The XVII. Serm.
2 Pet. III. 3.
IT is an excellent observation of Aristotles, that rich men are naturally most contumelious, most gi∣ven to abuse and deride others,* which he ex∣presses thus, in the seventh of his Pol.〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. The contentment which they en∣joy in the continuance of their worldly happi∣ness, [ E] the perpetual rest, and quiet, and tranqui∣lity, which their plenty bestows on them, makes them contemn and despise the estate of any other man in the world. Upon this con∣ceit saith the same Aristotle, (〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,) that their happi∣ness is elevated infinitely above the ordinary pitch; that whatever contentments any other sort of people can glory or delight in, is but some imaginary, slight, poor happiness that men are fain to solace themselves withal, to keep them from melancholy, all far enough [ F] below the size of their felicity, which all agreeable circumstances have conspired to make exactly complete. Hence it is that you shall ordinarily observe the rich man, in this confidence of his opi∣nion, that no man is happy but himself, either contemn or pity the poverty, and improvidence, and perhaps the sottishness of such Page 259 [ A] spirits, that can rejoyce or boast in the possession of wisdom, know∣ledge, nay even of Gods graces; no object is more ridiculous in his eye, then either a Scholar or a Christian, that knows not the value of riches: for saith Aristotle,*〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Money is reckoned the price of all things else, that which can easily purchase what∣ever else we can stand in need of; and therefore the rich man if he could think Learning and Religion worth any thing, having his [ B] money by him (which is in effect every thing) thinks he can call for them when he pleases. In the mean, he hath more wit then to forsake his pleasures, and go to school to the Stoick, to divest him∣self of his robes, and put on the sowerness, the rigid, sad beha∣viour which the profession of Wisdom or Christianity requires. He is better pleased in his present pomp, then to go and woo that mi∣sery and ruggedness, which the severity of discipline looks for. Let silly beggars boast of the contents of Wisdom or hopes of Hea∣ven, [ C] at mihi plaudo domi, his coffers at home are better compani∣ons then all the melancholy of books, or sullen solaces of the spi∣rit. He hath learnt by experience, that he ought to pity and con∣temn these fictions of delight which the Poets fetch from the fortu∣nate islands to delude, and cozen, and comfort beggars: his glory, and pride, and riches, are happiness indeed, and whatever else the poverty of the world can boast of, are objects not of his envy but his scorn.
[ D] What we have hitherto noted to you concerning the rich man is applyable on the same grounds to any fort of people which have fixt upon any worldly content, and resolved upon some one object, beside which they will never value or prize any thing. Thus the Epicure or voluptuous man, who hath set up his Idol lust, to whom he owes all his sacrifice, and from whom he expects all his good fortune, that hath fixt his Pillars, and cast his Anchor, and is per∣emptorily constant in his course, that he is resolved for ever to [ E] walk in. This man I say, being possest with an opinion of the hap∣piness which he is placed in, like the Sun in his pride, rejoyces to run his course, and scorns any contrary motion that he meets or hears of, and only observes the wayes of vertue, and religion, to hate and laugh at them: and the farther he walks, the deeper he is engaged in this humor of self-content, and contempt of others, of security, and scoffing. For this is the force and implicite argument, covert∣ly contained in the close of these words, There shall come in the last [ F] dayes, scoffers, &c. i. e. this resolution to walk on in their own lusts, hath brought them to this pitch of Atheism, to scoff and deride both God and Goodness. There shall, &c.
We have heretofore divided these words, and in them obser∣ved and handled already the sin of Atheism, together with the sub∣jects in which it works, Christians of the last times, noted from Page 260 this prophetick speech, There shall come in the last dayes scoffers. We [ A] now come to the second particular, the motive, or impellent to this sin, a liberty which men give themselves, and a content which they take to walk after their own lusts.
