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and earth, nature and elements were not visible. One said every thing is uncertain; we are not sure of our own existence; the distinction between just and unjust, virtue and vice, is fanciful, and has no real foundation in the nature of things. Another made matter equal to God; and maintained, that it concurred with the Supreme Being in the formation of the universe. One took the world for a prodigious body, of which he thought God was the soul. Another affirmed the materiality of the soul, and attributed to matter the faculties of thinking and reasoning. Some denied the immortality of the soul, and the intervention of Providence; and pretended that an infinite number of particles of matter, indivisible, and indestructible revolved in the universe; that from their fortuitous concourse arose the present world; that in all this there was no design: that the feet were not formed for walking, the eyes for seeing, nor the hands for handling. On the contrary, the gospel is light without darkness. It has nothing mean; nothing false; nothing that does not bear the characters of that wisdom from which it proceeds.

4. What was pure in the natural religion of the heathens was not known, nor could be known to any but philosophers. The common people were incapable of that penetration and labour, which the investigating of truth, and the distinguishing of it from that falsehood, in which passion and prejudice had enveloped it, required. A mediocrity of genius, I allow, 1 sufficient for the purpose of inferring a part of those consequences from the works of nature, of which we form the body of natural religion; but none but geniuses of the first order are capable of kenning those distant consequences which are enfolded in darkness. The bulk of mankind wanted a short way proportional to every mind. They wanted an authority the infallibility of which all mankind might easily see. They wanted a revelation found ed on evidence plain and obvious to all the world. Philosophers could not show the world such a short way, but revelation has shown it. No philosopher could assume the authority necessary to establish such a way: it became God alone to dictate in such a manner, and in revelation he has done it.

Here we would finish this discourse; but, as the subject is liable to abuse, we think it necessary to guard you against two common abuses and as the doctrine is reducible to practice, we will add two general reflections on the whole to direct your conduct.

1. Some, who acknowledge the superior excellence of revealed religion to the religion of nature, cast an odious contempt on the pains that are taken to cultivate reason, and to improve the mind. They think the way to obtain a sound system of divinity is to neglect an exact method of reasoning; with them to be a bad philosopher is the ready way to become a good Christian; and to cultivate reason is to render the design of religion abortive. Nothing can be more foreign from the intention of St. Paul, and the design of this discourse, than such an absurd consequence. Nothing would so effectually

depreciate the gospel, and betray the cause into the hands of atheists and infidels. On the contrary, an exact habit of reasoning is essential to a sound system of divinity; reason must be cultivated if we would understand the excellent characters of religion; the better the philosopher, the more disposed to become a good Christian. Do not deceive yourselves, my brethren; without rational knowledge, and accurate judgment, the full evidence of the arguments that establish the doctrine of the existence of God can never be perceived; at least the doctrine can never be properly defended. Without the exercise of reason, and accuracy of judgment, we can never perceive clearly the evidence of the proofs on which we ground the divinity of revelation, and the authenticity of the books that contain it; at least, we can never answer all the objections which libertinism opposes against this important subject. Without rational and accurate knowledge, the true meaning of revelation can never be understood. Without exercising reason, and accuracy of judgment, we cannot distinguish which of all the various sects of Christianity has taken the law of Jesus Christ for its rule, his oracles for its guide, his decisions for infallible decrees; at least we shall find it extremely difficult to escape those dangers which heresy will throw across our path at every step, and to avoid those lurking holes in which the most absurd sectaries lodge. Without the aid of reason, and accuracy of thought, we cannot understand the pre-eminence of Christianity over natural religion. The more a man cultivates his reason, the more he feels the imperfection of his reason. The more accuracy of judgment a man acquires, the more fully will he perceive his need of a supernatural revelation to supply the defect of his discoveries, and to render his knowledge complete.

