« AnteriorContinuar »
L I V I N G T E M P L E;
DESIGNED IMPROVEMENT OF THAT NOTION,
A GOOD MAN IS THE TEMPLE OF GOD.
CONCERNING GOD'S EXISTENCE, AND HIS CONVERSABLENESS WITH MAN
AGAINST ATHEISM, OR THE EPICUREAN DEISM.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
WILLIAM LORD PAGETT,
BARON OF BEAUDESERT, IN THE COUNTY OF STAFFORD.
My honoured Lord, I save not the opportunity of begging your Lordship’s foregoing leave to prefix your name to these papers; but despair ng of your following pardon. Your name must be acknowledged great, through two potent empires, Christian and Mahometan; and the services greater which you have done to many that may perhaps not have heard the sound of your name. Your prudent and prosperous negociations in the Austrian and Ottoman courts, have obliged multitudes, whose better genius hath taught ihem more to value themselves, than to think they were born to slavery; from which you have found means, in great part, to save Europe : somewhere, by charming great power, so as to conquer the inclination to use it to so ill a purpose; elsewhere, by preventing its increase, where that inclination was invincible. And hereby you have dignified England, in letting it be seen what it can signify in the world, when it is so bappy as to have its interest managed by a fit and able hand.
Yet that knowledge your Lordship hath heretofore allowed me to have of you, cannot suffer me to think you will account your name too great to patronize the cause asserted in the following discourse. That it is unpolished, will not affect your Lordship; let that rest where it ought: the subject and design will, I doubt not, have your Lordship's countenance. And the rather, that it is not the temple of this or that party that is here defended, which would little agree to the amplitude of your Lordship's large mind, and your great knowledge of the world, but that wherein mankind have a common concern. A temple that is the seat of serious, living religion, is the more venerable, and the more extensive, the more defensible, and the more worthy to be defended, by how much it is the less appropriate to this or that sect and sort of men, or distinguished by this or that affected, modifying form; that which according to its primitive designation may be hoped, and ought to be the resort of all nations : which it is vain to imagine any one, of inis or that external form, not prescribed by God himself, can ever be ; unless we should suppose it possible, that one and the same human prince, or power, could ever come to govern the world. Such uniformity must certainly suppose such a universal monarchy as never was, and we easily apprehend can never be. Therefore, the belief that the Christian religion shall ever become the religion of the world, and the Christian church become the common universal temple of mankind: that “the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and all nations flow to it;" (as, besides that, many other texts of holy Scripture do plainly speak ;) and an intemperate conteniijus zeal for one external, human form of God's temple on earth, are downright inconsistencies. That belief, and this zeal, must destroy one another ; especially, that which makes particular temples engines to batter down cach otna; Jecause they agree not in some human additionals, though all may be charitably supposed to have somewhat of divine life in them. Therefore we plainly see, that this universal, Christian, living temple, must be formed and finished, not by human might or power, but by the Spirit of the living God; which Spirit, poured forth, shall instruct princes, and the potentates of the world, to receive and cherish among their subjects the great essentials of Christian religion, and whatsoever is of plain divine revelation, wherein all may agree, rejecting, or leaving arbitrary, the little human additaments about which there is so much disagreement.
Heaven did favour us with such a king: and thanks be to God, that he hath given us such a queen, who is not for destroying any temples that may have true vital religion in them, because they neither all have, or have not, the same pinnacles, or other pieces of ornature alike. God grant all Christian princes and powers may herein equally imitate ihem both; as many do seriously lament the loss of the former.
It nas been long the honour of your family to have had great esteem and reverence for such a temple. And I doubt not, but its having spread its branches into divers other worthy families of the Hampdens, Foleys, Ashhursts, Hunts, bas given your Lordship much the more grateful and complacential view, for the affinity to your own in this respect. A temple so truly (and even only) august and great, spreads a glory over the families, kingdoms, and nations where it can have place. What is here written is a mean oblation, for the service of this temple; but acceptable, as even goats' hair was, by being consecrated, with a sincere mind, for the use of the tabernacle of old.
