Page images
PDF
EPUB

2

understand, or determine itself by it's own will; allS ER M. the motions of matter that we know of, or can ima

CCXX. gine, being necessary: and partly from the justice and goodness of God. The consideration of God's goodness would persuade a man, that as he made all things very good, so he made them of the longeft duration they were capable of : and the justice of God would easily induce a man to believe, seeing the providence of God doth generally in this life deal promiscuously with good and bad men, that there shall be a day whịch will make a difference, and every man fhall

receive according to his works, 1 But I do not intend to insist upon these arguments;

all that I design is, to fhew what kind of arguments do work a faith or persuasion in the mind concerning these principles of natural religion ; and they are rea

fons drawn from the thing. TUO And it is not always necessary to the working of

this faith or persuasion, that these reasons should ne. 26 ceffarily, yea, or truly conclude the principle to be

believed : if they do it probably, and it appear so to

me, it is enough to beget a persuasion in me of such mint a thing. There are many men entertain the greatest 7 truths, and are firmly persuaded of them, upon an in

competent argument, and such as might persuade is, them of any thing else as well; and such persons, if

they have capacity and understanding, they are rather happy than wife in their religion. It falls out well that they happen to be in the rights for they might have been in the wrong upon the same terms. But if the persons who believe the principles of religion on insufficient arguments, and their belief have a real effect upon them, as it will, if it be true and per, manent; if they be ignorant, and such as want the ordinary advantages of improving their knowledge,

they

SERM. they are wise enough; that is, they are as wise as CCXX.

God's providence hath made them, and the circumstances of their education, and the condition of their life will let them be.

The III. thing to be enquired is, whether this faith or persuasion of the principles of natural religion admit degrees, or not, and what differences are observable in them. That it does admit degrees, that is, that a man may be more or less persuaded of the truth of these principles, is evident from the heathens ; some of whom did yield a more firm and unshaken assent to them; others entertained them with a more faint persuafion of them, especially of the immortality of the foul, and a future state, about which most of them had many qualms and doubts. Of all the heathens, Socrates seems to have had the truest and firmest persuasion of these things; which he did not only testify in words, but by the constancy, and calmness, and sedate courage which he manifested at his death. Indeed in his discourse before his death, he fays, “ he did not know whether his soul shall re“ main after his body, and whether there be a hap66 piness reserved for good men in another world : “ but he thought so, and had such hopes of it, that “ he was very willing to venture his life upon these “ hopes.” Which words, though they seem to be spoke doubtingly, as the manner of the academy was 5 yet considering his manner of speaking, which was modest, and not peremptory and dogmatical, they signify as great a confidence as he had of any thing, and they are high expressions of assurance. For we may believe that the man who dies for any thing, how modestly foever he may express himself, is very well lid assured of the truth of it. So that this faith and per ft suasion admits of degrees, the difference whereof is to get

be

be resolved partly into the capacity of the persons who SERM. believe; and partly into the strength, or at least appearance of strength in the arguments whereby it is wrought.

The IV. thing to be enquired is, what are the proper and genuine effects of this faith or persuasion. Now that, in a word, is natural religion, which conlists in apprehensions of God suitable to his nature, and affections towards him suitable to these apprehensions, and actions suitable to both. He that believes there is such a being in the world as God, that is, one infinitely good, and wise, and powerful, and just, and holy, and (in a word) clothed with all excellency, will have a great esteem and reverence for him, and love to him, which he will testify in those outward ex pressions of respect which we call worship.

He that believes that this being is the original of all - good, that he made the world, and all the creatures : in it, and preserves and governs them, he will depend upon him, and seek to him for every good thing, and

acknowledge him for the author of them ; which s brings in prayer and thanksgiving. He that believes

that he owes his being to God, and all the blessings of his life, will think it reasonable that he should be at his disposal, will be willing to be governed by his laws, and ready to submit to his pleasure ; which

brings in obedience and submission to the will of God. 6. He that believes there is another life after this, wherei in men shall be rewarded or punished, according as

they have demeaned themselves well or ill in this i world, he will be encouraged to piety and virtue, and

afraid to do any thing which his own reason tells him
is displeasing to the Deity, as he cannot but believe
every thing is, that is contrary to the nature of God,
or the perfection of his own nature, or the good order

and

SE R M. and happiness of the world; which brings in tempe. CCXX.

,rance, and justice, and all other real virtues. And that the belief of these principles had this effect upon several of the heathens, to make them in a good degree religious and virtuous, I doubt not; the moral and honest lives of many of them give real testimony of this; which natural religion and morality of theirs, how far it may avail them for their good, we are not concerned to determine. This we are sure of, that it will make their condition more tolerable in another world, and if they fall under condemnation, it will mitigate and allay their misery.

V. In what sense this faith or persuasion of the principles of natural religion may be said to be divine. In these two refpects.

1. In respect of the object of it, or matters to be bet lieved, which are divine, and do immediately concern religion, in opposition to that which I call a ci. vil and human faith, which is of such things as do not immediately concern God and religion.

2. In respect of the divine effects of it, which are to make men religious and like God. And a faith may as properly be said to be divine in respect of the object of it, as in respect of the argument whereby it is wrought: so that a faith of the principles of natural religion is as truly divine, though it be not wrought in us by the arguments of divine testimony and authority, as a faith of the matters of divine revelation contained in the holy scriptures : for why a faith may i not as well be said to be divine for it's relation to God as the object of it, as for it's relation to the testimony of God as the cause of it, I cannot understand.

Secondly, the second sort of faith, which I call divine or religious, is a persuasion of things supernaturally revealed, of things which are not known by na- 1.0

[ocr errors][merged small]

tural light, but by some more immediate manifesta:SER M. tion and discovery from God. Thus we find our SA

VIOUR, Matt. xvi. 15, 16, 17. oppofeth divine reve | lation to the discovery of natural reason and light. | He asks his disciples whom they believed him to be ; ~ whom say ye that I am ? and Simon Peter an“ swered and said, thou art the Christ (that is, the " Messias) the Son of the living God. And Jesus { " answered and said unto him, blessed art thou, Si

« mon Barjona ; for Alesh and blood hath not refu vealed it into thee : but my Father which is in

" heaven :" where a revelation or discovery from
Aesh and blood is opposed to a revelation from God,
“ Aesh and blood” being a Hebrew phrase or manner
of speaking, signifying a mere man, or something
merely human. So we find the phrase used, Eph. vi.
12. “ we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but a-
“ gainst principalities, and powers, and spiritual wick-
“edness;" that is, the enemies we are to contend
with, are not only men but devils ; and, which is
nearer to our purpose, Gal. i. 16. where the apostle
would express to us, that he received not his commif-
sion from men, but immediately from the LORD JE-
SUS CHRIST; he tells us, that “ when it pleaseth
" God, who separated him from his mother's womb,
" and called him by his grace, to reveal his Son in

him, that he might preach him among the heathen, “ immediately he conferred not with Aesh and “ blood ;" the word is w foodveséunu, “ I did not “ apply myself to flesh and blood ;” that is, I did not go to men to receive my commission from them : for so he explains it in the next words, " neither went “ I up to Jerusalem, to them that were apostles be“ fore me;" that is, I did not apply myself to the apostles, to derive any authority from them to preach

; the

SUS

IS

« EelmineJätka »