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it impossible for them, whilst they lie under Serm. that Prepossession to form a right one ; for VIII. that will represent to them the weakest Pro. babilities as the strongest Arguments on the one side, and the plainest proof as mere Fallacy on the other.
And as a prejudiced Man seldom judges right, so he always judges by Appearances ; readily pronounces upon mere Probabilities, and believes or disbelieves a thing according as he would or would not have it to be true. Which is judging not by the Understanding, but the Will
. As Appearances then are so apt to deceive us, as Men are so prone to take the Shadow for the Substance, and are so often imposed upon by external Shew and superficial Views, the Caution and Precept which our Lord gives us in the Text appear to me in a Light of very great Importance, and as such demand our particular Attention. I shall therefore consider each of them distinctly.
I. Let us consider the Caution or negative Precept which our Lord gives us in the Text; Judge not according to the Appearance.
SERM. The Usefulness and Excellence of this VIII. Rule I propose to illustrate, by mentioning a few particulars to which it may
be applied; and wherein Men are very apt to deceive themselves, and form a wrong Judgment of things by trusting too much to external Appearances.
1. It is by trusting too much to Appearance that Men are so often deceived in their Opinion of Truth and Falsbood.
I speak not here of natural Truths, or the Pbænomena and Events we meet with in the World of nature; of which, if a Man were to judge only by Appearances he would foon be carried very wide of the Truth, and be led into very palpable and ridiculous Mistakes. But what I mean is principally with regard to moral Truth; from which, if we take mere superficial appearance for our Guide, we are in great danger of being led altray; for appearances may, and often do, lie on one fide, and truth on the other. Truth often puts on the Appearance of Fallhood, and Fallhood the Appearance of Truth ; especially to hasty and undiftinguishing Minds. I shall give you an Inftance of each of these.
It is an allowed and established Truth, SERM. that necessarily flows from the Perfections of VIII, God, as the righteous Governor of the World, that under all the various Scenes of his Providence he takes a special care of the Interest of his faithful Servants, and will order all things for their Good. This Principle, I say, must be true. And yet the Appearance of things oftentimes lies very strong against it. Were we to confine our views only to the external Circumstances and Sufferings of good Men, we should be apt to think them deserted of Heaven; it would seem as if God had forsaken them, had no regard to their Interest, nor cared how it went with them; since they are often plagued, oppressed and afflicted more than other Men. In this cafe then Appearance lies on the
ap. pearance of Falfhood, so Fallhood may sometimes
put on the Appearance of Truth. For Inftance; it is undoubtedly a great Mistake to suppose, that God will punish any one
put on the
Serm. man purely for the Sins of another. This VIII. never can be reconciled with the Attributes w of his Nature; it represents him as an un
righteous Being, and his ways as not equal ; and therefore it is impossible it should be true. And yet, were we to be governed by Appearances only, viz. those that offer themselves both in the Providences and the Word of God, we must receive this Doctrine as certain Truth; for in the course of his Providence there seem to be many things that favour it, and in his Word many things that affert it; as Exod. xx. 5. Punishing the Iniquities of the Fatbers upon the Children unto the third and fourth Generation of them that hate me. And, Fer. xxxii. 18. Thou recompenseft the Iniquity of the Fathers into the Bofom of their Children after them. Yet notwithstanding these appearances of it's Truth, we are sure that notion is absolutely false; both because it carries in itself a heavy Impeachment of the divine Justice, and because God himself expresly difowns, rejects, and declares his Abhorrence of it, and assures us of the direct contrary, Ezek. xviii. 20. The Soul that finneth it shall die, the Son shall not bear the Iniquity of the Father, neither shall the Father bear the Iniquity of the Son,
2. We are in the same danger of being SERM. deceived by Appearances in forming our
VIII. Judgment of Good and Evil. Children who are mostly under the Government of Sense and Fancy, we know, are often thus imposed upon : preferring a natural Evil because it has the Appearance of Good, and refusing a real Good because it appears to their Sense or Imagination as Evil: The same childish and injudicious Part do Men oftentimes act with regard to moral Good and Evil: and from the same Inducement too, the mere Appearances of things; or the force wherewith some external Circumstances strike the Fancy or Imagination, and thereby pervert the Judgment. Hence it is that men so often mistake Evil for Good, and Good for Evil; call Bitter Sweet, and Sweet Bitter; put Darkness for Light, and Light for Darkness (a); become wife in their own Eyes, and prudent in their own Sight (b); and whilst they think they know any thing, know nothing yet as they ought to know (c).
I might easily multiply Instances under this head, but shall content myself with two very plain ones; one of which thews how
(a) Isai. V. 20.
(b) Ver. 21.
(1) 1 Cor. viii, 2.