Imágenes de páginas

3. The third and last reason which I shall assign for proving that the will's not embracing the love of the truth, betrays the understanding to error and delusion, is from the peculiar malignity which is in every vice, or corrupt affection, to darken and besot the mind, the vous, the great guide and superintendant of all the faculties of the soul; for so near a connection, or rather cognation is there between the moral and intellectual perfection of it, (as I have elsewhere observed*,) that a great flaw in the former never fails in the issue to affect the latter; though possibly how this is done is not so easily accounted for. Nevertheless, that irrefragable argument, experience, sufficiently proves many things to be so, which it is not able to explain, nor indeed pretends to. Aristotle has observed of the vices of the flesh, (and his observation is in a great degree true of all other,) that they do peculiarly cloud the intellect, and debase a man's notions, emasculate his reason, and weaken his discourse; and, in a word, make him, upon all these accounts, much less a man than he was before. And for this cause, no doubt, has the same author declared young men, in whom the forementioned sort of vices is commonly most predominant, not competent auditors of moral philosophy, as having turned the force of their minds to things of a quite contrary nature. But this mischief reaches much farther; for sure it is, that when wise men (be their years what they will) become vicious men, their wisdom leaves them; and there appears not that keenness and briskness in their apprehensive and judging faculties, which had been all along observed in them, while attended with temperance, and guarded with sobriety. So that, upon this fatal change, they do not argue with that strength, distinguish with that clearness, nor, in any matter brought into debate, conclude with that happiness and firmness of result, which they were wont to do.

Shew me so much as one wise counsel or action of Marcus Antonius, a person otherwise both valiant and eloquent, after that he had subdued his understanding to his affections, and his affections to Cleopatra. How great was Lucullus in the field, and how great in the academy! But, abandoning himself to ease and luxury, Plutarch tells us that he survived the use of his reason, grew infatuated, and doted long before he died, though he died before he was old.

All which tends to demonstrate, that such is the nature of vice, that the love thereof entering into the will, and thrusting out the love of truth, it is no wonder, if the understanding comes to sink into infatuation and delusion; the ferment of a vicious inclination lodged in the affections, being like an intoxicating liquor received into the stomach, from

in such a case, being like the eye of the body, viewing a white thing through a red glass; it forms a judgment of the colour, not according to the thing it sees, but according to that by which it sees. And upon the like account it is, that the will and the affections never pitch upon any thing as odious, but that sooner or later they bribe the judgment to represent it to them as ugly too. We know the miracles, the astonishing works, and excellent discourses of our Saviour could not strike the hearts of those whom he preached to, through the mighty prejudice they had conceived against his person and country. But that they still opposed all, even the most cogent and demonstrative arguments he could bring for his doctrine, with that silly exception, Is not this the carpenter's son ?" And that one ridiculous proverb, "that no good could come out of Galilee," (as slight as it was,) yet proved strong enough to obstruct their assent, and arm their minds against that high conviction and mighty sway of evidence, which shined forth in all his miraculous works; so that this senseless saying alone fully answered, or (which was as effectual for their purpose) absolutely overbore them all. In like manner, we find it elsewhere observed by our Saviour himself, of that selfish, rotten, and yet demure generation of men, the Pharisees, that "they could not believe, because they received honour one of another," (John, v. 44.) They had, it seems, bewitched the people into an extravagant esteem and veneration of their sanctity, and by that means had got no small command over their purses, their tables, and their families; nay, and more than ordinary footing and interest in the Jewish court itself. So that they ruled without control, getting the highest seats in synagogues, that is, in their chief assemblies or consistories; and they loved also to feed as high as they sat, still providing themselves with the best rooms, and not the worst dishes (we may be sure) at feasts. Nor would ever such pretenders have fasted twice a-week, but that they knew it afforded them five days besides to feast in; so that having thus found the sweets of a crafty, long-practised hypocrisy, from which they had reaped so many luscious privileges, they could not but have an horrible prejudice against the strictness of that doctrine, which preached nothing but self-denial, humility, and a contempt of the honours and emoluments of the world, which they themselves so passionately doted upon; and therefore no wonder if they threw it off as a fable and an imposture, though recommended with all the attestations of divine power, which had in them a fitness to inform or convince the reason of man. So far did the corruption of their will advance their prejudice, and their prejudice destroy their judgment. But,

