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The four first of these I have already despatched in the preceding discourse upon this text and subject, and so shall now proceed to
Fifth, which was to shew, wherein the extraordinary and distinguishing greatness of this judgment did consist. For it is certain, that the text here accounts and represents it above the ordinary rate of judgments commonly sent by God.
And this, I conceive, will remarkably shew itself to such as shall consider it these two ways.
1. Absolutely in itself.
2. In the consequents of it.
Under the first of which two considerations, the peculiar dreadfulness of this judgment will more than sufficiently appear, upon these two accounts: as,
1. That it is spiritual; and so directly affects and annoys the prime and most commanding part of man's nature, his soul; that noble copy and resemblance of its Maker, in small indeed, but nevertheless one of the liveliest representations of him, that the God of nature ever drew; and that in some of his greatest and most amiable perfections. And if so, can any thing be imagined to come so like a killing blast upon it, as that which shall at once strip it of this glorious image, and stamp the black portraiture of the foulest of beings in the room of it? Besides, since nothing can either please or afflict to any considerable degree, but by a close and intimate application of itself to a subject capable of such impressions, still it must be the spirituality of a judgment, which, entering where body and matter cannot, is the only thing that can strike a man in his principal capacity of being miserable; and, consequently, in that part which enables him (next to the angels themselves) to receive and drink in more of the wrath, as well as love of God, than any other being whatsoever. In a spiritual, uncompounded nature, the capacities of pain and pleasure must needs be equal; though in a corporeal, or compounded one, the sense of pain is much acuter, and goes deeper than that of pleasure is ever found to do. Accordingly, as to what concerns the soul or spirit, no doubt, our chief passive, as well as active strengths are lodged in that; though it being an object too near us to be perfectly apprehended by us, we are not able in this life to know distinctly what a spirit is, and what it can bear, and what it cannot. But our great Creator, who exactly knows our frame, and had the first ordering of the whole machine, knows also where and by what a soul or spirit may be most sensibly touched and wounded, better a great deal than we, who are animated and acted by that soul, do or can. And therefore, where he designs the severest strokes of his wrath, we may be sure, that it is this spiritual
part of us which must be the great scene where such tragical things are to be acted. So that, if an angry Providence should at any time smite a sinner in his nearest teinporal concerns, we may nevertheless look upon such an infliction, how sharp soever, but as a drop of scalding water lighting upon his hand or foot; but when God fastens the judgment upon the spirit, or inner man, it is like scalding lead poured into his bowels, it reaches him in the very centre of life; and where the centre of life is made the centre of misery too, they must needs be commensurate, and a man can no more shake off his misery than he can himself.
Every judgment of God has a force more or less destructive, according to the quality and reception of the thing which it falls upon. If it seizes the body, which is but of a mortal and frail make, and so, as it were, crumbles away under the pressure, why then the judgment itself expires through the failure of a sufficient subject or recipient, and ceases to be predatory, as having nothing to prey upon. But that which comes out of its Creator's hands immaterial and immortal, endures and continues under the heaviest stroke of his wrath; and so is able to keep pace with the infliction (as I may so express it) both by the largeness of its perception and the measure of its duration. He who has a soul to suffer in, has something by which God may take full hold of him, and upon which he may exert his anger to the utmost. Whereas, if he levels the blow at that which is weak and mortal, the very weakness of the thing stricken at will elude the violence of the stroke; as when a sharp, corroding rheum falls upon the lungs, that part being but of a spongy nature, and of no hard substance, little or no pain is caused by the distillation; but the same falling upon a nerve fastened to the jaw, or to a joint, (the consistency and firmness of which shall give force to the impression,) it presently causes the quickest pain and anguish, and becomes intolerable. A cannon bullet will do terrible execution upon a castle-wall or a rampart, but none at all upon a wool-pack.
The judgments which God inflicts upon men are of several sorts, and intended for several ends, and those very different. Some are only probative, and designed to try and stir up those virtues which before lay dormant in the soul. Some again are preventive, and sent to pull back the unwary sinner from the unperceived snares of death, which he is ignorantly approaching to. And some, in the last place, are of a punitive or vindictive nature, and intended only to recompense or revenge the guilt of past sins; as part of the sinner's payment in hand, and as so many foretastes of death, and earnests of damnation.
