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unbeliever demonstrate that there is no hell; and if he can, he sins so much the more rationally; otherwise, if he cannot, the case remains doubtful at least; but he who sins obstinately, does not act as if it were so much as doubtful; for if it were certain and evident to sense, he could do no more; but for a man to found a confident practice upon a disputable principle, is brutishly to outrun his reason, and to build ten times wider than his foundation. In a word, I look upon this one short consideration, were there no more, as a sufficient ground for any rational man to take up his religion upon, and which I defy the subtlest atheist in the world solidly to answer or confute; namely, that it is good to be sure. And so I proceed to the
Third and last supposition, under which the principles of religion may, for argument sake, be considered; and that is, as false; which surely must reach the utmost thoughts of any atheist whatsoever. Nevertheless, even upon this account also, I doubt not but to evince, that he who walks uprightly walks much more surely than the wicked and profane liver; and that with reference to the most valued temporal enjoyments, such as are reputation, quietness, health, and the like, which are the greatest which this life affords, or is desirable for. And,
how odious, as well as infamous is such an one! especially if he be arrived at that consummate and robust degree of falsehood, as to play in and out, and shew tricks with oaths, the sacredest bonds which the conscience of man can be bound with; how is such an one shunned and dreaded, like a walking pest! What volleys of scoffs, curses, and satires, are discharged at him! so that let never so much honour be placed upon him, it cleaves not to him, but forthwith ceases to be honour, by being so placed; no preferment can sweeten him, but the higher he stands, the farther and wider he stinks.
1st, For reputation or credit. Is any one nad in greater esteem than the just person, who has given the world an assurance, by the constant tenor of his practice, that he makes conscience of his ways, that he scorns to do an unworthy or a base thing; to lie, to defraud, to undermine another's interest, by any sinister and inferior arts? And is there any thing which reflects a greater lustre upon a man's person, than a severe temperance, and a restraint of himself from vicious and unlawful pleasures? Does any thing shine so bright as virtue, and that even in the eyes of those who are void of it? For hardly shall you find any one so bad, but he desires the credit of being thought what his vice will not let him be; so great a pleasure and convenience is it, to live with honour and a fair acceptance amongst those whom we converse with; and a being without it is not life, but rather the skeleton or caput mortuum of life; like time without day, or day itself without the shining of the sun to enliven it.
On the other side, is there any thing that more imbitters all the enjoyments of this life than shame and reproach? Yet this is generally the lot and portion of the impious and irreligious; and of some of them more especially.
For how infamous, in the first place, is the false, fraudulent, and unconscionable person! and how quickly is his character known! For hardly ever did any man of no conscience continue a man of any credit long. Likewise,
In like manner, for the drinker and debauched person; is any thing more the object of scorn and contempt than such an one? His company is justly looked upon as a disgrace; and nobody can own a friendship for him without being an enemy to himself. A drunkard is, as it were, outlawed from all worthy and creditable converse. Men abhor, loathe, and despise him, and would even spit at him as they meet him, were it not for fear that a stomach so charged should something more than spit at them.
But not to go over all the several kinds of vice and wickedness; should we set aside the consideration of the glories of a better world, and allow this life for the only place and scene of man's happiness, yet surely Cato will be always more honourable than Clodius, and Cicero than Catiline. Fidelity, justice, and temperance will always draw their own reward after them, or rather carry it with them, in those marks of honour which they fix upon the persons who practise and pursue them. It is said of David, (1 Chron. xxix. 28,) “that he died full of days, riches, and honour ;" and there was no need of a heaven, to render him in all respects a much happier man than Saul. But in the
2d place, The virtuous and religious person walks upon surer grounds than the vicious and irreligious, in respect of the ease, peace, and quietness which he enjoys in this world; and which certainly make no small part of human felicity. For anxiety and labour are great ingredients of that curse which sin has entailed upon fallen man. Care and toil came into the world with sin, and remain ever since inseparable from it, both as to its punishment and effect.
The service of sin is perfect slavery; and he who will pay obedience to the commands of it shall find it an unreasonable taskmaster, and an unmeasurable exactor.
And to represent the case in some particulars. The ambitious person must rise up early and sit up late, and pursue his design with a constant, indefatigable attendance; he must be infinitely patient and servile, and obnoxious to all the cross humours of those whom he expects to rise by; he must endure and digest
THE PRACTICE OF RELIGION ENFORCED BY REASON.
all sorts of affronts; adore the foot that kicks him, and kiss the hand that strikes him; while, in the meantime, the humble and contented man is virtuous at a much easier rate; his virtue bids him sleep, and take his rest, while the other's restless sin bids him sit up and watch. He pleases himself innocently and easily, while the ambitious man attempts to please others sinfully and difficultly, and perhaps in the issue unsuccessfully too.
