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various forms of fallen life with which we are surrounded, there can be no preparation of a soil for the seed of the word of God; but there must be the very reverse,-a scourging of the soil, and a total incapacity of man even for the hearing of spiritual things; when his faith, and his feelings, and his very knowledge, have been in a manner debauched and dissipated amongst the loves and desires of that world which is enmity with God.
Now, brethren, so long as our knowledge is thus possessed with false and erroneous views of the creatures which are around us, and of the ends for which they are constituted of God; while we think that they are working in their courses according to goodness; we cannot use them aright, we must necessarily go along the same stream with them, and be lost in the same abyss of destruction to which they are doomed. For every intelligent creature must first be approached by knowledge, before he can be brought into obedience: this is the end of revelation, to set our knowledge right concerning ourselves, and all the things with which we are surrounded : and while we give ourselves to the knowledge of sense, as a neighbouring nation doth, what can we attain unto but the enjoyment of sense? While we believe the sensible world to be well, and righteously composed, as our philosophers do, what can we do but worship it? While we make of it a heaven, as our poets do, what ear can we have for the doctrine of universal corruption? We must submit to be taught truly concerning the first condition of all these things, in primitive beauty and innocency; concerning the present fallen estate into thraldom and bondage; con
cerning their present sufferings therein, and their silent witnessing and continual cravings unto God for redemption; and concerning the redemption that is promised to them all, in the day of the restitution of all things, when the 'heavens shall hold the Redeemer no longer. This teaching of the word of God we must submit to. We must receive our first principles of cosmogony from revelation, and adopt them as the card by which we steer our course of action, before 'ever our intercourse with the visible world, or human life, will leave behind it any soil upon which the seed of the word will take root and flourish.
II. Having thus shewn you the views which it is proper to take of the bondage which now lieth heavy upon all things, and the redemption which abideth them against the day of the Lord; we now proceed to point out to you the way of carrying yourselves towards them, which tendeth to 'produce that worthy and excellent character, that simple heart and single eye, which is apt to receive, and to delight in the word of God, when it shall please the Lord to present it to our acceptance.
1. And, first, I would speak of the inanimate creatures, the fruits of the earth, the beauties of nature, and all the blessings with which we are surrounded ;-towards which, if we will always act under the knowledge that they are possessed and overruled by the prince of darkness, and, in order to be good, must be sanctified with the word of God and with prayer, we shall do well : but, if we will commit ourselves to them without an apprehension of their evil, give ourselves up, and abandon ourselves to their enjoyments, we shall do evil, and without doubt be taken in some snare or other. Or if we will draw a line amongst them, and say, These are good, and may be safely indulged in; these are evil, and may at no hand be meddled 'with; we shall add to the former this other error,--that there be certain things which cannot be sanctified by God unto the use of his people: and so restore the Jewish bondage of clean and of unclean, among the creatures which God hath cleansed by the blood of his own Son. The true principle to go upon therefore, in knowing, in appropriating, in using the creatures, is, that they are all most seductive in themselves to the nature of man, and links of the chain which binds him in darkness, and therefore, cautiously and carefully to be intermeddled with; but, seeing we must pass our lives amongst them, and be beholden to them for the support of our life, for the means of well-being, and of well-doing, we ought to believe that, being considered with the eye of reason, and in the light of revelation, they are all good, and capable of affording to us most excellent instruction concerning God, and a most excellent discipline of all our moral and religious faculties. Therefore, we ought to look at them with the eye of reason, not with the eye of sense; in the light of revelation, not in the darkness of nature; being thankful unto God for whatever portion of his goodness he permitteth us to behold and to enjoy. I put reason and revelation in conjunction with one another, because 'I believe, as I have set forth in several places, that the light of reason is a gift of God, for which we are beholden, and shall be responsible, to'THE WORD, "in whom was life, and the life was the light of men;" and that it is a derogation from his rights to omit the continual claim and assertion of reason as his gift bestowed upon man not in full property, but in trust until the judgment. Now I say, that these two agree in teaching us one constant lesson concerning the use of the creatures, that they are to be partaken with temperance; for intemperance in eating or drinking, or beholding, or possessing, or any other mode of enjoying, doth as much obscure the light, and impede the actings of the reason, as it doth vex the Holy Spirit, and quench the life of God in our souls.
The Apostle, when entreating of the intemperance and lusts of the heathen, findeth their guilt to consist in two things chiefly; of which the first is, That they “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is God over all blessed for ever :" and the second, that they “ changed the natural use of the creatures into that which is against nature,” and burned with all manner of intemperate and unnatural lusts. And he placeth the intemperate desires as a consequence of the idolatrous worship of the creature; yea, he assigneth it as an express judgment of God upon them for the same :
same : “ Wherefore God them
to uncleanness. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient." To be guarded against the like degradation of our bodies and minds beneath the creatures, against becoming the slaves of the senses, which are the
slaves of the visible world, when they are not under the controul of the reason, or Spirit of God (which are one in substance and in origin, though diverse in degree), it is therefore most necessary, that we should guard against the idolatry of any thing which is created and made. And what is idolatry? Not the bowing down unto a graven image; this is the form of it; but the act is the loving of any thing, and the desiring of it for its own sake, and the using it for its own sake: wherefore the Apostle calleth covetousness idolatry, because it affecteth a thing on its own account, instead of desiring it from God and for God, and using it to His glory. I do think, therefore, that even reason teacheth us we should ask of God that which we desire to possess; and when we have obtained it, give him thanks, and again ask his blessing upon it; and so, " whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, do all to his glory.” Unless the natural reason, or the renewed spirit of man, be thus acknowledging God as its fear, it must either acknowledge itself as its fear, which is vanity, pride, and Stoicism; or it must acknowledge the creature as its fear, which is idolatry, and intemperance, and every evil.
A right apprehension then, dear brethren, of God's propriety in all things, and a due acknowledgment of his goodness, is essential to the righteous use of the creatures ; which, if we forget or neglect, he will give us also up, as heretofore he gave up the heathen, to all manner of intemperance and uncleanness. And this is very important to you, whose occupation is so much with traffic and merchandize, bringing you continually under a temptation to desire these things, and to