« PreviousContinue »
suspect them as improbable, and afterwards reject them as false, and afterwards fall to scorn them as ridiculous. How certainly do I know, that God will shortly show you your mistakes, and make you know that the crookedness was in your conceptions, but his word was straight : that you should rather have suspected your shallow wits, than his sacred word ; and that it was your own imaginations that were false and ridiculous, but the word was true, When God hath set open to you the plain meaning of that word, which you censured by misunderstanding it, you will be ashamed of that folly, which now you take to be your wisdom. At present I shall but propound these questions to your serious consideration :
1. Was it not by a way of sin that you came to your unbelief; and is that like to be true and right which men are led to by their wickedness ? I have known few come to your case but by one of these two ways : either by wounding their consciences by some secret wickedness, so that they could not quiet them but by believing that there is no punishment ; or else by proud self-conceitedness and separation.
2. May you not perceive that it is the devil that hath ticed you into this snare, by the cause that it befriendeth, and the tendency of it to the strengthening of his kingdom and increase of wickedness, by the manner of the temptation, and the direct opposition to God and all goodness ?
3. Do you not sin against the light of nature when you contradict the common principles of mankind ? Almost all the heathens and infidels on earth do believe that there is a life to come, where it shall go ill with the wicked and well with the righteous; even the savage Indians, that have had no notice of supernatural revelations, do commonly believe this; and whence should the world, that never heard of the Gospel, have the knowledge of this, but from nature itself? In denying, therefore, the life to come, and the different estates therein, you go against the light of nature and cominon principles of the world.
4. But if you believe an everlasting state of happiness or misery, must there not be some way to that happiness? And what religion in the world doth show you that way with any probability, but the christian religion? We are sure that there is a true religion; and we are sure that heathenism, Judaism, and Mahometanism, are false or insufficient religions, and therefore it must be the christian religion.
5. Is it likely that God should make so intelligent a creature,
that is capable of doing him perpetual honour, for the mere momentary business of this life; or, rather, to join him to those spiritual natures that shall attend him to everlasting?
6. Doth not God actually govern the world by the hopes and the fears of another life? This is past question, by the world's common experience : lower things have a lower place; but it is the hope of happiness, or fear of misery everlastingly, that is the principal instrument of the government of mankind. Without this, all would soon come to ruin and confusion. Name one commonwealth on earth, that hath been governed and kept up without this; and certainly God needs not a lie to rule men by: he can rule his creature without false promises or threatenings, without the means of false hopes or fears : of which more anon. And why should he give him a nature unsatisfied with things below, and looking after everlasting things, and fearing everlasting misery, if there were no such things? The brutes have no such thoughts of a world to come, nor trouble themselves with hopes or fears about it, nor are governed by such means. And why? but because they were never intended for such an end. Certainly that creature must be ordinated to an everlasting end, who is ruled by his Creator in the hopes and fears of an everlasting end.
7. Is it not certain that God is the Governor of the world ? Had there been no creator, there had been no creature. For earth and stones, or beasts or men, are not things likely to make themselves ; nor can that which is nothing make itself to be something: for by what power should nothing cause any thing? And if God made the world, he must needs, as having the only right and sufficiency, be the chief Ruler of the world, and if he must be their Ruler, he must actually rule; and if he must rule, he must rule with justice, and justice makes an equal difference between the obedient and disobedient (which we see in this life, is far from being accomplished): when even death itself is suffered by the obedient, because they will not disobey. And whether justice do not tell us, that there must be an everlasting happiness or misery, to them whose natures are formed to an expectation of it, by the Creator himself, and whose lives are managed by such expectations, I leave to consideration.
