THE LIBERTY OF HUMAN NATURE, Discuss'd, Stated, and Limited, IN A SERMON. PREACHED

By J. LAMBE M. A. and Chap­lain in Ordinary to his Majesty.

LONDON, Printed for Walter Kettilby at the Bishops-Head in St. Paul's Church-Yard, 1684.

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1 COR. CHAP. VI. The latter part of the 12th. Verse.

All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the Power of any. The whole Verse runs thus. All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient, All things, &c.

THE Doctrine of Fate, or the ne­cessity of Human Actions destroys Religion, Society, Reason, or the very Being of Rational Nature. For if Man were a meer Machine, moved and acted by irresi­stible Springs and Weights without himself, there could be no such thing as Reason or De­liberation, Judgment or Discretion, Wisdom or Folly, Virtue or Vice, Rewards or Pu­nishments, which necessarily suppose a Power of [Page 4]Election, of judging, chusing and refusing. No Action of him that moves against his Will is his own, and therefore is not subject to any Character or Imputation. Indeed he cannot with any propriety be said to act at all, but to be acted upon, or to suffer the Impressions of irresistible causes. Nor is the opinion of Ne­cessity more pernicious in its consequences, than it is absurd and impossible in it self. It is con­futed by common Sense, for we feel a Vital Principle within our selves, a perfect Liberty of choice, an absolute Authority over our own Actions; we perceive how readily our Will sub­mits to our Understanding, and all our Nerves and Instruments of Action, in an instant obey the Motions of our Will: and we find our Sta­tion is suitable to our Powers, in a world of va­rious Contingencies, in the midst of different Objects, of several amabilities, for the exer­cise of our Reason and Discourse. If this be false, it is impossible we should be sure that any thing is true; because it is matter of Sense, [Page 5]we perceive and feel it every moment in every Action of our Lives.

But it is not in vain to vindicate the Liber­ty, which is also the Dignity and essential Difference of human Nature, whilst we our selves, who cannot but be delighted with this Divine Prerogative in the Notion or Idea, are yet so willing to mistake, or part with the thing it self; whilst we who enjoy a perfect freedom in all our capacities of Intellection, Reason and Choice, should nevertheless, as if we preferr'd Necessity, voluntarily subject our selves to Opinions, and irrational Appetites: whilst we who are apt to assert our Liberty with Heat and Zeal where it is not concerned, should patiently decline it in the greatest and most pro­per Instances, where it ought to be exercised.

Like the Corinthian Christians, whom all the Reason in the world, no not the honor of Christianity it self, could disswade from im­pleading one another, before the Heathen Ma­gistrates, because, forsooth! the Courts were [Page 6]as open to them as to others, and they would not be abridg'd of their Liberty;Note: Verse 1. whilst as St. Paul observes, these very men, that would not so much as forbear an indifferent practice, tho but for a season, and for the Ho­nor of the Gospel, and at the instance of the Apostle himself, were yet so much mistaken in their Apprehensions of Liberty, that at the same time they were the basest and most conten­ted servile Slaves, to the worst of Masters, to brutish Passions and unnatural Desires.

And in the words of my Text, he confutes their vain Conceit, discovers their Folly, and reproves their Petulance and Inequality by this universal undoubted Rule of Wisdom,Note: Verse 12 All things, &c. The Text then is a Confu­tation of the false and absurd Reasonings of the Corinthian Converts. And the Case was this:

The Apostle accuses them of two very hei­nous Crimes, the one of a litigious Dispositi­on dishonorable to Religion, and vexatious [Page 7]to one another, v. 7. the other of Intempe­rance, with those lascivious practices which generally attend it, v. 9. Now the answer of the Corinthians to the Apostle's Accusation is briefly this, viz. All things are lawful for us. The Courts of Justice are open to all, nor does any Law of God forbid the defence of our Property by Suits at Law: and the distinction of meats is now abolish'd, we are now allowed to eat of all, and as for the wanton conse­quences of such a Liberty, we are taught that they are necessary,Note: Dr. Ham. in Loc. and therefore ought not to be charged upon us as a Crime.

