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Title: The Analogy of Religion to the Constitution and Course of Nature - To which are added two brief dissertations: I. On personal - identity. II. On the nature of virtue.
Author: Butler, Joseph
Language: English
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                         ANALOGY OF RELIGION,
                                TO THE
                  Constitution and Course of Nature.

                          TO WHICH ARE ADDED
                       TWO BRIEF DISSERTATIONS:

                         JOSEPH BUTLER, D.C.L.

         Ejus [Analogiæ] hæc vis est, ut id quod dubium est ad
         aliquid simile, de quo non quæritur referat ut incerta
         certis probet.--QUINTIL. l. i. c. 6.

                          HOWARD MALCOM, D.D.

                         SEVENTEENTH EDITION.
                        J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.

      Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1857, by
                        J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.
       in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United
        States in and for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.



  EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION                                                5

     ”     PREFACE                                                    19

     ”     CONSPECTUS                                                 21

  AUTHOR’S ADVERTISEMENT                                              66

     ”     INTRODUCTION                                               67

                                PART I.

                         OF NATURAL RELIGION.

     CHAP. I.--A Future Life                                          77

    CHAP. II.--The Government of God by Rewards and Punishments       95

   CHAP. III.--The Moral Government of God                           105

    CHAP. IV.--Probation, as implying Trial, Difficulties, and
               Danger                                                128

     CHAP. V.--Probation, as intended for Moral Discipline and
               Improvement                                           136

    CHAP. VI.--The Opinion of Necessity, considered as influencing
               Practice                                              157

   CHAP. VII.--The Government of God, considered as a Scheme or
               Constitution, imperfectly comprehended                171

  CONCLUSION                                                         180

                               PART II.

                         OF REVEALED RELIGION.

     CHAP. I.--The Importance of Christianity                        186

    CHAP. II.--The supposed Presumption against a Revelation,
               considered as miraculous                              202

   CHAP. III.--Our Incapacity of judging, what were to be expected
               in a Revelation; and the Credibility, from Analogy,
               that it must contain things appearing liable to
               Objections                                            209

    CHAP. IV.--Christianity, considered as a Scheme or Constitution,
               imperfectly comprehended                              223

     CHAP. V.--The Particular System of Christianity; the
               Appointment of a Mediator, and the Redemption of
               the World by him                                      230

    CHAP. VI.--Want of Universality in Revelation; and of the
               supposed Deficiency in the Proof of it                247

   CHAP. VII.--The Particular Evidence for Christianity              263

  CHAP. VIII.--Objections against arguing from the Analogy of
               Nature to Religion                                    296

  CONCLUSION                                                         306


  DISSERTATION I.--Personal Identity                                 317

  DISSERTATION II.--The Nature of Virtue                             324

  INDEX TO PART I                                                    333

  INDEX TO PART II                                                   343

Editor’s Introduction

JOSEPH BUTLER was born at Wantage, England, May 18th, 1692, the
youngest of eight children. The biographies of that day were few
and meagre; and in few cases is this so much to be regretted as in
Butler’s. It would have been both interesting and profitable to trace
the development and occupations of one of the mightiest of human minds.
But no cotemporary gathered up the incidents of his life, and now all
efforts to elicit them have been without success.

His father was a prosperous dry-goods merchant, who, at the time of his
son’s birth, had retired from business with a competency, and resided
in a suburban mansion called “The Priory,” still in existence.

Being a non-conformist, he educated Joseph at a “dissenting” academy
at Gloucester, under SAMUEL JONES, a gentleman of great ability, and
a skilful instructor, who raised up some of the greatest men of their

It was while a member of this academy, and about the age of twenty-one,
that Butler disclosed to the world his wonderful power of abstract
reasoning, in his famous correspondence with Samuel Clarke, in relation
to that eminent author’s “_Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of
God_.” This correspondence is now generally inserted at the end of that

Mr. Butler having deliberately adopted Episcopal views, and resolved
to unite himself with the Established Church, his father, with
praiseworthy liberality, sent him to Oxford, where he entered Oriel
College, March, 1714. Of his college life there is no account; nor of
the time and place of his ordination. He removed to London in 1718,
on receiving the appointment of “Preacher at the Rolls.” His famous
Fifteen Sermons were preached in that chapel, and published before
resigning the place, with a dedication to Sir Joseph Jekyl, “as a
parting mark of gratitude for the favors received during his connection
with that learned society.”

One of Butler’s warmest college friends was Edward Talbot second son
of a clergyman who afterwards became Bishop of Durham. This admirable
young man died of smallpox; in his last hours recommending Butler to
his father’s patronage; and scarcely had that gentleman attained the
see of Durham, before he gave Mr. B. the living of Haughton, from
whence he transferred him, in 1725, to the richer benefice of Stanhope.

On receiving this honorable and lucrative appointment, he resigned
the Lectureship at the Rolls, and in the autumn of 1726 retired to
his beautiful residence at Stanhope. Here, without a family to occupy
his time, he devoted himself to his great work, the Analogy: using
horseback exercise, seeing little company, living abstemiously and
caring for his flock.

Seven years thus rolled away; when to draw him from what seemed to his
friends too great retirement and application, Lord-Chancellor Talbot
made him his chaplain, and afterwards, in 1736, gave him a prebend’s
stall in Rochester. In 1736, Butler being now forty-four, Caroline,
consort of George II., appointed him “Clerk of the Closet,” an office
which merely required his attendance at the Queen’s apartments every
evening, from seven to nine.

Being now in London, convenient to the press, and enjoying both leisure
and competency, he published his immortal ANALOGY--the cherished work
of his life. The Queen was delighted with the book, and made herself
master of its glorious array of reasoning. But she died the same year,
and he lost not only a patroness, but a friend. He returned to his
benefice at Stanhope, the income of which had been held during his
residence in London.

On her death-bed, the Queen had urged her husband to promote her
honored chaplain to a bishopric; and next year, the see of Norwich
becoming vacant, the Bishop of Bristol was translated to it, and the
see of Bristol given to Butler. Bristol was the poorest bishopric
in England, its emoluments being but $2,000 per annum; less than
those of the rectorship of Stanhope. Butler distinctly disclosed his
disappointment in his letter to the minister Walpole, accepting the
position; and declared that he did not think it “very suitable to the
condition of his fortune, nor answerable to the recommendation with
which he was honored.” The king was not displeased at this candor,
and in 1740 improved his income by giving him, in addition to his
bishopric, the profitable and influential office of Dean of St.
Paul’s. Butler, who had retained the living of Stanhope along with
his bishopric, now resigned that rectorship. “The rich revenues,” says
Professor Fitzgerald, “of the Deanery of St. Paul, enabled him to
gratify his taste at Bristol.” He expended about $25,000 in improving
and beautifying the episcopal residence and gardens. He fostered useful
charities, and employed his wealth for others rather than for himself.

In 1750, upon the death of Dr. Edward Chandler, Bishop of Durham,
Butler was promoted to that see, the most honorable and lucrative
in England. He had before been offered the Primacy, on the death of
Archbishop Potter, but declined it, with the remark that “it was too
late for him to try to support a falling church.” On assuming his
diocese at Durham, Butler delivered and published his famous Charge
to the Clergy, upon “The Use and Importance of External Religion.”
He was at once assailed vigorously, in pamphlets and papers, by
Archdeacon Blackburn, the Rev. T. Lindsay, and others, on the charge
of Popery; an imputation which is still sometimes cast upon him, and
which finds some slender support in his setting up a marble cross over
the communion-table at Bristol. That he never was a Papist, is now so
evident, that we can account for the imputation only by the strong
jealousy of the Romish Church then prevalent.

Butler now became still more munificent. His private charities were
exceedingly generous, and his public ones seemed sometimes to border on
extravagance. He gave $2,000 a year to the county hospital, and often
gave away thousands of dollars at a time. But though quite lavish in
buildings and ornaments, as well as in benevolence, he was remarkably
frugal in his personal expenses. It is said of him, by Rev. John
Newton, that on one occasion, when a distinguished visitor dined with
him by appointment, the provision consisted of a single joint of meat,
and a pudding. The bishop remarked to his guest on that occasion, that
he “had long been disgusted with the fashionable expense of time and
money in entertainments, and was determined that it should receive no
countenance from his example.”

Of his amusements we know little except that he took much horseback
exercise, and often employed his secretary, Mr. Emms, to play for him
on the organ.

Butler held the see of Durham less than two years. Symptoms of general
physical decay betrayed themselves about the time of his promotion, and
in spite of all that skill and affection could prompt, he sunk to rest
June 16th, 1752, aged sixty. He was never married.

A considerable number of his sermons and charges have been printed,
but are too philosophical to be generally read. His great work is the
Analogy, published in 1736, and from that day read and admired by every
highly-cultivated mind. He was induced to write by a state of things
very remarkable in the history of religion. Debauchery and infidelity
were almost universal, not in any one class of society but in all.
England had reached the culminating point of irreligion, and the firm
re-establishment of Episcopacy had as yet done nothing to mend the
nation’s morals. Piety was deemed a mark of ignorance and vulgarity,
and multitudes of those who professed it were persecuted to dungeons
and death.

Infidel writers, warmed into life by court corruption, became more
numerous and audacious than ever before. Their methods of attacking
Christianity were various; but the most successful then, as always, was
to impugn certain doctrines and declarations of the Sacred Scriptures,
as irrational, and hence reject the whole. They generally admitted the
Being and perfection of God, and extolled the sufficiency of natural
religion; but denied any revelation, or any necessity for one. The
verdict of the world was that the Bible is not authentic, that man is
not accountable, nor even probably immortal, that God neither rewards
nor punishes, and that present indulgence, as far as our nature admits,
is both wise and safe.

Bishop Downam,[2] one of the most learned of the clergy, in the early
part of the seventeenth century writes thus: “In these times, if a
man do but labor to keep a good conscience, though he meddle not with
matters of state, if he make conscience of swearing, sanctify the
Sabbath, frequent sermons, or abstain from the common corruptions of
the times, he shall straightway be condemned for a puritan, and be less
favored than either a carnal gospeller, or a close Papist.”

It was considered settled, especially in polite circles, that
Christianity, after so long a prevalence, had been found out to be an
imposture. The clergy, as a body, did nothing to dispel this moral
gloom, but rather increased it by their violent and scandalous conduct.
In the sad language of Bishop Warburton, “Religion had lost its hold on
the minds of the people.” He adds with great point, “Though a _rule of
right_ may direct the philosopher to a principle of action; and the
_point of honor_ may keep up the thing called manners, among gentlemen:
yet nothing but _religion_ can ever fix a sober standard of behavior
among the common people.” Even the universities were on the side of
irreligion; for professorships, as well as pulpits, were given to men,
not for positive worth and fitness, but for possessing qualities then
most in vogue with those who held the appointing power. Such were the
trying times which had driven our pilgrim fathers to seek a home amid
the wilds of an unexplored continent, and to face the dangers of sea
and savage.

It must ever be regarded as among the highest instances of God’s
bringing good out of evil, that this outrageous rampancy of infidelity
brought out a host of champions for the truth of His word; who boldly
met the odium of discipleship, and waged battle in such style that the
Deistical controversy was settled forever. Never was a dispute more
determined on both sides, and never was victory more complete. Literary
infidelity not only recoiled, but was routed; and can never again
prevail. Henceforth, no _scholar_ will ever treat the evidences of
Christianity as a subject of ridicule or contempt.

When we contrast the stupendous learning, and powerful logic, of the
Christian writers of that century, with the superficial and almost
contemptible productions of the writers against whom they contended, we
are tempted to wonder why such power should be requisite to overthrow
such weakness. But we must remember, that frail logic and shallow
considerations, will persuade men to indulge their vices; while
the soundest reasonings and the most impressive inducements, with
difficulty lead them to self-restraint and true holiness.

The infidel writers of that day have sunk into such oblivion that
their works are now seldom found but in great libraries; and even
well-educated persons scarcely know more of them than their names. Yet
so perfectly did their principles accord with the temper of the times
and the universal depravity of the carnal heart, that they enjoyed the
highest popularity with all classes. Forever honored be the names of
that noble band, who, in face of such odds, established the authority
of the Bible, and left the advocates of atheism and immorality without
a lurking-place.[3] In this noble cohort Butler stands conspicuous:
and to him, I think, more than to all the others, is to be attributed
the sudden and total overthrow of infidelity, when it was in its glory.

As a metaphysician, few have equalled him. What he added to the
science, has ever since remained a part of it, which can be said
of scarcely another. He advanced more that was new, fortified old
positions more ably, and applied speculation to religion more usefully
than any before him. Our language furnishes no profounder thinking.
Merely to understand him is an honorable distinction, and requires no
small previous training of the power of attention. As a polemic, he is
keen, sagacious, candid, patient, persevering, calm, inventive, and
profound: every page indicates that repose of mind, which belongs only
to true greatness, combined with a full knowledge of the subject. So
far as I am able to judge, he never presses a consideration beyond its
just limits, and seldom introduces an illustration which has not the
force of an argument. Fallacies he seems to abolish at a touch.

The Analogy employed much of his life. It was begun in his twentieth
year, but was not published till he was forty-five. Such a mode of
writing never makes large books, for the matter, constantly revised,
becomes constantly condensed. The Analogy is so condensed, as that to
make a satisfactory synopsis is scarcely practicable. Hence, though my
Conspectus and notes have aided my pupils to understand and remember
the argument, they do not in any measure obviate the necessity of
studying the book itself. If they do not increase the number of those
who shall studiously peruse the book itself, my aim and expectations
will be disappointed.

To this work no reply has ever been attempted! Extensive as is its
diffusion, and great as is its acknowledged influence, infidelity
has had the highest inducements to attempt to set it aside. Written
for a present purpose, and most signally accomplishing it, it is yet
so written as to endure, in full value, through all coming time.
It is undoubtedly “the most original and the most profound work
extant, in any language, on the philosophy of religion,”[4] “the most
argumentative and philosophical defence of Christianity ever submitted
to the world.”[5]

Writers in defence of Christianity had, before Butler, amply discussed
the several departments of evidences; but still there remained
objections. The structure of the globe, the course of nature, the
organization of animals, &c. were affirmed to contradict revelation.
Its doctrines and duties, moreover, were pronounced inconsistent
with sound reason. Butler repeats none of the old arguments, but
confines himself to the showing that the declarations of revelation
are in perfect harmony with facts seen daily in the world, and which
all admit. That the world might not have been ordered and governed
otherwise, he does not choose to dispute. Taking things as they are,
and closely studying the connection between one thing and another,
we ought to inquire what course of action on our part, will conform
to the needs of such a nature and such circumstances. Our bodies are
constructed of parts, all adapted to each other, and also to one
general end. So too, our souls. And the two together have relations
and adaptations, which may, to some extent at least, indicate what is
designed to be the _general_ end of our existence. If Christianity
befits these several parts of our mixed nature and their obvious uses,
then there is nothing incongruous between the two; and no objections
against Christianity can be drawn from the course of nature. On the
contrary, all seems to be governed as the gospel declares it is, and
shows that the Author of man and the Author of the Bible is the same.
This is still more impressive when we consider that we have a _moral
faculty_; for it is the very object and business of this faculty to
deal with right and wrong, good and evil; the facts and magnitudes of
which are obvious in the course of nature. If Christianity does, in an
especial manner, _befit_ this faculty, if it is adapted to promote our
general rectitude and happiness, and if it contains no principle which
is not discernible in the government of the visible world, then there
is no discrepancy between Christianity and Providence.

This is Butler’s position. He confines himself to proving such
an analogy between revelation and the daily course of things, as
that nothing known in the universe can be offered in disproof of
Christianity. The mode of warfare was new. Without professing to prove
Christianity to be true, he demonstrates that it cannot be proved to be
false; and that if it be even probable, the rejection of it is a gross
folly and a tremendous hazard. Every objection against it he proves to
be equally forcible against facts which constantly occur, and which all
admit, though none profess to understand. Thus leaving the ramparts of
the church to be guarded by the mighty men who had valiantly maintained
its defence, he quietly walked out into the camp of the enemy, and
spiked every gun!

It has been said that the whole argument of the “Analogy” seems to be
built on Ecclesiasticus xlii. 24: “All things are double, one against
the other, and God hath made nothing imperfect.” If it be so, it
involves no disparagement to have received thus the seminal idea of
this immortal work. Who else has so gloriously discerned and expanded
the profound philosophy of the son of Sirac? Others have uttered
sentiments which seem to involve the whole exposition of Butler. Origen
affirms that “he who believes the Scripture to have proceeded from Him
who is the Author of nature, may well expect to find the same sort of
difficulties in it, as are found in nature.” Shall we assign to Origen
the whole credit of the “Analogy”? As well might we bestow all our
admiration for the delightful papers of Addison, in the Spectator, to
the classical authors from whom he selected appropriate mottoes! By
such a rule, the entire merit of this most Christian work of Butler
should be attributed to the pagan Quintilian, from whom he derives the
motto which so appropriately graces his title-page.

A rapid sketch of the outline of the argument will aid the student
at his outset. He begins by taking for granted the existence of an
intelligent Author and Governor of the universe. Then, from the
conditions and changes observed in the visible world, he argues the
folly of objecting to revelation on account of doctrines which do but
declare the same general laws and the same principles of government.
That there is this harmony, he proves; and hence the probability that
the same sort of government will prevail hereafter, which prevails now.
He demonstrates that man is under exactly such a probation in this
world, and as to this world, as revelation affirms him to be under,
as to the next; and that embarrassments produced by the doctrine of
necessity, involve nature no less than religion. He then evinces the
need that man should be placed in a state of training and trial, if he
is ever to be qualified for better conditions; and that this world,
as now governed, is exactly adapted to give that training, and to
produce such a character as will insure happiness under any possible
contingencies. This is the argument of Part I.

Proceeding to examine Christianity, he discusses its importance, its
proofs, the unavoidableness of its containing strange things, the
absurdity of expecting fully to comprehend its statements, and the
abundance of its evidence for candid minds, though they are not, and
ought not to be, irresistible. He answers not only the objections to
Christianity, but the objections against its proofs; which he shows
are very different things. Though he keeps rigidly to the refutation
of objections, and nowhere meddles with the direct evidence of
Christianity, yet, by removing every objection, he does in fact confirm
its claims. This clearing away of objections, _after_ the usual proofs
are presented, crowns and completes the evidence. Thus the ultimate
result of a study of his book is not only negative but positive; and
such has been its effect on every candid and competent student.

We should remember that we have no right to require the removal of
objections, and that therefore the whole of Butler’s work is in fact
supererogatory; a concession and kindness to such as have doubts,
either honest or captious. Our only rightful demand of Christianity is
for _credentials_. It presents these in its nature, its miracles, its
prophecies, its propagation, its influence, and its success. If these
are competent, we should bow to its teachings. To suppose that we are
capable of judging of the _propriety_ of all God’s law, or even to
understand his reasons for it, if they were disclosed, is absurd.

It is true we naturally presume that a revelation in words, and a
revelation by natural objects and the visible order of things, would
coincide; but to find out the fact or the extent of such coincidence,
is not our first business. We are to weigh the _testimony_ in favor of
religion, embrace it, if sufficient, and attribute the obscurity of any
part, to our present want of capacity. The solution of difficulties
serves to _confirm_ our faith in Christianity, but has no place in our
_ground of reception_: and we have no right to wait for such solution,
however painful and embarrassing may be the difficulties.

Another, and perhaps even more important, use of the “Analogy,” is to
dissipate the prejudices and objections to Christianity which prevent
a candid study of its evidences. These prepossess and poison the mind,
and obstruct or abate the force of the best arguments. Few, if any,
after a careful examination of the positive evidences of Christianity,
conclude them to be inadequate. But many are they, who having heard
objections which their scanty learning does not enable them to answer,
and their no less scanty interest in the subject does not induce them
to examine, or which their inclinations lead them to cherish, cast
it all aside. In this way they relieve themselves from the labor of
investigation, as well as their compunctions of conscience; while they
indulge both their love of sin and pride of singularity.

An instance of the use of this book to such a mind, we have in the
case of Chalmers. He had read, when a young man, several infidel
productions. Their semblance of logic and learning, and supercilious
confidence of style, disposed him to regard all religion as mere
superstition. His mind was poisoned. Accustomed as he had been to
the positive and precise reasonings of mathematics, he could not
find similar proofs for Christianity. But he was induced, by some
friends, to study Butler’s Analogy. This, as he expresses it, took
Christianity “out of the class of unlikelihoods.” It brought him to
the investigation, as if the evidence was neither plus nor minus. He
examined the evidences as he would have done a declaration that Cicero
weighed just one hundred and fifty pounds; open to the smallest proof
or presumption on the positive side of the question. Delivered from
prejudice, not only against Christianity but against its proofs, he
soon saw the madness of deism, and immovably accepted the word of God,
though he did not, at that time, feel its transforming power on his own
heart. Long afterwards he writes, “I cannot render sufficient homage to
the argument, which first, addressing itself to the _subject-matter_ of
Christianity, relieves it of all disproof, and pronounces it worthy of
a trial; and then, addressing itself to the evidence of Christianity,
relieves it of all objections, and makes good, to that evidence, all
the entireness and efficiency which natively belong to it.” Years
afterwards he said, “Butler made me a Christian.” That it did far more
for him than to effect his change of sentiment, that it continued to
be a light in his firmament, is touchingly told in the Preface of his
Bridgewater Treatise, where he says, “I have derived greater aid from
the views and reasonings of Butler, than I have been able to find,
besides, in the whole range of our extant authorship.”

To the sincere believer in the word of God the study of Butler is of
great use. Doubts are among Satan’s tried weapons, and often haunt
the holiest, especially if of a contemplative turn. They see goodness
oppressed, and vice rampant; the world ruled by wicked men, and
truth making its way with difficulty. Their hearts are traitorous,
their surroundings full of temptation, and the direct evidence of
Christianity they may never have studied. To such the analogical
argument comes with full power, meets a candid examination, and

To no Christian is this book so useful as the minister. He is
constantly confronted by the difficulties which Butler so triumphantly
handles. Here he is furnished, not only with a shield to protect his
own mind from subtle darts, but a sword to demolish the cavil, and
defend the system of which he is a public teacher.

To _all_ persons this book is of great value. We arrive at certainty
in but few of our decisions, and are often obliged, even in matters of
great moment, to act on probability. Thus we employ precautions when
an evil is not certain to occur. If the evil would be very serious,
we adopt the precaution, when there is but little probability, or
perhaps a bare possibility, of its occurrence. Now, Butler has shown
that if the proofs of revelation were weak, nay, if it had absolutely
no proof, nay further, if on fair examination there appeared not even
a probability of its truth, still there would remain a _possibility_,
and this alone, considering the tremendous issues at stake, should make
every man a Christian. This argument cannot be applied to Mahometanism
or any other religion, because against those much may be advanced as
_disproof_. Our author, having shown the utter absence of disproof,
shuts us up to the reception of Christianity, were its truth barely

There have not been wanting persons to disparage the “Analogy,” because
it affords, as they say, no _direct_ proof of revelation. As well might
we demand a discussion of chemistry in a work on astronomy. Scores of
writers _prove_ Christianity, and here we have one to relieve us from
the difficulties which beset it, and objections which still remain.
There is an aspect in which the Analogy may be said to contribute
the best of proof. What can go further towards establishing a point,
than to demonstrate that there is no proof of the contrary? What can
show the fallacy of a set of objections, more than to prove that
they might be urged with no less force against the obvious course of
nature? This use of analogy is conformable to the severest logic, and
though offering no pretence of positive argument, goes far towards
establishing full conviction. “The probabilities,” says STEWART,
“resulting from a concurrence of different analogies, may rise so high
as to produce an effect on the belief scarcely distinguishable from
moral certainty.”

When it is considered that Butler’s argument is wholly in addition
to the cumulative mass of direct and almost irresistible evidence,
and removes even the objections which attend the subject, we see the
rejection of Christianity to be inexpressibly rash and absurd. We see
the skeptic condemned at his own bar, for acting in the most momentous
of all possible concerns, in a manner the very opposite of that which
he calls sensible and prudent in his ordinary affairs. The “Analogy”
establishes, beyond cavil, strong _presumptions_ that Christianity is
true, aside from all inspection of its proofs. The man, therefore, who
really understands this book, and refuses to be a Christian, is led by
his lusts and not his reason.

Some admirers of this book have lamented as a defect, its want of
evangelical tincture, and its exclusive reference to natural things. To
me, this is a prime recommendation. Were it otherwise, the reasoning
would be in a circle. The very structure of the argument demands that
it should avoid quotations from the Bible.

It must be admitted, however, that some expressions, taken just as they
stand, without qualification by the current of the argument, tend to
lead astray. For instance, “There is nothing in the human mind contrary
to virtue.” “Men’s happiness and virtue are left to themselves.”
“Religion requires nothing which we are not well able to perform.” “Our
repentance is accepted, to eternal life.” “Our relations to God are
made known by reason.” Such expressions are not to be taken alone, but
as explained by the general drift of sentiment and doctrine. No one can
be familiar with his works, without finding the fullest evidence that
Christianity was to Butler infinitely more than a creed or a ritual.
Nor should we forget that such expressions are not to be interpreted by
the tenor of the “Analogy” only, but by that of his whole ‘Works.’

Even if it be judged that he everywhere fails to express himself in
such phrase as we usually call evangelical, it should be remembered
that he was a Church-of-England man, at a time when there was a
powerful reaction against the evangelism of the Puritans, and when a
real lack of emotional piety was general in his church.

That he did not enjoy in his last illness, which extended over a long
period, that sustaining sense of the love of Christ which hearty
Christians generally feel, is certain. A friend, trying to relieve
his depression, reminded him of his excellent life, and especially
his wide liberalities. He immediately replied, “l am but a steward!
All is His, intrusted to me, to promote his glory and the good of
mankind; how can I know that I have not abused the trust? I reflect on
all these things, and they fill my soul with terror by the feeling of
responsibility they awaken.”

On another occasion, his chaplain sought to soothe his troubled spirit
by referring to the extensive influence of his _Analogy_ in reclaiming
skeptics. His reply was, “I _began_ the Analogy with a view to the
glory of God; but as I proceeded, visions of the fame it might bring
me mingled themselves with my motives, and all was polluted and made
sinful! The book may be a blessing to others, but it weighs like lead
on my soul.” “Admit all this,” tenderly replied the chaplain; “yet has
not Jesus said, ‘Whosoever cometh unto me shall in no wise be cast
out’?” Instantly the Bishop raised himself in the bed, exclaiming,
“How wonderful that the force of this passage never struck me before!
‘Whosoever,’--_all_, ALL! ‘In no wise,’--no amount of sin can prevent
acceptance! Christ’s righteousness will hide the iniquities of _all_
who accept his offer of mercy!”

From that time, for weeks, Butler spoke to all who approached him, of
a _full_ and _free_ salvation. He died triumphantly repeating this

If all that is said of the lack of evangelical sentiment in Butler or
his book be conceded, it certainly cannot impair either the value of
the analogical argument, or the force of our author’s use of it.

Various circumstances conspire to make the study of “The Analogy”
difficult. The nature of the reasoning--the conciseness, and often
obscurity of the style--the dislocation of parts by frequent
digressions--the arrest of a close course of reasoning to answer
objections--and the abstruseness of the subject itself--combine to
make the full comprehension of its import difficult. Mackintosh says,
“No thinker so great, was ever so bad a writer.” But this, like some
other objections of Sir James, is stated too strongly. The language is
good, sinewy Saxon, and will endure when much that is now called fine
writing, will seem grotesque. Still it is possible to write philosophy
in better phrase, as has been shown by at least two great men, Berkeley
and Stewart. Had Butler but possessed the glowing style of Berkeley,
or the smooth, graceful, and transparent diction of Dugald Stewart,
his work, instead of serving only for close thinkers, or a college
text-book, would have been read by all classes, and banished that
vulgar infidelity which flippant writers still disseminate. That it is
thus restricted in its influence is a misfortune to the world. But he
wrote for a class, and did his work completely. Literary infidelity was
conquered. Vulgar, ignorant, licentious infidelity, will always exist,
and is even now deplorably prevalent. Both Europe and America contain
conceited and malignant ignoramuses, who by their sneers, their cavils,
and their audacity, make havoc of souls. Of these, Tom Paine is a type,
whose book, the contempt of cultivated minds, continues to be sold and
read. For this class of persons, “Baxter’s Call,” or “Alleine’s Alarm,”
are far more suitable than treatises on the evidences of Christianity,
or even Butler’s Analogy.

Editor’s Preface.

The text is the result of a careful collation of the various principal
editions. Occasionally solecisms are corrected, and a word transposed
or put in italics, when a sentence could thus be made perspicuous. The
author had a fashion of beginning a large proportion of his sentences
with “and,” “but,” “now,” “indeed,” “however,” &c., which often served
to perplex, and in such cases they have been omitted. Long paragraphs,
comprehending different topics, have been so divided as to correspond
with the true analysis; which will greatly assist the student in
detecting the successive stages of the argument. Special pains has been
taken to correct and improve the punctuation. Hundreds of sentences
have thus been rendered more perspicuous, and many which were obscure,
have been made lucid. In no respect was Butler’s style, as printed, so

The Conspectus is made much ampler than any other, for this reason:
that students are apt to content themselves with such help instead of
mastering the full discussion by the author. In the present case they
cannot so do, for such is the fulness of the Conspectus, that if they
master this, they have mastered the subject itself in full.

Notes by the present editor are distinguished from those of the author
by being enclosed in brackets. They are designed to open out further
views, to elucidate the text, to facilitate extended researches, and to
suggest topics for conversation in the class-room.

The Index has cost far more labor than would be supposed, and may not
be of much benefit to the undergraduate. Its advantages will not be
small to him in after life when he desires to recur to particular
topics. The general scholar will find it enables him to make use of the
book for occasional reference. Without it the work is not complete for
the class-room, still less for the library.

That students of the Analogy need help, is confessed; and all attempts
to furnish it have been kindly received. As is remarked by Bishop
Wilson, “His argument, clear and convincing as it is to a prepared
mind, is not obvious to the young reader, whose experience of life
being small, and his habits of reflection feeble, has not the furniture
necessary for comprehending, at first, the thoughts and conclusions of
such a mind. The style is too close, too negligent, too obscure, to be
suitable for the young.”

If it be asked why, with several existing helps to the study of the
Analogy, I offer another, I frankly reply, because I have found none of
them satisfactory, either to the public or to myself.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some teachers prefer their text-books to be accompanied by a set of
questions. Such will find in this edition all they desire. They have
only to enunciate each sentence of the Conspectus in the interrogative
form, and they will have every possible question prepared to their

Conspectus of the Author’s Introduction.

I. _What is probable evidence?_

  =1.= It differs from demonstration in that it admits of degrees; of
  _all_ degrees.

    1.) One probability does not beget assurance.

    2.) But the slightest presumption makes a probability.

    3.) The repetition of it may make certainty.

  =2.= What constitutes probability is _likeness_; in regard to the
  event itself, or its kind of evidences, or its circumstances.

    1.) This daily affords presumptions, evidence, or conviction:
    according as it is occasional, common, or constant.

    2.) Measures our hopes and fears.

    3.) Regulates our expectations as to men’s conduct.

    4.) Enables us to judge of character from conduct.

  =3.= It is an imperfect mode of judging, and adapted to beings of
  limited capacities.

  =4.= Where better evidence cannot be had, it constitutes moral
  obligation, even though great doubts remain.

    1.) We are as much bound to do what, on the whole, _appears_ to
    be best, as if we _knew_ it to be so.

    2.) In questions of great moment, it is reasonable to act when
    the favorable chances are no greater than the unfavorable.

    3.) There are numberless cases in which a man would be thought
    distracted if he did not act, and that earnestly, where the
    chances of success were _greatly against_ him.

II. _The use and application of probabilities_.

Shall not go further into the _nature_ of probable evidence, nor
inquire _why_ likeness begets presumption and conviction; nor how far
analogical reasoning can be reduced to a _system_; but shall only show
how just and conclusive this mode of reasoning is.

  =1.= In determining our judgments and practice.

    1.) There may be cases in which its value is doubtful.

    2.) There may be seeming analogies, which are not really such.

    3.) But as a mode of argument, it is perfectly just and

  =2.= In noting correspondencies between the different parts of God’s

    1.) We may expect to find the same sort of difficulties in the
    Bible, as we do in Nature.

    2.) To deny the Bible to be of God, because of these
    difficulties, requires us to deny that the world was made by

    3.) If there be a likeness between revelation and the system of
    nature, it affords a presumption that both have the same author.

    4.) To reason on the construction and government of the world,
    without settling foundation-principles, is mere hypothesis.

    5.) To apply principles which are certain, to cases which are
    not applicable, is no better.

    6.) But to join abstract reasonings to the observation of
    facts, and argue, from known present things, to what is likely
    or credible, must be right.

    7.) We cannot avoid acting thus, if we act at all.

  =3.= In its application to religion, revealed, as well as natural.
  This is the use which will be made of analogy in the following
  work. In so using it,

    1.) It will be taken for proved that there is an intelligent
    Creator and Ruler.

      --There are no presumptions _against_ this, prior to proof.

      --There are proofs:--from analogy, reason, tradition, &c.

      --The fact is not denied by the generality of skeptics.

    2.) No regard will be paid to those who idly speculate as to how
    the world _might_ have been made and governed.

      --Such prating would amount to this:

        · All creatures should have been made at first as happy as
        they could be.

        · Nothing of hazard should be put upon them.

        · Should have been _secured_ in their happiness.

        · All punishments avoided.

      --It is a sufficient reply to such talk that mankind have not
      faculties for such speculations.

    3.) We are, to some extent, judges as to _ends_; and may
    conclude that Nature and Providence are designed to produce
    virtue and happiness; but of the _means_ of producing these in
    the highest degree, we are not competent judges.

      --We know not the extent of the universe;

      --Nor even how one person can best be brought to perfection.

      --We are not often competent to judge of the conduct of each

      --As to God, we may presume that order will prevail in his
      universe; but are no judges of his modes for accomplishing
      this end.

    4.) Instead of vainly, and perhaps sinfully, imagining schemes
    for God’s conduct, we must _study what is_.

      --Discovering general laws.

      --Comparing the known course of things with what revelation
      teaches us to expect.

III. _The force of this use of Analogy._

  =1.= Sometimes is practically equivalent to proof.

  =2.= Confirms what is otherwise proved.

  =3.= Shows that the system of revelation is no more open to
  ridicule, than the system of nature.

  =4.= Answers almost all objections against religion.

  =5.= To a great extent answers objections against the _proofs_ of

IV. _General scope of the book._

  =1.= The divine government is considered, as containing in it,

    Chap. 1. Man’s future existence.

      ”   2. In a state of reward or punishment.

      ”   3. This according to our behavior.

      ”   4. Our present life probationary.

      ”   5. And also disciplinary.

      ”   6. Notwithstanding the doctrine of necessity.

      ”   7. Or any apparent want of wisdom or goodness.

  =2.= Revealed religion is considered,

    Chap. 1. As important.

      ”   2. As proved by miracles.

      ”   3. As containing strange things.

      ”   4. As a scheme imperfectly comprehended.

      ”   5. As carried on by a mediator.

      ”   6. As having such an amount of evidence as God saw fit to give.

      ”   7. As having sufficient and full evidence.

Conspectus of the Analogy.




Will not discuss the subject of identity; but will consider what
analogy suggests from changes which do not destroy; and thus see
whether it is not _probable_ that we shall live hereafter.

I. _The probabilities that we shall survive death._

  =1.= It is a law of nature that creatures should exist in different
  stages, and in various degrees of perfection.

      --Worms turn into flies.

      --Eggs are hatched into birds.

      --Our own present state is as different from our state in the
      womb, as two states of the same being can be.

      --That we shall hereafter exist in a state as different from
      the present as the present is from our state in the womb, is
      according to analogy.

  =2.= We now have capacities for happiness, action, misery, &c., and
  there is always a probability that things will continue as they
  are, except when experience gives us reason to think they will be
  altered. This is a general law; and is our _only_ natural reason
  for expecting the continuance of any thing.

  =3.= There is no reason to apprehend that death will destroy us.
  If there was, it would arise from the nature of death; or from the
  analogy of nature.

    1.) Not from the nature of death.

      --We know not what death is.

      --But only _some_ of its _effects_.

      --These effects do not imply the destruction of the living

      --We know little of what the _exercise_ of our powers depends
      upon; and nothing of what _the powers_ themselves depend on.

      --We may be unable to _exercise_ our powers, and yet not lose
      them--_e.g._ sleep, swoon.

    2.) Not from analogy.

      --Reason shows no connection between death and our

      --We have no faculties by which to trace any being beyond it.

      --The possession of living powers, up to the very moment
      when our faculties cease to be able to trace them, is a
      probability of their continuing.

      --We have already survived wonderful changes.

      --To live after death is analogous to the course of nature.

II. _Presumptions against a future life._

  =1.= That death _destroys_ us.

    _Ans._ 1. This is an assumption that we are compound and
    material beings, and hence discerptible; which is not true.

      1.) Consciousness is a single, indivisible power, and of
      course the subject of it must be.

      2.) The material body is not ourself.

      3.) We can easily conceive of our having more limbs, or of
      a different kind, or of having more or fewer senses, or of
      having no bodies at all, or of hereafter animating these same
      bodies, remodelled.

      4.) The dissolution of a succession of new and strange
      bodies, would have no tendency to destroy _us_.

    _Ans._ 2. Though the absolute simplicity of the living being
    cannot be proved by _experiment_, yet facts lead us so to
    conclude. We lose limbs, &c. Our bodies were once _very_ small,
    but we might, then, have lost part of them. There is a constant
    destruction and renewal going on.

      1.) Thus we see that no certain _bulk_ is necessary to our
      existence, and unless it were proved that there is, and that
      it is larger than an indissoluble atom, there is no reason to
      presume that death destroys us, even if we are discerptible.

      2.) The living agent is not an _internal material organism_,
      which dies with the body. Because

        --Our only ground for this presumption is our relation to
        other systems of matter. But we see these are not necessary
        to us.

        --It will not do to say that lost portions of the body were
        not _essential_--who is to determine?

        --The relation between the living agent, and the most
        essential parts of the body, is only one by which they
        mutually affect each other.

      3.) If we regard our body as made up of organs of sense, we
      come to the same result.

        --We see with the eyes, just as we do with glasses. The eye
        is not a _recipient_, any more than a telescope.

        --It is not pretended that vision, hearing, &c. can be
        traced clear up to the percipient; but so far as we can
        trace perceptions, the _organ_ does not perceive.

        --In dreams we perceive without organs.

        --When we lose a limb we do not lose the _directing power_;
        we could move a new one, if it could be made, or a wooden
        one. But the limb cut off has no power of moving.

        --Thus, our loss of the _organs_ of perception and motion,
        not being the destruction of the power, there is no
        ground to think that the destruction of other organs or
        instruments would destroy _us_.

    _Objection._ These observations apply equally to brutes.

      _Ans._ 1. Be it so. Perhaps they are immortal:--may hereafter
      improve: we know not what latent powers they may have.

        1.) The human being at one period looks as little likely to
        make great intellectual attainments; for a long time he has
        capacities for virtue and religion, but cannot use them.

        2.) Many persons go out of the world who never became able
        to exercise these capacities; _e.g._ infants.

      _Ans._ 2. If brutes were immortal, it does not prove them to
      be _moral agents_.

        1.) It may be necessary, for aught we know, that there
        should be living creatures not moral agents, nor rational.

        2.) All difficulties as to what would become of them, are
        founded in our ignorance.

  =2.= That our souls, though not material, so depend upon the
  bodily structure, that we cannot survive its destruction.

    _Ans._ 1. Reason, memory, &c. _do not_ depend on the body,
    as perceptions by the senses do. Death may destroy those
    _instruments_, and yet not destroy the _powers_ of reflection.

    _Ans._ 2. Human beings exist, here, in two very different
    states, each having its own laws: sensation and reflection. By
    the first we feel; by the second we reason and will.

      1.) Nothing which we know to be destroyed at death, is
      necessary to reflecting on ideas formerly received.

      2.) Though the senses act like scaffolds, or levers, to
      _bring in_ ideas, yet when once in, we can reflect, &c.
      without their aid.

    _Ans._ 3. There are diseases which prove fatal, &c., yet do
    not, in any part of their course, _impair_ the intellect; and
    this indicates that they do not _destroy_ it.

      1.) In the diseases alluded to, persons have their reflective
      power, in full, the very moment before death.

      2.) Now, why should a disease, at a certain degree, utterly
      destroy powers which were not even affected by it, up to that

  =3.= That death at least _suspends_ our reflective powers,
  or interrupts our continuing to exist in the like state of
  reflection which we do now.

    _Ans._ There appears so little connection between our powers of
    sensation and our powers of reflection that we cannot presume
    that what might _destroy the former_, could even _suspend the

      1.) We daily see reason, memory, &c. exercised without any
      assistance, that we know of, from our bodies.

      2.) Seeing them in lively exercise to the last, we must infer
      that death is not a discontinuance of their exercise, nor of
      the enjoyments and sufferings of such exercise.

      3.) Our posthumous life may be but a going on, with
      additions. Like the change at our birth--which produced not
      a suspension of the faculties we had before, nor a _total_
      change in our state of life; but a continuance of both, with
      great alterations.

      4.) Death may but at once put us into a _higher_ state of
      life, as our birth did; our relation to bodily organs may be
      the only hinderance to our entering a higher condition of the
      reflective powers.

      5.) Were we even sure that death would suspend our
      intellectual powers, it would not furnish even the lowest
      probability that it would destroy them.

    _Objec._ From the analogy of plants.

      _Ans._ This furnishes poets with apt illustrations of our
      frailty, but affords no proper analogy. Plants are destitute
      of perception and action, and this is the very matter in


  =1.= It has been shown, that confining ourselves to what we
  know, we see no probability of ever ceasing to be:--it cannot be
  concluded from the reason of the thing:--nor from the analogy of

  =2.= We are therefore to go upon the belief of a future existence.

  =3.= Our going into _new scenes_ and conditions, is just as
  natural as our coming into the world.

  =4.= Our condition may naturally be a social one.

  =5.= The advantages of it may naturally be bestowed, according to
  some fixed law, in proportion to one’s degrees in virtue.

    1.) Perhaps not so much as now _by society_; but by God’s more
    immediate action.

    2.) Yet this will be no less _natural_, _i.e._ stated, fixed,
    or settled.

    3.) Our notions of what is natural, are enlarged by greater
    knowledge of God and his works.

    4.) There may be some beings in the world, to whom the whole
    of Christianity is as natural as the visible course of nature
    seems to us.

  =6.= These probabilities of a future life, though they do not
  satisfy curiosity, answer all the purposes of religion, as well
  as demonstration.

    1.) Even a demonstration of a future state, would not
    demonstrate religion, but would be reconcilable with atheism.

    2.) But as religion implies a future state, any presumption
    against such a state, would be a presumption against religion.

    3.) The foregoing observations remove all presumptions of that
    sort, and prove to a great probability, a fundamental doctrine
    of religion.



The question of a future life is rendered momentous by our capacity for
happiness and misery.

Especially if that happiness or misery depends on our present conduct.

We should feel the deepest solicitude on this subject.

And that if there were no proof of a future life and interest, other
than the probabilities just discussed.

I. _In the present world our pleasures and pains are, to a great
extent, in our own power._

  =1.= We see them to be consequences of our actions.

  =2.= And we can _foresee_ these consequences.

  =3.= Our desires are not gratified, without the right kind of

  =4.= By prudence we may enjoy life; rashness, or even neglect may
  make us miserable.

  =5.= Why this is so is another matter.

    1.) It may be impossible to be otherwise.

    2.) Or it may be best on the whole.

    3.) Or God’s plan may be to make only the good happy.

    4.) Or the whole plan may be incomprehensible to us.

    _Objec._ It may be said “this is only the course of nature.”

      _Ans._ It is granted: but

        1. The course of nature is but the will of God. We admit
        that God is the natural governor of the world: and must not
        turn round and deny it because his government is _uniform_.

        2. Our natural foresight of the consequences of actions, is
        his appointment.

        3. The consequences themselves, are his appointment.

        4. Our ability to foresee these consequences, is God’s
        _instruction_ how we are to act.

    _Objec._ By this reasoning we are instructed to gratify our
    appetites, and such gratification is our reward for so doing.

      _Ans._ Certainly not. Foreseen pleasures and pains are proper
      motives to action _in general_; but we may, in particular
      cases, damage ourselves by indulgence. Our eyes are made to
      see with, but not to look at every thing:--for instance the

It follows, from what has been said, that

II. _We are, now, actually under God’s government, in the strictest

  =1.= Admitting that there is a God, it is not so much a matter of
  speculation, as of experience, that he governs us.

  =2.= The annexing of pleasures and pains to certain actions, and
  giving notice them, is the very essence of government.

  =3.= Whether by direct acts upon us, or by contriving a general
  plan, does not affect the argument.

    1.) If magistrates could make laws which should _execute
    themselves_, their government would be far more perfect than it

    2.) God’s making fire burn us, is as much an instance of
    government, as if he _directly inflicted_ the burn, whenever we
    touched fire.

  =4.= Hence the analogy of nature shows nothing to render
  incredible the Bible doctrine of God’s rewarding or punishing
  according to our actions.

_Additional remarks on Punishment._

As men object chiefly to future punishment, it is proper to show
further that the course of administration, as to _present_ punishment,
is analogous to what religion teaches as to _the future_.

Indeed they add credibility to it.

And ought to raise the most serious apprehension.

I. _Circumstances to be observed touching present punishments._

  =1.= They often follow acts which produce present pleasure or

  =2.= The sufferings often far exceed the pleasure or advantage.

  =3.= They often follow remotely.

  =4.= After long delay they often come suddenly.

  =5.= As those remote effects are not certainly foreseen, they
  may not be thought of at the time; or if so, there is a hope of

  =6.= There are opportunities of advantage, which if neglected do
  not recur.

  =7.= Though, in some cases, men who have sinned up to a certain
  point, may retrieve their affairs, yet in many cases, reformation
  is of no avail.

  =8.= Inconsiderateness is often as disastrous as wilful

  =9.= As some punishments by civil government, are capital, so are
  some natural punishments.

    1.) Seem intended to remove the offender out of the way.

    2.) Or as an example to others.

II. _These things are not accidental, but proceed from fixed laws._

  =1.= They are matters of daily experience.

  =2.= Proceed from the general laws, by which the world is

III. _They so closely resemble what religion teaches, as to future
punishment, that both might be expressed in the same words._

_e.g._ Proverbs, ch. i.

  The analogy sufficiently answers all objections against the
  Scripture doctrine of future punishment, such as

    1.) That our frailty or temptations annihilate the guilt of

    2.) Or the objection from necessity.

    3.) Or that the Almighty cannot be contradicted.

    4.) Or that he cannot be offended.


  =1.= Such reflections are terrific, but ought to be stated and

  =2.= Disregard of a hereafter cannot be justified by any thing
  short of a _demonstration_ of atheism. Even skeptical doctrines
  afford no justification.

  =3.= There is no pretence of reason for presuming that the
  licentious will not find it better for them that they had never
  been born.



As the structure of the world shows _intelligence_, so the mode of
distributing pleasure and pain, shows government. That is, God’s
_natural_ government, such as a king exercises over his subjects.

But this does not, at first sight, determine what is the _moral
character_ of such government.

I. _What is a moral or righteous government?_

  =1.= Not mere rewarding and punishing.

  =2.= But doing this according to character.

  =3.= The perfection of moral government is doing this _exactly_.

    _Objec._ God is simply and absolutely benevolent.

      _Ans._ Benevolence, infinite in degree, would dispose him
      to produce the greatest possible happiness, regardless of
      behaviour. This would rob God of other attributes; and should
      not be asserted unless it can be proved. And whether it can
      be proved is not the point now in hand.

      The question is not whether there may not be, in the
      universe, beings to whom he manifests absolute benevolence,
      which might not be incompatible with justice; but whether he
      treats _us_ so.

  =4.= It must be owned to be vastly difficult, in such a
  disordered world, to estimate with exactness the overplus of
  happiness on the side of virtue: and there may be exceptions to
  the rule. But it is far from being doubtful that _on the whole_,
  virtue is happier than vice, in this world.

II. _The beginnings of a righteous administration, are seen in nature._

  =1.= It has been proved (ch. ii.) that God _governs_: and it is
  reasonable to suppose that he would govern _righteously_.

    1.) Any other rule of government would be harder to account for.

    2.) The Bible doctrine that hereafter the good shall be happy,
    and the wicked miserable, is no more than an expectation that a
    method of government, now begun, shall be carried on.

  =2.= The opposite consequences of prudence and rashness, show
  a right constitution of nature; and our ability to foresee and
  control these consequences, shows that we are under moral law.

  =3.= God has so constructed society that vice, to a great degree,
  is actually punished by it.

    1.) Without this, society could not exist.

    2.) This is God’s government, through society; and is as
    _natural_, as society.

    3.) Since the course of things is God’s appointment, men are
    unavoidably accountable for their behaviour.

    _Objec._ Society often punishes good actions, and rewards

      _Ans._ 1. This is not _necessary_, and consequently not

      2. Good actions are never punished by society as _good_, but
      because considered bad.

  =4.= By the course of nature, virtue is rewarded, and vice
  punished, _as such_, which proves a moral government; as will
  be seen if we rightly distinguish between actions and their

    1.) An action may produce present gratification though it be
    wrong: in which case the gratification is in the act, not the
    morality of it: in other cases the enjoyment consists wholly in
    the quality of virtuousness.

    2.) Vice is naturally attended with uneasiness, apprehension,
    vexation, remorse, &c.

      --This is a very different feeling from that produced by mere

      --Men comfort themselves under misfortune, that it was not
      their own fault.

    3.) Honest and good men are befriended _as such_.

    4.) Injuries are resented as implying fault; and good offices
    are regarded with gratitude on account of the _intention_, even
    when they fail to benefit us.

      --This is seen in family government, where children are
      punished for falsehood, fretfulness, &c., though no one is

      --And also in civil government, where the absence or presence
      of ill intention goes far in determining the penalty of

    5.) The whole course of the world, in all ages and relations,
    turns much upon approbation and disapprobation.

    6.) The very fact of our having a moral nature, is a proof of
    our being under God’s moral government.

      --We are placed in a condition which unavoidably operates on
      our moral nature.

      --Hence it arises that reward to virtue and reprobation of
      vice, as such, is a _rule_, never inverted. If it be thought
      that there are instances to the contrary, (which is not so,)
      they are evidently monstrous.

      --The _degree_ in which virtue and vice receive proper
      returns, is not the question now, but only the thing itself,
      in some degree.

    7.) It is admitted that virtue sometimes suffers, and vice
    prospers; but this is _disorder_, and not the order of nature.

    8.) It follows, that we have in the government of the world,
    a declaration from God, for virtue and against vice. So far
    as a man is true to virtue, is he on the side of the divine
    administration. Such a man must have a _sense of security_, and
    a hope of _something better_.

  =5.= This hope is confirmed by observing that virtue has
  necessary tendencies beyond their present effects.

    1.) These are very obvious with regard to individuals.

    2.) Are as real, though not so patent, in regard to society.

      --The power of a society under the direction of virtue, tends
      to prevail over power not so directed, just as power under
      direction of reason, tends to prevail over brute force.

      --As this may not be conceded, we will notice how the case
      stands, as to reason:

        · Length of time, and proper opportunity, are necessary for
        reason to triumph over brutes.

        · Rational beings, disunited, envious, unjust, and
        treacherous, may be overcome by brutes, uniting themselves
        by instinct: but this would be an inverted order of things.

      --A like tendency has virtue to produce superiority.

        · By making the good of society, the object of every member
        of it.

        · By making every one industrious in his own sphere.

        · By uniting all in one bond of veracity and justice.

    3.) If the part of God’s government which we see, and the part
    we do not see, make up one scheme, then we see a _tendency_ in
    virtue to superiority.

    4.) But to _produce_ that superiority there must be

      --A force proportioned to the obstacles.

      --Sufficient lapse of time.

      --A fair field of trial; such as extent of time, adequate
      occasions, and opportunities for the virtuous to unite.

    5.) These things are denied to virtue in this life, so that its
    tendencies, though real, are _hindered_.

    6.) But it may have all requisite advantages hereafter.

      --Eternity will be lasting enough.

      --Good men will unite; as they cannot do now, scattered over
      the earth, and ignorant of one another.

      --Other orders of virtuous beings will join; for the very
      nature of virtue is a bond of union.

    7.) The tendency of such an order of things, so far as seen by
    vicious beings in any part of the universe, would be to the
    amendment of all who were capable of it, and their recovery to

    8.) All this goes to show that the hinderances to virtue are
    contingent, and that its beneficial tendencies are God’s
    declarations in its favor.

    9.) If the preceding considerations are thought to be too
    speculative, we may easily come to the same result by
    reflecting on the supremacy which any earthly nation would
    attain, by entire virtue for many ages.


Consider now the general system of religion. The government of
the world is one; it is moral; virtue shall in the end prevail
over wickedness; and to see the importance and fitness of such an
arrangement we have only to consider what would be the state of things,
if vice had these advantages, or virtue the contrary.

  _Objec._ Why may not things be now going on in other worlds, and
  continue always to go on in this world, in the same mixed and
  disordered state as at present?

    _Ans._ We are not proving that God’s moral government is
    _perfect_, or the truth of religion, but only seeing what
    there is in the course of nature, to confirm it, supposing it
    to be known. Were there nothing to judge by, but the present
    distribution of pleasure and pain, we should have no ground
    to conclude that hereafter we should be rewarded or punished
    exactly according to our deserts. But even then there would
    be no indication that vice is better than virtue. Still the
    preceding observations _confirm_ the doctrine of future
    retribution; for,

      1.) They show that the Author of nature is not indifferent to
      virtue and vice.

      2.) That future distributive justice would differ not in
      _kind_, but in degree only, from God’s present government. It
      would be the _effect_, towards which we see the _tendency_.

      3.) That higher rewards and punishments _may be_ hereafter.

      4.) That we should _expect_ it to be so; because the
      tendencies of vice and virtue are immutable, while the
      hinderances are only artificial.


[This enumerates the steps of the argument, in the foregoing chapter,
in as condensed a form as possible.]



The doctrine of probation comprehends several particulars. But the
most common notion is that our future interests are _depending_; and
depending on _ourselves_. And that we have _opportunities_ for both
good and bad conduct, and _temptations_ to each.

This is not exactly the same as our being under moral government; for
it implies allurement to evil, and difficulties in being good.

Hence needs to be considered by itself.


I. _So far as we are tempted to do what will damage our future temporal
interests, so far we are under probation as to those interests._

  =1.= The annexing of pleasures and pains to actions, as good or
  bad, and enabling us to foresee their effect, implies that our
  interests, in part at least, depend on ourselves.

  =2.= We often _blame_ ourselves and others for evils, as
  resulting from misconduct.

  =3.= It is very certain that we often miss possible good, and
  incur evils, not for want of knowing better, but through our

  =4.= Every one speaks of the hazards of young persons, from other
  causes than ignorance.

II. _These natural or temporal trials are analogous to our moral and
religious trial._

  =1.= In both cases, what constitutes the trial, is either in our
  circumstances or in our nature.

    1.) Some would do right but for violent or extraordinary

    2.) Others will _seek_ evil, and go out of their way after
    wicked indulgence, when there are no external temptations.

    3.) But even those who err through temptation, must have that
    within which makes them _susceptible_ of temptation.

    4.) So that we are in a like state of probation with respect to
    both present and future interests.

  =2.= If we proceed to observe how mankind behave in both
  capacities, we see the same analogy.

    1.) Some scarcely look beyond the present gratification.

    2.) Some are driven by their passions against their better
    judgment and feeble resolutions.

    3.) Some shamelessly go on in open vice.

    4.) Some persist in wrong-doing, even under strong
    apprehensions of future misery.

  =3.= The analogy is no less plain in regard to the influence of
  others upon us.

    1.) Bad example.

    2.) Wrong education.

    3.) Corruptions of religion.

    4.) General prevalence of mistakes as to true happiness.

  =4.= In both cases negligence and folly bring difficulty as well
  as vice.

III. _The disadvantages we labor under from our fallen and disordered
state, are the same, in relation to both earthly and future interests._

This disadvantage affords no ground of complaint; for,

  =1.= We _may_ manage to pass our days in comfort and peace.

  =2.= And so may we obtain the security and comfort of religion.

  =3.= We might as well complain that we are not a higher order of


  =1.= It is thus proved that the state of trial, which religion
  says we are in, is credible; for it exactly corresponds to what
  we see.

    1.) If from birth till death we were in a constant security
    of enjoyment, without care or correctness, it would be a
    presumption against religion.

    2.) It might, if we had no experience, be urged that an
    infinitely good Being would not expose us to the hazard of
    misery. This is indeed a difficulty, and must remain so; but
    still the course of nature is as it is.

    3.) The miseries which we bring on ourselves are no more
    unavoidable than our deportment.

  =2.= It has been proved that we are in danger of miscarrying as
  to our interests, both present and future.

  =3.= The sum of the whole is, that as we do not have present
  enjoyments and honors forced upon us, in spite of misconduct, so
  this _may_ be the case, as to that chief and final good which
  religion proposes.



Why we should be placed in the condition spoken of in the last chapter,
is a question which cannot be answered. It may be that we could not
understand, if told. And if we could, it might injure us to know, just
now. It certainly is consistent with God’s righteous government.

Religion tells us that we are so placed in order to become qualified
for a better state.

This, though a very partial answer to the inquiry _why_ we are so
placed, answers an infinitely more important question,--viz.: _What is
our business here?_

I. _We are placed in this state of trial, for our improvement in
virtue, as the requisite qualification for future security and

  =1.= Every creature is designed for a particular way of life.

    1.) Happiness depends on the congruity between a creature’s
    nature and its circumstances.

    2.) Man’s character might be so changed as to make him
    _incapable_ of happiness on earth.

    3.) Or he might be placed, without changing his nature, in a
    world where he must be wretched, for want of the proper objects
    to answer to his desires.

    4.) So that without determining what is the future condition of
    good men, we know there must be necessary _qualifications_ to
    make us capable of enjoying it.

  =2.= Human beings are so constituted as to become fit for new and
  different conditions.

    1.) We not only acquire ideas, but store them up.

    2.) We can become more expert in any kind of action.

    3.) And can make settled alterations in our tempers.

    4.) We can form _habits_--both bodily and mental.

    As these operate in producing radical changes in human
    character, we will look for a moment at the process.

      --Neither perceptions, nor knowledge, are habits; though
      necessary to _forming_ them.

      --There are habits of perception, however, and habits of
      action: the former are passive, the latter active.

      --Habits of body are produced by external acts, and habits of
      mind by the exertion of principles; _i.e._ carrying them out.

      --Resolutions to do well are acts, and may _help_ towards
      forming good habits. But _mere_ theorizing, and forming
      pictures in the mind, not only do not help, but may harden
      the mind to a contrary course.

      --Passive impressions, by repetition grow weaker. Thus
      familiarity with danger lessens fear.

      --Hence active habits may be formed and strengthened, by
      acting according to certain motives or excitements, which
      grow less sensibly felt and less and less felt, as the habit

        · Thus the sight of distress excites the passive emotion
        of pity, and the active principle of benevolence. But
        inquiring out cases of distress in order to relieve them,
        causes diminished sensitiveness at the sight of misery, and
        stronger benevolence and aptitude in relieving it.

        · So admonition, experience, and example, if acted upon,
        produce good; if not, harden.

    5.) The formation of a habit may be imperceptible and even
    inexplicable, but the thing itself is matter of certain

    6.) A habit once formed, the action becomes easy and often
    pleasurable: opposite inclinations grow weaker: difficulties
    less: and occasions more frequent.

    7.) Thus, a new character, in several respects, is formed.

  =3.= We should not have these capacities for improvement and for
  the reconstruction of character, if it were not necessary.

    1.) They are necessary, even as to this life.

      --We are not qualified, at first, for mature life:
      understanding and strength come gradually.

      --If we had them in full, at birth, we should at first be
      distracted and bewildered, and our faculties would be of no
      use previous to experience. Ignorant of any employment, we
      could not provide for ourselves.

      --So that man is an unformed, unfinished creature, even as
      to this world, till he _acquire_ knowledge, experience, and

    2.) Provision is made for our acquiring, in youth, the
    requisite qualities for manhood.

      --Children _learn_, from their very birth,

        · The nature and use of objects.

        · The subordinations of domestic life.

        · The rules of life.

      --Some of this learning is acquired so insensibly, as to seem
      like instinct, but some requires great care and labor, and
      the doing of things we are averse to.

      --According as we act during this formative period, is our
      character formed; and our capacity for various stations in
      society determined.

      --Early opportunities lost, cannot be recovered.

    3.) Our state of discipline throughout this life, for another,
    is exactly of the same kind: and comprehended under one general

      --If we could not see how the present discipline fitted us
      for a higher life, it would be no objection.

        · We do not know how food, sleep, &c. enlarges the
        child’s body; nor would we expect such a result, prior to

        · Nor do children understand the need of exercise,
        temperance, restraint, &c.

      --We thus see a general analogy of Providence indicating that
      the present life is preparatory.

  =4.= If virtue is a necessary qualification for future happiness,
  then we see our need of the moral culture of our present state.

    1.) Analogy indicates that our future state will be social.

      --Nature furnishes no shadow of unreasonableness in the
      Scripture doctrine that this future community will be under
      the more immediate government of God.

      --Nor the least proof that its members will not require the
      exercise of veracity, justice, &c. towards each other; and
      that character which _results_ from the practice of such

      --Certainly the universe is under moral government; and a
      virtuous character must, in some way, be a condition of
      happiness in that state.

    2.) We are deficient, and in danger of deviating from what is

      --We have desires for outward objects.

      --The times, degrees, &c. of gratifying these desires, are,
      of right, subject to the control of the moral principle.

      --But that principle neither excites them, nor prevents their
      being excited.

      --They may exist, when they cannot be lawfully gratified, or
      gratified at all.

      --When the desire exists, and the gratification is unlawful,
      we are tempted.

    3.) The only security is the principle within.

      --The strengthening of this lessens the danger.

      --It may be strengthened, by discipline and exercise.

        · Noting examples.

        · Attending to the right, and not to preference.

        · Considering our true interests.

      --When improved, it becomes, in proportion to its strength,
      our security from the dangers of natural propensions.

      --Virtue, become habitual by discipline, is improved virtue;
      and improved virtue must produce increased happiness, if the
      government of the world is moral.

    4.) Even creatures made upright may fall.

      --The fall of an upright being, is not accounted for by the
      nature of liberty; for that would only be saying that an
      event happened because it might happen.

      --But from the very nature of propensions.

      --A finitely perfect being would have propensions
      corresponding to its surroundings; its understanding; and its
      moral sense; and all these in due proportions.

      --Such a being would have propensions, though the object
      might not be present, or the indulgence might be contrary to
      its moral sense; and this would have some tendency, however
      small, to induce gratification.

      --The tendency would be increased by the frequency of
      occasions; and yet more by the least indulgence, even in
      thought; till, under peculiar conjunctures, it would become

      --The first transgression might so utterly disorder the
      constitution, and change the proportions of forces, as to
      lead to a repetition of irregularities; and hence to the
      construction of bad habits, and a depraved character.

    5.) On the contrary, a finitely perfect being may attain higher
    virtue, and more security, by obeying the moral principle.

      --For the danger would lessen, by the increased
      submissiveness of propensions.

      --The moral principle would gain force by exercise.

    6.) Thus vice is not only criminal, but degrading; and virtue
    is not only right, but improving.

      --The degree of improvement may be such that the danger of
      sinning may be almost infinitely lessened.

      --Yet the security may always be the habits formed in a
      state of discipline; making such a state altogether fit and

    7.) This course of reasoning is vastly stronger when applied to
    fallen and corrupt creatures.

      --The upright need improvement; the fallen must be renewed.

      --Discipline is expedient for the one; necessary for the
      other; and of a severer sort.

II. _The present world is peculiarly fit for such discipline as we

  =1.= Surrounding evils tend to produce moderation, practical
  knowledge, &c. very different from a mere speculative knowledge
  of our liability to vice and misery.

  =2.= Our experience in this world, with right views and practice,
  may leave eternal impressions for good.

  =3.= Every act of self-government in the exercise of virtue,
  must, from the very make of our nature, form habits of virtue,
  and a more intense virtuous principle.

  =4.= Resolute and persevering resistance to particular and
  violent temptations, is a _continued_ act of virtue, and that in
  a _higher degree_ than if the seduction were transient and weak.

  =5.= Self-denial is not essential to virtue, but is almost
  essential to discipline and improvement.

    1.) Because actions materially virtuous, which have no
    difficulty, but agree with our inclinations, may be done merely
    from inclination, and so not be _really_ virtuous.

    2.) But when they are done in face of danger and difficulty,
    virtuousness is increased, and confirmed into a habit.

  _Objec._ 1. As our intellectual or physical powers may be
  overtasked, so may our moral.

    _Ans._ This may be so in exceptional cases, but it does not
    confute the argument. In general, it holds good. All that is
    intended to be proved is, that this world is _intended_ to be a
    state of improvement, and is _fitted_ for it.

      1.) Some sciences which of themselves are highly improving,
      require a trying measure of attention, which some will not
      submit to.

      2.) It is admitted that this world disciplines many to vice:
      but this viciousness of many is the very thing which makes
      the world a virtuous discipline to good men. The _whole end_
      in placing mankind as they are we know not; but these things
      are evident--the virtues of some are exercised:--and so
      exercised as to be improved: and improved beyond what they
      would be in a perfectly virtuous community.

      3.) That all, or even the generality, do not improve, is no
      proof that their improvement was not _intended_. Of seeds and
      animals not one in a million comes to perfection; yet such
      as do, evidently answer an end for which they were designed.
      The _appearance of waste_ in regard to seeds, &c. is just as
      unaccountable, as the ruin of moral agents.

  _Objec._ 2. Rectitude arising from hope and fear, is only the
  discipline of self-love.

    _Ans._ Obedience _is_ obedience, though prompted by hope or
    fear: and a _course_ of such obedience, forms a habit of
    it: and distinct habits of various virtues, by repressing
    inclination whenever justice, veracity, &c. require.

    Beside, veracity, justice, regard to God’s authority, and
    self-interest, are coincident; and each, separately, a just
    principle. To begin a good life from either of them, and
    persist, produces that very character which corresponds to our
    relations to God, and secures happiness.

  _Objec._ 3. The virtues requisite for a state of afflictions,
  and produced by it, are not wanted to qualify us for a state of

    _Ans._ Such is not the verdict of experience. Passive
    submission is essential to right character. Prosperity itself
    begets extravagant desires; and imagination may produce as much
    discontent as actual condition. Hence, though we may not need
    _patience_ in heaven, we shall need that _temper_ which is
    formed by patience.

    Self-love would always coincide with God’s commands, when
    our interest was rightly understood; but it is liable to
    error. Therefore, HABITS of resignation are necessary, for
    _all_ creatures; and the proper discipline for resignation is

  _Objec._ 4. The trouble and danger of such discipline, might have
  been avoided by making us at once, what we are intended to become.

    _Ans._ What we are to be, is the effect of what we are to
    do. God’s natural government is arranged not to save us from
    trouble or danger, but to enable and incline us to go through
    them. It is as natural for us to seek means to obtain things,
    as it is to seek the things; and in worldly things we are left
    to our choice, whether to improve our powers and so better our
    condition, or to neglect improvement and so go without the

    Analogy, therefore, makes the same arrangement credible, as to
    a future state.

III. _This state of discipline may be necessary for the display of

  =1.= Not to the all-knowing Being, but to his creation, or part
  of it, and in many ways which we know not.

  =2.= It may be a _means_ in disposing of men according to

  =3.= And of showing creation that they are so disposed of.

  =4.= Such display of character certainly contributes, largely, to
  the general course of things considered in this chapter.



Fatalists have no right to object to Christianity, for they of course
hold the doctrine to be compatible with what they see in nature.

The question is, whether it be not equally compatible with what
Christianity teaches.

To argue on the supposition of so great an absurdity as necessity, is
puzzling; and the obscurity and puzzle of the argument must therefore
be excused.

I. _Necessity does not destroy the proof of an intelligent Author and
Governor of the world._

  =1.= It does not exclude design and deliberation.

    1.) This is matter of actual experience and consciousness.

      --Necessity does not account for the _existence_ of any
      thing, but is only a _circumstance_ relating to its origin.
      Instance the case of a house: the fatalist admits that it had
      a builder, and the only question would be, was he obliged to
      build it as he did?

    2.) It is the same as to the construction of the world. To say
    it exists by necessity must mean it had a maker, who _acted_ by
    necessity: for necessity is only an abstract notion, and can
    _do_ nothing.

    3.) We say God exists by necessity, because we intuitively
    discern that there must be an infinite Being, prior to all
    causes; but we cannot say that _every thing_ so exists.
    The fact that many changes in nature are produced by man’s
    contrivance is a proof of this.

    4.) Thus though the fatalist does not choose to mean by
    necessity _an agent acting necessarily_, he is obliged to mean

    5.) And it also follows that a thing’s being done by necessity
    does not exclude _design_.

  =2.= It does not exclude a belief that we are in a state of

    1.) Suppose a fatalist to educate a child on his own
    principles,--viz.: that he cannot do otherwise than he does;
    and is not subject to praise or blame.

      (It might be asked, _would_ he, if possessed of common sense,
      so educate his child?)

      --The child would be delighted with his freedom; but would
      soon prove a pest, and go to destruction.

      --He would meet with checks and rebuffs, which would teach
      him that he _was_ accountable.

      --He would, in the end, be convinced either that his doctrine
      was wrong, or that he had reasoned inconclusively upon it,
      and misapplied it.

    2.) To apply fatalism to practice, in any other way, would be
    found equally fallacious: _e.g._ that he need not take care of
    his life.

    3.) No such absurdity follows the doctrine of freedom.

      --Reasoning on this ground is justified by all experience.

      --The constitution of things is _as if_ we were free.

    4.) If the doctrine of necessity be true, and yet, when we
    _apply it_ to life, always misleads us; how, then, can we be
    sure it would not mislead us with respect to future interests?

    5.) It follows that if there are proofs of religion on the
    supposition of freedom, they are just as conclusive on the
    supposition of necessity.

  =3.= It does not refute the notion that God has a will and a

    1.) It does not hinder _us_ from having a will and a character;
    from being cruel, or benevolent, or just, &c.

    2.) If necessity be plead as the excuse for crime, it equally
    excuses the _punishment_ of crime; for if it destroys the sin
    of the one, it destroys the sin of the other.

    3.) The very assumption of injustice in punishing crime, shows
    that we cannot rid ourselves of the notion of justice and

  _Objec._ If necessity be _reconcilable_ with the character of
  God, as portrayed in Christianity, does it not destroy _the
  proof_ that he has that character; and so destroy the proofs of

    _Ans._ No. Happiness and misery are not our fate, but the
    results of our conduct. God’s government is that of a father
    and a magistrate; and his natural rule of government must be
    veracity and justice. We shall proceed to show that,

II. _Necessity does not destroy the proofs of religion._

  =1.= It is a plain fact that God rewards and punishes.

    1.) He has given us a moral faculty, by which we discern
    between actions, and approve or disapprove, &c.

    2.) This implies a _rule_, a peculiar _kind_ of rule; _i.e._
    one from which we cannot depart without being self-condemned.

    3.) The dictates of our moral faculty are God’s laws, with
    sanctions. It not only raises a sense of _duty_, but a sense of
    _security_ in obeying, and danger in disobeying; and this is an
    explicit sanction.

    4.) God’s government must conform to the nature he has given
    us; and we must infer that in the upshot happiness will follow
    virtue, and misery vice.

    5.) Hence religious worship is a duty, if only as a means of
    keeping up the sense of this government.

    6.) No objection from necessity can lie against this course of

      --The conclusion is wholly and directly from facts; not
      from what might appear to us to be _fit_, but from what his
      actions tell us _he wills_.

  =2.= Natural religion has external evidence which necessity, if
  true, does not affect.

    1.) Suppose a person convinced of the truths of natural
    religion, but ignorant of history, and of the present state of
    mankind, he would inquire:

      --How this religion came?

      --How far the belief of it extended?

      --If he found that some one had totally propounded it, as a
      deduction of reason, then, though its evidences from reason
      would not be impaired, its history would furnish no further

    2.) But such an one would find, on the contrary,

      --That essentially it had been professed in all countries.

      --And can be traced up through all ages.

      --And was not _reasoned out_, but revealed.

    3.) These things are of great weight.

      --Showing natural religion to be conformed to the common
      sense of mankind.

      --And either that it was revealed, or forces itself upon the

      --The rude state of the early ages leads to the belief of its
      being revealed, and such is the opinion of the learned.

  =3.= Early pretences to revelation indicate some original real
  one from which they were copied.

      --The history of revelation is as old as history itself.

      --Such a fact is a proof of religion, against which there is
      no presumption.

      --And indicates a revelation prior to the examination
      of the book said to contain it; and independent of all
      considerations of its being corrupted, or darkened by fables.

  =4.= It is thus apparent that the _external_ evidence of religion
  is considerable; and is not affected by the doctrine of necessity.


  1. The danger of taking custom, &c. for our moral rule.

    1.) We are all liable to prejudice.

    2.) Reason may be impaired, perverted, or disregarded.

    3.) The matter in hand is of infinite moment.

  2. The foregoing observations amount to practical proof.

    _Objec._ Probabilities which cannot be confuted, may
    be overbalanced by greater probabilities: much more by
    demonstration. Now, as the doctrine of necessity must be true,
    it cannot be that God governs us as if we were free when he
    knows we are not.

      _Ans._ This brings the matter to a point, and the answer is
      not to be evaded,--viz.: that the whole constitution and
      course of things shows this reasoning to be false, be the
      fallacy where it may.

      The doctrine of freedom shows where,--viz.: in supposing
      ourselves necessary agents when in fact we are free.

      Admitting the doctrine of necessity, the fallacy evidently
      lies in denying that necessary agents are accountable; for
      that they _are_ rewarded and punished is undeniable.

CONCLUSION.--It follows that necessity, if true, neither proves that
God will not make his creatures happy or miserable according to
their conduct, nor destroys the proofs that he will do so. That is,
necessity, practically, is false.



Moral government, _as a fact_, has now been considered; it remains for
us to remove objections against its _wisdom and goodness_. A thing
being true does not prove it to be good.

In arguing as to its truth, analogy could only show it to be credible.
But, if a moral government be admitted as a fact, analogy makes it
credible that it is a scheme or system, and that man’s comprehension
of it is necessarily so limited, as to be inadequate to determine its

This we shall find to be the case.


I. _The ordering of nature is a scheme; and makes it credible by
analogy, that moral government is a scheme._

  =1.= The parts curiously correspond to each other; individuals to
  individuals, species to species, events to events; and all these
  both immediate and remote.

  =2.= This correspondence embraces all the past, and all the
  future; including all creatures, actions, and events.

    1.) There is no event, which does not depend for its occurrence
    on some further thing, unknown to us; we cannot give the whole
    account of any one thing.

    2.) Things apparently the most insignificant, seem to be
    necessary to others, of the greatest importance.

  =3.= If such is God’s natural government, it is credible that
  such is his moral government.

    1.) In fact they are so blended as to make one scheme.

      --One is subservient to the other, just as the vegetable
      kingdom subserves the animal, and our animal organization
      subserves our mental.

      --Every act of God seems to look beyond the occasion, and to
      have reference to a general plan.

      --There is evidently a previous adjustment.

        · The periods, &c. for trying men.

        · The instruments of justice.

        · The kinds of retribution.

    2.) The whole comprises a system, a very small part of which is
    known to us: therefore no objections against any part can be
    insisted on.

    3.) This ignorance is universally acknowledged, except in
    arguing against religion. That it ought to be a valid answer to
    objections against religion, we proceed to show.

      --Suppose it to be asserted that all evils might have been
      prevented by repeated interpositions; or that more good might
      have been so produced; which would be the utmost that could
      be said: still,

      --Our ignorance would vindicate religion from any objections
      arising from apparent disorders in the world.

      --The government of the world might be _good_, even on those
      suppositions; for at most they could but suggest that it
      might be _better_.

      --At any rate, they are mere assertions.

      --Instances may be alleged, in things much less out of reach,
      of suppositions palpably impossible, which _all_ do not see
      to be so: nor _any, at first sight_.

    4.) It follows that our ignorance is a satisfactory answer to
    all objections against the divine government.

      --An objection against an act of Providence, no way connected
      with any other thing, as being unjust, could not be answered
      by our ignorance.

      --But when the objection is made against an act related to
      other and unknown acts, then our ignorance is a full answer.

      --Some unknown relation, or unknown impossibility, may render
      the act not only good, but good in the highest degree.

II. _Consider some particular things, in the natural government of God,
the like of which we may infer, by analogy, to be contained in his
moral government._

  =1.= No ends are accomplished without means.

    1.) Often, means very disagreeable bring the most desirable

    2.) How means produce ends, is not learned by reason, but

    3.) In many cases, before experience, we should have expected
    contrary results.

    4.) Hence we may infer that those things which are objected
    against God’s moral government, produce good.

    5.) It is evident that our not seeing _how_ the means work
    good, or their seeming to have an opposite effect, offers no
    presumption against their fitness to work good.

    6.) They may not only be fit, but the _only_ means of ultimate

    _Objec._ Though our capacity of vice and misery may promote
    virtue, and _our_ suffering for sin be better than if we were
    restrained by force, yet it would have been better if evil had
    not entered the world.

      _Ans._ It is granted that though sinful acts may produce
      benefits, to refrain from them would produce more. We have
      curative pains, yet pain is not better than health.

  =2.= Natural government is carried on by general laws.

    1.) Nature shows that this is best: all the good we enjoy is
    because there are general laws. They enable us to _forecast_
    for the procurement of good.

    2.) It may not be possible, by general laws, to prevent all
    irregularities, or remedy them.

    3.) Direct interpositions might perhaps remedy many disorders
    arising under them, but this would have bad effects.

      --Encouraging improvidence.

      --Leaving us no rule of life.

      --Every interposition would have _distant_ effects: so that
      we could not guess what would be the _whole_ result.

        · If it be replied that those distant effects might also be
        corrected by direct interpositions--this is only talking at

  _Objec._ If we are so ignorant as this whole argument supposes,
  we are too ignorant to understand the proofs of religion.

    _Ans._ 1. Total ignorance of a subject precludes argument, but
    partial ignorance does not. We may, in various degrees, know a
    man’s character, and the way he is _likely_ to pursue certain
    ends; and yet not know how he _ought_ to act to gain those
    ends. In this case objections to his mode of pursuing ends may
    be answered by our ignorance, though that he _does_ act in a
    certain manner is capable of proof. So we may have evidence
    of God’s character and aims, and yet not be competent judges
    as to his measures. Our ignorance is a good answer to the
    difficulties of religion, but no objection to religion itself.

    _Ans._ 2. If our ignorance did invalidate the proofs of
    religion, as well as the objections, yet is it undeniable that
    moral obligations remain unaffected by our ignorance of the
    consequences of obedience or violation. The consequences of
    vice and virtue may not be fully known, yet it is credible that
    they may be such as religion declares: and this credibility is
    an obligation, in point of prudence, to abstain from sin.

    _Ans._ 3. Our answers to the objections against religion, are
    _not_ equally valid against the proofs of it.

  [Answers rehearsed.]

    _Ans._ 4. Our answers, though they may be said to be based
    on our ignorance, are really not so, but on what analogy
    teaches _concerning_ our ignorance,--viz.: that it renders
    us incompetent judges. They are based on experience, and
    what we _do know_; so that to credit religion is to trust to
    experience, and to disregard it is the contrary.


  =1.= The reasoning of the last chapter leads us to regard this
  life as part of a larger plan of things.

    1.) Whether we are connected with the distant _parts_ of the
    universe, is uncertain; but it is very clear we are connected,
    more or less, with present, past, and future.

    2.) We are evidently in the midst of a scheme, not fixed but
    progressive; and one equally incomprehensible, whether we
    regard the present, past, or future.

  =2.= This scheme contains as much that is wonderful as religion
  does: for it certainly would be as wonderful that all nature
  came into existence without a Creator, as that there should be a
  Creator: and as wonderful that the Creator should act without any
  rule or scheme, as that he should act with one; or that he should
  act by a bad rule, rather than a righteous one.

  =3.= Our very nature compels us to believe that the will and
  character of the Author of nature, is just and good.

  =4.= Whatever be his character, he formed the world as it is, and
  controls it as he does, and has assigned us our part and lot.

  =5.= Irrational creatures act their part, and receive their lot,
  without reflection, but creatures endued with reason, can hardly
  avoid reflecting whither we go, and what is the scheme, in the
  midst of which we find ourselves.

[Here follows a recapitulation of the book.]




Every one must admit that we _need_ a revelation. Few, if any, could
reason out a system, even of natural religion. If they could, there is
no probability that they would. Such as might, would still feel the
want of revelation. To say that Christianity is superfluous, is as wild
as to say all are happy.

No exactness in attending to natural religion can make Christianity of
small importance.

If Christianity be from God, we must obey, unless we know all his
reasons for giving it: and also that those reasons no longer exist; at
least in our case. This we cannot know.

The importance of Christianity appears if we regard it

I. _As a republication of natural religion._

  =1.= It gives the moral system of the universe.

    1.) Free from corruptions; teaching that

      --Jehovah created all things.

      --   ”    governs all things.

      --Virtue is his law.

      --Mankind will be judged according to character.

    2.) It publishes its facts authoritatively.

    3.) With vastly more clearness; e.g. the doctrines of a future
    state: danger of sin: efficacy of repentance.

    4.) With the advantage of a visible church, distinguished from
    the world by peculiar institutions.

      _Objec._ The perversions of Christianity, and the little good
      it has done.

        _Ans._ 1. Natural religion is no less perverted, and has
        done less good.

        2. The benefits of Christianity are _not_ small.

        3. The evils ascribed to it, are not _its_ effects. Things
        are to be judged by their genuine tendencies.

        4. The light of reason, no more than revelation forces

    5.) With the additional advantage that every Christian, is
    bound to instruct and persuade others.

II. _As containing truths not discoverable by natural reason._

  =1.= A mode of salvation for the ruined.

  =2.= Duties unknown before.

  =3.= Our relations to the Son and Holy Ghost.

    1.) Hence the form of baptism.

    2.) Pious regards to Christ, and the Holy Ghost, based on our
    relations to them.

  =4.= The manner of external worship.

III. _The fearful hazard of neglecting Christianity._

  =1.= Those who think natural religion _sufficient_, must admit
  that Christianity is highly _important_.

  =2.= Our relations to Christ being made known, our religious
  regard to him is an evident obligation.

  =3.= These relations being real, there is no reason to think that
  our neglect of behaving suitably to them, will not be attended
  with the same kind of consequences as follow the neglect of
  duties made known by reason.

  =4.= If we are corrupt and depraved, and so unfit for heaven, and
  if we need God’s Holy Spirit to renew our nature, how can it be a
  slight thing whether we make use of the means for obtaining such

  =5.= Thus, if Christianity be either true, or merely credible, it
  is most rash and presumptuous to treat it lightly.


  =1.= The distinction between positive and moral obligations.

    1.) For moral precepts we can see _the reason_: for positive we

    2.) Moral duties are such _prior_ to command; positive duties
    are such _because_ commanded.

    3.) The manner in which a duty is made known, does not make it
    moral or positive.

  =2.= The ground of regarding moral duties as superior to positive.

    1.) Both have the nature of moral commands.

