The religion of nature is far from answering these exalted purposes. - From the definitions
with which this discourse was introduced, and some observations that have transiently occurred,
you may perhaps already anticipate what appertains to this part of the subject. It is however
of too great importance to be slightly treated. It draws a line of distinction, with which many
are evidently unacquainted. And it suggests a principle, of all others the most essential,
in refuting the false philosophy of infidelity.
No obligation, and consequently no religion, can exist without some RELATION to constitute a basis
or foundation upon which it rests. The foundation of the religion of nature is the relation which arises
from the dependence of men considered as intelligent creatures, upon GOD as their CREATOR.
This relation will not suffice for sinners.
The religion of nature is universal and unchangeable. It prescribes perfect and perpetual obedience,
as its only possible condition; and it ensures happiness as long as a perserverance in such obedience
is uninterruptedly maintained. But it contemplates no deviation from the divine law. It knows of no remedy
for transgressors. A sinner is a monster unknown and unacknowledged in the religion of
nature. A Saviour is a gift infinitely beyond its province or perogative.
Sin constitutes a new character. It produces essential embarrassments. It requires help which
nothing in the relation between creatures and their CREATOR, as such, can suggest or supply.
The new character renders a new relation necessary. There must be a REDEEMER,
or the evils produced by sin can never be removed. He alone who made them can redeem them,
form the relation, and bring them into it.
The religion of nature is necessarily and forever binding upon all men as intelligent beings.
The original obligation can never cease or abate. Nothing can infringe, nothing can destroy it.
The religion of nature, in this respect, is as much the religion of men, after they become sinners,
as it would have been had they continued holy and perfect; and yet by not providing happiness,
is essentially deficient in a most important article. - If it obliges the siner to obedience,
while it condemns, and leaves him to all the direful consequences of his transgression -
if the relation upon which it is founded does not reach the new character - if the only
condition it prescribes, of do this and live, cannot possibly be complied with, and
if the principle that investigates this obligation,