And these indeed were the loose and extra­vagant Doctrines of the place, which they imbib'd by Education: for the Corinthians were the greatest Libertines in the World. Who shall control us? All things are lawful for us, and it is a manly Virtue to use our Liberty, were some of their received Sayings, or per­verted Aphorisms of Wisdom.

Wherefore in the Text, St. Paul considers [Page 8]strictly this their deceitful and pernicious Rea­soning; and to clear his way, allows the ge­neral Proposition, All things are lawful for me, but shows the absurdity of their construction of it, and practice upon it in two particu­lars.

First, Suppose it be granted that Man is a voluntary Agent, Master of himself and of all Creatures, yet this Liberty of human Na­ture must not be understood of a belluine power of doing what we list, but only of a freedom from the Force and Impulse of exter­nal Causes. Our Liberty is indeed our great­est Glory, yet altogether subject to Reason and Discretion. So that amongst indifferent things, as going to Law, about which we are simply free, if Reason, Prudence, or the Honor of the Gospel incline to the one part, there we are obliged and bound. All things are law­ful for me, but all things are not expedient.

Again, the Apostle repeats their Argument, All things are lawful for me, which in the learn­ed [Page 9]Authors, is the most Elegant Form of Re­plication, and shows that they so ignorantly mistake their own Principle, that their Practices upon it are a direct Contradiction to it.

Your excuse for Luxury and Contention is your Liberty, but are ye not ashamed by an appearance of Liberty, to be so easily tre­pann'd and deluded into real Slavery? Are ye such Children to be caught by a word, and decoyed so foolishly into Nets and Snares? Do ye not know that the Liberty of Man is such an Authority over his Will and Actions, that he may always be indifferent to things in­different; that it is a power of considering every thing in its proper place, and one thing with Respect to another; of gratifying every Appetite and Faculty, without the prejudice or destruction of any, of believing, loving and desiring according to the weight and nature of the thing, and the decision of right Reason.

But you, because it is simply lawful to go to [Page 10]Law, will therefore indulge intemperate heats, and suffer your selves to be so overcome of Passion, that the strongest Reasons, no not the Credit of Religion it self are sufficient to divert you; and because no sorts of meat are forbidden, common or unclean, you will there­fore inslave your selves to the Appetites of the Belly. So foolish are you, that in those very acti­ons wherein you think you assert your Liber­ty, you really destroy it; you sacrifice your Reason to those Rebellious Tyrannous Desires which, of right, are subject, and might have been kept in due Obedience. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. As if he had said, If you would preserve your Liberty, you must preserve the Authority of your Understanding; and en­tirely submit your Opinions, Appetites, and Actions thereunto. Since you are endowed with such a Principle, you must resolve that all things shall be indifferent to you, till they have passed the scrutiny of your Judgment, [Page 11]that your Will and Affections, shall always wait the Resolution of your Reason.

Thus having given you a short Account of the occasion of the Words, it is not neces­sary to insist any farther upon their particular respect and application to the Case of the Co­rinthians, but I shall consider them, indepen­dent of the Text, as a noble Resolution of St. Paul, or as an universal Rule of Wisdom to all Men, in the Government of their Lives, I will not be brought, &c.

The Terms of the Problem are easily un­derstood, and require but little Explication. I have a power in all things, [...] of Judging, Chusing and Acting according to right Reason.

Propositions of Truth, Objects of Desire, and Methods of Practice are infinite and in­numerable, and about these the Reason and Judgment of Man is exercised; and he has such an absolute power over his own Opinion and Practice, that he is not determined by a­ny [Page 12]Fate, Necessity, or irresistible Cause with­out himself, but by certain innate Principles, rational Powers, and the Divine Assistance, he is enabled to judge of Truth and Goodness, and only so far obliged to chuse and act as shall appear conductive to his Happiness, or agreea­ble to his Reason.

And having thus explained the Principle, the Sense of the Apostles Resolution or practi­cal Comment thereupon is evident, I will not be brought under the power of any thing; I will so use this Liberty of Judging and Chusing for my self, that my Opinion, Will and Actions shall always remain, as they naturally are, the ser­vants of my Understanding. I will not be deluded by false Appearances to believe Absurdities, to love what is hateful or do what is evil. The words being thus explained may be resolved into this easy Proposition, viz. That to preserve the Authority of our Reason and the Liberty of our Will, from the Ʋsurpations of Prejudice, sensual Appetites and Passions, is the Wisdom and Fe­licity [Page 13]of a Man. I will not be brought under the power of any thing.