    2.) If the two conflict, we must obey the moral.

      --Positive institutions are _means_ to moral ends.

      --Ends are more excellent than means.

      --Obedience to positive institutions, has no value but as
      proceeding from moral principle.

    3.) Both moral and positive duties are _revealed_, and so are
    on a level; but the moral law is _also_ interwoven with our
    very nature, and so its precepts must prevail when the two

  =3.= There is less necessity for determining their relative
  authority, than some suppose.

    1.) Though man is disposed to outward and ritual religion,
    nothing can give us acceptance with God, without moral virtue.

    2.) Scripture always lays stress on moral duties.

    3.) It is a great weakness, though very common, to make light
    of positive institutions, because less important than moral.

      --We are bound to obey _all_ God’s commands.

      --A precept, merely positive, admitted to be from God,
      creates moral obligation, in the strictest sense.


This account of Christianity shows our great obligation to study the



Having shown the need of revelation, we now examine the presumptions
against it.

The analogy of nature is generally supposed to afford presumptions
against miracles.

They are deemed to require stronger evidence than other events.

I. _Analogy furnishes no presumptions against the general scheme of

  =1.= It is no presumption against Christianity, that it is not
  the discovery of reason, or of experience.

  =2.= Nor is it a presumption against Christianity, that it
  contains things _unlike_ the apparent course of nature.

    1.) We cannot suppose every thing, in the vast universe, to be
    just like what is the course of nature in this little world.

    2.) Even within the present compass of our knowledge, we see
    many things greatly unlike.

  =3.= If we choose to call what is unlike our known course of
  things, _miraculous_, still that does not make it _improbable_.

II. _There is no presumption against such a revelation, as we should
now call miraculous, being made, at the beginning of the world._

  =1.= There was then _no_ course of nature, as to this world.

  =2.= Whether man _then_ received a revelation involves a question
  not of miracles, but of _fact_.

  =3.= Creation was a very different exertion of power from that
  which _rules_ the world, now it _is_ made.

  =4.= Whether the power of forming _stopped_ when man was made; or
  went on, and formed a religion for him, is merely a question as
  to the _degree_ or _extent_, to which a power was exerted.

  =5.= There is then no presumption from analogy against supposing
  man had a revelation when created.

  =6.= All tradition and history teaches that he had, which amounts
  to a real and material proof.

III. _There is no presumption against miracles, or a miraculous
revelation, after the course of nature was settled._

  =1.= Such a presumption, requires the adduction of some
  _parallel_ case.

  =2.= This would require us to know the history of some other

  =3.= Even then, if drawn from only one other world, the
  presumption would be very precarious.

    _To be more particular_,

    =1.= There is a strong presumption against any truth till it is
    proved--which yet is overcome by almost any proof.

      --Hence the question of a presumption against miracles,
      involves only the _degree_ of presumption, (not whether the
      presumption is _peculiar_ to miracles,) and whether that
      degree is such as to render them incredible.

    =2.= If we _leave out religion_, we are in total darkness as
    to the cause or circumstances on which the course of nature

      --Five or six thousand years may have given occasion and
      reasons for miraculous interpositions of Providence.

    =3.= _Taking in religion_, there are distinct reasons for
    miracles; to afford additional instruction; to attest the truth
    of instruction.

    =4.= Miracles must not be compared with common events, but with
    uncommon; earthquakes, pestilence, &c.


    1. There are no analogies to render miracles incredible.

    2. On the contrary, we see good reasons for them.

    3. There are no presumptions against them, _peculiar_ to them,
    as distinguished from other unusual phenomena.



Beside the objectors to the _evidences_ of Christianity, there are many
who object to its _nature_. They say it is not full enough: has in it
foolish things: gives rise to superstition: subserves tyranny: is not
universally known: not well arranged: figurative language, &c.

It is granted that if it contained _immoralities_ or _contradictions_
they would show it to be false. But other objections against religion,
aside from objections against its evidences, are frivolous: as will now
be shown.

Let the student look to the _force_ of the proofs, rather than any
_consequences_ which may be drawn from them.

I. _The Scripture informs us of a scheme of government, in addition to
the material laws of the world._

  =1.= If both these schemes, the physical and the moral, coincide
  and form one whole, then our inability to criticise the system of
  nature, renders it credible that we are incompetent to criticise
  the system of grace.

  =2.= Nature shows many things we should not have expected, prior
  to experience.

  =3.= Hence it is altogether likely it would be so in religion.

  =4.= If a citizen is incompetent to judge of the propriety of
  the _general_ laws of his government, he is equally incompetent
  to judge when and how far those laws should be suspended, or
  deviated from.

II. _We are no better judges of how revelation should be imparted._

Whether to every man, or to some for others; or what mode or degree
of proof should be given; or whether the knowledge should be given
gradually or suddenly.

  =1.= We are not able to judge how much new knowledge ought to be
  given by revelation.

  =2.= Nor how far, nor in what way, God should qualify men to
  transmit any revelation he might make.

  =3.= Nor whether the evidence should be certain, probable, or

  =4.= Nor whether all should have the same benefit from it.

  =5.= Nor whether it should be in writing, or verbal. If it be
  said that if not in writing it would not have answered its
  purpose: I ask, what purpose? Who knows what purposes would best
  suit God’s _general_ government?

  =6.= All which shows it to be absurd to object to particular
  things in revelation as unsuitable.

III. _Hence the only question, concerning the truth of revelation is,
whether it is a revelation._

  =1.= No obscurities, &c. could overthrow the authority of a

  =2.= It can only be overthrown by nullifying the proofs.

  =3.= Though the proofs could be shown to be less strong than is
  affirmed, it still should control our conduct.

IV. _Modes of arguing, which are perfectly just, in relation to other
books, are not so as to the Bible._

  =1.= We are competent judges of common books, but not of

  =2.= Our only inquiry should be to find out the sense.

  =3.= In other books, internal improbabilities weaken external
  proof; but in regard to revelation, we scarcely know what are

    1.) Those who judge the Scripture by preconceived expectations,
    will imagine they find improbabilities.

    2.) And so they would by thus judging in natural things.

      --It would seem very improbable, prior to experience, that
      man should be better able to determine the magnitudes and
      motions of heavenly bodies, than he is to determine the
      causes and cures of disease, which much more nearly concerns

      --Or that we should sometimes hit upon a thing in an instant,
      even when thinking of something else, which we had been
      vainly trying to discover for years.

      --Or that language should be so liable to abuse, that every
      man may be a deceiver.

      --Or that brute instinct should ever be superior to reason.

V. _Such observations apply to almost all objections to Christianity,
as distinguished from objections against its evidence._

For instance, the disorderly manner in which some, in the apostolic age
used their miraculous gifts.

  =1.= This does not prove the acts _not_ miraculous.

  =2.= The person having any such gift, would have the same power
  over it which he would have over any other ability, and might
  pervert it.

  =3.= To say why was he not also endued with prudence, to restrain
  its use, is but saying why did not God give a _higher degree_ of
  miraculous endowment? As to which we are not competent judges.

  =4.= God does not confer his _natural_ gifts, (memory, eloquence,
  knowledge, &c.) only on those who are prudent and make the best
  use of them.

  =5.= Nor is worldly instruction, by educators, commonly given in
  the happiest manner.

VI. _There is a resemblance between religion and nature in several
other respects._

  =1.= In both, common and necessary things, are plain; but to “go
  on to perfection” in either, requires exact and laborious study.

  =2.= The hinderances to both religious and physical knowledge,
  are the same in kind. A more perfect knowledge may be brought

    1.) By the progress of learning and liberty.

    2.) By students attending to intimations overlooked by the

  =3.= It is not wonderful that our knowledge of Bible truth should
  be small; for the natural world has laid open to inspection, for
  thousands of years, and yet only lately are any great discoveries

  =4.= Perhaps these scientific discoveries, are to be the means of
  opening and ascertaining Bible truth.

    _Objec._ The cases are not parallel; for natural knowledge is
    of no consequence, compared to spiritual.

      _Ans._ 1. The cases _are_ parallel; for natural knowledge
      is as important to our natural well-being, as spiritual
      knowledge is to our spiritual well-being.

      _Ans._ 2. If the cases were not parallel, there are plenty of
      other analogies, which show that God does not dispense his
      gifts according to _our_ notions of their value.

    _Objec._ 2. If Christianity be intended for the recovery of
    men, why not sooner introduced, and more widely diffused?

      _Ans._ The objection is just as strong against the natural
      sciences. Nay, if the light of nature and of revelation are
      both from the same source, we might _expect_ that revelation
      would have been introduced and diffused just as it is.

        1.) Remedies for disease are known but to a few, or not
        known at all, nor to any without care and study.

        2.) When proposed by discoverers, they have been treated
        with derision, and the use rejected by thousands whom they
        might have cured.

        3.) The best remedies have been used unskilfully, and so
        made to produce more disease.

        4.) Their benefit may come very slowly.

        5.) In some cases they may be wholly ineffectual.

        6.) They maybe so disagreeable that many will not submit to
        use them, even with the prospect of a cure.

        7.) Sometimes the remedy may be entirely out of reach if we
        were ready to take it.

All this reasoning may be applied to Christianity.

VII. _Having obviated all objections to Christianity, from its
containing things we should not have expected, we will now consider the
objections against its morality._

  =1.= Reason may judge, as to whether revelation contains things
  contrary to justice, and wisdom, &c. as those attributes are
  taught by natural religion. But no such objections are advanced,
  except such as would equally condemn the constitution of nature.

  =2.= There are indeed particular precepts, to particular persons,
  which _would_ be immoral, but for the precept. The precept
  changes the nature of the action.

  =3.= None are contrary to immutable morality. We are never
  commanded to cultivate the principles of ingratitude, treachery,

  =4.= God may command the taking of life or property because these
  are _his_.

  =5.= The only real difficulty is, that such commands are liable
  to be perverted by the wicked to their own horrid purposes; and
  to mislead the weak. But such objections do not lie against
  revelation, as such, but against the very notion of _religion as
  a trial_.

  =6.= The sum of the whole is, objections against the _scheme_
  of Christianity do not affect its truth; since there are no
  objections against its morality. Hence objections against it,
  aside from its evidences, are frivolous. Objections against the
  _evidence_, will be considered in a subsequent chapter, [_i.e._
  ch. vii.]



In the last chapter it was shown that we might expect, beforehand, that
a revelation would contain strange things, and things liable to great

This abates the force of such objections, or rather precludes them.

But it may be said this does not show such objectionable things to be
good, or credible.

It was a sufficient answer [ch. vii. part i.] to objections against the
course of nature, that it was a _scheme_, imperfectly comprehended.

If Christianity be a scheme, the like objections admit of a like answer.

[In studying this chapter, let chap. vii. part i. be kept in view.]

I. _Christianity is a scheme, beyond our comprehension._

  =1.= God’s _general_ plan is to conduct things _gradually_, so
  that, finally, every one shall receive what he deserves.

  =2.= Christianity is a _particular_ arrangement, under this
  general plan: is a part of it, and conduces to its completion.

  =3.= It is itself a complicated and mysterious economy.

    1.) Its arrangements began from the fall of man.

    2.) Various dispensations, patriarchal, prophetic, &c. were
    preparatory to it.

    3.) At a certain juncture in the condition of the world Jesus
    Christ came.

    4.) The mission of the Holy Ghost was part of this economy.

    5.) Christ now presides over it, and will establish the church,
    judge the world, give up the kingdom, &c. &c.

  =4.= Of course, we can comprehend but little of such a scheme.

  =5.= We plainly see, from what is revealed, that there is very
  much unrevealed.

  =6.= Thus it is evident that we are as little capable of judging
  as to the whole system of religion, as we are as to the whole
  system of nature.

II. _In both material and spiritual things, means are used to
accomplish ends._

  =1.= Hence a thing may seem foolish to us, because we do not know
  its object and end.

  =2.= Its seeming foolish to us, is no proof that it is so.

III. _Christianity is carried on by general laws, no less than nature._

  =1.= Why do we say there are _laws of nature_?

    1.) We indeed know some such. But nothing of the laws of many
    things, _e.g._

      · Pestilence.
      · Storms.
      · Earthquakes.
      · Diversities of human powers.
      · Association of ideas.

    2.) Hence we call many things _accidental_, which we know are
    not matters of chance, but are subject to general laws.

    3.) It is a very little way that we can trace things to their
    general laws.

    4.) We attribute many things to such laws, only by analogy.

  =2.= Just for the same reasons, we say that miracles comport with
  God’s _general laws of wisdom_. These laws may be unknown to us;
  but no more so than those by which some die as soon as born, or
  live to old age, or have superior understandings, &c.

  =3.= We see no more reason to regard the frame and course of
  nature as a scheme, than we have to regard Christianity as such.

    1.) If the first is a scheme, then Christianity, if true, would
    be _likely_ to be a scheme.

    2.) As Christianity is revealed but in part, and is an
    arrangement to accomplish ends, there would of course seem to
    us, in it, irregularities; just as we see in nature.

    3.) Therefore objections against the one, are answered in the
    same manner as objections against the other.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having, in a previous chapter, [ch. iii.,] answered objections to
Christianity _as a matter of fact_, and in this, as a general question
of _wisdom and goodness_, the next thing is to discuss _objections in

As one of these is directed against _the scheme_, as just now
described, it will be considered here.

  _Objec._ Christianity is a roundabout, and perplexed contrivance;
  just such as men, for want of understanding or power, are obliged
  to adopt, in their designs.

    _Ans._ 1.) God uses just such complex arrangements in the
    natural world. The mystery is quite as great in nature as in

    2.) We do not know what are means, and what are ends.

    3.) The natural world, and its government, are not fixed, but

    4.) Great length of time is required in some changes; _e.g._
    animals, vegetables, geological periods, &c.

    5.) One state of life is a preparation and means for attaining

    6.) Man is impatient, but Jehovah deliberate.



Nothing in Christianity is so much objected to as the position assigned
to Christ; yet nothing is more unjust. The whole world exhibits

I. _Our existence, and all its satisfactions, are by the medium of

  =1.= If so in the natural world, why not in the spiritual?

  =2.= The objection therefore is not only against _Christ’s_
  mediation, but _all_ mediation.

II. _We cannot know all the ends for which God punishes, nor by whom he
should punish._

  =1.= Future punishment may be as natural a sequence of sin, as a
  broken limb is of falling from a precipice.

  =2.= This is not taking punishment out of the hands of God, and
  giving it to nature; it is only distinguishing ordinary events
  from miraculous.

III. _In natural providence, God has made provision that the bad
consequences of actions do not always follow._

  =1.= We may say God could have prevented all evil. But we see he
  permits it, and has provided relief, and even sometimes perfect
  remedies for it.

    1.) Thus the bad consequences of trifling on a precipice may be
    prevented by a friend, if we do not reject his assistance.

    2.) We may ourselves do much towards preventing the bad
    consequences of our misdeeds.

    3.) Still more if assisted.

  =2.= It might have been perfectly just if it were not so; but
  that it is so, shows compassion, as distinguished from goodness.

  =3.= The course of nature affords many instances of such

  =4.= Thus analogy sanctions an arrangement, by which the ruinous
  consequences of vice or folly may be averted, at least in some

  =5.= If the consequences of rash and inconsiderate acts, which
  we scarcely call vicious, are often so serious, we may apprehend
  that the bad consequences will be greater, in proportion as the
  irregularity is greater.

  =6.= A dissolute disregard to all religion, if there be a
  religion, is incomparably more reprehensible than the mere
  neglects, imprudencies, &c. of this life.

  =7.= As the effects of worldly imprudence and vice are often
  misery, ruin, and even death, no one can say what may be
  the consequences of blasphemy, contempt of God, and final

  =8.= Nor can any one tell, how far the consequences of such great
  wickedness can possibly be prevented, consistently with the
  eternal rule of right.

  =9.= Still there would, from analogy, be some hope of room for

IV. _There is no probability that any thing we could do alone, would
entirely prevent the effects of our irregularities._

  =1.= We do not know all the reasons for punishment, nor why it
  should be fit to remit punishment.

  =2.= Nor do we know all the consequences of vice, and so should
  not know how to prevent them.

  =3.= Vice impairs men’s abilities for helping themselves.

  =4.= Misconduct makes assistance necessary, which otherwise would
  not have been. Why should not the same things be so, as to our
  future interests?

  =5.= In temporal things, behaving well in time to come, does not
  repair old errors, why should it as to future things?

  =6.= Were it so in _all cases_ it would be contrary to all our
  notions of government.

  =7.= It could not be determined in what degree, or in what cases,
  it would be so, even if we knew it might in _some_ cases.

  =8.= The efficacy of repentance, as urged in opposition to
  atonement, is contrary to the general sense of mankind; as shown
  by the prevalence of propitiatory sacrifices.

V. _In this state of apprehension, awakened by the light of nature,
revelation comes in, and teaches positively, the possibility of pardon
and safety._

  =1.= Confirms our fears as to the unprevented consequences of sin.

  =2.= Declares the world to be in a state of ruin.

  =3.= That repentance alone will not secure pardon.

  =4.= That there is a mode of pardon, by interposition.

  =5.= That God’s moral government is compassionate, as well as his
  natural government.

  =6.= That he has provided, by the interposition of a mediator, to
  save men.

  =7.= All this seems to put man in a strange state of helpless
  degradation. But it is not Christianity which puts him so. All
  philosophy and history show man to be degraded and corrupt.

VI. _Scripture, in addition to confirming the dim testimony of the
light of nature, reveals a Christ, as mediator and propitiatory

  =1.= He is “_that prophet_.”

    1.) Declared the will of God.

    2.) Published anew the law of nature.

    3.) Taught with authority.

    4.) Revealed the right manner of worship.

    5.) Revealed the exact use of repentance.

    6.) Revealed future rewards and punishments.

    7.) Set us a perfect example.

  =2.= He has a _kingdom_ which is not of this world.

    1.) Founded a church.

    2.) Governs it.

    3.) Of it, all who obey him are members.

    4.) Each of these shall live and reign with him forever.

  =3.= He is a propitiatory _sacrifice_.

    1.) How his sacrifice becomes efficacious, we are not exactly

    2.) Conjectures may be absurd; at least cannot be certain.

    3.) If any complain for want of further instruction, let him
    produce his claim to it.

    4.) Some, because they cannot explain, leave it out of their
    creed; and regard Christ only as a teacher.

    5.) We had better accept the benefit, without disputing about
    how it was procured.

VII. _We are not judges, antecedent to revelation, whether a mediator
was necessary, nor what should be the whole nature of his office._

  =1.= We know not how future punishment would have been inflicted.

  =2.= Nor all the reasons why it would be necessary.

  =3.= The satisfaction by Christ, does not represent God as
  indifferent whether he punishes the innocent or guilty.

    1.) We see, in this world, the innocent _forced_ to suffer for
    the faults of the guilty.

    2.) But Christ suffered _voluntarily_.

  =4.= Though, finally, every one shall receive according to
  his own deserts; yet, during the progress of God’s scheme,
  _vicarious_ sufferings may be necessary.

    1.) God commands us to assist others, though in many cases it
    costs us suffering and toil.

    2.) One person’s sufferings often tend to relieve another.

  =5.= Vicarious atonement for sinners, serves to vindicate the
  authority of God’s laws, and to deter men from sin.

  =6.= Objections to vicarious suffering are obviously not
  objections to Christianity, but to the whole course of nature.

  =7.= The objection, therefore, amounts to nothing more than
  saying that a divine arrangement is not necessary, or fit,
  because the objector does not see it to be so; though he must
  own he is no judge, and _could_ not understand why it should be
  necessary, if it were so!

VIII. _We have no reason to expect the same information touching God’s
conduct, as we have in relation to our own duty._

  =1.= God instructs us by experience.

  =2.= This experience, though sufficient for our purposes, is an
  infinitely small part of his providence.

  =3.= The things not understood involve God’s appointment, and
  Christ’s execution; but what _is required of us_, we are clearly

  =4.= Even the reasons for Christian precepts are made obvious.



It has been thought to be a positive argument against revelation, that
its evidences are not adequate, and that it is not universally known
and believed.

But the argument amounts to just this, that God would not bestow on us
any favor, except in such a mode and degree as we thought best, and did
exactly the same for everybody else.

Such a notion, all analogy contradicts.

I. _Men act in their most important concerns on doubtful evidence._

  =1.= It is often absolutely _impossible_ to say which of two
  modes of acting will give most pleasure or profit.

  =2.= If it were possible, we cannot know what changes temper,
  satiety, ill health, &c. might produce, so as to destroy our

  =3.= We cannot foresee what accidents may cut it all off.

  =4.= Strong objections and difficulties may attach to the course
  of action we adopt, which yet all would admit ought not to deter

  =5.= We may, after all, be deceived by appearances, or by our
  passions, &c.

  =6.= Men think it reasonable to engage in pursuit of advantage,
  even when the probabilities of success are against them.

II. _As to the light of Christianity not being universal._

  =1.= Temporal good is enjoyed in very different degrees even
  among creatures of the same species.

  =2.= Yet it is certain that God governs.

  =3.= We may prudently or imprudently use our good things.

  =4.= The Jewish religion was not universal.

  =5.= If it be _intended_ that Christianity should be a small
  light, shining in a great and wide-spread darkness, it would be
  perfectly uniform with other parts of God’s providence.

  =6.= If some have Christianity so corrupted, and interpolated, as
  to cause thoughtful persons to doubt it, as is the case in some
  countries; and if, where it is the purest, some learn much less
  from it than they might, there are manifest parallels in God’s
  natural dispensations.

  =7.= No more is expected of any one, than is equitable under his

  =8.= Every one is bound to get rid of his ignorance, as far as he
  can, and to instruct his neighbor.

  =9.= If revelation _were_ universal, in extent and degree,
  different understandings, educations, tempers, length of lives,
  and outward advantages, would soon make the knowledge of it as
  different as it is at present.

III. _Practical reflections._

  _First._ That the evidence of religion is not such as unavoidably
  to convince all, may be part of our probation.

    =1.= It gives scope for a wise or vicious use of our
    understanding. Just as is the case in common affairs.

    =2.= Intellectual inattention to so serious a matter, is as
    immoral, as disobedience after conviction of the truth.

  _Secondly._ If the evidence is really doubtful, it puts us on

    =1.= If a man were in doubt whether a certain person had done
    him the greatest favor, or whether his whole temporal interest
    depended on him, he ought not to regard that person as he would
    if there were _no_ reason to think so.

    =2.= So if there is only reason to apprehend that Christianity
    _may_ be true, we are as much bound to _examine_, &c. as we
    would be bound to _obey_, if we _knew_ it was true.

    =3.= Considering the infinite importance of religion, there is
    not much difference as to what ought to be the mode of life of
    those who are convinced and those who doubt its truth. Their
    hopes and fears are the same in kind, though not in degree; and
    so their obligations are much the same.

    =4.= Doubts presuppose _some_ evidence, belief _more_, and
    certainty _more still_. Each state should influence our
    conduct, and does so, in common things.

    =5.= It shows a mental defect not to see evidence unless it is
    glaring; and a corrupt heart not to be influenced by it unless

  _Thirdly._ Difficulties as to believing religion, are no more a
  ground of complaint, than difficulties in practising it.

    =1.= They constitute a wholesome discipline.

      1.) In allowing an unfair mind to deceive itself.

      2.) In requiring belief and the practice of virtue under some

    =2.= In the case of some minds, speculative difficulties as
    to the evidence of religion is the _principal_ trial. A full
    conviction of its truth would _constrain_ some to obedience.

  _Fourthly._ The difficulties may be _in the objector_ rather than
  in the religion.

    =1.= Not sufficiently in earnest to be informed.

    =2.= Secretly _wishes_ religion not to be true.

    =3.= Looks at objections rather than replies.

    =4.= Treats the subject ludicrously.

  _Fifthly._ The proof of Christianity is level to common men.

    =1.= They are capable of being convinced of the existence of
    God, and of their moral accountability.

    =2.= And they can understand the evidence of miracles, and the
    fulfilment of prophecy.

    =3.= If they are capable of seeing the difficulty, they are
    capable of understanding the proof.

    =4.= If they pick up objections from hearsay, and will not or
    cannot examine them thoroughly, they must remain ignorant, just
    as they do as to the sciences.

      _Objec._ Our directions should be too plain to _admit_ of
      doubt; like those of an earthly master.

        _Ans._ The earthly master only wants his work done, and is
        careless as to the state of the heart; but as the whole of
        morality consists in the state of the heart, the cases are
        not parallel.

  _Finally._ The credibility of our being in a state of probation
  is just as great as the credibility of there being any religion.
  Our probation may be whether we choose to inform ourselves as to
  our duty, and then whether we choose to do it.

  Such is exactly the case as to temporal matters. To discern what
  is best often requires difficult consideration, and yet leaves
  doubts: and not reflecting carefully, or not acting even when
  there may be doubt, is often fatal.



Having considered the objections both to the general scheme of
Christianity, and to particular doctrines in it, it only remains to
consider the positive evidence of its truth; _i.e._ what analogy
teaches with regard to that evidence.

There are many evidences of Christianity, beside those from miracles or
prophecy, which are the principal; embracing a great variety of proofs,
direct and collateral, and reaching through all past time. We shall now
consider the proofs from MIRACLES and PROPHECY.

I. _Miracles._

  =1.= Bible history gives the same evidence for the miracles
  described, as for common events.

    1.) The miracles are evidently not put in for ornament, as
    speeches are by historians and poets put into the mouths of

    2.) The accounts of them have been quoted as genuine, by
    various writers, from that day to this.

    3.) These accounts are confirmed by subsequent events; and the
    miracles alone, can account for those events.

    4.) The only fair way of accounting for these statements,
    and their reception in the world, is that the things really

    5.) The statements should be admitted till disproved, even if

  =2.= Paul’s Epistles have evidences of genuineness, beyond what
  can attach to mere history.

    1.) _Additional._ His evidence is quite detached. He received
    the gospel not in common with the other apostles, but
    separately, and direct from Christ, _after_ his ascension.

    2.) _Peculiar._ He speaks of Christ’s miracles and those of
    others _incidentally_, as familiar facts, fully believed by
    those to whom he wrote.

  =3.= Christianity demands credence on the ground of its miracles,
  and was so received by great numbers, at the time and on the
  spot; which is the case with no other religion.

    1.) Its first converts embraced it on this ground.

    2.) It is not conceivable that they would have done so, at such
    fearful sacrifice, unless fully satisfied of the truth of these

    3.) Such a profession and sacrifices furnish the same kind of
    evidence as if they had testified to the truth of the miracles
    in writing.

    4.) It is real evidence, for they had full opportunity to
    inform themselves.

    5.) It is a sort of evidence _distinct_ from direct history,
    though of the same nature.

    6.) Men are suspicious as well as credulous, and slow to
    believe _against their interests_, as these did.

  =4.= It lies upon unbelievers to show why all this array of proof
  is to be rejected; but in such an important concern we shall
  proceed to notice some possible objections.

    _Objec._ 1. Enthusiasts make similar sacrifices for idle

      _Ans._ 1. This objection ignores the distinction between
      opinions and facts. Suffering for an opinion is no proof of
      its truth; but in attestation of observed facts, it is proof.

      2. Enthusiasm _weakens_ testimony, it is true, even as to
      facts; and so does disease, _in particular instances_. But
      when great numbers, not weak, nor negligent, affirm that
      _they_ saw and heard certain things, it is the fullest

      3. To reject testimony on the ground of enthusiasm, requires
      that the things testified be _incredible_; which has not been
      shown, as to religion, but the contrary.

      4. Religion is not the only thing in regard to which
      witnesses are liable to enthusiasm. In common matters, we
      _get at the truth_ through witnesses, though influenced by
      party spirit, custom, humor, romance, &c. &c.

    _Objec._ 2. Enthusiasm and knavery may have been combined in the
    apostles and first Christians.

      _Ans._ Such a mixture is often seen, and is often reproved in
      Scripture; but not more in religious than in common affairs.
      Men in all matters deceive themselves and others, in every
      degree, yet human testimony is good ground of belief.

    _Objec._ 3. Men have been deluded by false miracles.

      _Ans._ Not oftener than by other pretences.

    _Objec._ 4. Fabulous miracles have historical evidence.

      _Ans._ 1. If this were equal to that for Scripture miracles,
      the evidence for the latter would not be _impaired_. The
      objection really amounts to this, that evidence proved not to
      be good, destroys evidence which is good and unconfuted! Or
      to this, that if two men, of equal reputation, testify, in
      _cases not related_ to each other, and one is proved false,
      the other must not be believed!

      2. Nothing can rebut testimony, but proof that the witness is
      incompetent, or misled.

      3. Against all such objections must be set the fact that
      Christianity was too serious a matter to allow the first
      converts to be careless as to its evidence; and also that
      their religion forbid them to deceive others.

II. _As to the evidence from prophecy._

  =1.= Obscurity as to _part_ of a prophecy does not invalidate it,
  but is, as to us, as if that part were not written, or were lost.
  We may not see the whole prophecy fulfilled, and yet see enough
  fulfilled to perceive in it more than human foresight.

  =2.= A _long series_ of prophecies, all applicable to certain
  events, is proof that such events were intended. This answers the
  objection that _particular_ prophecies were not intended to be
  applied as Christians apply them.

  Mythological and satirical writings greatly resemble prophecy.
  Now we apply a parable, or fable, or satire, merely from seeing
  it _capable_ of such application.

  So if a long series of prophecies be _applicable_ to the present
  state of the world, or to the coming of Christ, it is proof that
  they were so _intended_.

  Besides, the ancient Jews, _before_ Christ, applied the
  prophecies to him, just as Christians do now.

  =3.= If it could be shown that the prophets did not understand
  their own predictions, or that their prophecies are capable of
  being applied to other events than those to which Christians
  apply them, it would not abate the force of the argument from
  prophecy, even with regard to those instances. For,

    1.) To know the whole meaning of an author we must know the
    whole meaning of his book, but knowing the meaning of a book is
    not knowing the whole mind of the author.

    2.) If the book is a _compilation_, the authors may have
    meanings deeper than the compiler saw. If the prophets spoke
    by inspiration, they are not the authors, but the writers of
    prophecy, and may not have known all that the Divine Spirit
    intended. But the fulfilment of the prophecy shows a foresight
    more than human.


This whole argument is just and real; but it is not expected that those
will be satisfied who will not submit to the perplexity and labor
of understanding it; or who have not modesty and fairness enough to
allow an argument its due weight; or who wilfully discard the whole


We _now_ proceed to THE GENERAL ARGUMENT embracing both direct and
circumstantial evidence. A full discussion would require a volume, and
cannot be expected here; but _something_ should be said, especially
as most questions of difficulty, in practical affairs, are settled by
evidence arising from circumstances which confirm each other.

The thing asserted is that God has given us a revelation declaring
himself to be a moral governor; stating his system of government; and
disclosing a plan for the recovery of mankind out of sin, and raising
them to perfect and final happiness.

I. _Consider this revelation as a history._

  =1.= It furnishes an account of the world, as God’s world.

    1.) God’s providence, commands, promises, and threatenings.

    2.) Distinguishes God from idols.

    3.) Describes the condition of religion and of its professors,
    in a world considered as apostate and wicked.

    4.) Political events are related as affecting religion, and not
    for their importance as mere political events.

    5.) The history is continued by prophecy, to the end of the

  =2.= It embraces a vast variety of other topics; natural and

    1.) Thus furnishing the largest scope for criticism.

    2.) So that _doubts_ of its truth confirm that truth, for in
    this enlightened age the claims of a book of such a nature
    could be easily and finally shown to be false, if they were so.

    3.) None who believe in natural religion, hold that
    Christianity has been thus confuted.

  =3.= It contains a minute account of God’s selecting one nation
  for his peculiar people, and of his dealings with them.

    1.) Interpositions in their behalf.

    2.) Threats of dispersion, &c. if they rebelled.

    3.) Promises of a Messiah as their prince; so clearly as to
    raise a general expectation, &c.

    4.) Foretelling his rejection by them, and that he should be
    the Savior of the Gentiles.

  =4.= Describes minutely the arrival of the Messiah, and his
  life and labors; and the result, in the establishment of a new

II. _As to the authenticity of this history._

Suppose a person ignorant of all history but the Bible, and not
knowing even that to be true, were to inquire into its evidence of
authenticity, he would find,

  =1.= That natural religion owes its establishment to _the
  truths_ contained in this book. This no more _disproves_ natural
  religion, than our learning a proposition from Euclid, shows that
  the proposition was not true before Euclid.

  =2.= The great antiquity of revelation.

  =3.= That its chronology is not contradicted but confirmed by
  known facts.

  =4.= That there is nothing in the history itself to awaken
  suspicion of its fidelity.

    1.) Every thing said to be done in any age or country, is
    conformable to the manners of that age and country.

    2.) The characters are all perfectly natural.

    3.) All the domestic and political incidents are credible. Some
    of these, taken alone, seem strange to _some_, in _this_ day;
    but not more so than things now occurring.

    4.) Transcribers may have made errors, but these are not more
    numerous than in other ancient books; and none of them impair
    the narrative.

  =5.= That profane authors confirm Scripture accounts.

  =6.= That the credibility of the _general_ history, confirms the
  accounts of the miracles, for they are all interwoven, and make
  but one statement.

  =7.= That there certainly was and is such a people as the Jews;
  whose form of government was founded on these very books of
  Moses; and whose acknowledgment of the God of the Bible, kept
  them a distinct race.

  =8.= That one Jesus, of Jewish extraction, arose at the time
  when the Jews expected a Messiah, was rejected by them, as was
  prophesied, and was received by the Gentiles, as was prophesied.

  =9.= That the religion of this Jesus spread till it became the
  religion of the world, notwithstanding every sort of resistance;
  and has continued till now.

  =10.= That the Jewish government was destroyed, and the people
  dispersed into all lands; and still for many centuries, continue
  to be a distinct race, professing the law of Moses. If this
  separateness be _accounted for_, in any way, it does not destroy
  the fact that it was _predicted_.


  =1.= Recapitulation of the preceding ten observations.

  =2.= Add the fact that there are obvious appearances in the
  world, aside from the Jews, which correspond to prophetic history.

  =3.= These appearances, compared with Bible history, and with
  each other, in _a joint view_, will appear to be of great weight,
  and would impress one who regarded them for the first time, more
  than they do us who have been familiar with them.

  =4.= The preceding discussion, though not thorough, amounts to
  proof of something more than human in this matter.

    1.) The sufficiency of these proofs may be denied, but the
    _existence_ of them cannot be.

    2.) The conformity of prophecies to events may be said to be
    accidental, but the _conformity itself_ cannot be denied.

    3.) These collateral proofs may be pronounced fanciful, but it
    cannot be said they are _nothing_. Probabilities may not amount
    to demonstration, but they remain probabilities.

  =5.= Those who will set down all seeming completions of prophecy,
  and judge of them by the common rules of evidence, will find that
  _together_ they amount to strong proof. Because probable proofs,
  added together, not only increase evidence, but multiply it.

  =6.= It is very well to observe objections; but it should be
  remembered that a mistake on one side is far more dangerous than
  a mistake on the other; and the safest conclusion is the best.

  =7.= Religion, like other things, is to be judged by all the
  evidence taken together. Unless _all_ its proofs be overthrown,
  it remains proved. If no proof singly were sufficient, the whole
  taken together might be.

  =8.= It is much easier to start an objection, than to comprehend
  the united force of a whole argument.

  =9.= Thus it appears that the positive evidence of revelation
  cannot be destroyed, though it should be lessened.



If all made up their minds with proper care and candor, there would be
no need of this chapter. But some do not try to understand what they
condemn; and our mode of argument is open to objections, especially in
the minds of those who judge without thinking. The chief objections
will therefore be considered. They are these:--it does not solve
difficulties in revelation to say that there are as great in natural
religion:--it will not make men religious to show them that it is
_as_ important as worldly prudence, for showing that, does not make
them prudent:--the justice of God in the system of religion, is not
proved by showing it is as apparent as in his natural providence:--no
reasoning from analogy can carry full conviction:--mankind will not
renounce present pleasures, for a religion which is not free from
doubt. To each of which a reply will now be given.

I. _As to requiring a solution of all difficulties._

  =1.= This is but resolving to comprehend the nature of God, and
  the whole plan of his government throughout eternity.

  =2.= It is always right to argue from what is known, to what is
  disputed. We are constantly so doing. The most eminent physician
  does not understand all diseases, yet we do not despise what he
  does know.

  =3.= It is very important to find that objections against
  revelation are just as strong, not only against natural religion,
  but against the course of nature.

II. _As to men’s having as little reason for worldly pursuits, as they
have for being religious._

  =1.= If men can be convinced that they have as much reason to be
  religious as they have to practise worldly prudence, then _there
  is_ a reason for being religious.

  =2.= If religion proposes greater than worldly interests, and has
  the same reasons for belief, then it has proportionally a greater

  =3.= If religion being left doubtful, proves it to be false, then
  doubts as to the success of any worldly pursuit show it to be
  wrong. Yet we constantly act, even in the most important affairs,
  without _certainty_ of being right.

III. _As to the justice and goodness of God in religion._

  =1.= Our business is not to vindicate God, but to learn our duty,
  governed as we are; which is a very different thing. It has been
  shown that if we knew all things, present, past, and future, and
  the relations of each thing to all other things, we might see to
  be just and good what now do not seem so: and it is probable we

  =2.= We do not say that objections against God’s justice and
  goodness are removed by showing the like objections against
  natural providence, but that they are not _conclusive_, because
  they apply equally to what we know to be facts.

  =3.= The existence of objections does not destroy the evidence
  of facts. The fact for instance that God rewards and punishes,
  though men may think it unjust. Even necessity, plead for human
  acts, does no more to abolish justice than it does injustice.

  =4.= Though the reasonableness of Christianity cannot be shown
  from analogy, the truth of it may. The truth of a fact may be
  proved without regard to its quality. The reasonableness of
  obeying Christianity is proved, if we barely prove Christianity
  itself to be possible.

  =5.= Though analogy may not show Christian precepts to be good,
  it proves them to be credible.

IV. _The analogical argument does not remove doubt._

  =1.= What opinion does any man hold, about which there can be no
  doubt? Even the best way of preserving and enjoying this life,
  is not agreed upon. Whether our measures will accomplish our
  objects, is always uncertain; and still more whether the objects,
  if accomplished, will give us happiness. Yet men do not on this
  account refuse to make exertion.

  =2.= This objection overlooks the very nature of religion.
  The embracing of it presupposes a certain degree of candor
  and integrity, to try which, and exercise, and improve it, is
  its intention. Just as warning a man of danger, presupposes a
  disposition to avoid danger.

  =3.= Religion is a probation, and has evidence enough as such;
  and would not be such, if it compelled assent.

  =4.= We never mean by sufficient evidence, such an amount as
  necessarily determines a man to act, but only such as will show
  an action to be prudent.

V. _As to the small influence of the analogical argument._

  =1.= As just observed, religion is a _test_, and an _exercise_,
  of character; and that some reject it is nothing to our purpose.
  We are inquiring not what sort of creature man is, but what he
  should be. This is each man’s own concern.

  =2.= Religion, as a probation, accomplishes its end, whether
  individuals believe or not.

  =3.= Even this objection admits that religion has some weight,
  and of course it should have some influence; and if so, there is
  the same reason, though not so strong, for publishing it, that
  there would be, if it were likely to have greater influence.

FURTHER. It must be considered that the reasoning in this treatise is
on the principles of other men, and arguments of the utmost importance
are omitted, because not universally admitted. Thus as to Fatalism, and
the abstract fitness or unfitness of actions. The general argument is
just a question of fact, and is here so treated. Abstract truths are
usually advanced as proof; but in this work, only _facts_ are adduced.
That the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, is
an abstract truth: but that they so appear to us, is only a matter of
fact. That there is such a thing as abstract right and wrong, which
determines the will of God in rewarding and punishing, is an assertion
of an abstract truth, as well as a fact. Suppose God in this world
rewarded and punished every man exactly as he obeyed or disobeyed his
conscience, this would not be an abstract truth, but a fact. And if
all acknowledged this as a fact, all would not see it to be right. If,
instead of his doing it now, we say he will do it hereafter, this too
is not an abstract truth, but a question of fact. This fact could be
fully proved on the abstract principles of moral fitness; but without
them, there has now been given a _conclusive practical proof_; which
though it may be cavilled at, and shown not to amount to demonstration,
cannot be answered.

Hence it may be said as to the force of this treatise,

  =1.= To such as are convinced of the truth of revelation, as
  proved on the principles of liberty and moral fitness, it will
  furnish a full confirmation. To such as do not admit those
  principles it is an original proof.

  =2.= Those who believe will find objections removed, and
  those who disbelieve will find they have no grounds for their
  scepticism; and a good deal beside.

  =3.= Thus though some may think _too much_ is here made of
  analogy, yet there can be no denying that the argument is _real_.
  It confirms _all facts_ to which it can be applied; and of
  many is the only proof. It is strong on the side of religion,
  and ought to be regarded by such as prefer facts to abstract


Recapitulates the general structure and design of the argument, the
classes of persons for whose benefit it is particularly adopted, and
declares those who reject Christianity to be wholly without excuse.

Advertisement prefixed to the First Edition.

If the reader should here meet with any thing which he had not before
attended to, it will not be in the observations upon the constitution
and course of nature, these being all obvious, but in the application
of them; in which, though there is nothing but what appears to me
of some real weight, and therefore of great importance, yet he will
observe several things, which will appear to him of very little, if
he can think things to be of little importance, which are of any real
weight at all, upon such a subject of religion. However, the proper
force of the following treatise lies in the whole general analogy
considered together.

It is come, I know not how to be taken for granted, by many persons,
that Christianity is not so much as a subject of inquiry; but that
it is, now at length, discovered to be fictitious. Accordingly they
treat it, as if, in the present age, this were an agreed point among
all people of discernment; and nothing remained, but to set it up
as a principal subject of mirth and ridicule, as it were by way of
reprisals, for its having so long interrupted the pleasures of the
world. On the contrary, thus much at least, will be here found, not
taken for granted but proved, that any reasonable man, who will
thoroughly consider the matter, may be as much assured, as he is of his
own being, that it is not so clear a case, that there is nothing in
it. There is, I think, strong evidence of its truth; but it is certain
no one can, upon principles of reason, be satisfied of the contrary.
The practical consequence to be drawn from this, is not attended to by
every one who is concerned in it.

_May, 1736._


Probable evidence is essentially distinguished from demonstrative by
this, that it admits of degrees; and of all variety of them, from the
highest moral certainty, to the very lowest presumption. We cannot
indeed say a thing is probably true upon one very slight presumption
for it; because, as there may be probabilities on both sides of a
question, there may be some against it; and though there be not, yet
a slight presumption does not beget that degree of conviction, which
is implied in saying a thing is probably true. But that the slightest
possible presumption is of the nature of a probability, appears from
hence; that such low presumption, often repeated, will amount even
to moral certainty. Thus a man’s having observed the ebb and flow of
the tide to-day, affords some sort of presumption, though the lowest
imaginable, that it may happen again to-morrow: but the observation of
this event for so many days, and months, and ages together, as it has
been observed by mankind, gives us a full assurance that it will.

That which chiefly constitutes _probability_ is expressed in the word
_likely_, _i.e._ like some truth,[6] or true event; like it, in itself,
in its evidence, in some (more or fewer) of its circumstances.[7] For
when we determine a thing to be probably true, suppose that an event
has or will come to pass, it is from the mind’s remarking in it a
likeness to some other event, which we have observed has come to pass.
This observation forms, in numberless daily instances, a presumption,
opinion, or full conviction, that such event has or will come to pass;
according as the observation is, that the like event has sometimes,
most commonly, or always, so far as our observation reaches, come to
pass at like distances of time, or place, or upon like occasions. Hence
arises the belief, that a child, if it lives twenty years, will grow
up to the stature and strength of a man; that food will contribute to
the preservation of its life, and the want of it for such a number of
days, be its certain destruction. So likewise the rule and measure
of our hopes and fears concerning the success of our pursuits; our
expectations that others will act so and so in such circumstances; and
our judgment that such actions proceed from such principles; all these
rely upon our having observed the like to what we hope, fear, expect,
judge; I say, upon our having observed the like, either with respect to
others or ourselves. Thus, the prince[8] who had always lived in a warm
climate, naturally concluded in the way of analogy, that there was no
such thing as water’s becoming hard, because he had always observed it
to be fluid and yielding. We, on the contrary, from analogy conclude,
that there is no presumption at all against this: that it is supposable
there may be frost in England any given day in January next; probable
that there will on some day of the month; and that there is a moral
certainty, _i.e._ ground for an expectation without any doubt of it, in
some part or other of the winter.

Probable evidence, in its very nature, affords but an imperfect kind
of information; and is to be considered as relative only to beings
of limited capacities. For nothing which is the possible object of
knowledge, whether past, present, or future, can be probable to an
infinite intelligence; since it cannot but be discerned absolutely
as it is in itself, certainly true, or certainly false. But to us,
probability is the very guide of life.

From these things it follows, that in questions of difficulty, or such
as are thought so, where more satisfactory evidence cannot be had, or
is not seen; if the result of examination be, that there appears upon
the whole, any even the lowest presumption on one side, and none on
the other, or a greater presumption on one side, though in the lowest
degree greater; this determines the question, even in matters of
speculation. In matters of practice, it will lay us under an absolute
and formal obligation, in point of prudence and of interest, to act
upon that presumption or low probability, though it be so low as to
leave the mind in very great doubt which is the truth. For surely a
man is as really bound in prudence to do what upon the whole, according
to the best of his judgment, appears to be for his happiness,[9] as
what he certainly knows to be so.

Further, in questions of great consequence, a reasonable man will think
it concerns him to remark lower probabilities and presumptions than
these; such as amount to no more than showing one side of a question
to be as supposable and credible as the other: nay, such even as but
amount to much less than this. For numberless instances might be
mentioned respecting the common pursuits of life, where a man would
be thought, in a literal sense, distracted, who would not act, and
with great application too, not only upon an even chance, but upon
much less, and where the probability or chance was greatly against his

It is not my design to inquire further into the nature, the foundation,
and measure of probability; or whence it proceeds that _likeness_
should beget that presumption, opinion, and full conviction, which
the human mind is formed to receive from it, and which it does
necessarily produce in every one; or to guard against the errors, to
which reasoning from analogy is liable. This belongs to the subject of
Logic; and is a part of that subject which has not yet been thoroughly
considered. Indeed I shall not take upon me to say, how far the extent,
compass, and force, of analogical reasoning, can be reduced to general
heads and rules; and the whole be formed into a system. But though so
little in this way has been attempted by those who have treated of our
intellectual powers, and the exercise of them; this does not hinder but
that we may be, as we unquestionably are, assured, that analogy is of
weight, in various degrees, towards determining our judgment and our
practice. Nor does it in any wise cease to be of weight in those cases,
because persons, either given to dispute, or who require things to be
stated with greater exactness than our faculties appear to admit of
in practical matters, may find other cases in which it is not easy to
say, whether it be, or be not, of any weight; or instances of seeming
analogies, which are really of none. It is enough to the present
purpose to observe, that this general way of arguing is evidently
natural, just, and conclusive. For there is no man can make a question
but that the sun will rise to-morrow, and be seen, where it is seen at
all, in the figure of a circle, and not in that of a square.

Hence, namely from analogical reasoning, Origen[11] has with singular
sagacity observed, that “_he who believes the Scripture to have
proceeded from him who is the Author of nature, may well expect
to find the same sort of difficulties in it, as are found in the
constitution of nature_.” And in a like way of reflection it may be
added, that he who denies the Scripture to have been from God upon
account of these difficulties, may, for the very same reason, deny
the world to have been formed by him. On the other hand, if there be
an analogy or likeness between that system of things and dispensation
of Providence, which _revelation_ informs us of, and that system of
things and dispensation of Providence, which _experience_ together with
reason informs us of, _i.e._ the known course of nature; this is a
presumption, that they have both the same author and cause; at least so
far as to answer objections against the former’s being from God, drawn
from any thing which is analogical or similar to what is in the latter,
which is acknowledged to be from him; for an Author of nature is here

Forming our notions of the constitution and government of the world
upon reasoning, without foundation for the principles which we assume,
whether from the attributes of God, or any thing else, is building
a world upon hypothesis, like Des Cartes. Forming our notions upon
reasoning from principles which are certain, but applied to cases to
which we have no ground to apply them, (like those who explain the
structure of the human body, and the nature of diseases and medicines,
from mere mathematics,) is an error much akin to the former: since what
is assumed in order to make the reasoning applicable, is Hypothesis.
But it must be allowed just, to join abstract reasonings with the
observation of facts, and argue from such facts as are known, to
others that are like them; from that part of the divine government over
intelligent creatures which comes under our view, to that larger and
more general government over them which is beyond it; and from what is
present, to collect what is likely, credible, or not incredible, will
be hereafter.

This method then of concluding and determining being practical, and
what, if we will act at all, we cannot but act upon in the common
pursuits of life; being evidently conclusive, in various degrees,
proportionable to the degree and exactness of the whole analogy or
likeness; and having so great authority for its introduction into the
subject of religion, even revealed religion; my design is to apply
it to that subject in general, both natural and revealed: taking for
proved, that there is an intelligent Author of nature, and natural
Governor of the world. For as there is no presumption against this
prior to the proof of it: so it has been often proved with accumulated
evidence; from this argument of analogy and final causes; from abstract
reasonings; from the most ancient tradition and testimony; and from
the general consent of mankind. Nor does it appear, so far as I can
find, to be denied by the generality of those who profess themselves
dissatisfied with the evidence of religion.

As there are some, who, instead of thus attending to what is in fact
the constitution of nature, form their notions of God’s government
upon hypothesis: so there are others, who indulge themselves in vain
and idle speculations, how the world might possibly have been framed
otherwise than it is; and upon supposition that things might, in
imagining that they should, have been disposed and carried on after a
better model, than what appears in the present disposition and conduct
of them.[12] Suppose now a person of such a turn of mind, to go on with
his reveries, till he had at length fixed upon some particular plan
of nature, as appearing to him the best.--One shall scarce be thought
guilty of detraction against human understanding, if one should say,
even beforehand, that the plan which this speculative person would fix
upon, though he were the wisest of the sons of men, probably would not
be the very best, even according to his own notions of _best_; whether
he thought that to be so, which afforded occasions and motives for
the exercise of the greatest virtue, or which was productive of the
greatest happiness, or that these two were necessarily connected, and
run up into one and the same plan.

It may not be amiss, once for all, to see what would be the amount
of these emendations and imaginary improvements upon the system of
nature, or how far they would mislead us. It seems there could be no
stopping, till we came to some such conclusions as these: that all
creatures should at first be made as perfect and as happy as they
were capable of ever being: that nothing, surely, of hazard or danger
should be put upon them to do; some indolent persons would perhaps
think nothing at all: or certainly, that effectual care should be
taken, that they should, whether necessarily or not, yet eventually
and in fact, always do what was right and most conducive to happiness;
which would be thought easy for infinite power to effect, either by
not giving them any principles which would endanger their going wrong,
or by laying the right motive of action in every instance before their
minds in so strong a manner, as would never fail of inducing them to
act conformably to it: and that the whole method of government by
punishments should be rejected as absurd; as an awkward roundabout
method of carrying things on; nay, as contrary to a principal purpose,
for which it would be supposed creatures were made, namely, happiness.

Now, without considering what is to be said in particular to the
several parts of this train of folly and extravagance, what has been
above intimated, is a full direct general answer to it; namely, that
we may see beforehand that we have not faculties for this kind of
speculation. For though it be admitted that, from the first principles
of our nature, we unavoidably judge or determine some ends to be
absolutely in themselves preferable to others, and that the ends now
mentioned, or if they run up into one, that this one is absolutely
the best; and consequently that we must conclude the ultimate end
designed, in the constitution of nature and conduct of Providence, is
the most virtue and happiness possible; yet we are far from being able
to judge what particular disposition of things would be most friendly
and assistant to virtue; or what means might be absolutely necessary
to produce the most happiness in a system of such extent as our own
world may be, taking in all that is past and to come, though we should
suppose it detached from the whole things. Indeed we are so far from
being able to judge of this, that we are not judges what may be the
necessary means of raising and conducting one person to the highest
perfection and happiness of his nature. Nay, even in the little affairs
of the present life, we find men of different educations and ranks are
not competent judges of the conduct of each other. Our whole nature
leads us to ascribe all moral perfection to God, and to deny all
imperfection of him. And this will forever be a practical proof of his
moral character, to such as will consider what a practical proof is;
because it is the voice of God speaking in us. Hence we conclude, that
virtue must be the happiness, and vice the misery, of every creature;
and that regularity and order and right cannot but prevail finally in a
universe under his government. But we are in no sort judges, what are
the necessary means of accomplishing this end.

Let us then, instead of that idle and not very innocent employment of
forming imaginary models of a world, and schemes of governing it, turn
our thoughts to what we experience to be the conduct of nature with
respect to intelligent creatures; which may be resolved into general
laws or rules of administration, in the same way as many of the laws of
nature respecting inanimate matter may be collected from experiments.
Let us compare the known constitution and course of things with what is
said to be the moral system of nature; the acknowledged dispensations
of Providence, or that government which we find ourselves under, with
what religion teaches us to believe and expect; and see whether they
are not analogous and of a piece. Upon such a comparison it will, I
think, be found that they are very much so: that both may be traced
up to the same general laws, and resolved into the same principles of
divine conduct.

The analogy here proposed to be considered is of pretty large extent,
and consists of several parts; in some more, in others less exact.
In some few instances perhaps, it may amount to a real practical
proof; in others not so. Yet in these it is a confirmation of what is
proved otherwise. It will undeniably show, what too many need to have
shown them, that the system of religion, both natural and revealed,
considered only as a system, and prior to the proof of it, is not
a subject of ridicule, unless that of nature be so too. And it will
afford an answer to almost all objections against the system both of
natural and revealed religion; though not perhaps an answer in so great
a degree, yet in a very considerable degree an answer to the objections
against the evidence of it: for objections against a proof, and
objections against what is said to be proved, the reader will observe
are different things.

The divine government of the world, implied in the notion of religion
in general and of Christianity, contains in it: that mankind is
appointed to live in a future state;[13] that there every one shall be
rewarded or punished;[14] rewarded or punished respectively for all
that behaviour here, which we comprehend under the words, virtuous
or vicious, morally good or evil:[15] that our present life is a
probation, a state of trial,[16] and of discipline,[17] for that future
one; notwithstanding the objections, which men may fancy they have,
from notions of necessity, against there being any such moral plan as
this at all;[18] and whatever objections may appear to lie against
the wisdom and goodness of it, as it stands so imperfectly made known
to us at present:[19] that this world being in a state of apostasy
and wickedness, and consequently of ruin, and the sense both of their
condition and duty being greatly corrupted amongst men, this gave
occasion for an additional dispensation of Providence; of the utmost
importance;[20] proved by miracles;[21] but containing in it many
things appearing to us strange, and not to have been expected;[22] a
dispensation of Providence, which is a scheme or system of things;[23]
carried on by the mediation of a divine person, the Messiah, in order
to the recovery of the world;[24] yet not revealed to all men, nor
proved with the strongest possible evidence to all those to whom it is
revealed; but only to such a part of mankind, and with such particular
evidence, as the wisdom of God thought fit.[25]

The design then of the following treatise will be to show, that
the several parts principally objected against in this moral and
Christian dispensation, including its scheme, its publication, and the
proof which God has afforded us of its truth; that the particular
parts principally objected against in this whole dispensation, are
analogous to what is experienced in the constitution and course of
nature or Providence; that the chief objections themselves which are
alleged against the former, are no other than what may be alleged
with like justness against the latter, where they are found in fact
to be inconclusive; and that this argument from analogy is in general
unanswerable, and undoubtedly of weight on the side of religion,[26]
notwithstanding the objections which may seem to lie against it, and
the real ground which there may be for difference of opinion, as to
the particular degree of weight which is to be laid upon it. This is a
general account of what may be looked for in the following treatise.
I shall begin it with that which is the foundation of all our hopes
and of all our fears; all our hopes and fears, which are of any
consideration; I mean a future life.




Natural Religion.



Strange difficulties have been raised by some concerning personal
identity, or the sameness of living agents, implied in the notion of
our existing now and hereafter, or in any two successive moments;
which, whoever thinks it worth while, may see considered in the first
dissertation at the end of this treatise. But without regard to any of
them here, let us consider what the analogy of nature, and the several
changes which we have undergone, and those which we know we may undergo
without being destroyed, suggest, as to the effect which death may, or
may not, have upon us; and whether it be not from thence probable, that
we may survive this change, and exist in a future state of life and

I. From our being born into the present world in the helpless imperfect
state of infancy, and having arrived from thence to mature age, we find
it to be a general law of nature in our own species, that the same
creatures, the _same individuals_, should exist in degrees of life and
perception, with capacities of action, of enjoyment and suffering, in
one period of their being, greatly different from those appointed them
in another period of it. In other creatures the same law holds. For
the difference of their capacities and states of life at their birth
(to go no higher) and in maturity; the change of worms into flies, and
the vast enlargement of their locomotive powers by such change: and
birds and insects bursting the shell of their habitation, and by this
means entering into a new world, furnished with new accommodations
for them, and finding a new sphere of action assigned them; these are
instances of this general law of nature. Thus all the various and
wonderful transformations of animals are to be taken into consideration
here. The states of life in which we ourselves existed formerly, in
the womb and in our infancy, are almost as different from our present
in mature age, as it is possible to conceive any two states or degrees
of life can be. Therefore that we are to exist hereafter, in a state
as different (suppose) from our present, as this is from our former,
is but according to the analogy of nature; according to a natural
order or appointment of the very same kind, with what we have already

II. We know we are endued with capacities of action, of happiness
and misery: for we are conscious of acting, of enjoying pleasure and
suffering pain. Now that we have these powers and capacities before
death, is a presumption that we shall retain them through and after
death; indeed a probability of it abundantly sufficient to act upon,
unless there be some positive reason to think that death is the
destruction of those living powers; because there is in every case
a probability, that all things will continue as we experience they
are, in all respects, except those in which we have some reason to
think they will be altered. This is that _kind_[28] of presumption or
probability from analogy, expressed in the very word _continuance_,
which seems our only natural reason for believing the course of the
world will continue to-morrow, as it has done so far as our experience
or knowledge of history can carry us back. Nay, it seems our only
reason for believing, that any one substance now existing will continue
to exist a moment longer; the self-existent substance only excepted.
Thus if men were assured that the unknown event, death, was not the
destruction of our faculties of perception and of action, there would
be no apprehension that any other power or event, unconnected with this
of death, would destroy these faculties just at the instant of each
creature’s death; and therefore no doubt but that they would remain
after it; which shows the high probability that our living powers will
continue after death, unless there be some ground to think that death
is their destruction.[29] For, if it would be in a manner certain that
we should survive death,[30] provided it were certain that death would
not be our destruction, it must be highly probable we shall survive
it, if there be no ground to think death will be our destruction.

Though I think it must be acknowledged, that prior to the natural and
moral proofs of a future life commonly insisted upon, there would arise
a general confused suspicion, that in the great shock and alteration
which we shall undergo by death, we, _i.e._ our living powers, might be
wholly destroyed; yet even prior to those proofs, there is really no
particular distinct ground or reason for this apprehension at all, so
far as I can find. If there be, it must arise either from _the reason
of the thing_, or from _the analogy of nature_.

But we cannot argue from _the reason of the thing_, that death is the
destruction of living agents, because we know not at all what death is
in itself; but only some of its effects, such as the dissolution of
flesh, skin, and bones. These effects do in no wise appear to imply the
destruction of a living agent. Besides, as we are greatly in the dark,
upon what the exercise of our living powers depends, so we are wholly
ignorant what the powers themselves depend upon; the powers themselves
as distinguished, not only from their actual exercise, but also from
the present capacity of exercising them; and as opposed to their
destruction: for sleep, or certainly a swoon, shows us, not only that
these powers exist when they are not exercised, as the passive power of
motion does in inanimate matter; but shows also that they exist, when
there is no present capacity of exercising them: or that the capacities
of exercising them for the present, as well as the actual exercise
of them, may be suspended, and yet the powers themselves remain
undestroyed. Since then we know not at all upon what the existence of
our living powers depends, this shows further, there can no probability
be collected from the reason of the thing, that death will be their
destruction: because their existence may depend upon somewhat in no
degree affected by death; upon somewhat quite out of the reach of this
king of terrors. So that there is nothing more certain, than that _the
reason of the thing_ shows us no connection between death and the
destruction of living agents.

Nor can we find any thing throughout the whole _analogy of nature_ to
afford us even the slightest presumption, that animals ever lose their
living powers; much less if it were possible, that they lose them
by death: for we have no faculties wherewith to trace any beyond or
through it, so as to see what becomes of them. This event removes them
from our view. It destroys the _sensible_ proof, which we had before
their death, of their being possessed of living powers, but does not
appear to afford the least reason to believe that they are, then, or by
that event, deprived of them.

Our knowing that they were possessed of these powers, up to the very
period to which we have faculties capable of tracing them, is itself
a probability of their retaining them beyond it. This is confirmed,
and a sensible credibility is given to it, by observing the very great
and astonishing changes which we have experienced; so great, that our
existence in another state of life, of perception and of action, will
be but according to a method of providential conduct, the like to which
has been already exercised even with regard to ourselves; according to
a course of nature, the like to which we have already gone through.

However, as one cannot but be greatly sensible, how difficult it is to
silence imagination enough to make the voice of reason even distinctly
heard in this case; as we are accustomed, from our youth up, to indulge
that forward, delusive faculty, ever obtruding beyond its sphere;
(of some assistance indeed to apprehension, but the author of all
error,) as we plainly lose ourselves in gross and crude conceptions
of things, taking for granted that we are acquainted with what indeed
we are wholly ignorant of: it may be proper to consider the imaginary
presumptions, that death will be our destruction, arising from these
kinds of early and lasting prejudices; and to show how little they
really amount to, even though we cannot wholly divest ourselves of
them. And,

I. All presumption of death’s being the destruction of living beings,
must go upon supposition that they are compounded;[31] and so,
discerptible. But since consciousness is a single and indivisible
power, it should seem that the subject in which it resides must be so
too. For were the motion of any particle of matter absolutely one and
indivisible, so as that it should imply a contradiction to suppose
part of this motion to exist, and part not to exist, _i.e._ part of
this matter to move, and part to be at rest, then its power of motion
would be indivisible; and so also would the subject in which the power
inheres, namely, the particle of matter: for if this could be divided
into two, one part might be moved and the other at rest, which is
contrary to the supposition.

In like manner it has been argued,[32] and, for any thing appearing
to the contrary, justly, that since the perception or consciousness,
which we have of our own existence, is indivisible, so as that it
is a contradiction to suppose one part of it should be here and the
other there; the perceptive power, or the power of consciousness, is
indivisible too: and consequently the subject in which it resides,
_i.e._ the conscious being. Now, upon supposition that the living
agent each man calls himself, is thus a single being, which there is
at least no more difficulty in conceiving than in conceiving it to be
a compound, and of which there is the proof now mentioned; it follows,
that our organized bodies are no more ourselves or part of ourselves,
than any other matter around us. And it is as easy to conceive, how
matter, which is no part of ourselves, may be appropriated to us in the
manner which our present bodies are; as how we can receive impressions
from, and have power over, any matter. It is as easy to conceive, that
we may exist out of bodies, as in them; and that we might have animated
bodies of any other organs and senses wholly different from these now
given us; and that we may hereafter animate these same or new bodies,
variously modified and organized; as to conceive how we can animate
such bodies as our present. And lastly, the dissolution of all these
several organized bodies, supposing ourselves to have successively
animated them, would have no more conceivable tendency to destroy
the living beings ourselves, or deprive us of living faculties, the
faculties of perception and of action, than the dissolution of any
foreign matter, which we are capable of receiving impressions from, and
making use of, for the common occasions of life.

II. The simplicity and absolute oneness of a living agent cannot,
from the nature of the thing, be properly proved by experimental
observations. But as these _fall in_ with the supposition of its
unity, so they plainly lead us to _conclude_ certainly, that our gross
organized bodies, with which we perceive objects of sense, and with
which we act, are no part of ourselves; and therefore show us, that we
have no reason to believe their destruction to be ours: even without
determining whether our living substance be material or immaterial. For
we see by experience, that men may lose their limbs, their organs of
sense, and even the greatest part of these bodies, and yet remain the
same living agents. Persons can trace up the existence of themselves
to a time, when the bulk of their bodies was extremely small, in
comparison of what it is in mature age: and we cannot but think, that
they might _then_ have lost a considerable part of that small body,
and yet have remained the same living agents; as they may now lose
great part of their present body, and remain so. And it is certain,
that the bodies of all animals are in a constant flux;[33] from that
never-ceasing attrition, which there is in every part of them. Now,
things of this kind unavoidably teach us to distinguish, between these
living agents ourselves, and large quantities of matter, in which we
are very nearly interested; since these may be alienated, and actually
are in a daily course of succession, and changing their owners; whilst
we are assured, that each living agent remains one and the same
permanent being.[34] And this general observation leads us on to the
following ones.

_First_, That we have no way of determining by experience, what is the
certain bulk of the living being each man calls himself: and yet, till
it be determined that it is larger in bulk than the solid elementary
particles of matter, which there is no ground to think any natural
power can dissolve, there is no sort of reason to think death to be the
dissolution of it, of the living being, even though it should not be
absolutely indiscerptible.

_Secondly_, From our being so nearly related to and interested
in certain systems of matter, (suppose our flesh and bones,) and
afterwards ceasing to be at all related to them, the living agents,
ourselves, remaining all this while undestroyed notwithstanding
such alienation; and consequently these systems of matter not being
ourselves, it follows further that we have no ground to conclude any
other (suppose _internal_) _systems_ of matter, to be the living agents
ourselves; because we can have no ground to conclude this, but from
our relation to and interest in such other systems of matter: and
therefore we can have no reason to conclude what befalls those systems
of matter at death, to be the destruction of the living agents. We have
already several times over, lost a great part or perhaps the whole of
our body, according to certain common established laws of nature, yet
we remain the same living agents. When we shall lose as great a part,
or the whole, by another common established law of nature, death, why
may we not also remain the same? That the alienation has been gradual
in one case, and in the other will be more at once, does not prove
any thing to the contrary. We have passed undestroyed through those
many and great revolutions of matter, so peculiarly appropriated to us
ourselves; why should we imagine death will be so fatal to us? Nor can
it be objected, that what is thus alienated or lost, is no part of our
original solid body, but only adventitious matter. Because we may lose
entire limbs, which must have contained many solid parts and vessels of
the original body; or if this be not admitted, we have no proof, that
any of these solid parts are dissolved or alienated by death. Though
we are very nearly related to that extraneous or adventitious matter,
whilst it continues united to and distending the several parts of our
solid body, yet after all, the relation a person bears to those parts
of his body, to which he is most nearly related, amounts but to this,
that the living agent, and those parts of the body, mutually affect
each other.[35] The same thing, the same thing in kind though not in
degree, may be said of _all foreign_ matter, which gives us ideas, and
over which we have any power. From these observations the whole ground
of the imagination is removed, that the dissolution of any matter, is
the destruction of a living agent, from the interest he once had in
such matter.

_Thirdly_, If we consider our body somewhat more distinctly, as made
up of organs and instruments of perception and of motion, it will
bring us to the same conclusion. Thus the common optical experiments
show, and even the observation how sight is assisted by glasses
shows, that we see with our eyes in the same sense as we see with
glasses. Nor is there any reason to believe, that we see with them in
any other sense; any other, I mean, which would lead us to think the
eye itself a percipient. The like is to be said of hearing; and our
feeling distant solid matter by means of something in our hand, seems
an instance of the like kind, as to the subject we are considering.
All these are instances of foreign matter, or such as is no part of
our body, being instrumental in preparing objects for, and conveying
them to, the perceiving power, in a manner similar to the manner in
which our organs of sense prepare and convey them. Both are in a like
way instruments of our receiving such ideas from external objects,
as the Author of nature appointed those external objects to be the
occasions of exciting in us. Glasses are evident instances of this;
namely of matter which is no part of our body, preparing objects for
and conveying them towards the perceiving power, in like manner as our
bodily organs do. And if we see with our eyes only in the same manner
as we do with glasses, the like may justly be concluded, from analogy,
of all our other senses. It is not intended, by any thing here said,
to affirm, that the whole apparatus of vision, or of perception by
any other sense, can be traced through all its steps, quite up to the
_living power_ of seeing, or perceiving: but that so far as it can be
traced by experimental observations, so far it appears, that our organs
of sense prepare and convey objects, in order to their being perceived,
in like manner as foreign matter does, without affording any shadow of
appearance, that they themselves perceive. And that we have no reason
to think our organs of sense percipients, is confirmed by instances of
persons losing some of them, the living beings themselves, their former
occupiers, remaining unimpaired. It is confirmed also by the experience
of dreams; by which we find we are at present possessed of a latent,
and what would be otherwise an unimagined unknown power of perceiving
sensible objects, in as strong and lively a manner without our external
organs of sense, as with them.

So also with regard to our power of moving, or directing motion by will
and choice; upon the destruction of a limb, this active power evidently
remains, unlessened; so that the living being, who has suffered this
loss, would be capable of moving as before, if it had another limb to
move with. It can walk by the help of an artificial leg. It can make
use of a pole or a lever, to reach towards itself and to move things,
beyond the length and the power of its arm; and this it does in the
same manner as it reaches and moves, with its natural arm, things
nearer and of less weight. Nor is there so much as any appearance of
our limbs being endued with a power of moving or directing themselves;
though they are adapted, like the several parts of a machine, to be the
instruments of motion to each other; and some parts of the same limb,
to be instruments of motion to the other parts.

Thus a man determines that he will look at an object through a
microscope; or being lame, that he will walk to such a place with a
staff, a week hence. His eyes and his feet no more determine in these
cases, than the microscope and the staff. Nor is there any ground to
think they any more put the determination in practice; or that his
eyes are the seers, or his feet the movers, in any other sense than
as the microscope and the staff are. Upon the whole, then, our organs
of sense, and our limbs, are certainly _instruments_,[36] which the
living persons ourselves make use of to perceive and move with: there
is not any probability, that they are any more; nor consequently,
that we have any other kind of relation to them, than what we have to
any other foreign matter formed into instruments of perception and
motion, suppose into a microscope or a staff; (I say any other kind of
relation, for I am not speaking of the degree of it) nor consequently
is there any probability, that the alienation or dissolution of these
instruments, is the destruction of the perceiving and moving agent.

And thus our finding that the dissolution of matter, in which living
beings were most nearly interested, is not their dissolution; and
that the destruction of several of the organs and instruments of
perception and of motion belonging to them, is not their destruction;
shows demonstratively, that there is no ground to think that the
dissolution of any other matter, or destruction of any other organs and
instruments, will be the dissolution or destruction of living agents,
from the like kind of relation. And we have no reason to think we stand
in any other kind of relation to any thing which we find dissolved by

But it is said, these observations are equally applicable to
brutes:[37] and it is thought an insuperable difficulty, that they
should be immortal, and by consequence capable of everlasting
happiness. Now this manner of expression is both invidious and weak:
but the thing intended by it, is really no difficulty at all, either in
the way of natural or moral consideration. For 1, Suppose the invidious
thing, designed in such a manner of expression, were really implied, as
it is not in the least, in the natural immortality of brutes, namely,
that they must arrive at great attainments, and become rational and
moral agents; even this would be no difficulty, since we know not what
latent powers and capacities they may be endued with. There was once,
prior to experience, as great presumption against human creatures,
as there is against the brute creatures, arriving at that degree of
understanding, which we have in mature age. For we can trace up our own
existence to the same original with theirs. We find it to be a general
law of nature, that creatures endued with _capacities_ of virtue and
religion should be placed in a condition of being, in which they are
altogether without _the use_ of them, for a considerable length of
their duration; as in infancy and childhood. And great part of the
human species, go out of the present world, before they come to the
exercise of these capacities in _any_ degree.

2. The natural immortality of brutes does not in the least imply, that
they are endued with any latent capacities of a rational or _moral_
nature. The economy of the universe might require, that there should
be living creatures without any capacities of this kind. And all
difficulties as to the manner how they are to be disposed of, are so
apparently and wholly founded in our ignorance, that it is wonderful
they should be insisted upon by any, but such as are weak enough to
think they are acquainted with the whole system of things. There
is then absolutely nothing at all in this objection, which is so
rhetorically urged, against the greatest part of the natural proofs
or presumptions of the immortality of human minds; I say the greatest
part, for it is less applicable to the following observation, which is
more peculiar to mankind.

III. As it is evident our _present_ powers and capacities of reason,
memory, and affection, do not depend upon our gross body in the manner
in which perception by our organs of sense does; so they do not appear
to depend upon it at all, in any such manner as to give ground to
think, that the dissolution of this body will be the destruction of
these our present powers of reflection, as it will of our powers of
sensation; or to give ground to conclude, even that it will be so much
as a suspension of the former.

Human creatures exist at present in two states of life and perception,
greatly different from each other; each of which has its own peculiar
laws, and its own peculiar enjoyments and sufferings. When any of
our senses are affected, or appetites gratified with the objects of
them, we may be said to exist or live in a state of sensation. When
none of our senses are affected or appetites gratified, and yet we
perceive, and reason, and act, we may be said to exist or live in a
state of reflection. Now it is by no means certain, that any thing
which is dissolved by death, is in any way necessary to the living
being, in this its state of reflection, _after_ ideas are gained.
For, though, from our present constitution and condition of being,
our external organs of sense are necessary for conveying in ideas to
our reflecting powers, as carriages, and levers, and scaffolds are in
architecture:[38] yet when these ideas are brought in, we are capable
of reflecting in the most intense degree, and of enjoying the greatest
pleasure, and feeling the greatest pain, by means of that reflection,
without any assistance from our senses; and without any at all, which
we know of, from that body which will be dissolved by death. It does
not appear then, that the relation of this gross body to the reflecting
being is, in any degree, necessary to thinking; to intellectual
enjoyments or sufferings: nor, consequently, that the dissolution or
alienation of the former by death, will be the destruction of those
present powers, which render us capable of this state of reflection.

Further, there are instances of mortal diseases, which do not at all
affect our present intellectual powers; and this affords a presumption,
that those diseases will not destroy these present powers. Indeed,
from the observations made above,[39] it appears, that there is no
presumption, from their mutually affecting each other, that the
dissolution of the body is the destruction of the living agent. By
the same reasoning, it must appear too, that there is no presumption,
from their mutually affecting each other, that the dissolution of
the body is the destruction of our present reflecting powers: indeed
instances of their not affecting each other, afford a presumption of
the contrary. Instances of mortal diseases not impairing our present
reflecting powers, evidently turn our thoughts even from imagining such
diseases to be the destruction of them. Several things indeed greatly
affect all our living powers, and at length suspend the exercise of
them; as for instance drowsiness, increasing till it ends in sound
sleep: and hence we might have imagined it would destroy them, till
we found by experience the weakness of this way of judging. But in
the diseases now mentioned, there is not so much as this shadow of
probability, to lead us to any such conclusion, as to the reflecting
powers which we have at present. For in those diseases, persons the
moment before death appear to be in the highest vigor of life. They
discover apprehension, memory, reason, all entire; the utmost force of
affection; a sense of character, of shame and honor; and the highest
mental enjoyments and sufferings, even to the last gasp. These surely
prove even greater vigor of life than bodily strength does. Now what
pretence is there for thinking, that a progressive disease when arrived
to such a degree, I mean that degree which is mortal, will destroy
those powers, which were not impaired, which were not affected by it,
during its whole progress quite up to that degree? And if death by
diseases of this kind, is not the destruction of our present reflecting
powers, it will scarce be thought that death by any other means is.

It is obvious that this general observation may be carried further.
There appears to be so little connection between our bodily powers
of sensation, and our present powers of reflection, that there is
no reason to conclude, that death, which destroys the former, does
so much as _suspend the exercise_ of the latter, or interrupt our
_continuing_ to exist in the like state of reflection which we do
now.[40] For suspension of reason, memory, and the affections which
they excite, is no part of the idea of death, nor implied in our notion
of it. Our daily experiencing these powers to be exercised, without
any assistance, that we know of, from those bodies which will be
dissolved by death; and our finding often, that the exercise of them
is so lively to the last; afford a sensible apprehension, that death
may not perhaps be so much as a discontinuance of the exercise of these
powers, nor of the enjoyments and sufferings which it implies.[41] So
that our posthumous life, whatever there may be in it additional to our
present, may yet not be beginning entirely anew; but going on. Death
may, in some sort and in some respects, answer to our birth; which is
not a suspension of the faculties which we had before it, or a _total_
change of the state of life in which we existed when in the womb; but a
continuation of both, with such and such great alterations.

Nay, for aught we know of ourselves, of our present life and of death,
death may immediately, in the natural course of things, put us into a
higher and more enlarged state of life, as our birth does;[42] a state
in which our capacities; and sphere of perception and of action, may
be much greater than at present. For as our relation to our external
organs of sense, renders us capable of existing in our present state of
sensation; so it may be the only natural hinderance to our existing,
immediately, and of course; in a _higher_ state of reflection. The
truth is, reason does not at all show us, in what state death naturally
leaves us. But were we sure, that it would suspend all our perceptive
and active powers; yet the suspension of a power and the destruction
of it, are effects so totally different in kind, as we experience from
sleep and a swoon, that we cannot in any wise argue from one to the
other; or conclude even to the lowest degree of probability, that the
same kind of force which is sufficient to suspend our faculties, though
it be increased ever so much, will be sufficient to destroy them.[43]

These observations together may be sufficient to show, how little
presumption there is, that death is the destruction of human creatures.
However, there is the shadow of an analogy, which may lead us to
imagine it,--viz.: the supposed likeness which is observed between the
decay of vegetables, and of living creatures. This likeness is indeed
sufficient to afford the poets very apt allusions to the flowers of
the field, in their pictures of the frailty of our present life. But
in reason, the analogy is so far from holding, that there appears no
ground for the comparison, as to the present question; because one
of the two subjects compared is wholly void of that, which is the
principal and chief thing in the other; the power of perception and of
action; which is the only thing we are inquiring about the continuance
of. So that the destruction of a vegetable, is an event not similar or
analogous to the destruction of a living agent.

If, as was above intimated, leaving off the delusive custom of
substituting imagination in the room of experience, we would confine
ourselves to what we do know and understand; if we would argue only
from that, and from that form our expectations, it would appear at
first sight, that as no probability of living beings ever ceasing to
be so, can be concluded from the reason of the thing, so none can be
collected from the analogy of nature; because we cannot trace any
living beings beyond death. But as we are conscious that we are endued
with capacities of perception and of action, and are living persons;
what we are to go upon is, that we shall continue so, till we foresee
some accident or event, which will endanger those capacities, or be
likely to destroy us: which death does in no wise appear to be.

Thus, when we go out of this world, we may pass into new scenes, and
a new state of life and action, just as naturally as we came into the
present. And this new state may naturally be a social one.[44] And the
advantages of it, advantages, of every kind, may naturally be bestowed,
according to some fixed general laws of wisdom, upon every one in
proportion to the degrees of his virtue. And though the advantages
of that future natural state should not be bestowed, as these of the
present in some measure are, by the will of the society; but entirely
by his more immediate action, upon whom the whole frame of nature
depends: yet this distribution may be just as natural, as their being
distributed here by the instrumentality of men. Indeed, though one
should allow any confused undetermined sense, which people please to
put upon the word _natural_, it would be a shortness of thought scarce
credible, to imagine, that no system or course of things can be so, but
only what we see at present:[45] especially whilst the probability
of a future life, or the natural immortality of the soul, is admitted
upon the evidence of reason; because this is really both admitting
and denying at once, a state of being different from the present to
be natural. But the only distinct meaning of that word is, _stated_,
_fixed_, or _settled_; since what is natural as much requires and
presupposes an intelligent agent to render it so, _i.e._ to effect it
continually, or at stated times, as what is supernatural or miraculous
does to effect it for once.

Hence it must follow, that persons’ notion of what is natural, will be
enlarged in proportion to their greater knowledge of the works of God,
and the dispensations of his providence. Nor is there any absurdity in
supposing, that there may be beings in the universe, whose capacities,
and knowledge, and views, may be so extensive, as that the whole
Christian dispensation may to them appear natural, _i.e._ analogous
or conformable to God’s dealings with other parts of his creation; as
natural as the visible known course of things appears to us. For there
seems scarce any other possible sense to be put upon the word, but that
only in which it is here used; similar, stated, or uniform.

This credibility of a future life, which has been here insisted upon,
how little soever it may satisfy our curiosity, seems to answer all the
purposes of religion, in like manner as a demonstrative proof would.
Indeed a proof, even a demonstrative one, of a future life, would not
be a proof of religion. For, that we are to live hereafter, is just as
reconcilable with the scheme of atheism, and as well to be accounted
for by it, as that we are now alive is: and therefore nothing can
be more absurd than to argue from that scheme, that there can be no
future state. But as religion implies a future state, any presumption
against such a state, is a presumption against religion. The foregoing
observations remove all presumptions of that sort, and prove, to a
very considerable degree of probability, one fundamental doctrine of
religion; which, if believed, would greatly open and dispose the mind
seriously to attend to the general evidence! of the whole.



That which makes the question concerning a future life to be of so
great importance to us, is our capacity of happiness and misery. And
that which makes the consideration of it to be of so great importance
to us, is the supposition of our happiness and misery hereafter
depending upon our actions here. Indeed, without this, curiosity
could not but sometimes bring a subject, in which we may be so highly
interested, to our thoughts; especially upon the mortality of others,
or the near prospect of our own. But reasonable men would not take
any further thought about hereafter, than what should happen thus
occasionally to rise in their minds, if it were certain that our future
interest no way depended upon our present behavior; whereas, on the
contrary, if there be ground, either from analogy or any thing else, to
think it does, then there is reason also for the most active thought
and solicitude, to secure that interest; to behave so as that we may
escape that misery, and obtain that happiness, in another life, which
we not only suppose ourselves capable of, but which we apprehend also
is put in our own power. And whether there be ground for this last
apprehension, certainly would deserve to be most seriously considered,
were there no other proof of a future life and interest, than that
presumptive one, which the foregoing observations amount to.

In the present state, all which we enjoy, and a great part of what
we suffer, _is put in our own power_. Pleasure and pain are the
consequences of our actions; and we are endued by the Author of our
nature with capacities of foreseeing these consequences. We find by
experience that he does not so much as preserve our lives, exclusive
of our own care and attention, to provide ourselves with, and to make
use of, that sustenance, by which he has appointed our lives shall
be preserved; and without which, he has appointed, they shall not be
preserved. In general we foresee, that the external things, which
are the objects of our various passions, can neither be obtained nor
enjoyed, without exerting ourselves in such and such manners: but by
thus exerting ourselves, we obtain and enjoy these objects, in which
our natural good consists; or by this means God gives us the possession
and enjoyment of them. I know not, that we have any one kind or degree
of enjoyment, but by the means of our own actions. By prudence and
care, we may, for the most part, pass our days in tolerable ease and
quiet: on the contrary, we may, by rashness, ungoverned passion,
wilfulness, or even by negligence, make ourselves as miserable as ever
we please. And many do please to make themselves extremely miserable,
_i.e._ to do what they know beforehand will render them so. They follow
those ways, the fruit of which they know, by instruction, example, and
experience, will be disgrace, and poverty, and sickness, and untimely
death. This every one observes to be the general course of things;
though it is to be allowed, we cannot find by experience, that _all_
our sufferings are owing to our own follies.

