תמונות בעמוד

CHAPTER XIX. A second general reflection. The corruption of religion in the Heathen world is

no just objection against the wisdom and goodness of Divine Providence. God did not leave himself without witness amongst them. They had for a long time some remains of ancient tradition originally derived from Revelation. Besides which, they had the standing evidences of a Deity in his wonderful works. The Jewish Revelation was originally designed to give a check to the growing idolatry, and had a tendency to spread the knowledge and worship of the one true God among the nations: and it actually had that effect in many instances. If the generality of the Pagans made no use of these advantages, but still persisted in their idolatry and polytheism, the fault is not to be charged upon God, but upon themselves.

CHAPTER XX. A third general reflection. Idolatry gathered strength among the nations, as they

grew in learning and politeness. Religion in several respects less corrupted in the ruder and more illiterate than in the politer ages. The arts and sciences made a very great progress in the Heathen world: yet they still became more and more addicted to the most absurd idolatries, as woll as to the most abominable vices; both of which were at the height at the time of our Saviour's appearance.

CHAPTER XXI. A fourth general reflection. Human wisdom and philosophy, without a higher

assi stance, insufficient for recovering mankind from their idolatry and polythe ism, and for leading them into the right knowledge of God and religion, and the worship due to him. No remedy was to be expected in an ordinary way, either from the philosophers or from the priests, or from the civil magistrates. Nothing less than an extraordinary Revelation from God could, as things were circumstanced, prove an effectual remedy. The wisest men in the Heathen world were sensible of their own darkness and ignorance in the things of God, and of their need of Divine Revelation.

CHAPTER XXII. The fifth and last general reflection. The Christian Revelation suited to the ne.

cessities of mankind. The glorious change it wrought in the face of things, and in the state of religion in the world; yet accomplished by the seemingly meanest instruments, in opposition to the greatest difficulties. It was given in the fittest season, and attended with the most convincing evidences of a divine original. How thankful should we be for the salutary light it brings, and how careful to improve it! What an advantage it is to have the Holy Scriptures in our hands, and the necessity there is of keeping close to the sacred rule there set before us, in order to the preserviog the Christian Religion in its purity and simplicity.




CHAPTER I. Man appears from the frame of his nature to be a moral agent, and designed to

be governed by a law. Accordingly, God hath given him a law to be the rule of his duty. The scheme of those who pretend that this law is naturally and necessarily known to all men without instruction, contrary to fact and experience. Yet there are several ways by which men come to a knowledge of this law, and of the duty required of them; viz. by a moral sense implanted in the human heart; by a principle of reason judging from the natures and relations of things; by education, and human instruction: besides all which, God hath made discoveries of his will concerning our duty, in a way of extraordinary Divine Revelation.


CHAPTER II. The principal heads of moral duty were made known to mankind from the beCHAPTER IV. Farther instances of civil laws and customs among the Pagan nations. Those of

ginning, and continued to be known and acknowledged in the patriarchal ages. When men fell from the right knowledge of God, they fell also in important instances from the right knowledge of moral duty. The law given to the people of Israel was designed to instruct and direct them in morals, as well as in the knowledge and worship of the one true God. A great deal was done in the methods of Divine Providence, to preserve the sense and knowledge of morals among the heathen nations; but they did not make a right use of the helps afforded them.

CHAPTER III. A particular enquiry into the state of morality in the Heathen world. A com.

plete rule of morals, taken in its just extent, comprehends the duties relating to God, our neighbours, and ourselves. If the Heathens had such a rule among them, it would appear either in the precepts of their religion, or in the prescriptions of their civil laws, or customs which have the force of laws, or in the doctrinos and instructions of their philosophers and moralists. It is proposed distinctly to consider each of these. As to what passed among them for religion, morality did not properly make any part of it, nor was it the office of their priests to teach men virtue. As to the civil laws and constitutions, supposing them to have been never so proper for civil government, they were not fitted to be an adequate rule of morals. The best of them were, in several respects, greatly defective. Various instances produced of civil laws, and of customs which had the force of laws, among the most civilized nations, especially among the ancient Greeks, which were contrary to the rules of morality.

