The causes of the Senselesnesse, Silence, and Stupidity of the Consciences of most Men.
BUt you will say, If God hath left these principles in us, How comes it a∣bout that in many men they are asleep? Do not all Men almost runne into those sins which the Law of Nature forbids? How is it that Men swear; lye, commit whoredomes, and do injustice, if they have such a School-master within to teach them? Who would not say by the lives of most men, That these are overwhelmed and quite buried? and if it were among Heathens, it were no great wonder; but that it should be amongst Christians, is the great amazement: For they have not onely this Natural light inbred in them, but supernatural light also revealed unto them. So that for men under the Gospell, to become so sottish and senselesse about what is good, and what is sin, is beyond all expression intollerable.
The grounds of this senselesnesse and stupifaction of Conscience may be these.
First, Ill education, and long continued custome in evill, for these things be∣come * a second nature quickly; and the first Nature is obliterated as it were. Men that live constantly by great Noyses, they regard them not; but strangers are much disquieted with them: So what men have been brought up in; they saw nothing but wickednesse and prophannesse in their parents lives, and in the families where they were taught; this takes away the horror of sinne: They see their Ancestours, and learned men, and great men, they have made no matter of Godlinesse, but sinned as they pleased; this roots out all aw of sinne in the Conscience: Some Heathens banished out all Poets, and Comedies, and Tragoedies upon this ground, because their Gods were brought in, doing some wickednesse or other: Now they well argu∣ed, That men would be much more hardened in their impieties, when they had their Gods for a pattern.
And thus it is here, Children, for the most part, and servants, they have no other God then their Parents or Masters; and if they observe them to drink, and swear, and be naught, they immediately conclude, they may do it also: so that if you ask, How is it that so many men live without any sense of a God, or Conscience about sinne, enquire into their Education; ask how they Page 340 have been brought up: Did not their Parents, their Ancestors, did not their Fa∣milies they lived in abound in sin; and then without Gods miraculous grace upon them, they cannot come to be of another judgement: and this is the reason, Why the Scripture doth so often call upon Parents to teach their Children the fear of God, and to bring them up in his knowledge; for if that be neglected, those na∣turall sparks of honesty will quickly be put out. And much like to Education is Cu∣stome, men habituated in evill wayes are past all feeling presently. Those who at first had some checks of Conscience, and akings of heart, when once plunged into sinne, they fear nothing, they feel nothing, they apprehend neither heaven or hell; but as the Salt water of the Sea when it hath over-flowed the Banks, and covered some grounds, leaveth such a saltish, brackish disposition in the ground, that it can never be got out again, or return to its former nature. Thus Custome in any pro∣phane way takes away all sense and feeling, so far, that they never come to that ingenuity and tendernesse of conscience which once they had. How is it that once thou daredst not omit prayer, private, or in family? That once thou couldest not give way to unchast company? Thou couldest not endure the company of ungodly men: But now these things are never any trouble to thee; they are no torment to thee. This is a custome, this is a prophane use upon thy spirit: Oh then put out the sparks of fire before it be kind∣led; stop the leak at first, before the ship be filled with water; resist the principles of sinne: Of all sorts of people we have least hope of doing good unto them, who are setled in a sinfull way; that can sinne without fear, or any regret of Conscience: For these men have not that foundation in them, which we should work upon: For our preaching doth good to those who set Conscience a work, that let Natural light close with what is delivered.