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Secondly, The meritorious procuring cause of this judgment in the foregoing verse, to wit, "their not receiving the love of the truth."

Where it is manifest, that by the words "truth" and "a lie," are not to be here meant all truth and falsehood, generally or indefinitely speaking, nor yet more particularly all that is true or false upon a philosophical account. For these truths or falsehoods the apostle does not in this place concern himself about; but such only as belong properly to religion, with reference to the worship of Almighty God, and the salvation of men's souls. In a word, by truth here is meant nothing else but the gospel, or doctrine of Christianity; nothing being more frequent with the inspired penmen of Holy Writ, than to express the Christian religion by the name of truth; and that sometimes absolutely, and without any epithet or addition, and sometimes with some additional term of specification; as in Titus, i. 1, it is called, "the truth according to godliness;" and in Ephes. iv. 15, "the truth as it is in Jesus;" with the like in several other places. So that still the great ennobling characteristic of the gospel is truth-truth eminently and transcendently such; and for that cause, by a distinguishing excellency, called "the truth;" from whence, by irrefragable consequence, it must also follow, that whatsoever is not truth can be no part of Christian religion, -a bottom so firm and sure for Christianity to rest upon, that it cannot be placed upon a surer and more unshakeable; besides this farther advantage accruing to it thereby, that as truth and goodness, by an eternal, indissoluble union, (as strong as nature, or rather as the God of nature, can make it,) stand essentially and inseparably combined, and even identified with one another; so, upon the same account, we may be assured, that the goodness of the gospel cannot but adequately match and keep pace with the truth of it; both of them being perfectly commensurate, both of them equally properties of it, equally included in and flowing from its very constitution. So that the gospel being thus held forth to the world, as the liveliest representation and fullest transcript of those two glorious perfections of the divine nature, to wit, its truth and goodness, it must needs, by the first of them, recommend itself to our understandings, as the most commanding object of our esteem, and by the other to our wills, as the most endearing object of our choice.

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This, I say, seems to me to take in the main, if not whole design of the words; for the better prosecution of which, I shall cast what I have to say upon them under these following particulars; as,

I. I shall shew how the mind of man can believe a lie.

II. I shall shew, what it is to receive the love of the truth.

III. I shall shew how the not receiving the love of the truth comes to have such an

influence upon the understanding or judgment, as to dispose it to error and delusions.

IV. I shall shew how God can be properly said to send such delusions.

V. Since his sending them is here mentioned as a judgment, (and that a very great one too,) I shall shew wherein the greatness of it consists. And,

VI. and lastly, I shall improve the point into some useful consequences and deductions from the whole.

Of each of which in their order. And, I. For the first of them; to shew, how the mind of man can believe a lie. There is certainly so great a suitableness between truth and a human understanding, that the understanding of itself can no more believe a lie, than the taste, rightly disposed, can pronounce a bitter thing sweet. The formal cause of all assent is the appearance of truth; and if a lie is believed, it can be so no farther than as it carries in it the appearance of truth. But then, what and whence are these appearances? Appearance, no doubt, is a relative term, and must be between two; for one thing could not be said to appear, if there were not another for it to appear to. So that there must be both an object and a faculty, before there can be an appearance; and consequently, from one of these two must spring all falsehood at any time belonging to it. But the question is, from which of them? And in answer to it, it is certain, that the object itself cannot cause a false appearance of itself. For if so, when the mind has conceived a false apprehension of God, God, who is the object, would be the cause of that false apprehension. But it is certain, that objects operate not efficiently upon the faculties; for if they should, since the object is the same to all, namely, both those who entertain true, and those who entertain false apprehensions of it, it would be impossible for the same thing, so far as it is the same, to produce such contrary effects. It is the same body which appears to one of such a shape, and to another of a quite different. And therefore the difference must needs be on the beholder's side, and rest in the faculty of perception, not in the thing perceived. This we may pronounce confidently and truly, that the object duly circumstantiated is never in fault, why it is not rightly apprehended. Objects are merely passive; and if they were

not so, men would certainly be both learneder and better than they are; for neither can learning nor religion thrust itself into the heads or hearts of men, whether they will or no. Truth shews itself to be truth, and falsehood represents itself as falsehood, (and so far is a good representer,) whether men apprehend them so or no. For the object is not to be condemned for the failures of the faculty, any more than a man, who speaks audibly and intelligibly, is to be blamed for not being heard -nobody being bound to find words and ears too.

