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Heaven and Earth : nor probably was it from
any other Source, that the learned Heathens
derived their chief Acquaintance with divine
Truths, after they had forgotten the primitive
Tradition of them. Then laftly, the ChrifUan
Revelation overturned, when every Thing elfe
had appeared incapable of doing it, Polytheifm
and Idolatry, immoral Superftition and profli-
gate Vice, wherever it was preached : and
though it was indeed perverted for a Time to
patronize, in fome Degree, what it had deftroy-
ed -, yet, by the native Goodnefs of its, Confti-
tution, it recovered again -, and is now profefTed
by the Church, of which we are Members, in

* John viii. 1 2.


42 S E R M O N II.

greater Purity, than elfewhere upon Earth,
Infidels themfelves being Judges. If therefore
they have in Truth the Affection, which they
cannot deny but they ought to have, for genu-
ine, moral, rational Piety, they mufl honour this
Inftitution, as an infinitely beneficial one; whe-
ther they confefs it to be from Heaven, or not :
and, before they even wifh it difregarded, mould,
confider, with no little Serioufnefs, what Ef-
fects muft naturally follow. Would Men really
believe the Being and Providence of God, the
Obligations of Virtue, and the Recompences
of another Life, the more firmly, for difbeliev-
ing the Gofpel ? Would they underfhmd their
Duty the better, for having no written Rule of
it ? Would they judge about it the more impar-
tially, for being left to make it out by their own
Fancies ? Would they think of it the oftener, for
never being instructed in it ? Or is there not the
ftrongeft Appearance, that as from Chriflianity
all the true Knowledge of Religion came, which
even the Enemies of Chriflianity have to boafl
of: fo with it, all true Regard to Religion
would be loft again ? We have been making in
the prefent Age fome Trial of this : and the
Effects, in private Life and public, have been
fuch, that it is very hard to fay, why either a



good or a wife Man fhould ever want to fee,
what a farther Trial would end in. But, at
leaft, fuch a one would have much more Concern
that Men mould believe and practife what Rea-
fon and Nature teach, than that they mould not
believe and practife what Revelation teaches.
And even if he could think himfelf obliged
to declare againft the latter, be the Confe-
quences bad as they will, for the Sake of what he
imagines Truth ; (which yet Unbelievers are
riot apt to confider as a Point of fuch indifpen-
fable Obligation, in other Cafes ;) he would
however do it in a fair, an honourable, a decent
Manner: never mifreprefent, through Defign
or Negligence, the Doctrines, the Evidence, or
the Teachers, of the Gofpel; never fludy to ex-
pofe them to the Hatred of Men by Invectives,
or to their Contempt by Ridicule : but inform
himfelf about them with Care, judge of them,
with Candour, and fpeak of them with good
Breeding and Moderation. Widely different
from this, is the Conduct of our Adverfaries ;
who take all Methods without Scruple to engage
on their Side, the Refentments of fome, the
Avarice of others, the Vanity of a third Sort,
the Senfuality of a fourth: and notwithstanding,



are able, it feems, to pafs themfelves upon un-
wary Minds for great Lovers of free Inquiry :
but, with a little Attention, by their Fruits ye
Jhall know them*. Would God they were cool
and ferious enough to know themfelves ; and to
remember, that neither Doubt nor Difbelief can
ever excufe Malice or Dimoriefty. Could they
but bring their Hearts into fuch a Difpofition,
their Objections would foon diminish, and our
Anfwers and Arguments appear juft and conclu-
five. To be fatisfied of this, let us take a ihort
View of the Cafe of Chriftianity.

