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might dispense his extracrdinary Favours as he - saw fit, and consequently, eminently distinguish one Nation, and pass by others without the least Injustice ; and that to censure such a proceeding in the Proprietor and Sovereign Disposer of all Things, was arrogant and presumptuous. And from hence we learn, to what questions the words of the Text may be properly and justly. applied, viz. to such as these; Why God vouchsafes a Revelation of his Will to fome Na. cions, and not to others ? -Why, for example, he has not made the Christian Revelation universal?
Why does he permit moral and natural Evil ? -Why has he not made all intelligent Creatures of the highest Order, and communicated to all equal Degrees of Perfection and Happiness? Nothing of this can be shewn to be contrary to Justice, because they are all Favours which his Creatures have no right to claim. And therefore in these, and all other Cases of a like nature, where Justice is not concern'd, which have no Appearance of Malice or Crwelly, but are Considerations of Wisdom only ; 'tis very per. tinent and rational to say to an Objector, Nay, but o Man, who art thou, that repliest against God?
FROM what lias been faid, the Author draws the two following Inferences. ift, How neces. firy 'tis that we consider the US to which Passages of Scripture are applied, and don't ar. gue generally from what is only adapted to a particular Case. " This is, says Mr. Foster, 16 one Reason why Texts have been fo abomi"i nably perverted, and Itrained to such absurd " and unnatura! Seoses, as are not only con66 trary to their true Defign, and the general 66 Scope and Tenor of the Revelation, but
strike at the Foundation of all Religion." 2dly, Let us cultivate in our Minds che highest Reverence of God, especially the most honourable Apprehensions of his moral Character ; and being persuaded that all his Counsels are the Result of infinite Wisdom, and that his Will is ever determin’d by the bighest Reason, let us humbly acquiesce in all the Methods of his Providence.
The Subject of the sixth Sermon is the Abufes of Freethinking, on Galat. v. 13. For, Brethren, ye have been called unto Liberty, only use not Li. berty for an occasion to the Flesh. The Author begins with observing, that there is not a more valuable Blessing in human Life, than Liberty. Civil Liberty is the Basis of all social Happiness, and Liberty of Conscience the only Foundation of a 'racional Religion. When this latter is restrain'd, we are treated rather like Brute's than Men ; i.e. Creatures indued with moral Powers, and accountable for their Actions. But because the World is apt to run into Extremes, St. Paul in che Text advises the Galatians, not to mirtake Licentiousnefs for Christian Liberty. Mr. Foster considers the Subject in a different Light, suited to the Complexion and Genius of the present Age; and en quires into some of the chief Abuses of Freethinking; by which it happens, that what is really the peculiar Honour, and greatest Advantage of our intelligent Nature, becomes a Reproach to it, and is attended with most injurious Consequences.
And first, embracing the Principle of Liberty has ended, with many, in Infidelity, or a disbelief of all Religion. 'Tis inost evident, that Infidelity never more abounded than in this Age
ditable, and ples, free
* of free Inquiry. Whence can this arife ? Cer
tainly, not from a thorough and impartial Examination, from a superior Undersanding, or more adequate and enlarged Views of Things ; but oftentimes from Ignorance, fuperficial Enquiry, and even from that Prejudice and implicit Faith, which the Monopolizers of Reason and Free-e thinking so loudly disclaim. But here the Au. thor would not be thought, by any thing he is advancing upon that subject, to discourage the most rational and free Examination of all religious Principles, be they ever so sacred and venerable, and transmitted down with ever so much
Awe and Solemnity by our Fore-fathers ; nor would he be thought to assert, that any Man is oblig'd to receive a Revelation, which, upon mature Deliberations, appears to be unworthy of God, and repugnant to the Reason and Nature of Things. For his only. Design is to point out some false Principles, which are all an Abuse of the true Principle of Liberty, and by which 'tis highly probable many of the professed Admirers, and zealous Espousers of it, have been led to a disregard both of reveald and natue ral Religion.
It frequently happens, that Men finding in time, that some Doctrines, which before they look'd upon as very important,nayessential Parts of Christianity, are absurd and irrational; they presently conclude that Christianity itself must be false, because such Doctrines, which are erroneously reckon'd as parts of it, cannot be true. Thus, for instance, a Man is convinc'd that God can't be an arbitrary Being, who has no regard to the moral Fitness of things ; or an ill-natur'd Being, who, purely for the Of. tentation of his uncontroulable Power and Sove
reignty, has absolutely determin’d the final Misery of great numbers of his reasonable Creatures. But these pass, among many, for important Principles of the Christian Religion, and therefore, Christianity is an Impofture...
But why, says Mr. Foster, may not Christians misrepresent the Doctrines of the Religion which they profess? Or is it reasonable that any Religion should be condemn'd, before 'tis examin'd, merely from Hearsay? Is this Freedom of Thought, and rational Enquiry? Far from it? 'Tis rank Prejudice under the cover of that amiable Name; and a Prejudice, which if it was suffer'd to prevail in all cases, would render it imposible for Men to diftinguish between true and false Religions. For there's nothing so extravagant but may be charg'd upon the best and most unexceptionable Scheme in the World, as easily as upon the worst. Besides, such a Conduct as this, I mean, concluding that because one thing is false,another which has no relation or connection with it, is so likewise; argues a very Dallowfudgment, and a greatConfusion of Thoughi.
The same may be said in respect of some, who think, that because they have a Right to reject all pretended Principles of Religion, which are contrary to Reason, they may likewife throw off the belief of every thing that they can't fully account for. They imagine themselves, for example, no more oblig'd to believe a Providence, because the visible Courfe of Things is perplex'd and intricate, full of apparent Disorder and seeming Injustice ; than they are to receive such Doctrines as affert that God is a rigorous, fevere, and inexorable Sovereign, that delights in the Misery of his Creatures, &c. This is another too common Abuse of Liberty, leading to a Disbelief even of the first Principles of natural Religion ; an Abuse that argues great Narrowness of Mind, and what Persons of any Compass and Freedom of Thought can't be guilty of. A free Enquiry necessarily supposes, as the Foundation of it, a modest Temper of Mind, conscious of its own Weakness and Imperfection, which always restrains from passing a Judgment, or determining concerning the Truth or False hood of Things, about which, we have no Ideas, and which are beyond the Reach of our present Faculties.
AGAIN, some seem to mistake Liberty for a Right to dispute every Thing, and cavil at all religious Principles, which are, commonly receiv'd. The great Delight of these people, who are often to be met with, is to puzzle a Controversy, and start Objections against fome Point or other of reveal'd Religion ; not from à Desire of having them considerd or solv’d, but from Vanity, a Spirit of ContradiEtion, or an odd Affectation of Free-thinking. Be their private Sentiments concerning Christianity what they will, they can't take it amiss if they are rank'd on the side of Infidelity, because they are always talking against Religion, but never defending it. Besides, supposing they have, at first, no Design to hurt Christianity by their cavilling at it; yer their Thoughts being continually turn'd a. gainst it, they come at last to think that their Objections have some weight, and by degrees to imagine that they are more and more important; and in the End, that they are of sufficient Strength to overthrow the Christian Religion, and prove it an Imposture: And thus, what was at first only Vanity, Diversion, or Contradiction, may by degrees be confirmed and settled Infidelity.