The First Part betakes itself to your Lordship as an orphan, upon the decease of its former patron, in hope of some sort of a postliminary reception. And for the Second Part, it is (as your Lordship shall vouchsafe to receive it) originally and entirely yours.
The former, your Lordship will see, had a former dedication : and I cannot think it will be displeasing to your Lordship, that I let it stand. For though it may seem somewhat uncouth and unusual to have two such epistles come sc Dear one another, yet the unfashionableness hereof, I conceive, will, in your Lordship's judgment, be over-balanced by considerations of a preponderating weight, that are suggested to the reader. While, in the mean time, I cannot suppose it unacceptable to your Lordship, that a person of true worth in his time, related to the same county in which your Lordship hath so considerable concerns, and not altogether unrelated to yourself, should have had a participation with you in the same sort of patronage; with whom your Lordship hath also a true participation, in all the honour, esteem and sincere prayers that ever were conceived for him, by
Your Lordship’s most obedient,
Reader Be pleased tn taxe notice, that the former part of this work was heretofore inscribed to that worthy person, Sir John Skeffington, of Fisherwick, in Staffordshire, Baronet : and who was at that time, also, Viscount LoldMasserene, governor of the county of Londonderry, and one of the Lords of his Majesty Charles the Second's mosi uonourable privy council in the kingdom of Ireland ; and now, since, deceased.
I have, however, thought fit to let it be reprinted, (the incongruity being, by this advertisement, avoided, of making an address anew, in this new impression, to one no longer in our world,) that the memory of a person so truly valua. ble may, so far as this can contribute thereto, be preserved ; and because, also, many things in this epistle may be useful, as a preface, to show the design of the following discourse. And as this purpose may be equally served by it as it is, the other purpose being also, thus, better served, I have not judged it necessary, though that had been easy, to alter the form; which was as follow :
Although I am not, my Lord, without the apprehension that a temple ought to have another sort of dedication, yet I have no such pique at the custom of former days, but that I can think it decent and just that a discourse concerning one conceived under your roof, though born out of your house, should openly own the relation which it thereby bath, and the author's great obligations to your Lordship; and upon this account I can easily persuade myself (though that custom hath much given place to this latter one) not to be so fashionable, as even to write in masquerade.
It were indeed most unbecoming, in the service of so noble a cause, to act in disguise, or decline to tell one's name. And as the prefixing of one so obscure as that which the title-page bears, will be without suspicion of a design to recompense, by the authority of a name, any feared weakness of the cause itself; so were it very unworthy, baving nothing better, to grudge the bringing even of so mean a thing, as a sacrifice to the door of the temple.
And although your Lordship’s is of so incomparably greater value, yet also is it (as the equity of the case requires) exposed with less hazard ; since in common account, the vouchsafement of pardon (whereof 'I cannot despair) for such assumed liberty, can with no justice be understood to import more than only a favourable aspect on the design, without any interest or participation in the disrepute of its ill management. So that your honour is in ao more jeopardy than the main cause itself, which is but little concerned in the successfulness or miscarriage of this or thu effort, which is made on behalf of it; and which, you are secure, can receive no real damage. For the foundations of this temple are more stable than those of heaven and earth, it being built upon that Rock against which the gates of hell can never prevail.
And if, in any unforeseen state of things, you should ever receive prejudice, or incur danger by any real service you should design unto the temple of God, your adventure would be the more honourable, by how much it were more hazardous. The order of Templars, your Lordship well knows, was not, in former days, reckoned inglorious.
