« PreviousContinue »
whether you will be sober, temperate and chaste, or otherwise ; for in these essential Parts of Religion you must either obey, or perish. But the Weakness and Corruption of Man making it necessary for God to interpose by a new Declaration of his Will, the only Dispute is of the Truth and Authority of this new Declaration. If it indeed comes from God, it cannot be safe to reject it: And whether it does or no, it is absurd to reject it without weighing its Merit. This therefore is, of all others, the most weighty and serious Matter, and requires the Exercise of your most composed Thoughts. For, if you wantonly or perverfly refuse the Gift of God, this will be your Condemnation, That Light is come into the World, and you loved Darkness rather than Light.
JOHN V. 44.
one of another, and seek not the Honour
* HE chief Exercise of Reason
consists in disposing and regu-
lating our Actions, so as to
End or Happiness which we propose to obtain. And though perhaps, with respect to the great Numbers of Men in the World, but few in comparison chuse well for themselves, and fewer still pursue wisely and steadily the Good they chuse; yet all Men have something which is the Object of their Desires, and are endeaTouring to attain their Wish by fome Means
or other. When we chuse ill for ourselves, the more Wit and Dexterity we have to compass our Designs, the nearer we are to Ruin, the more inevitable is our Destruction, Our best Actions, when directed to ill Purposes, become criminal, and leave nothing behind them, but the foul Stain of Hypocrify upon our Consciences.
This general Truth might easily be illustrated by many particular Instances from common Life. There is nothing more commendable than a Spirit of Beneficence, and an Inclination to do good to our FellowCreatures: But when the Air of Beneficence is assumed merely to carry on private Views, when an Inclination to do good is professed only to promote our own Designs, and to make our Way the easier to Wealth or Honour, what is it but Fraud and Deceit?
If civil Virtue thus loses its Name and Nature by being misapplied, Religion does so much more. The Man who aims at Reputation and Interest under the Disguise of Religion, affronts God, and abuses the World, and lays up for himself certain Ruin, the just Reward of those who have the Form of Godliness, denying the Power thereof.
XV. But there are Degrees in this Vice, as in: most other, and Men oftentimes act under the Influence of it, without being conscious to. themselves of so much Baseness, as deserves to be branded with the Name of Hypocrisy, Pride, Vanity, and Self-love, naturally give a Tincture of Hypocrisy to Men's Behaviour ; they lead them to conceal whatever the World dislikes, and to make a Shew of whatever the World honours and admires. In the common Affairs of Life, where Virtue and. Morality are not directly concerned, it may be very right perhaps to comply with the World: But when our Vanity, and Love of Praise and Reputation, come to influence us in Matters of Religion, they will ever give a, wrong Turn to our Minds, and disable ús, from doing Justice to our own Reason in. judging between Truth and Fallhood.
This was the Case of those to whom our Saviour in the Text applies himself: He had done among them such Works as never Man did ;, to these he appeals as an Evidence that he came from the Father : The Works which the Father bath given me to finish, the fame Works that I do, bear Witness of me, that the Father bath fent me. He appeals likewise to the antient Scriptures, thote Oracles of God, com