תמונות בעמוד
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

midst of their torments, and under the very pangs of death, rejoice in the hope of the glory of God

There are none of us but may happen to fall into those circumstances of danger, and of bodily pains and sufferings, as to have no hopes of relief and comfort. but from God; none in all the world to trust to but him only: and in the greatest evils that can befal us in this life, he is a sure refuge and sanctuary; and, to repeat the words of the Psalmist after the text, when our heart fails, and our strength

fails, God is the strength of our hearts, and our portion for ever.

Now, what would any of us do in such a case, if it were not for God? Human nature is liable to desperate straits and exigencies; and he is not happy who is not provided against the worst that may happen. It is sad to be reduced to such a condition, as to be destitute of all comfort and hope; and yet men may be brought to that extremity, that, if it were not for God, they would not know which way to turn themselves, or how to entertain their thoughts with any comfortable consideration under their present anguish.

All men naturally resort to God in extremity, and cry out to him for help. Even the most profane and Atheistical, when they are destitute of all other comfort, will run to God, and take hold of him, and cling about him. But God hath no pleasure in fools ; in those who neglect and despise him in their prosperity, though they owe that also entirely to him : but when the evil day comes, then they lay hold of him as their only refuge. When all things go well with them, God is not in all their thoughts; but in their affliction they will seek him early : then they will cry, Lord, Lord; but he will say to them in that day, Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity, for I know you not,

Here will be the great unhappiness of such persons, that God will then appear terrible to them, so as they shall not be able, when they look up to him, to abide his frowns; and at the same time that they are forced to acknowledge him, and to fupplicate to him for mercy and forgiveness, they shall be ready to despair of it. Then those terrible threatenings of God's word will come to their minds, Prov. i. 24, 25. &c. Because!


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

called, and ye refused; I stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye fet at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as de folation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me : for that they hated knowledge, and did not chuse the fear of the Lord. They would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof Therefore Thall they eat the fruit of their own ways, and be filled with their own devices. The ease of the simple shalt slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. To which I will add that terrible passage in the Prophet, concerning the perverse and obstinate Jews, If.xxvii. 11. They are a people of no understanding ; therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will jnew them no favour. And men are miferable creatures indeed, when God their maker doth abandon them, and hath so far hardened his heart against them, that he can have no pity and compassion for them.

VII. and lastly, which is consequent upon all the rest, God is fuch a good as can give perfect rest and tranquillity to our minds : and that which cannot do this, though it had all the properties before mentioned, cannot make us happy; for he is not happy who does not think himfelf so, whatever cause he may have to think so. Now, what in reason can give us disquiet, if we do firmly believe, that there is a God, and that his providence rules and governs all things for the best ; and that God is all that to good men which hath now been said of him. Why should not our minds be in perfect repose, when we are secure of the chief good, and have found out that which can make as happy, and is willing to make us so, if we be not wanting to ourselves, and, by our wilful obstinacy and rebellion against him, do not oppose and frustrate his design?

If a considerate man were permitted to his own choice, to wish the greatest good to himself that he could possibly devise, after he had searched heaven and earth, the re. sult of all his wilhes would be, that there were just fuch being as we must necessarily conceive God to be : nor


[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

would he chuse any other friend or benefactor, any' 0 ther protector for himself or governor for the whole world, than infinite power, conducted and managed by infinite wisdom and goodness; which is the true notion of a God. After all his inquiry, he would come to the Psalmist's conclufion here in the text, Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I deo fire besides thee.

Vain man is apt to seek for happiness elsewhere; but this proceeds from want of due consideration : for when all things are well weighed, and all accounts rightly cast up and adjusted, we shall at last settle in David's resoluon of that great question, Psal. iv. 6. 7. 8. What is the chief good of man? There be many (says he) that say, Who will Mew us any good? That is, Men are generally inquisitive after happiness, but greatly divided in their opinions about it. Most men place it in the present enjoyments of this world ; but David, for his part, pitches upon God, in whom he was fully convinced, that the happiness of man doeś consist: There be many that say, who will thew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us,

Thou hali put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and wine increased. The great joy of the men of this world is in a plentiful harvest, and the abundance of the good things of this life; but David had found that which gave more joy and gladness to his heart, the favour of God, and the light of his countenance. This gave perfect rest and tranquillity to his mind, so that he needed not to inquire any further; for so it follows in the next words, I will both lay me down in peace, and rest: for thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in Safety. The Hebrew word fignifies confidence or security. Here, and no where else, his mind found rest, and was in perfect ease and security.

