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works;' Psal. xiv. 1. And no age could ever give more instances of this affected atheism than that wherein we live. Neither do any deceive themselves into it, but merely with this design, to live in sin without control from themselves, which is the last restraint they can acquit themselves of. And some of them do please themselves with the attainment of them in the psalmist: 'The wicked through the pride of his countenance will not seek after God; God is not in all his thoughts;' Psal. x. 4. But God hath inlaid the minds of men, antecedently unto all actings of their wills and affections, with such a tenacious and unanswerable witness to the contrary, that it is very difficult for any to bring themselves unto any tolerable satisfaction this way. For that which may be known of God is manifest in themselves,' whether they will or no; Rom. i. 19. Neither can they free themselves from prevailing apprehensions, that 'it is the judgment of God, that they who commit sin are worthy of death;' ver. 32. Wherefore we have not many instances of men who pretend a senselessness of these things out of principle, or that they find no disquietment on the account of sin. And by the most of them this is but pretended: their outward boasting is but a sorry plaster for their inward fears and vexations. Nor will the pretended security of such impious persons endure the shock of the least of those surprisals, calamities, and dangers, which human nature is obnoxious unto in this life, much less of death itself. The end therefore mentioned, be it never so earnestly desired, is not this way to be attained.
Another way therefore must be found out unto the same end, and this must be by a religion. Nothing but religion can convert men from sin, and nothing but religion can secure them therein. To this purpose is that of our apostle, In the last days perilous times shall come; for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof;' 2 Tim. iii. 1-5. Had they the power of religion in them, they could not give themselves up unto the pursuit of
such brutish lusts; and had they not some form or other of it, they could not be secure in their practice. For,
Sin and conscience are stubborn in their conflict whilst immediately opposed; conscience pleading that there should be no sin; and sin contending that there may be no conscience: but as nature is corrupted they will both comply with an accommodation. Wherefore a device to satisfy sin, and to deceive conscience, will not fail of a ready entertainment. And this is the design in part or in whole of every false way in religion that men apostatize into from the purity and simplicity of the gospel. See 2 Pet. ii. 18, 19. One way or other is proposed to take men off from the necessity of regeneration, and the renovation of their nature into the image of God in the first place. For this is that lion in the way, which deters all sorts of sluggards from attempting any thing seriously in religion. And whereas our Lord Jesus Christ hath placed the necessity of it on the first entrance into the kingdom of God; there is no false way of religion, but its first design is to destroy its nature, or take away its necessity. Hence, some would have it to be only baptism, with the grace it confers by the work wrought. Some substitute a moral reformation of life in the room of it, which, as they suppose, is sufficiently severe. And the light within makes all thoughts of it useless. For if this point be not well secured, all ensuing attempts to accommodate men with a religion will be in vain. It will still be returning on them, that unless they are born again, they cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' Internal sanctification of the whole person, the mortification of all the motions of sin that are in the flesh, with that universal obedience which is required unto the life of God, must also be provided for or against, and yet conscience be satisfied therewithal. Wherefore, if you can obtain, that persons who live in sin, and are resolved so to do, not troubling themselves about these things, shall suppose that they may be secured eternally in such a way of religion as you propose unto them; that what is wanting in themselves shall be done for them by absolutions and masses, and various supplies out of the church's treasury, with the great reserve of purgatory when things come to the worst; there is no great fear (especially if some other circumstances fall in also to promote the design), but that you will find
them very ductile and pliable unto your desires. Add hereunto, that the ways whereby any may be interested in these efficacious means of eternal salvation, namely, by confession, penances, and alms, are possible, yea, easy to persons who never intend to leave their sins. Of this sort are the most of those visibly who every day fall off to the Roman church. And it were to be desired, that the wickedness of men did not give grounds of fearing additions to their number. For if there be no assurance of the constancy of men in the profession of the truth, unless their souls and lives are transformed into the image of it (as there is not), certainly these ways wherein men are furiously engaged in the pursuit of their lusts, must needs be perilous, and may, without the especial help of divine grace, bring forth a fatal defection.
Darkness and ignorance, another cause of apostacy.
THE second spring or cause of defection from the gospel in any kind, is that spiritual darkness and ignorance which abides in the minds of men, under the profession of the truth.
