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Points of Faith, (which they are pleased to call Fundamentals) may not be Matters of Indifference. And in the too vigorous Exercise of this their Zeal without Knowledge, they have not been ashamed, in the Face of the World, to make the groffest Imputations to, and raise such Calumnies against, the Deists, as are not only groundless, but apparently stupid and ridiculous. Thus, among many that might be produced, the celebrated Dr. Waterland, in his second Charge to has this remarkable Sentence: “ What Atheism chiefly aims 66 ai is, to fit loose from present Restraints and fu66 ture Reckonings; and these two Purposes may be 66 competently served by Deifin, which is a more re “ fined Kind of Atheism.” Astonishing Assertion! since, if what Atheism chiefly aims at, be to sit loose from present Restraints, and future Reckonings; then a sincere Belief of the Existence of a God, and of an impartial Distribution of Rewards and Punishments, in another World, and a Practice that naturally results from, and is consonant to such Belief, and which strictly and properly is true Deism, this, surely, is the grand Barrier, the principal Obstruction, to the obtaining the chief Aims and Purposes of Atheism ; and consequently, the true Deist, who has a steady Belief of the Existence of a God, and of his being accountable to him for his Actions, is, by such Belief, brought under all those Restraints, and expects that future Reckoning, which naturally fows from it. And as certainly as a Deist believes the Existence of a
God, God, and the consequent Obligations he is under, to practise the Duties necessarily arising from the Relations he stands in to him ; fo certainly he believes, all the present Restraints from Sin, and from violating the Laws of his Maker, his Reason and Nature, which he finds himself under, to be greatly reasonable ; and confequently will, with the highest Pleasure, make it the great Business of his Life to keep himself from breaking thro’ Restraints, which he thus perceives the Equity and, Reasonableness of. Deism therefore is so far from being a more refined Kind of Atheism, nay from having the least remote Relation thereto, as to be just as diametrically opposite to it, as the very believing is to the absolute Disbelief of the Existence of a God! Deism, properly so called, whatever ill Usage it may have met with, is no other than the Religion essential to Man, the true, original Religion of Reason and Nature ; such as was believed and practised by SOCRATES, and others of old, who were as great Ornaments, and did as much Honour, to human Nature, as any Christians ever did; nor is it possible for true Religion to be otherwise, whilst God who formed our Faculties, and in their Measure adjusted them to it, continues to be immutable, and Man continues to be a rational Being.
And it is in Deism, properly so called, that our more discerning and rational Divines have constantly placed the alone Excellency, and true Glory,
of the Christian Institution. « The Religion of the " Gospel is the true, original Religion of Reason and “ Nature,” says Dr. Sherlock. And in another Part of the fame Sermon, viz. that preached before the Society for propagating the Gospel in foreign Parts, he says, " Since then the Doktrine of • Repentance, with which the Gospel set out in the 6 World, bad reference to the Law of Reason and “ Nature,” (as he had excellently shewn before that it had) “ against which Men had every where « offended; and since Repentance infers the Necef“ fity of a future Reformation, and a Return to “ that Duty and Obedience from which by Tranf“ gression we are fallen ; the Consequence is mani“ festly this, That the Gospel was a Republication of 66 the Law of Nature, and its Precepts declarative 66 of that criginal Religion which was as old as the “ Creation.” And in Page 21, he ingenuously owns, 66 It is true also, that there are some Institu« tions in the Gospel, which in their own Nature 66 are no constituent Parts of Religion." And with great Submission I will venture to add, that the fame may be said, for aught that appears to the contrary, of some Doctrines of the Gospel; which Doctrines, together with the Institutions ráferred to, may be said to constitute pure Christianity, by way of Contradistinction to pure natural Religion. Mr. Chandler, in his Dedication to a Sermon preached in the Old Jury, Page 8, says, “ If na“ Tural Religion is not part of the Religion of Christ, " 'tis fcarce worth while to enguire at all what bis
- Religion is.” From whence it seems very natural to infer, that the other Parts of the Religion of Christ are scarce worth any thing at all of our Notice. So excellent and glorious a Part of the Christian Institution, then is true Deisin, or pure natural Religion, as adopted into, and proposed to be incorporated with it. Now what I have cited from those judicious Divines, which so directly prove the Absurdity of Dr. Waterland's extravagant Alsertion, I beg leave to add, that notwithstanding all the absurd and bitter things, that have been falsly laid to its Charge, by the Doctor and others, Deism is all in the Christian Institution, that can poffibly approve itself to the true, genuine Reason of Man. Every thing in the Gospel, enjoined on its Professors to be believed, as a rational Doctrine, or practised as a natural Duty, relating to God, our Neighbour, or ourselves, is a constituent, an effential Part of Deisin, or of true, that is, natu•ral Religion. Now the single Question here, between Christians and Deists, I conceive to be this, namely, Whether the Belief of natural Doctrines, and the Practice of natural Duties, are all that is strictly necessary, with regard to the divine Approbation; and consequently, human Happiness, botla present and eternal ? To the Solution of these momentous Points, the serious Confideration of the following Propositions may have no inconsiderable Tendency.
I. Every Duty, that indispensibly obliges a Man to the Performance of it, must be founded on fome apparent natural Reason; for unless there be such a Reason for the Belief of a Proposition, or performing an Action, whence arises the Obligation to either?
II. The Reason on which the Obligation to the Discharge of a Duty is founded, neceffarily results from the Relation the Person to perform it stands in to the Party to whom it is to be performed.
III. If the Reason of a Duty ariseth from the Relation subsisting between the Parties concerned, then 'tis obvious, every such Duty has its Foundation in the Nature of Things.
IV. Whatsoever else goes under the Denomination of Duty, cannot really be such ; but must have, by some unwarrantable Means or other, that Name (in strict Reason unalienable) facrilegi. ously imputed to it. For were it really what it is pretended to be, viz, a Duty, it must, according to the preceding Propofition, have its Foundation in the Nature of Things ; and as certainly as it is not therein founded, the Observation of it as a Duty, in order to secure the Favour of God, and eternal Salvation, feems to be unnecessary, and mere Superstition.