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VOL. done, and is by no means an improper thing to
1. be the matter of a law. We now proceed m (2.) To shew that it is not an unreasonable
law; or, that it cannot with any colour be pretended, that it was an unfit thing that God should lay a law upon men, dwelling in flesh as we do, obliging them to love an invisible being. We shall here first examine what can be pretended from God's invisibility, to make it unfit to oblige men by a law to love him. And then lay down some considerations to evince, that it is most reasonable and fit that men should notwithstanding be under this obligation.
1, Let us examine what may be thought of as a pretence to the contrary, or alledged against the obligation of this law. Perhaps fome may object against it after this manner : “ That ad “ mitting what hath been proved, that it is no “ impoffible thing that God should be loved « by men who see him not; yet it doth not
therefore follow that it is the fit matter of a “ law. Many things are possible, yet very un“ fit to be injoined, especially those things which « are unsuitable to the common inclination of a “ people. The wisdom of law-givers teachech " them to study the temper of their subjects, " and to suit their laws to them; and it would “ be thought very unfit and improper to make “ laws, that should cross the common genius of " the people, and to urge the observance of “ them. But now the dependence that we have “ upon sense, cannot but infer a disinclination
« to the love of such things as right cannot SERM. “ reach, nor come within the sphere and cog
VI. “ nizance of our senses. To apply this to the
present case. Every man, by consulting him« self, may find a disinclination in his own heart
to the exercise of love to God. And what!" hereupon may the sensualist say, “ must I be “ obliged to a perpetual war with my self? to “ run counter to all my most natural inclina" tions ? to neglect the things which my own
eyes tell me are lovely ; and labour to love an “ invisible Being, of whom I have none but
cloudy thoughts, a very faint and shadowy “ idea? Who can imagine that I should be put “ into this sensible world, with such senses suit« able thereunto, as I find about me ; and that “ it must be expected from me that I must
even renounce my senses, run counter to my very eyes, abandon the things which so pre“ fently court my love, and tell me so feelingly " that they are delightful? In short, that I must “ retire from substantial good which I know, to “ seek after what appears to me as a dark sha« dow? and which whether there be any thing “ fubftantial in it, I know not?” Thus may the man devoted to sense pretend on such grounds, that God is not to be loved by such as we who dwell in bodies of Aesh, and have so much dependence upon the things of sense. Well! let us examine this pretence a little, and see whether there is any thing in it to make the duty of loving God unfit to be imposed upon us in this
VOL. our present state. And there are several things I. here to be considered in reference to this matter.
[1.] If we would have this inclination to sig. nify any thing with relation to the fitness or unfitness of a law to be imposed upon us, we ought surely to examine whether that inclination be good or bad, and so judge. But can there be a worse inclination in any creature than to disaffect the Author and Original of its own being? And by how much the stronger the inclination is to evil, by so much the greater is the wickedness likely to prove. For do not we think every one more wicked as he is the more wickedly inclined, especially when he indulges his wicked inclinacions ? Doth not his evil inclination,' I say, when indulged, add to, and not detract from his wickedness ? If one be found to have killed another, the great thing inquired into is the inclination indulged, the intention; whether or no it was through malice prepense? If he did the thing without the de sign of ill to the party, without inclination or propensity to such an action, he is looked upon as innocent. An unintended fact is not punishable as a crime. Therefore to alledge inclination in this case, is but to excuse one wickedness by another.
[2.] CONSIDER what would become of this world, if men were to be ruled only by their own inclination, or if that were to be the only rule by which all laws relating to them were to be measured. What a dreadful ftate would you
be in, if it was permitted to any man to rob, SERM. murder, rifle away your goods and destroy your VI. lives, only because he is inclined to it? If every one might take from you what he would, and
any imaginable mischief to you or yours, merely because he hath a mind to it!
And whereas the disaffection to God is very common, and rooted and confirmed in men by their being disused to converse with things above the reach of their senfes (which might tend to invite their hearts and attract their affections) how horrid a thing were it if such a vicious custom were to obtain the force of a law! or, if men were to be allowed to do so and so wickedly, only because they have been wont so to do! If the oftener the swearer, the drunkard, the fornicator, and the murderer, have indulged their respective vices, the more lawful it should be for them to continue fuch practices ! If men, in a word, should be so far a law to themselves, as to be permitted to do whatsoever they have been used to do! or, as Seneca says, if a reasonable creature should go like a sheep, not the way he ought, but that which he has been used to; what, I say, can be more unreasonable and unfit than this?
[3.] It must be considered, that though it is the wisdom of a ruler to regard the inclinations of a people in making laws, yet sure there must be a distinction made between things indifferent and things necessary. But is there any thing of higher and more absolute necessity than the love
VOL. of God, though we see him not ? Doth not our I.
experience tell us, that we stand in need of somewhat that we do not see, in order to the conti. nuance of our being ? much more in order to our happiness. If
you had nothing but what you see to maintain life, do you think it were possible for you to live another moment? : would appeal to the considerate reason of any man, whether he were not to be thought a madman that should say, “ I will be alive the next hour?” Man! there is somewhat invisible and unseen that is the continual fustainer of thy life ; in whom we all live, and move, and have our being . Our own experience must convince us of this, that there is an invisible Being which hath dominion over our lives, otherwise every man could measure his own time. But do not we find men die before they are willing, and when they would fain live longer? Why, it is somewhat unseen that imposes this necessity upon them, “ Here thou must ex“ pire !” No man bath power over the spirit to retain it, neither batb be power in the day of deatbb
And again, is it at all necessary to us to be happy? Our own experience tells us that we are not as yet happy and satisfied. And common experience tells all the world, that all the things they can see and fet their eyes upon, can never make them happy in this world. And if we expect to be happy in another, when will our eyes lead was to heaven? when will sense, inclination, and
following * AEls XVII. 28. • Ecclef. v111.8.