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the centre of a system, consisting of planets inhabited by intelligent beings, who possess one sense and two faculties more than the inhabitants of this globe, and who worship the most high God in spirit and in truth. I cannot comprehend this whole proposition: but there is nothing in it contrary to the nature of things; and I believe the truth of it on the testimony of the revealer. The established explication of this proposition is that of Ptolemy. He numbered the stars in the constellation Bootes, and found them, or supposed he found them, twenty-three, and this number I am to examine and approve, teach and defend against all opponents. What shall I say to Tycho, who affirins, Bootes contains only eighteen? Must I execrate Hevelius, who makes thema fifty-two? After all, perhaps Flamstead may be riglit; he says there are fifty-four. Does not this method of teaching astronomy suppose an hundred absurdities? Does it not in ply the imperfection of the revealed system, the infallibility of Ptolemy, the erroneousness of the other astronomers, the folly of examination, or the still greater madness of allowing a conclusion after a denial of the premises, from which it pretends to be drawn? When I was an infant, I am told, I was treated like a man, now I am a man, I am treated like an infant. I am an astronomer by proxy: The plan of God requires faculties, and the exercise of them, that of my country exchanges both for quiet subınission. I am, and I am not, a believer of astronomy.
Were it affirmed, that a revelation from heaven establised such a method of maintaining a science of speculation, l'casoning, and practice, every rational creature would have a right to doubt the truth of such a revelation ; for it would violate the doctrine of analogy, by making the Deity inconsistent with himself. But we will pursue this track no further; we hope nothing said will be deemed illiberal: we distinguish between a constitution of things, and many wise and good men, who submit to it, and we only venture to guess, if they be wise and good men under such inconveniences, they would be wiser and better men without them: at all adventures, if we owe much respect to men, we owe more to truth, to inconvertible unchangeable truth.
A second character of a divine revelation is proportion. By proportion I mean relative fitness, and, when I affirm, a divine revelation must bring along with it proportional evidence, I mean to say, it must appear to be exactly fitted to those intelligent creatures, for whose benefit it is intended. B2
In the former article we required a similarity between the requisitions of God and the faculties of men; in this we require an exact quantity of requisition commensurate with those faculties. The former regards the nature of a revelation; this has for its object the limits of it. Were it possible for God, having formed a man only for walking, by a messenger from heaven to require him to fly, the doctrine of analogy would be violated by this requisition ; and were he to determine a prodigious space, through which he required him to pass in a given time, were he to describe an immense distance, and to enjoin him to move through it with a degree of velocity impossible to him, the doctrine of proportion, would be violated; and the God of revelation would in both cases be made contradictory to the God of nature.
The christian revelation, we presume, answers all our just expectations on these articles; for all the truths revealed by it are analogous to the nature of things, and every article in it bears an exact proportion to the abilities of all those, for whose benefit it is given. Our Saviour treats of the doctrine of proportion in the parable of the talents, and supposes the Lord to apportion the number of talents, when he bestows them, and the rewards and punishments, which he distributes for the use, and abuse of them, to the several ability of each servant, Matt. xxv. 14. St. Paul depicts the primitive church in all the beauty of this proportional economy? the same God worketh all diversities of operations in all differences of administrations, dividing to every man severally as he will, 1 Cor. xii. 5. 6. 11. This economy,
assimilates the christian church to the human body, and gives to the one as to the other strength, symmetry, and beauty, evidently proving that the author of creation is the author of redemption, traming both by one uniform rule of analogy and proportion.
Full of these just notions, we examine that description of revelation, which human creeds exhibit, and we perceive at once, they are all destitute of proportional evidence. They all consist of multifarious propositions, each of which is considered as essential to the whole, and the belief of all essential to an enjoyment of the benefits of christianity, yea to those of civil society, in this life, and to a participation of eternal life in the world to come. In this case the free gifts of God to all are monopolized by a few, and sold out to the many at a price, far greater than nine-tenths of them can pay, and at a price, which the remaining part ought not to pay, be
Çause the donor has not empowered these salesmen to exact any price, because by his original grant all are made joint proprietors, and because the payment would be at once a renunciation of their right to hold by the original grant, and of their Lord's prerogative to bestow.
What can a declaimer mean, when he repeats a number of propositions, and declares the belief of them all essential to the salvation of man? or what could he reply to one, who should ask him, which man do you mean, the man in the stall? It is Sir Isaac Newton: or the man in the aile? It is Tom Long the carrier. God Almighty, the Creator of both, has formed these two men with different organs of body, and different faculties of mind; he has given them different advantages and different opportunities of improving them, he has placed them in different relations, and empowered the one to teach what the other, depend on his belief what will, is not capable of learning. Ten thousand Tom Longs go to make up one Newtonian soul. Is it credible, the God, who made these two men, who thoroughly knows them, who is the common parent, the just governor, and the kind benefactor of both, should require of men so different equal belief and practice? Were such a thing supposeable, how unequal and disproportional, how inadequate and unlike himself must such a Deity be! To grasp the terraqueous globe with a human hand, to make a tulip-cup contain the ocean, to gather all the light of the universe into one human eye, to hide the sun in a snuff-box, are the mighty projects of children's fancies. Is it possible, requisitions similar to these should proceed from the only wise God!