2. The pre-eminence of revelation inspires some with a cruel divinity, who persuade themselves, that all whom they think have not been favoured with revelation, are excluded from salvation, and doomed to everlasting flames. The famous question of the destiny of those who seem to us not to have known any thing but natural religion, we ought carefully to divide into two questions; a question of fact, and a question of right. The question of right is, whether a heathen, considered as a heathen, and on supposition of his having no other knowledge than that of nature, could be saved? The question of fact is, whether God, through the same mercy, which inclined him to reveal himself to us in the clearest manner, did not give to some of the heathens a knowledge superior to that of natural religion.

What we have already heard is sufficient to determine the question of right: for, if the notion we have given of natural religion be just, it is sufficient to prove, that it is incapable of conducting mankind to salvation. This is life eternal, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent,' John xvii. 3. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby wo must be saved,' Acts iv. 13. The disciples of natural religion had no hope and were



without God in the world,' Eph. ii 12. A latitudinarian theology in vain opposes these decisions, by alleging some passages of Scripture which seem to favour the opposite opinion. In vain is it urged, that God never left himself without witness, in doing the heathens good;' for it is one thing to receive of God rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons,' Acts xiv. 17 (and the apostle speaks of these blessings only): and it is another thing to participate an illuminating faith, a sanctifying spirit, a saving hope. In vain is that quoted, which our apostle said in his discourse in the Areopagus, that God hath determined, that the heathens should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him,' chap. xvii. 27: for it is one thing to find God, as him who giveth life and breath to all mankind, as him who hath made of one blood all nations of men, as him in whom we live, and move and have our being; as him whom gold, or silver, or stone cannot represent,' ver. 25. 28, 29; and another thing to find him as a propitious parent; opening the treasures of his mercy, and bestowing on us his Son. It is to no purpose to allege that the heathens are said to have been without excuse for it is one thing to be inexcusable for changing the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things,' Rom. i. 20; for giving themselves up to those excesses which the holiness of this place forbids me to name, and which the apostle depicts in the most odious colours; and it is another thing to be inexcusable for rejecting an economy that reveals every thing necessary to salvation. There is no difficulty, then, in the question of right. The disciple of natural religion, considered as such, could not be saved. Natural religion was insuffi-surance than a few metaphysical speculations cient to conduct men to salvation. on the goodness of the Supreme Being. Our notions of God, indeed, include love. The productions of nature, and the conduct of Providence, concur, I grant, in assuring us, that God loves to bestow benedictions on his creatures. But the attributes of God are fathomless; boundless oceans, in which we are as often lost as we have the presumption to attempt to traverse them without a pilot. Nature and Providence are both labyrinths, in which our frail reason is quickly bewildered, and finally entangled. The idea of justice enters no less into a notion of the Supreme Being than that of mercy. And, say what we will, that we are guilty creatures will not admit of a doubt; for conscience itself, our own conscience, pronounces a sentence of condemnation on us, however prone we may be to flatter and favour ourselves. God condescends to terminate the doubts which these various speculations produce in our minds. In his word of revelation he assures us that he is merciful; and he informs us on what we may found our hopes of sharing his mercy, on the covenant he has made with us in the gospel. Wo be to us if, by criminally refusing to bring every thought to the obedience of Christ,' 2 Cor x. 5, we forsake these fountains of living waters,' which he opens to us in religion, and persist

See an Epistle of Zuinglius, at the beginning of in' hewing out broken cisterns of speculations his Exposition of the Christian Faith.

*City of God lib. xviii. c. 23.

But the question of fact, (whether God gave any pagan knowledge superior to that of natural religion?) ought to be treated with the utmost caution.

