« IndietroContinua »
SERM. “ by him to be a Prince and a Saviour.” So that CCXXIV.
you see the necessity of faith to religion.
Secondly, I shall shew the influence that a divine faith hath upon men to make them religious. A true divine faith supposeth a man satisfied and perfuaded of the reasonableness and necessity of being religious ; that it is reasonable for every man to be so, and that it is necessary to his interest. Now there needs no more to be done to put a man upon any thing, but to satisfy him of these two things; that the action you persuade him to is reasonable ; that is, possible and fit to be done : and that it is highly his interest to do it ; that is, if he do it, it will be eminently for his advantage ; if he do not do it, it will be eminently to his prejudice, and he is a loft and undone man. If you can once poffess a man, that is in any degree sober and corsiderate, with these persuasions, you may make him do any thing of which he is thus persuaded. Now a true divine faith supposeth a man satisfied and persuaded of all this.
1. Of the reasonableness of religion. He that verily believes there is a God, believes there is a being that hath all excellency and perfection, that is infinitely good, and wise, and just, and powerful, that made and preserves all things. Now he that believes such a being as this, cannot but think it reasonable that he should be esteemed, and honoured, and adored by all those creatures that are sensible and apprehensive of these excellencies ; that seeing he is infinitely good, and the fountain of all being, and all the bleslings we enjoy, we should love so great a benefactor, and thankfully acknowledge his goodness to us ; not only by constant praise of him, but by an universal obedience to his will, and a chearful submislion to his pleasure. For what more reasonable
than gratitude ; that seeing he is infinitely wife and SERM,
CCXXIV. powerful, as well as good, we should trust in him, and depend upon him in all conditions, and seek to him for what we want. For what more reasonable than to place our confidence in him, who is able and willing to do us good; and to sue to him who knows our wants, and is ready to supply them? And seeing he is truth itself, and hath been pleased to reveal his will to us; what can be more reasonable than to believe all those discoveries and revelations, which God, " who cannot lie,” hath made to us, and to comply with the intentions of them ? And seeing he is the original pattern of all excellency and perfection, what can be more reasonable than to imitate the perfections of the divine nature, and to endeavour to be as like God as we can? And these are the sum of all religion. So that whoever firmly believes a God, and that he hath revealed and made known his will to the world, cannot but be fully fațisfied and persuaded of the reasonableness and equiry of religion, and all those duties which religion requires of us; and consequently of the possibility of performing all those duties which religion requires of us, by the assistance of the grace and strength which God is ready to afford us, if we beg it of him. For no man that believes the goodness of God (which every man does that believes a God) can think that he will make it our duty to do any thing which he hath left us in an utter impossibility of doing.
2. A true divine faith supposeth a man fatisfied and persuaded of the necessity of religion ; that is, that it is necessary to every man's interest to be religious ; that it will be highly for our advantage to be so, and eminently to our prejudice to be otherwise ; that if we be so, we shall be happy, if we be not, we
SER M. shall be miserable, and undone for ever.
man that believes a God, and the revelations which
And this will appear upon these two accounts.
1. From the nature and reason of the thing. Every man that believes a God, must believe him to be the supreme good; and the greatest happiness to confist in the enjoyment of him; and a separation from him to be the greatest misery. Now God is not to be enjoyed, but in a way of religion. Holiness makes us like to God, and likeness will make us love him; and love will make us happy in the enjoyment of him; and without this it is impossible to be happy. There can be no happiness without pleasure and delight; and we cannot take pleasure in any thing we do not love; and there can be no love, without a likeness and suitableness of disposition. So long as God is good, and we evil ; so long as he is pure, and we unholy ; so long as he hates sin, and we love it; there can be no happy intercourse, no agreeable communion, and delightful society between God and us. So that if we be holy, happiness will result from this temper; and if we be wicked, we are necessarily and unavoidably miserable. Sin separates between God and us, and hinders our happiness; and it is impossible that a wicked man should be near God, or enjoy him. God and a sinner are fuch two unequal matches, that it is impossible to bring them together; for “ what fellowship hath is righteousness with unrighteousness ? or what com“ munion hath light with darkness?”
2. Every man who believes the revelations which God hath made, cannot but be satisfied, how much
religion is his interest from the promises and threat- SERM. nings of God's word. God in his word hath in CCXXIV. plain and express terms promised everlasting glory and happiness to them that obey him ; 'and hath threatened wicked men with dreadful and eternal punishments;
“ to them that by patient continuance “ in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and im“ mortality,” he hath promised “ eternal life: but to “ them that obey not the truth, but obey unrighteous“ ness," he hath threatned “ indignation and wrath, “ tribulation and anguish.” Now if we believe the gospel, which assures us of another life after this, and a future judgment which will determine all men to a state of everlasting happiness, or misery, we cannot but know it to be our interest, by all possible means to endeavour to attain the happiness which God hath promised; and to avoid the misery which he hath threatned. All men naturally defire happiness, and dread misery and destruction; and these desires and fears are intimate to our natures, and can never be feparated from them; because they flow immediately from those principles of self-love, and self-prefervation, which are deeply rooted in every man's heart, and are woven into the very make and frame of his nature, and will last as long as our beings. And so long as these principles remain in us, there is no man that is firmly persuaded of the promises and threatnings of the gofpel, but must believe kis highest interest to be religious." Fear 'and hope are the two passions whieh govern ús; hope is as it were the spur that quickens us to our duty; and fear is the curb that restrains us from sin; and the greater the good hoped for, or the evil that is feared, the greater power and influence these paffions have upon us, ' Now theče cannot be a greater good, than cont
se r M. plete and everlasting happiness ; nor a greater evil, CCXXIV; than extreme and eternal misery. So that whoever
believes the promises and threatnings of the gospel, hath his hope raised to the expectation of the greatest good and happiness in case of obedience; and his fears extended to the expectation of the greatest evil and misery in case of final impenitency and disobedience. And a true divine faith doth contain in it both this hope and fear: for a faith in the promises.of the gospel is nothing else, but the hopes of eternal life; and a belief of the threatnings of the gospel is nothing else, but the fear of hell and eternal misery. So that a.firm belief of the promises and threatnings of the gospel, muft needs have as great influence upon men to make them religious, as the highest hopes and greatest fears can have : and those men that are not moved by the hopes of the greatest good, nor by the fears of the greatest danger, are not to be wrought upon in human ways, nothing will prevail with them.
Thus I have shewn you, what influence a divine faith hath upon religion ; for as much as whoever believes there is a God, and that the scriptures are the word of GoDg, is fully satisfied and convinced how reasonable it is, and how much it is his interest to be religious. I come in the last place to the application of this discourse.
First, this shews why there is so little of true religion in the world; it is for want of faith, without which it is impossible for men to be religious. Men are not firmly persuaded that there is a God; that there is a being above them that is omniscient, and knows every thing that they do, and takes notice of every word, and thought, and action ;; that is so good, and so powerful, as to make those happy thac love and obey him; and so just and powerful, as to