8. Are they not apparently the worst men on earth, and the likest unto brutes, that are nearest to your mind? And are not Christians, for all their faults, the wisest and the best men on earth? There is very little of the world that believe not in
Christ, but what is notoriously vicious, if not barbarous. And if there be any part of America, that acknowledgeth not the life to come, it is those that are man-eating canujbals, or so savage as that they seem almost to have unmanned themselves,
9. Doth not your own conscience sometime stir and gripe you, and tell you that yet there is somewhat within you that beareth witness to your capacity of an everlasting state ?
10. Lastly, should not the least probability of a matter of such moment as everlasting joy or misery is, persuade a man of reason to let go all the pleasures of sin, rather than lose but such a possibility of everlasting happiness, or venture on such a probability of everlasting misery? Are you sure that there is no such thing? Are you sure that you shall die as a beast? I do not think you dare say so. What then will become of you, if your conjectures prove false ? as most certainly they will. What if there be a heaven to lose, and a hell to suffer ; and
you will not believe it till you feel it : where are you then? You might have been sure that you could lose but little, if you
had followed Christ, but a little sensual, transitory pleasure, which no man ever repented of losing, when he was dead. But you are not sure but you may lose everlasting felicity, and suffer everlasting misery, by your rejecting Christ : which of these two then is the wiser bargain, or better beseems a reasonable man? To conclude, if you have not yet * blasphemed the Holy Ghost,
, or so far forsaken God as to be quite forsaken of him, nor trodden under foot the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing, so far as that Christ will leave you to yourselves, I may hope to prevail with you to set seriously to the work, and make a more diligent and impartial inquiry into the grounds of the christian faith; and, among other means, that you will read, considerately, this book with that whereof it is a supplement, viz., the second part of the Saint's Rest,' and 'Grotius, of the Truth of the Christian Religion, now translated into English ; and if any thing in the reading seem unsatisfactory, that you will debate the case with some that are judicious, and do not conclude inconsiderately and peremptorily against that which you never thoroughly understood; as, also, that you will beg, by earnest prayer, the assistance of God, to acquaint you with the truth, for I suppose you yet to believe that there is a God. If you are given up to so much contempt of God and your own souls, that you will not be at thus much labour for your information, or while
* As to the nature of the sin against the Holy Ghost, besides the consent of the fathers, in the main expressed in the third part; see an Epistle of Phocion, fully to the same seuse and purpose. Inter. Epist. ejus., p. 167, 168. Epist. 127. And against Julian's and other apostates' accusations of Christ's laws; see an excellent discourse, ib. p. 275. Epist. 187. Xeisodipu 'Aonabapio.
read you will strive against the light, and rather proudly disdain than faithfully consider, and humbly learn the things which you understand not; I have discharged my conscience; take that you get by it.
A lamenter of the apostasies, non-proficiency, and contentiousness of these times,
THE SPIRIT'S WITNESS TO THE TRUTH
Gal. iii. 1, 2. “ Oh, foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you ?”
“ This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the worhs of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"
Nothing is more necessary to the understanding of the apostle's meaning, than first to know the question that he disputes of; and to that end we must know whom he disputes against, which was those or such like false teachers which are spoken of in the fifteenth of the Acts, as many passages in this epistle would easily manifest, if we thought it needed proof. The doctrine which they taught, was, that it was needful to be circumcised, and to keep the law of Moses, and that to salvation. That they taught not only circumcision, but the whole law, is evident, verse 5. That they made it necessary to salvation, is plain, verse 1; yet these men did not deny Christ, nor teach men to do so directly. The converted Jews were so great honourers of their law, as knowing it was of divine ordination, and their fathers had been so severely chastised for the breach of it, and so many prophets had been sent to confirm it, that they thought that doctrine could not be true which taught them to reject the law, or maintained the abrogation of it: on the other side, they were so convinced by the miracles of Christ and his apostles, that the testimony of Christ was true, and that he came from God, that they could not disbelieve him, nor reject his doctrine. It must be confessed that their trial was great in this strait, seeing all loyal subjects of God should not rashly believe an abrogation of his law. In this great perplexity, not finding out the right way, they resolve to join both together ;