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to depend on others. Only we muft obferve
- thefe two Directions : that we firft pay a due



Refped to that legal Authority, under which
.Providence hath placed us : and then chufe,
according to the tefl of our Underfiandings,
the wortrn'eft and wifeft and moft confiderate
Perfons to be our Conduclers. For as we
mould never haftily run after uncommiflioned
Guides, fo above all Things we fhouid be-
ware of artful or felf-fufficient, of rafh and
impetuous ones : which laft, ho\vever it hap-
pens, Men are peculiarly apt to follow, though
almofl fure of being led by them, not only
wrong, but great Lengths in what is wrong :
whereas there are no plainer Rules of Be-
haviour than thefe, that in Proportion as we
are in the Dark, we fhouid go on gently j and
wherever there may t>e Hazard, keep on the
fafer Side.

He that will conduct himfelf thus, may foon
make large Advances in religious Knowledge :
-and wherever he flops, needs not be uneafy.
Though the Arguments, which he hath for
his Faith, may not be the ftrongeft : yet a
Tree, but weakly rooted, often brings forth
good Fruit ; and if it doth, will never be Joewn
down, and c aft into the Fire&. Though he may
JDC ignorant of many Things, and doubt or

d Matth, iii. 10. vii. 19.

B 3 even

22 S E R M O N I.

even err concerning many others, yet they may
be of fmall Importance : or, though of great,
yet having ufed a competent Care to inform
himfelf, he will obtain Pardon. We cannot
indeed fay with Exactnefs, how much of their
Time and Pains Men are bound to fpend upon
Examination > any more than how much of
their Wealth in Works of Charity : and the
lefs, as both Duties vary according to the Cir-
cumflances of every Individual. But let each
confult his Conference, with a ferious Defire
of being told the Truth, whether it hath been,
and is now, his habitual Endeavour to de-
termine and to acl: as rightly as he can : and,
if the Anfwer be clearly in his Favour, when
he is neither difpofed to frighten nor flatter
himfelf, let him truft in God, and be at Peace e .
For like as a Father pitieth his Children, Jo the
J^ord pitieth them that fear him f .

Not that, after all, it is indifferent, whether
we fall into Errors concerning Religion, or
efcape them. For both Miflakes and bare Ig-
norance, where they are accompanied with
Jittle or no Guilt, may often be followed by
great Difadvantages. Wrong Notions in the
Urjderilanding may produce wrong Movements

c Job. xxii. 21, f Pi'al. ciii. 13.


S E R M O N 'I. 23

in the Heart ; which, even when they will not
bring down upon us future Punifhment, may
unfit us for certain Degrees of future Reward.
And, on the contrary, a larger Portion of Piety
and Virtue, and therefore of heavenly Felicity*
may prove to be the natural Confequence of a
more exteniive Acquaintance with Gofpel
Truths. So that, in the Reafon of Things, as
well as the fure Foundation of divine Promifes,
good ChrifKans are intitled to expect thofe
diflinguimed Glories in a better World, for
which, others, though, in Porportion to their
Talents, truly good, may not be qualified.

But ilill it is allowable to hope, and to re-
joice in hoping, that a Being unfpeakably gra-
cious will confer fome Meafure of Happinefs
hereafter on all the Sons of Men, who have
not made themfelves incapable of it ; and that
neither involuntary nor excufable Mifapprehen-
fions will exclude any from it. If indeed, un-
der Colour of reafoning freely, Men will argue
fallacioufly, conclude precipitately, and be-
have prefumptuouily ; talk and do what they
pleafe without Modefly or Fear ; and fet them-
felves up, on this Merit, for the only AfTertors
of Liberty, when in Truth they are willing
Slaves to a wicked Mind ; thefe, of all Men,
B 4 have

24 S E R M O N L

have no Cloke for their Sin ?. But the virtuous
and humble Inquirer, who ftudies to conduct
his Underfbapding with impartial Care firfr,
and his Life with inofFenfive Sincerity after-
wards, yet, confcious of his many Failings,
begs for Pardon and Strength to bg given him
in fuch Manner as his Maker fees fit, may
furely comfort himfejf with pleafmg Expecta-
tions of Acceptance after Death. As many.
therefore, as walk according to this Rule, Peace
be on them, and Mercy ^ and upon the Ifrael of
God h.