Why the Author of nature does not give his creatures promiscuously such
and such perceptions, without regard to their behavior; why he does
not make them happy without the instrumentality of their own actions,
and prevent their bringing any sufferings upon themselves, is another
matter.[46] Perhaps there may be some impossibilities in the nature
of things, which we are unacquainted with.[47] Or less happiness, it
may be, would upon the whole be produced by such a method of conduct,
than is by the present. Or perhaps divine goodness, with which, if I
mistake not, we make very free in our speculations, may not be a bare
single disposition to produce happiness; but a disposition to make the
good, the faithful, the honest, happy. Perhaps an infinitely perfect
mind may be pleased with seeing his creatures behave suitably to the
nature which he has given them; to the relations which he has placed
them in to each other; and to that which they stand in to himself:
that relation to himself, which, during their existence, is even
necessary,[48] and which is the most important one of all: perhaps,
I say, an infinitely perfect mind may be pleased with this moral
piety of moral agents, in and for itself; as well as upon account of
its being essentially conducive to the happiness of his creation. Or
the whole end, for which God made, and thus governs the world, may
be utterly beyond the reach of our faculties: there may be somewhat
in it as impossible for us to have any conception of, as for a blind
man to have a conception of colors. However this be, it is certain
matter of universal experience, that the general method of divine
administration is, forewarning us, or giving us capacities to foresee,
with more or less clearness, that if we act so and so, we shall have
such enjoyments, if so and so, such sufferings; and giving us those
enjoyments, and making us feel those sufferings, in consequence of our

“But all this is to be ascribed to the general course of nature,” True.
This is the very thing which I am observing. It is to be ascribed to
the general course of nature: _i.e._ not surely to the words or ideas,
_course of nature_; but to Him who appointed it, and put things into
it; or to a course of operation, from its uniformity or constancy,
called natural;[49] and which necessarily implies an operating agent.
For when men find themselves necessitated to confess an Author of
nature, or that God is the natural governor of the world, they must
not deny this again, because his government is uniform. They must not
deny that he does things at all, because he does them constantly,[50]
because the effects of his acting are permanent, whether his acting
be so or not; though there is no reason to think it is not. In short,
every man, in every thing he does, naturally acts upon the forethought
and apprehension of avoiding evil or obtaining good: and if the natural
course of things be the appointment of God, and our natural faculties
of knowledge and experience are given us by him, then the good and bad
consequences which follow our actions, are his appointment, and our
foresight of those consequences, is a warning given us by him, how we
are to act.

“Is the pleasure then, naturally accompanying every particular
gratification of passion, intended to put us upon gratifying ourselves
in every such particular instance, and as a reward to us for so doing?”
No, certainly. Nor is it to be said, that our eyes were naturally
intended to give us the sight of each particular object, to which they
do or can extend; objects which are destructive of them, or which, for
any other reason, it may become us to turn our eyes from. Yet there is
no doubt, but that our eyes were intended for us to see with.[51] So
neither is there any doubt, but that the foreseen pleasures and pains
belonging to the passions, were intended, in general, to induce mankind
to act in such and such manners.

From this general observation, obvious to every one, (that God has
given us to understand, he has appointed satisfaction and delight to be
the consequence of our acting in one manner, and pain and uneasiness of
our acting in another, and of our not acting at all; and that we find
these consequences, which we were beforehand informed of, uniformly
to follow;) we may learn, that we are at present actually under his
government in the strictest and most proper sense; in such a sense, as
that he rewards and punishes us for our actions.

An Author of nature being supposed, it is not so much a deduction
of reason, as a matter of experience, that we are thus under his
government; under his government, in the same sense, as we are under
the government of civil magistrates. Because the annexing of pleasure
to some actions, and pain to others, in our power to do or forbear,
and giving notice of this appointment beforehand to those whom it
concerns, is the proper formal notion of government.

Whether the pleasure or pain which thus follows upon our behavior, be
owing to the Author of nature’s acting upon us every moment which we
feel it; or to his having at once contrived and executed his own part
in the plan of the world; makes no alteration as to the matter before
us. For if civil magistrates could make the sanctions of their laws
take place, without interposing at all, after they had passed them;
without a trial, and the formalities of an execution: if they were able
to make their laws _execute themselves_, or every offender to execute
them upon himself; we should be just in the same sense under their
government then, as we are now; but in a much higher degree, and more
perfect manner.

Vain is the ridicule, with which one foresees some persons will divert
themselves, upon finding lesser pains considered as instances of divine
punishment. There is no possibility of answering or evading the general
thing here intended, without denying all final causes. For final causes
being admitted, the pleasures and pains now mentioned must be admitted
too as instances of them. And if they are; if God annexes delight to
some actions, and uneasiness to others, with an apparent design to
induce us to act so and so; then he not only dispenses happiness and
misery, but also rewards and punishes actions. If, for example, the
pain which we feel, upon doing what tends to the destruction of our
bodies, suppose upon too near approaches to fire, or upon wounding
ourselves, be appointed by the Author of nature to prevent our doing
what thus tends to our destruction; this is altogether as much an
instance of his punishing our actions, and consequently of our being
under his government,[52] as declaring by a voice from heaven, that if
we acted so, he would inflict such pain upon us; and inflicting it,
whether it be greater or less.

Thus we find, that the true notion or conception of the Author of
nature, is that of a master or governor, prior to the consideration
of his moral attributes. The fact of our case, which we find by
experience, is, that he actually exercises dominion or government over
us at present, by rewarding and punishing us for our actions, in as
strict and proper a sense of these words, and even in the same sense,
as children, servants, subjects, are rewarded and punished by those who
govern them.

Thus the whole analogy of nature, the whole present course of things,
most fully shows, that there is nothing incredible in the general
doctrine of religion, that God will reward and punish men for their
actions hereafter: nothing incredible, I mean, arising out of the
notion of rewarding and punishing. For the whole course of nature is
a present instance of his exercising that government over us, which
implies in it rewarding and punishing.

       *       *       *       *       *

As divine _punishment_ is what men chiefly object against, and are most
unwilling to allow; it may be proper to mention some circumstances
in the natural course of punishments at present, which are analogous
to what religion teaches us concerning a future state of punishment;
indeed so analogous, that as they add a further credibility to it, so
they cannot but raise a most serious apprehension of it in those who
will attend to them.

It has been now observed, that such and such miseries naturally follow
such and such actions of imprudence and wilfulness, as well as actions
more commonly and more distinctly considered as vicious; and that
these consequences, when they may be foreseen, are properly natural
punishments annexed to such actions. The general thing here insisted
upon, is, not that we see a great deal of misery in the world, but a
great deal which men bring upon themselves by their own behavior, which
they might have foreseen and avoided. Now the circumstances of these
natural punishments, particularly deserving our attention, are such
as these. Oftentimes they follow, or are inflicted in consequence of,
actions which procure many present advantages, and are accompanied with
much present pleasure; for instance, sickness and untimely death are
the consequence of intemperance, though accompanied with the highest
mirth, and jollity. These punishments are often much greater, than
the advantages or pleasures obtained by the actions, of which they are
the punishments or consequences. Though we may imagine a constitution
of nature, in which these natural punishments, which are in fact to
follow, would follow, immediately upon such actions being done, or
very soon after; we find on the contrary in our world, that they are
often delayed a great while, sometimes even till long after the actions
occasioning them are forgot; so that the constitution of nature is
such, that delay of punishment is no sort nor degree of presumption of
final impunity. After such delay, these natural punishments or miseries
often come, not by degrees, but suddenly, with violence, and at once;
however, the chief misery often does. As certainty of such distant
misery following such actions, is never afforded persons, so perhaps
during the actions, they have seldom a distinct, full expectation of
its following:[53] and many times the case is only thus, that they see
in general, or may see, the credibility, that intemperance, suppose,
will bring after it diseases; civil crimes, civil punishments; when
yet the real probability often is, that they shall escape; but things
notwithstanding take their destined course, and the misery inevitably
follows at its appointed time, in very many of these cases. Thus also
though youth may be alleged as an excuse for rashness and folly,
as being naturally thoughtless, and not clearly foreseeing all the
consequences of being untractable and profligate, this does not hinder,
but that these consequences follow; and are grievously felt, throughout
the whole course of mature life. Habits contracted even in that age,
are often utter ruin: and men’s success in the world, not only in the
common sense of worldly success, but their real happiness and misery,
depends, in a great degree, and in various ways, upon the manner in
which they pass their youth; which consequences they for the most
part neglect to consider, and perhaps seldom can properly be said to
believe, beforehand. In numberless cases, the natural course of things
affords us opportunities for procuring advantages to ourselves at
certain times, which we cannot procure when we will; nor ever recall
the opportunities, if we have neglected them. Indeed the general course
of nature is an example of this. If, during the opportunity of youth,
persons are indocile and self-willed, they inevitably suffer in their
future life, for want of those acquirements, which they neglected the
natural season of attaining. If the husbandman lets seedtime pass
without sowing, the whole year is lost to him beyond recovery. Though
after men have been guilty of folly and extravagance _up to a certain
degree_, it is often in their power, to retrieve their affairs, to
recover their health and character, at least in good measure; yet real
reformation is in many cases, of no avail at all towards preventing
the miseries, poverty, sickness, infamy, naturally annexed to folly
and extravagance _exceeding that degree_. There is a certain bound to
imprudence and misbehavior, which being transgressed, there remains no
place for repentance in the natural course of things. It is further
very much to be remarked, that neglects from inconsiderateness, want
of attention,[54] not looking about us to see what we have to do, are
often attended with consequences altogether as dreadful, as any active
misbehavior, from the most extravagant passion. And lastly, civil
government being natural, the punishments of it are so too: and some
of these punishments are capital; as the effects of a dissolute course
of pleasure are often mortal. So that many natural punishments are
final[55] to him who incurs them, if considered only in his temporal
capacity; and seem inflicted by natural appointment, either to remove
the offender out of the way of being further mischievous, or as an
example, though frequently a disregarded one, to those who are left

These things are not what we call accidental, or to be met with only
now and then; but they are things of every day’s experience. They
proceed from general laws, very general ones, by which God governs the
world in the natural course of his providence.[56]

And they are so analogous, to what religion teaches us concerning the
future punishment of the wicked, so much of a piece with it, that
both would naturally be expressed in the very same words, and manner
of description. In the book of _Proverbs_,[57] for instance, wisdom
is introduced, as frequenting the most public places of resort, and
as rejected when she offers herself as the natural appointed guide
of human life. _How long_, speaking to those who are passing through
it, _how long, ye simple ones, will ye love folly, and the scorners
delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn ye at my
reproof. Behold, I will pour out my spirit upon you, I will make known
my words unto you._ But upon being neglected, _Because I have called,
and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but
ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I
also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh;
when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a
whirlwind; when distress and anguish come upon you. Then shall they
call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they
shall not find me._ This passage, every one sees, is poetical, and
some parts of it are highly figurative; but the meaning is obvious.
And the thing intended is expressed more literally in the following
words; _For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of
the Lord----therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way,
and be filled with their own devices. For the security of the simple
shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them._ The
whole passage is so equally applicable to what we experience in the
present world, concerning the consequences of men’s actions, and to
what religion teaches us is to be expected in another, that it may be
questioned which of the two was principally intended.

Indeed when one has been recollecting the proper proofs of a future
state of rewards and punishments, nothing methinks can give one so
sensible an apprehension of the latter, or representation of it to
the mind, as observing, that after the many disregarded checks,
admonitions, and warnings, which people meet with in the ways of vice
and folly and extravagance, warnings from their very nature, from the
examples of others, from the lesser inconveniences which they bring
upon themselves, from the instructions of wise and virtuous men:
after these have been long despised, scorned, ridiculed: after the
chief bad consequences, temporal consequences, of their follies, have
been delayed for a great while, at length they break in irresistibly,
like an armed force: repentance is too late to relieve, and can serve
only to aggravate their distress, the case is become desperate: and
poverty and sickness, remorse and anguish, infamy and death, the
effects of their own doings, overwhelm them beyond possibility of
remedy or escape. This is an account of what is; in fact, the general
constitution of nature.

It is not in any sort meant, that, according to what appears at present
of the natural course of things, men are always uniformly punished
in proportion to their misbehavior. But that there are very many
instances of misbehavior punished in the several ways now mentioned,
and very dreadful instances too; sufficient to show what the laws of
the universe may admit, and, if thoroughly considered, sufficient fully
to answer all objections against the credibility of a future state of
punishments, from any imaginations, that the frailty of our nature and
external temptations, almost annihilate the guilt of human vices: as
well as objections of another sort; from necessity, from suppositions,
that the will of an infinite Being cannot be contradicted, or that he
must be incapable of offence and provocation.[58]

Reflections of this kind are not without their terrors to serious
persons, even the most free from enthusiasm, and of the greatest
strength of mind; but it is fit that things be stated and considered as
they really are. There is, in the present age, a certain fearlessness
with regard to what may be hereafter under the government of God, which
nothing but a universally acknowledged demonstration on the side of
atheism can justify; and which makes it quite necessary, that men be
reminded, and if possible made to feel, that there is no sort of ground
for being thus presumptuous, even upon the most sceptical principles.
For, may it not be said of any person upon his being born into the
world, he may behave so as to be of no service to it, but by being
made an example of the woeful effects of vice and folly? That he may,
as any one may, if he will, incur an infamous execution from the hands
of civil justice, or in some other course of extravagance shorten his
days; or bring upon himself infamy and diseases worse than death? So
that it had been better for him, even with regard to the present world,
that he had never been born. And is there any pretence of reason for
people to think themselves secure, and talk as if they had certain
proof, that, let them act as licentiously as they will, there can be
nothing analogous to this, with regard to a future and more general
interest, under the providence and government of the same God?



As the manifold appearances of design, and of final causes, in the
constitution of the world, prove it to be the work of an intelligent
mind, so the particular final causes of pleasure and pain distributed
amongst his creatures, prove that they are under his government; what
may be called his natural government of creatures endued with sense
and reason. This implies somewhat more than seems usually attended to,
when we speak of God’s natural government of the world. It implies
government of the very same kind with that which a master exercises
over his servants, or a civil magistrate over his subjects. These
latter instances of final causes, as really prove an intelligent
_Governor_ of the world, in the sense now mentioned, and before[60]
distinctly treated of; as any other instances of final causes prove an
intelligent _Maker_ of it.

But this alone does not appear at first sight to determine any thing
certainly, concerning the moral character of the Author of nature,
considered in this relation of governor; does not ascertain his
government to be moral, or prove that he is the righteous Judge of
the world. Moral government consists, not in barely rewarding and
punishing men for their actions, which the most tyrannical may do, but
in rewarding the righteous, and punishing the wicked: in rendering to
men according to their actions, considered as good or evil. And the
_perfection_ of moral government consists in doing this, with regard
to all intelligent creatures, in an exact proportion to their personal
merits or demerits.

Some men seem to think the only character of the Author of nature to be
that of simple absolute benevolence. This, considered as a principle of
action and infinite in degree, is a disposition to produce the greatest
possible happiness, without regard to persons’ behavior, otherwise than
as such regard would produce higher degrees of it. And supposing this
to be the only character of God, veracity and justice in him would be
nothing but benevolence conducted by wisdom. Surely this ought not to
be asserted, unless it can be proved; for we should speak with cautious
reverence upon such a subject. Whether it can be proved or no, is not
the thing here to be inquired into; but whether in the constitution and
conduct of the world, a righteous government be not discernibly planned
out: which necessarily implies a righteous governor. There may possibly
be in the creation beings, to whom the Author of nature manifests
himself under this most amiable of all characters, this of infinite
absolute benevolence; for it is the most amiable, supposing it not, as
perhaps it is not, incompatible with justice; but he manifests himself
to us under the character of a righteous governor. He may, consistently
with this, be simply and absolutely benevolent, in the sense now
explained: but he is (for he has given us a proof in the constitution
and conduct of the world that he is) a governor over servants, as he
rewards and punishes us for our actions. And in the constitution and
conduct of it, he may also have given, besides the reason of the thing,
and the natural presages of conscience, clear and distinct intimations,
that his government is righteous or moral: clear to such as think the
nature of it deserving their attention, and yet not to every careless
person, who casts a transient reflection upon the subject.[61]

It is particularly to be observed, that the divine government, which
we experience ourselves under in the present state, taken alone, is
allowed not to be the perfection of moral government. Yet this by no
means hinders, but that there may be _somewhat_, be it more or less,
truly moral in it. A righteous government may plainly appear to be
carried on to some degree, enough to give us the apprehension that it
shall be completed, or carried on to that degree of perfection which
religion teaches us it shall; but which cannot appear, till much more
of the divine administration be seen, than can be seen in the present
life. The design of this chapter is to inquire how far this is the
case: how far, over and above the moral nature[62] which God has given
us, and our natural notion of him as righteous governor of those his
creatures, to whom he has given this nature;[63] I say how far besides
this, the principles and beginnings of a moral government over the
world may be discerned, notwithstanding and amidst all the confusion
and disorder of it.

One might mention here, what has been often urged with great force,
that, in general, less uneasiness and more satisfaction, are the
natural consequences[64] of a virtuous than of a vicious course of
life, in the present state, as an instance of a moral government
established in nature; an instance of it collected from experience and
present matter of fact.[65] But it must be owned a thing of difficulty
to weigh and balance pleasures and uneasinesses, each amongst
themselves, and also against each other, so as to make an estimate with
any exactness, of the overplus of happiness on the side of virtue.
And it is not impossible, that, amidst the infinite disorders of the
world, there may be exceptions to the happiness of virtue; even with
regard to persons, whose course of life from their youth up has been
blameless: and more with regard to those who have gone on for some
time in the ways of vice, and have afterwards reformed. For suppose an
instance of the latter case; a person with his passions inflamed, his
natural faculty of self-government impaired by habits of indulgence,
and with all his vices about him, like so many harpies, craving their
accustomed gratification; who can say how long it might be, before
such a person would find more satisfaction in the reasonableness and
present good consequences of virtue, than difficulties and self-denial
in the restraints of it? Experience also shows, that men can to a
great degree, get over their sense of shame, so as that by professing
themselves to be without principle, and avowing even direct villany,
they can support themselves against the infamy of it. But as the ill
actions of any one will probably be more talked of, and oftener thrown
in his way, upon his reformation; so the infamy of them will be much
more felt, after the natural sense of virtue and of honor is recovered.
Uneasiness of this kind ought indeed to be put to the account of
former vices: yet it will be said they are in part the consequences
of reformation. Still I am far from allowing it doubtful, whether
virtue, upon the whole, be happier than vice in the present world. If
it were, yet the beginnings of a righteous administration may, beyond
all question, be found in nature, if we will attentively inquire after

I. In whatever manner the notion of God’s moral government over the
world might be treated, if it did not appear, whether he were in a
proper sense our governor at all; yet when it is certain matter of
experience, that he does manifest himself to us under the character
of a governor in the sense explained,[67] it must deserve to be
considered, whether there be not reason to apprehend, that he may be
a righteous or moral governor. Since it appears to be fact, that God
does govern mankind by the method of rewards and punishments, according
to some settled rules of distribution; it is surely a question to be
asked, what presumption is there against his _finally_ rewarding and
punishing them according to this particular rule, namely, as they act
reasonably, or unreasonably, virtuously or viciously? Rendering men
happy or miserable by this rule, certainly falls in, much more falls
in, with our natural apprehensions and sense of things, than doing
so by any other rule whatever; since rewarding and punishing actions
by any other rule, would appear much harder to be accounted for, by
minds formed as he has formed ours. Be the evidence of religion then
more or less clear, the expectation which it raises in us, that the
righteous shall, upon the whole, be happy, and the wicked miserable,
cannot possibly be considered as absurd or chimerical; because it is
no more than an expectation, that a method of government already begun,
shall be carried on, the method of rewarding and punishing actions; and
shall be carried on by a particular rule, which unavoidably appears to
us at first sight more natural than any other, the rule which we call
distributive justice. Nor,

II. Ought it to be entirely passed over, that tranquillity,
satisfaction, and external advantages, being the natural consequences
of prudent management of ourselves, and our affairs; and rashness,
profligate negligence, and wilful folly, bringing after them many
inconveniences and sufferings; these afford instances of a right
constitution of nature, as the correction of children, for their
own sakes, and by way of example, when they run into danger or hurt
themselves, is a part of right education.[68] Thus, that God governs
the world by general fixed laws, that he has endued us with capacities
of reflecting upon this constitution of things, and foreseeing the good
and bad consequences of behavior, plainly implies _some sort_ of moral
government; since from such a constitution of things it cannot but
follow, that prudence and imprudence, which are of the nature of virtue
and vice,[69] must be, as they are, respectively rewarded and punished.

III. From the natural course of things, vicious actions are, to a
great degree, actually punished as mischievous to society; and besides
punishment actually inflicted upon this account, there is also the
fear and apprehension of it in those persons, whose crimes have
rendered them obnoxious to it, in case of a discovery; this state of
fear being often itself a very considerable punishment. The natural
fear and apprehension of it too, which restrains from such crimes,
is a declaration of nature against them. It is necessary to the very
being of society, that vices, destructive of it, should be punished
_as being so_; the vices of falsehood, injustice, cruelty: which
punishment therefore is as natural as society, and so is an instance
of a kind of moral government, naturally established, and actually
taking place. And, since the certain natural course of things is the
conduct of providence or the government of God, though carried on by
the instrumentality of men, the observation here made amounts to this,
that mankind find themselves placed by him in such circumstances, as
that they are unavoidably accountable for their behavior; and are often
punished, and sometimes rewarded, under his government, in the view of
their being mischievous, or eminently beneficial to society.

If it be objected that good actions and such as are beneficial to
society, are often punished, as in the case of persecution and in other
cases; and that ill and mischievous actions are often rewarded:[70] it
may be answered distinctly, first, that this is in no sort necessary,
and consequently not natural in the sense in which it is necessary, and
therefore natural, that ill or mischievous actions should be punished:
and in the next place, that good actions are never punished, considered
as beneficial to society, nor ill actions rewarded, under the view of
their being hurtful to it. So that it stands good, without any thing on
the side of vice to be set over against it, that the Author of nature
has as truly directed, that vicious actions, considered as mischievous
to society, should be punished, and put mankind under a _necessity_ of
thus punishing them, as he has directed and necessitated us to preserve
our lives by food.

IV. In the natural course of things, virtue _as such_ is actually
rewarded, and vice _as such_ punished: which seems to afford an
instance or example, not only of government, but of moral government,
begun and established; moral in the strictest sense, though not in
that perfection of degree, which religion teaches us to expect.
In order to see this more clearly, we must distinguish between
_actions_ themselves, and that _quality_ ascribed to them, which we
call virtuous or vicious.[71] The gratification itself of every
natural passion, must be attended with delight; and acquisitions of
fortune, however made, are acquisitions of the means or materials of
enjoyment. An action then, by which any natural passion is gratified,
or fortune acquired, procures delight or advantage; abstracted from
all consideration of the morality of such action. Consequently, the
pleasure or advantage in this case, is gained by the action itself, not
by the morality, the virtuousness or viciousness of it; though it be
perhaps virtuous or vicious.

To say that such an action or course of behavior, procured such
pleasure or advantage, or brought on such inconvenience and pain, is
quite a different thing from saying, that such good or bad effect
was owing to the virtue or vice of such action or behavior. In one
case, an action abstracted from all moral consideration, produced its
effect: in the other case, for it will appear that there are such
cases, the morality of the action under a moral consideration, _i.e._
the virtuousness or viciousness of it, produced the effect. Now I say
virtue as such, naturally procures considerable advantages to the
virtuous, and vice as such, naturally occasions great inconvenience
and even misery to the vicious, in very many instances. The immediate
effects of virtue and vice upon the mind and temper, are to be
mentioned as instances of it. Vice as such is naturally attended with
some sort of uneasiness, and not uncommonly, with great disturbance and
apprehension. That inward feeling, which, respecting lesser matters and
in familiar speech we call being vexed with oneself, and in matters
of importance and in more serious language, remorse; is an uneasiness
naturally arising from an action of a man’s own, reflected upon by
himself as wrong, unreasonable, faulty, _i.e._ vicious in greater or
less degrees: and this manifestly is a different feeling from that
uneasiness, which arises from a sense of mere loss or harm. What is
more common, than to hear a man lamenting an accident or event, and
adding--but however he has the satisfaction that he cannot blame
himself for it; or on the contrary, that he has the uneasiness of
being sensible it was his own doing? Thus also the disturbance and
fear, which often follow upon a man’s having done an injury, arise
from a sense of his being blameworthy; otherwise there would, in many
cases, be no ground of disturbance, nor any reason to fear resentment
or shame. On the other hand, inward security and peace, and a mind
open to the several gratifications of life, are the natural attendants
of innocence and virtue. To which must be added the complacency,
satisfaction, and even joy of heart, which accompany the exercise, the
real exercise of gratitude, friendship, benevolence.

And here, I think, ought to be mentioned the fears of future
punishment, and peaceful hopes of a better life, in those who fully
believe, or have any serious apprehension of religion: because these
hopes and fears are present uneasiness and satisfaction to the mind,
and cannot be got rid of by great part of the world, even by men who
have thought most thoroughly upon the subject of religion. And no one
can say, how considerable this uneasiness or satisfaction may be, or
what upon the whole it may amount to.[72]

In the next place comes in the consideration, that all honest and
good men are disposed to befriend honest good men as such, and to
discountenance the vicious as such, and do so in some degree; indeed
in a considerable degree: from which favor and discouragement cannot
but arise considerable advantage and inconvenience. Though the
generality of the world have little regard to the morality of their
own actions, and may be supposed to have less to that of others, when
they themselves are not concerned; yet let any one be known to be a
man of virtue, somehow or other he will be favored and good offices
will be done him, from regard to his character, without remote views,
occasionally, and in some low degree, I think, by the generality of
the world, as it happens to come in their way. Public honors too
and advantages are the natural consequences, and sometimes at least,
the consequences in fact, of virtuous actions; of eminent justice,
fidelity, charity, love to our country, considered in the view of
being virtuous. And sometimes even death itself, often infamy and
external inconveniences, are the public consequences of vice as vice.
For instance, the sense which mankind have of tyranny, injustice,
oppression, additional to the mere feeling or fear of misery, has
doubtless been instrumental in bringing about revolutions, which make
a figure even in the history of the world. For it is plain, that men
resent injuries as implying faultiness, and retaliate, not merely
under the notion of having received harm, but of having received
wrong; and they have this resentment in behalf of others, as well as
of themselves. So likewise even the generality are, in some degree,
grateful and disposed to return good offices, not merely because such
a one has been the occasion of good to them, but under the view, that
such good offices implied kind intention and good desert in the doer.

To all this may be added two or three particular things, which many
persons will think frivolous; but to me nothing appears so, which at
all comes in towards determining a question of such importance, as,
whether there be or be not, a moral institution of government, in the
strictest sense moral, _visibly_ established and begun in nature. The
particular things are these: That in domestic government, which is
doubtless natural, children and others also are very generally punished
for falsehood, injustice, and ill-behavior, as such, and rewarded for
the contrary: which are instances of veracity and justice and right
behavior, as such, naturally enforced by rewards and punishments, more
or less considerable. That, though civil government be supposed to take
cognizance of actions in no other view than as prejudicial to society,
without respect to the immorality of them, yet as such actions are
immoral, so the sense which men have of the immorality of them, very
greatly contributes, in different ways, to bring offenders to justice.
And that entire absence of all crime and guilt in the moral sense, when
plainly appearing, will almost of course procure, and circumstances of
aggravated guilt prevent, a remission of the penalties annexed to civil
crimes, in many cases, though by no means in all.

Upon the whole then, besides the good and bad effects of virtue and
vice upon men’s own minds, the course of the world does, in some
measure, turn upon the approbation and disapprobation of them as such,
in others. The sense of well and ill doing, the presages of conscience,
the love of good characters and dislike of bad ones, honor, shame,
resentment, gratitude, all these, considered in themselves, and in
their effects, do afford manifest real instances, of virtue as such
naturally favored, and of vice as such discountenanced, more or less,
in the daily course of human life; in every age, in every relation,
in every general circumstance of it. That God has given us a moral
nature,[73] may most justly be urged as a proof of our being under his
moral government: but that he has placed us in a condition, which gives
this nature, as one may speak, scope to operate, and in which it does
unavoidably operate; _i.e._ influence mankind to act, so as thus to
favor and reward virtue, and discountenance and punish vice, this is
not the same, but a further additional proof of his moral government;
for it is an instance of it. The first is a proof, that he will finally
favor and support virtue effectually: the second is an example of his
favoring and supporting it at present, in some degree.

If a more distinct inquiry be made, whence it arises, that virtue as
such is often rewarded, and vice as such is punished, and this rule
never inverted, it will be found to proceed, in part, immediately from
the moral nature itself, which God has given us;[74] and also in part,
from his having given us, together with this nature, so great a power
over each other’s happiness and misery. For, _first_, it is certain,
that peace and delight, in some degree and upon some occasions, is
the necessary and present effect of virtuous practice; an effect
arising immediately from that constitution of our nature. We are _so
made_, that well-doing as such, gives us satisfaction, at least in
some instances; ill-doing as such, in none. And, _secondly_, from our
moral nature, joined with God’s having put our happiness and misery
in many respects in each other’s power, it cannot but be, that vice
as such, some kinds and instances of it at least, will be infamous,
and men will be disposed to punish it as in itself detestable; and the
villain will by no means be able always to avoid feeling that infamy,
any more than he will be able to escape this further punishment, which
mankind will be disposed to inflict upon him, under the notion of his
deserving it. But there can be nothing on the side of vice, to answer
this; because there is nothing in the human mind contradictory, as
the logicians speak, to virtue. For virtue consists in a regard to
what is right and reasonable, as being so; in a regard to veracity,
justice, charity, in themselves: and there is surely no such thing,
as a like natural regard to falsehood, injustice, cruelty. If it be
thought, that there are instances of an approbation of vice, as such,
in itself, and for its own sake, (though it does not appear to me, that
there is any such thing at all;) it is evidently monstrous: as much
so, as the most acknowledged perversion of any passion whatever. Such
instances of perversion then being left out, as merely imaginary, or
at least unnatural; it must follow, from the frame of our nature, and
from our condition, in the respects now described, that vice cannot
at all be, and virtue cannot but be, favored as such by others, upon
some occasions, and happy in itself, in some degree. For what is here
insisted upon, is not the _degree_ in which virtue and vice are thus
distinguished, but only the thing itself, that they are so in some
degree; though the whole good and bad effect of virtue and vice as
such, is not inconsiderable in degree. But that they must be thus
distinguished in some degree, is in a manner necessary: it is matter
of fact of daily experience, even in the greatest confusion of human

It is not pretended but that, in the natural course of things,
happiness and misery appear to be distributed by other rules, than
only the personal merit and demerit of characters. They may sometimes
be distributed by way of mere discipline. There may be the wisest and
best reasons, why the world should be governed by general laws, from
whence such promiscuous distribution perhaps must follow; and also
why our happiness and misery should be put in each other’s power, in
the degree which they are. And these things, as, in general, they
contribute to the rewarding virtue and punishing vice, as such, so
they often contribute also, not to the inversion of this, which is
impossible, but to the rendering persons prosperous, though wicked;
afflicted, though righteous; and, which is worse, to the _rewarding
some actions_, though vicious, and _punishing other actions_, though
virtuous.[75] But all this cannot drown the voice of nature in the
conduct of Providence, plainly declaring itself for virtue, by way
of distinction from vice, and preference to it. For our being so
constituted as that virtue and vice are thus naturally favored and
discountenanced, rewarded and punished, respectively as such, is
an intuitive proof of the intent of nature, that it should be so;
otherwise the constitution of our mind, from which it thus immediately
and directly proceeds, would be absurd. But it cannot be said, because
virtuous actions are sometimes punished, and vicious actions rewarded,
that nature intended it. For, though this great disorder is brought
about, as all actions are, by means of some natural passion; yet _this
may be_, as it undoubtedly is, brought about by the perversion of such
passion, implanted in us for other, and those very good purposes. And
indeed these other and good purposes, even of every passion, may be
clearly seen.

We have then a declaration, in some degree of present effect, from Him
who is supreme in nature, which side he is of, or what part he takes;
a declaration for virtue, and against vice. So far therefore as a man
is true to virtue, to veracity and justice, to equity and charity, and
the right of the case, in whatever he is concerned; so far he is on the
side of the divine administration, and co-operates with it: and from
hence, to such a man, arises naturally a secret satisfaction and sense
of security, and implicit hope of somewhat further.

V. This hope is confirmed by the necessary tendencies of virtue,
which, though not of present effect, yet are at present discernible in
nature; and so afford an instance of somewhat moral in the essential
constitution of it. There is, in the nature of things, a tendency in
virtue and vice to produce the good and bad effects now mentioned, in
a greater degree than they do in fact produce them. For instance; good
and bad men would be much more rewarded and punished as such, were it
not, that justice is often artificially eluded,[76] that characters are
not known, and many, who would thus favor virtue and discourage vice,
are hindered from doing so, by accidental causes. These tendencies of
virtue and vice are obvious with regard to _individuals_. But it may
require more particularly to be considered, that power in a _society_,
by being under the direction of virtue, naturally increases, and has
a necessary tendency to prevail over opposite power, not under the
direction of it; in like manner, as power, by being under the direction
of reason, increases, and has a tendency to prevail over brute force.
There are several brute creatures of equal, and several of superior
strength, to that of men; and possibly the sum of the whole strength
of brutes may be greater than that of mankind; but reason gives us the
advantage and superiority over them; and thus man is the acknowledged
governing animal upon the earth. Nor is this superiority considered by
any as accidental; but as what reason has a tendency, in the nature of
the thing, to obtain. And yet perhaps difficulties may be raised about
the meaning, as well as the truth, of the assertion, that virtue has
the like tendency.

To obviate these difficulties, let us see more distinctly, how the case
stands with regard to reason; which is so readily acknowledged to have
this advantageous tendency. Suppose then two or three men, of the best
and most improved understanding, in a desolate open plain, attacked
by ten times the number of beasts of prey: would their reason secure
them the victory in this unequal combat? Power then, though joined
with reason, and under its direction, cannot be expected to prevail
over opposite power, though merely brutal, unless the one bears some
proportion to the other. Again: put the imaginary case, that rational
and irrational creatures were of like external shape and manner: it is
certain, before there were opportunities for the first to distinguish
each other, to separate from their adversaries, and to form a union
among themselves, they might be upon a level, or in several respects
upon great disadvantage; though united they might be vastly superior:
since union is of such efficacy, that ten men united, might be able
to accomplish, what ten thousand of the same natural strength and
understanding wholly ununited, could not. In this case, brute force
might more than maintain its ground against reason, for want of union
among the rational creatures. Or suppose a number of men to land upon
an island inhabited only by wild beasts; men who, by the regulations
of civil government, the inventions of art, and the experience of some
years, could they be preserved so long, would be really sufficient to
subdue the wild beasts, and to preserve themselves in security from
them: yet a conjuncture of accidents might give such advantage to the
irrational animals as they might at once overpower, and even extirpate,
the rational ones. Length of time then, proper scope, and opportunities
for reason to exert itself, may be absolutely necessary to its
prevailing over brute force.

Further: there are many instances of brutes succeeding in attempts,
which they could not have undertaken, had not their irrational nature
rendered them incapable of foreseeing the danger of such attempt, or
the fury of passion hindered their attending to it: and there are
instances of reason and real prudence preventing men’s undertaking
what, it has appeared afterwards, they might have succeeded in by a
lucky rashness. In certain conjunctures, ignorance and folly, weakness
and discord, may have their advantages. So that rational animals
have not _necessarily_ the superiority over irrational ones; but,
how improbable soever it may be, it is evidently possible, that in
some globes the latter may be superior. And were the former wholly at
variance and disunited, by false self-interest and envy, by treachery
and injustice, and consequent rage and malice against each other,
whilst the latter were firmly united among themselves by instinct, this
might greatly contribute to the introducing such an inverted order
of things. For every one would consider it as inverted: since reason
has, in the nature of it, a tendency to prevail over brute force;
notwithstanding the possibility it may not prevail, and the necessity,
which there is, of many concurring circumstances to render it prevalent.

Now I say, virtue in a society has a like tendency to procure
superiority and additional power: whether this power be considered
as the means of security from opposite power, or of obtaining other
advantages. It has this tendency, by rendering public good, an object
and end, to every member of the society; by putting every one upon
consideration and diligence, recollection and self-government, both in
order to see what is the most effectual method, and also in order to
perform their proper part, for obtaining and preserving it; by uniting
a society within itself, and so increasing its strength; and, which
is particularly to be mentioned, uniting it by means of veracity and
justice. For as these last are principal bonds of union, so benevolence
or public spirit, undirected, unrestrained by them, is, nobody knows

And suppose the invisible world, and the invisible dispensations of
Providence, to be, in any sort, analogous to what appears: or that both
together make up one uniform scheme, the two parts of which, the part
which we see, and that which is beyond our observation, are analogous
to each other: then, there must be a like natural tendency in the
derived power, throughout the universe, under the direction of virtue,
to prevail in general over that which is not under its direction; as
there is in reason, derived reason in the universe, to prevail over
brute force.

But then, in order to the prevalence of virtue, or that it may actually
produce, what it has a tendency to produce; the _like concurrences
are necessary_, as are, to the prevalence of reason. There must be
some proportion, between the natural power or force which is, and that
which is not, under the direction of virtue: there must be sufficient
length of time; for the complete success of virtue, as of reason,
cannot, from the nature of the thing, be otherwise than gradual: there
must be, as one may speak, a fair field of trial, a stage large and
extensive enough, proper occasions and opportunities, for the virtuous
to join together, to exert themselves against lawless force, and to
reap the fruit of their united labors. Now indeed it is to be hoped,
that the disproportion between the good and bad, even here on earth,
is not so great, but that the former have natural power sufficient
to their prevailing to a considerable degree, if circumstances would
permit this power to be united. For, much less, very much less, power
under the direction of virtue, would prevail over much greater not
under the direction of it.[77] However, good men over the face of
the earth cannot unite; because, (among other reasons,) they cannot
be sufficiently ascertained of each other’s characters. And the
known course of human things, the scene we are now passing through,
particularly the shortness of life, denies to virtue its full scope in
several other respects.

The natural tendency which we have been considering, though real, is
_hindered_ from being carried into effect in the present state: but
these hinderances may be removed in a future one. Virtue, to borrow the
Christian allusion, is militant here; and various untoward accidents
contribute to its being often overborne: but it may combat with
greater advantage hereafter, and prevail completely, and enjoy its
consequent rewards, in some future states. Neglected as it is, perhaps
unknown, perhaps despised and oppressed here; there maybe scenes in
eternity, lasting enough, and in every other way adapted, to afford
it a sufficient sphere of action; and a sufficient sphere for the
natural consequences of it to follow in fact. If the soul be naturally
immortal, and this state be a progress towards a future one, as
childhood is towards mature age, good men may naturally unite, not only
among themselves, but also with other orders of virtuous creatures,
in that future state. For virtue, from the very nature of it, is a
principle and bond of union, in some degree, among all who are endued
with it, and known to each other; so as that by it, a good man cannot
but recommend himself to the favor and protection of all virtuous
beings, throughout the whole universe, who can be acquainted with his
character, and can any way interpose in his behalf in any part of his

One might add, that suppose all this advantageous tendency of virtue
to become effect, among one or more orders of creatures, in any
distant scenes and periods, and to be seen by any orders of vicious
creatures, throughout the universal kingdom of God; this happy effect
of virtue would have a tendency, by way of example, and possibly in
other ways, to amend those of them who are capable of amendment, and of
being recovered to a just sense of virtue. If our notions of the plan
of Providence were enlarged in any sort proportionable to what late
discoveries have enlarged our views with respect to the material world,
representations of this kind would not appear absurd or extravagant.
They are not to be taken as intended for a literal delineation of
what is in fact the particular scheme of the universe, which cannot
be known without revelation: for suppositions are not to be looked
on as true, because not incredible: but they are mentioned to show,
that our finding virtue to be hindered from procuring to itself such
superiority and advantages, is no objection against its having, in the
essential nature of the thing, a tendency to procure them. And the
suppositions now mentioned do plainly show this: for they show, that
these hinderances are so far from being necessary, that we ourselves
can easily conceive, how they may be removed in future states, and full
scope be granted to virtue. And all these advantageous tendencies
of it are to be considered as declarations of God in its favor. This
however is taking a pretty large compass: though it is certain, that,
as the material world appears to be, in a manner, boundless and
immense, there must be _some_ scheme of Providence vast in proportion
to it.

But let us return to the earth our habitation; and we shall see this
happy tendency of virtue, by imagining an instance not so vast and
remote: by supposing a kingdom or society of men upon it, perfectly
virtuous, for a succession of many ages; to which, if you please, may
be given a situation advantageous for universal monarchy. In such
a state, there would be no such thing as faction: but men of the
greatest capacity would of course, all along, have the chief direction
of affairs willingly yielded to them; and they would share it among
themselves without envy. Each of these would have the part assigned
him, to which his genius was peculiarly adapted; and others, who had
not any distinguished genius, would be safe, and think themselves very
happy, by being under the protection and guidance of those who had.
Public determinations would really be the result of the united wisdom
of the community: and they would faithfully be executed, by the united
strength of it. Some would contribute in a higher way, but all in some
way, to the public prosperity: and in it, each would enjoy the fruits
of his own virtue. And as injustice, whether by fraud or force, would
be unknown among themselves, so they would be sufficiently secured
from it in their neighbors. For cunning and false self-interest,
confederacies in injustice, ever slight, and accompanied with faction
and intestine treachery; these on one hand would be found mere childish
folly and weakness, when set in opposition against wisdom, public
spirit, union inviolable, and fidelity on the other: allowing both
a sufficient length of years to try their force. Add the general
influence, which such a kingdom would have over the face of the earth,
by way of example particularly, and the reverence which would be paid
it. It would plainly be superior to all others, and the world must
gradually come under its empire; not by means of lawless violence;
but partly by what must be allowed to be just conquest; and partly by
other kingdoms submitting themselves voluntarily to it, throughout a
course of ages, and claiming its protection, one after another, in
successive exigencies. The head of it would be a universal monarch,
in another sense than any mortal has yet been; and the Eastern style
would be literally applicable to him, _that all people, nations, and
languages should serve him_. And though indeed our knowledge of human
nature, and the whole history of mankind, show the impossibility,
without some miraculous interposition, that a number of men, here on
earth, should unite in one society or government, in the fear of God
and universal practice of virtue; and that such a government should
continue so united for a succession of ages: yet admitting or supposing
this, the effect would be as now drawn out. Thus for instance, the
wonderful power and prosperity promised to the Jewish nation in the
Scripture, would be, in a great measure, the consequence of what is
predicted of them; that the _people should be all righteous, and
inherit the land forever_;[78] were we to understand the latter phrase
of a long continuance only, sufficient to give things time to work. The
predictions of this kind, for there are many of them, cannot come to
pass, in the present known course of nature; but suppose them come to
pass, and then, the dominion and preëminence promised must naturally
follow, to a very considerable degree.

Consider now the general system of religion; that the government of
the world is uniform, and one, and moral; that virtue and right shall
finally have the advantage, and prevail over fraud and lawless force,
over the deceits as well as the violence of wickedness, under the
conduct of one supreme governor: and from the observations above made,
it will appear that God has, by our reason, given us to see a peculiar
connection in the several parts of this scheme, and a tendency towards
the completion of it, arising out of the very nature of virtue: which
tendency is to be considered as something moral in the essential
constitution of things. If any one should think all this to be of
little importance, I desire him to consider, what he would think, if
vice had, essentially and in its nature, these advantageous tendencies;
or if virtue had essentially the contrary ones.

It may be objected, that notwithstanding all these natural effects and
natural tendencies of virtue, yet things may be now going on throughout
the universe, and may go on hereafter, in the same mixed way as here at
present upon earth: virtue sometimes prosperous, sometimes depressed;
vice sometimes punished, sometimes successful.

The answer to which is, that it is not the purpose of this chapter,
nor of this treatise, properly to prove God’s perfect moral government
over the world, or the truth of religion; but to observe what there
is in the constitution and course of nature, to confirm the proper
proof of it, supposed to be known: and that the weight of the
foregoing observations to this purpose may be thus distinctly proved.
Pleasure and pain are, to a certain degree, say to a very high degree,
distributed among us without any apparent regard to the merit or
demerit of characters. And were there nothing else concerning this
matter discernible in the constitution and course of nature, there
would be no ground from the constitution and course of nature, to hope
or to fear that men would be rewarded or punished hereafter according
to their deserts: which, however, it is to be remarked, implies, that
even then there would be no ground from appearances to think, that vice
upon the whole would have the advantage, rather than that virtue would.
Thus the proof of a future state of retribution would rest upon the
usual known arguments for it; which are I think plainly unanswerable;
and would be so, though there were no additional confirmation of them
from the things above insisted on. But these things are a very strong
confirmation of them. For,

_First_, They show that the Author of nature is not indifferent to
virtue and vice. They amount to a declaration, from him, determinate
and not to be evaded, in favor of one, and against the other; such a
declaration, as there is nothing to be set over against or answer, on
the part of vice. So that were a man, laying aside the proper proof
of religion, to determine from the course of nature only, whether it
were most probable, that the righteous or the wicked would have the
advantage in a future life; there can be no doubt, but that he would
determine the probability to be, that the former would. The course of
nature then, in the view of it now given, furnishes us with a real
practical proof of the obligations of religion.

_Secondly_, When, conformably to what religion teaches us, God shall
reward and punish virtue and vice as such, so as that every one shall,
upon the whole, have his deserts; this distributive justice will not
be a thing different in _kind_, but only in _degree_, from what we
experience in his present government. It will be that in _effect_,
towards which we now see a _tendency_. It will be no more than the
_completion_ of that moral government, the _principles and beginning_
of which have been shown, beyond all dispute, discernible in the
present constitution and course of nature.

_Thirdly_, As under the _natural_ government of God, our experience of
those kinds and degrees of happiness and misery, which we do experience
at present, gives just ground to hope for, and to fear, higher degrees
and other kinds of both in a future state, supposing a future state
admitted: so under his _moral_ government our experience, that virtue
and vice are, in the manners above mentioned, actually rewarded and
punished at present, in a certain degree, gives just ground to hope and
to fear, that they _may be_ rewarded and punished in a higher degree
hereafter. It is acknowledged indeed that this alone is not sufficient
ground to think, that they _actually will be_ rewarded and punished in
a higher degree, rather than in a lower: but then,

_Lastly_, There is sufficient ground to think so, from the good and
bad tendencies of virtue and vice. For these tendencies are essential,
and founded in the nature of things: whereas the hinderances to
their becoming effect are, in numberless cases, not necessary, but
artificial only. Now it may be much more strongly argued, that these
tendencies, as well as the actual rewards and punishments, of virtue
and vice, which arise directly out of the nature of things, will
remain hereafter, than that the accidental hinderances of them will.
And if these hinderances do not remain; those rewards and punishments
cannot but be carried on much farther towards the perfection of moral
government: _i.e._ the tendencies of virtue and vice will become
effect; but when, or where, or in what particular way, cannot be known
at all, but by revelation.

Upon the whole: there is a kind of moral government implied in God’s
natural government:[79] virtue and vice are naturally rewarded and
punished as beneficial and mischievous to society;[80] and rewarded
and punished directly as virtue and vice.[81] The notion of a moral
scheme of government is not fictitious, but natural; for it is
suggested to our thoughts by the constitution and course of nature:
and the execution of this scheme is actually begun, in the instances
here mentioned. And these things are to be considered as a declaration
of the Author of nature, for virtue, and against vice: they give a
credibility to the supposition of their being rewarded and punished
hereafter; and also ground to hope and to fear, that they may be
rewarded and punished in higher degrees than they are here. All this
is confirmed, and the argument for religion, from the constitution
and course of nature, is carried on farther, by observing, that there
are natural tendencies, and, in innumerable cases, only artificial
hinderances, to this moral scheme’s being carried on much farther
towards perfection, than it is at present.[82]

The notion then of a moral scheme of government, much more perfect
than what is seen, is not a fictitious, but a natural notion; for it
is suggested to our thoughts, by the essential tendencies of virtue
and vice. These tendencies are to be considered as intimations, as
implicit promises and threatenings, from the Author of nature, of much
greater rewards and punishments to follow virtue and vice, than do at
present. Indeed, every _natural_ tendency, which is to continue, but
which is hindered from becoming effect by only _accidental_ causes,
affords a presumption, that such tendency will, some time or other,
become effect: a presumption proportionable in degree to the length of
the duration, through which such tendency will continue. From these
things together, arises a real presumption, that the moral scheme of
government established in nature, shall be carried on much farther
towards perfection hereafter; and, I think, a presumption that it will
be absolutely completed. From these things, joined with the moral
nature which God has given us, considered as given us by him, arises a
practical proof[83] that it _will_ be completed: a proof from fact; and
therefore a distinct one from that which is deduced from the eternal
and unalterable relations, the fitness and unfitness of actions.



The general doctrine of religion, that our present life is a state of
probation for a future one, comprehends under it several particular
things, distinct from each other. The first and most common meaning
of it seems to be, that our future interest is now depending, and
depending upon ourselves; that we have scope and opportunities here,
for that good and bad behavior, which God will reward and punish
hereafter; together with temptations to one, as well as inducements
of reason to the other. And this, in a great measure, is the same as
saying, that we are under the moral government of God, and to give
an account of our actions to him. For the notion of a future account
and general righteous judgment, implies some sort of temptations
to what is wrong: otherwise there would be no moral possibility of
doing wrong, nor ground for judgment, or discrimination. But there
is this difference, that the word _probation_ is more distinctly and
particularly expressive of allurements to wrong, or difficulties in
adhering uniformly to what is right, and of the danger of miscarrying
by such temptations, than the words _moral government_. A state
of probation then, as thus particularly implying in it trial,
difficulties, and danger, may require to be considered distinctly by

As the moral government of God, which religion teaches us, implies
that we are in a state of trial with regard to a future world, so
also his natural government over us implies that we are in a state of
trial, in the like sense, with regard to the present world. Natural
government by rewards and punishments, as much implies natural trial,
as moral government does moral trial. The natural government of God
here meant,[86] consists in his annexing pleasure to some actions,
and pain to others, which are in our power to do or forbear, and
giving us notice of such appointment, beforehand. This necessarily
implies, that he has made our happiness and misery, or our interest, to
depend in part upon ourselves. So far as men have temptations to any
course of action, which will probably occasion them greater temporal
inconvenience and uneasiness, than satisfaction, so far their temporal
interest is in danger from themselves; or they are in a state of trial
with respect to it. Now people often blame others, and even themselves,
for their misconduct in their temporal concerns. And we find many are
greatly wanting to themselves, and miss that natural happiness, which
they might have obtained in the present life: perhaps every one does
in some degree. But many run themselves into great inconvenience, and
into extreme distress and misery, not through incapacity of knowing
better, and doing better, for themselves, which would be nothing
to the present purpose, but through their own fault. These things
necessarily imply temptation, and danger of miscarrying, in a greater
or less degree, with respect to our worldly interest or happiness.
Every one too, without having religion in his thoughts, speaks of the
hazards which young people run, upon their setting out in the world:
hazards from other causes, than merely their ignorance, and unavoidable
accidents. And some courses of vice, at least, being contrary to men’s
worldly interest or good; temptations to these must at the same time be
temptations to forego our present and our future interest.

Thus in our natural or temporal capacity, we are in a state of trial,
_i.e._ of difficulty and danger, analogous, or like to our moral and
religious trial. This will more distinctly appear to any one, who
thinks it worth while, more distinctly, to consider, what it is which
constitutes our trial in both capacities, and to observe, how mankind
behave under it.

That which constitutes this trial, in both these capacities, must be
something either in our external circumstances, or in our nature. For,
on the one hand, persons may be betrayed into wrong behavior upon
surprise, or overcome upon any other very singular and extraordinary
external occasions, who would, otherwise, have preserved their
character of prudence and of virtue: in which cases, every one, in
speaking of the wrong behavior of these persons, would impute it to
such particular external circumstances. On the other hand, men who
have contracted habits of vice and folly of any kind, or have some
particular passions in excess, will seek opportunities, and, as it
were, go out of their way, to gratify themselves in these respects,
at the expense of their wisdom and their virtue; led to it, as every
one would say, not by external temptations, but by such habits and
passions. And the account of this last case is, that particular
passions are no more coincident with prudence, or that reasonable
self-love, the end of which is our worldly interest, than they are
with the principle of virtue and religion; but often draw contrary
ways to one, as well as to the other: and so such particular passions
are as much temptations, to act imprudently with regard to our worldly
interest, as to act viciously.[87] When we say, men are misled by
external circumstances of temptation; it cannot but be understood, that
there is somewhat within themselves, to render those circumstances
temptations, or to render them susceptible of impressions from them.
So when we say, they are misled by passions; it is always supposed,
that there are occasions, circumstances, and objects, exciting
these passions, and affording means for gratifying them. Therefore,
temptations from within, and from without, coincide, and mutually imply
each other. The several external objects of the appetites, passions,
and affections, being present to the senses, or offering themselves to
the mind, and so exciting emotions suitable to their nature; not only
in cases where they can be gratified consistently with innocence and
prudence, but also in cases where they cannot, and yet can be gratified
imprudently and viciously: this as really puts them in danger of
voluntarily foregoing their present interest or good, as their future;
and as really renders self-denial necessary to secure one, as the
other: _i.e._ we are in a like state of trial with respect to both, by
the very same passions, excited by the very same means.

Thus mankind having a temporal interest depending upon themselves, and
a prudent course of behavior being necessary to secure it, passions
inordinately excited, whether by means of example, or by any other
external circumstance, towards such objects, at such times, or in
such degrees, as that they cannot be gratified consistently with
worldly prudence, are temptations; dangerous, and too often successful
temptations, to forego a greater temporal good for a less; _i.e._ to
forego what is, upon the whole, our temporal interest, for the sake
of a present gratification. This is a description of our state of
trial in our temporal capacity. Substitute now the word _future_ for
_temporal_, and _virtue_ for _prudence_; and it will be just as proper
a description of our state of trial in our religious capacity; so
analogous are they to each other.[88]

If, from consideration of this our like state of trial in both
capacities, we go on to observe farther, how mankind behave under
it; we shall find there are some, who have so little sense of it,
that they scarce look beyond the passing day: they are so taken up
with present gratifications, as to have, in a manner, no feeling of
consequences, no regard to their future ease or fortune in this life:
any more than to their happiness in another. Some appear to be blinded
and deceived by inordinate passion, in their worldly concerns, as
much as in religion. Others are not deceived, but as it were forcibly
carried away by the like passions, against their better judgment, and
feeble resolutions too of acting better.[89] And there are men, and
truly not a few, who shamelessly avow, not their interest, but their
mere will and pleasure, to be their law of life: and who, in open
defiance of every thing reasonable, will go on in a course of vicious
extravagance, foreseeing, with no remorse and little fear, that it will
be their temporal ruin; and some of them, under the apprehension of
the consequences of wickedness in another state. To speak in the most
moderate way, human creatures are not only continually liable to go
wrong voluntarily, but we see likewise that they often actually do so,
with respect to their temporal interests, as well as with respect to

Thus our difficulties and dangers, or our trials in our temporal and
our religious capacity, as they proceed from the same causes, and have
the same effect upon men’s behavior, are evidently analogous, and of
the same kind.

It may be added, that the difficulties and dangers of miscarrying in
our religious state of trial, are greatly increased, and one is ready
to think, are in a manner wholly _made_, by the ill behavior of others;
by a wrong education, wrong in a moral sense, sometimes positively
vicious; by general bad example; by the dishonest artifices which are
got into business of all kinds; and, in very many parts of the world,
by religion’s being corrupted into superstitions, which indulge men in
their vices. In like manner, the difficulties of conducting ourselves
prudently in respect to our present interest, and our danger of being
led aside from pursuing it, are greatly increased, by a foolish
education; and, after we come to mature age, by the extravagance and
carelessness of others, with whom we have intercourse: and by mistaken
notions, very generally prevalent, and taken up from common opinion,
concerning temporal happiness, and wherein it consists.

Persons, by their own _negligence_ and _folly_ in temporal affairs, no
less than by a course of vice, bring themselves into new difficulties,
and, by habits of indulgence, become less qualified to go through
them: and one irregularity after another, embarrasses things to such
a degree, that they know not whereabout they are; and often makes
the path of conduct so intricate and perplexed, that it is difficult
to trace it out; difficult even to determine what is the prudent or
the moral part. Thus, for instance, wrong behavior in one stage of
life, youth; wrong, I mean considering ourselves only in our temporal
capacity, without taking in religion; this, in several ways, increases
the difficulties of right behavior in mature age; _i.e._ puts us into
a more disadvantageous state of trial in our temporal capacity.

We are an inferior part of the creation of God. There are natural
appearances of our being in a state of degradation.[90] We certainly
are in a condition, which _does not seem_, by any means, the most
advantageous we could imagine or desire, either in our natural or moral
capacity, for securing either our present or future interest. However,
this condition, low, and careful, and uncertain as it is, does not
afford any just ground of complaint. For, as men _may_ manage their
temporal affairs with prudence, and so pass their days here on earth
in tolerable ease and satisfaction, by a moderate degree of care: so
likewise with regard to religion, there is no more required than what
they are well able to do,[91] and what they must be greatly wanting
to themselves, if they neglect. And for persons to have that put upon
them, which they are well able to go through, and no more, we naturally
consider as an equitable thing; supposing it done by proper authority.
Nor have we any more reason to complain of it, with regard to the
Author of nature, than of his not having given us advantages belonging
to other orders of creatures.

[REMARKS.] The thing here insisted upon is, that the state of trial,
which religion teaches us we are in, is rendered credible, by its
being throughout uniform and of a piece with the general conduct of
Providence towards us, in all other respects within the compass of our
knowledge. Indeed if mankind, considered in their natural capacity, as
inhabitants of this world only, found themselves, from their birth to
their death, in a settled state of security and happiness, without
any solicitude or thought of their own: or if they were in no danger
of being brought into inconveniences and distress, by carelessness, or
the folly of passion, through bad example, the treachery of others, or
the deceitful appearances of things: were this our natural condition,
then it might seem strange, and be some presumption against the truth
of religion, that it represents our future and more general interest,
as not secure _of course_, but as depending upon our behavior, and
requiring recollection and self-government to obtain it. It _then_
might be alleged, “What you say is our condition, in one respect, is
not in any wise of a sort with what we find, by experience, is our
condition in another. Our whole present interest is secured to our
hands, without any solicitude of ours; and why should not our future
interest, if we have any such, be so too?” But since, on the contrary,
thought and consideration, the voluntary denying ourselves many things
which we desire, and a course of behavior, far from being always
agreeable to us, are absolutely necessary to our acting even a common
decent, and common prudent part, so as to pass with any satisfaction
through the _present_ world, and be received upon any tolerable
good terms in it: since this is the case, all presumption against
self-denial and attention being necessary to secure our _higher_
interest,[92] is removed.

Had we not experience, it might, perhaps speciously, be urged, that it
is improbable any thing of hazard and danger should be put upon us by
an infinite being; when every thing which has hazard and danger in our
manner of conception, and will end in error, confusion, and misery,
is already certain in his foreknowledge. Indeed, why any thing of
hazard and danger should be put upon such frail creatures as we are,
may well be thought a difficulty in speculation; and cannot but be so,
till we know the whole, or at least much more of the case. But still
the constitution of nature is as it is. Our happiness and misery are
trusted to our conduct, and made to depend upon it. Somewhat, and, in
many circumstances, a great deal too, is put upon us, either to do,
or to suffer, as we choose. All the various miseries of life, which
people bring upon themselves by negligence and folly, and might have
avoided by proper care, are instances of this: which miseries are,
beforehand, just as contingent and undetermined as conduct, and left to
be determined by it.

These observations are an answer[93] to the objections against the
credibility of a state of trial, as implying temptations, and real
danger of miscarrying with regard to our general interest, under the
moral government of God. And they show, that, if we are at all to be
considered in such a capacity, and as having such an interest, the
general analogy of Providence must lead us to apprehend ourselves in
danger of miscarrying, in different degrees, as to this interest, by
our neglecting to act the proper part belonging to us in that capacity.
For we have a present interest under the government of God, which we
experience here upon earth. This interest, as it is not forced upon us,
so neither is it offered to our acceptance, but to our acquisition; and
in such manner, as that we are in danger of missing it, by means of
temptations to neglect, or act contrary to it; and without attention
and self-denial, we must and do miss it. It is then perfectly credible,
that this may be our case, with respect to that chief and final good,
which religion proposes to us.



From the consideration of our being in a probation-state, of so
much difficulty and hazard, naturally arises the question, how we
came to be placed in it? But such a general inquiry as this would
be found involved in insuperable difficulties. For, though some
of these difficulties would be lessened, by observing that all
wickedness is voluntary, as is implied in its very notion; and that
many of the miseries of life have apparent good effects: yet, when
we consider other circumstances belonging to both, and what must be
the consequence of the former in a life to come, it cannot but be
acknowledged plain folly and presumption, to pretend to give an account
of the _whole reasons_ of this matter; the whole reasons of our being
allotted a condition, out of which so much wickedness and misery,
so circumstanced, would in fact arise. Whether it be not beyond our
faculties, not only to find out, but even to understand; or, though we
should be supposed capable of understanding it, yet, whether it would
be of service or prejudice to us to be informed of it, is impossible
to say. But as our present condition can in no wise be shown to be
inconsistent with the perfect moral government of God: so religion
teaches us we were placed in it, that we might qualify ourselves, by
the practice of virtue, for another state which is to follow it. This,
though but a partial answer, a very partial one indeed, to the inquiry
now mentioned; is yet a more satisfactory answer to another, which is
of real, and of the utmost importance to us to have answered,--viz.:
What is our business here? The known end then, why we are placed
in a state of so much affliction, hazard, and difficulty, is, our
improvement in virtue and piety, as the requisite qualification for a
future state of security and happiness.

The beginning of life, considered as an education for mature age in the
present world, appears plainly, at first sight, analogous to this our
trial for a future one: the former being in our temporal capacity, what
the latter is in our religious capacity. Some observations common to
both, and a more distinct consideration of each, will more distinctly
show the extent and force of the analogy between them; and the
credibility, which arises from hence, as well as from the nature of the
thing, that the present life was intended to be a state of discipline
for a future one.

I. Every species of creatures is, we see, designed for a particular
way of life; to which, the nature, the capacities, temper, and
qualifications, of each species, are as necessary as their external
circumstances. Both come into the notion of such state, or particular
way of life, and are constituent parts of it. Change a man’s capacities
or character, to the degree in which it is conceivable they may be
changed, and he would be altogether incapable of a human course of
life, and human happiness; as incapable, as if, his nature continuing
unchanged, he were placed in a world, where he had no sphere of action,
nor any objects to answer his appetites, passions, and affections of
any sort. One thing is set over against another, as an ancient writer
expresses it.[94] Our nature corresponds to our external condition.
Without this correspondence, there would be no possibility of any
such thing as human life and happiness: which life and happiness are,
therefore, a _result_ from our nature and condition jointly: meaning
by human life, not living in the literal sense, but the whole complex
notion commonly understood by those words. So that without determining
what will be the employment and happiness, the particular life, of
good men hereafter; there must be some determinate capacities, some
necessary character and qualifications, without which persons cannot
but be utterly incapable of it: in like manner, as there must be some,
without which men would be incapable of their present state of life.

II. The constitution of human creatures, and indeed of all creatures
which come under our notice, is such, as that they are capable
of naturally becoming qualified for states of life, for which
they were once wholly unqualified. In imagination we may indeed
conceive of creatures, incapable of having any of their faculties
naturally enlarged, or as being unable naturally to acquire any new
qualifications. But the faculties of every species known to us, are
made for enlargement; for acquirements of experience and habits. We
find ourselves, in particular, endued with capacities, not only of
perceiving ideas, and of knowledge or perceiving truth, but also of
storing up ideas and knowledge by memory. We are capable, not only of
acting, and of having different momentary impressions made upon us;
but of getting a new facility in any kind of action, and of settled
alterations in our temper or character. The power of the two last is
the power of habits. But neither the perception of ideas, nor knowledge
of any sort, are habits; though absolutely necessary to the forming of
them. However, apprehension, reason, memory, which are the capacities
of acquiring knowledge, are greatly improved by exercise. Whether the
word habit is applicable to all these improvements, and in particular
how far the powers of memory and of habits may be powers of the same
nature, I shall not inquire. But that perceptions come into our minds
readily and of course, by means of their having been there before,
seems a thing of the same sort, as readiness in any particular kind of
action, proceeding from being accustomed to it. Aptness to recollect
practical observations, of service in our conduct, is plainly habit in
many cases. There are habits of perception, and habits of action. An
instance of the former, is our constant and even involuntary readiness,
in correcting the impressions of our sight concerning magnitudes and
distances, so as to substitute judgment in the room of sensation,
imperceptibly to ourselves. It seems as if all other associations of
ideas not naturally connected, might be called passive habits; as
properly as our readiness in understanding languages upon sight, or
hearing of words. Our readiness in speaking and writing them, are
instances of active habits.

For distinctness, we may consider habits, as belonging to the body,
or to the mind: and the latter will be explained by the former.
Under the former are comprehended all bodily activities or motions,
whether graceful or unbecoming, which are owing to use: under the
latter, general habits of life and conduct; such as those of obedience
and submission to authority, or to any particular person; those
of veracity, justice, and charity; those of attention, industry,
self-government, envy, revenge. Habits of this latter kind seem
produced by repeated acts, as well as the former. And as habits
belonging to the body are produced by external _acts_, so habits of the
mind are produced by the _exertion_ of inward practical principles;
_i.e._ by carrying them into act, or acting upon them; the principles
of obedience, of veracity, justice, and charity. Nor can those
habits be formed by any external course of action, otherwise than as
it proceeds from these principles: because it is only these inward
principles exerted, which are strictly acts of obedience, of veracity,
of justice, and of charity.

So likewise habits of attention, industry, self-government, are in
the same manner acquired by exercise; and habits of envy and revenge
by indulgence, whether in outward act, or in thought and intention;
_i.e._ inward act: for such intention is an act. Resolutions to do
well, are also properly acts. And endeavoring to enforce upon our own
minds a practical sense of virtue, or to beget in others that practical
sense of it, which a man really has himself, is a virtuous act. All
these, therefore, may and will contribute towards forming good habits.
But going over the theory of virtue in one’s thoughts, talking well,
and drawing fine pictures, of it; this is so far from necessarily or
certainly conducing to form a habit of it, in him who thus employs
himself, that it may harden the mind in a contrary course, and render
it gradually more insensible; _i.e._ form a habit of insensibility
to all moral considerations. For, from our very faculty of habits,
passive impressions, by being repeated, grow weaker. Thoughts, by often
passing through the mind, are felt less sensibly: being accustomed to
danger, begets intrepidity, _i.e._ lessens fear; to distress, lessens
the passion of pity; to instances of others’ mortality, lessens the
sensible apprehension of our own.

From these two observations together, that practical habits are formed
and strengthened by repeated acts, and that passive impressions grow
weaker by being repeated upon us, it must follow, that active habits
may be gradually forming and strengthening, by a course of acting
upon such and such motives and excitements, while these motives and
excitements themselves are, by proportionable degrees, growing less
sensible; _i.e._ are continually less and less sensibly felt, even as
the active habits strengthen. And experience confirms this: for active
principles, at the very time that they are less lively in perception
than they were, are found to be, somehow, wrought more thoroughly into
the temper and character, and become more effectual in influencing
our practice. The three things just mentioned may afford instances of
it. Perception of danger is a natural excitement of passive fear, and
active caution: and by being inured to danger, habits of the latter are
gradually wrought, at the same time that the former gradually lessens.
Perception of distress in others is a natural excitement, passively
to pity, and actively to relieve it: but let a man set himself to
attend to, inquire out, and relieve distressed persons, and he cannot
but grow less and less sensibly affected with the various miseries of
life, with which he must become acquainted; when yet, at the same time,
benevolence, considered not as a passion, but as a practical principle
of action, will strengthen: and while he passively compassionates the
distressed less, he will acquire a greater aptitude actively to assist
and befriend them. So also at the same time that the daily instances of
men’s dying around us give us daily a less sensible passive feeling or
apprehension of our own mortality, such instances greatly contribute to
the strengthening a practical regard to it in serious men; _i.e._ to
forming a habit of acting with a constant view to it.

This seems further to show, that passive impressions made upon our
minds by admonition, experience, or example, though they may have a
remote efficacy, and a very great one, towards forming active habits,
yet can have this efficacy no otherwise than by inducing us to such a
course of action: and that it is not being _affected_ so and so, but
acting, which forms those habits: only it must be always remembered,
that real endeavors to enforce good impressions upon ourselves are a
species of virtuous action. Nor do we know how far it is possible, in
the nature of things, that effects should be wrought in us at once,
equivalent to habits; _i.e._ what is wrought by use and exercise. The
thing insisted on is, not what may be possible, but what is in fact the
appointment of nature: which is, that active habits are to be formed
by exercise. Their progress may be so gradual, as to be imperceptible
in its steps: it may be hard to explain the faculty, by which we are
capable of habits, throughout its several parts; and to trace it up
to its original, so as to distinguish it from all others in our mind:
and it seems as if contrary effects were to be ascribed to it. But
the thing in general, that our nature is formed to yield to use and
exercise, in some such manner as this, is matter of certain experience.

Thus, by accustoming ourselves to any course of action, we get an
aptness to go on, a facility, readiness, and often pleasure, in it.
The inclinations which rendered us averse to it, grow weaker; the
difficulties in it, not only the imaginary but the real ones, lessen;
the reasons for it offer themselves of course to our thoughts upon all
occasions; and the least glimpse of them is sufficient to make us go
on, in a course of action, to which we have been accustomed. Practical
principles appear to grow stronger, absolutely in themselves, by
exercise; as well as relatively, with regard to contrary principles;
which, by being accustomed to submit, do so habitually, and of course.
Thus a new character, in several respects, may be formed; and many
habitudes of life, not given by nature, but which nature directs us to

III. Indeed we may be assured, that we should never have had these
capacities of improving by experience, acquired knowledge, and habits,
had they not been necessary, and intended to be made use of. And
accordingly we find them so necessary, and so much intended, that
without them we should be utterly incapable of that which was the end
for which we were made, considered in our temporal capacity only: the
employments and satisfactions of our mature state of life.

Nature does in no wise qualify us wholly, much less at once, for this
mature state of life. Even maturity of understanding, and bodily
strength, not only are arrived at gradually, but are also very much
owing to the continued exercise of our powers of body and mind from
infancy. If we suppose a person brought into the world with both these
in maturity, as far as this is conceivable, he would plainly at first
be as unqualified for the human life of mature age, as an idiot. He
would be in a manner distracted, with astonishment, and apprehension,
and curiosity, and suspense: nor can one guess, how long it would be,
before he would be familiarized to himself and the objects about him,
enough even to set himself to any thing. It may be questioned too,
whether the natural information of his sight and hearing would be of
any manner of use to him in acting, before experience. And it seems,
that men would be strangely headstrong and self-willed, and disposed
to exert themselves with an impetuosity, which would render society
insupportable, and the living in it impracticable, were it not for some
acquired moderation and self-government, some aptitude and readiness
in restraining themselves, and concealing their sense of things. Want
of every thing of this kind which is learnt would render a man as
incapable of society, as want of language would; or as his natural
ignorance of any of the particular employments of life would render
him incapable of providing himself with the common conveniences, or
supplying the necessary wants of it. In these respects, and probably
in many more of which we have no particular notion, mankind is left
by nature, an unformed, unfinished creature; utterly deficient and
unqualified, before the acquirement of knowledge, experience, and
habits, for that mature state of life, which was the end of his
creation, considering him as related only to this world.

But, as nature has endued us with a power of supplying those
deficiencies, by acquired knowledge, experience, and habits; so
likewise we are placed in a condition, in infancy, childhood, and
youth, fitted for it; fitted for our acquiring those qualifications of
all sorts, which we stand in need of in mature age. Hence children,
from their very birth, are daily growing acquainted with the objects
about them, with the scene in which they are placed, and to have
a future part; and learning something or other, necessary to the
performance of it. The subordinations, to which they are accustomed in
domestic life, teach them self-government in common behavior abroad,
and prepare them for subjection and obedience to civil authority.[95]
What passes before their eyes, and daily happens to them, gives them
experience, caution against treachery and deceit, together with
numberless little rules of action and conduct, which we could not
live without; and which are learnt so insensibly and so perfectly, as
to be mistaken perhaps for instinct, though they are the effect of
long experience and exercise; as much so as language, or knowledge in
particular business, or the qualifications and behavior belonging to
the several ranks and professions. Thus the beginning of our days is
adapted to be, and is, a state of education in the theory and practice
of mature life. We are much assisted in it by example, instruction,
and the care of others; but a great deal is left to ourselves to do.
And of this, as part is done easily and of course; so part requires
diligence and care, the voluntary foregoing many things which we
desire, and setting ourselves to what we should have no inclination to,
but for the necessity or expedience of it. For that labor and industry,
which the station of so many absolutely requires, they would be greatly
unqualified for, in maturity, as those in other stations would be for
any other sorts of application; if both were not accustomed to them
in their youth. And, according as persons behave themselves, in the
general education which all go through, and in the particular ones
adapted to particular employments, their character is formed,[96] and
made to appear; they recommend themselves more or less; and are capable
of, and placed in, different stations in society.

The former part of life, then, is to be considered as an important
opportunity, which nature puts into our hands; and which, when lost
is not to be recovered. And our being placed in a state of discipline
throughout this life, for another world, is a providential disposition
of things, exactly of the same kind, as our being placed in a state
of discipline during childhood, for mature age. Our condition in both
respects is uniform and of a piece, and comprehended under one and the
same general law of nature.

If we were not able at all to discern, how or in what way the present
life could be our preparation for another; this would be no objection
against the credibility of its being so. We do not discern, how food
and sleep contribute to the growth of the body; nor could have any
thought that they would, before we had experience. Nor do children at
all think, on the one hand, that the sports and exercises, to which
they are so much addicted, contribute to their health and growth;
nor, on the other, of the necessity which there is for their being
restrained in them. Nor are they capable of understanding the use of
many parts of discipline, which nevertheless they must be made to go
through, in order to qualify them for the business of mature age. Were
we not able then to discover, in what respects the present life could
form us for a future one; yet nothing would be more supposable than
that it might, in some respects or other, from the general analogy
of Providence. And this, for aught I see, might reasonably be said,
even though we should not take in the consideration of God’s moral
government over the world. But,

IV. Take in this consideration, and consequently, that the character
of virtue and piety is a necessary qualification for the future state,
and then we may distinctly see, how, and in what respects, the present
life may be a preparation for it; since we _want, and are capable of,
improvement in that character, by moral and religious habits_; and _the
present life is fit to be a state of discipline for such improvement_:
in like manner as we have already observed, how, and in what respects,
infancy, childhood, and youth, are a necessary preparation, and a
natural state of discipline, for mature age.

Nothing which we at present see, would lead us to the thought of a
solitary inactive state hereafter. If we judge at all from the analogy
of nature, we must suppose, according to the Scripture account of
it, that it will be a community. And there is no shadow of any thing
unreasonable in conceiving, though there be no analogy for it, that
this community will be, as the Scripture represents it, under the more
immediate, or, if such an expression may be used, the more sensible
government of God. Nor is our ignorance, what will be the employments
of this happy community, nor our consequent ignorance, what particular
scope or occasion there will be for the exercise of veracity, justice,
and charity, among the members of it with regard to each other, any
proof, that there will be no sphere of exercise for those virtues.
Much less, if that were possible, is our ignorance any proof, that
there will be no occasion for that frame of mind, or character, which
is formed by the daily practice of those particular virtues here,
and which is a result from it.[97] This at least must be owned in
general, that, as the government established in the universe is moral,
the character of virtue and piety must, in some way or other, be the
_condition_ of our happiness or the qualification for it.

From what is above observed, concerning our natural power of habits,
it is easy to see, that we are _capable_ of moral improvement by
discipline. And how greatly we _want_ it, need not be proved to any
one who is acquainted with the great wickedness of mankind; or even
with those imperfections, which the best are conscious of. But it is
not perhaps distinctly attended to by every one, that the occasion
which human creatures have for discipline, to improve in them this
character of virtue and piety, is to be traced up higher than to excess
in the passions, by indulgence and habits of vice. Mankind, and perhaps
all finite creatures, from the very constitution of their nature,
before habits of virtue, are deficient, and in danger of deviating
from what is right; and therefore stand in need of virtuous habits,
for a security against this danger. For, together with the general
principle of moral understanding, we have in our inward frame various
affections towards particular external objects. These affections
are naturally, and of right, subject to the government of the moral
principle, as to the occasions upon which they may be gratified; as
to the times, degrees, and manner, in which the objects of them may
be pursued. But the principle of virtue can neither excite them, nor
prevent their being excited. On the contrary, they are naturally felt,
when the objects of them are present to the mind, not only before all
consideration whether they can be obtained by lawful means, but after
it is found they cannot. The natural objects of affection continue so;
the necessaries, conveniences, and pleasures of life, remain naturally
desirable, though they cannot be obtained innocently: nay, though
they cannot possibly be obtained at all. And when the objects of any
affection whatever cannot be obtained without unlawful means; but may
be obtained by them: such affection, though its being excited, and its
continuing some time in the mind, be as innocent as it is natural and
necessary, yet cannot but be conceived to have a _tendency_ to incline
persons to venture upon such unlawful means: and therefore must be
conceived as putting them in some danger of it. Now what is the general
security against this danger, against their actually deviating from
right? As the danger is, so also must the security be, from within:
from the practical principle of virtue.[98] The strengthening or
improving this principle, considered as practical, or as a principle
of action, will lessen the danger, or increase the security against
it. And this moral principle is capable of improvement, by proper
discipline and exercise: by recollecting the practical impressions
which example and experience have made upon us: and, instead of
following humor and mere inclination, by continually attending to the
equity and right of the case, in whatever we are engaged, be it in
greater or less matters; and accustoming ourselves always to act upon
it, as being itself the just and natural motive of action; and as this
moral course of behavior must necessarily, under the divine government,
be our final interest. _Thus the principle of virtue, improved into
a habit, of which improvement we are thus capable, will plainly be,
in proportion to the strength of it, a security against the danger
which finite creatures are in, from the very nature of propension,
or particular affections._ This way of putting the matter, supposes
particular affections to remain in a future state; which it is scarce
possible to avoid supposing. And if they do; we clearly see, that
acquired habits of virtue and self-government may be necessary for the
regulation of them. However, though we were not distinctly to take in
this supposition, but to speak only in general; the thing really comes
to the same. For habits of virtue, thus acquired by discipline, are
improvement in virtue: and improvement in virtue must be advancement in
happiness, if the government of the universe be moral.

From these things we may observe, (and it will further show this
our natural and original need of being improved by discipline,) how
it comes to pass, that creatures made upright, fall; and how those
who preserve their uprightness, raise themselves by so doing, to a
more secure state of virtue. To say that the former is accounted for
by the nature of liberty, is to say no more, than that an event’s
actually happening is accounted for by a mere possibility of its
happening. But it seems distinctly conceivable from the very nature of
particular affections or propensions. For, suppose creatures intended
for such a particular state of life, for which such propensions were
necessary: suppose them endued with such propensions, together with
moral understanding, as well including a practical sense of virtue as
a speculative perception of it; and that all these several principles,
both natural and moral, forming an inward constitution of mind, were
in the most exact proportion possible; _i.e._ in a proportion the most
exactly adapted to their intended state of life; such creatures would
be made upright, or finitely perfect. Now particular propensions, from
their very nature, must be felt, the objects of them being present;
though they cannot be gratified at all, or not with the allowance of
the moral principle. If they can be gratified without its allowance,
or by contradicting it, then they must be conceived to have some
tendency, in how low a degree soever, yet some tendency, to induce
persons to such forbidden gratification. This tendency, in some one
particular propension, may be increased, by the greater frequency of
occasions naturally exciting it, than of occasions exciting others.
The least voluntary indulgence in forbidden circumstances,[99] though
but in thought, will increase this wrong tendency; and may increase
it further, till, peculiar conjunctures perhaps conspiring, it
becomes effect; and danger of deviating from right, ends in actual
deviation from it; a danger necessarily arising from the very nature of
propension, and which therefore could not have been prevented, though
it might have been escaped, or got innocently through. The case would
be, as if we were to suppose a straight path marked out for a person,
in which a certain degree of attention would keep him steady: but if
he would not attend, in this degree, any one of a thousand objects,
catching his eye, might lead him out of it.

Now it is impossible to say, how much even the first full overt act
of irregularity might disorder the inward constitution; unsettle the
adjustments, and alter the proportions, which formed it, and in which
the uprightness of its make consisted: but repetition of irregularities
would produce habits. Thus the constitution would be spoiled;
and creatures made upright, become corrupt and depraved in their
settled character, proportionably to their repeated irregularities
in occasional acts,[100] On the contrary, these creatures might
have improved and raised themselves, to a higher and more secure
state of virtue, by the contrary behavior: by steadily following the
moral principle, supposed to be one part of their nature: and thus
_withstanding_ that unavoidable danger of defection, which necessarily
arose from propension, the other part of it. For, by thus preserving
their integrity for some time, their danger would lessen; since
propensions, by being inured to submit, would do it more easily and
of course: and their security against this lessening danger would
increase; since the moral principle would gain additional strength
by exercise: both which things are implied in the notion of virtuous

Thus vicious indulgence is not only criminal in itself, but also
depraves the inward constitution and character. And virtuous
self-government is not only right in itself, but also improves the
inward constitution or character: and may improve it to such a degree,
that though we should suppose it impossible for particular affections
to be absolutely coincident with the moral principle; and consequently
should allow, that such creatures as have been above supposed, would
forever remain defectible, yet their danger of actually deviating from
right may be almost infinitely lessened, and they fully fortified
against what remains of it; if that may be called danger, against which
there is an adequate, effectual security. Still, this their higher
perfection may continue to consist in habits of virtue formed in a
state of discipline, and this their more complete security remain to
proceed from them.

Thus it is plainly conceivable, that creatures without blemish, as they
came out of the hands of God, may be in danger of going wrong; and so
may stand in need of the security of virtuous habits, additional to the
moral principle wrought into their natures by him. That which is the
ground of their danger, or their want of security, maybe considered as
a deficiency in themselves, to which virtuous habits are the natural
supply. And as they are naturally capable of being raised and improved
by discipline, it may be a thing fit and requisite, that they should be
placed in circumstances with an eye to it: in circumstances peculiarly
fitted to be to them a state of discipline for their improvement in

But how much more strongly must this hold with respect to those who
have corrupted their natures, are fallen from their original rectitude,
and whose passions are become excessive by repeated violations of
their inward constitution! Upright creatures may want to be improved:
depraved creatures want to be renewed. Education and discipline, which
may be in all degrees and sorts of gentleness and of severity, are
expedient for those: but must be absolutely necessary for these. For
these, discipline of the severer sort too, and in the higher degrees
of it, must be necessary, in order to wear out vicious habits; to
recover their primitive strength of self-government, which indulgence
must have weakened; to repair, as well as raise into a habit, the moral
principle, in order to their arriving at a secure state of virtuous

Whoever will consider the thing, may clearly see that the present world
is _peculiarly fit_ to be a state of discipline for this purpose, to
such as will set themselves to mend and improve. For, the various
temptations with which we are surrounded; our experience of the deceits
of wickedness; having been in many instances led wrong ourselves; the
great viciousness of the world; the infinite disorders consequent upon
it; our being made acquainted with pain and sorrow, either from our own
feeling of it, or from the sight of it in others; these things, though
some of them may indeed produce wrong effects upon our minds, yet when
duly reflected upon, have, all of them, a direct tendency to bring us
to a settled moderation and reasonableness of temper: the contrary both
to thoughtless levity, and also to that unrestrained self-will, and
violent bent to follow present inclination, which may be observed in
undisciplined minds.

