Page images
PDF
EPUB

Dominion of Satan be now restrained by the overruling Power x)f the Gospel, we have as great Evi-. deuce from all History that there are such Beings as Devils, as we have for any other Matter of Fact whatsoever. There have been indeed many false Stories concerning Spirits, as well as in other Matters of History: but doth this prove that there are none true? or could the Historians of all Times and Places be perpetually imposed upon, or conspire to impose upon others? If we may credit Authors of as high Esteem as any Human History can afford ■■, Men of good Learning and true Courage, and of little inclination to believe things of this nature, have been Witnesses of Apparitions- I instance in* Dion, Brutus^1 Cunius RHfusy ziAAthenodorus the Philosopher. When Dion and Brutus, Men famous for Philosophy, not prone to Fear, but.of great Constancy of Mind, became so concerned , that they acquainted others with what they had seen , this, as c Plutarch remarks, is a mighty Argument for the Truth of this Doctrine. There is no antient History but gives some Instance or other of these things \ and all the modern Histories of Heathen Nations are full of such Relations as confirm this Truth to us \ and even among Christians, those who have by unlawful Arts put themselves under the Power of wicked Spirits, have been convinced that there are such Beings which is proved not only by the publick Confessions of Witches in all Nations, but by the private d Acknowledgments of divers Learned Men, both Physicians and others, who have made attempts to discover the truth of this matter, in different places, .and were Persons neither timorous nor fitperjlitious. But the Apparition of Spirits is preternatural i and therefore, that Good Spirits, who live in perfect Obe-r

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

dience to the Divine Will, and in Conformity to the Order of their Nature, mould appear, is now no more to be expected than any other Miracle: but there are frequent Apparitions of Bad Spirits in Countries where the Christian Religion is not re- # ceived j and where it is received, they appear to such as are willing to come under their Power, but very rarely to others. And if the Devil, after so much Human Blood as he has caused to be spilt in his Sacrifices, and after so many Oracles and Impostures, can yet persuade some Men that there is no such Being; this is one of his subtilest Stratagems of all, and proves how great Power, tho' in a different kind and manner, he styli retains over the Minds of Men.

Since therefore it is most certain that there is a Being of Infinite Power, and Wisdom, and Justice, and Goodness \ and that there is likewise a malicious cruel Spirit, ever watchful and industrious to abuse and destroy Mankind : it is highly reasonable to believe,'that a Being of such infinite Perfections, after he had created Man, would communicate himself tQ him, would set him a Rule by which he ought to live, and prescribe him Laws whereby he might answer the Ends of his Creation, and attain to that Happiness which he was made capable of, and designed for by his Maker. We cannot suppose that the God of all Goodness and Wisdom would create Man, and then leave him to himself, to follow his own Inventions, and to live at random, without any Law or Direction to frame his Actions by, and to be exposed to all the Assaults of an implacable subtle Enemy, without any Caution and Instruction given him, or any help and assistance afforded for his defence. Man-, in his Innocence, was not thus to be left to himself. And we have all the reason in the World to believe, tho' we had not the express Word of Scripture for it, that the: God of Infinite Goodness would not disregard this corrupt State of Mankind, but would use Ibme "T' ''■ "•' ',"" s ""pieans

means to reclaim them from the Error of their W*ys7 to bring them to a knowledge of themselves, and of the Divine Majesty, to inform them of their Duty, and direct them to Happiness.

