Imágenes de páginas

reason, one would think, that we (if we are not besotted) should oppose it to our utmost too. However, let us but have our liturgy continued to us as it is, till the persons are born who shall be able to mend it, or make a better, and we desire no greater security against either the altering this or introducing another.

The truth is, such as would new model the Church of England ought not only to have a new religion, (which some have been so long driving at,) but a new reason likewise to proceed by; since experience (which was ever yet accounted one of the surest and best improvements of reason) has been always for acquiescing in things settled with sober and mature advice, (and, in the present case also, with the very blood and martyrdom of the advisers themselves,) without running the risk of new experiments ; which, though in philosophy they may be commendable, yet in religion and religious matters are generally fatal and pernicious. The church is a royal society for settling old things, and not for finding out new. In a word, we serve a wise and unchangeable God, and we desire to do it by a religion and in a church (as like him as may be) without changes or alterations.

And now, as in so important a matter I would interest both universities, so I do it with the same honour and deference to both; as abhorring from my heart the pedantic partiality of preferring one bofore the other ; since (if my relation to one should Dever so much incline me so to do) I must sincerely declare, that I cannot see how to place a preference where I can find no preeminence. And, therefore, as they are both equal in fame, and learning, and all that is great and excellent, so I hope to see them always one in judgment and design, heart and affection ; without any strife, emulation, or contest between them except this one. (which I wish may be perpetual,) namely, which of the two best universities in the world shall be most serviceable to the best church in the world, by their learning, constancy, and integrity.

But to conclude, there remains no more for me to do, but to beg pardon of that august body to which I belong, if I have offended in assuming to myself the honour of mentioning my relation to a society which I could never reflect the least honour up..., nor contribute the least advantage to.

All that I can add is, that, as it was my fortune to serve this noble seat of learning for many years, as her public, though unworthy orator, so upon that, and other innumerable accounts, I ought for ever to be, and to acknowledge myself, her most faithful, obedient, and devoted servant,


two ways,

poses for the measure of them ; which, withSERMON XIII.

out great and exact caution, he may be these

1. By laying false and deceitful principles. THE PRACTICE OF RELIGION ENFORCED

2. In case he lays right principles, yet by BY REASON.

mistaking in the consequences which he draws

from them. PREACHED AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY, 1667. An error in either of which is equally

dangerous; for if a man is to draw a line, it is all one whether he does it by a crooked

rule, or by a straight one misapplied. He He that walketh uprightly walketh surely." - PROV. I. 9. who fixes upon false principles treads upon

infirm ground, and so sinks; and he who As it were easy to evince, both from reason fails in his deductions from right principles, and experience, that there is a strange, restless stumbles upon firm ground, and so falls ; thio activity in the soul of man, continually dis- disaster is not of the same kind, but of the posing it to operate, and exert its faculties; same mischief in both. so the phrase of Scripture still expresses the It must be confessed, that it is sometimes life of man by walking ; that is, it represents very hard to judge of the truth or goodness of an active principle in an active posture. And principles, considered barely in themselves, because the nature of man carries him thus and abstracted from their consequences. But ont to action, it is no wonder if the same certainly he acts upon the surest and most nature equally renders him solicitous about prudential grounds in the world, who, whether the issue and event of his actions; for every the principles which he acts upon prove true one, by reflecting upon the way and method or false, yet secures a happy issue to his of his own workings, will find that he is still actions. determined in them, by a respect to the con Now he who guides his actions by the rules sequence of what he does ; always proceeding of piety and religion, lays these two principles upon this argumentation : If I do such a as the great ground of all that he does, thing, such an advantage will follow from it, 1. That there is an infinite, eternal, all-wise and therefore I will do it. And if I do this, mind governing the affairs of the world, and such a mischief will ensue thereupon, and taking such an account of the actions of men, therefore I will forbear. Every one, I say, is as, according to the quality of them, to punish concluded by this practical discourse; and for or reward them. a man to bring his actions to the event pro 2. That there is an estate of happiness or posed and designed by him, is to walk surely. misery after this life, allotted to every man, But since the event of an action usually follows according to the quality of his actions here. the nature or quality of it, and the quality These, I say, are the principles which every follows the rule directing it, it concerns a man, religious man proposes to himself; and the by all means, in the framing of his actions, deduction which he makes from them is this: not to be deceived in the rule which he pro- That it is his grand interest and concern so to

act and behave himself in this world, as to of such as are to be governed by them; and secure himself from an estate of misery in the lastly, since experience shews that rewards other. And thus to act, is, in the phrase of and punishments, terminated only within this Scripture, to "walk uprightly;" and it is my life, are not sufficient for that purpose, it fairly business to prove, that he who acts in the and rationally follows, that the rewards and strength of this conclusion, drawn from the punishments, which God governs mankind two forementioned principles,“ walks surely,” | by, do and must look beyond it. or secures a happy event to his actions, against And thus I have given a brief proof of the all contingencies whatsoever.

