Page images

which stops him and bites him. Hereon he looks about him, and hearing the call of the shepherd returns again to the flock; Job xxxiii. 19-25. But with this sort of persons it is the way of God, that where the principal means of the revelation of himself, and wherein he doth most glorify his wisdom and his goodness, is despised, he will not only take off the efficacy of inferior means, but judicially harden the hearts and blind the



that such means shall be of no use unto them. See Isa. vi. 8-12. Acts xiii. 40, 41. Rom. i. 21. 28. 2 Thess. ii. 11, 12.

2. The contempt of gospel light and Christian religion, as it is supernatural (which is the beginning of transgression unto all atheists among us), begets in and leaves on the mind such a depraved, corrupt habit, such a congeries of all evils, that the hatred of the goodness, wisdom, and grace of God can produce, that it cannot but be wholly inclined unto the worst of evils, as all our original vicious inclinations succeeded immediately on our rejection and loss of the image of God. The best things corrupted, yield the worst savour; as manna stunk and bred worms. The knowledge of the gospel being rejected, stinking worms take the place of it in the mind, which grow into vipers and scorpions. Every degree of apostacy from gospel-truth, brings in a proportionate degree of inclination unto wickedness into the hearts and minds of men; 2 Pet. ii. 21. and that which is total, unto all the evils that they are capable of in this world. Whereas therefore multitudes, from their darkness, unbelief, temptation, love of sin, pride and contempt of God, do fall off from all subjection of soul and conscience unto the gospel, either notionally or practically, deriding or despising all supernatural revelations; they are a thousand times more disposed unto downright atheism, than persons who never had the light or benefit of such revelations. Take heed of decays. Whatever ground the gospel loseth in our minds, sin possesseth it for itself and its own ends. Let none say, it is otherwise with them. Men


cold and negligent in the duties of gospel worship, public and private; which is to reject gospel light. Let them say and pretend what they please, that in other things, in their minds and conversations, it is well with them : indeed it is not so. Sin will, sin doth, one way or other, make an increase in

[blocks in formation]

them proportionate unto these decays; and will sooner or later discover itself so to do. And themselves, if they are not utterly hardened, may greatly discover it, inwardly in their peace, or outwardly in their lives.

3. Where men are resolved not to see, the greater the light is that shines about them, the faster they must close their eyes. All atheism springs from a resolution not to see things invisible and eternal. Love of sin, a resolved continuance in the practice of it, the effectual power of vicious inclinations, in opposition unto all that is good, make it the interest of such men that there should be no God to call them to an account. For a supreme unavoidable judge, an eternal rewarder of good and evil, is inseparable from the first notion of a divine being. Whereas, therefore, the most glorious light and uncontrollable evidence of these things shines forth in the Scripture, men that will abide by their interest to love and live in sin, must close their eyes

with all the arts and powers that they have, or else they will pierce into their minds unto their torment. This they do by downright atheism, which alone pretends to give them security against the light of divine revelation. Against all other convictions, they might take shelter from their fears, under less degrees of it.

It is not therefore unto the disparagement, but honour, of the gospel, that so many avow themselves to be atheists, in those places wherein the truth of it is known and professed. For none can have the least inclination or temptation thereunto, until they have beforehand rejected the gospel, which immediately exposeth them unto the worst of evils.

Nor is there any means for the recovery of such persons. The opposition that hath been made unto atheism, with arguments for the divine being and existence of God, taken from reason and natural light, in this and other ages, hath been of good use to cast contempt on the pretences of evil men, to justify themselves in their folly. But that they have so much as changed the minds of any, I much doubt. No man is under the power of atheistical thoughts, or can be so long, but he that is insnared into them by his desire to live securely and uncontrollably in sin. Such persons know it to be their interest, that there should be no God, and are willing to take shelter under the bold expressions and reasonings of them, who by the same means have hardened and blinded their minds into such foolish thoughts. But the most rational arguments for the being of the Deity, will never prove an effectual cure unto a predominant love of, and habitual course in, sin, in them who have resisted and rejected the means and motives unto that end declared in divine revelation. And unless the love of sin be cured in the heart, thoughts in the acknowledgment of God, will not be fixed in the mind.

