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2. The same thing shews the danger of error, as well as ignorance. Among many loose and pernicious principles, which are zealously spread, and blindly embraced in this age, one of the most prevailing and dangerous is, the innocence of error. O, fay fome, every man is
to enquire freely, and each will embrace what appears " to him to be the truth. It is no matter what a man be“ lieves, if his life be good. Even he who mistakes, “ may be as acceptable to God as his opposite, if he is
equally sjacere.” Now there is no doubt, that liberty to enquire freciy, is an inestimable blessing, and impartiality in religious enquiries an indispensible duty. But the above maxim becomes false and dangerous by being carried an excessive length ; and it is carried to this ex. cess by the favor of two fuppofitions, which are false and groundless. The maxim is applied frequently to justify an open and virulent opposition to the most imporiant truths of the gospel; nay, sometimes, even a denial of all religion, natural and revealed. To be able to apply it thus, it is necessary to suppose that false opinions will have as good an influence upon the heart as true. If this is the case, the boasted privilege of free enquiry is not worth having, and all the labor bestowed on the search of truth is entirely thrown away. Another suppolition contained in the above maxim is, that a person may be as sincere in embracing gross falfhoods, as in adhering to the truth. If this be true, our Creator hath not given us the means to distinguish the one fron the other, which is the highest impeachment both of his wisdom and goodness.
Such perfons do not consider, that a corrupt inclination in the heart brings a bias on the judgment, and that when men do not " like to retain God in their knowledge," he frequently in his righteous judgment, gives them up to a reprobate mind. Nay, when they reject his truth from an inward hatred of its purity, he is said to ferid them
strong delusions," as in the follo:ving passage : “ Be. “ cause they received not the love of the truth, that they "might be saved, for this cause God fhall send them “ strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they “all might be damned who believed not ihe truth, but had
« pleasure in unriglitcoufnefs*.” But the nature of regeneration will serve, in a peculiar manner, to fhew the danger of error. If men form wrong notions of God, if they love and worthip, and resemble a false God, they cannot he renewed, they are not like, and therefore unfit for the presence of, the true. Be not deceived, he cannot deny himself, and therefore “ there is no fellowship of “ righteousness with unrighteoufnefs, no communion of “ light with darkness, no concord of Christ with Belial+.** "
I must here, to prevent mistakes, observe that this ought, by no means, to be extended to differences of smaller moment, under which I rank all those which regard only the externals of religion. I am fully convinced, that many of very different parties and denominations are building upon the one “ foundation laid in Zion” for me finner's hope, and that their distance and alienation from one another in affection, is very much to be regretted. Many will not meet together on earth for the worship of God, who shall have but one temple, where all the faithful, s from the east, and from the west, from the north, and “ from the fouth, fhall fit down with Abraham, and Ifaac, " and Jacob, in the kingdom of their” eternal “ Father.** But after all, I muft needs also believe, that it is possible to make shipwreck of the faith. This appears plainly from the following, as well as many other passages of scripture : " But there were false prophets also among the “ people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, “who privily fhall bring in damnable heresies, even de“ nying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon " themselves swift destruction." If any take up false notions of God, or expect fanctification and eternal life in any other way than he hath pointed out in his word, though they may now build their hope on a fond imagination that he is such an one as themselves, they shall at laft meet with a dreadful disappointment in this awful fentence, “ Depart from me, I know ye not, ye workers of iniquity."
2 Tlef. ii. 10, 11, 12. † 2 Cor. vi. 148.154 # 2 Pit. ii. 1.
There must be a discovery of the infinite glory of God.
N the second place, As there must be a discovery of
the real nature, so also of the infinite glory of God. He must not only be seen to be just such a being as he really is, but there must be a sense of the infinite worth, beauty, and perfection of his character. These two things, though intimately connected, are yet so distinct from one another, as to deserve to be separately considered. The first is necessary, but it is not sufficient alone, or by itself: There can be no true religion, unless there be a discovery of the real nature of God. But though there be a knowledge of what God is, unless there be also a discovery of the excellence and glory of this nature, he can never be the object of esteem and love. It is one thing to know, and another to approve ; and, whilst this last is not the case; whatever we may know or affirm, or be persuaded of, with relation to the Supreme Being, we do not know him to be God, nor can possibly glorify him as God. This momentous truth we may surely comprehend, by what is analogous to it in our experience, between created natures. Speculative knowledge and love are by no means inseparable. Men may truly know many things which they fincerely hate; they may hate them even because they know them : and when this is the case, the more, they know them they will hate them with the greater virulence and rancor; This not only may, but always must take place, when natures are opposite one to another, the one finful, for example, and the other holy. The more they are known, the more is their mutual hatred stirred up, and their perfect opposition to each other becoines, if not more violent, at least more sensible.
