[ocr errors]

butes; yet notwithstanding, in his heart, (that is, in the phrase of the Scripture) in the propension and inclination of his affections, and, by consequence, in the course and practice of his life, he denies and renounces God: he accounts the spending a little time in thinking and meditating on the providence, or mercy, or severity of God, to be an employment very ungainful and disadvantageous to him, a business likely to trouble and spoil many of his ungodly projects, and to hinder him in his fortunes; and, for this reason, he will put God far away from him; he will not suffer him to be (as the Psalmist saith, Psal. x. 4.) “ in all his crafty purposes.

4. I willingly confess, that this saying in the heart, “There is no God,” may reasonably be interpreted to be a secret whispering suggestion, an inward persuasion, by fits, which a wretched worldling may have, that since he has thrived so well by his carelessness in observing God's word, and obstinate opposing himself to his will, it may be possible there is indeed no God at all; or if there be, that he will not vouchsafe to descend so low as to take notice what is done here on earth, or to observe how each particular person behaves himself in this life. Now, because I will not set up one of these expositions against the other, I will hereafter, as occasion shall offer itself, make use of them both.

5. Having therefore conceived the sense of the text to be such as I have now told you ; in the words I observed two general parts. First, The cause of atheism, and, by consequence, all the abominations following through the whole psalm, intimated in the person Nabal, i.e. the fool, which is folly, i. e. ignorance, or rather incogitancy, inconsideration. Secondly, The effect of this folly, which is atheism, and that seated not in the brain, but in the heart or affections. I have already gone through the former part, namely, The cause of atheism, which is folly; in the prosecution whereof, I endeavoured to discover wherein this folly doth consist: and that is not so much in an utter ignorance of God, and his holy word, as a not making a good use of it, when it is known; a suffering it to lie dead, to swim unprofitably in the brain, without any fruit thereof in the reformation of a man's life and conversation. And, there I shewed, first, what extreme folly it was for a man to seek to increase the knowledge of his master's will, without a resolution to increase proportionably in a serious active performance thereof. And, secondly, the extreme unavoidable danger and increase of guilt, which knowledge, without practice, brings with it. To both which considerations I severally annexed applications to the consciences of them that heard me, and should have proceeded to

6. The Second general part; which is, The effect and fruit of the folly or inconsideration of Nabal, (the fool) in my text, which is atheism practical, not of the understanding, but the will and affections. But the time being spent in the prosecution of the former general part, I was forced to reserve this second general, to be the employment of another hour.

7. Only thus much I then made promise of, (which debt I purpose now to discharge to you) namely, To demonstrate, by infallible deductions out of God's word, that many who profess reli

gion, and a perfect knowledge of God's word, yet whilst they allow him only the brain, and not (what he almost only requires) the heart and affections, may prove in God's account very atheists. Or, to bring it nearer home, I promised to shew how that many of the ordinary courses, and most uncontrolled practices, of men of this age, do utterly contradict, and formally destroy, the very foundations and principles of that glorious religion which they profess. Of these, &c.

8. At the first sight, indeed, a man would think, that of all the places in Holy Scripture, and of all the ages which have been since the world began, that this text, and these times, should suit worst together : for, first, if a man would strive, with all the earnestness, and even spite, he could, in all the abominable odious colours to describe the worst of all human creatures, even the idolatrous, self-devouring Indians, what more horrible expression could he imagine to himself than to call them fools, and such fools who say in their heart, “ There is no God ?" Again, if we shall inquire and ask the former ages, if ever the world was so stored, and even oppressed with knowledge ? they will tell us, that the light was never a burden, nor knowledge a vice, before now. Never, till now, did all sorts and conditions of men pretend to be able to state the most intricate profound questions of our religion : never, till now, was Moses' wish fulfilled, “I would to God, that all the people of the Lord were prophets;” though in a sense which would scarcely have pleased him.

9. These things considered, were it not fit (think you) that I should renounce my text, or travel to find out a nation whom it may concern,


and who have need to hear atheists condemned? I would to God, (my beloved brethren) that whatsoever I shall speak against that fearful sin of atheism, may prove vain unprofitable words, words which may return empty, having found none to fasten upon : I would to God, that I might strive now as one that beateth the air, so that you (even you that know so much) were innocent. But David found this a doctrine fit to be pressed in his days, which were none of the worst neither: yea, he hath a second time, in Psal. liii. almost in terminis terminantibus, repeated whatsoever he here speaks of the atheist: we find not such an example through the whole Scripture, except it be in a history, or where the quotation is mentioned. Therefore, surely it may be pertinent, and sometimes useful, even in the church, to have atheism discovered, to have this doctrine preached and repreached; it was so in David's time; and it shall go hard, but we shall shew, that we ourselves, though never so wise, and learned, and knowing in our own opinion, yet that we also ought not to take it to heart, if sometimes we be suspected and challenged of atheism.

10. That temptation which the devil found hard enough for himself, even when he was an angel of light, namely, Ero similis Altissimo, “I shall be like the Most Highest,” now that it is his office and employment to become a tempter, he hath since scarce ever varied. At the first exercise of his trade with his first customers, Adam and Eve, he began with it: “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” And if we shall impartially examine our own thoughts, we shall find almost in every suggestion, at least, some degree and tinc

[ocr errors]

ture of atheism: either we do exalt and deify our ownselves, or else we do dishonour, and in a manner degrade, Almighty God, deposing him from that sovereignty and sway, which he ought to exercise in our hearts and consciences.

11. This, I say, is true, in some measure, in all temptations, in all sins whatsoever-there is some quantity of atheism, though the sins be but of an ordinary size and rank. But this is not that which I would now stand upon: it concerns me to shew, that though men be never so orthodox in their opinions, though they pretend to never so much zeal of the truth which they profess, yet unless that Divine truth be powerful and persuasive enough to the performance and practice of such duties as bear a natural resemblance and proportion unto it; they that make such a profession of God's truth, do but flatter themselves; they only think they believe; but indeed, and in truth, there is no such thing as faith in them. For, we must know, that there is no Divine truth so utterly speculative, but that there naturally and infallibly flows and results from it (as necessarily as warmth from light) a duty to be practised and put in execution; insomuch that it is impossible for a man to be truly persuaded of the one, but he shall infallibly be persuaded to the other : so that “ he which saith, he knoweth God, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John ii. 4.) And this I shall endeavour to confirm by induction, examining the truth and reality of our assent to the chief fundamental points of our religion by our practices answerable thereto, and concluding, that where the latter is not to be found, it is but a vain

« VorigeDoorgaan »