صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

with great evidence and assurance; the greatest indeed that well can be, considering the nature of its objects, and the general capacities of men, and the most proper way of working on reasonable natures.

It implieth (that which giveth to every virtue its form and worth) a good use of our reason, in carefully weighing and uprightly judging about things of greatest concernment to us; it implieth a closing with God's providence dispensing opportunities, and representing motives serving to beget it; a compliance with God's grace attracting and inclining our souls to embrace his heavenly truth : it implieth also good opinions of God, and good affections toward him, which are requisite to the believing (on his testimony, promise, or command) points very sublime, very difficult, very cross to our fancy and humor.

The causes also, which concur in its production, are very excellent; many virtuous dispositions of soul are requisite to the conception and birth of it: there must be a sober, composed, and wakeful mind, inquisitive after truth, apt to observe it starting, and ready to lay hold on it: there must be diligence and industry in attending to the proposals, and considering the enforcements of it: there must be sincerity and soundness of judgment, in avowing its cause, against the exceptions raised against it by prejudice and carnal conceit, by sensual appetites and passions, by temptation and worldly interest : there must be great humility, disposing us to a submission of our understanding, and a resignation of our will unto God, in admitting notions which debase haughty conceit, in espousing duties which repress sturdy humor : there must be much resolution and courage, in undertaking things very difficult, hazardous, and painful; much patience, in adhering to a profession, which exacteth so much pain, and exposeth to so much trouble : there must be great prudence, in applying our choice (among so many competitions and pretences claiming it) to that which is only good; in seeing through fallacious disguises, and looking over present appearances, so as to descry the just worth and the final consequence of things : there must, in fine, be a love of truth, and a liking of all virtue, which is so highly commended, and so strictly prescribed by the Christian doctrine.

These particulars, commending faith to us, I have already largely prosecuted; I shall only therefore now insist on the last head, concerning its effects, whereby (as the goodness of a tree is known by its fruits) the great excellency thereof will appear.

Its effects are of two sorts; one springing naturally from it, the other following it in way of recompense from Divine bounty : I shall only touch the first sort; because in this its virtue is most seen, as in the other its felicity.

Faith is naturally efficacious in producing many rare fruits ; naturally, I say, not meaning to exclude supernatural grace, bùt supposing faith to be a fit instrument thereof; for • God worketh in us to will, and to do,' but in a way suitable to our nature, employing such means as properly serve to incline and excite us unto good practice; and such is faith, supported and wielded by his grace ; for indeed

Even in common life faith is the compass by which men steer practice, and the main spring of action, setting all the wheels of our activity on going; every man acteth with serious intention, and with vigor answerable to his persuasion of things, that they are worthy his pains, and attainable by his endeavors. What moveth the husbandman to employ so much care, toil, and expense in manuring his ground, in ploughing, in sowing, in weeding, in fencing it, but a persuasion that he shall reap a crop, which in benefit will answer all ? What stirreth

up the merchant to undertake tedious voyages over vast and dangerous seas, adventuring his stock, abandoning his ease, exposing his life to the waves, to rocks and shelves, to storms and hurricanes, to cruel pirates, to sweltry heats and piercing colds, but a persuasion that wealth is a very desirable thing, and that hereby he may acquire it? What induceth a man to conform unto strictest rules of diet and abstinence, readily to swallow down the most unsavory potions, patiently to endure cuttings and burnings, but a faith that he thereby shall recover or preserve health, that highly valuable good ? From the same principle are all the carking, all the plodding, all the drudging, all the daring, all the scuffling in the world easily derivable. In like manner is faith the square and the source of our spiritual activity, disposing us seriously to undertake ; earnestly, reso

lutely, industriously, and constantly to pursue the designs o virtue and piety, brooking the pains and hardships, breaking through the difficulties and hazards which occur in religious practice; engaging us to the performance of duty, deterring us from the commission of sin.

What but faith, eyeing the prize, will quicken us 'to run patiently the race that is set before us ? what but faith, apprehending the crown, will animate us to fight stoutly the good fight ? what but faith, assuring the wages, will support us in working all the day with unwearied industry and patience ? what can raise pious hope, what can kindle holy desire, what can spur on conscientious endeavor, but a faith of attaining worthy recompenses for doing well? what can impress an ef. fectual dislike and dread of offending, but a faith of incurring grievous punishment and sad mischiefs thence ?