God may certainly inform Men of moil ufeful
Things, which they did not, and could not, elfe
know. He may certainly bellow fuperior Ad-
vantages on fomeAges and Nations from Motives
of which we are ignorant, yet be fufficiently
gracious to all. He may fee Caufe to reveal fome
Things to us very imperfectly, and yet require
us to believe what he hath revealed, though we
are unable to comprehend what he hath not.
He may give us Commands, without adding
the Reafons of them, which yet we are bound to
obey : for we ourfelves do the fame Thing. He
may appoint various Forms of Religion, fuited

rf Matth. vii. 1 6.



to various Places and Times, full as properly as
Men appoint various Forms of Government.
Farther flill, he might as juflly permit us to be-
come what we are, frail and mortal, by Means
of our firft Parents Tranfgremon, as create us
what we are, independently upon it. He is no
lefs merciful in pardoning our Sins on Account
of the willing Sacrifice, which he hath pro-
vided for us, than if he had pardoned them
without any at all. He is no lefs authorized
to demand of us what he will give us Power
to perform, if we afk it aright; than what we had
Power to perform of ourfelves. And he can as
eafily form our Bodies anew, fitted for the
Purpofes of a better Life, as he could form
them originally, fitted for the Purpofes of this.
If fome Parts of his Word appear hard to be
underftood, of fmall Ufe, or even hurtful ; many
Parts of his Works appear fo too. If the Re-
velation, which he hath given us, hath often
done Harm inftead of Good : the Reafon and
the Affections which he hath given us, have
done fo like wife. Thefe few Confiderations, (and
there are many obvious ones befides, of the
fame Kind,) would remove out of every honeft
Mind mofl of the Prejudices raifed againil the



Faith of Chriftians : which indeed, for the"
greateft Part, bear full as hard againft the uni-
verfal Providence of God, even againft thofe Pro-
ceedings of it, which we daily experience.

Then as to the Evidence in Favour of GUI'
Religion : whatever Difficulties may be ftarted
concerning particular Points of it, taken fmg-
lyj as there may, in the fame Manner, con-
cerning any Evidence in the World ; yet lay
together, in one View, the Scripture-Narra-
tion of Things from the Beginning ; the Con-
fiftency and Connection of the Scheme, though
carried on for fo many thoufands of Years ;
the admirable Temper and Character of the
Author of Chriftianity 5 the Sublimity and
Reafonablenefs of its Doctrines ; the Purity and
Benevolence of its Precepts - y the Excellency
of its Means of Improvement and Grace; the
eternal and true Felicity of its Rewards ; the
manifold Atteftations of its Hiftory and Mi-
racles ; the wonderful Propagation of it through
the World, and its primitive Influence on the
Souls and Lives of Men ; the undeniable Com-
pletion of many of its Prophecies, and the
evident Room there is left for the fulfilling of
the reft : all thefe notorious Facts, thus united



and combined, can furely never fail to convince
every impartial Examiner, that the Syflem, they
iupport, muft be from God, and that the
fupreme Happinefs of Man is to mare in its
Bleffings. Now the weakefl Degree of fuch a
Perfualion, far from being unworthy of Regard,
becaufe it is no ftronger, ought in all Juftice
to produce a moffc inquifitive Attention to fur-
ther Proof; and, in the mean Time, a confcien-
tious Practice of what already appears credible.
For, though any one's Belief exceed his Doubts
but a little -, yet, if it doth fo at all, what pre-
vails in his Mind ought to regulate his Con-
duct : and acting thus, he will foon experience
his Faith to increafe. Setting himfelf to keep
the Commandments, will fliew him clearly
his Want of the Mercies acknowledged in the
Creed : and labouring to behave fuitably to his
prefent Light, will intitle him to that gra-
cious Promife of more, given by our blefled
Lord : If any Man will do bis Will, be jhall
know of the Doffrine 9 whether it be of God*.

The further and particular Obligations of
thofe, who have acquired this Knowledge,
and are eftablifhed in the Gofpel-Faith, muft

c John vii. 17.



be the Subjed: of another Difcourfe. But the
general Direction for fuch as are weak and lefs
advanced, is undoubtedly that of the Apoftle :
Whereto we have already attained, let us walk
by the fame Rule, let us mind the fame Thing :
and, if in any Thing ye be other wife minded, God
will reveal even this unto you f .

s Phil. iii. 1 6. 15.