Well then, since a lie cannot be believed, but under the appearance of truth, and since a lie cannot give itself any such appearance, it is evident, that if any man believes a lie, it is from something in himself that he does so. There are lies, errors, and heresies about the world, both plausible and infinite, but then they naturally appear what they are; and if truth be naked to the skin, error is and must be so to the bone; and the fairest falsehood cau no more oblige assent, than the best dressed evil can oblige the choice.

And thus having given both falsehood, and the devil, the father of it, their due, and cleared even the grossest lie from being the cause that it is believed, and thereby left it wholly at the door of him who believes it; let us in the next place inquire, what may be the causes on the believer's part, which make any object, and particularly a lie, appear otherwise to him than really it is, and upon that account gain his belief. Now these are two,

1. An undue distance between the faculty and its proper object.

2. An indisposition in the faculty itself. And,

1. For the first of these. As approximation is one necessary condition of perception; so, too much distance prevents and hinders it, by setting the object too far out of our reach: and if the apprehensive faculty offers at an object so placed, and falls short of the apprehension of it, the fault is not in the object, but in that. And here, by distance, I mean not only an interval in point of local position, which, if too great, certainly hinders all corporeal perception; but likewise a distance, or rather disparity, of natures, such as is between finite and infinite, material and spiritual beings, consisting in the great disproportion there is between one and the other. And from hence it is, that the mind of man is incapable of apprehending any thing almost of God, or indeed of angels, the distance between their natures being so exceeding great. For though God, as the evangelist Saint Luke tells us in Acts, xvii. 27, "be not far from every one of us;" nay, as it is in the next verse, that he is so near, or rather intimate to us, "that in him we live, and move, and have our being," so that it is as impossible for us to exclude him,

as it is to comprehend him; yet still the vast difference of his nature from ours makes the distance between them so unspeakably great, that neither can our corporeal nor intellectual powers form any true idea of him. And from hence it is, that there is nothing about which the mind and apprehensive faculties of man have so frequently and foully blundered, as about the divine nature and persons, and (what is founded upon both) the divine worship. But,

2. The other cause, which makes any object, and particularly a lie, appear otherwise than really it is, is the indisposition of the intellectual faculty; which indisposition, in some degree or other, is sure to follow from sin, both original and actual. For so much as there is of deviation from the eternal rules of right reason or morality in the soul, so much there will, of necessity, be of darkness in it too; and so much of darkness as there is in it, so far must it be unavoidably subject to pass a false judgment upon most things that come before it. Otherwise there is nothing in reason, considered purely and simply as such, which is or can be unsuitable to religion, or indeed to the nature of any thing; but so much the contrary, that if we could imagine a man all reason, without any bias from his sensitive part, it were impossible but that, upon the first sufficient offer, he should, as we may so express it, with both arms embrace religion. But the case has been much altered since the fall of our first parents, and the fatal blow thereby given to all the powers of men's minds, besides the farther debilitation and distemper brought upon it by many actual and gross sins; so that now the understandings of men are become like some bodily eyes, disabled from an exact discernment of their proper object, both by a natural weakness and a supervening soreness too.

And thus I have accounted for the true cause which sometimes prostitutes the noble understanding of man to the lowest of dishonours, the belief of a lie, namely, either the remoteness of the faculty (whether in point of distance or difference) from its object, or some weakness or disorder in it; either of which will be sure to pervert its operation: and then a fault in the first apprehension of any thing will not fail to produce a false judgment, and that a false belief likewise about the same. And so I proceed to the

Second particular proposed, namely, to shew what it is to receive the love of the truth.

