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beaven, ligion, ration, 1. at we necelcoverEch is ntious
con nself, or ethat uch Heal ay;
upon us any thing as of necessity to be believed and practised in order to falvacion, which is not declared to be so in the holy scriptures, which contain the true doctrine of the gvpel, what authority focver they pretend for it, yea, though they assume to themselves to be infallible, the Apostle hath plainly told us what we are to think of thein ; for he hath put the case aj high as poffible here in the text, when he says, Tho' we, or an angel from learen, precis ariy other sospel unts you than that which we have preacted unto you, let him be accurfed.
I will conclude all with that counsel which the fpi. rit of God gives to the churches of Asia, Rev. iii. 3. Remember therefore how thor haft received and hearil, and holil fuji : and chap. ii. 15. Fear nsre of those things which thou malt fotfer : be thou faithful 11:19 death, and I will give ihee a crown of life.
:S E R M ON
he go de
Honesty the best preservative against dan
gerous mistakes in religion.
JOHN vii, 17.
trine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of
The firft sermon on this text.
Ince there are so many different opinions and ap
prehensions in the world about matters of religion, and every sect and party does with so much confidence pretend that they, and they only, are in the truth; the great difficulty and question is, by what means men may be secured from dangerous errors and mistakes in religion. For this end some have thought
it neceffary, that there should be an infallible church, in the communion whereof every man mity be fecured from the dangers of a wrong belief. But it seems God hath not thought this necessary. If he had, he. Tould have revealed this very thing more plainly than any particular point of faith whatsoever. He would have told us expressly, and in the plainest teris, thai he had appoinied an infalliale guide and judge in matters of faith, and would likewise have told us as plainly who he was, and where we might find him, and have recourse to him upon all occa. fions : because the fincerity of our faith depending upon him, we could not be fate from mistake in particular points. without fo plain and clear a revelation of this infalible jidze, tirat there could be no mistake about him ; nor could there be an end of any other controversies in religion, unless this infallible judge (both that there is one, and who he is) were out of controversy. But neither of these are so : it is not plain from scripture that there is an infallible guide and judge in matters of faith; much less is it plain who he is; and therefore we may certainly conclude, that God hath not thought it necessary that there fhould be an infallible guide and judge in matters of faith, because he hath revealed no such thing to us, and that Bishop, and that church, who only have arrogated infallibility to themselves, have given the greatest evidence in the world to the contrary, and have been detected, and stand convinced, of the greatest errors : and it is in vain for any man, or company of men, to pretend to infallibility, so long as the e. vidence that they are deceived is much greater and clearer than any proof they can produce for their in. fallibility.
If then God hath not provided an infallible guide and judge in matters of faith, there is fome other way whereby nien may be secured against dangerous and dainable errors in religion, and whereby they may discern truth from impofture, and what doctrines are from God, and what not; and this our Saviour declares to us here in the text, namely, that an honest and sincere mind, and a hearty defire to do the will
barch, fecu. eems l, he, ainly
He inelt and аге ght са. ing irva ce er ve of t
of God, is the best preservative against fatal errors and mittakes in matters of religion; εάν τις θέλη ποιείν, If any man desire to do his will, he mall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I Speak of myself.
There are two dangerous mistakes in religion; to reject any thing which really comes from God; and to receive and entertain any thing as from God, which doth not really come from him.
First, To reject any thing which really comes from God. This mistake the Jews frequently fell into, when they rejected the true Prophets which God froin time to time sent to them, flighting their message, and per. fecuting their perfons : but they miscarried most fatally and remarkably in their contempt of the true Messias, that great Prophet whom they had so long expected, and whom God fent at last, to bring salvation to them; but when he came, they knew him not, nor would receive him, but used him with all the despight and contempt imaginable, not as a teacher come from God, but as a deceiver and impostor.
