Imágenes de páginas

of God, their heavenly Father, and 'fell under the hard Bondage of strange Deities: v They were Apostates from Him who had

a Right to their Obedience, and Slaves to those who had no Dominion over them: When they received the Gospel, it was not putting themselves under cta new Master, but returning to their old one, and yielding that Obedience which was always due, though' never paid before. Since therefore by Faith in the Gospel of Christ we become the Servants of the living God, and are once more entered into his Family, it is easy to ap-, prehend the Reason why the Apostle in the Text charges an unbelieving Heart with Apostacy from the living God: For, if Christian Faith be the Principle by which we are united to the living God, whatever destroys this Principle does at the same time dissolve the Union; and we cannot make , Shipwreck of the Faith without departing si from God. An unbelieving Heart therefore, that is, an Heart void of Christian Faith, is guilty of Apostasy.

But you may ask perhaps, May not the Heart poffibly depart from God through the Solicitations of Vice and Pleasure, and Faith at the same time stand sound and uncorrupted? And there is this Ground for

i putting

putting the Wstion, That we see many Men ct'who are buried in Wickedness, whose Life is but one continued Scene of guilty Enjoyments, who sacrifice their Honour, their Faith, and their Religion, to Lust, Covetousncss, or Intemperance 3 who yet profess to believe all the Doctrines of the Gospel, and do really believe them, for ought that any _ Man knows to the contrary. But, when I reflect upon the express Declarations of the Gospel, That e'very one 'who helieveth shall he fiz'ved, That all the Mrhers of Iniquity shall he destroyed; if these Characters can subfist together, if the same Person at the same Time may be both a Believer and a Worker of Iniquity, there is a greater Contradiction in the Gospel, than any that has yet been pre

., tended by its keenest Enemies.

How mUst we then account for this Difficulty P The true Answer, think, is, That the Difficulty arises from confounding and blending together Ideas which are perfectly distinct, from not separating between Faith considered as a Principle of Knowledge, and as a Principle of Religion. In common Life we know many. Things upon the Evidence of Faith: Such are the Things which we receive upon the Authority of historical EVi-'z dence, or upon the Report and Testimony of

. C c_ credible

credible Witnesses: And such Influence has this Principle of Knowledge in the World, that there is hardly any thing of Consequence that is not determined by it. There is no': a Trial that affects either our Lives or our Fortunes, the Issue of which does not depend upon this Principle of Knowledge, the judge and the Jury not being supposed to have the Evidence of their own Senses of the Facts which come under their Determination. I mention this to put it out of dispute that Faith is one of the Sources or Principles of our Knowledge. Now mere speculative Knowledge has nothing in it of moral Good or Evil : A Man is not better or worse for - what he knows, till he cornes to act, or to be influenced to Action by his Knowledge. Bare Knowledge therefore is nothing a-kin to

Religion; for Religion is not one of those >

very indifferent Things, which has neither Good nor Evil in it. The speculative Knowledge therefore of Truths depending upon divine Testimony is mere Knowledge, and not Religion: For there is no Difference in the simple Act of the Mind, whether the Assent be grounded upon divine Testimony, or human Testimony 5 unless you think that every thing must be Religion, that depends upon our Beliefos the Being of God: Which


is not true 3 because there may be this Belief, where there can be no Religion z for St. James has told us, that the De'vils believe and tremhle. Now the wicked Man's Faith can be nothing more but this speculative Knowledge or Belief of divine Truths , For 'tis evident it has no Effect, no Influence; and is therefore so far from being the saving Faith of the Gospel, that 'tis not in any Degree religious. Our Lord in the Gospel has given us a short Description of Religion, Thou shalt lowe the Lord thy God with all thy IIeart and with all thy Soul, and thy Neighhoar as thysehC Now, in order to love God, we must know Him, and his Attributes z in order to love our Neighbour, we must know our Neighbour, and his Condition: And there is just as much Religion in knowing God without loving and obeying him, as there is in knowing our Neighboursswithout loving or regarding him. The Man who believes God, and pretends to a right Faith in divine Matters, and lives in the Neglect of God, in Contempt of his Commands, and fins in defiance of Knowledge, has just as much Faith, as the Priest and the Levite had _Charity, who saw their Neighbour stripped and wounded, and lying half-dead in the Road, and looked on him, and pass-il by on the other Side. The

C c a Knowledge

Knowledge of God is but like other natural Knowledge, as long as it has its Refidence' in the Head only: To become a Principle of Religion, it must descend into the Heart, and teach us to love the Lord with all our Mnds, with all our Souls, and with all our Strength : And, if this be true of the Knowss ledge of God, which is the first and greatest of all divine Truthsis, it must be true in all' other Instances whatever. The Faith then os the Gospel, and which the wicked Man' is an utter Stranger to, is that Faith which makes us cleave steeiflssiy to the Lord with full Purpose of Heart. And this will farther

[ocr errors]

to shew, _,

Secondly, That Faith cannot be a Principle os Religion, till it has its Effect and Operation in the Heart. If we consider Religion under the Notion of Action, this Propofition has, I think, nOthing strange or

surprizing in it: For, 'tis not only true of'

Faith, but of every Principle of Knowledge and Action : 'Tis aitogether'as true of Sensc, as 'tis of Faithsi As Faith makes us cleave

to God, so Sense makes us cleave to the' World : But, 'till Sense has Possession of the' Heart, it' has no Power or Efficacy, and is of; no Use and Service to the World. We learn


.,. dle'

« AnteriorContinuar »