Page images

the constitution, which importeth apowerSErm. of doing evil, and by which it is that we Iare rendered capable ©f it. This, as well as the other capacities of our nature, is derived from God; but there is no rational pretence for alledging that gift to be a temptation, because liberty is not an inclination to evil, but meerly the mind's power of determining itself to that, or the contrary, according as the motives to the one or the other should appear strongest; and that the author of the constitution hath cast the ballance on the side of virtue, we may fee from what hath been already said,' since he hath given us virtuous instincts, with a fense of moral obligations, and added a very powerful sanction to them. Besides, liberty is absolutely necessary to the practice of virtue, as well as to the being of moral evil; nor could we without it have been capable of rational happiness. It must be confessed that our state is imperfect; we are made frail and mutable creatures, liable to temptations, and many are actually misled by them; nor have we any pretence for denying that it was agreeable to the divine perfect goodness and wisdom, to create such a species of beings, and in such a condition. But seeing we are free agents, and weak, instead of


S Erm. tempting us to sin, or even leaving us by his

I- constitution in a state of indifference to it, 'he hath done all which was consistent with our freedom to prevent our falling into it. And thus it appeareth, that in the frame of our nature the foundations of virtue are laid strong and deep, and that we are not tempted to evil, but rather warned and fortified against it.

Again; if we consider the administration of providence, and the divine conduct towards all men, we shall find that the same design is regularly pursued by methods becoming the wisdom of God, and best suited to our condition; the design, I mean, not of tempting us to sin, but preserving us from it. As God sent men into the world, a species of rational beings, fitted by the excellent faculties wherewith he endued them for rendering him very important service, and enjoying a great measure of happiness, and an higher kind than any other inhabitants of this earth are capable of; for contemplating the order and beauties of the world, and offering to the author of it the praise due to him for the manifestation of his wisdom and goodness, in the inanimate and brutal parts of the creation, for imitating the moral perfections of the supreme Being himself, and thereby partaking ofSErm. those pleasures which bear the nearest re- I. semblance to his own" eternal and immutable blessedness; so he constantly careth for that favourite workmanship of his hands. Of all the nations of men, who are made to dwell on the face of the earth, none are without witness of their maker's mercies, for he continually doth them good, sending them rain from heaven, and fruitfulseasons\ and filling their hearts with food and gladness. Now if such lenity and kindness be the character of the divine administration, what is the tendency of it? Is it to tempt men, to lead them to sin, which is rebellion against himself, and against their own reason? That hath been the event, indeed, with many of them, but by a most ungrateful abuse of his goodness and forbearance, which naturally ought to have led them to repentance. But when men had wilfully corrupted their ways, and turned the bounty of God into lasciviousness, giving themselves up to work wickedness with greediness, providence hath sometimes interposed in a different manner, that is, by awful judgments, very terrible desolations suddenly spread over nations or cities. But how have such dispensations been conducted, and with


Serm. what manner of appearance, on the part o(

I. the sovereign ruler? They bore the marks of his displeasure for the fins of men so visible, that the most stupid have found themselves obliged to acknowledge it. Is this tempting them? is it not rather using the best and most effectual methods for reclaiming them from sin?

And, lastly, if we consider the revelation of the gospel, and that whole divine scheme contained in it, which Qod in love to mankind hath formed for our salvation, we must see that the whole design of it is directly opposite to the design of tempting; it is to turn every one of us from our iniquities. To this purpose have we not only our Saviour's clear instructions, and the excellent example of his life, but he gave himself for us a sacrifice, and suffered a most painful and ignominious death to redeem us from fin, to purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. All the promises, which are in him yea and amen, have this tendency and this design, namely, that we should cleanse ourselves from the siit hi ness of the flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God. In a word, every part of Christianity was intended for the fame end, all its motives and all its rules; but it is particularly

worthy worthy of our notice, that the sympathy ofSERM. our Saviour with his disciples, whom he so L loved as to die for them, is represented as' especially exerting itself for their support under temptations; thus we are told, Heb. ii. 18. In that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. And chap. iv. 15. We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet witlwut fin. We are therefore encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need, grace to resist and conquer temptations. For this purpose is the assistance of the Holy Spirit given to christians, all whose operations on their minds, declared in scripture, have this tendency, that they may be enabled to resist and to conquer temptations. And the disposition of things by divine providence, and ordering all the circumstances in our condition, is represented in scripture as carrying on the fame design. Sometimes, indeed, we are told that providence suffereth men to fall into snares, nay, and layeth stumbling-blocks in their way; but the strongest expressions of this fort mean no more than that seeing sinners violently break


« PreviousContinue »