Such experience, as the present state affords, of the frailty of our
nature; of the boundless extravagance of ungoverned passion; of the
power which an infinite being has over us, by the various capacities
of misery which he has given us; in short, that kind and degree of
experience, which the present state affords us, that the constitution
of nature is such as to admit the possibility, the danger, and the
actual event, or creatures losing their innocence and happiness, and
becoming vicious and wretched; has a tendency to give us a practical
sense of things very different from a mere speculative knowledge, that
we are liable to vice, and capable of misery. And who knows, whether
the security of creatures in the highest and most settled state of
perfection, may not in part arise, from their having had such a sense
of things as this, formed, and habitually fixed within them, in some
state of probation. And passing through the present world with that
moral attention, which is necessary to the acting a right part in it,
may leave everlasting impressions of this sort upon our minds.

To be a little more distinct: allurements to what is wrong,
difficulties in the discharge of our duty, our not being able to act a
uniform right part without some thought and care, and the opportunities
which we have, or imagine we have, of avoiding what we dislike or
obtaining what we desire, by unlawful means, when we either cannot do
it at all, or at least not so easily, by lawful ones, these things,
_i.e._ the snares and temptations of vice, are what render the present
world peculiarly fit to be a state of discipline, to those who will
preserve their integrity: because they render being upon our guard,
resolution, and the denial of our passions, necessary in order to that
end. The exercise of such particular recollection, intention of mind,
and self-government, in the practice of virtue, has, from the make of
our nature, a peculiar tendency to form habits of virtue; as implying,
not only a real, but also a more continued, and a more intense exercise
of the virtuous principle, or a more constant and a stronger effort of
virtue exerted into act. Thus suppose a person to know himself to be
in particular danger, for some time, of doing any thing wrong, which
yet he fully resolves not to do; continued recollection and keeping
upon his guard, in order to make good his resolution, is a _continued_
exerting of that act of virtue in a _high degree_, which need have
been, and perhaps would have been, only _instantaneous_ and _weak_, had
the temptation been so.

It is indeed ridiculous to assert, that self-denial is essential to
virtue and piety:[101] but it would have been nearer the truth, though
not strictly the truth itself, to have said, that it is essential to
discipline and improvement. For though actions materially virtuous,
which have no sort of difficulty, but are perfectly agreeable to
our particular inclinations, may possibly be done only from these
particular inclinations, and so may not be any exercise of the
principle of virtue, _i.e._ not be virtuous actions at all; yet, on
the contrary, they _may_ be an exercise of that principle: and when
they are, they have a tendency to form and fix the habit of virtue.
But when the exercise of the virtuous principle is more continued,
oftener repeated, and more intense; as it must be in circumstances of
danger, temptation, and difficulty, of any kind and in any degree; this
tendency is increased proportionably, and a more confirmed habit is the

This undoubtedly holds to a certain length: but how far it may hold,
I know not. Neither our intellectual powers, nor our bodily strength
can be improved beyond a certain degree: and both may be overwrought.
Possibly there may be something analogous to this, with respect to the
moral character; which is scarce worth considering. I mention it only,
lest it should come into some persons’ thoughts, not as an exception to
the foregoing observations, which perhaps it is; but as a confutation
of them, which it is not. And there may be several other exceptions.
Observations of this kind cannot be supposed to hold minutely, and in
every case. It is enough that they hold in general. And these plainly
hold so far, as that from them may be seen distinctly, (which is all
that is intended by them,) that _the present world is peculiarly fit
to be a state of discipline, for our improvement in virtue and piety_:
in the same sense as some sciences, by requiring and engaging the
attention, not to be sure of such persons as will not, but of such as
will, set themselves to them, are fit to form the mind to habits of

Indeed the present state is so far from proving, in event, a discipline
of virtue to the generality of men, that on the contrary they seem to
make it a discipline of vice. And the viciousness of the world is,
in different ways, the great temptation which renders it a state of
virtuous discipline, in the degree it is, to good men. The whole end,
and the whole occasion, of mankind’s being placed in such a state as
the present, is not pretended to be accounted for. That which appears
amidst the general corruption, is, that there are some persons, who,
having within them the principle of amendment and recovery, attend to
and follow the notices of virtue and religion, be they more clear or
more obscure, which are afforded them; and that the present world is
not only an exercise of virtue in these persons, but an exercise of
it in ways and degrees, peculiarly apt to improve it: apt to improve
it, in some respects, even beyond what would be, by the exercise of
it, required in a perfectly virtuous society, or in a society of
equally imperfect virtue with themselves. But that the present world
does not actually become a state of moral discipline to many, even
to the generality, _i.e._ that they do not improve or grow better in
it, cannot be urged as a proof, that it was not intended for moral
discipline, by any who at all observe the analogy of nature. For, of
the numerous seeds of vegetables and bodies of animals, which are
adapted and put in the way to improve to such a point or state of
natural maturity and perfection, we do not see perhaps that one in
a million actually does. Far the greatest part of them decay before
they are improved to it; and appear to be absolutely destroyed. Yet no
one, who does not deny all final causes, will deny, that those seeds
and bodies, which do attain to that point of maturity and perfection,
answer the end for which they were really designed by nature; and
therefore that nature designed them for such perfection. I cannot
forbear adding, though it is not to the present purpose, that the
_appearance_ of such an amazing _waste_ in nature, with respect to
these seeds and bodies, by foreign causes, is to us as unaccountable,
as, what is much more terrible, the present and future ruin of so many
moral agents by themselves, _i.e._ by vice.

Against this whole notion of moral discipline, it may be objected, in
another way; that so far as a course of behavior, materially virtuous,
proceeds from hope and fear, so far it is only a discipline and
strengthening of self-love. But doing what God commands, because he
commands it, is obedience, though it proceeds from hope or fear. A
course of such obedience will form habits of it. And a constant regard
to veracity, justice, and charity, may form distinct habits of these
particular virtues; and will certainly form habits of self-government,
and of denying our inclinations, whenever veracity, justice, or charity
requires it. Nor is there any foundation for this great nicety, with
which some affect to distinguish in this case, in order to depreciate
all religion proceeding from hope or fear. For, veracity, justice, and
charity, regard to God’s authority, and to our own chief interest, are
not only all three coincident; but each of them is, in itself, a just
and natural motive or principle of action. He who begins a good life
from any one of them, and perseveres in it, as he is already in some
degree, so he cannot fail of becoming more and more, of that character
which is correspondent to the constitution of nature as moral; and
to the relation which God stands in to us as moral governor of it:
nor consequently can he fail of obtaining that happiness, which this
constitution and relation necessarily suppose connected with that

These several observations, concerning the active principle of virtue
and obedience to God’s commands, are applicable to passive submission
or resignation to his will: which is another essential part of a right
character, connected with the former, and very much in our power to
form ourselves to. It may be imagined, that nothing but afflictions
can give occasion for or require this virtue; that it can have no
respect to, nor be any way necessary to qualify for, a state of perfect
happiness: but it is not experience which can make us think thus.
Prosperity itself, while any thing supposed desirable is not ours,
begets extravagant and unbounded thoughts. Imagination is altogether as
much a source of discontent, as any thing in our external condition. It
is indeed true, that there can be no scope for _patience_, when sorrow
shall be no more; but there may be need of a temper of mind, which
shall have been formed by patience. For, though self-love, considered
merely as an active principle leading us to pursue our chief interest,
cannot but be uniformly coincident with the principle of obedience to
God’s commands, our interest being rightly understood; because this
obedience, and the pursuit of our own chief interest, must be in every
ease one and the thing: yet it may be questioned, whether self-love,
considered merely as the desire of our own interest or happiness, can,
from its nature, be thus absolutely and uniformly coincident with the
will of God; any more than particular affections can:[102] coincident
in such sort, as not to be liable to be excited upon occasions and in
degrees, impossible to be gratified consistently with the constitution
of things, or the divine appointments. So that _habits_ of resignation
may, upon this account, be requisite for all creatures: habits, I
say; which signify what is formed by use. However, in general it is
obvious that both self-love and particular affection in human creatures
considered only as passive feelings, distort and rend the mind; and
therefore stand in need of discipline. Now denial of those particular
affections, in a course of active virtue and obedience to God’s will,
has a tendency to moderate them; and seems also to have a tendency
to habituate the mind, to be easy and satisfied with that degree of
happiness which is allotted us, _i.e._ to moderate self-love. But the
proper discipline for resignation is affliction. A right behavior
under that trial; recollecting ourselves so as to consider it in the
view, in which religion teaches us to consider it, as from the hand of
God, receiving it as what he appoints, or thinks proper to permit, in
his world and under his government; this will habituate the mind to a
dutiful submission. Such submission, together with the active principle
of obedience, make up the temper and character in us, which answers to
his sovereignty; and which absolutely belongs to the condition of our
being, as dependent creatures. Nor can it be said, that this is only
breaking the mind to a submission to mere power; for mere power may
be accidental, and precarious, and usurped: but it is forming within
ourselves the temper of resignation to His rightful authority, who is,
by nature, supreme over all.

Upon the whole: such a character, and such qualifications, are
necessary for a mature state of life in the present world, as nature
alone does in no wise bestow; but has put it upon us, in great part,
to acquire, in our progress from one stage of life to another, from
childhood to mature age; put it upon us to acquire them, by giving
us capacities of doing it, and by placing us, in the beginning of
life, in a condition fit for it. And this is a general analogy to our
condition in the present world, as in a state of moral discipline for

It is in vain to object against the credibility of the present life’s
being intended for this purpose, that all the trouble and the danger
unavoidably accompanying such discipline, might have been saved us, by
our being made at once the creatures and the characters, _which we were
to be_. For we experience, that _what we were to be_, was to be the
effect of _what we would do_: and that the general conduct of nature
is, not to save us trouble or danger, but to make us capable of going
through them, and to put it upon us to do so. Acquirements of our own,
experience and habits, are the _natural_ supply to our deficiencies,
and security against our dangers: since it is as plainly natural to
set ourselves to acquire the qualifications, as the external things,
which we stand in need of. In particular, it is as plainly a general
law of nature, that we should with regard to our temporal interest,
form and cultivate practical principles within us, by attention, use,
and discipline, as any thing whatever is a natural law; chiefly in the
beginning of life, but also throughout the whole course of it. The
alternative is left to our choice: either to improve ourselves, and
better our condition; or, in default of such improvement, to remain
deficient and wretched. It is therefore perfectly credible, from the
analogy of nature, that the same may be our case, with respect to the
happiness of a future state, and the qualifications necessary for it.

There is a third thing, which may seem implied in the present world’s
being a state of probation; that it is a _theatre of action_, for the
manifestation of persons’ characters, with respect to a future one:
not, to be sure, to an all-knowing Being, but to his creation or part
of it. This may, perhaps, be only a consequence of our being in a
state of probation in the other senses. However, it is not impossible,
that men’s showing and making manifest, what is in their heart,
what their real character is, may have respect to a future life, in
ways and manners with which we are not acquainted: particularly it
may be a means, (for the Author of nature does not appear to do any
thing without means,) of their being disposed of suitably to their
characters; and of its being known to the creation, by way of example,
that they are thus disposed of. But not to enter upon any conjectural
account of this; one may just mention, that the manifestation of
persons’ characters contributes very much, in various ways, to the
carrying on a great part of that general course of nature, respecting
mankind, which comes under our observation at present. I shall only
add, that probation, in both these senses, as well as in that treated
of in the foregoing chapter, is implied in moral government; since by
persons’ behavior under it, their characters cannot but be manifested,
and if they behave well, improved.



Throughout the foregoing treatise it appears, that the condition of
mankind, considered as inhabitants of this world only, and under the
government of God which we experience, is greatly analogous to our
condition, as designed for another world, or as under that farther
government, which religion teaches us. If therefore any assert, as a
fatalist must, that the opinion of universal necessity is reconcilable
with the former; there immediately arises a question in the way of
analogy, whether he must not also own it to be reconcilable with the
latter, _i.e._ with the system of religion itself, and the proof of
it. The reader then will observe, that the question now before us is
not absolute, _i.e._ whether the opinion of fate be reconcilable with
religion; but hypothetical, whether, upon supposition of its being
reconcilable with the constitution of nature, it be not reconcilable
with religion also. Or, what pretence a fatalist, not other persons,
but a fatalist, has to conclude from his opinion, that there can be no
such thing as religion. And as the puzzle and obscurity, which must
unavoidably arise from arguing upon so absurd a supposition as that of
universal necessity, will, I fear, easily be seen; it will, I hope, as
easily be excused.[103]

Since it has been all along taken for granted, as a thing proved, that
there is an intelligent Author of nature, or natural Governor of the
world; and since an objection may be made against the proof of this,
from the opinion of universal necessity, as it may be supposed, that
such necessity will itself account for the origin and preservation
of all things; it is requisite, that this objection be distinctly
answered; or that it be shown, that a fatality supposed consistent
with what we certainly experience, does not destroy the proof of
an intelligent Author and Governor of nature; before we proceed to
consider, whether it destroys the proof of a moral Governor of it, or
of our being in a state of religion.

When it is said by a fatalist, that the whole constitution of nature,
the actions of men, every thing, and every mode and circumstance
of every thing, is necessary, and could not possibly have been
otherwise; it is to be observed, that this necessity does not exclude
deliberation, choice, preference, and acting from certain principles,
and to certain ends: because all this is matter of undoubted
experience, acknowledged by all, and what every man may, every moment,
be conscious of. Hence it follows, that necessity, alone and of itself,
is in no sort an account of the constitution of nature, and how things
came _to be_ and _to continue_ as they are; but only an account of
this _circumstance_ relating to their origin and continuance, that
they could not have been otherwise, than they are and have been. The
assertion, that every thing is by necessity of nature, is not an
answer to the question; Whether the world came into being as it is,
by an intelligent Agent forming it thus, or not: but to quite another
question; Whether it came into being as it is, in that way and manner
which we call _necessarily_, or in that way and manner which we call
_freely_? For suppose farther, that one who was a fatalist, and one who
kept to his natural sense of things, and believed himself a free agent,
were disputing together, and vindicating their respective opinions;
and they should happen to instance a house; they would agree that it
was built by an architect. Their difference concerning necessity and
freedom would occasion no difference of judgment concerning this;
but only concerning another matter; whether the architect built it
necessarily or freely.

Suppose they should proceed to inquire concerning the constitution
of nature. In a lax way of speaking, one of them might say, it was
by necessity; and the other, by freedom: but if they had any meaning
to their words, as the latter must mean a free agent, so the former
must at length be reduced to mean an agent, whether he would say one
or more, acting by necessity: for abstract notions can do nothing. We
indeed ascribe to God a necessary existence, uncaused by any agent.
For we find within ourselves the idea of infinity, _i.e._ immensity
and eternity, impossible, even in imagination, to be removed out of
being. We seem to discern intuitively, that there must, and cannot
but be, something, external to ourselves, answering this idea, or the
archetype of it. Hence, (for _this abstract_, as much as any other,
implies a _concrete_) we conclude, that there is, and cannot but be,
an infinite and immense eternal being, existing prior to all design
contributing to his existence, and exclusive of it. From the scantiness
of language, a manner of speaking has been introduced; that necessity
is the foundation, the reason, the account of the existence of God. But
it is not alleged, nor can it be at all intended, that _every thing_
exists as it does, by this kind of necessity: a necessity antecedent in
nature to design: it cannot, I say, be meant that every thing exists
as it does, by this kind of necessity, upon several accounts; and
particularly because it is admitted, that design, in the actions of
men, contributes to many alterations in nature. If any deny this, I
shall not pretend to reason with them.

From these things it follows; _First_, That when a fatalist asserts,
that every thing is _by necessity_, he must mean, _by an agent acting
necessarily_; he _must_, I say, mean this, for I am very sensible he
would not choose to mean it. _Secondly_, That the necessity, by which
such an agent is supposed to act, does not exclude intelligence and
design. So that, were the system of fatality admitted, it would just as
much account for the formation of the world, as for the structure of a
house, and no more. Necessity as much requires and supposes a necessary
agent, as freedom requires and supposes a free agent, to be the former
of the world. And the appearances of _design_ and of _final causes_
in the constitution of nature as really prove this acting agent to be
an _intelligent designer_, or to act from choice; upon the scheme of
necessity, supposed possible, as upon that of freedom.

It appearing thus, that the notion of necessity does not destroy
the proof that there is an intelligent Author of nature and natural
Governor of the world; the present question, which the analogy before
mentioned suggests,[104] and which, I think, it will answer, is this:
Whether the opinion of necessity, supposed consistent with possibility,
with the constitution of the world, and the natural government which
we experience exercised over it, destroys all reasonable ground of
belief, that we are in a state of religion: or whether that opinion be
reconcilable with religion; with the system, and the proof of it.

Suppose then a fatalist to educate any one, from his youth up, in his
own principles; that the child should reason upon them, and conclude,
that since he cannot possibly behave otherwise than he does, he is not
a subject of blame or commendation, nor can deserve to be rewarded
or punished. Imagine him to eradicate the very perceptions of blame
and commendation out of his mind, by means of this system; to form
his temper, and character, and behavior to it; and from it to judge
of the treatment he was to expect, say, from reasonable men, upon his
coming abroad into the world: as the fatalist judges from this system,
what he is to expect from the Author of nature, and with regard to
a future state. I cannot forbear stopping here to ask, whether any
one of common sense would think fit, that a child should be put upon
these speculations, and be left to apply them to practice. And a
man has little pretence to reason, who is not sensible, that we are
all children in speculations of this kind. However, the child would
doubtless be highly delighted to find himself freed from the restraints
of fear and shame, with which his play-fellows were fettered and
embarrassed; and highly conceited in his superior knowledge, so far
beyond his years. But conceit and vanity would be the least bad part
of the influence, which these principles must have, when thus reasoned
and acted upon, during the course of his education. He must either be
allowed to go on and be the plague of all about him, and himself too,
even to his own destruction, or else correction must be continually
made use of, to supply the want of those natural perceptions of blame
and commendation, which we have supposed to be removed; and to give
him a practical impression, of what he had reasoned himself out of the
belief of, that he was in fact an accountable child, and to be punished
for doing what he was forbid. It is therefore in reality impossible,
but that the correction which he must meet with, in the course of his
education, must convince him, that if the scheme he was instructed
in were not false, yet that he reasoned inconclusively upon it, and
somehow or other misapplied it to practice and common life; as what the
fatalist experiences of the conduct of Providence at present, ought
in all reason to convince him, that this scheme is misapplied, when
applied to the subject of religion.[105] But supposing the child’s
temper could remain still formed to the system, and his expectation of
the treatment he was to have in the world, be regulated by it; so as
to expect that no reasonable man would blame or punish him, for any
thing which he should do, because he could not help doing it: upon this
supposition it is manifest he would, upon his coming abroad into the
world, be insupportable to society, and the treatment which he would
receive from it would render it so to him; and he could not fail of
doing something very soon, for which he would be delivered over into
the hands of civil justice. And thus, in the end, he would be convinced
of the obligations he was under to his wise instructor.

Suppose this scheme of fatality, in any other way, applied to practice,
such practical application of it will be found equally absurd; equally
fallacious in a practical sense. For instance, that if a man be
destined to live such a time, he shall live to it, though he take no
care of his own preservation; or if he be destined to die before that
time, no care can prevent it, therefore all care about preserving one’s
life is to be neglected: which is the fallacy instanced in by the
ancients. On the contrary, none of these practical absurdities can be
drawn from reasoning, upon the supposition that we are free; but all
such reasoning with regard to the common affairs of life is justified
by experience. Therefore, though it were admitted that this opinion of
necessity were _speculatively_ true; yet, with regard to practice, it
is as if it were false, so far as our experience reaches: that is, to
the whole of our present life. For, the constitution of the present
world, and the condition in which we are actually placed, is, as if we
were free. And it may perhaps justly be concluded, that since the whole
process of action, through every step of it, suspense, deliberation,
inclining one way, determining, and at last doing as we determine, is
as if we were free, therefore we are so.[106]

The thing here insisted upon is, that under the present natural
government of the world, we find we are treated and dealt with, as if
we were free, prior to all consideration whether we are so or not.
Were this opinion therefore of necessity admitted to be ever so true;
yet such is in fact our condition and the natural course of things,
that whenever we apply it to life and practice, this application of
it always misleads us, and cannot but mislead us, in a most dreadful
manner, with regard to our present interest. How then can people think
themselves so very secure, that the same application of the same
opinion may not mislead them also, in some analogous manner, with
respect to a future, a more general, and more important interest? For,
religion being a practical subject; and the analogy of nature showing
us, that we have not faculties to apply this opinion, were it a true
one, to practical subjects; whenever we do apply it to the subject of
religion, and thence conclude, that we are free from its obligations,
it is plain this conclusion cannot be depended upon. There will still
remain just reason to think, whatever appearances are, that we deceive
ourselves; in somewhat of a like manner, as when people fancy they can
draw contradictory conclusions from the idea of infinity.

From these things together, the attentive reader will see it follows,
that if upon supposition of freedom the evidence of religion be
conclusive, it remains so, upon supposition of necessity, because the
notion of necessity is not applicable to practical subjects: _i.e._
with respect to them, is as if it were not true. Nor does this contain
any reflection upon reason, but only upon what is unreasonable. For
to pretend to act upon reason, in opposition to practical principles,
which the Author of our nature gave us to act upon; and to pretend
to apply our reason to subjects, with regard to which, our own short
views, and even our experience, will show us, it cannot be depended
upon; and such, at best, the subject of necessity must be; this is
vanity, conceit, and unreasonableness.

But this is not all. We find within ourselves a will, and are conscious
of a character. Now if this, in us, be reconcilable with fate, it
is reconcilable with it in the Author of nature. Besides, natural
government and final causes imply a character and a will in the
Governor and Designer;[107] a will concerning the creatures whom he
governs. The Author of nature then being certainly of some character or
other, notwithstanding necessity; it is evident this necessity is as
reconcilable with the particular character of benevolence, veracity,
and justice, in him, which attributes are the foundation of religion,
as with any other character: since we find this necessity no more
hinders _men_ from being benevolent, than cruel; true, than faithless;
just, than unjust; or, if the fatalist pleases, what we call unjust. It
is said indeed, that what, upon supposition of freedom, would be just
punishment, upon supposition of necessity, becomes manifestly unjust:
because it is punishment inflicted for doing that which persons could
not avoid doing. As if the necessity, which is supposed to destroy the
injustice of murder, for instance, would not also destroy the injustice
of punishing it! However, as little to the purpose as this objection
is in itself, it is very much to the purpose to observe from it, how
the notions of justice and injustice remain, even while we endeavor to
suppose them removed; how they force themselves upon the mind, even
while we are making suppositions destructive of them: for there is not,
perhaps, a man in the world, but would be ready to make this objection
at first thought.

But though it is most evident, that universal necessity, if it be
reconcilable with any thing, is reconcilable with that character in
the Author of nature, which is the foundation of religion; “Yet, does
it not plainly destroy the _proof_ that he is of that character, and
consequently the proof of religion?” By no means. For we find, that
happiness and misery are not our _fate_, in any such sense as not to be
the consequences of our behavior; but that they are the consequences
of it.[108] We find God exercises the same kind of government over us,
which a father exercises over his children, and a civil magistrate over
his subjects. Now, whatever becomes of abstract questions concerning
liberty and necessity, it evidently appears to us, that veracity
and justice must be the natural rule and measure of exercising this
authority or government, to a Being who can have no competitions, or
interfering of interests, with his creatures and his subjects.

But as the doctrine of liberty, though we experience its truth, may be
perplexed with difficulties, which run up into the most abstruse of
all speculations; and as the opinion of necessity seems to be the very
basis upon which infidelity grounds itself; it may be of some use to
offer a more particular proof of the obligations of religion, which may
distinctly be shown not to be destroyed by this opinion.

The proof from final causes of an intelligent Author of nature is
not affected by the opinion of necessity; supposing necessity a
thing possible in itself, and reconcilable with the constitution of
things.[109] It is a matter of fact, independent on this or any other
speculation, that he governs the world by the method of rewards and
punishments:[110] and also that he hath given us a moral faculty, by
which we distinguish between actions, and approve some as virtuous
and of good desert, and disapprove others as vicious and of ill
desert.[111] This moral discernment implies, in the notion of it, a
rule of action, and a rule of a very peculiar kind: for it carries
in it authority and a right of direction; authority in such a sense,
as that we cannot depart from it without being self-condemned.[112]
And that the dictates of this moral faculty, which are by nature a
rule to us, are moreover the laws of God, laws in a sense including
sanctions; may be thus proved. Consciousness of a rule or guide of
action, in creatures who are capable of considering it as given them
by their Maker, not only raises immediately a sense of duty, but also
a sense of security in following it, and of danger in deviating from
it. A direction of the Author of nature, given to creatures capable of
looking upon it as such, is plainly a command from him: and a command
from him necessarily includes in it, at least, an implicit promise in
case of obedience, or threatening in case of disobedience. But then the
sense or perception of good and ill desert,[113] which is contained
in the moral discernment, renders the sanction explicit, and makes it
appear, as one may say, expressed. For since his method of government
is to reward and punish actions, his having annexed to some actions an
inseparable sense of good desert, and to others of ill, this surely
amounts to declaring, upon whom his punishments shall be inflicted, and
his rewards be bestowed. He must have given us this discernment and
sense of things, as a presentiment of what is to be hereafter: that is,
by way of information beforehand, what we are finally to expect in this
world. There is then most evident ground to think, that the government
of God, upon the whole, will be found to correspond to the nature which
he has given us: and that, in the upshot and issue of things, happiness
and misery shall, in fact and event, be made to follow virtue and vice
respectively; as he has already, in so peculiar a manner, associated
the ideas of them in our minds. And hence might easily be deduced the
obligations of religious worship, were it only to be considered as a
means of preserving upon our minds a sense of this moral government
of God, and securing our obedience to it: which yet is an extremely
imperfect view of that most important duty.

No objection from necessity can lie against this general proof of
religion. None against the proposition reasoned upon, that we have
such a moral faculty and discernment; because this is a mere matter of
fact, a thing of experience, that human kind is thus constituted: none
against the conclusion; because it is immediate and wholly from this
fact. For the conclusion, that God will finally reward the righteous
and punish the wicked, is not here drawn, from its appearing to us
fit[114] that _he should_; but from its appearing, that he has told
us, _he will_. And this he hath certainly told us, in the promise
and threatening, which it hath been observed the notion of a command
implies, and the sense of good and ill desert which he has given us,
more distinctly expresses. This reasoning from fact is confirmed, and
in some degree even verified, by other facts; by the natural tendencies
of virtue and of vice;[115] and by this, that God, in the natural
course of his providence, punishes vicious actions as mischievous to
society; and also vicious actions as such in the strictest sense.[116]
So that the general proof of religion is unanswerably real, even upon
the wild supposition which we are arguing upon.

It must be observed further, that natural religion has, besides this,
an external evidence; which the doctrine of necessity, if it could be
true, would not affect. For suppose a person, by the observations and
reasoning above, or by any other, convinced of the truth of religion;
that there is a God, who made the world, who is the moral governor
and judge of mankind, and will upon the whole deal with every one
according to his works: I say, suppose a person convinced of this by
reason, but to know nothing at all of antiquity, or the present state
of mankind: it would be natural for such a one to be inquisitive, what
was the history of this system of doctrine; at what time, and in what
manner, it came first into the world; and whether it were believed
by any considerable part of it. Were he upon inquiry to find, that
a particular person, in a late age, first of all proposed it, as a
deduction of reason, and that mankind were before wholly ignorant of
it; then, though its evidence from reason would remain, there would
be no additional probability of its truth, from the account of its

But instead of this being the fact, he would find, on the contrary,
what could not but afford him a very strong confirmation of its truth:
_First_, That somewhat of this system, with more or fewer additions and
alterations, hath been professed in all ages and countries, of which
we have any certain information relating to this matter. _Secondly_,
That it is certain historical fact, so far as we can trace things up,
that this whole system of belief, that there is one God, the creator
and moral governor of the world, and that mankind is in a state of
religion, was received in the first ages. And _Thirdly_, That as
there is no hint or intimation in history, that this system was first
reasoned out; so there is express historical or traditional evidence,
as ancient as history, that it was taught first by revelation.

Now these things must be allowed to be of great weight. The first of
them, general consent, shows this system to be conformable to the
common sense of mankind. The second, namely, that religion was believed
in the first ages of the world, especially as it does not appear that
there were then any superstitious or false additions to it, cannot
but be a further confirmation of its truth. For it is a proof of
this alternative: either that it came into the world by revelation;
or that it is natural, obvious, and forces itself upon the mind. The
former of these is the conclusion of learned men. And whoever will
consider, how unapt for speculation rude and uncultivated minds are,
will, perhaps from hence alone, be strongly inclined to believe it the
truth. And as it is shown in the second part[117] of this treatise,
that there is nothing of such peculiar presumption against a revelation
in the beginning of the world, as there is supposed to be against
subsequent ones; a sceptic could not, I think, give any account, which
would appear more probable even to himself, of the early pretences to
revelation; than by supposing some real original one, from whence they
were copied.

And the third thing above mentioned, that there is express historical
or traditional evidence, as ancient as history, of the system of
religion being taught mankind by revelation, this must be admitted as
some degree of real proof, that it was so taught. For why should not
the most ancient tradition be admitted as some additional proof of a
fact, against which there is no presumption? This proof is mentioned
here, because it has its weight to show, that religion came into
the world by revelation, prior to all consideration of the proper
authority of any book supposed to contain it; and even prior to all
consideration, whether the revelation itself be uncorruptly handed
down, or mixed and darkened with fables. Thus the historical account,
which we have of the origin of religion, taking in all circumstances,
is a real confirmation of its truth, no way affected by the opinion of
necessity. And the _external_ evidence, even of natural religion, is by
no means inconsiderable.

It is carefully to be observed, and ought to be recollected after
all proofs of virtue and religion, which are only general, that as
speculative reason may be neglected, prejudiced, and deceived, so also
may our moral understanding be impaired and perverted, and the dictates
of it not impartially attended to. This indeed proves nothing against
the reality of our speculative or practical faculties of perception?
against their being intended by nature, to inform us in the theory
of things, and instruct us how we are to behave, and what we are to
expect in consequence of our behavior. Yet our liableness, in the
degree we are liable, to prejudice and perversion, is a most serious
admonition to us to be upon our guard, with respect to what is of such
consequence, as our determinations concerning virtue and religion;
and particularly not to take custom, and fashion, and slight notions
of honor, or imaginations of present ease, use, and convenience to
mankind, for the only moral rule.[118]

The foregoing observations, drawn from the nature of the thing, and
the history of religion, amount, _when taken together_, to a real
practical proof of it, not to be confuted: such a proof as, considering
the infinite importance of the thing, I apprehend, would be admitted
fully sufficient, in reason, to influence the actions of men, who act
upon thought and reflection, if it were admitted that there is no proof
of the contrary. But it may be said; “There are many probabilities,
which cannot indeed be confuted; _i.e._ shown to be no probabilities,
and yet may be overbalanced by greater probabilities, on the other
side; much more by demonstration. And there is no occasion to object
against particular arguments alleged for an opinion, when the opinion
itself may be clearly shown to be false, without meddling with such
arguments at all, but leaving them just as they are.[119] Now the
method of government by rewards and punishments, and especially
rewarding and punishing good and ill desert as such respectively, must
go upon supposition, that we are free and not necessary agents. And
it is incredible, that the Author of nature should govern us upon a
supposition as true, which he knows to be false; and therefore absurd
to think, he will reward or punish us for our actions hereafter;
especially that he will do it under the notion, that they are of good
or ill desert.”

Here then the matter is brought to a point. And the answer is full,
and not to be evaded,--viz.: that the whole constitution and course
of things, the whole analogy of Providence, shows beyond possibility
of doubt, that the conclusion from this reasoning is false; wherever
the fallacy lies. The doctrine of freedom indeed clearly shows where:
in supposing ourselves necessary, when in truth we are free agents.
But, upon the supposition of necessity, the fallacy lies in taking for
granted, that it is incredible necessary agents should be rewarded
and punished. That, somehow or other, the conclusion now mentioned
is false, is most certain. For it is fact, that God does govern even
brute creatures by the method of rewards and punishments, in the
natural course of things. Men are rewarded and punished for their
actions, punished for actions mischievous to society as being so,
punished for vicious actions as such; by the natural instrumentality
of each other, under the present conduct of Providence. Nay, even
the affection of gratitude, and the passion of resentment, and the
rewards and punishments following from them, which in general are to be
considered as natural, _i.e._ from the Author of nature; these rewards
and punishments, being _naturally_[120] annexed to actions considered
as implying good intention and good desert, ill intention and ill
desert; these natural rewards and punishments, I say, are as much a
contradiction to the conclusion above, and show its falsehood, as a
more exact and complete rewarding and punishing of good and ill desert
as such. So that if it be incredible, that necessary agents should be
thus rewarded and punished; then, men are not necessary but free; since
it is matter of fact, that they are thus rewarded and punished. If,
on the contrary, which is the supposition we have been arguing upon,
it be insisted that men are necessary agents; then, there is nothing
incredible in the further supposition of necessary agents being thus
rewarded and punished: since we ourselves are thus dealt with.

From the whole therefore it must follow, that a necessity supposed
possible, and reconcilable with the constitution of things, does in no
sort prove that the Author of Nature will not, nor destroy the proof
that he will, finally and upon the whole, in his eternal government,
render his creatures happy or miserable, by some means or other, as
they behave well or ill. Or, to express this conclusion in words
conformable to the title of the chapter, the analogy of nature shows
us, that the opinion of necessity, considered as practical, is false.
And if necessity, upon the supposition above mentioned, doth not
destroy the proof of natural religion, it evidently makes no alteration
in the proof of revealed.

From these things likewise we may learn, in what sense to understand
that general assertion, that the opinion of necessity is essentially
destructive of all religion. First, in a practical sense; that by this
notion, atheistical men pretend to satisfy and encourage themselves
in vice, and justify to others their disregard to all religion. And
secondly, in the strictest sense; that it is a contradiction to
the whole constitution of nature, and to what we may every moment
experience in ourselves, and so overturns every thing. But by no means
is this assertion to be understood, as if necessity, supposing it could
possibly be reconciled with the constitution of things, and with what
we experience, were not also reconcilable with religion: for upon this
supposition, it demonstrably is so.[121]



Though it be acknowledged, as it cannot but be, that the analogy of
nature gives a strong credibility to the general doctrine of religion,
and to the several particular things contained in it, considered as so
many matters of fact; and likewise that it shows this credibility not
to be destroyed by any notions of necessity: still, objections may be
insisted upon, against the wisdom, equity, and goodness of the divine
government implied in the notion of religion, and against the method
by which this government is conducted; to which objections analogy
can be no direct answer. For the credibility, or the certain truth,
of a matter of fact, does not immediately prove any thing concerning
the wisdom or goodness of it; and analogy can do no more, immediately
or directly, than show such and such things to be true or credible,
considered only as matters of fact. But if, upon supposition of a
moral constitution of nature and a moral government over it, analogy
suggests and makes it credible, that this government must be a scheme,
system, or constitution of government, as distinguished from a number
of single unconnected acts of distributive justice and goodness; and
likewise, that it must be a scheme, so imperfectly comprehended, and
of such a sort in other respects, as to afford a direct general answer
to all objections against the justice and goodness of it: then analogy
is, remotely, of great service in answering those objections; both by
suggesting the answer, and showing it to be a credible one.

Now this, upon inquiry, will be found to be the case. For, _First_,
Upon supposition that God exercises a moral government over the
world, the analogy of his natural government suggests and makes it
credible, that his moral government _must_ be a scheme, quite beyond
our comprehension: and this affords a general answer to all objections
against the justice and goodness of it. _Secondly_, A more distinct
observation of some particular things contained in God’s scheme of
natural government, the like things being supposed, by analogy, to be
contained in his moral government, will further show, how little weight
is to be laid upon these objections.

I. Upon supposition that God exercises a moral government over the
world, the analogy of his natural government suggests and makes
it credible, that his moral government must be a scheme, quite
beyond our comprehension; and this affords a general answer to
all objections against the justice and goodness of it. It is most
obvious, analogy renders it highly credible, that, upon supposition
of a moral government, it must be a scheme. For the world, and the
whole natural government of it, appears to be so: to be a scheme,
system, or constitution, whose parts correspond to each other, and
to a whole, as really as any work of art, or as any particular model
of a civil constitution and government. In this great scheme of the
natural world, individuals have various peculiar relations to other
individuals of their own species. Whole species are, we find, variously
related to other species, upon this earth. Nor do we know, how much
further these kinds of relations may extend. And, as there is not any
action or natural event, which we are acquainted with, so single and
unconnected, as not to have a respect to some other actions and events;
so possibly each of them, when it has not an immediate, may yet have
a remote, natural relation to other actions and events, much beyond
the compass of this present world. There seems indeed nothing, from
whence we can so much as make a conjecture, whether all creatures,
actions, and events, throughout the whole of nature, have relations to
each other But, as it is obvious, that all events have future unknown
consequences; so if we trace any event, as far as we can, into what is
connected with it, we shall find, that if it were not connected with
something further in nature, unknown to us, something both past and
present, such event could not possibly have been at all. Nor can we
give the whole account of any one thing whatever; of all its causes,
ends, and necessary adjuncts; those adjuncts, I mean, without which
it could not have been. By this most astonishing connection, these
reciprocal correspondences and mutual relations, every thing which we
see in the course of nature is actually brought about. Things seemingly
the most insignificant imaginable, are perpetually observed to be
necessary conditions to other things of the greatest importance; so
that any one thing whatever, may for aught we know to the contrary, be
a necessary condition to any other.

The natural world then, and natural government of it, being such an
incomprehensible scheme; so incomprehensible, that a man must, really
in the literal sense, know nothing at all, who is not sensible of
his ignorance in it; this immediately suggests, and strongly shows
the credibility, that the moral world and government of it may be so
too.[122] Indeed the natural and moral constitution and government of
the world are so connected, as to make up together but one scheme:
and it is highly probable, that the first is formed and carried on
merely in subserviency to the latter; as the vegetable world is for the
animal, and organized bodies for minds. But the thing intended here is,
without inquiring how far the administration of the natural world is
subordinate to that of the moral, only to observe the credibility, that
one should be analogous or similar to the other: that therefore every
act of divine justice and goodness may be supposed to look much beyond
itself, and its immediate object; may have some reference to other
parts of God’s moral administration, and to a general moral plan; and
that every circumstance of this his moral government may be adjusted
beforehand with a view to the whole of it. For example: the determined
length of time, and the degrees and ways, in which virtue is to remain
in a state of warfare and discipline, and in which wickedness is
permitted to have its progress; the times appointed for the execution
of justice; the appointed instruments of it; the kinds of rewards and
punishments, and the manners of their distribution; all particular
instances of divine justice and goodness, and every circumstance of
them, may have such respects to each other, as to make up altogether
a whole, connected and related in all its parts; a scheme or system,
which is as properly such, as the natural world is, and of the like
kind. Supposing this to be the case, it is most evident, that we are
not competent judges of this scheme, from the small parts of it which
come within our view in the present life: therefore no objections
against any of these parts can be insisted upon by reasonable men.[123]

This our ignorance, and the consequence here drawn from it, are
universally acknowledged upon _other_ occasions; and though scarce
denied, yet are universally forgot, when persons come to argue against
religion. And it is not perhaps easy, even for the most reasonable
men, always to bear in mind the degree of our ignorance, and make due
allowances for it. Upon these accounts, it may not be useless to go a
little further, in order to show more distinctly, how just an answer
our ignorance is, to objections against the scheme of Providence.
Suppose then a person boldly to assert,[124] that the things complained
of, the origin and continuance of evil, might easily have been
prevented by repeated interpositions;[125] interpositions so guarded
and circumstanced, as would preclude all mischief arising from them.
Or, if this were impracticable, that a _scheme_ of government is itself
an imperfection, since more good might have been produced, without any
scheme, system, or constitution at all, by continued single unrelated
acts of distributive justice and goodness; because these would have
occasioned no irregularities. Farther than this, it is presumed, the
objections will not be carried. Yet the answer is obvious: that were
these assertions true, still the observations above, concerning our
ignorance in the scheme of divine government and the consequence drawn
from it, would hold, in great measure; enough to vindicate religion,
against all objections from the disorders of the present state. Were
these assertions true, yet the government of the world might be just
and good notwithstanding; for, at the most, they would infer nothing
more than that it might have been better. But they are mere arbitrary
assertions; no man being sufficiently acquainted with the possibilities
of things, to bring any proof of them to the lowest degree of
probability. For however possible what is asserted may seem, yet many
instances may be alleged, in things much less out of our reach, of
suppositions absolutely impossible, and reducible to the most palpable
self contradictions, which, not every one would perceive to be such;
nor perhaps any one, at first sight suspect.

From these things, it is easy to see distinctly, how our ignorance,
as it is the common, so it is really a satisfactory answer, to all
objections against the justice and goodness of Providence. If a man,
contemplating any one providential dispensation, which had no relation
to any others, should object, that he discerned in it a disregard to
justice, or a deficiency of goodness; nothing would be less an answer
to such objection, than our ignorance in other parts of providence,
or in the possibilities of things, no way related to what he was
contemplating. But when we know not but the part objected against may
be relative to other parts unknown to us; and when we are unacquainted
with what is, in the nature of the thing, practicable in the case
before us; then our ignorance is a satisfactory answer; because, some
unknown relation, or some unknown impossibility, may render what is
objected against, just and good; nay good in the highest practicable

II. How little weight is to be laid upon such objections, will further
appear, by a more distinct observation of some particular things
contained in the natural government of God, the like to which may be
supposed, from analogy, to be contained in his moral government.

_First_, As in the scheme of the natural world, no ends appear to be
accomplished without means: so we find that means very undesirable,
often conduce to bring about ends in such a measure desirable, as
greatly to overbalance the disagreeableness of the means. And in cases
where such means are conducive to such ends, it is not reason, but
_experience_, which shows us, that they are thus conducive. Experience
also shows many means to be conducive and necessary to accomplish ends,
which means, before experience, we should have thought, would have
had even a contrary tendency. From these observations relating to the
natural scheme of the world, the moral being supposed analogous to
it, arises a great credibility, that the putting our misery in each
other’s power to the degree it is, and making men liable to vice to the
degree we are; and in general, that those things which are objected
against the moral scheme of Providence, may be, upon the whole,
friendly and assistant to virtue, and productive of an overbalance of
happiness: _i.e._ the things objected against may be means, by which
an overbalance of good, will in the end, be found produced. And from
the same observations, it appears to be no presumption against this,
that we do not, if indeed we do not, see those means to have any
such tendency, or that they seem to us to have a contrary one. Thus
those things, which we call irregularities, may not be so at all;
because they may be means of accomplishing wise and good ends more
considerable. It may be added, as above, that they may also be the
only means, by which these wise and good ends are capable of being

It may be proper to add, in order to obviate an absurd and wicked
conclusion from any of these observations, that though the constitution
of our nature, from whence we are capable of vice and misery, may, as
it undoubtedly does, contribute to the perfection and happiness of
the world; and though the actual permission of evil may be beneficial
to it: (_i.e._ it would have been more mischievous, not that a wicked
person had himself abstained from his own wickedness, but that any
one had forcibly prevented it, than that it was permitted:) yet
notwithstanding, it might have been much better for the world, if this
very evil had never been done. Nay it is most clearly conceivable, that
the very commission of wickedness may be beneficial to the world, and
yet, that it would be infinitely more beneficial for men to refrain
from it. For thus, in the wise and good constitution of the natural
world, there are disorders which bring their own cures; diseases, which
are themselves remedies. Many a man would have died, had it not been
for the gout or a fever; yet it would be thought madness to assert,
that sickness is a better or more perfect state than health; though the
like, with regard to the moral world, has been asserted.

_Secondly_, The natural government of the world is carried on by
general laws. For this there may be wise and good reasons: the wisest
and best, for aught we know to the contrary. And that there are such
reasons, is suggested to our thoughts by the analogy of nature; by our
being made to experience good ends to be accomplished, as indeed all
the good which we enjoy is accomplished, by this means,--viz.: that the
laws, by which the world is governed, are general. We have scarce any
kind of enjoyments, but what we are, in some way or other, instrumental
in procuring ourselves, by acting in a manner which we _foresee_ likely
to procure them: now this foresight could not be at all, were not the
government of the world carried on by general laws. And though, for
aught we know to the contrary, every single case may be, at length,
found to have been provided for even by these: yet to prevent all
irregularities, or remedy them as they arise, by the wisest and best
general laws, may be impossible in the nature of things; as we see it
is absolutely impossible in civil government.

But then we are ready to think, that, the constitution of nature
remaining as it is, and the course of things being permitted to go
on, in other respects, as it does, there might be interpositions to
prevent irregularities; though they could not have been prevented, or
remedied by any general laws. There would indeed be reason to wish,
which, by-the-way, is very different from a right to claim, that all
irregularities were prevented or remedied by present interpositions,
if these interpositions would have no other effect than this. But it
is plain they would have some visible and immediate _bad_ effects:
for instance, they would encourage idleness and negligence; and they
would render doubtful the natural rule of life, which is ascertained by
this very thing, that the course of the world is carried on by general
laws. And further, it is certain they would have _distant_ effects,
and very great ones too; by means of the wonderful connections before
mentioned.[126] So that we cannot so much as guess, what would be the
whole result of the interpositions desired. It may be said, any bad
result might be prevented by further interpositions, whenever there was
occasion for them: but this again is talking quite at random, and in
the dark.[127]

Upon the whole then, we see wise reasons, why the course of the world
should be carried on by general laws, and good ends accomplished by
this means: and for aught we know, there may be the wisest reasons
for it, and the best ends accomplished by it. We have no ground to
believe, that all irregularities could be remedied as they arise, or
could have been precluded, by general laws. We find that interpositions
would produce evil, and prevent good: and, for aught we know, they
would produce greater evil than they would prevent; and prevent greater
good than they would produce. And if this be the case, then the not
interposing is so far from being a ground of complaint, that it is an
instance of goodness. This is intelligible and sufficient: and going
further, seems beyond the utmost reach of our faculties.

It may be said, that “after all, these supposed impossibilities and
relations are what we are unacquainted with; and we must judge of
religion, as of other things, by what we do know, and look upon the
rest as nothing: or however, that the answers here given to what is
objected against religion, may equally be made use of to invalidate the
proof of it; since their stress lies so very much upon our ignorance.”

_First_, Though total ignorance in any matter does indeed equally
destroy, or rather preclude, all proof concerning it, and objections
against it; yet partial ignorance does not. For we may in any degree be
convinced, that a person is of such a character, and consequently will
pursue such ends; though we are greatly ignorant, what is the proper
way of acting, in order the most effectually to obtain those ends: and
in this case, objections against his manner of acting, as seemingly
not conducive to obtain them, might be answered by our ignorance;
though the proof that such ends were intended, might not at all be
invalidated by it. Thus, the proof of religion is a proof of the moral
character of God, and consequently that his government is moral, and
that every one upon the whole shall receive according to his deserts; a
proof that this is the designed end of his government. But we are not
competent judges, what is the proper way of acting, in order the most
effectually to accomplish this end.[128] Therefore our ignorance is an
answer to objections against the conduct of Providence, in permitting
irregularities, as seeming contradictory to this end. Now, since it
is so obvious, that our ignorance may be a satisfactory answer to
objections against a thing, and yet not affect the proof of it; till it
can be shown, it is frivolous to assert, that our ignorance invalidates
the proof of religion, as it does the objections against it.

_Secondly_, Suppose unknown impossibilities, and unknown relations,
might justly be urged to invalidate the proof of religion, as well as
to answer objections against it; and that, in consequence of this,
the proof of it were doubtful. Still, let the assertion be despised,
or let it be ridiculed, it is undeniably true, that moral obligations
would remain certain, though it were not certain what would, upon the
whole, be the consequences of observing or violating them. For, these
obligations arise, immediately and necessarily, from the judgment of
our own mind, unless perverted, which we cannot violate without being
self-condemned. And they would be certain too, from considerations
of interest. For though it were doubtful, what will be the future
consequences of virtue and vice; yet it is, however, credible, that
they may have those consequences, which religion teaches us they will:
and this credibility is a certain[129] obligation in point of prudence,
to abstain from all wickedness, and to live in the conscientious
practice of all that is good.

_Thirdly_, The answers above given to the objections against religion
cannot be made use of to invalidate the proof of it. For, upon
suspicion that God exercises a moral government over the world, analogy
does most strongly lead us to conclude, that this moral government must
be a scheme, or constitution, beyond our comprehension. A thousand
particular analogies show us, that parts of such a scheme, from their
relation to other parts, may conduce to accomplish ends, which we
should have thought they had no tendency to accomplish: nay ends, which
before experience, we should have thought such parts were contradictory
to, and had a tendency to prevent. Therefore all these analogies show,
that the way of arguing made use of in objecting against religion is
delusive: because they show it is not at all incredible, that, could we
comprehend the whole, we should find the permission of the disorders
objected against to be consistent with justice and goodness; and even
to be instances of them. Now this is not applicable to the proof of
religion, as it is to the objections against it;[130] and therefore
cannot invalidate that proof, as it does these objections.

_Lastly_, From the observation now made, it is easy to see, that the
answers above given to the objections against Providence, though,
in a general way of speaking, they may be said to be taken from our
ignorance; yet are by no means taken merely from that, but from
something which analogy shows us concerning it. For analogy shows us
positively, that our ignorance in the possibilities of things, and the
various relations in nature, renders us incompetent judges, and leads
us to false conclusions, in cases similar to this, in which we pretend
to judge and to object. So that the things above insisted upon are not
mere suppositions of unknown impossibilities and relations: but they
are suggested to our thoughts, and even forced upon the observation
of serious men, and rendered credible too, by the analogy of nature.
Therefore to take these things into the account, is to judge by
experience and what we do know: and it is not judging so, to take no
notice of them.


The observations of the last chapter lead us to consider this little
scene of human life, in which we are so busily engaged, as having a
reference, of some sort or other, to a much larger plan of things.
Whether we are, any way, related to the more distant parts of the
boundless universe, into which we are brought, is altogether uncertain.
But it is evident, that the course of things, which comes within
our view, is connected with some things, past, present, and future,
beyond it.[131] So that we are placed, as one may speak, in the middle
of a scheme, not fixed but progressive, every way incomprehensible:
incomprehensible, in a manner equally, with respect to what has
been, what now is, and what shall be. This scheme cannot but contain
in it some things as wonderful, and as much beyond our thought and
conception,[132] as any thing in that of religion. For, will any man in
his senses say, that it is less difficult to conceive, how the world
came to be and to continue as it is, without, than with, an intelligent
Author and Governor of it? Or, admitting an intelligent Governor of
it, that there is some other rule of government more natural, and of
easier conception, than that which we call moral? Indeed, without an
intelligent Author and Governor of nature, no account at all can be
given, how this universe, or the part of it particularly in which we
are concerned, came to be, and the course of it to be carried on, as it
is: nor any, of its general end and design, without a moral governor of
it. That there is an intelligent Author of nature, and natural Governor
of the world, is a principle gone upon in the foregoing treatise; as
proved, and generally known, and confessed to be proved. And the very
notion of an intelligent Author of nature, proved by particular final
causes, implies a will and a character.[133]

Now, as our whole nature, the nature which he has given us, leads us to
conclude his will and character to be moral, just, and good: so we can
scarce in imagination conceive, what it can be otherwise. However, in
consequence of this his will and character, whatever it be, he formed
the universe as it is, and carries on the course of it as he does,
rather than in any other manner; and has assigned to us, and to all
living creatures, a part and a lot in it. Irrational creatures act this
their part, and enjoy and undergo the pleasures and the pains allotted
them, without any reflection. But one would think it impossible, that
creatures endued with reason could avoid reflecting sometimes upon all
this; reflecting, if not from whence we came, yet, at least, whither
we are going; and what the mysterious scheme, in the midst of which
we find ourselves, will, at length, come out and produce: a scheme in
which it is certain we are highly interested, and in which we may be
interested even beyond conception.[134]

For many things prove it palpably absurd to conclude, that we shall
cease to be, at death. Particular analogies do most sensibly show us,
that there is nothing to be thought strange, in our being to exist in
another state of life. And that we are now living beings, affords a
strong probability that we shall _continue_ so; unless there be some
positive ground, and there is none from reason or analogy, to think
death will destroy us. Were a persuasion of this kind ever so well
grounded, there would, surely, be little reason to take pleasure in it.
Indeed it can have no other ground, than some such imagination, as that
of our gross bodies being ourselves; which is contrary to experience.
Experience too most clearly shows us the folly of concluding, from
the body and the living agent affecting each other mutually, that the
dissolution of the former is the destruction of the latter. And there
are remarkable instances of their _not_ affecting each other, which
lead us to a contrary conclusion. The supposition, then, which in all
reason we are to go upon, is, that our living nature will _continue_
after death. And it is infinitely unreasonable to form an institution
of life, or to act, upon any other supposition.

All expectation of immortality, whether more or less certain, opens
an unbounded prospect to our hopes and our fears: since we see the
constitution of nature is such, as to admit of misery, as well as to be
productive of happiness, and experience ourselves to partake of both
in some degree; and since we cannot but know, what higher degrees of
both we are capable of. And there is no presumption against believing
further, that our future interest depends upon our present behavior:
for we see our present interest doth; and that the happiness and
misery, which are naturally annexed to our actions, very frequently do
not follow, till long after the actions are done, to which they are
respectively annexed. So that were speculation to leave us uncertain,
whether it were likely, that the Author of nature, in giving happiness
and misery to his creatures, hath regard to their actions or not, yet,
since we find by experience that he hath such regard, the whole sense
of things which he has given us, plainly leads us, at once and without
any elaborate inquiries, to think that it may, indeed must, be to good
actions chiefly that he hath annexed happiness, and to bad actions
misery; or that he will, upon the whole, reward those who do well, and
punish those who do evil.

To confirm this from the constitution of the world, it has been
observed, that some sort of moral government is necessarily implied
in that natural government of God, which we experience ourselves
under; that good and bad actions, at present, are naturally rewarded
and punished, not only as beneficial and mischievous to society, but
also as virtuous and vicious: and that there is, in the very nature
of the thing, a tendency to their being rewarded and punished in a
much higher degree than they are at present. And though this higher
degree of distributive justice, which nature thus points out and leads
towards, is prevented for a time from taking place; it is by obstacles,
which the state of this world unhappily throws in its way, and which
therefore are in their nature temporary. Now, as these things in the
natural conduct of Providence are observable on the side of virtue;
so there is nothing to be set against them on the side of vice. A
moral scheme of government then is visibly established, and, in some
degree, carried into execution: and this, together with the essential
tendencies of virtue and vice duly considered, naturally raise in us an
apprehension, that it will be carried on further towards perfection in
a future state, and that every one shall there receive according to his

And if this be so, then our future and general interest, under the
moral government of God, is appointed to depend upon our behavior;
notwithstanding the difficulty, which this may occasion, of securing
it, and the danger of losing it: just in the same manner as our
temporal interest, under his natural government, is appointed to depend
upon our behavior; notwithstanding the like difficulty and danger.
For, from our original constitution, and that of the world which we
inhabit, we are naturally trusted with ourselves; with our own conduct
and our own interest. And from the same constitution of nature,
especially joined with that course of things which is owing to men,
we have temptations to be unfaithful in this trust; to forfeit this
interest, to neglect it, and run ourselves into misery and ruin. From
these temptations arise the difficulties of behaving so as to secure
our temporal interest, and the hazard of behaving so as to miscarry in
it. There is therefore nothing incredible in supposing there may be the
like difficulty and hazard with regard to that chief and final good,
which religion lays before us.

The whole account, how it came to pass that we were placed in such a
condition as this, must indeed be beyond our comprehension. But it is
in part accounted for by what religion teaches us, that the character
of virtue and piety must be a necessary qualification for a future
state of security and happiness, under the moral government of God; in
like manner, as some certain qualifications or other are necessary for
every particular condition of life, under his natural government: and
that the present state was intended to be a school of discipline, for
improving in ourselves that character. Now this intention of nature
is rendered highly credible by observing; that we are plainly made
for improvement of all kinds; that it is a general appointment of
Providence, that we cultivate practical principles, and form within
ourselves habits of action, in order to become fit for what we were
wholly unfit for before; that in particular, childhood and youth is
naturally appointed to be a state of discipline for mature age; and
that the present world is peculiarly fitted for a state of moral
discipline. And, whereas objections are urged against the whole notion
of moral government and a probationary state, from the opinion of
necessity; it has been shown, that God has given us the evidence, as
it were, of experience, that all objections against religion, on this
head, are vain and delusive. He has also, in his natural government,
suggested an answer to all our short-sighted objections, against the
equity and goodness of his moral government; and in general he has
exemplified to us the latter by the former.

These things, which it is to be remembered, are matters of fact, ought,
in all common sense, to awaken mankind; to induce them to consider
in earnest their condition, and what they have to do. It is absurd,
absurd to the degree of being ridiculous, if the subject were not of so
serious a kind, for men to think themselves secure in a vicious life;
or even in that immoral thoughtlessness, into which far the greatest
part of them are fallen. The credibility of religion, arising from
experience and facts here considered, is fully sufficient, in reason,
to engage them to live in the general practice of all virtue and piety;
under the serious apprehension, though it should be mixed with some
doubt,[135] of a righteous administration established in nature, and
a future judgment in consequence of it: especially when we consider,
how very questionable it is, whether any thing at all can be gained
by vice,[136] how unquestionably little as well as precarious, the
pleasures and profits of it are at the best, and how soon they must
be parted with at the longest. For, in the deliberations of reason,
concerning what we are to pursue and what to avoid, as temptations
to any thing from mere passion are supposed out of the case, so
inducements to vice, from cool expectations of pleasure and interest so
small and uncertain and short, are really so insignificant, as, in the
view of reason to be almost nothing in _themselves_; and in comparison
with the importance of religion they quite disappear and are lost.

Mere passion may indeed be alleged, though not as a reason, yet as
an excuse, for a vicious course of life. And how sorry an excuse it
is, will be manifest by observing, that we are placed in a condition
in which we are unavoidably inured to govern our passions, by being
necessitated to govern them: and to lay ourselves under the same kind
of restraints, and as great ones too, from temporal regards, as virtue
and piety, in the ordinary course of things, require. The plea of
ungovernable passion then, on the side of vice, is the poorest of all
things; for it is no reason, and a poor excuse. The proper _motives_ to
religion are the proper _proofs_ of it, from our moral nature, from the
presages of conscience, and our natural apprehension of God under the
character of a righteous Governor and Judge: a nature, and conscience,
and apprehension, given us by him; and from the confirmation of the
dictates of reason, by _life and immortality brought to light by
the Gospel; and the wrath of God revealed from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men_.



Revealed Religion.



Some persons, upon pretence of the sufficiency of the light of nature,
avowedly reject all revelation, as in its very notion incredible,
and what must be fictitious. And indeed it is certain, no revelation
would have been given, had the light of nature been sufficient in
such a sense, as to render one not wanted and useless. But no man,
in seriousness and simplicity of mind, can possibly think it so, who
considers the state of religion in the heathen world before revelation,
and its present state in those places which have borrowed no light
from it: particularly the doubtfulness of some of the greatest men,
concerning things of the utmost importance, as well as the natural
inattention and ignorance of mankind in general. It is impossible to
say, who would have been able to have reasoned out that whole system,
which we call Natural Religion, in its genuine simplicity, clear of
superstition: but there is certainly no ground to affirm that the
generality could. If they could, there is no sort of probability that
they would. Admitting there were, they would highly want a standing
admonition to remind them of it, and inculcate it upon them.

And further, were they as much disposed to attend to religion, as the
better sort of men are; yet even upon this supposition, there would
be various occasions for supernatural instruction and assistance, and
the greatest advantages might be afforded by them.[138] So that to say
revelation is a thing superfluous, what there was no need of, and what
can be of no service, is, I think, to talk quite wildly and at random.
Nor would it be more extravagant to affirm, that mankind is so entirely
at ease in the present state, and life so completely happy, that it
is a contradiction to suppose our condition capable of being, in any
respect, better.

There are other persons, not to be ranked with these, who seem to
be getting into a way of neglecting, and as it were, overlooking
revelation, as of small importance provided natural religion be kept
to. With little regard either to the evidence of the former, or to
the objections against it, and even upon supposition of its truth;
“the only design of it,” say they, “must be, to establish a belief of
the moral system of nature, and to enforce the practice of natural
piety and virtue. The belief and practice of these were, perhaps, much
promoted by the first publication of Christianity: but whether they
are believed and practised, upon the evidence and motives of nature
or of revelation, is no great matter,”[139] This way of considering
revelation, though it is not the same with the former, yet borders
nearly upon it, and very much, at length runs up into it: and requires
to be particularly considered, with regard to the persons who seem
to be getting into this way. The consideration of it will likewise
further show the extravagance of the former opinion, and the truth of
the observations in answer to it, just mentioned. And an inquiry into
the importance of Christianity, cannot be an improper introduction to a
treatise concerning the credibility of it.

Now, if God has given a revelation to mankind, and commanded those
things which are commanded in Christianity; it is evident, at first
sight, that it cannot in any wise be an indifferent matter, whether
we obey or disobey those commands: unless we are certainly assured,
that we know all the reasons for them, and that all those reasons are
now ceased, with regard to mankind in general, or to ourselves in
particular. It is absolutely impossible we can be assured of this.[140]
For our ignorance of these reasons proves nothing in the case: since
the whole analogy of nature shows, what is indeed in itself evident,
that there may be infinite reasons for things, with which we are not

But the importance of Christianity will more distinctly appear, by
considering it more distinctly: _First_, as a republication, and
external institution, of natural or essential religion, adapted to the
present circumstances of mankind, and intended to promote natural piety
and virtue: _Secondly_, as containing an account of a dispensation of
things, not discoverable by reason, in consequence of which several
distinct precepts are enjoined us. For though natural religion is the
foundation and principal part of Christianity, it is not in any sense
the whole of it.

I. Christianity is a republication of Natural religion. It instructs
mankind in the moral system of the world: that it is the work of an
infinitely perfect Being, and under his government, that virtue is
his law, and that he will finally judge mankind in righteousness,
and render to all according to their works, in a future state. And,
which is very material, it teaches natural religion in its genuine
simplicity; free from those superstitions, with which it was totally
corrupted, and under which it was in a manner lost.

Revelation is, further, an _authoritative_ publication of natural
religion, and so affords the evidence of testimony for the truth of
it. Indeed the miracles and prophecies recorded in Scripture, were
intended to prove a particular dispensation of Providence, _i.e._ the
redemption of the world by the Messiah: but this does not hinder, but
that they may also prove God’s general providence over the world, as
our moral governor and judge. And they evidently do prove it; because
this character of the Author of nature, is necessarily connected with
and implied in that particular revealed dispensation of things: it is
likewise continually taught expressly, and insisted upon, by those
persons who wrought the miracles and delivered the prophecies. So
that indeed natural religion seems as much proved by the Scripture
revelation, as it would have been, had the design of revelation been
nothing else than to prove it.

But it may possibly be disputed, how far miracles can prove natural
religion; and notable objections may be urged against this proof of it,
considered as a matter of speculation: but considered as a practical
thing, there can be none. For suppose a person to teach natural
religion to a nation, who bid lived in total ignorance or forgetfulness
of it; and to declare that he was commissioned by God so to do; suppose
him, in proof of his commission, to foretell things future, which no
human foresight could have guessed at; to divide the sea with a word;
feed great multitudes with bread from heaven; cure all manner of
diseases; and raise the dead, even himself, to life; would not this
give additional credibility to his teaching, a credibility beyond what
that of a common man would have; and be an authoritative publication of
the law of nature, _i.e._ a new proof of it? It would be a practical
one, of the strongest kind, perhaps, which human creatures are capable
of having given them. The Law of Moses then, and the Gospel of Christ,
are authoritative publications of the religion of nature; they afford
a proof of God’s general providence, as moral Governor of the world,
as well as of his particular dispensations of providence towards sinful
creatures, revealed in the Law and the Gospel. As they are the only
evidence of the latter, so they are an additional evidence of the

To show this further, let us suppose a man of the greatest and most
improved capacity, who had never heard of revelation, convinced upon
the whole, notwithstanding the disorders of the world, that it was
under the direction and moral government of an infinitely perfect
Being; but ready to question, whether he were not got beyond the reach
of his faculties: suppose him brought, by this suspicion, into great
danger of being carried away by the universal bad example of almost
every one around him, who appeared to have no sense, no practical
sense at least, of these things: and this, perhaps, would be as
advantageous a situation with regard to religion, as nature alone
ever placed any man in. What a confirmation now must it be to such a
person, all at once, to find, that this moral system of things was
revealed to mankind, in the name of that infinite Being, whom he had
from principles of reason believed in: and that the publishers of the
revelation proved their commission from him, by making it appear, that
he had intrusted them with a power of suspending and changing the
general laws of nature.

Nor must it by any means be omitted, for it is a thing of the utmost
importance, that life and immortality are eminently brought to light
by the Gospel. The great doctrines of a future state, the danger of a
course of wickedness[141] and the efficacy of repentance, are not only
confirmed in the Gospel, but are taught, especially the last is, with a
degree of light, to which that of nature is but darkness.

Further. As Christianity served these ends and purposes, when it was
first published, by the miraculous publication itself, so it was
intended to serve the same purposes in future ages, by means of the
settlement of a visible church:[142] of a society, distinguished from
common ones, and from the rest of the world, by peculiar religious
institutions; by an instituted method of instruction, and an instituted
form of external religion. Miraculous powers were given to the first
preachers of Christianity, in order to their introducing it into the
world: a visible church was established, in order to continue it, and
carry it on successively throughout all ages. Had only Moses and the
prophets, Christ and his apostles, taught, and by miracles proved,
religion to their contemporaries; the benefits of their instructions
would have reached but a small part of mankind. Christianity must
have been, in a great degree, sunk and forgot in a very few ages. To
prevent this, appears to have been one reason why a visible church was
instituted; to be like a city upon a hill, a standing memorial to the
world of the duty which we owe our Maker: to call men continually,
both by example and instruction, to attend to it, and, by the form
of religion, ever before their eyes, remind them of the reality; to
be the repository of the oracles of God; to hold up the light of
revelation in aid to that of nature, and to propagate it, throughout
all generations, to the end of the world--the light of revelation,
considered here in no other view, than as designed to enforce natural
religion. And in proportion as Christianity is professed and taught in
the world, religion, natural or essential religion, is thus distinctly
and advantageously laid before mankind, and brought again and again to
their thoughts, as a matter of infinite importance.

A visible church has also a further tendency to promote natural
religion, as being an instituted method of education, originally
intended to be of peculiar advantage to those who conform to it. For
one end of the institution was, that, by admonition and reproof, as
well as instruction, by a general regular discipline, and public
exercises of religion, _the body of Christ_, as the Scripture speaks,
should be _edified_; _i.e._ trained up in piety and virtue for a higher
and better state. This settlement, then, appearing thus beneficial,
tending in the nature of the thing to answer, and, in some degree,
actually answering, those ends, it is to be remembered, that the very
notion of it implies positive institutions; for the visibility of the
church consists in them. Take away every thing of this kind, and you
lose the very notion itself. So that if the things now mentioned are
advantages, the reason and importance of positive institutions in
general is most obvious; since without them these advantages could not
be secured to the world. And it is mere idle wantonness, to insist upon
knowing the reasons, _why_ such particular ones were fixed upon rather
than others.

The benefit arising from this supernatural assistance, which
Christianity affords to natural religion, is what some persons are very
slow in apprehending. And yet it is a thing distinct in itself, and a
very plain obvious one. For will any in good earnest really say, that
the bulk of mankind in the heathen world were in as advantageous a
situation, with regard to natural religion, as they are now among us:
that it was laid before them, and enforced upon them, in a manner as
distinct, and as much tending to influence their practice?

The objections against all this, from the perversion of Christianity,
and from the supposition of its having had but little good influence,
however innocently they may be proposed, cannot be insisted upon as
conclusive, upon any principles, but such as lead to downright Atheism;
because the manifestation of the law of nature by reason, which, upon
all principles of Theism, must have been from God, has been perverted
and rendered ineffectual in the same manner. It may indeed, I think,
truly be said, that the good effects of Christianity have not been
small; nor its supposed ill effects, any effects at all of it, properly
speaking. Perhaps, too, the things done have been aggravated; and if
not, Christianity hath been often only a pretence, and the same evils
in the main would have been done upon some other pretence. However,
great and shocking as the corruptions and abuses of it have really
been, they cannot be insisted upon as arguments against it, upon
principles of Theism. For one cannot proceed one step in reasoning upon
natural religion, any more than upon Christianity, without laying it
down as a first principle, that the dispensations of Providence are not
to be judged of by their perversions, but by their genuine tendencies:
not by what they do actually seem to effect, but by what they would
effect if mankind did their part; that part which is justly put and
left upon them. It is altogether as much the language of one as of the
other: _He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he that is
holy, let him be holy still._[143] The light of reason does not, any
more than that of revelation, force men to submit to its authority;
both admonish them of what they ought to do and avoid, together with
the consequences of each; and after this, leave them at full liberty
to act just as they please, till the appointed time of judgment.
Every moment’s experience shows, that this is God’s general rule of

To return then: Christianity being a promulgation of the law of nature;
being moreover an authoritative promulgation of it; with new light,
and other circumstances of peculiar advantage, adapted to the wants of
mankind; these things fully show its importance.

It is to be observed further, that as the nature of the case requires,
so all Christians are commanded to contribute, by their profession
of Christianity, to preserve it in the world, and render it such
a promulgation and enforcement of religion. For it is the very
scheme of the Gospel, that each Christian should, in his degree,
contribute towards continuing and carrying it on: all by uniting in
the public profession and external practice of Christianity; some by
instructing, by having the oversight and taking care of this religious
community, the church of God. Now this further shows the importance of
Christianity; and, which is what I chiefly intend, its importance in a
practical sense: or the high obligations we are under, to take it into
our most serious consideration; and the danger there must necessarily
be, not only in treating it despitefully, which I am not now speaking
of, but in disregarding and neglecting it. For this is neglecting to
do what is expressly enjoined us, for continuing those benefits to the
world, and transmitting them down to future times. And all this holds,
even though the only thing to be considered in Christianity were its
subserviency to natural religion.

II. Christianity is to be considered in a further view; as containing
an account of a dispensation of things, not at all discoverable by
reason, in consequence of which several distinct precepts are enjoined
us. Christianity is not only an external institution of natural
religion, and a new promulgation of God’s general providence, as
righteous governor and judge of the world; but it contains also a
revelation of a particular dispensation of Providence, carrying on by
his Son and Spirit, for the recovery and salvation of mankind, who are
represented in Scripture to be in a state of ruin. And in consequence
of this revelation being made, we are commanded _to be baptized_, not
only _in the name of the Father_, but also, _of the Son_, _and of the
Holy Ghost_: and other obligations of duty, unknown before, to the Son
and the Holy Ghost, are revealed. Now the importance of these duties
may be judged of, by observing that they arise, not from positive
command merely, but also from the offices which appear, from Scripture,
to belong to those divine persons in the Gospel dispensation; or from
the relations, which we are there informed, they stand in to us. By
_reason_ is revealed the relation, which God the Father stands in to
us. Hence arises the obligation of duty which we are under to him. In
_Scripture_ are revealed the relations, which the Son and Holy Spirit
stand in to us. Hence arise the obligations of duty;[145] which we are
under to them. The truth of the case, as one may speak, in each of
these three respects being admitted: that God is the governor of the
world, upon the evidence of reason; that Christ is the mediator between
God and man, and the Holy Ghost our guide and sanctifier, upon the
evidence of revelation: the truth of the case, I say, in each of these
respects being admitted, it is no more a question, why it should be
commanded, that we be baptized in the name of the Son and of the Holy
Ghost, than that we be baptized in the name of the Father. This matter
seems to require to be more fully stated.[146]

Let it be remembered then, that religion comes under the twofold
consideration of internal and external: for the latter is as real a
part of religion, of true religion, as the former. Now, when religion
is considered under the first notion, as an inward principle, to be
exerted in such and such inward acts of the mind and heart, the essence
of natural religion may be said to consist in religious regards to
_God the Father Almighty_: and the essence of revealed religion, as
distinguished from natural, to consist in religious regards to _the
Son_, and to _the Holy Ghost_. The obligation we are under, of paying
these religious regards to each of these divine persons respectively,
arises from the respective relations which they each stand in to us.
How these relations are made known, whether by reason or revelation,
makes no alteration in the case: because the duties arise out of the
relations themselves, not out of the manner in which we are informed
of them. The Son and Spirit have each his proper office in that great
dispensation of Providence, the redemption of the world; the one our
Mediator, the other our Sanctifier. Does not then the duty of religious
regards to both these divine persons, as immediately arise to the view
of reason, out of the very nature of these offices and relations; as
the good-will and kind intention, which we owe to our fellow-creatures,
arise out of the common relations between us and them? But it will be
asked, “What are the inward religious regards, appearing thus obviously
due to the Son and Holy Spirit; as arising, not merely from command in
Scripture, but from the very nature of the revealed relations, which
they stand in to us?” I answer, the religious regards of reverence,
honor, love, trust, gratitude, fear, hope.

In what external manner this inward worship is to be expressed, is a
matter of pure revealed command, as perhaps the external manner, in
which God the Father is to be worshipped, may be more so than we are
ready to think. But the worship, the internal worship itself, to the
Son and Holy Ghost, is no further matter of pure revealed command, than
as the relations they stand in to us are matter of pure revelation: for
the relations being known, the obligations to such internal worship
are obligations of reason, arising out of those relations themselves.
In short, the history of the gospel as immediately shows us the reason
of these obligations, as it shows us the meaning of the words, Son and
Holy Ghost.

If this account of the Christian religion be just, those persons who
can speak lightly of it, as of little consequence, provided natural
religion be kept to, plainly forget, that Christianity, even what is
peculiarly so called, as distinguished from natural religion, has yet
somewhat very important, even of a moral nature. For the office of
our Lord being made known, and the relation he stands in to us, the
obligation of religious regards to him is plainly moral, as much as
charity to mankind is; since this obligation arises, before external
command, immediately out of that his office and relation itself. Those
persons appear to forget, that revelation is to be considered, as
informing us of somewhat new, in the state of mankind,[147] and in
the government of the world: as acquainting us with some relations we
stand in, which could not otherwise have been known. These relations
being real (though before revelation we could be under no obligations
from them, yet upon their being revealed), there is no reason to think,
but that neglect of behaving suitably to them will be attended with
the same kind of consequences under God’s government, as neglecting to
behave suitably to any other relations, made known to us by reason.
Ignorance, whether unavoidable or voluntary, so far as we can possibly
see, will just as much, and just as little, excuse in one case as in
the other: the ignorance being supposed equally unavoidable, or equally
voluntary, in both cases.

If therefore Christ be indeed the mediator between God and man, _i.e._
if Christianity be true; if he be indeed our Lord, our Savior, and our
God, no one can say, what may follow, not only the obstinate, but
the careless disregard to him, in those high relations. Nay, no one
can say, what may follow such disregard, even in the way of natural
consequence.[148] For, as the natural consequences of vice in this
life are doubtless to be considered as judicial punishments inflicted
by God, so for aught we know, the judicial punishments of the future
life may be, in a like way or a like sense, the natural consequence of
vice:[149] of men’s violating or disregarding the relations which God
has placed them in here, and made known to them.

If mankind are corrupted and depraved in their moral character, and
so are unfit for that state, which Christ is gone to prepare for his
disciples; and if the assistance of God’s Spirit be necessary to renew
their nature, in the degree requisite to their being qualified for
that state; (all which is implied in the express, though figurative
declaration, _Except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter
into the kingdom of God_:[150]) supposing this, is it possible any
serious person can think it a slight matter, whether or no he makes
use of the means, expressly commanded by God, for obtaining this
divine assistance? Especially since the whole analogy of nature shows,
that we are not to expect any benefits, without making use of the
appointed means for obtaining or enjoying them. Now reason shows us
nothing, of the particular immediate means of obtaining either temporal
or spiritual benefits. This therefore we must learn, either from
experience or revelation. And experience, the present case does not
admit of.

The conclusion from all this evidently is, that Christianity being
supposed either true or credible, it is unspeakable irreverence, and
really the most presumptuous rashness, to treat it as a light matter.
It can never justly be esteemed of little consequence, till it be
positively supposed false. Nor do I know a higher and more important
obligation which we are under, than that of examining most seriously
into its evidence, supposing its credibility; and of embracing it, upon
supposition of its truth.

The two following deductions may be proper to be added, in order to
illustrate the foregoing observations, and to prevent their being

_First_, Hence we may clearly see, where lies the distinction between
what is positive and what is moral in religion. Moral _precepts_, are
precepts the reasons of which we see: positive _precepts_, are precepts
the reasons of which we do not see.[151] Moral _duties_ arise out of
the nature of the case itself, prior to external command. Positive
_duties_ do not arise out of the nature of the case, but from external
command; nor would they be duties at all, were it not for such command,
received from Him whose creatures and subjects we are. But the manner
in which the nature of the case or the fact of the relation, is made
known, this doth not denominate any duty either positive or moral. That
we be baptized in the name of the Father is as much a positive duty, as
that we be baptized in the name of the Son, because both arise equally
from revealed command: though the relation which we stand in to God
the Father is made known to us by reason, and the relation we stand
in to Christ, by revelation only. On the other hand, the dispensation
of the Gospel being admitted, gratitude as immediately becomes due to
Christ, from his being the voluntary minister of this dispensation,
as it is due to God the Father, from his being the fountain of all
good; though the first is made known to us by revelation only, the
second by reason. Hence also we may see, and, for distinctness’ sake,
it may be worth mentioning, that positive institutions come under a
twofold consideration. They are either institutions founded on natural
religion, as baptism in the name of the Father; (though this has also a
particular reference to the gospel dispensation, for it is in the name
of God, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ:) or they are external
institutions founded on revealed religion; as baptism in the name of
the Son; and of the Holy Ghost.

_Secondly_, From the distinction between what is moral and what is
positive in religion, appears the ground of that peculiar preference,
which the Scripture teaches us to be due to the former.

The reason of positive institutions in general, is very obvious;
though we should not see the reason, why particular ones are pitched
upon rather than others. Whoever, therefore, instead of cavilling at
words, will attend to the thing itself, may clearly see, that positive
institutions in general, as distinguished from this or that particular
one, have the nature of moral commands; since the reasons of them
appear. Thus, for instance, the _external_ worship of God is a moral
duty, though no particular mode of it be so. Care then is to be taken,
when a comparison is made between positive and moral duties, that they
be compared no further than as they are different; no further than as
the former are positive, or arise out of mere external command, the
reasons of which we are not acquainted with; and as the latter are
moral, or arise out of the apparent reason of the case, without such
external command. Unless this caution be observed, we shall run into
endless confusion.

Now this being premised, suppose two standing precepts enjoined by the
same authority; that, in certain conjunctures, it is impossible to
obey both; that the former is moral, _i.e._ a precept of which we see
the reasons, and that they hold in the particular case before us; but
that the latter is positive, _i.e._ a precept of which we do not see
the reasons: it is indisputable that our obligations are to obey the
former; because there is an apparent reason for this preference, and
none against it. Further, positive institutions, all those I suppose
which Christianity enjoins, are means to a moral end: and the end must
be acknowledged more excellent than the means.[152] Nor is observance
of these institutions any religious obedience at all, or of any value,
otherwise than as it proceeds from a moral principle. This seems to
be the strict logical way of stating and determining this matter;
but will, perhaps, be found less applicable to practice, than may be
thought at first sight.

Therefore, in a more practical, though more lax way of consideration,
and taking the words, _moral law_ and _positive institutions_, in
the popular sense, I add, that the whole moral law is as much matter
of revealed command, as positive institutions are: for the Scripture
enjoins every moral virtue. In this respect then they are both upon
a level. But the moral law is, moreover, written upon our hearts;
interwoven into our very nature. And this is a plain intimation of the
Author of it, which is to be preferred, when they interfere.

But there is not altogether so much necessity for the determination of
this question, as some persons seem to think. Nor are we left to reason
alone to determine it. For, _First_, Though mankind have, in all ages,
been greatly prone to place their religion in peculiar positive rites,
by way of equivalent for obedience to moral precepts; yet, without
making any comparison at all between them, and consequently without
determining which is to have the preference, the nature of the thing
abundantly shows all notions of that kind to be utterly subversive of
true religion, as they are, moreover, contrary to the whole general
tenor of Scripture; and likewise to the most express particular
declarations of it, that nothing can render us accepted of God, without
moral virtue.

_Secondly_, Upon the occasion of mentioning together positive and moral
duties, the Scripture always puts the stress of religion upon the
latter, and never upon the former. This, though no sort of allowance
to neglect the former, when they do not interfere with the latter,
is yet a plain intimation, that when they do, the latter are to be
preferred. And as mankind are for placing the stress of their religion
anywhere, rather than upon virtue; lest both the reason of the thing,
and the general spirit of Christianity, appearing in the intimation
now mentioned, should be ineffectual against this prevalent folly,
our Lord himself, from whose command alone the obligation of positive
institutions arises, has taken occasion to make the comparison between
them and moral precepts; when the Pharisees censured him, for _eating
with publicans and sinners_; and also when they censured his disciples,
for _plucking the ears of corn on the Sabbath day_. Upon this
comparison, he has determined expressly, and in form, which shall have
the preference when they interfere. And by delivering his authoritative
determination in a proverbial manner of expression, he has made it
general: _I will have mercy, and not sacrifice_.[153] The propriety of
the word _proverbial_, is not the thing insisted upon: though I think
the manner of speaking is to be called so. But that the manner of
speaking very remarkably renders the determination general, is surely
indisputable. For, had it been said only, that God preferred mercy to
the rigid observance of the Sabbath, even then, by parity of reason,
most justly might we have argued, that he preferred mercy likewise,
to the observance of other ritual institutions; and in general, moral
duties, to positive ones. And thus the determination would have been
general; though its being so were inferred and not expressed. But as
the passage really stands in the Gospel, it is much stronger. For
the sense and the very literal words of our Lord’s answer, are as
applicable to any other instance of a comparison, between positive and
moral duties, as to that upon which they were spoken. And if, in case
of competition, mercy is to be preferred to positive institutions,
it will scarce be thought, that justice is to give place to them. It
is remarkable too, that, as the words are a quotation from the Old
Testament, they are introduced, on both the forementioned occasions,
with a declaration, that the Pharisees did not understand the meaning
of them. This, I say, is very remarkable. For, since it is scarce
possible, for the most ignorant person, not to understand the literal
sense of the passage in the prophet;[154] and since understanding
the literal sense would not have prevented their _condemning the
guiltless_,[155] it can hardly be doubted, that the thing which our
Lord really intended in that declaration was, that the Pharisees had
not learned from it, as they might, wherein the _general_ spirit of
religion consists: that it consists in moral piety and virtue, as
distinguished from ritual observances. However, it is certain we may
learn this from his divine application of the passage, in the Gospel.