The Text may seem at the first view to countenance Republican Principles and Opi­nions, but we shall find, upon a more exact inspection, that it was never design'd by the Apostle, to serve the Interest of Faction or Se­dition, to dissolve or loosen Government, or subject the Laws of Princes to the Reason and Judgment of the People. This is so perverse, so malicious an Explication of the Words, that those who make it, cannot themselves believe it, because it is so direct a Contradiction to those positive Declarations and express Precepts of exactest Loyalty, which we find in St. Pauls Epistles.

And I humbly hope ill sounding Words will not offend, when the design of using them, is to direct them to their proper places, to right Objects, and deliver them from those gross A­buses which have been super-induc'd upon them.

It is true, for fear of Misconstruction, I might have excepted the Laws of God and our Country as Sacred Things, about which, generally speaking, we have no Deliberation, Liberty or Election, and therefore fall not under the Consideration of the Proposition, or the Rule of the Apostle, which only re­spect such things as are wholly in our Power. And yet there would still have been sufficient Scope for the exercise of our Reason, Dis­cretion and Choice.

For the Laws of Princes chiefly Respect the Publick Interest, or the Government of the external Actions of Men, as they are Mem­bers of the Commonwealth: but all Opini­ons of indifferent Nature, all ingenious Spe­culation, Philosophy, Wisdom, Moral Ha­bits, inward Affections, together with almost the whole Oeconomy of Private Life, are left to the discretion of every man.

And most of the Laws of God are general, only the great Lines and Heads of Duties, [Page 15]but the application of Particulars, the Pro­portion of one thing to another, the Rela­tion, Affections, and Circumstances of Du­ties are left to the decision of Human Rea­son.

This I might have done, but it is wholly needless to make such Limitation or Excepti­on, for the Proposition is universally true, viz. That to preserve the Authority of our Reason, and the Liberty of our Will, from the Ʋsurpations of Prejudice, sensual Appetites and Passions, is the Wisdom and Felicity of a Man. Indeed, one of the very first, and most obvious Principles of Right Reason is, the most intire Resignation of our selves to be govern'd by the Laws of God and our Country. And no Man that does not basely desert his Reason, and depart from this incomparable Rule of the Apostle, can ever wilfully Sin against God, or Rebel against his Prince.

This premised, I shall now proceed to con­sider the truth of the Proposition with Respect [Page 16]to things Intellectual, Moral, Civil and Reli­gious, and show that in all these (which com­prehend whatsoever the Judgment of Man is conversant about) to preserve the Authority of our Reason, and the Liberty of our Will, from the Ʋsurpation of Prejudice, and the Briberies of Interest, sensual Appetites and Passions, is the Wis­dom and Felicity of a Man.

And first, With Respect to things intellectu­al, or in the Study of useful Knowledge, and the Government of our Opinon.

Every perfect Man is born with inherent Topicks of right Reason, with a sufficient System of natural Logick; his Mind is im­press'd with Standing Principles, and eternal Verities to direct him in the search of Truth, and furnished with rational Powers of compa­ring one thing with another, of judging Ef­fects by Causes, and drawing innumerable and certain Inferences from those undoubted Premises.

This then is the Liberty and Glory of Hu­man [Page 17]Nature, that it is indifferent and free to every doubtful Opinion and disputable Propositi­on, that those who have sufficient opportunity of improving their Faculties, are enabled to judge for themselves, and not obliged to assent without sufficient Reason; that there is no force upon their Minds from within or without them­selves; but as the sensitive Faculties do freely judge of Sweet and Bitter, or the qualities of their proper Objects by the Test of Sense, so the Rational conclude of True and False, of Good and Evil, by such demonstrations as the Nature of the thing requires.

It is therefore the highest point of Wisdom in the world, to defend this Liberty of Rea­soning, this Jewel of inestimable Value, from the Usurpations of Prejudice and Passion to suspend our Assent till we shall be sufficiently convinced; to search for Truth impartially, to pursue it greedily, to love it for it self, and embrace it readily wheresoever we find it: So shall we preserve the Beauty of our Nature, [Page 18]and the perfection of our Being. So shall we discharge our Trust, and preserve that Autho­rity in our little world which God has invest­ed us withal.

