Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

great a help to sober consideration, and conversion, that it must be monstrous stupidity and brutishness that must overcome it. Sect. 16. It is also a great advantage for man's conversion, that all the world revealeth God to him, and every thing telleth him of the power, and wisdom, and goodness, and love of God; and of his constant presence, and so showeth him an object which should as easily overpower all sensual objects, which would seduce his soul, as a mountain will weigh down a feather.*

Though we see not God, (which would surely put an end to the controversy whether we should be sensual or holy,) yet while we have a glass as large as all the world, which doth continually represent him to us, one would think that no reasonable creature should so much overlook him, as to be carried from him with the trifles of this world.

Sect. 17. Men that have not only the foresaid obligations to holiness, justice, and sobriety in their natures, but also all these hopes, and helps, and means of their recovery from sin to God, and yet frustrate all, and continue in ungodliness, unrighteousness, or intemperance, impenitently to the end, are utterly destitute of all just excuse why God should not punish them with endless misery, which is the case of all that perish.

Sect. 18. All men shall be judged by the law which was given them of God to live by.

For it is the same law which is regula officii et judicii: God will not condemn men for not believing a truth which mediately or immediately was never revealed to them, and which they had no means to know. Nor for not obeying a law which was never promulgated to them, or they could not come to be acquainted with; physical impossibilities are not the matter of crimes, or of condemnation.

Sect. 19. If any persons are brought by these means alone to repent unfeignedly of an ungodly, uncharitable, and intemperate life, and to love God unfeignedly as their God, above all; and

* Magna pars peccatorum tollitur, si peccati testis adstat.-Sen. What then may the presence of God do? Clemens Alexand. was positive in it that philosophy was blessed to the saving of many heathens who obeyed it. Tunc est consummata infælicitas, ubi turpia non solum delectant, sed etiam placent et desinit esse remedio locus, ubi quæ fuerant vitia, mores fiunt.— Sen. Prov. At morbi perniciosiores pluresque sunt animi quam corporis -Qui vero probari potest, ut sibi mederi animus non possit, cum ipse medicinam corporis animus invenerit? Cumque omnes qui corpore se curari passi sunt, non continuo convalescant: Anima autem qui se sanari voluerint, præceptisque sapientum paruerint, sine ulla dubitatione sanentur.-Cic. Tuscul. 1. 3. p. 270.

[blocks in formation]

to live a holy, obedient life, God will not condemn such persons, though they want a supernatural revelation of his will. (As I showed before, sect. 6.)

Sect. 20. When sinners stand at many degrees distant from God and a holy life, and mercy would draw them nearer him by degrees, they that have help and mercy sufficient, in suo genere, tọ have drawn them nearer God, and refused to obey it, do forfeit the further helps of mercy, and may justly perish and be forsaken by him; though their help was not immediately sufficient to all the further degrees of duty which they were to do."

These things are clear in their proper light, I stand not to prove, because I would not be unnecessarily tedious to the reader.

And so much of godliness, or religion, as revealed by natural light.

Object. But all heathens and infidels find not all this in the book of nature, which you say is there.

Answ. I speak not of what men do see, but what they may see, if they will improve their reason. All this is undeniably legible in the book of nature'; but the infant, the idiot, the illiterate, the scholar, the smatterer, the doctor, the considerate, the inconsiderate, the sensual, the blinded, and the willing, diligent inquirer do not equally see and read that which is written in the same characters to all.

Sunt enim ingeniis nostris semina innata virtutum, quæ si adolescere liceret, ipsa nos ad beatam vitam natura perduceret. Nunc autem simul ac editi sumus in lucem, in omni continuo pravitate versamur, &c.-Cic. 3. Tuscul. N. B. That when philosophers say, that all is good which nature teacheth, &c., they mean by nature, the true and sound constitution of the soul, which they distinguish from its diseases and corruption.

PART II.

OF

CHRISTIANITY

AND

SUPERNATURAL REVELATION.

CHAP. 1.

Of the great Need of a clearer Light, or fuller Revelation of the Will of God, than all that hath been opened before.

WHILST I resolved upon a deep and faithful search into the grounds of all religion, and a review and trial of all that I had myself believed, I thought meet first to pass by persons, and shut up my books, and with retired reason to read the book of nature only; and what I have there found, I have justly told you in the former part, purposely omitting all that might be controverted by any considerable, sober reason, that I might neither stop myself nor my reader in the way; and that I might not deceive myself with plausible consequences of unsound or questionable antecedents; nor discourage my reader by the casting of some doubtful passages in his way, which might tempt him to question all the rest. For I know what a deal of handsome structure may fall through the falseness of some one of the supports, which seemed to stand a great way out of sight. And I have been wearied myself with subtle discourses of learned men, who, in a long series of ergos, have thought that they have left all sure behind them, when a few false suppositions were the life of all. And I know that he who interposeth any doubtful things, doth raise a diffidence in the reader's mind, which maketh him suspect that the ground he standeth on is not firm, and whether all that he readeth be not mere, uncertain things. Therefore, leaving things controvertible for a fitter place and time, I have thus far taken up so much as is plain and sure; which I find of more importance and usefulness to my own information and confirmation, than any of those

controvertible points would be, if I could ever so certainly determine them."

