Images de page

minds, who have been without revelation, have been contrari. wise, viz. that the Deity will insist on some satisfaction. Repentance makes some satisfaction for many injuries that men are guilty of one towards another; because it bears some proportion to the degree of injury. But reason will not certainly determine, that it is proper for God to accept of repentance as some satisfaction for an offence, when that repentance is infinitely disproportionate to the heinousness of the offence, or the degree of injuriousness that is offered. And reason will not certainly determine, that the offence of forsaking and renouncing God in heart, and treating him with such indignity and contempt, as to set him below the meanest and vilest things, is not immensely greater, and more heinous, than any injury offered to men; and that therefore all our repentance and sor. row fall infinitely short of proportion in measure and degree. If it be said, that we may reasonably conclude, and be fully satisfied in it, that a good God will forgive our sin on repentance; I ask, what can be meant by repentance in the case of them that have no love nor true gratitude to God in their hearts, but who discover such an habitual disregard and contempt of God in their conduct, as to treat created things, of the lowest value, with greater respect than him? If it be said, that thereby is meant being sorry for the offence; I ask, whether that sorrow is worthy to be accepted as true repentance, that does not arise from any change of heart, or from a better mind, a mind more disposed to love God, and honour him, be. ing now so changed as to have less disregard and contempt? whether or not the sorrow which arises only from fear and selflove, with a heart still in rebellion against God, be such as we can be certain will be accepted? If not, how shall a man, who at present has no better heart, but yet is greatly concerned for himself through fear, know how to obtain a better heart? How does it appear, that he, if he tries only from fear and self-love, can make himself better, and make himself love God? what proper tendency can there be in the heart to make itself better, until it sincerely repents of its present badness? and how can the heart have sincerity of repentance of the present badness, until it begins to be better, and so begins to forsake its badness, by truly disapproving it, from a good disposition, or a better tendency arising in it? If the disposition remain just the same, then no sincere disapprobation arises ; but the reigning disposition, instead of destroying, on the contrary, approves and confirms itself. The heart can have no tendency to make itself better, until it begins to have a better tendency; for ther in consists its badness, viz. having no good tendency or inclination. And to begin to have a good tendency, or, which is the same thing, to begin to have a sincere inclina. tion to be better, is the same thing as to begin already to be better. So that it seems, that they that are now under the reigning power of an evil heart, can have no ability to help. themselves, how sensible soever they may be of their misery, and concerned through fear and self-love to be delivered ; but they need this from God, as part of their salvation, viz. that God should give them sincere repentance, as well as pardon and deliverance from the evil consequences of sin. And how shall they know, without revelation, that God will give sinners a better heart, to enable them truly to repent; or in what way they can have any hope to obtain it of him? And if men could obtain some sincere repentance of their being wholly without that love of God that they ought to have; yet how can reason determine, that God will forgive their sin, until they wholly forsake it? or until their repentance is perfect ? uns til they relinquish all their sinful contempt, ingratitude, and regardlessness of God? or, which is the same thing, until they fully return to their duty, i. e. to that degree of love, honour, gratitude and devotedness to God, that is their duty ? If they have robbed God, who can certainly say that God will forgive. them, until they restore all that they have robbed him of, and give him the whole that he claims by the most absolute right? But where is any man that repents with such a perfect repent. ance ? and if there be ever any instances of it in this world, who will say, that it is in every man's power to obtain it ? or that there certainly are no lower terms of forgiveness ? and if there are, who can tell certainly where to set the bounds, and say precisely to what degree a man must repent? How great must his sorrow be in proportion to his offences, &c.? Or, who can say, how long a man's day of probation shall last? Will reason alone certainly determine, that if a man goes on for a long time presumptuously in his contempt, rebellion, and affronts, presuming on God's goodness, depending, that though he does thus abuse his grace as long as he pleases, yet if he repents at any time, God will forgive him, and receive him to favour, forgiving all his presumptuous aggravated rebellion, in. gratitude and provocation, and will receive him into the arms of his love? will reason alone fully satisfy the mind, that God stands ready to pardon and receive to favour such a sinner, after long continuance in such horrid presumption and most vile ingratitude ? Or, will reason fully determine for a certainty, that God will do it, if men thus presumptuously spend their youth, the best part of their lives, in obstinate and ungrateful wickedness, depending that God will stand ready to pardon afterward : and, in short, how can reason alone be sufficient to set the bounds, and say how long God will bear with and wait upon presumptuous sinners ? how many acts of such in. gratitude and presumption he will be ready to forgive, and on what terms, &c. ? I say, how can reason fix these limits, with Vol. VII.


any clear evidence that shall give the mind a fixed establish ment and satisfaction ?

Therefore if there be any such thing as the forgiveness and salvation of sinful men ; new relations of God to men, and concerns of God with men, and a new dependence of men on God, will arise, no less, probably much more important, than those which are between God as man's creator, and the author of his natural good. And as God must manifest his perfections in a new work of redemption or salvation, contrived and ordered by his infinite wisdom, and executed by his power-in a perfect consistence with his justice and holiness, and a greater manifestation of his goodness, than is made in his works as the author of nature-so these things must be the foundation of new regards to God, new duties, and a new religion, founded on those displays of his perfections in the work of salvation, and on the new relations God sustains towards men, and the new dependence of men on God, and new obligations laid on men in that work, which may be called revealed religion, different from that natural religion which is founded on the works of God, as the creator and the author of nature, and our concerns with God in that work; though not at all contrary to it.

