Page images
PDF
EPUB

our

SERM. Bereans, so highly applauded by St. Paul, V.

every man ought to attend to the candle of the Lord within him; I mean, those original notices of truth, of the divine perfections, and the essential differences of moral good and evil, which are deeply engraven on mads. These are the standards by which all pretences to divine revelation are to be tried, and nothing can be reasonably embraced as a doctrine from God which contradicts them, there being no evidence of any heavenly com million to teach religious truth equal to that irresistible evidence which the light of nature gives us of those first principles of reason and natural religion. If this rule had been duly considered, men could not have been led by any authority whatsoeverto embrace such absurdities as transubstantiation, and that sinners may make attonement for their fins by voluntary sufferings and superstitious external devotions.

Lastly, the best means of attaining to religious knowledge, is, doing what we know to be the will of God. The efficacy and success of this means rests upon the promise of our Saviour, * If any man will do his (God's

will) * Jo. vii. 17.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

will,) he shall know the doctrine which is of SERM.
God; not that he shall be infallible in all V.
points, or set above the possibility of error or
ignorance in matters of religion; but he
shall certainly know what is absolutely necef-
sary to be known, and be preferv'd from per-
nicious mistakes. But this is the fatal cause
of unbelief, either of the whole gospel doc-
trine, or some of its most important articles
which have the most direct and immediate in.
fluence on practice, this, I say, is the cause
of such unbelief, and of condemnation for it,
that light is come into the world, and men
loved darkness rather than light, because their
deeds are evil. The greatest hinderance of
men's attaining the knowledge of the truth
in matters of religion, is a vicious disposition;
the prevalence of evil habits and strong pre-
dominant lufts and passions, which blind their
understandings. Above all others, the scor-
ner, tho' he take some pains in seeking wif-
dom shall not find it; and the sensual de-
bauch'd man cannot discern the things of God,
which are spiritually discerned; but if the
eye of the mind be single, not vitiated with
corrupt affections, with the love of the world,
and the things of the world, the whole man
is full of light; for as the natural eye is fitted

1

to

Serm. to discern light and colours, and the ear per-
V.

ceives founds, so the upright unbiassed judg-
ment discovers the doctrines of truth; they
are an object connatural to it, and our Saviour
tells us, that his sheep, that is, his true dif-
ciples, who are sincerely disposed to follow
him, know his voice, and can distinguish be-
tween it and the voice of strangers ; that is,
the voice of error. I conclude with that

gracious declaration God has made in favour of his upright fervants, * The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will Noew them his covenant.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

SERMON VI.

Of Temperance.

2 Pet. i. 6.

And to Knowledge, Temperance.

A

LL men who have had any just fenfe Serm. of morality and religion, whether by VI.

the light of nature, or by positive institution, have numbered temperance among the most neceffary virtues ; by which they understand such a due government of our appetites and passions, as that we may not be led by them into those exceffes which are unbecoming the dignity of our reasonable nature, or which may interfere with our duty in any

other respect. Every one is sensible that man is a com. pounded being, made up not only of the grofs corporeal part, which we call our own body, by the organs whereof, we perceive other objects about us, and which is moved according to

the

SERM. the direction of the mind; but there is also
VI. in our constitution an inward self-conscious

principle, indued with understanding and
other
powers,

which will not admit of matter or any of its qualities into the idea of them! We find in ourselves a great variety of capacities and affections which have very different tendencies, such as, reason, a power

, of perceiving and investigating truth, of comparing things in order to discover their various relations, connection, and dependencies, their agreement or disagreement. We have liberty, a power of chusing or determining ourselves; we have appetites, which incline us to sensible objects suitable to the body, or the present animal state ; affections to other beings, according to the qualities or motives of affection which are apprehended to be in them. And Conscience, a power of judging ourselves, our own dispositions and actions according to the differences of moral good and evil, which our minds as necessarily perceive as we distinguish light and darkness by our eyes, or sweet and bitter by our taste.

Since there is such a variety in our compofition, there must be some government, else there can be no harmony nor, indeed, happinefs. It cannot be that every power should

« PreviousContinue »