We will not say, with some divines, that the heathens were saved by an implicit faith in Jesus Christ. By implicit faith, they mean, a disposition in a wise heathen to have believed in Jesus Christ, had Jesus Christ been revealed to him. We will not affirm, with Clement of Alexandria, that philosophy was that to the Greeks which the law was to the Jews, a 'schoolmaster, to bring men unto Christ,* Gal. iii. 24. We will not affirm, with St. Chrysostom, that they who, despising idolatry, adored the Creator before the coming of Christ, were saved without faith. We will not, like one of the reformers, in a letter to Francis I. king of France, place Theseus, Hercules, Numa, Aristides, Cato, and the ancestors of the king, with the patriarchs, the Virgin Mary, and the apostles; acting less in the character of a minister, whose office it is to declare all the counsel of God,' Acts xx. 27, than in that of an author, whose aim it is to flatter the vanity of man. Less still, do we think we have a

Strom. lib. i. p. 282. Edit. Par. vi. 499.
Hom. xxvii. St. Math.

right to say, with St. Augustine, that the Erythrean Sybil is in heaven Some, who now quote St. Chrysostom, St. Clement, and St. Augustine, with great veneration, would anathematize any contemporary who should advance the same propositions which these fathers advanced. But after all, who dares to limit the Holy One of Israel?' Ps. lxxviii. 41. Who dares to affirm, that God could not reveal himself to a heathen on his death-bed? Who will venture to say, he has never done so? Let us renounce our inclination to damn mankind. Let us reject that theology which derives its glory from its cruelty. Let us entertain sentiments more charitable than those of some divines, who cannot conceive they shall be happy in heaven, unless they know that thousands are miserable in hell. This is the second abuse which we wish to pre


But although we ought not to despair of the salvation of those who were not born under the economy of grace as we are, we ought however (and this is the first use of our subject to which we exhort you,) we ought to value this economy very highly, to attach ourselves to it inviolably, and to derive from it all the succour, and all the knowledge, that we cannot procure by our own speculations. Especially, we ought to seek in this economy for remedies for the disorders which sin has caused in our souls. It is a common distemper in this age, to frame arbitrary systems of religion, and to seek divine mercy where it is not to be found. The wise Christian derives his system from the gospel only. Natural reason is a very dangerous guarantee of our destiny. Nothing is more fluctuating and precarious than the salvation of mankind, if it have no better as

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and systems! Jer. ii. 13. The sacred books, which are in our hands, and which contain the substance of the sermons of inspired men, show us these fountains of living waters. They attest, in a manner the most clear, and level to the smallest attention of the lowest capacity, that Jesus Christ alone has reconciled us to God; that God hath set him forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood; that God called him to be a high priest, that he might become the author of eternal salvation unto all them that come unto God by him,' Rom. iii. 25; Heb. v. 9. 10; and chap. vii. 25. Let us go then unto God 'by him,' and by him only: and, let me repeat it again, Wo be to us, if we determine to go to God by our own speculations and systems.

But the principal use we ought to make of the text, and of this sermon, is truly and thoroughly to acknowledge that superiority of virtue and holiness, to which the superiority of revealed religion engages us. A mortifying, but a salutary reflection! What account can we give of the light that shines in the gospel with so much splendour, and which distinguishes us from the heathens, whose blindness we deplore? When we place the two economies opposite to each other, and contemplate both, a cloud of reflections arise, and our prerogatives present themselves from every part. The clearest light shines around us. Light into the attributes of God; light into the nature, the obligations, the duration of man; light into the grand method of reconciliation, which God has presented to the church; light into the certainty of a future state. But when we oppose disciple to disciple, virtue to virtue, we hardly find any room for comparison. Except here and there an elect soul; here and there one lost in the crowd, can you see any great difference between the Christian and the pagan world?