→ See Sermon XXVI, where this subject is more professedly and largly treated of.

whence it will be continually sending thick clouds and noisome steams up to the brain. Filth and foulness in the one will be sure to cause darkness in the other. Was ever any one almost observed to come out of a tavern, an alehouse, or a jolly meeting, fit for his study, or indeed for any thing else, requiring stress or exactness of thought? The morning, we know, is commonly said to be a friend to the muses, but a morning's draught was never so. And thus having done with the third particular proposed from the text, come we now to the

Fourth; namely, to shew, how God can be properly said to send men delusions. "God," says the apostle, 1 John i. 5, "is light, and in him there is no darkness at all." And that which in no respect is in him, cannot, we may be sure, proceed from him. Upon which account, it must needs be very difficult to shew and demonstrate, how God can derive ignorance, darkness, and deception into the minds of men. And the great difficulty of giving a rational and good account of this and such like instances, drove Manes, an early heretic, with his followers, (called all along the Manichees, or Manicheans,) to assert two first, eternal, independent beings, one the cause of all good, the other the cause of all evil; as concluding, that the evil which is in the world must needs have some cause, and that a being infinitely good could not be the cause of it; and consequently, that there must be some other principle from the malignity of whose influence flowed all the ignorance, all the wickedness and villainy, which either is or ever was in the world. But the generally received opinion of the nature of evil, namely, that it is but a mere privation of good, and consequently needs not an efficient, but only a deficient cause, as owing its production and rise, not to the force, but to the failure of the agent; this consideration, I say, has rendered that notion of Manes, of a first independent principle of evil, as useless and impious in divinity, as it is absurd in philosophy.

that there was one universal soul belonging to the whole species, or race of mankind, and indeed to all things else according to their capacity: which universal soul, by its respective existence in, and communication of itself to each particular man, did exert in him those noble acts of understanding and ratiocination proper to his nature; and those also in a different degree and measure of perfection, according as the different crasis or disposition of the organs of the body made it more or less fit to receive the communication of that universal soul; which soul only (by the way) they held to be immortal; and that every particular man, both in respect of body and spirit, was mortal; his spirit being nothing else but a more refined disposition and elevation of matter.

This principle therefore being thus removed, let us see how it can comport with the goodness and absolute purity of the divine nature, to have such effects ascribed to it, and how, without any derogation to the glorious attribute of God's holiness, he can be said to send the delusions, mentioned in the text, into the minds of men. Now, I conceive, he may be said to do it these four ways.


Others, detesting the impiety of this opinion, did allow to every individual person a distinct immortal soul, and that also endued with the power and faculty of understanding and discourse inherent in it. But then, as to the soul's use and actual exercise of this faculty, upon their observing the great difference between the same object, as it was sensible, and affected the sense, and as it was intelligible, and moved the understanding, they held also the necessity of another principle without the soul, to advance the object, a gradu sensibili ad gradum intelligibilem," as they speak, and so to make it actually fit to move and affect the intellect. And this they called an intellectus agens; so that although the soul was naturally endued with an intellective power, yet, by reason of the great distance of material corporeal things from the spiritual nature of it, it could never actually apprehend them, till this intellectus agens did irradiate and shine upon them, and so prepare and qualify them for an intellectual perception. And this intellectus agens, some, and those none of the lowest form in the Peripatetic school, have affirmed to be no other than God himself, that great light which enlightens not only every man, but every thing (according to its proportion) in the world.

The result and application of which discourse to my present purpose is this; that certainly those great masters of argument and knowledge could not but have seen some weighty and considerable reasons thus to interest an ex


*For it is ascribed to no less persons than to Plato, and Aristotle after him, (as borrowing it from him,) and that by several of the most eminent interpreters of the latter, both