certainty of these principles ; namely, that And to demonstrate this, I shall consider there is a supreme governor of the world ; the said principles under a threefold suppo- and that there is a future estate of happiness sition :

or misery for men after this life ; which 1st, As certainly true ;

principles, while a man steers his course by, 2dly, As probable; and,

if he acts piously, soberly, and temperately, I 3dly, As false.

suppose there needs no farther arguments to And if the pious man brings his actions to evince, that he acts prudentially and safely; a happy end, whichsoever of these supposi- For he acts as under the eye of his just and tions his principles fall under, then certainly, severe Judge, who reaches to his creature a there is none who walks so surely, and upon command with one hand, and a reward with such irrefragable grounds of prudence, as he the other. He spends as a person who knows who is religious.

that he must come to a reckoning. He sees 1. First of all, therefore, we will take these an eternal happiness or misery suspended upon principles (as we may very well do) under the a few days' behaviour ; and therefore, he lives hypothesis of certainly true : where, though every hour as for eternity. His future condithe method of the ratiocination which I have tion has such a powerful influence upon his cast the present discourse into, does not natu present practice, because he entertains a conrally engage me to prove them so, but only to tinual apprehension and a firm persuasion of s'lew what directly and necessarily follows it. If a man walks over a narrow bridge when upon a supposal that they are so ; yet to give he is drunk, it is no wonder that he forgets his the greater perspicuity and clearness to the caution, while he overlooks his danger. But prosecution of the subject in hand, I sball he who is sober, and views that nice separabriefly demonstrate them thus.

tion between himself and the devouring deep, It is necessary that there should be some so that if he should slip, he sees his grave first mover; and, if so, a first being; and the gaping under him, surely must needs take first being must infer an infinite, unlimited every step with horror, and the utmost caution perfection in the said being : forasmuch as if and solicitude. it were finite or limited, that limitation must But for a man to believe it as the most have been either from itself or from something undoubted certainty in the world, that he else. But not from itself, since it is contrary shall be judged according to the quality of his to reason and nature, that any being should actions here, and after judgment receive an limit its own perfection; nor yet from some eternal recompense, and yet to take his full thing else, since then it should not have been swing in all the pleasures of sin, is it not a the first, as supposing some other thing coevous greater frenzy, than for a man to take a to it, which is against the present supposition. purse at Tyburn, while he is actually seeing So that it being clear, that there must be a another hanged for the same fact? It is really first being, and that infinitely perfect, it will to dare and defy the justice of Heaven, to follow, that all other perfection that is, must laugh at right-aiming thunderbolts, to puff at be derived from it; and so we infer the crea damnation, and, in a word, to bid Omnipotion of the world, and then supposing the tence do its worst. He, indeed, who thus world created by God, (since it is no ways walks, walks surely; but it is because he is reconcileable to God's wisdom, that he should sure to be damned. not also govern it,) creation must needs infer I confess it is hard to reconcile such a stupid providence; and then it being granted, that course to the natural way of the soul's acting, God governs the world, it will follow also, according to which, the will moves according that he does it by means suitable to the to the proposals of good and evil, made by the natures of the things he governs, and to the understanding; and, therefore, for a man to attainment of the proper ends of government; run headlong into the bottomless pit, while and moreover, man being by nature a free the eye of a seeing conscience assures him moral agent, and so capable of deviating from that it is bottomless and open, and all return his duty, as well as performing it, it is neces from it desperate and impossible; while his sary that he should be governed by laws; and ruin stares him in the face, and the sword of since laws require that they be enforced with vengeance points directly at his heart, still to the sanction of rewards and punishments, press on to the embraces of his sin, is a prob. sufficient to sway and work upon the ininds | lem unresolvable upon any other ground, but

that sin infatuates before it destroys. For rence between forty and thirty-nine; and yet Judas to receive and swallow the sop, when much less considerable would that indulgence his master gave it him seasoned with those be of a few holydays in the measures of eterterrible words, “ It had been good for that nity, of some hours' ease, compared with infiman that he had never been born;" surely nite ages of torment. this argued a furious appetite and a strong Supposing, therefore, that few sinners restomach, that could thus catch at a morsel lieve themselves with such groundless, trifling with the fire and brimstone all flaming about considerations as these, yet may they not it, and, as it were, digest death itself, and however fasten a rational hope upon the make a meal upon perdition.