But as this temple is quite of another constitution and make, than that of Jerusalem, and (to use those words of the sacred writer) a yeiporointos, rovrisiv oi taúrns ons kriocws-not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building ; (Heb. ix. 11.) so what is requisite to the interest and service of it, is much of another nature. "Entire devotedness to God, sincerity, humility, charity, refinedness from the dross and baseness of the earth, strict sobriety, dominion of one's self, mastery over impotent and ignominious passions, love of justice, a steady propension to do good, delight in doing it, have contributed more to the security and beauty of God's temple on earth, conferred on it more majesty and lustre, done more to procure it room and reverence among men, than the most prosperous violence ever did: the building up of this temple, even to the laying
on the top-stone, (to be followed with the acclamations of Grace, grace,) being that which must be done, not by might or power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. Which, inasmuch as the structure is spiritual, and to be situated and raised up in the mind or spirit of man, works, in order to it, in a way suitable thereto. That is, very much by soft and gentle insinuations, unto which are subservient the self-recommending amiableness and comely aspect of religion; the discernible gracefulness and uniform course of such in whom it bears rule, and is a settled, living law. Hereby the hearts of others
are captivated and won to look towards it: made not only desirous to taste its delights, but, in order thereto, patient also of its rigours, and the rougher severities which their drowsy security and unmortified lusts do require'should accompany it, the more deeply and thoroughly to attemper and form them to it. Merely notional discourses about the temple of God, and the external
forms belonging to it, (how useful soever they be in their own kind and order,) being unaccompanied with the
life and power
whereto they should be adjoined, either as subservient helps, or comely expressions thereof, do gain but little to it in the estimation of discerning men.
Much more have the apparently useless and unintelligible notions, with the empty formalities too arbitrarily affixed to it, by a very great, namely, the unreformed, part of the Christian world, even there exposed it to contempt, where the professed (but most irrational and hopeless) design hath
been to draw to it respect and veneration. And when these have become matter of strife, and filled the world with noise and clamour, through the imperious violence of some, and the factious turbulency
of others; it hath made it look with a frightful aspect, and rendered the divine presence, so represented, an undesired, dreadful thing. This may make that the language of fear with sorbe, (which is of enmity with the most,) “ Depart from us, we desire not the lmowledge of thy ways.”
Most of all; when a glorying in these things, and contention about them, are joined with gross immoralities ; either manifest impiety, sensual debaucheries, acts of open injustice, or the no less criminal evil of a proud, wrathful, ungovernable iemper of spirit; this hath' made it a most hateful thing in the eyes of God and men, and turned that which should be the house of prayer unto all nations, into a den of robbers : hath cast the most opprobrious contumely upon him whom they would entitle the owner of it. That is, when men will steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow; and yet cry, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, &c.; it is as if they wonld make the world believe, that the holy God, the great lover and patron of purity and peace, had erected on purpose, a house on earth, to be the common harbour and sanctuary of the vilest of men, the very pests of human society, and disturbers of mankind.
And if they were not the very worst, yet how absurd and senseless a thing were it, that he should be thought to appropriate a people to himself, have them solemnly baptized into his name, and trained up in a professed belief of those his more peculiar revelations, which are without the common notice of the most ; and in the use of certain (somewhat different)external institutes, being yet content that, in all things else,they be but just like the rest of the world.
Though he may be, for some time, patient of this indignity, and connive at such a state and posture of things, (as he did a great while towards the Jews of old,) yet, that this should be thought the top of his design, and the thing he lastly aimed at, and would acquiesce in, supposes such a notion of God, as than which worshipping a stock were not more foolish and impious, and professed atheism as rational and innocent.
This hath spoiled and slurred the glory of the Christian temple, the most august and magnificent the world hath, (and which, indeed, only hath right to the name,) made the religion of Christians look like an empty vanity, and appear, for many ages, but as an external badge of civil distinction between them and another sort of men, that are only contending for enlarging of empire, and who shall grasp most power into their hands; both having also their sub-distinguishing marks besides, under which too probably divers of those who have adjoined themselves to the so differenced parties, furiously drive at the same design. And these zealously pretend for religion and the temple of God; wben, in the mean time, it were a thing perfectly indifferent (even in itself, as well as in the opinion of the persons concerned) what religion or way they were of, true or false, right or wrong, Paganish, Mahometan, Jewish, Christian, Popish, Protestant, Lutheran, Calvinistical, Episcopal, Presbyterial, Independent, &c.: supposing there be any of each of these denominations that place their religion in noihing else but a mere assent to the peculiar opinions, and an observation of the external formalities, of their own party; and that they never go further, but remain finally alienated from the life of God, and utter strangers to the soul-refining, governing power of true religion. Only, that their case is the worse, the nearer they approach, in profession, to the truth.
