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make those miferable who hate him, and rebel against SERM.
CCXXIV. him. Men are not persuaded that their fouls are immortal; and that there is another life after this, in which men shall be happy or miserable to all ecernity, according as they demean themselves in this world. Men are not firmly persuaded that the feriptures are the word of God, and that the precepts and prohibitions of the bible are the laws of a great King, who will amply reward the observance of his laws, and severely vindicate the breach and violation of them. Men do not believe that the promises and threatnings of God's word are true, and that every jot and tittle of them shall be accomplished. For did men believe these things, they would be religious ; they would not dare to live in any known sin or impiety of life : unless we can presume that a 'man can be seriously unwilling to be happy, and have a longing desire to be miserable and undone for ever. For whoever believes the principles of religion, and the precepts, and promises, and threathings that are contained in this holy book, and yet after all this can continue in fin, he must not only put off the principles of a reasonable creature, but must quit the very inclinations of his nature ; that is, he must knowingly refuse that which he naturally desires, which is happiness; and must embrace that which of all things that can be imagined he most abhors, and that is misery
So that if men were verily persuaded, that the great, and holy, and just God looks continually upon them, and that it is impossible to hide from him any thing that we do, they would not dare to commit any sin in his sight, and under the eye of him who is their Fiather and master, their sovereign and their judge, their friend and benefactor, who is invested
SERM. with all these titles, and stands to us in all these rela-
tions, which may challenge reverence and respect.
Did men believe the scriptures to be the word of God, and to contain matters of the highest importance to our everlasting happiness ; would they neglect it and lay it aside, and study it no more than a
man would do an almanac out of dáre; or than aS E R M.
CCXXIV. man, who believes the attaining the philosopher's Itone to be impossible; would study those books that treat of it? If men dia believe that it contains plain and easy directions for the attaining of eternal happiness, and escaping eternal misery; they would converse much with it, make it their companion and their counsellor, “ meditate in it day and night,” read it with all diligence; and put in practice the directions of it.
So that whatever mën prétend, it it plain, that those who nieglect God and religion, and contradict the precept of his word by their lives, they do not firmly believe there is a Gód, nor that this book is the word of God. If this faith and persuasion were firmly rooted in men, they could not live wickedly. For a man that desires happiness, cán no more neglect those means which he is convinced are necessary for the obtaining of it; than a man that desires life can neglect the means which he knows to be necefSary for the preservation of it.
Secondly, if faith have so great an influence upon religion, then the next use shall be to persuade men to believe. No man can be religious that doch nog believe these two things.
First, the principles of natural religion ; that there is a God; that his soul is immortal; and that there are future rewards.
Secondly, that the scriptures are the word of GOD; or, which comes all to one, that the doctrine contained in them is a divine tevelation. Therefore whoever would persuade men to be religious, he must begin here ; and whoever would improve men in religion and holiness, he must labour to strengthen this principle of faith. Faith is the root of all other VOL. XI:
SER M. graces; and they will Aourish, or decay, according CCXXIV.
to the degrees of our faith. Now he that would persuade a man, or prevail with him to do any thing, must do it one of these three ways ;. either by entreaty, or authority, or argument : either he must entreat him as a friend, or command him as subject to him and under his power, or convince him as a man. Now he that should go about to entreat men to believe any thing, or to charge them so to do, before he hath convinced them by fufficient arguments, that it is reasonable to do so, would, in my opinion, take a preposterous course. He that entreats or chargerh la
man to do any thing, supposeth that he can do the thing if he will : but a man cannot believe what he will; the nature of a human understanding is such, that it cannot affent without evidence, nor believe any thing to be true, unless it fee reason fo to do, any more than a man can see a thing without light. So that if the dearest friend that I have in the world should beg of me with the greatest importunity; or any man, that hath the greatest authority over me, should lay his severest commands upon me to believe a thing, for which I see no reason, I could not do it ; because nothing can command assent, but evidence. So that he that would persuade men to believe either the principles of natural religion, or any divine revelation, must convince them of the truth of them : for it is unreasonable to desire a man to believe any thing, unļess I give him good reason why he should.
And this being the proper course which is to be taken, there are two sorts of persons to whom I shall apply myself in this exhortation : those who do not believe these things ; and those who are persuaded of them : to the former, in order to the begetting of faith
in them ; to the latter, in order to the strengthening SERM.
CCXXIV; and confirming of their faith.
Those who do not believe are of two sorts : either such as do positively disbelieve these things and make it their business to arm themselves against them with all the arguments they can ; who are so far from believing a God, or any divine revelation, that they endeavour to persuade themselves of the contrary, that there is no such thing; or else they are such as are indifferent about these matters. They have received the principles of religion by their education, and they have nothing to say against them, nor for them; they never considered them, nor the proper consequences of them; they neither believe, nor difbelieve them upon any reasonable account.
Now all these are to be dealt withal in the same way: for whatever will convince the disbeliever, will much more persuade the indifferent, and confirm the weak. For faith is to be strengthened by the same arguments by which it is wrought. Therefore I shalı apply myself to convince unbelievers; and every one may apply those arguments which I use to this purpose, for the strengthening of their own faith.
But before I come to those arguments, I intend to offer for the conviction of those who do not believe, I think it convenient to endeavour, if possible, to remove a violent, and, I think, unreasonable prejudice which men have received against all those who endeavour to make religion reasonable. As if Bellarmine had been in the right, when he said “thar faith was “ rather to be defined by ignorance than by know
ledge.” The plain english of which is, that it is for want of understanding that men believe the
gospel; and if the world were but a little more know- ing and wife, no body would be a Christian. I know