boundless mercy of God, that this may induce I could wish that every bold sinner, when him to spare his poor creature, though by sin he is about to engage in the commission of become obnoxious to his wrath? To this I any known sin, would arrest his confidence, , answer, that the divine mercy is indeed large, and for a while stop the execution of his pur and far surpassing all created measures, yet, pose, with this short question, Do I believe nevertheless, it has its proper time; and after that it is really true, that God has denounced this life it is the time of justice; and to hope death to such a practice, or do I not? If he for the favours of mercy then, is to expect a does not, let him renounce his Christianity, harvest in the dead of winter. God has cast and surrender back his baptism, the water of all his works into a certain, in violable order; which might better serve him to cool his according to which, there is a time to pardon tongue in hell, than only to consign him over and a time to punish ; and the time of one is to the capacity of so black an apostasy. But not the time of the other. When corn has if he does believe it, how will he acquit him once felt the sickle, it has no more benefit self upon the accounts of bare reason? For from the sunshine. But, does he think, that if he pursues the means of 2dly, If the conscience be too apprehensive death, they will not bring him to that fatal (as for the most part it is) to venture the end? Or does he think that he can grapple final issue of things upon a fond persuasion, with divine vengeance, and endure the ever that the great Judge of the world will relent, lasting burnings, or arm himself against the and not execute the sentence pronounced by bites of the never-dying worm? No, surely, him; as if he had threatened men with hell these are things not to be imagined ; and rather to fright them from sin, than with an therefore I cannot conceive what security the intent to punish them for it; I say, if the presuming sinner can promise himself, but conscience cannot find any satisfaction or supupon these two following accounts, – port from such reasonings as these, yet may

1st, That God is merciful, and will not be so it not, at least, relieve itself with the purposes severe as his word; and that his threatenings of a future repentance, notwithstanding its of eternal torments are not so decretory and present actual violations of the law? I answer, absolute, but that there is a very comfortable that this certainly is a confidence of all others latitude left in thein for men of skill to creep the most ungrounded and irrational. For out at. And here it must indeed be confessed, upon what ground can a man, promise himself that Origen, and some others, not long since, a future repentance, who cannot promise himwho have been so officious as to furbish up and self a futurity? whose life depends upon his reprint his old errors, hold, that the sufferings | breath, and is so restrained to the present, of the damned are not to be, in a strict sense, that it cannot secure to itself the reversion of eternal; but that, after a certain revolution the very next minute. Have not many died and period of time, there shall be a general with the guilt of impenitence and the designs gaol-delivery of the souls in prison, and that of repentance together? If a man dies to-day, not for a farther execution, but a final release. by the prevalence of some ill humours, will it And it must be farther acknowledged, that avail him, that he intended to have bled and some of the ancients, like kind-hearted men, purged to-morrow? have talked much of annual refrigeriums, But how dares sinful dust and ashes invade respites, or intervals of punishment to the the prerogative of Providence, and carve out damned, as particularly on the great festivals to himself the seasons and issues of life and of the resurrection, ascension, pentecost, and death, which the Father keeps wholly within the like. In which, as these good men are his own power? How does that man, who more to be commended for their kindness and thinks he sins securely under the shelter of compassion, than to be followed in their opi some remote purposes of amendment, know, nion ; (which may be much better argued by but that the decree above may be already wishes than demonstrations ;) so, admitting passed against him, and his allowance of that it were true, yet what a pitiful, slender mercy spent; so that the bow in the clouds comfort would this amount to ! much like the is now drawn, and the arrow levelled at his Jews abating the punishment of malefactors head; and not many days like to pass, but from forty stripes to forty save one. A great perhaps an apoplexy, or an imposthume, or indulgence indeed, even as great as the diffe some sudden disaster, may stop his breath,

and reap him down as a sinner ripe for de posed upon, should yet suffer themselves to be struction.

