Page images
PDF
EPUB

I shall then, by the properties of this light, prove ir saving: in order to which, I shall begin with the firft step towards salvation, viz. a sight of the cause of damnation; and that this is given us by the light within, the scripture is very plain, which is the great record of saving truth, and of that blessed testimony Christ has left to his flock.

CH A P. III. That the light within manifests sin; vea, all fin. That

apostacy, or fin in any, is no argument against the light. That the services of the Jews thew no imperfection in the light, but in the people, whose minds were abroad. If insufficiency against the light should be admitted, because of the wickedness of men; the same may be objected against the scriptures; which overthrows our adversary's assertion concerning their sufficiency.

THE light, with which Chríft lighteth all men,

manifests sin, as these words import; - For Hi every one that doth evil, hateth the light, neither « cometh to the light, left his deeds should be reas proved :a” implying, that if they would have brought their deeds to the light, the light would have detected them, and tried them; which makes the light the touchftone, rule, and judge of conversation and practice. To which the apostle Paul bears express testimony, in his epistle to the Ephesians, « that whatsoever is « reproved, is made manifest by the light; for what

foever makes manifeft, is light;b" where the univerTality of the apostle's affertion (hews, that nothing that is reproved, as all fin is, is or can be excluded from the search or knowledge of this light: which takes in as well thoughts, as words and deeds. So that nothing being reproved, which the light doth * John tii. 20. Eph, v. 13..

not

U

3

not first manifest, how obvious is it to every understanding, that the light must needs have been, and be in all men, in order to such manifestation and conviction, or man could not have known sin.

It is as much as if the apostle had said, "Sin is that which damns all men; now it could not damn, if

it were not reproveable; and it could never be rei proveable, if the light did not manifest and condemn

it as such." So that our adversaries affirming the light not to be sufficient to discern all fin, is a flat repugnancy, and a downright giving of the lie to the apostle. For, says the apostle, « all things that are " reproved, are made manifest by the light.” But, say they, all things that are reproved, are not made manifest by the light. Sober reader, dwell here a while, and after a little pause tell me, who deals most unworthily with the apostle, and the holy scriptures of truth, they or the Quakers?

Obj. But it is objected, If there be that light in all men, how comes it, that all men are not convicted of their disobedience and duty, as the heathens of old, and many infidels at this day? Did the light in Saul reprove him for persecuting the church?

I answer, That this objection does no way impugn or lessen the efficacy of the light, although it greatly aggravates their evil that so rebelled against it. But that there were heathens, who became a law unto themselves, through the degree of light they had, by which they did the things contained in the law, and were preferred far before the circumcision that kept not the law; the apostle Paul himself is very express in that known passage to the Romans, ch. ii. Nor are other histories silent, but loud in their acknowledgment of very divine attainments, which, by this light, several famous Gentiles arrived at; who, for their belief of One Eternal Being, his communication

That is the cause.

of divine light to men, the necessity of holy living, and of an immortality, with their strict manners, are left with honour upon record by credible writers, and their praises not a little augmented by after-ages, even of those called Christians too. Such were, Pythagoras, Timæus, Solon, Bias, Chilon, Anaxagoras, Socrates, Plato, Plotin, Antisthenes, Xenocrates, Zeno, Antipater, Seneca, Epictetus, Plutarch, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, and others.

But what if Jews and Gentiles at any time did apoftatize; and, particularly, what if Saul persecuted the church of God, putting disobedience for duty, murder for service, will it follow, that the light was insufficient? By no means, but rather that Saul was rebellious, stiff-necked, resisting the Holy Ghost; as did his fathers, so did he: and thus much the words themselves shew; for it is said by the text," he « kicked against the pricks.” Then it seems there were pricks : and were where they, if not in his conscience? And what were they, if not the convictions of the light of Christ within him, which manifests evil, and reproves the deeds thereof? otherwise called the Son of God, which to the Galatians he said, “it " had pleased God to reveal to him”d: though Paul knew him not, nor his voice of a long time, his eye being darkened, and ear stopped by the god of this world, who had crept into the outward forms of religion, then, as now, and therein employed many emissaries to decry that pure, heavenly, and invisible life of truth and righteousness, which was then, and is now, begotten in the hearts of many, not only to confound the idolatries of the Gentiles, but to end the formality and outward services of both Jews and carnal Christians.

And I affirm on God's behalf, and with the reason of a man, that it is most absurd for any to charge the rebellion of men to the insufficiency of the light : for if men are wicked, is it not against knowledge? And

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

if it be, where is the fault? Else, if men are fo, nôt because they would not be better, but because they neither see, nor know, nor are able to do better, how heavy, how black, and how blasphemous a character doth the consequence of such an opinion faften upon the good and righteous God of heaven and earth; since it supposes him not to have given means sufficient to do that which he requires of them, and for not doing of which they are to be sentenced to eternal misery? But I confess, how deep soever this may stick with impartial spirits, I almost despair of entering some of our adversaries, whose souls are pinched up within the narrow compass of a most unmerciful kind of predestination; making the eternal God as partial as themselves; like some ancients, that because they could not resemble God, they would make such gods as might resemble them.

I say, what else can be the tendency of this kind of doctrine, against the sufficiency of the light within, than that the gift of God is not perfect, or able, because men do not obey it: and that the talent God has given to all, is therefore insufficient for the end for which it was given, because man hides it in a napkin?

Again, Let them tell me, would it be a good argument, that if the same corn should be sown in a fertile, and a barren soil, that growing in one, and not in the other, the fault should be in the seed, and not rather in the ground?

Who knows not, how tradition and custom have overlaid much of conviction, and benumbed the world, and that it is, through lusts and pleasures, become blind and stupid as to the invisible things of God. Alas! there had never been so much need of many exterior dispensations and appearances of God, in reference to religion, fo much preferred by the profeffors of this day, had not mens minds been departed from the inward light and life of righteousnefs : fa that they being outward and abroad, God was pleased to meet them there in fame external manifestations ;

be in

Overla, knows und?

yet

yet so, as to turn them home again to their first love; to that light and life which was given of God, as the way and guide to eternal salvation.

Nor could any of those things cleanse, as concerning the conscience; wherefore God still, by his fervants and prophets, adınonished and warned the people of old, “ to put away the evil of their doings, is and cease to do evil, and learn to do well, and to co wash themselves, and to cleanse themselves;e" for that all their exactness in outward services was otherwise but as the “ cutting off a dog's neck :f" a sacrifice equally pleasing. Wherefore the abrogation of all outward dispensations, and the reducing man to his first state of inward light and righteousness, is called in scripture, « the times of refreshment, and " the restitution of all things."

In short, though there have been external observations and ordinances in the world, by God's appointment, as figures and shadows of the good things to come, either to prevent the Jews from the outward splendid worship of the idolatrous Gentiles, that he might retain a peculiar sovereignty over them, or to shew forth unto them a more hidden and invisible glory; this remains sure for ever, that light within there was, and that the ancients saw their fins by it, and that there could be no acceptance with God, but as they walked up to it, and were taught to put away the evil of their doings by it: suitable to that notable passage, “ the path of the just is a shining light, that is shines clearer and clearer unto the perfect day." I would fain know what this day was, if not that of salvation? Can there be any night or darkness in the day? Surely no. What if their light was not so large, was it therefore not saving? Yes surely. But as, where much is given, much is required, so where little is given, but little is required. If the light was not fo glorioully manifested before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh, less was then required

[ocr errors][merged small]

than

« PreviousContinue »