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SERM. thunder out his laws, and Make the earth with his voice, II.
yet many would little regard them; should God, in conHeb. xii.
firmation of his will, perform every day as many miracles, as he did once in Egypt, yet there would be Pharaohs, hardening their hearts against it; should God himself descend from heaven, as once he did, and converse with us, instructing us by discourse and practice, displaying among
us conspicuous evidences of his power and goodness, yet John xii. who would believe his report, to whom would the arm of Rom. x. 16. the Lord be revealed ? how few cordially would embrace
his doctrine, or submit to his law ! As it was then, so it would be now; he would be bated, be scorned, be affronted, and abused, by persons qualified with like affections, as those were, who fo then did serve him; for in
all times like persons will do like things: as then only John I. 27. his sheep (that is, well disposed persons, like sheep, simple,
harınless, and ductile) did hear his voice, and follow him ; John X. 26. fo others would not believe him, because they were not of
his sheep, being imbued with swinish, currish, wolvish dif
positions, incapacitating them to follow his conduct: there Acts xiii.41. would be persons like to those, of whom it is said, Be.
hold, ye scorners, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in
your days, a work which you shall no wife believe, though a man declare it unto you.
(It is with instituted religion as it is with natural; the works of nature are so many continual miracles of divine power and wisdom; in the common track of Providence many wonderful things do occur ; yet who by them is moved to acknowledge and adore God ? notwithstanding them, how many Atheists and Epicureans are there ! So will it be in regard to divine revelations, which however clearly attested, will yet be questioned.)
• Those indeed whom sufficient reasons (such as God hath dispensed to us) will not convince, upon them the greatest
motives would have small efficacy; so father Abraham Luke xvi. told the rich man; If they hear not Moses and the pro(John. v. 47.)
• Γνώμης χρεία ευγνώμονος" κάν μή αύτη παρή, σημείων αδέν όφιλος. Chryf. in Matt. Or, 43.
phets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from SERM. the dead.
II. They may pretend, if they had more light, they would be persuaded; like those who said, Let him now come Matt. down from the cross, and we will believe; but it would not in effect prove so, for they would yet be devising shifts, and forging exceptions ; or, however, they would oppose an impudent face, and an obstinate will against the truth.
Wherefore it was for the common good, and to Divine wisdom it appeared fufficient, that upon the balance truth should much outweigh falsehood, if the scales were held in an even hand, and no prejudices were thrown in against it; that it should be conspicuous enough to eyes, which do not avert themselves from it, or wink on purpose, or Aets xxviii. be clouded with lust and passion; it was enough that in- 27. fidelity is juftly chargeable on men’s wilful pravity; and that apópaon éx éxers, they have not, as our Saviour faith, John xv. any reafonable excuse for it.
But so much for the causes and adjuncts of faith; the effects and consequences of it I reserve for another occafion.
I believe, &c.
OF THE VIRTUE AND REASONABLENESS OF
2 Pet. i. 1.
-to them that have obtained like precious faith with us. SERM. Of all Christian virtues, as there is none more approved III.
and dignified by God, so there is none less considered or valued by men, than faith; the adversaries of our religion have always had a special pique at it; wondering that it should be commanded, as if it were an arbitrary thing, or in our choice to believe what we please; why it should be commended, as if it were praiseworthy to be fubdued by reason; either by that which is too strong for us to refift, or by that which is too weak to conquer us.
But that faith worthily deserveth the praises and privileges aligned thereto, we may be satisfied, if we do well consider its nature and ingredients, its causes and rise, its effects and consequences.
In its nature it doth involve knowledge, or the possesfion of truth, which is the natural food, the proper wealth, the special ornament of our soul; knowledge of truths most worthy of us, and important to us, as conversing about the highest objects, and conducing to the noblest ule; knowledge peculiar and not otherwise attainable, as lying without the sphere of our sense, and beyond the SERM. reach of our reason; knowledge conveyed to us with III. great evidence and assurance; the greatest indeed that well can be, considering the nature of its objects, and the general capacities of men, and the most proper way of working upon reasonable natures.
It implieth (that which giveth to every virtue its form and worth) a good use of our reason, in carefully weighing and uprightly judging about things of greatest concernment to us; it implieth a closing with God's providence dispensing opportunities, and representing motives serving to beget it; a compliance with God's grace attracting and inclining our souls to embrace his heavenly truth: it implieth also good opinions of God, and good affections toward him, which are requifite to the believing (upon his testimony, promise, or command) points very sublime, very difficult, very cross to our fancy and humour.
The causes also, which concur in its production, are very excellent ; many virtuous dispositions of soul are requifite to the conception and birth of it: there must be a sober, composed, and wakeful mind, inquisitive after truth, apt to observe it starting, and ready to lay hold on it : there must be diligence and industry in attending to the proposals, and considering the enforcements of it: there must be fincerity and foundness of judgment, in avowing its cause, against the exceptions raised against it by prejudice and carnal conceit, by sensual appetites and pasfions, by temptation and worldly interest: there must be great humility, disposing us to a submission of our understanding, and a resignation of our will unto God, in admitting notions which debase haughty conceit, in espousing duties which repress sturdy humour : there must be much resolution and courage, in undertaking things very difficult, hazardous, and painful; much patience, in adhering to a profeffion, which exacteth so much pain, and exposeth to so much trouble: there must be great prudence, in applying our choice (among so many competitions and pretences claiming it) to that which is only good; in seeing
SERM. through fallacious disguises, and looking over present apIII.
pearances, so as to descry the just worth, and the final consequence of things: there must, in fine, be a love of truth, and a liking of all virtue, which is so highly commended, and so strictly prescribed by the Christian doctrine.
These particulars, commending faith to us, I have already largely prosecuted; I shall only therefore now infift upon the last head, concerning its effects, whereby (as the goodness of a tree is known by its fruits) the great excellency thereof will
appear. Its effects are of two. forts; one fpringing naturally from it, the other following it in way of recompense from Divine bounty : I shall only touch the first fort; because in this its virtue is most feen, as in the other its felicity.
Faith is naturally efficacious in producing many rare fruits; naturally, I say, not meaning to exclude supernatural grace, but supposing faith to be a fit inftrument thereof; for God worketh in us to will, and to do, but in a way suitable to our nature, employing such means as
properly serve to incline and excite us unto good practice; (A&s xi. and such is faith, fupported and wielded by his grace; for 24.)
Even in common life faith is the compass by which men steer their practice, and the main spring of action, setting all the wheels of our activity on going; every man, acteth with serious intention, and with vigour answerable to his persuasion of things, that they are worthy his pains, and attainable by his endeavours. What moveth the husbandman to employ so much care, toil, and expence in manuring his ground, in plowing, in fowing, in weeding, in fencing it, but a persuasion that he shall reap a crop, which in benefit will answer all? What stirreth up the merchant to undertake tedious voyages over vast and dangerous seas, adventuring his stock, abandoning his cafe, exposing his life to the waves, to rocks and shelves, to storms and hurricanes, to cruel pirates, to sweltry heats and piercing colds, but a persuasion, that wealth is a very