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Serm.which, has exactly happened among Chris II.
stians also. For whereas, in the New Testament, there are very many Prophecies, and as express as can be; of a Man of Sin to be revealed; of a general Defection and Apostacy in the latter times; of a Worldly Power sitting in the Seat of God, and presuming to change Laws and Times, and compelling the whole World to worship him by submitting 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 indeed other passages in the Prophetick . part of the New Testament, more obscure and difficult ; therefore those of the Church of Rome, and as many as favour their absurd pretensions, resolve they will not understand the clearest Descriptions 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 expressly makes it a Mark of the False one, persecuting and scattering the true Worshippers of God.
BUT But fecondly, if we take the Words SERM. of the Text in the latter sense, to express 47
II. 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 understand. And This being the most generally useful Sense of the Words, I shall in the following Discourse consider them according to This Interpretation. And so the Proposition they contain, is. This: That a virtuous Dispation of Mind is the best Help, and a vitious inclination the greatest Hindrance, to a right Underftanding of the Doctrine of True Religion. None of the Wicked Mall understand; But the Wife shall Understand.
For the clearer Proof and Illustrating of which Propofition, it may to consider distinctly the Two following particulars : If, What there is in the Nature of Things themselves; and 2dly, What there is in the positive Appointment of God; which makes a virtuous Difpoftion so great a Help, and a vitious. Inclination VOL. III.
SERM.fo great a Hindrance, to a Right UnderII.
ftanding in Matters of Religion.
In the ist place, there is something in the Nature of Things themfelves, fomething in the very Frame and Constitution of the Mind of Man, something in the Nature and Tendency of all Religious Truths; which helps to ýerify the general Proposition. In a Mind virtuously. dif posed, there is a native agreeableness to the Principles of True Religion ; in bike manner as in a healthful Body, the Oro gans.
' are fitted to their proper .. Objects; and as in the frame of the Material World, everything is fuited and adjufted to its proper. Use and Employment. A well-disposed Mind does as naturally entertain the great Truths of Religion, as the Eye discerns Colours, and the Palate relishes Tastes; or as good Ground receives good Seed, and feeds and nourishes it till it brings forth much Fruit. --'Tis our Sai viour's own Comparison, St Luk. väi. 15. Thöfe on the good ground are they, who in an honest and good heart, baving beard the Word, keep it, and bring forth Fruit switb Patience. And in other places of Scripture, persons of such a disposition,
are, upon the same account, said to bę, Ŝer M. not ordained, as we falsely render the
I. Word, but prepared or disposed for eter
Afts xiii. nal Life ; and that God daily added to his 48. Church, not such as should be saved, A As ii. (though that alfo is true, ) but such as were Javed, (so the original Word ligni
fies ;) namely, such as were beforehand qualified and well' inclined, to save them
Telves from a wicked generation, by embracing the Doctrine of the Gospel of
Chrift. Our Saviour elsewhere calls such Persons his Sheep, that will bear bis Voice; Joh x. 27. and lays of them, that they are Drawn by his Father, before they come to Him 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 Gospel in particular. In the Study of every Humane Science, there is some particular previous "Temper, fome certain Predisposition of Mind, which
which makes men fit for that particular Study, and apt to understand it with Easıness 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
SER M. Religious Matters likewise.
A general II. love of Virtue ; an equitable, fair, and
charitable Spirit ; and a just Sense of the Necessity and Reasonableness of obeying God's Commands, is the first Principle and Beginning of Religion; the best and great preparative to open the Understanding, to make men study with pleasure, and comprehend with Ease, and judge with right Discernment of Divine Truths. The Fear of the Lord, says the Pfalinist, is the Beginning of Wisdom: A good Understanding have all they that do bis Commandiments; The Praise thereof endureth for en ver ;
Pf. cxi. 10. And Solomon, who in his Knowledge of the Workings of the Mind of Man, as well as in other Scien ces, had no Superior, lays down the same Maxim, Prov. i. 7. The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Knowledge ; and repeats it again as the Foundation of all Instruction, ch. ix. ver. 10. The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom; and the Knowledge of the Holy, is Understanding. The Author of the Book of Ecclus. with the variation of One Word only, expreffes likewise the fame Sense; ch. i. ver. 14, 20. The Root of Wisdom, is to