The XVI. Serm.
2 Pet. III. 3.
THat we may take our rise luckily, and set out [ D] with the best advantage, that we may make our Preface to clear our passage to our future dis∣course, and so spend no part of our precious time unprofitably, we will by way of introdu∣ction examine what is here meant 1. by scoffers, 2. by walking after their own lusts. And first, scoffers here do not signifie those whom confi∣dence joyn'd to a good natural wit, hath taught to give and play [ E] upon every man they meet with, which in a moderate use is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, facetiousness, in an immoderate scurrility. But scoffers here are of a more special stamp, those who deal out their scoffs only on God and Religion.* The word in the original signifies to mock, to abuse, and that either in words, and then 'tis rendred scoffing, or in our actions, when we promise any man to perform a business, and then deceive his expectation, and then 'tis rendred deluding. So Matth. ii. 16.* when Herod saw he was mocked, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that he [ F] was deluded by the magicians. So that in the first primitive sense, scoffers must signifie those who either laugh at God, or else delude him in not performing what he expects, and they by their profession promised. In the secondary notion, to scoff, is by way of argument to oppose any truth contumeliously or bitterly, as Solomon begins Page 245 [ A] his discourse of the Atheists scoffs,*Wisd. ii. 1. The ungodly said rea∣soning with themselves, and these are said to set their mouth against Heaven, managing disputes, which have both sting and poyson in them; the first to wound and overthrow the truth spoken of, the other to infect the auditors with a contrary opinion. And these ra∣tional scoffs, for which Socrates antiently was very famous, are ordinarily in form of question, as in the Psalmist often, Where is now their God? i. e. Certainly if they had a God he would be seen at [ B] time of need, he would now shew himself in their distress. In which they do not only laugh at the Israelites for being such fools as to worship him that will not relieve them, but implicitely argue, that indeed there is no such God as they pretend to worship. And just in this manner were the scoffers in my Text, who did not only laugh, but argue, saying, Where is the promise of his coming? verse 4.* perswading themselves, and labouring to prove to others, that what is spoken of Christs second coming to judgment was [ C] but a meer dream, a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a bugbear, or fable to keep men in awe, and therefore laugh at it, as the Athenians did at the resur∣rection, Acts xvii. 32. and when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, &c. i. e. disputed sarcastically and con∣tumeliously against it, that certainly there was no such matter. And thus also is the same word used of those which joyned their rea∣son and malice to disprove Christs omnipotence, Matth. xxvii. 42. where they reviled and mocked him, saying, He saved others, [ D] himself he cannot save. In which speech the bitterest part of the scoff was the reason there used, plausible enough amongst ignorant Jews, that surely if he had any power, he would make use of it for himself.
Thirdly, to scoff is sometimes without words or actions to shew a contempt or neglect of any body. So Herods mocking of Christ, is set as an expression that he did not think him worthy talking with, Luke xxiii. 11. He set him at nought, and mockt him, [ E] and sent him back to Pilate, he would not vouchsafe to take notice of him, nor to be troubled with the examination of so poor contemp∣tible a fellow.* And so in Aristotle, not to know a mans name, not to have taken so much notice of him, as to remember what to call him, is reckoned the greatest neglect, the unkindest scoff in the world, and is ordinarily taken very tenderly by any one who hath deserved any thing at our hands. So that in brief (to gather up what we have hitherto scatter'd) the scoffers here meant, are [ F] those, who promising themselves to Gods service, do delude him when he looks to find them amongst his servants, i. e. remain er∣rand Atheists under a Christian profession, who by letting loose either their wits to prophane jests, or their reason to heathenish con∣ceits and disputings, or their actions to all manner of disobedience, demonstrate that indeed they care not for God, they scarce re∣member Page 246 his name,*Neither is he in all their thoughts, Psalm. x. 4. [ A]
In the next place, walking af•er their own lusts, is giving them∣selves liberty to follow all the directions of corrupt polluted na∣ture, in entertaining all conceits and practises which the pride of their understadings and rankness of their affections shall propose to them in opposition to God. And this without any reluctancy or twinge of conscience, walking on as securely and confidently, as if it were indeed the right high-way.
