صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

of infidelity, for which they were culpable, having such powerful means and arguments to believe imparted to them, without due effect.

It hath a condemnation grounded thereon; "He,' saith our Saviour, that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God:' but condemnation ever doth suppose faultiness.

It hath sore punishment denounced thereto; God,' saith St. Paul, shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness;' and, our Lord, saith he, at his coming to judgment, will take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ;' whence among those, who have their part in the lake burning with fire and brimstone, the fearful, and unbelievers' (that is, they who fear to profess, or refuse to believe the Christian doctrine) are reckoned in the first place; which implieth infidelity to be a heinous sin.

It is also such, because it is a transgression of a principal law, or divine command ; • This,' saith St. John, .is Ÿ évtody aúroő, the command of him, That we should believe ;' this, saith our Lord, is tò èpyoy To Oeoī, the signal work of God, (which God requireth of us,) that ye believe on him, whom he hath sent:' that was a duty which our Lord and his Apostles chiefly did teach, enjoin, and press; wherefore correspondently infidelity is a great sin ; according to St. John's notion, that sin is ávopía, the transgression of a law.'

But the sinfulness of infidelity will appear more fully by considering its nature and ingredients; its causes; its properties and adjuncts; its effects and consequences.' .

I. In its nature it doth involve an affected blindness and igporance of the noblest and most useful truths; a bad use of reason, and most culpable imprudence; disregard of God's providence, or despite thereto; abuse of his grace; bad opinions of him, and bad affections toward him; for

God in exceeding goodness and kindness to mankind hath proposed a doctrine, in itself. faithful and worthy of all acceptation,' containing most excellent truths instructive of our mind and directive of our practice, toward attainment of salvation

6

and eternal felicity ; special overtures of mercy and grace most needful to us in our state of sinful guilt, of weakness, of wretchedness; high encouragements and rich promises of reward for obedience : such a doctrine, with all its benefits, infidelity doth reject, defeating the counsel of God,' crossing his earnest desires of our welfare, despising his goodness and patience.'

To this doctrine God hath yielded manifold clear attestations, declaring it to proceed from himself; ancient presignifications and predictions ; audible voices and visible apparitions from heaven, innumerable miraculous works, providence concurring to the maintenance and propagation of it against most powerful oppositions and disadvantages : but all these testimonies infidelity slighteth, not fearing to give their author the lie, which wicked boldness St. John chargeth on it; • He,' saith the Apostle, that believeth not God, hath made him a liar ; because he believeth not the testimony that God gave of his Son.'

Many plain arguments, sufficient to convince our minds, and win our belief, God hath furnished; the dictates of natural conscience, the testimony of experience, the records of history, the consent of the best and wisest men, do all conspire to prove the truth, to recommend the usefulness of this doctrine ; but infidelity will not regard, will not weigh, will not yield to

reason.

[ocr errors]

God by his providence doth offer means and motives inducing to belief, by the promulgation of his gospel, and exhortation of his ministers : but all such methods infidelity doth void and frustrate; “thrusting away the word, turning away the ear from the truth, letting the seed fall beside us, casting away the law. of the Lord of hosts;' in effect (as those in Job) saying to God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowlege of thy ways.'

God by his grace doth shine on our hearts,' doth attract our wills to compliance with his will, doth excite our affections to relish his truth : but infidelity doth resist bis Spirit,' doth quench the heavenly light, doth smother all the suggestions and motions of divine grace within us.

What God asserteth, infidelity denieth, questioning his veracity; what God commandeth, infidelity doth not approve,

[ocr errors]

contesting his wisdom; what God promiseth, infidelity will: not confide in, distrusting his fidelity, or his power : such is its behavior (so injurious, so rude, so foolish) toward God, and his truth; this briefly is its nature manifestly involying great pravity, iniquity, and impiety.

II. The causes and sources from whence it springeth (touched in Scripture, and obvious to experience) are those which follow.

1. It commonly doth proceed from negligence, or drowsy inobservance and carelessness ; when men being possessed with a • spirit of slumber,'or being amused with secular entertainments, do not mind the concerns of their soul, or regard the means by God's merciful care presented for their conversion; being in regard to religious matters of Gallio's humor, 'caring for none of those things :' thus, when the king in the gospel sent to invite persons to his wedding feast, it is said, Oi åpelhoavtes árna, dov, they · being careless, or not regarding it, went their ways, one to his field, another to his trade.' Of such the Apostle to the Hebrews saith, How shall we escape, totaúrns åpelhoavTes ournplas, who regard not so great salvation,' exhibited to us! Of such Wisdom complaineth; I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded.'—No man :' the greatest part indeed of men are on this account infidels, for that being wholly taken up in pursuit of worldly affairs and divertisements, in amassing of wealth, in driving on projects of ambition, in enjoying sensual pleasures, in gratifying their fancy and humor with vain curiosities or sports, they can hardly lend an ear to instruction ; so they become unacquainted with the notions of Christian doctrine; the which to them are as 'the seed falling by the way side, which those • fowls of the air do snatch and devour before it sinketh down into the earth, or doth come under consideration. · Hence is unbelief commonly termed not hearing God's voice, not hearkening to God's word, the din of worldly business rendering men deaf to divine suggestions.

