Imágenes de páginas

ritual adversaries. And they will be found chargeable with no less guilt, who lay obstructions in the way of others who would willingly labour in the instruction of them unto their power. A man would think from all circumstances, and all indications of the present inclinations of the minds of men, that it were the chief interest of all that really love the Protestant religion, to preserve its professors from apostacy, or any disposition thereunto. That this will be done effectually without a continual instruction of them in the truths which are to be professed, with their grounds, reasons, and effects, is so fond an imagination, as that it deserves no consideration; it is but to build castles in the air, to suppose that men will be kept constant in the profession of religion, by outward laws, the observance of external forms, and the secular advantages of some persons by it, wherein they are not concerned. They will not be so, I say, when a trial shall befall them. There is no other means that is appointed of God, or is rational in itself, for the attaining of this end, but that those who are so concerned, do what in them lies personally to instruct the people in the truth, encouraging of them unto obedience by their own example, and to prevail with them who have the same design to be assisting with them therein. But to cry out of the great danger of Protestant religion in the growth of popery, and at the same time not only to be negligent themselves in the great duty of communicating the real effectual knowledge of it unto the souls of men, but also to lay needless obstructions in the ways of others, who would sincerely endeavour so to do, is an unaccountable solecism in religion. Either we are not in earnest in our pretended zeal for the truth, and our fears of the prevalency of popery, or we believe not that instruction in the truth is the only means to preserve men in the useful profession of it, which is to renounce the gospel, and all rational consideration therewithal; or we are influenced by other things, which we far more esteem than evangelical truth, and the purity of religion.

The reformation of the church consisted principally in the deliverance of the people from darkness and ignorance. And if through our neglect they should be reduced again into the same state and condition, they would be a ready prey for the papacy to seize upon. The advice of the apo

stle as to the duty of all gospel ministers and officers, in such a season as we are fallen into, is that alone which will preserve us; 2 Tim. iv. 1-4.

But it may be supposed, that so much labour and diligence in the instruction and teaching of the people, as some assert, is altogether unnecessary. It is enough if they be taught what are the general principles of religion, and do thereon comply with the conduct of the church whereunto they do belong. Besides, if this burden be incumbent on the ministry, that those called thereunto are to have no relaxation from constant sedulous labouring in the word and doctrine,' and are moreover required to exemplify what they teach, in the whole course of their conversation, who would ever take upon him that office, that can advantage himself in the world any other way? It must needs prove very burdensome, if we have a religion that will not be preserved in the minds of men, without all this constant endless toil and labour. In the Roman church, we see how easy a thing it is to keep up the people unto its profession, whilst the clergy are at liberty to pursue and use the pleasures and honours of this world; nor are any of them obliged unto those irksome and endless pains, which we seem to require. Yea, they find by experience that ignorance in the people is the best expedient to keep them in subjection to the priests, and then all things are secure. I wish that such thoughts as

these do not influence the minds of some unto a readiness for a change, if so be it might be effected without hazard. But if more pains, diligence, labour, with perseverance therein, be required by us in the ministers of the gospel, and guides of the church, than the Holy Ghost in the Scripture doth plainly, positively, frequently enjoin, let it be rejected and despised. Alas! the best of us, of all that are alive, do come short in many things of the rules and examples, that are proposed unto us therein. Nor do I know on what grounds, or by what measures, the most of us do intend to give up our accounts at the last day. Nor is there. any more impious opinion, nor more contradictory to the gospel, than that it is enough for the people to be instructed only in the general principles of religion, without any farther improvement or growth in knowledge. For those who are thus called the people, are, I suppose, esteemed Christians, that

[ocr errors]

is, disciples of Jesus Christ, and members of his mystical body; and if they are so, their growth in understanding, their edification in knowledge, their being carried on unto perfection, their acquaintance with the whole counsel of God, with the mysteries of his love and grace in Christ Jesus, are as necessary for them as the saving of their souls' indispensably depending thereon, can render them. And if we will be ministers of the gospel, it will not be best for us to prescribe unto ourselves, our rules and measures of duty. It will be our wisdom to accept of that office on the terms limited by the Holy Ghost, or utterly to let it alone. And we must know, that the more exactly our profession is suited unto the gospel, the less mixture there is in it of any thing human, the more difficult it is thoroughly to instruct men in the knowledge of it. The mind of man is far more apt and able to comprehend and retain fables, errors, and superstitions, than evangelical truths. The former are natural unto it; against the latter it hath a dislike and enmity, until they are removed by grace. Hence, some will make a more appearing proficiency in a false religion in four or five days, than others will do in the knowledge of the truth almost in so many years. We may have well-grown Papists in a month's time, that shall be expert in the mysteries of their devotion; and there is another profession, that two or three days will bring men unto a perfection in. But slow is the progress of most, in learning the truth and mysteries of the gospel. If peculiar diligence and constant sedulity be not used in their instruction, they will be made a prey unto the next opportunity for a defection from the truth.