Accordingly, we are to observe, that the malignity of spiritual judgments consists chiefly in this, that their end, most commonly, is neither trial nor prevention, but vengeance and retribution. They are corrosives, made not to heal, but to consume. And surely, such an one is the judgment of being sealed up under a delusion. Sampson, we read, endured many hardships and affronts, and yet sunk under none of them; but when an universal sottishness was fallen upon all his faculties, and God's wonted presence had forsook him, he presently became, as to all the generous purposes of life and action, an useless and a ruined person.
Whereas, on the other side, suppose that God should visit a man with extreme poverty; yet still, he who is as poor as Job, may be as humble, as patient, and as pious as Job too; and such qualities will be always accounted pearls and treasures, though found upon the vilest dunghill: or what if God should dash a man's name and reputation, and make him a scorn and a by-word to all who know him; yet still the shame of the cross was greater, and one may be made the way and passage to a crown, as well as the other. It was so, we are assured, to our great spiritual head; and why may it not, in its proportion, prove the same likewise to his spiritual members? For the conjunction between them is intimate, and the inference natural. Or what, again, if God should think fit to smite a man with sores, sickness, and noisome ulcers in his body? yet even these, as offensive as they are, cannot unqualify a Lazarus for Abraham's bosom. And so for all other sorts of calamities incident to this mortal state; should we ransack all the magazines of God's temporal judgments, not one of them all, nor yet all of them together, can reach a man in that, which alone can render him truly happy or miserable. For "though the mountains" (as the Psalmist expresses it)" should be carried into the sea," and the whole world about him should be in a flame, yet still (as Solomon says) "a wise and a good man shall be satisfied from himself;" his happiness is in his own keeping; he has it at home, and therefore needs not seek for it abroad. But,
word fool draws blood, and nothing but death is thought an equivalent to the slander: forasmuch as it carries in it an insulting negative upon that, which constitutes the person so charged properly a man; every degree of ignorance being so far a recess and degradation from rationality, and consequently from humanity itself. Nor is this any modern fancy or caprice lately taken up, but the constant and unanimous consent of all nations and ages. For what else, do we think, could make the heathen philosophers so infinitely laborious, and, even to a miracle, industrious in the quest of knowledge? What was it that engrossed their time, and made them think neither day nor night, nor both of them together, sufficient for study? But because they reckoned it a base and a mean thing to be deceived, to be put off with fallacy and ap pearance instead of truth and reality, and overlooking the substance and inside of things, to take up with mere shadow and surface. It was a known saying of the ancients, ¿ò σώματος νόσον, ἀπὸ ψυχῆς ἀμάθειαν. Keep off ignorance from thy soul, as thou wouldst a disease or a plague from thy body. For when a man is cursed with a blind and a besotted mind, it is a sure, and therefore a sad sign, that God is leading such an one to his final doom: it is both the cause and the forerunner of his destruction. For when the malefactor comes once to have his eyes covered, it shews that he is not far from his execution. In a word, he who has sunk so far below himself, as to have debased the governing faculties of his soul, and given up his assent to an imperious, domineering error, is fit for nothing but to be trumped and trampled upon, to be led by the nose, and enslaved to the designs of every bold encroacher, either upon his interest or his reason. And such, he may be sure, he shall not fail to meet with; especially, if his lot casts him upon a country abounding with public, countenanced, religious cheats, both natives and foreigners, broachers of heresies, leaders of sects, tools and under-agents to our Romish back-friends, who can willingly enough allow them all conventicles for the only proper places to serve God in, and the church, if need be, to serve a turn by; of which and the like impostors, it may be truly said, with reference to their abused proselytes, that they wear and carry the trophies of so many captivated reasons about them; that they clothe themselves with the spoil of their wretched intellectuals, and so, in effect, tread the very heads of their disciples under their feet. This is the treatment which they are sure to find from such sanctified deceivers ; these the returns, which delusion, submitted to, still rewards her votaries with. And may God, I beseech him, in his just judg ment, order matters so, that such practices and such rewards may inseparably accom
2. The greatness of the judgment of being brought under the power of a delusion, consists not only in the spirituality of it, whereby it possesses and perverts the whole soul in all the powers and offices of it, but more particularly, that it blasts a man in that peculiar, topping perfection of his nature, his understanding for ignorance and deception are the very bane of the intellect, the disease of the mind, and the utmost dishonour of reason: there being no sort of reproach which a man resents with so keen and so just an indignation, as the charge of folly. The very
pany and join one another, not only by an occasional, but by a fixed and perpetual communion.
