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weakness of it. Either men do not believe the recompences of another life, or they are not so firmly persuaded of the reality of them. If men do not at all believe these things, there is no foundation for religion : for he that cometh unto God, (that is, he that thinks of being religious), must believe that God is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him; as the Apostle reafons in the beginning of this chapter.
But I hope there are but few that are, or can be infidels, as to these great and fundamental principles of religion. But it is to be feared, that the faith of a great many is, but weak and wavering : their faith is rather negative; they do not disbelieve these things, but they are not firmly persuaded of them; their faith is rather an opinion, than a rooted and well-grounded perfuafion; and therefore no wonder if it be not so strong and vigorous a principle of action, like the faith of Abraham and Mofes, and other worthics mentioned in this chapter. For where faith is in its full strength and vigour, it will bave proportionable effects upon the resolutions and wills of men, but where it is but weak, it is of little or no efficacy.' And this is the true reason why so many forfake religion, and cleave to this present world; and when it comes to the push, chuse rather to sin, than to suffer ; and will rather quit the truth, than endure persecution for it.
These are they whom our Saviour describes, who receive the word with joy, and endure for a while; but when tribulation and persecution ariseth because of the word, prefently they are offended: not that they did not believe the word, but their faith had taken no deep root, and there, fore it withered. The weakness and wavering of mens faith makes them unstable and inconstant in their course; because they are not of one mind, but divided betwixt two interests, that of this world, and the other; and the double-minded man (as St. James tells us), is unstable in all his
ways. It is generally a true rule, So much wavering as we fee in the actions and lives of men, so much weakness there is in their faith ; and therefore he that would know what any man firmly believes, let him attend to his actions more than to his professions.
If any man live fo as no man that heartily believes the Christian religion can live, it is not credible, that such a man doth firmly believe the Christian religion. He says he does; but there is a greater evidence in the cafe than words: there is teftimonium rei; the man's actions are to the contrary, and they do best declare the inward sense of the man. Did men firmly believe, that there is a God that governs the world; and that he hath appointed a day wherein he will judge it in righteousness; and that all mankind shall shortly appear before him, and give an account of themselves, and all their actions, to him; and that those who have kept the faith, and a good conscience, and have lived foberly, and righteously, and godly in this present world, Thall be unspeakably and eternally happy; but the fearful and unbelieving, those who, out of fear or interest, have deserted the faith, or lived wicked lives, shall have their portion in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone : I say, were men firmly persuaded of these things, it is hardly credible, that any man should make a wrong choice, and forsake the ways of truth and righteousness, upon any temptation whatsoever.
Faith, even in temporal matters, is a mighty principle of action, and will make men to attempt and undergo ftrange and difficult things. The faith of the gospel ought to be much more operative and powerful ; because the objects of hope and fear which it presents to us, are far greater and more considerable than any thing that this world can tempt or terrify us withal.
Would we but by faith make present to our minds the invisible things of another world, the happiness of heaven, and the terrors of hell; and were we as verily persuaded of them, as if they were in our view, how Thould we despise all the pleasures and terrors of this world; and with what ease should we refift and repel all those temptations which would seduce us from our duty, or draw us into fin!
A firm and unshaken belief of these things would effeétually remove all those mountains of difficulty and discouragement which men fancy to themselves in the ways of religion. To him that believeth all things are pofible, and most things would be eafy.
2. Another reason of this wrong choice is, want of consideration; for this would strengthen our faith, and make it more vigorous and powerful. And indeed a faith which is well rooted and established, doth suppose a wife and deep consideration of things : and the want of this is a great cause of the fatal miscarriage of men; that they do not sat down, and consider with themselves seriously how much religion is their interest, and how much it will cost them to be true to it, and to persevere in it to the end.
We fuffer ourselves to be governed by sense, and to be transported with present things; but do not consider our future and lasting interest, and the whole duration of an immortal soul. And this is the reason why so many men are hurried away by the present and senlible delights of this world, because they will not take time to think of what will be hereafter.
For it is not to be imagined, but that the man who hath seriously considered what sin is, the shortness of its pleasure, and the eternity of its punishment, should reTolve to forsake sin, and to live a holy and virtuous life.
To conclude this whole discourse: If men did but seriously believe the great principles of religion ; the being and the providence of God; the immortality of their fouls; the glorious rewards and the dreadful punishments of another world; they could not possibly make so imprudent a choice, as we fee a great part of mankind to do; they could not be induced to forsake God and religion for any temporal interest and advantage; to renounce the favour of heaven, and all their hopes of happiness in another world, for any thing that this world can afford, nay not for the whole world, if it were of fered to them. For, as our Saviour reasons in this verv case, of forsaking our religion for any temporal interest or consideration, what is a man profited if he gain tie whole world, and lose his own foul ? or what shall a man give in exchange for his foul?
Whenever any of us, are tempted in this kind, let that solemn declaration of our Saviour, and our Judge, be continually in our minds: He that confesseth me before men, him will
. I confefs also before my Father which is in heaven : but whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my
words, words, in this adulterous and finful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels.
And we have great cause to thank God, to see so many in this day of trial, and hour of temptation, to adhere with so much resolution and constancy
, to their holy, religion, and to prefer the keeping of faith, and a good conscience, to all earthly considerations and advantages.
And this very thing, that so many hold their religion so fast, and are so loth to part with it, gives great hopes that they intend to make good use of it, and to frame their lives according to the holy rules and precepts of it; which alone can give us peace whilst we live, and comfort when we come to die; and, after death, secure to us the possession of a happiness large as our wishes, and lasting as our souls.
To which God, of bis infinite goodness, bring us all, for his mercy's fake, in Jesus Christ. To whom, with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
S E R
Of constancy in the profession of the true
HE B. X. 23. Let us hold fast the profesion of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised.
The first sermon on this text.
Hebrews, is, to persuade the Jews who were
newly converted to Christianity, to continue stedfast in the profession of that holy and excellent religion which they had embraced ; and not to be removed from it, either by the subtile insinuations of their brethren the Jews, who pretended that they were in pof
session of the true ancient religion, and the only true church of God upon earth ; or by the terror of the Heathen persecution, which was so hot against them at that time. And to this end the author of this epistle doth, by great variety of arguments, demonstrate the excellency of the Christian religion above the Jewish dispensation; and shews at large, that in all those respects upon which the Jews valued themselves, and their religion, (as, namely, upon the account of their lawgiver, their high priests, and their facrifices), the Christian religion had every way the advantage of them.
And having made this clear, he concludes with an earnest exhortation to them, to continue stedfast in the profession of this excellent religion, which was revealed to them by the Son of God, the true propitiatory facrifice, and the great high priest of their profession, and into which they had folemnly been initiated and admitted by baptism, ý 19. 20. 21. 22. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jefus, by a new and living way which he hath confecrated for us, through the vail, that is to fay, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God: let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith; that is, let us fincerely serve God, with a firm persuasion of the truth and excellency of this holy religion, into the profession whereof we were solemnly admitted by baptism : for that is undoubtedly the meaning of the following words, ♡ 22. having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. ; the water with which our bodies are washed in baptism fignifying our Spiritual regeneration, and the purging our consciences from dead works, to serve the living God. °From all which he concludes, Let us hold fast the profession of our faith with out wavering. This refers to that solemn profession of faith which was made by all Christians at their baptism; and which is contained in the ancient creed of the Christian church, called by the ancient fathers the rule of faith. :
Let us Hold faft, xatéxwile, let us firmly retain ; the fame with xpeto ufo Täs oworogías, chap. iv. 14. Seeing then we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jefus the Son of God, let us take fast hold of our