1. First, by withdrawing his enlightening ancient and modern; all of them proceeding upon this ground, influence from the understanding. This, I that in order to the actual intellection of any object, there is a spiritual intellectual light necessary to enable the object to confess, may seem at first an obscure, enthumove or affect the intellective faculty, which yet the object siastic notion to some; but give me leave to cannot give to itself, nor yet strike or move the said faculty shew, that there is sufficient ground for it in without it. And therefore they say, that there is required an reason. And for this purpose, I shall observe intellectus agens, or being distinct both from the object and the to you, that it was the opinion of some philofaculty too, which may so advance and spiritualize the object, by casting an higher light upon it, as to render it fit and sophers, particularly of Aristotle, and since prepared thereby, for an intellectual perception. And forashim of Averroes, Avicenna, and some others, much as every thing which is such or such secondarily, and

which were wont to enliven his reason in all his discourses and argumentations. Certain it is, that this frequently happens; and that the wit and parts of men, "who hold the truth in unrighteousness," are often blasted, so that there is a visible decay of them, a strange unusual weakness and failure in them; and this not to be ascribed to any known cause in the world, but to the just judgment of God stopping that eternal fountain from which they had received their continual supplies. This to me seems very intelligible, and equally rational: and accordingly may pass for the first way, by which God may be said to send delusion into the minds of men. But,

2. God may be said to do the same, by giving commission to the great deceiver, and spirit of falsehood, to abuse and seduce the sinner. A signal and most remarkable example of which we have in 1 Kings xxii. 22. When Ahab was grown full ripe for destruction, we find this expedient for his ruin pitched upon; namely, that he was to be persuaded to go up to Ramoth-Gilead, to fall there. But how and by what means was this to be effected? Why, the text tells us, that "there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And God said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also go forth, and do so." We see here the evil spirit sent forth, and fully empowered by Almighty God to accomplish his delusions upon a bold, incorrigible sinner. And what method God took then, we cannot deny, or prove it unreas easonable, but that he may take still, where the same sins prepare and fit men for the same perdition.

by participation from another, supposes some other to be so primarily and originally by and from itself; and since God is the primum intelligibile in the intellectual world; as the sun is the primum visibile in the sensible and material world; they affirm the same necessity of a superior and intellectual light issuing from God, in order to move the intellect, and form in it an intellectual apprehension of things, which there is of a light beaming from the sun, for the causing an act of vision in the visive faculty. And this they insist upon, not only as a similitude for illustration, but as a kind of parallel case, as to this particular instance, how widely soever the things compared may differ from one another upon many other accounts. This, I say, was held by several of the most noted of the Peripatetic tribe; though others, I know, who are professedly of the same, do yet in this matter go quite another way; allowing indeed that there is and must be an intellectus agens, but that it is no more than a different faculty of the same soul, or a different function of the same faculty; but by no means an agent, or intelligent being distinct from it. This, I confess, is of very nice speculation, and made so by the arguments producible on both sides, and consequently not so proper to make a part in such a popular discourse as I am here engaged

How the Devil conveys his fallacies to the minds of men, and by what ways and arts he befools their understandings, I shall not here dispute; nor, being sure of the thing itself, from the word of God, that it is so, shall I be much solicitous about the manner how. But thus much we may truly, and, by consequence, safely say, that since it is too evident that the devil can make false resemblances and representations of things pass before our bodily eyes, so that we shall be induced to believe that we see that, which physically and indeed we do not see; why may he not also suggest false images of things both to the imagination and to the intellectual eye of the mind, (as different as they are from one another,) and so falsify our notions, and disorder our apprehensions? It is plainly asserted, (2 Cor. iv. 4,) that "the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not." The great

in; nor should I have ever mentioned it barely as a philo- sophister and prince of darkness (God per

sophical point, but as I conceived it improvable into a theological use, as I have endeavoured to improve it in the discourse itself; to which therefore I have chose rather to annex this by way of annotation, than to insert it in the body thereof.

mitting him) can strangely blindfold our reason and muffle our understanding; and, no doubt, the chiefest cause that most of the

ternal principle in the intellectual operations of man's mind. And so much of reason do I, for my part, reckon to be at the bottom of this opinion, that I have been often induced to think, that if we should but strip things of mere words and terms, and reduce notions to realities, there would be found but little difference (so far as it respects man's understand ing) between the intellectus agens asserted by some philosophers, and the universal grace, or common assistances of the Spirit, asserted by some divines, (and particularly by John Goodwin, calling it, "the pagans' debt and dowry;") and that the assertors of both of them seem to found their several assertions upon much the same ground; namely, upon their apprehension of the natural impotence of the soul of man, immersed in matter, to raise itself to such spiritual and sublime operations, as we find it does, without the assistance of sonie higher and divine principle. And accordingly, this being admitted, that the soul is no otherwise able to exert its intellectual acts, than by a light continually flowing in upon it, from the great fountain of light, (whether that light assists it by strengthening the faculty itself, or brightening the object, or both, it matters not, since the result of both, as to the main issue of the action, will be the same ;) I say, this being admitted, that God beams this light into man's understanding, and that, as a free agent, by voluntary communications; so that he may withdraw or suspend what he thus communicates, as he pleases; how natural, how agreeable to reason is it to conceive, that God, being provoked by gross sins, may deliver the sinner to delusion and infatuation, by a suspension and substraction of this light? For may not God blast the understanding of such an one, by shutting up those influences

