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Some ufeful Rules of Inftruction we may receive; some awakening Reflections the Scriptures may administer to us, tending to encourage us in well-doing. This may be: But the Point is, What can fuch a carelefs, and as it were cafual, Ufe of the Scriptures do towards enabling Men, without farther Help, to fettle a Scheme of Religion to themfelves? He that would learn Chriftianity from the Scriptures, muft (as St. Paul fpeaks) give himself wholly to them. He must read them diligently, meditate upon them frequently: He must compare Place with Place, and call in the more plain and eafy Paffages to help out the Sense of the obfcure. It is not to be expected that a great many should take thus much Pains, but some must; and by the Labours of fuch it must be that others profit, who want either Abilities, or Inclination, or Opportunity, for fuch an Employment.

The Truth is, that Study and Meditation is a Way of Improvement for which the Bulk of Mankind are by no Means fitted. Men of Parts and Leifure may do much for themselves; but the far greater Number must have Knowledge at a more ealy Rate, or they must go without it. This is not oftener a Crime than it is a Misfortune. As we have Souls to be faved, fo we have Bodies to be provided for; and what can you expect from thofe who by their Condition are born to Labour? Is it a Time when their Children are crying for Bread, to fit themselves down to read their Bibles? God requires no fuch hard Measures, but hath provided for them the Ministry of his Word, by which that Spiritual Suftenance, which they are not able to gather for themfelves, comes ready prepared to their Hands, and Millions are every Day furnished with the most useful and neceffary Knowledge, who would otherwife have gone out of the World as ignorant almost as they came into it.

All th's fhews the great Goodness of our Savior in appointing a ftanding Ministry; and the Obligat on that lies upon all Chriftians to attend upon their Initructions; for all may improve by it, from the



greatest to the leaft, if they come prepared with a ferious and an honest Mind. No Man fhould think himfelf fo wife or fo good as to be above Inftruction. If Knowledge is perfect, fomething may be yet wanting to touch the Heart; or if we have already made a confiderable Proficiency in a good Life, we may still be growing, and going on to Perfection; to which the Attendance upon Instruction will always be an useful Intrument. If we learn nothing, we may receive fuch Hints as will enable us to improve upon our own Stock. No Man is so much a Fool, if he talks but common Senfe, but that a wife Man may be the better for him.

I will beg Leave to add to all this, that fomething is due to thofe about us, as well as to ourselves. You perhaps, may think your Time would be better einployed by staying at Home to read the Scriptures, or fome other ufeful Book, than by going to Church to hear a Sermon: But will not this Excufe ferve your next Neighbour as well as you? Every Man ftands as an Example to his Neighbour; and wife Men, above all others, are bound to make themselves Patterns of good Works, because their Examples come with a more commanding Force. So it is as to every Thing which in common Eftimation paffes as an Equivalent to Wifdom; as Riches, Honour, Power. Perfons of Rank and Distinction may do much towards bringing Religion into Credit and Efteem; and fo may Heads of Families, (who are all wife and great within their respective Spheres) if they will obferve a proper Behaviour themselves. But if when the Wife and Family are fent to Church, the Mailer fhall ftay at Home, or go Abroad after his Bufinefs or Fleafures, what will be the Conftruction? It is an old Reproach upon Religion, that it is a Trick of Knaves to impofe upon Fools. This Sort of Conduct places it exactly in that Light; which is not the Way to procure it Reverence, but to make it odious; and when a Contempt of Religion gets into Families, it will be very fentibly felt. I can therefore give no Ac


count why any ferious well-meaning Chriflian should make light of attending upon the preaching of God's Word (how mean foever the Inftrument may be by whom it is adminiftred) otherwife than by faying that what fome Men do through a vicious or unbelieving Mind, others are fenfibly drawn into by Custom and Fashion; which fhews a Carelessness at least about Religion that ought to be amended; for what are Cuftoms and Fashions to a reasonable Man, when they come to interfere with the Law of God and the Duty of a Chriftian? Such as thefe fhould confider that they are accountable to God, not only for the Loss of the Opportunities of Improvement to themfelves, but in a Degree for all the bad Effects of that Cuftom under which they are willing to fhelter themselves: For who make Custom, but they who fet the Examples ? Nor are thefe Effects light or trivial; they are the Corruption, the Licentioufnefs, the Infidelity of these Times, which, as in the Beginning of them they lead Men to neglect Instruction, so they owe their Progress and chief Support to that very Neglect. Mens Vices naturally make them hate Rebuke; and when by the want of this they are put out of the Way of Thought and Reflection they grow apace from bad to worse.

