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rosity ; so clearly laid down, and so fully evinced, that no man, who is so much a man as to love those things whereby his mind may be improved to all that is truly great and noble, but must be enamoured of the Christian religion, as soon as he is taught it.
The fourth design of religion is, to unite mankind in the closest bonds of peace, friendship, and charity, which it doth not only by the rules prescribed for the tempering our passions, forgiving of injuries, and loving our enemies, and by the doctrine of obedience to those in authority over us ; but likewise by associating us into one body, called the Church ; wherein we are to worship God jointly, and to be coupled in one by the use of the sacraments, which are the ligaments of this body.
Having thus viewed the great designs of the Christian religion in the several branches and parts thereof, I shall add to this the main distinguishing characters of our religion, which are also four.
The first is, its verity ; that it is not founded on the tattles of persons concerned, nor on the reveries of dotards, nor re ceived with a blind credulity, being founded on the authority of the great God, which appeared visibly in those that published it, chiefly in the person of Jesus Christ, who by his miracles that were wrought in sight of all the people, even his enemies looking on, and not being able to deny them, but chiefly by his resurrection from the dead, was declared to be the Son of God, which was seen and known by many, who followed not cunningly devised fables, but were the eye-witnesses of his majesty, who went in his name, and published it to the world, confirming it by miracles and mighty wonders, attesting it, notwithstanding all the persecutions they met with, most of them confirming it with their blood : and this doctrine was received and believed by the better part of mankind, though it being contrary to all the interests of the flesh, whose mortification it teacheth, its reception cannot be imputed to credulity or interest.
The second character of our religion is, its genuine simplicity and perspicuity, that all its doctrines and rules are clearly and distinctly held out to us, not like the heathen divinity, much whereof lay in dark oracles in the books of the sybils, and in other pretended mysteries, which none but the priests might handle and expound. The Jewish religion was also veiled with types and figures, so that it was not easy to
see the substance and truth through all those foldings and shadows. But the glory of the Christian religion, as to this particular, is nobly laid out by St. Paul, in these words, 2 Cor. ü. 18, “But we all with open face, as in a glass, beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the spirit of the Lord.”
The third character is, the reasonableness of the Christian religion, it containing none of these absurd incredible things, which abounded among the heathens ; nor of these rites of Judaism, the reasons whereof, besides the will of God in enjoining them, could not be assigned ; but both the doctrines and precepts of the Christian religion are fitted for mankind, and so congenial to his nature, that they well deserve the designation of "reasonable service," or rational worship, God having made our souls and them of a piece.
And the fourth character of our religion is, its easiness ; “Christ's yoke is easy, and his burden light.”—Mat. xi. 30. Wherein we are freed from all the barbarous and cruel rites of Gentilism, and from the oppressive bondage of Judaism, which was a law of ordinances, and a yoke that our fathers were not able to bear ; but that we are called to by Christ, is so simple, so easy and so plain, that well may we say, “ his commandments are not grievous.”-1 John v. 3.
Having given this hint of the design and characters of the Christian religion, I hold it not necessary to dwell on a further deduction of those generals into more particular branches, nor to make this scheme of religion good by any longer proof, the position I have laid down being so obvious to the reason of every considering person; wherefore I go on to examine, if there be any such system of doctrines or opinions among pretenders to Christianity, which tends to the overthrowing and enervating of this whole design, and whose characters are directly opposite to these I have mentioned; and the less avowed, and the more disguised that society be, as it is more likely to prevail, since error and vice are not so formidable in their own colours, as when veiled with the pretences of truth and virtue : so it will better agree with that great character the prophecies give of this defection, that it was a "Mystery, and had Mystery on its forehead." —Rev. xvii. 15.
And here remains the sad part of my discourse ; for what lover of mankind can, with pleasure, either satisfy his own reason, or convince the judgment of others, in a matter, the issue whereof is to prove so great a part of the Christian
societies to be antichristian and adulterate ? and certainly, if my love to truth, and the honour of my Redeemer and his Gospel, and by consequence a zeal for souls, did not engage me to this search, I could easily quit the task, and choose more easy and pleasant subjects for the exercise of my thoughts ; but the wisdom of God having declared it a part of wisdom to observe the characters of the Antichristian beast, I therefore, though not without pain, engage in the survey
of it. And first, in the entry it will be a bad omen, of no good to be expected from any society that shall study to keep her members in ignorance, and to bar them the study of the Holy Scriptures, which being the revelation of the whole counsel of God, and written by plain and simple men, and at first directed to the use of the rude illiterate vulgar, for teaching them the mysteries of Godliness, and the path of life; it is a shrewd indication, that if any studied to hide this light under a candlestick, and to keep it in an unknown tongue, or forbid the body of Christians the use of it (though its native tendency be to enlighten the understanding, and inflame the will, it being given out by God for that end), that those must be conscious to themselves of great deformity to that rule, and apprehend that if it were more known their doctrine would be less believed, especially since the hardest part of the Scriptures are the writings of the Old Testament: and yet these were communicated to all of that dispensation, who were commanded by Christ to search them, and who did educate their children in them, continuing that holy care to a high degree, even to this day. Now, except it be said that it is fitter all be kept under darkness in the new dispensation than it was in the old, no account can be given, for the zeal is used in any
Church to keep their children in such ignorance; and yet this is a part of the distinguishing characters of the new dispensation from the old, that light had appeared in it. Now all may know how guilty those of Rome are in this : what pains are taken to detract from the authority of the Scriptures : how they quarrel, sometimes its darkness, sometimes its ambiguousness, sometimes the genuineness of its originals, and always complain of its being too much perused, and therefore set as little of it be put in vulgar tongues as can be ; read it publicly in an unknown tongue, and permit no private person
the use of it without allowance from his confessor : of which, though in some places the Reformation hath made them more liberal, yet where there is no hazard of that, they
betray their aversion for the Scriptures too palpably in all their writings and discourses.