But, as it is one of the peculiar weaknesses of human nature, when,
upon a comparison of two things, one is found to be of greater
importance than the other, to consider this other as of scarce any
importance at all: it is highly necessary that we remind ourselves, how
great presumption it is, to make light of any institutions of divine
appointment; that our obligations to obey all God’s commands whatever
are absolute and indispensable; and that commands merely positive,
admitted to be from him, lay us under a moral obligation to obey them:
an obligation moral in the strictest and most proper sense.

To these things I cannot forbear adding, that the account now given of
Christianity most strongly shows and enforces upon us the obligation
of searching the Scriptures, in order to see, what the scheme of
revelation really is; instead of determining beforehand, from reason,
what the scheme of it must be.[156] Indeed if in revelation there be
found any passages, the seeming meaning of which is contrary to natural
religion; we may most certainly conclude, such seeming meaning not to
be the real one.[157] But it is not any degree of a presumption against
an interpretation of Scripture, that such interpretation contains a
doctrine, which the light of nature cannot discover;[158] or a precept,
which the law of nature does not oblige to.



Having shown the importance of the Christian revelation, and the
obligations which we are under seriously to attend to it, upon
supposition of its truth, or its credibility, the next thing in
order, is to consider the supposed presumptions against revelation in
general; which shall be the subject of this chapter: and the objections
against the Christian in particular, which shall be the subject of
some following ones.[159] For it seems the most natural method, to
remove the prejudices against Christianity, before we proceed to the
consideration of the positive evidence for it, and the objections
against that evidence.[160]

It is, I think, commonly supposed, that there is some peculiar
presumption, from the analogy of nature, against the Christian scheme
of things, at least against miracles; so as that stronger evidence
is necessary to prove the truth and reality of them, than would be
sufficient to convince us of other events, or matters of fact. Indeed
the consideration of this supposed presumption cannot but be thought
very insignificant, by many persons. Yet, as it belongs to the subject
of this treatise; so it may tend to open the mind, and remove some
prejudices, however needless the consideration of it be, upon its own

I. I find no appearance of a presumption, from the analogy of nature,
against the _general scheme_ of Christianity, that God created
and invisibly governs the world by Jesus Christ; and by him also
will hereafter judge it in righteousness, _i.e._ render to every
one according to his works; and that good men are under the secret
influence of his Spirit. Whether these things are, or are not, to
be called miraculous, is perhaps only a question about words; or
however, is of no moment in the case. If the analogy of nature raises
any presumption against this general scheme of Christianity, it must
be, either because it is not discoverable by reason or experience; or
else, because it is unlike that course of nature, which is. But analogy
raises no presumption against the truth of this scheme, upon either of
these accounts.

_First_, There is no presumption, from analogy, against the truth
of it, upon account of its not being discoverable by reason or
experience. Suppose one who never heard of revelation, of the most
improved understanding, and acquainted with our whole system of natural
philosophy and natural religion; such a one could not but be sensible,
that it was but a very small part of the natural and moral system
of the universe, which he was acquainted with. He could not but be
sensible, that there must be innumerable things, in the dispensations
of Providence past, in the invisible government over the world at
present carrying on, and in what is to come; of which he was wholly
ignorant,[161] and which could not be discovered without revelation.
Whether the scheme of nature be, in the strictest sense, infinite or
not; it is evidently vast, even beyond all possible imagination. And
doubtless that part of it, which is open to our view, is but as a point
in comparison of the whole plan of Providence, reaching throughout
eternity past and future; in comparison of what is even now going on,
in the remote parts of the boundless universe, nay, in comparison of
the whole scheme of this world. And therefore, that things lie beyond
the natural reach of our faculties, is no sort of presumption against
the truth and reality of them; because it is certain, there are
innumerable things, in the constitution and government of the universe,
which are thus beyond the natural reach of our faculties.

_Secondly_, Analogy raises no presumption against any of the things
contained in this general doctrine of Scripture now mentioned, upon
account of their being unlike the known course of nature. For there is
no presumption at all from analogy, that the _whole_ course of things,
or divine government naturally unknown to us, and _every thing_ in it,
is like to any thing in that which is known; and therefore no peculiar
presumption against any thing in the former, upon account of its being
unlike to any thing in the latter. And in the constitution and natural
government of the world, as well as in the moral government of it, we
see things, in a great degree, unlike one another: and therefore ought
not to wonder at such unlikeness between things visible and invisible.
However, the scheme of Christianity is by no means entirely unlike the
scheme of nature; as will appear in the following part of this treatise.

The notion of a miracle, considered as a proof of a divine mission,
has been stated with great exactness by divines; and is, I think,
sufficiently understood by every one. There are also invisible
miracles,[162] the Incarnation of Christ, for instance, which, being
secret, cannot be alleged as a proof of such a mission; but require
themselves to be proved by visible miracles. Revelation itself too
is miraculous; and miracles are the proof of it; and the supposed
presumption against these shall presently be considered. All which I
have been observing here is, that, whether we choose to call every
thing in the dispensations of Providence, not discoverable without
revelation, nor like the known course of things, miraculous; and
whether the general Christian dispensation now mentioned is to be
called so, or not; the foregoing observations seem certainly to show,
that there is no presumption against it from the analogy of nature.

II. There is no presumption, from analogy, against some operations,
which we should now call miraculous; particularly none against a
revelation at the beginning of the world: nothing of such presumption
against it, as is supposed to be implied or expressed in the word,
_miraculous_.[163] A miracle, in its very notion, is relative to a
course of nature; and implies something different from it, considered
as being so. Now, either there was no course of nature at the time
which we are speaking of; or if there were, we are not acquainted what
the course of nature is, upon the first peopling of worlds. Therefore
the question, whether mankind had a revelation made to them at _that_
time, is to be considered, not as a question concerning a miracle, but
as a common question of fact. And we have the like reason, be it more
or less, to admit the report of tradition, concerning this question,
and concerning common matters of fact of the same antiquity; for
instance, what part of the earth was first peopled.

Or thus: When mankind was first placed in this state, there was a power
exerted, totally different from the present course of nature. Now,
whether this power, thus wholly different from the present course of
nature, (for we cannot properly apply to it the word _miraculous_;)
whether this power _stopped_ immediately after it had made man, or
went on, and exerted itself further in giving him a revelation, is a
question of the same kind, as whether an ordinary power exerted itself
in such a particular _degree_ and manner, or not.

Or suppose the power exerted in the formation of the world be
considered as miraculous, or rather, be called by that name; the
case will not be different: since it must be acknowledged, that such
a power was exerted. For supposing it acknowledged, that our Savior
spent some years in a course of working miracles:[164] there is no
more presumption, worth mentioning, against his having exerted this
miraculous power, in a certain degree greater, than in a certain degree
less; in one or two more instances, than in one or two fewer; in this,
than in another manner.

It is evident then, that there can be no peculiar presumption, from the
analogy of nature, against supposing a revelation, when man was first
placed upon earth.[165]

Add, that there does not appear the least intimation in history or
tradition, that religion was first reasoned out: but the whole of
history and tradition makes for the other side, that it came into the
world by revelation. Indeed the state of religion, in the first ages of
which we have any account, seems to suppose and imply, that this was
the original of it among mankind.[166] And these reflections together,
without taking in the peculiar authority of Scripture, amount to real
and a very material degree of evidence, that there was a revelation
at the beginning of the world. Now this, as it is a confirmation of
natural religion, and therefore mentioned in the former part of this
treatise;[167] so likewise it has a tendency to remove any prejudices
against a subsequent revelation.

III. But still it may be objected, that there is some peculiar
presumption, from analogy, against miracles; particularly against
revelation, after the settlement and during the continuance of a course
of nature.

Now with regard to this supposed presumption, it is to be observed in
general, that before we can have ground for raising what can, with
any propriety, be called an _argument_ from analogy, for or against
revelation considered as something miraculous, we must be acquainted
with a similar or parallel case. But the history of some other world,
seemingly in like circumstances with our own, is no more than a
parallel case: and therefore nothing short of this can be so. Yet,
could we come at a presumptive proof, for or against a revelation, from
being informed, whether such world had one, or not; such a proof, being
drawn from one single instance only, must be infinitely precarious.
More particularly:

_First_, There is a very strong presumption against common speculative
truths, and against the most ordinary facts, before the proof[168]
of them; which yet is overcome by almost any proof. There is a
presumption of millions to one, against the story of Cæsar, or
of any other man. For suppose a number of common facts so and so
circumstanced, of which we had no kind of proof, should happen to come
into one’s thoughts; every one would, without any possible doubt,
conclude them to be false. And the like may be said of a single
common fact. Hence it appears, that the question of importance, as
to the matter before us, is, concerning the _degree_ of the peculiar
presumption supposed against miracles; not whether there be any
peculiar presumption at all against them. For, if there be the
presumption of millions to one, against the most common facts; what
can a small presumption, additional to this, amount to, though it be
peculiar? It cannot be estimated, and is as nothing. The only material
question is, whether there be any such presumptions against miracles,
as to render them in any sort incredible.

_Secondly_, If we leave out the consideration of religion, we are
in such total darkness, upon what causes, occasions, reasons, or
circumstances, the present course of nature depends; that there does
not appear any improbability for or against supposing, that five or
six thousand years may have given scope[169] for causes, occasions,
reasons, or circumstances, from whence miraculous interpositions may
have arisen. And from this, joined with the foregoing observation, it
will follow, that there must be a presumption, beyond all comparison
greater, against the _particular_ common facts just now instanced in,
than against miracles _in general_; before any evidence of either.

_Thirdly_, Take in the consideration of religion, or the moral
system of the world, and then we see distinct particular reasons for
miracles: to afford mankind instruction additional to that of nature,
and to attest the truth of it. This gives a real credibility to the
supposition, that it might be part of the original plan of things, that
there should be miraculous interpositions.

_Lastly_, Miracles must not be compared to common natural events, or to
events which, though uncommon, are similar to what we daily experience:
but to the extraordinary phenomena of nature. And then the comparison
will be between the presumption against miracles, and the presumption
against such uncommon appearances, suppose, as comets, and against
there being any such powers in nature as magnetism and electricity,
so contrary to the properties of other bodies not endued with these
powers. And before any one can determine, whether there be any peculiar
presumption against miracles, more than against other extraordinary
things; he must consider, what, upon first hearing, would be the
presumption against the last mentioned appearances and powers, to a
person acquainted only with the daily, monthly, and annual course of
nature respecting this earth, and with those common powers of matter
which we every day see.

Upon all this I conclude; that there certainly is no such presumption
against miracles, as to render them in any wise incredible: that,
on the contrary, our being able to discern reasons for them, gives
a positive credibility to the history of them, in cases where those
reasons hold: and that it is by no means certain, that there is any
_peculiar_ presumption at all, from analogy, even in the lowest degree,
against miracles, as distinguished from other extraordinary phenomena:
though it is not worth while to perplex the reader with inquiries into
the abstract nature of evidence, in order to determine a question,
which, without such inquiries, we see[170] is of no importance.



Besides the objections against the _evidence_ for Christianity, many
are alleged against the _scheme_ of it; against the whole manner
in which it is put and left with the world; as well as against
several particular relations in Scripture: objections drawn from
the deficiencies of revelation: from things in it appearing to men
_foolishness_;[171] from its containing matters of offence, which have
led, and it must have been foreseen would lead, into strange enthusiasm
and superstition, and be made to serve the purposes of tyranny and
wickedness; from its not being universal; and, which is a thing of the
same kind, from its evidence not being so convincing and satisfactory
as it might have been: for this last is sometimes turned into a
positive argument against its truth.[172]

It would be tedious, indeed impossible, to enumerate the several
particulars comprehended under the objections here referred to; they
being so various, according to the different fancies of men. There
are persons who think it a strong objection against the authority
of Scripture, that it is not composed by rules of art, agreed
upon by critics, for polite and correct writing. And the scorn is
inexpressible, with which some of the prophetic parts of Scripture are
treated: partly through the rashness of interpreters; but very much
also, on account of the hieroglyphical and figurative language, in
which they are left us.

Some of the principal things of this sort shall be particularly
considered in the following chapters. But my design at present is to
observe in general, with respect to this whole way of arguing, that,
upon supposition of a revelation, it is highly credible beforehand,
that we should be incompetent judges of it to a great degree: and
that it would contain many things appearing to us liable to great
objections; in case we judge of it otherwise, than by the analogy
of nature. Therefore, though objections against the _evidence_ of
Christianity are most seriously to be considered, yet objections
against Christianity itself are, in a great measure, frivolous: almost
all objections against it, excepting those which are alleged against
the particular proofs of its coming from God. I express myself with
caution, lest I should be mistaken to vilify reason; which is indeed
the only faculty we have wherewith to judge concerning any thing, even
revelation itself: or be misunderstood to assert, that a supposed
revelation cannot be proved false, from internal characters. For, it
may contain clear immoralities or contradictions; and either of these
would prove it false. Nor will I take upon me to affirm, that nothing
else can possibly render any supposed revelation incredible. Yet still
the observation above, is, I think, true beyond doubt; that objections
against Christianity, as distinguished from objections against its
evidence, are frivolous. To make out this, is the general design of the
present chapter.

With regard to the whole of it, I cannot but particularly wish, that
the _proofs_ might be attended to; rather than the assertions cavilled
at, upon account of any unacceptable _consequences_, real or supposed,
which may be drawn from them. For, after all, that which is true, must
be admitted, though it should show us the shortness of our faculties:
and that we are in no wise judges of many things, of which we are apt
to think ourselves very competent ones. Nor will this be any objection
with reasonable men; at least upon second thought it will not be any
objection with such, against the justness of the following observations.

As God governs the world and instructs his creatures, according to
certain laws or rules, in the known course of nature; known by reason
together with experience: so the Scripture informs us of a scheme of
divine Providence, additional to this. It relates, that God has, by
revelation, instructed men in things concerning his government, which
they could not otherwise have known; and reminded them of things, which
they might otherwise know; and attested the truth of the whole by
miracles. Now if the natural and the revealed dispensation of things
are both from God, if they coincide with each other, and together
make up one scheme of Providence; our being incompetent judges of
one, must render it credible, that we may be incompetent judges also
of the other. Upon experience, the acknowledged constitution and
course of nature is found to be greatly different from what, before
experience, would have been expected; and such as, men fancy, there lie
great objections against. This renders it beforehand highly credible,
that they may find the revealed dispensation likewise, if they judge
of it as they do of the constitution of nature, very different from
expectations formed beforehand; and liable, in appearance, to great
objections: objections against the scheme itself, and against the
degrees and manners of the miraculous interpositions by which it was
attested and carried on. Thus, suppose a prince to govern his dominions
in the wisest manner possible, by common known laws; and that upon
some exigencies he should suspend these laws; and govern, in several
instances, in a different manner. If one of his subjects were not a
competent judge beforehand, by what common rules the government should
or would be carried on; it could not be expected, that the same person
would be a competent judge, in what exigencies, or in what manner, or
to what degree, those laws commonly observed would be suspended or
deviated from. If he were not a judge of the wisdom of the ordinary
administration, there is no reason to think he would be a judge of the
wisdom of the extraordinary. If he thought he had objections against
the former; doubtless, it is highly supposable, he might think also,
that he had objections against the latter. And thus, as we fall into
infinite follies and mistakes, whenever we pretend, otherwise than from
experience and analogy, to judge of the constitution and course of
nature; it is evidently supposable beforehand, that we should fall into
as great, in pretending to judge in like manner concerning revelation.
Nor is there any more ground to expect that this latter should appear
to us clear of objections, than that the former should.

These observations, relating to the whole of Christianity, are
applicable to inspiration in particular. As we are in no sort judges
beforehand, by what laws or rules, in what degree, or by what means,
it were to have been expected, that God would naturally instruct
us; so upon supposition of his affording us light and instruction
by revelation, additional to what he has afforded us by reason and
experience, we are in no sort judges, by what methods, and in what
proportion, it were to be expected that this supernatural light and
instruction would be afforded us. We know not beforehand, what degree
or kind of natural information it were to be expected God would afford
men, each by his own reason and experience: nor how far he would enable
and effectually dispose them to communicate it, whatever it should
be, to each other; nor whether the evidence of it would be certain,
highly probable, or doubtful; nor whether it would be given with equal
clearness and conviction to all. Nor could we guess, upon any good
ground I mean, whether natural knowledge, or even the faculty itself,
by which we are capable of attaining it, reason, would be given us at
once, or gradually.

In like manner, we are wholly ignorant, what degree of new knowledge,
it were to be expected, God would give mankind by revelation, upon
supposition of his affording one: or how far, or in what way, he would
interpose miraculously, to qualify them, to whom he should originally
make the revelation, for communicating the knowledge given by it; and
to secure their doing it to the age in which they should live; and to
secure its being transmitted to posterity. We are equally ignorant,
whether the evidence of it would be certain or highly probable, or
doubtful:[173] or whether all who should have any degree of instruction
from it, and any degree of evidence of its truth, would have the
same: or whether the scheme would be revealed at once, or unfolded
gradually.[174] Nay we are not in any sort able to judge, whether
it were to have been expected, that the revelation should have been
committed to writing; or left to be handed down, and consequently
corrupted, by verbal tradition, and at length sunk under it, if mankind
so pleased, and during such time as they are permitted, in the degree
they evidently are, to act as they will.

But it may be said, “that a revelation in some of the above-mentioned
circumstances, one, for instance, which was not committed to writing,
and thus secured against danger of corruption, would not have answered
its purpose.” I ask, what purpose? It would not have answered all the
purposes, which it has now answered, and in the same degree: but it
would have answered others, or the same in different degrees. And which
of these were the purposes of God, and best fell in with his general
government, we could not at all have determined beforehand.

Now since we have no principles of reason, upon which to judge
beforehand, how it were to be expected that revelation should have been
left, or what was most suitable to the divine plan of government, in
any of the forementioned respects; it must be quite frivolous to object
afterwards as to any of them, against its being left in one way, rather
than another: for this would be to object against things, upon account
of their being different from expectations, which has been shown to be
without reason.

Thus we see, that the only question concerning the truth of
Christianity is, whether it be a real revelation; not whether it be
attended with every circumstance which we should have looked for: and
concerning the authority of Scripture, whether it be what it claims to
be; not whether it be a book of such sort, and so promulged, as weak
men are apt to fancy a book containing a divine revelation should be.
Therefore, neither obscurity, nor seeming inaccuracy of style, nor
various readings, nor early disputes about the authors of particular
parts, nor any other things of the like kind, though they had been
much more considerable in degree than they are, could overthrow the
authority of the Scripture: unless the prophets, apostles, or our Lord,
had promised, that the book containing the divine revelation should be
exempt from those things. Nor indeed can any objections overthrow such
a kind of revelation as the Christian claims to be, (since there are
no objections against the morality of it,[175]) but such as can show,
that there is no proof of miracles wrought originally in attestation
of it; no appearance of any thing miraculous in its obtaining in the
world; nor any of prophecy, that is, of events foretold, which human
sagacity could not foresee. If it can be shown, that the proof alleged
for all these is absolutely none at all, then is revelation overturned.
But were it allowed, that the proof of any one or all of them is lower
than is allowed; yet, whilst _any_ proof of them remains, revelation
will stand upon much the same foot it does at present, as to all the
purposes of life and practice, and ought to have the like influence
upon our behavior.

From the foregoing observations too, it will follow, and those who
will thoroughly examine into revelation will find it worth remarking,
that there are several ways of arguing, which though just with regard
to other writings, are not applicable to Scripture: at least not to
its prophetic parts. We cannot argue, for instance, that such and such
cannot be the sense or intent of a passage of Scripture, for, if it
had, it would have been expressed more plainly, or represented under
a more apt figure or hieroglyphic. Yet we may justly argue thus, with
respect to common books. And the reason of this difference is very
evident. In Scripture we are not competent judges, as we are in common
books, how plainly it were to have been expected, that the sense should
have been expressed, or under how apt an image figured. The only
question is, what appearance there is, that this _is_ the sense; and
scarce at all, how much more determinately or accurately it might have
been expressed or figured.[176]

“But is it not self-evident, that internal improbabilities of all kinds
weaken external probable proof?” Doubtless. But to what practical
purpose can this be alleged here, when it has been proved before,[177]
that real internal improbabilities, which rise even to moral certainty,
are overcome by the most ordinary testimony; and when it now has been
made to appear, that we scarce know what are improbabilities, as to the
matter we are here considering: as it will further appear from what

From the observations made above it is manifest, that we are not in any
sort competent judges, what supernatural instruction were to have been
expected; and it is self-evident, that the objections of an incompetent
judgment must be frivolous. Yet it may be proper to go one step
further, and observe, that if men will be regardless of these things,
and pretend to judge of the Scripture by preconceived expectations; the
analogy of nature shows beforehand, not only that it is highly credible
they may, but also probable that they will, imagine they have strong
objections against it, however really unexceptionable. For so, prior
to experience, they would think they had, against the circumstances,
and degrees, and the whole manner of that instruction, which is
afforded by the ordinary course of nature. Were the instruction which
God affords to brute creatures by instincts and mere propensions, and
to mankind by these together with reason, matter of probable proof,
and not of certain observation: it would be rejected as incredible,
in many instances of it, only upon account of the means by which this
instruction is given, the seeming disproportions, the limitations,
necessary conditions, and circumstances of it. For instance: would it
not have been thought highly improbable, that men should have been so
much more capable of discovering, even to certainty, the general laws
of matter, and the magnitudes, paths, and revolutions, of heavenly
bodies; than the occasions and cures of distempers, and many other
things in which human life seems so much more nearly concerned, than in
astronomy? How capricious and irregular a way of information would it
be said; is that of _invention_, by means of which nature instructs us
in matters of science, and in many things, upon which the affairs of
the world greatly depend: that a man should, by this faculty, be made
acquainted with a thing in an instant, (when perhaps he is thinking of
something else,) which he has in vain been searching after, it may be,
for years.

So likewise the imperfections attending the only method, by which
nature enables and directs us to communicate our thoughts to each
other, are innumerable. Language is, in its very nature, inadequate,
ambiguous, liable to infinite abuse, even from negligence; and so
liable to it from design, that every man can deceive and betray by
it. And, to mention but one instance more; that brutes, without
reason, should act, in many respects, with a sagacity and foresight
vastly greater than what men have in those respects, would be thought
impossible. Yet it is certain they do act with such superior foresight:
whether it be their own, indeed, is another question. From these
things, it is highly credible beforehand, that upon supposition that
God should afford men some additional instruction by revelation,
it would be with circumstances, in manners, degrees, and respects,
against the credibility of which we should be apt to fancy we had great
objections. Nor are the objections against the Scripture, nor against
Christianity in general, at all more or greater, than the analogy of
nature would beforehand--not perhaps give ground to _expect_; (for the
analogy may not be sufficient, in some cases, to ground an expectation
upon;) but no more nor greater, than analogy would show it, beforehand,
to be supposable and _credible_, that there might seem to lie against

By applying these general observations to a particular objection, it
will be more distinctly seen, how they are applicable to others of the
like kind; and indeed to almost all objections against Christianity,
as distinguished from objections against its evidence. It appears
from Scripture, that, as it was not unusual in the apostolic age, for
persons, upon their conversion to Christianity, to be endued with
miraculous gifts; so, some of those persons exercised these gifts in
a strangely irregular and disorderly manner;[178] and this is made an
objection against their being really miraculous. Now the foregoing
observations quite remove this objection, how considerable soever it
may appear at first sight. For, consider a person endued with any of
these gifts, for instance that of tongues: it is to be supposed, that
he had the same power over this miraculous gift, as he would have had
over it, had it been the effect of habit, of study and use, as it
ordinarily is; or the same power over it, as he had over any other
natural endowment. Consequently, he would use it in the same manner as
he did any other; either regularly, and upon proper occasions only, or
irregularly, and upon improper ones: according to his sense of decency,
and his character of prudence.[179] Where then is the objection? Why,
if this miraculous power was indeed given to the world to propagate
Christianity, and attest the truth of it, we might, it seems, have
expected, that other sort of persons should have been chosen to be
invested with it; or that these should, at the same time, have been
endued with prudence; or that they should have been continually
restrained and directed in the exercise of it: _i.e._ that God should
have miraculously interposed, if at all, in a different manner, or
higher degree. But, from the observations made above, it is undeniably
evident, that we are not judges in what degrees and manners it were to
have been expected he should miraculously interpose; upon supposition
of his doing it in some degree and manner. Nor, in the natural course
of Providence, are superior gifts of memory, eloquence, knowledge, and
other talents of great influence, conferred only on persons of prudence
and decency, or such as are disposed to make the properest use of
them. Nor is the instruction and admonition naturally afforded us for
the conduct of life, particularly in our education, commonly given in
a manner the most suited to recommend it; but often with circumstances
apt to prejudice us against such instruction.

One might go on to add, there is a great resemblance between the light
of nature and of revelation, in several other respects. Practical
Christianity, or that faith and behavior which renders a man a
Christian, is a plain and obvious thing: like the common rules of
conduct, with respect to ordinary temporal affairs. The more distinct
and particular knowledge of those things, the study of which the
apostle calls _going on unto perfection_,[180] and of the prophetic
parts of revelation, like many parts of natural and even civil
knowledge, may require very exact thought, and careful consideration.
The hinderances too, of natural, and of supernatural light and
knowledge, have been of the same kind. And as it is owned the whole
scheme of Scripture is not yet understood; so, if it ever comes to be
understood, before the _restitution of all things_,[181] and without
miraculous interpositions, it must be in the same way as natural
knowledge is come at: by the continuance and progress of learning and
of liberty;[182] and by particular persons attending to, comparing, and
pursuing, intimations scattered up and down it, which are overlooked
and disregarded by the generality of the world. For this is the way in
which all improvements are made; by thoughtful men’s tracing on obscure
hints, dropped us by nature as it were, accidentally, or which seem to
come into our minds by chance. Nor is it at all incredible, that a book
which has been so long in the possession of mankind, should contain
many truths as yet undiscovered. For, all the same phenomena, and the
same faculties of investigation, from which such great discoveries
in natural knowledge have been made in the present and last age, were
equally in the possession of mankind, several thousand years before.
And possibly it might be intended, that events, as they come to pass,
should open and ascertain the meaning of several parts of Scripture.

It may be objected, that this analogy fails in a material respect:
for that natural knowledge is of little or no consequence. But I have
been speaking of the general instruction which nature does or does not
afford us. And besides, some parts of natural knowledge, in the more
common restrained sense of the words, are of the greatest consequence
to the ease and convenience of life. But suppose the analogy did, as it
does not, fail in this respect; yet it might be abundantly supplied,
from the whole constitution and course of nature: which shows, that God
does not dispense his gifts according to _our_ notions of the advantage
and consequence they would be of to us. And this in general, with his
method of dispensing knowledge in particular, would together make out
an analogy full to the point before us.

But it may be objected still further and more generally; “The Scripture
represents the world as in a state of ruin, and Christianity as an
expedient to recover it, to help in these respects where nature fails:
in particular, to supply the deficiencies of natural light. Is it
credible then, that so many ages should have been let pass, before a
matter of such a sort, of so great and so general importance, was made
known to mankind; and then that it should be made known to so small a
part of them? Is it conceivable, that this supply should be so very
deficient, should have the like obscurity and doubtfulness, be liable
to the like perversions, in short, lie open to all the like objections,
as the light of nature itself?”[183]

Without determining how far this, in fact, is so, I answer; it is
by no means incredible, that it might be so, if the light of nature
and of revelation be from the same hand. Men are naturally liable to
diseases: for which God, in his good providence, has provided natural
remedies.[184] But remedies existing in nature have been unknown
to mankind for many ages; are known but to few now; probably many
valuable ones are not known yet. Great has been and is the obscurity
and difficulty, in the nature and application of them. Circumstances
_seem_ often to make them very improper, where they are absolutely
necessary. It is after long labor and study, and many unsuccessful
endeavors, that they are brought to be as useful as they are; after
high contempt and absolute rejection of the most useful we have; and
after disputes and doubts, which have seemed to be endless. The best
remedies too, when unskilfully, much more when dishonestly applied, may
produce new diseases; and with the rightest application the success of
them is often doubtful. In many cases they are not effectual: where
they are, it is often very slowly: and the application of them, and the
necessary regimen accompanying it, is not uncommonly so disagreeable,
that some will not submit to them; and satisfy themselves with the
excuse, that if they would, it is not certain whether it would be
successful. And many persons, who labor under diseases, for which there
are known natural remedies, are not so happy as to be always, if ever,
in the way of them. In a word, the remedies which nature has provided
for diseases are neither certain, perfect, nor universal. And indeed
the same principles of arguing, which would lead us to conclude, that
they must be so, would lead us likewise to conclude, that there could
be no occasion for them; _i.e._ that there could be no diseases at all.
And therefore our experience that there are diseases, shows that it is
credible beforehand, upon supposition nature has provided remedies for
them, that these remedies may be, as by experience we find they are,
neither certain, nor perfect, nor universal; because it shows, that the
principles upon which we should expect the contrary are fallacious.

And now, what is the just consequence from all these things? Not
that reason is no judge of what is offered to us as being of divine
revelation. For this would be to infer that we are unable to judge
of any thing, because we are unable to judge of all things. Reason
can, and it ought to judge, not only of the meaning, but also of the
morality and the evidence of revelation.

_First_, It is the province of reason to judge of the morality of
the Scripture; _i.e._ not whether it contains things different from
what we should have expected from a wise, just, and good Being; (for
objections from hence have been now obviated:) but whether it contains
things plainly contradictory to wisdom, justice, or goodness; to what
the light of nature teaches us of God. And I know nothing of this sort
objected against Scripture, excepting such objections as are formed
upon suppositions, which would equally conclude, that the constitution
of nature is contradictory to wisdom, justice, or goodness; which
most certainly it is not. There are, indeed, some particular precepts
in Scripture, given to particular persons, requiring actions, which
would be immoral and vicious, were it not for such precepts. But it is
easy to see, that all these are of such a kind, as that the precept
changes the whole nature of the case and of the action; and both
constitutes and shows that not to be unjust or immoral, which, prior
to the precept, must have appeared and really been so: which may well
be, since none of these precepts are contrary to immutable morality.
If it were commanded, to cultivate the _principles_, and act from the
spirit of treachery, ingratitude, cruelty; the command would not alter
the nature of the case or of the action, in any of these instances.
But it is quite otherwise in precepts, which require only the doing an
_external action_: for instance, taking away the property, or life of
any. For men have no right, either to life or property, but what arises
solely from the grant of God. When this grant is revoked, they cease
to have any right at all in either: and when this revocation is made
known, as surely it is possible it may be, it must cease to be unjust
to deprive them of either. And though a course of external acts, which
without command would be immoral, must make an immoral habit; yet a few
detached commands have no such natural tendency. I thought proper to
say thus much of the few Scripture precepts, which require, not vicious
actions, but actions which would have been vicious, but for such
precepts; because they are sometimes weakly urged as immoral, and great
weight is laid upon objections drawn from them.

To me there seems no difficulty at all in these precepts, but what
arises from their being offences: _i.e._ from their being liable to be
perverted, as indeed they are, by wicked designing men, to serve the
most horrid purposes; and perhaps to mislead the weak and enthusiastic.
And objections from this head are not objections against revelation;
but against the whole notion of religion, as a trial: and against the
general constitution of nature.

_Secondly_, Reason is able to judge, and must, of the evidence of
revelation, and of the objections urged against that evidence: which
shall be the subject of a following chapter.[185]

The consequence of the foregoing observations is, that the question
upon which the truth of Christianity depends, is scarcely at all
what objections there are against its scheme, since there are none
against the morality of it, but _what objections there are against its
evidence_; or, _what proof there remains of it, after due allowances
are made for the objections against that proof_: because it has been
shown, that the _objections against Christianity, as distinguished
from objections against its evidence, are frivolous_. For surely very
little weight, if any at all, is to be laid upon a way of arguing and
objecting, which, when applied to the general constitution of nature,
experience shows not to be conclusive: and such, I think, is the whole
way of objecting treated of throughout this chapter. It is resolvable
into principles, and goes upon suppositions, which mislead us to think,
that the Author of nature would not act, as we experience he does; or
would act, in such and such cases, as we experience he does not in like
cases. But the unreasonableness of this way of objecting will appear
yet more evidently from hence, that the chief things thus objected
against are justified, as shall be further shown,[186] by distinct,
particular, and full analogies, in the constitution and course of

It is to be remembered, that, as frivolous as objections of the
foregoing sort against revelation are, yet, when a supposed revelation
is more consistent with itself, and has a more general and uniform
tendency to promote virtue, than, all circumstances considered, could
have been expected from enthusiasm and political views, this is a
presumptive proof of its not proceeding from them, and so of its truth:
because we are competent judges, what might have been expected from
enthusiasm and political views.[187]



As hath been now shown,[188] the analogy of nature renders it highly
credible beforehand, that, supposing a revelation to be made, it must
contain many things very different from what we should have expected,
and such as appear open to great objections: and that this observation,
in good measure, takes off the force of those objections, or rather
precludes them. It may be alleged, that this is a very partial answer
to such objections, or a very unsatisfactory way of obviating them:
because it does not show at all, that the things objected against
can be wise, just, and good; much less, that it is credible they are
so. It will therefore be proper to show this distinctly; by applying
to these objections against the wisdom, justice, and goodness of
Christianity, the answer above[189] given to the like objections
against the constitution of nature: before we consider the particular
analogies in the latter, to the particular things objected against in
the former. Now that which affords a sufficient answer to objections
against the wisdom, justice, and goodness of the constitution of
nature, is its being a constitution, a system, or scheme, imperfectly
comprehended;[190] a scheme in which means are made use of to
accomplish ends; and which is carried on by general laws. For from
these things it has been proved, not only to be possible, but also
to be credible, that those things which are objected against may be
consistent with wisdom, justice, and goodness; nay, may be instances
of them: and even that the constitution and government of nature may
be perfect in the highest possible degree. If Christianity then be
a scheme, and of the like kind; it is evident, the like objections
against it must admit of the like answer. And,

I. Christianity is a scheme, quite beyond our comprehension.

The moral government of God is exercised, by gradually conducting
things so in the course of his providence, that every one, at
length and upon the whole, shall receive according to his deserts;
and neither fraud nor violence, but truth and right, shall finally
prevail. Christianity is a particular scheme under this general plan of
Providence, and a part of it, conducive to its completion, with regard
to mankind: consisting itself also of various parts, and a mysterious
economy, which has been carrying on from the time the world came into
its present wretched state, and is still carrying on, for its recovery,
by a divine person, the Messiah; who is to _gather together in one the
children of God, that are scattered abroad_,[191] and establish _an
everlasting kingdom, wherein dwelleth righteousness_.[192] In order to
it; after various manifestations of things, relating to this great and
general scheme of Providence, through a succession of many ages: (For
_the Spirit of Christ which was in the prophets, testified beforehand
his sufferings, and the glory that should follow: unto whom it was
revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the
things which are now reported unto us by them that have preached the
Gospel; which things the angels desire to look into_:[193])--after
various dispensations looking forward and preparatory to, this final
salvation: _in the fulness of time_, when infinite wisdom thought fit;
He, _being in the form of God,--made himself of no reputation, and took
upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became
obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath
highly exalted him, and given him a name, which is above every name:
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven,
and things in the earth, and things under the earth: and that every
tongue should confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God
the Father._[194] Parts likewise of this economy are the miraculous
mission of the Holy Ghost, and his ordinary assistances given to good
men:[195] the invisible government, which Christ at present exercises
over his church: that which he himself refers to in these words: _In
my Father’s house are many mansions--I go to prepare a place for
you_:[196] and his future return to _judge the world in righteousness_,
and completely re-establish the kingdom of God. _For the Father judgeth
no man; but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men
should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father._[197] _All power
is given unto him in heaven and in earth._[198] _And he must reign,
till he hath put all enemies under his feet. Then cometh the end, when
he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when
he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power. And
when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also
himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God
may be all in all._[199] Surely little need be said to show, that this
system, or scheme of things, is but imperfectly comprehended by us. The
Scripture expressly asserts it to be so. And indeed one cannot read a
passage relating to this _great mystery of godliness_,[200] but what
immediately runs up into something which shows us our ignorance in it;
as every thing in nature shows us our ignorance in the constitution
of nature. And whoever will seriously consider that part of the
Christian scheme, which is revealed in Scripture, will find so much
more unrevealed, as will convince him, that, to all the purposes of
judging and objecting, we know as little of it, as of the constitution
of nature. Our ignorance, therefore, is as much an answer to our
objections against the perfection of one, as against the perfection of
the other.[201]

II. It is obvious too, that in the Christian dispensation, as much as
in the natural scheme of things, means are made use of to accomplish

The observation of this furnishes us with the same answer, to
objections against the perfection of Christianity, as to objections
of the like kind, against the constitution of nature. It shows the
credibility, that the things objected against, how _foolish_[202]
soever they appear to men, may be the very best means of accomplishing
the very best ends. And their appearing _foolishness_ is no presumption
against this, in a scheme so greatly beyond our comprehension.[203]

III. The credibility, that the Christian dispensation may have been,
all along, carried on by general laws,[204] no less than the course of
nature, may require to be more distinctly made out.

Consider then, upon _what ground_ it is we say, that the whole common
course of nature is carried on according to general fore-ordained laws.
We know indeed several of the general laws of matter; and a great
part of the natural behavior of living agents is reducible to general
laws. But we know in a manner nothing, by what laws, storms, tempests,
earthquakes, famine, pestilence, become the instruments of destruction
to mankind. And the laws by which persons born into the world at such
a time and place are of such capacities, geniuses, tempers; the laws
by which thoughts come into our mind, in a multitude of cases; and by
which innumerable things happen, of the greatest influence upon the
affairs and state of the world. These laws are so wholly unknown to us,
that we call the events which come to pass by them, accidental; though
all reasonable men know certainly, that there cannot, in reality, be
any such thing as chance; and conclude that the things which have this
appearance are the result of general laws, and may be reduced to them.
It is but an exceeding little way, and in but a very few respects, that
we can trace up the natural course of things before us, to general
laws. It is only from analogy, that we conclude the whole of it to be
capable of being reduced to them: only from our seeing that part is so.
It is from our finding, that the course of nature, in some respects and
so far, goes on by general laws, that we conclude this of the rest.

If that be a just ground for such a conclusion, it is a just ground
also, if not to conclude, yet to apprehend, to render it supposable
and credible, which is sufficient for answering objections, that God’s
miraculous interpositions may have been, all along in like manner,
by _general_ laws of wisdom. Thus, that miraculous powers should be
exerted, at such times, upon such occasions, in such degrees and
manners, and with regard to such persons, rather than others; that
the affairs of the world, being permitted to go on in their natural
course so far, should, just at such a point, have a new direction given
them by miraculous interpositions; that these interpositions should
be exactly in such degrees and respects only; all this may have been
by general laws. These laws are indeed unknown to us: but no more
unknown than the laws from whence it is, that some die as soon as
they are born, and others live to extreme old age; that one man is so
superior to another in understanding; with innumerable more things,
which, as was before observed, we cannot reduce to any laws or rules,
though it is taken for granted, they are as much reducible to general
ones, as gravitation. If the revealed dispensations of Providence,
and miraculous interpositions, be by general laws, as well as God’s
ordinary government in the course of nature, made known by reason and
experience; there is no more reason to expect that every exigence, as
it arises, should be provided for by these general laws or miraculous
interpositions, than that every exigence in nature should be, by the
general laws of nature. Yet there might be wise and good reasons, why
miraculous interpositions should be by general laws; and why these laws
should not be broken in upon, or deviated from, by other miracles.

Upon the whole then, the appearance of deficiencies and irregularities
in nature is owing to its being a scheme but in part made known, and
of such a certain particular kind in other respects. We see no more
reason why the frame and course of nature should be such a scheme, than
why Christianity should. And that the former is such a scheme, renders
it credible, that the latter, upon supposition of its truth, may be
so too. And as it is manifest, that Christianity is a scheme revealed
but in part, and a scheme in which means are made use of to accomplish
ends, like to that of nature: so the credibility, that it may have
been all along carried on by general laws, no less than the course of
nature, has been distinctly proved. From all this it is beforehand
credible that there might, I think probable that there would, be the
like appearance of deficiencies and irregularities in Christianity,
as in nature: _i.e._ that Christianity would be liable to the like
objections, as the frame of nature. And these objections are answered
by these observations concerning Christianity; as the like objections
against the frame of nature are answered by the like observations
concerning the frame of nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

The objections against Christianity, considered as a matter of
fact,[205] having, in general, been obviated in the preceding chapter;
and the same, considered as made against the wisdom and goodness of it,
having been obviated in this: the next thing, according to the method
proposed, is to show, that the principal objections, in particular,
against Christianity, may be answered, by particular and full analogies
in nature. And as one of them is made against the whole scheme of it
together, as just now described, I choose to consider it here, rather
than in a distinct chapter by itself.

The thing objected against this scheme of the gospel is, “that
it seems to suppose God was reduced to the necessity of a long
series of intricate means, in order to accomplish his ends, the
recovery and salvation of the world: in like sort as men, for want
of understanding or power, not being able to come at their ends
directly, are forced to go roundabout ways, and make use of many
perplexed contrivances to arrive at them,” Now every thing which we
see shows the folly of this, considered as an objection against the
truth of Christianity. For, according to our manner of conception,
God makes use of variety of means, what we often think tedious ones,
in the natural course of providence, for the accomplishment of all
his ends. Indeed it is certain there is somewhat in this matter quite
beyond our comprehension: but the mystery is as great in nature as in
Christianity. We know what we ourselves aim at, as final ends: and
what courses we take, merely as means conducing to those ends. But we
are greatly ignorant how far things are considered by the Author of
nature, under the single notion of means and ends; so as that it may be
said, this is merely an end, and that merely a means, in his regard.
And whether there be not some peculiar absurdity in our very manner of
conception, concerning this matter, something contradictory arising
from our extremely imperfect views of things, it is impossible to say.

However, this much is manifest, that the whole natural world and
government of it, is a scheme or system; not a fixed, but a progressive
one: a scheme in which the operation of various means takes up a
great length of time, before the ends they tend to can be attained.
The change of seasons, the ripening of fruits, the very history of a
flower, are instances of this: and so is human life. Thus vegetable
bodies, and those of animals, though possibly formed at once, yet
grow up by degrees to a mature state. And thus rational agents, who
animate these latter bodies, are naturally directed to form each his
own manners and character, by the gradual gaining of knowledge and
experience, and by a long course of action. Our existence is not only
successive, as it must be of necessity; but one state of our life and
being is appointed by God, to be a preparation for another; and that
to be the means of attaining to another succeeding one: infancy to
childhood; childhood to youth; youth to mature age. Men are impatient,
and for precipitating things: but the Author of nature appears
deliberate throughout his operations; accomplishing his natural ends by
slow successive steps.[206] And there is a plan of things beforehand
laid out, which, from the nature of it, requires various systems of
means, as well as length of time, in order to the carrying on its
several parts into execution.

Thus, in the daily course of natural providence, God operates in the
very same manner, as in the dispensation of Christianity; making one
thing subservient to another; this, to something further; and so on,
through a progressive series of means, which extend, both backward and
forward, beyond our utmost view. Of this manner of operation, every
thing we see in the course of nature is as much an instance, as any
part of the Christian dispensation.



There is not, I think, any thing relating to Christianity, which has
been more objected against, than the mediation of Christ, in some
or other of its parts. Yet upon thorough consideration, there seems
nothing less justly liable to it.[207] For,

I. The whole analogy of nature removes all imagined presumption against
the general notion of _a Mediator between God and man_.[208] For we
find all living creatures are brought into the world, and their life
in infancy is preserved, by the instrumentality of others: and every
satisfaction of it, some way or other, is bestowed by the like means.
So that the visible government, which God exercises over the world, is
by the instrumentality and mediation of others. How far his invisible
government be or be not so, it is impossible to determine at all by
reason. The supposition, that part of it is so, appears, to say the
least, altogether as credible, as the contrary. There is then no sort
of objection, from the light of nature, against the general notion of a
mediator between God and man, considered as a doctrine of Christianity,
or as an appointment in this dispensation: since we find by experience,
that God does appoint mediators, to be the instruments of good and evil
to us: the instruments of his justice and his mercy. And the objection
here referred to is urged, not against mediation in that high, eminent,
and peculiar sense, in which Christ is our mediator; but absolutely
against the whole notion itself of a mediator at all.

II. As we must suppose, that the world is under the proper moral
government of God, or in a state of religion, before we can enter into
consideration of the revealed doctrine, concerning the redemption of
it by Christ: so that supposition is here to be distinctly noticed.
Now the divine moral government which religion teaches us, implies
that the consequence of vice shall be misery, in some future state, by
the righteous judgment of God. That such consequent punishment shall
take effect by his appointment, is necessarily implied. But, as it
is not in any sort to be supposed, that we are made acquainted with
all the ends or reasons, for which it is fit that future punishments
should be inflicted, or why God has appointed such and such consequent
misery to follow vice; and as we are altogether in the dark, how or in
what manner it shall follow, by what immediate occasions, or by the
instrumentality of what means; so there is no absurdity in supposing
it may follow in a way analogous to that in which many miseries
follow such and such courses of action at present; poverty, sickness,
infamy, untimely death by diseases, death from the hands of civil
justice. There is no absurdity in supposing future punishment may
follow wickedness _of course_, as we speak, or in the way of natural
consequence from God’s original constitution of the world; from the
nature he has given us, and from the condition in which he places us;
or in a like manner, as a person rashly trifling upon a precipice,
in the way of natural consequence, falls down; in the way of natural
consequence of this, breaks his limbs, and in the way of natural
consequence, without help, perishes.

Some good men may perhaps be offended with hearing it spoken of as a
supposable thing that future punishments of wickedness may be in the
way of natural consequence: as if this were taking the execution of
justice out of the hands of God, and giving it to nature. But they
should remember, that when things come to pass according to the course
of nature, this does not hinder them from being his doing, who is
the God of nature: and that the Scripture ascribes those punishments
to divine justice, which are known to be natural; and which must be
called so, when distinguished from such as are miraculous. After all,
this supposition, or rather this way of speaking, is here made use
of only by way of illustration of the subject before us. For since it
must be admitted, that the future punishment of wickedness is not a
matter of arbitrary appointment, but of reason, equity, and justice; it
comes for aught I see, to the same thing, whether it is supposed to be
inflicted in a way analogous to that in which the temporal punishments
of vice and folly are inflicted, or in any other way. And though there
were a difference, it is allowable, in the present case, to make this
supposition, plainly not an incredible one, that future punishment may
follow wickedness in the way of natural consequence, or according to
some general laws of government already established in the universe.

III. Upon this supposition, or even without it, we may observe
somewhat, much to the present purpose, in the constitution of nature or
appointments of Providence: the provision which is made, that all the
bad natural consequences of men’s actions should not always actually
follow; or that such bad consequences, as, according to the settled
course of things, would inevitably have followed if not prevented,
should, in certain degrees, be prevented. We are apt presumptuously to
imagine, that the world might have been so constituted, as that there
would not have been any such thing as misery or evil. On the contrary
we find the Author of nature permits it: but then he has provided
reliefs, and in many cases perfect remedies for it, after some pains
and difficulties; reliefs and remedies even for that evil, which is the
fruit of our own misconduct; and which, in the course of nature, would
have continued, and ended in our destruction, but for such remedies.
And this is an instance both of severity and of indulgence, in the
constitution of nature. Thus all the bad consequences, now mentioned,
of a man’s trifling upon a precipice, might be prevented. And though
all were not, yet some of them might, by proper interposition, if not
rejected:[209] by another’s coming to the rash man’s relief, with his
own laying hold on that relief, in such sort as the case required.
Persons may do a great deal themselves towards preventing the bad
consequences of their follies: and more may be done by themselves,
together with the assistance of others their fellow-creatures; which
assistance nature requires and prompts us to. This is the general
constitution of the world.

Now suppose it had been so constituted, that after such actions were
done, as were foreseen naturally to draw after them misery to the doer,
it should have been no more in human power to have prevented that
naturally consequent misery, in any instance, than it is in all: no
one can say, whether such a more severe constitution of things might
not yet have been really good. But, on the contrary, provision being
made by nature, that we may and do, to so great degree, prevent the bad
natural effects of our follies; this may be called mercy or compassion
in the original constitution of the world: compassion, as distinguished
from goodness in general. And, the whole known constitution and
course of things affording us instances of such compassion, it would
be according to the analogy of nature, to hope, that however ruinous
the natural consequences of vice might be, from the general laws of
God’s government over the universe; yet provision might be made,
possibly might have been originally made, for preventing those ruinous
consequences from inevitably following: at least from following
universally, and in all cases.

Many, I am sensible, will wonder at finding this made a question, or
spoken of as in any degree doubtful. The generality of mankind are so
far from having that awful sense of things, which the present state of
vice and misery and darkness seems to make but reasonable, that they
have scarce any apprehension or thought at all about this matter, any
way: and some serious persons may have spoken unadvisedly concerning
it. But let us observe, what we experience to be, and what, from
the very constitution of nature cannot but be, the consequences of
irregular and disorderly behavior: even of such rashness, wilfulness,
neglects, as we scarce call vicious. Now it is natural to apprehend,
that the bad consequences of irregularity will be greater, in
proportion as the irregularity is so. And there is no comparison
between these irregularities, and the greater instances of vice, or
a dissolute profligate disregard to all religion; if there be any
thing at all in religion. For consider what it is for creatures, moral
agents, presumptuously to introduce that confusion and misery into the
kingdom of God, which mankind have in fact introduced: to blaspheme the
Sovereign Lord of all; to contemn his authority; to be injurious, to
the degree they are, to their fellow-creatures, the creatures of God.
Add that the effects of vice in the present world are often extreme
misery, irretrievable ruin, and even death: and upon putting all this
together, it will appear, that as no one can say, in what degree fatal
the unprevented consequences of vice may be, according to the general
rule of divine government; so it is by no means intuitively certain,
how far these consequences could possibly, in the nature of the thing,
be prevented, consistently with the eternal rule of right, or with what
is, in fact, the moral constitution of nature. However, there would be
large ground to hope, that the universal government was not so severely
strict, but that there was room for pardon, or for having those penal
consequences prevented. Yet,

IV. There seems no probability, that any thing we could do would
alone and of itself prevent them: prevent their following, or being
inflicted. But one would think at least, it were impossible that
the contrary should be thought certain. For we are not acquainted
with the whole of the case. We are not informed of all the reasons,
which render it fit that future punishments should be inflicted: and
therefore cannot know, whether any thing we could do would make such
an alteration, as to render it fit that they should be remitted. We
do not know what the whole natural or appointed consequences of vice
are; nor in what way they would follow, if not prevented: and therefore
can in no sort say, whether we could do any thing which would be
sufficient to prevent them. Our ignorance being thus manifest, let
us recollect the analogy of nature or Providence. For, though this
may be but a slight ground to raise a positive opinion upon, in this
matter; yet it is sufficient to answer a mere arbitrary assertion,
without any kind of evidence, urged by way of objection against a
doctrine, the proof of which is not reason, but revelation. Consider
then: people ruin their fortunes by extravagance; they bring diseases
upon themselves by excess; they incur the penalties of civil laws;
and surely civil government is natural; will sorrow for these follies
past, and behaving well for the future, alone and of itself prevent
the natural consequences of them? On the contrary, men’s natural
abilities of helping themselves are often impaired; or if not, yet they
are forced to be beholden to the assistance of others, upon several
accounts, and in different ways; assistance which they would have had
no occasion for, had it not been for their misconduct; but which, in
the disadvantageous condition they have reduced themselves to, is
absolutely necessary to their recovery, and retrieving their affairs.
Since this is our case, considering ourselves merely as inhabitants of
this world, and as having a temporal interest here, under the natural
government of God, which however has a great deal moral in it; why is
it not supposable that this may be our case also, in our more important
capacity, as under his perfect moral government, and having a more
general and future interest depending?[210] If we have misbehaved in
this higher capacity, and rendered ourselves obnoxious to the future
punishment, which God has annexed to vice: it is plainly credible, that
behaving well for the time to come may be--not useless, God forbid--but
wholly insufficient, alone and of itself, to prevent that punishment:
or to put us in the condition which we should have been in, had we
preserved our innocence.

Though we ought to reason with all reverence, whenever we reason
concerning the divine conduct: yet it may be added, that it is clearly
contrary to all our notions of government, as well as to what is,
in fact, the general constitution of nature, to suppose, that doing
well for the future should, in all cases, prevent all the judicial
bad consequences of having done evil, or all the punishment annexed
to disobedience. We have manifestly nothing from whence to determine,
in what degree, and in what cases, reformation would prevent this
punishment, even supposing that it would in some. And though the
efficacy of repentance itself alone, to prevent what mankind had
rendered themselves obnoxious to, and recover what they had forfeited,
is now insisted upon, in opposition to Christianity; yet, by the
general prevalence of propitiatory sacrifices over the heathen world,
this notion of repentance alone being sufficient to expiate guilt,
appears to be contrary to the general sense of mankind.[211]

Upon the whole then; had the laws, the general laws of God’s government
been permitted to operate, without any interposition in our behalf,
the future punishment, for aught we know to the contrary, or have any
reason to think, must inevitably have followed, notwithstanding any
thing we could have done to prevent it.

V. In this darkness, or this light of nature, call it which you
please, revelation comes in; and confirms every doubting fear, which
could enter into the heart of man, concerning the future unprevented
consequence of wickedness. It supposes the world to be in a state
of ruin (a supposition which seems the very ground of the Christian
dispensation; and which, if not provable by reason, yet is in no
wise contrary to it;) and teaches us too, that the rules of divine
government are such, as not to admit of pardon immediately and
directly upon repentance, or by the sole efficacy of it. But teaches
at the same time, what nature might justly have hoped, that the moral
government of the universe was not so rigid, but that there was room
for an interposition, to avert the fatal consequences of vice; which
therefore, by this means, does admit of pardon. Revelation teaches us,
that the unknown laws of God’s more general government, no less than
the particular laws by which we experience he governs us at present,
are compassionate,[212] as well as good in the more general notion of
goodness: and that he hath mercifully provided, that there should be
an interposition to prevent the destruction of human kind; whatever
that destruction unprevented would have been. _God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth_, not, to
be sure, in a speculative, but in a practical sense, _that whosoever
believeth in him, should not perish_:[213] gave his Son in the same
way of goodness to the world, as he affords particular persons the
friendly assistance of their fellow-creatures, when, without it, their
temporal ruin would be the certain consequence of their follies: in the
same way of goodness, I say, though in a transcendent and infinitely
higher degree. And the Son of God _loved us, and gave himself for us_,
with a love, which he himself compares to that of human friendship:
though, in this case, all comparisons must fall infinitely short of
the thing intended to be illustrated by them. He interposed in such
a manner as was necessary and effectual to prevent that execution of
justice upon sinners, which God had appointed should otherwise have
been executed upon them; or in such a manner, as to prevent that
punishment from actually following, which, according to the general
laws of divine government, must have followed the sins of the world,
had it not been for such interposition.[214]

If any thing here said should appear, upon first thought, inconsistent
with divine goodness; a second, I am persuaded, will entirely remove
that appearance. For were we to suppose the constitution of things to
be such, as that the whole creation must have perished, had it not
been for something, which God had appointed should be, in order to
prevent that ruin: even this supposition would not be inconsistent, in
any degree, with the most absolutely perfect goodness. Still it may
be thought, that this whole manner of treating the subject before us
supposes mankind to be naturally in a very strange state. And truly so
it does. But it is not Christianity which has put us into this state.
Whoever will consider the manifold miseries, and the extreme wickedness
of the world; that the best have great wrongnesses within themselves,
which they complain of, and endeavor to amend; but that the generality
grow more profligate and corrupt with age; that even moralists thought
the present state to be a state of punishment: and, that the earth our
habitation has the appearances of being a ruin: whoever, I say, will
consider all these, and some other obvious things, will think he has
little reason to object against the Scripture account, that mankind is
in a state of degradation; against this being _the fact_: how difficult
soever he may think it to account for, or even to form a distinct
conception of the occasions and circumstances of it. But that the
crime of our first parents was the occasion of our being placed in a
more disadvantageous condition, is a thing throughout and particularly
analogous to what we see in the daily course of natural providence; as
the recovery of the world by the interposition of Christ has been shown
to be so in general.

VI. The particular manner in which Christ interposed in the redemption
of the world, or his office as _Mediator_, in the largest sense,
_between God and man_, is thus represented to us in the Scripture.
_He is the light of the world_;[215] the revealer of the will of God
in the most eminent sense. He is a propitiatory sacrifice;[216] _the
Lamb of God_:[217] and, as he voluntarily offered himself up, he is
styled our High Priest.[218] And, which seems of peculiar weight, he is
described beforehand in the Old Testament, under the same characters
of a priest, and an expiatory victim.[219] And whereas it is objected,
that all this is merely by way of allusion to the sacrifices of
the Mosaic law, the Apostle on the contrary affirms, that the _law
was a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the
things_:[220] and that _the priests that offer gifts according to the
law--serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was
admonished of God, when he was about to make the tabernacle. For see,
saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to
thee in the mount_;[221] _i.e._ the Levitical priesthood was a shadow
of the priesthood of Christ; in like manner as the tabernacle made by
Moses was according to that showed him in the mount. The priesthood of
Christ, and the tabernacle in the mount, were the originals; of the
former of which the Levitical priesthood was a type; and of the latter
the tabernacle made by Moses was a copy. The doctrine of this epistle
then plainly is, that the legal sacrifices were allusions to the great
and final atonement to be made by the blood of Christ; and not that
this was an allusion to those. Nor can any thing be more express and
determinate than the following passage. _It is not possible that the
blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin. Wherefore when he
cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering_, _i.e._ of
bulls and of goats, _thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared
me. Lo! I come to do thy will, O God. By which will we are sanctified.,
through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all._[222]
And to add one passage more of the like kind: _Christ was once offered
to bear the sins of many: and unto them that look for him shall he
appear the second time, without sin_; _i.e._ without bearing sin,
as he did at his first coming, by being an offering for it; without
having our _iniquities_ again _laid upon him_, without being any more
a sin-offering:--_unto them, that look for him shall he appear the
second time, without sin, unto salvation_.[223] Nor do the inspired
writers at all confine themselves to this manner of speaking concerning
the satisfaction of Christ; but declare an efficacy in what he did and
suffered for us, additional to and beyond mere instruction, example,
and government, in great variety of expression: _That Jesus should
die for that nation_, the Jews: _and not for that nation only, but
that also_, plainly by the efficacy of his death, _he should gather
together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad_:[224]
that _he suffered for sins, the just for the unjust_:[225] that _he
gave his life, himself, a ransom_:[226] that _we are bought, bought
with a price_:[227] that _he redeemed us with his blood: redeemed us
from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us_:[228] that he
is our _advocate_, _intercessor_, and _propitiation_:[229] that _he
was made perfect_, or consummate, _through sufferings; and being_ thus
_made perfect, he became the author of salvation_:[230] that _God was
in Christ reconciling the world to himself; by the death of his Son, by
the cross; not imputing their trespasses unto them_:[231] and lastly,
that _through death he destroyed him that had the power of death_.[232]
Christ having thus _humbled himself, and become obedient to death, even
the death of the cross; God also hath highly exalted him, and given
him a name, which is above every name: hath given all things into his
hands: hath committed all judgment unto him; that all men should honor
the Son, even as they honor the Father_.[233] For, _worthy is the Lamb
that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength,
and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in
heaven, and on the earth, heard I, saying, Blessing, and honor, and
glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto
the Lamb forever and ever._[234]

These passages of Scripture seem to comprehend and express the chief
parts of Christ’s office, as Mediator between God and man, so far, I
mean, as the nature of this his office is revealed; and it is usually
treated of by divines under three heads.

_First_, He was, by way of eminence, the Prophet: _that Prophet that
should come into the world_,[235] to declare the divine will. He
published anew the law of nature, which men had corrupted; and the very
knowledge of which, to some degree, was lost among them. He taught
mankind, taught us authoritatively, to _live soberly, righteously, and
godly in this present world_, in expectation of the future judgment
of God. He confirmed the truth of this moral system of nature, and
gave us additional evidence of it; the evidence of testimony.[236] He
distinctly revealed the manner, in which God would be worshipped, the
efficacy of repentance, and the rewards and punishments of a future
life. Thus he was a prophet in a sense in which no other ever was. To
which is to be added, that he set us a perfect _example, that we should
follow his steps_.

_Secondly_, He has a _kingdom which is not of this world_. He founded
a Church, to be to mankind a standing memorial of religion, and
invitation to it; which he promised to be with always even to the
end. He exercises an invisible government over it, himself, and by
his Spirit: over that part of it which is militant here on earth, a
government of discipline, _for the perfecting of the saints, for the
edifying his body: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of
the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure
of the stature of the fulness of Christ_.[237] Of this Church, all
persons scattered over the world, who live in obedience to his laws,
are members. For these he is _gone to prepare a place, and will come
again to receive them unto himself, that where he is, there they may be
also; and reign with him forever and ever_:[238] and likewise _to take
vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not his Gospel_.[239]

Against these parts of Christ’s office I find no objections, but what
are fully obviated in the beginning of this chapter.

_Lastly_, Christ offered himself a propitiatory sacrifice, and made
atonement for the sins of the world; which is mentioned last, in regard
to what is objected against it. Sacrifices of expiation were commanded
the Jews, and obtained among most other nations, from tradition, whose
original probably was revelation. And they were continually repeated,
both occasionally, and at the returns of stated times: and made up
great part of the external religion of mankind. _But now once in the
end of the world Christ appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of
himself._[240] This sacrifice was, in the highest degree and with the
most extensive influence, of that efficacy for obtaining pardon of sin,
which the heathens may be supposed to have thought their sacrifices to
have been, and which the Jewish sacrifices really were in some degree,
and with regard to some persons.[241]

How and in what particular _way_ it had this efficacy, there are not
wanting persons who have endeavored to explain: but I do not find that
the Scripture has explained it. We seem to be very much in the dark
concerning the manner in which the ancients understood atonement to be
made, _i.e._ pardon to be obtained by sacrifices. And if the Scripture
has, as surely it has, left this matter of the satisfaction of Christ
mysterious, left somewhat in it unrevealed, all conjectures about it
must be, if not evidently absurd, yet at least uncertain. Nor has any
one reason to complain for want of further information, unless he can
show his claim to it.

Some have endeavored to explain the efficacy of what Christ has
done and suffered for us, beyond what the Scripture has authorized:
others, probably because they could not explain it, have been for
taking it away, and confining his office as Redeemer of the world,
to his instruction, example, and government of the church. Whereas
the doctrine of the Gospel appears to be, not only that he taught the
efficacy of repentance, but rendered it of the efficacy of which it
is, by what he did and suffered for us: that he obtained for us the
benefit of having our repentance accepted unto eternal life: not only
that he revealed to sinners, that they were in a capacity of salvation,
and how they might obtain it; but moreover that he put them into this
capacity of salvation, by what he did and suffered for them; put us
into a capacity of escaping future punishment, and obtaining future
happiness. And it is our wisdom thankfully to accept the benefit, by
performing the conditions, upon which it is offered, on our part,
without disputing how it was procured on his. For,

VII. Since we neither know by what means punishment in a future state
would have followed wickedness in this: nor in what manner it would
have been inflicted, had it not been prevented; nor all the reasons
why its infliction would have been needful, nor the particular nature
of that state of happiness, which Christ is gone to prepare for his
disciples: and since we are ignorant how far any thing which we could
do, would, alone and of itself, have been effectual to prevent that
punishment to which we were obnoxious, and recover that happiness which
we had forfeited; it is most evident we are not judges, antecedently
to revelation, whether a mediator was or was not necessary, to obtain
those ends: to prevent that future punishment, and bring mankind to
the final happiness of their nature. For the very same reasons, upon
supposition of the necessity of a mediator, we are no more judges,
antecedently to revelation, of the whole nature of his office, or
of the several parts of which it consists; or of what was fit and
requisite to be assigned him, in order to accomplish the ends of divine
Providence in the appointment. Hence it follows, that to object against
the expediency or usefulness of particular things, revealed to have
been done or suffered by him, because we do not see how they were
conducive to those ends, is highly absurd. Yet nothing is more common
to be met with, than this absurdity. If it be acknowledged beforehand,
that we are not judges in the case, it is evident that no objection
can, with any shadow of reason, be urged against any particular part of
Christ’s mediatorial office revealed in Scripture, till it can be shown
positively not to be requisite or conducive to the ends proposed to be
accomplished; or that it is in itself unreasonable.

There is one objection made against the satisfaction of Christ, which
looks to be of this positive kind: that the doctrine of his being
appointed to suffer for the sins of the world, represents God as being
indifferent whether he punished the innocent or the guilty. Now from
the foregoing observations we may see the extreme slightness of all
such objections; and (though it is most certain all who make them _do
not see_ the consequence) that they conclude altogether as much against
God’s whole original constitution of nature, and the whole daily
course of divine Providence in the government of the world, (_i.e._
against the whole scheme of Theism and the whole notion of religion,)
as against Christianity. For the world is a constitution or system,
whose parts have a mutual reference to each other: and there is a
scheme of things gradually carrying on, called the course of nature,
to the carrying on of which God has appointed us, in various ways,
to contribute. And when, in the daily course of natural providence,
it is appointed that innocent people should suffer for the faults
of the guilty, this is liable to the very same objection, as the
instance we are now considering. The infinitely greater importance of
that appointment of Christianity, which is objected against, does not
hinder but it may be, as it plainly is, an appointment of the very same
_kind_, with what the world affords us daily examples of. Nay, if there
were any force at all in the objection, it would be stronger, in one
respect, against natural providence, than against Christianity: because
under the former we are in many cases commanded, and even necessitated
whether we will or no, to suffer for the faults of others; whereas the
sufferings of Christ were voluntary.

The world’s being under the righteous government of God does indeed
imply, that finally, and upon the whole, every one shall receive
according to his personal deserts: and the general doctrine of the
whole Scripture is, that this shall be the completion of the divine
government. But during the progress, and, for aught we know, even in
order to the completion of this moral scheme, vicarious punishments may
be fit, and absolutely necessary. Men by their follies run themselves
into extreme distress; into difficulties which would be absolutely
fatal to them, were it not for the interposition and assistance of
others. God commands by the law of nature, that we afford them this
assistance, in many cases where we cannot do it without very great
pains, and labor, and sufferings to ourselves. We see in what variety
of ways one person’s sufferings contribute to the relief of another:
and how, or by what particular means, this comes to pass, or follows,
from the constitution and laws of nature, which came under our notice:
and, being familiarized to it, men are not shocked with it. So that the
reason of their insisting upon objections of the foregoing kind against
the satisfaction of Christ is, either that they do not consider God’s
settled and uniform appointments as his appointments at all; or else
they forget that vicarious punishment is a providential appointment
of every day’s experience. And then, from their being unacquainted
with the more general laws of nature or divine government over the
world, and not seeing how the sufferings of Christ could contribute
to the redemption of it, unless by arbitrary and tyrannical will,
they conclude his sufferings could not contribute to it any other
way. And yet, what has been often alleged in justification of this
doctrine, even from the apparent natural tendency of this method of
our redemption; its tendency to vindicate the authority of God’s laws,
and deter his creatures from sin; this has never yet been answered,
and is I think plainly unanswerable: though I am far from thinking it
an account of the whole of the case. But, without taking this into
consideration, it abundantly appears, from the observations above made,
that this objection is not an objection against Christianity, but
against the whole general constitution of nature. And if it were to be
considered as an objection against Christianity, or considering it as
it is, an objection against the constitution of nature; it amounts to
no more in conclusion than this, that a divine appointment cannot be
necessary or expedient, because the objector does not discern it to be
so: though he must own that the nature of the case is such, as renders
him incapable of judging, whether it be so or not; or of seeing it to
be necessary, though it were so!

It is indeed a matter of great patience to reasonable men, to find
people arguing in this manner: objecting against the credibility of
such particular things revealed in Scripture, that they do not see
the necessity or expediency of them. For though it is highly right,
and the most pious exercise of our understanding, to inquire with due
reverence into the ends and reasons of God’s dispensations: yet when
those reasons are concealed, to argue from our ignorance, that such
dispensations cannot be from God, is infinitely absurd. The presumption
of this kind of objections seems almost lost in the folly of them. And
the folly of them is yet greater, when they are urged, as usually they
are, against things in Christianity analogous or like to those natural
dispensations of Providence, which are matter of experience. Let reason
be kept to: and if any part of the Scripture account of the redemption
of the world by Christ can be shown to be really contrary to it, let
the Scripture, in the name of God, be given up. But let not such poor
creatures as we are, go on objecting against an infinite scheme, that
we do not see the necessity or usefulness of all its parts, and call
this reasoning; and, which still further heightens the absurdity in the
present case, parts which we are not actively concerned in. For it may
be worth mentioning,

_Lastly_, That not only the reason of the thing, but the whole
analogy of nature, should teach us, not to expect to have the like
information concerning the divine conduct, as concerning our own duty.
God instructs us by experience, (for it is not reason, but experience
which instructs us,) what good or bad consequences will follow from
our acting in such and such manners: and by this he directs us how we
are to behave ourselves. But, though we are sufficiently instructed
for the common purposes of life: yet it is but an almost infinitely
small part of natural providence, which we are at all let into.
The case is the same with regard to revelation. The doctrine of a
mediator between God and man, against which it is objected, that the
expediency of some things in it is not understood, relates only to
what was done on God’s part in the appointment, and on the Mediator’s
in the execution of it. For what is _required of us_, in consequence
of this gracious dispensation, is another subject, in which none can
complain for want of information. The constitution of the world, and
God’s natural government over it, is all mystery, as much as the
Christian dispensation. Yet under the first he has given men all
things pertaining to life; and under the other all things pertaining
unto godliness. And it may be added, that there is nothing hard to be
accounted for in any of the common precepts of Christianity: though
if there were, surely a divine command is abundantly sufficient to
lay us under the strongest obligations to obedience. But the fact is,
that the reasons of all the Christian precepts are evident. Positive
institutions are manifestly necessary to keep up and propagate religion
among mankind. And our duty to Christ, the internal and external
worship of him; this part of the religion of the Gospel manifestly
arises out of what he has done and suffered, his authority and
dominion, and the relation which he is revealed to stand in to us.[242]



It has been thought by some persons, that if the evidence of revelation
appears doubtful, this itself turns into a positive argument against
it: because it cannot be supposed, that, if it were true, it would
be left to subsist upon doubtful evidence. And the objection against
revelation from its not being universal is often insisted upon as of
great weight.

The weakness of these opinions may be shown, by observing the
suppositions on which they are founded: which are really such as these;
that it cannot be thought God would have bestowed any favor at all
upon us, unless in the degree which we think he might, and which, we
imagine, would be most to our particular advantage; and also that it
cannot be thought he would bestow a favor upon any, unless he bestowed
the same upon all; suppositions, which we find contradicted, not by
a few instances in God’s natural government of the world, but by the
general analogy of nature together.

Persons who speak of the evidence of religion as doubtful, and of this
supposed doubtfulness as a positive argument against it, should be
put upon considering, what that evidence is, which they act upon with
regard to their temporal interests. It is not only extremely difficult,
but in many cases absolutely impossible, to balance pleasure and pain,
satisfaction and uneasiness, so as to be able to say on which side
is the overplus. There are the like difficulties and impossibilities
in making the due allowances for a change of temper and taste, for
satiety, disgusts, ill health: any of which render men incapable of
enjoying, after they have obtained what they most eagerly desired.
Numberless too are the accidents, besides that one of untimely death,
which may even probably disappoint the best-concerted schemes: and
strong objections are often seen to lie against them, not to be removed
or answered, but which seem overbalanced by reasons on the other side;
so as that the certain difficulties and dangers of the pursuit are, by
every one; thought justly disregarded, upon account of the appearing
greater advantages in case of success, though there be but little
probability of it. Lastly, every one observes our liableness, if we be
not upon our guard, to be deceived by the falsehood of men, and the
false appearances of things: and this danger must be greatly increased,
if there be a strong bias within, suppose from indulged passion, to
favor the deceit. Hence arises that great uncertainty and doubtfulness
of proof, _wherein_ our temporal interest really consists; what are the
most probable _means_ of attaining it; and whether those means will
eventually be _successful_. And numberless instances there are, in the
daily course of life, in which all men think it reasonable to engage in
pursuits, though the probability is greatly against succeeding; and to
make such provision for themselves, as it is supposable they may have
occasion for, though the plain acknowledged probability is, that they
never shall.

Those who think the objection against revelation, from its light not
being universal, to be of weight,[243] should observe, that the Author
of nature, in numberless instances, bestows that upon some, which he
does not upon others, who seem equally to stand in need of it. Indeed
he appears to bestow all his gifts with the most promiscuous variety
among creatures of the same species: health and strength, capacities
of prudence and of knowledge, means of improvement, riches, and all
external advantages. As there are not any two men found, of exactly
like shape and features; so it is probable there are not any two, of
an exactly like constitution, temper, and situation, with regard to
the goods and evils of life. Yet, notwithstanding these uncertainties
and varieties, God does exercise a natural government over the world;
and there is such a thing as a prudent and imprudent institution of
life, with regard to our health and our affairs, under that his natural

As neither the Jewish nor Christian revelation have been universal; and
as they have been afforded to a greater or less part of the world,
at different times; so likewise at different times, both revelations
have had different degrees of evidence. The Jews who lived during the
succession of prophets, that is, from Moses till after the Captivity,
had higher evidence of the truth of their religion, than those had,
who lived in the interval between the last-mentioned period, and the
coming of Christ. And the first Christians had higher evidence of the
miracles wrought in attestation of Christianity, than what we have now.
They had also a strong presumptive proof of the truth of it, perhaps of
much greater force, in way of argument, than many think, of which we
have very little remaining; I mean the presumptive proof of its truth,
from the influence which it had upon the lives of the generality of its
professors. And we, or future ages, may possibly have a proof of it,
which they could not have, from the conformity between the prophetic
history, and the state of the world[244] and of Christianity.

And further: if we were to suppose the evidence, which some have of
religion, to amount to little more than seeing that it _may_ be true;
but that they remain in great doubts and uncertainties about both its
evidence and its nature, and great perplexities concerning the rule
of life: others to have a _full conviction_ of the truth of religion,
with a distinct knowledge of their duty; and others severally to have
all the intermediate degrees of religious light and evidence, which
lie between these two--if we put the case, that for the present, it
was intended that revelation should be no more than a small light,
in the midst of a world greatly overspread, notwithstanding it, with
ignorance and darkness: that certain glimmerings of this light should
extend, and be directed, to remote distances, in such a manner as
that those who really partook of it should not discern whence it
originally came: that some in a nearer situation to it should have
its light obscured, and, in different ways and degrees, intercepted:
and that others should be placed within its clearer influence, and
be much more enlivened, cheered, and directed by it; but yet that
even to these it should be no more than a _light shining in a dark
place_: all this would be perfectly uniform, and of a piece with the
conduct of Providence, in the distribution of its other blessings. If
the fact of the case really were, that some have received no light
at all from the Scripture; as many ages and countries in the heathen
world: that others, though they have, by means of it, had essential or
natural religion enforced upon their consciences, yet have never had
the genuine Scripture revelation, with its real evidence, proposed to
their consideration; and the ancient Persians and modern Mahometans
may possibly be instances of people in a situation somewhat like to
this; that others, though they have had the Scripture laid before them
as of divine revelation, yet have had it with the system and evidence
of Christianity so interpolated, the system so corrupted, the evidence
so blended with false miracles, as to leave the mind in the utmost
doubtfulness and uncertainty about the whole; which may be the state
of some thoughtful men, in most of those nations who call themselves
Christian: and lastly, that others have had Christianity offered to
them in its genuine simplicity, and with its proper evidence, as
persons in countries and churches of civil and of Christian liberty;
but that even these persons are left in great ignorance in many
respects, and have by no means light afforded them enough to satisfy
their curiosity, but only to regulate their life, to teach them their
duty, and encourage them in the careful discharge of it. I say, if we
were to suppose this somewhat of a general true account of the degrees
of moral and religious light and evidence, which were intended to be
afforded mankind, and of what has actually been and is their situation,
in their moral and religious capacity; there would be nothing in all
this ignorance, doubtfulness, and uncertainty, in all these varieties,
and supposed disadvantages of some in comparison of others, respecting
religion, but may be paralleled by manifest analogies in the natural
dispensations of Providence at present, considering ourselves merely in
our temporal capacity.

Nor is there any thing shocking in all this, or which would seem to
bear hard upon the moral administration in nature, if we would really
keep in mind, that every one shall be dealt equitably with: instead of
forgetting this, or explaining it away, after it is acknowledged in
words. All shadow of injustice, and indeed all harsh appearances, in
this various economy of Providence, would be lost, if we would keep
in mind, that every merciful allowance shall be made, and no more be
required of any one, than what might have been equitably expected of
him, from the circumstances in which he was placed; and not what might
have been expected, had he been placed in other circumstances: _i.e._
in Scripture language, that every man shall be _accepted according to
what he had, not according to what he had not_.[245] This however does
not by any means imply, that all persons’ condition here is equally
advantageous with respect to futurity. And Providence’s designing to
place some in greater darkness with respect to religious knowledge,
is no more a reason why they should not endeavor to get out of that
darkness, and others to bring them out of it, than why ignorant and
slow people in matters of other knowledge should not endeavor to learn,
or should not be instructed.

It is not unreasonable to suppose, that the same wise and good
principle, whatever it was, which disposed the Author of nature to
make different kinds and orders of creatures, disposed him also to
place creatures of like kinds in different situations. And that the
same principle which disposed him to make creatures of different
moral capacities, disposed him also to place creatures of like moral
capacities in different religious situations; and even the same
creatures, in different periods of their being. The account or reason
of this is also most probably the account why the constitution of
things is such, as that creatures of moral natures or capacities, for a
considerable part of that duration in which they are living agents, are
not at all subjects of morality and religion; but grow up to be so, and
grow up to be so more and more, gradually from childhood to mature age.

What, in particular, is the account or reason of these things, we must
be greatly in the dark, were it only that we know so very little even
of our own case. Our present state may possibly be the consequence
of something past, of which we are wholly ignorant: as it has a
reference to somewhat to come, of which we know scarce any more than
is necessary for practice. A system or constitution, in its notion,
implies variety; and so complicated a one as this world, very great
variety. So that were revelation universal, yet, from men’s different
capacities of understanding, from the different lengths of their lives,
their different educations and other external circumstances, and from
their difference of temper and bodily constitution, their religious
situations would be widely different, and the disadvantage of some in
comparison of others, perhaps, altogether as much as at present. The
true account, whatever it be, why mankind, or such a part of mankind,
are placed in this condition of ignorance, must be supposed also the
true account of our further ignorance, in not knowing the reasons why,
or whence it is, that they are placed in this condition.

The following practical reflections may deserve the serious
consideration of those persons, who think the circumstances of mankind
or their own, in the forementioned respects, a ground of complaint.

_First_, The evidence of religion not appearing obvious, may constitute
one particular part of some men’s trial in the religious sense: as
it gives scope, for a virtuous exercise, or vicious neglect of their
understanding, in examining or not examining into that evidence. There
seems no possible reason to be given, why we may not be in a state
of moral probation, with regard to the exercise of our understanding
upon the subject of religion, as we are with regard to our behavior
in common affairs. The former is as much a thing within our power and
choice as the latter. And I suppose it is to be laid down for certain,
that the same character, the same inward principle, which, after a man
is convinced of the truth of religion, renders him obedient to the
precepts of it, would, were he not thus convinced, set him about an
examination of it, upon its system and evidence being offered to his
thoughts: and that in the latter state his examination would be with an
impartiality, seriousness, and solicitude, proportionable to what his
obedience is in the former. And as inattention, negligence, want of all
serious concern, about a matter of such a nature and such importance,
when offered to men’s consideration, is, before a distinct conviction
of its truth, as real depravity and dissoluteness, as neglect of
religious practice after such conviction: so active solicitude about
it, and fair impartial consideration of its evidence before such
conviction, is as really an exercise of a morally right temper; as
is religious practice after. Thus, that religion is not intuitively
true, but a matter of deduction and inference; that a conviction of its
truth is not forced upon every one, but left to be, by some, collected
with heedful attention to premises; this as much constitutes religious
probation, as much affords sphere, scope, opportunity, for right
and wrong behavior, as any thing whatever does. And their manner of
treating this subject, when laid before them, shows what is in their
heart, and is an exertion of it.

_Secondly_, It appears to be a thing as evident, though it is not so
much attended to, that if, upon consideration of religion, the evidence
of it should seem to any persons doubtful, in the highest supposable
degree; even this doubtful evidence will, however, put them into a
_general state of probation_ in the moral and religious sense. For,
suppose a man to be really in doubt, whether such a person had not done
him the greatest favor; or, whether his whole temporal interest did not
depend upon that person; no one, who had any sense of gratitude and of
prudence, could possibly consider himself in the same situation, with
regard to such person, as if he had no such doubt. In truth, it is
as just to say, that certainty and doubt are the same, as to say the
situations now mentioned would leave a man as entirely at liberty in
point of gratitude or prudence, as he would be, were he certain he had
received no favor from such person; or that he no way depended upon
him. Thus, though the evidence of religion which is afforded to some
men should be little more than they are given to see, the system of
Christianity, or religion in general, to be supposable and credible;
this ought in all reason to beget a serious practical apprehension,
that it _may_ be true. And even this will afford matter of exercise
for religious suspense and deliberation, for moral resolution and
self-government; because the apprehension that religion may be true
does as really lay men under obligations, as a full conviction that
it is true. It gives occasion and motives to consider further the
important subject; to preserve attentively upon their minds a general
implicit sense that they may be under divine moral government, an
awful solicitude about religion, whether natural or revealed. Such
apprehension ought to turn men’s eyes to every degree of new light
which may be had, from whatever side it comes; and induce them to
refrain, in the mean time, from all immoralities, and live in the
conscientious practice of every common virtue. Especially are they
bound to keep at the greatest distance from all dissolute profaneness,
for this the very nature of the case forbids; and to treat with highest
reverence a matter, upon which their own whole interest and being,
and the fate of nature, depend. This behavior, and an active endeavor
to maintain within themselves this temper, is the business, the duty,
and the wisdom of those persons, who complain of the doubtfulness of
religion: is what they are under the most proper obligations to. And
such behavior is an exertion of, and has a tendency to improve in
them, that character, which the practice of all the several duties of
religion, from a full conviction of its truth, is an exertion of, and
has a tendency to improve in others: others, I say, to whom God has
afforded such conviction. Nay, considering the infinite importance
of religion, revealed as well as natural, I think it may be said in
general, that whoever will weigh the matter thoroughly may see, there
is not near so much difference, as is commonly imagined, between what
ought in reason to be the rule of life, to those persons who are
fully convinced of its truth, and to those who have only a serious
doubting apprehension, that it may be true. Their hopes, and fears, and
obligations, will be in various degrees: but, as the subject-matter
of their hopes and fears is the same, so the subject-matter of their
obligations, what they are bound to do and to refrain from, is not so
very unlike.

It is to be observed further, that, from a character of understanding,
or a situation of influence in the world, some persons have it in their
power to do infinitely more harm or good, by setting an example of
profaneness and avowed disregard to all religion, or, on the contrary,
of a serious, though perhaps doubting, apprehension of its truth, and
of a reverent regard to it under this doubtfulness; than they can do,
by acting well or ill in all the _common intercourses_ among mankind.
Consequently they are most highly accountable for a behavior, which,
they may easily foresee, is of such importance, and in which there
is most plainly a right and a wrong; even admitting the evidence of
religion to be as doubtful as is pretended.

