« PreviousContinue »
For, 1. If we make such an ill description of God, as that he will turn our pleasing him to our loss, or will not turn it to our gain and welfare, or that we know not whether he will do so or not, it will hinder our love, and trust, and joy, in him, by wbich we must please him, and, consequently, hinder the alacrity, and soundness, and constancy, of our obedience.
2. And it will much dismiss that self-love which must excite us, and it will take off part of our necessary end. And I think the objectors would confess, that if they have no certainty what God will do with them, they must have some probability and hope before they can be sincerely devoted here to please him.
Sect. 6. And, 1. If a man be but uncertain what he should make the end of his life, or what he should live for, how can he pitch upon an uncertain end? And if he waver so as to have no end, he can use no means; and if end and means be all laid by, the man liveth not as a man, but as a brute : and what a torment must it be to a considering mind to be uncertain what to intend and do in all the the tenor and actions of his life? Like a man going out at his door, not knowing whither or what to do, or which way to go : either he will stand still, or move as brutes do, by present sense, or as a windmill, or weathercock, as he is moved.
Sect. 7. 2. But if he pitch upon a wrong end, it may yet be worse than none; for he will but do hurt, or make work for repentance : and all the actions of his life must be formally wrong, how good soever, materially, if the end of them be wrong.
Sect. 8. ïi. And if I fetch them not from this end, and believe not in God as a rewarder of his servants, in a better life, what motives shall I have, which in our present difficulties, will be sufficient to cause me to live a holy, yea, or a truly honest, life? All piety and honesty, indeed, is good, and goodness is desirable for itself: but the goodness of a means is its aptitude for the end ; and we have here abundance of impediments, competitors, diversions, and temptations, and difficulties of many sorts; and all these must be overcome by him that will live in piety or honesty : and our natures, we find, are diseased, and greatly indisposed to unquestionable duties ; and will they ever discharge them, and conquer all these difficulties and temptations, if the necessary motive be not believed ? Duty to God and man is accidentally hard and costly to the flesh, though amiable in itself. It may cost us our estates, our liberties, our lives. The world is not so happy as commonly to know good men from bad, or to encourage piety and virtue, or to forbear opposing them. And who will let go his present welfare, without some hope of better, as a reward? Men use not to serve God for nought; nor that think it will be their loss to serve him.
Sect. 9. A life of sin will not be avoided upon lower ends and motives : nay, those lower ends, when alone, will be a constant sin themselves. A preferring vanity to glory, the creature to God, and a setting our heart on that which will never make us happy : and when lust and appetite incline men, strongly and constantly, to their several objects, what shall sufficiently restrain them, except the greater and more durable delights or motives fetched from preponderating things ? Lust and appetite distinguish not between lawful and unlawful. We may see in the brutish politics of Benedictus Spinosa, in his Tractat. Theolog. Polit., whither the principles of infidelity tend. If sin so overspread the earth, that the whole world is as drowned in wickedness, notwithstanding all the hopes and fears of a life to come, what would it do were there no such hopes and fears ?
Sect. 10. iïi. And no mercy can be truly known and estimated, nor rightly used and improved, by him that seeth not its tendency to the end, and perceiveth not that it leadeth to a better life, and useth it not thereunto. God dealeth more bountifully with us than worldlings understand. He giveth us all the mercies of this life, as helps to an immortal state of glory, and as earnests of it. Sensualists know not what a soul is, nor what soul mercies are; and, therefore, not what the soul of all bodily mercies are, but take up only with the carcass, shell or shadow. If the king would give me a lordship, and send me a horse, or coach to carry me to it, and I should only ride about the fields for my pleasure, and make no other use of it, should I not undervalue and lose the principal benefit of my horse or coach? No wonder if unbelievers be unthankful, when they know not at all that part of God's mercies which is the life and real excellency of them.
Sect. 11. iv. And, alas! how should I bear with comfort the sufferings of this wretched life, without the hopes of a life with Christ? What should support and comfort me under my bodily languishings and pains, my weary hours, and my daily experience of the vanity and vexation of all things under the sun, had I not a prospect of a comfortable end of all? I that have lived in the midst of great and precious mercies, have all my life had something to do to overcome the temptation of wishing that I had never been born, and had never overcome it but by the belief of a blessed life hereafter. Solomon's sense of vanity and vexation hath long made all the business, and and wealth, and honor, and pleasure, of this world, as such, appear such a dream and shadow to me, that were it not for the end, I could not have much differenced men's sleeping and their waking thoughts, nor have much more have valued the waking than the sleeping part of life, but should have thought it a kind of happiness to have slept from the birth unto the death. Children cry when they come into the world; and I am often sorry when I am awakened out of a quiet sleep, especially to the business of an unquiet day. We should be strongly tempted, in our considering state, to murmur at our Creator, as dealing much hardlier by us than by the brutes, if we must have had all those cares, and griefs, and fears, by the knowledge of what we want, and the prospect of death, and future evils, which they are exempted from, and had not, withal, had the hopes of a future felicity to support us.