Pride and vanity of mind, sloth and negligence, love of the world, causes of apostacy; the work of Satan, and judgments of God in this matter.

THE innate pride and vanity of the minds of men, is another means whereby they are disposed and inclined unto an apostacy from the profession of evangelical truth. With respect hereunto, the design and work of the gospel is to cast down

imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God' (taught therein), bringing into captivity every thought unto the obedience of Christ;' 2 Cor. x. 3. The mind of man is naturally lifted up with high thoughts in itself and of itself. That it is sufficient unto all the ends of its being, all the duties of its condition, without any special aid or assistance from above, is the prevailing principle whereby it is acted. Men do not only by nature say, 'With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are our own; who is Lord over us?' Psal. xii. 4. we have a sovereignty over all our outward actions; but also, that nothing is, or can, or ought to be required of us, but what we have power in ourselves to comprehend, comply withal, and perform: this in all ages of the church, under various forms and pretences, hath been contended for. The true state of all controversies about the powers of nature and grace, is this, That on the one hand, the minds and wills of men, are asserted to be self-sufficient as to internal abilities, unto all duties of obedience necessary unto eternal blessedness; on the other, that we have no sufficiency of ourselves, but that all our sufficiency is of God.' See 2 Cor. iii. 5. ix. 8. This principle which sprung immediately out of that pride, whereby aiming at an enlargement of our self-sufficiency, we utterly lost what we had, was never yet rooted out of the minds of the generality of professed Christians.

[ocr errors]

In all things the mind of man would be its own measure, guide, and rule, continually teeming with these two evils:



1. It exalts imaginations of its own, which it loves, applauds, dotes on, and adheres unto. This is the original of heresy, this hath given birth, growth, and progress to For God made man upright, but they sought out many inventions;' Eccles. vii. 29. Seeking out and exalting inventions of our own in things spiritual and religious, is the principal and most pernicious consequent of our fall from that state of uprightness wherein of God we were


2. It makes itself the sole and absolute judge of what is divinely proposed unto it, whether it be true or false, good or evil, to be received or rejected, without desire or expectation of any supernatural guidance or assistance. And whatever is unsuited unto its own prejudicate imaginations,

it is ready to scorn and despise. That, therefore, which we are now to demonstrate, is, that where this pride and principle are predominant, where the one is not mortified by grace, nor the other eradicated by spiritual light, there men can never receive the truths of the gospel in a due manner, and are ready to renounce them when they have by any means been brought unto the profession of them for a seaFor,


The gospel, that is, the doctrines of it, and truths contained in it, is proposed unto us, in the name, and on the authority of God, having his image and superscription upon it. It hath such impressions of divine wisdom, goodness, grace, holiness, and power upon it, as manifests it to be the glorious gospel of the blessed God;' 1 Tim. i. 11. Hence it ought to be received with a holy reverence, with a due sense of the glory of God, and, as his voice speaking unto us from heaven.' Hence is the caution of the apostle, that we would not refuse or turn from him who speaketh from heaven; Heb. xii. 25. Without this it will never be duly received, truly understood, nor steadfastly believed. It is not to be received as 'the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God; 1 Thess. ii. 13. It must be received with that frame of spirit, with that submission, that subjection of soul and conscience, which becomes poor worms of the earth when they have to do with the great and holy God, expressed Gen. xviii. 27. So our Saviour tells us, that, 'unless we be converted, and become as little children, we cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' Unless we deny ourselves and all our own imaginations, unless we become humble and teachable, we can never arrive at a useful acquaintance with the mysteries of it. And he convinced the learned Pharisees, that by reason of their pride, vain-glory, and hypocrisy, they could not perceive or understand the doctrine which he taught.

God promiseth that he will teach the meek or humble in judgment; 'the meek will he teach his way;' Psal. xxv. 9. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant;' ver. 14. 'Whom shall he teach knowledge? whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts; Isa. xxviii. 9. Unless men become as weaned

« AnteriorContinuar »