A SERMON Preached before the Incorporated SOCIETY FOR THE Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts; AT THEIR ANNIVERSARY MEETING IN THE Parish-Church of St Mary-le-Bow, On FRIDAY, February 18. 1731.

By GEORGE BERKELEY, D.D. Dean of Londonderry.

LONDON: Printed by J. DOWNING, in Bartholomew-Close, near West-Smithfield, 1732.

February 18. 173 [...]

At the Anniversary Meeting of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.

AGreed, That the Thanks of the SOCIETY be given to the Reverend Mr. Dean Berkeley, for his Sermon Preached this Day before the SOCIETY, and that He be desired to Print the same.

David Humphreys, Secretary.
JOHN XVII. v. 3.‘This is Life Eternal, that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’

THAT human kind were not designed merely to sojourn a few Days upon this Earth: that a Being of such Excellence as the Soul of Man, so capable of a nobler Life, and having such a high Sense of Things moral and intellectual, was not crea­ted in the sole View of being imprisoned in an earthly Tabernacle, and partaking a few Pains and Pleasures which chequer this mor­tal Life, without aspiring to any thing ei­ther above or beyond it, is a Fundamental Doctrine as well of Natural Religion as of the Christian. It comes at once recom­mended [Page 4] by the Authority of Philoso­phers and Evangelists. And that there ac­tually is in the Mind of Man a strong in­stinct and desire, an appetite and tendency towards another and a better State, income­parably superior to the present, both in point of Happiness and Duration, is no more than every one's Experience and in­ward Feeling may inform him. The sa­tiety and disrelish attending sensual Enjoy­ments, the relish for things of a more pure and spiritual kind, the restless Motion of the Mind, from one terrene Object of pur­suit to another, and often a Flight or Endea­vour above them all towards something un­known, and perfective of its Nature, are so many signs and tokens of this better State, which in the Style of the Gospel is termed Life Eternal.

AND as this is the greatest Good that can befal us, the very end of our Being, and that alone which can crown and satisfy our Wishes, and without which we shall be ever restless and uneasy; so every Man, who knows and acts up to his true Inte­rest, must make it his principal Care and Study to obtain it: And in order to this, he must endeavour to live suitably to his Calling, and of consequence endeavour to [Page 5] make others obtain it too. For how can a Christian shew himself worthy of his Cal­ling, otherwise than by performing the Du­ties of it? And what Christian Duty is more essentially so, than that of Charity? And what Object can be found upon Earth more deserving our Charity, than the Souls of Men? Or, how is it possible for the most beneficent Spirit to do them better Service, than by promoting their best and most lasting Interest, that is by putting them in the Way that leads to Eternal Life.

WHAT this Eternal Life was, or how to come at it, were Points unknown to the Heathen World. It must be owned, the wise Men of Old, who followed the Light of Nature, saw even by that Light, that the Soul of Man was debased, and born downwards, contrary to its natural Bent, by carnal and terrene Objects; and that, on the other hand, it was exalted, purged, and in some sort assimulated to the Deity, by the Contemplation of Truth and Prac­tice of Virtue. Thus much in general they saw or surmised. But then about the Way and Means to know the one, or perform the other, they were much at a loss. They were not agreed concerning the true End [Page 6] of Mankind; which, as they saw, was mis­taken in the vulgar Pursuits of Men; so they found it much more easy to confute the Errors of others, than to ascertain the Truth themselves. Hence so many Divi­sions and Disputes about a Point which it most imported them to know, insomuch as it was to give the Bias to human Life, and govern the whole Tenor of their Actions and Conduct.

BUT when Life and Immortality were brought to Light by the Gospel, there could remain no Dispute about the chief End and Felicity of Man, no more than there could about the Means of obtaining it, afer the express Declaration of our Blessed Lord in the Words of my Text; This is Life eter­nal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. For the right understanding of which Words we must observe, that by the Knowledge of God, is not meant a barren Speculation, either of Philosophers or Scholastic Divines, nor any notional Tenets fitted to produce Disputes and Dissentions among Men; but, on the contrary, an holy practical Know­ledge, which is the Source, the Root, or Principle of Peace and Union, of Faith, Hope, Charity, and universal Obedience.