The second chapter of the Wisdom of Solomon, is an excellent de∣scription of the Atheist: and though it be of Apocryphal authority, yet 'tis of most divine Canonical truth. I could find in my heart, nay, I can scarce hold from reading, and paraphrasing the whole chapter to you: 'tis so solid, so strong, so perfect a discourse [ B] upon this theme, it contains so many strains of Atheistical reason, in opposition to godliness, and the root, and growth, and ma∣turity of this tree of knowledge, and death, that the clear under∣standing of that one place might suffice without any enlargement of proofs or expressions. But for brevity sake, and on promise that you will at your leisure survey it, I will omit to insist on it: only in the end of the 21. verse, after all the expressions of their Athe∣istical counsels, you have the reason, or motive, or first worker of [ C] all, For their own wickedness hath blinded them: their stupid perse∣verance in those dark wayes, in that black Tophet on earth, habitu∣ate custom of sinning, had so thickned their sight, had drawn such a film over their eyes, that in the judgment of divine affairs, they were stark blind: they could see nothing in all the mystery of godliness which was worth embracing: and therefore had no em∣ployment, but to walk on after their own lusts, and to scoff at those that were so foolishly friendly to them, as to call them out of their [ D] way: they were well enough acquainted with their own paths, they could walk them blindfold, and therefore had more wit then for∣sake the road for a nearer by-way. The issue of all is this, that a voluptuous course of life is a great promoter and advancer of Atheism: there had never been so many scoffers in the Christian world, had there not been also those that were resolute to walk after their own lusts.
In the first verse of the Psalms, there be steps, and rounds, and [ E] gradations of a sinner specified, 1. Walking in the counsel of the un∣godly, 2. Standing in the way of sinners, 3. Sitting in the seat of the scorner. The two first being degrees in his motion, several stages of his journey to this 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, or top pitch of sinning in the last. Walking in the counsel of the ungodly is the first entrance to his course: and he that hath such a rise as this, hath a great advan∣tage of all other sinners; he will perform his race with speed, and come suddenly to his goal. This deliberate walking in the wayes, [ F] and with the companions and contrivers of ungodliness, this par∣taking and prosecuting of the counsels, the enjoying this familia∣rity with sin, proves a strong engagement to continue and perse∣vere, and delight in its acquaintance. Yet because walking is a laborious motion, and will tire the sinner in time, he is fain to Page 261 [ A] betake himself to an easier posture, and that is standing in the way of sinners, continuing in a still, sober, quiet, stupid tranqil∣lity of sinning, standing like a Mercury's post in the midst of a rode, never removed or stirred an inch, though never so justled by the passengers. Let all the contrary vertues never so thwart and cross him, he hath fixed his station, and neither force, nor allurements shall make him move. Yet because standing also is a painful po∣sture, with which the valiantest legs will at last be nummed, if not [ B] tyred, he hath in the last place his chair of ease and state, and here he sets up his rest, here he sins with as much Majesty as de∣light. 1. In cathedrâ, as a feat of greatness, lording it, and sin∣ning imperiously, commanding every spectator to follow his exam∣ple of scoffing at God and goodness. 2. In cathedrâ, as a seat of authority, sinning doctorally, and magisterially, by his practise de∣fining the lawfulness of these scoffs, even setting up a school of Atheism. And 3. in cathedrâ, as a seat of rest, and ease, and plea∣sure, [ C] which he is resolved never to rise out of, which he hath re∣posed himself in, that he may laugh at ease, and without any pains or trouble, or charges blaspheme God for ever. And for the most part indeed he proves as bad as his resolution, having once given himself this licence of laughing at and deriding Religion, he seldom ever recovers himself to a sober countenance, like men whose cu∣stom of scoffing hath made wry-mouthed, he lives and continues, and for the most part dyes scoffing. He comes as it were laughing [ D] into hell, and seldom forsakes this habit of prophaneness, till hor∣ror hath put smiling out of date. There is not a sin in the world that sits closer to him which hath once entertained it, and he that is once a merry Atheist, seldom, if ever proves a sad sober Chri∣stian. He is seated in his chair of scorning, and contemns the mercy of that spirit that should take him out of it. Thus you see, that walking in the steps, and standing in the way, i. e. following