John xv. 22. h Gal. vi. it


[ 25 1


I TlIESS. V. 21, 22.

PrQve all Tubings : hold faft that ivbicb is good ;
abjlain from all Appearance of EviL

9 | ^HE firfr. Duty of reafonable Creatures,
JL with Refpect to Religion, is, informing
themfelves, as fully as their natural Abilities, their
Improvements in Knowledge, and their Condi-
tion of Life permit, concerning its Truth, and
the Doctrines it teaches. Multitudes are unable
to proceed far in this Inquiry : of the reft, fome
totally neglecl it, fome carry it on with lefs Care
and Integrity, or fewer Advantages, than others.
And hence it comes to pafs, that different Per-'
fons think upon the Subject in very different
Manners : and even the fame Perfon, in Progrefs
of Time, very differently from himfelf. But
then every State of Mind, that Men can be in,
relative to thefe Matters, hath its proper Obli-
gations belonging to it : and, for Want of paying



due Regard to them, they whofe Opinions are
right may be very bad in their Practice ; and
they whofe Opinions are wrong, much worfe,
than even their own Notions, by any juft Confe-
quence, allow them to be. Not uncommonly
indeed the Goodnefs of Mens Nature prevails,
through God's Mercy, in fome Points, over the
ill Tendency of their Principles; and makes
them better, than they profefs themfelves. But
much oftener they run into fuch Behaviour, as
muft be unwarrantable, according to the very
Doctrines, which they have embraced. And
therefore every one mould confider well, to what
Sort of Conduit thefe really direct him, and from
what they reftrain him. Men may think, they
could not help being of the Opinions they are:
but if they take Hill greater Liberties, than
their Opinions lead them to; inftead of fufpect-
ing, that poffibly they may lead them too far :
this they muft know to be their own Fault \ and,
while they indulge it, one doth not fee, what
they will flop at: whereas keeping carefully
within the Bounds, which their Judgement fets
them, will be the beft Excufe they can have, in
their prefent Way of thinking ; and the like-
lieft Means of difcerning and amending the.
Errors of it.



Having therefore laid before you, in the firft
Place, the Duty of proving all Things, and the
general Difpofition of Mind, with which it
fhould be done : I proceed now to the confequent
Duty, of holding f aft that which is good, and
abjlaming from all Appearance of Evil. And as
the Appearances -of Good and Evil rriuft vary,
according to the Notions, which are efpoufed
about them; it will be ufeful to confider thofe
of Unbelievers, as well as Believers ; for which
Purpofe, there muft be fome extraordinary Sup-
politions made : but I hope the truly pious will
neither think them mocking, nor ufelefs ; being
introduced only for the Sake of fuggefling to
them fuch Things, as though they want not
for themfelves, or for others like them, they
may perhaps employ to good Effect for con-
vincing or filencing Infidels and Libertines,
when Occafion requires : and there hath feldoin
been more Occalion, than at prefent.

To begin then with imagining a worfe Cafe,
than perhaps is poffible. Were any one per-
fuaded, not only that all Religion is ground-
lefs, but that Virtue and Vice, Right and Wrong,
are mere Words without Meaning : yet even
fuch a one, if he did not think Wifdom and
Folly, Pleafure and Pain, empty Sounds too ;


