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persuasion, and fantastical illusion, for a man to think he hath the former.
12. But, in the first place, that we may be the better able, and without interruption proceed in this designed course, I will first remove an objection, which may seem to prevail against that which hath been spoken to this effect: "The devils (as St. James saith) believe and tremble:" they do indeed assent unto the truth of all the mysteries of our salvation: in the place of St. James they acknowledge one God; in Matt. viii. 29, they acknowledge the second article of our faith, allowing Christ to be the Son of God; and the like may be said of the others following: and yet, if we examine their practice, how absolutely contradicting and warring is it with their profession! Therefore, it may seem, that where there is a firm assent to Divine truths, there may consist with it a contrary repugnant practice.
13. For answer, therefore, we must know, that the assent which the devil gives to the revelations of God is extremely different from that belief, which is exacted of us Christians, and which every one of us (though never so vicious and irreligious) would gladly persuade ourselves, that we allow unto God's word. For though, for example, the devils acknowledge the precepts and commandments of God to be holy, and just, and good, and most fit to be observed; as likewise, that to those who sincerely, and without hypocrisy, shall perform these commandments of God, the promises of God shall be "yea and amen," they shall infallibly attain those joys, which exceed man's
*James ii. 19.
understanding to comprehend: yet these things to them are only as a tale which is told; or, rather, they are to them occasion of horror and gnashing of teeth, that there should be such glorious comfortable things, which do nothing concern them, and of malice and hatred to those who have an interest in them, and are in a fair possibility of attaining unto them; and therefore no marvel, if such a faith as this be barren and unfruitful of good works: whereas "our faith (saith St. Paul, Heb. xi. 1.) is the substance of things hoped for," of things which concern us: we do not only acknowledge, that the precepts of God are good, but also necessarily to be performed by us; and, that the promises of God are not only desirable in themselves. but also that, being such, they were revealed for our sakes, and are infallibly destined unto us, when we shall have performed such conditions as may, by the assistance of God, be executed by us, even with ease and pleasure. Now, wheresoever persuasions as these are, it is impossible (even if the devils themselves could be supposed capable of them) but that there should accompany them earnest and serious endeavours not to come short of the glory of God. This difficulty therefore being dissolved, I shall pursue the examination of our belief of the foundations of our religion by the fruits and issues of it in the practices of our lives.
14. We will begin with some of God's attributes: Whosoever thou art, that professest thyself a Christian, thou believest that God, whom thou servest, is present every where, both in heaven and earth, insomuch that it is altogether impossible for thee to exclude him from thy company;
wheresoever thou goest, he will pursue thee; though thou should clothe thyself with darkness as it were with a garment, the darkness would be to him as the noon-day; and though it were possible for thee to deceive the eyes and observation of men and angels, yea, even of thine own conscience, yet to him thou wouldst be open and transparent, γυμνὸς καὶ τετραχηλισμένος, as it were, dissected, and having the very entrails exposed to his sight.
15. Thou canst hide therefore nothing which thou doest from his eyes; he taketh notice of every word which thou speakest, he hears even the very whispering of thy thoughts: and all this thou sayest thou acknowledgest. Out of thy own mouth shalt thou be condemned, thou wicked servant: darest thou then make thy master a witness of thy rebellion and disobedience? When thou art about the fulfilling of any of thine ungodly lusts, thou retirest thyself from company, and art afraid of the faces of men; thou abhorrest the light, and yet darest outface him whose eyes are ten thousand times brighter than the sun. Thou wouldst not have the confidence to commit filthiness, if thy friend were in company; and yet, what injury is done to him by it? What commandment of his dost thou transgress in it? Or, if thou didst, what power or authority has he over thee to punish thee? Thou wouldst be ashamed to commit such a sin, if thy servant were by, one whom thou art so far from being afraid of, that himself, his words, almost his very thoughts, are in thy power; nay, if a child were in company, thou wouldst not have the face to do it.
16. Thou canst not deny, but respect to a friend, to a servant, even to a child, will withhold thee from such practices; and yet withal confessest, that Almighty God, whom thou professest to serve, to fear, and to love, that he all the while looks upon thee, and observes thee; his eyes are never removed from thee, and, which is worse, though thou mayest endeavour to forget and blot such actions out of thy remembrance, yet, it is impossible he should ever forget them; he keeps a register of all thy sins, which no time shall ever be able to deface: and what will it then profit thee to live a close concealed sinner from the world, or to gain amongst men the reputation of a devout religious Christian, when in the mean time thine own heart and conscience shall condemn thee; nay, when Almighty God, "who is greater than thy heart, and knoweth all things," when he shall be able to object unto thee all thy close ungodly projects, all thy bosom private lusts? Yea, when that conceit (wherein thou didst so much please thyself) of being able to delude and blind the observation of the world, shall nothing avail thee; but whatsoever mischiefs thou hast contrived in thy closet, whatsoever abominations thou hast practised in thy bed, all these, with each aggravating circumstance, shall be discovered in the presence of all men, and angels, and devils; when Satan, whom before thou madest an instrument and bawd unto thy lusts, to whose counsels and suggestions thou before wouldst only hearken, shall be the most forward and eager to appeach thee.
17. When thou art brought to such an exigent as this, (which, without a timely unfeigned repentance, as sure as there is a God in heaven, thou VOL. III.
shalt at last be brought to) what will then thy orthodox opinions do thee good? What will it then profit thee to say, thou never didst maintain any impious dishonourable tenets concerning God, or any of his glorious attributes? Yea, how happy hadst thou been, if, worse than the most ignorant heathenish atheist, no thought or consideration of God had entered into thy heart! For this professing thyself a Christian, rightly instructed in the knowledge of God, will prove heavier to thee than a thousand mill-stones hanged about thy neck, to sink thee into the bottom of that comfortless lake of fire and brimstone. For, for example, what a strange plea would it be for a murderer to say, I confess I have committed such or such a murder, but all the excuse which I can allege for myself is, that I was well studied in the laws which forbade murder, and I knew, that my judge, who tied me to the observance of this law, upon pain of death, was present, and observed me when I committed the fact? Surely it would be more tolerable for him to say, I never heard of any such law or judge; or, if I had been told of such things, I gave but little heed to the report, I did not at all believe it. For though this plea will be very insufficient to acquit the malefactor, yet it will be much more advantageous than the former; for what were that, but to flout the judge to his face, and to pretend a respectful worthy opinion, for this end, that his contempt and negligence in performing his commandments may be more extreme and inexcusable, and, by consequence, without all hope or expectation of pardon? I need make no application of the example; the similitude doth sufficiently apply itself.