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PROP. reasonableness of governing themselves by a higher V. principle than mere sense and appetite, yet with such variety of temptations are they perpetually encompassed and continually solicited,* and the strength of passions and appetites, make so great opposition to the motions of reason, that commonly they yield and submit to practise those things which at the same time the reason of their own mind condemns,† and what they allow not that they do; which observation is so true of too great a part of mankind, that Plato upon this ground declares all arts and sciences to have, in his opinion, less of difficulty in them than that of making men good; insomuch that it is well, saith he,|| if men can come to attain a right sense, and just and true notions of things, even by that time they arrive at old age.
all, by vi
cious habits and
4. But that which, above all other things, most depraves men's natural understanding, and hinders them from discerning and judging rightly of moral practices. truths, is this; that as stupid and careless ignorance leads them into fond and superstitious opinions, and the appetites of sense overcome and tempt them into practices contrary to their conscience and judgment; so, on the reverse, the multitude of superstitious opinions, vicious habits, and debauched practices, which prevail in all ages through the greater part of the world, do reciprocally increase men's gross ignorance, carelessness, and stupidity. False and unworthy notions of God, or superstitious apprehensions concern
* Vitia de mercede sollicitant; avaritia pecuniam promittit: luxuria multas ac varias voluptates; ambitio purpuram et plausum; et ex hoc potentiam, et quicquid potentia ponit.-Senec. Epist. 59.
Τόδε δὲ ἴσμεν, ὅτι ταῦτα τὰ πάθη ἐν ἡμῖν οἷον νεῦρα ἢ μήρινθοί τινες ενέσαι, σπῶσί τε ἡμᾶς καὶ ἀλλήλαις ἀνθέλκεσιν, ἐναντίαι ἶσαι ἐπ' ἐναντίας πράξεις. -Plato de Legib. lib. 1.
+ Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor.
† ̓́Εδοξε δὲ, καὶ νῦν ἔτι δοκεῖ, τὰ μὲν ἄλλα ἐπιτηδεύματα πάντα, οὐ σφόδε ρα χαλεπὰ εἶναι· τὸ δὲ τίνα τρόπον χρὴ γίγνεσθαι χρηστὲς ἀνθρώπες, παγχά AETOV.-Plato in Epinomide.
|| Φρόνησιν δὴ καὶ ἀληθεῖς δόξας βεβαιῶν, ἐυτυχὲς ὅτῳ καὶ πρὸς τὸ γῆρας Tageyivaro.-Id. de Legib. lib. 1.
ing him, which men carelessly and inconsiderately PROP. happen to take up at first; do (as it were) blind the of their reason for the future, and hinder them from discerning what of itself originally was easy enough to be discovered. That which may be known Rom. i. 19, of God has been manifest enough unto men in all &c. ages, for God hath showed it unto them: For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead: So that they who are ignorant of him cannot but be without excuse. But notwithstanding all the heathen world had so certain means of knowing God, yet generally they glorified him not as God; neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened; and they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into images of the meanest and most contemptible creatures; and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever: The natural consequence of which absurd idolatry, and also the just judgment of God upon them for it was, that they were given up to a reprobate mind, to uncleanness, and to all vile affection to such a degree, that not only their common practices, but even their most sacred rites and religious performances became themselves the extremest abominations. And when men's morals are thus corrupted, and they run with greediness into all excess of riot and debauchery; then, on the other hand, by the same natural consequence, and by the same just judgment of God, both their vicious customs and actions, as well as superstitious opinions, reciprocally increase the blindness of their hearts, Eph. iv. darken the judgment of their understandings, stupify and sear their consciences so as to become past feeling, and by degrees extinguish wholly that light of
*Justos natura esse factos ;- -tantam autem ́esse corruptelam malæ consuetudinis, ut ab ea tanquam igniculi extinguantur a natura dati, exorianturqué et confirmentur vitia contraria.—Cic. de Legib. lib. 1.
PROP. nature in their own minds, which was given them originally to enable them to discern between good and evil.
