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Thus they have embraced many gross delusions, that are as contrary as possible to natural affection. Such as offering up their own children in sacrifice to their idol ; which has been a common thing in the heathen world. And the parents have not only offered them up to death, but they have brought them, and offered them up to the most cruel and tormenting deaths : as, to be burnt alive, to be broiled to death in burning brass ; which was the way of offering up children to Moloch. The image of the idol being made of brass, in a horrid shape, was heated red hot; and the poor child was laid naked in this burning brass, and so burnt to death. And the parents themselves brought the child to this offering, however sweet and pleasant a child it might be. And thus the innocent child was tormented till it died, without any regard to its piteous cries. And it has been the manner of some nations, to offer in sacrifice the fairest and best beloved child that they had. And thus many thousands of poor babes have been offered up. So strong has been the tendency of the hearts of men to delusion, that it has thus overcome those strong natural affections which men have to the fruit of their own bodies.
And many of these delusions have been against men's natural love of their own ease, and aversion to pain. Many have worshipped their idols, and do so to this day, with such rites as are most painful and tormenting ; cutting, gashing, and mangling their own flesh. Thus they sottishly worshipped Baal of old. “ And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them."* And it is still the custom in some nations grievously to torment themselves : to kindle a fire to scorch their own bodies in a most miserable manner; and to put themselves to various and long-continued torments to please their idols. And it is the manner in some countries for persons, on certain occasions, to kill themselves; yea, to put themselves to cruel deaths; to cast themselves into great fires, and there burn themselves to death. How powerful must be the delusions of the human mind, and how strong the tendency of the heart to carry them such a length, and so to overcome the tenderest feelings of human nature !
3. The extreme blindness of the mind of man will appear further, if we consider how general gross ignorance and delusion has been. It has for the most part prevailed through the greater part of the world. For most of the time from Noah's food to the coming of Christ, all nations, except the children of Israel, were overspread with gross heathenish darkness ; being given up to the most vain and ridiculous notions, and all manner of superstitious, barbarous, absurd, and unnatural
*1 Kings xviii. 98.
practices. And, for the greater part of the time since, most nations of the world have been covered with gross darkness.
So it is at this day. Many nations are under popish darkness, and are in such gross delusions that they worship the Virgin Mary, and a great multitude of dead men, whom their church bas canonized for saints; some real saints, and others abominably wicked men. So they worship the bread in the sacrament, and account it not only the real body of Christ, but real Christ in body and soul, and divinity. They carry a wafer, a small piece of bread, in procession, fall down before it, adore it, and account it Christ himself, both in his divine and human nature; and yet believe that the body of Christ is in heaven, and in ten thousand different places on earth at the same time. They think they can do works of supererogation; that is, more good works than they are obliged to do, whereby they bring God into debt to them. They whip themselves, and put themselves to other ridiculous penances and sufferings, whereby they think they appease the anger of God for their sins. And they pay money to the priests, to buy the pardon of their sins; yea, they buy indulgencies for future crimes, or pardon for sins before they commit them. They think they defend themselves from evil spirits, by sprinkling holy water. They pay money to buy the souls of their departed friends out of purgatory; they worship the relics of dead saints ; such as pieces of their bones, their teeth, their hair, pieces of their garments, and the like. And innumerable other such foolish delusions are they under.
A great part of the nations of the world are Mahometans; many of the articles of whose belief are too childish and ridiculous to be publicly mentioned in a solemn assembly.But the greater part of the inhabitants of the world are to this day, gross, barbarous heathens, who have not the knowledge of the true God, but worship idols and devils, with all manner of absurd and foolish rites and ceremonies ; and are destitute of even common civility : multitudes of nations being like beasts in human shape.--Now this barbarous ignorance and gross delusion being of such great extent and continuance, shows that the cause is general, and that the defect is in the corrupted nature of mankind; man's natural blindness and proneness of his heart to delusion:
4. The sottish blindness and folly of the heart of men appears in their being so prone to fall into such gross delusions, soon after they have been favoured with clear light. Were not the minds of men exceeding dark, they never would entertain such absurd notions at all; for they are as contrary as possible to reason : much less would they fall into them, after they had once been instructed in the truth. For, were it not Very strange and great sottishness indecd, they would-when
they come to be informed of the truth, and have opportunity to compare it with those gross errors—behold such a reasonableness in the truth, and such absurdity in those errors, that they would never be in danger of being deluded by them any
But yet so it is; mankind, after they have been fully instructed, and have lived in clear light, have, time after time, presently lost the knowledge of the truth, and have exchanged it for the most barbarous and brutish notions.
So it was early after the flood, whereby the wicked world, those that were visibly so, were destroyed ; and none were left but those who professed the true religion : and they had such an eminently holy man as Noah to instruct them. And though the true God had so wonderfully and astonishingly manifested himself in that great work of vengeance against his enemies; yet the posterity of Noah, in great part, presently lost the knowledge of the true God, and fell away to idolatry; and that even while Noah was living. And the ancestors of Abraham were tainted with that idolatry ; even Terah his own father. " And Joshua said unto all the people, thus saith the Lord God of Israel, your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood,” &c.* It seems as though Abraham was called away from his father's house, and from his own country, for this reason, that the country was overrun with idolatry.
