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fedfast in the Faith. A good Christian must be able to give some more reasonable Account of his Faith than this, if ever he means to be securely firm in the Profession of it. His Creed must be founded on some better Authority, than a bare Gredulity. And ’twill be a very useless Plea at the last Day, that a Man believed as his Church believed, when he might have had the opportunity of a better Information, should he chance by so doing, to live and die in a damnable Heresy; unless he can render fome tolerable Account either wherefore his Church believed fo, or at least, wherefore it was that he submitted himself fo servilely to her Authority.
But he that believes with Knowledge, because he is clearly and evidently perswaded that it is the Truth, need never fear either the Danger or Imputation of such an Obstinacy, for his Firmness in adhering to his Faith. If, for Instance, a Member of the Church of England reads in his Bible thofe express Words of the Second Commandment; Thou shalt not make to thy self any graven Image, nor the Likeness of any Thing ihat is in Heaven above, &c. Thou Jhalt not Bow down to it, nor Worship it : If he looks forward to the History of the New Testament, and there in the Institution of the Blessed Eucharif, sees those Words, Drink ye ALL of ihis, in as plain and legible Characters, as those others, Take and Eat; and thereupon resolves never to be prevailed upon, either to Bow down himself before an Image, or to give up his Right to the Cup, as well as to the Bread in that Holy Sacrament, whatever Glosses may be made, or Pretences be used to induce him to either ; 'tis evident that fuch a Firmness as this, cannot be called Obstinacy, unless these Scripturés be no longer the Word of God, or that no lon
ger a Principle of Scripture, that in Acts iv. 19. Matters of plain and undoubted Com
mand, we are to obey God rather than
Man. And in these and the like Instances, where the Matter is clear, even to Demonstration, there is no Doubt to be made, but that such Knowledge will certainly secure us against the Charge and Danger of Obftinacy. But because all Points in Debate are not thus Evident, but on the contrary, many are not a little obscure; therefore for the securing our selves from Danger, in our Adherence to these too, we must to our Knowledge add,
2dly, A fincere Zeal to discover the Truth, with an affectionate Charity to those that differ from
In such Cases as this, though we must believe and profess according to what appears to us at present to be the Truth; yet fince the Evidence is not such, as to exclude all Possibility of our being mistaken, our Adherence to it must be qualified with this Reserve, neither rashly to censure those who are otherwise Minded, nor obftinately to resolve never to change our Opinion, if we should perhaps be hereafter convinced that we ought to do so.
Now in order hereunto, it is not necessary that a Man should either fluctuate in his present Faith, or not be firmly persuaded that he ihail never fee any Reason to forsake it. It is sufficient to take off the Imputation of Obstinacy, that our Siedfastness be such as not to exclude either a Readiness of being better informed, if that be possible; or of making, upon all Occasions, a strict and imparcial Enquiry into the Grounds and Reason of our Faith; or even of hearing freely whatever Obje&tions can fairly be
brought against it. And all this with a sincere Desire, and stedfast Resolution to discover and embrace the Truth, wheresoever it lies; Whether it be that which we now suppose to be fo, or whether it shall be found to be on the contrary, fide. He who is thus disposed in his Mind at all times to receive Instruction, and never presumes rafhly to condemn any one that is thus in like manner disposed, however otherwise disagreeing in Opinion from him; need never fear that his firmness is any other than that Wise and Christian ftedfastness which our Text requires, not such an Obstinacy as both that and we most justly detest and condemn.
But here then we must look 'to the other ex-
tives of changing our Religion.
ill Opinion of it.
be brought againft it that may deserve our
Ist, He that will be stedfast in the Faith, must above all Things take heed to arm himself against all unworthy Motives of changing his Religion.
It is very sad to consider what unchristian Means are made use of by some Persons to propagate their Religion : And a Man need almost no
other assurance that it cannot be from God, than to see the Professors of it pursue such Methods for the promoting of its Interest
, as most certainly never came down from above.
Thus, if a Man's Fortunes he mean, or his Ambition great ; If Religion has not taken fo deep Root in his Soul as to enable him to overcome the Flatteries and Temptations of a present Interest and Advantage; then there shall not be wanting a Seducer presently to shew him, that he muk needs be out of the right Way, because it is not that which leads to Preferment. And 'tis great odds but a good Place, or an Honourable Title, will quickly appear a more infalible Mark of the true Church, than any that Scripture or Antiquity can furnish to the contrary.
If this will not do, and Interest cannot prevail, then the other governing Pathon of our Minds, Mens Fears, are tried. Instead of these Allurements, the False Teacher now thunders out Hell and Damnation against us. Nothing but Curses and Anathema's to be expected by us if we continue firm in our Faith. And it shall be none of the Prophets nor his Churches Fault, if all the Horrors and Miseries of this present Life be not employ'd against us, in Charity, to prevent our falIing into the Everlasting Punishments of the next.
The Truth is, I am ashamed to recount what unworthy Means fome have not been alhamed to make use of to promote their Religion, and draw us away from our stedfastness. France and Savoy, Hungary and Germany; The Old World and the New, have all, and that but very lately been witnesses what ways it is that Popery has, and does,
and if ever it means effe&tually to prevail, muft take to propagate its interest :
---Animus meminisse horret, lu&tuq; refugit.
Now he that shall be so unhappy as to suffer himself by any of these Motives, which a constant Man might and ought to have overcome, to be seduced from the right Faith ; he may deserve indeed to be pitied now, but I fear he will hardly be hereafter excused.
But it is not sufficient to secure our felves against this Danger. He that will be constant in his Religion, as he ought to be, must see,
2dly, That he be not too apt to entertain an ill Opinion of it.
For if it be Obstinacy on the one hand, not to admit of any Conviction tho never so clear and reasonable ; it is certainly a great Weakness on the other, to be affrighted at every shadow of an Argument, and to put it in the Power of every little Disputer to prejudice us against our Religion, because one who is its professed Enemy, rails against it, and pretends it is a very ill One.
He would, I believe, be thought a very credulous Person indeed, who should begin to stagger and fall into a trembling, tho' he saw himself upon plain and even Ground, because a bold and fanciful Man is very positive that 'tis a precipice. And doubtless that Man is no less to be pitied, that is frighted for fear he should be in the wrong, tho? he has the undoubted Authority of Scripture and Antiquity, nay, and even of Sense and Reason too on his fide, as often as every common place Trifler shall think fit to run over his Division