[Page 7] A Man may frame the most accurate Notions, and in one Sense attain the exactest Know­ledge of God and Christ that human Fa­culties can reach, and yet, notwithstanding all this, be far from knowing them in that saving Sense. For St. John tells us,1 Joh. iii. 6. that whosoever sinneth, hath not seen Christ, nor known him. And again,1 Joh. iv. 8. He that loveth not, knoweth not God. To know God as we ought, we must love him; and love him so as withal to love our Brethren, his Crea­tures, and his Children. I say that Know­ledge of God and Christ, which is Life eternal, implies universal Charity, with all the Duties ingrafted thereon, or ensuing from thence, that is to say, the Love of God and Man. And our Lord expresly saith,John xiv. 21. He that hath my Commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me. From all which it is evident, that this saving Knowledge of God is inseparable from the Knowledge and Practice of his Will; the explicit Declaration whereof, and of the Means to perform it, are contained in the Gospel, that divine Instrument of Grace and Mercy to the Sons of Men. The metaphysical Knowledge of God, considered in his absolute Nature of Es­sence, is one thing, and to know him as [Page 8] he stands related to us as Creator, Re­deemer, and Sanctifier, is another. The former kind of Knowledge (whatever it amounts to) hath been, and may be, in Gentiles as well as Christians, but not the latter, which is Life eternal.

FROM what hath been said, it is a plain Consequence, that whoever is a sincere Christian, cannot be indifferent about bringing over other Men to the Know­ledge of God and Christ; but that every one of us, who hath any Claim to that Title, is indispensably obliged in Duty to God, and in Charity to his Neighbour, to desire and promote, so far as there is Op­portunity, the Conversion of Heathen and Infidels, that so they may become Parta­kers of Life and Immortality. For, this is Life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.

IN my present Discourse upon which Words; I shall,

  • First, CONSIDER in general, the Obli­gation that Christians lie under, of bringing other Men to the Knowledge of the only true God, and of Jesus Christ. And,
  • [Page 9] Secondly, I shall consider it in Reference to this laudable Society, instituted for the Propagation of the Gospel. And under each Head, I propose to obviate such Difficulties as may seem to re­tard, and intermix such Remarks as shall appear proper to forward so good a Work.

NOW although it be very evident, that we can really have neither a just Zeal for the Glory of God, nor a beneficent Love of Man, without wishing and endeavour­ing, as occasion serves, to spread the glad Tidings of Salvation, and bring those who are benighted in the Shadow of Death, to Life eternal, by the Knowledge of the only true God, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. Yet this Duty, plain and un­doubted as it seems, happens to be too of­ten overlooked, even by those, whose At­tention to other Points would make one think their Neglect of this, not an Effect of lukewarm Indifference, so much as of certain mistaken Notions and Suppositions. Two principal Considerations occur, which, in this particular, seem to have slackened [Page 10] the Industry of some, otherwise zealous and serious Christians.

ONE I apprehend to be this, that it is surmised, the Christian Religion is in a declining State, which by many Symptoms seems likely to end either in Popery, or a general Infidelity. And that of Course a prudent Person has nothing to do, but to make sure of his own Salvation, and to acquiesce in the general Tendency of things, without being at any fruitless Pains to op­pose what cannot be prevented, to steer against the Stream, or resist a Torrent, which as it flows, gathers Strength and Rapidity, and in the End, will be sure to overflow, and carry all before it. When a Man of a desponding and foreboding Spirit hath been led, by his observation of the Ways of the World, and the prevail­ing Humour of our Times, to think af­ter this manner; he will be inclined to strengthen this his preconceived Opinion, as is usual in other the like Cases, by Mis­application of holy Scripture: For in­stance, by those Words of our Blessed Sa­viour,Luke xviii. 8. When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find Faith upon Earth? which have been applied to this very purpose, as im­porting that before the final Judgment, [Page 11] Christian Faith should be extinguished up­on Earth; Although these Words do, from the Context, seem plainly to refer to the Destruction of Jerusalem, and the obsti­nate Blindness of the Jews, who even then when they felt the Hand of God, should not acknowledge it, or believe the Roman Army to be the Instrument of Di­vine Vengeance, in the Day of their Vi­sitation, by him whom they had injuri­ously treated, rejected, and put to Death.