Not like the Sceptic who resolves to suspend his Judgment, and remain indifferent howsoe­ver clear and full the Evidence may be; this is to prevent the diseases of the Eyes by pulling them out. It is true, he cannot be deceived or imposed upon by particular Propositions, but the thing it self, or the resolution of believing nothing, is the greatest Delusion and Imposition of the Mind that can be; for the Mind is greedy of Knowledge, our Faculties are disposed to seek it, and the Divine Nature, and all the appear­ances in the world are intended for our Specu­lation; and Soul enjoys a Truth with the greatest delight imaginable: so that whilst the Sceptic pretends to secure, he really destroys the Liberty of his Mind, he debars it by violence and force from the kind enjoyment of its pro­per Objects.

But Firm, Well-grounded, Rational Assent proceeding from a cautious search, from an impartial preparation to believe upon sufficient Evidence, upon universal Principles, regular Deductions, and credible Testimony, is the true and proper Liberty of human Nature, the highest Command and Authority over ones self.

These are the Men who alone are ac­complished for the Study of Knowledge, who see with their own Eyes, understand by their own Judgment, discover Truth, improve Learn­ing and are highly useful in the Common­wealth.

But the Sceptick is ignorant and useless. And a Man, on the other hand, of a passive Spirit, fond of every Opinion, tenacious of his first Impressions, of antient Errors, of po­pular Opinions: judging by Interest, Preju­dice, Affection, Sense, or any thing but im­partial Reason, is a very slave to innumerable, inconstant, giddy Masters; to every hypocriti­cal [Page 20]designing Countenance, to every conceited Emperick, bold Assertor, false Historian, un­certain Proverb, and to all who by cunning Arts and Devices go about to deceive. Oh ho­mines ad servitutem nati! as Seneca speaks up­on the like occasion, Oh Men! destin'd, cut out for Slaves, how monstrous is it that you should de­sire to have all things free, your Bodies, your Goods, your Members, and not your Spirit, which yet a­lone is born to Liberty? It is therefore a wise and happy Rule, I will not be brought under the Power of any thing in Speculation or the search of Truth.

And as in Speculation, so secondly in the Government of our Life and Actions, to preserve the Authority of our Reason and the Liberty of our Will, from the Ʋsurpations of Prejudice, sensual Appetites and Passions, is the Wisdom and Feli­city of a Man: I will not be brought under the power of any thing in Matters Moral.

The just and true design of Speculation or the study of Truth and Falshood is, that we [Page 21]may the better be enabled to judge of Good and Evil. For the ultimate End or highest Perfection of Man is a steddy, constant course of laudable Actions, such a rational pro­cedure as shall Improve our Faculties, advance our Interest and satisfie the true Dispositions and Inclinations of our Nature. To this are all the Faculties of the Soul intended to admi­nister, and into this they finally resolve; we discourse, compare, judge and determine for this end that we may act according to right Reason.

All the Kinds of Being in the world, ex­cepting Man, are simple and intire. The An­gels now, are Pure and Perfect in their Will and Appetites, immoveably determined to that which is good, they act freely and from a vital Principle, but yet their Knowledge is so distinct and clear, that it is supposed impossible they should direct their choice amiss: Beasts are al­together sensual, moved by certain instincts, and impressions, which direct them to the pro­per [Page 22]satisfactions of their several desires. But the nature of Man is mixt, he partakes of the Perfections, Quality and Inclinations of all other Kinds of Being whatsoever. He is so far Divine and Spiritual, as he moves and acts from himself freely, and for the sake of ends, and is endowed with Principles of Good­ness, Wisdom, Knowledge and Reflection. And so far also sensitive and animal, as his Mind is lodg'd in an earthly Body, endowed with Organs of the quickest Sense, and sent in­to a world that is furnished with all the satis­factions of the animal Life.