So that now you have seen the outside of the Text, and lookt it [ B] over in the gross, 'tis time to survey it more particularly in its parts, and those are two: 1. The sin of Atheism, and the subjects in which it shews it self, There shall come in the last dayes scoffers. 2. The motive and impellent to this sin, a liberty which men give themselves, to walk after their own lusts. And first of Atheism, and the subjects in whom it shews its self, In the, &c. Where you may note that the words being in a form of a prophecy, do note a sort of people which were to come in respect of St. Peter, who writes it. [ C] And though in its first aspect it refer to the period of the Jewish Na∣tion, and destruction of Jerusalem; takes in the parallel state of things under the last age, and dotage, and declination of the world. Accordingly we see at the 24. of St. Matthew, the prophe∣cy of both, as it were interwoven and twisted into each other; so that what St. Peter saith shall be, we may justly suspect is fulfilled amongst us, his future being now turned into a present, his prophecy into a story. In the Apostles times, when Christianity was in the [ D] cradle, and wanted years and strength to move, and shew it self in the world, there were but very few that would acknowledge it, many sects of Philosophers, who peremptorily resolved themselves against this profession, joyn'd issue with the Apostles in assiduous disputation, as we may find in the 17. of the Acts. Amongst those the Epicureans did plainly deny that there was any God that governed the world, and laught at any proof that Moses and the Prophets could afford for their conviction. And here a man might [ E] think that his prophecy was fulfilled in his own dayes, and that he needed not to look beyond that present age for store of scoffers. Yet so it is, that the infidelity which he foresaw should in those last ages reign confidently in the world, was represented to him in a larger size and uglier shape, then that of the present Philosophers. The Epicurean unbelief seem'd nothing to him, being compared to this Christian Atheism, where men under the vizard of religion and profession of piety, are in heart arrant Heathens, and in their fairest [ F] carriages do indeed but scoff, and delude, and abuse the very God they worship. Whence the note is, that the profession of Christiani∣ty is mixed with an infinite deal of Atheism, and that in some de∣gree above the Heathenism of the perversest Philosophers. There were in St. Peters time Epicureans, and all sects of scoffers at Chri∣stianity, Page 247 [ A] and yet the scoffers indeed, the highest degree of Atheism was but yet a heaving; it would not rise and shew it self till the last daie.
'Tis worth observing what variety of stratagems the Devil hath alwaies had, to keep us in defiance with God, and to nourish in us that hostility and enmity against Heaven, which is so deep and predominant in himself. He first set them a work to rebel and fortifie themselves against God, and make themselves by building [ B] of a Tower so impregnable, that God himself could not be able to disperse them. Gen. xi. 4. Afterwards, when by the punishment and defeating of that design, the world was sufficiently instru∣cted, that no arm of flesh, no bodily strength could make resist∣ance against Heaven; when the body could hold out in rebellion no longer, he then instructs the inward man, the soul to make its approaches, and challenge Heaven. Now the soul of man consist∣ing of two faculties, the Understanding and the Will, he first deals [ C] with the Understanding, and sets that up against God in many monstrous fashions; first, in deluding it to all manner of Idola∣trous worship, in making it adore the Sun, the Moon, and the whole Host of Heaven, which was a more generous kind of Ido∣latry. Afterwards, in making them worship Dogs and Cats, O∣nions and Garlick, for so did the Egyptians; and this was a more sottish stupid affection, a man would wonder how the Devil could make them such fools. Afterward he wrought still up∣on [ D] their understanding, in making them (under pretence of two laudable qualities, admiration and gratitude, admiration of any kind of vertue, and gratitude for any good turn) to deifie and wor∣ship as gods any men which had ever done, either their Nation, or private persons any important good or favour. So that every Heros or noble, famous man, as soon as he was dead was worshipt. 