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That the Jewijh Religion indeed subsisted without this Doctrine is a late favourite and much espoused Tenet; a Tenet which I will endeavour to review at large in a separate d Treatise; and therefore I shall only observe farther here, with respect to the Divine Perfections above considered, that it was an Attempt worthy no doubt the Refinements of modern Philosophy to assert the Honour of God by denying his Attributes, or at least by supposing them to be totally irreconcileable with such Rules and Principles by which alone we are capable of forming any Judgment about them. However, 'tis to be hoped that neither the thin Sophistry, nor the dogmatical Positiveness, nor the unpolite Raillery, nor even the elegant Language, in which the main Strength of a late noble Philosopher, whom I have had in view, consists, will be able to shake the solid Foundations of Religion, and cancel in effect all moral Obligations. For the Support and farther Confirmation of these, therefore, let us proceed to examine the Evidences for revealed Religion; for if this should appear to be true, this unsubstantial Fabrick of Scepticism falls to Pieces of Course.
It is sufficient for my present Argument to observe, that the Christian Religion at least is most clear and explicit upon every fundamental Point
* See next Treatise.
which we have been endeavouring to establish by the Authority of Reason itself; and therefore if that Religion be true, these grosser Principles of Infidelity must vanish before it. Now there is the greater Occasion to inquire into the Credibility of revealed Religion; because many, who profess to entertain suitable Notions of the Deity, and readily acknowledge the Force of all rational Obligations, and the Certainty of a future State, do yet reject all Revelation as such, i. e. all the Mysteries of it, and consider it as an absurd Imposture tyrannizing over Nature and Reason.
Others again there are, who, though they acknowledge the Holy Scriptures to be the Word of God, and to contain the perfect and final Revelation of his Nature, Attributes, and Will, and as such to have an indisputable Claim upon our utmost Reverence, Assent, and Obedience, do yet aver them to be far from being sufficiently full, clear, and explicit, in respect of certain most material Particulars, and indeed supposed essential Articles, and that therefore we must in Piety, as well as Reason, openly, or tacitly at least, refuse our Assent to such Particulars, by whomsoever it may be required. Accordingly every Branch and Degree of Infidelity will come under the Cognisance of the Examination I propose to make; to which, before I proceed, I will beg Leave to lay
D 3 down down a few, 'tis presumed, undeniable Maxims or Corollaries, grounded upon Truths asserted in the foregoing Pages, and properly preparatory to the succeeding.
It appears then from what has been advanced, that all Religion, Natural as well as Revealed, must be grounded on Faith, and Faith on Reason. The first Article of Religion, the Being of God, is evinced by apt Inferences and Deductions. We are not assured that God exists, by the same absolute Knowledge, if I may so speak, and immediate Conception by which we are assured that we exist ourselves. It is the Use of Reason then that directs us to the Acknowledgment of this Truth; now we do not reason about what we strictly and absolutely know, and consequently the Acknowledgment of the Being of God is an Act of Faith. Indeed the Atheist himself is a Believer, though a very absurd one; for if the Theist does not, strictly speaking, know that there is a God, the Atheist surely does not know that there is no God; and accordingly he believes this either upon false Grounds, or no Grounds at all.—Here then, exclusive of all Revelation, is laid the Foundation of a rational and implicit Faith; our Belief in the Existence of God is such a Faith; it is rational with regard to our Notion of the Certainty of that Existence; it is implicit with regard to our No
tion os the Ratio, or Manner of it; for if we believe God exists, we must believe that there never was, or ever will be a Time when he did not exist; that is, we believe him to be eternal; and if we believe him to be eternal, we believe him to be entirely incapable of Corruption, or Dissolution; that is, we believe him to be an immaterial Being, or a Spirit; these Truths, to which, if Occasion required, we might add more, result from each other by logical and necessary Deductions and Conclusions; and yet we can no more comprehend the Nature of a Spirit, or of Eternity, than we can naturally conceive that there are three Persons in the Unity of the Godhead. Although therefore the readily-acknowledg'd Belief of a Truth utterly incomprehensible in itself, as the Eternity or Spirituality of the Deity cannot be urged as a Motive for our Faith in any inconceivable Proposition proposed to us, (because of Things incomprehensible in their own Nature, some may plainly result from necessary rational Deduction, and others not) yet thus much may and must be inferred from that Consideration, that no Proposition (that is not self-contradictory) can be concluded false, merely for Want of our Ability to comprehend it. The fundamental Doctrine of Christianity, therefore, that of the Blessed Trinity, is not incredible, purely because it is inconceivable. For if it be, then it will follow that it is impossible, and implies
D 4 a Cona Contradiction, that there should be any Mysteries in the Divine Nature capable of, and cognisable only by, an especial Revelation supervenient to the Light of Human Reason. Now the Divine Nature is confessedly mysterious, and therefore a more full and ample Revelation of it is supposable in the Nature of the Thing. For to say that God cannot reveal himself is a notorious Impeachment of his Power; and therefore the Question will be, whether he has revealed himself, or not.—Again, even the Mysteries peculiar to such a Revelation could not, as such, be any Proofs against the Truth of it; because the Divine Nature must be mysterious still, and a Revelation of an infinite Being or Nature to our finite Capacity would teach us more suitably to acknowledge and adore the Perfections and Attributes of that Nature, but could not possibly give us more clear, or adequate Conceptions of it. For a Revelation cannot possibly be supposed to alter the Human Nature, or the Divine; and if not, there must be the same Disproportion still between finite and infinite, and consequendy between the Nature of God and our Ideas and Comprehensions. It will follow then, that in the Case of a pretended Revelation, the Authority, and not the Doctrine of that Revelation must be the great Object of rational Inquiry; for, as no human Institution has a Right to impose Articles of Faith upon rational Creatures, if God has not revealed