the commands of their own lusts, they are soon arrived to the [ E] pitch of Atheists, to the chair of scorners, and then there is but little preferment more that they are capable of, unless they will strive with Lucifer for preeminence in hell, or else challenge Rab∣shakeh to rail, or Julian to blaspheme. But this is the highest de∣gree of scoffers, and I hope the devil hath but few such valiant, bold, forward Champions in the world, since Julian or Lucian's time. And therefore I hope I have prickt no mans conscience here, whilst I have spoke of them: but I have formerly proved, [ F] that there be some lower, tamer, secret degrees of Atheism, which every man may chance to spy in some angle or corner of his soul, some implicite artificial wayes of scoffing, or aba∣sing God, which most of us are guilty of: and 'twill be wor∣thy our pains to shew how these seeds are warmed, and cherished, and animated by a licentious life.*Hippocrates observes of the Page 262Scythians that they do not swathe themselves, nor bind in their loins [ A] with any kind of girdle, but go with their bodies very loose, that they may ride the easier, which is the only exercise they use: and from hence, saith he, they grow so corpulent and fleshy, so bread and bulky, that they are both ugly and unweildy, an eye-sore to others, and cumbersome to themselves: those accessions which in other people extend themselves proportionably in length, and breadth, in height as well as bulk, in them grow all into thick∣ness: so that you shall see a Pygme in stature, as big as a Gyant in [ B] the girt. Thus is it with those whose affections are not ruled, and restrained in order, and within limits, are not swathed and kept in, have not some set terms of temperance, and other vertues, be∣yond which they suffer not themselves to fly out. If I say, these affections within us be by the owners left ungirt to their own free∣dom, they will never grow upward toward Heaven: they will still be dwarfish, of small growth in Religion: but yet like those Scythians, they will run into a strange bulk and corpulence, into [ C] some unweildy mishapen forms of Atheisin, or the like. Cer∣tainly they will grow into a greater breadth then the reasonable soul will be able to manage: unless the spirit vouchsafe to come down and contract, and call it into bounds, it will encrease be∣yond all proportion, beyond all acknowledgment of God or Re∣ligion. We are used to say in nature, that all moist things are apt to be conteined in other terms, but hardly in their own: the water is easily cooped up in a glass or bucket, where there are [ D] bounderies to keep it in, but being let loose on a table or a floor, it flyes about and never stayes again till it meet with some Ocean, or hollow place which may inclose, and bestow the consistency on it which it has not of it self. Thus may you see a river whilst it is kept within the channel, go on in its stream and course very soberly and orderly, but when it hath over-swelled the banks which before kept it in, then doth it run about the pastures, scorns to be kept within any compass. Thus is it with the soul of man, [ E] if it be ordered within terms and bounds, if it have a strict hand held over it, if it be curb'd and brought to its postures, if it have reason and grace, and a careful tutor to order it, you shall find it as tame a creature as you need deal with: it will never straggle or stray beyond the confines which the spirit hath set it; the rea∣son is, because though it be in it self fluid, and moist, and ready to run about like water, yet Deus firmavit Aquas, God hath made a firmament betwixt the waters,* as he did, Gen. i. 7. i. e. he hath [ F] establisht it, and given it a consistency, that it should not flow or pour it self out beyond its place. But if this soul of man be left to its own nature, to its own fluid, wild, incontinent condition, it presently runs out into an Ocean, never stayes, or considers, or con∣sults, but rushes head-long into all inordinacy, having neither the Page 263 [ A] reins of reason nor God to keep it in, it never thinks of either of them, and unless by chance or by Gods mercy it fall into their hands, 'tis likely to run riot for ever. Being once let loose it ran∣ges, as if there were neither power on earth to quell, nor in Hea∣ven to punish it. Thus do you see how fluid, how inconstant the soul is of its own accord, how prone it is, how naturally inclined to run over like a stream over the banks, and if it be not swathed, and kept in, if it be left to the licentious condition of it self, how [ B] ready is it to contemn both Reason and God, and run head-long in∣to Atheism. Nay we need not speak so mercifully of it, this very licentiousness is the actual renouncing of Religion, this very walk∣ing after their own lusts, is not only a motive to this sin of scoffing, but the very sin it self.