The robber, and man of rapine, must run, and ride, and use all the dangerous and even desperate ways of escape; and probably, after all, his sin betrays him to a gaol, and from thence advances him to the gibbet; but let him carry off his booty with as much safety and success as he can wish, yet the innocent person, with never so little of his own, envies him not, and if he has nothing, fears him not. person Likewise the cheat and fraudulent put to a thousand shifts to palliate his fraud, and to be thought an honest mau; but surely there can be no greater labour than to be always dissembling, and forced to maintain a constant disguise, there being so many ways by which a smothered truth is apt to blaze and break out; the very nature of things making it not more natural for them to be, than to appear as they be. But he who will be really honest, just, and sincere in his dealings, needs take no pains to be thought so; no more than the sun needs take any pains to shine, or when he is up, to convince the world that it is day.
settling an ungrounded, odious, detestable in-
But in the meantime, the labour of obe-
3d and last place, The religious person walks upon surer grounds than the irreligious, Virtue is a friend and a help to nature; but in respect of the very health of his body. it is vice and luxury that destroys it, and the diseases of intemperance are the natural product of the sins of intemperance. Whereas, on the other side, a temperate, innocent use of or a surfeit. Chastity makes no work for a the creature, never casts any one into a fever bones. Sin is the fruitful parent of dischirurgeon, nor ever ends in rottenness of tempers, and ill lives occasion good physicians. families, (where men live plentifully, and eat Seldom shall one see in cities, courts, and rich and drink freely,) that perfect health, that which is commonly seen in the country, in athletic soundness and vigour of constitution, poor houses and cottages, where nature is their cook, and necessity their caterer, and where they have no other doctor, but the sun and the fresh air, and that such an one as never sends them to the apothecary. It has been none lived such healthful and long lives, as observed in the earlier ages of the church, that monks and hermits, who had sequestered themworld, to a constant ascetic course of the selves from the pleasures and plenties of the severest abstinence and devotion.
And here again, to bring in the man of luxury and intemperance for his share in the pain and trouble, as well as in the forementioned shame and infamy of his vice. Can any toil or day-labour equal the fatigue or drudgery which such an one undergoes, while he is continually pouring in draught after draught, and cramming in morsel after morsel, and that in spite of appetite and nature, till he becomes a burden to the very earth that bears him; though not so great an one to that, but that (if possible) he is yet a greater to himself?*
And now, in the last place, to mention one sinner more, and him a notable, leading sinner indeed, to wit, the rebel. Can any thing have more of trouble, hazard, and anxiety in it, than the course which he takes? For, in the first place, all the evils of war must unavoidably be endured, as the necessary means and instruments to compass and give success to his traitorous designs. In which, if it is his lot to be conquered, he must expect that vengeance that justly attends a conquered, disarmed villain; for when such an one is vanquished, his sins are always upon him. But if, on the contrary, he proves victorious, he will yet find misery enough in the distracting cares of
See Sermon I. p. 6.
Nor is excess the only thing in which sin mauls and breaks men in their health, and the but many are also brought to a very ill and comfortable enjoyment of themselves thereby, and idleness is both itself a great sin and the The husbandman relanguishing habit of body, by mere idleness, cause of many more. turns from the field, and from manuring his ground, strong and healthy, because innocent no boxes of pills, nor galley-pots, amongst his and laborious; you will find no diet-drinks, provisions; no, he neither speaks nor lives French, he is not so much a gentleman, forsooth. His meals are coarse and short, his employment warrantable, his sleep certain and refreshing, neither interrupted with the
lashes of a guilty mind, nor the aches of a crazy body. And when old age comes upon him, it comes alone, bringing no other evil with it but itself; but when it comes to wait upon a great and worshipful sinner, (who for many years together has had the reputation of eating well and doing ill,) it comes (as it ought to do to a person of such quality) attended with a long train of rheums, coughs, catarrhs, and dropsies, together with many painful girds and achings, which are at least called the gout. How does such an one go about, or is carried rather, with his body bending inward, his head shaking, and his eyes always watering (instead of weeping) for the sins of his illspent youth. In a word, old age seizes upon such a person, like fire upon a rotten house it was rotten before, and must have fallen of itself; so that it is no more but one ruin preventing another.
Thirdly and lastly, That notwithstanding all this, sin has yet in itself a natural tendency to bring men under all these evils; and, if persisted in, will infallibly end in them, unless hindered by some unusual accident or other, which no man, acting rationally, can steadily build upon. It is not impossible but a man may practise a sin secretly, to his dying day; but it is ten thousand to one, if the practice be constant, but that at some time or other it will be discovered; and then the effect of sin discovered, must be shame and confusion to the sinner. It is possible also, that a man may be an old healthful epicure; but I affirm also, that it is next to a miracle if he be so; and the like is to be said of the several instances of sin hitherto produced by us. In short, nothing can step between them and misery in this world, but a very great, strange, and unusual chance, which none will presume of who walks surely.
