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let us now think which is fafest. For it is certainly SER M.
CCXXIV. most prudent to incline to the safest side of the question. Supposing the reasons for, and against the principles of religion were equal, yet the danger and hazard is so unequal, as would sway a prudent man to the affirmative. Suppose a man believe there is no God, nor life after this; and suppose he be in the right, but not certain that he is (for that, I am sure, in this case is impoflible) all the advantage he hath by this opinion, relates only to this world and this present time: for he cannot be the better for it when he is not. Now what advantage will it be to him in this life? he shall have the more liberty to do what he pleaseth ; that is, it furnisheth him with a stronger temptation to be intemperate, and lustful, and unjust; that is, to do those things which preju
dice his body and health, which cloud his reason, - and darken his understanding, which will make him
enemies in the world, and will bring him into danger. So that it is no advantage to any man to be vicious : and yet this is the greatest use that is made of atheistical principles; to comfort men in their vicious courses. But if thou hast a mind to be virtuous, and temperate, and just, the belief of the principles of religion will be no obstacle, but a furtherance to thee in this course. All the advantage a man can hope for by disbelieving the principles of religion, is to escape trouble and persecuction in this world, which may happen to him on account of religion. But supposing there be a God, and a life after this, then what a vast difference is there of the consequences of these opinions ! as much as between finite and infinite, time and eternity.
Secondly, to persuade men to believe the scriptures, I only offer this ço men's consideration. If there be
SERM. a God, whose providence governs the world and all
the creatures in it, is it not reasonable to think that
And now having presented men with such arguments and considerations as are proper, and I think sufficient to induce belief, I think it not unreasonable to entreat and urge men diligently and impartially
to consider these matters; and if there be weight in SERM. these considerations to sway reasonable men, that they CCXXIV. would not suffer themselves to be biassed by prejudice, or passion, or intereft, to a contrary persuasion. Thus much I may with reason desire of men : for though mén cannot believe what they will, yet men may (if they will) consider things feriously and impartially, and yield or with-hold their assent, as they shall see cause, after a thorough search and examination.
If any man will offer a ferious argument against any of the principles of religion, and will debate the matter soberly, as one that considers the infinite consequences of things one way or other, and would gladly be fatisfied; he deserves to be heard what he can say : but if a man will turn religion into raillery, and confute it by two or three bold jests ; he doth not make religion, but himself ridiculous, in the opinion of all confiderate men, because he sports with his life.
So that it concerns every man that would not trifle away his foul, and fool himself into irrecoverable mifery, with the greatest seriousness to enquire into these things, whether they be so or no, and patiently to consider the arguments that are brought for them.
And when you are examining these matters, do not take into consideration any sensual of worldly interest; but deal fairly and impartially with yourselves. Think with yourselves, that you have not the making of things true or false ; that the principles of religion are either true or false, before you think of them. The truth of things is already fixed; either there is a God, or no God; either your souls are immortal, or they are not; either the scriptures are a divine revelation, or an imposture; one of these is
SER M.certain and necessary, and they are not pow to be
altered. Things will not comply with your conceits, and bend themselves to your interests. Therefore do not think what you would have to be, bụt consider impartially what is
And if upon enquiry, you be convinced that it is the greatest reason and prudence to believe that there is a God, and a future state, and that the scriptures are the word of God; then meditate much of these things; attend to the proper consequences of such a persuasion ;' and resolve to live as becomes those who believe there is a God, and another life after this, and that it is best for you to obey the precepts of his word, being persuaded that whatever is there promised in cafe of obedience, or threatned in case of disobedience, will certainly be accomplished.
And labour to strengthen yourselves in this belief; because faith is the spring of all rational actions, and the root of all other graces; and according to the Itrength and weakness of faith, your holiness, and obe, dience, and graces will flourish or decay.
And because the matters of faith do not fall under our senses, and the things of another world are in visible and at distance, and consequently not so apt to effect us, as present and visible things, we should take the more pains with ourselves, that by revolving frequently in our minds the thoughts of God, and representing to ourselves the happiness and misery of another world, they may have as great an effect upon us, as if they were present to us, and we saw them with our bodily eyes.
* Of this see more in the sermon above mentioned.
Of the christian faith, the means of it's
conveyance, and our obligation to receive it.
JOHN xx. 31.
is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing
CCXXV. ing the faith which is truly divine and religious ; in The first the latitude of which is contained a perfuasion con-fermon on cerning the principles of natural religion, the being of this text God, the immortality of the soul, and a future state ; and a persuasion of the divine revelation of the scriptures, and the matters contained in them. Now among matters of divine revelation, the doctrine of the gospel is a principal part; which is the last and most perfect revelation which God hath made to the world, by his Son Jesus CHRIST; and a firm belief and persuasion of this is that which is called christian faith, or “ the faith of the gospel ;” and which, by way of eminency, is usually called “ faith" in the new teftament.
Now christian faith is not opposed to a divine faith, but is comprehended under it; as being a principal and eminent part of divine faith, but not all that which may be called divine faith. Christian faith supposeth a belief of the principles of natural religion, and a belief of those revelations which God for