BUT, granting the former Sense might be supported by no absurd Hypothesis, or no improbable Guess; yet shall the En­deavours of Christian Men for propaga­ting the Gospel of Christ be forestalled by any Suppositions or Conjectures what­soever? admitting, I say, those Words regard the future Advent of Jesus Christ, yet can any one tell how near or how far off that Advent may be? Are not the Times and Seasons foreknown only to God? And shall we neglect a certain Duty to Day, upon an uncertain Surmise of what is to come hereafter? This way of thinking might furnish as strong Reasons against Preaching at home, as abroad, within, as without the Pale of the Church. It would be as speci­ous an Argument against the one as the o­ther, [Page 12] but in reality can conclude against nei­ther. For, as we know not when that sup­posed Time of general Infidelity is to be, or whether it will be at all; so, if it were ever so sure, and ever so near, it would ne­vertheless become us to take Care, that it may not be an Effect of our own particu­lar Indifference and Neglect.

BUT if we take our Notions, not from the uncertain Interpretation of a particular Text, but from the whole Tenor of the di­vine Oracles, from the express Promise and reiterated Predictions of our Blessed Lord, and his Apostles, we shall believe, that Phil. ii. 9, 10, 11. Jesus Christ is highly exalted of God, to the End, that at his Name every Knee shall bow, and every Tongue confess that he is the Lord, to the Glory of God the Father. That 1 Cor. xv. 25. he must Reign till he hath put all Enemies under his Feet. That Mat. xxviii. 20. He is with us alway, even unto the End of the World. And that, Mat. xvi. 18. The Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of Truth, is so far from being de­stroy'd human Means, that the gates of Hell (all the infernal Powers) shall not pre­vail against it. Let us therefore banish all such Conceits as may seem to justifie our In­dolence, as may reason us out of all courage and vigour in the Race that is set before [Page 13] us; let us not, I say, slacken our own Hands, nor enfeeble our own Knees, by preconceiv­ed Fancies and Suppositions, considering that as the Success of all Enterprises in great Measure depends on the Spirit of the Undertakers, so nothing is more apt to raise a Spirit than Hope; or to depress it, than Despondency. We ought therefore to shake off every vain Fear in our spiritual Warfare. The Number, the Presumption, and the Abilities of those, who take Counsel toge­ther against the Lord, and against his A­nointed, should not dishearten, but rather excite and encourage us to stand in the Gap.

ANOTHER Consideration, that may pos­sibly withhold divers sincere Believers from contributing their Endeavours for bring­ing Men to the Knowledge of God and Christ, and thereby to eternal Life, is the want of Miracles in the present Age. Men naturally cast about for Reasons to counte­nance the Part they take. And as the Gift of Miracles was of mighty Influence and Help to those, who were commissioned to spread abroad the Light of the Gospel in its first promulgation, so no Pretence offers it self more naturally to excuse a Man from executing any purpose, than the want of Authority, which, in the Opinion of [Page 14] Men, cannot be without a just Commis­sion, nor this unless distinguished by those proper Means and Powers that have been known to attend it. Now, with regard to this defect of Miracles, I shall beg leave to make two Observations.

First, It is to be observed, that if we have not Miracles, we have other Advantages which make them less necessary now, than in the first spreading of the Gospel: Whole Nations have found the Benefit of Christ's Religion, it is protected by Princes, esta­blished and encouraged by Laws, supported by Learning and Arts, recommended by the Experience of many Ages, as well as by the Authority and Example of the wi­sest and most knowing Men. Certainly, if the greater Part of Mankind are Gen­tiles or Mahometans, it cannot be denied that the most knowing, most learned, and most improved Nations, profess Christia­nity, and that even the Mahometans them­selves bear Testimony to the Divine Mis­sion of Jesus Christ. Whereas therefore, in the Beginning, a few illiterate Wan­derers, of the meanest of the People, had the Prejudices, the Learning, and the Pow­er of their own, as well as other Nations, in one Word, the whole World, to oppose [Page 15] and overcome: Those who at this Day en­gage in the Propagation of the Gospel, do it upon Terms in many Respects far more easy and advantageous. It is Power against Weakness, Civility against Barbarism, Know­ledge against Ignorance, some or other, if not all these Advantages, in the present Times, attending the Progress of the Chri­stian Religion, in whatever Part of the World Men shall attempt to plant it.

