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Providence from the Creation to this Vol.II. Day, will as easily conclude God ne. ver design'd, it should. If it be reply'd, Thác Natural Religion, tho' it never subfifted Pure and sincere of it self, was yet ever mixt with all kinds of Religion : I answer ; The truth is, all other Religions did but maim, defile, deform and deface Natural Religion ; Christianity only has improv'd and establish'd it.
My Argument then for the Divine Authority of Scripture stands firm, the Scriptures must be the Word of God, or else Christianity must be false ; and if this be false, there neither is, nor was, any such thing as True Religion, which I have shew'd is the highest Absurdity. This Argument I took from the words of St. Peter to our Saviour, John 6. 68. Lord ! to whom shall we go, thou hast the words of Eternal Life : which, without any force, I comment thus ; If the Spirit of Christ in his Word do not lead us, we must wander for ever ; if we cannot find Life and Salvation in the Gospel, we must be miserable for ever : for 'tis in vain to seek it amongst Pagans or Jews, Mahometans or Philosophers ; there is no
Vol. 11.thing pure, nothing sincere, nothing
u solid, nothing clear amongst these.
I would not here be misunderstood ; I do not pass Sentence on Pagan or Mabometan, but Paganism and Mahometanism ; I do not condemn the Man, but his Religion; 'tis not my Business now to enquire, whether all are actually lost who are of these Religions, 'tis enough to my purpose that these Religions are false.
2. The great End and Design of the Gospel is such as evidently proves that there can be no Cheat in it, that the Wonders by which it is attested must be from the Holy Ghost, not the Devil; that the Prophets and Apostles must be commission'd and inspired by God, and not Impostors. The great Business of the Gospel, is to make Men wise and good, holy, and consequently happy, both here and hereafter ; 'tis to open Mens eyes, and to turn them from Darkness to Light, from the Power of Satan to the Service of the living God, that they may obtain Remission of Sins, and an Inheritance of Glory. 'Tis, in a word, to advance Universal Righteousness in the World, to fill Mens Minds with Joy and Peace, and make them abound in hope. Now, is it to be Vol.Jl. imagin'd that wicked Spirits should make this their great Design, to make Men Wise and Good ? Is it possible that they who are fill'd with, Rage and Envy, should contrive, and plot, and travel to fill us with Joy,and Peace, and Hope ? Can it be conceiv'd that Devils, profest and inveterate Enemies of God and Man, should propose to themselves no other End of their Artifices and Lying Wonders, of their Frauds and Impostures, but the promoting and establishing the Glory of the one, and the Temporal and Eternal Happiness of the other ? These things are too gross to be swallowed by any one who thinks serioully and impartially of this Matter.
Will any Man fay, Tho'this Imposture could not proceed from the Devil, yet from ill Men peradventure it might? This cannot be ; ill Men are uncapable of forming such perfect Idea's of an Exalted Vertue as we meet with in the Gospel; they can never express themselves in that clear and feeling manner upon Spiritual and Divinę Subjects ; they can never Exhort to Holiness, and Reprove and B 2
Vol. II. chis Case, and that of the Gospel, than
between solid Vertue and blind Zeal, real and falle Miracles, the true Good of Mankind, and the Interest and Design of a Party.
As for the Instances of Numa Pompilus, Minos, and such like, they are nothing to the purpose ; they were themselves ignorant Idolaters ; their Laws had nothing in them of the Spirit and Design of the Gospel; their aim was only the Secular Grandeur of a particular People, the establishing Soveraign Dominion in themselves and their Children, and the perpetuating their Nanie and Glory to Posterity. All which is very remote from the Case of the Apostles and Prophets.
3. Besides the two former Proofs of the Divine Authority of Scripture, there are several others which I must crowd together, that I may keep within the common Bounds of a Sermon ; such are the Profoundness of the Doctrine, the Connection and Correspondency of its Parts, its Power and Efficacy, the Majesty and Significancy of its Style, the Accomplishment of Predictions, the Sanctity and Simplicity of iis Authors, the Miracles they wrought,
and the Deaths they underwent, for Vol. II. Confirmation of it ; and lastly, the Testimony of the Church of Christ. that these Writings are the Works of the Prophets, Evangelists and Apostles. I will not pretend to infilt folly and distinctly on each of these Heads, but cnly to set them in a clear Light before you, in as few words as pollbly I can
1. Then, That the Writings, whose Authority I maintain, were the Writings of the Apostles and Prophets, we are assured by Constant and Catholick. Tradition of the Church of Christ. And no sensible Man can question the Credit of this Testimony, if we consider with what Veneration the first Christians must have receiv'd the Wri. tings of the Apostles ; how carefully the Originals were preserv'd; how diligently the Copies of them were disperst through all Nations, People and Languages, and how constantly the Churches of Christ did appeal to these as the Rule of Faith and Manners, and the Pastors did ever exhort and press their People to the study of them, as being the Power of God unto SalvaB4