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tion of others, and are unwilling to do any thing, that may lefsen them in the opinion of their fellow-creatures. It is then the desire of fame, not the love of virtue, which is their incentive to good actions. And if we look abroad into the world, we find it thus in fact. Persons of this stamp will scorn to do a little thing, through the abhorrence of any thing that may make them cheap and contemptible in the eye of the world: but they will not seruple to commitasin, upon which the fashionable world has stamped a credit, and given a fanction to. A person who is ungrateful, much more ungrateful to his sovereign benefactor, must be void of every thing which is great, glorious, and beautiful in the soul. He may indeed be actuated by the love of applause, by caprice, by the prevailing mode and fashion of the age, in which he lives; but his mind is too narrow, contracted, and ungenerous, to be swayed by any fixed and determined principle of goodness. You may wonder at this motley mixture in his character: But why thould you expect a consistency of life and manners from a man who has no religious, and, therefore, no consistent, principle to act upon ? He, who observes the rules of morality for the sake of temporal pleasures, will never perform any act of duty that is highly distasteful to him, or forego any vice that is pleasant and palatable. This is the moral man, in the language of the world; but, in the language of reason, as immoral a man as can be conceived. For he lives daily in the uninterrupted practice of immorality of the deepest dye, viz. ingratitude to his sovereign benefactor ; from whom he has received every thing, and to whom he can return nothing, but obedience and thanksgiving, the tribute of a grateful heart.
What shall we think of this set of men ? It would be uncharitable to suppose them determined Atheists : What is most likely, is, that they imagine God will accept the social duties, in lieu of piety. And yet true substantial morality is inseparably connected with the highest regard to the Deity; and it is an unnatural divorce to part them afunder. For the only sure ground-work of morality is the prospect of hea
venly bliss : But, to return : . . It is certain, that the light of nature discovers to us the be
ing of a God, and so much of his infinite perfection, as to teach us that he is all good, and hateth every thing of natural that is evil; that he loveth those that avoid the religion. evil and chuse the good; and will with severe justice punish the evil-doers. So that the light of nature searcheth out the goodness and justice of God; man's duty, and subjection to his Creator ; and disposes us to receive the perfect will of the Almighty. This is called natural religion, which all men might know, and should be obliged unto, by the mere principles of reason, improved by consideration and experience, without the help of revelation. And they who live by it shall also be judged by it, their consciences accusing or else excusing one another. Yet natural religion, or that religion, which the light of nature dictates, is not sufficiently calculated for the generality of mankind, as may be inferred from hence; that to trace a considerable number of doctrines up to the fountain-head from which they flow, by the strength of unaslisted reason, and to pursue them to their remotest consequences, is a task at least extremely difficult to men of letters, but I may venture to say impracticable to the ignorant. Besides, pure natural religion may perhaps have existed in the minds of some few recluse contemplative men, but was never in fact established in any one nation from the foundation of the world to the present times. But :
The dimness of this is cleared up by * revealed religion, or that method by which God makes himself, or of revealed his will, known to mankind, over and above what religion. he hath made known to us by the light of nature. Not that hereby God did mean to put out any part of that natural light, which he had set up in our souls; but to give greater light unto men. And therefore the possibility of revealed religion is evident from the nature of God, and the capaci, ties of men; as well as from that proof, which is produced to latisfy us concerning a million from God. An infinite being, that created our souls capable of knowing him te riafana and loving him, can never want power to com-able and municate farther light to our minds, and make certain. brighter discoveries of his will and pleasure: it carries no
. OPPO• See Sunday 3. Sect. d.