IN the second Place we may reflect, that if we have not the Gift of Miracles, this is a good Reason why we should exert more strongly those human Means which God hath put in our Power; and make our ordinary Faculties, whether of the Head, or the Hand, or the Tongue, our Interest, our Credit, or our Fortune, sub­servient to the great Giver of them; and chearfully contribute our humble Mite to­wards hastening that Time, wherein Psalm lxxxvi. 9. all Nations whom thou hast made, shall come and worship before thee, O Lord, and shall glorifie thy Name. It is at least a plain Case, that the Want of Apostolical Gifts should not be pleaded as a Bar to our doing that, which in no Respect, either of Difficulty or Danger, equals, or ap­proaches the Apostolical Office. What [Page 16] Pretence can this supply for Mens being quite unconcerned about the spreading of the Gospel, or the Salvation of Souls? For Mens forgetting that they are Christians, and related to human Kind? How can this justify their overlooking Opportunities which lie in their Way, their not con­tributing a small Part of their Fortune towards forwarding a Design, wherein they share neither Pains nor Peril; the not be­stowing on it, even the cheap Assistance of their Speech, Attention, Counsel, or Countenance, as Occasion offers? How un­like is this worldly, selfish Indifference, to that Account which St. Paul gives of him­self, that 1 Cor. x. 33. he sought not his own the Profit, but the Profit of many, that they may be saved. And yet herein he expected the Corinthi­ans (and the same Reason will hold for us) should be like him; for he subjoins, Be ye Followers of me as I also am of Christ.

HAVING considered the Duty in gene­ral, I come now to treat of it with Refe­rence to America, the peculiar Province of this Venerable Society; which I suppose well informed of the State and Progress of Religion in that part of the World, by their Correspondencies with the Clergy upon their Mission. It may nevertheless [Page 17] be expected that one who had been engaged in a Design in this very View, who hath been upon the Place, and resided a consi­derable Time in one of our Colonies, should have observed somewhat worth reporting. It is to be hoped, therefore, that one Part of my Audience will pardon, what the other may, perhaps, expect, while I detain them with the Narrative of a few Things I have observed, and such Reflections as thereupon suggested themselves; some part of which may possibly be found to extend to other Colonies.

Rhode-Island, with a Portion of the ad­jacent Continent, under the same Govern­ment, is inhabited by an English Colony, consisting chiefly of Sectaries of many differ­ent Denominations, who seem to have worn off part of that Prejudice, which they inhe­rited from their Ancestors, against the Na­tional Church of this Land; though it must be acknowledged at the same Time, that too many of them have worn off a serious Sense of all Religion. Several in­deed of the better Sort are accustomed to assemble themselves regularly on the Lord's Day for the Performance of Divine Wor­ship. But most of those, who are dispersed [Page 18] throughout this Colony, seem to rival some well-bred People of other Countries, in a thorough Indifference for all that is sacred, being equally careless of outward Worship, and of inward Principles, whe­ther of Faith or Practice. Of the Bulk of them it may certainly be said, that they live without the Sacraments, not be­ing so much as baptized: And as for their Morals, I apprehend there is nothing to be found in them that should tempt others to make an Experiment of their Principles, either in Religion or Government. But it must be owned, the general Behaviour of the Inhabitants in those Towns where Churches and Meetings have been long settled, and regularly attended, seems so much better, as sufficiently to shew the Difference, which a solemn regular Worship of God makes between Persons of the same Blood, Temper, and natural Faculties.