S E R-



i THESS. v. 21, 22.

Prove all Things : bold J "aft that which is good:
abftainfrom all Appearance of Evil.

IN difcourfmg on thefe Words, I have laid
before you the Duty of carefully confider-
ing our Obligations, in Refpect of Piety and
Morals : and acting fuitably to our Convictions,
on thofe Heads. According as our Notions
of either vary, whether from our different
Means of Knowledge, or different Ufe of them,
it muft be expected, that our Conduct mould
vary too. And yet I have fhewn you, that,
were it poffible for Men to difbelieve the
Authority both of Religion and Virtue, mere
Prudence and Self-interelt would put them un-
der confiderable Reflraints, in Relation to each :
that whoever only doubts concerning them,
admits they may be true ; and therefore fhould
VOL. I. D take


take the acknowledged later Side : that any
Degree of Perfualion, in Favour of Virtue only,
much more of natural Religion too, mould
excite a proportionably ferious Regard to it :,
and that the loweft Apprehenfion of the Truth
of ChrifHanity, (which, I hope I proved to you,
though briefly, hath the cleareft Marks of
Truth upon it) greatly ftrengthens every other
Tie ; and farther binds Men to inform them-
felves fully about it, as fcon as poffible ; and
give it refpectful Treatment in the mean

If then even thefe Perfons are to behave
thus, how are we to behave ? The Doubter,
nay the Infidel, is obliged to no fmall Care of
his Heart and Life : what is the Believer ob-
liged to ? We pride ourfelves on being fuch :
pity or deteft thofe who are not : and yet, all
the while, Chriftians who think and adt other-
wife than Chriftians ought, may deferve full as
ill, perhaps much worfe, than they : indeed
may be one chief Caufe, that they are what
they are. Leaving others therefore to the
Judge of all ; let us at prefent think of our-
felves : confider, what Manner of Perfons our
holy Profeffion requires us to be; and whe-
ther we fo obferve its Rules, that we may juftly
4 hope


hope to attain its End : efcape the Wrath to
come % and partake of the Glory that Jhall be
revealed b . Now it plainly requires,

i. That we be duly affccted by the peculiar
Doctrines of ChriiHanity. Many that profefs it,
and are perfuaded of its Authority, feem to have
no Notion almoft of its Value, or of any great
Regard owing to it. They fay, it is deligned
intirely to make Men live good Lives : and ac-
cordingly if they do but live what the World
calls a good Life, the Defign is anfwered. As
for Matters of mere Faith, or even of Practice
beyond this, they conceive there is little Need
of being concerned about them : and thus they
are very good Chriftians in their own Opinions,
with fcarce any Thing to diflinguim them
from good, or perhaps even from indifferent,
Heathens. In this Error, the artful Enemies
of the Gofpel fludiouily confirm its inconfide-
rate Friends. For thus, pretending by no
Means to oppofe it, but only to rectify Mens
Notions about it ; and making loud Com-
plaints, if they are fufpected of any Thing
worfe -, they can deftroy, where they gain
Credit, the whole Effect of what it adds to
the Religion of Nature : and induce the un-

a Matth. iii. 7. Luke iii. 7. b I Pet. y. i.

D 2 wary


wary to imagine, there is Nothing in it, worth
contending for, befides thofe practical, foetal,
and real Duties , as they are pleafed, by Way of
Diftindion, to call them, 'which our Reafon and
Senfes prefcribe In common to us all-, and which
therefore we may learn and obferve as well,
without as with the Bible ; where they lie
mixed with many other Things, ufelefs, if
not hurtful ; and are either mifreprefented by
the Writers themfelves, or very liable to be
miftaken by us. But indeed, if the very Wri-
ters of Scripture, with the Spirit of God to
aflift them, mifunderftood the Dodrines of Re-
velation -, he both chofe and guided them ex-
tremely ill ; nor have we any poflible Means
of underftanding thofe Dodrines now. And
if either they or we underftand them at all ;
our Maker expects from us the Belief of many
Things undifcoverable by Reafon, as Points of
great Confequence to our eternal Well-being ;
as with good Caufe he may. The Knowledge
of our fallen Eftate mews us our original De-
ftination, and our prefent Need of Help from
above. The Incarnation and Death of God's
eternal Son could not be appointed by him
for Purpofes of fmall Importance : and his
Word acquaints us, that Blefiings of the higheft