Wherefore men have
By these means it comes to pass, that though the great need great obligations and the principal motives of morato be lity, are indeed certainly discoverable and demontaught and strable by right reason; and all considerate men, in matters when those motives and obligations are fairly proposof religion. ed to them, must of necessity (as has been fully proved
in the foregoing heads) yield their assent to them as certain and undeniable truths; yet under the disadvantages now mentioned, (as it is the case of most men to fall under some or other of them,) very few are of themselves able, in reality and effect, discover those truths clearly and plainly for themselves: But most men have great need of particular teaching and much instruction, not without some weight of authority, as well as reason and persuasion;
1st. To raise and stir up their attention, to move them to shake off their habitual carelessness, stupidity, and inconsiderateness, to persuade them to make use of their natural reason and understanding, and to apply their minds to apprehend and study the truth and certainty of these things: For, as men, notwithstanding all the rational faculties they are by nature indued with, may yet, through mere neglect and incogitancy, be grossly and totally ignorant of the plainest and most obvious mathematical truths; so men may also, for want of consideration, be very ignorant of some of the plainest moral obligations, which, as soon as distinctly proposed to them, they cannot possibly avoid giving their assent unto.
2. To give them a due sense, and right and just apprehensions concerning these things,-to convince them of the great concern and vast importance of them, to correct the false notions, vain prejudices, and foolish opinions, which deprave their judgment, -and to remove that levity and heedlessness of spirit which makes men frequently to be in their practice very little influenced by what in abstract opinion they may seem firmly to believe: For there are many men
who will think themselves highly injured if any one PROP. should make any doubt of their believing the indispensable obligations of morality, and the certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments, who yet in their lives and actions seem to have upon their minds but a very small sense of the weight and infinite importance of these great truths.
8. To inculcate these things frequently upon them, and press them effectually to the practice of the plainest and most necessary duties, to persuade them to moderate those passions,-to subdue those lusts,—to conquer those appetites, to despise those pleasures of sense,—and (which is the greatest difficulty of all) to reform and correct those vicious customs and evil habits which tempt and hurry them too often into the commission of such things, as they are convinced at the same time, in the reason of their own minds, ought not to be practised: For it is very possible men may both clearly understand their duty and also be fully convinced of the reasonableness of practising it, and yet at the same time find a law in their members Rom. vii. warring and prevailing against the law of their mind, and bringing them into captivity to the law of sin and death. Men may be pleased with the beauty and excellency of virtue,* and have some faint inclinations and even resolutions to practise it, and yet, at the return of their temptations, constantly fall back into their accustomed vices, if the great motives of their duty be not very frequently and very strongly inculcated upon them, so as to make very deep and lasting impressions upon their minds, and they have not some greater and higher assistance afforded them than the bare conviction of their own speculative
* Quidam ad magnificas voces excitantur, et transeunt in affectum dicentium, alacres vultu et animo. Rapit illos instigatque rerum pulchritudo.- -Juvat protinus quæ audias, facere. Afficiuntur illi, et sunt quales jubentur, si illa animo forma permaneat, si non impetum insignem protinus populus honesti dissuasor excipiat. Pauci illam quam conceperant mentem, domum perferre potuerunt. Senec. Epist. 109.
PROP. For these reasons (I say) it is very fit, that, notwithstanding the natural demonstrableness both of the obligations and motives of morality, yet considering the manifest corruptness of the present estate which human nature is in, the generality of men should not by any means be left wholly to the workings of their own minds, to the use of their natural faculties, and to the bare convictions of their own reason, but should be particularly taught and instructed in their duty, should have the motives of it frequently and strongly pressed and inculcated upon them with great weight and authority, and should have many extraordinary assistances afforded them, to keep them effectually in the practice of the great and plainest duties of religion.
The great use and necessity
And hence we may, by the way, justly observe the exceeding great use and necessity there is, of of an order establishing an order or succession of men, whose of preach- peculiar office and continual employment it may be, to teach and instruct people in their duty, to press and exhort them perpetually to the practice of it, and to give them all possible assistances for that purpose. To which excellent institution, the right and worthy notion of God and his divine perfections, the just sense and understanding of the great duties of religion, and the universal belief and due apprehension of a future state of rewards and punishments; with the generality even of the meaner and more ignorant sort of people among us, are now possessed of; is manifestly and undeniably almost wholly owing: As I shall have occasion hereafter more particularly to observe.
VI. Though in almost every age there have indeed been in the heathen world some wise and brave and good men, who have made it their business to study and practise the duties of natural religion themselves, and to teach and exhort others to do the like, who seem therefore to have been raised up by Providence, as instruments to reprove in some mea