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SER M. which, has exactly happened among Chriftians alfo. For whereas, in the New Teftament, there are very many Prophecies, and as exprefs as can be; of a Man of Sin to be revealed; of a general Defection and Apoftacy in the latter times; of a Worldly Power fitting in the Seat of God, and prefuming to change Laws and Times, and compelling the whole World to worship him by fubmitting to his arbitrary and unreasonable Power; and that the Head of this Corruption is that great City which ruleth over the Kingdoms of the Earth yet because there are indeed other paffages in the Prophetick part of the New Teftament, more obfcure and difficult; therefore those of the Church of Rome, and as many as favour their abfurd pretenfions, refolve they will not understand the cleareft Defcriptions of things; but will continue to make Temporal Power, Riches and Grandeur, a Mark or Note of the True Church; when the Scripture on the contrary expreffly makes it a Mark of the False one, perfecuting and scattering the true Worshippers of God.
BUT fecondly; if we take the Words SER M. of the Text in the latter fenfe, to exprefs Men's Understanding, not of these particular Prophecies, but of the true Nature of Religion in general; they are then evidently fulfilled in the greater part of Men. None of the Wicked understand; But the Wife, that is, the Righteous, do underftand. And This being the most generally useful Senfe of the Words, I fhall in the following Difcourfe confider them according to This Interpretation. And fo the Propofition they contain, is: This: That a virtuous Difpofition of Mind is the beft Help, and a vitious inclination the greatest Hindrance, to a right Underfanding of the Doctrine of True Religion. None of the Wicked shall understand; But the Wife fhall Understand.
FOR the clearer Proof and Illustrating of which Propofition, it may be proper to confider diftinctly the Two following particulars: 1, What there is in the Nature of Things themfelves; and 2dly, What there is in the pofitive Appointment of God; which makes a virtuous Difpofition fo great a Help, and a vitious Inclination VOL. III.
SERM. fo great a Hindrance, to a Right Underftanding in Matters of Religion..
IN the 1st place, there is fomething in the Nature of Things themfelves, fomething in the very Frame and Conftitution of the Mind of Man, fomething in the Nature and Tendency of all Religious Truths; which helps to verify the general Propofition. In a Mind virtuously dif pofed, there is a native agreeableness to the Principles of True Religion; in like manner as in a healthful Body, the Or gans are fitted to their proper Objects and as in the Frame of the Material World, every thing is fuited and adjufted to its proper Ufe and Employment. A! well-difpofed Mind does as naturally entertain the great Truths of Religion, as the Eye difcerns Colours, and the Palate relishes Taftes; or as good Ground receives good Seed, and feeds and nourishes it till it brings forth much Fruit. 'Tis our Saviour's own Comparifon, St Luk. viii. 15. Thofe on the good ground are they, whe in an honest and good heart, having beard the Word, keep it, and bring forth Fruit with Patience. And in other places of Scripture, perfons of fuch a difpofition,
are, upon the fame account, faid to be, SER M. not ordained, as we falfely render the Word, but prepared or difpofed for eter- Acts xiii. nal Life; and that God daily added to his 48. Church, not fuch as fhould be faved, A&sii 47. (though that alfo is true,) but fuch as were faved, (fo the original Word fignifies; namely, fuch as were beforehand qualified and well inclined, to fave themfelves from a wicked generation, by embracing the Doctrine of the Gofpel of Chrift. Our Saviour elsewhere calls fuch
Perfons his Sheep, that will hear his Voice; Joh x. 27. and fays of them, that they are Drawn vi. 44. by his Father, before they come to Him 77 that is, that by a Love to the Truth of God in general, they are fitted to receive that Revelation of his Will, made by the Gofpel in particular. In the Study of every Humane Science, there is fome particular previous Temper, fome certain Predifpofition of Mind, which makes men fit for that particular Study, and apt to understand it with Eafinefs and Delight: Generally and Principally, a Love to that particular Science, and a high Efteem of its Value and Usefulness. The fame holds true in proportion, in Reli
SERM. Religious Matters likewise. A general II. love of Virtue; an equitable, fair, and charitable Spirit; and a juft Senfe of the Neceffity and Reasonableness of obeying God's Commands, is the firft Principle and Beginning of Religion; the best and great preparative to open the Understanding, to make men ftudy with pleasure, and comprehend with Eafe, and judge with right Difcernment of Divine Truths. The Fear of the Lord, fays the Pfalmift, is the Beginning of Wisdom: A good Underftanding have all they that do his Commandments; The Praise thereof endureth for ever; Pf. cxi. 10. And Solomon, who in his Knowledge of the Workings of the Mind of Man, as well as in other Sciences, had no Superior, lays down the fame Maxim, Prov. i. 7. The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Knowledge; and repeats it again as the Foundation of all Inftruction, ch. ix. ver. 10. The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom; and the Knowledge of the Holy, is Underftanding. The Author of the Book of Ecclus. with the variation of One Word only, expreffes likewise the fame Senfe; ch. i. ver. 14, 20. The Root of Wisdom, is to fear