« VorigeDoorgaan »
18. Therefore, if I were to advise any man, who is resolved by his practice to contradict that opi- | nion, which he saith he hath of God, or that is not resolved to live with that reverence and awfulness due to the majesty of Almighty God, in whose presence he always is, I would counsel him not to believe himself, when he professes the omnipresence or omniscience of God; for, without all contradiction, though by living in a nation, where every one with whom he converses, professeth so much, he may have learned to say, there is a God, and that this God is every where present, and takes particular notice of whatsoever is done in heaven and earth; yet, if this notion were firmly rooted in his soul, as a matter of religion, as a business upon which depends the everlasting welfare of his soul and body, it is altogether impossible for him to continue in an habitual practice of such things as are evidently repugnant and destructive to such a conceit. For, tell me, would any man in his right senses, when he shall see another drink down a poison, which he knows will suddenly prove mortal unto him, I say, man be so mad as to believe such an one, though he should, with the most earnest protestations that can be imagined, profess that he is not weary of his life, but intends to prolong it as long as God and nature will give him leave?
19. The case is altogether, in each point and circumstance, the same: for he who saith, he believeth or assenteth to any doctrine, as a fundamental point of his religion, intends thus much by it—that he has bound himself in certain bonds unto Almighty God (for so the very name of religion doth import) to expect no benefit at all from
him, but upon condition of believing such Divine truths as it shall please him to reveal unto him, namely, as means and helps of a devout religious life, and worship of him: for God reveals nothing of himself to any man for this end, to satisfy his curiosity, or to afford him matter of discourse or news; but to instruct him how he may behave himself here in this life, that he may attain those promises, which shall be fulfilled to those who sincerely and devoutly serve and obey him.
20. Therefore he that shall say, I believe such a truth revealed by God, and yet lives as if he had never heard of such a thing, yea, as if he had been persuaded of the contrary, is as much to be believed, as if he should say, I will drink a deadly poison to quench my thirst, or will stab myself to the heart for physic, to let out superfluous blood : so that that man who is not resolved to break off his wicked courses by repentance, and conversion unto God; that lives as if the devil
only were every where, and he resolved to please ( and delight him with his ungodly life; let not
such an one use himself to say, I believe that God is always present with me, and a spectator of my actions; for thereby he shall only add a lie to the rest of his sins, and fuel to the lake of fire and brimstone: he shall never persuade God to believe him, that he was of such an opinion; but that whatsoever his tongue said, and his fancy now and then apprehended, yet in his conscience he was always a constant resolved atheist, and in his heart he said, “ There is no God.”
21. In the second place, thou acknowledgest, that God, whom thou professest obedience to, is infinitely righteous, insomuch that it is impossible
that he should not hate and abhor unrighteousness in whomsoever he finds it; yea, so natural and essential is his justice unto him, that he should deny himself, if he should accept any man's person, if he should not be avenged on sin, if he should not most severely punish it. Thou canst not be ignorant how many vows and protestations he hath made almost every where through the Holy Scripture, of his hatred and indignation against sin, insomuch that heaven and earth
may pass away, but not one jot or tittle of those curses and plagues shall fall to the ground, which he hath denounced against impenitent sinners.
22. And shall not thy own mouth here once again condemn thee, O thou wicked servant ? Darest thou then every hour wilfully, and even contentedly, do such things as must certainly procure his anger and indignation against thee for ever? Wilt thou, for the sinful pleasure of a few minutes, put thyself in such a condition, that God must of necessity be angry with thee? That he must cease to be God, unless he hate and abhor thee? Certainly, if thou wouldst descend into thine own heart, if thou wouldst give thyself leave carefully and impartially to examine thy thoughts, thou wouldst find, that thy tongue has given thy soul the lie, when it has told thee, that God is immutably just and righteous; and yet for all that, that thou art resolved to run on in such courses, as must of necessity pull down his heavy displeasure against thee.
23. At least, thou wilt find in thy heart earnest desires and wishes, that God were not so righteous as preachers tell thee he is! O! thinkest thou in thy heart, that God were such an unrighteous
O that his power
person as I am! O! that he could be content to wink at me, when I am about the fulfilling of my ungodly desires! Alas! what harm is it to him, what inconvenience accrues to him by it, if I enjoy the sinful pleasures of this life? Or, if he will needs be angry, O that it were not in his power to revenge himself upon me! were not so unlimited as they say it is!
24. I know men will be apt to flatter themselves though they be never so vicious, and to think, that they are extremely wronged, to have such imputations laid upon them: they will be ready to answer me, in the words of Hazael to the prophet Elisha, when he told him what horrible massacres he should commit among the Israelites, when he should have the crown of Syria set on his head, “What! dost thou think us dogs, that we should do such things as these!” We are so far from robbing God of his justice, that we should be mortal enemies to any that dare proceed to that height of impiety; nay, we should be content to sacrifice our own lives, rather than be brought to deny that, or any other of his glorious attributes.
25. Truly, I am so charitably minded, as to think that there is none so wicked, but would confidently make this defence for himself, yea, and believes he is in earnest when he speaks so. But this will not serve the turn; for “God seeth not as man sees,” he judgeth not as man judgeth, but he judgeth righteous judgment: for instance, in that great example which our Saviour gives of the fashion and course of judgment, according to which he purposes to proceed in the last day; he accuses the wicked, and condemns them for neglect of visiting, and feeding, and clothing him. The apology which they make for themselves, as having never seen him in that exigence, would not be taken: for though I am persuaded they there spake nothing but what they verily thought, namely, that if ever they had seen Christ himself in such want and necessity, they would not have been so hard-hearted to him as they were to his poor servants; yet Christ will not allow of that excuse, but accounts of their uncharitableness to afflicted Christians as directed to himself.
26. So likewise in the case in hand : though I believe it would be hard to persuade even the most licentious professed sinner, that he believes not indeed the justice and righteousness of God; yet he shall find at last, and that miserably to his cost, that God, who knows his heart much better than himself, for all his professions, will yet esteem him an atheist; and will prove evidently and convincingly unto him, that since that knowledge, which he pretended to have of God's righteousness, had been so fruitless and superficial, that, notwithstanding such a conceit, he proceeded still on in his ungodly courses, that therefore he did but delude himself all the while with fantastical ungrounded illusions; so that whatsoever imagination swims in his brain, yet, in the language of his heart, that is, in the propension and sway
of his affections, he said, “ There is no God.”—Now, what hath been said of the omnipresence, infinite knowledge, and justice of God, may, by the same reason and proportion, be spoken of the rest of his glorious attributes. But the straitness of time will force me to leave the rest untouched : I will proceed therefore to make the like collections from one or two articles more of the Creed.