obstinate besotted sinners of the world, are not sensible that the devil blinds and abuses them is, that he has indeed actually done so already.

For how dreadfully did God consign over the heathen world to a perpetual slavery to his deceits! They worshipped him, they consulted with him, and so absolutely were they sealed up under the ruling cheat, that they took all his tricks and impostures for oracle and instruction. And the truth is, when men under the powerful preaching of the gospel, (such as the Church of England has constantly afforded,) will grow heathens in the viciousness of their practices, it is but just with God to suffer them (by a very natural transition) to grow heathens too in the grossness of their delusions.

3. A third way by which God may be said to send men delusions is, by a providential disposing of them into such circumstances of life, as, through a peculiar suitableness to their corruption, have in them a strange efficacy to delude and impose upon them. God, by a secret, unobserved trace of his providence, may cast men under a heterodox, seducing ministry, or he may order their business and affairs so, that they shall light into atheistical company, grow acquainted with heretics, or possibly meet with pestilent books, and with arguments subtilly and speciously urged against the truth all which falling in with an illinclined judgment and worse-ordered morals, will wonderfully recommend and set off the very worst of errors to a mind thus prepared for their admission; no guard being sufficient to hinder their entering, and taking possession, but where caution and virtue keep the door. The want of which quality has been the grand, if not sole cause, which in all ages has brought so many over to, and in the issue settled and confirmed them in some of the foulest sects and absurdest heresies that ever infested the Christian church; and so deeply have the wretches drank in the delusion, that they have lived and died in it, and transmitted the surviving poison of it to posterity. And yet, as far and wide as such heresies have reigned and raged in their time, aud as woful a havock as they have made of souls, they have been often taken up at first by mere accident, or upon some slight, trivial, unprojected occasion, no less unperceivable in their rise, than afterward formidable in their progress. But as what is said of affliction (Job, v. 6,) may with equal truth and pertinence be said of every notable event, bad as well as good, namely, that it "comes not out of the dust," so the direction of all such small and almost undiscernible causes to such mighty effects as often follow from them, can proceed from nothing but that all-comprehending Providence which casts its superintending eye and governing influence over all,

even the most minute and inconsiderable passages in the world; inconsiderable indeed in themselves, but in their consequences by

no means so.

And therefore, as we find it expressed of him who kills a man unwillingly, and by some undesigned stroke or accident, that "God delivers that man into his hands," (Exod. xxi. 13,) so when a man, by such odd, unforeseen ways and means as we have before mentioned, comes to be drawn into any false, erroneous belief or persuasion, it may, with as true and solid consequence, be affirmed, that by all this God sends such a man a delusion. As for instance, when, by the special disposal of God's providence, Hushai the Archite suggested that counsel to Absalom, (2 Sam. xvii. 11, 12,) which he believed, and followed to his destruction, we may say, and that neither improperly nor untruly, that God sent him that deception; for it is expressly added in the fourteenth verse, that "God had appointed to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that he might bring evil upon Absalom." Likewise how emphatically full and pregnant to the same purpose is that instance of a false prophet accustomed to deceive himself and others, (Ezek. xiv. 9.) “If the prophet," says God, be deceived when he has spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet." God here names and appropriates the action to himself by a way of proceeding incomprehensible indeed, but unquestionably just.