Now the danger of rejecting any thing that comes from God, consists in this, that it cannot be done, without the highest affront to the divine inajefty. To reject a divine message or revelation, is to oppose God, and fight against him. So our Saviour tells the Jews, that in despising him, they despised him that sent him.
Secondly, There is also another dangerous mistake on the other hand, in entertaining any thing as a revelation from God, which is not really from him. And this likewise the Jews were frequently guilty of, in receiving the false Prophets which fpake in the name of the Lord, when he had not fent them. And this is commonly the temper of those who reject the truth, greedily. to swallow error and delusion. So our Saviour tells us of the Jew's; John v. 43. I am come in my Father's name, and je receive me not ; ift another shall come in his own name, him je will receive. This prediction of our Saviour's concerning. the Jews was fully accomplished ; for after they had rejected him, who gave such abundant evidence that
he was the true Messias, and a teacher fent from God, they received others, who really came in their own names, and ran after those who pretended to be the Meflias, and were in great numbers destroyed with them. And this is very just with God, that those swho receive not the truth in the love of it, should be given up to strong delusions, to believe lies.
Now these being the two great dangerous mistakes in religion which men are liable to, my work at this time shall be to Thew, how a fincere desire and endeavour to do the will of God, is a security to men a. gainst both these dangers; and it will appear to be fo, upon thele two accounts:
I. Because he who fincerely desires and endeavours to do the will of God, is hereby better qualified and disposed to make a right judgement of spiritual and divine things.
II. Becaufe God's providence is more especially concerned to secure such persons from dangerous errors and mistakes in things which concern their etera nal Lulvation. These shall be the two heads of my following discourse.
I. Becaułe he who fincerely desires and endeavours to do the will of God, is hereby better qualified and disposed to make a right judgement of spiritual and divine things, and that for these two reasons :
1.. Because such a person hath a truer notion of Cod, and divine things.
2. Because he is more impartial in his féarch and inquiry after truth,
1. Because such a person hath a truer notion of God and divine things. No man is fo likely to have clear and true apprehensions of God, as a good man; because he hath transcribed the divine perfections in bis own mind, and is himself in some measure and degree wliat God is. · And for this reason it is, that the fcripture fo often lays the foundation of all divine knowledge in the practice of religion; job xxviii. 28. The fear of ihe Lord, that is wisdonin and to depart from evil, is understanding; and Plal. cxi. 10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, that is,
he principle and foundation of it; a good understandng have all they that do his commandments ; whereas he vices and lusts of men darken their reason, and di. tort their understandings, and fill the mind with gross and fenfual apprehenfions of things, and thereby ren. der men unfit to discern those truths which are of a fpiritual nature and tendency, and altogether indisposed to receive them. For though the vices of men be properly feated in their wills, and do not possess their undertandings ; yet they have had a bad influence upon them, as fuines and vapours from the ftomach are wont to affect the head.
Nothing indeed is more natural to the mind and understanding of men, than the knowledge of God; but we may abufe our faculties, and render them unfit for the discerning even of their proper objects.
When men, by wicked practices, have rendered themselves unlike to God, they will not love to retain the knowledge of him in their minds, but will become vain in their imaginations concerning him. What clouds and mifts are to the bodily eye, that the Justs and corruptians of men are to the underítand. ing; they hinder it from a clear perception of hea. venly things; the pure in beart, they are best qualified for the light of God.
Now according as a man's notions of God are, such will be his apprehensions of religion. 'All religion is either natural or revealed. Natural religion consists in the belief of a God, and in right conceptions and apprehenfions concerning him, and in a due reverence and observance of him, and in a ready and cheariul obedience to those laws which he hath imprinted upon our nature; and the sum of our o. bedience consists in our conformity to God, and an endeavour to be like hiin. For fupposing God to have made no external revelation of his mind to us, we have no other way to know his will, but by confidering his nature, and our own; and if so, then he that reiernbles God moit, is like to understand him best, because he finds those perfections in some meafure in himself, which he contemplates in the divine nature; and nothing gives a man fo sure a notion of