A false Conception in the womb is only a rude, confused, ugly Chaos, a meer lump of flesh, of no kind of figure or resemblance, gives only disappointment, danger, and torment to the Mother. [ C] 'Tis the soul at its entrance which defines, and trims, and polishes into a body, that gives it eyes, and ears, and legs, and hands, which before it had not distinctly and severally, but only rudely altoge∣ther with that mass or lump. Thus is it with the Man, till Religi∣on hath entred into him as a soul to inform, and fashion him, as long as he lives thus at large, having no terms, or bounds, or limits to his actions, having no form, or figure, or certain motion defined him, he is a Mola, a meer lump of man, an arrant Atheist: you [ D] cannot discern any features or lineaments of a Christian in him; he hath neither eyes to see, nor ears to hear, nor hands to practise any duty that belongs to his peace. Only 'tis Religion must take him up, must smooth and dress him over, and according to its Etymon, must religare, swathe and bind up this loose piece of flesh, must animate and inform him, must reduce him to some set form of Christianity, or else he is likely after a long and fruitless travel to appear a deformed monstrous Atheist. But not to deal a∣ny [ E] longer upon Simile's, lest we seem to confound and perplex a truth by explaining it, I told you the licentious voluptuous life was it self perfect Heathenism. For can you imagine a man to be any but a Gentile, who hath abandoned all love, all awe, all fear, all care of God (any one of which would much contract and draw him into compass) who hath utterly put off every garb of a Christian, who hath enjoy'd the reins so long, that now he is not sensible, or at least contemns the curb or snaff•le if he be but [ F] check't with it, gets it in his teeth and runs away with it more fierce∣ly. The Heathen are noted not so much that they worshipt no God at all, but that they worshipped so many, and none of them the true. Every great friend they had, every delight and pleasure, e∣very thing that was worth praying for, straight proved their God, and had its special Temple erected for its Worship. So that do but Page 264 imagine one of them every day worshipping every God whom he [ A] acknowledged, in its several Oratory, spending his whole life, and that too little too, in running from one Temple to another, and you have described our licentious man posting on perpetually to his sensual devotions, worshipping, adoring, and sacrificing every mi∣nute of his life, to some Idol-vanity, and bestowing as much pains and charges in his prophane heathenish pleasures, as ever the Gen∣tiles did on their false gods, or the most supererogating Papist on their true.[ B]
We are wont to say in Divinity,* and that without an Hyperbole, that every commission of sin is a kind of Idolatry, an incurvation, and bending down of the soul to some creature, which should al∣wayes be erect, looking up to Heaven, from whence it was infused, like water naturally inclined to climb and ascend as high as the fountain, or head from whence it sprang. And then certainly a licentious life is a perpetual Idolatry, a supineness, and proneness, and incurvation of the soul to somewhat that deserves to be called [ C] an Idol, i. e. either in St. Pauls acceptation of it, nothing (an Idol is nothing,* 1 Cor. viii. 4.) or else in the most honourable signi∣fication, only an Image, or some rude likeness or representation of God. We are the Image of God our selves, and whatsoever is below us, is but an imperfect draught of him, containing some lineaments, some confused resemblances of his power which crea∣ted them, have no being of their own, but only as shadows which the light doth cast. And therefore every love, every bowe, every [ D] cringe which we make to any creature, is the wooing and wor∣shipping of an Image at best, in plain terms of an Idol, nothing. What degree then of Idolatry have they attained to, who every mi∣nute of their lives bow down and worship, make it their trade and calling for ever to be a solliciting some pleasure or other? Some exquisite piece of sensuality to bless and make them happy, which have no other shrines to set up, but only to their own lust, to which they do so crouch, and creep, and crawl, that they are never able to [ E] stand up right again: like those trees which the Papists talk of, which by bowing to our Ladies house, when in walks by the wood toward Loretto, have ever since stood stooping. Thus do you see how the latter part of my Text hath overtook the former: the walking after his own lusts, becomes a scoffer, the licentious man pro∣ceeded Atheist, and that with ease, his very voluptuous life is a kind of Atheism, and the reasons of this are obvious, you need not seek or search far for them.[ F]
For first, this walking in their own lusts, notes an habit gathered out of many acts: he hath walked there a long while, and there∣fore now hath the skill of it, walks on confidently, and carelesly without any rub or thought of stopping. And contrary to this the worship of God, of which Atheism is a privation, is an Page 265 [ A] holy, religious habit of Piety and Obedience. Now we know two contrary habits cannot consist or be together in the same sub∣ject. An habit and its opposite privation are incompetible, light, and darkness at the same time, though they may seem to meet some∣times, as in twilight: but for two opposite positive habits, never any mans conceit was so bold or phantastical as to joyn them: you cannot imagine one, but you must remove the other. You may suppose a man distempered or weak, which is a privation of health, [ B] and yet suppose him pretty healthy, as long as his natural strength is able to overcome it; but can you suppose a man in a violent feaver actually upon him, and yet still imagine him in perfect health? Thus is it with a sinner, who hath given himself over to the tyranny, and impotency of his lusts, he hath utterly put off all degrees, all sparks of any habit of Religion, according to that of our Saviour, You cannot serve God and Mammon, where Mam∣mon signifying in a vast extent the god of this World, imports all [ C] lusts, all earthly vanities, which any habituate sinner deifies.