And even many of the posterity of Abraham and IsaacAbraham's posterity by Hagar and Keturah, and that part of Isaac's posterity which were of Esau—though the true religion was so thoroughly taught and practised in the houses of those holy patriarchs, and God had from time to time so wonderfully and miraculously manifested himself to them, yet-soon cast off the true God, and fell away to idolatry. For, not very long after, we read of the posterity of Jacob as being the only people of God, that he had in all the earth-And so the people of that part of the land of Canaan, who were under that holy king Melchizedeck, soon totally cast off the worship of the one only true God, which he taught and maintained. F'or before Joshua brought in the children of Israel, the inhabitants of that land were wholly given to idolatry. So the people of the land of Uz, who were under the government of so great and holy a man as Job, soon lost the knowledge of the true God, and all those religious truths which were then known among them, and sunk into gross idolatry.
So the posterity of Jacob, themselves--though God had manifested himseli to them, and had wrought such wonders
* Josh. Exiv. ii. , 4..
for them in the time of Jacob and Joseph, yet-presently fell to worship the gods of Egypt. This appears from the words of Joshua. “ Put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt."* And how soon did they fall to worship a golden calf in the wilderness, in the midst of the wonderful and miraculous manifestations of the one only true God! And notwithstanding idolatry was so strictly forbidden, and the folly and wickedness of it so clearly manifested, in the law of Moses and in God's providence ; yet, how soon did they fall into idolatry after they were brought into the land of Canaan! And when God raised up eminent men, judges to instruct and govern them, and reclaim them from their idolatrous practices, from time to time; though they professed to be convinced of their foolish delusion, yet they would soon fall again into the most sottish idolatry. And this they did soon after such great light as they enjoyed in the time of Samuel, David, and Solomon, and so, from time to time, down to the Babylonish captivity.
And in the apostles' times, when such great things were done to rouse the attention of mankind, and such great light was spread over many nations, multitudes, after they bad been instructed in the Christian religion by the apostles and others, fell away into the grossest heresies, and embraced the most corrupt and absurd notions-After the Roman empire had been converted from heathenism to christianity, and the light of the gospel bad driven out the sottish ignorance and gross absurdities of Pagan idolatry, in which they had continued so long; they soon began to fall away from the truth into antichristian superstition, and idolatry, in which are opinions and practices no less absurd than those of the heathen. And a great part of the christian world fell away to Mahometanism.
And since the reformation, wherein God wonderfully restored gospel light in a great part of the christian world, which was but about two hundred years ago, many are fallen away again ; some to popery, some to gross heresies, and some to atheistical principles : so that the reformed church is greatly diminished. -And as to our nation in particular, which has been a nation favoured with light, since the reformation, above most, if not any in the world; how soon has it in great part fallen away! A great part of it to atheism, deism, and gross infidelity; and others to Arminianism, and to the Socinian and Arian heresies, to believe that Christ is a created dependent God; and to hold other foolish absurdities ! And many have of late openly disputed and denied the moral evil of some of the greatest and most heinous vices.
* Josh, xxiv. 14,
These things show how desperately prone mankind are to blindness and delusion, how addicted they are to darkness. God now and then, by his instructions, lifts up some nations out of such gross darkness : but then, how do they sink down into it again, as soon as his hand is withdrawn ! like a heavy stone, which, though it may be forced upwards, yet sinks down again ; and will continue to sink lower and lower with a swift progress, if there be nothing to restrain it. That is the woful tendency of the mind of man since the fall, notwithstanding his noble powers and faculties; even to sink down into a kind of brutality, to lose and extinguish all useful light, and to sink lower and lower into darkness.
5. The extreme and brutish blindness that possesses the hearts of men naturally, appears in their being so confident in gross errors and delusions. Some things mentioned already, show how confident and assured they are; particularly, their running such great ventures as offering up their children; and cutting and mangling themselves. Multitudes live and die in the most foolish and absurd notions and principles, and never seem to make any doubt of their being in the right.
The Mahometans seem to make no doubt but that, when they die, they shall go to such a paradise as Mahomet has promised them; where they shall live in all manner of sensual pleasures, and shall spend their time in gratifying the lusis of the flesh. Mahomet promised them, that all who die in war for the defence of the Mahometan religion, shall go to this paradise; and they make no doubt of it. Therefore, many of them as it were, willingly rush on upon the point of the sword.
The Papists, many of them at least, make no doubt of the truth of those foolish notions of a purgatory, and the power of the priests to deliver them out of it, and give them eternal life ; and therefore will not spare vast sums of money to purchase deliverance from those imaginary torments. How confident are many heretics, in the grossest heresies; and how bold are many deisis, in their infidelity!
6. The desperateness of that blindness which is in the heart of man, appears, in that no nation or people in the world ever have had any remedy or deliverance from such gross ignorance and delusion, from themselves. No instance can be mentioned of any people whatsoever, who have once fallen into heathenish darkness, or any other gross superstitions and ridiculous opinions in religion, that ever had any remedy by any wisdom of their own ; or that have, of themselves, grown wiser by the improvement of their own faculties, and by instructing one another; or that ever had any remedy at all, by the teaching of any wise men, who did not professedly act as moved and directed of God; and did not declare, that they had their instructions, in the first place, from him.