Importance depend on what he hath done and
fuffered for us : on his Atonement and Media-
tion, our Title to Pardon of Sin ; on the Grace
of the Holy Ghofl whom he fent, our Ability
of performing acceptable Obedience ; on both,
our Refurreclion to eternal Life ; on our Be-
lief of thefe Things, our Intereft in them. If
then the Gofpel be true, its peculiar Doctrines
are of the utmoft Moment : and the Duties
grounded on them, which we owe to God, as
the Father of our Lord Jefus Chrift ; to his
Son, as our Redeemer j to his bleiTed Spirit,
as our Sanctifier ; are both as real, and as
weighty, as any poffibly can be; fully equal
in their Obligation, and fuperior in their Rank,
to the moft valuable ones of human Society.
They therefore who neglect them, lead very
wicked, inftead of good Lives : and they who
efteem them lowly, dimonour the Author of
them. It is true, Reafon cannot prove them : but
it doth not contradict them. They are taught in
Scripture only: but they are taught there by the
all-wife God : and he cannot have left us at Li-
berty to model his Revelations according to our
own Fancies ; admit Part, and reject Part : but
we are to take the whole Plan of our Salvation,
as he hath delivered it : believe it, though im-
D 3 plicitlyj


plicitly; and refpect it, in Proportion to the
Strefs laid upon it by him, who muft know.
This will naturally difpofe us,

2. To perform the next Obligation incum-
bent on us : paying a due Regard to the pe-
culiar Institutions of Chriflianity. Great Num-
bers appear to have fome how perfuaded them-
felves, that feveral Things, which they muft
acknowledge their Maker hath appointed, as
the ordinary Means of heavenly Grace and fpi-
ritual Improvement, may notwithftanding, near-,
ly, if not quite, as well, be let alone. Baptifm
indeed they do practife : but with plain Marks
of ccnfidering it, as a mere empty Ceremony y
not, as our Saviour hath declared it c , the ex-
prefs and original Condition of our Claim to
all die Mercies of the Gofpel- Covenant. Lay-
ing on of Hands in Confirmation, after proper
Inftru&ion and a perfonal Engagement to live
pioufly and virtuoufly, though evidently a
very afFecling and uieiul Rite, and reckoned,
in the Epiflle to the Hebrews, amongft the
Principles of the Doctrine of Chrift * j is yet
defired, in Proportion, but by few. Receiving
the holy Euchariit, though a Duty of all Chrif-
tians, enjoined by pur bleffed Redeemer, al-

e Mark xvi. 16. Joha iii. 5. < Heb. vi. i, 2.



moft with his dying Words, and declared by
St. Paul to be the Communion of his Body and
Blood % that is, a Participation of the Benefits
of his Death; is yet, I fear, entirely omitted
by moft, practifed by many of the reft, very
feldom ; and by fome from very improper Mo-
tives : and fuch Reafons are pleaded for the
Neglect, as have either no Weight at all, or equal
Weight againft the Hope of future Happinefs.
Praying to God is a Dictate of natural, as well
as revealed Religion. And yet were a great
Part of you here prefent queftioned, how con-
ftantly you pray in private, indeed when you
prayed laft, and whether you are careful to
do it with Attention and Serioufnefs, or look
on it only as a Matter of Courfe; what Anfwer
muft you give ? And as for public Worfhip :
how many are there, who yet call themfelves
Chriftians, that hardly e,ver attend it ? And
how do many others think and fpeak of it ?
Perhaps as Matter of Curiofity and Amufe-
ment. If they can hope for an entertaining
Difcourfe after it, they will condefcend to come
and do Homage to him, that made them, or
feem to do it : otherwife they will not. Or
perhaps they vouchfafe to attend it as Mat-

c i Cor. x. 16.