The ground of these observations, and that which renders them just
and true, is, that doubting necessarily implies _some_ degree of
evidence for that, of which we doubt. For no person would be in doubt
concerning the truth of a number of facts so and so circumstanced,
which should accidentally come into his thoughts, and of which he had
no evidence at all. And though in the case of an even chance, and
where consequently we were in doubt, we should in common language say,
that we had no evidence at all for either side; yet that situation
of things, which renders it an even chance and no more, that such an
event will happen, renders this case equivalent to all others, where
there is such evidence on both sides of a question,[246] as leaves
the mind in doubt concerning the truth. Indeed in all these cases,
there is no more evidence on one side than on the other; but there is
(what is equivalent to) much more for either, than for the truth of a
number of facts, which come into one’s thoughts at random. Thus, in
all these cases, doubt as much presupposes evidence, in lower degrees,
as belief presupposes higher, and certainty higher still. Any one,
who will a little attend to the nature of evidence, will easily carry
this observation on, and see, that between no evidence at all, and
that degree of it which affords ground of doubt, there are as many
intermediate degrees, as there are, between that degree which is the
ground of doubt, and demonstration. And though we have not faculties
to distinguish these degrees of evidence with any sort of exactness;
yet, in proportion as they are discerned, they ought to influence
our practice. It is as real an imperfection in the moral character,
not to be influenced in practice by a lower degree of evidence when
discerned, as it is in the understanding, not to discern it. And as,
in all subjects which men consider, they discern the lower as well
as higher degrees of evidence, proportionably to their capacity of
understanding; so, in practical subjects, they are influenced in
practice, by the lower as well as higher degrees of it, proportionably
to their fairness and honesty. And as, in proportion to defects in the
understanding, men are unapt to see lower degrees of evidence, are in
danger of overlooking evidence when it is not glaring, and are easily
imposed upon in such cases; so, in proportion to the corruption of
the heart, they seem capable of satisfying themselves with having no
regard in practice to evidence acknowledged to be real, if it be not
overbearing. From these things it must follow, that doubting concerning
religion implies such a degree of evidence for it, as, joined with
the consideration of its importance, unquestionably lays men under the
obligations before mentioned, to have a dutiful regard to it in all
their behavior.

_Thirdly_, The difficulties in which the evidence of religion is
involved, which some complain of, is no more a just ground of
complaint, than the external circumstances of temptation, which others
are placed in; or than difficulties in the practice of it, after a full
conviction of its truth. Temptations render our state a more improving
state of discipline,[247] than it would be otherwise: as they give
occasion for a more attentive exercise of the virtuous principle, which
confirms and strengthens it more, than an easier or less attentive
exercise of it could. Speculative difficulties are, in this respect, of
the very same nature with these external temptations. For the evidence
of religion not appearing obvious, is to some persons a temptation to
reject it, without any consideration at all; and therefore requires
such an attentive exercise of the virtuous principle, seriously to
consider that evidence, as there would be no occasion for, but for such
temptation. And the supposed doubtfulness of its evidence, after it has
been in some sort considered, affords opportunity to an unfair mind
of explaining away, and deceitfully hiding from itself, that evidence
which it might see; and also for men’s encouraging themselves in vice,
from hopes of impunity, though they do clearly see thus much at least,
that these hopes are uncertain. In like manner the common temptation
to many instances of folly, which end in temporal infamy and ruin,
is the ground for hope of not being detected, and of escaping with
impunity; _i.e._ the doubtfulness of the proof beforehand, that such
foolish behavior will thus end in infamy and ruin. On the contrary,
supposed doubtfulness in the evidence of religion calls for a more
careful and attentive exercise of the virtuous principle, in fairly
yielding themselves up to the proper influence of any real evidence,
though doubtful; and in practising conscientiously all virtue, though
under some uncertainty, whether the government in the universe may
not possibly be such, as that vice may escape with impunity. And in
general, temptation, meaning by this word the lesser allurements to
wrong and difficulties in the discharge of our duty, as well as the
greater ones; temptation, I say, as such and of every kind and degree,
as it calls forth some virtuous efforts, additional to what would
otherwise have been wanting, cannot but be an additional discipline
and improvement of virtue, as well as probation of it in the other
senses of that word.[248] So that the very same account is to be given,
why the evidence of religion should be left in such a manner, as to
require, in some, an attentive, solicitous, perhaps painful exercise of
their understanding about it; as why others should be placed in such
circumstances, as that the practice of its common duties, after a full
conviction of the truth of it, should require attention, solicitude,
and pains: or, why appearing doubtfulness should be permitted to
afford matter of temptation to some; as why external difficulties
and allurements should be permitted to afford matter of temptation
to others. The same account also is to be given, why some should be
exercised with temptations of both these kinds; as why others should be
exercised with the latter in such very high degrees, as some have been,
particularly as the primitive Christians were.

Nor does there appear any absurdity in supposing, that the speculative
difficulties, in which the evidence of religion is involved, may make
even the principal part of some persons’ trial. For as the chief
temptations of the generality of the world are the ordinary motives
to injustice, or unrestrained pleasure, or to live in the neglect of
religion, from that frame of mind which renders many persons almost
without feeling as to any thing distant, or which is not the object of
their senses; so there are other persons without this shallowness of
temper, persons of a deeper sense as to what is invisible and future;
who not only see, but have a general practical feeling, that what is to
come will be present, and that things are not less real for their not
being the objects of sense; and who, from their natural constitution of
body and of temper, and from their external condition, may have small
temptations to behave ill, small difficulty in behaving well, in the
common course of life. Now when these latter persons have a distinct
full conviction of me truth of religion, without any possible doubts
or difficulties, the practice of it is to them unavoidable, unless
they do a constant violence to their own minds; and religion is scarce
any more a discipline to them, than it is to creatures in a state
of perfection. Yet these persons may possibly stand in need of moral
discipline and exercise, in a higher degree than they would have by
such an easy practice of religion. Or it may be requisite, for reasons
unknown to us, that they should give some further manifestation[249]
what is their moral character, to the creation of God, than such
a practice of it would be. Thus in the great variety of religious
situations in which men are placed, what constitutes, what chiefly and
peculiarly constitutes, the probation, in all senses, of some persons,
may be the difficulties in which the evidence of religion is involved:
and their principal and distinguished trial may be, how they will
behave under and with respect to these difficulties. Circumstances in
men’s situation in their temporal capacity, analogous in good measure
to this respecting religion, are to be observed. We find some persons
are placed in such a situation in the world, as that their chief
difficulty with regard to conduct, is not the doing what is prudent
when it is known; for this, in numberless cases, is as easy as the
contrary: but to some the principal exercise is, recollection and being
upon their guard against deceits, the deceits suppose of those about
them; against false appearances of reason and prudence. To persons in
some situations, the principal exercise with respect to conduct is,
attention in order to inform themselves what is proper, what is really
the reasonable and prudent part to act.

[_Fourthly._] As I have hitherto gone upon supposition, that men’s
dissatisfaction with the evidence of religion is not owing to their
neglects or prejudices; it must be added, on the other hand, in all
common reason, and as what the truth of the case plainly requires
should be added, that such dissatisfaction possibly may be owing to
those, possibly may be men’s own fault. For,

If there are any persons, who never set themselves heartily and in
earnest to be informed in religion: if there are any, who secretly
wish it may not prove true; and are less attentive to evidence than to
difficulties, and more to objections than to what is said in answer to
them: these persons will scarce be thought in a likely way of seeing
the evidence of religion, though it were most certainly true, and
capable of being ever so fully proved. If any accustom themselves to
consider this subject in the way of mirth and sport: if they attend
to forms and representations, and inadequate manners of expression,
instead of the real things intended by them: (for signs often can be
no more than inadequately expressive of the things signified:) or if
they substitute human errors in the room of divine truth; why may
not all, or any of these things, hinder some men from seeing that
evidence, which really is seen by others; as a like turn of mind, with
respect to matters of common speculation and practice, does, we find
by experience, hinder them from attaining that knowledge and right
understanding, in matters of common speculation and practice, which
more fair and attentive minds attain to? And the effect will be the
same, whether their neglect of seriously considering the evidence of
religion, and their indirect behavior with regard to it, proceed from
mere carelessness, or from the grosser vices; or whether it be owing
to this, that forms and figurative manners of expression, as well as
errors, administer occasions of ridicule, when the things intended, and
the truth itself, would not. Men may indulge a ludicrous turn so far
as to lose all sense of conduct and prudence in worldly affairs, and
even, as it seems, to impair their faculty of reason. And in general,
levity, carelessness, passion, and prejudice _do_ hinder us from being
rightly informed, with respect to common things: and they _may_, in
like manner, and perhaps, in some further providential manner, with
respect to moral and religious subjects: may hinder evidence from being
laid before us, and from being seen when it is. The Scripture[250]
does declare, that every one _shall not understand_. And it makes no
difference, by what providential conduct this comes to pass: whether
the evidence of Christianity was, originally and with design, put and
left so, as that those who are desirous of evading moral obligations
should not see it; and that honest-minded persons should: or, whether
it comes to pass by any other means.

Further: [_Fifthly._] The general proof of natural religion and of
Christianity does, I think, lie level to common men: even those, the
greatest part of whose time, from childhood to old age, is taken
up with providing for themselves and their families the common
conveniences, perhaps necessaries, of life: those I mean, of this
rank, who ever think at all of asking after proof, or attending to it.
Common men, were they as much in earnest about religion, as about their
temporal affairs, are capable of being convinced upon real evidence,
that there is a God who governs the world: and they feel themselves to
be of a moral nature, and accountable creatures. And as Christianity
entirely falls in with this their natural sense of things, so they are
capable, not only of being persuaded, but of being made to see, that
there is evidence of miracles wrought in attestation of it, and many
appearing completions of prophecy.

This proof, though real and conclusive, is liable to objections,
and may be run up into difficulties; which however persons who are
capable not only of talking of, but of really seeing, are capable
also of seeing through: _i.e._ not of clearing up and answering them,
so as to satisfy their curiosity, for of such knowledge we are not
capable with respect to any one thing in nature; but capable of seeing
that the proof is not lost in these difficulties, or destroyed by
these objections. But then a thorough examination into religion with
regard to these objections, which cannot be the business of every
man, is a matter of pretty large compass, and, from the nature of it,
requires some knowledge, as well as time and attention; to see, how
the evidence comes out, upon balancing one thing with another, and
what, upon the whole, is the amount of it. If persons who pick up
these objections from others, and take for granted they are of weight,
upon the word of those from whom they received them, or, by often
retailing of them, come to see or fancy they see them to be of weight;
will not prepare themselves for such an examination, with a competent
degree of knowledge; or will not give that time and attention to the
subject, which, from the nature of it, is necessary for attaining such
information: in this case, they must remain in doubtfulness, ignorance,
or error: in the same way as they must, with regard to common
sciences, and matters of common life, if they neglect the necessary
means of being informed in them.

Perhaps it will still be objected, that if a prince or common master
were to send directions to a servant, he would take care, that they
should always bear the certain marks, who they came from, and that
their sense should be always plain: so as that there should be no
possible doubt if he could help it, concerning the authority or meaning
of them. The proper answer to all this kind of objections is, that,
wherever the fallacy lies, it is even certain we cannot argue thus with
respect to Him who is the Governor of the world: and that he does not
afford us such information, with respect to our temporal affairs and
interests, experience abundantly shows.

However, there is a full answer to this objection, from the very nature
of religion. The reason why a prince would give his directions in this
plain manner is, that he absolutely desires an external action done,
without concerning himself with the motive or principle upon which it
is done: _i.e._ he regards only the external event, or the thing’s
being done; and not at all, properly speaking, the doing of it, or the
action. Whereas the whole of morality and religion consisting merely in
action itself, there is no sort of parallel between the cases. But if
the prince be supposed to regard only the action; _i.e._ only to desire
to exercise, or in any sense prove, the understanding or loyalty of a
servant; he would not always give his orders in such a plain manner.
It may be proper to add, that the will of God, respecting morality and
religion, may be considered either as absolute, or as only conditional.
If it be absolute, it can only be thus, that we should act virtuously
in such given circumstances; not that we should be brought to act
so, by this changing of our circumstances. And if God’s will be thus
absolute, then it is in our power, in the highest and strictest sense,
to do or to contradict his will; which is a most weighty consideration.
Or his will may be considered only as conditional, that if we act
so and so, we shall be rewarded: if otherwise, punished: of which
conditional will of the Author of nature, the whole constitution of it
affords most certain instances.

Upon the whole: that we are in a state of religion necessarily
implies, that we are in a state of probation: and the credibility
of our being at all in such a state being admitted, there seems no
peculiar difficulty in supposing our probation to be, just as it
is, in those respects which are above objected against. There seems
no pretence, from _the reason of the thing_, to say, that the trial
cannot equitably be any thing, but whether persons will act suitably
to certain information, or such as admits no room for doubt; so as
that there can be no danger of miscarriage, but either from their not
attending to what they certainly know, or from overbearing passion
hurrying them on to act contrary to it. For, since ignorance and doubt,
afford scope for probation in all senses, as really as intuitive
conviction or certainty; and since the two former are to be put to
the same account as difficulties in practice; men’s moral probation
may also be, whether they will take due care to inform themselves by
impartial consideration, and afterwards whether they will act as the
case requires, upon the evidence which they have, however doubtful.
And this, we find by _experience_, is frequently our probation,[251]
in our temporal capacity. For, the information which we want with
regard to our worldly interests is by no means always given us of
course, without any care of our own. And we are greatly liable to
self-deceit from inward secret prejudices, and also to the deceits of
others. So that to be able to judge what is the prudent part, often
requires much and difficult consideration. Then after we have judged
the very best we can, the evidence upon which we must act, if we will
live and act at all, is perpetually doubtful to a very high degree.
And the constitution and course of the world in fact is such, as that
want of impartial consideration what we have to do, and venturing
upon extravagant courses because it is doubtful what will be the
consequence, are often naturally, _i.e._ providentially, altogether
as fatal, as misconduct occasioned by heedless inattention to what we
certainly know, or disregarding it from overbearing passion.

Several of the observations here made may well seem strange, perhaps
unintelligible, to many good men. But if the persons for whose sake
they are made think so, (persons who object as above, and throw off all
regard to religion under pretence of want of evidence;) I desire them
to consider again, whether their thinking so be owing to any thing
unintelligible in these observations, or to their own not having such
a sense of religion and serious solicitude about it, as even their
state of scepticism does in all reason require? It ought to be forced
upon the reflection of these persons, that our nature and condition
necessarily require us, in the daily course of life, to act upon
evidence much lower than what is commonly called probable: to guard,
not only against what we fully believe will, but also against what we
think it supposable may, happen; and to engage in pursuits when the
probability is greatly against success, if it even be credible, that
possibly we may succeed in them.



The presumptions against revelation, and objections against the general
scheme of Christianity, and particular things relating to it, being
removed, there remains to be considered, what positive evidence we
have for the truth of it; chiefly in order to see, what the analogy
of nature suggests with regard to that evidence, and the objections
against it: or to see what is, and is allowed to be, the plain
natural rule of judgment and of action, in our temporal concerns, in
cases where we have the same kind of evidence, and the same kind of
objections against it, that we have in the case before us.

In the evidence of Christianity there seem to be several things of
great weight, not reducible to the head, either of miracles, or the
completion of prophecy, in the common acceptation of the words. But
these two are its direct and fundamental proofs: and those other
things, however considerable they are, yet ought never to be urged
apart from its direct proofs, but always to be joined with them. Thus
the evidence of Christianity will be a long series of things, reaching,
as it seems, from the beginning of the world to the present time, of
great variety and compass, taking in both the direct and also the
collateral, proofs, and making up, all of them together, one argument.
The conviction arising from this kind of proof may be compared to
what they call _the effect_, in architecture or other works of art;
a result from a great number of things, so and so disposed, and taken
into one view. I shall therefore, _first_, make some observations
relating to miracles, and the appearing completions of prophecy; and
consider what analogy suggests, in answer to the objections brought
against this evidence. And, _secondly_, I shall endeavor to give some
account of the general argument now mentioned, consisting both of the
direct and collateral evidence, considered as making up one argument:
this being the kind of proof, upon which we determine most questions
of difficulty, concerning common facts, alleged to have happened, or
seeming likely to happen; especially questions relating to conduct.

_First_, I shall make some observations upon the direct proof of
Christianity from miracles and prophecy, and upon the objections
alleged against it.[252]

I. Now the following observations relating to the _historical evidence
of miracles_ wrought in attestation of Christianity appear to be of
great weight.

1. The Old Testament affords us the same historical evidence of the
miracles of Moses and of the prophets, as of the common civil history
of Moses and the kings of Israel; or, as of the affairs of the Jewish
nation. And the _Gospels_ and _the Acts_ afford us the same historical
evidence of the miracles of Christ and the apostles, as of the common
matters related in them. This indeed could not have been affirmed by
any reasonable man, if the authors of these books, like many other
historians, had appeared to aim at an entertaining manner of writing,
and hence interspersed miracles in their works, at proper distances
and upon proper occasions. These might have animated a dull relation,
amused the reader, and engaged his attention. And the same account
would naturally have been given of them, as of the speeches and
descriptions given by such authors: the same account, in a manner, as
is to be given, why the poets make use of wonders and prodigies. But
the facts, both miraculous and natural, in Scripture, are related in
plain unadorned narratives, and both of them appear, in all respects,
to stand upon the same foot of historical evidence.[253]

Further: some parts of Scripture, containing an account of miracles
fully sufficient to prove the truth of Christianity, are quoted as
genuine, from the age in which they are said to be written, down to
the present: and no other parts of them, material in the present
question, are omitted to be quoted in such manner, as to afford any
sort of proof of their not being genuine. And, as common history, when
called in question in any instance, may often be greatly confirmed by
contemporary or subsequent events more known and acknowledged; and as
the common Scripture history, like many others, is thus confirmed;
so likewise is the miraculous history of it, not only in particular
instances, but in general. For, the establishment of the Jewish and
Christian religions, which were events contemporary with the miracles
related to be wrought in attestation of both, or subsequent to them,
these events are just what we should have _expected_, upon supposition
such miracles were really wrought to attest the truth of those
religions. These miracles are a satisfactory account of those events:
of which no other satisfactory account can be given; nor any account at
all, but what is merely imaginary and invented.

It is to be added, that the most obvious, the most easy and direct
account of this history, how it came to be written, and to be received
in the world as a true history, is that it really is so; nor can
any other account of it be easy and direct. Now, though an account,
not at all obvious, but very far-fetched and indirect, may be and
often is, the true account of a matter, yet it cannot be admitted on
the authority of its being asserted. Mere guess, supposition, and
possibility, when opposed to historical evidence, prove nothing, but
that historical evidence is not demonstrative.

The just consequence from all this, I think is, that the Scripture
history in general is to be admitted as an authentic genuine history,
till something positive be alleged sufficient to invalidate it. No
man will deny the consequence to be, that it cannot be rejected, or
thrown by as of no authority, till it can be proved to be of none; even
though the evidence now mentioned for its authority were doubtful. This
evidence may be confronted by historical evidence on the other side,
if there be any: or general incredibility in the things related, or
inconsistence in the general turn of the history, would prove it to be
of no authority. But since, upon the face of the matter, upon a first
and general view, the _appearance_ is, that it is an authentic history,
it cannot be determined to be fictitious, without some proof that it is
so. The following observations in support of these, and coincident with
them, will greatly confirm the historical evidence for the truth of

2. The Epistles of Paul, from the nature of epistolary writing, and
moreover from several of them being written, not to particular persons
but to churches, carry in them evidences of their being genuine, beyond
what can be in a mere historical narrative, left to the world at
large. This evidence,[254] joined with that which they have in common
with the rest of the New Testament, seems not to leave so much as any
particular pretence for denying their genuineness, considered as an
ordinary matter of fact, or of criticism: I say _particular_ pretence,
for _denying_ it; because any single fact, of such a kind and such
antiquity, may have _general doubts_ raised concerning it, from the
very nature of human affairs and human testimony. There is also to be
mentioned a distinct and particular evidence of the genuineness of the
epistle chiefly referred to here, the first to the Corinthians; from
the manner in which it is quoted by Clemens Romanus, in an epistle of
his own to that church.[255] Now these epistles afford a proof of
Christianity, detached from all others, which is, I think, a thing of
weight; and also a proof of a nature and kind peculiar to itself. For,

In them the author declares, that he received the Gospel in general,
and the institution of the Communion in particular, not from the rest
of the apostles, or jointly together with them, but alone, from Christ
himself; whom he declares likewise, conformably to the history in the
Acts, that he saw after his ascension.[256] So that the testimony of
Paul is to be considered, as detached from that of the rest of the

He declares further, that he was endued with a power of working
miracles, as what was publicly known to those very people, speaks of
frequent and great variety of miraculous gifts as then subsisting in
those very churches, to which he was writing; which he was reproving
for several irregularities, and where he had personal opposers. He
mentions these gifts incidentally, in the most easy manner, and without
effort; by way of reproof to those who had them, for their indecent
use of them; and by way of depreciating them, in comparison of moral
virtues. In short he speaks to these churches, of these miraculous
powers, in the manner any one would speak to another of a thing, which
was as familiar, and as much known in common to them both, as any thing
in the world.[257] And this, as hath been observed by several persons,
is surely a very considerable thing.

3. It is an acknowledged historical fact, that Christianity offered
itself to the world, and demanded to be received, upon the allegation,
(_i.e._ as unbelievers would speak, upon the pretence,) of miracles,
publicly wrought to attest the truth of it, in such an age; and
that it was actually received by great numbers in that very age,
and upon the professed belief of the reality of these miracles. And
Christianity, including the dispensation of the Old Testament, seems
distinguished by this from all other religions. I mean, that this
does not _appear_ to be the case with regard to any other; for surely
it will not be supposed to lie upon any person, to prove by positive
historical evidence, that it was not. It does in no sort appear that
Mahometanism was first received in the world upon the foot of supposed
miracles,[258] _i.e._ public ones:[259] for, as revelation is itself
miraculous, all pretence to it must necessarily imply some pretence
of miracles. And it is a known fact, that it was immediately, at the
very first, propagated by other means. And as particular institutions,
whether in Paganism or Popery, said to be confirmed by miracles _after_
those institutions had obtained, are not to the purpose: so, were there
what might be called historical proof, that any of them were introduced
by a supposed divine command, believed to be attested by miracles;
these would not be in any wise parallel. For single things of this sort
are easy to be accounted for, after parties are formed, and have power
in their hands; and the leaders of them are in veneration with the
multitude; and political interests are blended with religious claims,
and religious distinctions. But _before_ any thing of this kind, for a
few persons, and those of the lowest rank, all at once, to bring over
such great numbers to a new religion, and get it to be received upon
the particular evidence of miracles; this is quite another thing.

I think it will be allowed by any fair adversary, that the fact
now mentioned, taking in all the circumstances, is peculiar to
the Christian religion. However, the fact itself is allowed, that
Christianity obtained, _i.e._ was professed to be received in the
world, upon the belief of miracles, immediately in the age in which
it is said those miracles were wrought: or that this is what its
first converts would have alleged, as the reason for their embracing
it. It is not to be supposed that such numbers of men, in the most
distant parts of the world, should forsake the religion of their
country, in which they had been educated; separate themselves from
their friends, particularly in their festival shows and solemnities,
to which the common people are so greatly addicted, and which were of
a nature to engage them much more, than any thing of that sort among
us: and embrace a religion, which could not but expose them to many
inconveniences, and indeed must have been a giving up the world in a
great degree, even from the very first, and before the empire engaged
in form against them: it cannot be supposed, that such numbers should
make so great, and to say the least, so inconvenient a change in their
whole institution of life, unless they were really convinced of the
truth of those miracles, upon the knowledge or belief of which they
professed to make it. And it will, I suppose, readily be acknowledged,
that the generality of the first converts to Christianity must have
believed them: that as by becoming Christians they declared to the
world, they were satisfied of the truth of those miracles; so this
declaration was to be credited. And this their testimony is the same
kind of evidence for those miracles, as if they had put it in writing,
and these writings had come down to us. And it is real evidence,
because it is of facts, which they had capacity and full opportunity to
inform themselves of.

It is also distinct from the direct or express historical evidence,
though it is of the same kind: and would be allowed to be distinct in
all cases. For were a fact expressly related by one or more ancient
historians, and disputed in after ages; that this fact is acknowledged
to have been _believed_ by great numbers of the age in which the
historian says it was done, would be allowed an additional proof of
such fact, quite distinct from the express testimony of the historian.
The credulity of mankind is acknowledged: and the suspicions of mankind
ought to be acknowledged too; and their backwardness even to believe,
and greater still to practise, what makes against their interest. And
it must particularly be remembered, that education, and prejudice, and
authority, were against Christianity, in the age I am speaking of. So
that the immediate conversion of such numbers is a real presumption
of somewhat more than human in this matter.[260] I say presumption,
for it is not alleged as a proof alone and by itself. Nor need any one
of the things mentioned in this chapter be considered as a proof by
itself: and yet all of them together may be one of the strongest.[261]

Upon the whole: as there is large historical evidence, both direct and
circumstantial, of miracles wrought in attestation of Christianity,
collected by those who have writ upon the subject; it lies upon
unbelievers to show why this evidence is not to be credited. This way
of speaking is, I think, just; and what persons who write in defence
of religion naturally fall into. Yet, in a matter of such unspeakable
importance, the proper question is, not whom it lies upon, according to
the rules of argument, to maintain or confute objections: but whether
there really are any, against this evidence, sufficient, in reason, to
destroy the credit of it. However, unbelievers seem to take upon them
the part of showing that there are.

They allege, that numberless enthusiastic people, in different ages
and countries, expose themselves to the same difficulties which the
primitive Christians did; and are ready to give up their lives for the
most idle follies imaginable. It is not very clear, to what purpose
this objection is brought. For surely, every one, in every case, must
distinguish between opinions and facts. And though testimony is no
proof of enthusiastic opinions, or of any _opinion_ at all; yet it
is allowed, in all other cases, to be a proof of _facts_. A person’s
laying down his life in attestation of facts or of opinions, is the
strongest proof of his believing them. And if the apostles and their
contemporaries did believe the facts, in attestation of which they
exposed themselves to sufferings and death; this their belief, or
rather knowledge, must be a proof of those facts: for they were such
as came under the observation of their senses. And though it is not of
equal weight, yet it is of weight, that the martyrs of the next age,
notwithstanding they were not eye-witnesses of those facts, as were
the apostles and their contemporaries, had, however, full opportunity
to inform themselves whether they were true or not, and gave equal
proof of their believing them to be true.

But enthusiasm, it is said, greatly weakens the evidence of testimony
even for facts, in matters relating to religion: some seem to think it
totally and absolutely destroys the evidence of testimony upon this
subject. The powers of enthusiasm, and of diseases too, which operate
in a like manner, are indeed very wonderful, in particular instances.
But if great numbers of men, not appearing in any peculiar degree weak,
nor under any peculiar suspicion of negligence, affirm that they saw
and heard such things plainly, with their eyes and their ears, and are
admitted to be in earnest; such testimony is evidence of the strongest
kind we can have, for any matter of fact. Possibly it may be overcome,
strong as it is, by incredibility in the things thus attested, or by
contrary testimony. And in an instance where one thought it was so
overcome, it might be just to consider, how far such evidence could be
accounted for by enthusiasm; for it seems as if no other imaginable
account were to be given of it. But till such incredibility be shown,
or contrary testimony produced, it cannot surely be expected, that so
far-fetched, so indirect and wonderful an account of such testimony, as
that of enthusiasm must be; an account so strange, that the generality
of mankind can scarce be made to understand what is meant by it; it
cannot, I say, be expected that such an account will be admitted of
such evidence; when there is this direct, easy, and obvious account of
it, that people really saw and heard a thing not incredible, which they
affirm, sincerely and with full assurance, they did see and hear.

Granting then that enthusiasm is not (strictly speaking) an absurd,
but a possible account of such testimony, it is manifest, that the
very mention of it goes upon the previous supposition, that the things
so attested are incredible: and therefore need not be considered,
till they are shown to be so. Much less need it be considered, after
the contrary has been proved. And I think it has been proved, to full
satisfaction, that there is no incredibility in a revelation, in
general; or in such a one as the Christian, in particular. However, as
religion is supposed peculiarly liable to enthusiasm, it may just be
observed, that prejudices almost without number, and without name,
such as romance, affection, humor, a desire to engage attention, or
to surprise, party spirit, custom, little competitions, unaccountable
likings and dislikings; these influence men strongly in common matters.
And as these prejudices are often scarce know a or reflected upon
by the persons themselves who are influenced by them, they are to
be considered as influences of a like kind to enthusiasm. Yet human
testimony, in common matters, is naturally and justly believed,

It is intimated further, in a more refined way of observation, that
though it should be proved, that the apostles and first Christians
could not, in some respects, be deceived themselves, and in other
respects, cannot be thought to have intended to impose upon the world,
yet it will not follow that their general testimony is to be believed,
though truly handed down to us: because they might still in part,
_i.e._ in other respects, be deceived themselves, and in part also
designedly impose upon others; which, it is added, is a thing very
credible, from that mixture of real enthusiasm, and real knavery, to be
met with in the same characters.[262]

I must confess, I think the matter of fact contained in this
observation upon mankind is not to be denied; and that something
very much akin to it is often supposed in Scripture as a very common
case, and most severely reproved. But it were to have been expected,
that persons capable of applying this observation as applied in
the objection, might also frequently have met with the like mixed
character, in instances where religion was quite out of the case.
The thing plainly is, that mankind are naturally endued with reason,
or a capacity of distinguishing between truth and falsehood; and as
naturally they are endued with veracity, or a regard to truth in what
they say: but from many occasions they are liable to be prejudiced and
biassed and deceived themselves, and capable of intending to deceive
others, in every degree: insomuch that, as we are all liable to be
deceived by prejudice, so likewise it seems to be not an uncommon
thing, for persons who, from their regard to truth, would not invent
a lie entirely without any foundation at all, to propagate it with
heightening circumstances, after it is once invented and set a-going.
And others, though they would not _propagate_ a lie, yet, which is a
lower degree of falsehood, will let it pass without contradiction. But
notwithstanding all this, _human testimony_ remains still a natural
ground of assent; and this assent a natural principle of action.

It is objected further, that however it has happened, the _fact_
is, that mankind have, in different ages, been strangely deluded
with pretences to miracles and wonders. But it is by no means to be
admitted, that they have been oftener, or are at all more liable to be
deceived by these than by other pretences.

It is added, that there is a very considerable degree of historical
evidence for miracles, which are, on all hands, acknowledged to be
fabulous. But suppose there were even _the like_ historical evidence
for these, to what there is for those alleged in proof of Christianity,
which yet is in no wise allowed, but suppose this; the consequence
would not be, that the evidence of the latter is not to be admitted.
Nor is there a man in the world, who in common cases, would conclude
thus. For what would such a conclusion really amount to but this, that
evidence, confuted by contrary evidence, or any way overbalanced,
destroys the credibility of other evidence, neither confuted nor
overbalanced? To argue that because there is, if there were, like
evidence from testimony, for miracles acknowledged false, as for those
in attestation of Christianity, therefore the evidence in the latter
case is not to be credited; this is the same as to argue, that if two
men of equally good reputation had given evidence in different cases
no way connected, and one of them had been convicted of perjury, this
confuted the testimony of the other!

Upon the whole then, the general observation, that human creatures
are so liable to be deceived, from enthusiasm in religion, and
principles equivalent to enthusiasm in common matters, and in both from
negligence; and that they are so capable of dishonestly endeavoring
to deceive others; this does indeed weaken the evidence of testimony
in all cases, but does not destroy it in any. And these things will
appear, to different men, to weaken the evidence of testimony, in
different degrees: in degrees proportionable to the observations they
have made, or the notions they have any way taken up, concerning the
weakness and negligence and dishonesty of mankind; or concerning the
powers of enthusiasm, and prejudices equivalent to it. But it seems
to me, that people do not know what they say, who affirm these things
to destroy the evidence from testimony which we have, of the truth of
Christianity. Nothing can destroy the evidence of testimony in any
case, but a proof or probability, that persons are not competent judges
of the facts to which they give testimony; or that they are actually
under some indirect influence in giving it, in such particular case.
Till this be made out, the _natural_ laws of human actions require,
that testimony be admitted. It can never be sufficient to overthrow
direct historical evidence, indolently to say, that there are so many
principles, from whence men are liable to be deceived themselves,
and disposed to deceive others, especially in matters of religion,
that one knows not what to believe. And it is surprising persons can
help reflecting, that this very manner of speaking supposes they are
not satisfied that there is nothing in the evidence, of which they
speak thus; or that they can avoid observing, if they do make this
reflection, that it is on such a subject, a very material one.[263]

Over against all these objections is to be set the _importance_ of
Christianity, as what must have engaged the attention of its first
converts, so as to have rendered them less liable to be deceived from
carelessness, than they would in common matters; and likewise the
strong _obligations to veracity_, which their religion laid them under:
so that the first and most obvious presumption is, that they could not
be deceived themselves nor deceive others. And this presumption, in
this degree, is peculiar to the testimony we have been considering.

In argument, assertions are nothing in themselves, and have an air of
positiveness which sometimes is not very easy: yet they are necessary,
and necessary to be repeated; in order to connect a discourse, and
distinctly to lay before the view of the reader, what is proposed
to be proved, and what is left as proved. Now the conclusion from
the foregoing observations is, I think, beyond all doubt, this:
that unbelievers must be forced to admit the external evidence for
Christianity, _i.e._ the proof of miracles wrought to attest it, to be
of real weight and very considerable; though they cannot allow it to
be sufficient, to convince them of the reality of those miracles. And
as they must, in all reason, admit this; so it seems to me, that upon
consideration they would, in fact, admit it; those of them, I mean, who
know any thing at all of the matter; in like manner as persons, in many
cases, own they see strong evidence from testimony, for the truth of
things, which yet they cannot be convinced are true: cases, suppose,
where there is contrary testimony; or things which they think, whether
with or without reason, to be incredible. But there is no testimony
contrary to that which we have been considering: and it has been fully
proved, that there is no incredibility in Christianity in general, or
in any part of it.

II. As to the evidence for Christianity from prophecy, I shall only
make some few general observations, which are suggested by the analogy
of nature; _i.e._ by the acknowledged natural rules of judging in
common matters, concerning evidence of a like kind to this from

1. The obscurity or unintelligibleness of one part of a prophecy does
not, in any degree, invalidate the proof of foresight, arising from
the appearing completion of those other parts, which are understood.
For the case is evidently the same, as if those parts which are not
understood were lost, or not written at all, or written in an unknown
tongue. Whether this observation be commonly attended to or not, it is
so evident, that one can scarce bring oneself to set down an instance
in common matters, to exemplify it. However, suppose a writing, partly
in cipher, and partly in plain words at length; and that in the part
one understood, there appeared mention of several known facts; it would
never come into any man’s thoughts to imagine, that if he understood
the whole, perhaps he might find, that those facts were not in reality
known by the writer. Indeed, both in this example and in the thing
intended to be exemplified by it, our not understanding the whole (the
whole, suppose, of a sentence or a paragraph) might sometimes occasion
a doubt, whether one understood the literal meaning of such a part: but
this comes under another consideration.

For the same reason, though a man should be incapable, for want of
learning, or opportunities of inquiry, or from not having turned
his studies this way, even so much as to judge whether particular
prophecies have been throughout completely fulfilled; yet he may see,
in general, that they have been fulfilled to such a degree, as, upon
very good ground, to be convinced of foresight more than human in such
prophecies, and of such events being intended by them. For the same
reason also, though, by means of the deficiencies in civil history,
and the different accounts of historians, the most learned should not
be able to make out to satisfaction, that such parts of the prophetic
history have been minutely and throughout fulfilled; yet a very strong
_proof of foresight_ may arise, from that general completion of them,
which is made out. As much perhaps, as the giver of prophecy intended
should ever be afforded by such parts of prophecy.

2. A long series of prophecy being applicable to such and such events,
is itself a proof that it was intended of them: as the rules by which
we naturally judge and determine, in common cases parallel to this,
will show.[264] This observation I make in answer to the common
objection against the application of the prophecies, that, considering
each of them distinctly by itself, it does not at all appear, that they
were intended of those particular events to which they are applied by
Christians; and therefore it is to be supposed, that if they meant any
thing, they were intended of other events unknown to us, and not of
these at all.

Now there are two kinds of writing, which bear a great resemblance to
prophecy, with respect to the matter before us: the mythological, and
the satirical, where the satire is to a certain degree concealed. And
a man might be assured, that he understood what an author intended by
a fable or parable related without any application or moral, merely
from seeing it to be easily capable of such application, and that such
a moral might naturally be deduced from it. And he might be fully
assured, that such persons and events were intended in a satirical
writing, merely from its being applicable to them. And, agreeable to
the last observation, he might be in a good measure satisfied of it,
though he were not enough informed in affairs, or in the story of such
persons to understand half the satire. For, his satisfaction that
he understood the meaning, the intended meaning, of these writings,
would be greater or less in proportion as he saw the general turn
of them to be capable of such application; and in proportion to the
number of particular things capable of it. And thus, if a long series
of prophecy is applicable to the present state of the church, and to
the political situations of the kingdoms of the world, some thousand
years after these prophecies were delivered; and a long series of
prophecy delivered before the coming of Christ is applicable to him;
these things are in themselves a proof, that the prophetic history was
intended of him, and of those events: in proportion as the general turn
of it is capable of such application, and to the number and variety of
particular prophecies capable of it. And though, in all just way of
consideration, the obvious completion of prophecies is to be allowed to
be thus explanatory of, and to determine, their meaning; yet it is to
be remembered further, that the ancient Jews applied the prophecies to
a Messiah before his coming,[265] in much the same manner as Christians
do now: and that the primitive Christians interpreted the prophecies
respecting the state of the church and of the world in the last ages,
in the sense which the event seems to confirm and verify. From these
things it may be made appear:

3. That the showing even to a high probability, if that could be,
that the prophets thought of some other events, in such and such
predictions, and not those which Christians allege to be completions
of those predictions; or that such and such prophecies are capable of
being applied to other events than those, to which Christians apply
them--that this would not confute or destroy the force of the argument
from prophecy, even with regard to those very instances. For, observe
how this matter really is. If one knew such a person to be the sole
author of such a book, and was certainly assured, or satisfied to any
degree, that one knew the whole of what he intended in it; one should
be assured or satisfied to such degree, that one knew the whole
meaning of that book: for the meaning of a book is nothing but the
meaning of the author. But if one knew a person to have _compiled_ a
book out of memoirs, which he received from another, of vastly superior
knowledge in the subject of it, especially if it were a book full
of great intricacies and difficulties; it would in no wise follow,
that one knew the whole meaning of the book, from knowing the whole
meaning of the compiler: for the original author of them, might have,
and there would be no presumption, in many cases, against supposing
him to have, some further meaning than the compiler saw. To say then
that the Scriptures, and the things contained in them, can have no
other or further meaning than those persons had, who first recited or
wrote them, is evidently saying, that those persons were the original,
proper, and sole authors of those books, _i.e._ that they are not
inspired: which is absurd, while the authority of these books is under
examination; _i.e._ till you have determined they are of no divine
authority at all. Till this be determined, it must in all reason be
supposed, not indeed that they have, (for this is taking for granted
that they are inspired;) but that they may have, some further meaning
than what the compilers saw or understood. And, upon this supposition,
it is supposable also, that this further meaning may be fulfilled.

Events corresponding to prophecies, interpreted in a different meaning
from that, in which the prophets are supposed to have understood them;
affords in a manner, the same proof, that this different sense was
originally intended, as it would have afforded, if the prophets had
not understood their predictions in the sense it is supposed they did:
because there is no presumption of _their_ sense of them being the
whole sense of them. And it has been already shown, that the apparent
completions of prophecy must be allowed to be explanatory of its
meaning. So that the question is, whether a series of prophecy has
been fulfilled, in a natural or proper, _i.e._ in any real sense of
the words of it. For such completion is equally a proof of foresight
more than human, whether the prophets are, or are not, supposed to have
understood it in a different sense. I say, supposed: for, though I
think it clear, that the prophets did not understand the full meaning
of their predictions, it is another question, how far they thought they
did; and in what sense they understood them.

Hence may be seen, to how little purpose those persons busy themselves,
who endeavor to prove, that the prophetic history is applicable to
events of the age in which it was written, or of ages before it.
To have proved this, before there was any appearance of a further
completion of it, might have answered some purpose; for it might have
prevented the expectation of any such further completion. Thus could
Porphyry have shown, that some principal parts of the book of Daniel,
for instance the seventh verse of the seventh chapter, which the
Christians interpreted of the latter ages, was applicable to events,
which happened before or about the age of Antiochus Epiphanes; this
might have prevented them from expecting any further completion of
it. And, unless there was then, as I think there must have been,
external evidence concerning that book, more than is come down to
us; such a discovery might have been a stumbling-block in the way
of Christianity itself: considering the authority which our Savior
has given to the book of Daniel, and how much the general scheme of
Christianity presupposes the truth of it. But even this discovery,
had there been any such,[266] would be of very little weight with
reasonable men now; if this passage, thus applicable to events before
the age of Porphyry, appears to be applicable also to events, which
succeeded the dissolution of the Roman empire. I mention this, not at
all as intending to insinuate, that the division of this empire into
ten parts, for it plainly was divided into about that number, were,
alone and by itself, of any moment in verifying the prophetic history:
but only as an example of the thing I am speaking of. Thus upon the
whole, the matter of inquiry evidently must be, as above put, Whether
the prophecies are applicable to Christ, and to the present state of
the world, and of the church; applicable in such a degree, as to imply
foresight: not whether they are _capable_ of any other application.
Though I know no pretence for saying the general turn of them is
capable of any other.

These observations are, I think, just, and the evidence referred to
in them real: though there may be people who will not accept of such
imperfect information from Scripture. Some too have not integrity and
regard enough to truth, to attend to evidence, which keeps the mind
in doubt, perhaps perplexity, and which is much of a different sort
from what they expected. It plainly requires a degree of modesty and
fairness, beyond what every one has, for a man to say, not to the world
but to himself, that there is a real appearance of great weight in this
matter, though he is not able thoroughly to satisfy himself about it;
but that it shall have its influence upon him, in proportion to its
apparent reality and weight. It is much more easy, and more falls in
with the negligence, presumption, and wilfulness of the generality, to
determine at once, with a decisive air, There is nothing in it. The
prejudices arising from that absolute contempt and scorn, with which
this evidence is treated in the world, I do not mention. For what can
be said to persons, who are weak enough in their understandings to
think this any presumption against it; or, if they do not, are yet weak
enough in their temper to be influenced by such prejudices, upon such a

_Secondly_, I shall endeavor to give some account of the general
argument for the truth of Christianity, consisting both of the direct
and circumstantial evidence considered as making up one argument. To
state and examine this argument fully, would be a work much beyond the
compass of this whole treatise; nor is so much as a proper abridgment
of it to be expected here. Yet the present subject requires to have
some brief account of it given. For it is the kind of evidence, upon
which most questions of difficulty, in common practice, are determined:
evidence arising from various coincidences, which support and confirm
each other, and in this manner prove, with more or less certainty, the
point under consideration. I choose to do it also: First, because it
seems to be of the greatest importance, and not duly attended to by
every one, that the proof of revelation is not some direct and express
things only, but a great variety of circumstantial things also; and
that though each of these direct and circumstantial things is indeed
to be considered separately, yet they are afterwards to be joined
together; for that the proper force of the evidence consists in the
result of those several things, considered in their respects to each
other, and united into one view. In the next place, because it seems
to me, that the matters of fact here set down, which are acknowledged
by unbelievers, must be acknowledged by them also to contain together
a degree of evidence of great weight, if they could be brought to
lay these several things before themselves distinctly, and then with
attention consider them together; instead of that cursory thought of
them, to which we are familiarized. For being familiarized to the
cursory thought of things as really hinders the weight of them from
being seen, as from having its due influence upon practice.

The thing asserted, and the truth of which is to be inquired into,
is this: That over and above our reason and affections, which God
has given us for the information of our judgment and the conduct
of our lives, he has also, by external revelation, given us an
account of himself and his moral government over the world, implying
a future state of rewards and punishments; _i.e._ hath revealed
the system of natural religion: (for natural religion may be
externally[267] revealed by God, as the ignorant may be taught it by
their fellow-creatures)--that God, I say, has given us the evidence
of revelation, as well as the evidence of reason, to ascertain this
moral system; together with an account of a particular dispensation of
Providence, which reason could no way have discovered, and a particular
institution of religion founded on it, for the recovery of mankind out
of their present wretched condition, and raising them to the perfection
and final happiness of their nature.

This revelation, whether real or supposed, may be considered as wholly
historical. For prophecy is nothing but the history of events before
they come to pass; doctrines also are matters of fact; and precepts
come under the same notion. The general design of Scripture, which
contains in it this revelation, thus considered as historical, may be
said to be, to give us an account of the world in this one single view,
as God’s world: by which it appears essentially distinguished from all
other books, so far as I have found, except such as are copied from
it. It begins with an account of God’s creation of the world, in order
to ascertain, and distinguish from all others, who is the object of
our worship, by what he has done: in order to ascertain, who he is,
concerning whose providence, commands, promises, and threatenings,
this sacred book, all along, treats; [viz.] the Maker and Proprietor
of the world, he whose creatures we are, the God of nature: in order
likewise to distinguish him from the idols of the nations, which are
either imaginary beings, _i.e._ no beings at all; or else part of that
creation, the historical relation of which is here given. And John, not
improbably with an eye to this Mosaic account of the creation, begins
his Gospel with an account of our Savior’s pre-existence, and that _all
things were made by him; and without him, was not any thing made that
was made_:[268] agreeably to the doctrine of Paul, that _God created
all things by Jesus Christ_.[269] This being premised, the Scripture,
taken together, seems to profess to contain a kind of an abridgment of
the history of the world, in the view just now mentioned: that is, a
general account of the condition of religion and its professors, during
the continuance of that apostasy from God, and state of wickedness,
which it everywhere supposes the world to lie in. And this account
of the state of religion carries with it some brief account of the
political state of things, as religion is affected by it. Revelation
indeed considers the common affairs of this world, and what is going
on in it, as a mere scene of distraction; and cannot be supposed to
concern itself with foretelling at what time Rome, or Babylon, or
Greece, or any particular place, should be the most conspicuous seat
of that tyranny and dissoluteness, which all places equally aspire
to be; cannot, I say, be supposed to give any account of this wild
scene for its own sake. But it seems to contain some very general
account of the chief governments of the world, as the general state of
religion has been, is, or shall be, affected by them, from the first
transgression, and during the whole interval of the world’s continuing
in its present state, to a certain future period, spoken of both in
the Old and New Testament, very distinctly, and in great variety of
expression: _The times of the restitution of all things_:[270] when
_the mystery of God shall be finished, as he hath declared to his
servants the prophets_:[271] when _the God of heaven shall set up a
kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be
left to other people_,[272] as it is represented to be during this
apostasy, but _judgment shall be given to the saints_,[273] and _they
shall reign_:[274] _and the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of
the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the
saints of the Most High_.[275]

Upon this general view of the Scripture, I would remark, how great a
length of time the whole relation takes up, near six thousand years
of which are past; and how great a variety of things it treats of;
the natural and moral system or history of the world, including the
time when it was formed, all contained in the very first book, and
evidently written in a rude and unlearned age; and in subsequent
books, the various common and prophetic history, and the particular
dispensation of Christianity. Now all this together gives the largest
scope for criticism; and for the confutation of what is capable of
being confuted, either from reason, or from common history, or from
any inconsistence in its several parts. And it deserves, I think, to
be mentioned, that whereas some imagine the supposed doubtfulness of
the evidence for revelation implies a positive argument that it is not
true; it appears, on the contrary, to imply a positive argument that
it is true. For, could any common relation of such antiquity, extent,
and variety (for in these things the stress of what I am now observing
lies) be proposed to the examination of the world: that it could not,
in an age of knowledge and liberty, be confuted, or shown to have
nothing in it, to the satisfaction of reasonable men; would be thought
a strong presumptive proof of its truth. Indeed it must be a _proof_
of it, just in proportion to the probability, that if it were false,
it might be shown to be so: which, I think, is scarce pretended to be
shown, but upon principles and in ways of arguing, which have been
clearly obviated.[276] Nor does it at all appear, that any set of men,
who believe natural religion, are of the opinion, that Christianity has
been thus confuted. But to proceed:

Together with the moral system of the world, the Old Testament contains
a chronological account of the beginning of it, and from thence, an
unbroken genealogy of mankind for many ages before common history
begins; and carried on as much farther as to make up a continued
thread of history, of the length of between three and four thousand
years. It contains an account of God’s making a covenant with a
particular nation, that they should be his people, and he would be
their God, in a peculiar sense; of his often interposing miraculously
in their affairs; giving them the promise, and long after, the
possession, of a particular country; assuring them of the greatest
national prosperity in it, if they would worship him, in opposition
to the idols which the rest of the world worshipped, and obey his
commands; and threatening them with unexampled punishments if they
disobeyed him, and fell into the general idolatry: insomuch that
this one nation should continue to be the observation and the wonder
of all the world. It declares particularly, that _God would scatter
them among all people, from one end of the earth unto the other_; but
that _when they should return unto the Lord their God, he would have
compassion upon them, and gather them from all the nations, whither he
had scattered them_: that _Israel should be saved in the Lord, with an
everlasting salvation; and not be ashamed or confounded world without
end_.[277] And as some of these promises are conditional, others are as
absolute as any thing can be expressed: that the time should come, when
_the people should be all righteous, and inherit the land forever_:
that _though God would make a full end of all nations whither he had
scattered them, yet would he not make a full end of them_: that _he
would bring again the captivity of his people Israel, and plant them
upon their land, and they should be no more pulled up out of their
land_: that _the seed of Israel should not cease from being a nation
forever_.[278] It foretells, that God would raise them up a particular
person, in whom all his promises should finally be fulfilled; the
Messiah, who should be, in a high and eminent sense, their anointed
Prince and Savior. This was foretold in such a manner, as raised a
general expectation of such a person in the nation, as appears from
the New Testament, and is an acknowledged fact; an expectation of his
coming at such a particular time, before any one appeared claiming to
be that person, and when there was no ground for such an expectation,
but from the prophecies: which expectation, therefore, must in all
reason be presumed to be explanatory of those prophecies, if there were
any doubt about their meaning. It seems moreover to foretell, that this
person should be rejected by the nation to whom he had been so long
promised, though he was so much desired by them.[279] And it expressly
foretells, that he should be the Savior of the Gentiles; and that the
completion of the scheme contained in this book, and then begun, and in
its progress, should be something so great, that in comparison with it,
the restoration of the Jews alone would be but of small account. _It is
a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes
of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee
for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be for salvation unto the
end of the earth._ And, _In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s
house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be
exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it--for out of
Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And he shall judge among the nations--and the Lord alone shall be
exalted in that day, and the idols he shall utterly abolish._[280]

The Scripture further contains an account, that at the time the Messiah
was expected, a person rose up in this nation, claiming to be that
Messiah, to be the person to whom all the prophecies referred, and in
whom they should center: that he spent some years in a continued course
of miraculous works; and endued his immediate disciples and followers
with a power of doing the same, as a proof of the truth of that
religion, which he commissioned them to publish: that invested with
this authority and power, they made numerous converts in the remotest
countries, and settled and established his religion in the world; to
the end of which the Scripture professes to give a prophetic account of
the state of this religion among mankind.[281]

Let us now suppose a person utterly ignorant of history, to have all
this related to him out of the Scripture. Or suppose such an one,
having the Scripture put into his hands, to remark these things in
it, not knowing but that the whole, even its civil history, as well
as the other parts of it, might be, from beginning to end, an entire
invention; and to ask, What truth was in it, and whether the revelation
here related was real, or a fiction? And, instead of a direct answer,
suppose him, all at once, to be told the following confessed facts; and
then to unite them into one view.

Let him first be told, in how great a degree the profession and
establishment of natural religion, the belief that there is one God
to be worshipped, that virtue is his law, and that mankind shall be
rewarded and punished hereafter, as they obey and disobey it here; in
how very great a degree, I say, the profession and establishment of
this moral system in the world is owing to the revelation, whether
real or supposed, contained in this book: the establishment of this
moral system, even in those countries which do not acknowledge the
proper authority of the Scripture.[282] Let him be told also, what
number of nations do acknowledge its proper authority. Let him then
take in the consideration, of what importance religion is to mankind.
And upon these things he might, I think, truly observe, that this
supposed revelation’s obtaining and being received in the world, with
all the circumstances and effects of it, considered together as one
event, is the most conspicuous and important event in the history of
mankind: that a book of this nature, and thus promulged and recommended
to our consideration, demands, as if by a voice from heaven, to have
its claims most seriously examined; and that, before such examination,
to treat it with any kind of scoffing and ridicule, is an offence
against natural piety. It is to be remembered, that how much soever
the establishment of natural religion in the world is owing to the
Scripture revelation, this does not destroy the proof of religion from
reason, any more than the proof of Euclid’s Elements is destroyed, by
a man’s knowing or thinking, that he should never have seen the truth
of the several propositions contained in it, nor had those propositions
come into his thoughts, but for that mathematician.

Let such a person as we are speaking of be, in the next place,
informed of the acknowledged antiquity of the first parts of this book;
and that its chronology, its account of the time when the earth, and
the several parts of it, were first peopled with human creatures, is
no way contradicted, but is really confirmed, by the natural and civil
history of the world, collected from common historians, from the state
of the earth, and from the late invention of arts and sciences.

And as the Scripture contains an unbroken thread of common and civil
history, from the creation to the captivity, for between three and
four thousand years; let the person we are speaking of be told, in the
next place, that this general history, as it is not contradicted, but
confirmed by profane history[283] as much as there would be reason
to expect, upon supposition of its truth; so there is nothing in the
whole history _itself_, to give any reasonable ground of suspicion
of its not being, in the general, a faithful and literally true
genealogy of men, and series of things. I speak here only of the common
Scripture history, or of the course of ordinary events related in it,
as distinguished from miracles, and from the prophetic history. In
all the Scripture narrations of this kind, following events arise out
of foregoing ones, as in all other histories. There appears nothing
related as done in any age, not conformable to the manners of that
age: nothing in the account of a succeeding age, which one would say
could not be true, or was improbable, from the account of things in the
preceding one. There is nothing in the characters, which would raise a
thought of their being feigned; but all the internal marks imaginable
of their being real. It is to be added also, that mere genealogies,
bare narratives of the number of years, which persons called by such
and such names lived, do not carry the face of fiction; perhaps do
carry some presumption of veracity: and all unadorned narratives, which
have nothing to surprise, may be thought to carry somewhat of the like
presumption too. And the domestic and the political history is plainly
credible. There may be incidents in Scripture, which, taken alone in
the naked way they are told, may appear strange; especially to persons
of other manners, temper, education: but there are also incidents of
undoubted truth, in many or most persons’ lives, which, in the same
circumstances, would appear to the full as strange.[284] There may be
mistakes of transcribers, there may be other real or seeming mistakes,
not easy to be particularly accounted for: but there are certainly
no more things of this kind in the Scripture, than what were to have
been expected in books of such antiquity; and nothing, in any wise,
sufficient to discredit the general narrative.

Now, that a history, claiming to commence from the creation, and
extending in one continued series, through so great a length of time,
and variety of events, should have such appearances of reality and
truth in its whole contexture, is surely a very remarkable circumstance
in its favor. And as all this is applicable to the common history
of the New Testament, so there is a further credibility, and a very
high one, given to it by profane authors: many of these writing of
the same times, and confirming the truth of customs and events, which
are incidentally as well as more purposely mentioned in it. And this
credibility of the common Scripture-history, gives some credibility
to its miraculous history: especially as this is interwoven with the
common, so as that they imply each other, and both together make up one

Let it then be more particularly observed to this person, that it is an
acknowledged matter of fact, which is indeed implied in the foregoing
observation, that there was such a nation as the Jews, of the greatest
antiquity, whose government and general polity was founded on the law,
here related to be given them by Moses as from heaven: that natural
religion, with rites additional yet no way contrary to it, was their
established religion, which cannot be said of the Gentile world: and
that their very being as a nation, depended upon their acknowledgment
of one God, the God of the universe. For, suppose in their captivity in
Babylon, they had gone over to the religion of their conquerors, there
would have remained no bond of union, to keep them a distinct people.
And while they were under their own kings, in their own country, a
total apostasy from God would have been the dissolution of their whole
government. They in such a sense nationally acknowledged and worshipped
the Maker of heaven and earth, when the rest of the world were sunk in
idolatry, as rendered them, in fact, the peculiar people of God. This
remarkable establishment and preservation of natural religion among
them, seems to add peculiar credibility to the historical evidence for
the miracles of Moses and the prophets. Because these miracles are a
full satisfactory account of this event, which plainly needs to be
accounted for, and cannot be otherwise.

Let this person, supposed wholly ignorant of history, be acquainted
further, that one claiming to be the Messiah, of Jewish extraction,
rose up at the time when this nation, from the prophecies above
mentioned, expected the Messiah: that he was rejected, as it seemed
to have been foretold he should, by the body of the people, under the
direction of their rulers: that in the course of a very few years, he
was believed on and acknowledged as the promised Messiah, by great
numbers among the Gentiles, agreeably to the prophecies of Scripture,
yet not upon the evidence of prophecy, but of miracles,[285] of which
miracles we have also strong historical evidence; (by which I mean here
no more than must be acknowledged by unbelievers; for let pious frauds
and follies be admitted to weaken, it is absurd to say they destroy
our evidence of miracles wrought in proof of Christianity:)[286] that
this religion approving itself to the reason of mankind, and carrying
its own evidence with it, so far as reason is a judge of its system,
and being no way contrary to reason in those parts of it which require
to be believed upon the mere authority of its Author; that this
religion, I say, gradually spread and supported itself for some hundred
years, not only without any assistance from temporal power, but under
constant discouragements, and often the bitterest persecutions from
it; and then became the religion of the world: that in the mean time
the Jewish nation and government were destroyed in a very remarkable
manner, and the people carried away captive and dispersed through the
most distant countries; in which state of dispersion they have remained
fifteen hundred years: and that they remain a numerous people, united
among themselves, and distinguished from the rest of the world, as they
were in the days of Moses, by the profession of his law; and everywhere
looked upon in a manner, which one scarce knows how distinctly to
express, but in the words of the prophetic account of it, given so
many ages before it came to pass: _Thou shalt become an astonishment,
a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord shall lead

The appearance of a standing miracle, in the Jews remaining a distinct
people in their dispersion, and the confirmation which this event
appears to give to the truth of revelation, may be thought to be
answered, by their religion’s forbidding them intermarriages with those
of other nations, and prescribing them many peculiarities in their
food, by which they are debarred from incorporating with the people in
whose countries they live. This is not, I think, a satisfactory account
of that which it pretends to account for. But what does it pretend to
account for? The correspondence between this event and the prophecies;
or the coincidence of both, with a long dispensation of Providence,
of a peculiar nature, towards that people? No. It is only the event
itself, which is offered to be thus accounted for: which single event,
taken alone, abstracted from all such correspondence and coincidence,
perhaps would not have appeared miraculous: but that correspondence
and coincidence may be so, though the event itself be supposed not.
Thus the concurrence of our Saviour’s being born at Bethlehem, with a
long foregoing series of prophecy and other coincidences, is doubtless
miraculous; the series of prophecy, and other coincidences, and the
event, being admitted: though the event itself appears to have been
brought about in a natural way; of which, however, no one can be

As several of these events seem, in some degree expressly, to have
verified the prophetic history already, so likewise they may be
considered further, as having a peculiar aspect towards the full
completion of it; as affording some presumption that the whole of it
shall, one time or other, be fulfilled. Thus, that the Jews have been
so wonderfully preserved in their long and wide dispersion; which is
indeed the direct fulfilling of some prophecies, but is now mentioned
only as looking forward to somewhat yet to come: that natural religion
came forth from Judea, and spread, in the degree it has done over
the world, before lost in idolatry; which, together with some other
things, have distinguished that very place, in like manner as the
people of it are distinguished: that this great change of religion over
the earth was brought about under the profession and acknowledgment,
that Jesus was the promised Messiah: things of this kind naturally
turn the thoughts of serious men towards the full completion of the
prophetic history, concerning the final restoration of that people;
concerning the establishment of the everlasting kingdom among them, the
kingdom of the Messiah; and the future state of the world, under this
sacred government. Such circumstances and events, compared with these
prophecies, though no completions of them, yet would not, I think,
be spoken of as nothing in the argument, by a person upon his first
being informed of them. They fall in with the prophetic history of
things still future, give it some additional credibility, and have the
appearance of being somewhat in order to the full completion of it.

Indeed it requires a good degree of knowledge, and great calmness and
consideration, to be able to judge thoroughly of the evidence for the
truth of Christianity, from that part of the prophetic history which
relates to the situation of the kingdoms of the world, and to the state
of the church, from the establishment of Christianity to the present
time. But it appears from a general view of it, to be very material.
And those persons who have thoroughly examined it, and some of them
were men of the coolest tempers, greatest capacities, and least liable
to imputations of prejudice, insist upon it as determinately conclusive.

[CONCLUSION.] Suppose now a person quite ignorant of history, first
to recollect the passages above mentioned out of Scripture, without
knowing but that the whole was a late fiction, then to be informed
of the correspondent facts now mentioned, and to unite them all into
one view: that the profession and establishment of natural religion
in the world is greatly owing, in different ways, to this book, and
the supposed revelation which it contains; that it is acknowledged to
be of the earliest antiquity; that its chronology and common history
are entirely credible; that this ancient nation, the Jews, of whom it
chiefly treats, appear to have been, in fact, the people of God, in a
distinguished sense; that, as there was a national expectation among
them, raised from the prophecies, of a Messiah to appear at such a
time, so one at this time appeared claiming to be that Messiah; that
he was rejected by this nation, but received by the Gentiles, not upon
the evidence of prophecy, but of miracles; that the religion he taught
supported itself under the greatest difficulties, gained ground, and
at length became the religion of the world; that in the mean time the
Jewish polity was utterly destroyed, and the nation dispersed over the
face of the earth; that notwithstanding this, they have remained a
distinct numerous people for so many centuries, even to this day; which
not only appears to be the express completion of several prophecies
concerning them, but also renders it, as one may speak, a visible and
easy possibility that the promises made to them as a nation, may yet be

To these acknowledged truths, let the person we have been supposing
add, as I think he ought, whether every one will allow it or no, the
obvious appearances which there are, of the state of the world, in
other respects besides what relates to the Jews, and of the Christian
church, having so long answered, and still answering to the prophetic
history. Suppose, I say, these facts set over against the things before
mentioned out of the Scripture, and seriously compared with them;
the joint view of both together must, I think, appear of very great
weight to a considerate reasonable person: of much greater indeed, upon
having them first laid before him, than is easy for us, who are so
familiarized to them, to conceive, without some particular attention
for that purpose.

All these things, and the several particulars contained under them,
require to be distinctly and most thoroughly examined into; that the
weight of each may be judged of, upon such examination, and such
conclusion drawn, as results from their _united force_. But this has
not been attempted here. I have gone no further than to show, that the
general imperfect view of them now given, the confessed historical
evidence for miracles, and the many obvious appearing completions of
prophecy, together with the collateral things[288] here mentioned, and
there are several others of the like sort; that all this together,
which, being fact, must be acknowledged by unbelievers, amounts to
real evidence of somewhat more than human in this matter: evidence
much more important, than careless men, who have been accustomed
only to transient and partial views of it, can imagine; and indeed
abundantly sufficient to act upon. And these things, I apprehend, must
be acknowledged by unbelievers. For though they may say, that the
historical evidence of miracles wrought in attestation of Christianity,
is not sufficient to convince them, that such miracles were really
wrought: they cannot deny, that there is such historical evidence,
it being a known matter of fact that there is. They may say, the
conformity between the prophecies and events is by accident: but there
are many instances in which such conformity itself cannot be denied.
They may say, with regard to such kind of collateral things as those
above mentioned, that any odd accidental events, without meaning, will
have a meaning found in them by fanciful people: and that such as are
fanciful in any one certain way, will make out a thousand coincidences,
which seem to favor their peculiar follies. Men, I say, may talk
thus: but no one who is serious, can possibly think these things to
be nothing, if he considers the importance of collateral things, and
even of lesser circumstances, in the evidence of probability, as
distinguished in nature, from the evidence of demonstration. In many
cases indeed it seems to require the truest judgment, to determine with
exactness the weight of circumstantial evidence: but it is very often
altogether as convincing, as that which is the most express and direct.

This general view of the evidence for Christianity, considered as
making one argument, may also serve to recommend to serious persons,
to set down every thing which they think may be of any real weight at
all in proof of it, and particularly the many seeming completions of
prophecy: and they will find, that, judging by the natural rules, by
which we judge of probable evidence in common matters, they amount to
a much higher degree of proof, upon such a _joint review_, than could
be supposed upon considering them separately, at different times;
how strong soever the proof might before appear to them, upon such
separate views of it. For probable proofs, by being added, not only
_increase_ the evidence, but _multiply_ it.[289] Nor should I dissuade
any one from setting down, what he thought made for the contrary
side. But then it is to be remembered, not in order to influence his
judgment, but his practice, that a mistake on one side may be, in its
consequences, much more dangerous, than a mistake on the other. And
what course is most safe, and what most dangerous, will be thought a
very material consideration, when we deliberate, not concerning events,
but concerning conduct in our temporal affairs. To be influenced by
this consideration in our judgment, to believe or disbelieve upon it,
is indeed as much prejudice, as any thing whatever. And, like other
prejudices, it operates contrary ways, in different men; for some are
inclined to believe what they hope, and others what they fear. And
it is manifest unreasonableness to apply to men’s passions in order
to gain their assent. But in deliberations concerning conduct, there
is nothing which reason more requires to be taken into the account,
than the importance of it. For, suppose it doubtful, what would be the
consequence of acting in this, or in the contrary manner: still, that
taking one side could be attended with little or no bad consequence,
and taking the other might be attended with the greatest, must appear,
to unprejudiced reason, of the highest moment towards determining how
we are to act. The truth of our religion, like the truth of common
matters, is to be judged of by all the evidence taken together.
And unless the whole series of things which may be alleged in this
argument, and every particular thing in it, can reasonably be supposed
to have been by accident (for here the stress of the argument for
Christianity lies); then is the truth of it proved: in like manner, as
if in any common case, numerous events acknowledged, were to be alleged
in proof of any other event disputed; the truth of the disputed event
would be proved, not only if any one of the acknowledged ones did of
itself clearly imply it, but, though no one of them singly did so, if
the whole of the acknowledged events taken together could not in reason
be supposed to have happened, unless the disputed one were true.

It is obvious, how much advantage the nature of this evidence gives
to those persons who attack Christianity, especially in conversation.
For it is easy to show, in a short and lively manner, that such and
such things are liable to objection, that this and another thing is of
little weight in itself; but impossible to show, in like manner, the
united force of the whole argument in one view.

Lastly, as it has been made appear, that there is no presumption
against a revelation as miraculous; that the general scheme of
Christianity, and the principal parts of it, are conformable to the
experienced constitution of things, and the whole perfectly credible:
so the account now given of the positive evidence for it, shows, that
this evidence is such, as, from the nature of it, cannot be destroyed,
though it should be lessened.



If every one would consider, with such attention as they are bound,
even in point of morality, to consider, what they judge and give
characters of; the occasion of this chapter would be, in some good
measure at least, superseded. But since this is not to be expected;
for some we find do not concern themselves to understand even what
they write against: since this treatise, in common with most others,
lies open to objections, which may appear very material to thoughtful
men at first sight; and, besides that, seems peculiarly liable to the
objections of such as can judge without thinking, and of such as can
censure without judging; it may not be amiss to set down the chief of
these objections which occur to me, and consider them to their hands.
They are such as these:

“That it is a poor thing to solve difficulties in revelation, by
saying, that there are the same in natural religion; when what is
wanting is to clear both of them of these their common, as well as
other their respective, difficulties; that it is a strange way indeed
of convincing men of the obligations of religion, to show them,
that they have as little reason for their worldly pursuits: and a
strange way of vindicating the justice and goodness of the Author of
nature, and of removing the objections against both, to which the
system of religion lies open, to show, that the like objections lie
against natural providence; a way of answering objections against
religion, without so much as pretending to make out, that the
system of it, or the particular things in it objected against, are
reasonable--especially, perhaps some may be inattentive enough to add,
must this be thought strange, when it is confessed that analogy is no
answer to such objections: that when this sort of reasoning is carried
to the utmost length it can be imagined capable of, it will yet leave
the mind in a very unsatisfied state; and that it must be unaccountable
ignorance of mankind, to imagine they will be prevailed with to forego
their present interests and pleasures, from regard to religion, upon
doubtful evidence.”

Now, as plausible as this way of talking may appear, that appearance
will be found in a great measure owing to half views, which show but
part of an object, yet show that indistinctly, and to undeterminate
language. By these means weak men are often deceived by others, and
ludicrous men, by themselves. And even those, who are serious and
considerate, cannot always readily disentangle, and at once clearly see
through the perplexities, in which subjects themselves are involved;
and which are heightened by the deficiencies and the abuse of words. To
this latter sort of persons, the following reply to each part of this
objection severally, may be of some assistance; as it may also tend a
little to stop and silence others.

_First_, The thing wanted, _i.e._ what men require, is to have _all_
difficulties cleared. And this is, or at least for any thing we know
to the contrary, it may be, the same as requiring to comprehend the
divine nature, and the whole plan of Providence from everlasting to
everlasting! But it hath always been allowed to argue from what is
acknowledged, to what is disputed. And it is in no other sense a poor
thing, to argue from natural religion to revealed, in the manner
found fault with, than it is to argue in numberless other ways of
probable deduction and inference, in matters of conduct, which we are
continually reduced to the necessity of doing. Indeed the epithet
_poor_ may be applied, I fear as properly, to great part or the whole
of human life, as it is to the things mentioned in the objection. Is it
not a poor thing, for a physician to have so little knowledge in the
cure of diseases, as even the most eminent have? To act upon conjecture
and guess, where the life of man is concerned? Undoubtedly it is: but
not in comparison of having no skill at all in that useful art, and
being obliged to act wholly in the dark.

Further: since it is as unreasonable, as it is common, to urge
objections against revelation, which are of equal weight against
natural religion; and those who do this, if they are not confused
themselves, deal unfairly with others, in making it seem that they are
arguing only against revelation, or particular doctrines of it, when
in reality they are arguing against moral providence; it is a thing
of consequence to show, that such objections are as much levelled
against natural religion, as against revealed. Objections, which are
equally applicable to both, are properly speaking answered, by its
being shown that they are so, provided the former be admitted to be
true. And without taking in the consideration how distinctly this is
admitted, it is plainly very material to observe, that as the things
objected against in natural religion are of the same kind with what is
certain matter of experience in the course of providence, and in the
information which God affords us concerning our temporal interest under
his government; so the objections against the system of Christianity,
and the evidence of it, are of the very same kind with those which are
made against the system and evidence of natural religion. However, the
reader upon review may see, that most of the analogies insisted upon,
even in the latter part of this treatise, do not necessarily require to
have more taken for granted than is in the former; [viz.] that there is
an Author of nature, or natural Governor of the world: and Christianity
is vindicated, not from its analogy to natural religion, but chiefly
from its analogy to the experienced constitution of nature.

_Secondly_, Religion is a practical thing, and consists in such a
determinate course of life, as what, there is reason to think, is
commanded by the Author of nature, and will, upon the whole, be our
happiness under his government. If men can be convinced, that they
have the like reason to believe this, as to believe that taking care
of their temporal affairs will be to their advantage; such conviction
cannot but be an argument to them for the practice of religion.
And if there be really any reason for believing one of these, and
endeavoring to preserve life, and secure ourselves the necessaries
and conveniences of it; then there is reason also for believing the
other, and endeavoring to secure the interest it proposes to us. And
if the interest, which religion proposes to us, be infinitely greater
than our whole temporal interest; then there must be proportionably
greater reason for endeavoring to secure one, than the other; since, by
the supposition, the probability of our securing one is equal to the
probability of our securing the other. This seems plainly unanswerable,
and has a tendency to influence fair minds, who consider what our
condition really is, or upon what evidence we are naturally appointed
to act; and who are disposed to acquiesce in the terms upon which we
live, and attend to and follow that practical instruction, whatever it
be, which is afforded us.

But the chief and proper force of the argument referred to in the
objection, lies in another place. The proof of religion, it is said, is
involved in such inextricable difficulties, as to render it doubtful;
and that it cannot be supposed that if it were true, it would be left
upon doubtful evidence. Here then, over and above the force of each
particular difficulty or objection, these difficulties and objections
taken together are turned into a positive argument against the truth
of religion; which argument would stand thus. If religion were true,
it would not be left doubtful, and open to objections to the degree
in which it is: therefore that it is thus left, not only renders the
evidence of it weak, and lessens its force, in proportion to the weight
of such objections, but also shows it to be false, or is a general
presumption of its being so. Now the observation, that from the natural
constitution and course of things, we must in our temporal concerns,
almost continually, and even in matters of great consequence, act upon
evidence of a like kind and degree to the evidence of religion, is an
answer to this argument. Because it shows, that it is according to the
conduct and character of the Author of nature to appoint we should act
upon evidence like to that, which this argument presumes he cannot be
supposed to appoint we should act upon: it is an instance, a general
one, made up of numerous particular ones, of somewhat in his dealing
with us, similar to what is said to be incredible. As the force of this
answer lies merely in the parallel, which there is between the evidence
for religion and for our temporal conduct; the answer is equally just
and conclusive, whether the parallel be made out, by showing the
evidence of the former to be higher, or the evidence of the latter to
be lower.

_Thirdly_, The design of this treatise is not to vindicate the
character of God, but to show the obligations of men: it is not to
justify his providence, but to show what belongs to us to do. These are
two subjects, and ought not to be confounded. Though they may at length
run up into each other, yet observations may immediately tend to make
out the latter, which do not appear, by any immediate connection, to
the purpose of the former; which is less our concern, than many seem to
think. For, first,

It is not necessary we should justify the dispensations of Providence
against objections, any farther than to show, that the things objected
against may, for aught we know, be consistent with justice and
goodness. Suppose then, that there are things in the system of this
world, and plan of Providence relating to it, which taken alone would
be unjust: yet it has been shown unanswerably, that if we could take
in the reference, which these things may have to other things, present
past and to come; to the whole scheme, which the things objected
against are parts of; these very things might, for aught we know, be
found to be, not only consistent with justice, but instances of it.
Indeed it has been shown, by the analogy of what we see, not only
possible that this may be the case, but credible that it is. And thus
objections, drawn from such things, are answered, and Providence is
vindicated, as far as religion makes its vindication necessary.

Hence it appears, Secondly, that objections against the Divine justice
and goodness are not endeavored to be _removed_, by showing that the
like objections, allowed to be really conclusive, lie against natural
providence: but those objections being supposed and shown not to be
_conclusive_, the things objected against, considered as matters of
fact, are farther shown to be credible, from their conformity to the
constitution of nature; for instance, that God will reward and punish
men for their actions hereafter, from the observation, that he does
reward and punish them for their actions here. And this, I apprehend,
is of weight.

Thirdly, it would be of weight, even though those objections were
not answered. For, there being the proof of religion above set down;
and religion implying several facts; for instance again, the fact
last mentioned, that God will reward and punish men for their actions
hereafter; the observation, that his present method of government is by
rewards and punishments, shows that future fact not to be incredible:
whatever objections men may think they have against it, as unjust or
unmerciful, according to their notions of justice and mercy; or as
improbable from their belief of necessity. I say, _as improbable_: for
it is evident no objection against it, _as unjust_, can be urged from
necessity; since this notion as much destroys injustice, as it does

Fourthly, Though objections against the reasonableness of the system of
religion cannot indeed be answered without entering into consideration
of its reasonableness; yet objections against the credibility or
truth of it may. Because the system of it is reducible into what is
properly matter of fact: and the truth, the probable truth of facts,
may be shown without consideration of their reasonableness. Nor is it
necessary, though, in some cases and respects, it is highly useful and
proper, yet it is not necessary, to give a proof of the reasonableness
of every precept enjoined us, and of every particular dispensation
of Providence, which comes into the system of religion. Indeed the
more thoroughly a person of a right disposition is convinced of the
perfection of the Divine nature and conduct, the farther he will
advance towards that perfection of religion, which John[290] speaks
of.[291] But the general obligations of religion are fully made out, by
proving the reasonableness of the practice of it. And that the practice
of religion _is_ reasonable, may be shown, though no more could be
proved, than that the system of it _may be_ so, for aught we know to
the contrary: and even without entering into the distinct consideration
of this.

Fifthly, It is easy to see, that though the analogy of nature is not
an immediate answer to objections against the wisdom, the justice, or
goodness, of any doctrine or precept of religion; yet it may be, as it
is, an immediate and direct answer to what is really intended by such
objections; which is, to show that the things objected against are

_Fourthly_, It is most readily acknowledged, that the foregoing
treatise is by no means satisfactory; very far indeed from it: but so
would any natural institution of life appear, if reduced into a system,
together with its evidence. Leaving religion out of the case, men are
divided in their opinions, whether our pleasures overbalance our pains:
and whether it be, or be not, eligible to live in this world.[292] And
were all such controversies settled, which perhaps, in speculation,
would be found involved in great difficulties; and were it determined
upon the evidence of reason, as nature has determined it to our hands,
that life is to be preserved: still, the rules which God has been
pleased to afford us, for escaping the miseries of it, and obtaining
its satisfactions, the rules, for instance, of preserving health, and
recovering it when lost, are not only fallible and precarious, but
very far from being exact. Nor are we informed by nature, as to future
contingencies and accidents, so as to render it at all certain, what
is the best method of managing our affairs. What will be the success
of our temporal pursuits, in the common sense of the word success, is
highly doubtful. And what will be the success of them in the proper
sense of the word; _i.e._ what happiness or enjoyment we shall obtain
by them, is doubtful in a much higher degree. Indeed the unsatisfactory
nature of the evidence, with which we are obliged to take up, in the
daily course of life, is scarce to be expressed. Yet men do not throw
away life, or disregard the interests of it, upon account of this
doubtfulness. The evidence of religion then being admitted real, those
who object against it, as not satisfactory, _i.e._ as not being what
they wish it, plainly forget the very condition of our being: for
satisfaction, in this sense, does not belong to such a creature as man.

And, what is more material, they forget also the very nature of
religion. For, religion presupposes, in all those who will embrace it,
a certain degree of integrity and honesty; which it was intended to try
whether men have or not, and to exercise in such as have it, in order
to its improvement. Religion presupposes this as much, and in the same
sense, as speaking to a man presupposes he understands the language in
which you speak; or as warning a man of any danger presupposes that he
hath such a regard to himself, as that he will endeavor to avoid it.
Therefore the question is not at all, Whether the evidence of religion
be satisfactory; but Whether it be, in reason, sufficient to prove and
discipline that virtue, which it presupposes. Now the evidence of it is
fully sufficient for all those purposes of _probation_; how far soever
it is from being satisfactory, as to the purposes of _curiosity_, or
any other: and indeed it answers the purposes of the former in several
respects, which it would not do, if it were as overpowering as is
required. Besides, whether the motives or the evidence for any course
of action be satisfactory, meaning here, by that word, what satisfies
a man that such a course of action will in event be for his good; this
need never be, and I think, strictly speaking, never is, the practical
question in common matters. The practical question in all cases is,
Whether the evidence for a course of action be such as, taking in all
circumstances, makes the faculty within us, which is the guide and
judge of conduct,[293] determine that course of action to be prudent.
Indeed, satisfaction that it will be for our interest or happiness,
abundantly determines an action to be prudent: but evidence almost
infinitely lower than this, determines actions to be so too; even in
the conduct of every day.

_Fifthly_, As to the objection concerning the influence which this
argument, or any part of it, may, or may not be expected to have upon
men; I observe, as above, that religion being intended for a trial[294]
and exercise of the morality of every person’s character, who is a
subject of it; and there being, as I have shown, such evidence for
it, as is sufficient, in reason, to influence men to embrace it: to
object, that it is not to be imagined mankind will be influenced by
such evidence, is nothing to the purpose of the foregoing treatise. For
the purpose of it is not to inquire, what sort of creatures mankind
are; but what the light and knowledge, which is afforded them, requires
they should be: to show how, in reason, they ought to behave; not how,
in fact, they will behave. This depends upon themselves, and is their
own concern; the personal concern of each man in particular. How little
regard the generality have to it, experience indeed does too fully
show. But religion, considered as a probation, has had its end upon
all persons, to whom it has been proposed with evidence sufficient in
reason to influence their practice: for by this means they have been
put into a state of probation; let them behave as they will in it.
Thus, not only revelation, but reason also, teaches us, that by the
evidence of religion being laid before men, the designs of Providence
are carrying on, not only with regard to those who will be influenced
by it, but likewise with regard to those who will not. Lastly, the
objection here referred to, allows the thing insisted upon in this
treatise to be of _some_ weight; and if so, it may be hoped it will
have some influence. And if there be a probability that it will have
any at all, there is the same reason in kind, though not in degree,
to lay it before men, as there would be, if it were likely to have a
greater influence.

Further, I desire it may be considered, with respect to the whole of
the foregoing objections, that in this treatise I have argued upon
the principles of others,[295] not my own: and have omitted what I
think true, and of the utmost importance, because by others thought
unintelligible, or not true. Thus I have argued upon the principles of
the fatalists, which I do not believe: and have omitted a thing of the
utmost importance which I do believe,--[viz.] the moral fitness and
unfitness of actions, prior to all will whatever; which as certainly
determine the divine _conduct_, as speculative truth and falsehood
necessarily determine the divine _judgment_. Indeed the principle of
liberty, and that of moral fitness, so force themselves upon the mind,
that moralists, ancient as well as modern, have formed their language
upon it. And probably it may appear in mine, though I have endeavored
to avoid it; and, in order to avoid it, have sometimes been obliged to
express myself in a manner, which will appear strange to such as do not
observe the reason for it. But the general argument here pursued, does
not at all suppose, or proceed upon these principles.

Now, these two abstract principles of liberty and moral fitness being
omitted, religion can be considered in no other view, than merely as
a question of fact: and in this view it is here considered. It is
obvious, that Christianity, and the proof of it, are both historical.
Even natural religion is, properly, a matter of fact. For, that there
is a righteous Governor of the world, is so: and this proposition
contains the general system of natural religion. But then, several
abstract truths, and in particular those two principles, are usually
taken into consideration in the proof of it: whereas it is here treated
of only as a matter of fact. To explain this; That the three angles of
a triangle are equal to two right ones, is an abstract truth; but that
they appear so to our mind, is only a matter of fact. This last must
have been admitted, if any thing was, by those ancient sceptics, who
would not admit the former: but pretended to doubt, whether there were
any such thing as truth, or whether we could certainly depend upon our
faculties of understanding for the knowledge of it in any case.

