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heathens and an apostle of Christ, the doctrine of the text will be fully verified ; that the world by wisdom knew not God, and that God by the foolishness of preaching has provided salvation for them who believe.
I have gone through the principal points which the text led me to consider, and shall add but few. words by way of reflection on the whole.
If then it appears from history, and the experience of the world before us, that men for ages together lived in ignorance of the true God, and of true religion, and that reason was not able to contend against inveterate errors and superstitions ; let us not be fo vain as to imagine that we could have done more in the same circumstances, than all or any who lived in the many ages of idolatry. If we consider to what height arts and sciences were carried in those days, and the politeness of Greece and Rome in all parts of learning, we shall have little reason to imagine that men have grown wiser as the world has grown older. If we have more reason in matters of religion, and undoubtedly we have more, it should lead us to consider to whom we are indebted for the happy change, and to give praise to him who set the reason of mankind free from the chains under which it had been fast bound for ages together by superstition and idolatry.
When we consider the means made use of by God for restoring true religion in the world, and pretend to judge of the fitness of them to attain the end proposed, we should be aware of being misled by the conceits of some who think themselves wise enough to give directions in a matter of so great
moment. Some may imagine it might be better, if the Gospel had reasoned more philosophically on the nature of the Deity, or more fully explained the nature of the human soul; and others may wish that other abstruse points of reason and divinity had been cleared to their satisfaction. But this was not the errand Christ came on : he came to teach true religion, and to teach it to all men; and therefore what was not fit for all was no part of his business. The Greeks sought after wisdom, and the Jews required a sign: but the preachers of the Gospel had no commission to satisfy the curiosity of one or of the other ; but to teach the doctrines of God in such a manner, and to prove them by such means, as might influence and affect as well the lowest as the highest. If then the means made use of to introduce the Gospel into the world were such as were proper and necessary to subdue ancient errors and prejudices ; if the truths taught by Chrift are a proper foundation for all the duties of religion in which man can have any concern ; if they are left to be supported in the world, and propagated from age to age, by methods which by experience have been found effectual, and which, human nature confidered, must be effectual to preserve the profession of religion amongst men: if, I say, we discover these marks in the Gospel, we see enough to convince us that the Gospel is the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation ; which is seeing all that we are concerned to look after, or have any pretence to expect from him who came to save and to redeem us.
Lastly, since we have the experience of many ages before us to shew us how unable human reason is to struggle against the errors and follies of superstition, when once they have got poffeffion; fince from our own experience we know how much reafon is indebted to the light of the Gospel; we should be careful to preserve this light, for fear of falling back again into the wretched state from which we have been delivered, or into a worse. Reason was once, what the light of the Gospel is now, a sufficient guide in religion : but, when men grew corrupt and vain in their imaginations, fuperftition and error prevailed over the world, and false religion led reason in triumph for ages together. As reason was fubdued, the light of the Gofpel may be ; and will be, when the same causes meet to work together : à confideration that should make men, who have any sense of religion, think feriously of the treatment the Gospel every day meets with. If we use it no better, it may soon leave us; and, when once we get rid of this foolifhness of preaching, we know, by fad experience, what is to be expected from the wisdom of the world.
John üi. 16.
God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. In this passage of Scripture, and in many others, the redemption of the world by Christ Jesus is afcribed to the love and goodness of God towards mankind. Whatever other difficulties men may find in the Gospel, one would suppose that it might be admitted to be, at least, a good representation of the divine mercy towards mankind, and fully to display that tenderness and compassion to our weaknesses and infirmities, which we all hope for, and with some reason expect to receive, from our great Creator, whose mercy is over all his works.
The case being so, who would expect to hear any objection against the Gospel derived from the topics of divine mercy and goodness ? Yet some there are, who think the mercy of the Gospel to be imperfect, and that nature gives far better hopes to all her children. They conceive the infirmities of human nature to be unavoidable, and the mercy of God to be infinite; and from these confiderations they raise hopes as unbounded as they conceive the mercy to be. . As they derive these strong assurances from natural reason, they conceive all promises of mercy to be unnecessary, and therefore to be suspected; and the argument is worked up not only to be an objection against the Gospel revelation, but against all revelations, either past or to come.
There is nothing of more consequence to the credit and authority of revelation, than to reconcile it to the natural notions and the natural hopes and expectations of mankind; and indeed the promises of the Gospel and the hopes of nature are founded on the same common principles. Ask a Christian, why did God redeem mankind by sending his Son into the world ? he must answer, because men were finners, weak, and miserable, and unable to rescue themselves from their wretched condition. Ask him, what moved God to express so much concern for such worthless objects ? he must resolve it into the goodness, and tenderness, and paternal affection of God, with which he embraces all the sons of men.
Ask the Deift, upon what grounds he has hope and confidence towards God ? he will reply, that he conceives it impossible for a beneficent being to be rigorous and severe towards the crimes and follies of such weak, foolish, and impotent creatures, as men: that their iniquities, though against the light of nature, yet flow from a defect in the powers of nature; since it is no man's fault that he is not stronger, or wiser, or better, than he was made to be: and therefore, though the light of reason renders him accountable for his actions, yet