Page images


Producing one dictate, or rule of right reason, respecting mora lity, allowed by mankind; and paffing current through the world, without one negative voice, except only from those men, whofe reafons are utterly captivated by their lufts.

§1. SUCH is the degeneracy and deep corruption of some men's natures, by ill education, bafe company, and long custom in fin; that abandoning and cafting away the bonds and restraints of right reafon, as well as religion, they give the full scope and liberty to their lufts and paffions, reckoning their chief happiness to confift in the gratification and fatisfaction of their fenfitive appetites. They affect a foft, delicate, sensepleafing life; reckoning it the only real heaven to be defired and fought by them; and any other heaven beside that to be merely notional and fantastic. This is the element they defire to live and fport in, fitly defcribed, Tit. iii. 3. by ferving divers lufts and pleafures. Hence it comes to pafs, that their bo dies lerve only to be ftrainers for meats and drinks, and channels for filthy lufts to ftream through. In this ftream, their mafculine agility melts away, and all public hopes and expectations from them, are totally defeated and difappointed. Appetite is the mafter, and reason the flave.

These men (if it be fit to call them men) have bid defiance to their own reason, and denounced a war against their own faculties; as if reafon had licensed and privileged (which it never did, nor can do) their worse than brutifh lufts, to act to the uttermost of their abilities, without any manner of restraint over them.

§ 2. But notwithstanding the prefent captivity of reason, under ufurping and domineering lufts, fo long as it hath a perma. nent and fixed root and principle in their nature, it is possible it may recover its throne and empire over them again; as many sa imprisoned king hath done, and probably would do in a very thort space, if those prejudices they have conceived against its government, were but once fairly confuted and removed; which certainly is not hard to do.

They are of opinion, that the laws of reafon are too fevere, ftrict, and rigorous; that they too much abridge them of their pleasures and delights; and that the government of fenfuality being more ealy, favourable and indulgent, is for that reason, much more eligible and defirable.

Whereas right reason designs not the abandoning of all plea

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

fures, but only the exchange of them, and that exchange every way to our great advantage. The only hurt or lofs, (if this must be accounted fo) any man can fuftain by the exchange of pleasures made by reason and religion is this; that they design for you the rational, ordinate, and congruous delights, both of a man, and of a Chriftian; in lieu of the lower, bafer, aud filthy pleasures of a beaft or a devil.

They propofe to you rules about pleafures, far more fafe and grateful, without any culpable feverity, or aufterity in them, Reafon would only regulate and legitimate your delights, and religion fanctify them; that you might much more purely and fweetly enjoy them, without either fhame arising from their turpitude, or fear from their guilt. The rules of both are large and indulgent enough; and, keeping within their lines and limits, men fhall find fuch generous, manly, and agreeable de lights, as are no where to be enjoyed without them.

3. To make this evident, I fhall poftulate and presume but one thing, and that a thing fo immediately true and felfevident, that in the firft naked propofal of it, it naturally and eafily lets itself into every man's understanding, and no fooner asks, but gains the approbation of right reafon. And that felf-evident principle, which I take for granted, no man of found intellectuals will quarrel or difpute, is this:

That good which compriseth and involveth the true honour, profit, and pleasure of the whole man, which is more congruous to human nature, and preservative of it, is to be preferred in our estimation and choice, to that which only yields a lower degree of pleasure, without profit or honour, to the baleft part of man: and that low and tranfient pleasure it doth yield, attended and followed with many present and future miferies, defiructive to the whole man.

The feveral parts of this complex propofition, caft fuch a light and glory round about them, that I cannot imagine, but as foon as it thall be propounded to the judgment and cenfure of found reafon, it muft immediately gain both its approbation and applause.

But because reason in many men is fo beclouded and disturbed by lufts and paffions, that it can neither receive things or derly, nor judge of them truly and impartially; I conceive it needful, to demand the cenfure and judgment of their reafon, upon the particulars comprifed in this general complex propofition; that fo weighing and examining them one by one, we may try, whether found reason hath any valuable exception against any part, or member thereof.

§ 4. And, first, I take it for granted, that no man's reafon will deny, or demur to this propofition; that good is to be choJen, and evil to be avoided: for the will is naturally carried to that which is good, as to its proper object, and shuns that which is evil. And that is naturally good, which is convenient and agreeable to nature; and that naturally evil, which is difconvenient and hurtful to nature. So that the choice of good rather than evil is the natural choice of the will; and this choice of the will is founded upon the law of felf-prefervation, without which the creation would quickly disband, and no particular being could be long preferved.

And not only the will of rational creatures chuseth the good, and refuseth the evil; but every fenfitive creature is endowed with a natural faculty, to difcern the one from the other, in order to the prefervation of their beings. You find it in the fmallest and most defpicable animals; and therefore cannot deny it unto man, the nobleft and moft excellent being on earth; except only in his non-age, before he hath lived to the years of difcretion. Children, indeed, in their infancy, have no knowledge to difcern between good and evil; Deut. i. 39. But men, not difcerning good from evil, or chufing evil rather than good, are many degrees beneath babes.