The assertion that there is, in the nature of things, an original
standard of right and wrong in actions, independent upon all will, but
which unalterably determines the will of God, to exercise that moral
government over the world, which religion teaches, (_i.e._ finally
and upon the whole to reward and punish men respectively as they act
right or wrong;) contains an abstract truth, as well as matter of fact.
But suppose that in the present state, every man without exception,
was rewarded and punished, in exact proportion as he followed or
transgressed that sense of right and wrong, which God has implanted
in his nature: this would not be at all an abstract truth, but only a
matter of fact. And though this fact were acknowledged by every one,
yet the same difficulties might be raised as now are, concerning the
abstract questions of liberty and moral fitness. And we should have a
proof, even the certain one of experience, that the government of the
world was perfectly moral, without taking in the consideration of those
questions: and this proof would remain, in what way soever they were

Thus, God having given mankind a moral faculty, the object of which
is actions, and which naturally approves some actions as right, and
of good desert, and condemns others as wrong, and of ill desert; that
he will, finally and upon the whole, reward the former and punish the
latter, is not an assertion of an abstract truth, but of what is as
mere a fact, as his doing so at present would be. This future fact I
have not, indeed, proved with the force with which it might be proved,
from the principles of liberty and moral fitness; but without them
have given a really conclusive practical proof of it, which is greatly
strengthened by the general analogy of nature; a proof easily cavilled
at, easily shown not to be demonstrative, (and it is not offered as
such;) but impossible, I think, to be evaded, or answered. Thus the
obligations of religion are made out, exclusive of the questions
concerning liberty and moral fitness; which have been perplexed with
difficulties and abstruse reasonings, as every thing may.

Hence therefore may be observed distinctly, what is the force of this
treatise. It will be, to such as are convinced of religion upon the
proof arising out of the two last mentioned principles, an _additional_
proof and confirmation of it: to such as do not admit those principles,
an _original_ proof of it,[296] and a confirmation of that proof. Those
who believe, will here find the scheme of Christianity cleared of
objections, and the evidence of it in a peculiar manner strengthened.
Those who do not believe will at least be shown the absurdity of all
attempts to prove Christianity false, the plain undoubted credibility
of it; and, I hope, a good deal more.

Thus, though some perhaps may seriously think, that analogy, as here
urged, has too great stress laid upon it; and ridicule, unanswerable
ridicule, may be applied, to show the argument from it in a
disadvantageous light; yet there can be no question, but that it is
a real one. For religion, both natural and revealed, implying in it
numerous facts; analogy, being a _confirmation_ of all facts to which
it can be applied, and the _only proof_ of most, cannot but be admitted
by every one to be a material thing, and truly of weight on the side of
religion, both natural and revealed. And it ought to be particularly
regarded by such as profess to follow nature, and to be less satisfied
with abstract reasonings.


Whatever account may be given of the strange inattention and disregard,
in some ages and countries, to a matter of such importance as religion;
it would, before experience, be incredible, that there should be the
like disregard in those, who have had the moral system of the world
laid before them, as it is by Christianity, and often inculcated upon
them: because this moral system carries in it a good degree of evidence
for its truth, upon its being barely proposed to our thoughts. There
is no need of abstruse reasonings and distinctions, to convince an
unprejudiced understanding, that there is a God who made and governs
the world, and will judge it in righteousness; though they may be
necessary to answer abstruse difficulties, when once such are raised:
when the very meaning of those words, which express most intelligibly
the general doctrine of religion, is pretended to be uncertain; and
the clear truth of the thing itself is obscured by the intricacies of
speculation. To an unprejudiced mind, ten thousand thousand instances
of design cannot but prove a designer. And it is intuitively manifest,
that _creatures_ ought to live under a dutiful sense of their Maker;
and that justice and charity must be his laws, to creatures whom he has
made social, and placed in society.

The truth of revealed religion, peculiarly so called, is not indeed
self-evident, but requires external proof, in order to its being
received. Yet inattention, among us, to revealed religion, will
be found to imply the same dissolute immoral temper of mind, as
inattention to natural religion: because, when both are laid before
us, in the manner they are in Christian countries of liberty, our
obligations to inquire into both, and to embrace both upon supposition
of their truth, are obligations of the same nature. Revelation claims
to be the voice of God: and our obligation to attend to his voice is
surely moral, in all cases. And as it is insisted, that its evidence
is conclusive, upon thorough consideration of it; so it offers itself
with obvious appearances of having something more than human in it,
and therefore in all reason requires to have its claims most seriously
examined into.

It is to be added, that though light and knowledge, in what manner
soever afforded, is equally from God; yet a miraculous revelation
has a peculiar tendency, from the first principles of our nature, to
awaken mankind, and inspire them with reverence and awe. And this
is a peculiar obligation, to attend to what claims to be so, with
such appearances of truth. It is therefore most certain, that our
obligations to inquire seriously into the evidence of Christianity,
and, upon supposition of its truth, to embrace it, are of the utmost
importance, and moral in the highest and most proper sense. Let us then
suppose, that the evidence of religion in general, and of Christianity,
has been seriously inquired into, by all reasonable men among us. Yet
we find many professedly to reject both, upon speculative principles of
infidelity. All of them do not content themselves with a bare neglect
of religion, and enjoying their imaginary freedom from its restraints.
Some go much beyond this. They deride God’s moral government over
the world. They renounce his protection, and defy his justice. They
ridicule and vilify Christianity, and blaspheme the author of it; and
take all occasions to manifest scorn and contempt of revelation. This
amounts to an active setting themselves against religion; to what
may be considered as a positive principle of irreligion, which they
cultivate within themselves; and, whether they intend this effect
or not, render habitual, as a good man does the contrary principle.
Others, who are not chargeable with all this profligateness, yet are in
avowed opposition to religion, as if discovered to be groundless.

Now admitting, which is the supposition we go upon, that these persons
act upon what they think principles of reason, (and otherwise they are
not to be argued with,) it is really inconceivable, that they should
imagine they clearly see the whole evidence of it, considered in
itself, to be nothing at all: nor do they pretend this. They are far
indeed from having a just notion of its evidence: but they would not
say its evidence was nothing, if they thought the system of it, with
all its circumstances, were credible, like other matters of science or
history. Their manner of treating it must proceed, either from such
kind of objections against all religion, as have been answered or
obviated in the former part of this treatise; or else from objections,
and difficulties, supposed more peculiar to Christianity. Thus, they
entertain prejudices against the whole notion of a revelation, and
miraculous interpositions. They find things in Scripture, whether in
incidental passages, or in the general scheme of it, which appear to
them unreasonable. They take for granted, that if Christianity were
true, the light of it must have been more general, and the evidence
of it more satisfactory, or rather overpowering: that it must and
would have been, in some way, otherwise put and left, than it is. Now
this is not imagining they see the evidence itself to be nothing,
or inconsiderable; but quite another thing. It is being fortified
_against_ the evidence, in some degree acknowledged, by thinking they
see the system of Christianity, or something which appears to them
necessarily connected with it, to be incredible or false; fortified
against that evidence, which might otherwise make great impression
upon them. Or, lastly, if any of these persons are, upon the whole, in
doubt concerning the truth of Christianity; their behavior seems owing
to their taking for granted, through strange inattention, that such
doubting is, in a manner, the same thing as being certain against it.

To these persons, and to this state of opinion concerning religion,
the foregoing treatise is adapted. For, all the general objections
against the moral system of nature having been obviated, it is
shown, that there is not any peculiar presumption at all against
Christianity, considered either as not discoverable by reason, or as
unlike to what is so discovered; nor any, worth mentioning, against
it as miraculous, if any at all; none, certainly, which can render
it in the least incredible. It is shown, that, upon supposition of
a divine revelation, the analogy of nature renders it beforehand
highly credible, I think probable, that many things in it must appear
liable to great objections; and that we must be incompetent judges of
it, to a great degree. This observation is, I think, unquestionably
true, and of the very utmost importance. But it is urged, as I hope
it will be understood, with great caution not to vilify the faculty
of reason, which is _the candle of the Lord within us_;[297] though
it can afford no light, where it does not shine; nor judge, where
it has no principles to judge upon. The objections here spoken of,
being first answered in the view of objections against Christianity
as a matter of fact, are in the next place considered as urged more
immediately against the wisdom, justice, and goodness of the Christian
dispensation. And it is fully made out, that they admit of exactly the
like answer, in every respect, to what the like objections against
the constitution of nature admit of: that, as partial views give the
appearance of wrong to things, which, upon further consideration
and knowledge of their relations to other things, are found just
and good; so it is perfectly credible, that the things objected
against the wisdom and goodness of the Christian dispensation, may
be rendered instances of wisdom and goodness, by their reference to
other things beyond our view. Because Christianity is a scheme as much
above our comprehension, as that of nature; and like that, a scheme
in which means are made use of to accomplish ends, and which, as is
most credible, may be carried on by general laws. And it ought to be
attended to, that this is not an answer taken merely or chiefly from
our ignorance: but from something positive, which our observation shows
us. For, to like objections, the like answer is experienced to be just,
in numberless parallel cases.

The objections against the Christian dispensation, and the method
by which it is carried on, having been thus obviated, in general,
and together; the chief of them are considered distinctly, and the
particular things objected to are shown credible, by their perfect
analogy, each apart, to the constitution of nature. Thus, if man be
fallen from his primitive state, and to be restored, and infinite
wisdom and power engages in accomplishing our recovery: it were to have
been expected, it is said, that this should have been effected at once;
and not by such a long series of means, and such a various economy of
persons and things; one dispensation preparatory to another, this to
a further one, and so on through an indefinite number of ages, before
the end of the scheme proposed can be completely accomplished; a scheme
conducted by infinite wisdom, and executed by almighty power. But now,
on the contrary, our finding that every thing in the constitution and
course of nature is thus carried on, shows such expectations concerning
revelation to be highly unreasonable; and is a satisfactory answer to
them, when urged as objections against the credibility, that the great
scheme of Providence in the redemption of the world may be of this
kind, and to be accomplished in this manner.

As to the particular method of our redemption, the appointment of a
Mediator between God and man: this has been shown to be most obviously
analogous to the general conduct of nature, _i.e._ the God of nature,
in appointing others to be the instruments of his mercy, as we
experience in the daily course of Providence. The condition of this
world, which the doctrine of our redemption by Christ presupposes, so
much falls in with natural appearances, that heathen moralists inferred
it from those appearances: inferred that human nature was fallen from
its original rectitude, and in consequence of this, degraded from its
primitive happiness. However this opinion came into the world, these
appearances kept up the tradition, and confirmed the belief of it.
And as it was the general opinion under the light of nature, that
repentance and reformation, alone and by itself, was not sufficient to
do away sin, and procure a full remission of the penalties annexed to
it; and as the reason of the thing does not at all lead to any such
conclusion; so every day’s experience shows us, that reformation is
not, in any sort, sufficient to prevent the present disadvantages and
miseries, which, in the natural course of things, God has annexed to
folly and extravagance.

Yet there may be ground to think, that the punishments, which, by
the general laws of divine government, are annexed to vice, may be
prevented: that provision may have been, even originally, made, that
they should be prevented by some means or other, though they could not
by reformation alone. For we have daily instances of _such mercy_, in
the general conduct of nature: compassion provided for misery,[298]
medicines for diseases, friends against enemies. There is provision
made, in the original constitution of the world, that much of the
natural bad consequences of our follies, which persons themselves
alone cannot prevent, may be prevented by the assistance of others;
assistance which nature enables, and disposes, and appoints them to
afford. By a method of goodness analogous to this, when the world lay
in wickedness, and consequently in ruin, _God so loved the world, that
he gave his only-begotten Son_ to save it: and _he being made perfect
by suffering, became the author of eternal salvation to all them that
obey him_.[299] Indeed neither reason nor analogy would lead us to
think, in particular, that the interposition of Christ, in the manner
in which he did interpose, would be of that efficacy for recovery
of the world, which the Scripture teaches us it was. But neither
would reason nor analogy lead us to think, that other particular
means would be of the efficacy, which experience shows they are, in
numberless instances. Therefore, as the case before us does not admit
of experience; so, that neither reason nor analogy can show how, or
in what particular way, the interposition of Christ, as revealed in
Scripture, is of that efficacy, which it is there represented to be;
this is no kind nor degree of presumption against its being really of
that efficacy.

Further: the objections against Christianity, from the light of it not
being universal, nor its evidence so strong as might possibly be given,
have been answered by the general analogy of nature. That God has made
such variety of creatures, is indeed an answer to the former: but that
he dispenses his gifts in such variety, both of degrees and kinds,
among creatures of the same species, and even to the same individuals
at different times; is a more obvious and full answer to it. And it is
so far from being the method of Providence in other cases, to afford us
such overbearing evidence, as some require in proof of Christianity;
that on the contrary, the evidence upon which we are naturally
appointed to act in common matters, throughout a very great part of
life, is doubtful in a high degree. And admitting the fact, that God
has afforded to some no more than doubtful evidence of religion; the
same account may be given of it, as of difficulties and temptations
with regard to practice. But as it is not impossible,[300] surely,
that this alleged doubtfulness may be men’s own fault; it deserves
their most serious consideration, whether it be not so. However, it is
certain, that doubting implies a _degree_ of evidence for that of which
we doubt: and that this degree of evidence as really lays us under
obligations as demonstrative evidence.

The whole of religion then is throughout credible: nor is there, I
think, any thing, relating to the revealed dispensation of things, more
different from the experienced constitution and course of nature, than
some parts of the constitution of nature are from other parts of it.
If so, the only question which remains is, What positive evidence can
be alleged for the truth of Christianity? This too in general has been
considered, and the objections against it estimated. Deduct, therefore,
what is to be deducted from that evidence, upon account of any weight
which may be thought to remain in these objections, after what the
analogy of nature has suggested in answer to them: and then consider,
what are the practical consequences from all this upon the most
sceptical principles one can argue upon (for I am writing to persons
who entertain these principles): and upon such consideration it will be
obvious, that immorality, as little excuse as it admits of in itself,
is greatly aggravated, in persons who have been made acquainted with
Christianity, whether they believe it or not: because the moral system
of nature, or natural religion, which Christianity lays before us,
approves itself, almost intuitively, to a reasonable mind, upon seeing
it proposed.

In the next place, with regard to Christianity, it will be observed
that there is a middle between a full satisfaction of the truth of it,
and a satisfaction of the contrary. The middle state of mind between
these two consists in a serious apprehension, that it may be true,
joined with doubt whether it is so. And this, upon the best judgment
I am able to make, is as far towards speculative infidelity, as any
sceptic can at all be supposed to go, who has had true Christianity,
with the proper evidences of it, laid before him, and has in any
tolerable measure considered them. For I would not be mistaken to
comprehend all who have ever heard of it; because it seems evident,
that in many countries called Christian, neither Christianity nor
its evidence, is fairly laid before men. And in places where both
are, there appear to be some who have very little attended to either,
and who reject Christianity with a scorn proportionate to their
inattention; and yet are by no means without understanding in other
matters. Now it has been shown, that a serious apprehension that
Christianity may be true, lays persons under the strictest obligations
of a serious regard to it, throughout the whole of their life; a regard
not the same exactly, but in many respects nearly the same with what a
full conviction of its truth would lay them under.

_Lastly_, it will appear, that blasphemy and profaneness, with
regard to Christianity, are absolutely without excuse. There is no
temptation to it, but from the wantonness of vanity or mirth; and
those, considering the infinite importance of the subject, are no such
temptations as to afford any excuse for it. If this be a just account
of things, and yet men can go on to vilify or disregard Christianity,
which is to talk and act as if they had a demonstration of its
falsehood, there is no reason to think they would alter their behavior
to any purpose, though there were a demonstration of its truth.





In the first copy of these papers, I had inserted the two following
dissertations into the chapters, on _a Future Life_, and on the _Moral
Government of God_; with which they are closely connected. But as these
do not directly fall under the _title_ of the foregoing treatise, and
would have kept the subject of it too long out of sight, it seems more
proper to place them by themselves.


Personal Identity.

Whether we are to live in a future state, as it is the most important
question which can possibly be asked, so it is the most intelligible
one which can be expressed in language. Yet strange perplexities have
been raised about the meaning of that identity or sameness of person,
which is implied in the notion of our living now and hereafter, or in
any two successive moments. And the solution of these difficulties hath
been stranger than the difficulties themselves. For, personal identity
has been explained so by some, as to render the inquiry concerning a
future life of no consequence at all to us the persons who are making
it. And though few men can be misled by such subtleties; yet it may be
proper to consider them a little.

When it is asked _wherein_ personal identity consists, the answer
should be the same, as if it were asked wherein consists similitude,
or equality; that all attempts to define would but perplex it. Yet
there is no difficulty at all in ascertaining _the idea_. For as,
upon two triangles being compared or viewed together, there arises to
the mind the idea of similitude; or upon twice two and four, the idea
of equality: so likewise, upon comparing the consciousness of one’s
self, or one’s own existence, in any two moments, there as immediately
arises to the mind the idea of personal identity. And as the two former
comparisons not only give us the ideas of similitude and equality;
but also show us that two triangles are alike, and twice two and four
are equal: so the latter comparison not only gives us the idea of
personal identity, but also shows us the identity of ourselves in those
two moments; the present, suppose, and that immediately past; or the
present, and that a month, a year, or twenty years past. In other
words, by reflecting upon that which is myself now, and that which was
myself twenty years ago, I discern they are not two, but one and the
same self.

But though consciousness of what is past does thus ascertain our
personal identity to ourselves, yet to say, that it _makes_ personal
identity, or is necessary to our being the same persons, is to say,
that a person has not existed a single moment, nor done one action, but
what he can remember; indeed none but what he reflects upon. And one
should really think it self-evident, that consciousness of personal
identity presupposes, and therefore cannot constitute, personal
identity; any more than knowledge, in any other case, can constitute
truth, which it presupposes.

This wonderful mistake may possibly have arisen from hence; that to be
endued with consciousness is inseparable from the idea of a person, or
intelligent being. For, this might be expressed inaccurately thus, that
consciousness makes personality: and from hence it might be concluded
to make personal identity. But though present consciousness of what we
at present do and feel is necessary to our being the persons we _now
are_; yet present consciousness of past actions or feelings is not
necessary to our being the same persons who performed those actions, or
_once had_ those feelings.

The inquiry, what makes vegetables the same, in the common acceptation
of the word, does not appear to have any relation to this of personal
identity: because, the word _same_, when applied to them and to a
person, is not only applied to different subjects, but it is also
used in different senses. For when a man swears to the same tree,
as having stood fifty years in the same place, he means only the
same as to all the purposes of property, and uses of common life;
and not that the tree has been all that time the same, in the strict
philosophical sense of the word. For he does not know, whether any one
particle of the present tree be the same with any one particle of the
tree which stood in the same place fifty years ago. And if they have
not one common particle of matter, they cannot be the same tree in
the proper philosophic sense of the word _same_: it being evidently
a contradiction in terms, to say they are, when no part of their
substance, and no one of their properties is the same: no part of their
substance, by the supposition; no one of their properties, because it
is allowed, that the same property cannot be transferred from one
substance to another. Therefore when we say the identity of sameness of
a plant consists in a continuation of the same life, communicated under
the same organization, to a number of particles of matter, whether the
same or not; the word _same_, when applied to life and to organization,
cannot possibly be understood to signify, what it signifies in this
very sentence, when applied to matter. In a loose and popular sense
then, the life and the organization and the plant are justly said to
be the same, notwithstanding the perpetual change of the parts. But in
strict and philosophical language, no man, no being, no mode of being,
no any thing, can be the same with that, with which it has indeed
nothing the same. Now sameness is used in this latter sense, when
applied to persons. The identity of these, therefore, cannot subsist
with diversity of substance.

The thing here considered, and as I think, demonstratively determined,
is proposed by Mr. Locke in these words, _Whether it_; _i.e._ the same
self or person, _be the same identical substance_? And he has suggested
what is a much better answer to the question, than that which he gives
it in form. For he defines person, _a thinking intelligent being_,
&c., and personal identity, _the sameness of a rational being_.[301]
The question then is, whether the same rational being is the same
substance: which needs no answer, because being and substance, in
this place, stand for the same idea. The ground of the doubt, whether
the same person be the same substance, is said to be this; that the
consciousness of our own existence, in youth and in old age, or in any
two joint successive moments, is not the _same individual action_,[302]
_i.e._ not the same consciousness, but different successive
consciousnesses. Now it is strange that this should have occasioned
such perplexities. For it is surely conceivable, that a person may have
a capacity of knowing some object or other to be the same now, which
it was when he contemplated it formerly: yet in this case, where, by
the supposition, the object is perceived to be the same, the perception
of it in any two moments cannot be one and the same perception. And
thus, though the successive consciousnesses, which we have of our own
existence, are not the same, yet are they consciousnesses of one and
the same thing or object; of the same person, self, or living agent.
The person, of whose existence the consciousness is felt now, and was
felt an hour or a year ago, is discerned to be; not two persons, but
one and the same person; and therefore is one and the same.

Mr. Locke’s observations upon this subject appear hasty: and he seems
to profess himself dissatisfied with suppositions, which he has made
relating to it.[303] But some of those hasty observations have been
carried to a strange length by others; whose notion, when traced
and examined to the bottom, amounts, I think, to this:[304] “That
personality is not a permanent, but a transient thing: that it lives
and dies, begins and ends continually: that no one can any more remain
one and the same person two moments together, than two successive
moments can be one and the same moment: that our substance is indeed
continually changing; but whether this be so or not, is, it seems,
nothing to the purpose; since it is not substance, but consciousness
alone, which constitutes personality: which consciousness, being
successive, cannot be the same in any two moments, nor consequently
the personality constituted by it.” Hence it must follow, that it is
a fallacy upon ourselves, to charge our present selves with any thing
we did, or to imagine our present selves interested in any thing which
befell us yesterday; or that our present self will be interested in
what will befall us to-morrow: since our present self is not, in
reality, the same with the self of yesterday, but another like self or
person coming in its room, and mistaken for it; to which another self
will succeed to-morrow. This, I say, must follow. For if the self or
person of to-day, and that of to-morrow, are not the same, but only
like persons; the person of to-day is really no more interested in what
will befall the person of to-morrow, than in what will befall any other

It may be thought, perhaps, that this is not a just representation of
the opinion we are speaking of: because those who maintain it allow,
that a person is the same as far back as his remembrance reaches.
Indeed they use the words, _identity_, and _same person_. Nor will
language permit these words to be laid aside; since if they were, there
must be I know not what ridiculous periphrasis substituted in the
room of them. But they cannot, _consistently with themselves_, mean,
that the person is really the same. For it is self-evident, that the
personality cannot be really the same, if, as they expressly assert,
that in which it consists is not the same. And as, consistently with
themselves, they cannot, so, I think it appears, they do not _mean_,
that the person is _really_ the same, but only that he is so in a
fictitious sense: in such a sense only as they assert, for this they do
assert, that any number of persons whatever may be the same person. The
bare unfolding this notion, and laying it thus naked and open, seems
the best confutation of it. However, since great stress is said to be
put upon it, I add the following things.

_First_, This notion is absolutely contradictory to that certain
conviction, which necessarily and every moment rises within us, when we
turn our thoughts upon ourselves, when we reflect upon what is past,
and look forward upon what is to come. All imagination of a daily
change of that living agent which each man calls himself, for another,
or of any such change throughout our whole present life, is entirely
borne down by our natural sense of things. Nor is it possible for a
person in his wits to alter his conduct, with regard to his health or
affairs, from a suspicion, that, though he should live to-morrow, he
should not, however, be the same person he is to-day. Yet, if it be
reasonable to act, with respect to a future life, upon the notion that
personality is transient, it is reasonable to act upon it, with respect
to the present. Here then is a notion equally applicable to religion
and to temporal concerns. Every one sees and feels the inexpressible
absurdity of it in the latter case; therefore, if any can take up with
it in the former, this cannot proceed from the reason of the thing, but
must be owing to inward unfairness, and secret corruption of heart.

_Secondly_, It is not an idea, or abstract notion, or quality, but a
_being_ only, which is capable of life and action, of happiness and
misery. Now all beings confessedly continue the same, during the whole
time of their existence. Consider then a living being now existing, and
which has existed for any time alive. This living being must have done
and suffered and enjoyed, what it has done and suffered and enjoyed
formerly, (this living being, I say, and not another) as really as it
does and suffers and enjoys, what it does and suffers and enjoys this
instant. All these successive actions, enjoyments, and sufferings, are
actions, enjoyments, and sufferings, of the same living being. And they
are so, prior to all consideration of its remembering or forgetting:
since remembering or forgetting can make no alteration in the truth of
past matter of fact. And suppose this being endued with limited powers
of knowledge and memory, there is no more difficulty in conceiving it
to have a power of knowing itself to be the same living being which it
was some time ago, of remembering some of its actions, sufferings, and
enjoyments, and forgetting others, than in conceiving it to know or
remember or forget any thing else.

_Thirdly_, Every person is _conscious_, that he is now the same person
or self he was as far back as his remembrance reaches: since when any
one reflects upon a past action of his own, he is just as certain
of the person who did that action, namely, himself who now reflects
upon it, as he is certain that the action was done at all. Nay, very
often a person’s assurance of an action having been done, of which he
is absolutely assured, arises wholly from the consciousness that he
himself did it. This he, person, or self, must either be a substance,
or the property of some substance. If he, a person, be a substance;
then consciousness that he is the same person is consciousness that
he is the same substance. If the person, or he, be the property of
a substance, still consciousness that he is the same property is as
certain a proof that his substance remains the same, as consciousness
that he remains the same substance would be; since the same property
cannot be transferred from one substance to another.

But though we are thus certain, that we are the same agents, living
beings, or substances, now, which we were as far back as our
remembrance reaches; yet it is asked, whether we may not possibly
be deceived in it? And this question may be asked at the end of any
demonstration whatever: because it is a question concerning the truth
of perception by memory. He who can doubt, whether perception by memory
can in this case be depended upon, may doubt also, whether perception
by deduction and reasoning, which also include memory, or indeed
whether intuitive perception can. Here then we can go no further. For
it is ridiculous to attempt to prove the truth of those perceptions,
whose truth we can no otherwise prove, than by other perceptions of
exactly the same kind with them, and which there is just the same
ground to suspect; or to attempt to prove the truth of our faculties,
which can no otherwise be proved, than by the use or means of those
very suspected faculties themselves.[305]


The Nature of Virtue.

That which renders beings capable of moral government, is their having
a moral nature, and moral faculties of perception and of action.
Brute creatures are impressed and actuated by various instincts and
propensions: so also are we. But additional to this, we have a capacity
of reflecting upon actions and characters, and making them an object to
our thought: and on doing this, we naturally and unavoidably approve
some actions, under the peculiar view of their being virtuous and of
good desert; and disapprove others, as vicious and of ill desert.
That we have this moral approving and disapproving[306] faculty, is
certain from our experiencing it in ourselves, and recognising it in
each other. It appears from our exercising it unavoidably, in the
approbation and disapprobation even of feigned characters; from the
words right and wrong, odious and amiable, base and worthy, with many
others of like signification in all languages applied to actions and
characters: from the many written systems of morals which suppose it,
since it cannot be imagined, that all these authors, throughout all
these treatises, had absolutely no meaning at all to their words, or a
meaning merely chimerical: from our natural sense of gratitude, which,
implies a distinction between merely being the instrument of good, and
intending it: from the distinction every one makes between injury and
mere harm, which, Hobbes says, is peculiar to mankind; and between
injury and just punishment, a distinction plainly natural, prior to the
consideration of human laws.

It is manifest that great part of common language, and of common
behavior over the world, is formed upon supposition of such a moral
faculty; whether called conscience, moral reason, moral sense, or
divine reason; whether considered as a sentiment of the understanding,
or as a perception of the heart; or, which seems the truth, as
including both. Nor is it at all doubtful in the general, what course
of action this faculty, or practical discerning power within us,
approves and what it disapproves. For, as much as it has been disputed
wherein virtue consists, or whatever ground for doubt there may be
about particulars; yet, in general, there is in reality a universally
acknowledged standard of it. It is that, which all ages and all
countries have made profession of in public: it is that, which every
man you meet puts on the show of: it is that, which the primary and
fundamental laws of all civil constitutions over the face of the earth
make it their business and endeavor to enforce the practice of upon
mankind: namely, justice, veracity, and regard to common good. It being
manifest then, in general, that we have such a faculty or discernment
as this, it may be of use to remark some things more distinctly
concerning it.

_First_, It ought to be observed, that the object of this faculty
is actions,[307] comprehending under that name active or practical
principles: those principles from which men would act, if occasions
and circumstances gave them power; and which, when fixed and habitual
in any person, we call his character. It does not appear, that brutes
have the least reflex sense of actions, as distinguished from events:
or that will and design, which constitute the very nature of actions
as such, are at all an object to their perception. But to ours they
are: and they are the object, and the only one, of the approving and
disapproving faculty. Acting, conduct, behavior, abstracted from all
regard to what is in fact and event the consequence of it, is itself
the natural object of the moral discernment; as speculative truth
and falsehood is of speculative reason. Intention of such and such
consequences, is indeed, always included; for it is part of the action
itself: but though the intended good or bad consequences do not follow,
we have exactly the same sense of the _action_, as if they did. In
like manner we think well or ill of characters, abstracted from all
consideration of the good or the evil, which persons of such characters
have it actually in their power to do. We never, in the moral way,
applaud or blame either ourselves or others, for what we enjoy or what
we suffer, or for having impressions made upon us, which we consider
as altogether out of our power: but only for what we do or would have
done, had it been in our power: or for what we leave undone, which we
might have done, or would have left undone, though we could have done.

_Secondly_, Our sense or discernment of actions as morally good or
evil, implies in it a sense or discernment of them as of good or ill
desert. It may be difficult to explain this perception, so as to
answer all the questions which may be asked concerning it: but every
one speaks of such and such actions as deserving punishment; and it is
not, I suppose, pretended, that they have absolutely no meaning at all
to the expression. Now the meaning plainly is not, that we conceive
it for the good of society, that the doer of such actions should be
made to suffer. For if, unhappily, it were resolved, that a man, who
by some innocent action, was infected with the plague, should be left
to perish, lest, by other people’s coming near him, the infection
should spread; no one would say he _deserved_ this treatment. Innocence
and ill desert are inconsistent ideas. Ill desert always supposes
guilt: and if one be no part of the other, yet they are evidently and
naturally connected in our mind. The sight of a man in misery raises
our compassion towards him; and if this misery be inflicted on him by
another, our indignation against the author of it. But when we are
informed, that the sufferer is a villain, and is punished only for
his treachery or cruelty; our compassion exceedingly lessens, and in
many instances our indignation wholly subsides. Now what produces
this effect is the conception of that in the sufferer, which we call
ill desert. Upon considering then, or viewing together, our notion of
vice and that of misery, there results a third, that of ill desert.
And thus there is in human creatures an association of the two ideas,
natural and moral evil, wickedness and punishment. If this association
were merely artificial or accidental, it were nothing: but being most
unquestionably natural, it greatly concerns us to attend to it, instead
of endeavoring to explain it away.

It may be observed further, concerning our perception of good and
of ill desert, that the former is very weak with respect to common
instances of virtue. One reason of which may be, that it does not
appear to a spectator, how far such instances of virtue proceed from
a virtuous principle, or in what degree this principle is prevalent:
since a very weak regard to virtue may be sufficient to make men act
well in many common instances. On the other hand, our perception of ill
desert in vicious actions lessens, in proportion to the temptations men
are thought to have had to such vices. For, vice in human creatures
consisting chiefly in the absence or want of the virtuous principle;
though a man be overcome, suppose by tortures, it does not from thence
appear to what degree the virtuous principle was wanting. All that
appears is, that he had it not in such a degree, as to prevail over
the temptation; but possibly he had it in a degree, which would have
rendered him proof against common temptations.

_Thirdly_, Our perception of vice and ill desert arises from, and is
the result of, a comparison of actions with the nature and capacities
of the agent. For the mere neglect of doing what we ought to do, would,
in many cases, be determined by all men to be in the highest degree
vicious. This determination must arise from such comparison, and be the
result of it; because such neglect would not be vicious in creatures
of other natures and capacities, as brutes. It is the same also with
respect to positive vices, or such as consist in doing what we ought
not. For every one has a different sense of harm done by an idiot,
madman, or child, and by one of mature and common understanding; though
the action of both, including the intention, which is part of the
action, be the same: as it may be, since idiots and madmen, as well as
children, are capable not only of doing mischief but also of intending
it. Now this difference must arise from somewhat discerned in the
nature or capacities of one, which renders the action vicious; and the
want of which, in the other, renders the same action innocent or less
vicious: and this plainly supposes a comparison, whether reflected upon
or not, between the action and capacities of the agent, previous to our
determining an action to be vicious. Hence arises a proper application
of the epithets, incongruous, unsuitable, disproportionate, unfit, to
actions which our moral faculty determines to be vicious.

_Fourthly_, It deserves to be considered, whether men are more at
liberty, in point of morals, to make themselves miserable without
reason, than to make other people so: or dissolutely to neglect their
own greater good, for the sake of a present lesser gratification, than
they are to neglect the good of others, whom nature has committed to
their care. It would seem, that a due concern about our own interest
or happiness, and a reasonable endeavor to secure and promote it,
(which is, I think, very much the meaning of the word prudence,
in our language;) it would seem, that this is virtue, and the
contrary behavior faulty and blamable; since, in the calmest way of
reflection, we approve of the first, and condemn the other conduct,
both in ourselves and others. This approbation and disapprobation
are altogether different from mere desire of our own, or of their
happiness, and from sorrow upon missing it. For the object or occasion
of this last kind of perception is satisfaction or uneasiness: whereas
the object of the first is active behavior. In one case, what our
thoughts fix upon is our condition: in the other, our conduct.

It is true indeed, that nature has not given us so sensible a
disapprobation of imprudence and folly, either in _ourselves_ or
_others_, as of falsehood, injustice, and cruelty: I suppose, because
that constant habitual sense of private interest and good, which we
always carry about with us, renders such sensible disapprobation less
necessary, less wanting, to keep us from imprudently neglecting our own
happiness, and foolishly injuring ourselves, than it is necessary and
wanting to keep us from injuring others; to whose good we cannot have
so strong and constant a regard: and also because imprudence and folly,
appearing to bring its own punishment more immediately and constantly
than injurious behavior, it less needs the additional punishment,
which would be inflicted upon it by others, had they the same sensible
indignation against it, as against injustice, and fraud, and cruelty.
Besides, unhappiness being in itself the natural object of compassion,
the unhappiness which people bring upon themselves, though it be
wilfully, excites in us some pity for them; and this of course lessens
our displeasure against them. Still it is matter of experience, that we
are formed so as to reflect very severely upon the greater instances of
imprudent neglect and foolish rashness, both in ourselves and others.
In instances of this kind, men often say of themselves with remorse,
and of others with some indignation, that they deserved to suffer such
calamities, because they brought them upon themselves, and would not
take warning. Particularly when persons come to poverty and distress by
a long course of extravagance, and after frequent admonitions, though
without falsehood or injustice; we plainly, do not regard such people
as alike objects of compassion with those, who are brought into the
same condition by unavoidable accidents. From these things it appears,
that prudence is a species of virtue, and folly of vice: meaning by
_folly_, something quite different from mere incapacity; a thoughtless
want of that regard and attention to our own happiness, which we had
capacity for. And this the word properly includes; and, as it seems, in
its usual acceptation: for we scarcely apply it to brute creatures.

However, if any person be disposed to dispute the matter, I shall very
willingly give him up the words virtue and vice, as not applicable to
prudence and folly: but must insist, that the faculty within us, which
is the judge of actions, approves of prudent actions, and disapproves
imprudent ones: I say prudent and imprudent _actions_ as such, and
considered distinctly from the happiness or misery which they occasion.
And by the way, this observation may help to determine what justness
there is in the objection against religion, that it teaches us to be
interested and selfish.

_Fifthly_, Without inquiring how far, and in what sense, virtue is
resolvable into benevolence, and vice into the want of it; it may
be proper to observe, that benevolence, and the want of it, singly
considered, are in no sort the _whole_, of virtue and vice. For if
this were the case, in the review of one’s own character, or that of
others, our moral understanding and moral sense would be indifferent
to every thing, but the degrees in which benevolence prevailed, and
the degrees in which it was wanting. That is, we should neither approve
of benevolence to some persons rather than to others, nor disapprove
injustice and falsehood upon any other account, than merely as an
overbalance of happiness was foreseen likely to be produced by the
first, and of misery by the second. On the contrary, suppose two men
competitors for any thing whatever, which would be of equal advantage
to each of them; though nothing indeed would be more impertinent,
than for a stranger to busy himself to get one of them preferred
to the other; yet such endeavor would be virtue, in behalf of a
friend or benefactor, abstracted from all consideration of distant
consequences: as that examples of gratitude, and the cultivation of
friendship, would be of general good to the world. Again, suppose one
man should, by fraud or violence, take from another the fruit of his
labor, with intent to give it to a third, who he thought would have as
much pleasure from it as would balance the pleasure which the first
possessor would have had in the enjoyment, and his vexation in the
loss of it; suppose also that no bad consequences would follow: yet
such an action would surely be vicious. Nay further, were treachery,
violence, and injustice, no otherwise vicious, than as foreseen likely
to produce an overbalance of misery to society; then, if in any case a
man could procure to himself as great advantage by an act of injustice,
as the whole foreseen inconvenience, likely to be brought upon others
by it, would amount to; such a piece of injustice would not be faulty
or vicious at all: because it would be no more than, in any other case,
for a man to prefer his own satisfaction to another’s, in equal degrees.

The fact, then, appears to be, that we are _constituted_ so as to
condemn falsehood, unprovoked violence, injustice, and to approve
of benevolence to some preferably to others, abstracted from all
consideration, which conduct is likeliest to produce an overbalance of
happiness or misery. Therefore, were the Author of nature to propose
nothing to himself as an end but the production of happiness, were
his moral character merely that of benevolence; yet ours is not so.
Upon that supposition indeed, the only reason of his giving us the
above mentioned approbation of benevolence to some persons rather
than others, and disapprobation of falsehood, unprovoked violence,
and injustice, must be, that he foresaw this constitution of our
nature would produce more happiness, than forming us with a temper of
mere general benevolence. But still, since this is our constitution,
falsehood, violence, injustice, must be vice in us; and benevolence to
some, preferably to others, virtue; abstracted from all consideration
of the overbalance of evil or good, which they may appear likely to

Now if human creatures are endued with such a moral nature as we have
been explaining, or with a moral faculty, the natural object of which
is actions: moral government must consist in rendering them happy and
unhappy, in rewarding and punishing them, as they follow, neglect, or
depart from, the moral rule of action interwoven in their nature, or
suggested and enforced by this moral faculty;[308] in rewarding and
punishing them upon account of their so doing.

I am not sensible that I have, in this fifth observation, contradicted
what any author designed to assert. But some of great and distinguished
merit, have, I think, expressed themselves in a manner, which may
occasion some danger, to careless readers, of imagining the whole of
virtue to consist in singly aiming, according to the best of their
judgment, at promoting the happiness of mankind in the present state;
and the whole of vice, in doing what they foresee, or might foresee,
is likely to produce an overbalance of unhappiness in it: than which
mistakes, none can be conceived more terrible. For it is certain, that
some of the most shocking instances of injustice, adultery, murder,
perjury, and even of persecution, may, in many supposable cases, not
have the appearance of being likely to produce an overbalance of
misery in the present state; perhaps sometimes may have the contrary

This reflection might easily be carried on, but I forbear. The
happiness of the world is the concern of Him who is the lord and the
proprietor of it: nor do we know what we are about, when we endeavor
to promote the good of mankind in any ways, but those which he has
directed; that is indeed in all ways not contrary to veracity and
justice. I speak thus upon supposition of persons really endeavoring,
in some sort, to do good without regard to these. But the truth seems
to be; that such supposed endeavors proceed, almost always, from
ambition, the spirit of party, or some indirect principle, concealed
perhaps in great measure from persons themselves. And though it is our
business and our duty to endeavor, within the bounds of veracity and
justice, to contribute to the ease, convenience, and even cheerfulness
and diversion of our fellow-creatures: yet, from our short views, it is
greatly uncertain, whether this endeavor will, in particular instances,
produce an overbalance of happiness upon the whole; since so many and
distant things must come into the account. And that which makes it our
duty is, that there is some appearance that it will, and no positive
appearance sufficient to balance this, on the contrary side; and also,
that such benevolent endeavor is a cultivation of that most excellent
of all virtuous principles, the active principle of benevolence.

However, though veracity, as well as justice, is to be our rule of
life; it must be added, otherwise a snare will be laid in the way of
some plain men, that the use of common forms of speech, generally
understood, cannot be falsehood; and in general, that there can be no
designed falsehood, without designing to deceive. It must likewise be
observed, that in numberless cases, a man may be under the strictest
obligations to what he foresees will deceive, without his intending it.
For it is impossible not to foresee, that the words and actions of men,
in different ranks and employments, and of different educations, will
perpetually be mistaken by each other. And it cannot but be so, while
they will judge with the utmost carelessness, as they daily do, of what
they are not, perhaps, enough informed to be competent judges of, even
though they considered it with great attention.


[1] Among these were _Jones_, author of the admirable Treatise on the
Canon of the New Testament: _Lardner_, _Maddox_, _Chandler_, Archbishop
_Secker_, &c.

[2] Sermon at Spittle, on Abraham’s trial.

[3] Among them were CUDWORTH, born 1617; “Intel. Syst. of the
Universe:” BOYLE, 1626; “Things above Reason:” STILLINGFLEET, 1635;
“Letters to a Deist:” Sir I. NEWTON, 1642; “Observations on Prophecy:”
LESLIE, 1650; “Short Method with Deists:” LOWTH, 1661, Vindic. of
the Divine Author of the Bible: KING, 1669; “Origin of Evil:” SAM.
CLARK, 1675; “Evidences of Nat. and Rev. Religion:” WATERLAND, 1683;
“Scripture Vindicated:” LARDNER, 1684; “Credibility of Gospel History:”
LELAND, 1691; “View of Deistical Writers,” and “Advantage and Necessity
of Rev.:” CHANDLER, 1693; “Definition of Christianity,” on “Prophecy,”
&c.: WARBURTON, 1698; “Divine Leg. of Moses;” Bishop NEWTON, 1704; “On
the Prophecies:” WATSON, 1737; “Apology for Christianity,” (against
Gibbon,) and also “Apology for the Bible,” (against Paine.)

[4] MCINTOSH: “Progress of Ethical Philosophy.”

[5] BROUGHAM: “Disc. on Nat. Theology.”

[6] Verisimile.

[7] [These three ways of being “like,” are very distinct from each
other. The first is equivalent to a logical induction. The second
produces belief, because the same evidence made us believe in a similar
case. The third is just an analogy, in the popular sense of the term.]

[8] The story is told by Mr. Locke in the Chapter of Probability.

[9] [This is good common sense, and men always act thus if prudent.
But it is not enough thus to act in the matter of salvation. “He that
_believeth_ not shall be damned:” Mark xvi. 16. “He that _believeth_
hath everlasting life:” John iii. 36. “With the heart man _believeth_
unto righteousness:” Rom. x. 10. Belief is part of the sinner’s _duty_
in submitting himself to God; and not merely a question of prudence.]

[10] See Part II. chap. vi.

[11] Philocal. p. 23, Ed. Cant.

[12] [Some of these speculations, carried to the full measure of
absurdity and impiety, may be found in Bayle’s great “Historical and
Critical Dictionary.” See as instances, the articles ORIGEN, MANICHÆUS,

[13] Ch. i.

[14] Ch. ii.

[15] Ch. iii.

[16] Ch. iv.

[17] Ch. v.

[18] Ch. vi.

[19] Ch. vii.

[20] Part II. Ch. i.

[21] Ch. ii.

[22] Ch. iii.

[23] Ch. iv.

[24] Ch. v.

[25] Ch. vi. vii.

[26] Ch. viii.

[27] [This chapter Dr. Chalmers regards as the least satisfactory in
the book: not because lacking in just analogies, but because infected
with the obscure metaphysics of that age. His reasoning, however, only
serves to show that B. has perhaps made too much of the argument from
the indivisibility of consciousness; and by no means that he does not
fairly use it.

We certainly cannot object that the subject of identity is not
made plain. Who has explained identity, or motion, or cohesion, or
crystallization, or any thing? Locke goes squarely at the subject of
personal identity, (see Essay, ch. 27,) but has rendered us small aid.
His definition is, “Existence itself, which determines a being of any
sort, to a particular time and place, incommunicable to two beings of
the same kind.” I had rather define it “the uninterrupted continuance
of being.” What ceases to exist, cannot again exist: for then it would
exist after it had ceased to exist, and would have existed before it
existed. Locke makes _consciousness_ to constitute identity, and argues
that a man and a person are not the same; and that hence if I kill a
man, but was not conscious of what I did, or have utterly forgotten,
I am not the same person. Watts shows up this notion of Locke very

Butler, in his “Dissertation,” urges that consciousness _presupposes_
identity, as knowledge presupposes truth. On Locke’s theory, no person
would have existed any earlier than the period to which his memory
extends. We cannot suppose the soul made up of many consciousnesses,
nor could memory, if material, spread itself over successive years of

[28] I say _kind_ of presumption or probability; for I do not mean to
affirm that there is the same _degree_ of conviction, that our living
powers will continue after death, as there is, that our substances will.

[29] _Destruction of living powers_, is a manner of expression
unavoidably ambiguous; and may signify either _the destruction of a
living being, so as that the same living being shall be incapable of
ever perceiving or acting again at all_; or _the destruction of those
means and instruments by which it is capable of its present life, of
its present state of perception and of action_. It is here used in the
former sense. When it is used in the latter, the epithet _present_ is
added. The loss of a man’s eye is a destruction of living powers in the
latter sense. But we have no reason to think the destruction of living
powers, in the former sense, to be possible. We have no more reason to
think a being endued with living powers, ever loses them during its
whole existence, than to believe that a stone ever acquires them.

[30] [The next paragraph indicates that Butler does not, as Chalmers
thinks, consider this argument as “handing us over to an absolute
demonstration.” It just places all arguments for and against the soul’s
future life, in that balanced condition, which leaves us to learn the
fact from revelation, free from presumptions _against_ its truth. This
view of the case entirely relieves the objection as to the future life
of brutes; and shows how entirely we must rely on revelation, as to the
future, both of man and beast.]

[31] [Dodwell had published a book, in which he argues that human
souls are not _naturally_ immortal, but become so, by the power of the
Holy Ghost, in regeneration. Dr. Clarke replied. The controversy was
continued by Collins. Dr. C. wrote four tracts on the subject.

These “presumptions” form the base of materialism, and hence the denial
of a future state. Surely, thoughts and feelings, if material, have
extension. But can any one conceive of love a foot long, or anger
an inch thick? How superior to the gloomy mists of modern infidels
have even pagans been! Cicero makes Cato say, “The soul is a simple,
uncompounded substance, without parts or mixture: it cannot be divided,
and so cannot perish.” And in another place, “I never could believe
that the soul lost its senses by escaping from senseless matter; or
that such a release will not enlarge and improve its powers;” and
again, “I am persuaded that I shall only begin truly to live, when I
cease to live in this world,” Xenophon reports Cyrus as saying, in his
last moments, “O my sons! do not imagine that when death has taken me
from you, I shall cease to exist.”]

[32] See Dr. Clarke’s Letter to Mr. Dodwell, and the defences of it.

[33] [As every particle of our bodies is changed within seven years,
an average life would take us through many such changes. If the mind
changes with the body, it would be unjust for an old man to be made to
suffer for the sins of his youth. To escape this, the materialist is
driven to affirm that _the whole_ is not altered, though every particle
be changed.

This argument from the constant flux is irresistible. It proves our
identity, and that matter and mind are not the same. Does it not
also destroy all presumption that the Ego cannot exist without this
particular body?]

[34] See Dissertation I.

[35] [The mind affects the body, as much as the body does the mind.
Love, anger, &c. quicken the circulation; fear checks it; terror may
stop it altogether. Mania is as often produced by moral, as by physical
causes, and hence of late moral means are resorted to for cure. The
brain of a maniac, seldom shows, on dissection, any derangement. But
this does not prove that there was no _functional_ derangement.]

[36] [“S. What shall we say, then, of the shoemaker? That he cuts with
his instrument only, or with his hands also? A. With his hands also.
S. Does he use his eyes also, in making shoes? A. Yes. S. But are we
agreed that he who uses, and what he uses, are different? A. Yes. S.
The shoemaker, then, and harper, are different from the hands and eyes
they use? A. It appears so. S. Does a man then _use_ his whole body? A.
Certainly. S. But he who uses, and that which he uses are different.
A. Yes. S. A man then is something different from his own body.” PLAT.
ALCIBI. PRIM. p. 129, D. Stallb. Ed.

“It may easily be perceived that the _mind_ both sees and hears, and
not those parts which are, so to speak, windows of the mind.” “Neither
are we bodies; nor do I, while speaking this to thee, speak to thy
body.” “Whatever is done by thy mind, is done by thee.” CICERO, Tusc.
Disput. I. 20, 46 and 22, 52.

“The mind of each man is the man; not that figure which may be pointed
out with the finger.” CIC., de Rep. b. 6, s. 24.]

[37] [Butler’s argument, if advanced for _proof_ would prove too much,
not only as to brutes but as to man; for it would prove pre-existence.
And this is really the tenet, (_i.e._ transmigration,) of those who
arrive at the doctrine of immortality only by philosophy. Philosophy
cannot establish the doctrine of a future state, nor can it afford any
presumptions _against_ either a future or a pre-existent state.

Nothing is gained by insisting that reason teaches the true doctrine
of the soul; any more than there would be by insisting that by it
we learned the doctrine of a trinity, or atonement. Philosophy does
teach that He who can _create_, under infinite diversity of forms, can
_sustain_ existence, in any mode he pleases.

The reader who chooses to look further into the discussion as to
the immortality of brutes, will find it spread out in POLIGNAC’S
Anti-Lucretius, and still more in BAYLE’S Dictionary, under the
articles PEREIRA, and RORARIUS. The topic is also discussed in DES
CARTES on the Passions: BAXTER on The Nature of the Soul: HUME’S
Essays, Essay 9: SEARCH’S Light of Nature: CHEYNE’S Philosophical
Principles: WAGSTAFF on the Immortality of Brutes: EDWARDS’ Critical
and Philosophical Exercitations: WATT’S Essays, Essay 9: COLLIBER’S
Enquiry: LOCKE on the Understanding, b. 2, ch. ix.: DITTON on the
Resurrection: WILLIS De Anima Brutæ.]

[38] [It is as absurd to suppose that a brain thinks, as that an eye
sees, or a finger feels. The eye no more sees, than the telescope or
spectacles. If the _nerve_ be paralyzed, there is no vision, though
the eye be perfect. A few words spoken or read, may at once deprive of
sight, or knock a person down.

The mind sometimes survives the body. Swift, utterly helpless from
palsy, retained his faculties. In some, the body survives the mind.
MORGAGNI, HALLER, BONNET, and others, have proved that there is no
part of the brain, not even the pineal gland, which has not been found
destroyed by disease, where there had been no hallucination of mind,
nor any suspicion of such disease, during life.]

[39] Pp. 84, 85.

[40] [We are told by sceptics that “mind is the result of a curious and
complicated organization.” A mere jumble of words! But were the mind
material, there is no evidence that death would destroy it: for we do
not see that death has any power over matter. The body remains the very
same as it does in a swoon, till _chemical_ changes begin.]

[41] There are three distinct questions, relating to a future life,
here considered: Whether death be the destruction of living agents;
if not, Whether it be the destruction of their _present_ powers of
reflection, as it certainly is the destruction of their present
powers of sensation; and if not, Whether it be the suspension, or
discontinuance of the exercise of these present reflecting powers. Now,
if there be no reason to believe the last, there will be, if that were
possible, less for the next, and less still for the first.

[42] This, according to Strabo, was the opinion of the Brachmans,
νομίζειν μὲν γὰρ δὴ τὸν μὲν ἐνθάδε βίον, ὡς ἂν ἀκμὴν κυομένων εἶναι·
τὸν δὲ θάνατον, γένεσιν εἰς τὸν ὄντως βίον, καὶ τὸν εὐδαίμονα τοῖς
φιλοσοφήσασι· Lib. xv. p. 1039, Ed. Amst. 1707. [“For they think that
the present life is like that of those who are just ready to be born;
and that death is a birth into the real life, and a happy one to those
who have practised philosophy.”] To which opinion perhaps Antoninus may
allude in these words, ὡς νῦν περιμένεις, πότε ἔμβρυον ἐκ τῆς γαστρὸς
τῆς γυναικός σου ἐξέλθῃ, οὕτως ἐκδέχεσθαι, τὴν ὥραν ὲν ᾗ τὸ ψυχάριόν
σου τοῦ ἐλύτρου τούτου ἐκπεσεῖται. Lib. ix. c. 3. [As this last passage
may, by some, be thought indelicate, it is left untranslated.]

[43] [The _increase_ of a force in any direction, cannot of itself
_change_ that direction. An arrow shot from a bow, towards an object,
does not aim at some other object, by being shot with more force.]

[44] [Our nature will _always_ be ours, or we should cease to be
ourselves, and become something else. And this nature is _social_.
Every one feels, at least sometimes, that he is not complete in himself
for the production of happiness; and so looks round for that which
may fit his wants, and supply what he cannot produce from within.
Hence amusements, of a thousand kinds, are resorted to, and still
more, society. Society is a want of the mind; as food is of the body.
Society, such as perfectly suits our real nature, and calls out, in a
right manner, its every attribute, would secure our perfect happiness.
But Such society must include God.]

[45] See Part II. chap. ii. and Part II. chap. iv.

[46] [Objections and difficulties belong to all subjects, in _some_
of their bearings. Ingenious and uncandid men may start others, which
care and candor may remove. It is therefore no proof of weakness in a
doctrine, that it is attacked with objections, both real and merely
plausible. Error has been spread by two opposite means:--a dogmatic
insisting on doubtful points, and an unteachable cavilling at certain

[47] Part I. chap. vii.

[48] [Our relation to God is “even necessary,” because we are his
creatures: so that the relation must endure so long as we endure. But
our relations to other creatures are contingent, and may be changed or

[49] Pp. 93, 94.

[50] [“The terms nature, and power of nature, and course of nature,
are but empty words, and merely mean that a thing occurs usually or
frequently. The raising of a human body out of the earth we call a
miracle, the generation of one in the ordinary way we call natural, for
no other reason than because one is usual the other unusual. Did men
usually rise out of the earth like corn we should call that natural.”
Dr. CLARKE, Controv. with Leibnitz.]

[51] [That man consists of parts, is evident; and the use of each part,
and of the whole man, is open to investigation. In examining any part
we learn what it _is_, and what it is _to do_: _e.g._ the eye, the
hand, the heart. So of mental faculties; memory is to preserve ideas,
shame to deter us from things shameful, compassion to induce us to
relieve distress. In observing our whole make, we may see an ultimate
design,--viz.: not particular animal gratifications, but intellectual
and moral improvement, and happiness by that means. If this be our end,
it is our duty. To disregard it, must bring punishment; for shame,
anguish, remorse, are by the laws of mind, the sequences of sin.

See LAW’S Notes on King’s Origin of Evil.]

[52] [It is almost amazing that philosophy, because it discovers the
laws of matter, should be placed in antagonism with the Bible which
reveals a superintending Providence. The Bible itself teaches this very
result of philosophy,--viz.: that the world is governed by _general
laws_. See Prov. viii. 29: Job. xxxviii. 12, 24, 31, 33: Ps. cxix. 90,
91: Jer. xxxi. 35, and xxxiii. 25.]

[53] See Part II. chap. vi.

[54] Part II. chap. vi.

[55] The general consideration of a future state of punishment, most
evidently belongs to the subject of natural religion. But if any of
these reflections should be thought to relate more peculiarly to this
doctrine, as taught in Scripture, the reader is desired to observe,
that Gentile writers, both moralists and poets, speak of the future
punishment of the wicked, both as to the duration and degree of it,
in a like manner of expression and of description, as the Scripture
does. So that all which can positively be asserted to be matter of mere
revelation, with regard to this doctrine, seems to be, that the great
distinction between the righteous and the wicked, shall be made at the
end of this world; that each shall _then_ receive according to his
deserts. Reason did, as it well might, conclude that it should, finally
and upon the whole, be well with the righteous, and ill with the
wicked: but it could not be determined upon any principles of reason,
whether human creatures might not have been appointed to pass through
other states of life and being, before that distributive justice should
finally and effectually take place. Revelation teaches us, that the
next state of things after the present is appointed for the execution
of this justice; that it shall be no longer delayed; but _the mystery
of God_, the great mystery of his suffering vice and confusion to
prevail, _shall then be finished_; and he will _take to him his great
power and will reign_, by rendering to every one according to his works.

[56] [Our language furnishes no finer specimens of the argument
analogical. Butler here seizes the very points, which are most
plausible and most insisted on, as showing the harshness and
unreasonableness of Christianity; and overthrows them at a stroke by
simply directing attention to the same things, in the universally
observed course of nature.]

[57] Chap. i.

[58] See chaps. iv. and vi.

[59] [This chapter, more than any other, carries the force of
positive argument. If in this world, we have _proofs_ that God is
a moral governor, then in order to evince that we shall be under
moral government _hereafter_, we have only to supply an intermediate
consideration,--viz.: that God, as such, must be unchangeable. The
argument, as just remarked, assumes a substantive form, because
admitted facts, as to this world, exhibiting the very _principles_ on
which God’s government goes at present, compel us not only to _suppose_
that the principles of God will remain, but to _believe_ so.]

[60] Chap. ii.

[61] The objections against religion, from the evidence of it not
being universal, nor so strong as might possibly have been, may be
urged against natural religion, as well as against revealed. And
therefore the consideration of them belongs to the first part of this
treatise, as well as the second. But as these objections are chiefly
urged against revealed religion, I choose to consider them in the
second part. And the answer to them there, ch. vi., as urged against
Christianity, being almost equally applicable to them as urged against
the religion of nature; to avoid repetition, the reader is referred to
that chapter.

[62] Dissertation II.

[63] Chap. vi.

[64] See Lord Shaftesbury’s Inquiry concerning Virtue, Part II.

[65] [At the foundation of moral improvement, lies the conviction
that what is right, is our happiness, no less than our duty. This
again is based upon a conviction that God governs justly; and has all
power over us for good or evil. As creation is full of the evidences
of _design_, so is Providence. And as the human mind shows, in its
structure, the most exquisite marks of design, so the government of
mind shows a final object for all our faculties. Among the attributes
of mind we observe, conspicuous, a disposition to seek ends, lay plans,
and sacrifice present indulgence to future and greater good: and a
facility in learning how to subordinate one thing to another, so as
to secure success in our plans. This, with conscience to approve or
disapprove our modes, constitutes an evident _adaptedness_ to a moral
government on the part of God; and would be worse than superfluous, if
there be no such government. Every rule of action, deduced by reason
from the light of nature, may fairly be regarded as God’s law; and the
inconveniences resulting from wrong actions, are God’s retributions.
These retributions, felt or observed, are divine teachings, saying,
emphatically, if you act thus you shall receive thus. We do actually
so judge, in relation to physics. Every rule of motion, distance,
gravitation, heat, electricity, &c. &c., is received as God’s law; and
we would deem it insane to act in opposition.]

[66] [Consult CAPP on the Gov. of God: TWISSE Vindiciæ Prov. Dei:
WITTICHII Excre. Theol.: DWIGHT’S Theol.: MARTINIUS de Gubernatione
Mundi: LIEFCHILD on Providence: MORTON on do.: SHERLOCK on do.:
RUTHERFORD on do.: and the Sermons of Thos. Leland, Porteus, Topping,
Hunt, Davies, Horseley, South, Wisheart, Seed, Collings, and Doddridge.]

[67] Chap. ii.

[68] [In the structure of man, physical and mental, we find no
contrivances for disease or pain, so that in general those who conform
to the laws of their being, enjoy happiness; and suffering is chiefly
the result of our own conduct. But, as without revelation we could only
learn the evil of vice, by its effects, and would often learn it too
late to retrieve our affairs, or our souls’ peace, God has in mercy
given forth his teachings, by which, _beforehand_, we may know the
effects of actions.]

[69] See Dissertation II.

[70] [It was contended by MANDEVILLE in his “_Fable of the Bees_,”
that private vices, as luxury for instance, are often conducive to the
well-being of society. This idea is fully refuted by WARBURTON, Divine
Legation of Moses, b. 1: BERKELEY, Minute Philosopher, Dial. 2: and by
BROWN, Characteristics, Ess. 2.]

[71] [A strong illustration of this distinction is seen in the
“delivering up” of our Savior to be crucified. As to the mere act of
delivering up, we find it referred, =1.= To God the Father, John iii.
16: Acts ii. 23: Rom. viii. 32. =2.= To Christ himself, Eph. v. 2, and
v. 25, &c. In this last passage it is literally _delivered himself_.
=3.= To the Jewish rulers, Luke xx. 20: Mark xii. 12. =4.= To Pontius
Pilate, Matt. xxvii. 26: Mark xv. 15: John xix. 6. =5.= To Judas, Matt.
xxvi. 15: Zec. xi. 12.

As to the _mere act_, Judas and Pilate did just what God the Father,
and our Lord Jesus did. But how infinitely unlike the _qualities_ of
the act!]

[72] [“When one supposes he is about to die, there comes over him a
fear and anxiety about things in regard to which he felt none before.
For the stories which are told about _Hades_, that such, as have
practised wrong, must there suffer punishment, although made light of
for a while, these torment the soul lest they should be true. But he
who is conscious of innocence, has a pleasant and good hope, which will
support old age.” PLATO, Respub. i. s. 5.]

[73] See Dissertation II.

[74] [Aside from revelation, our ideas of the divine attributes must
be derived from a knowledge of our own. Among these is our moral
sense, which constrains us to consider right and wrong as an immutable
distinction, and moral worth as our highest excellence. Hence we
ascribe perfect virtue to God. It does not follow from such reasoning,
that we form a Deity after our own conceptions, for it is but the
argument _a fortiori_, “He that formed the eye, shall he not see? He
that teacheth man knowledge, shall he not know?” Ps. xciv. 9. We do not
conceive of a Deity who sees just as we do; but that _he sees_, for he
makes sight. So we infer that he has moral attributes, because we have
them, from him.

This point is not sufficiently pressed upon infidels. They readily
acknowledge God’s physical attributes, because the argument is
addressed to their _understanding_, but deny his moral ones, because
their _hearts_ are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.]

[75] [It is easy to see that the occasional disadvantages of virtue,
are no less conducive to moral excellence, than its being generally
advantageous. In view of its general advantages, we are virtuous with a
proper and commanded view to our instinctive desire for happiness. In
face of its disadvantages, we cultivate virtue for its own sake.]

[76] [The common remark, “virtue brings its own reward,” is true
only with qualifications. The apostles, as to _this_ life, were the
most miserable of men: (1 Cor. xv. 9.) Virtue does not _always_
bring earthly rewards. The grand support of the good is drawn from
considerations of that future state which the infidel denies. Observe,
1. We cannot suppose that God would so construct man, as that his
principal comfort and reward for virtue, is a delusion. 2. Very good
persons are often beset with painful doubts and fears, as to their
future safety. Would God allow such doubts, if the expectation of
future happiness were the _only_ reward of virtue? 3. This reward, at
best, is private; but for the encouragement of virtue, it must have
_obvious_ triumphs.

On the other hand, bad men grow callous to the rebukes of conscience,
so that great sinners suffer less from remorse than small ones, and
what is worse, owe their tranquillity to their guilt. Again, he who
kills a good man, wholly _deprives_ him of his only reward, if this
life alone gives it. And the villain who kills himself, escapes his
only punishment.

Virtuous persons, in the strong language of ROBERT HALL,[A] would be
“the _only_ persons who are wholly disappointed of their object; the
only persons who (by a fatal and irreparable mistake), expecting an
imaginary happiness in an imaginary world, lose their only opportunity
of enjoying those present pleasures, of which others avail themselves;
dooming themselves to grasp at shadows, while they neglect the
substance, and harassed with a perpetual struggle against their natural
propensities and passions, and all in vain!”

[A] Sermon on the Vanity of Man.]

[77] [Because, so soon as any community, or collection of persons,
conclude a man to be wholly vicious in his course, and without any
restraint of conscience, he is at once shorn of his influence, and will
soon be stripped of all power of mischief. On the other hand, we see
the might of virtue unarmed with power, in Luther, in Roger Williams,
in Wm. Penn, and innumerable other instances.]

[78] Isa. lx. 21.

[79] P. 109.

[80] P. 110, &c.

[81] P. 111, &c.

[82] P. 118, &c.

[83] See this proof drawn out briefly, ch. vi.

[84] [This chapter is one of many attempts to account for the
mixture of suffering and enjoyment in this world; and demands close
examination both of its theory and its arguments. The student may
consult, as he has opportunity, MUSÆI Disput.: HOLTZSFUSII Disp. de
Lapsu Prim. Hominum: SELDEN de Laps. Angelorum: STAPFERI Inst.: WITSII
Econom. Fœd.: BATE’S Harmony of the Divine Attrib.: CALCOTT on the
Fall: SHUCKFORD on the Creation of Man: MANTON’S Sermons: SOUTH’S
do.: TOPLADY’S do.: PEARSON on the Creed: LE CLERC’S Diss.: HENLY’S
Dissert.: KENNICOTT on the Tree of Life: and FABRICIUS de Primo Peccato
Angelorum Lapsorum.]

[85] [The _evils_ of life, are not to be regarded as entering,
necessarily, into God’s plan of probation; and they are not here so
presented. The Scriptures show that _all_ suffering is either punitive,
or castigatory. Man at first was to be tried by temptations, not by

[86] Chap. ii.

[87] See Sermons preached at the _Rolle_, 1726, 2d ed. p. 205, &c.
Pref. p. 25, &c. Serm. p. 21, &c.

[88] [“If we persist in our objection, notwithstanding these analogies,
then should we conclude, either that we are under the regimen of an
unrighteous Deity, or that there is no Deity at all.”--Dr. CHALMERS.]

[89] [Shall _we_ be of such? Shall we forget or disregard the great
fact that when death has transferred us to other conditions, we, our
proper selves, will remain? No longer, indeed, united with flesh and
blood, surrounded with houses, lands, business, or enjoyments, such as
the present, _but still ourselves_. Still with wants to be supplied,
desires to be gratified, and capacities to be employed and developed!]

[90] Part II. chap. v.

[91] [This is one of those passages, remarked on in our introduction,
as a statement not properly explained or guarded. We cannot suppose the
author, to have overlooked the great fact of man’s fall and corruption.
That the argument properly considered, stands good, is the verdict of
such a man as CHALMERS. After speaking of human helplessness in matters
of religion, he says, “There is nothing in this [helplessness] to break
the analogies on which to found the negative vindication that forms
the great and undoubted achievement of this volume. The analogy lies
here:--that if a man wills to obtain prosperity in this life, he may,
if observant of the rules which experience and wisdom prescribe, in
general, make it good. And if he wills to attain blessedness in the
next life, he shall, if observant of what religion prescribes, most
certainly make it good; in conformity with the declaration, ‘he that
seeketh findeth.’”]

[92] [It comes to this:--good things, in this life, are not forced
upon us; for we may refuse them, or turn any of them into evils. Nor
are they offered for our mere acceptance: but only as the _results_ of
self-control and pains-taking. So is it, as to heaven.]

[93] [They _are_ an answer, but a cavil remains,--viz.: “the difference
between temporal and eternal things, is so vast that the cases are not
analogous.” Fairly considered, the cases are analogous, differing only
in _degree_, and not at all in principle. What would be wrong on a
great scale, is wrong on a small one.

Perhaps the analogy may be pressed further. As the happiness and life
of some animals, may be sacrificed for the benefit of man, why may
not the happiness and life of some men, be sacrificed for the good of
innumerable beings of a higher order, who witness the affairs of this
earth? It would but be securing “the greatest good of the greatest
number.” No analogies could _teach_ this, for analogies of course teach
nothing. But if the Scriptures contained this doctrine, immensely more
repugnant than that which our author is here defending, would analogy
offer repellant presumptions?]

[94] [That is, the son of Sirac, who says, “All things are double,
one against another; and He hath made nothing imperfect: one thing
established the good of another:” Ecclesiasticus xlii. 24.]

[95] [Consult MILLMAN’S Hist. of Christ, vol. i.: PRIESTLEY’S
Institutes of Nat. and Rev. Rel., vol. i. ch. i.: and WHATELY’S Pol.
Econ., sec. 5.]

[96] [We are too apt to overlook the effect of actions on the actor;
(which is often the chief effect) in improving or impairing his
own powers. A razor used to cut wood or stone, is not only put to
an improper use, but spoiled for the use which is proper. But this
is a faint illustration. The razor may be sharpened again; but how
shall we restore a blunted sensibility, an enfeebled judgment, or a
vitiated appetite? Our wrong-doing inflicts worse results on ourselves
than on our victims; and the evil may spread disaster over our whole
future. Hence the young make a fatal blunder when they suppose that an
occasional indulgence in impropriety may be compatible with general
welfare, and improvement. Instead of balancing the pros and cons of a
particular act, in the scale of utility or pleasure, they should mark
well its effects on themselves. See the description of how an upright
being may fall; in a subsequent part of this chapter.]

[97] [“It might seem, at first sight, that if our state hereafter
presented no temptations to falsehood, injustice, &c., our habit of
indulging these vices here would be no disqualification for such
a state; and our forming the contrary habits no qualification.
But _habits_ of veracity, justice, &c. are not merely securities
against temptations to the contrary, but needful for conserving the
_principles_ of love of truth, justice, &c. As our happiness depends
upon _the ratio_ between our circumstances and our dispositions, our
happiness, in a state where things are ordered so as to give no scope
for the practice of falsehood, injustice, &c., _must depend on our
having formed a love for their opposites_. Besides, the circumstances
of the future life may be such as only to remove temptations from
characters formed by such moral discipline as we undergo in this life,
and not all things that could be temptations to any one.”--PROF.

[98] It may be thought, that a sense of interest would as effectually
restrain creatures from doing wrong. But if by a _sense of interest_
is meant a speculative conviction or belief, that such and such
indulgence would occasion them greater uneasiness, upon the whole, than
satisfaction; it is contrary to present experience to say, that this
sense of interest is sufficient to restrain them from thus indulging
themselves. And if by a _sense of interest_ is meant a practical regard
to what is upon the whole our happiness; this is not only coincident
with the principle of virtue or moral rectitude, but is a part of the
idea itself. And it is evident this reasonable self-love wants to
be improved, as really as any principle in our nature. For we daily
see it overmatched, not only by the more boisterous passions, but by
curiosity, shame, love of imitation, by any thing, even indolence:
especially if the interest, the temporal interest, suppose, which
is the end of such self-love, be at a distance. So greatly are
profligate men mistaken, when they affirm they are wholly governed
by interestedness and self-love; and so little cause is there for
moralists to disclaim this principle.--See p. 131.

[99] [Discipline is mainly promoted by a careful regard to acts of
small individual moment. The subjecting of trivial acts to moral
considerations, is the sure, and the only mode of self-culture.
These acts are embryo habits, and we may often see clearly the moral
character of a habit, when the single act seems indifferent. Thus
viewed, the importance of single acts will seldom seem small. A single
cigar, one glass of wine for convivial purposes, one story told with
exaggerations, may change the complexion of our character, and of our
whole destiny!

It is doing or refusing to do, from a law-abiding regard to
consequences, that constitutes self-discipline. Papists wholly err
in teaching the repression of bodily desires as in itself virtuous.
Indulgence may be either an obstacle or an aid to moral progress,
according to our reason for indulgence. When we can repress an appetite
or passion whenever indulgence would be wrong, its mastery over us is
broken; and when the passions and appetites act rightly, from force
of virtuous habit, without direct volition, discipline is complete.
Ascetic acts are only useful as _means_, and so long as they are
_ascetic_ (askesis) are proofs of imperfect obedience. Discipline is
good only _as_ discipline; and when complete, changes from a struggle
between principle and inclination, to a spontaneous habit, and
permanent mental peace.]

[100] [Chalmers objects to this hypothetical fall of man, that it wants
harmony with the Scripture account. But I do not see the force of the
objection. Butler _of course_ does not copy the Scripture account, for
he would then depart from the aim and nature of his book. The Bible
says man fell _suddenly_, no less in his state than in his character.
Butler says that we could not reason out _how much_ disorder and
damage would ensue from the first sin: and in saying this, avoids any
incongruity with the Mosaic account, which tells us how much. What B.
says of the formation of habit, by repeated transgressions, certainly
cannot be gainsayed.

Adam “died,” the very day he ate the forbidden fruit. The sinner
“lives” the very day he believes on the only-begotten Son of God.
Increase of guilt, or growth in grace are predicable in both instances.
In both also there is an instant transition into a new relationship
with God.]

[101] [A forced or reluctant obedience is wholly incompatible with
earthly happiness; but may, in the highest degree promote our _future_
happiness. It will not _long_ mar our happiness, even here; because
being based on principle, and established by habit, it will, in process
of time, be superseded by prompt and pleasurable submission. Thus a
person _habitually_ virtuous, is hardly conscious of self-denial; a
fact noticed by Aristotle. “He who abstains from bodily pleasures and
delights, is virtuous in this very abstinence; but he who is troubled
by it is undisciplined.” Ethic. Nic. ii. 3.]

[102] P. 145.

[103] [The student should learn to distinguish between the _kinds_
of necessity. There is--1. “Logical necessity,” which requires the
admission of a consequent to a premise 2. “Moral necessity,” which
requires means in order to ends. “Physical necessity,” which is the
compulsory connection of sequences to antecedents, in the material
world. 4. “Metaphysical necessity,” which belongs to God only, as
existing eternally and immutably. All these exist and operate, and by
them we govern ourselves.

But there are various other kinds of necessity, erroneous and
pernicious, which may be grouped under two heads:--1. “Atheistic,”
sometimes called the Democritic, which ascribes all things to the
mechanical laws of matter. 2. “Theistic,” which admits the existence of
God, but denies to him moral character, and makes him the arbitrary and
only agent in the universe, and creatures not responsible. See COLLINGS
on Providence, PRICE’S Dissertations, RUTHERFORD on Providence,
CHARNOCK’S Sermons, and WHATELY’S Logic.]

[104] P. 157.

[105] P. 158.

[106] [HUME says, “though man, in truth, is a necessary agent, having
all his actions determined by fixed and immutable laws, yet, this being
concealed from him, he acts with the conviction of being a free agent.”

Which is the same as to say that God intended to conceal from men an
important fact, involving the whole subject of right and wrong, but Mr.
Hume found him out!]

[107] By _will_ and _character_ is meant that which, in speaking of
men, we should express, not only by these words, but also by the words
_temper_, _taste_, _dispositions_, _practical principles_: _that whole
frame of mind, from whence we act in one manner rather than another_.

[108] Chap. ii.

[109] P. 157, &c.

[110] Chap. ii.

[111] Dissert. II.

[112] Serm. 2, at the _Rolls_.

[113] Dissert. II.

[114] However, I am far from intending to deny, that the will of God
is determined, by what is fit, by the right and reason of the case;
though one chooses to decline matters of such abstract speculation,
and to speak with caution when one does speak of them. But if it be
intelligible to say, that _it is fit and reasonable for every one to
consult his own happiness_, then _fitness of action, or the right and
reason of the case_, is an intelligible manner of speaking. And it
seems as inconceivable, to suppose God to approve one course of action,
or one end, preferably to another, which yet his acting at all from
design implies that he does, without supposing somewhat prior in that
end, to be the ground of the preference; as to suppose him to discern
an abstract proposition to be true, without supposing somewhat prior in
it, to be the ground of the discernment. It doth not therefore appear,
that moral right is any more relative to perception, than abstract
truth is; or that it is any more improper to speak of the fitness and
lightness of actions and ends, as founded in the nature of things, than
to speak of abstract truth, as thus founded.

[115] P. 118.

[116] P. 110, &c.

[117] Chap. ii.

[118] Dissertation II.

[119] Pp. 68, 71.

[120] Serm. 8th, at the _Rolls_.

[121] [Consult, in favor of the doctrine of necessity, atheistical
writers generally; such as Fichte, Hegel, D’Holback, Comte, Crousse,
Martineau, Leroux, and Holyoake--also, BELSHAM’S Essays, COLLINS on
Liberty, CROMBIE on Phil. Necessity, HOBBES’ Liberty and Necessity, and
Leviathan, PRIESTLEY on Liberty, HARTLEY on Man, and EDWARDS on the

Against the doctrine, see BEATTIE’S Works, Part 2; Replies to Hobbes
by BRAMHALL and LAWSON; Replies to Priestley by PALMER and BRYANT;
GROVE on Liberty; CLARKE’S Sermons at the Boyle Lectures; GIBB’S
Contemplations; KING’S Origin of Evil; REID on the Mind; WATTS on
Liberty; HARRIS’ Boyle Lectures; JACKSON’S Defence; BUTTERWORTH on
Moral Government.]

[122] [MAIMONIDES makes use of the following similitude. “Suppose one
of good understanding, whose mother had died soon after he was born to
be brought up on an island, where he saw no human being but his father
nor the female of any beast. This person when grown up inquires how men
are produced. He is told that they are bred in the womb of one of the
same species and that while in the womb we are very small and there
move and are nourished. The young man inquires whether when thus in
the womb we did not eat, and drink, and breathe, as we do now, and is
answered, No. Then he denies it, and offers demonstration that it could
not be so. For says he, if either of us cease to breathe our life is
gone; and how could we have lived close shut up in a womb for months?
So if we cease to eat and drink, we die, and how could the child live
so for months? and thus he satisfies himself that it is _impossible_
man should come into existence in such a manner.”]

[123] [Let us imagine a person to be taken to view some great
historical painting, before which hangs a thick curtain. The attendant
raises the curtain a few inches. Can the spectator, from the unmeaning
strip of foreground, derive any conception of the figures yet
concealed? Much less is he able to criticize their proportions, or
beauty, or perspective, or even the design of the artist? The small
fragment of a tree, or flower, or animal, or building, may seem quite
unmeaning and even ugly, though the whole would present beauty,
fitness, or grandeur. Now the portion of God’s dominions within our
survey, is as utterly insignificant, compared to the universe, and its
interminable duration, as, an atom compared to a planet or a man’s age
to eternity.

The concluding observations of this chapter, abundantly remove every
difficulty as to such ignorance being as valid against the _proofs_ of
religion, as it is against _objections_ to it.]

[124] [No truly philosophical mind can be arrogant; because the
wider the range of thought, the greater are the discoveries of our
ignorance. The young student may well hesitate to decide points, on
which the profoundest thinkers take opposite sides, and when conscious
of inability intrust himself to the guidance of those whose lives are

[125] Pp. 177, 178.

[126] P. 173, &c.

[127] P. 175.

[128] Pp. 72, 73.

[129] P. 68, and Part II. chap. vi.

[130] Serm. at the _Rolls_, p. 312, 2d ed.

[131] P. 172, &c.

[132] See Part II. ch. ii.

[133] P. 173.

[134] [The remainder of this chapter is a recapitulation of the whole
argument from the beginning; and should be carefully conned.]

[135] Part II. ch. vi.

[136] P. 108.

[137] [There is a slight indication in this chapter that Butler falls
into the old plan of settling the necessity of Christianity, before
determining its truth. Paley discards this order of arrangement,
in his very first sentence; and with good reason. The necessity of
revelation is an abstraction; the proofs of it are patent facts. To
hold in abeyance the credentials presented by Christianity, till
we first satisfy ourselves that God could or would make any such
announcements, is unphilosophical and irreverent. This chapter
discusses the _importance_ rather than the necessity of revelation; and
so is a fitting commencement of the discussion. Every truth disclosed
in revelation, over and above the truths which natural religion
furnishes, proves the _necessity_ of revelation, if we would know any
thing of _such_ truths. And it is such truths which constitute the very
peculiarities of revelation, and teach the _way of salvation_, for the
sinful and helpless.]

[138] [No one can read the writings of the great sages of antiquity
without a full and sad conviction that in relation to the character
of God, the sinfulness of man, the future state, and the rules of
living, those prime points on which we need knowledge, they were
almost profoundly ignorant. See on this point, LELAND’S Adv. and
Necess.: CHALMERS’ Nat. Theol.: MCCOSH’S Div. Gov.: PASCAL’S Thoughts:
WARBURTON’S Div. Legation.]

[139] Invenis multos----propterea nolle fieri Christianos, quia quasi
sufficiunt sibi de bona vita sua. Bene vivere opus est, ait. Quid
mihi præcepturus est Christus? Ut bene vivam? Jam bene vivo. Quid
mihi necessarius est Christus; nullum homicidium, nullum furtum,
nullam rapinam facio, res alienas non concupisco, nullo adulterio
contaminor? Nam inveniatur in vita mea aliquid quod reprehendatur, et
qui reprehenderit faciat Christianum. _Aug. in Psal._ xxxi. [You find
many who refuse to become Christians, because they feel sufficient of
themselves to lead a good life. “We ought to live well.” says one.
“What will Christ teach me? To live well? I do live well, what need
then have I of Christ? I commit no murder, no theft, no robbery. I
covet no man’s goods, and am polluted by no adultery. Let some one
find in me any thing to censure, and he who can do so, may make me a

[140] [The true mode of distinguishing a temporary, local, or
individual command from such as are of universal and perpetual
obligation, is well laid down by WAYLAND, _Mor. Sci._ ch. ix. sec. 2.]

[141] [Natural religion shows us the danger of sin; but not the
infinite danger of eternal retribution, and the hopelessness of
restoration after death. And as to the efficacy of repentance, it
rather opposes that doctrine than teaches it. At least it does not
teach that repentance may be accepted, so as not only to cancel guilt,
but restore to the favor of God.]

[142] [“Christianity was left with Christians, to be transmitted, in
like manner as the religion of nature had been left, with mankind in
general. There was however this difference that by an institution
of external religion with a standing ministry for instruction and
discipline, it pleased God to unite Christiana into _visible churches_,
and all along to preserve them over a great part of the world, and thus
perpetuate a general publication of the Gospel.” BUTLER’S sermon before
the Soc. for Prop. the Gospel. He goes on to show, in that discourse,
that these churches, however corrupt any may become, are repositories
for the written oracles of God, and so carry the antidote to their

[143] Rev. xxii. 11.

[144] [“It is no real objection to this, though it may seem so at first
sight, to say that since Christianity is a _remedial_ system, designed
to obviate those very evils which have been produced by the neglect
and abuse of the light of nature, it ought not to be _liable_ to the
same perversions. Because--1. Christianity is not designed primarily
to remedy the defects of _nature_, but of an unnatural state of ruin
into which men were brought by _the Fall_. And 2. It is remedial of
the defects of nature in a _great degree_, by its giving additional
advantages. 3. It might be impossible that it should be remedial in a
greater degree than it is, without destroying man’s free agency; which
would be to destroy its own end, the practice of virtue.”--FITZGERALD’S

[145] [CHALMERS (Nat. Theol., b. v. ch. iv.) makes this very plain.
He shows the _ethics_ of natural religion to be one thing and
its _objects_ another. Natural religion discloses no Redeemer or
Sanctifier; but it teaches how we should regard such a person, if
there be one. It teaches love and conformity to such a being by the
_relation_ in which we of course stand to him. How we are to _express_
that love and obedience it cannot teach.]

[146] See The Nature, Obligation, and Efficacy, of the Christian
Sacraments, &c., [by WATERLAND,] and COLLIBER of Revealed Religion, as
there quoted.

[147] [If Christianity were but “a republication of natural religion,”
or as Tindall says, “as old as creation,” why do deists oppose it? It
does indeed republish natural religion, but it adds stupendous truths
beside. If it gave us no new light, no new motives, it would be but a
tremendous curse, making us all the more responsible, and none the more
instructed or secure.]