25 S E R M O N II.

would have fome Rule of Conduct, fo far as
it reached. Still it would be Matter of ferious
Confideration, what Behaviour promifes the
moft Happinefs, upon the Whole, to fuch Be-
ings, placed in fuch a World, as we are. And
our prefent Intereft here, had we no other
Guide, far from permitting .us to do every
mad Thing, that Paffion, Appetites or Fancies,
prompt us to, woulci direct us, in a great
Meafure, to a Courfe of Honeity, Friendlinefs
and Sobriety. For not only Life and Health,
and Safety and Quiet ; of which no other Mer
thod can pofiibly give us, in general, near fo
good a Profpect; are of much too high Im-
portance, to be hazarded wantonly: but Repu-
tation alfo is a Matter of no fmall Value ', and
Peace within of. greater {till. Now fuppole
there were no Reafon in the leaft for any one
to feel Satisfaction in doing good-natured and
juft Things, or Unealinefs from the Reflection
of having done cruel and bafe ones ; yet, as in
Fact, almoit, if not abfolutely, all Perfons do
feel both : to aim at the former, and avoid
the latter, is, without Regard to Principle, a
Dictate of common Prudence.

But farther, whatever fome may think of

moral Obligation themfelves, they have many

5 Reafons


Reafons to defire, that the World about them
fhould think highly of it. For though Dif-
cretion, abflradted from Senfe of Duty, might
reafonably, in moft Cafes, reftrain thofe, with
whom we are concerned, from uling us ill;
yet it will reftfain them but in few Inftances ;
and then very imperfectly. So that whoever
is confederate, will be extremely unwilling to
weaken the Bonds of human Society : which
he will find, at heft, are by no Means too
ftrong. And therefore, fhould he think it his
own Interefl to be wicked; yet, if he be wife,
he will never attempt to make one lingle Per-
fon like hirn, befides thofe whom he abfo-
lutely needs for Ailbciates : and even of fuch
he will beware : for he hath taught them an
evil Lcffon agalnft himfeff*. But fpreading his
Opinions farther, he will look on as the filliefr.
of Vanities : and be earneftly defirous, that
others fhould act upon Principle, whatever he
doth himfelf: that his Friends fliould be
faithful and affectionate, his Servants honeil
and careful, his Children dutiful and, regular.
And they, who, in the fancied Superiority of
their Knowledge, teach thofe about them, or
thofe with whom they converfe, to be profli-
" Ecclus. ix. i.

gate j


gate ; by expreffing, either defignedly or care-
lefly, a Contempt of Virtue ; well deferve the
Return, they often meet with, for fuch In-

Nay indeed every prudent Man, be his pri-
vate Way of thinking ever fo bad, will be
folicitous to-preferve in the World, not only
Morals; but, for the Sake of Morals, what is
the main Support of them, Religion too: and
that Religion, which is the. likelieft to fup-
port them. Though he conceive it to be
falfe, he will refpecl it as beneficial. Were
he to imagine this or that Part of it hurtful ;
he would ftill moderate his Zeal againft them,
fo as not to deftroy the Influence of the reft.
For if believing fome Things may do Harm
in -the World, believing others may do Good.
And if any Thing whatever can do much
Good, and no Harm : it is the Perfualion, that
we live continually under the Eye of an in-
finitely powerful and wife, juft and good
Ruler; who hath fent us a Perfon of incon-
ceivable Dignity, on Purpofe to give us the
fulleft Affurance of his rewarding all, who
fhall repent and amend, and puni/hing all who
continue in Wickednefs, both here and to
Eternity. To do or fay what may weaken the



Impreffions of fuch a Doctrine, mufl, on all
Suppofitions, be the grofleft Folly. And yet
fome, who have the higheft Opinion of their
own Underftandings, are perpetually guilty of
it : and feem not to difcern, how impofiible
it is, that the World {hould ever be influenced,
to any good Purpofe, by what the daily Con-
verfation and Example of thofe, who are likely
to be reckoned the more knowing Part of the
World, encourage the reit to defpife.