In reason a strong and steady belief but of one point or two, would suffice to engage us on all duty, and to restrain us from all sin. Did only we believe the future judgment, with the results of it, that alone would be an effectual both spur and curb to us : for who believing that his soul then shall be laid bare, that his inmost thoughts and secretest purposes shall be disclosed unto the view of all the world, will presume to harbor in his breast any foul thought or base design ? who believing that he shall then be obliged to render an account of every idle word, will dare to utter villanous blasphemies, wicked curses, fond oaths, profane jests, vile slanders or detractions, harsh censures, or bitter reproaches? who being persuaded that a rigorous amends will then be exacted from him for any wrong he doeth, will not be afraid with violence to oppress, or with fraud to circumvent his neighbor ? who deeming himself accountable then for every talent and opportunity will find in his heart to squander away or misemploy his time, his power, his wealth, his credit, his wit, his knowlege, his advantages in any kind of doing God service? who knowing himself obnoxious to a sudden trial, whereat his estate, his reputation, his life, all his interest and welfare must lie at stake, will contentedly lose his mind in wanton sports or wild frolics? In fine, if we are really persuaded that presently after this short and transitory life we shall openly, in the face

of God, angels, and men, be arraigned at an impartial bar, where all our thoughts, our words, our actions shall most exactly be sifted and scanned; according to which cognisance a just doom shall be pronounced, and certainly executed on us; how must this needs engage us to be very

sober and serious, very circumspect and vigilant over our mind, our tongue, our dealings, our conversation, our whole life !

Again, if a man firmly believeth that by a pious course of life he shall gain the present favor and friendship of the Almighty, with all the real goods whereof he is capable ; and that hereafter he shall be rewarded for it with an eternal life in perfect rest, in glory, in joy, in beatitude unspeakable ; that he shall obtain an incorruptible inheritance, a treasure that can never fail, a crown that will not fade, a kingdom that cannot be shaken; wherein he shall enjoy the blissful vision of God, smiling in love on him; the presence of his gracious Redeemer, embracing him with dear affection; the most delightful society of blessed angels, and just spirits made perfect;' a state of felicity, surpassing all words to express it, all thoughts to conceive it; of which the brightest splendors, and the choicest pleasures here can yield but a faint resemblance ; bow can he forbear earnestly to embrace and pursue such a course of practice! what zeal must such a persuasion inspire ; what vigor must it rouse within bim! who on any terms would forfeit the hopes of such a happiness ? who would not be glad to undertake any pains, or endure any hardships for it?

And who likewise heartily is persuaded that by vicious conversation he shall incur the wrath of Almighty God, and stand obnoxious to the strokes of his severe justice; that persisting therein he infallibly must drop into the bottomless pit, into that utter darkness, that furnace of fire unquenchable, that lake of flaming brimstone; where is weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the immortal worm shall gnaw on his heart, and he must feel the pangs of a never-dying death; that state of most bitter remorse, of most horrid despair, of most forlorn disconsolateness, of continual and endless torment; wherein he shall be banished from the face of God, and by immutable destiny barred from all light, all ease, all solace; from any

glimpse of hope, from any respite of pain ; the wretchedness of which condition not the sharpest pain of body, not the sorest anguish of mind, not the saddest distress here can anywise reach or represent; whoever, I say, is possessed with a belief of these things consequent on a wicked life, will he not thence be effectually scared from it? what bait of temptation shall allure him, what force shall drive him thereto? will he for a flash of pleasure, for a puff of fame, for a lump of pelf; will he in compliment or complaisance to others, in apish imitation or compliance with a fashion, out of mere wantonness, or in regard to some petty interest; will he in hope of any worldly good, or fear of any inconvenience here, suffer himself to be cast into that dismal state? will he not sooner go and shake a lion by the paw, sooner provoke an adder to bite him, sooner throw himself down a precipice, or leap into a caldron of burning pitch? Certainly in reason to believe such things, and to sin, can hardly be consistent.

Such a general influence is faith, looking with a provident eye on future rewards and consequences of things, apt to have on our practice: the which collaterally taking in the glorious attributes of God, the gracious performances of our Saviour, the beauty and sweetness of each divine precept, the manifold obligations and encouragements to duty; the whole latitude and harmony of evangelical truth, all tending to the recommendation of holiness, what efficacy must it needs have! how powerfully must it incite us to good practice!

We are told that faith doth “purify our souls, and cleanse our hearts;' that is, our whole interior man, all the faculties of our soul; disposing them to an universal obedience and conformity to God's holy will; and so it is; for faith not only doth clear our understanding from its defects, (blindness, ignorance, error, doubt,) but it cleanseth our will from its vicious inclinations, (from stubborn, froward, wanton, giddy humors ;) it freeth our affections from disorder and distemper, in tendency toward bad objects, and in pursuit of indifferent things with immoderate violence; it purgeth our conscience, or reflexive powers, from anxious fear, suspicion, anguish, dejection, despair, and all such passions which corrode and fret the soul : how it effecteth this we might declare; but we cannot better

« السابقةمتابعة »