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2dly, Let us make a Diftin&ion, where Serm. V, there is a Difference, between a modest Doubter, who offers his Objections with an ingenuous Candour, and an insolent Scoffer. . I mention this rather, because Free-Thinking, if we may judge from a late Instance, appears to be little else, than a Permission to talk and write loosely and petulantly on every Subject; without being confined to the Severity of close Reasoning, or the Restraints of common Decency, upon any Point, however sacred. A late Piece of this Kind is made up of three of the baseft Ingredients, that can enter into the Composition of any Man, or any Writing: Dijngenuity, ludicrous Impiety, and Dulness. And the Author has Recourse to those Arts, which would expose any Cause (but Infidelity, that needs them) and any Person (but an Infidel, that makes use of them) to universal Contempt. But He knew what He was doing. To put Men by ftrict Reasoning, into a serious Frame, and sedate Composure of Mind, is not the Way to propagate Irreligion: Seriousness and Thoughtfulness being the Soil, in which Religion grows and thrives. To propagate Irreligion effectually, you must endeavour to diffipate all Seriousness and Thoughtfulness, by giving Things a ludicrous Turn. The Force of Religion is loft by betraying the Mind into Levity, by lewd Buffoonery and ill-bred
Serm. V. Drollery. Such Persons are either to be
sharply rebuked; or, what is sometimes better, entirely neglected : while the candid Objector is to be answered with that Spirit of Meekness, which becomes the Followers of the Lamb.
Lastly, Let us consider, and may the Consideration fink deep into your Hearts !) that whereas it is a controverted Point, whether a virtuous Heathen or Mahometan may be saved in their respective Religions ; it is a confessed Point, as has been often observed, and cannot be too often obferved, that an Immoral Man cannot be saved in any Religion.
The Being, Nature, and Offices of
Evil Spirits considered.
I PET. v. 9. latter Part.
, as a
discoursing on which Words I shall, Sergi
Ist, Consider the Being, Nature and Ofices of Evil Spirits. And,
IIdly, Make some Inferences.
MAN has little Reason to think, that He is the Master-piece of the whole Creation;
; or, that the Fulness of God's Power and Wisdom is exhausted upon a weak, frail
, impotent Creature, that is probably the lowest in the Scale of reasonable Beings. It is much more consistent with God's Attributes to suppose; that we, who are next to the Beasts that perish, are far from
SER M. making the nearest Approaches, without
any intermediate Order of Beings, to an all-perfect Deity; that, as the Chain of Beings descends uninterrupted from Man to Brute, from Brutes to imperceptible Insects ; so it afcends, by a beautiful and regular Gradation, from Man to Angel, Archangel, and all those thousand thousands that stand before God; and the ten thousand times ten thoufand that minister unto Him. The Transition in this poem of Nature, from one Kind to another, being fo extremely fine and delicate, that we scarce know where the one ends, and the other begins, Yet the Dignity of the noblest of those Beings bears no more Proportion to His, who dwells in unapproachable Glory, than a gilded Cloud, on which the Evening Sun has impressed its Beams, and enriched with beautiful Stains of Light, does to that great Abyss of Light, from which it derives it's reflected Beauty. He can still make Beings, which shall as much surpass Archangels of the highest Class; as an Archangel of the highest Class surpasses the most despicable Infect. For every finite Creature, how great foever, must be infinite Descents beneath an all-perfect Being.
The World is one large universal Kingdom divided into several Provinces ; where there are Diversities of Beings and Administrations, but the same God which worketh
all in all. God's manifold Wisdom may ser m. have diversified the wide Expanse of the Creation with Variety of spiritual, superior Beings, of whose transcendent Powers and Faculties we, whose Knowledge is widely disproportionate to the whole Extent of even material Beings, have no more Notion, than a Reptile has of the Faculties and Wisdom of a Man.
The Query is, How Beings ennobled with these Distinguished Abilities, could fall from that Eftate in which they were placed, and plunge themselves into an Abyss of Woe.
To this it may
be answered; That it is probable, all kinds of rational Beings as well as we, have their State of Probation; That an uninterrupted, everlasting Enjoyment of unallayed Happiness, Virtue, Truth, is too great a Prize to be attained without any antecedent State of Trial; without any Difficulties proportionable to the Strength of their Nature, to call forth their Worth, and put it to the Test. And if they had Disficulties correspondent and suitable to their fuperior Strength; it is no difficult Matter to suppose, they might be foiled and overcome by them, before they were in a confirmed and established State of Goodness.
The Scripture makes Pride the Cause of their Fall : a Fault from which the brightest Geniuses are not always the