But now to pursue my design more closely, I must call to mind the first branch of the Christian religion, which teacheth how God is to be worshipped in a pure and spiritual way; and see how far this is contradicted. And here I must consider the idolatry of the Gentiles, which was of two kinds : the one was, when the true God was worshipped in a false manner ; the other was, when divine adoration was offered to those who were no gods. Of the first I shall reckon two kinds; the first was, when an image or figure was erected for representing the Diety to the senses, and adoration offered to God through it: in which case, though perhaps the herd did formally worship the image, yet their philosophers declared they meant these only for exciting the senses and imagination, and not for being worshipped ; much less that the Diety should be conceived like unto them, as we find both in Celsus, Julian, and Maximus Tyrius. Now this form of adoration is contrary both to the Divine essence and command: for God must either be conceived like such an image, or not. If like to it, then a great indignity is done to the divine nature, greater than if a toad or a worm were set out as the image of a king, to have civil reverence paid to it; since he is of his own essence incomprehensible and invisible, and so hath no shape or figure. In a word, it abases our thoughts of God when we figure him to ourselves. But if we conceive God not like such an image, then why is it used, except to be a snare to the vulgar, who will be ready to think God like unto it? and certain it is, that whatever the more refined or abstracted wits may conceive of these images, yet the vulgar offer up their adorations directly to them, and conceive God to be like unto them.
This worship is also contrary to the divine precept, who made it one of the ten commandments, which himself delivered to his people, Exod. xx. 4, that no graven image, nor likeness, should be made to be worshipped. And the reason given shews the law to be perpetual, for God is ever jealous of the glory due to him. Now what kindness those of Rome have to this command, may be guessed by their striking it out of their catechisms, as if it were only an appendix of the first: but if we read the whole Old Testament, it will furnish us with large discoveries of God's displeasure at this kind of worship, to which the Jews were so inclinable ; “But God would not give his praise to graven images,” Isa. xlii. 8.
Now here it is to be remembered, that the Jewish dispensation was low and carnal, when compared to that to which we are called : if, then, this worship was not allowed of to them, it is much less to be allowed of among Christians.
Another part of the false worship of the heathens was, that they believed the Deity and divine power was, by mystical and magical ways, affixed to some bodies, as the sun or stars are ; or to some temples, and to some Ancilia and Palladia, which they believed came down from heaven, Acts xix. 35, to which they held God to be present and adherent, and therefore worshipped them. And of kin to this was the Israelites' worshipping the calf in the wilderness, Exod.xxxii. ; for it is clear they looked on it as their God, who had brought them out of Egypt, therefore could not possibly be adoring the Egyptian god that was an ox; but the feast that was to Jehovah, and the Psalm cvi. verse 20, that
says, “they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox,
” do shew that they worshipped the true God, though in a false manner. Neither is it to be imagined that Aaron the prophet and saint of the Lord, though very guilty in this matter, could for all that be so criminal as to make a false god: but the most satisfying account of his fault is, that when he saw God in the mount, Exod. xxiv. 10, God appeared in that figure that was afterwards in the most holy place, which was to be framed after the pattern seen in the mount. And if so, then God appeared between the cherubims ; now the figure of a cherub was the same with that of a calf in its hinder parts, Ezek. i. 7. And if we compare verse 10 of that chap. with Ezek. x. 14, what in the first place is called the face of an ox, is in the second called the face of a cherub, which tells us clearly what was the figure of a cherub. And therefore Aaron, seeing the people desired a sensible symbol of God's presence among them, he made choice of that he had seen in the mount about the Divine glory; and yet all that did not excuse his fault in the sight of God.
In like manner, after the tabernacle and temple were set up, wherein were the cherubims, when Jeroboam revolted he set up calves, 1 Kings xii. 28, 29, as is probable upon the same account, but no doubt continued in all points the worship of the true God, as it was at Jerusalem, as might be proved from many particulars ; but the sin wherewith he made Ísrael to sin, was the worshipping of the true God by a false symbol. The like account is to be given of the idolatry of Gideon's ephod,