« AnteriorContinuar »
open, express denial of a God being all that is generally understood by it: whereas there is another sort of it, as criminal and provoking, if not more so, and that is the atheism mentioned in the text; men's professing that they know God, and believe that there is such a Being, and frequenting the places of his worship, but denying him in their works; and though they make an outward show of religion, in some public acts of it, and fair pretences to it; yet contradict all in their practice, being abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate ; that is, guilty of the most detestable vices, violating the divine commands, and void of all sense of, and inclination to, any thing that is virtuous and good.
This is practical atheism, whereby men do as effectually deny the being of a God, as if they had thought in their hearts, or spoke with their mouths, all that ever the most professed speculative atheist did against him; and consequently do as highly provoke him, and deserve as severe a punishment.
But this few people think of, though too many are involved in the guilt, and obnoxious to the demerit of it; and therefore it is highly needful to represent the heinousness and danger of this sort of atheism, that we may no longer, by our evil actions, give the lie to our religious profession; and by being abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate, deny that God and Saviour in whom we pretend to believe; and thereby bring down his vengeance upon our heads in this life, and in the next come into their portion for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for evera.
It is thought that those whom the apostle par
a Jude 13
ticularly designed in the text were the Gnostics, a vile sort of men, who, under pretence of extraordinary knowledge in the things of God and religion, indulged themselves in the foulest crimes, pleading Christian liberty for all they did ; and teaching, that a notional belief of some few things relating to God and Jesus Christ was sufficient, without a strict observance of the divine commands; and which notional belief too they might conceal, nay, and deny, when they were like to suffer for it in times of persecution.
This the apostle calls, deservedly, the doctrine of devils b, and by all means endeavours to destroy and root it out ; as that which was the bane of all religion, and more especially of that of Jesus Christ. And in this Epistle to Titus he charges him to oppose and silence those unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, as he styles them, ch. i. ver. 10, and to rebuke them sharply, ver. 13. For, notwithstanding , all their pretended knowledge and great light, their mind and conscience were defiled, ver. 15, and their religion would signify nothing: for, as in the text, though they professed that they knew God, and that more clearly than any body else, yet in works they denied him, being abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate.
In discoursing upon which words I shall,
I. First, shew that a bare, notional belief and verbal profession that there is a God will not excuse from the guilt of atheism, if our actions are not suitably holy and good; for those that profess they know God do in their works deny him, if they are
abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate. And,
II. Secondly, I shall shew that such practical atheism has rather more of guilt in it than the speculative and notional, and consequently deserves, and will certainly at length receive, a more heavy punishment.
I. And first, a bare, notional belief and verbal profession that there is a God will not excuse from the guilt of atheism, if our actions be not suitably holy and good; for so the apostle assures us in the text, that whatever our profession may be of believing a God, yet by our wicked works we deny him: that is, God will esteem a wicked life as a denial of him; and so will man likewise : nay, God knows it to be so, who sees the secret thoughts of the heart; and men will naturally conclude so, since the practice of such men is so directly contrary to what their profession requires of them, and would oblige them to, if it were sincere. For when men's lives are abominably corrupt and evil, at the same time that they pretend to believe there is a God, it is plain that, though for some politic reasons they may think fit to conceal their thoughts from the world, yet in their heart they say with the fool David mentions in Psalm liii. 1, There is no God.
Now, to make it evident that a wicked professor of religion is a practical atheist, and that an ill life, let the man pretend what he will, amounts to the denial of a God; we will briefly shew what a professed atheist is; and then see whether a wicked liver, though a great pretender to religion, will not reach his character.
By a professed atheist, we mean one that upon all occasions makes it his business to deny and disprove the existence of an eternal Being, that is infinitely wise and powerful, holy, just, and good, supreme to all other beings, and to whom they owe their original; by whom all things that are were made at first, and still preserved and governed according to his good pleasure. And therefore if it shall appear that he that is to every good work reprobate, and abominable in his doings, and disobedient to the commands of God, does by his wickedness as effectually, and to all intents and purposes, deny the existence of a Being of the before-mentioned attributes and perfections, as he that does so in his heart and words, it will follow that he ought to be accounted as much an atheist as the other; and consequently a bare, notional belief of a God, and verbal profession of such belief, will not excuse from the guilt of denying him, when our actions are not suitably pious and good.
First, then, the evil works of wicked men do, in effect, deny the supremacy of God, his being infinitely above all other beings, all other thrones, principalities, and powers, whether in heaven or earth; the King of kings and Lord of lords ; and to whom of right they are all subject, and are bound to pay, in all things, submission and obedience.
The apostle tells us, that his servants we are to whom we obey' And our great Master says, Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I commanda? And without all question, dutiful obedience is the best acknowledgment of dominion and a right to govern; and stubborn, wilful unruliness the plainest and worst way of denying it. And c Rom. vi. 16.
d Luke vi. 46.
though outward obedience may be forced, and so not an infallible indication of a man's really owning, and willingly submitting to the authority that commands it, yet obstinate disobedience is always a sure sign of the contrary.
What prince would believe him to be a good and loyal subject, let him bespeak him with never so much honour and respect, and pay homage to him never so often, and swear fidelity to him with all seeming willingness, whenever he is required to do so; let him acknowledge never so many excellencies in him, and always treat him with the profoundest outward veneration; what prince, notwithstanding all this, would think him a good subject, who upon all occasions is ready to rise against, oppose, and resist him, violate his laws, dispute and disobey his orders and commands, and with the same breath that he gave him his sovereign titles blow the trumpet of rebellion ? Would he not rather declare and treat him as a vile traitor and enemy to himself and his government ?
And so it is in religion : let a man profess with never so much seeming zeal and sincerity that he believes there is a supreme divine Being, of infinite excellency and perfection, who is the fountain of being, the great and good Creator both of heaven and earth, and all that is therein; and therefore has full and unlimited dominion over every thing that he has made, and an uncontestable right to dispose and govern all, according to his will and pleasure: and let him back this his specious, fair profession with never so many expressions of outward adoration and worship ; let him frequent the courts of God's house never so often, and there, with the