THE native Indians, who are said to have been formerly many Thousands, with­in the compass of this Colony, do not at present amount to one Thousand, includ­ing every Age and Sex. And these are all either Servants or Labourers for the English, who have contributed more to destroy their Bodies by the Use of strong [Page 19] Liquors, than by any Means to improve their Minds, or save their Souls. This slow Poison, jointly operating with the Small-Pox, and their Wars (but much more destructive than both) hath consu­med the Indians, not only in our Colonies, but also far and wide upon our Confines. And having made Havock of them, is now doing the same Thing by those who taught them that odious Vice.

THE Negroes in the Government of Rhode-Island are about half as many more than the Indians; and both together scarce amount to a seventh Part of the whole Colony. The Religion of these People, as is natural to suppose, takes after that of their Masters. Some few are baptized; several frequent the different Assemblies: and far the greater Part none at all. An antient Antipathy to the Indians, whom, it seems, our first Planters (therein as in certain other Particulars affecting to imi­tate Jews rather than Christians) imagined they had a Right to treat on the Foot of Canaanites or Amalekites, together with an irrational Contempt of the Blacks, as Creatures of another Species, who had no Right to be instructed or admit­ted to the Sacraments, have proved a [Page 20] main Obstacle to the Conversion of these poor People.

TO this may be added, an erroneous No­tion, that the being baptized, is inconsistent with a State of Slavery. To undeceive them in this Particular, which had too much Weight, it seemed a proper Step, if the Opinion of his Majesty's Attorney and Sollicitor-General could be procured. This Opinion they charitably sent over, signed with their own Hands; which was accor­dingly printed in Rhode-Island, and disper­sed throughout the Plantations. I heartily wish it may produce the intended Effect. It must be owned, our reformed Planters, with respect to the Natives and the Slaves, might learn from those of the Church of Rome, how it is their Interest and Duty to behave. Both French and Spaniards have intermarried with Indians, to the great Strength, Security and Increase of their Colonies. They take Care to instruct both them and their Negroes, in the Popish Re­ligion, to the Reproach of those who pro­fess a better. They have also Bishops and Seminaries for Clergy; and it is not found that their Colonies are worse Subjects, or depend less on their Mother Country, on that Account.

[Page 21] IT should seem, that the likeliest Step towards converting the Heathen, would be to begin with the English Planters; whose Influence will for ever be an Obstacle to propagating the Gospel, till they have a right Sense of it themselves, which would shew them how much it is their Duty to impart it to others. The Missionaries em­ployed by this Venerable Society have done, and continue to do, good Service, in bring­ing those Planters to a serious Sense of Re­ligion, which, it is hoped, will in time ex­tend to others. I speak it knowingly, that the Ministers of the Gospel, in those Pro­vinces which go by the Name of New-England, sent and supported at the Expence of this Society, have, by their Sobriety of Manners, discreet Behaviour, and a compe­tent Degree of useful Knowledge, shewn themselves worthy the Choice of those who sent them; and particularly in living on a more friendly Foot with their Brethren of the Separation; who, on their Part, are al­so very much come off from that Narrow­ness of Spirit, which formerly kept them at such an unamicable Distance from us. And as there is reason to apprehend, that Part of America could not have been thus distinguished, and provided with such a [Page 22] Number of proper Persons, if one half of them had not been supplied out of the dis­senting Seminaries of the Country, who, in Proportion as they attain to more liberal Improvements of Learning, are observed to quit their Prejudice towards an Episcopal Church; so I verily think it might increase the Number of such useful Men, if Provi­sion were made to defray their Charges in coming hither to receive holy Orders; pas­sing and repassing the Ocean, and tarrying the necessary Time in London, requiring an Expence that many are not able to bear. It would also be an Encouragement to the Missionaries in general, and probably pro­duce good Effects, if the Allowance of cer­tain Missionaries were augmented, in pro­portion to the Service they had done, and the Time they had spent in their Mission. These Hints I venture to suggest, as not unuseful in an Age, wherein all humane Encouragements are found more necessary, than at the first Propagation of the Gospel. But they are, with all due Deference and Respect, submitted to the Judgment of this Venerable Audience.

