« PreviousContinue »
Serm. ferences, as if they were void of the ordinaXX. ry understanding of men.
But the bottom of this is the pride of mens hearts, and the true cause of all that opposition given to revealed religion, is the great opinion they have of their own stock of knowledge: So that in truth all that contend for natural religion, and oppose reason to revelation, do plainly set up the wisdom of men in contradiction to the wisdom of God; it is as if they would not be beholden to him for a religion, and would have one of their own or none at all.
But the great blindness of these men is difcernible in nothing more than in this, that
revelation in opposition to itself, and do not know that they do fo; they oppose it with its own weapons, and set up one part of it against another: For what they call natural religion, is in truth revealed. They think that the knowledge they have now of these fix points, which are the great concernments of mankind, is from reason; whereas I have shewn that not one of them is so, and that we must have had them from revelation or not at all : Nor without revelation could they have that clear notion of all those practical duties which are consequent to them; and yet reason must be all in every thing with them, when it is plain it cannot give us a satisfactory account of any one of those great truths, upon which, by their own confeffion, the well-being of all mankind depends for ever : So that they had
as good say they see with their eyes, and notS e R M. by the light of the sun. But they would ra- XX. ther be beholden to any thing for this knowledge than the Gospel; and they will not own that benefit and improvement of knowledge they have received from it, though it is plain they could come by it no other way. They suspect every thing that is not immediately from themselves; and they doubt the truth of all revealed truths, because they find them not within them; but have a strange preposter- .. ous jealousy that God himself may delude them. And thus, as the son of Syrach says, many are deceived by their own vain opinion, and an evil fufpicion bath overthrown their judgments. And thus we see how the wisdom and
prudence of this world blinds the understandings of men, so that they cannot discern the excellency of the mysteries of christianity, and the necessity of them in order to the salvation of our souls. These notions of their own do so possess the heads and imaginations of men, that they find it very difficult to part with them, and be reconciled to any thing else.
The plainest reason of men is always the purest; and as far as men search by strength of reason alone into the depth of things, relating to another world, so far they stray from the truth; and when we come to another world, we shall find that most of that learning and knowledge which men are proud of here,
SER M. was no other than dreams of their imaginatiXX.
on, and cobwebs spun out of their own brain.
2. Because of the opposition between the things of this world and the things of another, about which the understandings of men are employed; the nature of them is very different, so that men cannot be equally intent upon them both: For the mind of man is not made to look two ways at once any more than his eyes. So that he can no more let his thoughts dwell both upon the things of this world and another, than he can look upwards and downwards at the same time. And therefore, when the thoughts and inclinations of men are taken up with the things of this life, and full of the knowledge of the world, there is a sort of natural necessity there should be a neglect and contempt of all spiritual matters.
For we must consider, that the knowledge of the doctrines of religion is a habit, as well as the practice of any
of its precepts;
and therefore when men will not accustom themselves to the thinking much of religious matters, and that the whole current of their thoughts doth run another way, it is no wonder they are indisposed for the things of another life, which are to be fpiritually discerned; by which is not meant that any immediate infusion of the fpirit is required in order to this, but that it is necessary that men set their minds that way, by taking them off the eager pursuit of worldly knowledge ; by diverting their reason and their imaginations from being fixt and intent upon
worldly worldly wisdom and knowledge, that they Serm. may be employed on spiritual matters; for xx. otherwise they can never have a true know-m ledge of them, or be rightly affected with them. So that we need not wonder that
people of ready parts and good understandings in other things, are shamefully ignorant in divine matters: It is for the same reason that they are ignorant of any
other art or science that they do not give their minds to. Men are now as little to expect sudden inspiration in the necessary knowledge of religion, as in the bufiness of their trade or calling; they are to look for nothing more than the ordinary grace of God
their endeavours. The knowledge and practice of religion requires thinking and observation, and that their reason and understanding be imployed about them with diligence and vigour : So that heaven is to be got as men get riches and worldly policy ; they must make it their business, and set their minds to the work, and resolve to acquire these by the fame methods they do any other habit: And this they must do with the utmost strength and resolution of their souls; for, as I observed before, the prevailing bent of our minds can be but one way at once.
3. Another reason of this saying of our Saviour's, as it respects the rich and great men of this world, is, because of the great force that the riches and splendor of this world have to blind mens eyes, and gain upon their affec
Ser m.tions. Both the rich and poor, the mean and
and strong temptations, and at first thought, one would imagine those of poverty, and a low condition in the world, to be the strongest, and overcome with greatest difficulty; and indeed they are so in themselves. But that which makes the difference between these two conditions, in respect of their disposition for the practice of virtue and holiness, is the different nature of those temptations which are incident to prosperity and adversity: For though we should allow the temptation of want and misery to be the stronger, yet those of wealth and prosperity are the more treacherous and subtiler, much more apt to gain upon us and have the advantage of the other several ways.
1. The temptations incident to a low con-
We take them at first for friends and give them admittance; and we do not see our mistake till they have us in bonds and