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speaks) whole cities should be overturned at our request, if the heavenly powers would be so easy, as to comply with such furious imprecations : a temper that ill agrees with humanity itself, not to care at what rate of common calamity and misery a purchase be made of our own immunity from sufferings. Nay, to be willing to run the most desperate hazard in the case, and even covet a general ruin to others, upon a mere apprehended possibility that our case may be mended by it; when it may be more probable to become much worse, But O how disagreeable is it to the Spirit of our merciful Lord and Saviour, whose name we bear, upon any terms to delight in human miseries! The greatest honour men of that complexion are capable of doing the Christian name, were to disclaim it. Can such angry heats have place in Christian breasts, as shall render them the well-pleased spectators, yea authors, of one another's calamities and ruin? Can the tears that issued from these compassionate, blessed eyes, upon the foresight of Jerusalem's woful catastrophe, do nothing towards the quenching of these flames ?
But I add, that the too-intent fixing of our thoughts upon any supposable events in this world, argues at least, a narrow, carnal mind, that draws and gathers all things into time, as despairing of eternity; and reckons no better state of things considerable, that is not to be brought about under their own present view, in this world; as if it were uncertain or insignificant, that there shall be unexceptionable, eternal order and rectitude in another.
'Tis again as groundless, and may argue as ill a mind, to prophecy smooth and pleasant things, in a time of abounding wickedness. The safer, middle course, is, without God's express warrant, not to prophesy at all, but as we have opportunity, to warn and instruci men, with all meekness and long-suffering; for which the Lord's ordinary messengers can never want his warrant. And, after our blessed Saviour's most imitable example, to scatter our tears over the impenitent, even upon the (too probable) apprehension of the temporal judgments which hang over their heads, but most of all upon the account of their liableness to the more dreadful ones of the other state; which in the following discourse, I hope, it is made competently evident, this lamentation of our Saviour hath ultimate reference unto. For the other, though we know them to be due, and most highly deserved ; yet concerning the actual infliction of them, even upon obstinate and per.
severing sinners, we cannot pronounce. We have no settled constitution, or rule, by which we can conclude it, any more than that outward felicity, or prosperity, shall be the constant portion of good men in this world. The great God hath reserved to himself a latitude of acting more arbitrarily, both as to promises and threatenings of this nature. If the accomplishment of either could be certainly expected, it should be of the promises rather; because as io promised rewards God is pleased to make himself debtor, and a right accrues to them to whom the promise is made, if either the promise be absolute, or made with and certain condition, that is actually performed. But God is always the creditor pænæ, the right to punish remains wholly in himself, the exacting whereof he may therefore suspend, without any appearance of wrong, as seemeth good unto him. If, therefore, he may withhold temporal blessings from good and pious men, to which they have a remote and fundamental right, as having reserved to himself the judgment of the fit time and season of bestowing them; much more doth it belong to his wisdom, to fix the bounds of his patience and long-suffering; and determine the season of animadverting upon more open and insolent offenders by temporal punishments, according as shall make most for the ends of his government, and finally prove more advantageous to the dignity and glory of it. The practice, therefore, of our Saviour, in speaking so positively concerning the approaching fali and ruin of Jerusalem, is no pattern unto us. He spake not only with the knowledge of a prophet, but with the authority of a judge: and his words may be considered both as a prediction and a sentence. We can pretend to speak in neither capacity touching things of this nature.
But for the everlasting punishments in another world, that belong to unreconciled sinners, who refuse to know the things of their peace, the gospel-constitution hath made the connexion firm and unalterable, between their continuing, unrepented wickedness, and those punishments. When, therefore, we behold the impudent, provoking sins of the age wherein we live, against the natural law of our Creator, persisted in with all the marks of infidelity and obduration against the truth and grace that so gloriously shine forth in the Gospel of our Redeemer, we may (after him) speak positively, He that believeth not shall be damned-is condemned already; shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins. Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. And here, how doth it become us too, in conformity to his great example, to speak compassionately, and as those that, in some measure, know the terror of the Lord! O how doleful is the case, when we consider the inconsistent notions of many, with, not this or that particular doctrine, or article of the Christian faith, but with the whole sum of Christianity,
the atheism of some, the avowed mere theism of others! The former sort far outdoing the Jewish infidelity. Which people, besides the rational means of demonstrating a Deity common to them with the rest of mankind, could, upon the account of many things peculiar to themselves, be in no suspense concerning this matter. How great was their reverence of the books of the Old Testament, especially those of Moses ! their knowledge most certain of plain, and most convincing matter of fact. How long the government of their nation had been an immediate theocracy! what evident tokens of the Divine presence had been among them from age to age! in how wonderful a manner they were brought out of Egypt, through the Red sea, and conducted all along through the wilderness! how glorious an appearance and manifestation of himself God afforded to them at the giving of the law, upon mount Sinai ! and by how apparent exertions of the Divine power the former inhabitants were expelled, and they settled in the promised land! Upon all this they could be in no more doubt concerning the existence of a Deity, than of the sun in the firmament. Whereas we are put to prove, in a Christian nation, that this world, and its continual successive inhabitants, have a wise intelligent Maker and Lord; and that all things came not into the state wherein they are, by (no man can imagine what) either fatal necessity or casualty.
