« PreviousContinue »
In the next place, likewise, it deserves SER M.
SERM. It may indeed be difficult to account how
knowledge, which is itself properly contin-
Nor is the matter altered by what was farther suggested, that the sins or evil actions thus foreknown are sometimes made subfervient to the Divine decrees. That God should thus bring good out of evil, is an argument indeed of his great wisdom and perfection, but not of any approbation or allowance of that evil itself. Whilst he foreknows the wickedness of men, he will not utterly restrain it, because that would be inconsistent with the condition of rational and free Agents, capable of virtue and vice, and therefore of reward and
punishment. But so does he ordain it in the wise counsels of his Providence, that it may serve to accomplish some great and bene
ficial end. This is in no instance more con- SERM.
(VI.) SIXTHLY, The last objection mentioned against St. James's doctrine, is this, that the strong propensity to evil implanted in our nature, cannot be otherwise accounted for than by referring its original to God, who is the Author of our Being, and with that of our faculties and dispositions; that, by a secret tendency of nature we are borne down unawares to sin, and involved in the guilt of criminal imaginations and delires, even before we have time to recollect ourselves, or consider what we are about.
I shall not, for the full solution of this difficulty, detain you with a tedious metaphysical enquiry into the nature and origin of evil, to reconcile the doctrine of one Supream Author and principle of all
Acts ii. 23
Serm. things, with the visible disparity of the ef* XIII. fects that are produced, the necessary and
eternal difference of good and evil, but shall content myself with the scriptural account of the matter, that God hath made man upright, but they have fought out many inventions * Our first Parents were created
pure and innocent, and without those irregularities of appetite and affection which are justly complained of by their late pofterity. And they had that constant communication and assistance of the Spirit, which might guide them in the ways of perfect purity and holiness.
But then, withal, they were indued with liberty of Will, they were left to chuse and act for themselves, without which there had been no more virtue in obedience than in the necessary motions of any artificial engine. Their privilege it seems, they abused, and from henceforth their nature being corrupted and impure, thro' their own fault and demerit, they could do no otherwise than transmit the contagion to their offspring, and convey the seeds of that corruption and impurity down to their late posterity. Here then is the foundation of that tendency to ice, not implanted in human nature, by its great Author and Creator, but superadded by the folly of mankind themselves, disobeying the law of their Creator.
* Ecclef. vii. 29.
However, as this must be reckoned a Serm. misfortune to Posterity, there is a remedy XIII. provided, at once to save us from the punishment of fin, and rescue us from its power and dominion. Though the seeds of concupiscence cannot be entirely eradicated in the present life, yet they may be kept from growing up and ripening into habits of sin; and though they deserve to be esteemed a strong biass and temptation, they lay us under no necessity of actual sinning, but remain only as the trials of our christian bravery and resolution.
and resolution. So that, instead of charging God with being the Author of our sins, by reason of that propensity to evil inherent in our nature, we have the clearest and most convincing proofs of the contrary, in that ample provision he has made against it, to enable us to conquer the corruptions of nature, that we may not remain under the dominion of fin, without a fresh and voluntary surrendry of ourselves to it.
Let the blame then be laid where it really is due, upon the naughtiness and malice of our own breasts; and let God be justified in all his dispensations, who willeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he thould turn from bis wickedness and live. Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth be any