deceived by such a persuasion as is false ; and I conclude, therefore, that, upon supposition not only false, but also cross and contrary to of the certain truth of the principles of reli their strongest desires : so that if it were gion, he who walks not uprightly has neither false, they would set the utmost force of their from the presumption of God's mercy revers reason on work to discover that falsity, and ing the decree of his justice, nor from his own thereby disenthral themselves; and farther, purposes of a future repentance, any sure since there is nothing false, but what may be ground to set his foot upon; but in this proved to be so; and yet, lastly, since all the whole course acts as directly in contradiction power and indastry of man's mind has not to nature, as he does in defiance of grace. been hitherto able to prove a falsity in the In a word, he is besotted, and has lost his principles of religion, it irrefragably follows, reason ; and what can there be for religion to (and that, I suppose, without gathering any take hold of him by ? Come we now to the more into the conclusion than has been made

2d supposition, under which we shew that good in the premises,) that religion is at least the principles of religion, laid down by us, a very high probability. might be considered, and that is, as only pro And this is that which I here contend for, bable. Where we must observe, that proba- That it is not necessary to the obliging men bility does not properly make any alteration to believe religion to be true, that this truth either in the truth or falsity of things, but be made out to their reason by arguments only imports a different degree of their clear- demonstratively certain ; but that it is suffiness or appearance to the understanding. So cient to render their unbelief inexcusable, that that is to be accounted probable, which even upon the account of bare reason, if so be has more and better arguments producible for the truth of religion carry in it a much greater it, than can be brought against it; and surely probability, than any of those ratiocinations such a thing, at least, is religion. For certain that pretend the contrary; and this I prove first rudiments and general notions of religion, "" ist

, That no man, in matters of this life, called natural religion, and consisting in the requires an assurance either of the good which acknowledgment of a Deity, and of the com he designs, or of the evil which he avoids, mon principles of morality, and a future estate from arguments demonstratively certain ; but of souls after death, (in which also we have judges himself to have sufficient ground to act all that some reformers and refiners amongst upon, from a probable persuasion of the event us would reduce Christianity itself to.) This of things. No man who first trafficks into a notion of religion, I say, has diffused itself in foreign country has any scientific evidence some degree or other, greater or less, as far as that there is such a country, but by report, human nature extends. So that there is no which can produce no more than a moral nation in the world, though plunged into certainty; that is, a very high probability, never such gross and absurd idolatry, but has ! and such as there can be no reason to except some awful sense of a Deity, and a persuasion against. He who has a probable belief, that of a state of retribution to men after this life. he shall meet with thieves in such a road,

But now, if there are really no such things, thinks himself to have reason enough to debut all is a mere lie and a fable, contrived only cline it, albeit he is sure to sustain some less to chain up the liberty of man's nature from (though yet considerable) inconvenience by a freer enjoyment of those things, which his so doing. But perhaps it may be replied, otherwise it would have as full a right to (and it is all that can be replied,) that a enjoy as to breathe, I demand whence this greater assurance and evidence is required of persuasion could thus come to be universal ? the things and concerns of the other world, For was it ever known, in any other instance, than of the interests of this. To which I that the whole world was brought to conspiré answer, that assurance and evidence (terms, by in the belief of a lie? Nay, and of such a lie, the way, extremely different; the first, respectas should lay upon men such unpleasing ing properly the ground of our assenting to abridgments, tying them up from a full gra a thing; and the other, the clearness of the tification of those lusts and appetites which thing or object assented' to) have no place at they so impatiently desire to satisfy, and, con all here, as being contrary to our present supsequently, by all means to remove those position; according to which, we are now impediments that might any way obstruct treating of the practical principles of religion their satisfaction ? Sivce, therefore, it cannot only as probable, and falling under a probable be made out upon any principle of reason persuasion. And for this I affirm, that where how all the nations in the world, otherwise so the case is about the hazarding an eternal or distant in situation, manners, interests, and a temporal concern, there a less degree of inclinations, should, by design or combination, probability ought to engage our caution meet in one persuasion; and withal that men against the loss of the former, than is neceswho so mortálly hate to be deceived and im- sary to engage it about preventing the loss of

