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means rendered their duty much more difficult to themselves than it otherwise would be; haying greatly increased the evil inclinations of nature by wicked practice. For the Scripture plainly supposeth, that men may debauch even corrupt nature.
The sad condition of these requires no ordinary efforts to rescue them: they must, to the most vigorous endeavours, join an earnest application to God for his powerful grace and assistance to help them out of their miserable state. A just sense of the extreme danger in which we are, will inspire us with a mighty resolution. When we are severely pressed, we find a power in ourselves which we thought we had not; and the divine aid, ever ready to be afforded to well disposed minds, and such as are sincerely bent to return to God and their duty, can enable us to surmount the greatest difficulties.
5. From what hath been said, it evidently appears, that the destruction of any of us is entirely from ourselves; that the way to eternal happiness has no difficulties in it, which resolution, diligence and patience may not overcome, and which were permitted to be in it for no other purpose than that we might win and wear a more glorious crown, and be fit to receive a more ample reward from God's bounty and goodness; yea, in some sense, I may say from his justice; for he is not unrigh
teous to forget our work and labour of love. He will fully consider all the pains we take, and all the difficulties we struggle with in his service. So that this objection, from the clashing of our duty with our inclination, is I hope, fully answered; since God hath provided so powerful a remedy against our natural impotency and infirmity, by the grace of the gospel.
And though the first entrance upon a religious course of life be very difficult to those who have wilfully contracted vicious habits, yet there are such charms in the ways of wisdom and virtue, that a little acquaintance with them will soon make them more delightful than any other course: and who will grudge any pains to bring himself into so safe and happy a condition? After we have trod the paths of religion and profaneness, of virtue and vice, we shall certainly find, that nothing is so wise, so easy, and so comfortable, as to be virtuous, and always to do what we are inwardly convinced we ought to do. Nor would I desire more of any man in this matter than to follow the soberest convictions of his : own mind, and to do that, which upon the most serious consideration, at all times, in prosperity and affliction, in sickness and health, in the time of life, and at the hour of death, he would judge it wisest and safest for him to do. I proceed to the latter part of the objection
I was to answer, namely, the uneasiness of religion in point of practice.
There was, I confess, some pretence for this objection in the Jewish religion; which, by the multitude of its positive institutions and external observances, was very burdensome.
But the pure Christian religion, as it was delivered by our Saviour, has hardly any thing in it that is positive, except the two sacraments; it has nothing in it but what every man's reason either dictates to him to be necessary, or approves as highly fit and reasonable.
The laws of this religion abridge us of no pleasure that a wise man can desire and safely enjoy: the pleasure of commanding our appetites, and governing our passions, by the rules of reason, (which are the laws of God) is infinitely to be preferred before any sensual pleasure whatsoever ; because it is the pleasure of wisdom and discretion; and gives us the satisfaction of having done what is best and fittest for reasonable creatures to do.
Nothing is more certain in reason and experience, than that every inordinate appetite is a punishment to itself; and is perpetually defeating its own satisfaction. For instance, intemperance in eating and drinking, instead of delighting and satisfying nature, does but load and cloy it; and instead of quenching a natural thirst, which it is extremely pleasant to do, creates an unnatural one, which is
troublesome and endless. The pleasure of revenge, as soon as it is executed, turns into grief and pity, consciousness of guilt, remorse, and a thousand melancholy wishes that we had restrained ourselves froin it. And the same is as evident in other sensual excesses, not so fit to be described. We may trust Epicurus for this, that there can be no true pleasure without temperance in the use of pleasure. And God hath set us no other bounds concerning the use of sensual enjoyments, but that we take care not to be injurious to ourselves, or others, in the kind or degree of them. All sensual excess is naturally attended with a double inconvenience; as it goes beyond the limits of nature, it begets bodily pains and diseases ; as it transgresseth the rules of reason and religion, it breeds guilt and remorse in the mind. And, beyond comparison, the two greatest evils in this world are, a diseased body, and a disco ed ind. in this I am sure I speak to the inward feeling and experience of men; and say nothing, but what every vicious man finds, and has a more lively sense of, than is to be expressed by words.
There is no pleasure comparable to that of innocency, and freedom from the stings of a guilty conscience; this is a pure and spiritual pleasure, much above any sensual delight. And yet among all the delights of sense, that
of health (which is the natural consequent of a sober, chaste, and regular life) is a pleasure far beyond that of any vice; for it is the life of life, and what gives a grateful relish to all our other enjoyments. It is not indeed so violent and transporting a pleasure, but it is pure, even, lasting, and hath no guilt and regret, no sorrow and trouble in it, or after it; which is a worm that infallibly breeds in all vicious and unlawful pleasures, and makes them to be bitterness in the end.
There are so many unanswerable objections against vice, from the unreasonableness and ugliness of it, from the remorse which attends it, from the endless misery which follows it, that none but the rash and inconsiderate can commit it. It is the daughter of inadvertency, blindness and folly; and the mother of guilt, repentance and woe. There is no pleasure which will abide with us to the last, but that of innocency and well doing. All sin is folly: and, as a wise Heathen (Seneca) truly says, all folly soon grows sick and weary of itself. The pleasure of it is slight and superficial, but the trouble and remorse of it pierceth our very hearts.
To object to religion, that it restrains us of our liberty, would be most unreasonable ; since the contrary is evidently true, that sin and vice are the greatest slavery. For he is truly a slave, who is not at liberty to follow his own