« AnteriorContinua »
the characters representing our duty to men are SERM. oftner in view, and so more frequently furbished as
IV. it were and brightened, than those which express. our duty to God; being, I say, more frequently reflected upon, they are more put into practice. And therefore here men are apt to take up, faying, “ I do that which is just, honest, and fair “ before men, and there are none that can charge “ me with the contrary.” And so they think their case is very good.
INDEED there are several things concurring to make such principles, as point out to us the duties we owe to man, more influential upon practice. As for instance, men have sensible kindnesses from one another, which work upon ingenuity, and so influence to a suitable behaviour to them that shew such kindnesses. When they receive a kindness from the hand of a man, it is from a visible hand. They see who doth them good. Though there is a thousand times more good done them by the invisible God, but his invisible hand they take no notice of.
AGAIN, they are sensible continually of their need of men. All persons sensibly find they need some other, for they cannot live alone. They are not only obliged to a mutual dependence upon one another, but they are very senfible of it ; and therefore are apt to carry it fo much the more fairly to men, as those who stand in need of one another.
VOL. BESIDES, men find a sensible advantage 1. from the reputation of a fair, just, and honest carriage to others.
“ If I have not the repute “ of being a person kind, good-natured, and “ well-humoured, I shall have no friend ; no “ body will converse with me, but be shy of
me. If I have not the reputation of being a
just man, honest and square in all my dealings, " I shall have no trade, no one will trust me,
every one will be afraid to have to do with
me.” These considerations dispose us to good behaviour towards one another.
FINALLY, men are frequently sensible of hurt or some great inconveniencies accruing to them, if at any time they misbehave themselves to others. They that are morose and churlih do often fall upon tempers as cross-grained and perverse as their own, and so meet with such measure as they bring. If they be quarrelsome, it falls out fometimes that there are those who will quarrel with them, and will not take an af. front at their hands. And though there are some that scorn the tutorage and instruction of fear, which should govern them in the conduct of their affairs; yet many others are more prudent, and are not apt to follow the hurry of their own pride and inclinations. They consider how much it concerns them, not to provoke those who will right themselves, nor to injure those who will be sure to meet with them one time or other. Yea, those who are more considerate will be very cautious how they make any man their
enemy, even the meanest; for no man is fo mean Serm, but it may be some time or other in his power to
IV. do him a shrewd turn.
Such inducements there are, I say, 'as these unto a fair and unexceptionable deportment towards men, whom we see and converse with every day. And with this men are inclined to take up their rest ; contenting and satisfying themselves with this, that they carry it to others, so as that none have any great reason to find faulo with them, and thereupon think that God will find none neither.
(2.) There is also a proneness in mankind, as we observed, to take up with formality in the matters of religion. For what besides formality can there be in the religion of those who love not GOD? If I pretend to worship him and not love him, though I spend all my days upon my knees will it signify any thing as to real religion? But because this is more easy, that is, bodily exercise than that of love, or an inclination of mind and heart to GOD, ic is natural to take up with it for that reason, and to rest there.
The Pharisees among the Jews, one would think should not have been to seek where religion really lay ; but, alas ! where did they place theirs ? In ceremonial fanctity, in washing their hands before they did eat bread, in cleansing their cups and platters, and in frequent purifications of themselves; all which they made to be as sig. nificant things, as the instituted rites of worship by God himself. Moreover they were very
VOL. exact in tithing mint, rue, and all manner of berbs, I. while in the mean time they passed over judgement
and the love of God'. What a strange oversight was this! that the Pharisees, those devout men, those zealous pretenders to the greatest strictness in the observance of the law of God, as well as to the profoundest knowledge of it, even beyond all other men, thould be guilty of such an oversight as to pass over the sum and fubstance of it, to wit, the love of GOD! And yet our Saviour speaks of it as their common character. If then the Pharisees, those knowing and strict men, as they would be thought to be, were in fuch an error as this so commonly, we may well conclude that the spirits of men are generally prone to acquiesce in the mere externals of religion, and to take up with the outside thereof without ever going any further. They think their case is well enough with God if, now and then they bow the knee, compliment him in duty, and put on some face and shew of devotion ; while in the mean time the love of God is an unthought-of thing. So that how many must say, if they would speak as their case truly is, “I “ never thought that the love of God must go “ into my worship" Since then the proneness of mankind to acquiesce in a fair and civil deportment, and in the mere formalities of religion proceeds from one common, fixed caufe, to wit, the want of this divine principle of love, it is necefsary that we consider the matter, left we our felves be thus dreadfully imposed upon.
i Luke xi. 42
And now to conclude this first part of our Serm. subject, it appears, that temptations to atheism IV. must needs find great advantages in the temper of men's spirits, while they are so depressed and overborne by sense. For its essence, particularly of practical atheism, consists in the alienation of the heart from God. And how easy a step is it from hence to speculative atheism, when a man has lived so long without God * in the worlds ! For if he does not love GOD whom he hath not feen, for the same reason he will not fear him; neither hope, nor rejoice in him as his chief good. How obvious is it for such a man to entertain such a thought as this ? “ Is it not as good to
say, there is no God, or I will own none; as " to say there is no one that I will love or fear, “ nor any one with the thoughts of whom my “ heart is at any time affected ?”
Let us therefore hence take occasion to admire the patience, and much more the bounty of GOD towards his revolted creatures in this world. How wonderful is it that he spares and maintains, them also ! that he should make constant provifion for such as put the highest affronts and indignities upon him, by loving and preferring his own duft, before him who formed it into what it is ; by exalting the work of his hands above him ; and finally, by profusely beltowing their affections on the creature, but none upon God the great Creator of all ! Do not we think this is a thing not to be indured ? and do not we wonder that it is actually indured ? and that men are perCOLL.