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the name ; it is madness and nonsense. To do his command. ments is the best test of a good understanding ; a good sound understanding have all they that do this, all of them without ex, ception : however weak some of them may be in other things, they are wise in the most important respect ; but without this, however cunning they are in other things, they have lost their understandings ; they contradict common sense ; they are beside themselves. In short, to pursue everlasting happiness as the end, in the way of holiness as the mean, this is wisdom, this is common sense ; and there can be none without this.'
Wisdom consists in two things ; choosing a right end, and using right means to obtain it. Now what end so becoming a creature to live forever, as everlasting happiness? And in what way can it be obtained, but in the way of holiness ? Consult the judgment of God in his word ; consult your own conscience, or even common sense, and you will find that this is the case. Therefore he is a man of sense that pursues this end in this way; but he is a fool, he is brutish, that chooses an inferior end, or that pursues tbis in a wrong way.
My time will not allow me to do any more than to mention some instances of the folly and madness of such as do not make the fear of the Lord the beginning of their wisdom.
1. Men will not take the safest side in religion, which their reason and self-love carry them to do in other cases.
It is very possible the love of ease and pleasure, and a self-flat. tering disposition, may prompt your invention to form a plausible system of religion ; a religion that admits of great hopes with little evidences, and that allows you many indulgencies and lays few restraints upon you ; a religion purged, as you imagine, from some of the melancholy and gloomy doctrines of christianity, and that releases you from those restraints, so painful to a wicked heart, which the holy religion of Jesus lays upon you. It is very possible you may hope you shall obtain eternal happiness without much pains, and without observing the strictness of universal holiness ; you may indulge hopes of heaven, though you indulge yourselves wilfully in sin ; you may flatter yourselves that God is not so inexorably just as the sacred scriptures represent him ; and that his threatenings are only tremendous sounds without any design to be executed in all their strictness ; you may flatter yourselves, that the punishments of a future state are not intolerably dreadful, nor of everlasting duration ; you may excuse and diminish your sins, and make a great many plausible apologies for them. But are you sure of these things ? Have you demonstration for them, upon which you may venture your eternal all ? Think the matter over seriously again ; have you certainty that these things are so ? and are you willing to perish forever if they should be otherwise ? What if you should be mistaken? What if you should find God as strict and holy as his word represents him? What if all his dreadful threatenings should be sincere and true, and your sins have infinitely greater malignity in his eyes than in yours? What if in a little time you should find that the scriptures give a more just account of the punishments of hell than your self-flattering heart suggested to you, and that they are indeed intolerable and strictly eternal ? What if you should find, when it is too late to correct the mistake, that those neglected, ridiculous things, regeneration, conversion, holiness of heart and practice, the mortification of sin, and a laborious course of devotion—what if you should find they are absolutely necessary to everlasting happiness? What if it should appear that the wilful indulgence of the least known sin will eter. nally ruin you ? Stand and pause, and ask yourselves, What if you should find matters thus, quite the reverse to what you flattered yourselves ? What will become of you then? You are undone, irreparably undone through all eternity. Well, to speak modestly, this may be the case, for what you know ; and is it not then the part
of a wise man to provide against such a dreadful contingency ? Will you run so terrible a risk, and yet claim a good understanding? Do you esteem a life of religion so burdensome, that you had better make such a desperate venture than choose it? Do you esteem the pleasures of sin so sweet, so solid, so lasting, that it is your interest to run the risk of intolerable, eternal misery, rather than part with them ? Can you form such an estimate as this while in your senses ? No, he is a madman with whom certain pleasures for a little time, the sordid pleasures of sin, outweigh an eternity of perfect happiness. He is certainly not in his right mind that would rather be tormented in hell for. ever, than lead an holy life, and labour to escape the wrath to come. Therefore act in this as you do in other cases of uncertainty, choose the safest side. Believe and regard what God has said ; be holy in all manner of conversation ; strive with all your might to enter in at the strait gate ; accept of Christ as your Lord and Saviour. Do this, and you are safe, let the case be as it will ;
of this inconsistent conduct hereafter ?” But if religion is an excellent thing, as you profess to believe it, why do you not choose it now? the sooner the better. Again, is it not the greatest folly to indulge yourselves in a practice that you deliberately intend to repent of? If your present conduct be wise, why do you intend to repent of it ? the very intention implies that you are even now convinced it is foolish ; and what will your repentance be but a deep sense of your folly? And can there be a greater madness than deliberately to do any thing which at the very time you intend to repent of? Is there any thing more absurd and ridiculous ? Is this your conduct in other things ? Will you make a bargain, which you know you will afterwards repent of? Will you prosecute a scheme which you deliberately intend afterwards to condemn and be sorry for ? Can you do such things, and yet take it ill to be called fools ? Further, why do you design to repent ? Is it because you hate sin ? No; for if that was the reason, you would immediately forsake it. Is it because you love God and holiness ? No; for then you would devote yourselves to the service of God immediately, and could not bear a delay. But you intend to force yourselves upon a little remorse of conscience, when the punishment of sin is just ready to fall upon you, with no other design but just to escape it. think there is any value in such extorted sorrows, that proceed not from hatred of sin, or love to God, but merely from self-love, and a servile fear of punishment ? Can any wise man look upon this as repentance to life, or hope that God will accept of it ? Finally, are you sure of that uncertain hereafter, in which you purpose to repent? Is there any man in his senses that dare pretend he is certain of another day? or that he shall not die by some sudden accident, or in a delirium, in which he has no time nor composure to repent ?