If there are any who want Inftruction more than others, they are thofe of the younger Sort; for they are most under the Power of Temptations. Those who have had the Advantages of a fober Education may be fuppofed to be already furnished with fuch a Stock of Knowledge and Virtue as is neceffary to a good Beginning. But there is a Time when every Man must be left to his own Conduct, and when it will be hazardous whether he takes safe and prudent Courses, or runs out into foolish and extravagant Ways. Suppofe now a young Man fent up to Town, to learn a Trade or a Profeffion. Perhaps he may find little Regard paid to God's Worship in the Family where he lives; and he will quickly obferve, as he gets more Knowledge of the World, that going to Church is grown to be an unfashionable Thing. The Confequence

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of this will be, that inftead of fpending his Sundays as he ought to do, and improving thofe good Beginnings which he brought with him from his Parents and Governors, he will make Ufe of those Vacations from Bufinefs to acquaint himfelf with bad Company, who will plunge him at once into all the Vices and Follies of the Age. And can you wonder, if after this the Man turns Unbeliever? Chriftianity has Evidence enough to fatisfy all reafonable Men who will give themielves Leifure to confider it: But if a Man will have his Ears open to every Buffoon that fcoffs at Religion, or every grave Atheist that difputes against it, and will never enter into a Church to hear it feriously and foberly defended; it will be impoffible that Faith fhould stand its Ground. There is no Evidence for the Gospel that will conquer thus much Partiality, nor was it fit that there fhould be any fuch.

What is true of the publick Faith, is as true of the publick Virtue: Or if you want Conviction, look among the numerous Swarms of thofe about this City, who inftead of repairing to their Parish Churches, fpend the Lord's Day in ftrolling about the Fields, or in frequenting diforderly Houfes, and fee what Sort of Morals you will find among them. If this were a general Cafe, the Mischief would be general; and it is plain, that every fingle Man who neglects his Duty in not paying that Regard to the Religion of the Lord's Day, which, as a Chriftian, he is bound to pay, contributes his Share towards making it general: For if one Man may be excufed, Hundreds and Thoufands may be excufed as well as he. Nor is the Evil likely to end in one, or in a few Inftances; for evil Customs spread apace, and flide down with great Facility from the higheft to the lowest Orders of Men. Coftom, which all Men feel, weighs more than Reafon, which few attend to; and when any Practice falls in with the vicious Inclinations of Men, it is Encouragement enough that their Betters do it before them. This neceffary Connexion that there is between the religious Observance of the Lord's Day and the pub.

lick Virtue, naturally brings it under the Authority of the Chriftian Magiftrate; who has a Right to take Care of the publick Virtue, for the publick Safety's Sake. The Religion of a Country is a Country's best Security; and the Magiftrate, as Chriftian, may, and ought to fupport common Morality upon Chrif. tian Principles, and by Chriftian Methods; which arę in themselves the very beft Methods he can purfue. He may therefore oblige all his Christian Subjects, under penal Laws, to join themselves with fome Communion for publick Worship on the Lord's Day; and lay a Restraint upon all fuch Occupations, as interfere with, and draw Men off from, their Attendance upon publick Worship. This is no Encroachment upon Confcience; for every Chriftian may be prefumed to think himself bound in Conscience publickly to wor fhip God in one Communion or another: And if it is no Encroachment upon Confcience, it can be no Invafion of Civil Liberty; for Civil Liberty always is, or ought to be reftrained by Confcience. Upon this Principle our Laws will be juftified, which forbid. Men the Exercife of their ordinary Callings on the Lord's Day; for if Tradefmen might be allowed to open their Shops, and Traffick and Commerce were to go on freely on Sundays, as on other common Days; it is to be apprehended that moft Men would find very little Leifure to go to Church. So it is as to Paftimes and Recreations; which, therefore, Civil Laws have a Right to reftrain within due Bounds; and subordinate Magiftrates cannot in any Way more properly exprefs their Concern for Religion, than in fhewing a properRegard to the Spirit and Intention of fuch Laws themselves, and taking Care that the Breach of them, in no remarkable Instance, be fuffered to pass without Correction. It is not a proper Token of fuch Regard (give me Leave to fay) when the Lord's Day is fingledout for Travelling, or other fecular Employments. This is grown to be a very customary Thing; and the Confequence we may naturally expect from it is, that in a little Time we fhall fee common Carriers and Waggoners

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