Page images

and who dare say he hath done amiss? May not horses, and oxen and sheep, yea, toads and serpents, have more pretence to expostulate that they were not made men, than we have that God made us no better? I will not meddle with the schoolmen's dispute, who maintain that it is impossible for God to make a creature impeccable, or indefectible. It seemeth that the upshot of the quarrel is, that man is but man; that he is made a free agent; and that God hath contrived to rule the world sapientially by the two great engines of free-will and external objects. A will naturally inclined to good, and averse from evil, self-good and self-evil, and good and evil, life and death, set before him accordingly to determine him. So that the adversary doth seem herein to confess that another kind of world might be made by God, which could be governed well without promises and threats, but not this world of man, in the nature he is in. Even the most perfect measure of saving grace that is in this life supposeth the necessity of promises and threats, reward and punishment, for restraining from sin, and provoking to duty; and in the life to come, the present fruition of so glorious an object will hold faster than any promise or threat now can do : so I think it is evident that everlasting punishment to sinners is necessary. But if I could prove none of this, yet that they shall certainly be inflicted, may certainly be concluded from the truth of Scripture. And for the necessity of them, or the justness, we will let God alone to convince the world, who will one day fully manifest both, and be justified when quarrelling unbelievers shall be condemned.

But if men are resolved to perish, what remedy? Yet, besides all this, let me tell you that it is not only this fore-discovered necessity for the avoiding following inconveniences, but there is also another necessity of punishing sin. Not a necessity physical, as if God punished sin as the fire burneth, without reason; nor a necessity of coaction, as if any compelled him; nor as if he would do otherwise, but could not choose: but it is a necessity of natural perfection, because of God's justice: for the very order and nature of things requireth that God should join natural evil to moral evil, and not make the wicked happy, nor the good unhappy, but the wicked miserable, and the good happy, according to their nature : for his law, in this respect, was grounded upon the nature of things; and therefore, as nature required that God should make punishment due by law, so the same nature of things requireth that it be inflicted by vindictive justice; from which nothing but sufficient satisfaction to that justice can free them, and God neither can nor will go contrary to the nature of things. Every man will confess that if he had made a law that it should go well with the wicked, or that men should sin without punishment, it had been an unjust law. And is not as evidently unjust to do so in execution ? But of this, for full satisfaction, I pray read 'Amyraldus Thes. Salmurienses de Necessitate Satisfactionis.'

4. Further, if Scripture be so certainly true, then all the promises and merciful passages are as certainly true,

The careless world, that are not interested in them, do seem more easily to believe this, than those gracious souls to whom they do belong. But their faith is too easy to be sound; and befriended too much by Satan to be from God. But of this heretofore.

5. Let me now advise you further, seeing it is so fully proved that our religion and Scripture are the certain truth, that you would remember and make use of this doctrinę at time of need ; especially in these several cases following, wherein men have more than ordinary need of it.

1. When you are tempted by the devil, or by heathens, to unbelief and blasphemy, remember then, and make use of the proofs you have heard. These sorts of men are most liable to temptations, to unbelief, and flat heathenism, or Judaism. 1. Young, weak Christians, and especially giddy professors, who place most of their religion in opinions ; who fall in among seducers, before they are grounded in the truth. 2. Fleshly, sensual men, whose lusts and wicked desires are strong, and so rage within thein, that they cannot endure the strictness of the christian religion. But while they do stay among professors, they are as birds in a cage, still seeking to get out, glad to hear of a more flesh-pleasing doctrine. 3. Especially if these men have wounded their conscience, and been false to the religion they did profess; and secretly lived in the lusts of uncleanness or drunkenness, or the like sensual course. They are glad to believe any doctrine that tells them of impunity in the life to come, that thereby they may quiet their consciences : God knows, a short and silly comfort. 4. The proud and presumptuous professors, that study not the word of God with fear and reverence, and look into holy things with rashness and selfconfidence, not knowing the weakness of their own understanding. In a word, all that receive not the love of the truth, that they may be saved, whom therefore God giveth up to believe a lie, that all may be damned that believed not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess. ii. 11, 12.) Truth looks to be entertained as truth, and to be preferred before all carnal interest; which if it be not, these souls are justly left in darkness, by the departure of the Spirit of light and truth. 5. And some true Christians are liable to temptations to this horrid sin, especially when they are stronger, and so more able to bear it; (for it is observed, that God in mercy seldom suffereth the weakest to be much exercised with such hideous temptations ;) especially those Christians that let loose their reason to over-bold inquiries, and expect too much that God should in all things satisfy their reason. 6. Also, those Christians that having, in their younger time, received the fundamental truths only on trust, do come new to the trying of them, upon occasion of any enemy questioning them, or of their own doubting thoughts ; these at the first are usually put hard to it, till they have time, and good helps, to try and to be well settled.