And tho this condition, neither purely spi­ritual, nor purely animal be imperfect, yet it is the most honourable that can be on earth; it is the noblest nature that could be framed with an earthly body. For tho the inferior Pow­ers, the sensitive Appetites are very quick, and the same in us as Brutes; yet every Man is Master of himself, capable of understanding his whole Capacity, of preserving the Beauty, [Page 23]Harmony and Order of his frame; of watch­ing the motions of his Will and Affections: of subduing the Predominancy of irregular de­sires, and directing them to their proper Ob­jects: finally, by the Grace of God, of pre­serving his peculiar Form Intire and Perfect.

This is that Liberty, that Authority of Man over his Desires and Actions. His pro­vince indeed is very difficult, viz. to improve and satisfie the several and contrary Dispositi­ons of his nature to keep his Passions equal, and his sensitive Appetites in their proper infe­rior place and order: to prevent Diseases and Sickness, Jars and Clashing, in so fine and cu­rious a Composition, but his natural Power, assisted by the Grace of God, is every way pro­portionable. He is able to judge, by inward Impressions, by his natural Necessities, and by the Divine Revelation, what is fit and rea­sonable to do or to forbear, and to act accor­dingly.

It is not therefore a brutish Licentiousness or [Page 24]Liberty of doing what we please, of gratifying the present Appetite, of proceeding without the consideration of the effects and consequence of Actions: suck a Liberty is utterly incom­petent, indeed a contradiction to rational Na­ture. For the essential difference of Man is Consciousness, or the Knowledge of himself with a power of directing his Actions according to Reason, that is, with respect to his real In­terest, estimated and measured by the Ca­pacities of his Nature. That therefore can­not be challenged as a Right, or desired as a Priviledge which directly destroys our very Species.

Even God himself, who certainly enjoys the most perfect Freedom as well as all other Excel­lencies, has yet no Liberty to Evil. There is a rule or manner of operation implyed in the Divine Nature; all his Attributes are exerci­sed with respect and safety to each other; there is an Agreement or Harmony in the Divine Perfections which is justly styled the Eternal [Page 25]Immutable Law of God. Thus also the Liberty of Man in the management of his Life, is not a Liberty of living loosly, without all Re­spects, Bounds and Laws: but of Chusing, Loving and Acting with relation to his Real Interest, to the true Dispositions, Inclinations and Capacities of his Nature. And Actions thus proceeding are the only genuine, free and easy Actions of our Lives.

And notwithstanding these seeming Limita­tions, this is the most honorable, the most per­fect state of Ingenuity and Liberty that can be imagined. For it is the liberty of God himself. It is this that gives us the Denomination of ra­tional Agents. It is this that enables us to live a happy Life, to improve, indulge and gratify, as, well our sensitive as intellectual Powers. For he only who is loose from sensual Pleasures truly enjoys them. For as Seneca well observes, they that are under the power of bodily Pleasures, cannot be said to have pleasure, but pleasure has them, we cannot be said to possess enjoy what is not under our Command.

This then is the Glory, the noblest Prero­gative of Human Nature; and therefore to preserve the Authority of our Reason, from the Ʋsurpations of sensual Appetites and Passion, must surely be the Wisdom and Felicity of a Man. For where the Will is directed by due consideration, by a well weighed Judgment, there is Health, Ease and Satisfaction. Our Lives will be con­formable to God, our Knowledge will be clear­er and more copious, our Appetites indifferent and obsequious, our Affections equal, propor­tion'd to the value of the Object, our Passions calm and regular. Seneca says of such a Man that he is Immoveable as God, compell'd of nothing, attempting nothing in vain, never disappointed, always safe, unhurt and free.

It is this that is true Nobility, true Genero­sity of Soul, and Greatness of Mind; these are the most perfect of Men, and therefore the most beautiful and honor'd in the sight of all: their Minds are free, their Faculties improved, their Judgment ready, apt for Council, Trust, Managery, without Hypocrisy, Design or pri­vate [Page 27]Interest. And those things which flow from a Mans self are his real Honor.

But as for those who break the Order of this inward Government, who chuse and pursue ac­cording to the first appearance, and love with­out deliberation; who by reason of their con­stant Conversation with sensual Objects, look no farther, but understand, esteem Judge and love with Respect to these alone; they are un­der a force and coaction of Soul: their natural power over their Desires and Actions to direct them according to Reason and Interest, is u­surped upon by those rebellious Passions which of right are subject and ought to wait the Reso­lution of deliberate Judgment.