But I dwell too long on the Suppofition that
Men can be abfolutely perfuaded, that Religion
and Virtue are Nothing. For though many
have wifhed, and fome faid it, when the
Wickednefs of their Lives hath driven them to
that Refuge : and though others may have been
led, by Love of Singularity, or Indignation
againft reigning Superftitions, to advance the
fame Notion : yet neither their Numbers, nor
their Abilities, have been comparatively at all
confiderable : and befides, few of them ap-
pear to have thoroughly convinced them-
felves, at leaft for any Time, of what they
affirmed : nor is there Pretence of Ground for
fuch Conviction to reft on. Doubts indeed
may be raifed, fuch as they are. And there-
fore kt us confider, in the fecond Place, the
4 Obliga-

3 2 S E ft M O N IL

Obligations of thofe, who are doubtful about
thefe Matters. Now Uncertainty, as it im-
plies an Apprehenfion, that they may not be
true ; implies alfo an Apprehenlion, that they
may. And the loweft Degree of Likelihood, the
very Pombility, that God is, and that Virtue
is his Law, fhould in all Reafon have a power-
ful Influence on the Minds and Conduct of
Men. Perhaps they fluctuate, only becaufs
they have not taken due Pains to inform them-
felves. They are ignorant; not Religion and
Morals deftitute of Proof; and inftead of
flighting, they mould ftudy them. Or fup-
pofmg, after fome Inquiry* that they cannot de-
term jne : this happens in many Cafes, where
further Inquiry affords full Evidence ; con-
cerning the main Point at leafr, if not every
Particular* But were we to remain ever fo
much at a Lofs, when we have done our heft i
not knowing Things to be true, is an exceed-
ingly different State from knowing them to
befalfe; how apt foever we are to confound
the one with the other. In the Affairs of
this World, Men may be quite in Sufpence
about Matters, which yet are very important
Realities : and* it may be of the utmoft Con-
fequence to them, whether, during that Suf-


pence, they act rightly or not : nay, while
it is ever fo uncertain, what they are to think -,
it may be very clear, how they are to behave :
and, by following or tranfgrefling that Rule,
they may as truly deferve well or ill, as by
any other Part of their Conduct. Why then
may not the Cafe be the fame, in Refpect to
thofe, who have not arrived at Certainty con-
cerning religious and moral Obligations ? Why
may not fuch Doubts be one Part of the Trial
of their Behaviour; as well as other Perplexities
are of the Behaviour of other Perfons ?

Being profane and vicious, becaufe they do
not fee clearly, is determining, inftead of doubt-
ing : and determining on the Side, that is
not only prejudicial to all around them, but
dangerous to themfelves. For it is exceed-
ingly little, were all Things well confidered,
that we can almofl ever get by Wickednefs :
'but what we may fuffer by it, is infinite. The
Fruits of it in this Life are ufually found very
bitter : nor is there any Shadow of Proof, but
another may fucceed it. And if there fhould;
Innpcence here cannot poflibly hurt us here-
after : but Guilt runs a double Rifque; not only
as uneafy Reflections naturally follow it, but
as farther Punifhment may be juilly,, inflicted

VOL. I. C on

34 S E R M O N II. ,

on it. The ilighteft Senfe of Duty, that we
can experience, mould have made us at leaft
fufpect, that fo peculiar a Feeling as that, is
not to ftand for Nothing in our Compofition.
And if Men will do, what they are told, by a
fecret Voice within, they ought not ; it is fit
they fliould take the Confequences, in the next
World, as well as the prefent. For it is know-
ing they did ill, not knowing they fhould be
condemned for it, that makes their Condemna-
tion juft. And though acute and fubtle Rea-
loners may eafily build up a fpecious Syftem of
Doubts and Queftions, yet this is a poor De-
fence to reft the Whole of their Beings upon :
efpecially as Men have fo irrefiftible a Con-
viction, that Right and Wrong are Notions of
great Confequence, when their own Rights are
invaded j .that they cannot in earned think them
idle Words, or Matters of Indifference, when
their Neighbours are concerned 5 let them fay
what they will.