'Twere long to shew you the variety of shifts in this kind, which the Devil used to bring in the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of the Gentiles, i. e. their [ E] worshipping of many Gods. In brief, this plot lasted thus till Christianity came into the world, and turn'd it out of doors, and at Christs Resurrection all the gods of the Heathen expired. How∣ever the Devil still stuck close to that faculty of the soul, which he had been so long acquainted with, I mean the understanding, and seeing through the whole world almost the Doctrine of Christ had so possest men, that he could not hope to bring in his Heathen gods again, he therefore hath one design more on the understand∣ing: [ F] seeing 'tis resolved to believe Christ in spight of heathen∣ism; he then puzzles it with many doubts about this very Christ it is so possest with. He raises up in the first ages of the Church variety of Heresies concerning the union of his natures, equality of his person with the Father, and the like: and rung as many changes in mens opinions as the matter of faith was capable Page 248 of. There was no truth almost in Christianity, but had its Here∣tick [ A] to contradict and damn it. Now since at last, reason and truth, and the power of Scripture having out-lived in a good degree fun∣damental error in opinion, hath almost expuls'd the Devil out of the head, or upper part of the soul, the Understanding, his last plot is on the heel, i. e. the Will and Affections; and that he hath bruised terribly,* according to that prophecy, Gen. iii. 15. He deals mainly on our manners, and strives to make them, if it be possible, sinful beyond capability of mercy. And this design hath [ B] thrived with him wonderfully: he hath wrought more opposition against God, more heresie against Christ in our lives, then ever he was able to do in our doctrine. In a Kingdom, where the custom of the Country and education hath planted purity of faith in the understanding, he there labours to supplant and eradicate charity and devotion in the will; and crucifies Christ more confidently in our corrupt heathenish practises, then ever the Jews did in their incredulity. And on this plot he hath stuck close, and insisted a [ C] long while, it being the last and most dangerous stratagem that the policy of Hell can furnish him with, to corrupt, and curse, and make abominable a sincere belief by an Atheistical conversation. And this doth prove in general, that 'tis the Devils aim, and from thence probably the Christians curse, to have more hostility against God in our Wills, and so to be more horrible Atheists, then ever the Heathen had in their Understandings. Now that we may the more distinctly discover the Christian Atheist, who is very ortho∣dox [ D] in his opinion, very heretical in his practice; we will ob∣serve how every part of his life, every piece of his conversation doth directly contradict his doctrine, and pluck down, and de∣face the very fabrick of godliness, expunge those very notions of piety, which Reason and Scripture hath erected in the soul. And first,
He is in his knowledge sufficiently Catechiz'd in the knowledge of Scripture, and is confident that all its dictates are to be believ'd, [ E] and commands practis'd. But if you look to find this assent con∣firmed by his practice, and exprest in his carriage, you are much mistaken in the business. Is he such a fool as to order his life ac∣cording to the rigour of them? No, no doubt, 'tis not one mans work to believe the Scripture and obey it. Suppose I should tell you, that there are but a few of you that read Scripture to that purpose, that observe any edict of piety or virtue, only because the Scripture hath commanded it. There be many restraints that [ F] keep unregenerate men from sinning, a good disposition, religious education, common custom of the place or times where we live, human laws, and the like; and each or all of these may curb our forwardness, and keep us in some order. But who is there amongst us, that being tempted with a fair, lovely, amiable vice, which Page 249 [ A] he may commit without any regret of his good nature, scandal to his former carriages, fear or danger of punishment, either future or present, or any other inconvenience. Who is there, I say, that from the meer awe and respect that he bears to Scripture, retires and calls himself off from that sin which he had otherwise faln in∣to? If I should see all manner of conveniences to sin in one scale, and the bare authority of the Scriptures in the other quite out-weighing all them with its heaviness, I should then hope that our [ B] hearts were catechiz'd as well as our brains in the acknowledg∣ment of this truth, that Scripture is to be believed and obeyed. But I much fear me, if I should make an enquiry in every one of our hearts here single, the greatest part of the Jury would bring in an evidence of guilt, that in any our most entire obediences some other respect casts the scales: and this is one piece of direct Atheism, that though our Understandings affirm, yet our Will and affections deny that Scripture is for its own sake to be obeyed.
