Page images
PDF
EPUB

nt of his own

beloved sin, are necessarily accompanied SERM. with diffidence and fear; and the finners XIV. shunning industriously the light of his own spirit or conscience, which Solomon calleth the candle of the Lord, searching the inward parts; this, I say, must be attributed to the fame cause : Shall it be said that all this proceedeth only from human weakness; that the self applauding joy and confidence of a virtuous mind is but enthuafiasm, the effect of a deluded warm imagination ; and that the distrustful dread of a vicious one ariseth wholly from a superstitious fearfulness, imbibed by the prejudices of education, and cherished by the often-inculcated instructions of weak or designing men? I know nothing in the power of human nature in order to our being assured of truth or being delivered from error, but a fair impartial enquiry, and to that we appeal in the present case. The generality of hardened sinners must according to this rule be acknowledged to have prejudged the cause, and therefore to be unqualified for determining it, for their hearts will tell them they designedly avoid a trial : But if any one will pretend to argue upon it, let it be observed, that there are certain principles, in which the mind must necessarily rest,

without

Serm. without being able to proceed any farther
XIV. in searching the grounds of its persuasion:

'A clear and distinct perception of the agree-
ment or disagreement of our own ideas is
the certain distinguishing mark of truth or
falshood in points of speculation; according-
ly there are some propositions self-evident,
as we commonly speak, or the truth of
which the understanding necessarily per-
ceiveth as soon as they are intelligibly pro-
posed to it, so that it would be a ridiculous
attempt to prove them: Again, we find
ourselves obliged to acquiesce in the testi-
mony of the external senfes concerning the
qualities of material objects, together with
the immediate effects they produce in us,
such as pleasure and pain : If, now, there
is an internal sense by which we as necessarily
perceive the difference between right and
wrong, or moral good and evil in affections
and actions; and if, with an application to
ourselves, this constantly and uniformly pro-
duceth the directly oppofite effects of self-
approbation and disapprobation, independent-
ly on our own choice, together with a con-
fidence and a fear towards other intelligent
moral agents, especially the Supreme ; and,
lastly, if all this appeareth to us whenever
we attend to it, still the more evidently,

the

:

[ocr errors]

the more closely we examine it and the lefs SERMO confused and disturbed our thoughts ate ; XIV.. whether it be so or not, let every one judge for himself; if, I say, it be so, we may then, I think, conclude it is the voice of nature neceffarily resulting from our constitua tion, and the doctrine of the apostle in my text is the doctrine of immutable reason fuppofing only the being of God and his moral character. Love

There is nothing I believe goeth so far tos wards erasing those sentiments out of the hus man mind, at least hindering their proper efe fect, as falfe notions of the Deity and of relia gion. If men can once be persuaded that God is not a perfectly holy, righteous, and good being, or that he doth not exercise thefe pers fections in the government of his reasonable ereatures; but that he dealeth with them in a way of arbitrary dominion, in consequence of which the immediate neceffary condition of their acceptance with him is not an imitation of his moral attributes, and obeying his precepts of eternal righteousness to which their consciences bear witness, but fomething else fubftituted in the room of that, which it is pretende ed he hath revealed, or which men have ind vented; sucha persuafion must go agreat length in unhinging the true foundations of hope to· VOL. III. A a

wards

SERM.wards him and fear of his displeasure, which XIV. I have endeavoured to shew both scripture w and reason establish; and, indeed, a great

way in defeating the work of the law which is written in our hearts. The traditions of men concerning rites and ceremonies which they fondly imagine will please God, as our Saviour teacheth, tend to make void his moral precepts: And yet even these false notions of the Deity, and of religion, have not altogether extinguished this light which the Author of nature hath put into our minds, or subverted the foundations of hope and fear arising from the testimony of conscience which are so deep laid in our hearts, When a man hath brought himself to that pernicious opinion concerning the validity and sufficiency of external acts to please God, the merit of others, good but ineffectual inclinations, or any such like things which may be separated from doing sincerely the will of our heavenly Father, still he dares not altogether trust himself on that bottom; suspicions will arise of self-deceit, and a conscience accusing for crimes unrepented of and unreformed, will break in upon his peace, threatening him with the divine displeasure. On the other hand, the righteous is bold as a lion, he pofsefseth undisturbed

tran

tranquillity, is free from the foreboding ap-SERM.
prehensions of vengeance which haunt the XIV.
guilty heart; nay, maintaineth his integrity
in the deepest distresses, and amidst the re-
proaches of men ; if even all the world
should join in condemning him, since he
acquitteth himself, his confidence towards
God remaineth unshaken.

As these sentiments are indelibly im-
printed on the human mind, and necessarily
result from our conftitution, of which God
is the author, we must ascribe them to him.
His will is declared in the nature of things,
and they all serve his purposes. Inanimate
beings in their constant motions, and the
series of their operations, fulfil the law of
their natures; and sensitive creatures, di-
rected by their instincts, always answer the
ends of their being which he hath ap-
pointed ; so it is impossible for us to doubt
but that the fundamental laws of the rational
nature are his will; and that, in judging and
acting according to them, we judge and act
agreeably to his mind. Therefore, seeing
the author of our being hath endued us with
that power which we call conscience, a
power, of self-reflection, of comparing our
own dispositions and actions with a rule en-
graven on our hearts, whence necessarily

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ariseth

A a 2

}

« PreviousContinue »