صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

fhip him only; to pray to him alone, and that only in the name and mediation of Jesus Christ, as he hath given us commandment; because there is but one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Chrift Jefus: If it feem evil unto you, to have the liberty to ferve God in a language you can understand, and to have the free use of the holy scriptures, which are able to make men wife unto falvation, and to have the facraments of our religion entirely administered to us, as our Lord did institute and appoint:

And, on the other hand, if it fecm good to us, to put our necks once more under that yoke which our fathers were not able to bear; if it be really a preferment to a prince to hold the Pope's stirrup, and a privilege to be deposed by him at his pleasure, and a courtesy to be killed at his command; if to pray without underftanding, and to obey without reason, and to believe against fenfe; if ignorance, and implicit faith, and an inquifition, be in good earnest fuch charming and defirable things: Then welcome Popery; which, where-ever thou comeft, doft infallibly bring all thefe wonderful privileges and bleflings along with thee.

But the question is not now about the choice, but the change of our religion, after we have been fo long fettled in the quiet poffeffion and enjoyment of it. Men are very loth to change even a falfe religion. Hath a nation changed their gods, which yet are no gods? And furely there is much more reafon why we fhould be tenacious of the truth, and hold fast that which is good.

We have the best religion in the world, the very fame which the Son of God revealed, which the Apoftles planted and confirmed by miracles, and which the noble army of martyrs fealed with their blood; and we have retrenched from it all falfe doctrines and fuperftitious practices which have been added fince. And I think we may without immodesty fay, that, upon the plain fquare of fcripture and reafon, of the tradition and practice of the firft and beft ages of the Chriftian church, we have fully juftified our religion; and made it evident to the world, that our adverfaries are put to very hard fhifts, and upon a perpetual difadvantage, in the defence of theirs.


I wish it were as eafy for us to justify our lives as our religion. I do not mean in comparison of our adverfaries, (for that, as bad as we are, I hope we are yet able to do); but in comparison of the rules of our holy religion, from which we are infinitely fwerved; which I would to God we all did seriously confider and lay to heart I fay, in comparison of the rules of our holy religion, which teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lufts, and to live foberly, and righteously, and godly in this prefent world in expectation of the bleed hope, and the glorious appearance of the great God, and our Saviour Jefus Chrift. To whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghoft, &c.



Objections againft the true religion answered.

JOSHUA Xxiv. 15.

And if it feem evil unto you to ferve the Lord, chufe you this day whom you will ferve.


The fecond fermon on this text.

Hefe words, as I have already declared in the former discourse, are the last counsel and advice which Joshua gave to the people of Ifrael, after he had fafely conducted them into the land of Canaan. And that he might the more effectually perfuade them to continue ftedfast in the worship of the true God, by an eloquent kind of infinuation, he doth, as it were, once more fet them at liberty, and leave them to their own choice: If it feem evil unto you to ferve the Lord, chufe you this day whom you will ferve.

The plain fenfe of which words may be refolved into this propofition, That notwithstanding all the prejudices and objections against the true religion, yet it hath those

N 2


real advantages on its fide, that it may fafely be referred to any impartial and confiderate man's choice. If it fee evil unto you to ferve the Lord; intimating, that to fome perfons, and upon fome accounts, it may feem fo: but, when the matter is thoroughly examined, the refolution and choice cannot be difficult, nor require any long deliberation: Chufe you this day whom you will Serve.

The true religion hath always lain under fome prejudices with partial and inconfiderate men, arifing chiefly from these two caufes; the prepoffeffions of a falfe religion; and the contrariety of the true religion to the inclinations of men, and the uneafiness of it in point of practice.

I. From the prepoffeffions of a falfe religion, which hath always been wont to lay claim to antiquity and univerfality, and to charge the true religion with novelty and fingularity. And both thefe are intimated before the text: Put away the gods whom your fathers ferved on the other fide of the flood, and in Egypt; and chufe you this day whom you will ferve. It was pretended, that the worship of idols was the ancient religion of the world, of thofe great nations the Egyptians and Chaldeans, and of all the nations round about them. But this hath already been confidered at large.

