Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

And though thefe mysteries be not of natural investigation, but of fupernatural revelation; yet reafon is convinced, nothing can be more reasonable, than that it takes its place at the feet of faith; which is but to fuffer itself to become pupil to an omniscient and infallible Instructor. The refolution of our reafon iuto faith, and of faith into God's veracity, are acts highly becoming reasonable beings in such cases as these.

It may not pry too nicely into unrevealed myfteries, demand the reafons, or examine the causes of them as bold and daring Socinians do; but it feels itself obliged to receive all thofe things, both as poffible and true, which God hath revealed, counting his revelation alone to be reafon fufficient. For the veracity of God takes out of reafon's mouth all objections against the truth of them; and his almighty power silences alk its fcruples againft the poflibility of them.

But in all matters properly under the jurifdiction of reason, every man is obliged to account with himself, as well as ot!:ers, for the reasonableness of his own actions; and that act which will not endure the teft of found reafon, it judges not fit for the entertainment of a man. If reafon cannot juftify it, it is beneath the rank and dignity of a man to do it.

2. The light of reafon was at firft the bright lamp or candle of the Lord, till fin, like a thief, melted it down to fnuff; whereby (comparatively speaking), it is becomes a poor glimmering light in the beft of men, and almoft quite extinguished in fome men. Fallen man is become less than him. felf, and will never act like himfelf, till he be fully restored to himself.

Sanctification indeed fouffs and trims the lamp of reason; but there being few fanctified perfons among men, a double mifery confequently befals a very great part of mankind; whofe converfation fpeaks them not only deftitute of religion, which bereaves them of the bleffednefs of the world to come; but men almost entirely defpoiled of the benefits and bleffings of their own reafon, which makes them unhappy and miferable in this world: beafts, rather than men, as the facred scripture ftiles them: unreasonable men; men fallen out with their own faculties; who after many a sharp battle with their reason, are now dragging it like a conquered captive, at the chariot wheels of their victorious and triumphant lufts.

3. It is fcarce imaginable, that ever fin fhould prevail fo far as it doth, to the very unmanning of men, did they not firft delude and bribe their own reafon, by close and cunning applications to their bewitched affections; whereby, though

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

they cannot make it a party, yet they make it ftand by as a filent fpectator, or neuter, whilft they act the beast, yea, the devil, rather than the man.

We little know how far unfanctified reafon may (this way) be prevailed upon to quit its throne, and refign its fceptre into the hands of luft and appetite; yea, to engage in the defence of their most abfurd laws and dictates. It only ferves in fome men, to invent excufes, pleas, and fpecious pretences, to justify or extenuate their beast-like actions; the bafeft fervitude it can be condemned to.

If this will not do, sensual lufts have another way to obtain their fatisfaction, in defpite of reafon and confcience; even by stopping their ears to the voices of both, and pushing on with a brutish impetus, they fuffer neither to enjoy the opportunity of a calm debate of these matters with them.

§ 4. But let men do what they will, it is next to an impoffibility, they fhall fo far fubdue and deftroy thofe inbred primciples of reafon and confcience, but that they will, at one time or other, give them fome checks and oppofitions in their profane courses; efpecially when they fhall get the advantage of fome eminent distress, or special danger, which disposes them to lend an ear to their voices. And there be few men in the world, but are sometimes providentially caft into such cases and conditions.


So that appeals to the reafon of the most profligate wretches, are not altogether vain and useless: for if the cafe cannot be tried and decided at the bar of reafon and confcience at one time, it may with more advantage at another and haply, ap peals to reafon may produce a reformation in fome men, fooner than appeals to the scriptures, or principles of faith; efpecially when the world is fo notoriously drenched in practical atheism, that ferious religion becomes the common fubject of drollery amongst multitudes of men.

Yet it were hard and uncharitable, to imagine any man funk fo deep into the mire of beastiality and profanenefs, as not still to retain some value and veneration for his own reason, and as much as he abuses it, yet to refuse the whole world in exchange for it; and to account it a greater mifery to be utterly deprived of it, than to have the hoofs of an horse given him in exchange for his hands and feet.

§ 5. The fcriptures therefore do, in many cafes, appeal to the reafon of finners, and defign their reformation by fuch appeals for it being a most shameful thing, for a man to be

convicted at the bar of his own reason, of acting like a beaft rather than a man, every man is prefumed to be afraid, and alhamed of fuch an indictment. Such mifcreants are the fhame and reproach of humanity itself; they are branded for brutes throughout the fober world; their company declined and thunned by all wife and good men. He that hath no reason to ju tify his actions, may yet be fuppofed to be owner of some flock of natural fhame; which cannot but afford a blush, upon fuch a plain conviction. This therefore was the courfe which the prophet Ifaiah took, by divine direction, to reform the idolatrous Ifraelites; Ifa. xlvi. 8. He ftates the cafe at the bar of their own reafon, and calls for a verdict upon it. The cafe was this: Whether idols, having not power enough to fhew themfelves gads, thofe that worship them, must not want wisdom enough to fhew themselves men? "Remember this, and thew "yourselves men; and bring it again to mind, O ye tranfgref"fors!" q. d. For fhame, let not men act like brutes, which have no animadverfion.