AFTER all, it is hardly to be expected, that so long as Infidelity prevails at home, the Christian Religion should thrive and [Page 23] flourish in our Colonies abroad. Mankind, it must be owned, left to themselves, are so much bewildered and benighted, with respect to the Origin of that Evil which they feel, and from which they are at a Loss about the Means of being freed; that the Doctrines of the lapsed State of Man, his Reconciliation by Christ, and Regeneration by the Spirit, may reasonably be hoped to find an easy Admission, as bringing with them Light and Comfort, into a Mind not hardened by Im­penitency, nor fore-closed by Pride, nor bias'd by Prejudice. But, such is the Va­nity of Man, that no Prejudice operates more powerfully than that in Favour of Fashion; and no Fashions are so much followed by our Colonies, as those of the Mother Country, which they often adopt in their Modes of living, to their great Inconvenience, without allowing for the Disparity of Circumstance or Climate. This same Humour hath made Infidelity (as I find it too credibly reported) spread in some of our wealthy Plantations; un­educated Men being more apt to tread in the Steps of Libertines and Men of Fa­shion, than to model themselves by the Laws and Institutions of their Mother [Page 24] Country, or the Lives and Professions of the virtuous and religious Part of it.

BUT this is not all; While those abroad are less disposed to receive, some at home are, perhaps, less disposed to propagate the Gospel, from the same Cause. It is to be feared, I say, that the prevailing Torrent of Infidelity, which staggers the Faith of some, may cool the Zeal, and damp the Spirit of others, who, judging from the Event and Success of those, who impugn the Church of Christ, may possibly enter­tain some Scruple or Surmise, whether it may not be, for the present at least, aban­doned by Providence, and that human Care must ineffectually interpose, till it shall please God, yet once more to shake not the Earth only, but also the Heavens. This Point hath been touched before, but deserves farther Consideration: to the end, that the peculiar Impiety of a profane Age, may not be a Bar to those very Endeavours, which it self ren­ders more necessary, and calls for more loud­ly now than ever.

WHATEVER Men may think, the Arm of the Lord is not shorten'd. In all this Prevalency of Atheism and Irreligion, there is no Advantage gained, by the Powers of Darkness, either against God, or godly Men, [Page 25] but only against their own wretched Partisans. The Christian Dispensation is a Dispensation of Grace and Favour. The Christian Church a Society of Men intitled to this Grace, on performing certain Conditions. If this Society is diminished, as those who remain true Members of it suffer no Loss to them­selves, so God loseth no Right, suffereth no Detriment, foregoeth no Good; his Grace resisted or unfruitful, being no more lost to him, than the Light of the Sun shining on desart Places, or among People who shut their Eyes.

BESIDES, this Excess, this unstemmed Torrent of Profaneness, may possibly, in the Conclusion, defeat itself, confirm what it meant to extirpate, and instead of destroy­ing, prove a Means of preserving our Reli­gion; the evil Fruits and Effects thereof being so notorious and flagrant, and so sen­sibly felt, as in all likelyhood to be able to open the Eyes, and rouse the Attention of those, who may be blind and deaf to every other Argument and Consideration. Or, who knows but the Christian Church corrupted by Prosperity, is to be restored and purified by Adversity? which may prove, for ought we can tell, as salutary in future, as it hath been in past Ages. Many insolent and pre­sumptuous [Page 26] Foes have set themselves against the Church of God; whose Hook neverthe­less may be in their Nostrils, and his Bridle in their Lips, managing and governing, even their Rage and Folly, to the fulfilling of his own wise Purposes; and who may not fail in the End, to deal by them as he did by the King of Assyria, when he had performed his Work upon Sin and upon Jerusalem, punish­ing their stout Heart and high Looks. This presumptuous Conqueror was, without knowing it, a Tool or Instrument in the Hands of that God whom he blasphemed. Isa. x. 5, 6, 7. O Assyrian, the Rod of mine Anger! I will send him against an hypocritical Nation, and against the People of my Wrath will I give him a Charge to take the Spoil, and to take the Prey, and to tread them down like the Mire of the Streets. Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his Heart think so, but it is in his Heart to destroy and cut off Na­tions not a few.