the ancient Romans considered. The laws of the twelve tables, though mightily extolled, were far from exhibiting a complete rule of morals. The law of Romulus concerning the exposing of diseased and deformed children. This continued to be practised among the Romans. Their cruel treatment of their slaves. Their gladiatory shews contrary to humanity. Unnatural lusts common among them as well as the Greeks. Observations on the Chinese laws and customs. Other laws and customs of nations mentioned, which are contrary to good morals.

CHAPTER V. Concerning morality as taught by the ancient Heathen philosophers. Some of

them said excellent things concerning moral virtue, and their writings might in several respects be of great use. But they could not furnish a perfect rule of morals, that had sufficient certainty, clearness, and authority. No one philosopher, or sect of philosophers, can be absolutely depended upon as a proper guide in matters of morality. Nor is a complete system of morals to be extracted from the writings of them all collectively considered. The vanity of such an attempt shewn. Their sentiments, how excellené soever, could not properly pass for laws to mankind.

CHAPTER VI. Many of the philosophers were fundamentally wrong in the first principles of

morals. They denied that there are any moral differences of things founded in nature and reason, and resolved them wholly into human laws and customs. Observations on those philosophers who made man's chief good consist in pleasure, and proposed this as the highest end of morals, without any regard to a Divine Law. The moral system of Epicurus considered. His high pretences to virtue examined. The inconsistency of his principles shewn, and that, if pursued to their genuine consequences, they are really destructire of all virtue and good morals.

CHAPTER VII. The sentiments of those who are accounted the best of the Pagan moral philos

phers considered. They held in general, that the law is right reason. But reason alone, without a superior authority, does not lay an obliging force upon men. The wisest Heathens taught, that the original of law was from God, and from him it derived its authority. As to the question, how this law comes to be known to us, they sometimes represent it as naturally known to all men. But the principal way of knowing it is resolved by them into the mind and reason of wise men, or, in other words, into the doctrines and instructions of the philosophers. The uncertainty of this rule of morals shewn. They talked highly of virtue in general, but differed about matters of great importance relating to the law of nature: some instances of which are mentioned.

CHAPTER VIII. Epictetus's observation concerning the difficulty of applying general preconcep

tions to particular cases, verified in the ancient philosophers. They were gene. rally wrong with respect to the duty and worship proper to be rendered to God, though they themselves acknowledged it to be a point of the highest im. portance. As to social duties, some eminent philosophers pleaded for revenge and against forgiveness of injuries. But especially they were deficient in that


part of moral duty which relates to the government of the sensual appetites and passions. Many of the philosophers countenanced by their principles and practice the most unnatural lusts and vices. Those of them that did not carry it so far, yet encouraged an impurity inconsistent with the strictness and dig. nity of virtue. Plato very culpable in this respect, so also were the Cynics and Stoics. Simple fornication generally allowed amongst them. Our modern deists very loose in their principles with regard to sensual impurities.

CHAPTER IX. The Stoics the most eminent teachers of morals in the Pagan world. Mightily

admired and extolled both by the ancients and moderns. Observations on the Stoical maxims and precepts with regard to piety towards God. Their scheme tended to take away, or very much weaken, the fear of God as a punisher of sin. It tended also to raise men to a state of self-sufficiency and independeney, inconsistent with a due veneration for the Supreme Being. Extravagant strains of pride and arrogance in some of the principal Stoics. Confession of sin in their addresses to the Deity made no part of their religion.

