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the Venture of their future Happiness, SE R M. than be certainly miserable here, for II. Fear of being fo hereafter. And am third Sort there are, who have endeavoured to raise their Practice up to these Speculations; but failing (as how could they but fail?) have funk into religious Defpair, concluded themfelves Reprobates, out of the Favour of God, and a State of Salvation.
So that too easy and too fevere Decifons, have alike done Dif-service to Religion; these perhaps have frightned near as many from the Prosecution of Vertue, as those have allured to the Commiffion of Vice; but the True Doctrine of the Gospel, which fteers between thefe Extremes, is not anfwerable for the Exceffes on either fide, and ought not therefore to be blafphemed on the Account of them. We may add in the
3. Place, that 'tis not to be expeted, but that, where Chriftians are wicked, they fhould be rather worse than other Men; for this very Reason,
SERM.because they have more Helps towards II. becoming better, and yet live in the Contempt, or Neglect of them. Those excellent Rules of Life, which they will not fuffer to do them good, must for that very Reason do them Harm, if they fet their Faces against fo plain a Revelation of their Duty, and resolve to Sin in Defiance of it. For, if the Mat.vi.23. Light that is in them be Darkness, how great is that Darkness?
How great, even according to the natural Course and Tendency of Things, whereby what is good, when corrupted grows bad in proportion to its former Goodness: How much greater, in respect of the juft Judgments of God, who punishes fuch Perfons with the total Dereliction of his Spirit, and a penal Blindness; giving those up to a ReRom.i. 28. probate Mind, who thus hold the Truth in Unrighteousness.
Laftly, The Faith of Chrift fuffers much from the ill Lives of those, who have nothing of Christianity but the Name; and are, whilft they reproach
it for the ill Conduct of its Profeffors, SER M. themselves the greatest Reproach to it. II, Set afide the Disorders of the almost Chriftians, and of fuch as, whatever they may outwardly profess, do not fincerely and heartily love our Lord Jesus; and one great Occasion of Blafpheming the Doctrine of Chrift will be removed. 'Tis very hard therefore to make our Faith answerable for the ill Manners of thofe, who do not in good Earneft receive it; but much harder ftill, that those very Men should prefs the Objection moft eagerly, without whose loose and immoral Lives, there would not be near fo much Ground and Colour for it.
This is as if a Cataline fhould have declaimed against the Debaucherys of Rome, whilft he and his Accomplices were in the midft of it, and had contributed to bring it to that pitch of Wickedness they had complained of.
Many other inftructive Reflections might be fuggefted on these Heads: But thus much may fuffice to fhew, How
SERM. How far there is any real Occafion II. for a Complaint of the exceeding Wick
edness of Men, now under the Chriftian Difpenfation; and then, fuppofing the Complaint juft, how little Reason there would be, to turn it to the Disadvantage of Christianity it felf. It remains, that I should point out to you, on my
III. Third General Head, fome more proper and natural Inferences that may be drawn from it. They are many and weighty: But I will not detain you farther then by the Mention of Two of
And, 1. This fhould be fo far from fhocking our Faith, that it ought, on the contrary, to confirm and ftrengthen it. .For the univerfal Degeneracy of Christians in these latter Days was plainly and punctually foretold by Chrift and his Apostles. When the Son of Man cometh fhall be find Faith on the Earth, faith our Saviour. Now the Spirit SpeakCh.iv. 1,2. eth (fays St. Paul, in his first Epistle to
Timothy,) that in the latter Times fome SERM. fball depart from the Faith, giving heed II. to feducing Spirits, and Doctrines of De-Ch. iv.12. vils; fpeaking Lyes in Hypocrify, having their Confciences feared with a hot Iron. And in his fecond, This know, that in the laft Days perilous Times shall come; for Men fhall be Lovers of their own felves, Covetous, Boafters, Proud, Blafphemers, to which he adds a large Catalogue of the blackest and worst of Sins which should then abound, and parallel Paffages to these are alfo to be found, in St. i Peter's and St. Jude's Epiftles. Now the Teftimony of Jefus is that Spirit of Prophecy; and if he therefore and his Apoftles by that Spirit of Prophecy, forewarned us of this Event, it fhould not, methinks, leffen our Efteem of their Doctrine, to fee that Prediction fulfilled.
Nay, the vicious Lives of the Generality of Chriftians is an Argument for the Truth of Christianity on another Account. For the profeffed Defign of God in revealing it, being to