[ C] Secondly, Our brains are well enough advised in the truth of the doctrine of Gods Essence and Attributes, our Understandings have a distinct conceit of awe and reverence, to answer every notion we have of God; and yet here also our conversation hath its po∣stures of defiance, its scoffs and arts of reviling, as it were to de∣face and scrape out every of these notions out of our Wills, and to perswade both our selves and others, that that knowledge doth on∣ly * float in our brains, but hath no manner of weight to sink it [ D] deep into our hearts; to glance at one or two of these: we believe, or at least pretend to, we do so, the immensity, i. e. the ubiquity and omnipresence of God, that he indeed is every where, to fill, to see, to survey, to punish, and yet our lives do plainly proclaim, that in earnest we mean no such matter; we shut up our hearts against God, and either as the Gadarens did Christ, being weary of his pre∣sence, fairly entreat, or else directly banish him out of our coasts, because he hath been or is like to be the destruction of some Swine, [ E] i. e. beastial affections in us. And in sum, those bodies of ours, which he hath markt out for his Temples, we will scarce allow him for his Inn to lodge with us one night. Again, can we expect to be credited, when we say we believe the ubiquity and omnipre∣sence of God, and yet live and sin as confidently, as if we were out of his sight, or reach? Do we behave our selves in our out-ra∣ges, in our luxury, nay, even in our gravest devotions, as if God were within ken? Without all doubt in every minute almost of [ F] our lives we demonstrate that we doubt either of his omnipresence to see, or else his justice to punish us: for those very things which we dare not to venture on in the sight of an earthly Magistrate that may punish us, nay, of a spy that may complain of us, nay, of an enemy that will upbraid us, nay, of a friend that will check and admonish us; we never doubt, or demur, or delay to practise in Page 250 private, or the dark, where still God is present to oversee and [ A] punish. And if this be not a scoffing, a deluding, a meer con∣temning of God, to do that without any fear or regret in his sight, which we never offer to attempt before a man, nay, a friend, I know not what may be counted Atheism. In like manner, we ac∣knowledge God to be 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, all-sufficient; and if we should be examined in earnest, we would confess that there is no ability in any creature to bestow or provide any good thing for us: and yet our will here also hath its ways and arguments of contradiction. [ B] Our whole life is one continued confutation of this piece of our faith, our tremblings, our jealousies, our distrusts, our carefulness, our worldly providence, and importunate carking, our methods and stratagems of thrift and covetousness, and the whole business of our lives in wooing, and solliciting, and importuning every power of nature, every trade and art of the world, to succour, to assist and provide for us, are most egregious evidences that we put no trust or confidence in Gods all-sufficiency, but wholly depend and re∣ly [ C] upon the arm of flesh, both to raise and sustain us. This very one fashion of ours, in all our distresses, to fly to and call upon all manner of second causes, without any raising or elevating our eyes or thoughts toward God, from whom cometh our help, plainly shews that God still dwells abroad in tents: we have seen or heard of him, but have not yet brought him home into our hearts, there to possess, and rectifie, and instruct our wills, as well as our understandings. [ D]
Thirdly, The whole mystery of Christ articulately set down in our Creed we as punctually believe, and to make good our names, that we are Christians in earnest, we will challenge and defie the fire and fagot to perswade us out of it: and these are good resolu∣tions, if our practices did not give our faith the lye, and utterly renounce at the Church door whatsoever we profest in our pews. This very one thing, that he which is our Saviour, shall be our Judge, that he which was crucified, dead, and buried, sits now at the [ E] right hand of God, and from thence shall come to judge the world; this main part, yea, sum of our belief, we deny and bandy against all our lives long. If the story of Christ coming to judgment, set down in the xxv.* of Matthew after the 30. verse, had ever entred through the doors of our ears to the inward closets of our hearts, 'tis impossible but we should observe and practise that one single duty there required of us. Christ there as a Judge exacts and calls us to account for nothing in the world, but only works of mercy, and [ F] according to the satisfaction which we are able to give him in that one point, he either entertains or repels us; and therefore our care and negligence in this one business, will prove us either Chri∣stians or Infidels. But alas! 'tis too plain, that in our actions we never dream either of the judgment or the arraignment: our stu∣pid Page 251 [ A] neglect of this one duty, argues us not only unchristian but un∣natural. Besides our Alms-deeds, which concern only the outside of our neighbour, and are but a kind of worldly mercy, there are many more important, but cheaper works of mercy, as good coun∣sel, spiritual instructions, holy education of them that are come out of our loyns, or are committed to our care, seasonable reproof, according to that excellent place, Lev xix. 17.*Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart, but in any wise reprove him: a care of car∣rying [ B] our selves that we may not scandal, or injure, or offer vio∣lence to the soul and tender conscience of him that is flexible to follow us into any riot. These and many other works of mercy in the highest degree, as concerning the welfare of other mens souls, and the chief thing required of us at the day of judgment, are yet so out-dated in our thoughts, so utterly defaced, and blotted out in the whole course of our lives, that it seems we never expect that Christ in his Majesty as a Judge, whom we apprehend, and [ C] embrace, and hug in his humility as a Saviour. Beloved, till by some severe hand held over our lives, and particularly by the dai∣ly study and exercise of some work of mercy or other, we demon∣strate the sincerity of our belief, the Saints on Earth, and Angels in Heaven will shrewdly suspect, that we do only say over that part of our Creed, that we believe only that which is for our turn, the sufferings and satisfactions of Christ, which cost us nothing, but do not proceed to his office of a Judge, do not either fear his [ D] judgments, or desire to make our selves capable of his mercies. Briefly, whosoever neglects or takes no notice of this duty of exer∣cising works of mercy, whatsoever he brags of in his theory or specula∣tion, in his heart either denies or contemns Christ as Judge, and so destroys the sum of his Faith, and this is another kind of secret Atheism.