And really, if we abstract from the design and end, the spirit and life, the tranquillity and pleasure, of religion, one would heartily wonder what men can see in all the rest, for which they can think it worth the while to contend, to the disquieting themselves and the world. Nobody can believe they regard the authority of God, in this doctrine or institution, rather than another, who neglect and resist the substance and main scope of religion, recommended to them by the same authority. And as to the matters themselves which will then remain to be disputed, we have first the distinguishing name; and if we run over all those before recited, is it a matter of that consequence, as to cut throats, and lay towns and countries desolate, only upon this quarrel, which of these hath the handsomer sound? The different rites of this or that way, to them who have no respect to the authority enjoining them, must, in themselves, signify as little. And for the peculiar opinions of one or another sect, it may be soberly said, that a very great part understand no more of the distinguishing principles of their own, than he that was yet to learn how many legs a sectary had. Only they have learned to pronounce the word which is the Shibboleth of their party, to follow the common cry, and run with the rest, that have agreed to do so to.
But if they all understood the notions ever so well, (not to speak of only those which are peculiar to their way, but,) which are most necessary to 'true religion itself; were it not, in them, a strange frenzy, to contend with clubs and swords about a mere notion, wbich has no infuence on their practice, and they intend never shall? If any should profess to be of opinion that a triangle is a figure that hath four corners, sober men would think it enough to say they were mad, but would let them quietly enjoy their humour, and never think it fit to levy armies against them, or embroil the world upon so slender a quarrel. And wherein can the notions belonging to religion be rationally of higher account, with them, who never purpose to make any use of them, and against which it is impossible for any to fight so mischievously by the most vehement, verbal opposition, as themselves do, by their opposite practice, most directly assaulting, and striking al, even what is most principally fundamental to religion and the temple of God ? Not that these great things are unworthy to be contended for. All that I mean is, what have these men to do with them ? or how irrationally and inconsistently with themselves do they seem so concerned about them?
For even lesser things, the appendages to this sacred frame, are not without their just value, to them who understand their intent and use. Nor am I designing to tempt your Lordship to the neglect or disesteem of any, the least, thing appertaining to religion. And if any other should, I rejoice daily to behold in you that resolute adherence to whatsoever apparently divine truth and institution, to common order, decency, peace, and unity, (which so greatly contribute both to the beauty and stability of God's house,) that may even defy and dismay the attempt; and gives grouud, however, to be confident it would be labour bestowed as vainly, as it were impiously designed. So much greater assurance do you give of your constant fidelity and devotedness to the substance of practical religion itself.
Only how deeply it is to be resented, that while it should be so with all others, so few understand wherein that substance doth consist. I shall not now take notice of men's very different (which must infer some men's mistaken) apprehensions concerning the things necessary to be believed. But, besides that, though some religious sentiments be most deeply natural to men, (and, for aught we certainly know, as far extended as the true notion of humanity can be,) yet in all times, there has been a too general mistake (not peculiar to the Paganish world onıy) of the true design, and proportionably of the genuine principle of it.
That is, it has not been understood as a thing designed to purify and refine men's spirits, to reconcile and join them to God, associate them with him, and make them finally blessed in him. But only to avert or pacify his wrath, procure his favourable aspect on their secular affairs, (how unjust soever,) while, in the mean time, they have thought of nothing less than becoming like to him, acquainted with him, and happy in him. A reconciliation hath only been dreamed of on one side, namely, on his, not their own; on which, they are not so much as inclined to any thing else, than the continuance of the former distance and disaffection.
Consonantly whereto, it is plainly to be seen, that the great principle which hath mostly animated religion in the world hath not been a generous love, but a basely servile fear and dread. Whence the custom of sacrificing hath so generally prevailed (whencesoever it took its rise) in the Pagan world. And with so deep an apprehension of its absolute necessity, that men of even so vile and barbarous manners* as the Gaul's of old, chose, in matters of controversy, to submit their greatest concernments to the pleasure and arbitrement of their Druids, (those sacred persons, as they reckoned them,) rather than be interdicted the sacrifices (the only punishment they could inflict) in
* See the character given of them by Cicero. Orat. pro. Marr. Fon.