« PoprzedniaDalej »
an Imagination apt to startle at Difficulties Serm. III. new to you.
have a Turn for solid Thinking and Reasoning, bring your Mind close to the Difficulty, and make it take a near View of it on every Side ; and you will find that what
startled it at a Distance, was only some idle Trifle, which Fancy had dressed up in a formidable Shape. And if you have not, desire those, who have studied the Point, to turn to such Passages in Books already published as contain a sufficient Answer to it. For Infidelity can only go round and round the same Topics, in an eternal Circle, without advancing one Step further : It produces no new Forces: it only brings those again into the Field, which have been so often baffled, maimed and disabled, that, in Pity to them, they ought to be dismissed, and discharged from any
further Service, You may complain that you have not Capacities sufficient for such Things. Supposing your Abilities so very Nender, that you cannot perceive the Truth of an historical Fact well-attested; yet one Thing you may be sure of; that it is much better for the Good of the whole, that Mankind should abide by such a written Rule of
Serm.III. Faith and Practice, as the Christian is; than
that they should be left every one, in low as well as high Life, to collect a Religion for themselves, just as their Ignorance, Paffions and Prejudices should mislead them. You may see, that this Scheme, which is that of Infidelity, would be destructive of the general Happiness of the World: And you may conclude, that whatever Scheme would, at the foot of the Account, leave the World in a much worfe State, than it was before, in Point of Happiness, must be disagreeable to his Will, who wishes the Happiness of the World; and therefore contrary to Truth.
What better Wilh could the best-natured Being form for the Benefit of the World; than that the Doctrines of Christianity, those strong Incentives to. Virtue, should be universally believed; and it's Precepts universally practised ?
II dly, From a right Faith I now proceed to what is, or ought to be, the Consequence of it, a good Life.
A good Life is not one solitary and fingle Virtue, however glaring ; it is the Combination and "Meeting together of all the moral and spiritual Graces; Just as Light
and Whiteness is not one fingle Colour and Serm.III. Ray; it is the Composition of all the Colours and Rays united and blended together.
Your first and leading Duty is Piety to God. And this takes in all religious Duties, whether moral or positive; whether we fully and clearly see the Reasons of them, or we fee them dimly and indistinctly, or we do not see them at all ; knowing this (enough for us to know) that an all-wise Being can enjoin no Duty, but for wise Ends and Purposes ; and an allgood Being can command no Performance, but what is for our Good and Benefit.
Let not your Piety break out in sudden short interrupted Flashes, but let it shine on in one continued steady Day-light. Have not just Religion enough to make you uneasy ; but enough to give you solid Satiffaction, and a well-grounded Assurance. Give God all you can ; give him your Heart-for that is all. And then, instead of contenting yourself with thinking, how holy and charitable you would be, if you had such a Fortune, or were in such a Station ; you will never be easy, till you are as holy and charitable as it is possible for you to be, in whatever Station you are, or whatever Fortune you have,
But I have already discoursed often on this Subject : One Thing more however I beg leave to mention. You are, most of you, regular Attendants on the Service of the Church: Take Care, that your Deportment out of Church, be correspondent to your Behaviour in it: Otherwise, you will do Religion more Disservice, than if you were it's open and avowed Enemies. For, pray observe: Though Piety be the most valuable Thing in itself, the Bulk of Mankind are not capable of forming fine abstract Ideas of it in itself ; they must consider it, if at all, as it lies before them in the Lives and Conversation of Men reputedly pious. And when they see those who have that Character, laying Stress upon Trifles, as if the whole of Religion con. , listed in them, and neglecting Essentials ; when they see them prying into the Secrets of Families, or encouraging and listening to those that do so, addicted to Censoriousness and Superciliousness ; the little low despicable Notions, which they form of Perfons professing Piety, they will unjustly annex to Piety itself, and hold it ever after cheap and contemptible.
2dly, Let therefore your Piety to God, Serm.III. be joined with, what ought to be inseparable from it, Charity to Man.
By Charity; I do not mean only Almsgiving, for that is only one. Branch of it, one outward Expression of this Duty; mean the most liberal Sentiments and the most enlarged Affections towards all Mankind. A charitable Man will endeavour to see every Thing through the Mirror of Good-Nature, which mends and beautifies all Objects; without altering any :: Like fine Painting, which, without deviating from Nature, adds new Touches and Graces to it; it does not change, but only embellish it; it does not give a mere Likeness, much less a woful Likeness, it gives an agreeable and advantageous one. Far from surmising Evil, where there is none; he will rather think no Evil, where there really is; judging it better to err through a good-natured Credulity, than through an undistinguishing Sufpicion; because a goodnatured Credulity will only expose him to some temporal Inconveniencies; but an undistinguishing Suspicion will beget in him a settled Uneasiness, Jealousy, Hatred, and the whole Train of black Passions, which