And so, I suppose that religion cannot
possibly be enforced (even in the judgment of its best friends and most professed enemies) by any farther arguments than what have been produced, (how much better soever the said arguments may be managed by abler hands.) For I have shown and proved, that whether the principles of it be certain, or but probable, nay, though supposed absolutely false, yet a man is sure of that happiness in the practice, which he cannot be in the neglect of it; and consequently, that though he were really a speculative atheist, (which there is great reason to believe that none perfectly are,) yet if he would but proceed rationally, that is, if (according to his own measures of reason) he would but love himself, he could not however be a practical atheist; nor live without God in this world, whether or no he expected to be rewarded by him in another.
And now, to make some application of the foregoing discourse, we may, by an easy but sure deduction, conclude and gather from it these two things,
First, That that profane, atheistical, epicurean rabble, whom the whole nation so rings of, and who have lived so much to the defiance of God, the dishonour of mankind, and the disgrace of the age which they are cast upon, are not indeed, (what they are pleased to think and vote themselves,) the wisest men in the world; for in matters of choice, no man can be wise in any course or practice in which he is not safe too. But can these high assumers, and pretenders to reason, prove themselves so amidst all those liberties and latitudes of practice which they take? Can they make it out against the common sense and opinion of all mankind, that there is no such thing as a future estate of misery for such as have lived ill here? Or can they persuade themselves that their own particular reason, denying or doubting of it, ought to be relied upon as a surer argument of truth than the universal, united reason of all the world besides affirming it? Every fool may believe and pronounce confidently; but wise men will, in matters of discourse, conclude firmly, and, in matters of practice, act surely; and if these will do so too in the case now before us, they must prove it, not only probable, (which yet they can never do,) but also certain, and past all doubt, that there is no hell, nor place of torment for the wicked; or at least that they themselves, notwithstanding all their villainous and licentious practices, are not to be reckoned of that number and character, but that, with a non obstante to all their revels, their profaneness, and scandalous debaucheries of all sorts, they continue virtuosoes still; and are that in truth, which the world in favour and fashion (or rather by an antiphrasis) is pleased to call them.
In the meantime, it cannot but be matter
of just indignation to all knowing and good meu, to see a company of lewd, shallowbrained huffs, making atheism and contempt of religion the sole badge and character of wit, gallantry, and true discretion; and then over their pots and pipes, claiming and engrossing all these wholly to themselves; magisterially censuring the wisdom of all antiquity, scoffing at all piety, and, as it were, new-modelling the whole world. When yet, such as have had opportunity to sound these braggers throughly, by having sometimes endured the penance of their sottish company, have found them in converse so empty and insipid, in discourse so trifling and contemptible, that it is impossible but that they should give a credit and an honour to whatsoever and whomsoever they speak against: they are, indeed, such as seem wholly incapable of entertaining any design above the present gratification of their palates, and whose very souls and thoughts rise no higher than their throats; but yet withal, of such a clamorous and provoking impiety, that they are enough to make the nation like Sodom and Gomorrah in their punishment, as they have already made it too like them in their sins. Certain it is, that blasphemy and irreligion have grown to that daring height here of late years, that had men in any sober civilized heathen nation spoke or done half so much in contempt of their false gods and religion, as some in our days and nation, wearing the name of Christians, have spoke and done against God and Christ, they would have been infallibly burnt at a stake, as monsters and public enemies of society.
The truth is, the persons here reflected upon are of such a peculiar stamp of impiety, that they seem to be a set of fellows got together, and formed into a kind of diabolical society, for the finding out new experiments in vice; and therefore, they laugh at the dull, inexperienced, obsolete sinners of former times; and, scorning to keep themselves within the common, beaten, broad way to hell, by being vicious only at the low rate of example and imitation, they are for searching out other ways and latitudes, and obliging posterity with unheard-of inventions and discoveries in sin; resolving herein to admit of no other measure of good and evil but the judgment of sensuality, as those who prepare matters to their hands, allow no other measure of the philosophy and truth of things, but the sole judgment of sense. And these, forsooth, are our great sages, and those who must pass for the only shrewd, thinking, and inquisitive men of the age; and such, as by a long, severe, and profound speculation of nature, have redeemed themselves from the pedantry of being conscientious, and living virtuously, and from such old fashioned principles and creeds, as tie up the minds of some narrow
spirited, uncomprehensive zealots, who know not the world, nor understand that he only is the truly wise man, who, per fas et nefas, gets as much as he can.