And now, having perused the book of nature, I shall cast up the account, and try what is yet wanting, and look abroad into the opinions of others in the world, and search whence that which is yet wanting may be most fully, and safely, and certainly supplied.

Sect. 1. And first, when I look throughout the world, I find that though all the evidence aforesaid, for the necessity of a holy, virtuous life, be unquestionable in naturâ rerum, yet most of the world observe it not, or discern but little of it, nor much regard the light without, or the secret witness of their consciences within.

Natural light, or evidence, is so unsuccessful in the world, that it loudly telleth us, something is yet wanting, whatever it is. We can discern what it is, which is necessary to man's happiness, but we can hardly discern whether, de facto, any considerable number, at best, do by the teaching of nature alone attain it. When we inquire into the writings of the best of the philosophers, we find so little evidence of real holiness, that is, of the aforesaid resignation, subjection, and love to God as God, that it leaveth us much in doubt whether, indeed, they were holy themselves or not, and whether they made the knowledge, love, obedience, and praise of God, the end and business of their lives. However, there is too great evidence, that the world lieth in darkness and wickedness, where there is no more than natural light.

Sect. 2. I find, therefore, that the discovery of the will of God, concerning our duty and our end, called, "The law of nature,' is a matter of very great difficulty to them that have no supernatural light to help them.

Though all this is legible in nature, which I have thence transcribed, yet if I had not had another teacher, I know not whether I should ever have found it there. Nature is now a very hard book; when I have learnt it by my teacher's help, I can tell partly what is there; but at the first perusal, I could not understand it. It requireth a great deal of time, and study, and help to understand that which, when we do understand it, is as plain as the highway.

2 Nullus unquam à mortali semine vir absolute bonus nascetur.-Dion. Hal. 1. 2. Truth delivered by the halves, will be lamely practised. Ideo peccamus, quia de partibus vitæ omnes deliberamus; de toto nemo deliberat.-Sen.

Sect. 3. Thence it must needs follow, that it will be but few that will attain to understand the necessary parts of the law of nature aright, by that means alone, and the multitude will be left in darkness still."

The common people have not leisure for so deep and long a search into nature as a few philosophers made, nor are they disposed to it and though reason obligeth them, in so necessary a case, to break through all difficulties, they have not so full use of their reason as to do it.

Object. But as christian teachers do instruct the people in that which they cannot have leisure to search out themselves; so, why may not philosophers, who have leisure for the search, instruct the people quickly, who have not leisure to find out the truth without instruction.

Answ. Much might be done, if all men did their best; but, 1. The difficulty is such, that the learned themselves are lamentably imperfect and unsatisfied, as I shall further show. 2. Though the vulgar cannot search out the truth without help, yet it is necessary that by help they come to see with their own eyes, and rest not in a human belief alone, especially when their teachers are of so many minds, that they know not which of them to believe. To learn the truth, in its proper evidence, is very hard to them that have no more than the light of

nature.

Object. But what difficulty is there in these few precepts, that all men may not easily learn them? "Thou shalt love God above all, and repent of sin, and set thy heart upon the life to come, and love thy neighbour as thyself," &c.b

Answ. There is no difficulty in learning these words; but, 1. There is great difficulty in learning to understand the sense,

a What difficulties the wisest heathens find about God's prospering the wicked, and afflicting the good, and how dark were they about the life to come! Therefore, Seneca's wise and good mau was a phoenix. Sine doctrina si quid bene dicitur, adjuvante naturâ, tamen id quia fortuito fit, semper paratum esse non potest.-Cic. Deor. Etsi ingeniis magnis præditi quidam, dicendi copiam sine ratione consequuntur, ars tamen dux certior est quàm natura. Aliud enim est poetarum more verba fundere, aliud, ea quæ dicas ratione et arte distinguere.-Cicero de Fin. 4.

b You may perceive the heathen's gratitude to God, by these words of Cotta. (In Cicer. de Nat. Deor. 3. p. 109.) Num quis quod bonus vir esset, gratias Diis egit unquam? At quod dives, quod honoratus, quod incolumis. Jovemque optimum maximum ob eas res appellant, non quod nos justos, temperatos, sapientes efficiat, sed quod salvos, incolumes, opulentos, copiosos. Judicium hoc omnium mortalium, fortunam à Deo petendam, à seipso sumendam esse sapientiam.

« VorigeDoorgaan »