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been those who have distinguished themselves as much by the purity of their lives, as the brightness of their understandings.
All this may be true ; and yet our Saviour affirms, that he, who believeth not, is condemned alreadyc; and St. Paui in the text, to the same purpose, that if the Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. : There must needs, then, be some latent cause of this strange fact; some secret depravity lurking in the mind of those, who disbelieve the Gospel, though appearances bé thus fair and flattering. And, though Christian Charity be not forward to think evil of his neighbour, yet in this case we have reason to suspect it: and what we suspect, we may perhaps find, in a vice so secret and insinuating, that it creeps upon men unawares ; $o congenial, as it were, to our depraved nature, that hardly any man can be sure of his being wholly free from it; and so ingenious in disguising itself, as, to pass upon others, nay upon the man possessed by it, for one of his best qualities.
By these characters, ye will easily see I speak of self-love, or rather the vicious exertion of it
c John iii. 18.
in what we call, PRIDE: A vice, which
This vice then it may be, that hides the Gospel from those better sort of men, to whom it is hid. They had need examine themselves well, for it assumes, as I said, the most imposing forms. Who would look for it, in the cultivation of the mind, and the love of Virtue: Yet in either of these, it may
lie concealed : and an inquirer into the truth of the most rational, and the purest of all religions, may be prejudiced against it by a double Pride, by the PRIDE OF REASON, and the PRIDE OF VIRTUE.
I. First, Infidelity may proceed from the Pride of Reason.
When it pleased God to bestow the faculty of Reason on his creature, Man, he intended that this substitute of himself should be the guide of life, and the handmaid of Religion. And that it might serve to these purposes, it was made sagacious enough, if honestly exerted, to lead him to some competent knowledge of his Maker, and of his moral duty, and
to judge of the pretensions of any further light from Heaven, which might be graciously vouchsafed to him.
Man, proud of this free Gift, was in haste to make trial of its strength ; and finding it could do something, too easily concluded it could do every thing. Yet its weakness soon appeared ; first, in man's transgression, and consequent forfeiture of another free Gift, that of immortality ; and next, in the portentous errors he fell into, both in respect of virtue and religion. For God, who had graciously intended for him, in due time, another and safer guide, to prepare him for the reception of it, and to convince him, in the mean time, how much it was wanted, had suffered him to abuse this, to the worst purposes, of immorality, and idolatry : by both which the earth was generally overspread for many ages, and even in the most enlightened times, notwithstanding his Reason might, and should have taught him better.
But God's wisdom and goodness foresaw this abuse, and provided, from the first, for the correction of it. He had signified his purpose from the moment of man's transgression, and afterwards by a gradual opening of his scheme, in many successive revelations ; all terminating in that universal redemption of mankind by the sacrifice, and through the Gospel, of his Son. This last and greatest instance of the divine love for man, it might be expected, after so much experience of his own debility and folly, he would gladly and thankfully receive; and, that he might be qualified to discern the hand of God from the practices of fallible and designing men, was one main end, as I said, which God designed in lighting up the lamp of Reason in him.
But now this boasted Guide, though found to be poor and weak, grew proud and presumptuous. It would not only judge of the credentials of divine Revelation (which was its proper office, and without which faculty of judging there could be no security from the endless impostures of fanaticism and superstition, but not content with this power) it would decide peremptorily on the nature and fitness of the Revelation itself; and would either admit none, or such only, as it should perfectly comprehend.
Here, then, Reason forgot its own use, and power : its use, which was to bring him to the acknowledgement of a divine Religion; and
its power, which did not enable him to judge of the infinite counsels of God, but to try whether
such were revealed to him. In a word, he forgot that his utmost capacity extended no farther than just to see whether the proposed Revelation were such as might come from God, as contradicting no clear and certain principles of reason, and whether the evidences were such as proved that it did so. If it contained nothing repugnant to right Reason, that is, to a prior light derived from the same source of Truth, it might come from Heaven ; if the attestations of it were clear and convincing, it must proceed from that quarter. To try its credibility and authority, was then within the province of Reason : to determine of its absolute necessity and fitness, and to explore the depth and height of those counsels, on which it is framed, was above its reach and comprehension.
Yet Reason assumed to herself, too generally, this latter office; and this I call, the PRIDE of Reason. Hence all its wanderings and miscarriages ; from this perverse application of its powers arose all the heresies that have distracted the Christian Church, and all the infidel systems that have been invented to overthrow it. In both cases, men would be wise above, or against, what was written, .