And when once this Order is broken, what tumult, what contest must it necessarily raise in the Minds of Men? How insatiable are inor­dinate Desires, how inconsistent, and yet how importunate to be gratified? Whilst Ambition prompts to that which Envy disallows, Pride commands what Covetousness forbids.

Ʋrget enim mentem Dominus non lenis, & acres Subjectat lasso stimulos.

Or as St. Paul expresses it, They are holden pri­soners of Satan at his Will, 2 Tim. 2 26.

And as in Speculation, and in the general institution of Life: So thirdly, in the particular management of ones self, as a Member of So­ciety. To preserve the Authority of our Reason, from the impositions of false Opinion, Prejudice and Passion, is the Wisdom and Felicity of a Man. I will not be brought under the power of of any thing in matters Civil.

The Authority of Princes cannot be more highly asserted, nor the Obedience of Subjects more strictly enjoyned by than St. Paul in many passages of his Epistles. And yet in my Text the same St Paul may seem a great Bigot of Li­berty, and upon the question peremptorily re­solve, that He would not be brought under the power of any, the word is [...] and may be interpreted of Persons as well as things.

Wherefore since a contradiction in the Apostle is abhorrent to conceive, we may, be sure there is a fair Accommodation, and intire Obedience according to the firm injunction of the Apostle, [Page 29]may be reconciled and proper Liberty of a man with the just, asserted in the Text.

And indeed, as hath been already noted, and cannot be too well considered, the Liberty of Man in any matter whatsoever, is not an exorbi­tant power of acting as he pleases, but of do­ing what is most rational in its nature and con­ducive to his happiness. And this very notion of Liberty were it throughly imbibed, would be a sufficient Antidote against the Delusions of Hypocrites and the Impositions of the Seditious.

Government is the defence and safety of the weak, the foundation of Property the encourage­ment of Civility, Arts, Learning and Religion. Without this the Human Nature would be the most savage in the world; Reason would de­generate into Craft and Malice, and be but an addition of Strength to vex, molest and prey upon one another. Wherefore one of the first and most obvious resolutions of Reason, is, that we are subject naturally and of right.

And amongst the many Kingdoms and Soci­eties of the world, common Sense will teach us [Page 30]to account our selves the undoubted Subjects of that particular Polity in which we are Born, and under whose Protection and Influence we live.

And because the very Form and Essence as well as the Beauty and Strength of any Government, is final determination or absolute Authority, therefore Reason peremptorily commands the most cheer­ful Observation of whatsoever Laws concerning any matters that are not plainly determined by the Laws of God, to whom we are primarily ob­liged. Wherefore then, the most patient re­signation of our selves, our private Will and In­terest to the Will and Authority of the Government we live under, is therefore our truest Liberty because it is the evident Resolution of Right Reason.

For any Government by how much the more intire, positive and absolute it is, by so much the better it is enabled to support it self. It is fit­ted for defence, secret in Councils, in deliberation Wise and Bold, without Hypocrisie or Fear, in ex­ecution Potent, where the Interest is but one, the subjects will be as easy as they are secure, and the Neighbors just and awful.

But all Reservations of positive or real Power in the People, all Exemptions in the Modes or external Celebrations of Religion, or in any other indifferent matter, from the Jurisdiction of the Government, are pernicious to Societies; they nourish a continual Ferment, support and con­tinue divers Interests, ingender Emulation, Stirs, Heats, Rebellion, and Civil Wars, intoxicate the common People, and fill their Minds with Cu­riosity, Conceit and Pride; furnish Envy and Am­bition, Faction and Discontent with plausible dis­guises and colors for their Malice and Iniquity. In a word, they clog and prejudice the Govern­ment, but it is impossible in the nature of the thing, that they should secure or serve the Real Interest of any people in the world.

