תמונות בעמוד

First, I shall Thew wherein this care of religion and of our souls doth confift. And this I shall endeavour to do with all the plainness I can, and so as every one that hears me may understand and be sufficiently directed what is necessary for him to do in order to his eternal falva, tion.

And of this I shall give an account in the five follow, ing particulars, in which I think the main business of religion, and the due care of our souls, does consist.

1. In the distinct knowledge, and in the firm belief and persuasion of those things which are necessary to be known and believed by us in order to our eternal falva, tion.

2. In the frequent examination of our lives and actions, and in a fincere repentance for all the errors and miscarriages of them.

3. In the constant and daily exercise of piety and de, votion.

4. In avoiding those things which are pernicious to our salvation, and whereby men do often hazard their fouls.

5. In the even and constant practice of the several graces and virtues of a good life.

I. The due care of religion and our souls doth consist in the distinct knowledge, and in the firm belief and per: suasion of those things which are necessary to be known and believed by us in order to our eternal salvation.

For this knowledge of the necessary principles and duties of religion, is the foundation of all good practice, wherein the life of religion doth confift. And without this no man can be truly religious. Without faith (faith the Apostle to the Hebrews) it is impossible to please God: for he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek bim, Heb. xi. 6. Now, these two expressions of pleasing God, and seeking him, are plainly of the fame importance, and do both of them figoify religion, or the worship and service of God; which doth antecedently suppose our firm belief and persuasion of these two fundamental principles of all res ligion, That there is a God, and, That he will reward those that serve him: because, unless a man do first be


lieve these, there would neither be ground nor encouragement for any such thing as religion.

And this knowledge of the necessary principles of religion our blessed Saviour calls eternal life, because it is so fundamentally necessary in order to our attaining of it: This is life eternal, (says he), to know thee, the enly true God; and him whoin thou hast fent, Jesus Christ, Joho xvii. 3.; that is, to be rightly instructed in the knowledge of the only true God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Under which two general heads are comprehended all the necessary principles both of the natural and of the Christian religion.

And, to the attaining of this knowledge which is abfolutely necessary to falvation, no such extraordinary pains and study is required, but only a teachable disposition, and a due application of mind. For whatever in religion is necessary to be known by all, must in all reafon be plain and easy, and lie level to all capacities; 0therwise we must say, that God, who would have all men to be saved, hath not provided for the salvation of all men. And therefore, now that the knowledge of the true God and the light of Christianity are spread abroad in the world, all that enjoy the gospel are, or may be, futhiciently instructed in all things neceffary to their happiness : unless such care be used, as is in the church of Rome, to take away the key of knowledge, and to lock up the scriptures from the people in an unknown tongue ; and this, as they pretend, upon a very charitable confideration, only it is to be hoped that it is not true, that the generality of mankind are mad, and have need to be kept in the dark. ' But, fupposing men to be allowed those means of knowledge which God affords, and hath appointed for us, the great difficulty doth not commonly lie in mens understandings, but in their wills: only when men know these things, they must attend to them, and consider them, that the light which is in their understandings may warm their hearts, and have its due inAuence their lives.

II. The due care of our souls consists in the frequent examination of our lives and actions, and in a sincere repentance for all the errors and miscarriages of them; in a more particular and deep humiliation and repents



ance for deliberate and wilful fins, so far as we can call them to our remembrance; and in a general repentance for sins of ignorance, and infirmity, and iurprise : in the exercise whereof we are always to remember, that the nature of true repentance doth not consist only in an humble confession of our sins to God, and a hearty trouble and contrition for them; but chiefly in the stedfast purpose and resolution of a better life, and, in profecution of this resolution, in actual reformation and amende ment.

By the constant exercise hereof, we are put into a safe condition; provided that we persevere in this holy resolution and course. But if we still retain the love and praEtice of any known sin; or if, after we have taken up these good resolutions, we return again to an evil course, this is a clear evidence, either that our repentance was not fincere at first, or that we are relapsed into our former ftate : and then our souls are still in apparent danger of being lost, and will continue in that dangerous state, till we have renewed our repentance, and made it good in the following course of our lives.

