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237 will; the disorder of our minds, many times, is occafioned for want of them : And, great disquietness is occasioned in many families, for want of that peaceable temper, which my text speaks of.
The effect, intent, and issue of religion.
PS A L.M. xviii. 21, 22, 23.
wickedly departed from my God. For all his judg-
Am now to give you an account of the effect and
not be imposed upon, let us take just measures. The text tells us, what judgment we are to make of -religion, and religious persons : and by it, we may learn how to guide ourselves with judgment, in a matter of the highest nature. viz. if we proceed by the rule which in the schools we call a demonstration by the effeet; which I take to be the best : as for instance, if you come to prove there is a God; the best account is from the effeEt ; prove the cause, from the effect : prove the being of a God, from the world that he hath made, and is his work : fo prove religion,
from its operation ; a religious person, from what he does. And this is the way which our Saviour hath taught us : a good tree bringeth forth good fruit, &c. Mat. vii. 17. For, we are in great danger of making false judgment, both concerning persons and things. This we often find, that the world esteems a person of a pleasant humour, and that hath a good assurance, a good put-off, and value for himself ; especially if he be a man of a ready wit ; and, that such a man shall meet with respect and reputation much above what there is ground for ; and more a great deal than those that are of far greater worth, of higher improvements, and better fpirits. Thus are men efteemed, not so much from integrity and fimplicity; not from pureness of mind, and exact walking, according to the difference of good and evil; but as they comply with several mens fancies and opinions.
Now, I will make use of my text, to describe, and lay out a truly good man ; one that is real in his religion ; one that keeps the ways of the Lord, &c. and that keeps himself from his iniquity. And, the better to explain myself, I must observe to you in the first place, a different state of men ; a state of wickedness and fin, when evil prevails : and a state of religion, when goodness and virtue take place. And these two differ, in degree, as heaven and hell. (For it is a great mistake for us to think, that all of heaven, or hell, is hereafter ; for both the one, and the other, is, in measure and degree begun here. For, heaven, and hell, are not so much a place, as a state. They that are reconciled to God, in the frame and temper of their minds, and that live according to the law of hearen,
the everlasting and immutable rules of goodness, righteousness, and truth ; may truly be said to have begun heaven while they are upon earth. But, they who confound the difference of good and evil; and who care not to approve themselves to God; but do without difference or distinction : these are partakers of the devilish nature ; and are in the bellish ftate.)
There may be weaknesses, failings, mistakes, misapprehensions, some errors in judgment and opinion; there may be false conceits, in some things, about religion ; and all these, within the state of religion ; where men are substantially honest, and mean God, goodness, and truth; and live in all good conscience towards God. We read (Genesis xx.) how God did apologize for Abimelech, though he was not altogether without fault : for, he ought to have taken more care: but yet he was innocent, as to the great transgrelian, Psal. xix. 13. and, therefore, God faith, I know thou didst it in the integrity of thy heart. So St. Paul doth alleviate his persecution of the saints, Acts xxvi. 9. I thought that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And, 1 Tim. i. 13. he faith, he obtained mercy, because he did it ignorantly, and in unbelief. Therefore we must conclude, that none of those things that I have named, come within the compass of wickedly departing from God: but, all those that are sincere in their religion, may yet fay, I have kept the ways of the Lord, &c. And thus it is reported of those' good men and wo. men that are upon record in holy scripture. i Zecha, riah and Elizabeth are both fäid to walk in all the statutes and ordinances of the Lord, blameless, Luke i. 6.
Neither is this particular to them.; but unto all good mer. This is the testimony of all the worthies in the old testament, that they walked before the Lord in integrity. And, this is religion, not in the notion only, and in speculation, but in power and in truth. Wherever it is less, or otherwise, it is with a double heart, not with a whole heart, as you read, Psal. xii. 2. So in St. James, we read of a double-minded man, Jam. iv. 8. Religion is not satisfied with a bare profession and partial reformation. This may be for other ends and purposes'; and not out of love to God, and righteousness. But, we must harmonize with the nature, mind and will of God; and find a difplacency and animosity in our souls, against evil : and this, from the love of righteousness and goodness. And, therefore, to bring this home, being a matter of the greatest consequence, even that by which we must stand or fall : I will tell you that this text is not verified, in any of these cases.
First, In the case of fundamental ignorance.
Secondly, In the case of great negligence and carelessness.
Thirdly, In the case of voluntary consent to known iniquity.
1. It cannot be verified in the case of fundamental ignorance. I call it fundamental ignorance, in answer to fundamental knowledge. For, there is a knowledge necessary to make a man good. I will not take upon me to determine the least that may
but this is certain ; there is some degree of knowledge necessary to make a man good. Therefore, to instance in twa things that are fundamentally necessary to religion and
confcience. If, To know that there is a God; and that we all ought to reverence, adore, and worlhip him. God hath made men to know, that he is ; and, if they know that he is, they must know, that they ought to reverence, adore, and worship him. 2dly, They must have knowledge of those great crimes which are against God's honour ; which are against the ftate of a creature ; and unworthy in respect of God. And, this knowledge I hold fundamental, and
indifs pensible ș, and must be, wherever there is a capacity. And from this I can excule none but infants, and idiots ; that are not come to the use of reason, or are deprived of it. All elfe may know that there is a God, and may know the great instances of evil, such as murder, adultery, blasphemy, perjury, and the like.
I might add a third instance, which yet I do not inen. tion with the like evidence as the former ; to wit, that there will be rewards and punishments in the next world : 'that God will sooner, or later, judge the world, and controul the wickedness of it, and reward eminent virtue, and goodness. Such a belief as this, tho’ it be not equally knowable to the other two ; yet
it is knowable, and is necessary for the encouraga; ing of virtue, and discouragement of vice, and wickedness. This is the first thing. Those that are ignorant of the things that are fundamentally necessary to religion, cannot say that they have kept the ways of the Lord; and have not wickedly departed from God. Fors. these have wickedly departed from him ; altho’ they have no more than natural knowledge ; and those principles, with which at first., God created man. For, these things are manifest to all men : and all men are VOL. IV.