But, for all this, let atheists and sensualists satisfy themselves as they are able. The former of which will find, that as long as reason keeps her ground, religion neither can nor will lose hers. And for the sensual epicure, he also will find that there is a certain living spark within him, which all the drink he can pour in will never be able to quench or put out; nor will his rotten abused body have it in its power to convey any putrifying, consuming, rotting quality to the soul: no, there is no drinking, or swearing, or ranting, or fluxing a soul out of its immortality. But that must and will survive and abide, in spite of death and the grave; and live for ever to convince such wretches, to their eternal wo, that the so much repeated ornament and flourish of their former speeches, "God damn 'em," was commonly the truest word they spoke, though least believed by them while they spoke it.
2dly, The other thing deducible from the foregoing particulars, shall be to inform us of the way of attaining to that excellent privilege, so justly valued by those who have it, and so much talked of by those who have it not, which is assurance. Assurance is properly that persuasion or confidence which a man takes up of the pardon of his sins, and his interest in God's favour, upon such grounds and terms as the Scripture lays down. But now, since the Scripture promises eternal happiness and pardon of sin upon the sole condition of faith and sincere obedience, it is evident that he only can plead a title to such a pardon whose conscience impartially tells him that he has performed the required condition. And this is the only rational assurance which a man can with any safety rely or rest himself upon.
He who in this case would believe surely, must first walk surely; and to do so is to walk uprightly. And what that is, we have sufficiently marked out to us in those plain and legible lines of duty, requiring us to demean ourselves to God humbly and devoutly, to our governors obediently, and to our neighbours justly, and to ourselves soberly and temperately. All other pretences being infinitely vain in themselves, and fatal in their
It was, indeed, the way of many in the late times, to bolster up their crazy, doating consciences, with (I know not what) odd confidences, founded upon inward whispers of the Spirit, stories of something which they called conversion and marks of predestination-all of them (as they understood them) mere delusions, trifles, and fig-leaves, and such as would be sure to fall off and leave them naked before that fiery tribunal, which knows no
other way of judging men but according to their works.
Obedience and upright walking are such substantial, vital parts of religion, as, if they be wanting, can never be made up, or commuted for, by any formalities of fantastic looks or language. And the great question, when we come hereafter to be judged, will not be, How demurely have you looked? or, How boldly have you believed? With what length have you prayed? and, With what loudness and vehemence have you preached? But, How holily have you lived? and, How uprightly have you walked? For this, and this only, (with the merits of Christ's righteousness) will come into account before that great Judge, who will pass sentence upon every man according to what he has done here in the flesh, whether it be good, or whether it be evil; and there is no respect of persons with him.
of nothing, and only in the number of possibilities, and consequently could have nothing to recommend him to Christ's affection, nor shew any thing lovely, but what he should afterwards receive from the stamp of a preventing love. Yet even then did the love of Christ begin to work, and to commence in the first emanations and purposes of goodness towards man; designing to provide matter for itself to work upon, to create its own object, and, like the sun in the production of some animals, first to give a being, and then to shine upon it.
2dly, Let us take the love of Christ as directing itself to man actually created and brought into the world; and so all those glorious endowments of human nature in its original state and innocence, were so many demonstrations of the munificent goodness of him by whom God first made, as well as afterwards redeemed the world. There was a consult of the whole Trinity for the making of man, that so he might shine as a masterpiece, not only of the art, but also of the kindness of his Creator; with a noble and a clear understanding, a rightly disposed will, and a train of affections regular and obsequious, and perfectly conformable to the dictates of that high and divine principle, right reason. So that, upon the whole matter, he stepped forth, not only the work of God's hands, but also the copy of his perfections; a kind of iinage or representation of the Deity in small. Infinitely contracted into flesh and blood; and (as I may so speak) the preludium and first essay towards the incarnation of the divine nature. But,
3dly, and lastly, Let us look upon man, not only as created and brought into the world with all these great advantages superadded to his being, but also as depraved, and fallen from them; as an outlaw and a rebel, and one that could plead a title to nothing but to the highest severities of a sin-revenging justice. Yet even in this estate also, the boundless love of Christ began to have warm thoughts and actings towards so wretched a creature, at this time not only not amiable, but highly odious.
While, indeed, man was yet uncreated and unborn, though he had no positive perfection to present and set him off to Christ's view, yet he was at least negatively clear, and, like unwritten paper, though it has no draughts to entertain, yet neither has it any blots to offend the eye, but is white, and innocent, and fair for an after-inscription. But man, onco fallen, was nothing but a great blur, nothing but a total universal pollution, and not to be reformed by any thing under a new creation.
Yet, see here the ascent and progress of Christ's love. For first, if we consider man in such a loathsome and provoking condition, was it not love enough that he was spared and