Page images

And if there had not been sufficient trial of the propensity of the hearts of mankind, through all those ages that passed from Abraham to Christ, the trial has been continued down to this day, in all those vast regions of the face of the earth, that have remained without any effects of the light of the gospel; and the dismal effect continues every where unvaried. How was it with that multitude of nations inhabiting south and north America 2 What appearance was there, when the Eurofleans first came hither, of their being recovered, or recovering, in any degree, from the grossest ignorance, delusions, and most stupid Paganism : And how is it at this day, in those parts of Africa and Asia, into which the light of the gospel has not penetrated :

This strong and universally prevalent disposition of mankind to idolatry, of which there has been such great trial, and so notorious and vast proof, in fact, is a most glaring evidence of the exceeding depravity of the human nature ; as it is a propensity, in the utmost degree, contrary to the highest end, the main business, and chief happiness of mankind, consisting in the knowledge, service, and enjoyment of the living God, the Creator and Governor of the world; in the highest degree contrary to that for which mainly God gave mankind more understanding than the beasts of the earth, and made them wiser than the fowls of heaven; which was, that they might be capable of the knowledge of God; and in the highest degree contrary to the first and greatest commandment of the moral law, that we should have no other gods before Jehovah, and that we should love and adore him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The scriptures are abundant in representing the idolatry of the heathen world, as their exceeding wickedness, and their most brutish stupidity. They worship and trust in idols, are said to be like the lifeless statues they worship, like mere senseless stocks and stones, Psalm cov. 4......8, and czxxv. 15...... 18.

A second instance of the natural stufidity of the minds of mankind, that I shall observe, is, that great disregard of their own eternal interest, which appears so remarkably, so generally among them that live under the gospel.

[ocr errors]

As Mr. Locke observes (Human Understanding, Vol. 1. p. 207.) “Were the will determined by the views of good, as it appears in contemplation, greater or less to the understanding, it could never get loose from the infinite, eternal joys of heaven, once proposed, and considered as possible; the eternal condition of a future state infinitely outweighing the expectation of riches or honor, or any other worldly pleasure, which we can propose to ourselves ; though we should grant these the more probable to be obtained.” Again (p. 228,229.) “He that will not be so far a rational creature, as to reflectseriously upon infinite happiness and misery, must needs condemn himself, as not making that use of his understanding he should. The rewards and punishments of another life, which the almighty has established, as the enforcements of his laws, are of weight enough to determine the choice, against whatsoever pleasure or pain this life can shew. When the eternal state is considered but in its bare possibility, which nobody can make any doubt of, he that will allow exquisite and endless happiness to be but the possible consequence of a good life here, and the contrary state the possible reward of a bad one, must own himself to judge very much amiss, if he does not conclude that a virtuous life, with the certain expectation of everlasting bliss, which may come, is to be preferred to a vicious one, with the fear of that dreadful state of misery, which it is very possible may overtake the guilty, or at least the terrible, uncertain hope of annihilation. This is evidently so; though the virtuous life here had nothing but pain, and the vicious continual pleasure; which yet is for the most part quite otherwise, and wicked men have not much the odds to brag of, even in their present possession : Nay, all things rightly considered, have I think even the worst part here. But when infinite happiness is put in one scale, against infinite misery in the other; if the worst that comes to the pious man, if he mistakes, be the best that the wicked man can attain to, if he be in the right; who can, without madness, run the venture ? Who in his wits would choose to come within a possibility of infinite misery Which if he miss, the re is yet nothing to be got by that hazard : Whereas, on the

