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fully prejudiced in favour of that Communion, to which they have revolted, by the Temptation of secular Interest and Advantage; in this Cafe, let them know that God will not be mocked; and that to force our Understandings, is no less Criminal than to force our Consciences.
God hath proposed sufficient direction to us in the Holy Scripture, and will by no means pardon us, if we wilfully shut our Eyes against the Truth. We need not go any farther than the Words of my Text for this Direction. The Apostle commands all Christians to be ready to give an answer of the reason of the faith that is in them. If then any Society of Men discourageth and overthrows the use of Reason in private Christians; if it reacheth Doctrines contrary to Reason, and refuseth to give any Account of them; we may infallibly conclude it to be erroneous, and to have departed from the true Faith. Yet we know a Church, that hath whol. ly evacuated the Apostles Precept, by inhibiting to private Christians the use of Reason in divine Matters, and setting up an infallible Judge to whom all ought blindly to submit; that useth her utmost endeavours to disable private Christians from giving a Reason of their Faith, by forbidding them to read the Scripture; that hath made Christianity irrational, by adding to it absurd and contradictive Doctrines. For what Reason can be given that Men should not use their Reason? What Reason can be afsigned for Transubstantiation, which is directcontrary both to Sense and Reason? What
Reason for a blind Submission to a pretended infallible Judge, which defeats all use of Reafon? But these Things are too apparent. Iomit them, and pass to the second and last Branch of Application. That
2. Weought to adorn this most rational and holy Religion of our Saviour with a corresponident Holiness and Purity of Life. The Apostle draws tliis Inference in the Words immediately preceding and following my Text: But sanitifie the Lord God in your hearts, and, having a good conscience; and indeed most naturally. For if it be the highest Perverseness to reject the Gospel after so clear a Demonstration of the Divinity of it; what a Degree of Folly and Impiety must it be in those, who are perfwaded of the Truth of it, to contradi&t the Evidence and Design of it by the Wickedness of their Lives, and live as if they believed it to be most false? T'he Apostle urgeth it as the utmost Aggravation of the Sin of the wifer Heathens; that they held the trutb in unrighteoufness: and surely with much more force will the Argumeni fall upon immoral Christians. For the Heathen Sages dissembled their Opinions from the World, and so no wonder that they directed not their Actions by them: Whereas these publickly profess their Belief of Christianity, and yet live in open Contradiction to it. And indeed it is a most astonishing Consideration, that rational Creatures should deliberately violate those Laws, upon which they acknowledge the Hopes of Eternity to depend. Do we really belicve the Christian Religion to be divine;
and yet go on without Remorse to trample under foot its Laws and Precepts? Are we perswaded that infinite Rewards in another World attend the Performance of our Duty in this; and yet prefer the Temptations and Pleasures of the World to the Attainment of them? Do we profess our Belief of eternal Punishments
yet are not affrighted from the Commiffion of any pleasing Sin by the Terror of them? However we may pretend a firm Assent to all these Articles; yet certainly it will be impossible to perswade a considering Man, that the Belief of them can be reconciled with the Practice of the contrary. And after all, if we should be allowed to be, what we pretend, Believers in Christ; Can faith save us? No, Shew me thy faith by thy works. If a sober Heathen should come among us, and compare the Rules of Christ, with the Lives of Christians; the Exercise of Piety, Temperance, and Chastity, and all moral Vertues commanded by the one in the highest Degree,and upon the severest Penalties; and Impiety, Intemperance, Luft, and all enormous Vices openly and greedily practised by the other; he would be tempted to believe that the Religion of Christ were no more than a pleasing Fable, wherewith Christians fometimes entertained themselves. An ancient Father, who lived in the declining Times of Chri. stianity, tells us, how the Heathens in his Age formed dishonourable Thoughts of Christ, from the scandalous Lives of his Disciples: Quomodo bonus est Magister, cujus tam malos videmus Difcipulos? How can he be a good Lawgiver, that VOL. I.
hath no better Followers? How can his Laws be excellent, that do not reform the Lives of their ProfesTours ? And then proceeds to deplore this Scandal. In nobis Christus opprobium patitur: Thus we defame cur most excellent Religion, dishonour our Saviour, and blafpheme him in our Lives. Let us live up to the Rules of our Religion, and by a conscientious Practice of them, manifest that we are perswaded of the Truth of it; otherwise it will be in vain to be ready always to give an answer to every one, that asketh '
us a reason of the hope that is in us. This were unanswerably to refute our Arguments by our Practice, and add to our own Condemnation. Let us demonstrate the Divinity of our Religion, by the Influence it hath upon our Lives; and profess an intire Belief of it by a constant Obedience to it: That so we may not fall short of the Promises annexed to it; and others seeing our good works, may glorifie our Father, which is in heaven.
SE R M O N V. Preach'd December 2, 1688. at
Rom. II. 4. Not knowing, that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.
HE infinite and wonderful Love of God T
towards Mankind, is in nothing more visible and conspicuous, than in the various Methods which he makes use of to draw us to himself. The Faculties and Passions of our Soul are not more numerous and different, than are the Means which he hath employed to render us happy, and oblige us to the performance of our Duty: Inducing us by all those Motives and Arguments which in other moral Actions are wont to make impression on us.
He hath engaged our Understandings, by proposing to our Belief and Practice, a reasonable and holy Religion, attended with the greatest Evidence, and in all things highly agreeable to the Nature of Mankind, and first Principles of Reason. He hath assured our Wills, by presenting such Objects to it, as employ every single Passion of it. If the desire of obtaining the greatest Good can move us; he hath allured us by the Promise of an infinite and eternal Happiness. If fear of Misery hath