In the mean time, if slavery be that which all generous and brave spirits abhor; and to lose the choicest of nature's freeholds, and that in the most valuable of things, their reason, be the worst of slaveries; then surely it must be the most inglorious condition that can befall a rational creature, to be possessed, rid, and governed by a delusion. For still (as our Saviour has told us in John, viii. 32,) "it is the truth which must make us free;" the truth only, which must give a man the enjoyment, the government, and the very possession of himself. In a word, truth has set up her tribunal in the soul, and sitting there as judge herself, there can be no exception against her sentence, nor appeal from her authority.
But besides all this, there is yet something farther, which adds to the misery of this kind of slavery and captivity of the mind under error; and that is, that it has a peculiar malignity to bind the shackles faster upon it, by a strange, unaccountable love, which it begets of itself, in a man's affections. For no man entertains an error, but, for the time that he does so, he is highly pleased and enamoured with it, and has a more particular tenderness and fondness for a false notion than for a true, (as some for a bastard, more than for a son ;) for error and deception, by all (who are not actually under them) are accounted really the naduess of the mind. And madness, it must be owned, naturally keeps off melancholy, (though often caused by it.) For it makes inen wonderfully pleased with their own extravagancies; and few, how much soever out of their wits, are out of humour too in bedlam.
the mind of man has a vehement and pas sionate love for, but it is so far enslaved, and brought into bondage to that thing. And if so, can there be a greater calamity, than for so noble a being as the soul is, to love and court the dictates of a commanding absurdity? Nothing certainly being so tyrannical as ignorance, where time, and long possession enables it to prescribe; nor so haughty and assuming, where pride and self-conceit bids it set up for infallible.
Now the reason of this different acceptableness of truth and error in the first offers of them to the mind, and the advantage which the latter too often gets over the former, is, I I conceive, from this, that it is natural for error to paint and daub, to trim, and use more of art and dress to set it off to the mind, than truth is observed to do. Which, trusting in its own native and substantial worth, scorns all meretricious ornaments, and knowing the right it has to our assent, and the indisputable claim to all that is called reason, she thinks it below her to ask that upon courtesy, in which she can plead a property; and therefore rather enters than insinuates, and challenges possession instead of begging admission. Which being the case, no wonder if error, oiled with obsequiousness, (which generally gains friends, though deserves none worth having,) has often the advantage of truth, and thereby slides more easily and intimately into the fool's bosom, than the uncourtliness of truth will suffer it to do. But then, again, we are to observe withal, that there is nothing which
But now, to close this point, by shewing how vastly the understanding differs from itself, when informed by truth, and when abused by error; let us observe how the scripture words the case, while it expresses the former by a state of light, and the latter by a state of darkness. Concerning both which, as it i evident that nothing can be more amiable suitable, and universally subservient both to the needs and to the refreshments of the creature, than light: so nothing is deservedly accounted so dismal, hateful, and dispiriting, as darkness is; darkness, I say, which the scripture makes only another word for the shadow of death; and always the grand opportunity of mischief, and the surest shelter of deformity. For though to want eyes be indeed a great calamity, yet to have eyes and not to see, to have all the instruments of sight and the curse of blindness together, this is the very height and crisis of misery, and adds a sting and a reproach to what would otherwise be but a misfortune. For nothing envenoms any calamity, but the crime which deserves it.