THUS much at least is evident: It is no new Thing, that great Enormities should produce great Humiliations, and these again noble Vertues, which have often recovered both single Men, and whole States, even in a natural and civil Sense. And if the Captivi­ties, Distresses, and Desolations of the Jew­ish [Page 27] Church, have occasioned their Return to God, and reinstated them in his Favour; nay, if it was actually foretold, whenever they lay under the Curse of God, at the Mercy of their Enemies, peeled and scat­tered in a foreign Land, that nevertheless upon their calling his Covenant to Mind, and returning to him, Deut. xxx. 3. the Lord their God would turn their Captivity, and have Com­passion upon them. I say, if Things were so, why may we not in Reason hope for some­thing analogous thereto, in behalf of the Christian Church. It cannot be denied, that there was a great Analogy between the Jew­ish Institutions, and the Doctrines of the Gospel; for instance, between the Paschal Lamb, and the Lamb of God slain from the Foundation of the World; between the E­gyptian Bondage, and that of Sin; the earthly Canaan, and the heavenly; the fleshly Cir­cumcision, and the spiritual. In these and many other Particulars, the Analogy seems so plain, that it can hardly be disputed. To be convinced that the Law of Moses, and the Jewish Oeconomy were Figures and Sha­dows of the Evangelical, we need only look into the Epistle to the Hebrews. May we not therefore, in pursuance of this same A­nalogy, [Page 28] suppose a similar Treatment of the Jewish and Christian Church?

LET us then see, on what Terms the former stood with God, in order to discover what the latter may reasonably expect. The solemn Denunciation to the Jews was,Deut. xxviii. 1. If thou shalt kearken diligently to the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his Commandments, which I command thee this Day, the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all the Nations of the Earth. But in case of Disobedience, it is added among many other Threats and Maledictions:Ver. 22, 23. The Lord shall smite thee with Blasting and with Mildew: and the Heaven that is over thy Head shall be Brass, and the Earth that is under thy Feet shall be Iron. And again,Ver. 28 The Lord shall smite thee with Madness, and Blindness, and Astonish­ment of Heart. Have not the People of this Land drawn down upon it, by more Ways than one, the just Judgments of Heaven? Surely we have felt in a Metaphor the first of the forementioned Judgments; and the last hath been literally fulfilled upon us. Is it not visible that we are less knowing, less vertuous, less reasonable, in proportion as we are less religious? Are we not grown drunk and giddy with Vice and Vanity and Presumption, and Free-thinking, and [Page 29] Extravagance of every kind? to a Degree that we may truly be said to be smitten with Madness, and Blindness, and Astonishment of Heart.

AS antiently most unchristian Schisms and Disputes, joined with great Corruption of Manners, made way for the Mahometan in the East, and the Papal Dominion in the West; even so here at home in the last Cen­tury, a weak Reliance upon human Politics and Power on the one hand, and enthusi­astic Rage on the other, together with car­nal Mindedness on both, gave occasion to introduce Atheism and Infidelity. If the temporal State, and outward Form of the Jewish Church was, upon their Defection, overturned by Invaders, in like manner, when Christians are no longer governed by the Light of Evangelical Truth, when we resist the Spirit of God, are we not to expect, that the Heaven above will be as Brass, that the Divine Grace will no longer shower down on our obdurate Hearts, that our Church and Profession will be blasted by licentious Scorners, those Madmen, who in Sport scat­ter Firebrands, Arrows and Death? As all this is no more than we may reasonably sup­pose will ensue upon our Backsliding, so we [Page 30] may, with equal Reason, hope it will be re­medied upon our Return to God.

FROM what hath been said it follows, that in order to propagate the Gospel a­broad, it is necessary we do it at home, and extend our Charity to domestic Infidels, if we would convert or prevent foreign ones. So that a View of the declining State of Re­ligion here at home, of those things that produced this Declension, and of the proper Methods to repair it, is naturally connected with the Subject of this Discourse. I shall therefore beg your Patience, while I just mention a few Remarks or Hints, too ob­vious, perhaps, in themselves to be new or unknown to any present, but too little vi­sible in their Effects, to make one think they are, by all, much attended to.