What shame would cover us, were we to contrast Holland with Greece, the cities in these provinces with the city of Corinth! Corinth was the metropolis of Greece. There commerce prospered, and attracted immense riches from all parts of the universe, and along with wealth, pride, imperiousness, and debauchery, which almost inevitably follow a prosperous trade. Thither went some of the natives of other countries, and carried with them their passions and their vices. There immorality was enthroned There, according to Strabo, was a temple dedicated to the immodest Venus. There the palace of dissoluteness was erected, the ruins of which are yet to be seen by travellers; that infamous palace, in which a thousand prostitutes were maintained. There the abominable Lais held her court, and exacted six talents of every one who fell a prey to her deceptions. There impurity was be

Geog. lib. viii. p. 378. Edit. Par. 1620

come so notorious, that a Corinthian was synonymous to a prostitute; and the proverb, to live like a Corinthian,' was as much as to say, 'to live a life of debauchery."* Ye provinces! in which we dwell. Ye cities! in which we preach. O, Lais! Lais! who attendest our sermons so often,

I spare you. But how could we run the parallel between Holland and Greece, between these cities and that of Corinth?

Moreover, were we to compare success with success, the docility of our disciples with the docility of those disciples to whom the pagan philosophers, who lived in those days of darkness, preached, how much to our disadvantage would the comparison be? Pythagoras would say, when I taught philosophy at Crotona. I persuaded the lascivious to renounce luxury, the drunkard to abstain from wine, and even the most gay ladies to sacrifice their rich and fashionable garments to modesty. When I was in Italy, I re-estab lished liberty and civil government, and by one discourse reclaimed two thousand men; I prevailed with them to subdue the suggestions of avarice, and the emotions of pride, and to love meditation,retirement and silence. I did more with my philosophy than you do with that morality, of which you make such magnificent display. Hegesias would say, I threw all Greece into an uproar: what I said on the vanity of life, on the insipid nature of its pleasures, the vanity of its promises, the bitterness of its calamities, had an effect so great, that some destroyed themselves, others would have followed their example, and I should have depopulated whole cities, had not Ptolemy silenced me. My discourses detached men from the world more effectually than yours, although you preach the doctrines of a future life, of paradise, and of eternity. Zeno would tell us, I influenced my disciples to contemn pain, to despise a tyrant, and to trample on punishment. I did more towards elevating man above humanity with that philosophy, of which you have such unfavourable ideas, than you do with that religion on which you bestow such fine encomiums.

What then! Shall the advantages, which advance the Christian revelation above the speculations of the pagan world, advance at the same time the virtues of the pagans above those of Christians? And shall all the ways of salvation which are opened to us in the communion of Jesus Christ, serve only to render salvation inaccessible to us? God forbid! Let us assimilate our religion to the economy under which we live. May knowledge conduct us to virtue, and virtue to felicity and glory! God grant us this grace! To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.

* Erasm. Adag. Cent. 7. p. 633. 720.

Diog. Laert. lib. iii. in Pythag. p. 114. Edit. Rom. fol. 1594.

Cic. Qu. Tusc. lib. i. Diog. Laert. in Aristip. lib.ii.



1 JOHN iv. 4.

Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.


which we are going to fix their attention,

'Greater is he that is in them, than he that is in the world. Amen.

Two preliminary remarks will elucidate our subject:

1. Although the proposition in my text is general, and regards all Christians, yet St. John wrote it with a particular view to those persons to whom he addressed the epistle from which we have taken it. In order to ascertain this, reflect on the times of the apostles, and remark the accomplishment of that prophecy which Jesus Christ had some time before delivered. He had foretold, that there would arise in Judea false Christs, and false prophets, who would show great signs and wonders, insomuch that (if it were possible), they would deceive the very elect,' Matt. xxiv. 24. This prophecy was to be ac