III. Is it not the greatest folly for men to pretend to love God, when their temper and conduct are inconsistent with it, and plainly evidential of the contrary?
If you go round the world with the question, “ Do you love God ? do you love him above all ?" you will hardly meet with any one but what will answer, “ Yes, to be sure ; I have loved him all my life.” Well, but where are the evidences and effects of this love ? If you pretend friendship to men, they expect the expressions of it from you on every occasion; otherwise they will see through the pretence, and pronounce it flattery. They
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expect you should often think of them with tender a vection, perform them all the good offices in your power, study to please them, be tender of their characters, solicitous about their interest, and delight in their society. These are the inseparable effects of love ; and certainly, if you love God, your love will have such effects, especially since, if you love him at all with sincerity, you love hiin above all other persons and things. But men will insist upon it that they love him above all, and yet very seldom or never think of him with tender affection : they love him above all, and yet indulge themselves in sin, that abominable thing, which he hates : they love him above all, and yet have little solicitude about pleasing him, and doing his will they love him above all, and yet are unconcerned about the interests of religion in the world, which are his interests, and careless about his honour and glory : they love him above all, and yet have no pleasure in conversing with him in prayer, and the other ordinances of his grace, where he holds spiritual interviews with his people. They love him above all, and yet love and delight in a thousand other things more than him; and they would highly resent it if one should begin to question the sincerity of their love ; and they hope God will accept of it, and reward it. But can men in their senses think that this will pass for true and supreme love with him, that knows all things ?
They cannot expect that their fellow-creatures should thus be ľ imposed upon ; and is it not the greatest madness to imagine
they can thus impose upon Omniscience ? Indeed it may astonish any man that knows what love is, to find that the most of men pretend they love God, even while they are giving the most glaring evidences of disaffection to him ; and after all, it is almost impossible to convince them that they do not thoroughly love him. What madness has seized the world, that they will not receive conviction in such a plain case ! What mean thoughts must they have of God, when they think to put him off with such an empty compliment, and hypocritical profession!
IV. Is it not the greatest folly for men to hope for heaven, when they have no evidences at all of their title to it, or fitness for it?
Is it not the dictate of common sense, that no man can be happy in any thing but what he has a relish for, and delights in ? Can an illiterate rustic find pleasure in rigid mathematical demon. VOL. 11.
strations, and learned speculations, or a man of pleasure and business in the ascetic mortified life of a hermit ? Can a man, whose taste is vitiated by sickness, enjoy happiness in the entertainments of a feast ? No, nothing can make a man happy, but what is suited to his relish and disposition. And yet there are thousands that have no relish for the enjoyment of God, no pleasure in thinking of him, or conversing with him, no delight in his service and acts of devotion, who yet hope to be forever completely happy in these exercises in heaven. The happiness of heaven, as I have often told you, consists in such things as these, and how can you hope to be bappy there while you have no pleasure in them! There are thousands who have no delight in any thing holy or religious, but only in the gratifications of their senses and the enjoyment of earthly things, who yet hope to be happy in heaven, in the wants of all sensual and earthly enjoyments. There are thousands who now disgust the society of the religious as intolerably precise, who yet flatter themselves they shall be perfectly happy in the company of saints and angels, where the meanest is incomparably more holy than the most sanctified creature upon earth. And have they a sound understanding who can entertain such absurd hopes ? Does not common sense tell us, that God, who does every thing wisely, will bring none to heaven but those whom he has made fit for it beforehand ? and that as none shall be sent to hell but those that were previously wicked, so none shall be admitted into the world of glory but those who are previously made holy? None first begin to be holy in heaven or wicked in hell : both parties bring with them those dispositions which are fit for their respective places and employments. How absurd is it therefore to hope for heaven, while you have no heavenly dispositions ! You may as well hope to see the sun without eyes. Further, God has assured you in his word, and you profess to believe him, that without regeneration, faith, repentance, and interest in Christ, and universal holiness, you cannot enter into his kingdom; and yet, are there not some of you who are foolish enough to hope for it, though destitute of all these ? Has he not told you that drunkards, swearers, unclean, malicious, contentious persons, liars, and the like, shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven? And yet, though you know these are your characters, and the world knows it too, you will hope for admission to it, in defiance of God's most express repeated declarations! What madness is this! and how