Fourthly, Our Creed leads us on to a belief and acknowledge∣ment of the Holy Ghost; and 'tis well we have all conn'd his name [ E] there, for otherwise I should much fear that it would be said of many nominal Christians, what is reported of the Ephesian Di∣sciples, Acts xix. 2.*They have not so much as heard whether there be an Holy Ghost or no. But not to suspect so much ignorance in any Christian, we will suppose indeed men to know whatsoever they profess, and enquire only whether our lives second our professi∣ons, or whether indeed they are meer Infidels, and Atheistical in this business concerning the Holy Ghost. How many of the ig∣norant sort which have learnt this name in their Catechism or Creed, have not yet any further use to put it to, but only to make up the number of the Trinity, have no special office to appoint for him, no special mercy, or gift, or ability to beg of him in the bu∣siness of their salvation, but mention him only for fashion sake, not that they ever think of preparing their bodies or souls to be Page 252Temples worthy to entertain him, not that they ever look after [ A] the earnest of the Spirit in their hearts,* 2 Cor. i. 22. Further yet, how many better learned amongst us do not yet in our lives ac∣knowledge him in that Epithet annext to his title, the Holy Ghost, i. e. not only eminently in himself holy, but causally, producing the same quality in us, from thence called the sanctifying and re∣newing Spirit? How do we for the most part fly from, and aban∣don, and resist, and so violently deny him, when he once appears to us in this Attribute? When he comes to sanctifie us, we are [ B] not patient of so much sowreness, so much humility, so much non-conformity with the world, as he begins to exact of us, we shake off many blessed motions of the Spirit, and keep our selves within garrison, as far as we can out of his reach, lest at any turn he should meet with, and we should be converted. Lastly, the most ordinary morally qualified tame Christians amongst us, who are not so violent as to profess open arms against this Spirit, how do they yet reject him out of all their thoughts? How seldom [ C] do many peaceable orderly men amongst us, ever observe their wants, or importune the assistance of this Spirit? In sum, 'twas a shrewd speech of the Fathers, which will cast many fair out-sides at the bar for Atheists, That the life of an unregenerate man is but the life of an Heathen,* and that 'tis our regeneration only that raises us up 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,* from being still meer Gentiles. He that believes in his Creed the person, nay, understands in the Schools the Attri∣butes and gifts of the Holy Ghost, and yet sees them only in the [ D] fountain, neither finds nor seeks for any effects of them in his own soul; he that is still unregenerate, and continues still gaping and yawning, stupid and senseless in this his condition, is still for all his Creed and learning in effect an Atheist. And the Lord of Heaven give him to see, and endeavours to work, and an heart to pray, and his Spirit to draw and force him out of this condition.