§ 6. When things therefore are brought to fuch an exigence, that ruin or reformation is the only choice men have to make, and all religious impreffions fo obliterated and worn out, that men pay no reverence to them; an appeal to the reason of men, feems then to be an hopeful method of prevailing with them, to fuffer a reformation rather than a ruin. Not that I imagine the topics of reafon able to afford more powerful arguments, than thofe of religion do; but that they, who by their igno rance and strong prejudices against religion, have made themfelves more uncapable of conviction that way, may haply feel the force of reafon prevailing fo far at least, as to put their outrageous lufts under fome restraints.


As for the fcriptures, and ferious religion begotten by them in the fouls of men, they are perfect ftrangers to all, but the names of these things: And even their very names are grown almoft ridiculous with them too. But reafon may convince and fhame them. What force the reafon of man hath, even without faving grace, to produce civility, fobriety, and other moral virtues, is abundantly evident in the very Heathens; who, by the only light of reafon, difcovered fo much odiousness in vice and immorality, and fuch an amiable beauty in justice, temperance, and the other moral virtues, that their praifes for them are founded throughout the world.

Now, whatever unthinking men dream, to me it is evident, that when kingdoms and commonwealths are overflowed with unreftrained vice and immoralities; when curfing and fwearing

15% 5.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

becomes the common language, drunkenness and adultery the common practices of the inhabitants; God will either fweep away the filth of those nations, by the befom of a general re formation, or he will sweep away their inhabitants out of them, with the befom of destruction. For if we have not excuffed the notion and belief of a God, and that he animadverts the wickedness of men, (which the very Heathens, by the light of nature, faw and acknowledged), we may thereby easily be led to this conclufion, that fuch overflowings of abomination do, and ⚫ muft certainly prefage our defolation, except fpeedy and general reformation do prevent it.

§ 7. Now, the perfons, whofe reformation I particularly defign by this method, being men that exercise more reason than religion, might (methinks) be prevailed with to take up at last, and reform their unreasonable, as well as ungodly courses, could they be once prevailed with to debate these matters with cool, confiderative minds, becoming men governed by reafon, not wholly fwayed like brute-beasts, by luft and appetite.

And is it not highly reasonable, that men fhould weigh their own actions at the fame beam and ftandard where they weigh other men's actions; and renounce all that with fhame and detestation, which they themselves must cenfure as utterly be neath, and unworthy of a man? Wherefore hath God planted a principle of reafon and confcience within us? Is it rational to think, it was planted there for no other end or use, but to fcan and cenfure other mens words or actions by, but not our own? Or to be wholly useful to other mens interests, without any benefit to ourselves? Ask thine own reafon, filly man, why God placed it in thy foul? and for what ufe it was intended? And it will tell thee, it was particularly defigned and appointed, to regulate and order thine own life and actions; and next, for the benefit and good of the community.. It will tell thee, there is not a fingle act thou doft, of any weight or moment, but thou oughtest to confult with it, and have its pass or licence before thou do it. But when thou enterest into a ferious courfe of actions, thy confultations with it ought to be very frequent and folemn, because these things are of great importance to thee.

Thy reafon will tell thee, finner, that it is a vile affront to it, to be thrust by thee from the council-table, unworthily dif miffed from its office, and discharged from any further attendance upon thy life, and concerns thereof, and brutish lust and appetite confulted in its room; and that it needed not at all to have been implanted in thy foul, if the fame principles that


govern the beasts of the field, muft alfo be thy governing prin ciples. It ftands ready to offer its fervice to thee, to fave thee from, or to receive thee out of those mischiefs thou hatt, or mayeft run thyself into; if thou wilt but hear, and obeys its advice, it tells thee, it is thy privy-counfellor, by God's appointment; and if thou wilt not find leifure among the heats and hurries of thy lufts, to confult it, and hearken to its counfels now; if thou wilt not forfake the conduct of thine own reafon and conscience, which have a right and authority to govern thy words and actions, and follow thy blind and headftrong lufts and paffions, thou fhalt hear other language. from them, when thy lusts have precipitated thee into thine own ruin and destruction; as they fpeedily and inevitably must, and will do, according to the course they now fteer for thee.

§8, And there is yet more ground to hope, that reafon may prevail with men living under the gospel, to return to fobriety and temperance, when we confider their reafon is affitted by fome illuminations from the Chriftian religion. They live in a land of Bibles and minifters, where they cannot avoid the light; an advantage far beyond whatever the heathens enjoyed; who yet by their fingle unaffifted reafon, arrived to an eminency in moral virtues.

Our reasons and confciences do not only convince us, (as theirs alfo did them) that there is a God, and a future life of retribution, wherein every man fhall be judged according to his works; but also, that the fcriptures are the very word of God, and rule of faith and manners. And if there be any among the debauched crew, that question or deny it; we may be confident, none of them are able, by plain and found reafon, to overthrow thofe mighty arguments pleaded for the confirmation of that truth: At leaft, they find in themselves a ftrong fufpicion and fear, that they may prove to be true; which jealousy and fufpicion, working together with their own reafon and confciences, are no contemptible helps toward their recovery.

For if what reafon, confcience, and fcripture, with one mouth, pronounce, be true and certain, (as undoubtedly it will be found to be); then it must be plain and obvious to them afo, that their brutish lufts have put them into the direct and ready way, both to ruin themselves, and alfo greatly to hazard the community to which they belong.

69. As for themselves, if they will make a judgment upon their own condition, in the light of reafon, confcience, or ripture, (and they very well know, they take their measures

« PreviousContinue »