Secondly, Every habit notes a delight, an acquiescence, and joy in enjoying of that which through many actions, perhaps some brunts and rubs he hath at last arrived to. Now this delight and contentation, that is may be compleat, is impatient of any other incumbrance, which at any time may come in to interrupt or dis∣order it. If any thing so happen, 'tis never quiet, till it have re∣moved it. The Scholar that hath all his life laboured, and at last [ D] attained to some habit of knowledge, and then resolves to enjoy the happiness and fruits of learning, in the quiet and rest of a per∣petual contemplation, is impatient if any piece of ignorance cross or thwart him in his walk, he'l to his books again, and never rest till he hath overcome and turned it out. Thus doth the sensual man being come to the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and pitch, and enter'd into the Pa∣radise of his worldly joys, if he do but meet with any jar, if he feel any pluck or twinge from his conscience, any grudge or com∣punction [ E] of the spirit within him, any spark or heat, or warmth of religious fear in his breast, he'l never rest till he hath aban∣dored it, he is impatient of such a qualm of godliness, he must needs put it over, he is sick at heart till he hath disgorged himself of this choler, and then returns securely godless to his walk, having banished God out of all his thoughts. Thus shall you see the Atheist on his humor, for want of some compunction at hone, grumble at every godly man or action which they saw in [ F] the street.* In the 2. of Wisdom at the 14. He is grievous unto us to b••old, he was made to reprove our thoughts; and they do not return to their content, they are not pleased again till they have gotten him into their inquisition, to examine him with despitefulness and torture, ver. 19. Thus do they abhor and stifle, and strangle every godly action in others, or motion in themselves, because Page 266 the holiness of the one is an exprobration to their prophaneness, [ A] and the other was a pang of conscience, made as it were on purpose by God to reprove their thoughts.
Thirdly, This walking in the Text, though it be with some mo∣tion, yet it is a slow one, a kind of walking in ones sleep, or that of a melancholy man, that can walk till he be wet through, and not mark that it rained. I say, it notes here an heavy, drowsie, unactive habit exprest by the Psalmist by sitting in a chair, as we shewed you: it notes a kind of churlish resoluteness, to walk [ B] on whatever come in his way; he is grown even a passive to his lusts, he doth not so much act as suffer them, he walks on snorting in his road, do what you can, you shall neither turn nor wake him. Now this slow, drowsie, unactive habit begets a kind of numbness in him, a sluggish, sullen stupidity over all his faculties, that even a spur or goad cannot rouze him; all the pores as it were and passages, and entries to the soul are so stopped, and bung'd up, all his affections are grown so gross and brawny, so hardned [ C] and incrassate, that no air or breath from Heaven can pierce it. He that tells him of Religion, or God, or Vertue, is as he that wa∣keth one from a sound sleep: he that telleth such a fool a tale of Wis∣dom, speaketh to one in a slumber, and when he hath told his tale, he will say, What is the matter? Ecclus. xxii. 8. Thus do you see, 1. The repugnance and inconsistence of a voluptuous life and Religion, 2. The delight, 3. The stupidity of this habit. Each of which have made a place for the Libertine, and set him in the [ D] chair of the scorner. And all this while me thinks I have but talkt to your ears: Now that your hearts and affections may par∣take of the sound, that the softer waxy part of you, may receive some impression from this discourse, let us close all with an Application.
