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desty, are Things perfectly reasonable ; and Excess, and Dissoluteness, and Indecency, mischievous and shameful? Being social Creatures, we are as evidently bound to whatever will make Society happy. And fince we are very sensible, that others ought to treat us with Justice and Kindness, peaceably mind their own Business, and diligently provide for their own Maintenance; we cannot but be sensible, that we ought to do the same Things. Then lastly, being Creatures capable of knowing our Creator, who is not far from every one of us; for in Him we live, and move, and have our Being a : it follows very clearly, that we are not to forget Him, but worship and obey Him as the almighty, all-wise, and all-good Maker and Lord of the Universe; acknowledge our Dependance on Him, be thankful to Him for his Mercies, and resign ourselves to his Dise posal.
Thus much, one should have thought, all Men must have known, without supernatural Teaching: and certainly they might; and therefore are juftly blameable and punishable, if they do not. But still it hath appeared in Fact, that wherever Men have been left to their own Reason, neither every one hath taught himself, nor the wiser Part of the World taught the rest, oven these plain Things; so as to produce any steady Regard to them, as Duties, or even any settled Conviction of them, as Truths. And for Want of it, Sin and Misery have prevailed every where. Men have made others and themselves wretched in numberless Ways : and often doubly wretched by the Reflections of their own Hearts; knowing they had done ill, and not knowing how to be fure of Pardon.
Foreseeing from Eternity these dreadful Consequences of human Ignorance and Wickedness, God provided suitable Remedies of Instruction and Grace: which he notified to the World from Time to Time, as his own
d Acts xvii, 27, 28.
unsearchable Wisdom faw would be fittest; increasing the Light gradually, till it shone out in the full Day of Chriftianity. But Revelation, as well as Reason, hath been given in vain to a great Part of Mankind. The Propagation of it through the Earth hath been strangely neglected : in many places, where it hath been received, it hath been lost again : and in too many, where it is retained, it is grievously corrupted and obscured. Without Question, we ought to judge as charitably as we can of all who are in any of these Conditions : but at the same Time we ought, from the Bottom of our Hearts, to thank God that none of them is our Undoubtedly He is and will be gracious to all bis Creatures, as far as they are fit Objects : but it is the Riches of his Grace, that He hath bestowed on us : and as, with Justice, He might difpose of his own free Gifts as He pleased; fo, in Mercy, He hath conferred a large Proportion of them on this Nation and Age. Blessings, that are common and familiar, though indeed much the greater for that, are usually but little regarded. And thus, amongst other
Things, the Opportunities that we enjoy of religious Knowledge, it may be feared, are often very lightly efteemed. But would we reflect, how much less Means of being acquainted with the Duties of this Life, and the Rewards of another, not only the unenlightened Heathen World, but the Jews, the People of God, hd formerly ; and much the greatest Part even o Christians have had for Numbers of fucceflive Generations, and have ftill, than We: it would make us feel, that our Saviour's Words belong to us also: Verily, I jiy un!o you, that many Prophets and righteous Men have des fired to see those Things which ye Jee, and have not fien them: and to hear thoje Things which ye hear, and have not heard them. But blessed are your Eyes, for they fee; and your Ears, for they bear
But then, and, for the Sake of God and our Souls,
let us observe it; if feeing we see not, and hearing we bear not, to the only good Purpose of Life, that of becoming in Heart and in Practice, such as we ought; better had it been for us, not to have known the Way of Righteousness, than, after we have known it, to turn from the holy Commandment delivered unto us". For unto whomfoever much is given, of bim shall much be required. The Servant, that knew his Lord's Will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his Will, fall be beaten with many Stripes : he that knew it not, with few! But take Notice ; he that, in Comparison with others, may be faid not to know the Will of God, knows enough of it however to subject him, if he fails of doing it, to future Punishment; to be beaten with Stripes. Not even a heathen Sinner therefore shall escape intirely by his Ignorance: much less will that Plea excufe a Christian : but leaft of all can those Christians hope for Mercy, who hear the Word of God preached to them weekly; have it in their hands, and may read it daily: and yet transgress it. Verily I jay unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the Day of Judgment , than for ruch Persons.
