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standing what the subject matter of that revelation is, and consequently, it is a subject most fit to be enquired into. By the Christian revelation. I mean that melage or that revelation of God's will, which Christ was Specially appointed of God to preach to the Jews;; and which he com miffioned, or gave it in charge to his Apostles that they should publish it to the rest of the world ; this being Jtrietly and properly the Christian revelation, or the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, before I proceed, I think, it will be proper to make an observation or two, as previous to-such enquiry. First, As distrust and jealousy may be carried too far, by being extended beyond their
proper bounds; fo trust and confidence may likewise be carried too far, by being extended beyond their proper limits also, and therefore excess in either case ought to be avoided : and as excess in the latter case is more bazardous, as it exposes to more and greater dangers than excess in the former ; therefore excess in the latter ought more especially to be guarded against. Again : though, with regard to such historical propositions, or facts as we are not interested in, that is, of which we we neither gainers nor losers, whether
they prove true or false, (whether there was or was not such a man as Alexander the great, or as Julius Cæfar) we may not, or need not be follicitous about the basis upon which they rest, nor about the channel through which they have passed to us; yet, when such propositions are to be admitted as guides to our judgments and behaviour, then it becomes our bounden duty, because our interest and safety are embarked in the case, to examine carefully and cautiously the grounds upon which they are built, and the channels through which they have passed; and not give farther trust than the nature and the importance of the subject will admit. This being premised, I observe, that as the Christian revelation was first promulged leventeen hundred years ago; so this great distance of time renders; it absolutely necessary (in order rightly to direct our judgments and actions, with regard to that revelation) to enquire whether, when it was first given to the Apostles to be promulged, as aforesaid, the Deity gave with it a pasport, to conduct it safe through the world, and down to all posterity, free from corruption and alteration? whether it was put (without any such guard upon it) into the hands of men
who were at liberty to do with it, and by it, and make it subfervient to what purposes they pleased? If the former was the case, that is, if, when God first put the Christian revelation into the hands of men, he, by a particular and constant application of his power * and providence, did interpose, and defend such revelation, wheresoever it was promulged, or whatsoever language it might be rendered into, from all corruption, alteration, addition or diminution'; I say, had this been the case, then, as we may be certain God would not reveal any thing that was unworthy of himself, nor improper for us, and as it would have been conveyed to us either by oral or written tradition, so we should have had nothing more to do than to bear or read, and believe and obey, without any further sollicitation, and without any
* God might, if he pleased, have defended the Christian revelation from all injury, by punishing with Judden death (like as in the case of Ananias and Saphira) all and every one who should presume to alter or corrupt it: and, as the restraint, in such a case, would not have broken in upon human agency; so, probably, it would have obtained the end proposed; for, were judgment to have been thus speedily executed upon every trangreffor, then, who would have ventured to offend in such a way; not but, had the Christian revelation been injured, it must have been left to divine wisdom to have directed that affair.
difficulty or perplexity attending the case; and there would be no need for us to be
upon the watch against fraud and imposition, as knowing ourselves to be in safe hands. But if the Christian revelation was put into and left in the hands of men (without any such guard upon it) who were at liberty to do with it, and by it as, and make it subservient to what purposes they pleased, which was most evidently the case ; then, a little knowledge of mankind will enable a man to guess what the consequence would needs be. For, as there have always been men disposed, and by art and power qualified, to make their advantages of the weakness, ignorance, and credulity of the bulk of the people ; fo revelation, like a pack of cards, is capable (perhaps more capable) of being shuffled and cut, compounded and divided, and so dealt forth, as to answer all the purposes that the depraved appetites and the various interests of men may direct it to; this plainly and evidently appears to be the cafe from the nature of the things themselves, without calling in experience and fact to support it. And if the Christian revelation was liable to suffer as aforesaid ; then, surely, it must be our duty carefully and cautiously to examine
every thing that is offered to us under that
put upon us, upon a presumption that every thing is safe ; because that would be extending our trust much beyond its
proper bounds. For, though a divine revelation at first hand is of God, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning, and therefore he is the proper object of our confidence; yet, when once it. hath passed into the hands of men, who are liable to all the infirmities and frailties of nature, and as such are not fit absolutely to be relied upon, then it ought to pass through a proper examination, as knowing it has been liable to be adulterated, as well as to be enlarged or castrated.
But that this argument may have it's due weight, I will enquire how far experi, ence and fact have been vouchers in the case, as these have been brought to my view. When the Christian revelation was put into the hands of men, dissention and evil practising, with regard to it, foon followed up
Some who preached Christianity were men of perverse minds, who walked after their own lufts, I Tim. vi. 5. some preached Christ from base and unworthy mo.