II. There are another fort of prejudices against religion, more apt to ftick with men of better sense and reafon; and thefe arife principally from the contrariety of the true religion to the inclinations of men, and the uncafinefs of it in point of practice. It is pretended, that religion is a heavy yoke, and lays too great a reftraint upon human nature; and that the laws of it bear too hard upon the general inclinations of mankind.

I fhall not at prefent meddle with the fpeculative objections against religion, upon account of the pretended unreafonablenefs of many things in point of belief; becaufe the contrariety of the true religion to the inclinations of men, and the uneafinefs of it in point of practice, is that which in truth lies at the bottom of Atheism and infidelity, and raises all that animofity which is in the minds of bad men against religion, and exafperates them to oppofe it with all their wit and malice: Men

love darkness rather than light, becaufe their deeds are evil. And if this prejudice were but once removed, and men were in fome measure reconciled to the practice of religion, the fpeculative objections against it would almost vanish of themfelves: for there wants little else to enable a man to answer them, but a willingness of mind to have them anfwered, and that we have no interest and inclination to the contrary. And therefore I fhall at prefent wholly apply myfelf to remove this prejudice against religion, from the contrariety of it to the inclinations of men, and the uneasiness of it in point of practice.

And there are two parts of this objection.

1. That a great part of the laws of religion do thwart the natural inclinations of men, which may reasonably be fuppofed to be from God. And,

2. That all of them together are a heavy yoke, and do lay too great a restraint upon human nature, intrenching too much upon the pleasures and liberty of it.

1. That a great part of the laws of religion do thwart the natural inclinations of men, which may reasonably be fuppofed to be from God. So that God feems to to have fet our nature and our duty at variance; to have given us appetites and inclinations one way, and laws another which, if it were true, muft needs render the practice of religion very grievous and uneafy.

The force of this objection is very smartly expreffed in those celebrated verses of a Noble poet of our own, which are fo frequently in the mouths of many who are thought to bear no good will to religion.

O wearifome condition of humanity,

Born under one law, to another bound ;
Vainly begot, and yet forbidden vanity;
Created fick, commanded to be found!
If Nature did not take delight in blood,
She would have made more eafy ways to good.

So that this objection would fain charge the fins of men upon God; firft upon account of the evil inclinations of our nature; and then of the contrariety of our duty to those inclinations. And, from the beginning, man hath always been apt to lay the blame of his faults,

N 3


[ocr errors]

where it can leaft lie, upon goodnefs and perfection itfelf. The very firft fin that ever man was guilty of, he endeavoured to throw upon God: The woman whom thou gavest me, (faith Adam), he gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And his pofterity are ftill apt to excufe But to return a particular

themselves the same way. answer to this objection :

It, We will acknowledge fo much of it as is true: That there is a great degeneracy and corruption of human nature, from what it was originally framed when it came out of God's hands; of which the fcripture gives us this account, that it was occafioned by the voluntary tranfgreffion of a plain and eafy command given by God to our first parents. And this weaknefs, contracted by the fall of our firft parents, naturally defcends upon us their pofterity, and vifibly difcovers itself in our inclinations to evil, and impotence to that which is good.

[ocr errors]

And of this the Heathen philofophers, from the light of nature, and their own experience and obfervation of themselves and others, were very fenfible; that human nature was very much declined from its primitive rectitude, and funk into a weak, and drooping, and fickly ftate, which they called a lapeppunos, the moulting of the wings of the foul: but yet they were so just and reasonable, as not to charge this upon God, but upon fome corruption and impurity contracted by the foul in a former state before its union with the body. For the defcent of the foul into thefe grofs earthly bodies, they looked upon as partly the punishment of faults committed in a former ftate, and partly as the opportunity of a new trial, in order to its purgation and recovery. And this was the beft account they were able to give of this matter, without the light of divine revelation.

So that the degeneracy of human nature is univerfally acknowledged, and God acquitted from being the cause of it. But, however, the pofterity of Adam do all partake of the weakness contracted by his fall, and do still labour under the miferies and inconveniencies of it. But then this degeneracy is not total: for though our faculties be much weakened and difordered, yet they are not destroyed, nor wholly perverted. Our


« السابقةمتابعة »