Page images

care not how little is expected of them, or how little they themselves have to do, in order to get to heaven. But true religion, that alone which asfords solid ground of hope towards God, consists in a change of heart, afsections, and habits; which can only be brought about by serious resolution, and a vigorous and constant exertion of our powers. Nay, unless a course of virtue be begun, and good habits formed early in lise, there is very great danger that the thorns, briers, or bad foil, will prevent the good seed from ever coming to maturity.

To believe, as the same persons do, that saith and repentance are nothing that we ourselves are capable of, but altogether the miraculous operation of the Spirit of God in us and upon us, supposes that this great and sudden change may as well take place at the last hour of lise, as at any other: which certainly encourages the most unwarrantable and most dangerous presumption, and is sar fiom having any countenance in the scriptures. The word of God always represents a sase and happy death as the consequence of nothing but a good and well-spent life. Some, indeed, are said to have been ealled at the eleventh hour, but none at the twelfth, when the time for labouring in the vineyard was quite over; and not one of the foolish virgins, who had neglected to provide themselves with oil, was admitted to the marriage-supper.

III, Of Original Sin.

As a foundation for this strange doctrine, of the utter inability of men to do what God requires of them, a doctrine so injurious both to our maker and ourselves, it is said that by his first osfence our first parent Adam, and all his posterity, lost all power of doing any thing acceptable to God for the future;: that he was the representative of all his posterity, so that when be sinned, we all sinned; and every sin being an offence against an insinite God, we all became, from Chat moment, liable to an insinite punishment, even the everlasting wrath and curse of our maker. And they say, that, on this account only, it would have been just in God to have made us air suffer the most exquisite and endless torments in hell,, even though we had never sinned in our own persons.

But, my brethren, you sind nothing like any part of this in your bibles. For there you read, the foul that finneth., it shall die. Ezek. xviii. 4. And long after the transgression of Adam, and to this very day, God is continually calling upon men to cease to do evil, and learn to do well; which certainly supposes that men always have had, and that we now have, a power to do so. It is allowed that we suffer by the sin of Adem, as any child may suffer in consequence of the wickedness of his ancestor; but it is not possible that we should havesinned'm him. Wherever there isyJw, there k guilt; that is, something that may be the


foundation of remorse of conscience; something that a man may be sorry for, and repent of; something that he may wish he had not done; all which clearly implies, that sin is something that a man has given his consent to, and therefore must be convinced of the reasonableness of his being punished for. But how can any man repent of the sin of Adam, or seel any thing like remorse of conscience for it; when he cannot but know that he never gave his consent to it, and could not possibly have been, in the least degree, accessary to it? Good and bad conduct are, in their own nature, personal, and cannot possibly be transserred from one to another. Whatever some divines pretend, nothing of this kind can be imputed in this fense of the word. We may receive harm by means of one person, and benesit by means of another; but no sin of the former, or righteousness of the latter, can be considered as ours% in the eye of an equitable and just God. The contrary is as much the language and the plain meaning of the scriptures throughout, as it is agreeable to the common sense and reason that God has given us.

IV. Of Election And Reprobation. Supposing that all mankind became liable to the everlasting wrath and curse of God for the sin of one man, some divines fay, that it was mercy in God to save any, though by an arbitrary decree, which left all the rest of the human race under an inevitable

necessity necessity of perishing. But certainly, my brethren, such tender mercy is cruelty. All the creatures of God must look up to him as the author of their being, since it was, undoubtedly, in his power to give, or to withhold it, at his pleasure; and, surely, a good and mercisul God would have put a stop to the propagation of such a race of creatures, rather than sufser them to be born in such shocking circumstances; in which he insallibly foresaw, that the greatest part of them must be exposed to, and even actually suffer remediless destruction. As surely as I derive my being from a just and mercisul God, I conclude that the terms on which I came into the world are advantageous to me; and therefore, that it must be my own sault only, if I have not reason to rejoice in it, and to be thanksul for it. But, indeed, I can hardly think that any man seriously believes, that the greatest part of his sellow-creatures are born into the world under a predetermined necessity of being for ever miserable. For, in that case, it must appear probable, that any children which he himself may be the means of bringing into the world will be for ever miserable; and surely no man of real goodness or compassion would wish to have children, or be accessary to their being born in such circumstances.

If this doctrine be true, what motive can any man have to endeavour to fee from the wrath to come; Matt. iii. 7. when, if it is to be his lot at all, nothing that he can do will enable him to escape it; or

what what motive can a man have to exert himself to lay held on eternal life; I Tim. vi. 12. when, if he is to enjoy it at all, he cannot possibly miss of it, or of any thing belonging to it, or that is neceflary to prepare him for it? What reason had the apostle Paul to exhort christians to take heed lesl they should fall, I. Cor. x, 12. when none that ever did stand could possibly sall? and what reason had he to labour, lest after having preached to others, he himself should be a cast-awayf i- Cor. ix. 27. when being certain of his conversion, he must have known that that consequence was impossible?

This doctrine, of absolute election and reprobation, is certainly a doctrine oi licentiousness, and not a dotlrine according to godliness; and let divines employ all the ingenuity they are masters of, it is impossible for them to clear this opinion from being the cause of satal despair in some, and as satal a securityin others. If this opinion were true, and men were really aware of their situation, I should think it impossible to prevent their salling into absolute distraction, through terror and anxiety. It would be like a man having his all, his life, nay insinitely more than his lise, depending upon the cast of a die; the decree of God being a thing that he has, as little power to command. Besides, this doctrine certainly represents the God and Father of us all in such a light, as no man would chuse that he himself should appear in.

3 V. Of

« PreviousContinue »