that those doctrines and laws are by revelation from him. Accordingly, this writer himself seems to acknowledge inspiration thus far, though it cannot well be reconciled to other passages in his book. As he makes immediate inspiration or revelation from God,' to be one way of communicating the knowledge of the doctrines and truths of religion to the mind, distinct from tradition and human testimony,' and from the common light of reason in the natural ordinary use of man's own faculties,' so he sometimes seems plainly to grant, that this may convey a certainty to the man himself that is thus immediately inspired, though he will not allow that the knowledge of such truth can go any farther upon divine authority, or as a matter of divine faith, than to the person or persons thus inspired, or to whom the original revelation is made, p. 82. And when he undertakes to state the question concerning the way in which we may know whether any law comes from God; he supposes that there are two ways in which there

' rational proof given of a command or law from God;' the one is, 'where God himself speaks to the person immediately and directly, the other is, where the moral reason or fitness of the thing is proposed or manifested to the person or persons concerned at the same time with the law or command,' p. 90. And he expressly saith, p. 84, ‘If God speaks to me immediately and directly, I believe him upon his own authority.' Where he both owns that God may speak or communicate a thing to the mind immediately and directly, and that where he doth so, what is thus revealed is to be believed by the person to whom it is immediately communicated, upon his authority, that is, because he reveals it. He illustrates this by an instance, which he saith will come up exactly to the purpose. He puts the case of a mathematical proposition, being communicated to one man by immediate revelation, to another man by its proper evidence, or by its being plainly demonstrated to him from the natural necessary relation and connexion of the ideas themselves.' And he saith that the one may be as certain of it as the other. He who hath it immediately revealed to him from God,' though we should suppose he knew nothing, and could know nothing of it as a truth necessarily founded in nature,' yet would be 'as certain of it as he who received it upon the evidence of mathematical demonstration ; ‘because he would connect the certain truth of the proposition, with the necessary veracity of God: though he could not communicate that certainty which he himself had to others; see pp. 82, 83. Here he seemeth plainly to assert that the person to whom God is pleased to make known å truth by way of immediate inspiration, may be certainly assured that God doth thus reveal it to him; and that in this case, though he doth not by his own reason apprehend the necessary connexion of the terms, or the natural fitness of the thing itself, he receiveth it upon the authority of God who reveals it : And that this authority or revelation from God affordeth a certainty to the mind equal to that arising from a mathematical demonstra

So that here he plainly supposeth, in direct contradiction to

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what he elsewhere asserts, that the moral reason and fitness of the thing, as appearing to the mind, is not the sole evidence or criterion of a doctrine as coming from God; but that immediate revelation may be a just and certain ground of a person's believing a thing to be true, and to come from God, distinct from the apprehended reason and fitness of the thing itself: and that upon the authority of that revelation, the person to whom the revelation is originally and immediately made, may receive it as true and as coming from God, though the fitness of it in itself be not made evident to him by any reasons drawn from the nature of the thing. And if a thing's being revealed from God, be a sufficient ground of certainty to the person himself to whom the original revelation is immediately made, distinct from the proofs brought of its truth from the reason of the thing, then it must be so to others too in proportion to the assurance they have that it is a revelation from God. So that if there be any way of ascertaining others, besides those to whom the revelation is originally and immediately made, that any doctrine or law is by revelation from God, they are obliged to believe and receive it on that account, as of divine authority, though they cannot prove it to be necessarily true by arguments drawn from the reason of the thing independent of that authority.

This leads me to the second question that was proposed to be considered ; with regard to which I lay down this proposition : That there may be such proofs and evidences given that the persons professing doctrines and laws from God for the use of mankind, were indeed sent and inspired by him, and did receive them by revelation from him; such proofs and evidences as make it reasonable for those to whom they are made known, to receive such laws and doctrines as of divine authority: in which case to refuse to believe those doctrines, and to submit to those laws, would be a very criminal conduct, and a manifest breach of the duty that reasonable creatures owe to the Supreme Being. This is the proper question in debate. For though this writer pretends not to deny that the persons to whom the original revelation is immediately made, may be certain that they themselves received it by immediate revelation from God himself, yet he denies that they have any way of proving to others that it is a revelation from God, except by proving the reasonableness of the thing itself: which is to say, that they have no way of proving to others that it came by divine revelation at all. För as I have already observed the reasonableness of a doctrine or law will never prove that the man that teacheth that doctrine, or bringeth that law, had it by immediate revelation from God. This must be proved, if it be proved at all, by other evidences.

It will be easily granted that persons being themselves persuaded that they have received any thing from God by immediate revelation, is not of itself a sufficient reason to others to engage them to receive it as such; and that if we had only their own words for it without any other proof, we could not take this for a proper evidence without laying ourselves open to the delusions of enthusiasts and impostors. The question then is, whether abstracting from the

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