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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 testimopies 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
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
• 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 his 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,
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 involving 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 dè åpelýoavtes áruldov, 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, tovaútns áuelnouvTes owinplas, 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 ; mocked; others said, We will hear 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 inen 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 túpwors kapéias, 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 un
capable of improvement in knowlege, because they were rw pol tais 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 gs; 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. The
weapons 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,
whom St. Stephen therefore calleth a stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears;' who although they did hear the most winning discourse that ever was uttered, although they saw the most admirable works that ever were performed, yet would they not yield to the doctrine; the mean garb of the persons teaching it, the spirituality of its design, the strict goodness of its precepts, and the like considerations, not sorting with their fancies and desires ; they hoping for a Messias arrayed with gay appearances of external grandeur and splendor, whose chief work it should be to settle their nation in a state of worldly prosperity and glory.
6. This is that hardness of heart, which is so often represented as an obstruction of belief; this hindered Pharaoh, notwithstanding all those mighty works performed before him, from hearkening to God's word, and regarding the mischiefs threatened to come on him for his disobedience; "I will not,' said he, • let Israel go;' his will was his reason, which no persuasion, no judgment could subdue : this was the cause of that monstrous infidelity in the Israelites, which baffled all the methods which God used to persuade and convert them; • Notwithstanding,' it is said, they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe, in the Lord their God :' whence that exhortation to them; • To-day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.' And to obduration the disbelief of the gospel on the Apostles' preaching is in like manner ascribed ; St. Paul, it is said in the Acts, “went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God: but divers were hardened, and believed not :' and · Exhort one another daily,' saith the Apostle, ‘lest any of you be hardened (in unbelief) through the deceitfulness of sin.'
7. Of kin to that perverseness of heart is that squeamish delicacy and niceness of humor, which will not let men entertain or savor any thing, anywise seeming hard or harsh to them, if they cannot presently comprehend all that is said, if they can frame any cavil or little exception against it, if every scruple be not voided, if any thing be required distasteful to their sense; they are offended, and their faith is choked; you must,