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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 Isaac-Abraham's posterity by Ilagar 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 lioly 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. For 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 himself to them, and had wrought such wondere
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 ; yct, 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 had 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 bis instructions, lists 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 lusts 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 beathenish darkness, or any other gross superstitions and ridiculous opinions in religion, that ever bad 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 professcdly act as moved and directed of God; and did not declare, that they had their instructions, in the first place, from him.
Thus in the Heathen world. Before Christ's time, the whole world, except the Jews, lay in their darkness for a great many hundred years, even beyond all time of which they had any certain history among them. And there was no remedy, nor any appearance of a remedy; they continued, ages after ages, , waxing worse and worse, sinking deeper and deeper. Among all the many nations in the world, no one ever bethought themselves, and emerged out of their brutish darkness. There were indeed some nations that emerged out of slavery, cast of the yoke of their enemies, grew great and conquered great part of the world, but they never conquered the blindness of their own hearts.
There were some nations who excelled in other knowledge ; as the Greeks and Romans. They excelled in policy, and in the form of their civil government. They had wise political rulers they had excellent laws for regulating their civil state ; many of which have been imitated, as a pattern, by many christian nations ever since. They excelled many other nations in arts, government and civility, almost as much as men in common do beasts. Yet !hey never could deliver themselves from their heathenism. Though they were so wise in other things, yet in matters of religion they were very absurd and brutish. For even the Greeks and Romans, in their most flourishing state, worshipped innumerable gods; and some to whom they ascribed great vices; and some they worshipped with most obscene and horrid rites. To some they offered human sacrifices. The Romans had a temple dedicated to the furies, which they worshipped. And they had a multitude of childish notions and fables about their gods.
And though there were raised up some wise men and philosophers among the Greeks and Romans, who borrowed some things concerning the true God from the Jews; yet their instructions never were effectual to deliver any one people, or even one city or town, from their barbarous heathenism, or so much as to get any one society, or company of men, to unite in the public worship of the true God. And these philosophers themselves had many grossly absurd opinions, mingled with those scraps of truth which they had gathered up.
And the Jews, when fallen away to idolatry, as they often did, never recovered of themselves. Never any remedy appeared, unless God raised up, and extraordinarily moved, some person to reprove and instruct them.--And in this age of knowledge, an age wherein learning is carried to a great height, even many learned men seem to be carried away with the gross errors and fooleries of the popish religion.
Europe is a part of the world the most famed for arts and sciences of any; and these things have been carried to a much greater height in this age than in many others : yet many learned men in Europe at this day, who greatly excel in human arts and
literature, are still under popish darkness. A deceived heart has turned them aside ; nor do they seem to have any power to deliver their souls : nor does it come into their minds, that there is a lie in their right hands.
Many men in France and in other countries, who are indeed men of great learning, knowledge and abilities, yet seem really to think that the church of Rome is the only true church of Christ; and are zealous to uphold and propagate it. And though now, within this hundred years, human learning has been very much promoted, and has risen to a greater height than ever in the world; and has greatly increased, not only in our nation, but in France and Italy, and other popish countries; yet there seems to be no such effect of it, as any considerable turning from popish delusions ; but the church of Rome has rather increased of late, than otherwise.
And in England, a land wherein learning flourishes as much as in any in the world, and which is perhaps the most favoured with light of any ; there are many men of vast learning, and great and strong reason, who have embraced, and do at this day, embrace the gross errors of the Arians and Deists.
Our nation, in all its light and learning, is full of infidels, and those that are further from Christianity, than the very Mahometans themselves. Of so little avail is human strength, or human reason and learning, as a remedy against the extreme blindness of the human mind. The blindness of the mind, or an inclination to delusion in things of religion, is so strong, that it will overcome the greatest learning, and the strongest natural reason.
Men, if let alone, will not help one another; nor will they help themselves. The disease always proves without remedy, unless God delivers. This was observed of old : " and none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burnt part of it in the fire, yea also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof : I have roasted flesh, and eaten of it, and shall I wake the residue thereof an abomination? Shall I fall down to the stock of a tree? He feedeth of ashes : a deceived heart hath turned him aside, and he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand ?*
If God lets men alone, no light arises : but the darkness grows thicker and thicker. How is it now, at this very day, among all the nations where the light of the gospel has not come ? Many of whose ancestors, without doubt, have been in the midnight darkness of heathenism for above three thousand years : and not one people have delivered themselves, who have not had the light of the gospel. And this is not owing to their want of as good natural abilities as we have; nor is it because they have an inclination more to neglect their natural abilities make a womprovement of them than we.