For the Authority of the people is indeed a meer Chymera, a word of Art to conciliate poor deluded Slaves to the oppressions, and tyran­nies of the Senate, and in Fact and Practice, the Subjects of Commonwealths are as severely governed as those of any Monarchy we know. Wherefore then, the true Liberty of Man in his [Page 32]politic Capacity, as in all things else, is to act as Reason, that is, the Interest of human Nature, or the necessities of Society require, namely with the most obsequious Submission: To lay aside the airy Dream of original imaginary Power in him (that cursed Spring of Mischief and Confusion!) to consider his Incompetency, to judge his Gover­nors, or their proceedings, to be always apt to believe the best, and ready to assert the Autho­rity (which is the Cement) of the establisht Go­vernment, with Vigor and hearty Zeal, in his place and station.

And this is a Notion as easy to be understood as it is just, secure and safe in practice. But to take the Liberty of the Subject for any La­tent, Direct or Positive Authority residing in them is foolish to Absurdity, because it destroys the very Reason, or Principle upon which the Opinion it self is founded, namely, the safety of the People. For if we could suppose, what can never be made to appear by any Example, a people perfectly free, and at their own dispose that which never was by general content, did [Page 33]appoint and constitute a Prince, or Governors, enduing him or them with such degrees of Power as they thought fit, reserving to themselves the Sovereignty; such a Government, I say, would prove in a little time, impracticable and vain.

For where all have Authority, none have. Through corruption of human Nature, the Ge­nerality of Men hate their Superiors; had they therefore any share in the Government; or any real power, it would beget such an haughty opi­nion of themselves, raise such extravagant Pas­sions, as must necessarily put the Government into frequent danger of Dissolution.

It is therefore the Wisdom and Felicity of a man, to preserve the Authority of his Reason, from the Impo­sitions of popular opinions, prejudice and passion in these things. To consider his Station, and never suffer the plausible Pretences of designing Malecontents to debauch his reason, or shock his Loyalty: so shall he contribute to the preservation of the Government, and in that to his own happiness, to the free enjoy­ment of the liberty of his mind and will in all those other things wherein it may be justly exercised.

How agreeable would this Disposition under the People to their Prince and to one another? what a Confidence would it raise? what delight, what free and cheerful Intercourse? how would all Su­spicion and Hypocrisy, Fears, Jealousies and odious Characters be banisht human Conversation?

And it is this, this Humility and Modesty in the Subject, that is the best security in the world of real Priviledges, of public Interest, and steddy Government. There is in Man such a natural Condescension, such Civility, such sense of Love and Duty observed, that it is an affront to the Ingenuity of Human Nature to suppose a Prince should be severe upon a willing and obedient people.

But those who mistake the Liberty of the Sub­ject for sovereign Power, as the Republican, or for a freedom from all Coertion, Laws and Govern­ment, as the Enthusiast, or for a Liberty of capri­cious Censure, of controlling Princes, of reducing them to Reason by force, of improving and pra­ctising upon Fears and Possibilities, as the factious Monarchist, these, I say, whilst they would seem so great Asserters of their Liberty, are, in truth, [Page 35]as very Slaves as any in the world. They are always busied with mighty Earnestness, about such matters as are above their Comprehension, but there cannot be a greater misery than hot and fi­ery Spirits acting upon false Appearances, upon crude and indistinct Notions and Apprehensions of things. How is such a person galled and agi­tated from himself, from the confusion of his own Mind? and how fitly is he prepared for every cunning Patriot and designing Malecontent to act upon? They are bewitched with the word Li­berty as with a Charm, live in perpetual passion, in ig­norant and imprudent Zeal, they govern them­selves by inconstant Principles, are distracted by multiplicity of new Designs, neglect their Busi­ness, destroy their Virtue, expose their Fortunes, and centre often in an ignominious Death. And thus the Proposition is undoubtedly true in our Relation to the Government: that to preserve, &c. I will not be brought under the power of any thing in Matters Civil.

4. The time will not permit me to illustrate the Apostles Rule as I proposed in the last place, [Page 36]with Relation to Religion, or in Matters Divine and Spiritual.

And here I intended to show that Man by natural instinct found himself oblig'd to worship God.

That he is endued with sufficient Abilities if he carefully employ them, and have opportunity of improving them, to judge of such a demeanor or habit of life, as is likely to be accepted of him.

