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love of it, God should send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that is, by abandoning them to the power of cheating and deluding spirits: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness, 2 Thess. ii. 10, 11, 12. And God grant that this at last prove not our fate, that because we have sinned against the clearest light, and gone astray in all unrighteousness, under the best and purest religion in the world, we are not at length given up by God to follow the wild delusions of antichrist, and to believe all those fulsome lies and impostures, which he from age to age hath been imposing upon the world. But whether it prove thus or no, this I am sure of, that by persisting in any vicious course, against the light and conviction of our consciences, we highly provoke Almighty God to withdraw his grace from us, and give us up to our own hearts' lusts; and when this is done, our own hearts' lusts will soon betray and give up our faith to false and vicious principles of religion.
And now having shewn at large what strong and prevalent tendencies there are in a wicked life to apostasy from true religion, I shall conclude this argument with two or three inferences.
1. From hence I infer, what a great malignity there is in men's being inconstant to and apostatizing from the true religion, in compliance with their sinful affections; it being, as you see, the ill daughter of a bad mother, (a debauched and a dissolute conscience,) and consequently partaking of all its natural bane and malignity, even as all other bad effects do of the malignant nature of their bad causes. But the truth of this will more fully appear by con
sidering the particular evils which men's inconstancy to, and proneness to revolt from the true religion implies; of which I shall give you these five instances :
1. The great impiety of it.
1. Consider the great impiety of it. He who can part with his religion, or any principle of it, upon any other terms than a full conviction of the falsehood of it, is either a downright atheist, who, believing no religion to be true, governs himself by this principle, that the wisest course is to profess none but that which is uppermost, and most for his interest; or a profane and impious wretch, who, though he believes his own religion true, exchanges it for another which he believes to be false, upon no other consideration, but so much temporal advantage to boot: by which he plainly declares, that in the balance of his estimation the odds between truth and falsehood, the declarations of God, and the impostures of the Devil, is so inconsiderable, that the least addition of the transitory goods of this world to the latter, renders it of sufficient weight to turn the scale against the former, and that for his part he is not much concerned whether the Almighty be his friend or foe; and provided he may but enjoy his ease and pleasure a few years longer here, he is very well contented to part with all his hopes and interest in God for ever. For this is the natural construction of men's apostasy from the true religion, in consideration of their worldly interest, that that interest is in their esteem far more eligible than God with all his power and goodness; that it is better to be without God in the world, than without preferment; and that that man makes a very good bargain, who gets a good place in exchange for his Maker, and with the treacherous Judas sells his Saviour, though it be but for thirty pieces of silver: which is such a monstrous degree of impiety, as one would think should be sufficient to scare and affright the most courageous sinner that hath but the least apprehension of God, or sense of good and evil. But then,
2. Consider the desperate folly of men's abandoning their religion, in compliance with their vicious affections. For he who without through conviction abandons the profession of his religion, whether it be true or false, doth together with that most certainly abandon all the blessed rewards, and incur all the dreadful penalties, that true religion promises and denounces; because though his religion perhaps may be false, yet in renouncing it whilst he believes it true, his will doth as maliciously renounce the true religion, as if it really were so. He thought it true, and yet renounced it, by which he plainly declares, that if it had been true, he would have renounced it; so that whether it be true or false, it is all one to him, his will is the same, his crime and guilt the same; it is true religion he intentionally renounces, and therefore in so doing he doth intentionally renounce all his concern and interest in true religion. Now what a desperate piece of folly is this, for a man to part with all his stock in the common bank of religion, which, if it be not a downright sham and imposture, is of everlasting moment and concern to him, oply
for a present gratification of some vain and unreasonable lust; to divorce himself for ever from the love of God, to quit all title and interest in the precious blood of the Saviour of the world, only to curry a shortlived favour with men, with men whose breath is in their nostrils, and who within a few days or years must go off the stage, and leave us here perhaps forlorn and destitute; to part with all my glorious hopes of heaven, which are my best heaven upon earth; and which is worse, with heaven itself, where I have treasures of bliss sufficient to maintain me in a most happy port to eternal ages, only to gain or secure a transitory estate or preferment; which, while I have it, cannot make me happy, and from which, ere long, I shall be torn and divided, and not be a farthing the better for, for ever; to expose one's self as a public spectacle of scorn and contempt to God and angels, and all the wise and good part of the rational world, for a short extemporary blaze of pompous splendour and greatness, which lies at the mercy of every counter-blast of fortune, and in all probability will ere long expire in smoke and stink, wretchedness and infamy; to plunge one's self headlong into all the agonies and torments, the horrors and desperations of a woful eternity, only to escape a short persecution and a glorious martyrdom; when a little after, perhaps, I shall suffer a great deal more and longer under the gout, stone, or strangury, without the comfort of dying in a brave cause, and being assured of an immortal recompense, than I could have done under the hand of the executioner with it? And yet all these mad pranks that man plays at once, who abandons his religion in compliance with his lusts.
3. Consider the foul dishonesty of it. For, besides that our religion being the most sacred pledge committed to us by God for our own use, and the use of our latest posterity, we cannot viciously desert and abandon it without betraying of God, and falsifying our trust to him; and which is worse, without squandering away the most inestimable good that ever he committed to men, upon our own base lusts, and his most execrable enemies, which is dishonesty blackened with the foulest ingratitude: besides this, I say, by forsaking our religion in compliance with any lewd affection, we do not only do a dishonest thing at present, but also totally discard the obligations to honesty for the future: for there is nothing can rationally oblige a man to be throughly honest, but only his religion, or inward sense that it is his indispensable duty towards God, before whose righteous tribunal he must one day give an account of all his actions. The two great motives of human action are religion and worldly interest : now as for religion, that consists of fixed and unalterable principles, which will by no means ply or bend to the alterations of outward affairs and circumstances; but do in all conditions move and oblige us with equal force and vigour; whereas worldly interest is a fickle and mutable thing, that varies and alters with every outward turn and revolution : so that that which is my interest to-day, may prove my damage tomorrow; and if it should, whatever part I act today, it will oblige me to act the contrary to-morrow. When therefore a man hath let go his religion, and hath nothing but his interest to hold him, it is cross or pile for the future, whether you find him an honest man or a knave; because from henceforth he