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conversion, than suffer him to go on in so fatal a mistake concerning the Christian religion.
And as the providence of God doth concern itself to secure good men from dangerous errors and mistakes in matters of religion; so, by a just judgment, he gives up those who allow themselves in vicious practices, to error and infidelity. And this is the meaning of that passage of the Prophet Isa. vi. 10. so often cited by our Saviour, and applied to the Jews, of making the heart of that people sat, and their ears heavy, and closing their eyes, lest they should understand and be converted. So again, Isa. lxvi. 3, 4. God threatens the people of Israel, that because they were wicked and abominable in their lives, he would abandon them, and give them over to a spirit of delusion; they have chosen their own ways, and their foul delighteth in their abomination*; I also will choose their delusions. God is said to choose those things for us, which he permits us to fall into : So Rom. i. 2.S. God is said to give over the abominable heathen to a reprobate mind. As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over e5< dLf'<HUIJ.ov \o\jv. to an injudicious and undifcerning mind. When men abandon themselves to wickedness and impiety, God withdraws his grace from them; and by his secret and just judgment they are deprived of the faculty of discerning between truth and error, between good evil, 2 Thesl. ii. 10, n, 12. it is said, that the man of fin should come with all deteivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved: And that for this cause, God .would send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they might all be damned, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. And it is just with God, that men of vicious inclinations and practices should be exposed to the cheat of the grossest and vilest impostures. God's providence is concerned for men of honest minds, and sincere intentions: But if men take pleasure in unrighteousness, God takes no further care of them, but deliverj them uj> to their own hearts lusts, to . be seduced into all those errors, into which their own vain imaginations, and foolish hearts are apt to lead them.
Thus have I endeavoured, as briefly as I could, to fliew that an honest mind, that fincerely desires and endeavours to do the will of God, is the best security against fatal errors and mistakes in matters of religion; both because it dispofeth a man to make a true judgment of divine things, and because the providence of God is more especiallv concerned for the security of such persons.
There remains an objection to be answered, to which this discourse may seem liable; but this together with the inferences which may be made from this discourse, I shall refer to another opportunity.
Honesty the best preservative against dangerous mistakes in religion.
John vii. 17. // any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
The second sermon on this text.
IMade entrance into these words the last day; Jii which our Saviour declares to us, that an honest and sincere mind, and an hearty desire and endeavour to do the will of God, is the best security and preservative against dangerous errors and mistakes in matters of religion; 4*'e T/f 9iA» iromv% is any man desire to do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be os God, or whether I speak of myself.
Now there are (I told you) two great mistakes in religion; To reject any thing which really is from C a Godi Cod; and to receive and entertain any thing as from God, which is not really from him. And therefore I proposed from this text to shew how a sincere delire and endeavour to do the will of God, is a security to men against both these dangers, namely, upon these two accounts.
First, Because he who sincerely desires and endeavours to do the will of God, is hereby better qualified and disposed to make a right judgment of spiritual and divine things; and that for these two reasons:
I. Because such a person hath a truer notion of God and divine things. He that refembleth God most, is like to understand him best, because he finds those perfections, in some measure, in himself, which he contemplates in the divine nature; and nothing gives a man so sure a notion of things, as practico and experience.
II. Because such a person is more impartial in his search and enquiry after truth, and therefore more likely to find it, and to discern it from error. That man only stands fair for the entertainment of truth, who is under the power and dominion of no vice ov lust, because he hath nothing to corrupt or bribe him, to seduce and draw him aside in his enqui* ry aster truth: He hath no manner of concernment that the contrary proposition should be true, having the indifferency of a traveller, and no other interest, but to find out the right way to heaven, and to walk in it. But if a man be biassed by any lust, and addicted to any vicious practice, he is then an interested person, and concerned to make a partial judgment of things, and is under a great temptation to infidelity, when the truths of God are propo-sed to him; because, whatever the evidence for them be, he cannot but be unwilling to own the truths of those doctrines, which areso contrary to his inclination and interest.
Secondly, Another reason why they who sincerely desire to do the will of God, have a greater security in discerning truth from error, is, because the providence of God is more especially concerned topreserve such persons from dangerous errors and mistakes, in things which concern their eternal salvation. When men are of a teachable temper, of an humble and obedient frame of mind, God loves to reveal himself, and his truth to them, Psal. xxv. 9. The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way. The proper disposition of a scholar, is to be willing to learn; and that which ia religion we are to learn, is, what is the good and acceptable will of God, that we may do it; for practice is the end of knowledge; if ye know these things (faith our Saviour) happy are ye if ye do them. It is necessary to know the will of God; but we are only happy in the doing of it; and if any man be desirous to do the will of God, his goodness is such, that he will take effectual care to secure such an one against dangerous and fatal errors. He that hath an honest mind, and would do the will of God, if he knew it, God will not suffer him to remain ignorant of it, or to be mistaken about it, in any necessary point of faith or practice. Thus far I have gone.
I shall now proceed to remove an objection, to which this discourse may seem liable, and then draw some inferences from the whole.
After all that hath been said, some perhaps may ask, Is every good man then secure from all error and mistake in matters of religion > This is a mighty privilege indeed: But do not we find the contrary in experience > that an honest heart and a weak head, do often meet together?
For answer to this, I shall lay down these follow-' ing propositions.
First, That if there were any necessity, that a good man should be secured from all manner of error and mistake in religion, this probity of mind, and sincere desire to do the will of God, is the best way to do it; because such a temper and disposition of mind gives a man the best advantages to discern betwixt truth and error; and God is most likely to reveal his will to such persons. But there is no necessi>v of this, because a man may be a good man, aud go ;0 heaven, notwithstanding a great many mistakes in 'C 3 religion religion about things nos necessary. For while we are in this imperfect state, we know but in part, and fee many things very imperfectly: But when we shall come into a more perfect state, that which is imperseH shall he done away; the light of glory shall scatter all those mists and clouds, which are now upon our understandings, and hinder us from a clear fight and judgment of things; we shall then see God, and other things as they are; and be freed from all that ignorance, and those many childish mistakes which We are liable to here below; and till then, it is not necessary that we should be secured from them. Humility, under a sense of our ignorance, is better for tis, than infallibility would be.
Secondly, This temper and disposition of mind Which I have been speaking of, is a certain security against fatal mistakes in religion, and a final continuance in such errors as would prove damnable; and 'this is all that this discourse pretends to, or our Saviour hath promised in this text. And considering the goodness of God, nothing is more improbable, than that an honest mind that seeks impartially after truth, should miss of it, in things that are fundamentally necessary to salvation. And if we could sup. pose such a man to fall into such an error, either it would not be fundamental to him, having not been, perhaps, proposed to him with sufficient evidence, and would be forgiven him upon a general repentance for all sins and errors known, or unknown; or he would not be permitted to continue in it; but the providence of God would find out some way or Other to convince him of his error, and to bring him to the acknowledgment os the truth, that he might be saved. God would rather speak to him immediately from heaven, (as he did to St. Paul) than suffer him to continue in such an error as would infallibly carry him to hell.
Thirdly, Theve is no such depth of judgmenf, and siibtilty of wit required to discern between gross and damnable errors in religion, and necessary and salving train, but that an ordinary capacity may be able to do it. There ij so plaia a lifte drawn between