CHAPTER X. The Stoics gave excellent precepts with regard to the duties men owe to one

another. Yet they carried their doctrine of apathy so far, as to be in some instances not properly consistent with a humane disposition and charitable sympa. thy. They said fine things concerning forgiving injuries and bearing with other men's faults. But in several respects they carried this to an extreme, and placed it on wrong foundations, or enforced it by improper motives. This is particularly shewn with regard to those two eminent philosophers Epictetus and Marcus Antoninus. The most ancient Stoics did not allow pardoning mercy to be an ingredient in a perfect character.

CHAPTER XI. The Stoical precepts with regard to self-government considered. They talk in

high strains of regulating and subduing the appetites and passions; and get gave too great indulgence to the fleshly concupiscence, and had not a due regard to purity and chastity. Their doctrine of suicide considered. Some of the most eminent wise men among the Heathens, and many of our modern admirers of natural religion faulty in this respect. The falsehood and pernicious consequences of this doctrine shewn.

CHAPTER XII. The Stoics professed to lead men to perfect happiness in this life, abstracting

from all consideration of a future state. Their scheme of the absolute sufficiency of virtue to happiness, and the indifferency of all eternal things considered. They were sometimes obliged to make concessions which were not very consistent with their system. Their philosophy in its rigour not reducible to prac. tice, and had little influence either on the people or on themselves. They did not give a clear idea of the nature of that virtue which they so highly extolled. The loose doctrine of many of the Stoics, as well as other philosophers, with regard to truth and lying.

CHAPTER XIII. The nations were sunk into a deplorable state of corruption, with regard to

morals, at the time of our Saviour's appearing. To recover them from their wretched and guilty state to holiness and happiness, one principal end for which

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God sent his Son into the world. The Gospel Dispensation opened with a free offer of pardon and salvation to perishing sinvers, upon their returning to God by faith and repentance, and new obedience: at the same time the best directions and assistances were given to engage them to a holy and rirtuous practice. The Gospel scheme of morality exceeds whatsoever had been published to the world before. A summary representation of the excellency of the Gospel precepts with regard to the daties we owe to God, our neighbours, and ourselves. These precepts enforced by the most powerful and important motives. The tendency of the Gospel to promote the practice of holiness and virtue, an argument to prove the Divinity of the Christian Revelation,


CHAPTER I. The importance of the doctrine of a future state. It is agreeable to right reason.

The natural and moral arguments for a future state of great weight. Yet not so evident, but that if men were left merely to their own unassisted reason, they would be apt to labour under great doubt and difficulties. A Revelation from God concerning it would be of great advantage.

CHAPTER II. Some notions of the immortality of the soul and a future state obtained among

mankind from the most ancient times, and spread very generally through the nations. This was not originally the effect of human reason and philosophy, nor was it merely the invention of legislators for political purposes: but was derived to them by a most ancient tradition from the earliest agës, and was probably a part of the primitive religion communicated by Divine Revelation to the first of the human race.

CHAPTER III. The ancient traditions concerning the immortality of the soul and a future state

became in process of time greatly obscured and corrupted. It was absolutely denied by many of the philosophers, and rejected as a vulgar error. Others represented it as altogether uncertain, and having no solid foundation to support it. The various and contradictory sentiments of the philosophers concerning the nature of the human soul. Many of the Peripatetics denied the subsistence of the soul after death, and this seems to have been Aristotle's own opinion. The Stoics had po settled or consistent scheme on this head: nor was the doctrine of the immortality of the soul a doctrine of their school. A future state not acknowledged by the celebrated Chinese philosopher Confucius, nor by the sect of the learned who profess to be his dispicles.

CHAPTER IV. Concerning the philosophers who prosessed to believe and teach the immortality

of the soul. Of these Pythagoras is generally esteemed one of the most eminent. His doctrine on this head shewn to be not well consistent with a state of future rewards and punishments. Socrates believed the immortality of the soul and a future state, and argued for it. In this he was followed by Plato. The Doctrine of Cicero with regard to the immortality of the soul considered. A6 also that of Plutarch.

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