And first from the guilt and dangerous condition of a licentious life, to labour by all means possible to keep out of it. He that is once engaged in it, goes on with a great deal of content, and in the midst of his pleasures on the one side, and carnal security on [ E] the other, his Understanding, and Will, and Senses are lull'd into a lethargy, nay the very phancy in him is asleep, which in other sleeps is most active: he never imagines, never dreams of any fear, or danger, either God, or Devil. O what a lamentable woful estate is it to be thus sick beyond a sense of our disease, to be so near a spiritual death, and not so much as feel our weakness! Oh what an horrid thing it were to pass away in such a sleep, and never observe our selves near death, till Satan hath arrested beyond [ F] bail, to sleep on and snort, as men without dread or danger, ill the torments of Hell should awake us! You cannot imagine how easie a thing it is for an habituate sinner to fall into the Devils pavs, before he thinks of it, as a melancholy man walking in the dark may be drowned in a pit, and no man hear him complain that he is faln.
Page 267 [ A] Again, We are wont to say that custom is another nature, and those things which we have brought our selves up to, we can as ill put off, as our constitution, or disposition. Now those things which spring from the nature of any thing, are inseparable from the subject; banish them as oft as you will, usque recurrent, they will return again as to their home, they cannot subsist any where else, they dwell there. So wallowing in the mire being a condition natural to the Swine, can never be extorted from them: wash [ B] them, rinse them, purge them with Hyssop, as soon as ever they meet with mire again, they will into it. Their swinish nature hath such an influence on them, that all care or art cannot forbid, or hinder this effect of it. So that a customary sinner, who hath as it were made lust a part of his nature, hath incorporated pro∣phaneness, and grafted it into his affections, can as hardly be rid of it, as a subject of his property; 'tis possible for fear, or want of opportunity sometime to keep him in, and make him ab∣stain: [ C] the load-stone may lye quiet, whilst no iron is within ken, or it may be held by force in its presence; but give it materials and leave to work, and it draws incontinently. So for all his tempo∣rary forbearance, upon some either policy or necessity, the ha∣bituate sinner hath not yet given over his habit. Leave him to him∣self, give him room and opportunity, and he will hold no longer. If he be once advanced to this pitch of sin to be walking after his own lusts, he may possibly be driven back with a storm, or thunder: [ D] but he will hardly give over his walk, he'l forward again as soon as ever the tempest is over. Nay farther, even when he wants objects and opportunities, he will yet shew his condition, he will betray the desire and good affection he bears to his old lusts; his discourse or fashions argue him incontinently bent, even when he is at the stanchest. As Aristotle observes of the fearful man, that even when no formidable object is near, he falls into many frights: so the voluptuous mans phancy is perpetually possest with [ E] the meditation of his own ways, when some disease or necessity will not let him walk. In brief, unless this second nature be quite taken out of him, and another holy spiritual nature created in its room, unless a stronger come and bind this Devil and dispossess him of it, he hath small hopes of getting himself out of his domi∣nion, and tyranny: there is a great deal more stir in the convert∣ing of one customary sinner, then of a thousand others, 'tis not to be accomplished without a kind of death, and resurrection, with∣out [ F] a new Creation of another nature. So that (if we should judge of Gods actions by our own) the Spirit should seem to be put to more pains and trouble with this one habituate, then in the ordinary business of converting many a tamer sinner. This is enough by the desperateness of the cure to move you to study some art, some physick of prevention, lest when it is grown upon you, Page 268 it be too late to enquire for remedies. How should we dare to [ A] entertain and naturalize such an evil spirit within us, which if ever he be ravisht out of us again, cannot without tearing, and torturing, and rending even our whole nature in pieces? If we must needs be sinful, yet let us keep within a moderation, let us not so follow the Devils works, as to transubstantiate our selves into his nature; let us not put off our manhood with our integrity, and though we cannot be Saints, let us keep our selves men? 'Tis a degree of innocence not to be extreamly wicked, and a piece [ B] of godliness not to be Atheists. Our lust is an infinite thing, said a Philosopher,(〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Iambl.) and he that walks after it hath an endless journey: there is no hope that he that hath so far to go, will ever have leisure to sit still. And therefore I say if we must needs sin, yet let us not engage our selves to sin for ever: if our being men lays a necessity of sinning on us, let our care to stay whilst it is possible for us, prove that we do not sin like Devils, whose sin is their glory, and their resolution peremp∣tory, [ C] never to give over sinning; and so may ours seem, and in all likelihood prove to be, if we give our selves liberty to walk after our own lusts.
