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DELIVERED TO THE
CLERGY OF MIDDLESEX,
Held May 19, 1731.
DELIVERED TO THE
CLERGY OF MIDDLESEX, &c.
As we are here met together for the honour of God, and for the service of his Church, it may be proper for me to say something of the state of religion, and the controversies depending. We live in a disputing age, and infidelity has been long growing upon us. It began with exploding mysteries in general, and from thence proceeded to a denial of our Lord's divinity in particular. Low notions of the person of Christ are apt to bring in low notions of his merit and satisfaction, and of the use and value of the Christian sacraments, which represent and apply them. And when faith in Christ's blood is once depreciated or frustrated, it is natural to set up worksa, not only as the conditional, but as the efficacious, or even meritorious cause of salvation. The next step is to exalt morality in opposition to faith, and inere morality in opposition to instituted religion; which again prepares the way for looking upon all revealed religion as needless or useless, which comes to the same thing with denying its truth, because an all-wise God can do nothing in vain.
• Certe omnes illi qui divinitatem Christi in dubium vocant, non possunt non satisfactionem quoque, et justificationem per fidem solam negare, seque adeo ad opera legis recipere : quod vel Socinianorum exemplo patet. Jo. Francisc. Buddæi Eccles. Apostolica, p. 130.
Such is the connection or gradation of error, when once men desert the rules of reason and sobriety, to follow their own wanderings ; such the obvious and easy descent from disputing the essentials of revealed religion, to denying the whole. So now our main concern is, to defend revelation against infidelity ; which, one would think, should be a very easy matter; as indeed it is, if reason and argument may prevail. But yet much may be done on the other side, by a dexterous application to the passions and weaknesses of mankind : for corrupt nature is a prevalent principle, and will always make a strong party in the world; for which reason, it concerns us, my Reverend Brethren, as watchful guardians of the flock of Christ, to be jealous over it, at this time, with a godly jealousy, and to use our best endeavours to preserve the unwary from the wiles and artifices of such as “lie in wait “ to deceive.” Many are the ways and means of defending Christianity, well known to this learned body, and as successfully made use of, both in preaching and writing. I shall content myself with singling out one argument from the rest, and one much made use of both by ancierits and moderns. I shall explain it presently, after first taking notice of the nature of the debate now on foot between Christians and Infidels. It appears to be in substance much the same with what the ancient Jews and Christians were employed in against the infidels of their times. For the present unbelievers are setting up what they call natural religion, to rival supernatural; human reason in the heart of man, in opposition to divine reason laid down in the word of God; or to say all in short, Pagan darkness in opposition to Scripture light. When the Pagans of old presumed in like manner upon their seeming wisdom and their imaginary attainments, despising the only true wisdom from above, in comparison of their own; the good Jews and Christians, in their respective times, represented to them, that their boasted wisdom was, for the most part, human folly; and that whatever they really knew or taught, deserving any praise, they had