« הקודםהמשך »
follow the example of the text here in ex- S E R M. ercifing ourselves to have a conscience void of VII. essence^ We must banish this unfairness of - * "* mind among other corrupt biasses and vicious affections.
False notions of religion may with much more reason be thought to be an exception to the rule of following universally the direction of conscience, because the influence of them in misleading men is founded, not on insincerity or dishonesty of heart, as in the other case, but upon a religious principle, that God is in all things to be imitated and obeyed. If, therefore, we have wrong opinions concerning the Deity, if we imagine him to be an arbitrary being, who governs the world by absolute will, without any regard to equity and goodness, this opinion tends to inspire men with the like sentiments, and raise in them dispositions contrary to benevolence. If we mistake the will of God, and imagine things please him which really do not please him, the effect will be speaking and aBing wickedlyfor God, and from a principle of conscience. They must be quite strangers to the world, to the history of all past ages, and what continues to be every day done in the openest manner,
Vol. I. M who
Serm.wjio do not know that the most prodigious VIL iniquity is committed, indeed the most 'cruel barbarities acted, under a pretence of zeal for God, for sacred truth, and pure religion; not a deceitful, lying, pretence; but a real and firm perswasion. The deck-* rations of scripture itself will not suffer u* to doubt of this. Our Saviour tells his disciples, fohn xvi. 2. the time cometh, ivhen% whosoever killeth you, shall think that he doth God service. But, we need not insist on any further proof, the apostle Paul himself is a very remarkable example. Before his conversion to christianity, superstition hajd: so far milled his judgment, that he was a persecutor, a blasphemer, and injurious, with full consent of mind and believing he was right: For he fays in his apology before Agrippa and fejlus, Ails xxvi. 9. I verily thought with myself, sought to do many things^ contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth ^ and, therefore, he fays, Acls xxiii. 1. corn^ prehending the very time of his outrageous^ persecuting zeal, / have lived in all goodj conscience before God until this day; mean-w ing that he acted according to his present j judgment; not against it, in meer com-jj
pliance with lust and passion, as some wick- S E R M. edly do.
From what has been now said it appears, that nothing can be of greater importance to men than to have their minds well inform'd concerning the measures of their moral conduct, and rightly to understand the practical principles of religion. Most unhappy, surely, is the condition of that mind which is thoroughly possess'd of pernicious errors, and the more earnestly it pursues its own judgment the farther still it goes astray. But, this, at least, in points of the' greatest moment, is certainly not inevitable j for then our worst errors would only be our infelicities, and our actions agreeable to them could not properly be called our sins. But, indeed, God has made the great truths concerning his being, his perfection, and particularly his moral character, so manifest, that every man must discern them who applies himself to the inquiry with unprejudiced and careful attention, which is unquestionably the duty of such creatures as we are, and for want of it our hearts will some time or other severely reproach us. The principal parts of our religion being plain inferences from the divine moral attriM 2 butes.
8^R;M.fetttes, must 'be very open to:'ev,eryimpa|till VII • 'arid cortsiderat enquirer. And*»indeedjdif
'""""^"'we will but look fairly into oar own hearts, •divested of preposteffion in favour of received opinions, it will not be difficult to fee jwkat 'is good and what the Lord requires. I.13& very first dictates of nature will fcarcefytwr mislead.an honest heart; atleast they sfil direct him contrary to the tendency eff»perstition, that is, sullen uncharitableaess and inhumanity. It must be acknowledged there are some very difficult cases relating to the subject we are considering,- andiititttfl be very hard to determine, how fareircila^ judgment excuse wrong practice,-,o WfeJiiJ* no reason to believe that ever: we shaft fct free from infirmities and mistakes leadings • to some wrong actions, while we aireiri this imperfect state $ and shall always have reason "toijoin with the P&lm$:-itfi&is tpeijK, cleanse me, Lord, from secret faaiti}^ can understand his errors? Wnatvni#ft* ful allowances God may make for:$il practices, which men who have intentions in the main, fall intoijt^>' superstition, which was the!-cafe df'^' apostle Paul before his conversion';0 w&t gracious allowances may be mat^&rlÆ®1!
il'JfeyV muto be left to the most equitabjif:.s-b^m/ and merciful judge of the world: And what Y^* Wiercy they may obtain, because they .act^^srvr~r' 'as-he did, ignorantly in unbelief. But, for -as christians, besides the voice of uncorrupted siature which every well disposed person may iftYiderstand, the rule of our religion is so ^ plain, so simple, so free from siiperstition of -all kinds, its declarations so express for moral ! piety, consisting in the love of God, con£>fidence in him, and resignation to his will;. ciog'this, and for righteousness, temperance Hand charity, :;as the all of religion, and what "fcwdy God will be pleas'd with; we shall be »»fxlailf6thers the most inexcusable if we fall 3<jh«6 the contrary errors, and suffer our consciences to be offended and misled by them, aid} I will only, add under this head, that as a ritiroly uniform virtuous temper and course of ,-jactton is that only which bears an exact proportion to the human mind, making it fully -iand:constantly satisfied and contented in itJjfelf j we may thus judge concerning the #<&fferent cafes referr'd to: A mind, not inched directly disapproving itself, but doing 3ffyhat it would certainly condemn if it were j£ftQt covered with a false pretence of zeal j I tnS»ay call it a false conscience, erring thro' | M 3 superstitidri *