Secondly, If our lusts be such dangerous paths to walk in, and this in that very respect as they are our own in opposition to Gods commands, if they are the straight direct way to Atheism, nay Atheism it self: then what care and circumspection is required at every setting down of our feet, at every entrance on any acti∣on, [ D] lest there be a Serpent in the way, some piece of prophane∣ness in every enterprize we enter on of our selves? How ought we to fear, to suspect, and balk any way that is our own? For where it is Atheism to walk, there surely 'tis a sin to tread: and where we have once ventured to tread, we shall be shrewdly tempted to walk; every step we have safely taken being an encou∣ragement to a second. Verebar omnia opera mea, saith Job, I feared all my works: whatever action I could entitle my self to, me∣thought [ E] there was some danger in it, I was afraid it was not right as it should be, I should never be able to justifie it. This is an excellent trial of all our serious deliberate actions, to mark whe∣ther they are our own or no, whether we went about them on our own heads, without our warrant or directions from God: if we did, 'tis much to be doubted there is some poyson, some guilt in them, something that deserves to be feared, and fled from. This very suspecting of our own ways, will alien us from our own [ F] lusts, will bend us nearer to God, and never suffer us to dare to venture where he hath not secured us; will joyn us as it were in an engine to God himself, where the lower wheels never begin to move without the example and government of the higher. If you can but perswade your self to fear your own ways, 'twill be Page 269 [ A] a good stop of your progress to Atheism. I am confident the De∣vil will never get you to walk in your own lusts.
Thirdly, If walking in our own lusts be direct Atheism, what shall we think of them who make it a piece of Religion, and holy policy to do so? Beloved, there be some learned Catechised Atheists, who upon confidence of an absolute eternal predestination of every man in the world that shall ever possibly be saved, set up their rest there, and expect what God will do with them. 'Tis to no pur∣pose [ B] to hope God will alter the decree, they are resolved to leave all to God, and if they perish, they perish. Mark with me, is not this a religious Atheism to attribute so much to God as to be∣come careless of him, so to depend as never to think on him, and by granting his decree in our understanding, to deny his God∣head in our conversation? He that lives negligently on confi∣dence that his care may be spared, that if there be any salvation for him, God will work it out without his fear or trembling: he [ C] that believes Gods election so absolute, that himself hath nothing to do in the business, whilst he expects mercy, makes himself uncapa∣ble of it, and though he acknowledge a resurrection, lives as though he looked to be annihilated. Certainly he that expects God should send him a fruitful harvest, will himself manure the ground; he that hopes, will labour, according to that, 1 Joh. iii. 3. He that hath this hope in him purifies himself, &c. So that whosoever relyes on God for salvation, and in the midst of his hopes stands idle, [ D] and walks after his own lusts, by his very actions confutes his thoughts, and will not in a manner suffer God to have elected him, by going on in such reprobate courses.
Lastly, If it be this confident walking after our own lusts, which is here the expression of Atheism, then here's a comfort for some fearful sinners, who finding themselves not yet taken up quite from a licentious life, suspect, and would be in danger to de∣spair of themselves as Atheists. 'Tis a blessed tenderness to feel [ E] every sin in our selves at the greatest advantage; to aggravate and represent it to our conscience in the horridst shape, but there is a care also to be had, that we give not our selves over as despe∣rate; Cain ly'd when he said his sin was greater then could be ei∣ther born or forgiven. When the Physicians have given one over, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,*nature hath its spring and plunge, and some∣times quits and overcomes the disease. If thou art in this dangerous walk, and strivest and heavest, and canst not get out of it, yet [ F] sorrow not as one without hope: this very regret and reluctan∣cy, this striving and plunging is a good symptome. If thou wilt continue with a good courage, and set thy self to it to the pur∣pose, be confident thou shalt overcome the difficulty. If this sin be a walking, then every stop is a cessation, every check a de∣gree to integrity, every godly thought or desire a pawn from God Page 270 that he will give thee strength to victory: and if thou do but nou∣rish [ A] and cherish every such reluctancy, every such gracious mo∣tion in thy self, thou maist with courage expect a gracious calm deliverance out of these storms and tempests. And let us all labour, and endeavour, and pray that we may be loosed from these toyls and gins, and engagements of our own lusts, and being entred into a more religious severe Course here, then the Atheism of our ways would counsel us to, we may obtain the end, and rest, and consummation, and reward of our Course here∣after. [ B]
Now to him which hath elected us, &c.