The light of nature teaches that religion which is necessary to continue in the favour of the God that made us : but it cannot teach us tha religion which is necessary to our being restored to the favour of God, after we have forfeited it.


Mahometanism compared with Christianity-particularly with

respect to their propagation.

§ 1. In what respect the propagation of Mahometanism is far from being parallel with the propagation of Christanity, will appear by these observations. The revolution that was brought to pass in the world, by the propagation of Mahometanisn, was not so great as that which happened by the propagation of Christianity; yea, in this respect, was by no means worthy to be compared to it. Consider the state the world was in before Christianity was propagated; how dark, ignorant, barbarous, and wicked'; how strongly these things were established by long universal immemorial custom ; how fixed in men's hearts; how established by all human authority, and power, and inclination; and how vast the alteration, when Christianity was introduced and established ; how vast the overthrow of that which had been built up before, and stood from age to age; how great, how strong the building; how absolute its destruction : and also, how great the building that was erected in its room; and how different and opposite a na: ture from that which had stood on the same ground before.

§ 2. But as to the revolution brought to pass in the world by Mahometanism, it consisted either in the change made among the heathen_barbarous nations, which had their orignal from Arabia or Scythia-or among professing Christians. But, with respect to either of these, was the revolution comparably so great as the other. As to the change made among those Heathen, they long had entertained some obscure notions of the true God; and many of the great truths of what is called natural religion, they had obtained by those glimmerings of the light of the gospel which had been diffused over great part of the world; even that part of it that had not fully embraced Christianity. But Mahometanism carried them very little farther in these things, and was an occasion of but small advance of light and knowledge. As to the change made among Christians, there was no advance at all made in knowledge, or in any thing that was good. And as to the change made among them as to religious customs, they had so degenerated before, and were become so superstitious, that the alteration was not very perceptible.

§ 3. The difference of the two revolutions was immensely great as to goodness. The change made in the world by the propagation of Christianity, was a great change indeed, with regard to light and knowledge. It was a change from great darkness to glorious and marvellous light. By the preaching of the gospel in the world, the day-spring from on high visited the earth, and the sun arose after a long night of the grossest darkness. But as to the change made in Christendom by the propagation of Mahometanism, there was no increase of light by it, but, on the contrary, it was evidently a change from light to darkness. It was a propagation of ignorance, and not of knowledge. As to the change made among the Heathens, as we observed before, there was but a small degree of increased light ; and all that was added, was borrowed from Christianity. Any increase of knowledge that arose, proceeded only om Mahomet and his followers, communicating what had before been communicated to them by Christian teaching. There can be no pretence of the least degree of addition in any thing, beyond what they had before received from the gospel. And as to rules and precepts, examples, promises, or incitements to virtue of any kind, no addition at all was made. What alteration there existed, was only for the worse; the examples, histories, representations, and promises of the new Mahometan religion, only tended exceedingly to debase, debauch and corrupt the minds of such as received it.

§ 4. The revolution that was occasioned by the propagation of Christianity, was an infinitely greater and more wonderful

effect, if we consider the opposition that was overcome in bringing it to pass. Christianity was propagated against all the opposition that could be made by man's carnal dispositions, strengthened by inveterate general custom, principles, habits, and practice, prevailing like a mighty flood. Mahometanism was propagated, not in opposition to those inclinations, but by complying with them, and gratifying them, in examples, precepts, and promises, as STAPFERUS observes, (Theol. Polem. tom, iii, p. 292.) Speaking of Mahomet's laws, he says, “The law which he published, was, above all others, accommodated not only to the opinions of men, but also to the depraved nature, manners, and innate vices of those nations among whom he propagated it; nor did it require much more than external exercises, of which, to a carnal man, are much more easy to be performed, than those spiritual exercises which the sacred pages prescribe. He allowed of revenge for injuries ; of discarding wives for the slightest causes ; of the addition of wives to wives, which must have served only as so many new provocatives to lust. At the same time he indulged himself in the greatest excess of promiscuous and base lasciviousness. He placed the true worship of God in such external ceremonies, as have no tendency to promote true piety. In fine, the whole of that religion which he instituted, was adapted to no other end, than the shedding of human blood."

5. This religion is particularly adapted to the luxurious and sensual disposition. "Christianity was extremely contrary, to the most established and darling notions of the world; whereas Mahomet accommodated his doctrines to all such notions as were most pleasing at that time, among the Heathen, Arabians, Jews, and the several most prevailing sects of Christians; as STAPFERUS observes :

so Mahomet retained many of the opinions of the ancient Arabians ; he mixed his doctrine with the fables of the Jews, and retained many of the ceremonies of the other religions prevalent at that time. The religion of Mahomet favoured the prejudices of the Jews, and of the Heathens; and was suited to the desires of the flesh, and to the allurements of the world. But the religion which Christ taught, did not, in the least instance, favour the depraved affections of men, and the indulgence of the flesh; but was diametrically opposed to them; nor was it suited to the prejudices of either Jews or Gentiles; but it was plainly contrary to the preconceived opinions of men. Whence the apostles, in preaching this reli. gion, immediately opposed both the religion of the Jews and of the Gentiles." (ibid. p. 340.) Christianity was propagated under the most violent, universal, and cruel persecution of all the powers of the world. Mahometanism was not so ; it never made its way any where, in any remarkable degree, against persecution,

« PrécédentContinuer »