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any Degree of Perfuafion, in Favour of Virtue only, much more of natural Religion too, should excite a proportionably serious Regard to it and that the loweft Apprehenfion of the Truth of Chriftianity, (which, I hope I proved to you, though briefly, hath the clearest Marks of Truth upon it) greatly strengthens every other Tie; and farther binds Men to inform themselves fully about it, as foon as poffible; and give it refpectful Treatment in the mean Time.
If then even thefe Perfons are to behave thus, how are we to behave? The Doubter, nay the Infidel, is obliged to no fmall Care of his Heart and Life: what is the Believer obliged to? We pride ourselves on being fuch: pity or deteft those who are not: and yet, all the while, Chriftians who think and act otherwife than Chriftians ought, may deferve full as ill, perhaps much worfe, than they indeed may be one chief Caufe, that they are what they are. Leaving others therefore to the Judge of all; let us at prefent think of ourfelves: confider, what Manner of Perfons our holy Profeffion requires us to be; and whether we fo obferve its Rules, that we may justly hope to attain its End: efcape the Wrath
Wrath to come, and partake of the Glory that fhall be revealed. Now it plainly requires,
1. That we be duly affected by the peculiar Doctrines of Christianity. Many that profess it, and are perfuaded of its Authority, seem to have no Notion almost of its Value, or of any great Regard owing to it. They fay, it is defigned intirely to make Men live good Lives: and accordingly if they do but live what the World calls a good Life, the Design is anfwered. As for Matters of mere Faith, or even of Practice beyond this, they conceive there is little Need of being concerned about them: and thus they are very good Christians in their own Opinions, with scarce any Thing to distinguish them from good, or perhaps even from indifferent, Heathens. In this Error, the artful Enemies of the Gospel studioufly confirm its inconfiderate Friends. For thus, pretending by no Means to oppose it, but only to rectify Mens Notions about it; and making loud Complaints, if they are fufpected of any Thing worfe; they can deftroy, where they gain Credit, the whole Effect of what it adds to the Religion of Nature: and induce the unwary to imagine, there is Nothing in Matth. iii. 7. Luke iii. 7.
bi Pet. V. I.
it, worth contending for, befides those practical, focial, and real Duties, as they are pleased, by Way of Diftinction, to call them, which our Reafon and Senfes prefcribe in common to us all; and which therefore we may learn and obferve as well without, as with the Bible; where they lie mixed with many other Things, useless, if not hurtful; and are either mifrepresented by the Writers themselves, or very liable to be mistaken by us. But indeed, if the very Writers of Scripture, with the Spirit of God to affift them, mifunderftood the Doctrines of Revelation; he both chofe and guided them extremely ill; nor have we any poffible Means of understanding thofe Doctrines now. And if either they or we understand them at all; our Maker expects from us the Belief of many Things undifcoverable by Reafon, as Points of great Confequence to our eternal Well-being; as with good Cause he may. The Knowledge of our fallen Eftate fhews us our original Deftination, and our present Need of Help from above. The Incarnation and Death of God's eternal Son could not be appointed by him for Purposes of fmall Importance: and his Word acquaints us, that Bleffings of the highest Importance depend on what he hath
done and fuffered for us: on his Atonement and Mediation, our Title to Pardon of Sin; on the Grace of the Holy Ghost whom he fent, our Ability of performing acceptable Obedience; on both, our Refurrection to eternal Life; on our Belief of thefe Things, our Intereft in them. If then the Gospel be true, its peculiar Doctrines are of the utmoft Moment: and the Duties grounded on them, which we owe to God, as the Father of our Lord Jefus Chrift; to his Son, as our Redeemer; to his bleffed Spirit, as our Sanctifier; are both as real, and as weighty, as any possibly can be; fully equal in their Obligation, and fuperior in their Rank, to the most valuable ones of human Society. They therefore who neglect them, lead very wicked, instead of good Lives: and they who esteem them lowly, difhonour the Author of them. It is true, Reafon cannot prove them: but it doth not contradict them. They are
taught in Scripture only: but they are taught there by the all-wife God: and he cannot have left us at Liberty to model his Revelations according to our own Fancies; admit Part, and reject Part: but we are to take the whole Plan of our Salvation, as he hath delivered it: believe it, though implicitly; and refpect it, in D 3 Proportion
Proportion to the Strefs laid upon it by him, whomust know. This will naturally difpofe us,
2. To perform the next Obligation incumbent on us: paying a due Regard to the pecaliar Inftitutions of Christianity. Great Numbers appear to have fome how perfuaded themselves, that several Things, which they must acknowledge their Maker hath appointed, as the ordinary Means of heavenly Grace and spiritual Improvement, may notwithstanding, nearly, if not quite, as well, be let alone. Baptism indeed they do practise: but with plain Marks of confidering it, as a mere empty Ceremony; not, as our Saviour hath declared it, the exprefs and original Condition of our Claim to all the Mercies of the Gospel-Covenant. Laying on of Hands in Confirmation, after proper Inftruction and a perfonal Engagement to live pioufly and virtuoufly, though evidently a very affecting and ufeful Rite, and reckoned, in the Epiftle to the Hebrews, amongst the Principles of the Doctrine of Chrift; is yet defired, in Proportion, but by few. Receiving the holy Eucharift, though a Duty of all Chriftians, enjoined by our bleffed Redeemer, almoft with his dying Words, and deMark xvi. 16. John iii. 5.
d Heb. vi, 1, 2.