And this we shall find implies in it these two things,

1. A high esteem and valuation of the real worth and excellency of it; this is the first and leading act of the mind. Truth must be first enthroned in our judgment, before it can reign in our desires; and as it is the leading faculty, so it is the measure of

the rest for no man's love of any thing can rise above his esteem of it, nor can his appetites exert themselves upon any object not first vouched by his apprehensions. For which cause, the Holy Ghost in Scripture, the better to advance religion in our thoughts, represents it by things of all others the most highly accounted of in the world, as crowns, thrones, kingdoms, hidden treasure, and the like; all which expressions, though far from being intended according to the strict and philosophical truth of things, but rather as allusions to them, yet still were founded in the universally acknowledged course of nature, which ever was and will be, for men first allured by the worth of things, before they can desire the property or possession of them, and to consider the value, before they design the purchase. But be the matter as it may, our affections, to be sure, will bid nothing for any thing, till our judgment has set the price. Thus Saint Paul evinces his love to Christ from his transcendent esteem of him; "I account all things," says he, "but dung and dross, that I may win Christ," (Phil. iii. 8.) And he who accounts a thing as dung, will no doubt trample on it as such. The rule of contrarieties will be found a clear illustration of the case. For hatred generally begins in contempt, or something very like it; and it is certain in matter of fact, as well as reason, that we leave off to love any thing or person, as soon as we begin to despise them. He who in scorn turns away his eye from looking upon an object, will hardly be brought to reach out his hand after it. Let a man therefore set his understanding faculty on work, and put it to examine and consider, to view and review the intrinsic value of religion, what it is and what it offers, before he proceeds to make it his portion so far, as to be ready to quit all the world for it, should they both come to rival his choice as competitors; let him, I say, by a strict and impartial inquiry, descend into himself, and see whether he can upon these terms (for lower and easier it knows none) judge it absolutely eligible; and if not, let him assure himself, that without a passport from the judgment, it will never gain a free and full admittance into the affections. For still it is through the eye that love enters into the heart: nay, so mighty an influence has the judging faculty in this case, that it is much disputed, whether the last dictate of the judgment about any object does not necessarily determine and draw after it the choice of the will; and perhaps there is scarce any point of moral philosophy of a nicer speculation and a harder decision: for as the affirmation of this, on the one side, seems to border upon stoicism, and to intrench upon the freedom of the will, which, after the supposal of all things requisite to its acting, ought nevertheless still to retain a power to

exert or not exert an act of volition; so, on the other side, to affirm, that after the understanding has made the last proposal of the object to the will, the will may yet refuse it, and go contrary to it, seems to infer this great inconvenience, that the will, in order to its acting, needs not the preceding act or conduct of the intellect to make a sufficient proposal of the object to it, since, after it is so proposed, it may notwithstanding divert its actings quite another way; and then, if it can in this manner proceed without a guide, the will is not so blind a faculty as the schools make it. For he who goes one way, when his guide directs him another, manifestly shews that he both can and does go without him. But I shall dispute this point no farther, it being, as I conceive, sufficient for our present purpose, that the act of the understanding proposing the object, must of necessity precede, whether the act or choice of the will follow it or no. Though for my own part cannot see that the holding the necessity of the will's following the last dictate or proposal of the understanding does at all prejudice its freedom, (which is rather opposed to co-action from without, than to a determination from within ;) forasmuch as it was in the power of the will to have diverted the understanding from its application to any object, before it came to form its last judgment of it; and consequently, the whole proceeding of the understanding being under the free permission of the will, the act of the will closing with this last determination was originally and virtually free, though formally and immediately, in this latter sense, necessary. As God necessarily does what he first absolutely decreed, and yet the whole act is free, since the decree itself was the free issue and result of his will. But I beg pardon, if I have dwelt too long upon this point. It was, because I thought it requisite to shew what is the part and office, and how great the force and power, of the understanding, in recommending the truths of religion to the souls of men; that so they may not acquiesce in a slight, superficial judgment or apprehension of them; which, we may rest satisfied, will never have any considerable effect, or work any thorough change upon the heart; and if so, all will come to nothing; for the foundation is ill laid, and the superstructure cannot be firm. And upon this account, no doubt, it is, that the Scripture ascribes so much to faith; indeed, in effect, the whole work of man's salvation; and yet it is but an act of the understanding, and, properly and strictly speaking, can be no more: yet nevertheless, of such a mighty and controlling influence upon the will is it, that if it be strong, vigorous, and of the right kind, it draws the whole soul after it, and works all those wonders which stand recorded of it in the 11th of the Hebrews, which from first to