Fifthly, Not to cramp in every Article of our Creed into this Discourse, we will only insist on two more. We say therefore [ E] that we believe the forgiveness of sins, and 'tis a blessed confidence, that all the treasures in the world cannot equal. But do our selves keep equipage, and hand in hand accompany this profession? Let me catechize you a while. You believe the forgiveness of sins, but I hope not absolutely, that the sufferings of Christ shall effectually clear every mans score at the day of judgment: well then, it must be meant only of those that by repentance and faith are grafted into Christ, and shall appear at that great marriage in a [ F] wedding garment, which shall be acknowledged the livery and co∣lours of the Lamb. But do our lives ever stand to this explication, and restriction of the Article? Do they ever expect this beloved re∣mission by performing the condition of repentance? Do we ever go about to make our selves capable of receiving this mercy condi∣tionally Page 253 [ A] offer'd us? Nay, do we not by our wilful stupidity, and pertinacious continuing in sin, nullifie in respect of us all that satis∣faction of Christ, and utterly abandon those means which must bring home this remission to us? The truth is, our faith runs only on general terms, we are willing to lay all our sins on Christs shoulders, and perswade our selves somewhat slightly and coldly, that he will bear them in the root, and in the fruit, in the bullion, and in the coyn, in the gross, and in the retail, i. e. both our ori∣ginal [ B] and our actual transgressions: but we never take any course to rest satisfied, that we in particular shall participate of this hap∣piness. This requires the humiliation of the whole man, the spi∣rit of bondage for a while, afterwards a second purity and virgi∣nity of the soul recovered by repentance, and then a soberly ground∣ed faith and confidence, and an expressing of it by our own forgi∣ving of others. And till this piece of our Creed be thus explain∣ed and interpreted in our conversation, we remain but confident [ C] Atheists, not able to perswade any body that hears us that indeed we believe what we profess.
Sixthly and lastly, The resurrection of the body, and its consequent, everlasting life, is the close of our Faith, and end, and prop, and encouragement, and consummation of our hope; and yet we take most pains of all to prove our selves Infidels in this: our whole carriage, both in the choice and observance of our Religion shew that we do not depend on it, that we put no confidence in the re∣surrection. [ D] If we went on this assurance, we should contemn any worldly encouragement, and make the same thing both the ob∣ject and end of our service. We should scorn to take notice of so poor a thing as profit or convenience is in a matter of so high im∣portance, knowing and expecting that our reward shall be great in Heaven. This one thought of a resurrection, and an infinite reward of any faithful undertaking of ours, would make us dis∣dain, and almost be afraid of any temporal recompense for our [ E] worship of God, for fear it should by paying us before-hand de∣prive us of that everlasting one. We should catch and be ambiti∣ous of that expression of devotion, which were most painful and least profitable as to worldly advantage: and yet we in the stupidity of Atheistical hearts are so improvidently covetous, so hasty and impatient in our Religion, that unless some present gain allure and draw us, we have no manner of life, or spirit, or alacrity to this, as we count it, unprofitable service of God. The least incum∣brance [ F] in the world will fright us from the greatest forwardness, and nimbleness, and activity in Religion: and the least appearance of promotion, or other like encouragement, will produce and raise in us these affections and expressions of zeal, which the expectati∣on of the resurrection could never work in us. Our Religion is some∣what like that of the Samaritans before Christs time, either Jews or Page 254Heathens,* according as their King Antiochus would have them, af∣ter [ A] Christs time were perpetually either Jews or Christians, accord∣ing as the Romans, their new Lords and Masters either threatned, or granted priviledge to the Jews. If there were any thing to be gotten by the profession, they would be as solemn Christians as any. So when the Goths and Vandals over-run Italy, and (whether upon good affection or compulsion from God, I know not) spared them that fled to the Basilica in Rome, the place where the Chri∣stians exercised: then, I say, they which formerly persecuted [ B] the Christians, now bore them company very friendly to their Churches, and to save their lives fled to the Temple for a refuge, which before they abomin'd; and made use of Christianity for their safe-guard, which they would not own for their Religion, and hurried to that Sanctuary for their lives, which they would not visit for their Souls. The condition of our Religion is like that which is upbraided to Ephraim,* Hos. X. 11. Ephraim is like an Heifer that lo∣veth to tread out the Corn. 