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able obligations of Faith are again very clearly and Emphatically represented in our Lord's Commission given to the Apostles: * Go ye into all the IVorld, and preach the Gospel to every Creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not, Jloall be damned. In which, and many other Texts, though Trust, or Hope, or other Christian Virtues may be implied in Faith j yet, without all doubt, the Act of Believing, or the Assent of the Understanding is Pofitively Injoyned, and that as the Fundamental Duty, in the Profession of the Gofpel.
But still, plain as this Law of Faith is j multitudes of Impious, or Self-conceited, or, Mistaken men do notoriously break through the Obligation of it. And Thofe, who are Disobedient to it, are ever straining their Thoughts, as other Tranfgrefsours are wont to do, in palliating their Guilt under various Excuses and Pretences.
Sometimes they are found labouring to
* Markxvu 15,16.
persuade themselves, that Fundamental Articles of Faith are matters of pure Spe- . culation, which they may either take up or lay down at pleasure, without any Guilt or Danger, so long as they lead good Moral Lives, and form their actions on the principles of Virtue.
Indeed there are Innumerable Speculations, Innumerable Acts or Operations of the Understanding,which are not points of Duty, either in respect of Natural Obligation, or of Positive Precept, which maybe Innocently Exercised or Suspended at pleasure; And every man may embrace or reject whatsoever Propositions he pleasseth, concerning such points, according to his own measure and Manner of Thinking, without any Imputation of Guilt. But, how great a number soever there may be of Speculations, which are purely Arbitrary, and in themselves neither morally Good nor Evil; Or, how great soever the variety may be of those Propositions, which in themselves are, morally speaking, Indifferent, and may be Innocently either embraced or reje
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cted; yet can it not be concluded either from the Number or Variety of them, that we are at liberty to revolve and indulge whatever notions and speculations we please, and that we may Innocently and Safely yield our Assent to, or withhold our Assent from all propositions whatsoever, though finally terminating in the Understanding, in every case, according to our own Pleasure. Undoubtedly there are Blasphemous Thoughts of God, and various Propositions following from them, which cannot, without Sin, under the pure Obligations of Natural Religion, be voluntarily entertain'd and indulged in the Mind, though consider'd Absolutely in Themselves, and without any relation to Immorality flowing from them into Outward action.
And in respect of Positive Institutions, 'tis observable, that is the Bodily Passions or Affections, the Inferior Faculties in man, can be properly subject to Divine Laws; surely, the Understanding, the Superior and Nobler faculty, may well be thought capable of Pleasing or Provoking voicing God; of exalting it self in Stiffness and Arrogance against him, or of submitting it self Dutifully and Humbly to him, in Obedience to the Laws which he may prescribe to it: And 'tis further observable, that he hath actually prescribed such Laws to us; and our obligations to obey Them run manifestly and distinctly through the whole course of the Gospel. And since God hath laid Injun^ ctions upon the Understanding, positively requiring its Assent to the Truths revealed in the Gospel; therefore our Refusing to yield such Assent to them, is not a matter of Indifferency in Speculation, but includes a Criminal Act of the Will, and is directly sinful, being a direct violation of the Divine Law; For Sin is the transgression of the Law.
But 'tis sometimes further urged by Unbelievers, that such our Refusal of As. sent to Mysterious Truths is excusable, on account of our being unable to enter clearly and distinctly into the Nature and Reason of them: Whereas it ought to be well consider'd that if we could Distinctly and Fully comprehend the Reasons of C c 4 them, 3pi SERMON XL
them, there would then be no virtue nor excellency in yielding Assent to them; there would then be no such Thing, as the Duty of Belief at all. For Belief in General signifies an Assent to something, grounded Purely upon Testimony; or, it consists in our being persuaded of the Truth of Things, which we ourselves do not otherwise know, than as we depend upon Them* purely on account of the confidence we repose in the Knowledge, and Fidelity of the Person who relates them. And Dw'me Faith is Therefore an Excellency in Us, and acceptable to God, because we pay honour to him, by depending intirely upon his Knowledge and Veracity, in our Assent to the Truths which he hath revealed, though our own narrow Understanding cannot compass the Nature and Reasons of them.
And Infidelity is Therefore highly Sinful and Dangerous, because we do Thereby offer great Indignity to God, Refusing to give credit to his Testimony, and to depend upon his express Word for the Truth of any thing, but what we ourselves can clearly comprehend and account