2. Another source of infidelity is sloth, which indisposeth men to undergo the fatigue of seriously attending to the doctrine propounded, of examining its grounds, of weighing the reasons inducing to believe; whence at first hearing, if the

notions hap not to hit their fancy, they do slight it before they fully understand it, or know its grounds; thence at least they must needs fail of a firm and steady belief, the which can alone be founded on a clear apprehension of the matter, and perception of its agreeableness to reason : so when the Athenians did hear St. Paul declaring the grand points of faith, somewhat in his discourse uncouth to their conceit falling from him, some of them did scorn, others did neglect his doctrine ; • some mocked; others said, We will bear thee again of this matter;' so Agrippa was 'almost persuaded to be a Christian,' but had not the industry to prosecute his inquiry, till he arrived to a full satisfaction. A solid faith (with clear understanding and firm persuasion) doth indeed, no less than any science, require sedulous and persevering study; so that as a man can never be learned, who will not be studious; so a sluggard cannot prove a good believer.

3. Infidelity doth arise from stupidity, or dullness of apprehension, (I mean not that which is natural; for any man in his senses, how low soever otherwise in parts or improvements, is capable to understand the Christian doctrine, and to perceive reason sufficient to convince him of its truth; but) contracted by voluntary indispositions and defects ; a stupidity rising from mists of prejudice, from steams of lust and passion, from rust grown on the mind by want of exercising it in observing and comparing things; whence men cannot apprehend the clearest notions plainly represented to them, nor discern the force of arguments, however evident and cogent; but are like those wizards in Job, who meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope at noonday, as in the night.'

This is that which is so often charged on the Jews as cause of their infidelity; who did hear but not understand, and did see but not perceive; because their heart was gross, and their ears were dull of hearing, and their eyes were closed ;' this is that túpuois kapdias, that numbness of heart, which is represented as the common obstruction to the perception and admission of our Lord's doctrine : this our Lord blamed in his own disciples, when he rebuked them thus ; • O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken !' Of this the Apostle doth complain, telling the Hebrews that they were uncapable of improvement in knowlege, because they were vw pol rais åkoais, dull of hearing for want of skill and use, 'not having their senses exercised to discern both good and evil :' there is indeed to a sound and robust faith required a good perspicacy of apprehension, a penetrancy of judgment, a vigor and quickness of mind, grounded in the purity of our faculties, and confirmed by exercise of them in consideration of spiritual things.

4. Another cause of infidelity is a bad judgment; corrupted with prejudicate notions, and partial inclinations to falsehood. Men are apt to entertain prejudices favorable to their natural appetites and humors, to their lusts, to their present interests ; dictating to them, that wealth, dignity, fame, pleasure, ease, are things most desirable, and necessary ingredients of happiness; so that it is a sad thing in any case to want them : all men have strong inclinations biassing them toward such things ; it is a hard thing to shake off such prejudices, and to check such inclinations; it is therefore not easy to entertain a doctrine representing such things indifferent, obliging us sometimes to reject them, always to be moderate in the pursuit and enjoyment of them: wherefore infidelity will naturally spring up in a mind not cleansed from those corruptions of judgment.

5. Another source of infidelity is perverseness of will, which hindereth men from entertaining notions disagreeable to their fond or froward humor : ώ γενεά άπιστος και διεστραμμένη, «Ο faithless and perverse generation!' those epithets are well coupled, for he that is perverse will be faithless; in proportion to the one the other bad quality will prevail. of the apostolical warfare (against the infidel world) were,' as St. Paul telleth us, "mighty to the casting down of strong holds :' so it was; and the Apostles, by their discourse and demeanor, effectually did force many a strong fortress to surrender : but the will of some men is an impregnable bulwark against all batteries of discourse; they are so invincibly stubborn, as to hold out against the clearest evidence and mightiest force of reason : if they do not like what you say, if it cross any humor of theirs, be it clear as day, be it firm as an adamant, they will not admit it; you shall not persuade them, though you do persuade them. Such was the temper of the Jews,

• The weapons

« السابقةمتابعة »