Let this therefore pass for a third way by which God delivers over a sinner to error and circumvention. Which point I shall conclude with those exclamatory words of Saint Paul, so full of wonder and astonishment, (Rom. xi. 33,) "How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" So many windings and turnings, so many untraceable meanders are there in the providence of God, to carry on the delusion of those sinners who have been first so sedulous and industrous to delude themselves. In all which passages, nevertheless, (how unaccountable soever they may be to us,) still the delusion is in him alone who embraces it a sin, but in God, who sends it, undoubtedly a judgment only, and a very righteous one too. And now, in the


Fourth and last place; we are not to omit another notable way of God's delivering sinners to delusion, which is mentioned in the ninth verse of the chapter from whence our text is taken; namely, his permitting lying wonders to be done before them. A miracle, in a large and general sense, is no more but "effectus aliquis manifestus, cujus causa ignoratur;" a manifest effect, of which the cause is not understood: but, in a more restrained and proper sense, it is defined a work or effect evident to sense, and exceeding the force of

natural agents. Now, whether such an one can be done to confirm and give credit to a falsehood proposed to men's belief, God lending his power for the trial of men, to see, or rather to let the world see, whether they will be drawn off from the truth or no, may well be disputed; though that place in Deut. xiii. 1, 2, seems shrewdly to make for the affirmative.

But as for that former sort of miracles, which indeed are only strange things causing wonder, and so may proceed from mere natural causes applying activa passivis, there is no question, but such as these may be done to confirm a false doctrine or assertion. Thus, when Pharaoh hardened his heart against the express command and declared will of God, God permitted him to be confirmed in his delusion by the enchantments and lying wonders of the magicians; all which were done only by the power of the devil. Forasmuch as angels, both good and bad, having a full insight into the activity and force of natural causes, by new and strange conjunctions of the active qualities of some with the passive capacities of others, can produce such wonderful effects as shall generally amaze and astonish poor mortals, whose shorter sight is not able to reach into the causes of them.


great light and power held forth to us.
if we shall now obstinately shut our eyes
against it, stave it off, and bolt it out of our
consciences; and all this only from a secret
love to some base minion lust or corruption,
which that truth would mortify, and root out
of our hearts; let us remember, that this is
the very height of divine vengeance, that
those who love a lie should be brought at
length to believe it, and, as a natural conse-
quent of both, to perish by it too.

Which God, the great Fountain of truth, and Father of lights, of his infinite compassion prevent. To whom be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.



The Church of Rome has, in this respect, sufficiently declared the little value she has for the old Christian truth, by the new, upstart articles she has superadded to it; and besides this, to confirm one error with another, she farther professes a power of doing miracles. So that, laying aside the writings of the apostles, we must, it seems, resolve our faith into legends; and old wives' fables must take place of the histories of the evangelists. And the truth is, if nonsense may pass for miracle, transubstantiation has carried her miracleworking gift far above all the miracles that were ever yet wrought in the world. But as for the many other miraculous feats which she and her sons pretend to and boast of, I shall only say thus much of them, that though I doubt not but most of them are the impudent cheats of daring, designing persons, set afoot and practised by them to defy God, as well as to delude men; yet it is no ways improbable, but that God may suffer the devil to do many of them above what a bare human power is able to do, and that in a judicial and penal way, thereby to fix and rivet both the deceivers and deceived in a belief of those lies and fopperies, which, in opposition to the light of reason and conscience, they had so industriously enslaved their understandings to.

And now, I think, it is of as high concernment to every man, as the salvation of his soul ought to be, to reflect with dread upon these severe and fearful methods of divine justice. We, through an infinite and peculiar mercy, have yet the truth set before us; the pure, unmixed truth of the gospel, with

Sixthly and lastly, to improve the point into some useful consequences and deductions from the whole.



2 B


"And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie."-2 THESS. ii, 11.

WHEN I first made an entrance upon these words, I gathered the full sense and design of them, as I judged, into this one proposition, namely,

That the not entertaining a sincere love and affection for the duties of religion, naturally, and by the just judgment of G also, disposes men to error and deceptions about the great truths of religion.

Which to me seeming to take in and comprehend the full sense and drift of the words, I then cast what I had to say upon them into these following particulars.

I. To shew, how the mind of man cau believe a lie.

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

III. To shew, how the not receiving the love of the truth comes to have such a malign influence upon the understanding, as to dispose it to error and delusion.

IV. To shew, how God can be properly said to send men delusions. And,

V. Since his sending them is here mentioned as a judgment, (and a very severe one too,) the next thing I proposed was to shew wherein the extraordinary greatness of it did consist. And,

« AnteriorContinuar »