I come now to consider the distinguishing greatness of the judgment of God's sending men strong delusion, by taking a view of the effects and consequents of it; and we need cast our eyes no farther than these two. As,
1. That it renders the conscience utterly useless, as to the great office to be discharged by it in the regulation and supervisal of the whole course of a man's life. A blind watchman (all must grant) is equally a nuisance and an impertinence. And such a paradox, both in reason and practice, is a deluded conscience, namely, a counsellor who cannot advise, and a guide not able to direct. Nothing can be more clo and proper to the point now before us, than that remark of our Saviour in Matth. vi 23, “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great must that darkness be!" Why, as great, no doubt, and of as fatal consequence to the affairs and government of the microcosm, or lesser world, as if, in the greater, God should put out the sun, and establish one great, universal cloud in the room of it; or as if the moon and stars, instead of governing the night, should be governed by it, and the noble influences of the one should, for usefulness, give place to the damps and deadening shades of the other. All which would quickly be granted to be monstrous and
preposterous things; and yet not more so, than to imagine a man guided by a benighted conscience in the great concerns of eternity; and to have that put out, which God had set up as the sovereign light of the soul, to sit and preside there as the great pilot to steer us in all our choices, and to afford us those standing discriminations of good and evil, by which alone a rational agent can proceed warrantably and safely in all his actions.
As for the will and the affections, they are made to follow and obey, not to lead or to direct. Their office is not apprehension, but appetite; and therefore the schools rightly affirm, that the will, strictly and precisely considered, is cæca potentia, a blind faculty. And therefore, if error has perverted the order and disturbed the original economy of our faculties, and a blind will thereupon comes to be led by a blind understanding, there is no remedy, but it must trip and -tumble, and sometimes fall into the noisome ditch of the foulest enormities and immoralities. But now, whether this be not one of the highest instances of God's vindictive justice, thus to confound a man with au erroneous, deceived conscience, a little reflection upon the miseries of one in such a condition will easily demonstrate. For see the tumult and anarchy of his mind; having done a good and a lawful action, his conscience alarms him with scruples, with false judgments and anxious reflections; and perhaps, on the other hand, having done an act in itself evil and unlawful, the same conscience excuses and acquits him, and soothes him into such complacencies in his sin, as shall prevent his repentance, and so ascertain his perdition. But now, what shall a deluded person do in this sad dilemma of sin and misery?"For, if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who can prepare himself for the battle?" If it sounds a charge when it should sound a retreat, how can the soldier direct his course? But being thus befooled by the very methods and means of safety, must of necessity find himself in the jaws of death before he is aware, and betrayed into his enemy's hands, without any possibility of help or relief from his own. In like manuer, where a delusion enters so deep into, and gets such fast hold of the conscience, that it corrupts or justles out the first marks and measures of lawful and unlawful, and thereby overthrows the standing rules of morality; a man, in such a woful and dark estate, can hardly be accounted in the number of rational agents: for if he does well, it is by chance, neither by rule nor principle; nor by choice, but by luck and if, on the contrary, he does ill, yet he is not assured that he does so, being acted, in all that he goes about, by a blind impetus, without either forecast or distinction. Both the good and evil of his actions is brutish and accidental, and in the whole
course of them he proceeds as if he were throwing dice for his life, or at cross and pile for his salvation. And this brings me to the other killing consequence, wherein appears the greatness of this judgment of being delivered over to a delusion. And that is,
2. Final perdition, mentioned by the apostle in the verse immediately following the text. "God," says he, "shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth." This is the utmost period to which delusion brings the sinner, but no less than what was intended by it from the very first. Every error is in the nature of it destructive. I do not say that it always actually destroys; since the tendency of an action is one thing, but the event another. For as in the body there is hardly any sore or distemper, (how curable soever by art or physic,) but what in the malignity of its nature, and the utmost improvement of that malignity, tends to the ruin and demolition of the whole constitution; so in the soul there is no considerable error which at any time infects it, (especially if it disposes to practice,) but, being suffered to continue and exert its progressive and diffusive quality, will be still spreading its contagion, and by degrees eating into the conscience, till it festers into a kind of spiritual gangrene, and becomes mortal and incurable.