.ast is but a panegyric upon the invincible strength and heroic achievements of this grace. In a word, if a man, by faith, can bring his understanding to receive and entertain the divine truths of the gospel, so as to look upon the promises of it as conveying the greatest good and happiness to man that a rational nature is capable of, and the threatenings of it as denouncing the bitterest and most insupportable evils that a created being can sink under, and both of them as things of certain and infallible event; this is for a man truly to value his religion, and to lay such a foundation of it in his judgment, as shall never disappoint or shame his practice. Accordingly,

in the

Second place, the other thing implied in and intended by the receiving the love of the truth, is the choice of it, as a thing transcendently good, and particularly agreeable to our condition. Generals, we commonly say, are fallacious; but it is certain that they are always faint. And therefore it is not merely what is good, as to the general notion of it, (which can minister to little more than bare theory and discourse,) but particularly what is good for me, which must engage my practice. To esteem a thing, we have shewn, is properly an act of the understanding; but to choose it, is the part and office of the will. And choosing is a considerable advance beyond bare esteem; forasmuch as it is the end of it, and consequently perfects it, as the end does every action which is directed to it. It is the most proper, genuine, and finishing act of love. For the great effect of love is to unite us to the thing we love; and the will is properly the uniting faculty, and choice the uniting act, which brings the soul and its beloved object together. Judgment and esteem, indeed, is that which offers and recommends it to the soul; but it is choice which makes the match. For the truth is, the soul of man can do no more, nor reach farther, than first to esteem an object, and then to choose it. And therefore, till we have made religion our fixed choice, it only floats in the imagination, and is but the business of talk and fancy. But it is the heart, after all, which must appropriate and take hold of the great truths of Christianity for its portion, its happiness, and chief good. And then, and not till then, a man is practically and in good earnest a Christian; and that which before was but notion and opinion, hereby passes into reality and experience; and from a mere name, into the nature and substance of religion. For still, if a man would make his faith or religion a vital principle for him to live and act by, it must be such an one as the apostle tells us "works by love;" there must be something of this blessed flame to invigorate and give activity to it. But where a man neither loves nor likes the thing he believes, it is odds

but in a little time he be brought also to cast off the very belief itself; and, in the mean while, it is certain, that it can have no efficacy, no operation or influence upon his life or actions; which is worse than no belief at all; for better, a great deal, none, than to no purpose.

And thus having shewn what is meant by and implied in the "receiving the love of the truth," it may, I conceive, help us to an easy and natural account of its opposite or contrary; to wit, the rejecting, or not receiving the same; the great sin, as we before observed, for which the persons here in the text stand concluded under so severe a doom. For the farther explication of which, we may very rationally suppose the condition of those men to have been this, namely, that upon the preaching of Christianity, the truth of it quickly overpowered their assent, and broke in upon their apprehensions with the highest evidence and conviction; but the searching purity and spirituality of the same doctrines equally encountering their worldly interests and their predominant beloved corruptions, soon caused in their minds a secret loathing of the severity of those truths, and so by degrees a direct hatred and hostility against them, as the great disturbers of those pleasures, and interrupters of the caresses of those lusts, which had so bewitched their hearts and seized their affections. It is wonderful to consider what a strange combat and scuffle there is in the soul of man, when clear truths meet with strong corruptions; one faculty or power of it embracing a doctrine, because true; and another, with no less fury, rising up against it, because severe and disagreeable. Thus, what should be the reason that those high and excellent precepts of Christianity, requiring purity of heart, poverty of spirit, chastity of mind, hatred of revenge, and the like, find so cold reception, or rather so sharp a resentment in the world? Is it because men think they are not truths? By no means; but because they are severe, grating, uneasy truths; they believe them sufficiently, and more than they desire, but they cannot love them; and for that reason, and no other, they are rejected and thrown aside in the lives and practices of men; not because they cannot or do not convince their understandings, but because they thwart and bid defiance to their inclinations. Truth is so connatural to the mind of man, that it would certainly be entertained by all men, did it not by accident contradict some beloved interest or other. The thief hates the break of day; not but that he naturally loves the light, as well as other men; but his condition makes him dread and abhor that which, of all things, he knows to be the likeliest means of his discovery. Men may sometimes frame themselves to hear and attend to the mortifying truths of Chris

