Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Ship 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 Christ Jefus : If it seem evil unto you, to have the liberty to serve God in a language you can understand, and to have the free use of the holy scriptures, which are able to make men wise unto salvation, and to have the sacraments of our religion entirely administered to us, as our Lord did institute and appoint:

And, on the other hand, if it seem 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 understanding, and to obey without reason, and to believe against lense; if ignorance, and implicit faith, and an inquisition, be in good earnest such charming and defirable things: Then welcome Popery ; which, where-ever thou comeft, doft infallibly bring all these wonderful privileges and blessings along with thee.

But the question is not now about the choice, but the change of our religion, after we have been so long settled in the quiet possession and enjoyment of it. Men are very loth to change even a false religion. Hath a nation changed their gods, which yet are no gods? And surely there is much more reason why we should 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 Apostles planted and confirmed by miracles, and which the noble army of martyrs sealed with their blood; and we have retrenched from it all false doctrines and fuperstitious practices which have been added since. And I think we may without immodesty say, that, upon the plain square of scripture and reafon, of the tradition and practice of the first and best ages of the Christian church, we have fully justified our religion; and made it evident to the world, that our adversaries are put to very hard shifts, and upon a perpetual disadvantage, in the defence of theirs.

I wish it were as easy for us to justify our lives as our religion. I do not mean in comparison of our adversaries, (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 swerved; which I would to God we all did serioully consider and lay to heart : I say, 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 present world ; in expectation of the blefled hope, and the glorious appearance of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Chriji. To whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, &c.

S E R

M

O N

XXVIII.

Objections against the true religion answered.

JOSHUA xxiv. 15. And if it feem evil unto you to serve the Lord, chufe yart

this day whom you will serve.

The second sermon on this text.

Hese words, as I have already declared in the

former discourse, are the last counsel and advice

which Joshua gave to the people of Israel, after he had safely conducted them into the land of Canaan. And "that he might the more effcctually persuade them to continue stedfast in the worship of the true God, by an eloquent kind of insinuation, he doth, as it were, once more set them at liberty, and leave them to their own choice : If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, chufe you this day whom you will serve.

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

N2

real

real advantages on its fide, that it may safely be referred to any impartial and considerate man's choice. If it fte evil unto you to serve the Lord; intimating, that to fome persons, and upon fome accounts, it may seem so: but, when the matter is thoroughly examined, the resolution and choice cannot be difficult, nor require any long deliberation : Chuse you this day whom you will ferve.

The true religion hath always lain under some prejudices with partial and inconsiderate men, arising chiefly from these two causes; the preposseslions of a false religion; and the contrariety of the true religion to the inclinations of men, and the uneasiness of it in point of practice.

1. From the prepossessions of a false religion, which hath always been wont to lay claim to antiquity and universality, and to charge the true religion with novelty and singularity. And both these are intimated before the text: Put away the gods whom your father's served on the other side of the ficod, and in Egypt; and chuse you this day whom you will serve. It was pretended, that the worship of idols was the ancient religion of the world, of those great nations the Egyptians and Chaldeans, and of all the nations round about them. But this hath already been considered at large.

II. There are another fort of prejudices against religion, more apt to stick with incn of better sense and reafon; and these arise principally froin the contrariety of the true religion to the inclinations of men, and the uncasiness of it in point of practice. It is pretended, that religion is a heavy yoke, and lays too great a restraint upon human nature; and that the laws of it bear too hard upon the general inclinations of mankind.

I shall not at present meddle with the speculative objections against religion, upon account of the pretended unreasonableness of many things in point of belief; because the contrariety of the true religion to the inclinations of men, and the unealinels of it in point of praEtice, is that which in truth lies at the bottom of Atheism and infidelity, and raises all that animosity 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, becuuse their deeds are evil. And if this prejudice were but once removed, and men were in some measure reconciled to the practice of religion, the speculative objections against it would almost vanish of themselves : for there wants little else to enable a man to answer them, but a willingness of mind to have them answered, and that we have no interest and inclination to the contrary. And therefore I shall at prefent wholly apply myself 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 supposed 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 supposed to be from God. So that God seems to to have set our nature and our duty at variance; to have given us appetites and inclinations one way, and laws another : which, if it were true, must needs render the practice of religion very grievous and uneasy.

The force of this objection is very smartly expressed in those celebrated verses of a Noble poet of our own, which are so 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 easy ways to good. So that this objection would fain charge the sins of men upon God; first 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

where natural

where it can least lie, upon goodness and perfection itself. The very first fin that ever man was guilty of, he endeavoured to throw upon God: The woman whom thou gavelt me, (faith Adam), she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And his posterity are still apt to excufe themselves the same way. But to return a particular answer to this objection :

It, We will acknowledge so 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 scripture gives us this account, that it was occasioned by the vo· luntary transgression of a plain and eafy command gi

ven by God to our first parents. And this weakness, contracted by the fall of our firft parents, naturally descends upon us their posterity, and visibly discovers itself in our inclinations to evil, and impotence to that which is good.

And of this the Heathen philosophers, from the light of nature, and their own experience and observation of themselves and others, were very sensible; that human nature was very much declined from its primitive rectitude, and funk into a weak, and drooping, and sickly state, which they called a lipop puno's, the moulting of the wings of the soul : 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 descent of the soul into these gross earthly bodies, they looked upon as partly the punishment of faults committed in a former fiate, and partly as the opportunity of a new trial, in order to its purgation and recovery. And this was the best account they were able to give of this natter, without the light of divine revelation.

So that the degeneracy of human nature is universally acknowledged, and God acquitted from being the

cause of it. But, however, the posterity of Adam - do all partake of the weak ness contracted by his fail, and do fill labour under the miseries and inconveniencies of it. But then this degeneracy is not tetal : for though our faculties be much veatened and disordered, yet they are not destroyed, nor wholly perverted. Our

« VorigeDoorgaan »