I must confess, I cannot imagine that those heretics who err fundamentally, and by consequence damnably, took their first rise, and began to set up with a fundamental error, but grew into it by insensible encroaches and gradual insinuations, inuring, and as it were training up their belief to lesser essays of falsehood, and proceeding from propositions only suspicious, to such as were false, from false to dangerous, and at length from dangerous to downright destructive. Hell is a deep place, and there are many steps of descent to the bottom of it; many obscure vaults to be passed through before we come to utter darkness. But still the way of error is the way to it. And as surely and naturally as the first dusk and gloom of the evening tends to, and at last ends in the thickest darkness of midnight, so every delusion, sinfully cherished and persisted in, (how easily soever it may sit upon the conscience for some time,) will, in the issue, lodge the sinner in the deepest hell and the blackest regions of damnation, And so I come to the
Sixth and last thing proposed for the handling of the words; and that was to draw some useful consequences and deductions from the five foregoing particulars, As,
First of all. Since the belief of a lie is here undoubtedly noted for a sin; and since Almighty God in the way of judgment delivers men to it for "not receiving the love of
the truth;" it follows, by most clear and
Besides, if we weigh and distinguish things exactly, when the envious man groans under the gnawings and convulsions of his base sin, and the lewd person suffers the brand and disrepute of his vice; in all this, sin is not properly punished with sin; but the evil of envy is punished with the trouble of envy, and the sin of intemperance with the infamy of intemperance: but neither is a state of trouble, nor a state of disgrace or infamy, properly a state of sin; these are natural, not moral evils; and opposed to the quiet and tranquillity, not to the virtue of the soul; for a man may be virtuous without either ease or reputation. This way, therefore, is short of resolving the problem inquired into, which precisely moves upon this point, namely, Whether for the guilt of one sin God can, by way of penalty, bring the sinner under the guilt of another?
other places pregnant to the same purpose, both in the Old Testament and the New. From all which it is certain, that God may make one sin the punishment of another. Though still it is to be remembered, that it is one thing for God to give a man over to sin, and quite another for God to cause him to sin; the former importing in it no more than God's providential ordering of a man's circumstances, so that he shall find no check or hinderance in the course of his sin; but the latter implying also a positive efficiency towards the commission or production of a sinful act, which God never does nor can do; but the other he both may, and in a judicial very often does.
To the argument therefore alleged, I answer thus; that it is very consonant both to Scripture and reason, to distinguish in one and the same thing several respects; and accordingly in sin we may consider the moral irregularity of it; and so being in the very nature of it evil, it is impossible that there should be any good in it; or we may consider sin as to the penal application of it to the person who committed it, and as a means to bring the just judgment of God upon him for what he had done; and so some good may be said to belong to it, though there be none at all in it.
Or to express the same thing otherwise, and perhaps more clearly and agreeably to vulgar apprehensions. Sin may be considered either, 1st, with reference to the proper cause of it, the will of man committing or producing it, and so it is absolutely and entirely evil. Or, 2dly, it may be considered as it relates to the supreme Judge and Governor of the world, permitting, ordering, disposing, and overruling the existence and event of it, to the honour of his wisdom and justice; and so far it may be called good, and consequently sustain the nature of a punishment proceeding from God. But you will reply, Can sin be any ways good? I answer, that naturally and intrinsically it cannot; but extrinsically, accidentally, and occasionally, as ordered to a subserviency to God's glory, it may; and the providence of God is no farther concerned about it; that is to say, it is good and just, that God should so order and dispose of an obstinate sinner, (as he did once of Pharaoh,) that he should, through his own corruption, fall into farther sin, in order to his farther punishment: but surely this does by no means infer, that the sins he thus falls into are good, though God's ordering of them may be so ; and darkness will be darkness still, though God can and often does bring light out of it. That the Jews having rejected the gospel so powerfully preached to them, should be delivered to hardness of heart and final impenitence, was just, and by consequence good. But is from inferring, that their hardness of heart and impenitence were so too.
Some seem to prove that he cannot, and that in the strength of this argument, that every punishment proceeding from God, as the author of it, is just and good; but no sin is or can be so; and therefore no sin can be made by God the punishment of another.
But nevertheless, the contrary is held forth in Scripture, and that as expressly as words can well declare a thing; for besides the clear proof thereof, which the very text carries with it, it is yet farther proved by those two irrefragable places: Rom. i. 24, the apostle has these very words, "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness ;" and again in the 26th verse, "For this cause God gave them up to vile affections." Besides several