Imágenes de páginas

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

PROP. very plain that such men are governed, not by reaXV. son and the force of evidence, but by some other different cause of their actions?

But that wickedness and

ungoverned lusts

ly causes

nate infi. delity.


What that cause is, is very apparent from the lives 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 slaves to evil habits and customs; and therefore they 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 so long as

men are

under the

And this reason affords a sufficient account indeed why men should be very unwilling to believe the doctrines of Christianity. If they are resolved not dominion to reform their lives, it is no wonder they care not of their 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, were the proofs of the truth of our religion much


though the evi

dence of religion

was even much

1 Cor. ii. 14.

[ocr errors]

*Ενιοι ὑποκεχυμενους ἔχουσι τὲς ὀφθαλμοὺς, καὶ μὴ βλέποντας τὸ φῶς τοῦ ἡλίου. Ουτω καὶ σὺ, ὦ ἄνθρωπε, ἔχεις ὑποκεχυμένους τὲς ὀφθαλμὸς τῆς stronger ψυχής σου ὑπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων καὶ τῶν ἀράξεών σου τῶν πονηρῶν. than 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 XV. 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

[ocr errors]

PROP. ligion, to live like Christians, we need not doubt to XV. affirm, that they might very well have been in the same case though they had lived in our Saviour's time. The Jews are a notorious and standing instance, how far prejudice, envy, pride, and affection, are able to prevail over the strongest convictions. When our Saviour began to preach that he was sent from God to instruct them in their duty, they required a sign of him, and they would believe him; but when he had worked so many miracles, that even the world itself could not contain the books if they should all be written, they persisted still in their infidelity. When they saw him hanging upon the cross, and thought themselves secure of him, they said, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him: (Matt. xxvii. 42.) But when he arose out of the grave, wherein he had lain three days, which was a much greater and more convincing miracle, they grew more hardened and obstinate in their unbelief.

one should rise on

purpose from the dead to


Nay, not Others there are, who imagine that if they could even tho', but be convinced of the truth of another world, by the appearance of one sent directly from that unknown state, they would immediately become new 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, but as they harkened not to Moses and the prophets, to Christ and his apostles, so neither would they be persuaded by one rising on purpose from the dead. They might indeed be at first surprised and terrified at the appearance of so unusual and unexpected a messenger: But as wicked men upon a bed of sickness, at the amazing approach of death and eternity, resolve, in the utmost anguish of horror and despair, to amend their lives and forsake their sins; but as soon as the terror is over, and the danger of death past, return to their old habits of sin and folly ;-so it is more than probable it would be in the present case. Should God send a messenger from the dead, to assure men of the certainty of a future state, and the danger of their present wicked


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.

to make

the evi

is absolute

the first


It is not therefore for want of sufficient evidence That that men disbelieve the great truths of religion; but therefore 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 aside prejumake any right and true judgment concerning these dice, lust, things. Men that are strongly biassed and prejudi- and ced even in wordly affairs, it is well known how hard sin, 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, must it needs reasonable be, that men's present interests, lusts, and passions, which. 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

to em

to obey all

be made

« AnteriorContinuar »