I shall now only make two or three inferences from this discourse, and fo conclude.

1. This plainly fhews us the great unreafonableness and folly of Atheism, which would banish the belief of God and his providence out of the world: which, as it is most impious in respect of God, fo is it most malicious to men; because it strikes at the very foundation of


our happiness, and perfectly undermines it. For if there were no God, man would evidently be the most unhappy of all other beings here below; because his unhappiness would be laid in the very frame of his nature, in that which distinguishes him from all other beings below him, I mean in his reason and understanding; and he would be so much more miserable than the beasts, by how much he hath a farther reach, and a larger prospect of future evils ; a quicker apprehension, and a deeper and more lasting resentment of them.

So that if any man could see reason to stagger his belief of a God, or of his providence, as I am sure there is infinite reason to the contrary; yet the belief of these things is so much for the interest, and comfort, and happiness of mankind, that a wise man would be heartily troubled to part with a principle fo favourable to his quiet, and that does so exactly answer all the natural desires, and hopes, and fears of men, and is so equally calculated, both for our comfort in this world, and for our happiness in the other. For when a man's thoughts have ranged and wandered as far as they can, his mind can find no rest, no probable foundation of happiness, but God only; no other reasonable, no nor tolerable hypothesis and scheme of things for a wise man to rely upon, and to live and die by: for no other principle but this, firmly believed and truly lived up to by an anfwerable practice, was ever able to support the generality of mankind, and to minister true consolation to them under the calamities of life, and the pangs of death.

And if there were not something real in the principles of religion, it is impossible that they should have so remarkable and so regular an effect to support our minds in every condition, upon so great a number of persons of different degrees of understanding, of all ranks and conditions, young

and old, learned and unlearned, in so -many distant places, and in all ages of the world, the records whereof are come down to us; I say so real, and so frequent, and so regular an effect as this is, cannot, with any colour of reason, be ascribed either to blind chance, or mere imagination, but must have a real, and regular, and uniform cause, proportionable to so great and general an effect.


[ocr errors]

I remember that Grotius, in his excellent book of the truth of the Christian religion, hath this observation, That God did not intend that the principles of religion should have the utmost evidence that any thing is capable of, and such as is sufficient to answer and bear down all forts of captious cavils and objections against it; but so much as is abundantly sufficient to satisfy a sober and impartial inquirer after truth ; one that hath no other interest but to find out truth, and when he hath found it, to yield to it: if it were otherwise, and the principles of religion were as glaring and evident as the sun shining at noonday, as there could hardly be any virtue in such a faith, so infidelity would be next to an impossibility.

All that I would expect from any man that shall say that he cannot see sufficient reason to believe the being and the providence of God, is this, that he would offer fome other principles ; that he would advance any other hypothesis, and scheme of things, that is more agreeable to the common and natural notions of men, and to all appearances of things in the world; and that does bid more fairly for the comfort and happiness of mankind, than these principles of the being of a God, and of his watchful providence over the children of men, do plainly do: and till this be clearly done, the principles of religion, which have generally been received by mankind, and have obtained in the world in all ages, cannot fairły be discarded, and ought not to be disturbed, and put out of possession. And this I think puts this whole matter upon a very fair and reasonable issue ; and that nothing more needs to be faid concerning it.

2. From what hath been said in the foregoing discourse, it naturally follows, that God is the only object of our trust and confidence; and therefore to him alone, and to no other, we ought to address all our prayers and fupplications for mercy and grace to help in time of need. But now, according to the doctrine and practice of the church of Rome, the Psalmist here puts a very odd and Arange question, Whoin have I in heaven but thee?. To which they must give a quite different answer from what the Pfalmist plainly intended, namely, That God was the sole objeět of his hope and trust, and that upon him alone he relied as his only comfort and happiness. But VOL. II.



« הקודםהמשך »