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clusive argument; that it is no cunningly devised fable, but a scheme of salvation, devised and adopted, by the wisdom and grace of God, and perfectly agreeable to the dictates of right reason.
This subject now very naturally suggests some things, which deserve our serious consideration, at the present day, and especially on the present occasion.
1. It suggests the absurdity of setting up natural religion in opposition to revealed. There is no doubt but mankind are able, by the proper exercise of their reason, to discover natural religion. If they seriously and attentively consider the works of creation and providence; they may be rationally convinced of the being and perfections of God, and of their obligations to love and adore him, as their Creator, Preserver and Benefactor. But it is absurd for them to imagine, that because they have discovered this natural religion, they have no need of any other. For natural religion is this religion of innocent, but not of guilty creatures. It is no less absurd for fallen men to depend upon natural religion, than it would be for fallen angels to depend upon it. They however have never been guilty of this absurdity. Their clear knowledge of natural religion has been a source of despair instead of hope, and made them fear and tremble before a sin-hating, and sin-revenging God. And the same knowledge has a direct tendency to produce the same effects in the minds of our apostate race. But yet our modern infidels have the stupidity and presumption, to set up natural religion in opposition to revealed. Lord Herbert framed a system of natural religion, with a view to supersede and subvert Christianity. And after him, Tindal a noted infidel, wrote a 'Treatise under the title of, “Christianity as old as the creation.” meant to insinuate, that natural religion, which is as
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eid as the creation, is the only true and rational religion; and of consequence, that Christianity is a gross absurdity and delusion. We readily admit that the light of nature may discover natural religion, and were it sufficient for the salvation of sinners, there would be no need of a supernatural and revealed religion. But since natural religion cannot exist in this guilty world, and if it did exist, could not save sinners from the wrath to come, the deists stand upon nothing while they presume to set up natural religion, and employ it as a weapon to destroy Christianity. Let them only reflect, that they are fallen, guilty creatures, and reason correctly from this self-evident truth, and they will feel the whole ground they stand on to give way, and find themselves plunged in utter darkness and despair. The whole controversy between Christians and deists turns upon the truth of total depravity. This single truth completely refutes Deism and establishes Christianity.
2. If Christianity be agreeable to reason then it has a natural tendency to subvert all other religions in the world. All other religions are the inventions of men, and essentially different from Christianity, which God alone was able to devise and reveal to the sinful race of Adam. Those, who see the reasonablenesss of this revealed and supernatural religion, must of course, see the unreasonableness and absurdity of every other religious system. Accordingly, we find, Christianity has actually turned the religious world upside down, wherever it has been embraced. It has converted men from Paganism, Judaism, Mahomitanism, Deism, Socinianism, Arianism, Arminianism, and Universalism. Hence it has been called the unsociable religion. False religions will unite with each other, but Christianity condemns and opposes every false scheme, and every false principle of religion.
3. If Christianity be agreeable to reason, then the more clearly it is distinguished from natural religion, the more reasonable it will appear. Many who have undertaken to maintain the reasonableness of Christianity, have done it great injury, by pruning off its great and essential peculiarities, and endeavoring to bring it down as near as possible, to natural religion, or the religion of reason. Socinians, Arians, and Arminians have adopted this method to exhibit Christianity, in what they view, the most reasonable and amiable But this is basely betraying, instead of promoting the cause of revealed religion. The only proper way to convince mankind of the reasonableness of Christianity, is to represent it as a scheme of divine wisdom and grace, which contains mysteries and doctrines, which no created reason could discover, nor comprehend. The doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of the incarnation and vicarious sufferings of Christ, and the doctrines of human depravity, and special, irresistible grace, are essential branches of the Christian religion, and constitute its beauty and reasonableness. And the more clearly we display these peculiarities of Christianity, which distinguish it from natural religion, the more reasonable we shall make it appear in the eyes of infidels, and the more worthy of the cordial approbation of penitent sinners.
4. If Christianity be agreeable to reason, then all who really understand it must necessarily believe it. Whatever gets hold of reason in any man, he is constrained to believe in spite of his heart. His heart may for a while obstruct, or eventually hinder truth from getting hold of his reason; but if it does not prevent truth from coming into his understanding, it cannot prevent his belief of it. A man's heart may prevent his demonstrating a mathematical truth; but it cannot prevent his believing that truth, after he has demonstrated it. This holds true of Christianity. If a man will allow himself to examine, or suffer himself to be taught, the great and distinguishing doctrines of the Christian religion, so as really to understand them, he cannot resist conviction, but must believe them to be true, whether they are agreeble, or disagreeable to his heart. If the heart does not prevent the exercise, it cannot prevent the verdict of reason. Christianity displays the manifold wisdom of God, and therefore must approve itself to every intelligent creature who really understands it. It is the reasonableness of this revealed religion, that has convinced ninety nine in a hundred, if not nine hundred and ninety nine in a thousand, of those who in all ages, have embraced it either in speculation or practice. If we can only make men understand the gospel, we may be sure, we have gained their everlasting belief; in consequence of which, they must forever hold the truth, either in righteousness or unrighteousness.
5. If Christianity be agreeable to reason, then it is no mark of superior penetration and knowledge, to disbelieve it. That men of great inforınation and acuteness in reasoning, have disbelieved the gospel, we would not pretend to deny; but that their disbelief has been owing to their superior learning and ingenuity, we must be allowed to call in question. Reason can never prevent men's seeing the reasonableness of a perfectly reasonable religion; but only prevent their seeing the reasonableness of such religions, as are founded in ignorance, delusion, or falsehood. If Christianity were a cunningly devised fable, it might be justly expected that men of the first abilities should be the first to discover, and to disbelieve the imposture. But since it is founded in the highest reason, the disbelief of it, in both the learned and unlearned, can origin. ate from no other source, than that native corruption of heart which blinds the understanding, and creates either stupidity, inattention or prejudice, respecting the glorious gospel of the blessed God. To this criminal cause, our Savior himself ascribes the infidelity of his hearers. “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. If I say the truth, why do ye not believe me. He that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not be cause ye are not of God.”
6. If Christianity be agreeable to reason, then it is no evidence of a weak or disordered mind, to believe and love the gospel. It is every way suited to gain the reason and conscience, and to raise the affections of all those, who realize their guilty and perishing condition by nature, and are willing to return to God, upon the most reasonable and gracious terms. It was a very unjust and unmerited reproach, which the enemies of Christianity cast upon those who gladly received the word on the day of Pentecost, that their minds were disordered by new wine. And it was equally absurd and malignant in Festus, after the apostle had related bis conversion, and religious views and feelings, to cry out in a sneer, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad." But the apostle re plied with a pertinence and solemnity, directly suited to fill his mind with shame and remorse.
“I am not mad most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.” In this striking instance,“ Wisdom was justified of her children.” Our Savior forewarned his followers of what they had to expect from unbelievers. “It is enough for the disciple that he be