the latter. Forasmuch as where things are probable that there will be such a future least to be put to the venture, as the eternal estate ; and then how miserably is the volupinterests of the other world ought to be ; there tuous, seusual unbeliever left in the lurch ! every, even the least, probability or likelihood For there can be no retreat for him then, no of danger, should be provided against ; but mending of his choice in the other world, no where the loss can be but temporal, every after-game to be played in hell. It fares with small probability of it need not put us so men, in reference to their future estate, and anxiously to prevent it, since, though it should the condition upon which they must pass to happen, the loss might be repaired again ; or it, much as it does with a merchant having a if not, could not however destroy us, by vessel richly fraught at sea in a storm ; the reaching us in our greatest and highest con storm grows higher and higher, and threatens cern; which no temporal thing whatsoever is the utter loss of the ship; but there is one, or can be. And this directly introduces the and but one certain way to save it, which is,

2d consideration or argument, namely, That by throwing its rich lading overboard ; yet bare reason, discoursing upon a principle of still, for all this, the man knows not but posself-preservation, (which surely is the funda- sibly the storm may cease, and so all be mental principle which naturé proceeds by,) preserved. However, in the meantime, there will oblige a man voluntarily and by choice is little or no probability that it will do so ; to undergo any less evil to secure hiniself but and in case it should not, he is then assured, from the probability of an evil incomparably that he must lay his life, as well as his rich greater, and that also such an one, as, if that commodities, in the cruel deep. Now in this probability passes into a certain event, admits case, would this man, think we, act rationally, of no reparation by any after remedy that can should he, upon the slender possibility of be applied to it.

escaping otherwise, neglect the sure, infallible Now, that religion, teaching a future estate preservation of his life, by casting away his of souls, is a probability, and that its con rich goods ? No certainly, it would be so far trary cannot with equal probability be proved, from it, that should the storm, by a strange we have already evinced. This, therefore, hap, cease immediately after he had thus being supposed, we will suppose yet farther, thrown away his riches, yet the throwing that for a man to abridge himself in the full them away was infinitely more rational and satisfaction of his appetites and inclinations, eligible, than the retaining or keeping them is an evil, because a present pain and trouble; could have been. but then it must likewise be granted, that For a man, while he lives here in the world, nature must needs abhor a state of eternal to doubt whether there be any hell or no; pain and misery much more ; and that if a and thereupon to live so, as if absolutely there man does not undergo the former less evil, it is were none; but when he dies, to find himself highly probable that such an eternal estate of confuted in the flames ; this, surely, must be misery will be his portion; and if so, I would the height of wo and disappointment, and a fain know whether that man takes a rational bitter conviction of an irrational venture and course to preserve himself, who refuses the an absurd choice. In doubtful cases, reason endurance of these lesser troubles to secure still determines for the safer side ; especially himself from a condition infinitely and incon- if the case be not only doubtful, but also highly ceivably more miserable.

concerning, and the venture be of a soul and But, since probability, in the nature of it, an eternity. supposes that a thing may or may not be so, He who sat at a table, richly and deliciously for any thing that yet appears, or is certainly furnished, but with a sword hanging over his determined on either side, we will here con head by one single thread or hair, surely had sider both sides of this probability : as, enough to check his appetite even against all

1. That it is one way possible, that there the ragings of hunger and temptations of senmay be no such thing as a future estate of suality. The only argument that could any happiness or misery for those who have lived way encourage his appetite was, that possibly well or ill here ; and then he who, upon the the sword might not fall ; but when his reason strength of a contrary belief, abridged him- should encounter it with another question, self in the gratification of his appetites, sus

What if it should fall ? and moreover, that tains only this evil ; namely, That he did not pitiful stay by which it hung should oppose please his senses and unbounded desires, so the likelihood that it would, to a mere possimuch as otherwise he might and would have bility that it might not, what could the man done, had he not lived under the captivity and enjoy or taste of his rich banquet, with all check of such a belief. This is the utmost this doubt and horror working in his mind ? which he suffers : but whether this be a real Though a man's condition should be really evil or no, (whatsoever vulgar minds may in itself never so safe, yet an apprehension commonly think it,) shall be discoursed of and surmise that it is not safe, is enough to afterwards.

make a quick and a tender reason sufficiently 2. But then, again, on the other side, it is miserable. Let the most acute and learned

« AnteriorContinuar »