« PreviousContinue »
that there is a God, who is infinitely powerful, wise and good. And that it is not possible that all things which we see should have no cause; or that the derived power, and wisdom, and gooduess of the creature, should not proceed from that which is more excellent in the first and total cause ; or that God should give more than he had to give.
3. Consider next in what relation such a creature must needs stand to such a Creator. If he made us of nothing, it is not possible but that he must be our Owner, and we and all things absolutely his own. And if he be our Maker and Owner, and be infinitely powerful, wise and good; and we be reasonable, free agents, made to be guided by laws or moral means unto our end, it is not possible but that we should stand related to him, as subjects to their rightful governor. And if he be our Creator, Owner and Ruler, and also infinitely good, and the grand benefactor of the world; and if the nature of our souls be, to love God as good; it cannot be possible that he should not be our End, who is our Creator; and that we should not be related to him as to the Chiefest Good, both originally as our Benefactor, and finally as our End.
4. And then it is easy for you next to see, what duty you owe to that God to whom you are thus related. That if you are absolutely his own, you should willingly be at his absolute dispose. And if he be your Sovereign Ruler, you should labour most diligently to know his laws, and absolutely to obey them. And if he be infinitely good, and your Benefactor and your End, you are absolutely bound to love him most devotedly, and to place your own felicity in his love. All this is so evidently the duty of man to God by nature, that nothing but madness can deny it. And this is it which we call sanctification, or holiness to the Lord. And our cohabitation und relation to men will tell us, that justice and charity are our duty as to them. And when a man is fully satisfied that holiness, justice and charity are our duty, he hath a great advantage for his progress towards the Christian faith.
To which let me add, that as to ourselves also, it is un deniably our duty to take more care for our souls, than for our bodies, and to rule our senses and passions by our reason, and to subject our lower faculties to the higher, and so to use all sensible and present things, as conduceth to
the public good, and to the advancement of our nobler part, and to our greater benefit, though it cross our sensual appetites.
All this being unquestionably our natural duty, we see that man was made to live in holiness, justice, charity, temperance, and rational regularity in the world.
5. When you have gone thus far, consider next how far men are generally from the performance of this duty; and how backward human nature is to it, even while they cannot deny it to be their duty: and you will soon perceive that God who made it their duty, did never put in them this enmity thereto; nor ever made them without some aptitude to perform it. And if any would infer that their indisposedness proveth it to be none of their duty, the nature of man will fully confute him; and the conscience and confession of all the sober part of the world. What wretch so blind (if he believe a Deity) who will not confess that he should love God with all his heart, and that justice, charity and sobriety are his duty; and that his sense should be ruled by his reason, &c. ? The evidence before given is not to be denied : and therefore something is marred in nature. Some enemy hath seduced man: and some deplorable change hath befallen him.
6. Yea, if you had no great backwardness to this duty yourself, consider what it must cost you faithfully to perform it, in such a malignant world as we now live in! What envy and wrath, what malice and persecution, what opposition and discouragements on every side we must expect! Universal experience is too full a proof of this : (besides what it costeth our restrained flesh).
7. Proceed then to think further, that certainly God hath never appointed us so much duty, without convenient motives to perform it. It cannot be that he should make us more noble than the brutes, to be more miserable : or that he should make holiness our duty, that it might be our loss, or our calamity. If there were no other life but this, and men had no hopes of future happiness, nor any fears of punishment, what a hell would this world be! Heart-wickedness would be but little feared; nor heart-duty regarded : secret sin against princes, states, and all degrees, would be boldly committed, and go unpunished (for the most part). The sins of princes, and of all that have power to defeat the law, would have little or no restraint. Every man's interest would oblige him, rather to offend God, who so seldom punisheth here, than to offend a prince, or any man in power, who seldom lets offences against himself go unrevenged : and so man, more than God, would be the ruler of the world, that is, our God.
Nay, actually the hopes and fears of another life, among most heathens, infidels and heretics, is the principle of Divine government, by which God keepeth up most of the order and virtue which is in the world.
Yea, think what you should be and do yourself, as to enemies, and as to secret faults, and as to sensual vices, if you thought there was no life but this. And is it possible that the infinitely powerful, wise and good Creator can be put to govern all mankind by, mere deceit, and a course of lies? As if he wanted better means.
