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Sin may give occasion for a great deal of good his anger in another world, where it can neito be exercised upon it and about it, though ther be pacified nor turned away. there be roue inherent in it; and upon that 2. The second great consequence from the account, when any good is ascribed to it, or doctrine hitherto treated of by us, of the naaffirmed of it, it is purely by an extrinsic turalness of men's going off from the love of denomination, and no more.
the truth to a disbelief of the same, shall be Now these distinctions, rightly weighed to inform us of the surest and most effectual and applied, will fully and clearly accord the way to confirm our faith about the sacred and doctrine laid down by us both with the notions important truths of religion; and that is, to of human reason, and the holiness of the love them for their transcendent worth and divine nature ; and consequently render all purity ; to fix our inclinations and affections objections and popular exclamations against upon them ; and, in a word, not only to coneither of them empty and insignificant. fess, own, and acknowledge them to be truths,
Nor, indeed, is it very difficult, and much but also to be willing that they should be so; less impossible, to give some tolerable account, and to rejoice with the greatest complacency, how God delivers a sinner over to farther sins. that there should be such things prepared for For it may be very rationally said, that he us, as the Scripture tells us there are. For does it partly by withholding his restraining we shall find, that truth is not so much upon grace, and leaving corrupt nature to itself, to terms of courtesy with the understanding, the full swing and freedom of its own extrava-(which upon a clear discovery of itself it nagant actings; whereby a man adds sin to sin, turally commands,) as it is with the will and strikes out furiously and without control, till the affections, which (though never so clearly be grows obstinate and incurable. And God discovered to them) it is almost always forced asay be said to do the same also by adminis- to woo and make suit to. kring objects and occasions of sin to such or I have been ever prone to take this for a such a sinner, whose corrupt nature will be principle, and a very safe one too, namely, sure to take fire at them, and so actually to that there is no opinion really good, throw itself into all enormities. In all which, good in the natural, beneficent consequences God is not at all the author of sin, but only thereof,) which can be false. And accordingly, pursues the great works and righteous ends of when religion, even natural, tells us, that his providence, in disposing of things or ob there is a God, and that he is a rewarder of jects in themselves good or indifferent towards every man according to his works ; that he is the compassing of the same; how beit, through a most wise Governor, and a most just and the poison of men's vicious affections, they are impartial Judge, and for that reason has apturned into the opportunities and fuel of sin, pointed a future estate, wherein every man and made the occasion of their final destruc- shall receive a retribution suitable to what he tion.
had done in his lifetime. And moreover, But now, of all the punishments which the when the Christian religion farther assures us, great and just God in his anger inflicts, or that Christ has satisfied God's justice for sin, brings upon a man for sin, there is none com and purchased eternal redemption and salvaparable to sin itself. Men are apt to go on tion for even the greatest sinners, who shall securely, pleasing themselves in the repeated repent of and turn from their sins ; and withal gratifications of their vice ; and they feel not has given such excellent laws to the world, God strike, and so are encouraged in the pro that if men perform them, they shall not fail gress of their impiety. But let them not, for to reap an eternal reward of happiness, as the all that, be too confident; for God may strike, fruit and effect of the aforementioned satisfacthough they feel not his stroke, and perhaps tion; as on the other side, that if they live the more terribly for their not feeling it. viciously, and die impenitent, they shall ineForasmuch as in judgments of this nature, vitably be disposed of into a condition of insensibility always goes deepest ; and the eternal and insupportable misery. These, I wrath of God seldom does such killing execu say, are some of the principal things which tion when it thunders, as when it blasts. He religion, both natural and Christian, proposes lias certainly some dreadful design carrying on to mankind. against the sinner, while he suffers him to go And now, before we come to acknowledge on in a smooth, uninterrupted course of sin the truth of them, let us seriously and in good ning; and what that design is, and the earnest examine them, and consider how good, dreadfulness of it, probably will not be known how expedient, and how suitable to all the to him, till the possibilities of repentance are ends and uses of human life it is, that there cut off, and hid from his eyes ; at present, it should be such things ; how unable society looks like the suffering a man to perish and wonld be to subsist without them; how the die by a lethargy, rather than jog or awaken whole world would sink into another chaos him. Believe it, it is a sad case, when the sin- and confusion, did not the awe and belief of ner shall never perceive that God is angry these things (or something like them) regulate with him, till he aetually feels the effects of l and control the exorbitances of men's head
