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vil, and so marr the ingenuity and modesty of our. natures. For one evil act doth beget an indisposition to the contrary virtue ; men become less competent to judge, or to do what is right, when once they have miscarried. We do not know what wrong we do ourselves, when we do an act contrary to right; for by this means we come to pass into the opposite nature. The apostle doth exhort christians, Heb. ii. 1. That they should take heed to the things that, they had learned ; left they let them pip, and become like leaking vessels. Good apprehenfions do not always stay with us; and contrary ones are in a succession. This we find by experience, that we do ebb and flow, rise and fall, go backward and forward, up and down, here and there, on and off, do and undo. Sometimes we fee, and believe, understand and refolve, and then again, we grow insensible of these good impressions that were upon us : and therefore David being well acquainted with the frail and un-. certain condition of man, prays thus unto God, Keep it in the imaginations of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, i Chron. xxix. 18.
Also we are inclined and follicited from our lowe er and worfer part ; from the delights of our senses, which many times prove strong temptations to us ; and lastly, we are often befooled by our own fancies and imaginations. He is a wise man who is not his own fool Our sense of ourselves is more incompetent, than our judgment of others. We are so much given up to self-fattery, that in favour of ourselves, we conceit that of ourselves that we do not find, and
are apt to think that of ourselves that no body that knows us do believe ; and all this from within.
2. And then from without us. How many things do impose upon us from our easiness and credulity; so that we walk as it were in avain shew, I Cor. vii. 31. and this occafioned both from objects and agents 1 John ii. 16. The guise of the world, the manners and humours of men, these are suppofed to be indubitable and unquestionable: and these prove a' mighty temptation to us, when we look about us and fee men so sollicitous, and over-busy, designing, undertaking, and engaging about the things of this life i as if a man's happiness were altogether to be had here, and as if our present actions had no reference to eternity. And then Satan, he is a lying spirit in the mouths of all his false prophets : he is an abettor and encourager of evil; being a liar from the beginning, and one that goeth about seeking whom he may
devour. And then men-are deceitful and uncertain, and use their wits and parts to circumvent and over-reach one another. Fair representations of things are made, when their real existence is o-. therwise ; so that we are many times deluded and deceived, and this is our weakness, we love to have it fo ; we would have men speak according to our sense, and not according to the reality of things. Thus it often happens, that they are grievous unto others, that do not speak according to their sense. We read of Ahab, that he hated Micaiah, because he did not speak according to his sense, and as he would have him, 1 Kings xxii. 8. And so St. Paul faith, that he was their enemy because he told them the truth, Gal. iv, 16,
3. Then also, the consequences of truth. and real virtue to ourselves. For, it is the proper employment of our intellectual faculties, to be conversant about God; to make enquiry after him, and to find him out in all his ways and works ; to conceive aright of him, and then to resemble and imitate him, Religion is an obligation upon us to God. The first motion of religion is to understand what is true of God; and the second is, to express it in our lives and to copy it out in our works : the former is our wisdom, and the latter is our goodness. In these two consists the health and pulchritude of our minds : for health to the body is not more than virtue is unto the mind. A depraved, vitious mind is as really the sickness and deformity thereof, as any fout and loathfome disease is unto the body. And as really as these tend to the death and dissolution of the. body ; so the vices of the mind tend to the separation of God and the soul. If therefore it be our care to rid ourselves of bodily diseases; much more, it becomes us to look after the cure of our fouls,
4. And lastly, the danger if we do not take care ; for in this state of probation, exercise and trial there are many things that are matter of temptation to us, and are intended for the exercise of our virtue : and in the course of providence God permits them, partly to awaken us to diligence and consideration ; and partly to make us to betake ourselves to. him for protection, guidance, and direction. And then gain or loss is according as we approve ourselves unto
This we may observe, that there are no effects in the course of nature, but the author of nature hath secured them by vigorous and effectual causes. And assure yourselves, God is not more wanting to the higher order of his creatures : but hath taken care to secure the intellectual world ; that part which is invested with reason and understanding, with liberty and freedom, and therein doth more partake of him ; and he hath secured the effects of these agents by exerting vigorous and effectual causes. And what are they but the exercise of reason and virtues together with divine affistance, guidance and direction ? For when God made a spirit finite and fallible, he did intend to direct, guide and govern it, by a spirit infinite and infallible. And if any one of us find it not so, I dare fay such a person hath neglected and forsaken God first, or else God would not have forsåken him. For this we take for
granted, that God, in the first creation of man, did intend to govern his mind by the afliftance of the divine Spirit ; and that there should never have been a fpirit finite and fallible, if it should not have had relation to, and communication from the divine Spirit.
From what hath been said, I shall make two inferences.
1. Then you see, we may not be careless, self-neglective or incogitant. Some men live so carelesly, and upon such easy terms in the world, as if there were no danger, nor any thing before them to gain or lose ; even as if they had nothing to do, and like Solomon's fluggard, their field is overgrown with
briars and thorns. But we are greatly concerned in this state, and there is apparent hazard and danger of miscarriage : for there is some difficulty in what is to be done, and this difficulty encreaseth, the longer we neglect our duty ; and it multiplies, by how much the more we have abused ourselves. For, a man hath himself as he useth himself. If a man hath alienated himself from God, by consenting to known iniquity, it is the great mercy of God, if eyer he be restored ; and when it is done, it must be by repentance and renovation. The first work of religion is to judge and perceive, and this is a work of skill, and therefore, for us to be unawakened and careless, not to employ our highest faculties in this work, is irrational and unaccountable, unworthy of an intelligent agent. In worldly affairs that are of any moment, we judge a person highly culpable that doth not use his reason and judgment. If a man miscarry for want of this, we can hardly pity a man in so shameful a case ; we hardly think him an object of charity, that will not work for his living, and does not that which in him is, to make provision for himself. For a man that is endued with reason and understanding, to say, I did not think, I never took the matter into consideration, is no other than the account of a fool. Really I wonder how any man can satisfy himself, to think that he is religious in any degree, and yet take no care to inform himself in necessary truth : who doth not make it his business, to set up a throne of judgment in his own soul. For, if he stick here, he cannot go any farther. For if he hath any thing