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Ignorance, not a bare Want of Know-SEXM. ledge; (For the natural and proper Effect V*'' of bare Want of Knowledge, is, that Mtn^^** forbear to pals Any judgment at all, upon what they understand not; and that they neither contend for nor against any opinion, before they have some Reason to determine them so to do :) But there is a presumptuous Ignorance, which despises Knowledge; And This makes Men oppose the Truth, before they understand any thing of it. Seest thou a man that de/piseth instruction? there is more hope of a Fool, than of Him.
Another cause of Men's opposing die Truth, is Carelessness. They blindly, and without any Consideration, follow the Customs of the Place where they happen to live j And the Knowledge of Truthj seems to them to be of no great Importance. They take up their Religion a^ adventures, not from the consideration of the Laws of Nature or of Revelation, but merely from the Company they chance to be educated amongst; And thus AU Religions are put upon an equal foot, varying according to the acoidental Temper of the
Sum. Persons among whom they prevail. Men VH. of This disposition, careless of finding
*"/"v">",out the Truth, and consequently having indeed no Religion at all, but barely the name and profession of it; generally prefer Any degree of Ignorance, before the carefullcst Study either of the Nature of Things, or of the Laws of God. To This Temper 'tis palpably owing, that so many ivhole Nations at this day, Pagans and Mahometans, never give themselves the Trouble to enquire at all, whether the Christian Religion be true or noj And even among the Professors of Christianity, (as they think themselves to be,) many entire Nations, full of Men very Learned and of great Abilities, yet never suffer any careful Inquiry to be made, whether the Worship of imaginary Saints, and of Images of Wood and Stone, and of Relicks, and of Bread; and innumerable other Doctrines and Practices, absurd Notions and superstitious Ceremonies: they never (I fay) suffer any careful Examination to be made, whether these things are agreeable to the Plainness and Simplicity, to the - 2 Holiness Holiness and Purity of Christ's Religion. S E R M.
or no. . *11
A further Cause of Men's opposing the<"/"*vr's' Truth, is Prejudice* They are not perhaps naturally ignorant; nor yet of so lazy and careless a Temper, as to oppose the Truth merely to avoid the Trouble of studying it. But their Prejudices are so strong, that the clearest Light cannot overcome and dissipate so thick a cloud. They have accustomed themselves to found their Belief entirely in an implicit Relir ance upon Other Men\ instead of building it upon the Evidence of Things themselves, which is the Foundation of Truth. And Then, the Traditions of the Scribes and Elders and Pharisees j the Decrees of Popes, or the Determinations of Parties, evidently governed by Worldly Motives; shall have much more Weight with them, to perswade them to blind or shut their Eyes; than die whole Scripture of Truth, or the strongest and plainest Reason in the World, shall have to perswade them to open them. So little do they consider Those Admonitions of our Saviour; Search the Scriptures; and, He that hath Ears to
Serm. bear, let him bear: And That of St Paul; I speak as unto wife men, (that is, to intel
^"^^ ligent persons;) judge ye what I Jay, 1 Cor. x. 15. And of St Peter, 1 Pet. iii. 15. Be ready always to give an Answer to every man that asketh you a reason os the Hope that is in you.
But the Last and Greatest reason of Men's setting themselves in opposition to the Truth, is the Wickedness and Corrupt tion of their Manners j the Love of unrighteousness and debauchery, the Desire of Power and Dominion, the Concern they are under for the Defense and Support of a Sect or Party, without having Any Knowledge how far they are, or are not, in the Right. These are things, which make men to shut their Eyes against the Light, to love and choose darkness rather than Light, and wilfully to stop their Ears against all the Means of being better informed. Concerning such Persons, St Paul prophecies, 2 Tim. iii. 2, 8, In the last days — men shall be — Boasters, —
Despijers of thoje that are good, heady;
high-minded, Lovers of pleasures more than Lovers of God, Having a Form of godliness. ness, but denying the Power thereof . -se R M. rejijiing the Truth, men of corrupt minds. '^H. And these things must be, faith the fame *-'"VNJ Apostle; (i. e. 'tis fit and just that the Pro- | _ rf vidence of God mould permit it Thus to 19. be;) that those who are approved, (i. e. that those who seek and obey the Truth and Simplicity of the Gospel, separate from all worldly and unjustifiable Designs,) may be made manifest among you.
.^dly, The Third thing observable in the Text, is the Direction given us concerning our own Duty; that we ought in Meekness to instruct those who oppose themselves against the Truth. He who himself, suffers for well-doing, and for the Testimony of a good Conscience, is sure of being (at least so far) in the Right: But he who does Violence to Others; if they, whom he does violence to, be in a right cause, He is an Enemy to God: But if they be in the wrong, yet He dishonours the Truth, by acting unrighteously for it, and not knowing what Spirit he is of. The Servant of the Lord, must 2 Tim, ii. not Jirive, but be gentle unto all Men, apt 2+to teach, patient. We cannot always dis
Vol. III. M cern,