strong and unruly wills. Upon a thorough of the Father, he shall kvow of my doctrine,
those cogent, convincing arguments, by which
But our Saviour prescribes men an excel according to which notion, the blindest chance lent and unfailing method to assure them must be acknowledged to surpass and outdo selves of the truth of his doctrine, (John vii. the contrivances of the exactest art; a thing 17.) “ If any one," says he, “ will do the will which the common sense and notion of man
kind mrst, at the very first hearing, rise up a pretence so utterly false and shamefully against and explode. But if this romance groundless, that in comparison of the principle will not satisfy, then in comes the eternity of which makes it, hypocrisy may worthily pass the world, the chief and most avowed opinion for siucerity, and Pharisuism for the truest set up by the atheists to confront and answer and most renned Christianity. all the objections from religion ;) and yet, But as for those who own and abet such after all these high pretences, so great and in- separations, to the infinite disturbance both extricable are the plunges and absurdities of church and state, I would fain have them which these principles cast men into, that the produce those mighty reasons, those invincible belief of a being distinct from the world, and arguments which have drawn them from the before it, is not only towards a good life more communion of the church into conventicles, conducible, but even for the resolution of these and warranted them to prefer schisms and problems more philosophical. And I do ac divisions before Christian unity and concordingly here leave that old, trite, common formity. No; this is a thing which we may argument, (though nevertheless venerable for expect long enough, before they will so much being so,) rawn from a constant series or as offer at, and much less perforin ; there chain of causes, leading us up to a supreme being but little of argument to be expected mover, (not moved himself by any thing but from men professing nothing but inspiration, himself,) a being simple, immaterial, and in and the impulse of a principle discernible by corporeal ; I leave this, I say, to our high and none but by themselves. And for my own mighty atheists to baffle and confute it, and part, I must sincerely declare, that upon the substitute something more rational in the strictest search I have been able to make, I room of it, if they can; and in order there could never yet find, that these men had any unto, to take an eternity to do it in.
other reason or argument to defend themBut if this be the case, why then is it made selves and their practices by, but that sensea badge of wit, and an argument of parts, for less and impolitic encouragement which has a man to commence atheist, and to cast off been all along given them. But for all that, all belief of Providence, all awe and reverence men who act by conscience, as well as pretend of religiou? Assuredly, in this matter, men's it, will do well to consider, that in human conviction begins not at their understandings, laws and actions it is not the penalty annexed but at their wills, or rather at their brutish which makes the sin, nor consequently the appetites; which, being immersed in the withdrawing it which takes away the guilt, pleasures and sensualities of the world, would but that the sanctions of men, as well as the by no means, if they could help it, have such providence of God, may suffer, and even serve a thing as a Deity, or a future estate of souls to countenance many things in this world, to trouble them here, or to account with them which shall both certainly and severely too hereafter. No ; such men, we may be sure,
be reckoned for in the next. dare not look such trutus as these in the face, In the meantime, to give a true but short and therefore they throw them off, and had account of the proceedings and temper of these rather be befooled into a friendly, favourable, separatists. It was nothing but a kind of and propitious lie; a lie which shall chuck spiritual pride which first made them disdain them under the chin, and kiss thein, and at to submit to the discipline, and from thence the same time strike them under the fifth rib. brought them to despise and turn their backs To believe that there is no God to judge the upou the established worship of our church ; world, is hugely suitable to that man's in the sober, grave, and primitive plainness of terest, who assuredly knows, that upon such which began to be loathed by such brainsick, a judgment he shall be condemned; and to fanciful opiniators, who could please themassert, that there is no hell, must needs be a selves in nothing but novelty, and the ostentavery benign opinion to a person engaged in tion of their own extemporary, senseless effusuch actions as he knows must certainly sions; fit to proceed from none but such as bring him thither. Men are atheists, not have the gift of talking in their sleep or because they have better wits than other men, dreaming while they are awake. but because they have corrupter wills ; nor And for this cause, no doubt, God, in his because they reason better, but because they just and severe judgment, delivered them live worse.