THAT appearance, which is recorded in the second book of Kings, chap. vi. 8, &c. was very proper to embolden the timid servant of Elisha. The king of Syria was at war with the king of Israel. The wise counsel of the prophet was more advantageous to his prince than that of his generals was. The Syrian thought, if he could render himself master of such an extraordinary man, he could easily subdue the rest of the Israelites. In order to ensure success he surrounded Dothan, the dwelling place of the prophet, with his troops in the night. The prophet's servant was going out early the next morning with his master, when on seeing the numerous Syrian forces, he trembled, and exclaimed, · Alas! my master, how shall we do? Fear not, replied Elisha,' they that be with us, are more than they that be with them.' To this he added, addressing himself to God in pray-complished immediately before the destrucer, Lord, open his eyes that he may see!' tion of Jerusalem: and to that period learned The prayer was heard. The servant of men assign the publication of this epistle. St. Elisha presently saw the sufficient ground, John calls the time in which he wrote, 'the of his master's confidence; he discovered last time,' chap. ii. 18, that is to say, in the a celestial multitude of horses, and chariots of Jewish style, the time in which the metropofire, which God had sent to defend his servant lis of Judea was to be destroyed: and adds from the king of Syria. the sign by which Christians might know, How often, my brethren, have you trem- that it was the last time; as ye have heard bled at the sight of that multitude of enemies that Antichrist shall come, even now are which is let loose against you? When you there many Antichrists; whereby we know have seen yourselves called to wrestle, as St. that it is the last time.' Remark those words, Paul speaks, not only against flesh and as ye have heard:' the apostle meant by blood, but against principalities, against pow-them, to remind his readers of the prophecy ers, against spiritual wickedness in high pla- of Jesus Christ. ces;' against the sophisms of rror, against I do not pretend now to inquire what seduthe tyrants of the church, and which is still cers Jesus Christ particularly intended in this more formidable, against the depravity of prophecy. Simon the Sorcerer may be playour own hearts: how often in these cases ced in the class of false Christs. There is a have you exclaimed, Alas! how shall we do? very remarkable passage to this purpose in Who is sufficient for these things? 2 Cor. the tenth verse of the eighth chapter of Acts. ii. 16 'Who then can be saved?' Matt. It is there said, that this impostor had so 'bexix. 25. witched the people of Samaria, that all, from the least to the greatest, said, This man is the great power of God.' What means this phrase, the great power of God? It is the title which the ancient Jews gave the Messiah. Philo, treating of the divine essence, establish mystery of the Trinity, as clearly as a Jew could establish it, who had no other guide than the Old Testament. He speaks first of God; then of what he calls the logos, the word (the same term is translated word in the first chapter of the gospel of St. John), and he calls this word the great power of God, and distinguishes him from a third person, whom he denominates the second power. Moreover, Origen says, Simon the sorcerer took the title of Son of God, a title which the Jews had appropriated to the Messiah.


But take courage, Christian wrestlers! they that be with you are more than they that are against you. O Lord! open their eyes that they may see! May they see the great cloud of witnesses,' Heb. xii, 1, who fought in the same field to which they are called, and there obtained a victory! May they see the blessed angels who encamp round about them, to protect their persons, and to defeat their foes! May they see the powerful aid of that Spirit which thou hast given them! "May they see Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith,' Ps. xxxiv. 7; 1 John iii. 24, and Heb. xii. 2, who animates them from heaven, and the eternal rewards which thou art preparing to crown their perseverance! and may a happy experience teach them that truth, on

As there were false Christs in the time of St. John, so there were also false prophets, that is, false teachers. These St. John has characterized in the chapters which precede my text; and the portraits drawn by the apostle are so exactly like those which the primitive fathers of the church have exhibited of Ebion and Cerinthus, that it is easy to know them. A particular investigation of this subject would divert our attention too far from our principal design; and it shall suffice at present to observe, that these impostors caused great mischiefs in the church. Simon, the sorcerer, indeed, at first, renouncing ed his imposture; but he soon adopted it again. Justin Martyr informs us, that, in his time, there remained some disciples of that wretch, who called him the first intelligence of the divinity, that is, the word; and who named Helen, the associate of Simon in his imposture, the second intelligence of the divinity, by which title they intended to describe the Holy Ghost, Only they, who are Rovices in the history of primitive Christianity, can be ignorant of the ravages, which Ebion and Gerinthus made in the church.