SOME, preferring Points notional or ri­tual to the Love of God and Man, consider the National Church only as it stands oppo­sed to other Christian Societies. These ge­nerally have a Zeal without Knowledge, and the Effects are suitable to the Cause; they really hurt what they seem to espouse. O­thers more solicitous about the Discovery of Truth, than the Practice of Holiness, employ themselves, rather to spy out Er­rors in the Church, than enforce its Pre­cepts. [Page 31] These, it is to be feared, postpone the great Interests of Religion to Points of less Concern, in any Eyes but their own. But surely they would do well to consider, that an humble, though confused or indi­stinct, Faith in the Bond of Charity, and productive of good Works, is much more Evangelical than an accurate disputing and conceited Knowledge.

A Church which contains the Fundamen­tals, and nothing subversive of those Fun­damentals, is not to be set at naught by any particular Member; because it may not, in every Point, perhaps, correspond with his Ideas, no not, though he is sure of being in the right. Probably there never was, or will be, an established Church in this World, without visible Marks of Humanity upon it. Saint Paul supposeth,x Cor. iii. 12. that on the Foun­dation of Jesus Christ, there will be human Superstructures of Hay and Stubble, things light and trivial, wrong or superstitious, which indeed is a natural Consequence of the Weakness and Ignorance of Man. But where that living Foundation is rightly laid in the Mind, there will not fail to grow and spring from thence those Vertues and Gra­ces, which are the genuine Effects and To­kens of true Faith, and which are by no [Page 32] means inconsistent with every Error in The­ory, or every needless Rite in Worship.

THE Christian Religion was calculated for the Bulk of Mankind, and therefore cannot reasonably be supposed to consist in subtle and nice Notions. From the time that Divinity was considered as a Science, and human Reason enthroned in the San­ctuary of God, the Hearts of its Professors seem to have been less under the Influence of Grace. From that time have grown ma­ny unchristian Dissentions and Controversies, of Men 1 Tim. vi. 4. knowing nothing, but doating about Questions and Strife of Words, whereof com­eth Envy, Strife, Railings, evil Surmises, per­verse Disputings of Men of corrupt Minds, and destitute of Truth. Doubtless, the ma­king Religion a notional Thing, hath been of infinite Disservice. And whereas its ho­ly Mysteries are rather to be received with Humility of Faith, than defined and mea­sured by the accuracy of human Reason; all Attempts of this kind, however well inten­ded, have visibly failed in the Event; and instead of reconciling Infidels, have, by cre­ating Disputes and Heats among the Pro­fessors of Christianity, given no small Ad­vantage to its Enemies.

[Page 33] TO conclude, if we proportioned our Zeal to the Importance of Things: If we could love Men whose Opinions we do not approve: If we knew the World more, and liked it less: If we had a due Sense of the Divine Perfection and our own De­fects: If our chief Study was the Wis­dom from above, described by St. Paul. And if, in order to all this, that were done in Places of Education, which cannot so well be done out of them: I say, if these Steps were taken at home, while proper Measures are carrying on abroad, the one would very much forward or facilitate the other. As it is not meant, so it must not be understood, that foreign Attempts should wait for domestic Success, but on­ly that it is to be wished they may co­operate. Certainly if a just and rational, a genuine and sincere, a warm and vigo­rous Piety, animated the Mother-Country, the Influence thereof would soon reach our Foreign Plantations, and extend through­out their Borders. We should soon see Religion shine forth with new Lustre and Force, to the Conversion of Infidels, both at home and abroad, and to 2 Cor. x. 5. the casting down high Imaginations, and every Thing [Page 34] that exalteth it self against the Knowledge of God, and bringing into Captivity every Thought to the Obedience of Christ.

To whom with the FATHER, and the HOLY GHOST, be ascribed all Praise, Might, Majesty, and Domi­nion, now and for ever.

FINIS.

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