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vitious habits, a religious and virtuous course of life be very difficult, yet the main difficulty lies in our first entrance upon it; and, when that is over, the ways of goodness are as easy as it is fit any thing should be that is so excellent, and that hath the encouragement of so glorious a reward. Custom will reconcile men almost to any thing: but there are those charms in the ways of wisdom and virtue, that a little acquaintance and conversation with thein will soon make them more delightful than any other course. And who will grudge any pains and trouble to bring himself into so safe and happy a condition ? After we have tried both courses, 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 good, and always to do that which we are inwardly convinced we ought to do. Nor would I desire more of any man in this matter, than to follow the foberest 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 judgeth wisest and safest for him to do. I proceed to the
2. Second branch of the objection, That the laws of religion, and particularly of the Chriftian religion, are a heavy yoke, laying too great a restraint upon human nature, and intrenching too much upon the pleasures and liberty of it.
There was, I confefs, some pretence for this objection against the Jewish religion ; which, by the multitude of its positive institutions and external observances, must needs have been very burthensome. And the same objection lies against the church of Rome, who, as they have handled Christianity, by the unreasonable number of their needless and senseless ceremonies, have made the yoke of Christ heavier than that of Moses, and the gospel a more carnal commandment than the law. So that Christianity is lost among them in the trappings and accoutrements of it; with which, instead of adorning religion, they have strangely disguised it, and quite Itifled it in the crowd of external rites and ceremonies. But the pure Christian religion, as it was delivered by
our our Saviour, hath hardly any thing in it that is positive; except the two facraments, which are not very troublesome neither, but very much for our comfort. and advantage, because they convey and confirm to us the great blellings and privileges of our religion. In other things, Christianity hath hardly imposed any other laws upon us but what are enacted in our natures, or are agreeable to the prime and fundamental laws of it; nothing but what every man's reason either dictates to him to be necessary, or approves as highly fit and reasonable.
But we do most grossly mistake the nature of pleasure and liberty, if we promise them to ourselves in any evil and wicked course: for, upon due search and trial, it will be found, that true pleasure and perfect freedom are no where to be found, but in the practice of virtue, and in the service of God. The laws of religion do not abridge us of any pleasure that a wise man can desire, and safely enjoy ; I mean, without a greater evil and trouble consequent upon it. 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 fatisfaction of having done that which is best and fittest for reasonable creatures to
Who would not rather chufe to govern himself as Scipio did, amidst all the temptations and opportunities of sensual pleasure which his power and victories presented to him, than to wallow in all the delights of sense?
Nothing is more certain in reason and experience, than that every inordinate appetite and affection is a punishment to itself, and is perpetually crossing its own pleasure, and defeating its own fatisfaction, by overshooting the mark it aims at. For instance : Intemperance in eating and drinking, instead of delight.' ing and satisfying nature, doth but load and cloy it; and, instead of quenching a natural thirst, which it is extremely pleasant to do, creates an unnatural one, which troublesome and endless. The pleasure of revenge, as soon as it is executed, turns into grief and VOL.II.
pity, guilt and remorse, and a thousand melancholy wishes that we had restrained ourselves from so unrea sonable an act. And the same is as evident in other fensual excesses, not so fit to be described. trust Epicurus for this, that there can be no true pleasure without temperance in the use of pleasure. And God and reason have set us no other bounds concerning the use of sensual pleasures, but that we take care not to be injurious to ourselves or others, in the kind or degree of them. And it is very vilble, that 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 reafon and religion, it breeds guilt and remorse in the mind. And these are, beyond comparison, the two greatelt evils in this world, a diseased body, and a discontented mind : and in this I am sure I speak to the inward feeling and experience of men ; and say nothing but what every vitious man finds, and hath a more lively sense of than is to be expressed by words.
When all is done, 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 natuTal consequent of a sober, and chaste, and regular life) is a sensual pleasure far beyond that of any vice : for it is the life of life, and that which gives a grateful relish to all our other enjoyments. It is not indeed fo violent and transporting a pleasure; but it is pure, and even, and lasting, and hath no guilt and regret, no forrow and trouble in it, or after it ; which is a worm that infallibly breeds in all vitious and unlawful pleasures, and makes them to be bitterness in the end.