And therefore we may now go on to a third
Suppofition 3 that Men acknowledge die Obli-
gation of Morals, but not of Religion ; and let
us coniider, what they are to do. They almoil
univerfally take the Liberty of doing one very
bold and wrong Thing, of mofl extenlive bad



EfFecT:. They model their Notions of Morals,
jufl according to their own Fancy; and reduce
them into as narrow a Compafs, as they think
convenient. So that, while they talk very
highly of Virtue, they practife little or no-
thing of it : or, if they obferve fome Duties
ftri&ly, yet others, though, it may be, fcarce
of lefs Moment, but lefs agreeable to them,
they neither regard, nor acknowledge, but
hold them in utter Contempt. Thus one Part
of the World tranfgrefles the Rules of So-
briety and ChafKty ; another lives wholly to
idle and expenfive Amufements ; a third is
wickedly felfim or ill-natured in private Af-
fairs ; a fourth unreafonably vehement in pub-
lic ones ; and yet all contrive to overlook their
own Faults in thefe Points, and admire their
own Goodnefs in others : whereas to be truly
good, we mufl be fo in every Thing alike.
But Inclination eafily prevails over Principle,
where it hath not the Sanction of Religion to
ftrengthen it. And they, who profefs No-
thing beyond Morals, not only are defHtute
of that higher Aid; but, though their Lives
fully (hew how much they want it, very com-
monly affect a Scorn of it, no Way to be ac-
counted for. Suppofe them doubtful even
C 2 about


about natural Religion ; they muft own, that,
could it be proved, Nothing in the World
could influence Men to Virtue, like it. The
Fear of Punifhment, the Hope of Reward, from
the King and Lord of all, the Confcioufnefs of
living continually in his Prefence, Reverence
of his perfect Holinefs, Love of his infinite
Qoodnefs, Reliance on his infinite Wifdom and
Power, are evidently the ftrongeft Motives
to right Behaviour in every Station, that can
be propofed. They muft own too, that the
moft thoughtful and able Men in all Ages,
have held thefe Motives to be well grounded ;
that the Proofs in Favour of them have con-
fiderable Appearances of being conclufive : and,
had they none, it would furnim no Caufe of
Triumph, but of the deepeft Concern to every
Lover of Virtue. Such a one therefore, how-
ever uncertain, will abhor the Thought of
treating fo beneficial, fo refpedable a Doc-
trine with Contempt and Ridicule : a mock-
ing Manner, which frivolous and wrong Minds
are ftrangely fond of, on many unfit Occafions :
and indulging it, throughly miileads them from
good Senfe and difcreet Conduct, in every other
Article of Life, as well as this. On the con-
trary, the flighted Apprehenfion, that there



only may be a juft Ruler and Judge of theWorld,
will give every well-difpofed Perfon great
Serioufnefs of Heart in thinking upon thefe
Subjects, and great Decency in fpeaking of
them : will incline him to leek for, and pay
Regard to, any Degree of farther Evidence con-
cerning them, that is real, though perhaps
it falls very fliort of what he could wiih :
and will engage him, in the mean Time, to
behave with all the Caution, that becomes his
prefent Situation. For, in a Cafe of fuch Im-
portance, even fmall Sufpicions ought to lay
us under no fmall Reftraints. Therefore he
will let Nothing ever efcape him, which may
induce others to throw off what he only
doubts of: he will never folicit them to tranf-
grefs the Precepts of Religion, while they
acknowledge its Authority : (Things palpably
wicked, and yet commonly done :) he will
much more difcourage a groundlefs Neglect,
than a groundlefs Belief and Practice, of it :
;ind he will think himfclf bound to acl: thus,
not in Prudence only, as even Men of no
Principle are, but in Confcience alfo.

Thcfe then are the Duties of fuch, if any

fuch there be, as admit the Reality of Virtue,

and are doubtful concerning any Thing farther.

