A sermon preached before the Honourable House of Commons at Westminster, March 31, 1647 by R. Cudworth ...
Cudworth, Ralph, 1617-1688.
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To THE HONOURABLE House of COMMONS.

THe Scope of this Sermon, which not long since exercised your Patience (Worthy Sena∣tours) was not to contend for this or that Opinion; but onely to perswade men to the Life of Christ, as the Pith and Kernel of all Religion. Without Which, I may boldly say, all the severall Forms of Religion in the World, though we please our selves never so much in them, are but so many severall Dreams. And those many Opini∣ons about Religion, that are every where so ea∣gerly Page  [unnumbered] contended for on all sides, where This doth not lie at the Bottome, are but so many Shadows fighting with one another: so that I may well say, of the true Christian, that is indeed possessed of the Life of Christianity, in opposition to all those that are but lightly tinctured with the Opinions of it, in the language of the Poet,

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Wherefore I could not think any thing else, either more Necessary for Christians in generall, or more Seasonable at this time, then to stirre them up to the reall Establishment of the Righteous∣nesse of God in their hearts, and that Participation of the Divine Nature, which the Apostle speaketh of. That so they might not content themselves, with mere Phancies and Conceits of Christ, without the Spirit of Christ really dwelling in them, and Christ him∣self inwardly formed in their hearts. Nor satis∣fie themselves, with the mere holding of right and Orthodox Opinions, as they conceive; whilest they are utterly devoid within of that Divine Life, which Christ came to kindle in mens Souls; and therefore are so apt to spend all their zeal upon a violent obtruding of their own Opinions and Ap∣prehensions upon others, which cannot give enter∣tainment Page  [unnumbered] to them: which, besides its repugnancy to the Doctrine and Example of Christ himself, is like to be the Bellows, that will blow a perpetuall Fire of Discord and Contention, in Christian Com∣monwealths: whilest in the mean time, these hun∣gry, and starved Opinions, devoure all the Life and Substance of Religion, as the Lean Kine, in Pharaohs Dream, did eat up the Fat. Nor last∣ly, Please themselves, onely in the violent Oppo∣sing of other mens Superstitions, according to the Genious of the present times; without substituting in the room of them, an inward Principle of Spi∣rit, and Life, in their own Souls: for I fear many of us that pull down Idols in Churches, may set them up in our Hearts; and whilest we quarrel with Painted Glasse, make no scruple at all, of entertaining many soul Lusts in our Souls, and committing continuall Idolatry with them.

This in generall, was the Designe of this follow∣ing Discourse, which you were pleased (Noble Senatours) not onely to expresse your good Accep∣tance of; but also to give a Reall Signification of your great undeserved Favour to the Authour of it. Who therefore cannot, but as the least Expression of his Thankfulnesse, humbly devote it to you; pre∣senting where again to your Eye, in the same Form, Page  [unnumbered] in which it was delivered to your Eare. Desirous of nothing more, then that it might be some way usefull to You, to kindle in you, the Life and Heat of that, which is endeavoured here, to be described upon Pa∣per: that you may expresse it, both in your private Conservations, and likewise in all your Publick Em∣ploiments for the Common-wealth. That you may, by your kindly Influence, effectually encourage all Goodnesse: and by vertue of your Power and Au∣thority (to use the Phrase of Solomon) scatter away all evil with your eye, as the Sun by his Beams scattereth the Mists and Vapours. That from you, Judgement may runne down like Waters, and Righteousnesse like a mighty Stream, to refresh this whole Land, that thirsteth after them. Which, whilest You distribute them plen∣tifully to others, will bestow, both Strength and Ho∣nour to Your selves. For Iustice and Righteous∣nesse are the Establishment of every Throne, of all Civil Power, and Authority; and if these should once forsake it, though there be Lions to support it, it could not stand long. These, together with a good Peace, well setled in a Common-wealth, are all the outward Felicity we can expect, till that happy Time come, which the Prophet fore∣telleth, and is therefore more then a Platonicall Page  [unnumbered] Idea; When, the Wolf shall dwell with the Lamb, and the Leopard shall lie down with the Kid; and the Calfe, and the young Lion, and the Fatling together, and a little Child lead them: When, the sucking Child shall play on the hole of the Aspe, and the weaned Child shall put his hand on the Cockatrice den: When, they shall not hurt nor destroy in all Gods holy Mountaine; for the Earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

I have but one Word more, if You please to give me leave; That after your Care for the Advance∣ment of Religion, and the Publick Good of the Common-wealth, You would think it worthy of You, to promote Ingenuous Learning, and cast a Fa∣vourable Influence upon it. I mean not, that onely, which furnisheth the Pulpit, which you seem to be very regardfull of; but that which is more remote from such Popular use, in the severall kinds of it, which yet are all of them, both very subservient to Religion, and usefull to the Common-wealth. There is indeed a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 as the Philoso∣pher tells us, a Bastardly kind of Literature, and a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 as the Apostle instructeth us, a knowledge falsely so called; which Page  [unnumbered] deserve not to be pleaded for. But the Noble and Generous Improvement of our Understanding Faculty, in the true Contemplation of the Wisdome, Goodnesse, and other Attributes of God, in this great Fabrick of the Universe, cannot easily be di∣smanaged, without a Blemish cast upon the Maker of it. Doubtlesse, we may as well enjoy, that which God hath communicated of himself to the Cre∣atures, by this Larger faculty of our Under∣standings, as by those narrow and low faculties of our Senses; and yet no body counts it to be unlaw∣full, to hear a Lesson plaied upon the Lute or to smell at a Rose. And these raised Improvements of our Naturall understandings, may be as well subservient and subordinate, to a Divine Light in our Minds, as the Naturall use of these outward Creatures here below, to the Life of God in our Hearts. Nay, all true knowledge, doth of it self naturally tend to God, who is the Fountain of it: and would ever be raising of our souls up, upon its wings Thither, did not we 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉de∣tain it, and hold it down, in unrighteousnesse, •• the Apostle speaketh. All Philosophy to a Wise man, to a truly sanctified Mind, as he in Plutarch speaketh, is but 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉Mat∣ter for Divinity to work upon. Religion is the Page  [unnumbered] Queen of all those inward Endowments of the Soul, and all pure Naturall knowledge, all virgin and underflowred Arts & Sciences are her Handmaids, that rise up and call her Blessed. I need not tell you, how much the skill of Toungues and Languages, besides the excellent use of all Phi∣lology in generall, conduceth to the right under∣standing of the Letter of Sacred Writings, on which the spiritual Notions must be built; for none can possibly be ignorant of that, which have but once heard of a Translation of the Bible. The Apo∣stle exhorteth Private Christians, to whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any vertue, if there be any praise, to think on those things; and therefore it may well become you, (Noble Gen∣tlemen) in your Publick Spheare, to encourage so Noble a Thing as Knowledge is, which will re∣flect so much Lustre and Honour back again upon your selves. That God would direct you in all your Counsels, and still blesse you and prosper you, in all your sincere Endeavours, for the Publick Good, is the hearty Prayer of

Your Most humble Servant, RALPH CUDWORTH.