Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

our vices. Nay, what is worse yet, I could shew thatyfo converts our good things into evil, and our enjoyments into punijhments: that it renders the Jlightejl evils intolerable'; turns scratches into wounds, and wounds into gangrenes. But this is too copious a subject;; and would insensibly render me voluminous, when I would be as short as possibly I can. A second effect of Jin is guilt; which is nothing else, but a consciousness of having done ill, and an obligation to punishment resulting from it. And tho' men often Jin with hopes of impunity, yet it is hard to imagine, even on this supposal, that they should^ without suffering the reproaches of their own minds; which surely must be very uneasy to them: to be perpetually vexed at one's own folly; to commit those things which we inwardly condemn, and be in continual pain lest they should come to light; to be always dijpleased at one's self, and afraid, not only of the reflections of others, but our own: this is, methinks, a great evil, did no other attend our Jin. But, thirdly, fear is almost inseparably joined with guilt: for guilt does not only damp the chearfulnejs, and enfeeble the vigour of the mind; it does not only destroy that confidence man would otherwise naturally have in God, and render him cowardly and pufillanimous; but it terrifies his foul with melancholy apprehen

sionsj and makes him live continually in fear of death and punishment. And thus scripture represents the y?## of a finner: 'The wicked see when none pursue; but the righteous are as bold as a lion, Prov. xxviii. I. If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things, i John iii. 2. There is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord, Isa. xlviii. 22. To deliver them, who through fe ar of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage, Heb- ii. 15. The finners in Zion are afraid, fearfulnefs has surprised the hypocrites; who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire1? who amongst us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? Isa. xxxiii. 14. Nor let any one wonder, that notwithstanding the outward gaiety of the sinner, the Spirit thus describes the inward condition of hisjoul. As long as men retain the belief of a God, it is impossible they should wholly free themselves from the fear of him. They may indeed forget him in the fits of lust or passion: but in their intermissions his terrors will return upon them with more violence. Again, as long as men retain the common principles of truth and justice; if they acknowledge but the obligation of that universal law, Thou Jhalt do to others, as thou wouldest they should do unto thee, 'tis impossible they should refleSl on their fins without regret and uneafiness; for there is no fin but has more or kfs,

Re

repugnancy m it to truth, justice, and goodness. Finally, As long as men are persuaded that there is: such a faculty as conscience, that God has prescribed them a Idler, and that they are accountable to him; the natufal conscience cannot chuse, but by fits, and upon occasons, scourge and torture, lance and gash 'them. And 'tis a hard matter to wear out these notions: they are so natural and obvious • the proofs of them are so clear ; their reputation and authority in the world is so well established ; and the, providence of God so frequently inculcates them. Men may easily wear out all fense of the beauty, and of their obligations to1 their heights and perfections of virtue: but they cannot so easily do this in reference to virtue in general; because 'tis tempered and accommodated to human 71ature and society; and necessary to the tolerable well-doing of the world. Men may soon, I confess, extinguish their Christianity, but not humanity: and while this remains, Jin will leave ajlain and guilt be- / hind it; and guilt will be attended by uneafiness and fear. The very pagans, who had advanced so far in wickedness, as tobe: given up to all diponourable passions, and to commit all uncleanness with greediness had not yet so mortified andstupfied their conscience, but that it gave much distur- bance, Rom. i. wr, 32. 'tis said of them, Q, that

that they knew the judgment os God, that they .which committed such things, were worthy of death. And Rom. ii. 15. Their consciences are slid to accuse and condemn them. And *cis of very wicked men, that the author to the Hebrews affirms, that through fear of death they were all their life-timeJubjeci to bondage.

But are there not, will some say, many ingenuous and brave spirits, who have dispersed those vain Jpeares, and burst those superstitious fetters, by which you labour to scare and enslave the world? I do not doubt, indeed, but that there are too many who have vigorously endeavoured to cashier all principles of natural and revealed religion, and utterly to extinguish all conscience of good and evil. But this is such an attempt, in which, I confess, I could never have believed, that the most daring finner could have proved successul, had not the scriptures told me, that there are Come who are pas feeling, Eph. iv. 19. of a seared conscience, 2 Tim. iv. 2. who are net ojhamcdwben they have committed iniquity neither can they blusj, Jer. vi. 15. who call good evil, and evil good', that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for. facet, and sweet for bitter , Ilai. v. 20. Such finners there are then: but what e'ees this amount to? what can their fense cr example weigh? lam sure these'

poor

poor wretches are as far distant from any true happiness, as from fense; and deserve our pity, not imitation. As' will easily appear from these following confiderations.

i. 'Tis true, conscience depends upon opinion: but what if this opinion depend upon sense and truth? what if it be built upon the demonstration os the spirit and of power? in what a deplorable condition are thefe men of wit? the sear of an angry God, a judgment to come, and an hell, is no common or ordinary fear. 'Tis not the sear of a scratch or wound in the body; of a baffle in the pursuit of preferment, or a disappointment inv that of pleasure; 'tis not the /g/S or the forfeiture of <?/?«#, in part, or whole: 'tis not zblot upon our reputation j 'tis not the death of a child, a ^roAfcr, or, what is more, if & be such, a; friend: 'tis not any thing of this kind that is the objec? of this fear; but misery pure and unallayed; complicated, accumulated misery; misery unalterable, incurable,; and lasting as long as eternity. Methinksy i before one should venture on a sm, which is threatened with such estate as this; and much more, before one should resolve to continue in it, it were reasonable to be very sure, that the notion of a hell were false, and the doctrine of eternal punish^ ment a mei'e bugbear. Nay, I protest, in a

Q.2 * mat-*

« AnteriorContinuar »