By how much the better any man is, by so much the more regardful is he of the life to come, and the hopes and fears of another life are so much the more prevalent with him. And is it possible that God should make men good, to make them the most deceived and most miserable? Hath he commanded all these cares to be our needless torments, which brutes, and fools, and sottish sinners do all escape? Is the greatest obedience to God become a sign of the greatest folly, or the way to the greatest loss or disappointment ?
We are all sure that this life is short and vain. No infidel can say that he is sure that there is no other life for us. And if this be so, reason commandeth us to prefer the possibilities of such a life to come, before the certain vanities of this life. So that even the infidel's uncertainty will unavoidably infer, that the preferring of the world to come is our duty: and if it be our duty, then the thing in itself is true : for God will not make it all men's duties in the frame of their nature, to seek an Utopia, and pursue a shadow; and to spend their days and chiefest cares for that which is not; godliness is not such a dreaming nightwalk.
Conscience will not suffer dying men to believe that they have more cause to repent of their godliness, than of their sin; and of their seeking heaven, than of wallowing in their lusts.
Nay then, these heavenly desires would be themselves our sins, as being the following of a lie, the aspiring after a state which is above us, and the abuse and loss of our faculties and time. And sensuality would be more like to be our virtue, as being natural to us, and a seeking of our most real felicity.
The common conscience of mankind doth justify the wisdom and virtue of a temperate, holy, heavenly person ; and acknowledgeth that our heavenly desires are of God: and doth God give men both natural faculties, which shall never come tu the perfection which is their end? And also gracious desires, which shall but deceive us, and never be satisfied? If God had made us for the enjoyments of brutes, he would have given us but the knowledge and desires of brutes.
Every king and mortal judge can punish faults against man with death: and hath God no greater or further punishment for sins as committed against himself? And are his rewards no greater than a man's ?
These, and many more such evidences may assure you that there is another life of rewards and punishments; and that this life is not our final state, but only a time of preparation thereunto. Settle this deeply and fixedly in your minds.
8. And look up to the heavenly regions, and think, ' Is this world so replenished with inhabitants, both sea and land, and air itself? And can I dream that the vast and glorious orbs and regions are all uninhabited ? Or that they have not more numerous and glorious possessors than this small, opacous spot of earth?
And then think, that those higher creatures are intellectual spirits ; (this is many ways apparent ;) and also of the communion which they have with man. And when we find also an intellectual nature in ourselves, why should we not believe that our likeness of nature doth infer our likeness in our future duration and abode.
9. And mark well but the inward and outward temptations, which solicit all the world to sin; and what notable evidences there be in many of them, of an invisible power ; and you will easily believe that man hath a soul to save or lose, which is of longer duration than the body.
10. Lastly, if yet there be any doubt, consider but of the
sensible evidences of apparitions, witchcraft and possessions, and it cannot choose but much confirm you. Though much be feigned in histories of such things, yet the world hath abundant evidence of that which was certainly unfeigned. See the devil of Mascon; Mr. Mompesson's story lately acted and published; Remigius, Bodinus, Danæus, &c. of witches, Lavater de Spectris; and what I have written elsewhere.
The true method of Inquiry into the Supernatural Evidences of
Faith, and Rules therein to be observed.
When you have thus seen what evidence there is of God, and his government, and of a life of reward and punishment hereafter, and of the natural obligations which lie on man to a holy, just and sober life; and of the depraved state of the world, which goeth so contrary to such undoubted duty; and how certain all this is, even by natural revelation; proceed next to consider what supernatural revelation God hath added, both to confirm you in the same truths, and to make known such other as were necessary for mankind to know. Where I must first direct you in the true method of inquiry, and then set before you the things themselves, which you are to know.
1. Think not that every unprepared mind is immediately capable of the truth (either this, or any other, except the first principles which are' nota per se,' or are next to sense), All truth requireth a capacity, and due preparation of the recipient. The plainest principles of any art or science, are not understood by novices at the first sight or hearing; and therefore it were vain to imagine that things of the greatest distance in history, or profundity in doctrine, can be comprehended at the first attempt, by a disused and unfurnished understanding. There must be at least, as much time and study, and help supposed and used, to the full discerning of the evidences of faith, as are allowed to the attainment of common sciences. Though grace, in less time, may give men so much light as is necessary to salvation ; yet he that will be able to defend the truth, and answer objections, and