other side, the sober man ventures nothing, against infinite happiness to be got, if his expectation comes to pass. That disposition of mind which is a propensity to act . contrary to reason, is a depraved disposition. It is not because the faculty of reason, which God has given to mankind, is not sufficient fully to discover to them, that forty, sixty, or an hundred years, is as nothing in comparison of eternity, infinitely less than a second of time to an hundred years, that the greatest worldly prosperity and pleasure is not treated with most perfect disregard, in all cases where there is any degree of competition of earthly things, with salvation from exquisite, eternal misery, and the enjoyment of everlasting glory and felicity; as certainly it would be, if men acted according to reason. But is it a matter of doubt or controversy, whether men in general do not shew a strong disposition to act far otherwise, from their infancy, till death is in a sensible approach In things that concern men's temporal interest, they easily discern the difference between things of a long and short continuance. It is no hard matter to convince men of the difference between a being admitted to the accommodations and entertainments of a convenient, beautiful, well furnished habitation, and to partake of the provisions and produce of a plentiful estate for a day or a night, and having all given to them, and settled upon them as their own, to possess as long as they live, and to be their's, and their heirs forever. There would be no need of men's preaching sermons, and spending their strength and life, to convince men of the difference. Men know how to adjust things in their dealings and contracts one with another, according to the length of time in which any thing agreed for is to be used or enjoyed. In temporal affairs, men are sensible that it concerns them to provide for future time, as well as for the present. Thus common prudence teaches them to take care in summer to lay up for winter ; yea, to provide a fund, and get a solid estate, whence they may be supplied for a long time to come. And not only so, but they are willing and forward to spend and be spent, to provide that which will stand their children in stead, after they are dead; though it be

quite uncertain, who shall use and enjoy what they lay up, after they have left the world ; and if their children should have the comfort of it, as they desire, they will not partake with them in that comfort, or have any more a portion in any thing under the sun. In things which relate to men's temporal interest, they seem very sensible of the uncertainty of life, especially of the lives of others; and to make answerable provision for the security of their worldly interest, that no considerable part of it may rest only on so uncertain a soundation, as the life of a neighbor or friend. Common discretion leads men to take good care that their outward possessions be well secured by a good and firm title. In worldly concerns men are discerning of their opportunities, and careful to improve them before they are past. The husbandman is careful to plow his ground and sow his seed in the proper season, otherwise he knows he cannot expect a crop ; and when the harvest is come, he will not sleep away the time ; for he knows, if he does so, the crop will soon be lost. How careful and eagle eyed is the merchant to observe and improve his opportunities and advantages to enrich himself 2 IIow apt are men to be alarmed at the appearance of danger to their worldly estate, or any thing that remarkably threatens great loss or damage to their outward interest ? And how will they bestir themselves in such a case, if possible to avoid the threatened calamity ? In things purely secular, and not of a moral or spiritual nature, men easily receive conviction by past experience, when any thing, on repeated trial, proves unprofitable or prejudicial, and are ready to take warning by what they have found themselves, and also by the experience of their neighbors and forefathers. But if we consider how men generally conduct themselves in things on which their well being does infinitely more depend, how vast is the diversity : In these things how cold, lifeless and dilatory With what difficulty are a few of multitudes excited to any tolerable degree of care and diligence, by the innumerable means used with men to make them wise for themselves 2 And when some vigilance and activity is excited, how apt is it to die away, like a mere force against

a natural tendency 2 What need of a constant repetition of admonitions and counsels, to keep the heart from falling asleep : How many objections are made 2 And how are difficulties magnified ?. And how soon is the mind discouraged 2 How many arguments, and often renewed, and variously and elaborately enforced, do men stand in need of, to convince them of things that are selfevident : As that things which are eternal, are infinitely more important than things temporal, and the like. And after all, how very few are convinced effectually, or in such a manner as to induce to a practical preference of eternal things : How senseless are men of the necessity of improving their time to provide for futurity, as to their spiritual interest, and their welfare in another world ! Though it be an endless futurity, and though it be their own personal, infinitely important good, after they are dead, that is to be cared for, and not the good of their children, which they shall have no share in. Though men are so sensible of the uncertainty of their neighbors’ lives, when any considerable part of their estates depends on the continuance of them ; how stupidly senscless do they seem to be of the uncertainty of their own lives, when their preservation from immensely great, remediless, and endless misery, is risqued by a present delay, through a dependence on future opportunity ? What a dreadful venture will men carelessly and boldly run, and repeat and multiply, with regard to their eternal salvation, who are very careful to have every thing in a deed or bond firm, and without a flaw How negligent are they of their special advantages and opportunities for their soul's good 2 How hardly awakened by the most evident and imminent dangers, threatening eternal destruction, yea, though put in mind of them, and much pains taken to point them forth, shew them plainly, and fully to represent them, if possible to engage their attention to them : How are they like the horse, that boldly rushes into the battle 2 How hardly are men convinced by their own frequent and abundant experience, of the unsatisfactory nature of earthly things, and the instability of their own hearts in their good frames and intentions 2 And how hardly convinced by their own observation,

« PreviousContinue »