2. There are those of whom also it may be said, that God is not in all their thoughts, though they acknowledge his essence and being. For they are not practically influenced in any thing by the notions they have of him. Such is the person of whom this is affirmed; Psal. x. 4. He is one who through pride and profligacy with hardness in sin, regards not God in the rule of the world; ver. 4, 5. 11. 13. Such is the world filled withal at this day, as they are described, Tit. i. 16. • They profess that they know God, but in works deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.' They think, they live, they act in all things as if there were no God, at least as if they never thought of him with fear and reverence. And for the most part we need not seek far for evidences of their disregard of God; the pride of their countenances testify against them ;' Psal. x. 4. And if they are followed farther, cursed oaths, licentiousness of life, and hatred of all that is good, will confirm and evidence the same. Such as these may own God in words, may be afraid of him in dangers, may attend outwardly on his worship; but they think not of God at all in a due manner; he is not in all their thoughts.

3. There are yet less degrees of this disregard of God and forgetfulness of him. Some are so filled with thoughts of the world, and the occasions of life, that it is impossible they should think of God as they ought. For as the love of God, and the love of the world, in prevalent degrees, are inconsistent,(' for if a man loveth this world, how dwelleth the love of God in him ?') so thoughts of God and of the world, in the like degree, are inconsistent. This is the state of many who yet would be esteemed spiritually minded. They are continually conversant in their minds about earthly things. Some things impose themselves on them under the notion of duty : they belong unto their callings, they must be attended unto. Some are suggested unto their minds from daily occasions and occurrences. Common converse in the world engageth men into no other but worldly thoughts : love and desire of earthly things, their enjoyment and increase, exhaust the vigour of their spirits all the day long. In the midst of a multitude of thoughts arising from these and the like occasions, whilst their hearts and heads are reeking with the steam of them, many fall immediately in their seasons unto the performance of holy duties. Those times must suffice for thoughts of God. But notwithstanding such duties, what through the want of a due preparation for them, what through the fulness of their minds and affections with other things, and what through a neglect of exercising grace in them, it may be said comparatively, that God is not in all their thoughts.

I pray God, that this, at least, as unto some degrees of it, be not the condition of many among us. I speak not now of men who visibly and openly live in sin, profane in their principles, and profligate in their lives. The prayers of such persons are an abomination unto the Lord ; neither have they ever any thoughts of him, which he doth accept: but I speak of them who are sober in their lives, industrious in their callings, and not openly negligent about the outward duties of religion. Such men are apt to approve of themselves, and others also to speak well of them; for these things are in themselves commendable and praiseworthy. But if they are traced home, it will be found as to many of them, that “God is not in all their thoughts' as he ought to be. Their earthly conversation, their vain communication, with their foolish designs, do all manifest that the vigour of their spirits, and most intense contrivances of their minds, are engaged into things below : some refuse, transient, unmanaged thoughts are sometimes cast away on God, which he despiseth.

4. Where persons do cherish secret predominant lusts in their hearts and lives, God is not in their thoughts as he ought to be. He may be, he often is, much in the words of such persons, but in their thoughts he is not, he cannot be in a due manner. And such persons no doubt there are.

Ever and anon, we hear of one and another whose secret lusts break forth into a discovery. They flatter themselves for a season, but God ofttimes so orders things in his holy providence, that their iniquity shall be found out to be hateful. Some hateful lust discovers itself to be predominant in them : one is drunken, another unclean, a third an oppressor. Such there were ever found among professors of the gospel, and that in the best of times : among the apostles one was a traitor, a devil. Of the first professors of Christianity, there were those whose God was their belly, whose end was destruction, who minded earthly things;' Phil. iii. 18, 19. Some may take advantage at this acknowledgment, that there are such evils among such as are called professors. And it must be confessed that great scandal is given hereby unto the world, casting both them that give it, and them to whom it is given, under a most dreadful woe. But we must bear the reproach of it, as they did of old, and commit the issue of all things unto the watchful care of God. However, it is good in such a season to be jealous over ourselves and others, to exhort one another daily whilst it is called to-day, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. See Heb. xii. 13-17. And because those with whom it is thus, cannot be spiritually minded, yet are there some difficulties in the case, as unto the predominancy of a secret lust or sin, I shall consider it somewhat more distinctly.

1. We must distinguish between a time of temptation in some, and the ordinary state of mind and affections in others. There may be a season wherein God in his holy wise orderings of all things towards us, and for his own glory, in his holy blessed ends, may suffer a lust or corruption to break loose in the heart, to strive, tempt, suggest, and tumultuate unto the great trouble and disquietude of the mind and conscience. Neither can it be denied, but that falling in conjunction with some vigorous temptation, it may proceed so far as to surprise the person in whom it is into actual sin, unto his defilement and amazement. In this case no man can say, he is tempted of God, for God tempteth no man, but every man is tempted of his own lust and enticed. But yet temptations of what sort soever they be, so far as they are afflictive, corrective, or penal, are ordered and disposed by God himself. For there is no evil of that nature, and he

« PreviousContinue »