they are farthered and confirmed by a frequent converse with it, and so by degrees come to have the general notions of reason endeared and made familiar to the mind by renewed acts of attention and speculation; which ceasing, if a falsehood comes recommended to the soul with any advantage, that is to say, with agreeableness, though without argument, it is ten to one but it enters, and takes possession. And then the poison is infused; let the man get it out again as he can. He who will not insist attentively and closely upon the examination of any truth, is never like to have his mind either clearly informed of it, or firmly united to it. For want of search is really and properly the keeping off the due approximation of the object, without which a true apprehension of it is impossible. So that if a man has corrupt affections, averse to the purity and excellency of any truth, it is not imaginable that they will suffer his thoughts to dwell long upon it, but will do their utmost to divert and carry them off to some other object, which he is more inclined to and enamoured with; and then, what wonder is it, if, under such circumstances, the mind is betrayed by the bias of the affections, and so lies open to all the treacherous inroads of fallacy and imposture? As for instance, he whose corrupt nature is impatient of any restraint from morality or religion, will be sure to keep his mind off from them as much as possibly he can; he will not trouble himself with any debates or discourses about the truth or evidence of such things as he heartily wishes were neither evident nor true. In a word, he will not venture his meditations upon so unwelcome and so afflicting a subject. And thus having rid mself of such notions, the contrary documents of atheism and immorality still bringing with them a compliance with those affections which all thoughts of religion were so grievous to, will soon find an easy, unresisted admittance into an understanding, naked and unguarded against the several arts and stratagems of the grand deceiver. A man indeed may be sometimes so surprised, as not to be able to prevent the first apprehension and sight of a truth; but he is always able to prevent the consideration of it; without which the other can work upon him very little. For though apprehension shews the object, it must be consideration which applies it. But again,

tianity; but then they hear them only as they use to hear of the death of friends, or the story of a lost estate; they are true, but troublesome and vexatious: so often does the irksomeness of the thing reported make men angry with the truth of the report, and sometimes with the very person of the reporter too. And therefore, let none wonder, if God inflicts so signal a judgment upon this sort of sin for when men shall resolutely reject clear, pregnant, and acknowledged (as well as important) truths, only because they press hard upon their darling sin, and would knock them off from the pleasing embraces of the world and the flesh, and from dying in them; what do they clse but sacrifice the glory of their nature, their reason, to their brutality? and make their noblest perfections bow down, and stoop to their basest lusts? What do they, I say, but crush and depress truth, to advance some pitiful, sensual pleasure in the room of it; and so, like Herod, strike off the Baptist's head, only to reward the dances of a strumpet? This is the great load of condemnation which lies so heavy upon the world, as Saint John tells us, "that men see the light, but love darkness;" bend before the truth of a doctrine, but abhor its strictness and spirituality: the doctrine of Christianity being in this, like that forerunner of Christ just now mentioned by us, who was indeed, as our Saviour himself styled him, a "shining," but withal a "burning light." And as the shining both of the one and the other, in the glorious evidence of truth beaming out from both, could not but, even in spite of sin and all the powers of darkness, be infinitely pleasing to all who had the sight thereof; so its burning quality exerting itself in the searching precepts of self-denial and mortification, was, no doubt, to all vicious and depraved minds, altogether as tormenting and intolerable. And so I proceed to the

Third particular proposed by us; which was to shew, how the not receiving the love of the truth into the will and affections, comes to dispose the understanding to error and delusion. Now, I conceive, it may do it these following ways.

1. By drawing off the understanding from fixing its contemplation upon a disgusted offensive truth. For though it is not in the power of the will, when the understanding apprehends a truth clearly and distinctly, to countermand its assent to it; yet it has so great an influence upon it, that it is able antecedently to hiuder it from taking that truth into a full and thorough consideration. And while the mind is not taken up with an actual attention to the truth proposed to it, so long it is obnoxious to the offers and impressions of the contrary error. For the first adherencies, or rather applications of the soul to truth, are very weak and imperfect, till

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2. A will vitiated, and grown out of love with the truth, disposes the understanding to error and delusion, by causing in it a prejudice and partiality in all its reflections upon and discourses about it. He who considers of a thing with prejudice, has judged the cause before he hears it, and decided the matter, not as really it is, but as it either crosses or comports with the principles which he is already prepossessed with: the understanding,

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