III. The due care of our souls consists in the conftant and daily exercise of piety and devotion, both in private and in publick, if there be opportunity for it, especially at proper times, and upon more folemn occafions; by fervent prayer to God, and by hearing and reading the word of God with reverence and godly

fear; by frequenting his publick worship, and demeaning ourselves in it with that folemnity and seriousness which becomes the presence and service of the great and glorious majesty of God, who observes our behaviour, and sees into our hearts; and by receiving the blessed facrament, as often as we have opportunity, with due preparation and devotion of mind.

For these are not only outward testimonies of our inward piety, but thcy are means likewise appointed by God to improve and confirm us in holiness and goodness. And whoever neglects these duties of religion, or performs them in a flight and superficial manner, doth plainly shew, that he hath neither a due sense of God, nor care of himself: for in vain does any man pretend that he does in good earnest design the end, when he

neglects neglects the best and most proper means for the attain. ment of it.

IV. The due care of our souls confifts also in avoiding those things which are pernicious to our salvation, and whereby men do often hazard their souls. Such in general is the practice of any known sin. By this we do, as it were, run upon the sword's point, and do endanger our salvation as much as a deep wound in our body would do our life: and though such a wound may perhaps be cured afterwards by repentance; yet no man that commits any wilful fin, kiows the dismal consequence of it, and whither by degrees it may carry him at last: for, upon such a provocation, God


leave the finner to himself, and withdraw his grace from him, and give him up to a hard and impenitent heart, to proceed from evil to worse, and from one wickedness to another, till he be finally ruined. So dangerous a thing is it knowingly to offend God, and to commit any deliberate act of sin.

More particularly, an inordinate love of the world is very pernicious to the souls of men ; because it quencheth the heavenly life, and fills our minds with earthly cares and designs: it tempts men to forsake God and religion when their worldly interests come in competition with them; and betrays them to fraud, and fallhood, and all kind of injustice, and many other hurtful lufts which drown the foul in perdition.

But, besides these dangers which are more visible and apparent, there is another which is less discernible, because it hath the face of piety; and that is, faction in religion ; 'by which I mean an unpeaceable and uncharitable zeal about things wherein religion, either doth not at all, or but very little consist: for besides that this temper is utterly inconsistent with several of the most eminent Christian graces and virtues, as humility, love, peace, meekness, and forbearance towards those that differ from us; it hath likewise two very great mischiefs commonly attending upon it, and both of them pernicious to religion and the souls of men.

1. That it takes such men off from minding the more necessary and effential parts of religion. They are so zealous about finall things, the tithing of mint, and anise,


and cummin, that they neglect the weightier things of the law, faith, and mercy, and judgment, and the love of God. They spend so much of their time and heat about things doubtful, that they have no leisure to mind the things that are necessary; and are so concerned about little lpeculative opinions in religion, which they always call fundamental articles of faith, that the practice of religion is almost wholly neglected by them: and they are so taken up in spying out and censuring error and heresy in others, that they never think of curing those lusts, and vices, and passions, which do fo vilibly reign in themselves. Deluded people ! that do not consider, tant the greatest herefy in the world is a wicked life, lécule it is so directly and fundamentally opposite to the whole design of the Christian faith and religion; and that do not consider, that God will sooner forgive a man a huadred defects of his understanding, than one fault of his


2. Another great mischief which attends this temper, is, that men are very apt to interpret this zeal of their's against others, to be great piety in themselves, and as much as is necessary to bring them to heaven; and to think that they are very religious, because they keep a great ftir about maintaining the outworks of religion, when it is ready to be starved within; and that there needs no more to denominate them good Christians, but to be of such a party, and to be listed of such a church, which they always take for granted to be the only true one; and then zealously to hate, and uncharitably to censure all the rest of mankind.

How many are there in the world that think they have made very sure of heaven, not by the old plain way of leaving their fins, and reforming their lives, but by a more close and cunning way of carrying their vices along with them into another church, and calling themselves good catholicks, and all others hereticks? and that, having done this, they are in a fafe condition ? as if a mere name would admit a man into heaven, or as if there were any church in the world that had this fantastical privilege belonging to it, that a wicked man might be saved, for no other reason, but because he is of it. Therefore, as thou valuest thy foul, take heed of enVol.ll.



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