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those they set outward only to save appearances. I have here laid open the true springs of infidelity, uninfluenced by which, no man ever turned apostate to Christianity.
This religion, and this alone, approves itself to right reason, by the purity of its morals, the simplicity and depth of its instructions, and the power of its institutions and sanctions, as the most excellent rule of life. It approves itself also as the work of God, and as a true history of facts, by such evidence as was never given, never possibly could have been given, to any other account of past transactions. That it does both, appears incontestably from the trials it hath undergone and surmounted. All that artifice, persecution, sophistry, and ridicule could do, to expose or suppress it, hath been done, and it hath triumphed over all. No other religion was so maliciously or critically examined, so artfully undermined, or so bitterly attacked, either in its principles or professors ! and, behold! it not only stands its ground, but shines out, as it were, with an additional lustre. Had its opposers proceeded on reason only, or could reason have been at all employed against it, there had been no need of artifice or cruelty to help out the opposition.
What then hath given rise to this opposition, and so long kept it up? It was, no doubt, an evil heart of unbelief, which in men, who are not of God,' always proves too hard for their understandings, and for all the evidences of religion, as well natural, as revealed. The corrupt, the refractory, the suspicious heart, resists the light of reason no less, than that of revelation, and judging of all other things, and all other men by itself, is a stranger to faith and trust. They, 'who of old,' as St. Paul observes, where hardened through the deceitfulness of sins,' were the unbelievers. And to whom sware God, that they should not enter into his rest, but to them who believed not?' The controversy about Christianity is, in effect, nothing else but a controversy between a sound understanding and a corrupt heart, between virtue and vice, which in those who are not of God,' ends always in favour of the latter. There is in reality but one objection against the religion of Christ, and it is the heart only that makes it; but it is exactly of the same nature with that which an abandoned and ungovernable son makes to the advice of his wise and worthy father. The scape-grace however will by no means confess that he disobeys through love of vice. No, he endeavours to assign plausible motives, and to justify his conduct with reasons, and, if he reasons right, he justifies rebellion and wickedness, and proves his parent a tyrant or a dotard. Just so‘the natural man receiveth not the things which be of God, for they are foolishness to him,' but labours to shew either that they are needless, for he knew them before, or that they are absurd in themselves, and unreasonable in regard to him, and therefore could not have had God, for their author. If God speaks to him, he answers with • Coniah, I will not hear; and this hath been his manner from his youth,' to disobey the voice of God, long before he did it on principle, or found out his strong reasons for infidelity and wickedness. Such men, saith God by Jeremiah,' walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken to me.'
Now, this aleniation of the heart from God is not his work. He never rejects, till he is rejected. No, he cries in the most affectionate and moving voice to a man of this sort,
I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way which thou shouldst go. O that thou hadst harkened to my commandments, then bad thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.' But when those he cries to in this tender manner, will not hearken to his voice, will treat with scorn, expostulations issuing from the bowels of infinite compassion, then he gives them up unto their own hearts lusts, aud suffers them to walk in their own counsels.' Then he sets them at a still greater distance from him. Then he is said to have 'blinded their eyes, and hardened the
and hardened their hearts,' and so made it impossible for them to hear his voice or to return. Because they have given themselves over to all deceiveableness of unrighteousness, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved; for this cause God hath sent them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. The fate of these despisers of faith, who, through the pleasure they take in unrighteousness, reject the truths of God, is remarkably suitable, and mortifying. Being abandoned by the fountain of light and truth, they are forced to take up with, what of all things they pretend to the greatest contempt of, either the imposture of false miracles, or the delusion of false reasonings.