But both sorts agree in (what I would principally remark) the disbelief of Christ being the Messiah. And so, with both, the whole business of Christianity must be a fable and a cheat. And thus it is determined, not by men that have made it their business to consider and examine the matter, (for the plain evidence of things cannot but even obtrude a conviction upon any diligent inquirer,) but by such as have only resolved to consider; who have before-hand settled their purpose, never to be awed by the apprehension of an invisible Ruler, into any course of life that shall bear hard upon sensual inclination, have already hosen their master, enslaved themselves to brutal appe
tite, and are so habituated to that mean servility, made it so connatural, so deeply inward to themselves, so much their very life, as that through the pre-apprehended pain and uneasiness of a violent rupture, in tearing themselves from themselves, it is become their interest not to admit any serious th ught. Any such thought they are concerned (they reckon) to fence against, as against the point of a sword; it strikes at their only life, the brute must die, that (by a happy Taleyyevedia) they may be again born men. That is the design of Christianity, to restore men to themselves again; and because it hath this tendency, it is therefore not to be endured. And all the little residue of human wit which is yet left them, (which because the sensual nature is predominant, is pressed into a subserviency to the interest and defence of a brutal life,) only serves them to turn every thing of serious religion into ridicule, and being themselves resolved never to be reasoned into any seriousness, they have the confidence to make the trial, whether all other men can be jested out of it.
If this were not the case, if such persons could allow themselves to think, and debate the matter, how certain would the victory, how glorious would the triumph be, of the Christian religion over all the little cavils they are wont to allege against it! Let their own consciences testify in the case, whether ever they have applied themselves to any solemn disquisition concerning this important affair, but only contented themselves with being able, amidst transient discourse, to cast out, now and then, some oblique glance, against somewhat or other
that was appendant, or more remotely belonging, to the Christian profession, (in so much haste as not to stay for an answer,) and because they may have surprised, sometimes, one or other, not so ready at a quick repartee, or who reckoned the matter to require solemn and somewhat larger discourse, (which they have not had the patience to hear,) whether they have not gone away puft and swollen with the conceit, that they have whiffled Christianity away, quite off the stage, with their profane breath; as if its firm and solid strength, wherein it stands stable, as a rock of adamant, depended upon this or that sudden, occasional, momentary effort on the behalf of it. But if such have a mind to try whether any thing can be strongly said in defence of that sacred profession, let them considerately peruse what hath been written by divers to that purpose. And not to engage them in any very tedious longsome task, if they like not to travel
through the somewhat abstruser work of the most learned Hugo Grotius, de Veritate Christianæ Religionis, or the more voluminous Huetius, his Demonstratio Ěvangelica, or divers others that might be named, let them but patiently and leisurely read over that later very plain and clear, but nervous and solid, discourse of Dr. Parker, upon this subject, and judge then, whether the Christian religion want evidence, or whether nothing can be alleged, why we of this age, so long after Christ's appearance upon the stage of the world, are to reckon ourselves obliged to profess Christianity, and observe the rules of that holy profession.
And really if, upon utmost search, it shall be found to have firm truth at the bottom, it makes itself so necessary, (which must be acknowledged part of that truth,) that any one that hath wit enough to be author of a jest, might understand it to be a thing not to be jested with. It trifles with no man. And where it is once sufficienıly propounded, leaves it no longer indifferent whether we will be of it or no. Supposing it true, it is strange if we can pretend it not to be sufficiently propounded to us; or that we are destitute of sufficient means to come by the knowledge of that truth! Was this religion instituted only for one nation or age ? Did the Son of God descend from heaven, put on flesh, and die? had we an incarnate Deily conversant among men on earth, and made a sacrifice for the sins of men ? and hath he left the world at liberty, whether upon any notice hereof, they should inquire and concern themselves about him or no? Being incarnate he could not, as such, be every where; nor was it fit he should be long here, or needful (and, therefore, not fit) he should die often. It was condescension enough that he vouchsafed once to appear, in so mean and self-abasing a form, and offered himself to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And whereas he hath himself founded a dominion over us in his own blood, did die, and revive, and rise again, that he might be Lord of the living and of the dead; and the eternal Father hath hereupon highly exalted him, given him a name above every name, that at his name every knee should bow, and that all should confess that he is Lord, to the praise and glory of God; and hath required that all should honour the Son as himself is to be honoured ; hath given him power over all flesh, and made him head of all things to the church: was it ever intended men should, generally, remain exempt from obligation to observe, believe, and obey him ? was it his own intention