'Twas prohibited by the law to muzzle [ C] the Ox or Heifer that treadeth out the Corn; 'twas allowed them to feed as long as they did the work, and that made Ephraim love the toil so well, because that at the very time he performed the labour, he enjoy'd the fruit of it; had, as we say, his wages in his hand; had some present emolument that would ingratiate his work to him; was not left to such a tedious expectation, to so long a date as to wait for his reward till the resurrection: those were too hard terms for him, he could not endure to be ty'd so [ D] long up to the empty rack, or feed upon the bit. And thus hasty are we in the exacting of our reward for our service of God: we will never set our hands to it, unless we may make our conditi∣ons: we are resolved not to be such fools, as to serve God for nought, to spend the quickest of our spirits in a sowre crabbed profession, and expect our thanks at dooms-day. This plainly demonstrates, that however our theory be possest, our practice places no trust, no confidence, no assurance in that part of our Creed, the resurrection. [ E] Again, 'twas an excellent argument to perswade doubtful Chri∣stians in the youth and non-age of the Church, of the certainty of the resurrection, that religious men, and those whom undoubt∣edly God loved, were full of sufferings in this world, and lived and died many of them without any expression of Gods favour to them, which made them certainly to conclude, that no doubt God hath some other course to exhibit himself in the riches of his mercy to them; and seeing there was no hope but in another [ F] world, Verily there should be a reward for the righteous, doubtless there is a God that judgeth the Earth: and by this argument we may try our selves for the sincerity of our faith in this business. If we can be patient to endure afflictions here, and not complain or grumble for a respite and deliverance, but keep all our hopes to be accom∣plisht, Page 255 [ A] defer all our happiness to be performed to us at the re∣s•rrection, and though God kill us, yet trust in him, and be able to see through death, in a trust That our Redeemer lives, and that with these eyes we shall behold him, then may we chear up, and per∣swade our selves on good grounds, that our hearts and lives do assent to the resurrection,* which our tongues brag of: Take no hea∣viness to heart, but drive it away and remember the end. But if this consideration cannot digest the least oppression of this life, cannot [ B] give us patience for the lightest encumbrance, but for all our Creed we still fly out into all outrages of passion and extacies of impatience, we plainly betray our selves men of this present world, whose happiness or misery is only that which is tempora∣ry, and before our eyes, are not able by the perspective of faith to behold that which easily we might, all our wants relieved, all our injuries revenged, all our wounds bound up in the day of the resurrection: but all our life long we repine and grumble, and [ C] are discontented as men without hope; and whilst we do thus, what do we but act the part of these Atheists here in my Text, scoffing and saying, Where is the promise of his coming, in the next verse to my Text. This very impatience and want of skill in bearing the brunts of this our warfare, is but a piece of cowardly Atheism, either a denying or mocking at the resurrection. Every sigh is a scoff, every groan a gibe, every fear a sly art of laughing at the stupidity of those who depend upon the fulfilling of the promise [ D] of his coming. Lastly, say we what we will, we live as if there were no resurrection, as Sadduces, if not as Atheists; all our de∣signs look no further then this life, all our contrivances are de∣feated and frustrate in the grave; we manage our selves with so little understanding, that any spectator would judge by our acti∣ons, that 'tis no injury to compare us to the beasts that perish and ne∣ver return again. Certainly if we had any design upon Heaven or another life, we would here make some provision for it, Make [ E] our selves friends of our unrighteous Mammon, that when we fail, they may receive us into everlasting habitations, i. e. use those good things that God hath given us with some kind of providence, that they may stand us in stead when we have need of them, i. e. not only as instruments to sin (for that is to get us more enemies) but as har∣bingers to be sent before us to Heaven. 'Twas a bitter Sarcasm of the fool to the Abbot on his death-bed, that the Abbot deserved his staff, as being the verier fool of the two, that being straight [ F] to die, to remove his Tent to another world, he had sent none of his houshold-stuff before him. The truth is, we live generally as men that would be very angry, much displeased if any should perswade us there were a resurrection, the very mentioning of it to us might seem to upbraid our ordinary practices, which have nothing but the darkness of death, and silence of the grave to coun∣tenance Page 256 them. I may justly say, that many ignorant Heathens, [ A] which were confident there was nothing beyond this life, expect∣ed certainly with death to be annihilated, and turn again into a perpetual nothing, yet either for the awe they bore to vertue, or fear of disgrace after death, kept themselves more regularly, lived more carefully then many of us Christians. And this is an horrid accusation, that will lye very heavy upon us, that against so many illuminated understandings the ignorance of the Gentiles should rise up in judgment, and the learned Christian be found [ B] the most desperate Atheist. I have been too large upon so rigid a Doctrine as this, and I love, and pray God I may always have oc∣casion to come up to this place upon a more merciful Subject: but I told you even now out of Lev. xix. 17. that 'twas no small work of mercy, 'twas the most friendly office that could be performed any man, to reprehend, and as the Text saith, Not to suffer sin up∣on thy neighbour, especially so sly a covert lurking sin as this of Atheism, which few can discern in themselves. I shall now come [ C] to Application, which because the whole Doctrine spoke morally to your affections, and so in a manner prevented Uses, shall be only a recapitulation and brief knitting up of what hitherto hath been scattered at large.
