« PreviousContinue »
It is very evident, I think, that the fubjects treated of in the OLD Whole Duty of Man, are by no means fo many, nor all of them so well chofen, as they might be, for the use and neceffities of the prefent age: and, I believe, no confiderate man can doubt that our CHURCH and RELIGION
Atheists, have another fort of enemies to contend with Deifts, &c. now, than the Solifidians of that time; men whose fhocking impieties and tenets ftrike at the very foundation of chriflianity itself: for which reason the OLD Whole Duty of Man (which, in oppofition to the prevailing doctrine of thofe days, is chiefly confined to the moral duties) cannot by any means be well fuited to the impious age we live in, when the articles of our chriftian faith are fo impudently attacked and contemned: and whether the OLD Whole Duty of Man, which for near a century laft paft has been indifcriminately put into the hands, not only of the common people, but many others, as a complete fummary of our moft holy religion, when at the fame time the articles of the chriftian faith are quite omitted in it; I fay, whether this has not in fome degree contributed, during fuch a course of years, to produce that contempt which the chriftian faith now labours under, is fubmitted to the confiderate and judicious part of mankind to determine.*
Moft certain it is, that a man may be fo ftruck with the beauty and excellency of MORAL duties, as to be less concerned than he ought to be for a found FAITH; and may make shipwreck of the one, whilft he is too haftily and zealoufly pursuing the other. And it is alfo certain, that the author of the OLD Whole Duty of Man himself, confcious it may be of the defects of that treatise, fpeaking in his Lively Oracles of those things we are to believe, fays, 'These are the excellencies of the doctrinal part of fcripture, which alfo render them moft aptly preparative for the preceptive, ⚫ and indeed fo they were defigned: the Credenda and the A
genda being fuch infeparable relations, that whoever parts ⚫ them, forfeits the advantage of both.' And as the Duty of
• See Dr. Edwards's Teftimony on page ix. and Dr. Gibfen's on page x.
Man was the first, and the Lively Oracles the last piece of that author: for fo they are placed in his works; it may reafonably be prefumed, the Lively Oracles was intended to fupply the defects of the faid OLD Whole Duty of Man: but the proprietors of those books not thinking fit to print them together, the author's intention, if fuch it was, has been rendered of little effect.
But how fashionable foever it may be at this time of day, thofe men grofsly impofe upon themselves, who confine their religion within the moral scheme of the OLD Whole Duty of Man, and fo reft their acceptance with God upon the mere performance of the obligations of morality, and flight and ridicule the chriftian religion: I fay, how foolishly fuch men deceive their own fouls, is defcribed with fuch clearness and energy by the late archbishop SHARP, that I fhall give it the reader in his own words:
It is not enough (fays this judicious and orthodox divine) ⚫ to intitle any man to everlasting falvation, that he practiseth the duties of natural religion, unless he alfo believe and embrace that religion which God has revealed by JESUS CHRIST, fuppofing he has opportunities of coming to the knowledge of it. Bare morality, or honefty of life, without a right FAITH, will not fave a man's foul, fuppofing that "the man hath opportunities of coming to the knowledge ' of that right FAITH; and this confideration I seriously ad⚫ dress to all those among us, who think it so indifferent a ' matter what religion or what faith they are of, provided they are but honeft in their lives. They think nothing offends God but the open violation of thofe rules of morality ⚫ which all the world muft acknowledge themselves obliged 'to obferve, and which it is fcandalous not to obferve. But this is a grievous mistake, and of most pernicious consequence. It is certain, that wherever God has revealed 'his will, and declared upon what terms he will bestow falvation upon mankind, there all men are, under pain ' of damnation, obliged to embrace his revelation, and to believe, and profefs, and practife according to the doc
trines of fuch revelation. And it is certain likewise that 'God hath fully and intirely revealed his will by JESUS CHRIST and his apoftles in the New Teftament; and fo ' revealed it, as to exclude all men from the hopes of falvation, who, having opportunity of knowing JESUS CHRIST and his doctrines, do not believe in him. And therefore for any man to reject this method of God, and to fay, I hope to be faved by another way than God hath appointed, is the extremeft folly in the world: let every one therefore among us, as they would not be undone to all eternity, endeavour to inftruct themselves aright in the true religion. All their pretended moral honefty will not in the leaft excufe them before God, if, when having means 'to find the truth, they do not embrace it, but continue infidels or mifbelievers. If they had been born and bred in an heathen country, where they had no opportunity of coming to the knowledge of God's revealed will, I know
not how far their justice and temperance, and other good moral qualities, might avail them towards the procuring "God's acceptance: But to live in a chriflian country, nay, and to be baptifed into Chrift's religion, and yet to be pagans as to their notions and opinions; not to believe in JESUS CHRIST, but to think to please God in the way of the philofophers; there is nothing in the world to be faid in their excufe for this. And they will at laft find true what our Saviour hath pronounced, that this is their condem'. nation (and a heavy one it will be) that light is come into the world, but they have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. For every one that doth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, left his deeds fhould be reproved.'* Therefore,
I have endeavoured to fupply the foregoing defects of the OLD Whole Duty of Man, even fuch defects as the said archbishop, as well as the above cited author himself of the Lively Oracles, affirm to be fo fatal to every man's eternal falvation, by furnishing the age we live in with a Duty of Man,
John iii. 19, 20.
