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SERM. is perfectly veracious, so that whatever appears to XIII. be asserted, or attested to, by him, is certainly true; which principles (by reasons I hope proper and sufficient) I partly have proved, and partly shall hereafter upon occasion shew. A third is, that God is the author of the Christian doctrine and law; that he hath revealed this doctrine to mankind, and confirmed it by his testimony; that he hath imposed this law upon us, and established it by his authority. This principle (being the foundation and sum of our faith) involves matter of fact; and consequently, being not evident immediately in itself, doth (for a full conviction of a man's mind, and producing therein a solid persuasion) require a rational probation; and that it may appear we believe it like reasonable men, not (as pagans and Mahometans, and those of other sects do,) upon wilful resolution, or by mere chance, as also for settling the ground of particular articles comprehended under this, I shall endeavour to shew the reasonableness thereof; advancing my discourse by several steps and degrees. I observe first, that,
1. It is reasonable to suppose that God should at some time or season fully and clearly reveal unto men the truth concerning himself, and concerning them, as he and they stand related to each other; concerning his nature and will, concerning our state and duty, respectively: the nature and attributes of God, the nature and qualities of man, being compared, do persuade thus much.
It is apparent to common experience, that man
* Μάθωμεν τοίνυν οὕτω πρὸς Ἕλληνας διαλέγεσθαι, ἵνα μὴ ὦμεν ὡς θρέμματα καὶ βοσκήματα, ἀλλ ̓ ὦμεν παρεσκευασμένοι περὶ τῆς ἐν ἡμῖν b. Chrys. in 1 Cor. i. 17.
kind being left to itself (especially in matters of this SERM. kind) is very insufficient to direct itself; that it is apt to lie under woful ignorance, to wander in uncertainty, to fall into error, to possess itself with vain conceit, to be abused with any sort of delusion, which either the malice of wicked spirits, or the subtilty of naughty men, or the wildness of its own fond passions and desires can put upon it or bring it under; it is consequently exposed to all those vices, dishonourable, hurtful, and destructive to its nature; and to all those miseries, which from ignorance or error, from vice and wickedness, do naturally spring; especially to an estrangement from God, and an incapacity of his love and favour. The two only remedies of all these mischiefs, natural light and primitive tradition, how little they did avail to cure them; how the one was too faint in itself, and easily lost in mists of prejudice from ill education and bad custom, prevailing generally; how the other (besides its other defects) soon was polluted, and indeed quite spoiled by adulterate mixtures of fond, impure, and vile superstitions, woful experience doth more than enough evince. We see, that not only the generality of mankind did sometime lie in this sad condition, but that even the most elevated and refined wits (those among men who by all possible improvement of their reason did endeavour to raise themselves from this low estate; to rescue their minds from the common ignorance, the mistakes, the superstitions and follies of the world) could by no means in any good measure attain those ends; for what did their earnest inquiries or their restless studies produce, but dissatisfaction and perplexity of mind? wherein did their eager disputations conclude, but in irre
SERM. concilable differences of opinion, and greater uncerXIII. tainties than were when they began? Most were plunged into a desperate scepticism, (a doubt and diffidence of all things;) none arrived higher than some faint conjectures on some unsteady opinions concerning those matters of highest consequence; such notions as were not effectual enough to produce in them a practice, in any good measure, suitable to the dignity of man's nature, to the duty he owes to God, to the capacities man hath of doing and receiving good; from which due glory to God or much Rom. i. 21. benefit to man did accrue. 'Epaτainoav ev Tois diaEph. iv. 17. Aoyiopois, they were made vain (or, they were frustrated, deluded, befooled) in their reasonings and disputes; the result of their busy speculations was, that their foolish heart was darkened; so darkened, that with all the light they had, they could not see any thing; at least not clearly discern what 1 Cor. i. 21. chiefly it concerned them to know; The world by wisdom (by all the wisdom it could get) did not know God; did not acquire a requisite measure of knowledge in divine things: did not however know him so, as to glorify him; as to thank him for the benefits received from him; as to bring forth worthy Rom. i. 21, fruits of piety and virtue. So much St. Paul observed of them; and not he alone did observe it, but even themselves were sensible of this their unhappiness; whence so many complaints concerning the causa mali blindness and infirmity of man's mind, concerning
ægris Natu- the obscurity and uncertainty of things, concerning
Dei. the insuperable difficulty of finding truth, concern
ing the miserable consequences from these, do occur among them.
Now this being the natural state of men, desti
tute of divine conduct and assistance; do they not SERM. (I pray) greatly need another light to guide them_XIII. in this darkness, or to bring them out of it; a helpful hand, to free them from these inconveniences? and is it not reasonable to suppose, that God, who is alone able, will also be willing in due time to afford it? He, who in nature is most benign and bountiful, most pitiful and gracious; whose goodness fills the Ps.xxxiii.5. earth, and whose mercy is over all his works; he, who bears to man the special relation of a Father, and bears to him a suitable tenderness of affection and good-will; he, all whose attributes seem concerned in engaging him upon this performance; not only his goodness to instigate him, and his wisdom to direct him, but even his justice in some manner to oblige him thereto.
1. His goodness: Can a woman forget her suck- Isa. xlix. ing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea; though it is unnatural and unusual, it is yet possible she may, because nature in her is not unalterably constant and the same; but the immutable God cannot so cease to be mindful of, to be compassionate toward, his children. That gracious ear cannot hear mankind groan so dolefully under bitter oppressions; that pitiful eye cannot behold his own dear offspring, the flower of his creation, lying in so comfortless, so remediless distress, without feeling some pity, without being moved to reach some relief; such notes surely cannot be grateful, such spectacles cannot be pleasant to him, nor can he then forbear long to provide means of removing them from his presence. We esteem it want of goodness (yea an effect of very bad disposition) not to direct a bewildered traveller,
SERM. not to relieve, if we can, even a stranger fallen into great distress and if we being in such degree bad, are inclinable to perform such good offices, how much more ready may we suppose him, who is goodness itself, (goodness infinite and absolute,) to do the like for all mankind, so much needing his guidance and help! He who hath settled our outward estate in so advantageous a posture, who hath made provisions so various and ample for the needs and conveniences (yea for the pleasure) of our bodies, would he have so little care over our better part, and leave our souls so slenderly furnished, letting them pine, as it were, for want of spiritual sustenance? How Vid. Ezek. can we think his good providence defective in so
main, so principal a part thereof? Thus doth divine goodness (to my apprehension) very strongly confirm our supposition.
2. And his wisdom enforces the same: God made the world to express his goodness and to display his glory; and his goodness who can be sensible of, his glory who can perceive, who can promote, but man? but he who is endued with reason, enabling him to reflect upon the good he feels, to admire the excellency he discovers, to render grateful acknowledgments for the one, to utter acclamations of praise to the other? which purposes yet will be utterly (or at least in great measure) frustrated, should God for ever suffer men to continue in such ignorance, doubt, or mistake concerning himself; if men are not fully persuaded that he made the world and governs it, how can they pay those due homages of dread to his glorious power, of admiration to his excellent wisdom, of love to his transcendent goodness? This grand theatre would, as it were, stand useless, and