opposition to natural light, that God should reveal his mind by some particular persons to the world: forasmuch as the great ignorance and corruption of human nature, and that misery and guilt which mankind had contracted, made it ! both necessary and expedient for man. For, tho'natural light ascertains the being of a Deity, and shews us how reasonable it is to pay our adorations to that power, that created and preserves us; yet it does not sufficiently direct us in the way and manner of perforiningit: and tho’it gives us some hopes of pardon upon our repentance, from the general notion of God's goodness; yet it prescribes us no certain method Why ne for the obtaining our reconciliation. So that recelary. vealed religion was necessary both to relieve the wants of men in a natural state, and to recover the lustre and brightness of those principles, which God originally implanted in them, tho' now sullied and impaired by the corruptions of mankind; and to add such improvements as might draw human nature to a true sense of its own bad state and weakness; and to instruct men in the method of obtaining pardon of their offended Creator. On the contrary, · The design of those, who would undermine christianity, Why op- is plainly this: They are for carving out a religion pojed. for themselves instead of leaving that work to a Being of unerring wisdom: The consequence of which is, that they always take up with a maimed and defective morality, instead of a fixed determined scheme of duties, complete in all its parts, and consistent upon the whole. They are for contriving a religion, that may fit easy upon them, suited rather to their own vicious relish of things, than to the genuine standard of uncorrupted reafon. They are for doing what seemeth good in their own short-fighted eyes, dimmed by passion ; in lieu of acquiescing in the will of that Being, who seeth not as man seeth, and hath at sundry times, When pubs and in divers manners spoken, in times past, unto lished the fathers by the prophets; but in these last days speaketh unto us by his Son Jesus Christ. In which revelation are contained articles of faith to be believed; precepts of life to be practised; and motives and arguments to inforce on bedience. From whence it is natural to collect, that the know.
ledge of the holy feriptures is necessary to our eternal falvation ; because these are the great and standing revelation of God to mankind; wherein the nature of God, and his will concerning our duty, and the terms and conditions of. our eternal happiness in another world, are fully and plainly declared to us. .
Therefore, though there be some things in the scriptures, which our reason and understanding cannot fa- Must be bé thom; yet, because we are satisfied they are re- lieved. vealed by God, who cannot lye, whose knowledge is infal. lible, and whose word is true, we ought upon this higher and superior reason, to yield a firm assent to the truth of them. And I add, that though some complain the Bible is not clear and determinate enough as to certain points.; yet, if I miltake not, the main quarrel against it will be found to be, that it is too clearand determinate in injoining certain duties, and forbidding certain vices. And though we meet therein with many precepts of life, which corrupt nature may be unwilling to put in practice; yet we must remember it is the Lord who coinmands them, and we must obey with the refignation becoming a child of God; Lord, not my will but thine be done; who by the mouth of his holy apostle has expressly commanded us to live SOBERLY, RIGHTEOUSLY, and Godly in this present world: where by the word Joberly we are to understand our duty to OURSELVES; and by the word righteously, our duty to our Neigh
The three BOUR; and by the word godly our duty to God. GREN And as religion itself is that purity, or that virtu- branches of ous temper and disposition of mind, which exerts man's duels. itself in a constant endeavour of being like unto God, and of obeying his commands; which is the principal distinction of men from the inferior orders of creatures, and upon which alone are grounded all hopes of life and happiness hereafter : so the great end and delign of religion is, by the trial of men's virtue and integrity in the present world, to qualify them for the happineis of that which is to come ; that they, who have been faithful in a small and temporary trust committed to them here, may hereafter be put in pofsession of a never-fading inheritance, which shall be their own for ever.. ::
- Ina matter of fo great importance, therefore, 'tis very wonderful, that a man, who calls himself a reasonable creature, should be careless and indifferent ; careless, whether he has any religion, or none; indifferent, whether his religion, when he does profess any, be true or false ; careless, when he has embraced the true religion, whether he makes any improvement in his practice answerable to it, or no: so that the foundation of a christian's-duty (I say) is a due regard of God, of our neighbour, and of ourselves: of which duties I shall treat in their proper order.
II. First then of our duty to God. “Our duty towards God Our dure to " is to believe in him; to fear him; to love him with God, What. all our heart, with all our mind, with all our
soul, and with all our strength; to worship him; to give • him thanks; to put our whole trust in him; to call upon him; to honour his holy name, and his word, and to serve
him truly all the days of our life.'. * In which short defcription of our duty towards God, we are directed to believe Believing
and acknowledge the being and self-existence of bim to be a God; that he is from everlasting and world God. without end ; that he is a spirit whom no man hath seen, nor can fee; that he is the great creator and preserver of all things, the father of lights, in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning, cloathed with the infinite perfections of power, wisdom, and goodness, from which all the other divine attributes do flow; that in the god-head there are three distinct persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: Therefore he that cometh to God, must thus believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. And
It is in vain to make profession of religion, without being first well instructed and firmly persuaded of the being and attributes of God. Right notions of which every one knows are the foundation of all religion : but then this knowledge must not be a bare speculation; but a serious, practical, affecting impression, and deep sense upon the mind, of a supreme being, who created the world by his power, preserves and governs it by his goodness and wisdom, and will judge
--- • See the firf Ansiver af:er the Commandments in the Church Catechifm.