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write or converse at all. What then? do Serm.

V. we absolutely condemn those who differ from us in these Points ? No. The Medium between these two Extremes is, that leaving a Latitude of Thinking in Points less useful, and laying the main Stress upon Essentials, we even, as to the last, abstract Men’s Persons from their Opinions ; and while we condemn the latter as pernicious, treat the former with Tenderness. Fundamentals abstractedly from Persons, as relating to the Scheme of Christianity, may be fixed by a certain and determined Standard, and they are plainly those, that are so intimately interwoven with Christianity, that It and They must stand or fall together. But Fundamentals in a relative View, as respecting the Salvation of particular Persons, cannot be precisely defined and adjusted by any fixed and unchanging Measure. They must vary, according to the Variety of Men's Apprehensions, Circumstances, and Opportunities. And it is impossible to settle those Points, the Belief of which shall be necessary to Salvation absolutely, and universally ; to all Men without any Distinction; in all Cases, under such an endless Disparity of Capacities, Means of Instruction, and Situation in Life, Who can tell what determined Proportion of Faith (neither less nor more) will carry a Man to Heaven? That Quantity of

V.

Ser m. Faith, which may be insufficient in itself to

make a Man a compleat Christian, may be sufficient for that Man, who, humanly speaking, has done the best He could in His Circumstances.

We cannot therefore, we do not, peremptorily and without any Exception, presume to pass a decisive Sentence on Men erring fundamentally. To their Maker they ftand or fall, who alone views the hidden Springs and Causes of Men's Perfuafions, and Actions, before whose righteous Tribunal we, as well as they, must appear. His unerring Wisdom can only form a true Judgment of Men's Hearts and Heads; whether the former may be deeply tinctured with incurable Prepossessions, and the latter irremediably want a Clearness of Conception : and His Goodness may make favourable Allowances in such cases. We cannot decide how far His Mercy may extend to Enthusiasts, or those that make near Approaches to Enthusiasm by a constitutional Impetuosity of Temper. Nay, some Men, who, in all other Points, have spoke the Words of Truth, Reafon, and Soberness, have in one Particular, and only in one Particular, betrayed evident Marks of a disturbed Mind. Some very great Men have mistaken an arbitrary Association of Ideas for a just Connection of them : and hence, I suppose, it has come to pass, that some 1

Philos

V.

E

Philosophers of Eminence have advanced as Serm.
extravagant and absurd Opinions, as the
most vulgar Reception has countenanced.

It is no difficult Matter to find by what
Means Great Men have been misled into an
Error. Suppose, for Instance, a Man has,
by a long Habit of Thinking, joined toge-
ther the Ideas of Neceffity, of Existence, and
that of one Person only in the Godhead :
so that, His Thoughts having run for a
considerable Time in a wrong Channel, He
cannot disjoin, or put them afunder : tho'
others cannot perceive what necessary, that
is, immutable and unprecarious Existence has
to do with Unity of Person. The two Ideas
do not imply or infer one another. They
want some intermediate Term to bring
them to a friendly Correspondence. Some
have so infeparably associated the Idea of
Succefion with Duration, and of Extension ·
with Presence, that they ascribe them to
the eternal Duration, and universal Prea
sence of God. And these Men, who, in
Consequence of such Notions, do maintain
an infinite Number, a Number that is neia
ther equal nor unequal, a last Number;
have sometimes levelled their Artillery
against Mysteries; that is, after having fwal-
lowed a Camel, they have sirained at a
Gnat.
It
may

somewhat extenuate the Guilt of
a, fundamental Error, that those, who abet

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V.

Serm. it, may not perhaps fee, that it is subversive

of Christianity. The Consequences, which flow from it, may be very shocking; but they may not, discern those Consequences : Nay, it may be sometimes charitably presumed, that they would have rejected their Tenets with Abhorrence, if they had perceived that such Deductions necessarily resulted from them. Whatever Consequences we may charge upon the Doctrine, we ought not therefore to charge them upon the Men, especially if they be remote Consequences, and stand at a great Distance from the Principles which they espouse.

Again, we cannot determine how far the Judgment may be under the Tyranny of an Imagination, which has an uncommon Vivacity, especially if it comes near to Madness, and has been long indulged in it's despotic Sway. When the Imagination has great Beauty, and irresistible Charms, it will get and maintain an Ascendant over that which was designed to rule over it. Several stamp the Characters of Divinity on an Idol which the Fancy has set up, and wonder that all Mankind do not fall down and worship it. Every flight Argument, that countenances it, is Demonstration

i and every one that opposes it is a palpable Fallacy : They fee it in every Text of Scripture, and are surprized at the unaccountable Blindness of other People, that

they

V.

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they do not see it too. The great Dispute Ser M. between Truth and Error, between Religion and Irreligion, seems to be only, what ought to be no Dispute at all, a perpetual Contention between Reason and Imagination, which should have the Preference. Reason can prove, that unless it's Comprehension were the full Measure of Truth, several Things may be true which it cannot comprehend: that therefore the Incomprehensibility of a Thing is no Objection to the Truth of it: and what is no Objection to the Truth of a Proposition, can be none to the Credibility or Belief of it : Reason can see well enough, that what may appear absurd upon our partial and imperfect Views, might have quite a different Aspect, if our Ideas were commensurate to the whole Extent of the Subject. But a proud rebellious Imagination refuses to admit what it cannot bring down to it's own Level, and of the Manner of which it can form no Idea.

There is sometimes an Inability to go out of that Track of Thinking, to which we have been accustomed from our Infancy, Our Blessed Saviour, who could with Ease difpoffefs Men of Evil Spirits, found it a much harder Task, notwithstanding His Miracles, to dispossess them of inveterate Prejudices, and riverted Errors.

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