C 3 But



But indeed the Generality of Men profefs to go
fo much farther, as to believe in natural Reli-
gion, whatever they may think of Chriftianity,
Let us therefore confider, in the fourth Place,
what their Obligations are. And we (hall find
an Addition of very confiderable ones incum-
bent on them, if they deferve the Title they
afTurne, that of Deifls : in which Word, accord*-
ing to its original Import, Regard to the Deity
is principally, if not folely, exprefTed. But
notwithstanding this, it hath now for a long
Time fignified much more determinately
that Men do not believe in Chrift, than that
they do believe in God. At leaft, the Belief
of fome, who would take it exceedingly ill
to be called by a worfe Name, amounts to little
more, than a general confufed Perfuafion of
fome Sort of firft Caufe; probably an intelligent,
perhaps a beneficent one too : but with fcarce
any diftindl Conception of his being thfe moral
Governor of the World; much lefs any ferious
Conviction, that he expeds from us a Temper
and Conduct of Piety and Virtue, as the only
Condition and Means of our obtaining Happi-
nefs and avoiding Mifery. Now if their Faith
comes fhort of this, they may very nearly as
well have none at all : and if it comes up to

4 this,


this, it binds them indifpenfably to be very dif-
ferent in their Practice, from what they too
commonly are : to cultivate in their Hearts that
Fear and Love, which the Greatnefs and the
Goodnefs of God require : to pay him outwardly
that Homage and Worfhip, which our compound
Frame and the Interests of Society call for : to
beg of him both Light to difcern Truth, and
Strength to praclife it : to make diligent and
upright Inquiry, what Rules he hath pointed out
for the Conduct of Man : to obferve them all
with the ftricT:efl Care, however contrary to
favourite Inclinations : and to endeavour, as
far as their Influence reaches, that others alfo
may feel and exprefs the fame deep Senfe of
what they owe their Maker. Thefe are evident
Duties of real Believers in him : do they per-
form them ? They talk in the higheft Terms
of the Sufficiency of Reafon, and the Clearnefs
with which natural Light teaches every Thing
needful : doth it teach them to livefoberly, right eoujly
and godly b ? It is but too eaiy for them to excell,
in this Refpect, the Generality of fuch, as claim
the Title of Chriftians. Why will they not take fo
honourable a Method of putting us, and our
Profeflion, out of Countenance? They apprehend

b Tit. ii. 12.

C 4 themfelves

40 S E R M O N II.

themfelves perhaps to have been far more ftrict
and careful than we, in forming their Opinions :
why will they not manifeft a proportionable
Strictnefs in regulating their Practice too ? That
would be a powerful Evidence, both to the
World and their own Hearts, that they are fin-
cere in their Pretenfions : that they do not re-
ject the Doctrines of the Gofpel, merely to be
excufed from the Duties of it : nor difown every
other Law of Life, but one within them, that
they may be tied to Nothing, which they do
not like. It would be uncharitable indeed to
accufe them of this, without Proof : but they
would do well to examine, whether they are
not guilty of it. For it is a dangerous Temp-
tation : and one Thing looks peculiarly fufpi-
cious in many of themj that they have fo little
or no Zeal for natural Religion, and fo vehement
a Zeal againft revealed. Surely every one, who
inwardly honours God, mufl be affected quite
otherwife : and think both his Confcience and
his Character concerned in mewing the warmeft
Attachment to the former, and the mildeil
Equity in Relation to the latter. If he not only
fafpected, but imagined he knew the Scripture-
Scheme to be falfe, ftill he mufiown it to be a
Falsehood with the moll amazing Quantity of


S E R M O N II. 41

Truth in it, that ever was: to give Men, however
it happens, beyond Companion, the righteft No-
tions, the juftefl Precepts, the joyfulleft En-
couragement, both in Piety and Morals, that
ever Syftem did : and to have been the Light of
the Worlds fo far as appears, from the very Be-
ginning of it. Our only Knowledge of the Exift-
ence of true Religion in the earlier! Times, is
from the Difcoveries recorded in the Bible, as
made to the Patriarchs. The Jewifh Difpenfa~
tion afterwards was for many Ages the main
Bulwark of Faith in one God, the Maker of

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