« PreviousContinue »
tween a naked affent to truth, and adeepSERM. affecting impreffion of the fubject, as of the XV. higheft dignity and worth, or of the utmoft' confequence to ourfdves; the former, be it ever fo firm, frequently reviewed, and carefully attended to, hath no influence at all on the fprings of action: Thus we know there are many fpeculative truths difcovered by diligent obfervation and abftract reafoning, moft certainly believed, and very entertaining to the mind, which yet have no relation to, nor any effect on practice; but there aje certain inftincts or determinations in our nature, which fet all its active powers a-work, and without firft moving them, no object can have any mare in determining our conduct, or can engage our purfuit, whatever light it may appear in to the underftanding. There is a determination in the human mind to approve of moral excellence, and affections to it are a part of our conftitution; felf-love alfo is infeparable from our nature; but neither of thefe operateth neceffarily in the beft manner, and to their producing their proper and regular effects. The objects muft be fet in a juft light, which is the province of faith; We cannot help approving moral rectitude and goodnefs when it is fairly reprefented \ but it is in C c 4 our
Serm. our power, by inveterate prejudices, to vi
XV. tiate our tafte, and even harden our hearts 'into an infenfihility of the beauty of holinefs. In like manner it is impoffible to extinguifh the defire of happinefs; but it is pofiible, and indeed too ufual, to pervert and mifapply it, fo as to prefer trifles to things of the greateft moment, and, inflead of a wife attention to our true intereft, to purfue low and tranfitory enjoyments, as if the whole of man, the all of his happinefs, confifted in them; which proceedeth not from want of felf-love, but mifplacing it; and through the influence of corrupt partial affection misjudging the means whereby our true happine/s is to be attained. Upon the whole, then, the true notion of faith, as a principle to walk by, is compleated in thefe three articles, a right underftanding of religious truths, thofe, I mean, which are eflential and directly tend to a good life, an attentive confideration of them, and receiving them in love. This faith is a moral virtue, indeed the root of all moral virtues; fo it is always reprefented in fcripture, and fo it is properly injoined as the refult of all our moral obligations: For as the due exercife of our rational powers will directly lead us to the knowledge and belief of the great fundamental damental principles of religion, and nothing Serm. can be more apparently our duty, as men, XV. than to apply our minds to the ferious confideration of them, fo the affections planted in our hearts will even naturally terminate on them, as excellent in themfelves, and of the greateft importance to our happinefs, if the courfe of thefe affections be not wilfully and obftinately obftructed by violent contracted prejudices and prepoffeffions.
Having now finimed the explication which I propofed of thefe two directly oppofite principles, faith and fight, I leave it to yourfelves to judge which is the more reafonable and becoming you. In governing ourfelves, and taking the meafures of our conduct by the one, that is, fight, we only provide for the lower part of our na^ ture, and for a very fhort duration; all our cares are employed about the enjoyments of the body, of the fenfes, and the imagination, of a tranfitory life which is but the infancy of our being; the. fuperior powers of our minds are neglected, or not exercifed in a proper manner, and to anfwer the ends they were defigned for. What a difparagement is it to rcafon, capable of difcerning fublime truths, and entertaining the mind with high pleafure, to be ufed wholly in SERM.the fervice, of this animal life and its inte
XV. refts? And how deplorable is the condition of the human heart, when its beft affections, capable of yielding the nobleft enjoyment, are altogether uncultivated and unexercifed? How unworthy of an immortal fpirit are the views of the men who walk by fight? the men whofe profpects do not reach beyond the limits of this fhort and uncertain life? One would think a regard to the dignity of our nature, and the rank it holdeth in the creation, mould raife a refentment againfl fuch difhonour done to it. Hath God allied us to the world of fpirits, and made us qapable of contemplating the noblefl objects, even himfelf, and of being like him, which the fcripture calls partaking of a divine nature; and mail we chufe to confine our views to this earth, and to have our portion in it ?,. Let us at leaft wifely confider where our true intereft lieth, and what is the courfe of life in which we may expect the greateft happinefs. It is impoffible, if we would, to extinguilh the powers of reafon and confcience altogether; if we do not fuffer them to reign, they will at leaft reproach us for the indignity done them, fo feverely, as to pall the pleafures of life, and make us feel the, mofl bitter and 2 inward inward pains, which Solomon calleth wounds Ser M. of the fpirit, and faith, no man can bear XV. them. And as we cannot help having anxious foreboding thoughts of futurity, no man can fatisfy his mind, upon rational evidence, that he fhall not fubfift in another ftate after this life is ended; what defence is there againft the difmal apprehenfions of unhappinefs in it? So that our condition in walking by fight, is both mean and miferable. But faith exalteth the human nature, and raifeth it to the divine likenefs; it enlargeth the intellectual powers, entertaining them with objedts which, though unfeen, are certain, and of the moft tranfcendent excellence, fuch as God himfelf, the beauty of holinefs, and the glories of another world; it is the fubftance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not feen; maketh the invifible Deity, with all his amiable perfections, intimately prefent to the mind, the fubject of its moft affectionate and delightful contemplations; and it is fully convinced, not in the way of an enthufiaftic wilful perfuafion, or fuperftitious bigottry, but by a calm attentive confideration of rational evidence; the mind, I fay, is fully convinced that there is an important reality in the happinefs of good men in a future ftate; upon