It is but one and the same mind that shuts itself against truth, and opens itself to error. As no truths are so striking, as those of religion and virtue; no errors so palpable, as those of infidelity and wickedness; so, of all sorts of minds, that proves itself the most grossly stupid, which greedily sucks in the one, while it carefully arms itself against the other. Is there any thing, to which a sensible mind should lie so open, as to God who made it, and hath done so much to make it happy? Or is there any thing against which it should be so closely locked up, as those worldly schemes and sinful pleasures, from whence have evidently proceeded all its errors, all its guilt, all its disappointments, fears, distractions, miseries? If the prophet asks, 'he that made the ear, shall be not hear?' may he not as reasonably ask, he that made the ear, shall he not be heard ? shall that be heard, which is qualified only to amuse, to deceive, and to destroy? And shall be not be heard, who alone can neither deceive, nor be deceived? who loves us more than we do ourselves? who moved by his unutterable and inconceivable love, breaks through the otherwise unalterable course of nature, and tramples on the works of his own creation, that we may see it is he himself, while he flies to save us from sin and misery? He bids the winds be still, he smooths the billows with a word, he speaks the sick into health, and the dead into life; and thus he proves, that it is he who bids us believe and repent. But all this is not sufficient to still the winds of wild opinion, to smooth the waves of outrageous passion, or to cure the distempers and revive the piety, of that mind which is not of God.' The fountain of truth and goodness saith, be pure, be humble, be meek, be honest; but the fountain of all corruption, saith, enjoy thy pleasures, esteem thyself, retort injuries, and use thy art to execute thy schemes. The man who is not of God, hears both with his ears, but the latter only, with his heart. Believe in me,' saith God, and lean not to thy own understanding.' Trust to me, saith avarice, saith ambition, saith pleasure; and judge for thyself, say they all; and all are obeyed by the man who is of this world, and not of God; who thinks, judges, and believes only through
his outward senses, and fleshly desires, which are his only self.
Thus in a corrupt heart ends the great controversy between God and his adversaries; and if time does not do it, eternity at least will shew, which had the right side of the question.
May there no longer be a dispute on the subject in any of us; may God give us grace wisely to hear, and dutifully to obey him in all things, through Christ Jesus our Saviour, to whom with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now and for evermore. Amen.
WHO IS FOR GOD, AND WHO AGAINST HIM.
ST. MAT. XII. 30.
In some contests, they who are not immediately concerned, are at liberty, or rather it is their duty, to take neither part, because the thing contended for, is indifferent in itself, or because both sides are in the wrong. There are others, wherein every man is obliged to favour at least, if not to join himself to, one of the parties engaged, because one of them is evidently in the right, and no man ought to be wholly disinterested, when the cause of truth, justice, or virtue, is debated. In the cause of religious truth every man is a party, if it is a fact, as no doubt it is, that the happiness of every man is inseparably connected, not only with his thinking rightly in religious matters, but, in some measure also, with his endeavouring to make others do the same. Happiness is the effect of virtue; and virtue, of true religion.
The chief among these, or rather that wherein all the rest are comprised, is the great contest between Christ, the fountain of true religion, of pure virtue, and of our real
happiness, on the one side ; and the author of spiritual darkness, wickedness, and misery, on the other. Here all men, whether sensible of it or not, are infinitely interested; and it is owing either to their ignorance or stupidity, if they are not proportionably concerned.
It is of the highest moment to us, that the rules whereby our Saviour will distinguish his friends from his enemies be known, and well considered. Now, that he makes, and ever will make, this important distinction, not by the professions, but by the principles and deeds, of men, will be evident from the application of a Jewish proverb in the 9th of St. Luke, and here in my text. In the former of these places, John saith to him, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. But Jesus said unto him, forbid him not, for he that is not against us, is for us.' Here Christ takes that man to be on his part, who, acting in his name, and, questionless by his spirit, made war on the enemies of God, that is, did the work of God, though without the formal profession, or personal attendance, of a disciple.
The judgment he passes on him, who stands as it were neuter, in the war between God and the author of evil, is very different, though made by the same proverb, but converted, as was the manner of the Jews in some of their common sayings, to a seemingly opposite purpose. To such he will not allow the benefit of a neutrality. He knows of no man, who is neither to be rewarded as a friend, nor punished as an enemy; but saith,' he that is not with me is against me.
It is true, he thus applies the proverb, in answer to the Pharisees, who had charged him with casting out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, and proves from thence, and from the tendency of the fact itself, that he is the enemy of devils.
But while, with great force, he urges the argument against his pharasaical adversaries, he pushes it forwards through them, into the cooler hearts of such as stand behind, and prudentially shew themselves, neither for him, nor against him. He affirms, that every one, who does not labour to gather sheep into his fold, as he does, scatters, as the wolf does, many from that fold, who would enter, were