over to their own sanctified and adored non2. The next great evil which has of late sense, to confound and lose themselves in an infested the Christian church, and that part of endless maze of error and seduction : so that, it in our nation more especially, is fanaticism; as soon as they had broke off from the church, that is to say, a pretence to and profession of (through the encouragement given them by a a greater purity in religion, and a company of men which had overturned 'all spiritual, perfect way of worshipping Al that was settled in the nation,) they first ran mighty God, than the national established into presbyterian classes, from thence into inchurch affords to those in communion with dependent congregations : from independents it. This, I say, was and is the pretence ; but I they improved into anabaptists; from ana
baptists into quakers : from whence being the absolute commandress of fleets and armies, able to advance no farther, they are in a fair and, which is more, very often of their comway to wheel about to the other extreme of manders too. So hard hás common experience popery: a religion and interest the most found it for some to draw their swords heartily loudly decried, and most effectually served even against an enemy, who has first drawn by these men, of any other in the world his purse to them ; such an universal influence besides.
has this mighty vice : a vice which, by a kind But whosoever, in the great concerns of his of amphibious quality, is equally strong by soul, would pitch his foot upon sure ground, sea and land, and consequently never out of let him beware of these whirlpools, and of its element, whatsoever place, station, or conturning round and round, till he comes to be dition it may be in. From which and too seized with such a giddiness, as shall make many the like instances, it will, I fear, prove him fall finally and irrecoverably, not from
but too evident, that let philosophers argue the church only, but even from God himself, and rhetoricians declaim never so much against and all sense of religion. And therefore, to this always decried, but yet always practised prevent such a fatal issue of things, let a man, vice, covetousness will hardly ever lose its in the next place, consider, that the way to reputation and credit in men's minds, (whatobtain a settled persuasion of the truth of soever it may in their mouths,) so long as religion, is to bring an honest, humble, and there shall be such a thing in the world as unbiassed mind, open to the embraces of it; money, to hold them fast by. and to know withal, that if he chooses the The words contain in them these two genetruth in simplicity, God will confirm his ral parts. choice with certainty and stability:
I. A dehortation or dissuasive from covetTo which God, the Father of lights, and ousness,-“ Take heed and beware of covetthe Fountain of all truth, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, II. A reason enforcing it, and coupling the majesty, and dominion, 'both now and for latter part of the text with the former, by the evermore, Amen.
causal particle for; for “a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”.
If we take the whole complex of the dehor
tation and the reason of it together, as they SERMON XLVI.
are joined in the text, we shall find that they
are intended as an answer to a tacit argumenCOVETOUSNESS PROVED NO LESS AN AB. in the behalf of covetousness, and founded
tation, apt to be formed by the minds of men SURDITY IN REASON, THAN A CONTRA upon these three principles : DICTION TO RELIGION, NOR A MORE 1. That it is natural (and I may add also, UNSURE WAY TO RICHES, THAN RICHES allowable) for every man to endeavour to make THEMSELVES TO HAPPINESS.
his condition in this life as happy as lawfully
he can. PART I.
2. That to abound with the good things of
this world seems the direct and ready way to “ And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetous
procure this happiness. And, ness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the
3. That covetousness is the proper and things which he possesseth." - LUKE, xii. 15.
effectual means to acquire to a man this
abundance. In these words our Saviour cautions his Upon these three principles, I say, is disciples, and the rest of his hearers, against built that plea or discourse, with which the covetousness; a vice, which, by striking in heart of every worldling upon the face of the with some of the most active principles of our earth endeavours to satisfy itself of the nature, and at the same time perverting them reasonableness of covetousness. It being too, has ever yet been, and will no doubt ever impossible, without some pretence of reason, be too hard for all the rules and arguments for a rational agent to maintain a quiet mind brought against it from bare morality. So in any ill course or practice whatsoever ; no that as a grammarian once answered his man ever doing any thing, which, at the time prince, offering to enter into a dispute with of his doing it, he does not actually judge that him upon a grammatical point, '" that he he has reason to do the same, whether that would by no means dispute with one who had judgment be right or wrong, true or false. twenty legions at his command;" so as little And therefore, since our Saviour, in the text success is like to be found in managing a we are upon, first supposes, and then sets dispute against covetousness, which sways himself to coufute this plea, by overthrowing and carries all before it in the strength of some of those sophistical, or sophistically that great queen regent of the world, money; applied, principles upon which it leaned, the
particular knowledge of them was regularly none more eminently did he or could he shew to be premised by us, as the basis and ground- it, than upon this of covetousness; where work of the whole prosecution of the subject nothing but the superlative abilities of the now before us. In which we shall begin with speaker could reach the compass of the subject the first general part of the text, to wit, the spoken to, nor any thing but the unbleniished dehortation itself; and so confining our dis virtue of the reprover put the thing reproved course wholly to this at present, we will con out of countenance, or all defence of itself sider in it these three following particulars. imaginable. For it is innocence which en
1. The author of this dehortation, who was ables eloquence to reprove with power; and Christ himself; the great instructor, as well guilt attacked flies before the face of him who as Saviour of the world.