How Man became so prone to all Evil, we can know only by Revelation •, and therefore since the Notion of the Præ-existence of Souls is groundless (as I shall hereafter prove) those who reject all Revelation, must suppose that Man was first created in this State of Sin and Misery; which is a very heinous Imputation upon the Goodness and Justice of God: but to suppose him placed in this condition, without all help or remedy, is to charge God still more foolishly. But how Men became so, is not here the matter of Enquiry; it is evident that Man is of himself in a miserable and helpless condition; and considering the, great Ignorance and Wickedness which have been from the Fall of our First Parents visible continually in the World, and still reign in it; considering, I say, the notorious Wickedness and gross Ignorance of Men, which, from the earliest R ecords of Antiquity, have continued down, to our own Times, nothing is more reasonable than to think, that a Being of Infinite Perfection would take some care to rectify the Mistakes, and reform the Manners of Men. Can we believe it consistent with Infinite Truth, never to manifest it self in. the World, but to suffer all sorts of Men, of all Nations, to be exposed to all the Desigas and Delusions of Impostors, and of seducing and apostate Spirits, without any sufficient means afforded them to undeceiveand rescue themselves ? Can we suppose that God of infinite Majesty and Power, and who is a Jealous God-, and will not give his Honour to another, should suffer the World to be guilty of Idolatry, to make themselves Gods of Wood and Stone? nay, to offer their Sons and their Daughters unto Devils, and to commit all manner of Wickedness in the Worship of their False Gods ■, and make Murther, and Adultery, and the worst of Vices, not only their

B 4 Practice, Practice, but their Religion? Can we imagine, that the True God would behold all this, for so many Ages, among so many People, and yet not concern himself to put a stop to so much Wickedness, and to vindicate his own Honour, and restore the Sense and Practice of Virtue upon Earth?

I shall, in due place, prove at large, That Mankind* have in all Ages had the greatest necessity for a Revelation to direct and reform them ; and, That the Philosophers themselves taught abominably wicked Doctrines , who yet were the best Teachers and Instructors of the Heathen World. And we have no true Notion of God, if we do not believe him to be a God pf Infinite Power, and Knowledge, and Holiness, and Mercy, and Truth \ and yet we may as well believe there is no God at all, as imagine that the God of Infinite Knowledge should take no notice of what is done here below \ that Infinite Power should suffer it self to be affronted and despised,,without requiring any Satisfaction; that Infinite Holiness should behold the whole World lie in Wickedness, and find out no way to remedy it \ and that Superstition and Idolatry, and all the Tyranny of Sin and Satan, for so long 3 time, should enslave and torment the Bodies and Souls of Men, and there should be no Compassion in Infinite Mercy, nor any Care over an erroneous and deluded World, in the God of Truth.

Would a wise and good Father see Jiis Children run on in all manner of Folly and Extravagancy, and take no care to reclaim them, nor give them any Adyice v but leave them wholly to themselves , to pursue their'own Ruin? And if this he unworthy to suppose of Natural Parents, how much more unreasonable Is it to imagine this of God himself, whom we cannot but represent to our selves with all the Compassions of the tenderest Father or Mother, without the Weak nes and Infirmities that accompany them in Human Parents 2 How unreasonable i? if to entertain such a Thought of Almighty God, Infinite in Goodness and Mercy, as to suspect that he would suffer Mankind to make themselves as miserable as they can, both in this World and the next, without putting any stop to so fetal a course of Sin and Misery, or interposing any thing for their Direction, to shew them the way ,to escape Destruction, and to obtain Happiness! The Fall of our First Parents is known to us only by Revelation, and therefore is not to be taken into consideration, when we argue upon the mere Principles of Reason. But I consider Mankind, as we find it in Fact (setting aside the Advantages of Revelation) Wicked, and abandoned to Wickedness, in the snares of the devil , taken captive by him at his will, unable to work out their own salvation •, lost and undone, without Power or Strength, without any Help or Remedy. And in this state of the World, however it came to pass, is there no Reason to believe that Infinite Goodness should take some course, and not disregard all Mankind lying in this condition?

The great Argument of the Scoffers of the last Days, St. Peter tells us, would be this, That all things go on in their constant course, and that God doth not meddle or concern himself with them. Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the creation? 2 Pet. iii. 4. And if no Promise had ever been made, they would have had some Reason in their Arguing. For that which render'd the Heathen without Excuse, was, That they did not make use of the Natural Knowledge that they had of God, to lead them to the Knowledge of his Revealed Will', which they had frequent Opportunities of becoming acquainted withal, and had many Memorials of it amongst them in every Nation: but, they did not like tar etain God in their knowledge. And this is the force of St.P*z«/'s Argument, JB.xrii. zndRom. i. (unless this latter Chapter were to be understood, as Dr. Hammond interprets ,it, of the Cnostick Hergticks)

« PreviousContinue »