The gospel may fall under a double consideration: First, Of the things themselves that are contained, revealed, and proposed therein. These are the material objects of our faith. Secondly, With respect unto the doctrinal way of their declaration. With respect unto the first, there is a spiritual darkness on the minds of all men by nature, so as that they cannot discern them in their own native form and beauty. With respect unto the latter, men are said to be ignorant, namely, when they do not in a due manner understand and comprehend the doctrines of the gospel; and so perish for want of knowledge. These things being of a distinct consideration, and of different influence into this pernicious event, the first shall be first spoken
1. That there is such a spiritual darkness on the minds of men by nature, and wherein their depravation by sin doth
principally consist, is fully testified in the Scripture, as I have at large elsewhere evinced. Hence all men grant, so far as I know, that there is need of spiritual illumination, to enable us to discern spiritual things in a due manner, though all are not agreed in the nature and causes of that illumination. But to deny the thing itself, is to deny the gospel, and to make the promises of God of none effect. Now, where illumination is needful, there darkness is to be removed; for the end of the bringing in of light is to dispel darkness. Wherefore such a depravation of the minds of men in spiritual darkness must be acknowledged, or the gift and grace of God in illumination must be rejected. And they by whom it is done, do by their own blindness give new evidence unto the truth which they do oppose; there being no more certain demonstration of the power of darkness in any, than for them to affirm that they stand in no need of light to be communicated unto them by the effectual operations of the Spirit of God. As to the nature of this illumination, I shall not here dispute, but take it at present for granted, that it is an act of his power who of old commanded light to shine out of darkness, shining into our hearts, to give us the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ;' 2 Cor. iv. 6.
2. There is a glory and beauty in those spiritual things which are the subjects of the truths of the gospel. There is in them the wisdom of God, the wisdom of God in a mystery,' 1 Cor. ii. 6, 7. yea, the manifold wisdom of God;' Eph. iii. 10. The glory of the Lord, which is represented unto believers in the glass of the gospel, 2 Cor. iii. 18. or 'the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ;' chap. iv. 6. Things expressly beyond discovery by the use of any means merely natural whatever; 1 Cor. ii. 9, 10. Even the philosophers of old contended that there was a beauty in all truth, which would engage the minds and affections of men unto it, were they able to discern it. And if they saw and granted this in things natural and moral, which are earthly and exposed unto the common reason of mankind, how much more must it be granted of the truth of things heavenly, spiritual, and divine? See John iii. 12. In brief, whatever there is of divine glory or excellency in the divine nature itself, in any or all of its holy properties, in the great and most glorious effect of them in the person and grace of
Christ, in the renovation of our nature unto the image of God, in the divine life of faith and obedience, it is proposed unto us in the truths of the gospel.
3. Whatever doctrinal proposition may be made of these things unto the minds of men, yet the things themselves cannot be comprehended nor spiritually discerned without the illumination of the Holy Ghost before mentioned. Hence it follows, that men may be instructed in the doctrines of truth, yet continuing under the power of natural darkness, not discern the things themselves in their own spiritual nature and glory, nor have any experience of their power and efficacy. This all the prayers of holy men in the Scripture for spiritual light and instruction, all the promises of God savingly to enlighten the minds of men, and the descriptions given of that work of his grace whereby he doth effect it, do undeniably evince. One consideration will be sufficient unto our purpose. Whoever hath a spiritual view and knowledge of these things, his mind will be and is certainly changed and transformed into the image of them. So the apostle tells us expressly, 2 Cor. iii. 18. 'We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image.' They are cast into the same mould with the doctrine whereunto they are given up; Rom. vi. 17. The mind is united unto the things so discerned, and the image of them is so brought forth therein, as that there is an exact conformity between them. But we see by open and palpable experience, that notwithstanding the knowledge which many have of spiritual things, their minds continue carnal and fleshly, filled with corrupt and depraved affections, and are no way changed into the image or likeness of the things themselves. There needs no farther demonstration that men have never had a spiritual view of, or insight into, the glory of gospel truths, be their doctrinal knowledge of them what it will, than this, That their minds are not renewed thereby, nor transformed into the likeness of them.
4. Where it is thus with men, they have no stable grounds whereon to abide in the profession of the truth against temptation, opposition, or seduction. For their steadfastness must be an effect of such an assurance in their minds of the truth of the things which they do believe, as