We have little reason to doubt, that the fallen angels, those apostate fpirits, have a great degree of speculative knowledge. I would not, indeed, take upon me to afe firm that they are free from error and mistake of every kind, yet it seems highly probable that they have a clear, though, at the fame time, a terrible apprehension of
“ wisat” God is ; for they have not the same opportuni. ties, or the same means of deceiving themselves, that we have in the present state. But do they love him, or fee his excellence and glory? Very far from it. They believe and tremble ; they know God, and blaspheme. The more they know of him, the more they hate him ; that is to say, their inward, native, habitual hatred is the more Itrongly excited, and the more lensibly felt.
The case is much the same with some finners, when furt awakened, and it continues to be the same so long as they are kept in bondage and terror. They have an awful view of the holiness of God's nature, of the strictness of his law, and the greatness of his power. This is directly levelled against their own corrupt inclinations, and carries nothing with it but a sentence of condemnation against them : “ Cursedl is every one that continueth not * in all things which are written in the book of the law, to « do them*.” This brings forth their enmity, which before perhaps lay hid. It is remarkable that some persons of loose and disorderly lives, will sometimes maintain, at ftated seasons, a profession of piety. So long as they can keep their consciences still and quiet by general indistinct notions of God, as very easy and gentle, no way inclined to punish, they think of him without aversion, nay, will go through some outward forms with apparent satisfaction and delight. Their notion of divine mercy is not a readiness to pardon the greatest finner on repentance, but a disposition to indulge the finner, and wink at his continuance in transgression. No sooner are such persons brought to a discovery of the real character of a holy God, than their thoughts of him are entirely changed. They have gloomy views of his nature, and harsh thoughts of his providence ; they fret at the strictness of his law, and, as far as they dare, complain of the tyranny of his government. Their sentiments are the same with those expressed by the men of Beththemelh: “ Who is able to stand before this
holy Lord God, and to whom shall he go up from ust.” * 6:1. ii. 10
t i Sam. vi. 20.
I cannot help obferving, that here we are, if I may fpeak so, at the very fountain-head of error. What is it else that makes many frame to themselves new and Hatter. ing schemes of religion, that makes them imagine a God fo extremely different from that holy Being he is represented in his own word ? When men will not conform their practice to the principles of pure and undefiled religion, they scarce ever fail to endeavor to accommodate religion to their own practice. Are there not many who cannot endure the representation of God as holy and jealous, which is given us in scripture? With what violence do they oppose themselves to it by carnal reasonings, and give it the most odious and abominable names? The reason is plain. Such a view of God sets the opposition of their own hearts to him in the strongeft light. Two things opposite in their nature cannot be approved at once, and, therefore, the consequence is, God or themfelves must be held in abhorrence. But we have reason to bless God, that their resistance to the truth is only a new evidence and illustration of it, shewing that “the carnal “ mind is enmity against God; for it is not fubject to the " law of God, neither indeed can be*.” And as this enmity to God discovers itself in opposition to his truth on earth, it will become much more violent, when further resistance is impossible. When an unregenerate finner enters upon a world of spirits, where he has a much clearer fight and greater sense of what God is, his inherent enmity works to perfection, and he blasphemes like those devils with whoin he must forever dwell.
From all this it will evidently appear, that there must be a discovery of the glory and beauty of the divine-nature, an entire approbation of everything in God, as perfectly right and absolutely faultlefs. It is felf-evident, that without this, there cannot be a fupreme love to God, in which true religion properly consilts ; no man can love that which doth not appear to be lovely. But I further add, that this is absolutely necessary to the very beginning of the change, or the foundation on which it is built. It
* Rom. viji. 7.