D 4 tor


ter of decent Example and Propriety. Ac-
cordingly in fome Places they always go to
Church ; in others, never : forgetting, that the
latter will be known, and will influence, full
as much as the former. Or the leail Trifle in
the World mall determine them, fometimes
the one Way, fometimes the other. And both
doing and omitting it they talk of, in an eafy,
gay Manner, as a Thing of no Confequence
at all. Nay, too often, it is directly plead-
ed, that they can fpend their Time as well,
or much better, another Way : for they know
beforehand every Thing that is told them here.
Now, not to inquire particularly, in what better
Things, that they could not find Leifure for
elfe, thofe Perfons actually fpend the Time of
divine Service, who tell us fo frankly they can :
pombly they may, fome of them, a little over-
rate their Knowledge : at leafl, they frequently
feem to have great Need of being reminded,
if not taught : and had they none, another and
higher Duty, for which we meet, is Prayer.
But to this, and all other Acts of Devotion,
they object, that true Devotion is in the Heart ;
and outward Shew is Nothing material. Why,
fo is true Loyalty, true Friendmip, every true
"Virtue. But are we therefore bound to give
5 no


no external Demonflration of them ? At that
Rate, what would they be worth, and how
long would they laft ? God indeed doth
not want fuch Demonstrations : but we want
them, to keep alive our Senfe of Duty to him :
the World around us wants them, to fpread
a like Senfe amongft others : and, were the
Benefits of his Institutions much lefs evident
than they are ; {till they are his, and we may
be fure he hath Reafon for them. A good
Subject will go beyond, rather than come fhort
of, what the Laws require, in paying Ho-
nour to his Prince. A penitent Criminal will
not fail to fue out and plead his Pardon in
due Form, let Forms, in themfelves, be Things
ever fo infignificant : if he did, purpofely or
negligently, he would well deferve to forfeit
it. Every Man of common Prudence, on
whom, or his Family, any Thing valuable is
beftowed on certain Conditions, will think it
of Confequence, to qualify himfelf, or them,
according to thofe Conditions, whether he
fees the particular Ufe of them or not. If then
we think fuch Behaviour neceflary in all tem-
poral Concerns, why not in fpiritual ? God
is our King, and hath prefcribed to us the
Manner of doing him Homage. He is our



Judge, and hath directed us to the Method of
efcaping Punimment. He is our gracious Be-
nefa&or, and hath notified to us the Means of
obtaining his Favours. Why lhall any one
Thing, thus ordered by him, and therefore un-
doubtedly ordered in Wifdom, be either omitted,
or obferved with Contempt ? Surely this is by
no Means the Spirit, with which Sinners ought
to receive a Tender of Forgivenefs; andMortals,
of eternal Life. The Epiftle to the Hebrews
directs the firft Chriftians, even in the Midft of
Perfecution, not toforfake the ajjembling of them-
fefoes together, which comprehends every public
Office of Religion ; and laments, that the Man-
ner of fame *was to do otherwife f . How guilty
then mufl they be, who are now of this Num-
ber ; or put on the Appearance of defpiling the
Ordinances of Chrift, at the iame Time that
they ufe them 5 and, though really, to fome
Degree, ferious in them, are afraid of being
thought fo ! But this leads' me,

3. To a farther Obligation we are under,
which is to profefs our Regard, both for the
Doctrines and the Inltitutions of the Gofpel,
openly, and boldly, on all fit Occaiions. It is a
Reproach, I believe, peculiar to the Chriftians

f Heb.x. 25.