[148] P. 94.

[149] Ch. v.

[150] John iii. 5.

[151] This is the distinction between moral and positive precepts
considered respectively as such. But yet, since the latter have
somewhat of a moral nature, we may see the reason of them, considered
in this view. Moral and positive precepts are in some respects alike,
in other respects different. So far as they are alike, we discern the
reasons of both; so far as they are different, we discern the reasons
of the former, but not of the latter. See p. 189, &c.

[152] [Without offering the least objection to what is here said of
the comparative value of moral and positive institutions, it should
not be overlooked that sometimes, obedience to a positive rite is more
indicative of an obedient spirit, than obedience to a moral rule. The
latter is urged by its intrinsic propriety, over and above the command,
and appeals to several of our finer impulses. The former rests singly
on our reverence for the will of God. There are many who would repel a
temptation to steal, or to lie, who yet are insensible to the duty of
baptism or the Lord’s supper.]

[153] Matt. ix. 13, and xii. 7.

[154] Hosea vi. 6.

[155] See Matt. xii. 7.

[156] See ch. iii.

[157] [Dr. ANGUS judiciously remarks on this sentence, “This sentiment,
as understood by Butler, is just, but very liable to abuse. Clearly,
the Bible must be so interpreted as to agree with _all_ known truth,
whether of natural religion or natural science. At the same time, to
correct the theology of the Bible by the theology of nature, as finite
and guilty men understand it, may involve the rejection of Bible
theology entirely; and of the very light and teaching it was intended
to supply. The converse of Butler’s statement is equally true, and even
more important. If in natural theology there be found any facts, the
seeming lesson of which is contrary to revealed religion, such seeming
lesson is not the real one.” Practically, it will be found that seeming
meanings of Scripture, really erroneous, are corrected by other parts
of Scripture itself. I understand Butler as only affirming that we
must interpret Scripture according to immutable principles, and _known
truth_. The infidel rejects it for not conforming to his _assumed

[158] P. 203.

[159] Chaps. iii., iv., v., vi.

[160] Chap. vii.

[161] P. 172.

[162] [Papists urge that the actual conversion of the bread and wine
in the Eucharist is an invisible miracle. But an invisible miracle is
such because wrought under circumstances which _exclude_ examination:
while transubstantiation _invites_ and _facilitates_ examination. It is
wrought publicly, and constantly, and yet cannot be discovered to be a
miracle. Indeed it supposes the working of a second miracle, to make
the first invisible.]

[163] [Paley shows conclusively that a denial of miracles leads not
only to a denial of revelation, but a denial of the existence of God,
all of whose extraordinary acts are necessarily miraculous.]

[164] [WHATELY, in his _Logic_, b. iii., has shown the folly of the
Deistical attempts to explain our Savior’s miracles as mere natural
events. Having labored to show this of some _one_ of the miracles, they
then do so as to _another_, and thence infer that _all_ were accidental
conjunctures of natural circumstances. He says, they might as well
argue “that because it is not improbable one may throw sixes once in a
hundred throws, therefore it is no more improbable that one may throw
sixes a hundred times running.”

FITZGERALD says, “the improbability of a whole series of strange
natural events, taking place unaccountably, one after another, amounts
to a far greater improbability than is involved in the admission of

[165] [That man, at first, must have had supernatural _instructions_,
or in other words some revelations, is shown by Archbishop WHATELY in
his “Origin of Civilization.” Rev. SAMUEL STANHOPE SMITH expresses
his conviction, both from reason and history, that man in his savage
state could not even have preserved life without instruction from his

[166] [The maintenance by the Jews, of a system of pure Theism, through
so many and so rude ages, without being superior, or even equal to
their neighbors, in science and civilization, can only be accounted for
on the presumption of a revelation.]

[167] P. 166, &c.

[168] [MILLS (Logic, chap. 24, § 5,) points out what he deems a mistake
of “some of the writers against Hume on Miracles,” in confounding
the improbability of an event, before its occurrence, with the
improbability afterwards; that is, considering them equal in degree.
He fully proves that the great Laplace fell into this error, and the
student should consult the passage.

Prof. FITZGERALD holds Butler to have fallen into the mistake adverted
to by Mills; and quotes the latter author in a way which seems to make
him say that such is his opinion also. I do not so understand Mills,
nor do I see that Butler has confounded these meanings; but the very
contrary. He expressly affirms, and most truly, that the strongest
presumption may lie against “the most ordinary facts _before the proof_
which yet is overcome by almost any proof.” Butler’s position here, may
be thus illustrated. Suppose a hundred numbers to be put in a box, and
it is proposed to draw out the number 42. Now there are 99 chances to 1
against drawing that, or any other _given_ number. But suppose a child
tells you he put the hundred numbers into a box, and drew out one, and
it proved to be 42; you at once believe, for that was as likely to come
as any other.

The proof of Christianity from prophecy becomes amazingly strong, thus
viewed. There are many predictions, for instance that Christ should be
born at a certain time, and place, and under certain very particular
circumstances. The probabilities against such a _conjuncture_ of events
are almost infinite; yet they happened exactly as foretold.]

[169] [For instance, a mass of ice or snow, may imperceptibly
accumulate for an age, and then suddenly fall and overwhelm a village.
Or a planet, or comet, may have been gradually nearing our earth for a
million of years, without producing, _as yet_, any effect on our orbit;
but in process of time, its proximity may work great changes in our

[170] P. 208.

[171] 1 Cor. i. 28.

[172] See Chap. vi.

[173] See Chap. vi.

[174] [See note, page 218.]

[175] P. 220.

[176] [It is not to be understood that Butler would not have the
ordinary rules of interpretation applied to the Holy Scriptures.
Because the interpretation, “if not gathered _out_ of the words,
must be brought _into_ them.” We cannot interpret them as if we knew
beforehand, what the Holy Ghost meant to say; as SPINOZA proposes to
do, in his Philosophia Scripturæ Interpretes. The student will do well
to consult BENSON’S Hulsean Lectures on Scripture Difficulties: KING’S
Morsels of Criticism: STORR, Exertationes Exeget.: MICHAELIS, Introd.
ad. Nov. Test.: and FEATLEY’S Key.]

[177] Pp. 207, 208.

[178] [See 1 Cor. xii. 1-10: xiii. 1: and xiv. 1-19.]

[179] [“The power of healing, or working miracles, is, during the
whole course of its operation, one continued arrest or diversion of
the general laws of matter and motion. It was therefore fit that this
power should be given occasionally. But the _speaking with tongues_,
when once the gift was conferred, became thenceforth a natural
power; just as the free use of members of the body, after being
restored, by miracle, to the exercise of their natural functions.
In healing, the apostles are to be considered as the workers of a
miracle; in speaking strange tongues, as persons on whom a miracle is
performed.”--WARBURTON, Doct. of Grace, b. i. ch. iii.]

[180] Heb. vi. 1.

[181] Acts iii. 21.

[182] [The doctrine of “development” has of late been popular in
some quarters. Butler here shows the only _safe_ notion we may
entertain on that subject. “Exact thought, and careful consideration”
may show us how to confute specious heresies, expound embarrassing
passages, dissipate painful doubts, and remove many prejudices or
misapprehensions. But revelation is complete as it stands.

We may hope for progress in theology as in other sciences; not in
the development of new facts or faith, as Papists and Socinians
pretend, but in the increase of sound wisdom, aided by a more perfect
interpretation of God’s word.]

[183] Chap. vi.

[184] Chap. v.

[185] Chap. vii.

[186] Chap. iv. latter part, and v. vi.

[187] [This pregnant paragraph should receive very full attention.
We know much of men, little of God. What men are likely to do, or
say, in certain circumstances, is often very clear; and generally may
be guessed at. But what God would do or say in new contingencies,
who shall attempt to prescribe or predict? We are poorly qualified
to assert that such and such declarations could not have come from
infinite wisdom; but we are quite competent to affirm that such and
such things could not have come from human contrivance or enthusiasm.]

[188] In the foregoing chapter.

[189] Part I, ch. vii., to which this all along refers.

[190] [“It is the last step of reason to know there is an infinity of
things which surpass it.”--PASCAL. “The wall of adamant which bounds
human inquiry, has scarcely ever been discovered by any adventurer,
till he was aroused by the shock that drove him back.”--Sir JAS.
MACKINTOSH. “Of the dark parts of revelation there are two sorts:
one which may be cleared up by the studious; the other which will
always reside within the shadow of God’s throne where it would be
impiety to intrude.”--WARBURTON. “A Christianity without mystery is as
unphilosophical as it is unscriptural.”--ANGUS.]

[191] John xi. 52.

[192] 2 Peter iii. 13.

[193] 1 Peter i. 11, 12.

[194] Phil. ii. [6-11.]

[195] [The influences of the Holy Spirit are not only “given to good
men,” but are sent upon many who live unmindful of eternity, quickening
their consciences, enlightening their understandings and arresting
their passions, and thus it is they are converted unto the truth in

[196] John xiv. 2.

[197] John v. 22, 23.

[198] Matt. xxviii. 18.

[199] 1 Cor. xv. 28.

[200] 1 Tim. iii. 16.

[201] P. 174, &c.

[202] 1 Cor. i. [18-25.]

[203] Pp. 178, 179.

[204] Pp. 180, 181.

[205] P. 172, &c.

[206] [“Providence hurries not himself to display to-day the
consequence of the principle he yesterday announced. He will draw it
out in the lapse of ages Even according to our reasoning logic is none
the less sure, because it is slow.”--GUIZOT on Civilization, Lect. I.

How impressively is this sentiment sustained by modern geology, and

[207] [“Philosophers make shameful and dangerous mistakes, when they
judge of the Divine economy. He cannot, they tell us, act thus,
it would be contrary to his wisdom, or his justice, &c. But while
they make these peremptory assertions they show themselves to be
unacquainted with the fundamental rules of their own science, and
with the origin of all late improvements. True philosophy would begin
the other way, with observing the constitution of the world, how God
has made us, and in what circumstances he has placed us, and _then_
from what he has done, form a sure judgment what he would do. Thus
might they learn ‘the invisible things of God from those which are
clearly seen’ the things which are not accomplished from those which
are.”--POWELL’S _Use and Abuse of Philosophy_.]

[208] 1 Tim. ii. 5.

[209] [The interposition of a man of known probity and worth often
saves the thoughtless or the guilty from punishment. Mediation is seen
in a thousand forms in the arrangements of social life; and the common
sense of all mankind approves of it. The release of the offending, by
the intercession of the good, and all the benefits of advice, caution,
example, instruction, persuasion, and authority, are instances of

[210] [MR. NEWMAN notices a distinction between the facts of
revelation, and its principles; and considers the argument from analogy
more concerned with its principles than with its facts. “The revealed
facts are special and singular, from the nature of the case, but the
revealed principles are common to all the works of God; and if the
Author of nature be the author of grace, it may be expected that the
principles displayed in them will be the same, and form a connecting
link between them. In this identity of _principle_, lies the analogy
of natural and revealed religion, in Butler’s sense of the word. The
Incarnation is a fact, and cannot be paralleled by any thing in nature:
the doctrine of mediation is a principle, and is abundantly exemplified
in nature.”--_Essay on Developments._]

[211] [The student will find the inadequacy of repentance to cancel
guilt, beautifully exhibited by WAYLAND, Mor. Science: MAGEE,
Atonement: HOWE, Living Temple.]

[212] P. 232, &c.

[213] John iii. 16.

[214] It cannot, I suppose, be imagined, even by the most cursory
reader, that it is, in any sort, affirmed or implied in any thing
said in this chapter, that none can have the benefit of the general
redemption, but such as have the advantage of being made acquainted
with it in the present life. But it may be needful to mention, that
several questions, which have been brought into the subject before
us, and determined, are not in the least entered into here, questions
which have been, I fear, rashly determined, and perhaps with equal
rashness contrary ways. For instance, whether God could have saved
the world by other means than the death of Christ, consistently with
the general laws of his government. And had not Christ come into the
world, what would have been the future condition of the better sort of
men; those just persons over the face of the earth, for whom Manasses
in his prayer[A] asserts, repentance was not appointed. The meaning of
the first of these questions is greatly ambiguous: and neither of them
can properly be answered, without going upon that infinitely absurd
supposition, that we know the whole of the case. And perhaps the very
inquiry, _What would have followed, if God had not done as he has_, may
have in it some very great impropriety: and ought not to be carried
on any further than is necessary to help our partial and inadequate
conceptions of things.

[A] [The “prayer of Manasses” is one of the apocryphal books of the Old
Testament, which next precedes “Maccabees.”]

[215] John i., and viii. 12.

[216] Rom. iii. 25, v. 11: 1 Cor. v. 7: Eph. v. 2: 1 John ii. 2: Matt
xxvi. 28.

[217] John i. 29, 36, and throughout the book of Revelation.

[218] Throughout the epistle to the Hebrews.

[219] Isa. liii.: Dan. ix. 24: Ps. cx. 4.

[220] Heb. x. 1.

[221] Heb. viii. 4, 5.

[222] Heb. x. 4, 5, 7, 9, 10.

[223] Heb. ix. 28.

[224] John xi. 51, 52.

[225] 1 Pet. iii. 18.

[226] Matt. xx. 28: Mark x. 45: 1 Tim. ii. 6.

[227] 2 Pet. ii. 1: Rev. xiv. 4: 1 Cor. vi. 20.

[228] 1 Pet. i. 19: Rev. v. 9: Gal. iii. 13.

[229] Heb. vii. 25: 1 John ii. 1, 2.

[230] Heb. ii. 10.: v. 9.

[231] 2 Cor. v. 19: Rom. v. 10: Eph. ii. 16.

[232] Heb. ii. 14. See also a remarkable passage in the book of Job,
xxxiii. 24.

[233] Phil. ii. 8, 9: John iii. 35, and v. 22, 23.

[234] Rev. v. 12, 13.

[235] John vi. 14.

[236] P. 188, &c.

[237] Eph. iv. 12, 13.

[238] John xiv. 2, 3: Rev. iii. 21, and xi. 15.

[239] 2 Thess. i. 8.

[240] Heb. ix. 26.

[241] [Consult MAGEE, on Atonement: STAPFERI Institutiones: TURRETIN,
De Satisfactione: CHALMERS, Discourses: OWEN, Satis. of Christ.]

[242] P. 194, &c.

[243] [This objection is ably urged by TINDALL. The answer of our
author is complete. We should remember, that twice in the history of
mankind, revelation _has been_ universal. The first pair, and the
occupants of the ark, comprised the whole population. But how soon was
light rejected! Christianity is universal, in nature and intention; is
to become so in fact; and according to a very probable construction of
prophecy, will continue to be universal, for three hundred and sixty
thousand years.]

[244] [May not this be a principal object of the Apocalypse? As the
book of Daniel furnished a constant and powerful support to the faith
of the Jew, by the constant development of prophecy, so the Apocalypse,
rightly studied must powerfully, and through all time, support the
faith of the Christian by the continual unfolding and verification of
its predictions.]

[245] 2 Cor. viii. 12.

[246] Introduction.

[247] Part I. chap. v.

[248] Part I. chap. iv. and pp. 156, 157.

[249] Pp. 156, 157.

[250] Dan. xii. 10. See also Isa. xxix. 13, 14: Matt. vi. 23, and
xi. 25, and xiii. 11, 12: John iii. 19, and v. 44: 1 Cor. ii. 14,
and 2 Cor. iv. 4: 2 Tim. iii. 13; and that affectionate as well as
authoritative admonition, so very many times inculcated, _He that
hath ears to hear, let him hear_. Grotius saw so strongly the thing
intended in these and other passages of Scripture of the like sense,
as to say, that the proof given us of Christianity was less than it
might have been, for this very purpose: _Ut ita sermo Evangelii tanquam
lapis esset Lydius ad quem ingenia sanabilia explorarentur_. De Ver.
R. C. lib. ii. [So that the Gospel should be a touchstone, to test the
honesty of men’s dispositions.]

[251] Pp. 100, 257, &c.

[252] [See WITSII Meletemeta, Diss. IV.: PFAFII Disput.: CAMPBELL on
Miracles: DOUGLASS’ Criterion: FARMER’S Dissertations: PALEY’S Evid.:
TAYLOR’S Apol. of Ben Mordecai: TUCKER’S Light of Nat.: WATSON’S
Tracts, vol. iv.: JORTIN’S Sermons: Bp. FLEETWOOD’S Essays: BOYLE
Lectures: LARDNER’S Credibility.]

[253] [“The miracles of the Jewish historian, are intimately connected
with all the civil affairs, and make a necessary and inseparable
part. The whole history is founded in them; it consists of little
else; and if it were not a history of them, it would be a history of
nothing.”--BOLINGBROKE, Posthumous Works, vol. iii. p. 279.]

[254] [An admirable work on this recondite mode of proving the truth
of the New Testament narrative, is PALEY’S Horæ Paulinæ. The same
department of evidence is ably handled by BIRK, in his Horæ Evangelicæ,
and Horæ Apostolicæ: GRAVES on the Pentateuch: and BLUNT in his
“Undesigned Coincidences both of the Old and New Testament.” GROTIUS,
De Veritate, has some excellent passages on the same subject.]

[255] [Clem. Rom. Ep. 1. c. 47.] CLEMENT, who is here quoted, lived in
the first century, and is mentioned Phil. iv. 3. His epistle to the
Corinthians, written in Greek, contains the passage here referred to,
which may be thus translated: “Take the letter of the blessed Paul
the Apostle. What did he write to you, in the first beginning of the
Gospel? Truly he sent you a divinely inspired letter about himself, and
Cephas, and Apollos.”

[256] Gal. i.: 1 Cor. xi. 23, &c.: 1 Cor. xv. 8.

[257] Rom. xv. 19: 1 Cor. xii. 8, 9, 10-28, &c., and xiii. 1, 2, 8, and
the whole 14th chapter: 2 Cor. xii. 12, 13: Gal. iii. 2, 5.

[258] See the Koran, chap. xiii. and chap. xvii.

[259] [MAHOMET expressly declares that he worked no _public_ miracles
in confirmation of his mission, “because the former nations have
charged them with imposture.” He claims, however, to have had private
miraculous assurances of his mission, and most preposterous they were.

WHATELY, in his Christian Evidences, has handled this aspect of
miracles with great ability. See also PALEY’S Evidences, sec. 3: and
GIBBON’S Decline and Fall, chap. 1.]

[260] [ALEXANDER, in his Evidences, and several other writers have
placed this argument in a very convincing light. ARNOBIUS, one of the
earliest Christian writers, asks, “Shall we say that the men of those
times were inconsiderate, deceitful, stupid, and brutish enough to
feign having seen what they never saw? and that when they might have
lived in peace and comfort, they chose gratuitous hatred and obloquy?”

The _rejection_ of Christianity by so many in the first age was the
result of the continued action of personal and hereditary prejudice
and depravity, capable of resisting any supposable evidence. The
_reception_ of Christianity by multitudes, under the same evidences,
and to their immediate personal damage, shows strongly that there was
enough evidence to produce those effects. Thus the rejection by some
does not countervail the acceptance by others.]

[261] P. 294, &c.

[262] [Compare BUTLER’S Sermons; on Balaam, and on Self-deceit.]

[263] See the foregoing chapter.

[264] [“Whenever a general scheme is known to be pursued by a writer,
that scheme becomes the true key in the hands of his reader, for
unlocking the meaning of particular parts, which would otherwise not
be seen clearly to refer to such scheme. The inspired writers had one
common and predominant scheme in view, which was to _bear testimony to
Jesus_. Whatever passages occur in their writings, which bear an apt
and easy resemblance to the history of Jesus, may, or rather must in
all reasonable construction, be applied to him.”--HURD on the Proph.,
p. 117.]

[265] [Consult on this point, GULICK, Theologia Prophetica: VITRINGA,
Observationes: HENGSTENBURG, Christologia: HORSLEY’S Tracts and
Sermons: KING’S Morsels of Criticism: WAUGH’S Dissertations: LYALL’S
Propœdia Prophetica.]

[266] It appears that Porphyry did nothing worth mentioning in this
way. For Jerome on the place says: _Duas posteriores bestias--in uno
Macedonum regno ponit_. And as to the ten kings; _Decem reges enumerat,
qui fuerunt sævissimi: ipsosque reges non unius ponit regni, verbi
gratia, Macedoniæ, Syriæ, Asiæ, et Ægypti; sed de diversis regnis unum
efficit regum ordinem_. [“The two latter beasts he places in one of the
Macedonian kingdoms.” “He reckons up ten kings who had been excessively
cruel and these not kings of one country, as Macedonia, for instance,
or Syria, or Asia, or Egypt; but makes up his set of kings out of
different kingdoms.”] In this way of interpretation, any thing may be
made of any thing.

[267] P. 189, &c.

[268] John i. 3.

[269] Eph. iii. 9.

[270] Acts iii. 21.

[271] Rev. x. 7.

[272] Dan. ii. 44.

[273] Dan. vii. 22.

[274] Rev. xi. 17, 18; xx. 6.

[275] Dan. vii. 27.

[276] Chap. ii. iii. &c.

[277] Deut. xxviii. 64; xxx. 2, 3: Isa. xlv. 17.

[278] Isa. lx. 21: Jer. xxx. 11; xlvi. 28: Amos ix. 14, 15: Jer. xxxi.

[279] Isa. viii. 14, 15; xlix. 5; chap. liii.: Mal. i. 10, 11, and
chap. iii.

[280] Isa. xlix. 6, chap. ii., chap, xi., chap. lvi. 7: Mal. i. 11. To
which must be added, the other prophecies of the like kind, several in
the New Testament, and very many in the Old; which describe what shall
be the completion of the revealed plan of Providence.

[281] [See DAVIDSON’S Disc. on Proph.: BLANEY on Daniel’s LXX. Weeks:
HURD’S Introd. to the Study of Proph.: JORTIN’S Ser. at Boyle Lect.:
FULLER’S Gosp. its own Witness, part ii.: WAUGH’S Diss.: APTHORPE’S

[282] P. 250.

[283] [Hundreds of instances might be adduced, in which profane
historians corroborate the statements of the Scriptures. The following
are merely specimens: DIODORUS SICULUS, STRABO, TACITUS, PLINY, and
SOLINUS, speak of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The lives of
David and Solomon are given in the remains of the PHŒNICIAN ANNALS,
in DAMASCENUS, and EUPOLEMUS. MENANDER describes the carrying away of
the Ten Tribes by Salmanasor. SUETONIUS, TACITUS, PLINY the younger,
and NUMENIUS, speak of Jesus Christ. His miracles are owned by
CELSUS, PORPHYRY, JULIAN, and Jewish writers opposed to Christianity.
SUETONIUS, TACITUS, PLINY, JULIAN, and others describe his being put
to death; and TACITUS says that many were put to death for adhering
to his religion. PHLEGON mentions the miracles of Peter; and Paul is
enumerated among eminent authors, in a fragment of LONGINUS.]

[284] [This thought is elaborated with skill by WHATELY in his
“_Historic Doubts_.” He takes up all the popular infidel objections
as to the life of Christ, and applies them with undiminished or even
increased force against the evidences that such a man as Buonaparte
ever existed.

JOHNSON in a lively sally once said--“‘It is easy to be on the negative
side. I deny that Canada is taken. The French are a much more numerous
people than we; and it is not likely they would allow us to take it.’
‘But the Government have announced the fact.’ ‘Very true. But the
ministry have put us to an enormous expense by the war in America, and
it is their interest to persuade us that we have got something for
our money.’ ‘But the fact is confirmed by thousands who were at the
taking of it.’ ‘Aye, but these men have an interest in deceiving us:
they don’t want you should think the French have beat them. Now suppose
you go over and find it so, that would only satisfy yourself; for
when you come back we will not believe you. We will say you have been

[285] P. 267, &c.

[286] P. 270, &c.

[287] Deut. xxviii. 37.

[288] All the particular things mentioned in this chapter, not
reducible to the head of certain miracles, or determinate completions
of prophecy. See p. 263.

[289] [Butler states this argument with more than his usual brevity,
and its force is not seen without reflection. “If contrivance or
accident could have given to Christianity _any_ of its apparent
testimonies, its miracles, its prophecies, its morals, its propagation,
or [the character of] its founder, there could be no room to believe,
or even imagine, that _all_ these appearances of great credibility,
could be _united together_, by any such means. If successful craft
could have contrived its public miracles, or the pretence of them,
it requires another reach of craft, to adopt its prophecies to the
same object. Further, it required not only a different, but a totally
opposite art to conceive and promulgate its admirable morals. Again,
its propagation, in defiance of the powers and terrors of the world,
implied still other qualities of action. Lastly, the model of the life
of its founder, is a work of such originality and wisdom, as could be
the offspring only of consummate powers of invention, or rather never
could have been _devised_, but must have come from real life. The
hypothesis sinks under its incredibility. Each of these suppositions of
contrivance, being arbitrary and unsupported, the climax of them is an
extravagance.”--DAVISON, on Prophecy.]

[290] 1 John iv. 18.--[“There is no fear in love,” &c.]

[291] [Obedience from dread, if it continue to be the only motive,
precludes advance toward perfection; for “He that feareth is not
made perfect in love.” But obedience from a discernment of the
reasonableness and beneficence of religion, and of the perfections of
its Author, increases love till it “casteth out fear.”]

[292] [See a discussion of this subject, in BAYLE’S Historical and
Biographical Dictionary: art. XENOPHANES: notes D, E, F, G.]

[293] See Dissertation II.

[294] [It is remarked by DEAN FITZGERALD, that “It is not inconceivable
that the Almighty should apply such a test of men’s candor and
fidelity, as should require them first to act upon a thing as true,
before they were so fully satisfied of its truth as to leave no doubt
remaining. Such a course of action might be the appointed, and for all
we know, the only possible way of overcoming habits of thought and
feeling, repugnant to the belief demanded, so that a fixed religious
faith might be the reward, as it were, of a sincere course of prudent

[295] By _arguing upon the principles of others_, the reader will
observe is meant, not proving any thing _from_ those principles, but
_notwithstanding_ them. Thus religion is proved, not _from_ the opinion
of necessity; which is absurd: but, _notwithstanding_ or _even though_
that opinion were admitted to be true.

[296] P. 141, &c.

[297] Prov. xx. 27.

[298] Serm. at the _Rolls_, p. 106.

[299] John iii. 16: Heb. v. 9.

[300] P. 258, &c.

[301] Locke’s Works, vol. i. p. 146.

[302] Locke, pp. 146, 147.

[303] Locke, p. 152.

[304] See an answer to Dr. Clarke’s Third Defence of his Letter to Mr.
Podwell, 2d edit. p. 44, 56, &c.

[305] [“One is continually reminded throughout this dissertation, of
what is called _The common-sense school_ of Scotch metaphysicians. Nor
can there be any doubt that REID, in particular, was largely indebted
to Butler, of whose writings he was a diligent student, for forming
that sober and manly character of understanding which is, I think, his
great merit.”--FITZGERALD.]

[306] This way of speaking is taken from Epictetus,[A] and is made
use of as seeming the most full, and least liable to cavil. And
the moral faculty may be understood to have these two epithets,
δοκιμαστικὴ and ἀποδοκιμαστικὴ [applauding and condemning] upon a
double account; because, upon a survey of actions, whether before or
after they are done, it determines them to be good or evil; and also
because it determines itself to be the guide of action and of life,
in contradistinction from all other faculties, or natural principles
of action; in the very same manner as speculative reason _directly_
and naturally judges of speculative truth and falsehood: and at the
same time is attended with a consciousness upon _reflection_, that the
natural right to judge of them belongs to it.

[A] Arr. Epict. lib. i. cap. i.

[307] Οὐδὲ ἡ ἀρετὴ καὶ κακία--ἐν πείσει ἀλλὰ ἐνεργείᾳ, [Virtue and vice
are not in feeling, but in action,] M. Anton, lib. ix. 16. Virtutis
laus omnis in actione consistit. [The whole praise of virtue, depends
on action.] Cic. Off. lib. i. cap. 6.

[308] P. 145.



  Abstract reasonings may mislead, 162
    fitness of things, _note_ 166

    distinguished from their qualities, 111
    manifest character, 156
    rewarded and punished, 98
    this world a theater of, 156
    what sort exercise virtue, 152

  Active and passive impressions, 140

  Advantages of virtue, 113
    may never recur, 101

  Affections, excited by objects, 145
    need control, 166
    part of our constitution, 147

  Affliction, a discipline, 150
    chiefly of our own making, 100

  Agent, the living, not compounded, 81

  Alienation of parts of our body, 84

  All things made double, 137

  Allurements, use of, 151

    answers objections as to a present state of trial, 135
    as to modes of existence, 78
    carrying the force of positive argument, [105
    deals only with facts, 171
    indicates future punishment, 101
    may amount to proof, 168
    objections which it cannot answer, 171
    the only proof of some things, 79

  Antiquity of religion, 167

  Atheists not argued with, in this treatise, 181

  Beginnings of a righteous government seen on earth, 107

  Bible, teaches the existence of general laws, [99

    not necessary to us, 82
    not ourselves, 83
    only instruments, 85, 86
    their solid elements, 88

  Bodily and mental habits, 134

  Brain, does not think, [89

  Brahminical notion of death, 92

    are they immortal?, [88
    may have greater strength than man, 119
    under man’s control, 119

    state of in infancy, 88
    not destroyed by death, 89
    not dependent on the body, 79

  Causes and ends incomprehensible, 172

  Changes compatible with identity, 78, 83

    manifested by probation, 156
    not given but acquired, 155
    what it means, _note_ 163

    how it acts, 164
    implies government, 115
      a rule, 164
      authority, 164
      future retribution, 165
    may be impaired, 168
    perverted, 168

  Consciousness an indiscerptible entity, 82
    presupposes identity, [77

    may sometimes be avoided, 102
    may be foreseen, 98
    show a moral government, 98

  Course of nature constant, 97

  Creatures finitely perfect, 147
    may fall, 148
    have each a way of life, 137

  Danger of wrong doing, how increased, 132

    and birth similar, 91
    enlarges our sphere, 92
    has no power over matter, [91
    is not a suspension of our powers, 91
    is not our destruction, 80
    what it is, 80

  Decay of vegetables, inference from, 92

  Definitions of identity, 77

  Delivering up of the Lord Jesus Christ, [111

  Destruction of seeds, 153

  Different states of human existence, 89

  Difficulties belong to all subjects, [96
    exercise the virtuous principle, 152

  Disadvantages of virtue temporary, 126

  Discipline, its true nature and use, [148

  Disease not destructive to the soul, 90
    sometimes remedial, 177

  Disorder produced by sin, 148

  Distress excites passive pity and active relief, 140

  Distributive justice a natural rule, 110

  Divine government a scheme, CHAP. VII.

  Domestic government, 114

  Dreams, what they prove, 86

  Earthly satisfactions attainable, 183

  Effects of actions on the actor, [143

  Ends often produced by unlikely means, 180

  Enjoyments in our own power to a great degree, 95

  Error, how spread, [96

  Evidence of natural religion, 166

  Evil, may possibly be useful, 177
    its possible origin, 147
    not a necessary part of probation, [128

  Exceptions to the happiness of virtue, 108

  Experience indispensable, 141

  Faculties, human, not perfect at first, 141

  Fall of man, 133, [148

  Fallacy in fatalism, 169

  Fallen creatures require discipline, 150

  Fatalism,--see _Necessity_.

  Fear a proper motive to obedience, 154

  Folly, destructive, as well as crime, 132

  Formal notion of government, 99

  Foundation of moral improvement, [108

  Future advantages, how proportioned, 93

  Future existence probable, CHAP. I.
    of brutes, [79

  Future interest dependent on conduct, 95

  Future life,
    a solemn subject, 95
    not an inactive condition, 144
    reconcilable with atheism, 94
    this life preparatory to it, CHAP. V.

  Future punishment credible, 103

  Future retribution, how proved, 125

  Future state
    different from the present, 78
    brings us into new scenes, 93
    may have temptations, [145
    social, 144
    will not require such virtues as does the present life, 154

  General laws
    govern the world, 177, [99
    produce punishment, 103
    wisdom of them, 178

  General method of God’s government, 97

  General system of religion, 124

  Gradual improvement, a wise arrangement, 141, 142

    an intelligent governor, 106
    determined by what is fit, [166
    governs by human instruments, 111
    governs justly, [108
    has a will and a character, 163
    his aims incomprehensible, 97
    his attributes inferred from our own, [115
    his general government, 97
    his government just and good, 176
    his indirect commands, 165
    moral government of, CHAP. III.
    natural     ”      ,   ”  II.
    necessarily existent, 159
    not indifferent to human actions, 125
    not simply benevolent, 106
    rewards and punishes, 169
    the only necessary being, 159

  Good actions, how punished, 111

  Good habits necessary even to the virtuous, 149

  Good men befriended as such, 112
    cannot now all unite, 121

  Good not forced upon us, [134

    civil, an ordinance of God, 111
    considered as a scheme, CHAP. VII.
    of God, CHAP. II.
    not perfected in this world, 107
    the formal notion of it, 98
    the perfection of, 106

    how formed, &c., 139
    necessary to us hereafter, [145
    of resignation, 155
    often ruinous, 101
    of virtue an improvement in virtue, 147
    passive, 138
    shape the character, 141

    not always the _immediate_ reward of virtue, 108
    not given promiscuously, 138
    requisites for, 137
    the result of virtue, 118

  Helplessness of man, [138

  Higher degrees of retribution probable, 127

  Hinderances to virtue, 121

  History of religion, 169

  Honest men befriend the honest, 112

  Hope and fear appeal to self-love, 153
    are just principles of action, 154

  Human life preparatory, 144

  Hume’s wonderful discovery, [162

  Human powers may be overtasked, 152

    does not depend on the sameness of the body, 83
    of living agents, 77, 78
    not explicable, [77

    acknowledged on all subjects but religion, 174
    answers objections, 175
    the argument from, 180
    total, destroys proof, 178

  Illustration of the modification of an action by its intention, [111

  Imagination a source of discontent, 154
    produces much error, 81

  Immortality of brutes, 88

    by discipline, 144
    by habit, 147
    of our faculties gradual, 141
    wisdom of this, 142

  Incomprehensibility of God’s plans, 97

  Inconsiderateness destructive, 102

  Inferiority of brute force, 119

  Infidelity unjustifiable, 105

  Insignificance of our knowledge, [174

  Interest coincident with virtue, 154
    not a sufficient restraint, _note_ 146

  Interpositions to prevent irregularities, 177
    would produce evil, 178

  Intentional good rewarded, 114

  Irregularities perhaps unavoidable, 177
    seeming may not be such, 176

  Inward peace attends virtue, 112

  Kingdom, idea of a perfect, 123

  Knowledge of man insignificant, [174

  Liberty does not account for the fall, 147
    implied in our present condition, 162

  Life a probation, 128
    one part of it preparatory to another, [142
    what is it intended for, 137

  Living agent not subject to death, 79

  Living powers, see _Death_.

  Locke on human identity, [77

  Maimonides, his similitude, [173

    an inferior part of creation, 133
    a system of parts, [98
    by nature social, [93
    capable of improvement, 145
    connected with present, past, and future, 181
    dealt with as if free, 162
    has a moral nature, 115
    his fall not accounted for by his free agency, 147
    his helplessness, [138
    knows nothing fully, 173
    may become qualified for new states, 137
    not a competent judge of God’s schemes, 174
    requires moral culture, 145

  Mania often produced by moral causes, [85

  Materialism, its philosophical absurdity, [81

  Matter and mind not the same, [83
    affect each other, 85

    learned by experience, 176
    man not a competent judge of the fitness of them, 178
    not always agreeable, 176

  Men often miss possible temporal good, 129

  Men’s temporal interests greatly depend on themselves, 131

  Might of unarmed virtue, [121

    influenced by the passions, 131
    is the man, [87
    its effects on the body, [85
    may survive the body, [89
    the only real percipient, 85
    uses the body as an instrument, [87

  Miracles, properly speaking, not unnatural, 94

  Miseries as contingent as conduct, 135
    generally are avoidable, 100

  Mixture of suffering and enjoyment in this world, [128

  Moral and natural government of God similar to each other, 184

  Moral attributes of God may be inferred from our own, [115

  Moral discipline, CHAP. V.

  Moral government of God, CHAP. III.

  Moral improvement, basis of, [108

  Moral world, its apparent irregularities, 176

  Mystery of God, finished, _note_ 102

  Natural, the true meaning of the word, 94

  Natural government of God, CHAP. II.

  Natural religion,
    its evidences not affected by the doctrine of necessity, 166
    proof of, 166
    teaches the doctrine of punishment, 102

  Necessary agents may be punished, 169

  Necessary bulk of one’s self, 84

  Necessary existence of God, 159

  Necessary tendencies of virtue, 118

  Negligence and folly disastrous, 132

    consigns us to a fallacy, 169
    contradicts the constitution of nature, 170
    destroys no proof of religion, 170
    different kinds of, [157
    does not exclude design, 160
    doctrine of, CHAP. VI.
    not an agent, 159
    not applicable to practice, 163
    not in conflict with religion, 160
    our condition indicates freedom, 162
    reconcilable with religion, 168
    the doctrine absurd, 157
    what it means, 158
    writers for and against, [170

  New scenes in the next world, 93

  Obedience, reluctant, useful, [152

    against a proof and against a thing to be proved, 179
    against the scheme of Providence, 174
    analogy of plants, 92
    Christianity not universal, 169
    course of nature, 97
    destruction of seeds, 153
    difference between temporal and eternal things, [135
    discipline might have been avoided, 156
    God simply benevolent, 106
    good and evil may be mixed in the next world, 124
    gratification of appetites natural and proper, 98
    ignorance, the argument from invalidates the proof of religion, 178
    immortality of brutes, 87
    incredible that necessary agents should be punished, 169
    irregularities of the moral world, 176
    necessity destroys the proof of religion, 165
    our powers may be overtasked, 152
    probabilities may be overbalanced by probabilities, 169
    punishments are only natural events, 99
    rectitude arising from hope and fear, sordid, 153
    rewards and punishments, 95
    sin need not have entered the world, 177
    society punishes good actions, 111
    special interpositions might prevent evil, 177, 178
    to the doctrine of necessity, CHAP. VI.
    to the doctrine of future punishments, 100-103
    virtue sometimes punished, 111
    virtues of the present life not wanted hereafter, 154
    world disciplines some to vice, 153

  Obligation certain, when proofs are not, 179

  Occasional disadvantages of virtue, 117

  Occasional indulgences in wrong-doing awfully dangerous, [143

  One period of life preparatory to another, [142

  Opportunities once lost irrecoverable, 143

  Organs of sense mere instruments, 89

  Our moral nature proves a moral government, 115

  Pain, no contrivance for it in man, [110

  Partial ignorance does not destroy proof, 178

    carry away the judgment, 131
    make our condition one of trial, 130
    may account for the fall of man, 147
    may be excited where gratification is impossible or unlawful, 146
    may remain in a future state, 147
    should be subject to the moral principle, 145
    the bare excitement of, not criminal, 145
      but dangerous, 146

  Passive habits, 138

  Passive impressions weakened by repetition, 139

  Passive submission essential, 155

  Peace of the virtuous, 112

  Perception, instruments of, 85
    possible without instruments, 86

  Perfection of moral government, 106, 107
    of an earthly kingdom, 123

  Persecution unnatural, 111

  Philosophy never arrogant, [174
    what it cannot teach, [87

    not a sufficient reason for action, 98
    and pain mostly depend on ourselves, 95
    the distribution indicates moral government, 105

    may be improved by exercise, 138
    may be overtasked, 152
    may exist and not be exercised, 80
    no reason for supposing that death will destroy them, 81

  Practical proof, what, 168

  Present existence unaccounted for by atheism, 94

  Presumptions that death will destroy us, 81
    that it will suspend our existence, 91

  Presumptuousness unjustifiable, 105

  Private vices not public benefits, [111

  Probabilities in favor of religion may be overbalanced by
      probabilities against it, 169

  Probation, CHAP. IV.
    applies to the present life as well as the future, 130
    does not necessarily imply suffering, [128
    implies allurements, 129
    is more than moral government, 128
    requires severe discipline, 150

  Proofs of natural religion, 166
    of religion not affected by the doctrine of necessity, 160

  Propensions necessarily create temptations, 146
    are excited by their appropriate objects, 147

  Proper gratification of the appetites, 98

  Prosperity of a virtuous community, 123
    may beget discontent, 154

  Providence, objections to God’s, 140, 174

  Public spirit a fruit of virtue, 120

    an alarming subject, 105
    especially considered, 100
    greater hereafter than now, 127
    in a future state credible, 103, 125
    is God’s voice of instruction, [108
    is sometimes capital, 102
    not unjust, 163
    often long delayed, 101
    often overtakes suddenly, 101
    of virtuous actions, 111
    religious and natural similar, 100
    results from folly as well as crime, 132
    the result of general laws, 103

    Aristotle, [152
    Chalmers, [131, 138, 148
    Cicero, [82, 86
    Clarke, [97
    Fitzgerald, [145
    Robert Hall, [118
    Hume, [162
    Maimonides, [173
    Mandeville, [111
    Plato, [87, 113
    Son of Sirac, [137
    Strabo, [92

  Rashness, consequences of, 96

    an incompetent judge of means, 178
    gives power over brute force, 119
    needs experience, 141
    not dependent on bodily powers, 89
    requires a fair opportunity, 119-121

  Recapitulation of the whole argument, 180

  Rectitude, is self-interest a proper motive to it?, 153

  References to other authors.
    Bates, [128
    Baxter, [88
    Bayle, [88
    Beattie, [170
    Belsham, [170
    Berkeley, [111
    Bonnett, [89
    Bramhall, [171
    Brown, [111
    Bryant, [171
    Butterworth, [107
    Calcott, [128
    Capp, [109
    Chalmers, [77, 79, 148
    Charnock, [158
    Cheyne, [88
    Clarke, 82, [81, 97, 171
    Colliber, [88
    Collings, [158, 170
    Compte, [170
    Crombie, [170
    Crouse, [170
    Davies, [109
    D’Holbach, [170
    Descartes, [88
    Ditton, [88
    Doddridge, [109
    Dodwell, [81
    Dwight, [109
    Edwards, [88, 170
    Fabricius, [128
    Fichte, [170
    Gibbs, [171
    Grove, [171
    Haller, [89
    Harris, [171
    Hartley, [170
    Hegel, [170
    Henly, [128
    Hobbes, [170
    Holtzfusius, [128
    Holyoake, [170
    Horseley, [109
    Hume, [88
    Hunt, [109
    Jackson, [171
    Konnicott, [128
    King, [98, 171
    Law, [98
    Lawson, [171
    Le Clerc, [128
    Leland, [109
    Leroux, [170
    Liefchild, [109
    Locke, [88
    Manton, [128
    Martineau, [170
    Martinius, [119
    Milman, [142
    Morgagni, [89
    Morton, [109
    Musæus, [128
    Palmer, [171
    Pearson, [128
    Polignac, [88
    Porteus, [109
    Price, [158
    Priestley, [142, 170
    Reid, [170
    Rutherford, [109, 158
    Search, [88
    Seed, [109
    Selden, [128
    Shaftesbury, 108
    Sherlock, [109
    Shuckford, [128
    Son of Sirac, [137
    South, [109, 128
    Stapfer, [128
    Strabo, 92
    Toplady, [128
    Topping, [109
    Twisse, [109
    Wagstaff, [88
    Warburton, [111
    Watts, [77, 88, 171
    Whately, [142, 158
    Willis, [88
    Wisheart, [109
    Witsius, [128
    Wittichius, [109

  Reflection not dependent on sensation, 91

  Reformation is attended with discomfort, 108
    may not prevent penalties, 102

  Relation between us and our bodies, 85

  Relations of things, limitless, 173

    a question of fact, 165
    historical evidence of, 168
    professed in all ages, 167
    its proofs not affected by the doctrine of necessity, 170
    nor by our ignorance, 178

  Reluctant obedience profitable, [152

  Remedies often very disagreeable, 176

  Repentance may be too late, 104

  Requisites to the superiority of reason, 119
    of virtue, 120, 121

  Resentment of injuries, 114

    a temper consonant with God’s sovereignty, 155
    essential to virtue, 154
    the fruit of affliction, 155
    the habit necessary hereafter, 155

  Retributions are divine teachings, [108

    antiquity of, 167
    not improbable, 167
    not universal, _note_ 107

  Rewards and punishments, how distributed, 126

  Satisfactions of virtue, 108

  Scheme of God incomprehensible, 172

  Self-denial, its relations to present happiness, 134
    not essential to piety, 152

  Self-discipline, what, [148

    a just principle of action, 154
    appealed to, 153
    how moderated and disciplined, 155
    not a sufficient restraint, _note_ 146
    reasonable and safe, 130

  Sensation not necessary to reflection, 91

  Senses not percipients, 85

  Severe discipline necessary, 150

  Similitude of a historical painting, [174

  Simplicity of the living agent, 83

  Sin, why not kept out of the world, 177

  Skepticism does not justify irreligion, 105

  Social, our nature essentially such, [93

    must punish vice, 110
    natural and necessary, [93
    sometimes punishes the good, 111

    a simple substance, 82
    not destroyed with the body, 79
    not naturally immortal, [81

  Souls of brutes, 88

  Special interpositions of Providence, 177, 178

  Stages of existence, 78

  State of probation, CHAP. IV.

  State of discipline and improvement, CHAP. V.

  Submissive temper necessary, 155

  Subordinations exceedingly beneficial, 142

  Subserviencies in nature, 173

  Sufferings may be avoided, 95
    not necessary to the cultivation of virtue, [128

  Temporal and religious probation similar, 132

    increased by bad examples, 132
    and by former errors, 132
    intended for our improvement, 136
    involve probation, 129
    may improve or injure us, 153
    security against their evils, 146
    sources of, to upright beings, 147
    the necessary result of propensions, 146

  Tendencies of virtue, 118
    hindered, 121
    essential, not accidental, 126

  Terms “nature” and “course of nature”, [97

  Theorizing no aid to virtue, 139

  Thoughtlessness often fatal, 101

  Transmigration of souls, [87

    manifest character, 156
    may exist in a future state, 147
    produced by our propensions, 131
    qualify for a better state, 144
    unreasonable ones are not inflicted, 133
    why we are subjected to them, 136

  Ultimate design of man, [98

  Understanding may be perverted, 168

  Uneasiness produced by former sins, 109

  Union of good beings, 122

  Unjustifiableness of religious indifference, 105

  Upright creatures may fall, 147
    need good habits, 149

  Universe and its government immense, 123

    actually punished by society 110, 111
    must produce uneasiness, 112
    never rewarded as such, 116
    not only criminal but depraving, 149
    often increased by trials, 153
    punished as such, 114

  Vicious men lose their influence, [121

    a bond of union, 122
    as such, rewarded on earth, 111
    “brings its own reward”, [118
    has occasional disadvantages, [117
    hinderances accidental, 121
    how and why rewarded, 111
    improved by trials, 151
    its benefits to a community, 123
    natural, not vice, 116
    not always rewarded in this life, 108
    on the whole happier than vice, 113
    secures peace, 112
    tendencies essential, 126
    tends to give power, 118, [121

  Virtuous beings need virtuous habits, 149

  Virtuous habits a security, 147
    how formed, 139
    improve virtue, 147
    necessary in a future state, [145

  Voice of nature is for virtue, 117

  Waste of seeds, 153

  Wickedness may produce some benefits, 177
    voluntary, 136

  Will and character
    of God, how determined, _note_ 166
    what they mean, _note_ 163

  Wonderful discovery of Hume, [162

    a system of subordinations, 173
    a theater for the manifestation of character, 156
    disciplines some to vice, 153
    fitted for man’s discipline, 150
    governed by fixed laws, 110

    a determining period, 101
    if lost, not to be recovered, 143
    its beneficial subordinations, 142



  A common absurdity, 243

  Abstract truth distinguished from facts, 305, [186

  Absurdity of some objections to Christianity, 245

  Abuse of our natural endowments, 217

  Accidental, what events are so called, 226

  Accountability gradually increases, 251

    definition of, in morals, 261
    distinguished from things done, 261
    their bad consequences sometimes escaped, 232
    virtue and vice consist in them, 261

  Advantage, as proper a consideration in religion as in temporal
      affairs, 298
    variously bestowed, 249, 312

    a confirmation of all facts to which it can be applied, 306
    affords no argument against the scheme of Christianity, 203
    nor against miracles, 203
    answers presumptions against miracles, 207
    does not prove the wisdom of God, 301
    does not teach that the _whole_ of God’s government is like that on
      earth, 204
    easily cavilled at, but unanswerable, 306
    between natural information and that derived from inspiration, 212
    between the remedies of nature and those of grace, 219
    between the gospel and human discoveries, 219
    between the light of nature and of revelation, 218
    between the use of natural gifts, and miraculous, 217
    between the government of God and that of a human master, 261
    its small influence on men, 303
    how used in this treatise, 306
    may show our duty, but not the design of the requirement, 246
    objections to this mode of arguing, CHAP. VIII.
    shows that there may be infinite reasons for things, with which we
      are not acquainted, 188
    the only ground for some of our knowledge, 306

  Antidote to heresies, [191

  Apocalypse, its principal object, [249

  Appearances of men and things deceptive, 248

  Arguments proper as to human writings, are not so as to Scripture, 214

    how held by the ancients, 241
    makes the innocent suffer for the guilty, 243

  Author of nature taken for granted, 298

  Authoritativeness of revelation, 189

    a test of obedience, [199
    commanded and important, 194
    why the form of words, 194

  Bible, how to be interpreted, [202, 215

  Brutes, their great sagacity, 216

  Boundary of human inquiry, [223

  Candor necessary in judging of Christianity, 302

  Chance, really no such thing, 226

  Characters drawn in Scripture evidently unfeigned, 287

    a mediator, CHAP. V.
    a prophet, 240
    a priest and king, 241
    his history, as given in Scripture, 285
    his pre-existence taught, 282
    his satisfaction, 239
    his sufferings voluntary, 243
    manner of his interposition, 238
    not merely a teacher and example, 242
    offered himself a propitiatory sacrifice, 241

    a fearful curse, if it give no more light than natural religion, [196
    a question of fact, 301
    a remedial system, [193
    an authoritative republication of the religion of nature, 188, 189
    a particular scheme under a general plan, 194, 224
    a scheme imperfectly comprehended, CHAP. IV.
    a scheme revealed but in part, 226
    brings life and immortality to light, 190
    could not possibly be a contrivance, [222, 294
    demands attention, if barely probable, 253
    has evidences besides miracles and prophecy, 263
    in what degree remedial, [193
    is a real revelation, 213
    is conformable to the constitution of things, 295
    its benefits require the use of means, 197
    its establishment and prevalence, the most conspicuous and important
      event in history, 286
    its evidences, CHAP. VII.
    its good effects not small, 192
    its precepts plain and obvious, 218
    its proof historical, 304
    its proofs liable to objection, 260
    men bound to examine its evidence, 197
    miracles and prophecy its direct and fundamental proofs, 263
    must have mysteries, [223
    no objection to the morality of it, 214, 220, 222
    not merely a republication of natural religion, [196
    not primarily designed to remedy the defects of nature, [193
    not the discovery of reason, 188
    objections to its evidence, 210
    objections to its nature, 210
    offered to some in a corrupt state, 250
    prescribes new duties, 194
    preserves natural religion in the world, 191
    propagated against all obstructions, [294
    rashness of treating it lightly, 194, 196, 197
    requires means to accomplish ends, 225
    reveals a particular dispensation of Providence, 194
    reveals important facts, 196
    some of its dark parts may be cleared up, others cannot, [223
    teaches more than natural religion, 194
    the evils ascribed to it, are not its evils, 192
    the one great question concerning it, 213, 214
    the only religion professedly confirmed by miracles, 268
    to be transmitted by Christians, [190
    universal, in nature and intention, [248
    what alone could disprove it, 295
    why not remedial to a greater degree, 193
    why not sooner promulgated, 219

    bound to spread Christianity, 190
    primitive, their testimony, 267

    men bound to support it, 193
    preserves a knowledge of religion, 191
    visible, its design, 190, 191

  Circumstantial evidences of Christianity, 263, 281
    often as convincing as direct testimony, 294

  Clemens Romanus, testimony of, 266
    his letter to the Corinthians, [266

  Climax of infidel extravagance, [294

  Coincidence of natural and revealed religion, 211, 218

  Coincidences of Scripture, 266

  Comparison, how it may mislead us, 201

  Compassion distinct from goodness, 233
    visible in the constitution of the world, 233

  Consequences of infidelity; more dangerous than those of faith, 294
    of sin, often averted, 233

  Conversational objections to revelation, 295

  Conversion, how produced, [225

  Course of nature
    different from what we might have supposed, previous to experience, 211
    none at the beginning, 205
    our total darkness as to its causes, 208

    Mosaic account of, referred to by John, 282
    a different exertion of power from government, 205
    why Scripture describes it, 281

  Creatures of like moral qualities placed in different religious
      situations, 251

  Credulity of mankind acknowledged, 269

  Cumulative proof of Christianity, [207

    his book had more evidence of authenticity than has come to us, 279
    his predictions a support of Jewish faith, [249
    quoted by Christ, 279

  Dark parts of revelation, [223

  Degrees of evidence have degrees of weight, 255
    require nice examination, 258

  Deistical explanation of Christ’s miracles, [206

  Deists, why do they oppose Christianity, [196

  Depravity of man obvious, 238
    doctrine of, [218

  Desert of good and ill, the notion of, 305

  Development, of truth, 218
    modern, doctrine of, [218

  Differences of religious advantages may have like reasons as those for
      different temporal advantages, 251
    would remain if revelation were universal, 252

    absurdity of requiring them to be all removed, 297
    as to the evidence of religion, analogous to those attending the
      practice of it, 256
    cannot be solved by analogy, 296
    speculative, may be the chief trials of some, 257
    the discernment which can see them, might suffice to see through
      them, 260

  Direct and circumstantial evidence must be taken together, 280

  Diseases of body and mind, analogous as to their remedies, 220

  Disobedience, without possible excuse, 253

  Dispensations, preparatory one to another, 310

  Disregard of religion a great profligacy, 233

  Distinction between moral and positive obligation, 198, [198
    between acts and principles, [235
    between temporary, individual, and universal commands, [188

    affords scope for probation, 262
    exercises our virtuous principles, 256
    implies some evidence, 252, 254, 283
    involves some obligation, 263
    puts us upon probation, 253

  Doubtful evidence should have _some_ influence, 255

  Duties arising from revealed relations, 195
    moral and positive, 194

  Earth, its appearances confirm Scripture, 238

  Effect of Adam’s transgression, 238
    of combined probabilities, 294, [294

  Efficacy of repentance, [190
    not taught by the light of nature, 190

  End, God’s not known, 246

    is not peculiar to religion, 272
    impairs no testimony for Christianity, 271
    may often weaken testimony, 271
    sometimes mixed with knavery, 272
    the absence of all sign of it in Christianity, a presumptive proof
      in its favor, 222
    will not account for the spread of Christianity, 270

  Enthusiasts make as great sacrifices as Christians, 270

  Epistles of Paul, proof from, 266

  Eternal retribution not taught by natural religion, [190

  Ethics of natural religion distinguished from its objects, [194

  Events expound Scripture, 219

    of Christianity impregnable, 295
    collateral and direct to be viewed together, 294
    from miracles and prophecy, 267
    imperfect, should yet influence practice in proportion to its
      degree, 255
    of circumstances may be most direct, 294
    of religion, open to all, 260
    of religion, the same in kind as that which controls us in
      temporal things, 258
    much lower than satisfactory often determines us, 303
    not only increased but multiplied by a combination of
      probabilities, 294, [294
    reason the proper judge of, 221
    requires careful sifting, 256
    candor in judging, 302, [303
    safety always in admitting it, 294
    why liable to objection, 257

  Evil, remedies provided for it, 219, 232

  Exaggeration practised by many who will not lie, 272

  External manner of heart worship, 195

    affords no presumption against Christianity, 203
    corroborates Christian doctrines, 245
    teaches the effects of actions, 246

  Extravagance of some objections, 187, 188

    analogy the only proof of some, 306
    distinguished from abstract truths, 305
    of revelation distinguished from its principles, [235

  Fall of man, assumed as a fact, 236
    confirmed by appearances, 238

  Falsehood, its degrees and inducements, 272

  False miracles have deceived many, 273
    have some historic evidence, 273

  Fatalists, their principles argued upon, 304

  Fear cast out by love, [301

  Fitness, moral, 304, 305

  Flippant objections to Christianity, 295

  Folly, a real vice, 280

  Foresight of brutes, 216

  Future punishments,
    all the reasons for them not known, 234
    not arbitrarily appointed, 232
    natural sequences, 231, 232
    rendered credible by temporal punishments, 300

  Genealogy of mankind given in Scripture, 283

  General laws
    a wise arrangement, 227
    do not render miracles incredible, 227
    control the Christian dispensation, 226
    few events can be traced up to them, 226
    miracles may be their results, 226, 227
    the ground of believing there are such, 226
    things called accidental governed by them, 226

  Geology, its impressive lessons, [229

    a master giving laws, 261
    all his reasons for giving a command must be certainly known, and
      known to have passed away, before we can safely disregard it, 188
    duties towards him as the Father, 194, 195
    governs by mediation, 230
    his government shows compassion, 233
      progressive, 229
    his means and ends we cannot distinguish, 228
    his providence, objections to it idle, 300, 301
    his reasons not assigned, 246
    his will, as absolute or conditional, 261
    how he would act in contingencies, unknown, [222
    how to be worshipped, a pure matter of revelation, 195
    instructs us by experience, 211, 246
    little known, [222
    not indifferent as to who suffer, 243
    reveals our duties, not his plans, 246
    the real author of the prophecies, 276

  Good and evil unequally distributed, 248

  Government of God sometimes, apparently, tardy in its results, 224, 225

  Gradual growth of causes, [208

  Happiness not always secured by well-laid schemes, 247

  Hazard of neglecting Christianity, 262

  Heathen world, condition of, 186, 250

  Hieroglyphic and figurative language of Scripture, 210

  Hinderances to natural and spiritual knowledge similar, 218

    of miracles, 264
    of the Jews confirmed by their condition, 289, 290
    of the origin of religion, 206
    furnishes no parallel to revelation, 207
    prophecy is history anticipated, 281
    Scripture, has not been invalidated, 283

  Holy Spirit, its operations on the heart, [225

  Human contrivance unequal to some things, [222

  Human life, in what sense it may be called poor, 297

  Human testimony, reliable notwithstanding the prevalence of
      falsehood, 273

  Identity of principle between natural and revealed religion, [235

    of heathen writers, [187
    of other worlds, forbids objections to Christianity on the ground
      of miracles, 207
    of the laws of miracles, not greater than of natural laws, 256
    of the reason of our present condition, 251
    much of it our own fault, 259

  Imagination may fancy unreal coincidences, 293

  Immorality not authorized in Scripture, 221, 222

  Impassable limit to human knowledge, [223

  Imperceptible accumulation of forces, [208

  Imperfect knowledge, better than acting in the dark, 297

  Imperfection of language, 216

  Importance of revelation, CHAP. I.
    an abstraction, [186
    precludes the idea that the first witnesses were careless, 274

  Improbability before and after an event, [207
    of the Deistical theory greater than that of miracles, [206

  Inadequacy of repentance, [236

  Inattention to religion, real depravity, 252, 307
    prevents convincement, 258

  Incarnation an invisible miracle, 204
    cannot be paralleled, [235

  Influence of the Holy Ghost, [225
    of the analogical argument, 303

  Innocent sometimes suffer for the guilty, 243

  Inspiration, the proper kind and extent of it not discoverable by
      reason, 212
    not to be interpreted like other writings, 212

  Inspired writers, key to their meaning, [276
    their one great scheme, [276
    show a foresight more than human, 278, 279

  Instruction from God to savages, [206

  Intercession by the good for the bad, [232

  Interest, temporal, not always apparent, 302

  Interpositions of men for each other, [232

  Internal improbabilities weaken external proof, 215

  Interpretation of Scripture, [215

  Irregularity, really no such thing, 226
    whence the appearance of, 227

  Irregularities of men, consequences proportioned to magnitude, 233

  Irreligion an aggravated sin, 233
    especially in persons in high standing, 254
    not justifiable on any pretence, 256, 312

  Invention an irregular way of information, 216

  Invisible miracles, [204
    things of God, how learned, [230

    God’s dealing with them, 290
    their continuance, a standing miracle, 290
    their history confirmed by facts, 291
    their system of Theism, [206

  Jewish miracles, a part of civil history, [265

  John, his allusion to Christ, in the beginning of his gospel, 282
    his doctrine agrees with that of Paul, 282

  Kingdom of Christ on earth, 241

    profound, not necessary to piety, 218
    scientific and religious, have the same difficulties, 218

  Knowledge of Scripture, improved in the same way as knowledge of the
      sciences, 218
    unequally distributed, 249

  Language necessarily ambiguous, 216
    of the prophecies, often figurative, 210

  Laplace, error of, [207

  Levity destructive to religious influence, 259

    belief of our, unavoidable, 304
    of the will, not discussed, _note_ 304
    necessary to the progress of knowledge, 218
    the principle so natural that language is formed on it, 304

    future, brought to light by the gospel, 190
    may be taken away by command, 221
    not thrown away because success is uncertain, 302
    whether desirable or not, 301

  Light of nature
    displayed in the Scriptures, 188
    does not teach our future condition, 190
    favors the doctrine of a Mediator, 230
    has left the greatest heathen in doubt, 186

  Ludicrous turn, danger of, 259

  Mahometanism not received on the footing of miracles, [268

  Mahometans and ancient Persians, how situated as to revelation, 250

    accepted according to what he hath, 251
    his circumstances no ground of complaint, 252
    his obligation to study the Scriptures, 202, 262
    must be renewed, 197

  Manasses, prayer of, [237

  Manner of worship a matter of pure revelation, 195

    could not have been impostors, 272
    had full knowledge of facts, 269, 271
    the full force of their testimony, 269
    their obligations to veracity, 274
    were not enthusiasts, 271

  Means as related to ends, 225

  Mediation seen everywhere, 230
    exemplified in social life, [232

    appointment of, CHAP. V.
    the notion of, natural, 230
    the Scripture doctrine of, 238-240
    whether one was necessary, 243
    why most objected to, 243

  Medium between full satisfaction of a truth and full satisfaction to
      the contrary, 313

  Memory, eloquence, &c. imprudently used, 217

  Men apt to be deluded by pretences, 273
    their conduct may be guessed at, [222

  Mercy seen in the constitution of the world, 233

  Messiah came at the expected time, 285
    his mission, 224

  Minuteness of predictions touching Christ, 207

    admitted evidence for such as are false does not impair the evidence
      of Christian, 273
    contrary to the course of nature?, 206
    denying them leads to Atheism, [205
    disorderly use of, 217
    distinct reasons for them, 208
    large historical evidence for their truth, 270
    manner in which related, 264
    no argument of analogy against them, 205-207
    none parallel to those of Scripture, 207
    not mere embellishments, 264
    not to be compared to common events, 209
    nowise incredible, 209
    occasions for them likely to arise in the course of ages, 208
    of the Old Testament, inseparable from history, [265
    operate by general laws, 226
    Pagan and Popish, were wrought _after_ those systems had obtained, 268
    peculiar to the Jewish and Christian religions, 268
    received as genuine from the first, 268, 269
    regulated by general laws, 227
    satisfactorily account for the existence of Christianity, 265
    should be compared to uncommon events, 209
    the credentials of Christianity, 267
    the evidence of their truth at first, 249
    the question of their truth only one of _degree_ in point of
      evidence, 208
    the only satisfactory account of some events, 265
    the real nature of presumptions against them, 208
    the term a relative one, 205
    their direct proof of Christianity, 264
    their evidence the same as that for common facts, 264
    their force as proofs, 189
    visible and invisible, 204, [204
    what evidence arises from their having been accepted as true by the
      first Christians, 268
    writers upon, [264, 268

  Miraculous power
    creation not properly an act of, 205
    misused by some, 217, 267
    pretences of, have deluded some, 273
    why bestowed, 190

  Misconduct creates need of assistance, 235

  Mistake of some of Hume’s opponents, 207

  Mistakes of philosophers dangerous, [230
    of transcribers, &c., 228

  Modern geology, lesson from, [229

  Moral action, the nature of, 261
    an action becomes such by command, [221

  Moral duties. See _Positive_.

  Moral faculty, its object, 305

  Moral government. See _Government_.

  Moral precepts. See _Positive_.

  Moral system revealed to mankind, 190

  Morality of Scripture, reason a judge of, 220

  Mysteries to be expected in revelation, 223, 224
    as many in nature as in Scripture, 246

  Mystery of godliness, 225

  Mythological writings resemble prophecy, 276

  Narratives of Scripture unadorned, 228

  Natural consequences of vice are judicial punishments, 197
    and spiritual things analogous in importance, 219
    endowments often abused, 217

  Natural light compared to revelation, 218

  Natural religion
    and revealed, coincide, 211
    as much perverted as Christianity, 192
    could not have been reasoned out, 192
    discloses no Redeemer, [194
    its ethics and objects distinguished, [194
    its light wholly insufficient, 187
    might be authenticated by miracles, 190
    moral system of, 187
    taught and confirmed by Christianity, 188, 286, 292
    what it does not teach, [190, 194

  Nature carried on by uniform laws, 226
    implies the agency of God, 231
    its light insufficient, 186

  Nature and obligation of sacraments, _note_ 195

  Necessity of revelation, [186

  Negligence prevents the recognition of truth, 258
    wholly inexcusable, 197

  Obedience from dread, [301
    or disobedience, an important matter, 188
    to a positive rite, especially indicative of piety, 199

    to certain precepts of Scripture, as immoral, 221
    to prophecy, from its obscurity, 275
    to revelation, are of equal weight against natural religion, 97
    to the analogical argument, as such, CHAP. VIII.
    to the distribution of good and evil, 248-250
    to the doctrine of mediation, CHAP. V.
    to the evidence for miracles, CHAP. II.
    to the unequal distribution of religious knowledge, 249

  Objections to Christianity
    as a matter of fact, 301
    as a remedial system, [193, 219
    as a roundabout, perplexed contrivance, 228
    as deficient in point of truth, 247
    as a scheme, 209
    as mysterious, [223
    as to its wisdom and goodness, CHAP. IV.
    as unimportant, CHAP. I.
    atonement makes the innocent suffer for the guilty, 227, 243
    contains things unlike the course of nature, 204
    does not remove difficulties, [223
    has been perverted, 192
    has been productive of evils, 192
    has internal improbabilities, 225-227
    disclosed to the world so recently, 219
    disorderly use of miraculous gifts, 227
    has small influence, 192, 303
    if true would not be left doubtful, 299
    is not satisfactory, 260, 261
    its doctrine of mediation, CHAP. V.
    its external proof weakened by internal improbabilities, 215
    its lack of evidence, CHAP. VI.
    its late introduction, 219
    may be advanced flippantly, but cannot be so answered, 295
    natural things too unimportant to furnish analogies in its favor, 219
    not just and good, CHAP. IV.
    not necessary, 147
    not universal, CHAP. VI., 248
    slowly developed, 219
    some of its precepts immoral, 221
    sufficiency of natural religion, 187
    vicarious sufferings, 245

  Obligation arises from the bare supposableness of Christianity, 253, 262

  Obligations to God arising out of relationship, 196

  Obscurity in part of a prophecy, does not impair the evidence of
      foresight, 275

  Offenders often shielded by friends, [232

  Offices of Christ as a mediator, 238-240

  Opinions must be distinguished from facts, 270

  Ordinary rules of interpretation, [215

  Pagan and Popish miracles easily accounted for, 268

  Parables show what the author intended, 276

  Partial views give an appearance of wrong, 309

  Passion hinders correct judgment, 259

  Paul, his separate testimony, 266
    how he received the gospel, 267
    summary of his testimony, 267

  Perfection of religion, what? CHAP. VIII.

  Persons for whom this treatise is written, 309

  Philosophy, its true mode of proceeding, [230

  Piety superior to ritual observances, 201

  Pleasures and pains, which overbalance? 301

  Political events, how mentioned in Scripture, 282

  Popish doctrine of a miracle at the Eucharist, [204

  Popular conversational objections, 295

  Porphyry’s mode of interpretation frivolous, _note_ 279
    objections to the book of Daniel, 279

  Positive evidence of Christianity, CHAP. VII.

  Positive institutions
    belong to the notion of a church, 192
    lay us under the strictest obligation, 202
    means to moral ends, 199
    men disposed to depend on them, 200
    necessary to keep up and propagate religion, 246
    not to be made light of, 201
    not to supersede moral obedience, 200
    the reason of them often obvious, 198
    two modes of viewing them, 198

  Positive precepts compared with moral, 198, 201
    create moral obligations, 221

  Power of healing, [217

  Practice should be influenced by probability, 254

  Predictions of Christ very numerous and minute, 207, 208

  Prejudice a hinderance to knowledge, 258
    a mark of weakness, 280
    as hostile to truth as enthusiasm, 272
    operates contrary ways, 294

  Preservation of the Jews as a distinct race, 291

    against miracles, 205
    against revelation as miraculous, CHAP. II.
    none against the _general scheme_ of Christianity, 203
    none peculiar to miracles, 207
    strong, overcome by weak proof, 207, [207

  Priesthood of Christ, 238
    Jewish, typical of Christ, 239

  Principles argued upon in this treatise, 304

  Progressions in our existence, 229

  Progress in theology probable, [218

  Probable proofs, by being added, not only increase evidence, but
      multiply it, 294

  Probability should influence practice, 254

  Profane history corroborates Scripture statements, 287

  Proofs of Christianity
    a touchstone of honesty, [259
    level to common men, 260
    some important ones omitted in this treatise, and why, 304
    why not more plain, 261

    a joint review of prophecies furnishes a far stronger proof than
      examination in detail, 294
    a series of, being applicable to certain events, is proof that it
      was intended of them, 276
    compared to compiled memoirs, 278
    created the expectation of a Messiah, 284
    confirmed by appearances, 292
    evidence from, 275
    expressed in figurative language, 275
    how understood by ancient Jews, 277
    in relation to the Jews, 284
    is history anticipated, 281
    its obscurity, 275
    its proofs amazingly strong, [207
    may not _always_ have been understood by the writer, 278
    proves foresight, 276, 279
    sometimes obscured by interpreters, 210
    summary of, concerning Christ, 284
    use of, to future ages, 249
    writers upon, 277, 285

  Prophet, Christ a, 240

    not the _authors_ of what they wrote, 278
    their sense of their predictions not necessarily the whole
      sense, 278
    whether they had in view the events which Christians consider
      fulfilments, 277

  Proverbial, use of the word, 201

  Providence, never hasty, [229
    objections to it useless, 300, 301
    the course of, progressive, 229

  Province of reason, 220

  Prudence, its best plans often frustrated, 247
    often requires us to act with uncertain prospect of success, 247, 248

    follows wickedness, _of course_, 231
    instances of vicarious, 244
    not always avoided by reformation, 235
    not promiscuously inflicted, 243
    provision made for escaping it, 232, 311
    we cannot of ourselves escape it, 234
    we cannot know why such and such are inflicted, 231

    Angus, [202, 223
    Augustine, _note_ 187
    Arnobius, [269
    Clemens Romanus, [266
    Davidson, [294
    Fitzgerald, [303
    Grotius, [259
    Guizot, [229
    Hurd, [276
    Dr. Johnson, [288
    Mahomet, [268
    Powell, [230
    Warburton, [217, 223
    Whately, [206

  Rashness of interpreters, 210
    of treating religion lightly, 197

    could not have invented Christianity, 206
    could not ascertain the power of penitence, 194
    discovers our relation to God the Father, 194
    but not our relation to the Son and Holy Ghost, 194, 196
    its limits very narrow, [223
    its proper province, 220
    must have right principles, 220
    needs the aid of experience in judging of the consequences of
      actions, 246
    not sufficient to construct a system of natural religion free
      from superstition, 186
    our only faculty for judging even revelation, 210
    requires the importance of a question to be taken into account, 295
    teaches nothing of the certain means of either temporal or spiritual
      good, 197
    very incompetent to judge what a revelation ought to be, 210-212

  Reasoning by analogy to any extent, leaves the mind unsatisfied, 296

    agreeable to our natural notions, 235
    analogous to natural remedies, 232
    conjectures about it must be uncertain, 242
    mode of, not discoverable by reason, 243
    men not competent judges of its plan, 243
    on whom are its benefits, _note_ 237
    Scripture account of, 239, 240
    we should be thankful for it, without disputing how it was
      procured, 242

  References to other authors
    Alexander, [269
    Apthorpe, [285
    Bayle, [301
    Benson, [215
    Birk, [266
    Blaney, [285
    Blunt, [266
    Bolingbroke, [265
    Boswell, [288
    Boyle, [264
    Butler, [190, 272
    Campbell, [264
    Celsus, [287
    Chalmers, [187, 194, 242
    Colliber, 195
    Damascenus, [287
    Davidson, [285
    Diodorus Siculus, [287
    Eupolemus, [287
    Featley, [215
    Fitzgerald, [193, 206, 207
    Fleetwood, [264
    Fuller, [285
    Gibbon, [268
    Graves, [266
    Grotius, [266
    Gulick, [277
    Hengstenburg, [277
    Horseley, [277
    Howe, [236
    Hurd, [285
    Jortin, [264, 285
    Julian, [257
    King, [215, 277
    Lardner, [264
    Leland, [187
    Longinus, [287
    Lyall, [277
    McCosh, [187
    Mackintosh, [223
    Magee, [236, 242
    Manasses, [237
    Menander, [287
    Michaelis, [215
    Mills, [207
    Newman, [235
    Numenius, [287
    Owen, [242
    Paley, [205, 266, 268
    Pascal, [187, 223
    Pfaffius, [264
    Phlegon, [287
    Phœnician Annals, [287
    Pliny, [287
    Porphyry, 279, [287
    Samuel Stanhope Smith, [206
    Solinus, [287
    Spinoza, [215
    Stapfer, [242
    Storr, [215
    Strabo, [287
    Suetonius, [287
    Tacitus, [287
    Taylor, [264
    Tindall, [196, 248
    Tucker, [264
    Turretin, [242
    Vitringa, [276
    Warburton, [187
    Waterland, [195
    Watson, [264
    Waugh, [277, 285
    Wayland, [188, 236
    Whately, [206, 268, 288
    Witsius, [264

  Reformation does not always preclude punishment, 235

  Regard due to the Son and Holy Spirit, 195

  Regard to God as Creator, the essence of natural religion, 195

  Rejection of Christ by many, at first, the argument from it, [269
    foretold, 285

  Relations, being learned, duties are perceived, 194

  Relations of man to Deity, 194
    to the Son and Holy Ghost, 195

    a practical thing, 298
    a question of fact, 301, 304
    affords particular reasons for miracles, 208
    confirmed by the establishment of a church, 191
    considered as external and internal, 195
    doubt of its evidence does not release from moral obligation, 254
    has its end on all persons to whom proposed, 303, [303
    if true, why susceptible of any possible doubt? 299
    its acceptance safe, 295
    its general spirit intimated, 200, 201
    its great importance, 254
    its introduction into the world, 206
    its reasonableness fully shown, if it can only be proved that it _may_
      be reasonable, 301
    its very nature overlooked by those who insist that it should have
      overwhelming evidence, 302
    may be true, though doubtful, 299
    must be judged by its evidences _taken together_, 294
    not a thing reasoned out, 206
    not equally taught to all men, 206
    objections to it removed by analogy, 300
    presupposes candor in those who examine it, 256, 302, [303
    reason may judge of its morality, 220
    reasonable, for aught which can be shown to the contrary, 301
    the perception of, 302
    the view of it taken in this treatise, 299
    the evidence for it may be lessened, but cannot be destroyed, 295
    why its evidences are allowed to admit of doubt, 249, 253, 299

  Relief for evils provided, 232

  Remedial nature of Christianity, [193

    provided in nature, 219, 232
    may be unskilfully used, 220
    show the compassion of God, 233
      and also his strictness, 234

    cannot cancel guilt, 236, [236
    general sense of mankind on the subject, 236
    its efficacy not taught by natural religion, [190
    its efficacy taught in the Scriptures, 190
    not sufficient to preclude disaster, 234, 235

    a particular part of a great plan, 224
    accounts for the Theism of the Jews, [206
    at the beginning of the world, would not be miraculous, 205
    cannot be neglected with impunity, 260-262
    considered as miraculous, CHAP. II.
    considered historically, 281
    difference between its facts and its principles, [235
    discovers new relations, and so new duties, 194
    distinguished from natural religion, 195
    does not compel assent, 253
    has twice been universal, [248
    how it could be overturned, 214
    its disclosures, of course, could not have been anticipated, 211, 212
    its measure of evidence puts us on probation, 253
    its facts necessarily singular, [235
    no more different from the course of nature than some parts of the
      course of nature are different from other parts, 312
    necessary, CHAP. I.
    republishes and confirms natural religion, 188, 189
    nothing incredible in it, 271
    teaches that God’s laws are compassionate, 236
    the use of unwritten revelation, 213
    what is to be expected in revelation, 210, 212

  Reverence for the will of God, [199

  Ridicule of Scripture
    an offence against natural piety, 286
    easier than examination, 259
    the great weakness of being influenced by it, 280

  Roman Empire mentioned, 279

  Rules for health very fallible and inexact, 302
    of Biblical interpretation, [215

    commanded, 241
    expiatory, 239
    how the ancients regarded them, 242
    learned by the heathen from tradition, 241
    really efficacious, 242
    the prevalence of, 236

  Sacrifice of Christ
    an objection to it, 243
    _how_ efficacious, not taught, 242
    proper and real, 239-241
    puts us into a capacity for salvation, 242
    voluntary, 244

  Safety an important consideration in judging, 294

  Satirical writings, how understood, 276, 277

  Scheme of nature, vast, 204
    progressive, 229

  Scheme of providence, if understood, would justify facts which are
      objected to, 300

  Schemes, the best may be disconcerted, 247

  Science confirms Scripture history, 287

  Scorn of prophetic diction, 210

    announces a general restoration of things, 282
    antiquity of, 287
    characters evidently not feigned, 287
    confirmed by profane authors, 288
    confirmed by the state of the earth, 287
    considered historically, 281
    contains an abridged history of the world, 282
    exposed to criticism, 283
    expounded by itself, [202
    gives a history of this world as God’s world, 281
    gives an account of civil governments only as they affected
      religion, 282
    has internal evidence of truth, 287
    history genuine, 265
    how distinguished from other books, 281-283
    how to be interpreted, [202
    if false could be shown to be so, 283
    includes a history of thousands of years, 283
    includes the chronology of nearly four thousand years, 284
    its authority the great question, not its contents, 214
    its chronicles confirmed by history, 287
    its evidences comprise a series of things of great variety and reaching
      to the beginning of time, 263
    its evidences not intended to be overpowering, 253
    its great proofs are miracles and prophecy, 264
    its relation to miracles only to be accounted for on the supposition
      of their truth, 265
    its strangeness not surprising, 288
    its style objected to, 210
    its truth must be judged of by the evidence _taken together_, 295
    may contain things not yet discovered, 218
    miracles, their first reception, 265
    naturalness of its statements, 287
    not composed by rules of art, 210
    nothing improbable related in any part, 287
    not to be judged by preconceived expectation, 215
    not to be judged exactly as other books, 214
    ordinary rules of interpretation, [215
    our duty to search it, 202, 262
    precepts, some give offence, 210
    reveals our relation to the Son and Holy Spirit, 194
    the possibility of its truth demands investigation, 258
    truths not discoverable by reason, 203
    variety of topics introduced, 283
    written in a rude age, 283
    why it describes creation, 282

  Searching the Scriptures a great duty, 202

  Self-deceit, our liability to it, 262

  Serious apprehension may comport with doubt, 313

  Shameful mistakes of philosophers, [230

  Similarity of objections to religion and nature, 298

  Sincerity of belief proved by dying for it, 270

  Skepticism no justification of irreligion, 253

  Sorrow cannot of itself restore abused benefits, 234

  Speaking with tongues, [217

  Speculative difficulties similar to external temptations, 256
    the chief trial of some, 257, 259

  Spread of Christianity unaccountable if it were an imposture, 290

  Standing ministry, what for, [191

  Strangeness of some Scripture events, 288

  Stupidity of the martyrs, if insincere, [269

  Subserviences, the world a system of, 229

  Success, temporal, always uncertain, 302

  Suffering, ignorance does not prevent it either in temporal or spiritual
      things, 196

  Sufferings of Christ vindicate God’s law, 244
    of the early Christians, 269

  Sufficiency of light of nature pretended, 186

  Summary of Jewish history, 284
    of the historical evidence of Scripture, 292

  Supernatural instructions necessary from the first, [206

  Temporal interests not always discerned, 247, 248
    managed by prudent persons on the very principles proposed by religion
      as to spiritual interests, 298, 299

  Temporal interests often decided by considerations which fall short of
      demonstration, 299

  Temporary commands, distinguished from perpetual, [188

    a wholesome discipline, 256
    earthly and spiritual similar, 256
    calls forth virtuous effort, 257

    can be destroyed only by counter-testimony, or by the incompetency of
      the witness, 274
    for miracles not mentioned in Scripture, does not impair the testimony
      for those there recorded, 273
    of Paul, separate and independent, 266
    of profane authors to the truth of Scripture history, [287
    of the first Christians, 269, 271
    must be judged candidly, [259
    none counter to Christianity, 275
    slight, overcomes strong presumptions, 208
    unconfuted, must be admitted, 273
    value of, lessened by enthusiasm, 271

  Theism of the Jews accounted for, [206

  Theology of the Bible, not to be corrected, [202

  Things which it is unreasonable to dispute, 307

  Thoughtlessness of men, 233

  Tradition teaches that there was a revelation at the beginning, 205
    of the fall of man, 311

  Transubstantiation, [205

  Trial by speculative difficulties, analogous to other trials, 256

  True philosophy inductive, [230

  Truth of Christianity proved, unless the whole of its history and
      influence can be accounted for by accident, 295

  Truth, how developed, [218
    the, of an event may be fully proved, though no _one_ of sundry proofs
      may be complete, 295
    whether there is any such thing, denied by skeptics, 305

  Twofold effect of the analogical argument, 305

  Unbelievers, acknowledgment of, 289
    cannot deny a conformity between prophecy and events, 293

  Understanding, its right use, 245

  Undesigned coincidences in Bible history, [266

  Undeterminate language deceives many, 297

  Unequal distribution of religious knowledge, 249

  Unfair dealing of objectors, 297

  Unreasonableness of applying to passion for guidance, 295

  Unsatisfactory evidence, men often obliged to act upon it, 302

  Variety in the distribution of God’s gifts, 249, 312

  Vastness of the scheme of nature, 204

  Veracity of the first Christians, 274

  Vicarious punishments witnessed every day, 244
    deter from sin, 245

    appointed to be punished, 231
    blinds men to just evidence, 255
    its effects in the present world, 234
    its natural consequences are God’s judicial inflictions, 197
    its real enormity, 234
    not palliated by any supposed lack of evidence for religion, 255

  Vindication of religion by analogy impossible, 296
    of the character of God, not attempted in this treatise, 299, 300

  Way of salvation for the helpless, [186

  Will of GOD, as absolute or conditional, 261

  World, wickedness of, 238

  Worship, mode of, a matter of pure revelation, 195

    on the atonement, [242
    Christian sacraments, [195
    miracles, [264, 268
    necessity of revelation, [187
    prophecy, [277-285
    Scripture difficulties, [215
    undesigned coincidences, [266


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