7. And most people that are in deep melancholy, and next step to distraction, are presently assaulted with blasphemous thoughts. I have wondered oftimes to observe what an evident power God giveth Satan in this case. I have had multitudes of people come to me for counsel in deep melancholy, some for their bodies and some for their minds, and I scarce remember two of them, but they were strongly tempted to deny Christ and Scripture, and many to question whether there were a God. Many that, being very godly, were well grounded before, and many that, were worldlings, and never minded it much before : yet now they are assaulted with these blasphemous temptations,

All these sorts, that are capable of receiving advice, I would entreat to consider of the evidence given in, by which it is manifest that our religion is most certain, and Scripture most true : the devil himself believes and trembles, who would persuade you to unbelief.

Methinks the very nature and manner of urging the temptation, the importunity, and unseasonableness, and other circumstances, may easily manifest to you that it is the devil that puts it on. And if it be from him, you may easily know it is truth and goodness which is so opposed by the father of lies and wickedness. The Scripture doth everywhere speak evil of him, and therefore, no wonder if he be an enemy to it. There are divers of my acquaintance now in England, that formerly seemed to have some religion, who now are so

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

far turned from Christ, and have made shipwreck of faith, that they deny the truth of Scripture, and believe nothing upon the authority of its revelation ; and so do not believe in Christ as incarnate and crucified for sin, and as the Redeemer of the world by his blood. My heart is often moved with grief for these men's case, to think of the certainty of their approaching misery; and the rather, when I have fears that some of them are past recovery. “For if they sin wilfully,” by renoụncing Christ through unbelief, “ after the acknowledging of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful looking for of judgment, and fire that shall devour the adversary.” “Oh, how sore will be their punishment, that tread under feet the blood of the covenant, wherewith they were sanctified, and do despite to the Spirit of grace!" When it is written: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord : and the Lord shall judge his people: it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. x. 26, &c.) Yet, because I am in hope that some of them have not heard yet of this argument from the gift of the Holy Ghost, or not in its full force set forth; and, therefore, that they have not yet sinned against the Holy Ghost; I will venture to add one word of request to them. In the name of the Lord that made them, I entreat them, if these lines come into their hands, that they bestow a few hours in the sober, impartial consideration of that evidence which I have here and formerly given to prove the certain truth of Scripture, and our religion. That they would try them with meekness and humility, as men that are not willing to be deceived, and, in the mean time, stop their ears against the impetuous clamours of their lusts, which they may know to be against reason, as well as against Scripture : and if they can yet pray, that they would beg of God to show them the truth; and if they cannot at first discern a full evidence of certainty, that they would a little suspect their own understanding, and read it over again, and come and open their objections to those that have studied these things more than themselves; and if they can discern but a probability of truth in the Scripture, yet to consider whether it be not worse than stark madness to venture on a probability of everlasting damnation, and to cast away a probability of everlasting glory; and all this for a thing of nothing. If it were another more probable way of salvation, that stood in competition with the way of Christianity, then the madness were not so great; but when it is only for a little fleshly pleasure,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]



for a few days; alas ! what a mad exchange or venture is this ! If you should lose these pleasures, your loss is not worth the naming : when death comes, the pleasant life and the sorrowful life are both alike. Nay, I believe, in my heart, that you that sell heaven for pleasure, have not near so much as you might have, in the way of Christ, in believing expectations of heaven: and it is strange, if the very terrors of your conscience, do not mar your mirth. Oh! then, when Christianity is revealed to you, with such clear demonstration as may put a reasonable man out of doubt; what, do you mean to perish by wilful infidelity?" You may see, in what is said already, that God calls you not to believe any thing, without reason to believe it, and full discovery of the truth. God doth not bid you to renounce your understanding. Christianity is not in shutting your eyes, and following any teachers blindfold; it is opening your eyes, and using your understanding, and reasoning solidly and rightly, that God calls you to, and that is all that is necessary to your believing the truth. Therefore, renewing grace consisteth so much in illumination and opening of men's eyes, and turning them from darkness to light. There is no religion in the world hath true reason for it, but the Christian religion, or those parts of it which men of other religions do acknowledge : only you must needs know, both that lust and fleshly interests and inclinations will be strong hinderances to your believing of a doctrine which is so much against them; and, also, the clear apprehension of these things cannot be expected, either at your first study, or upon any slight view. If a man should teach the metaphysics or mathematics, yea, or any common doctrine or trade, you never think to understand him, and discern the evidence of truth in all his assertions at first. No; nor till you have long and seriously studied it, and used yourselves to it. And shall these heavenly mysteries be so easily apprehended, or be so obvious to your understanding, that you may discern them at the first view; especially, considering the native blindness of the understanding in spiritual things ? It may be you will

say, this is not our first consideration of these things; we have been Christians many a year. Answ. But were you not all the while Christians in name only? Did you not take up your religion merely upon trust; and believe Scripture to be the word of God merely upon tradition, and the authority of your teachers? If you went no further, I may say

? you are yet new to study for the grounds of your religion, though



« PreviousContinue »