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dence of this is as great, and greater, than of most PROP. of those things on which men venture the whole of XV. their secular affairs, and on which they are willing to spend all their time and pains: Since (I say) the case is thus : He that will rather venture all that he can possibly enjoy, or suffer; he that will run the hazard of losing eternal happiness, and falling into eternal misery, rather than believe the most credible and rational thing in the world, merely because he does not see it with his eyes, it is plain that that man does not disbelieve the thing because he thinks the evidence of it not sufficiently strong, but because it is contrary to some particular vice of his, which makes it his interest that it should not be true; and for that reason he might also have disbelieved it though he had seen it himself. Men may invent what vain pretences they please, to excuse their infidelity and their wickedness; but certainly that man who can despise the authority both of reason and scripture in conjunction; who can elude the plainest evidence of matter of fact; who can be deaf to all the promises and kind admonitions of the Gospel, and to all the threatenings and terrible denunciations of the wrath of God, made known in good measure by the light of nature, and confirmed by the addition of express revelation; certainly (I say) that man must have some other reason for his unbelief than the pretended want of sufficient evidence. Did men follow the unprejudiced judgment of their own minds, and the impartial dictates of natural reason, the least possibility of obtaining eternal happiness, or the least suspicion of falling into endless misery, would immediately determine them to make it the great study and business of their lives to obtain the one and to avoid the other. If then we see men act directly contrary to this natural principle, and almost wholly neglect these things, not only when there is a fair appearance and probability of their being true, which the light of nature itself affords; but also when there is all reasonable evidence given of their being certainly true, by express revelation in the Gospel, is it not
ness and ungoverned lusts
PROP. very plain that such men are governed, not by reaXV.
son and the force of evidence, but by some other
very different cause of their actions? But that
What that cause is, is very apparent from the lives wicked. and actions of most of those persons who pretend
want of evidence to be the ground of their infidelity.
Their lusts, their appetites, their affections are inteare the on-rested : They are lovers of vice and debauchery, and of obsti. slaves to evil habits and customs; and therefore they delity
are not willing to discern the evidence which would compel them to believe that which yet they cannot believe with any comfort so long as they resolve not to part with their beloved vices. Their hearts and affections are habitually fixed upon things here below; and therefore they will not attend to the force of any argument that would raise their affections to things above. They are enslaved to the sensual pleasures and sinful enjoyments of earth; and therefore they will not hearken to any reasonable convic- . tion which would persuade them to relinquish these present gratifications for the future and more spiritual joys of heaven. The love of this present world has blinded their eyes ;* and therefore they receive not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto them: Neither can they know them, because they are spiritually discerned. In a word, the true and only reason why men love darkness rather than light, is, because their deeds are evil.
And this reason affords a sufficient account indeed long as why men should be very unwilling to believe the men are doctrines of Christianity. If they are resolved not dominion to reform their lives, it is no wonder they care not
to discern the evidence of those truths which must lusts, they would not needs make them very uneasy in the midst of the be convin- enjoyment of all their sinful pleasures. In this case, ced, though were the proofs of the truth of our religion much the evi. dence of
* 1 Cor. ii. 14. religion was even
"Ενιοι υποκεχυμενους έχουσι τες οφθαλμούς, και μη βλέποντας το φως του much ηλίου. "Ουτω και συ, ώ άνθρωπε, έχεις υποκεχυμένους τες οφθαλμές της stronger ψυχής σου υπό των αμαρτημάτων και των αράξεών σου των πονηρών.tban it is. Theophil
. Antioch. b. 1.
stronger than they are, or than they can be imagined PROP. or desired to be, yet still these men would be in the very same case, and perpetually want stronger and stronger evidence. It is true, many men, who now are conscious and willing to acknowledge that they act contrary to all the reasonable evidence and convictions of religion, are nevertheless very apt to imagine within themselves, that if the great truths of religion were proved to them by some stronger evidence, they should by that means be worked upon to act otherwise than they do : But if the true reason why these men act thus foolishly, is not because the doctrines of religion are not sufficiently evidenced, but because they themselves are, without allowing themselves time for consideration, hurried away by some unruly passions to act directly contrary to all reason and evidence; it is plain (unless God should irresistibly compel them) they might well continue to act as they do, though the evidence of these things were really greater than it is. They are willing fondly to imagine, that if they had lived in our Saviour's time; if they had heard his preaching, and seen his miracles; if they had had the advantage of beholding those mighty works which he performed for the proof of his divine commission, as the Jews then had ;—they should not, like them, have rejected the counsel of God against themselves, but with all cheerfulness have believed his doctrine, and embraced his religion. They fancy they should immediately have become disciples of Christ; and that the truths which he taught would have had a most powerful influence upon the whole course of their lives. And if their hearts and affections were not set upon this world, more than upon the next; if they valued not the present sinful enjoyments of sense above the expectation of the glory that shall be revealed, most certainly they would do the same now. But if their hearts be set upon earthly things, and their passions be stronger than all the arguments of reason ; if they do indeed so love the pleasures of sin now, as that they cannot persuade themselves, by all the motives of re
PROP. ligion, to live like Christians, we need not doubt to
same case though they had lived in our Saviour's
more hardened and obstinate in their unbelief.
the appearance of one sent directly from that un..
creatures. But if God should satisfy their unreasonconvince able demands, by sending one on purpose from the
dead to convince them, there is little room to doubt,
one should rise on purpose from the dead to
ness, as soon as the fright was over, and their pre- PROP. sent terrible apprehensions ceased, it is by no means impossible or improbable that their old vicious habits and beloved sins should again by degrees prevail over them. Some there are, in our present age, who pretend to be convinced of the being of spirits, by the powerful demonstration of their own senses; and yet we do not observe that their lives are more remarkably eminent for exemplary piety, than other good men's, who, being convinced by the rational evidence of the gospel, go on in a sober, constant, and regular exercise of virtue and righteousness.
It is not therefore for want of sufficient evidence that that men disbelieve the great truths of religion ; but therefore
to make plainly for want of integrity, and of dealing inge- men judge nuously and impartially with themselves, that they rightly of suffer not the arguments of religion to have that dence of weight and influence upon them, which in the judg- religion, it ment of right reason they ought manifestly to have. ly neSo long as men permit their passions and appetites cessary, in to over-rule their reason, it is impossible they should
place, that, have due apprehensions in matters of religion, or laying a
side prejumake any right and true judgment concerning these dice, lust, things. Men that are strongly biassed and prejudi- and pasced even in wordly affairs, it is well known how hard sion, they and difficult it is for them to judge according to rea- impartialson, and to suffer the arguments and evidences of ly willing truth to have their due weight with them. How brace all much more in matters of religion, which concern truth, and things future and remote from sense, inust it needs reasonable be, that men's present interests, lusts, and passions, obligations will pervert their judgment, and blind their under- shall at standings! Wherefore, men that pretend to be fol- any time lowers of right reason, if they will judge truly of the known to reasonableness and credibility of the Christian revela- them. tion, it is absolutely necessary that, in the first place, in order to that end, they become impartially willing to embrace whatever shall, upon the whole, appear to be agreeable to reason and truth, and grounded upon good evidence, without interesting their lusts and appetites in the judgment; and that, before all