of this Age and Nation, that many of them
feem afhamed of their Chriflianity : would not
perhaps be faid to have thrown it afide, yet
would by no Means be imagined much in earned
about it : and therefore ftudy, if pomble, to
conceal their Way of thinking : or, when they
are attacked upon it, excufe their Piety, as others
do their Vices, with a Sort of laughing half
Defence ; and fhift off the Subject, as well and
as foon as they can. A moft aftoniming Treat-
ment of what our eternal Happinefs depends
on : efpecially when our Saviour exprefsly re-
quires us to confefs him before Men, as ever we
expect, that he mould confefs us before his
Father, 'which is in Heaven B . It is not meant,
tli at we mould be affectedly forward in talking
of our Religion j but, whenever we are called
to do fo, unaffectedly own it, and ftand by it.
In fuch a Cafe, Diffimulation, or even Referve,
is a mean -fpiri ted Defer tion of the worthieil
Caufe in the World : and the Words of the
holy Jefus on another Occafion are juflly appli-
cable to this, that he* ivbo is not for him, is
againjl him h . Whoever is unwilling to be taken
for a pious and good Man, runs a great Rifque
of foon becoming a profane and bad one. Open

? .Matth. x. 32. h Matth, xii. 30. Luke xi. 23.



Profeffion would have retrained him from doing
wrong, and others from tempting him : where-
as a timorous Concealment expofes him both
Ways. At leaft, it gives the irreligious a Pre-
tence for faying and imagining, either that every
one thinks as they do, or that no one can defend
thinking otherwife : and deprives thofe, who
are better difpofed, of a very animating and
needful Support. For no Inticement to neglect
our Duty is fo dangerous, as the Appearance of
a general Neglect : nor any Perfecution fo effec-
tual, as that of public Scorn. Therefore we
mould combine to melter one another from it:
declare frankly and with Spirit, in our private
Converfation, as well as by our Attendance here,
what Side we are of: not be afraid of a little,
perhaps only feeming, Contempt from thofe,
who are the jufteft Objects of Pity themfelves ;
but be willing tojisff'er the Affiittion of Shame,
amongil others, if it muft be fo, with the People
of God 5 : the Number of whom is not yet be-
come fo fmall, or fo deftitute of able Advocates,
but that, would they unite for that End, they
might abundantly keep each other in Coun-
tenance, and their Adverfaries in Awe. We
kave every pofiible Reafon to be zealous in our

Heb. xi. 25.



Caufe. Unbelievers have no lingle good one to
be fo in theirs. Yet they are active, and we
are remifs : and what will this end in, unlefs
we change our Conduct ? But then if we do,
there is a

4th, Moil important Obligation incumbent
on us, that of tempering our Zeal with Mildnefs
and Charity. We ought indeed to contend ear-
ncftly for the Faith k , whenever it is oppofed :
but in a Manner worthy of it. Cruel Actions,
opprobrious Words, inward ill Will, unjuft bad
Opinion, are abfolutely forbidden us, even to*
wards the Enemies of the Gofpel : and upon
the Whole, we do treat them with a Modera-
tion, which they are far from imitating. But
frill more gentle mould we be to fuch, as believe
Chriflianity, but only mifunderfland it: efpe-
cially considering, that we are juft as liable to
miftake, as they. And it is a melancholy Con-
fideration, that whilft one Part of thofe, who
profefs our Religion, are fo cool about its gene-
ral and efTential Interefts ; mofl of the other are
fo immoderately warm about their own parti-
cular Syftems and Perfuafions. Not only the
Maintainers of eftablifhed Opinions are apt to
judge hardly of the rigid Oppofers of them, and
k Jude 3.



they to f eturn it : but many, of greater Latitude,
cry out for Liberty to themfelves, though they
enjoy it to the full, with a Spirit of Perfecution :
and whilft they claim an unbounded Allowance
for every new Notion, will give none to thofe,
who retain the old ; but throw Imputations or
Contempt upon them, without Equity or Mercy.
What can be the Confequence of this, but what

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