All the ways of sin are so beset with thorns and difficulties on every side, there are so many
unanswerable objections against vice, from the unreasonableness and ugliness of it, from the remorse that attends it, from the endless misery that follows it, that none but the rafh and inconsiderate can obtain leave of themselves to commit it. It is the daughter of inadvertency, and blindness, and folly; and the mother of guilt, and repentance, and
woe. There is no pleasure that will hold out and abide with us to the last, but that of innocency and well-doing. All sin is folly; and, as Seneca truly says, Omnis stultitia laborat fastidio fui, “ 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.
And then, as to the other part of the objection, That religion restrains us of our liberty; the contrary is evidently true, that fin and vice are the greatest flavery : for he is truly a slave, who is not at liberty to follow his own judgment, and to do those things which he is inwardly convinced it is best for him to do; but is subject to the unreasonable commands, and the tyrannical power and violence of his lusts and passions : so that he is not master of himself, but other lords have got dominion over him, and he is perfectly at their beck and command. One vice or passion bids him Go, and he goes; another, Come, and he comes; and a third, Do this, and he doth it. The man is at perpetual variance with his own mind, and continually committing the things which he condemns in himself. And it is all one, whether a man be subject to the will and humour of another person, or to his own lofts and passions. Only this of the two is the worfe; because the tyrant is at home, and always ready at hand to domineer over him : he is got within him, and so much the harder to be vanquished and o, vercome.
But the service of God, and obedience to his laws, is perfect liberty ; because the law of God requires nothing of us, but what is recommended to us by our own reason, and from the benefit and advantage of doing it; nothing .but what is much more for our own interest to do it, than it can be for God's to command it. And if in some things God exact obedience of us more indispensably, and under severer penalties, it is because those things are in their nature more necessary to our felicity. And how could God possibly have dealt more graciously and kindly with us, than to oblige us most strictly to that which is most evidently for our good; and to make such laws; for us, as, if we live in obedience to them, will infal.. libly make us happy? So that, taking all things into
consideration, the interest of our bodies and our fouls, of the present and the future, of this world and the other, religion is the most reasonable and wise, the most comfortable and compendious course that any man can take in order to his own happiness.
The consideration whereof ought to be a mighty endearment of our duty to us, and a most prevalent argument with us to yield a ready and chearful obedience to the laws of God; which are in truth so many acts of grace and favour to mankind, the real privileges of our nature, and the proper means and causes of our happiness; and do retrain us from nothing, but from doing mischief to ourselves, from playing the fools, and making ourselves miserable.
And therefore, inftead of opposing religion, upon pretence of the unreasonable restraints of it, we ought to thank God heartily, that he hath laid so Itrict an obligation upon us to regard and pursue our true interest ; and hath been pleased to take that care of us, as to set bounds to our loose and wild appetites by our duty; and in giving us rules to live by, hath no ways complied with our inconsiderate and foolish inclinations, to our real harm and prejudice; but hath made those things necessary for us to do, which in all respects are best for us, and which, if we were perfectly left to our own liberty, ought in all reason to be our free and first choice; and hath made the folly and inconvenience of sin fo grossly palpable, that every man may see it beforehand that will but consider, and at the beginning of a bad course look to the end of it: and they that will not consider, shall be forced, from woful experience, at last to acknowledge it, when they find the dismal effects and mischievous consequences of their vices still meeting them at one turn or other.
And now, by all that hath been said upon this argument, I hope we are satisfied that religion is no such intolerable yoke; and that, upon a due and full consideration of things, it cannot seem evil unto any of us to serve the Lord: nay, on the contrary, that it is absolutely necessary, both to our present peace and our future felicity; and that a religious and virtuous life, is not only upon all accounts the most prudent, but, after we are entered upon it, and accustomed to it, the most pleasant course