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great degrees of some virtues; it is true they S er m. did, but not without some degree of the di- XVIII. vine assistance. It is not improbable, that they had a share of this unseen operation of the spirit, though they knew nothing of it; as they will partake of the merits and fatiffaction of Christ, though they never heard of him, if their lives were suitable to that natural sense of moral good and evil : But I Ihall defer the further confideration of this subject to the next opportunity,
Sense of Religion more observable in
the middle and meaner rank of People.
MATT. xi. 25.
I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and
earth, because thou hast bid these things from the wise and prudent, and bast revealed thern unto babes.
SERM. N a former discourse upon this text, after I XIX. had fhewn the occasion of it, and the force
of our Saviour's discourse, concerning John the Baptist in this chapter ; and how he shewed the Jews acted in contradiction both to themselves and John the Baptist, in not receiving himself for the Meffias: I told you my design from it was to remove one great prejudice, which seemed to lie fairly against the christian religion ; namely, that it hath been generally received by mean and illiterate fort
of people. And in order to this, the methods ! RM. I laid down for my discourses on this text was, X.
1. To be a little more particular in shew-vr ing the truth of this saying of our blessed Saviour's.
2. To consider the reasons of this; and where the true cause of it lies.
3. To shew where the great wisdom of God appears in this manner of dispensation.
4. And lastly, to draw some inferences from the whole, and make some application of it to the two different sorts of people mentioned in my text.
As to the first of these, I shewed how the Gospel came particularly directed and recommended to the meaner sort of people; and how it spoke of the rich, and great, and wise men of this world with much diffidence, as if there were very little hopes of their converfion and effectual reformation.
As to the second, before I came to enquire what were the true reasons of this, I was to fhew, that it is not any want of reasonableness in revealed religion that occasions the disesteem of it in the opinion of the wise and great men of the world, and makes it more easily entertained by the plainer part of mankind. .
And in order to this, to thew that christianity is agreeable to the strictest and most refined reason of men; the best way I could think of was to suppose ourselves in a state of nature, the very condition the enemies of revelation are bringing us to as fast as they can;
SER M. and then to consider what things mankind XIX. could wish to be resolved in, and what are the
matters of greatest concernment to us, about which we should be most inquisitive ? And to compare the account we have of them from revelation, with those we have from the wifest heathens: And they are these.
1. How we came to be, and what sort of being we are, and what we were made for.
2. How mankind came to be corrupted, and in this miserable condition of infirmity. 3. What cure can be found for this
corruption of our natures, and to restore us to our health both of body and mind.
4. Whether there be another life after this.
5. What shall be the reward of virtue and the punishment of vice.
6. What sort of government there is in the universe.
As to the first of these, I laid before you the several folutions we have received of this matter from the wiseft men of the heathen world; and the several accounts they gave of the origin of mankind : As likewise, that we have received from the holy scriptures; wherefore I shall now proceed to the
IV. The fourth question of greatest concernment to mankind, and a doubt which naturally arises in the minds of all men is, whether there be another life after this ? To this enquiry all men have ever been led, not by meer curiosity, as if it were matter of fpecu
lation only; but as to a matter on which de-S E R M. pended their greatest and most important in- XIX. terest; for all the heathen world have agreed, m that if there be another life after this, the alteration must be much for the better or the worse; and men must needs be much more miserable, or much more happy than they are in their present state: And yet they were strangely divided in their opinions about it, and could come to no fixt and settled refolution of this question. Many of the Philosophers held there was no life after this; the Epicureans were of opinion that there was a diffolution of the whole man at his death, and that he should never come into being again ; unless, in the course of numberless
the scattered particles of his frame should be huddled together again, by such another lucky chance as united them at first. Nay even of those who allowed the creation of man by a superior power, many thought they came into the world to die like beasts; and though they were great admirers of virtue, yet for this reason they made it its own reward; and used no other motives to encourage men to be virtuous than the innate excellency of virtue itself.
And of those who were inclined to believe a future state, none of them allowed it for the body; they all unanimously agreed that this was never to live again; for it could never enter into their heads, that any power should be able to bring together again into one the scattered dust of the body; and therefore F 3