Let no one argue from hence, that Knowledge then is no Bleiling. For the more we know of our Maker and our Duty, the better we are qualified to be good in this world, and happy in the next.
And we can never be worse for it, unless we will, by making either no Ule or a bad Use of it. Nor let any one imagine, that, though we need not be the worse for our KnowJedge, yet since we may, Ignorance is the safer Choice; as what will excuse our Sins, if #ot intirely, yet in a great Measure. But let us all remember, it is not pretended, but real, Ignorance; nor even that, unless we could not help it, that will be any Plea in our Favour. Wilful, or even careless Ignorance, is a great_Sin iiself; and therefore procure uş Pardon for the other Sins which it may & Marth. xiii, 13
1 2 Pet, ii. 21.
Luke xii. 47, +3. Mark vi, II.
occasion. What should any of us think of a Servant who kept out of the Way of receiving his Master's Orders, purposely because he had no Mind to do them?: Nay, supposing him only through Negligence not to understand the Business that he was required to learn and follow: would thus justify him ? Would it not be faid, that what he might and ought to have known, it was his own Fault if he did not know? And what do we think of God, if we hope to impose on Him with Pleas that will not pass amongst ourselves ?
Fix it in your Hearts then : the first indispensable Duty of Man is, to learn the Will of his Maker; the next, to do it: and Nothing can excuse you from either. Attend therefore diligently on all fuch Means of Instruction as God's Providence gives you: especially the public Instruction of the Church, which, having expressly appointed for you, he will assuredly bless to you ;. provided you observe our Saviour's most important Die rection, Take heed how ye hear!. For on that it depends, whether the preaching of the Gospel fhall be Life or Death to you " One it must be: and these very Lectures, amongst other Things, which have been truly intended for your eternal Good, will prove, if you apply them not to that End, what God forbid they should, a Means of increasing your future Condemnation. Beintreated therefore to consider very seriously what you are taught; for be there ever so much of the Weakness of Man in it, there is the Power of God unto Salvation, unless you hinder it yourselves. Never despise then the meanest of your Instructors; and never think of admiring the ablest : but remember that your Business is, neither to applaud nor censure other Persons Peformances ; but to improve your own Hearts, and mend your own Lives. Barely coming and hearing is Nothing. Barely being pleased and moved and affected is Nothing. It is only minding and doing the Whole of
1 Luke viii. 18.
2 Cor. ii. 16,
your Duty, not fome Part of it alone, that is any Thing.
Knowing the Words of your Catechism is of no other Ufe, than to preserve in your Memories the Things which those Words express. Knowing the Meaning of your Catechism ever so well, in every part, is of no other Use than to put you on the Performance of what it teaches. And performing some Things ever so conftantly or zealously, will not avail, without a faithful Endeavour to perform every Thing. Have it always in your Thoughts therefore, that Practice, uniform Practice, is the one Thing needful. Your Knowledge may be very low and imperfect, your Faith not very clear and distinct: but however poorly you are capable of furnishing your Heads; if your Hearts and Lives be good, all is well.
But here, I pray you, observe further, that as it is not in understanding and believing, so it is not in Devotion merely, that Religion confists. The common Duties of common Life make far the greatest Part of what our Maker expects of us.
To be honest and fober, and modeft and humble, and good-tempered and mild, and induftrious and useful in our several Stations, are Things to which all_Persons are as much bound as they can be to any Thing: and when they proceed from a Principle of Conscience towards. God, and are offered up to Him, as our bounden Duty, through Jesus Christ, are as true and as acceptable a Service to Him, as either our Attendance at Church, or our Prayers in Retirement at Home. And they, who abound in these latter Duties, and neglect any of the former, only disgrace Religion, and deceive themfelyes.
Yet understand me not, I beg you, to speak flightly of Devotion, either private or public. On the contrary, I recommend both to you most earnestly : for our immediate Duty to God is the highest of all Duties, the first and great Commandment of natural Religion: • Matth, xxii. 38.