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Human Happiness being the ultimate Defion and End of all Traditional, as well as Original Revelation, they must both prescribe the fame Means; fiice thofe Means, which at one Time promote human Happiness, equally promote it at all Times,



HOU'D I grant you, that Natural and Reveal'd Religion, as they have the fame Author, must have the fame Ends; and that the ultimate End of all God's Laws, and confequently, of all Religion, is human Happiness; yet there are feveral Things to be confider'd as fubordinate Ends: And here, may not Original and Traditional Religion differ? fince 'tis allow'd by all, that how immutable foever these fubordinate Ends are, yet the Means to promote these Ends are various and mutable.

A. YOUR allowing these Means to be various and mutable, fuppofes no fuch Means so prescrib'd in the Gospel; but that, agreeably to the Law of Nature, they are to be vary'd as best fuits that End for which they were ordain'd: To imagine the contrary, is to make Things, dependent on Circumstances, independent; Things that are proper


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only under fome Circumftances, neceffary under all Circumstances; nay, to make Ends mutable, and Means immutable; and that these are to continue the fame, tho' by Change of Circumftances they become prejudicial; nay, deftructive to the End for which alone they were ordain'd. The more neceffary any End is, there's the more Reason for People to be left at Liberty to confider in the vast Variety of Circumstances, and those too perpetually changing, what Means may be moft proper for obtaining that End; fince these having no Worth in themselves, can only be valu'd according as they more or less conduce to the Purpose they were intended for; and where God does not interpose, it is incumbent on human Discretion, chiefly ordain'd for this End, to make fuch Alterations as the Reafon of Things requires.

DID not God always employ the most fit and most sutable Means, he wou'd act contrary to the Rules prefcrib'd him by his own unerring Reason; and fo he wou'd, did he not leave Men at Liberty to use fuch Means, as their Reason, given for that Purpose, told them was fitteft to be done, in all thofe Circumftances in which he had plac'd them; because That wou'd be requiring of them a Conduct contrary to his own; and confequently, a Conduct highly irrational: And therefore to alter One's Conduct, as Circumstances alter, is not only an Act of the greatest Prudence and Judgment, but is confiftent with the greatest Steadiness.

As far as Divine Wisdom excels human, fo far the divine Laws must excel human Laws in Clearness and Perfpicuity; as well as other Perfections. Whatever is confus'd and perplex'd, can never come from the clear Fountain of all Knowledge; nor That which is obfcure from the Father of inexhaustible Light; and as far as you fuppofe God's P Laws

Laws are not plain to any Part of Mankind, fo far you derogate from the Perfection of thofe Laws, and the Wisdom, and the Goodness of the divine Legiflator; who, fince he has the framing of the Understanding of those to whom he dictates his Laws, can't but adapt one to the other: But how can we say, that infinite Wisdom fpeaks piainly to Mankind thro' all Generations, except we allow that his Commands extend not beyond moral Things; and that in all Matters of a mutable Nature, which can only be confider'd as Means, he obliges them to act according as they judge moft proper for bringing about thofe Ends.

UPON any other Hypothefis, human Laws have vastly the Advantage of the divine; as being publish'd in the Language the Subjects understand, in a plain fimple Style, without any allegorical, metaphorical, hyperbolical, or other forc'd Way of Expreffion; and if Time difcovers any Inconvenience, or any unforeseen Difficulties want to be clear'd up, the Legislature is ready at Hand; or if in the mean Time, any Doubts about interpreting the Laws arife, there are standing Judges (accountable to the Legislature) in whose Determinations People are to acquiefce. But Mankind are not to expect, that the divine Legislator will, from Time to Time, make any Change in his Laws, and communicate them to all Nations in the Languages they understand; nor can there be any Judges with a Power to oblige People by their Determinations; because such a Power being without any Appeal, is the fame as a Power to make divine Laws; and confequently, the only Tribunal God has erected here on Earth (diftinct from that he has mediately appointed by Men for their mutual Defence) is every Man's own Confcience; which, as it can't but tell him, that God is the Author of all Things, fo it must inform him, that what

whatever he finds himself oblig'd to do by the Circumstances he is in, he is oblig'd by God himself; who has disposed Things in that Order, and plac'd him in those Circumstances. 'Tis for want of observing this Rule, that the divine Writings are render'd fo obfcure; and the Infinity of Sermons, Notes, Comments and Paraphrafes, which pretend to speak plainer than God himself, have encreas'd this Obscurity. If whatever tends to the Honour of God, and Good of Man, is evident from the Light of Nature, whence comes all this Uncertainty, Perplexity, Doubts and Difficulties? Is it not chiefly owing to the denying People that Liberty, which God, out of his infinite Goodness, has allow'd them by the Law of Nature; and hindring them from judging for themselves of the Means, which beft tend to promote this End; and impofing on them, by the Terrors of temporal and eternal Punishment, fuch needlefs Speculations and useless Obfervances, as can't be confider'd either as Means or Ends ?

B. You know that Divines, tho' they can't deny what you fay to be true in general; yet they think there's an Exception as to Church-Matters, and that here Men are not permitted to use such Means as they themselves think best ; but fuch only as thofe, who set up to be their Spiritual Governors, shall appoint.

A. NOTHING can be more abfurd, than to fuppofe God has taken this Power from the People, who have an Interest to preserve Religion in its Purity (every Deviation from it being to their Prejudice) and plac'd it uncontroulably in the Hands of Men, who, having an Intereft in corrupting it, do, generally speaking, fo manage Matters, as if Religion was the Means, and their Power the End for which it was inftituted. We do not find, that the Mahometan ClerP 2



gy cause any Confufion or Disorder among the Muffelmen; and the Pagan Priests are scarce taken Notice of in Story, fo little Mischief did they do ; while all Church-Hiftory is full of the vileft, and most pernicious Things perpetrated by Chriftian Priests. The Chriftian Morals, you must own, are too pure and plain to cause this Difference; what then can it be imputed to, but that independent Power, which those Priests ufurp'd; which, tho' they claim'd it as deriv❜d from Heaven for promoting godly Discipline, has occafion'd general Disorder and Confufion? Endless have been the Quarrels ambitious Priests have had with Princes upon the Account of this Power, to the Stopping of Justice, and Subverfion of almost all Civil Polity: Nor have the Ecclefiafticks been lefs embroil'd among themselves, each Set stri-· ving to engross a Power which can belong to no Mortal. And the Bishops, when they had no others to contest with, have ever contended among themselves about Superiority, the Rights of their Sees, and the Limits of their Jurifdi&tions; and when their Choice depended on the People, they fre quently, especially in their Contentions about the greater Sees, run Things on to Blood and Slaughter: And I appeal to their own Hiftorians, whether the Ecclefiafticks ever fcrupl'd any Method to obtain this Power; and whenever they got it, whether an insupportable Tyranny over Body and Mind, with the utter Ruin of Religion, was not the Confequence? And whether it had not, where exercis'd to the Height, more fatal Effects than all the Superftition of the Gentiles? Look the World round, you shall every where find Men more or less miferable, as they have been more or less debarr'd the Right of acting according to the best of their Understanding in Matters relating to Religion.

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