+ See alfo the Testimonies from Scripture, &c. at the End of this Preface.
much better fuited (I hope) to the chriftian religion, and the occafions of the prefent times. Though
It may not be improper here to take notice of Two forts of men, who are not likely to relish the following pages, viz. fuch as would gladly bring all religion into contempt; and fuch as think nothing fhould interfere with public preaching from the pulpit. As to the first, nobody can be ignorant but that the age we now live in has produced many men, who make light of the chriftian religion, and talk contemptuously of our Saviour and his doctrines; but, are we to conclude from thence, that there is no reafon, no argument, no evidence to be offered for chriftianity, nor to inforce its faith and practice, because these men, who are acknowledged to have wit and parts, make it their business to run it down? No; this would be a very false and unjust conclufion. And if you can imagine otherwife, you are strangely mistaken in your men; they never much applied their heads to examine thefe things; they have, perhaps, got fome common-place heads, with which they think they can difparage chriftianity; and it is likely they have wit enough to fet off those things to advantage: But as for serious thinking and putting things together, and making a folemn judgment of what is true or false in those matters, as in the prefence of God, and as in a business whereon their everlasting falvation or damnation does depend; I fay, as for this, you may affure yourselves. these men never did it, nor are they capable of doing it: it is not in their nature to give themselves fo much trouble, as fuch a work will require; and therefore we may be sure their infidelity does not proceed from any want of evidence, or arguments, for the truth of the chrifiian religion. In a word,
All our natural and civil duties are ftrongly tied upon us, by virtue of our profeffion of christianity: and it is very much to the honour of our religion, that it is wholly taken up in providing for the fecurity and benefit of mankind, even in this life; its general bent and tendency is to fet men at ease, and make them happy, by fecuring to all the duties due from each other, and from the want of which proceeds all the mifA 3 chief
chief in the world; it does not leave men to be moved by fuch confiderations alone as natural reason can fuggeft, but furnishes them with better. Now certainly nothing can be more to the advantage of any man, than that all the people with whom he has to do, should be commanded by God to fhew him mercy and to do him justice, and to do him all good offices, and to fuffer none to do him injury: Nothing (I fay) is more likely to fecure a man's peace and happiness, than fuch a fence as this; and yet this is the fence that christianity provides for every fingle perfon in the world. In e, there never has been any religion ever framed to make men happy, even in this life, like that of Jefus Chrift, if it were thoroughly purfued for a man cannot poffibly be made uneafy or miferable, or fuffer any evil at another's hands, without the violation of fome chriftian command, which, if obeyed, would have fecured him from it. So that, what reafons these men really have for flighting and ridiculing the chriftian religion and the minifters thereof, let the world judge. Wecannot enter into the hearts of men, to see upon what motives they act, and under what influences they reafon; but when we confider the strength and clearness of the evidences of christianity, with the advantages and excellencies of the gofpel institution, and the strict restraints it lays upon excess and uncleanness of all kinds, we cannot but fee that it requires the greatest degree of Charity, to afcribe their infidelity to any thing but the love of vice, or the love of contradiction.
Then as to fuch who are fo tenacious of preaching as to oppofe all written difcourfes, I defire it may be obferved, that though preaching is ufually allowed the preheminence of written difcourfes, yet if men would hear or read them with due attention, they might be effectual to the fame ends and purposes; for, notwithstanding what may be urged in favour of the voice, the air, and the action of a preacher; ftill, what is uttered with the voice paffes off so fast, that men of ordinary capacities are not able to judge of the foundness of it; and the exhortations to virtue often have but little effect; because the rules and directions which we hear concerning it, are fo very apt to flip out of our memories: whereas writ