There is, we have reason to believe, a certain portion of spirit, if I may be allowed to speak so, that constitutes a human soul; there are infinitely different degrees of capability imparted by the Creator to the souls of mankind; and there is a certain ratio by necessity of nature between each degree of intelligence and a given number of ideas, as there is between a cup capable of containing a given quantity, and a quantity of matter capable of being contained in it. In certain cases it might serve my interest could the palm of my hand contain a hogshead: but in general my interest is better served by an inability to contain so much. We apply these certain principles to revelation, and we say, God hath given in nature the christian religion an infinite multitude of ideas; as in he hath created an infinite multitude of objects. These objects are diversified without end, they are of various sizes, colours,
and shapes, and they are capable of innumerable motions, productive of multifarious effects, and all placed in various degrees of perspicuity; objects of thought in the christian religion are exactly similar, there is no end of their variety, God and all his perfections, man and all his operations, the being and employinent of superior holy Spirits, the existence and dispositions of fallen spirits, the creation and government of the whole world of matter, and that of spirit, the influences of God and the obligations of men, the dissolution of the universe, a resurrection, a judgment, a heaven, and a hell, all these, placed in various degrees of perspicuity, are exhibited in religion to the contemplation of intelligent creatures. The creatures, who are required to contemplate these objects, have various degrees of contemplative ability, and their duty, and consequently their virtue, which is nothing else but a performance of duty, consists in applying all their ability to understand as many of these objects, that is, to forın as many ideas of them, as are apportioned to their own degree. So many objects they are capable of seeing, so many objects it is their duty to see. So much of each object they are capable of comprehending, so much of each object it is their duty to comprehend. So many emotions they are capable of exercising, so many emotions it is their duty to exercise. So many acts of devotion they can perform, so many Almighty God will reward them for performing, or punish them for neglecting. This I call the doctrine of religious proportion. This I have a right to expect to find in a divine revelation, and this I find in the most splendid manner in christianity, as it lies in the Bible, as it was in the first churches, and as it is in some modern communities. I wish I could exchange the word some for all.
This doctrine of proportion would unroost every human creed in the world, at least it would annihilate the imposition of any. Instead of making one creed for a whole nation, which, by the way, provides for only one nation, and consigns over the rest of the world to the destroyer of mankind; instead of doing so, there should be as many creeds as creatures; and instead of affrining, the belief of three hundred propositions is essential to the felicity of every man in both worlds, we ought to affirm, the belief of half a proposition is essential to the salvation of Mary, and the belief of a whole one to that of John, the belief of six propositions, or, more properly, the examination of six propositions, is essential to. the salvation of the reverend Edward, and the examination
of sixty to that of the right reverend Richard; for, if I can prove, one has sixty degrees of capacity, another six, and another one, I can easily prove, it would be unjust to require the same exercises of all; and a champion ascribing such injustice to God would be no formidable adversary for the pompousness of his challenge, or the caparisons of his horse: his very sword could not conquer, though it might affright from the field.
The world and revelation, both the work of the same God, are both constructed on the same principles; and were the book of scripture like that of nature laid open to universal inspection, were all ideas of temporal rewards and punishments removed from the study of it, that would come to pass in the moral world, which has actually happened in the world of human science, each capacity would find its own object, and take its own quantum. Newtons will find stars without pe
alties, Miltons will be poets, and Lardners christians without rewards. Calvins will contemplate the decrees of God, and Baxters will try to assort them with the spontaneous volitions of men; all, like the celestial bodies, will roll on in the quiet majesty of simple proportion, each in his proper sphere shining to the glory of God the Creator. But alas! We hare not so learned Christ!
Were this doctrine of proportion allowed, three consequences would follow. First, Subscription to human creeds, with all their appendages, both penal and pompous, would roll back into the turbulent oceani, the See I mean, from whence they came; the bible would remain a placid emanation of wisdom from God; and the belief of it a sufficient test of the obedience of his people. Secondly, Christians would be freed from the inhuman necessity of execrating one another, and, by placing christianity in believing in Christ, and not in believing in one another, they would rid revelation of those intolerable abuses, which are fountains of sorrow to christians, and sources of arguments to infidels. Thirdly, Opportunity would be given to believers in Christ to exercise those dispositions, which the present disproportional division of this common benefit obliges them to sups press, or conceal. O cruel theology, that makes it a crime to do what I have neither a right nor a power to leave undone!
I call perfection a third necessary character of a divine revelation. Every production of an intelligent being bears the characters of the intelligence, that produceth it, for as