But Jesus Christ had foretold, and all ages have verified the prediction, that the gates of hell should not prevail against the church,' Matt. xvi. 18. The most specious sophisms of Ebion and Cerinthus, the most seducing deceptions of Simon and his associates, did not draw off one of the elect from Jesus Christ; the faithful followers of the Son of God, notwithstanding their dispersion triumphed over false Christs, and false teachers. 31. John extols their victory in the words of my text; 'Ye have overcome them (says he), because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.'


It seems almost needless precisely to point out here whom St. John means by him, who is in believers, and by him who is in the world;' or to determine which of the different senses of commentators seem to us the most defensible. Some say, the apostle intended the Holy Spirit by him who is in you; others think, he meant Jesus Christ; and others suppose him speaking of the principle of regeneration, which is in Christians, and which renders them invulnerable by all the attacks of the world. In like manner, if we endeavour to affix a distinct idea to the other terms, him who is in the world;' some pretend that St. John means Satan; others, that he expresses, in a vague manner, all the means which the world employs to seduce good men. But, whatever difference there may appear in these explications, they all come to the same sense. For if the apostle speaks of the inhabitation of Jesus Christ, it is certain, he dwells in us by his Holy Spirit; and if he means the Holy Spirit, it is certain he dwells in us by the principles of regeneration. In like manner in regard to the other proposition. If it be Satan, who, the apostle says, is in the world, he is there undoubtedly by the errors which his amissaries published there, and by the vices which they introduce there. The design of the apostle, therefore, is to show the superiority of the means which God employs to save us, to those which the world employ to destroy us.

2. But this produces another difficulty, and the solution of it is my second article. It should seem, if the apostle had reason to say of them who had persevered in Christianity, that he who was in them was greater than he who was in the world,' seducers also had reason to say, that he who was in those whom they had seduced, was greater than he who was in persevering Christians. Satan has still, in our day, more disciples than Jesus Christ. Can it be said, that Satan, is greater than Jesus Christ? Can it be said, that the means employed by that lying and murder

spirit to seduce mankind, are superior to those which the Holy Spirit employs to illuminate them? No, my brethren; and our answer to these questions, which requires your particular attention, will serve to elucidate one of the most obscure articles of religion. We will endeavour to express the matter clearly to all our attentive hear ors.

We must carefully distinguish a mean applied to an irrational agent from a mean applied to an intelligent agent. A mean, that is applied to an irrational agent, can never be accounted superior to the obstacles which oppose it, unless its superiority be justified by success. A certain degree of power is requisite to move a mass of a certain weight; a degree of power superior to the weight of a certain mass will never fail to move the mass out of its place, and to force it away.

But it is not so with the means which are applied to intelligent beings; they are not always attended with that success which, it should seem, ought to follow the application of them. I attempt to prove to a man, on whom nature has bestowed common sense, that if an equal number be taken from an equal number, an equal number will remain. I propose my demonstration to him with all possible clearness, and he has no less faculty to comprehend it, than I have to propose it. He persists, however, in the opposite proposition: but his obstinacy is the only cause of his error; he refuses to believe me, because he refuses to hear me. Were an attentive and teachable man to yield to my demonstration, while the former persisted in denying it, could it be reasonably said then, that motives of incredulity in the latter were superior to motives of credulity? We must distinguish, then, a mean applied to an intelligent being, from a mean applied to an irrational being.

Farther. Among the obstacles, with which intelligent beings resist means applied to them, physical obstacles must be distinguished from moral obstacles. Physical obstacles are such as necessarily belong to the being that resists, so that there is no faculty to remove them. I propose to an infant a conclusion, the understanding of which depends on a chain of propositions, which he is incapable of following. The obstacle, which I find in him, is an obstacle merely physical; he has not a faculty to remove it.

I propose the same conclusion to a man of mature age; he understands it no more than the infant just now mentioned: but his ignorance does not proceed from a want of those faculties which are necessary to com

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