Seneca and his stoics had no better argument to silence such murmurers who believed not a better life, than to tell them, that if this life had'more evil than good, and they thought God did them wrong, they might remedy themselves by ending it when they would. But that would not cure the repinings of a nature which found itself necessarily weary of the miseries of life, and yet afraid of dying. And it is no great wonder that many thought that pre-existent souls were put into these bodies as a punishment of something done in a former life, while they foresaw not the hoped end of all our fears and sorrows. • O how contemptible a thing is man!' saith the same Seneca; "unless he lift up himself above human things.' Therefore, saith Solomon, when he had glutted himself with all temporal pleasures, "I hated life, because the work that is wrought under
the sun is grevious to me ; for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” (Eccles. ii. 17.)
Sect. 12. II. I have often thought whether an implicit belief of a future happiness, without any search into its nature, and thinking of any thing that can be said against it, or the searching, trying way, be better. On the one side, I have known many godly women that never disputed the matter, but served God, comfortably, to a very old age, (between eighty and one hundred,) to have lived many years in a cheerful readiness and desire of death, and such as few learned, studious men do ever attain to in that degree, who, no doubt, bad this as a divine reward of their long and faithful service of God, and trusting in him. On the other side, a studious man can hardly keep off all objections, or secure his mind against the suggestions of difficulties and doubts; and if they come in, they must be answered, seeing we give them half a victory if we cast them off before we can answer them. And a faith that is not upheld by such evidence of truth as reason can discern and justify, is oft joined with much secret doubting, which men dare not open, but do not, therefore, overcome, and its weakness may have a weakening deficiency, as to all the graces and duties which should be strengthened by it. And who knoweth how soon a temptation from Satan, or infidels, or our own dark hearts, may assault us, which will not, without such evidence and resolving light, be overcome? And yet many that try, and reason, and dispute most, have not the strongest, or most powerful faith.
Sect. 13. And my thoughts of this have had this issue. 1. There is a great difference between that light which showeth us the thing itself, and that artificial skill by which we have right notions, names, definitions, and formed arguments, and answers to objections. This artisicial, logical, organical kind of knowledge is good and useful in its kind, if right; like speech itself: but he that hath much of this, may have little of the former : and unlearned persons that have little of this, may have more of the former, and may have those inward perceptions of the verity of the promises and rewards of God, which they cannot bring forth into artificial reasonings to themselves or others; who are taught of God, by the effective sort of teaching which reacheth the heart, or will, as well as the nnderstanding, and
must be. *
is a giving of what is taught, and a making us such as we are told we
And who findeth not need to pray hard for this effective teaching of God, when he hath got all organical knowledge, and words and arguments in themselves most apt, at his fingers' ends, as we say? When I can prove the truth of the word of God, and the life to come, with the most convincing, undeniable reasons, I feel need to cry and pray daily to God, to increase my faith, and to give me that light which may staisfy the soul, and reach the end.
Sect. 14. 2. Yet man, being a rational wight, is not taught by mere instinct and inspiration, and therefore this effective teaching of God doth ordinarily suppose a rational, objective, organical teaching and knowledge. And the aforesaid unlearned Christians are convinced, by good evidence, that God's word is true, and his rewards are sure, though they have but a confused conception of this evidence, and cannot word it, nor reduce it to fit notions. And to drive these that have fundamental evidence, unseasonably and hastily to dispute their faith, and so to puzzle them by words and artificial objections, is but to hurt them, by setting the artificial, organical, lower part, which is the body of knowledge, against the real light and perception of the thing, (which is as the soul,) even as carnal men set the creatures against God, that should lead us to God, so do they by logical, artificial knowledge.
Sect. 15. But they that are prepared for such disputes, and furnished with all artificial helps, may make good use of them for defending and clearing up the truth to themselves and others, so be it they use them as a means to the due end, and in a right manner, and set them not up against, or instead of, the real and effective light.
Sect. 16. But the revealed and necessary part must here be distinguished from the unrevealed and unnecessary. To study till we, as clearly as may be, understand the certainty of a future happiness, and wherein it consisteth, (in the sight of God's glory, and in perfect, holy, mutual love, in union with Christ, and all the blessed,) this is of great use to our holiness and peace. But when we will know
This is the true mean between George Keith the Quaker's doctrine of continued inspiration and intuition, and that on the other extreme.