Seeing that the Devils policy of deluding, and bewitching, and distorting our Understandings, either with variety of false gods, or heresies raised upon the true, is now almost clearly out-dated, and his skill is all bent to the deforming of the Will, and defacing the [ D] character of God, and the expression of the sincerity of our faith in our lives, we must deal with this enemy at his own weapon, learn to order our munition according to the assault, and fortifie that part most impregnably, toward which the tempest binds and threatens. There is not now so much danger to be feared from the inrode of Hereticks in opinion as in practice, not so much Atheism to be dreaded from the infidelity of our brains, as the Heathenism and Gentilism of our lusts, which even in the midst of a Christian [ E] profession deny God even to his face. And therefore our chiefest Frontiers and Fortifications must be set up before that part of the soul, our most careful Watch and Centinel placed upon our affe∣ctions, lest the Devil enter there and depopulate the whole Chri∣stian, and plant the Atheist in his room. To this purpose we must examine what seeds are already sown, what treachery is a working within, and no doubt most of us at the first cast of the eye shall find great store, unless we be partial to our selves, and bring [ F] in a verdict of mercy, and construe that weakness, which indeed signifies Atheism.
When upon examination we find our lives undermining our be∣lief, our practices denying the authority of Scripture, and no whit forwarder to any Christian duty upon its commands. When we Page 257 [ A] find Gods essence and Attributes reviled and scoffed at in our con∣versation, his omnipresence contemned by our confidence in sinning, and argued against by our banishing God out of all our thoughts, his all sufficiency doubted of by our distrusts, and our scorn to de∣pend upon it. When we perceive that our carriages do fall off at this part of our belief in Christ, that he shall come again to be our Judge, and by our neglect of those works especially of mercy, which he shall then require of us, shew that indeed we expect him [ B] not, or think of him as a Judge, but only as a Saviour. When we observe our Wills resisting the gifts, and falsifying the Attribute, whilst our Creed confesses the Person of the Holy Ghost, and see how little, how nothing of the sanctifying spirit, of the earnest of our re∣generation is in our hearts, and we still stupidly sensless of the want. When we believe forgiveness of sins, and that only upon condition of repentance, and yet abhor so much as to hear or think of the performing of it, or to make good that mercy to others which our [ C] selves challenge of God. Lastly, when we prove to our selves, and all the world beside, by our requiring of a pre∣sent reward for all our goodness, and ruling our Religion to our earthly profit, by our impatience of any affliction, by our heathenish neglect and stupidity, and riot, that we do not in earnest look for the resurrection to life. When, I say, by a just, but exact survey and inquest we find these so many degrees of secret Atheism in us, then must we shrift, and purge, and cleanse, and rinse our souls from these [ D] dregs of Heathenism; then must we humble our selves below the dust, and not dare to look the veriest Gentile in the face, 'till we have removed this plague from us. And do thou, O Lord, assist our endeavours, and by the violence of thy Spirit force and ravish us in our lives, as well as belief, to a sincere acknowledgment and expression of every minute part of that Religion which is purely Christian, that we may adore thee in our hearts as well as our brains, and being sancti∣fied throughout, from any tincture, or colour, or suspition of irreligion [ E] in either power of our souls, we may glorifie thee here, and be glorified by thee hereafter.
Now to him which hath elected us, hath, &c.