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the nature of the thing, is most worthy, and valuable ; then, most certainly, it must be fo in the fight and estimation of the Deity.
RELIGION is also sometimes distinguished into natural and revealed. But then, as natural religion is absolutely perfeet and admits of no addition, diminution, or alteration; therefore, revealed religion, if it be of God, can be no other, nor no more, than a promulgation or a republication of the pure and uncorrupted religion of nature. And, as to positive institutions and all external religion, if it may be so called, these are not religion or piety itself, but only are relative to it, as they are either outward figns of it, or else are means to excite and increase it, as has been already observed. When men are funk into gross ignorance and error, and are greatly viciated in their affections and actions, then, God may, for any reason I can see to the contrary, kindly interpose, by a special application of his power and providence, and reveal to men such useful truths, as, otherwise, they might be ignorant of or might not attend to; and also lay before them such rules of life, as they ought to walk by; and likewise press their obedience with proper motives, and,
thereby, lead them to repentance and reformation; I say, this may be the case; but then, that it is so, and when it is so, will, from the nature of the thing, be a matter of doubt and disputation ; the truth of which is verified by abundant experience and fact.
LASTLY, some fay, the term religion, when used in it's first or primary sense, lignifies any system or composition of doctrines and precepts, which any man or society of men, Ihall adopt, and make it a rule or standard of faith and practice to bizia or themselves : so that, whatever accords with such standard, that is true religion to the person or party that adopts it ; and, whatever is repugnant to such rule, that is false religion to such person or party; and, consequently, what is true religion to one inan or society of men, may be false religion to another. And, in this view of the case, what makes or denominates one man to be truly religious, may make or denominate another man to be really irreligious ; and, in this view, likewise, a man may be very religious, and yet be a very bad man; and he
be very irreligious, and yet be a worthy good man ; as religion has no relation to, or connection with virtue, goodness,
294 The Author's Farewel. or moral rectitude, þut only as it may be thus connected by the arbitrary determination of it's imbiber. Thus, Judaism is true religion to a few, Paganism to a Pagan, Mahometanism to a Mahometan; and the opposite to each of these, is false religion to the person or party who adopts it: so that, whether a man be virtuous or vicious, if he strictly conforms, in judgment and practice, to that bestem, or composition of doctrines and preçepts, he has adopted, such conformity denominates him to be a religious man. And thus, likewise, Chriftianity, could it be defined and certainly determined what it is, would be true religion to a chriftian; but, whereas Christianity is altogether indeterminate, therefore, what is deemed to be such, by each christian sect, that is true religion to that feet; and it's opposite, in any of it's branches, is false religion to them, Thus, Popery is true religion to a Papiit, Calvinism to a Calvinist, Lutheranism to a Lutheran, &c. and the opposite to each of these, is false religion to the feet who has adopted it.. And, in this view of the case, religion is merely artificial and of human creation ; as it is founded on the will, and determination of the person or party wha
imbibes or adopts it. Religion being thus of human creation, and all religions, how different foever from each other, being, each one, equally true to the perfon or party who adopts it, from hence a question does very naturally arise, viz, whether all religions are equally relative to the favour of God? This question has, in effect, been answered by St. Peter, long ago ; the justness and propriety of which answer is submitted to the judgment of every reader. Thus Atts x. 34, 35. Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respeɛter of persons; but in every nation, be that fecreth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. As St. Peter's parents were Jews; so, in consequence thereof, he not only adopted the Jews religion, and made it his own but also, he steadily adhered to that principle upon which all their religion and policy was grounded, viz. that God had chosen the Jeed of Jacob, with those who should be profelyted to their religion, to be his peculiar and favourite people through all posterity, till time should be no more, exclusive of all other families, nations and people in the ivorld; but when St. Peter had (by fome
mcans or other, and the historian says by a vifion) a strong impression, upon his mind, of a sheet let down from heaven, in which were all manner of beasts and creeping things, both clean and unclean, as thus distinguished by the Jewish law; and being required to kill and eat of these, promifcuously, without separating the clean from the unclean; and, from thence, being led to consider that such a distinction was merely arbitrary, as having no foundation in nature, any otherwise than as one species of animals may be more proper food for man than others; and, after this, he being required to go to Cornelius, whom, when he had conversed with; he found to be a very worthy good man, though not of the feed of y acob, though not profelyted to the Yews religion, though not a Christian but only in the way of being such; all these things being put together in the Apostle's mind, and being seriously and candidly considered by him ; from thence he clearly perceived, or it appeared, to him, to be a most obvious truth, that the above principle, which, before that time, he had ftri&tly adhered to, viz. of God's favour being confined to the Jews, or, indeed, to any religious sect or party what