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such things as are lovely; so God is goodness, yet he cannot make sinners happy, because there is as much contradiction to reason and perfection in making sinners happy, as in loving things that are not truly lovely, or in hating things that are not hateful. This may serve to give us, in some measure, a true idea of the nature of religion and the nature
That religion is God's gracious method of delivering us from the unreasonableness and corruption of our natures, that by complying with its rules and discipline we may be so altered in our natures, so restored to reason, as to be fit for the rewards of an infinitely wise and perfect being.
That sin is the misery and disorder, the madness and folly of our nature, which as necessarily separates us from God, as God is contrary to all unreasonableness.
I have just mentioned these things, to help us to conceive rightly what is meant by the reasonableness and necessity of those tempers which religion requires. And I hope this is sufficient to give any one a positive assurance, that religion is so far from being an imposition upon us, consisting of needless duties, that it is founded in the nature and reason of things, and is as necessary to restore us to the enjoyment of God, as it is necessary that God should -love things according as they are lovely.
For let any one carefully consider this proposition, whether it be not absolutely certain, that God loveth all things, accordingly as they are lovely. Is not this as certain, as that God is reason itself? Could he be infinitely reasonable, or reason in perfection, if he did not regard things according to their natures ? hating only those things that are truly hateful, and loving things so far as they are lovely. To act by any other rule than the reason and nature of things, is to act by humour and caprice. Let this therefore teach us, that as we are
in ourselves, so we are necessarily either odious or acceptable to God.
So far as we cease from sin, and suffer ourselves to be made wise and reasonable by the wisdom and reason of religion; so far we make ourselves objects of the love of that infinitely perfect Being, who necessarily loves beings as they are lovely in their nature.
And so far as we continue in the madness and folly of sin, and neglect the rules of religion, which would deliver us from the guilt and slavery of it; so far we make it necsssary for that perfect Being to hate us, who cannot but hate things accordingly as they are in themselves hateful.
Some people, either through self-love, or some confused opinion of God and themselves, are always fancying themselves to be particular favourites of God, imagining all their little successes, or blegsings, in their health and circumstances above other people, to be distinguishing marks of God's particular kindness towards them.
But such persons must consider, that God is reason itself; that he is subject to no particular fondness, no more than he is capable of weakness; and that he can no more love them with any particular love, that is not an act of the highest reason, than he can lie, or act contrary to the truth,
They should consider, that the things of this life, its successes and prosperities, are so far from being marks of God's particular favour, that afflictions have a much better claim to it; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, &c.
When such people fancy themselves in the particular favour of God, they should consider, that to be loved by God, is to be loved by infinite reason and wisdom, and that reason can only love or approve things as they are conformable to it. To be approved by reason, we must act conformably to reason; and to be approved by the highest reason, we must act conformably to the highest reason.
So that when our lives are conformable to the highest reason, then may we believe that so far as they are such, so far are they in the favour of God, who is the highest reason. To fancy that any thing else can make us favourites of God, is mere ignorance and pride, and owing to the same ranity and self-love, which makes some people think that they are admired and esteemed by all that know them.
For so sure as God is reason itself, so sure is it, that to be loved by God, and to be approved by the highest reason, is the same thing; so that if he, whose life is not conformable to the highest reason, imagines that he is particularly beloved by God, he is guilty of the same absurdity, as if he believed that God is not the highest reason, or reason in per.. fection.
It is not more certain that there is but one God, than it is certain that there is but one way of making ourselves objects of his love, namely, by conforming and acting according to the highest reason.. When our lives are agreeable to reason, and the nature of things, then are our lives agreeable to God.
Now so far as we act conformably to religion, so far we act according to the highest reason, and draw near to God, by a wisdom that comes from, God, and was revealed unto us, that it might make us such reasonable beings, as to be fit objects of his eternal love.
For a religion from God must be according to the nature of God, requiring no other change of thoughts or actions but such as is conformable to truth and reason.
Now the reasonableness of actions consists in their fitness to be done; there is a reasonableness in being thankful for mercies; there is a reasonableness in rejoicing at things that are joyful; and so in all other actions or tempers, they are either reasonable or unreasonable, as they are agreeable or contrary to the nature of things.
This is what I would have understood by the reasonableness of all religious duties or tempers ; they are all required because they are as suitable to the nature and reason of things, as it is suitable to the reason of things to be thankful for mercies, or fear things that are truly dreadful.
Thus, for instance, humility is nothing else but a right judgment of ourselves, and is only so far enjoined as it is suitable to the truth of our state, for to think worse of ourselves than we really are, is no more a virtue than to make five to be less than four.
On the contrary, he that is proud, oftends as much against truth and reason, and judges as falsely of himself, as the madman who fancies himself to be a king, and the straw, to which he is chained, to be a throne of state.
Having observed thus much concerning the reasonableness of tempers-or duties to which religion demands, I proceed now to show, wherein the reasonableness and necessity of self-denial consists.
If a person was to walk upon a rope across some great river, and he was bid to deny himself the pleasure of walking in silver shoes, or looking about at the beauty of the waves, or listening to the noise of sailors; if he was commanded to deny himself the advantage of fishing by the way, would there be any hardship in such self-denial? Would not such selfdenials be as reasonable, as commanding him to love things that will do him good, or to avoid things that are hurtful.
Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, saith our blessed Saviour. Now if Christians are to walk in a narrow way that leadeth to eternal life, the chief business of a Christian must be, to deny himself all those things which may either stop or lead him out of his narrow way. And if they think that pleasures and indulgences are consistent with their keeping this narrow way, they think as reasonably as it the man upon the rope should think, that he might safely use silver shoes, or stop in his way to catch fish.
Again, if a man that was a slave to sottish and stupitying pleasures, that rendered him averse from all exercises of the mind, was yet obliged, in order to save his life, to attain to such or such a degree of mathematical knowledge, must it not be as neces.sary for such a one to deny himself those indulgences which increased his stupidity, as it would be necessary to study the relations of tigures.
Now this is the foundation of all Christian selfdenial; we are born and bred in slavery to sin and corrupt tempers, and are only to be saved by puttiug off this old man, and being renewed in holiness and purity of life. The denials therefore of religion, are only the necessary nieans of salvation, as they are necessary to lessen the corruption of our nature, destroy our old habits, alter the taste and temper of our minds, and prepare us to relish and aspire after holiness and perfection.
For since our souls are in a state of corruption, and our life is a state of probation, in order to alter and remove this corruption, it is certain, that every thing and every way of life, which nourishes and in. creases our corruption, is as much to be avoided, as those things which beget in us purity and holiness, are to be sought after.
A man that wants his health, is as well, and for the same reasons, to avoid such things as nourish his iliness, as he is to take medicines that have a healing quality. Self-denial is, therefore, as essential to the Christian life as prayer is; it being equally necessary to deny ourselves such things as support our corruption, as it is necessary to pray for those things which will do us good, and purity our natures.
The whole of the matter is this, Christians are called from a state of disorder, sin, and ignorance, to a state of holiness and resemblance of the divine