Secondly, Nor will reafon hefitate at all upon this particular, That there are degrees of goodness found among pleasures and delights; fome are better than others. Every life is not alike pleafant and happy. To deny this, is to make the most despicable worm, or fly, equally happy with the most excellent creature upon earth. And befide, for the conviction of fuch debauched perfons as I am here arguing with, it will follow clearly from the denial of that truth, that they really gain nothing to themselves, by all their extravagant and licentious courfes; there being altogether as much pleasure and felicity, in a temperate, chafte, and fober life, as there is in that beaftly life they live; and their very departure from the way of fobriety, to embrace the ways of debauchery, moft clearly evinceth to the world, that they do not think all pleafurs equal; but that they do confidently expect to find more pleasure and fatisfaction in the way that they chufe, than they did in the way of fobriety, which they have left and abandoned.

Thirdly, I cannot be fo uncharitable to think, but the relicts of reafon in the most profligate perfon, will readily admit and grant, That wherever the good of pleasure, profit, and honour, meet together, and jointly confpire to make the life of a man more comfortable, and more durable upon earth; that is much

rather to be chofen, than a mere tranfient touch of fenfitive pleafure, accompanied with prefent regret, and followed with the ruin of eftate, name, honour, foul, and body. He that thinks otherwife, is more fit for a bedlam, than a rational and fober confutation. These things therefore I take for granted, they being innate and felf-evident notions and principles in all men.

5. The wisdom and goodness of God are clearly discernible, in leaving fuch principles of reason, and common notices of confcience in men after the fall, as prompt them naturally unto justice, chastity, temperance, and fobriety; and do ftruggle within them, to restrain them from, or recover them out of their immoralities; from which many advantages do refult. 'For hereby God is acknowledged all the world over; men every where the wing by thefe things the work of the law written in their hearts; Rom. ii. 15.

Hereby kingdoms and commonwealths are preferved; this being the common bridle, which reftrains the outrageous lufts of millions of men, which elfe would turn the world into confufion; though here and there fome have flipt bridle, and run into all excels of riot. We july admire the providence of God, in butting, bounding, and reftraining the boisterous ocean, by mountains, rocks, and fands: and as much is he to be admired, in curbing the infatiable lufts of men, by these innate principles of reafon and confcience.

Hereby the way to fin is in fome measure barred and shut up; and the further progrefs of finners, already entered into it, ftopped and denied. For actions done with regret, cannot be fapposed to be done fo frequently and furiously, as if they were done without any regret; or that the way to fin was fmoothed to them, with a full confent and approbation of their whole felf. For molt finners find in themselves what Medea did, Video meliora, proboque,

Deteriora fequor

They both fee and approve that which is better, though they follow that which is worse.'

In a word, these relicts of reason and confcience in men, are fit handles to catch hold on, for the turning them about from Satan unto God. When Paul reafoned with Felix, about temperance, righteoufnefs, and judgment to come, his words laid hold upon thefe handles, and gave him such a shake, that the text faith, Felix trembled. And, O! that this might take hold of the reafon and confcience of every profane reader, and produce fome more excellent and lafting effect upon his foul.

§ 6. Thefe notices and dictates of reafon and conscience in

men, being fo neceffary, and many ways beneficial to themselves, as well as to the whole community; it must therefore be a horrid villainy to war against them; and, by violence, to supprefs and enslave them to their own lusts.

This is, as if a company of defperate ruffians, fhould affault innocent and noble travellers upon the lawful road, bind and gag their guides, whilft they rob and proftitate them. Thus deal brutish lufts, (headed by the devil) with the affections of men, travelling along the lawful road of duty, under the conduct of reafon and confcience. For this villainy it was, that the apoftle tells us, "The wrath of God was revealed from "heaven against the Heathens, who held the truth in unrighte *oufnefs," Rom. i. 18. They had the light of natural reafon and confcience in them, the inbred notions of good and evil; which raifed their hopes or fears, according to the nature and quality of their actions.

*Confcia mens ut cuique fua eft, ita concipit intra Pectora pro facto fpemque metumque fuo.


But their headstrong boifterous lufts, rudely and violently brake in upon reafon and confcience, imprisoned and bound them; as Zedekiah did the faithful prophet Jeremiah, for the discharge of his duty to him. For this, "the wrath of God was revealed "from heaven against them." And indeed, we cannot wonder it should be incensed against them, as it will against all that act like them. For into fuch a fin as this, many direful aggravations fall in together, to make it a monftrous and prodigious fin. Here we find an high and caufelefs abufe of the nobleft natural faculties and powers of a man's own foul. What harm have thy reafon and confcience done thee, by ftimulating and perfuading thee to temperance, chastity, and fobriety; or by struggling and friving with thee, to prevent both thy prefent and future ruin? Do they lay their faithful and loving hands of restraint upon thee, when they fee thee running headlong into destruction? And do they deserve for this, and no worse than this, to be thus trampled under foot, and abused? Ask thyfelf, man, Whether thou thinkeft thy very dog deserves to be hanged, for opening at midnight, and taking that thief by the throat, who came to cut thine? And dareft thou use those noble powers within thee, worfe than thou wouldft ufe a dog? Humanity would blush at fuch an action.

These vile abuses of thy reafon and confcience carry alfo in them an horrid contempt of God; whofe patent, officers, and

* As each man's foul of good or ill is confcious,
So hope for good he feels, but fears for vice,

« PreviousContinue »