has none. And therefore, as every rebuke of 2. The thing he dehorts us from ; to wit, vice comes or should come from the preacher's the meanest and most sordid of all vices, mouth, like a dart or arrow thrown by some covetousness. And,
mighty hand, which does execution propor3dly and lastly, The way prescribed by him tionably to the force or impulse it received as the most sovereign and effectual preserva from that which threw it; so our Saviour's tive from it ; to wit, a constant guard and a matchless virtue, free from the least tincture watchful eye over it. “ Take heed,” says he, of any thing immoral, armed every one of his
and beware of it ;" the present danger and reproofs with a piercing edge and an irresisthe consequent mischief making the utmost tible force; so that truth, in that respect, never caution against it no more than sufficient. came naked out of his mouth, but either
All which particulars put together, namely, clothed with thunder, or wrapped up in all the quality of the person dehorting us, the the powers of persuasion; still his person nature of the thing he dehorts us from, and animated and gave life and vigour to his exthe certainty of the remedy he advises us to, pression ; all his commands being but the make it disputable whether we are to take transcript of his own life, and his sermons a the words of the text as the absolute com living paraphrase upon his practice ; thus, by mand of a legislator, or the endearing counsel the strongest way of argumentation, conof a friend. I think we have great reason to futing and living down covetousness long account them both, and that the text will before he preached against it. For though it sufficiently justify the assigning a double is most true, that in hearing the word men ground of the precept, where the doubling of should consider only the nature of the matter that must needs also double our obligation to delivered tothem, (which, if it contains a duty, the practice ; while as a counsel we ought to will be sure to make good its hold upon them, follow it, and as a command we are bound to be the quality of him who delivers it what it obey.it.
will ;) yet since also the nature of man is To proceed, therefore, upon the fore-men such, that in all addresses to him, the person tioned particulars; we shall treat of each of himself will be still as much considered as them in their order. And,
his discourse, and perhaps more ; and since 1. For the great author of the dehortation the circumstances of his condition will always or dissuasion here set down, who was Christ bave a mighty, determining influence upon himself. “He said unto them, Beware of the credibility of his words, we will consider covetousness.” That is, he emphatically, he our Saviour discoursing against covetousness with a peculiar significance. For in all per under these two qualifications : suasions to, or dissuasions from any thing, the 1. As he was Lord of the universe. And, arguments enforcing both, must be either 2. As he was depressed to the lowest estate founded upon the authority of the person pro- of poverty: posing them, or the reason and evidence of By the former of which he possessed “the the thing proposed. As to the first of which, fulness of the Godhead bodily;" by the latter, can any thing in nature be imagined more he humbled, and (according to the apostle's convincing, than the assertion or word of one, phrase) "even emptied himself to the abject whose infinite knowledge makes it impossible estate of a servant.” For he who was the for him to be deceived, and whose infinite first, or rather only begotten of the Almighty, goodness makes it equally impossible for him and consequently, by all rights, heir of all to deceive? The first of which must be abuu things, and so had an universal, unlimited dantly sufficient to oblige our belief, and the claim to all that was great or glorious within other to claim our obedience. But both of the whole compass of nature, yet had so little them inseparably accompanied the words of of this claim in possession, that he tells us he our Saviour; who, as the evangelist tells us, was in a poorer and more forlorn condition “speaking as one having authority," and, by than the very“ foxes of the field or the fowls the very testimony of his enemies,
of the air,” as to the common accommodaever spoke before him,” could not sink below tions of life. It was a saying in the Jewish this high character in his discourses upon any church, and received with an universal reveoccasion or subject whatsoever ; but upon rence, both by the learned and unlearned,