That every man whose Education and Opportu­nities will permit him, is obliged to assert and ex­ercise this Liberty of proving all things, that at length, when he has found the best, he may hold it fast, 1 Thes. 5.21. 1 Joh. 4.1. of determining his Faith and Practice according as his Reason, after the most diligent search and faithful use of all the means of Knowledge, shall direct him

That Reason will prompt him, to consult the Law of Nature, the common Sense of man-kind, the divine Revelation, the consent of the universal Church, the Authority of the Church he lives in.

That whosoever judges of true Religion by these rules, (which are the Principles in the study of Religion, wherein alone the Mind can [Page 37]rest, and satisfie it self) acts most rationally, and therefore most freely. That the difficulties in the study of Religion are such, that true Ingenui­ty of mind will dispose, and oblige to a modest acquiescence in the definition of the Church.

That therefore Christian Liberty is not a liberty of serving God, according to the suggestions of private fancy without any farther Respect, that this is the unhappy fountain of most of the Heresies, Schisms, wild and extravagant O­pinions which infest and vex the Church.

That therefore also, it is not an exemption from Laws Ecclesiastical, or restraints in the out­ward Celebration of Religion, upon such pains as the Church and State shall find necessary; that if the Theory and Practice of Religion were at the Will and Choice of every Subject, it would be impossible for the Prince to preserve his peo­ple in Peace and Godliness.

That therefore, lastly, it is not an indifference to all Religion; but a readiness of mind to embrace whatsoever, either from the nature of the thing, or from the authority with which it comes at­tested, [Page 38]shall appear to be True or Good.

That thus to study, and to inform our selves, according to our opportunities, in the nature and truth of Religion, with due submission to Autho­rity, gives a man a steddy Confidence and Security in his Mind, a sober judgment, assurance in his Practice. He knows how to behave himself un­der all the different modes and fashions of Religi­ous Worship, he cannot easily be drawn into Su­perstition and Idolatry on the one hand, nor into Schism, by Scrupulosity or Ignorance on the other. He easily distinguishes Graviora Legis from the Condientia virtutis, as Origen styles them; finally, the Religion of such a man is his own, his deli­berate act, God is his Choice, and will therefore be his Reward.

But whosoever takes the Measures of his Reli­gion from the constitution of his body, from vul­gar opinions of Sanctity, from the sense of such particular Persons as he shall happen to esteem, or from any other Principle than that of his own Reason directed soberly and with all submission and deference to the Church universal, and that in par­ticular [Page 39]whereof he is a Member (which is highly and strictly rational) is under the greatest slavery that it is possible to fall into. For if he be a man of any understanding, he will always be perplexed in his Mind, and diffident in himself, always un­certain, and therefore always liable to be troubled and confounded, because the Principles upon which he proceeds, viz. bodily temper, vulgar opinion, the sense of particular Persons, and the like, are mu­table and apt to vary every day.

And thus, as briefly as I could, I have il­lustrated the Apostles rule, or the Wisdom of pre­serving the authority of our Reason and the Liber­ty of our Will from the usurpations of Prejudice, sen­sual Appetites, and Passions. I will not be brought under the power of any thing.

What therefore now remains, but that we re­solve to govern our Opinions and Practice by this Wise and Noble Rule of that Apostle?

How can we conceive a man more perfect than one whose understanding is free, fitted to judge, and always ready to receive the Impressions of Truth and Goodness: whose Principles are Eter­nal, [Page 40]his Opinion deliberate, in Morals wise and upright, in his Conversation steddy, easy and in­different, whose Religion is firm, and his Loyal­ty immoveable?

Others may have the Shape, these only have the Form, these only live the life of Men. Pul­cherrimum victoriae genus est seipsum vincere. It is the most glorious of Victories, the highest Attain­ment thus to command our selves.

External Acquisitions may give us power and opportunities of licentious living, but perfect free­dom is within our selves, when Prejudice and Pas­sion, Pride and Ambition, Envy and Avarice, and all the Legion of contracted Prejudices and Immoveable Habits shall be subdued; when the Son of God by the Illuminations of his Spirit, and the Operations of his Grace shall make us free, then shall we be free indeed (2 Cor. 3.17.) To whom with the Father, and the Holy Spi­rit, be ascribed all Honor, Praise and Obedi­ence now and for ever. Amen.

FINIS.

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