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SERM. V abfolutely perfect Repentance, which can have no Place in fuch imperfect Beings as we are! It is a mere Notion, not a Reality: Is our Repentance a Return to an intire uninterrupted Obedience, without any Alloy or Tincture of Vice? Or is it only to fuch an Obedience, as is attended with feveral Relapfes; but by which, by Degrees, and in the main, we gain Ground over our Vices: And, though far, very far, from being per1 fect, yet are in a progreffive State towards Perfection?

But granting, there could be fuch an abfolutely perfect Reformation; granting farther, what can never be proved, that fuch a Reformation would remove God's Difpleafure: Yet does the Deity punish as frail and paffionate Men do, merely because he is difpleafed with, or difapproves of, the Agent, without anfwering any beneficial and falutary Ends whatever? All Difplea fure apart, Governors, who confult the Good of the Whole, may, and often do, inflict Punishments, to discountenance Vice, and fupport the Cause of Virtue and Goodnefs. And he alone, who fees past, prefent, and future, in one united Point of View, whofe Foreknowledge looks through

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every poffible Confequence, that can refult SERM. V.
from every Manner of acting towards peni
tent Sinners; can himself alone know, and
reveal to us, how he will deal with peni
tent Sinners, fo as not to counter-act the
univerfal Good.

It is farther urged, that the Deity must
confider us as Beings, not only liable, but
alfo likely, to commit Sin; born with
ftrong Propenfions to Vice, and furrounded
with numerous Temptations. And when
we have done all that can be reafonably
expected from fuch frail Creatures as we
are, (that is, when we have done our best)
then we are the proper Objects of God's
Favour, without any Need of an Atone-
ment, or propitiatory Sacrifice..

Here again, as ufual, the Authors confider Mankind in Theory, and not in Fact: They confider them, as what they should and ought to be, ferving God to the utmost Stretch of their limited Powers, with the collected and united Force of every Faculty; and not as what they really are, often wilfully doing, what they ought not; and oftner omitting what they ought to do.

Whatever Allowances we may suppose a gracious God will make, for the Frailties

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SERM. V of our Nature; yet the original Weakneffes which we bring with us into the World, are, in Procefs of Time, fo blended with our acquired Follies; that it being impoffible to distinguish, in all Cafes, the one from the other, we cannot draw much folid Comfort from thence. Whatever we are at prefent, no Body can tell, what we might have been; if from firft to last we had taken all poffible Care, to weed out each rifing Folly, and to cherish the Growth of every Virtue: Even in thofe Sins, which are called Sins of Frailty, and are, in fome Measure, fuch; there is generally fuch a Degree of Wilfulness, that, in fome Cafes, it is no easy Matter to afcertain, which is the predominant Ingredient in the Compofition. A fuperficial Inquirer may, no doubt, be highly pleased with himself. But the more thoroughly any Man examines himself, the more a Man confiders how seldom, if ever, he fully acts up to thofe Principles which he entertains, generally falling fhort of them, and sometimes acting contrary to them; the more he would be diffatisfied with himself.

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Is there a Man, who can lay his Hand upon his Heart, after having faithfully

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examined it, and declare, that whatever SERM.V
Frailties he may have, yet he has ftrove to
the best of his Power, in every Stage of
Life, tó fubdue each inordinate Paffion, to
discharge every Duty, and to cultivate each
virtuous Habit? Let him ftand forth at
the last decifive Day, and put in his Claim,
(for an equitable Claim he perhaps may
have) to fuch a Degree of Happiness, as
will preponderate, or be fuperior to any
fhort-lived Mifery, which he
may have en-
dured here, and be proportioned to his
Deferts. But even he could have no well-
grounded Reason to expect, unless the
Merits of our Saviour had enfured it to
him, a Happiness unallayed in it's Nature,
exceeding in it's Degree, whatever he could
have imagined, and everlasting in it's Du
ration.

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After all, fuch a Being, as is described before, is, I am afraid, merely visionary Men of the most diftinguished Piety hav ing Reafon to pray, Enter not into Judge ment with thy Servant, O Lord: For in thy Sight fhall no Man living be juftified.

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Several indeed are too apt, in the Pride and Bloom of Life, to flatter themselves into groundless Presumptions, and a fanguine

Con

SERM. V. Confidence, But when they come, juft upon the Verge of another World, coolly, and calmly to adjuft Accounts between their Maker and themselves; I doubt those Sins, which, like Shadows, looked fo little at the Noon of Life, will greatly lengthen with their setting Sun. Be that as it will; it is certain, that the Obfervation, viz. that none ever pushed their Capacity, in Matters of Knowledge, as far as it was able to extend; holds as true in Matters of Morality: None ever exerted their Abilities as far as they were able to carry them, to the utmost Extent of their Capacity in the Pursuit and Practice of Virtue.

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And yet natural Religion may require not only the Being, and Reality of each Virtue; but the utmost Degree of Virtue in our Power under the Penalty of future Punishment. Because every Thing which we have, being derived from God; every Thing which we can do, is but our bounden Tribute to Him. Chriftianity, on the other Hand, requires indeed the Being and Reality of Virtue, under the Penalty of Damnation. But it requires the utmost Degree, and the highest Attainments, in Virtue, only under the Penalty of an Abate

ment

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