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I proceed to the last thing I proposed, which was to show you that all wilful injuries done to the public, are very great and aggravated sins in the sight of God.
First, It is apparent from scripture, and most agreeable to reason, that the safety and welfare of nations are under the most peculiar care of God's providence. Thus he promised Abraham to save Sodom, if only ten righteous men could be found in it. Thus the reason which God to Jonas for not destroying Nineveh was, because there were six score thousand men in that city.
All government is from God, who is the God of order; and therefore whoever attempts to breed confusion or disturbance among a people, doth his utmost to take the government of the world out of God's hands, and to put it into the hands of the devil, who is the author of confusion. By which it is plain, that no crime, how heinous soever, committed against particular persons, can equal the guilt of him who does injury to the public.
Secondly, All offenders against their country lie under this grievous difficulty, that it is impossible to obtain a pardon or make restitution. The bulk of mankind are very quick at resenting injuries, and very slow in forgiving them : and how shall one man be able to obtain the pardon of millions, or repair the injuries he hath done to millions ? How shall those, who, by a most destructive fraud, got the whole wealth of our neighbouring kingdom into their hands, be ever able to make a recompence? How will the authors and promoters of that villainous project, for the ruin of this poor country, be able to account with us for the injuries they have already done, although they should no farther succeed? The deplorable case of such wretches must entirely be left to the unfathomable mercies of God: for those who know the least in religion are not ignorant, that without our utmost endeavours to make restitution to the person injured, and to obtain his pardon, added to a sincere repentance, there is no hope of salvation given in the gospel.
Lastly, All offences against our own country have this aggravation, that they are ungrateful and unnatural. It is to our country we owe those laws, which protect us in our lives, our liberties, our properties, and our religion. Our country produced us into the world, and continues to nourish us, so that it is usually called our mother; and there have been examples of great magistrates, who have put their own children to death for endeavouring to betray their country, as if they had attempted the life of their natural parent.
Thus I have briefly shown you how terrible a sin it is to be an enemy to our country, in order to incite you to the contrary virtue, which at this juncture is so highly necessary, when every man's endeavour will be of use. We have hither. to been just able to support ourselves under many hardships; but now the axe is laid to the root of the tree, and nothing but a firm union among us can prevent our utter undoing. This we are obliged to, in duty to our gracious king, as well as to ourselves. Let us therefore preserve that public spirit, which God hath raised in us, for our own temporal interest. For, if this wicked project should succeed, which it cannot do but by our own folly ; if we sell ourselves for nought, the merchant, the shopkeeper, the artificer, must fly to the desert with their miserable families, there to starve, or live upon rapine, or at least
exchange their country for one more hospitable than that where they were born.
Thus much I thought it my duty to say to you who are under my care, to warn you against those temporal evils which may draw the worst of spiritual evils after them; such as heart-burnings, murmurings, discontents, and all manner of wickcdness, which a desperate condition of life
may tempt men to.
I am sensible that what I have now said will not go very far, being confined to this assembly: but I hope it may stir up others of my brethren to exhort their several congregations, after a more effectual manner, to show their love for their country on this important occasion. And this, I am sure, cannot be called meddling in affairs of state.
I pray God protect his most gracious majesty, and his kingdom long under his government; and defend us from all ruinous projectors, deceivers, suborners, perjurers, false accusers, and oppressors ; from the virulence of party and faction; and unite us in loyalty to our king, love to our country, and charity to each other.
And this we beg, for Jesus Christ's sake: to whom, &c.
THOUGHTS ON RELIGION.*
I am in all opinions to believe according to my own impartial reason; which I am bound to inform and improve, as far as my capacities and opportunities will permit.
It may be prudent in me to act sometimes by other men's reason; but I can think only by my
If another man's reason fully convinces me, it becomes my own reason.
To say a man is bound to believe, is neither truth nor sense.
You may force men, by interest or punishment, to say or swear they believe, and to act as if they believed; you can go no farther.
Every man, as a member of the commonwealth, ought to be content with the possession of his own opinion in private, without perplexing his neighbour, or disturbing the public.
Violent zeal for truth, has a hundred to one odds, to be either petulancy, ambition, or pride.
* See remarks on this treatise, Gent. Mag. vol. xxxv. p. 372.
There is a degree of corruption, wherein some nations, as bad as the world is, will proceed to an amendment; till which time, particular men should be quiet.
To remove opinions fundamental in religion, is impossible, and the attempt wicked, whether those opinions be true or false; unless your avowed design be to abolish that religion altogether. So, for instance, in the famous doctrine of Christ's divinity, which has been universally received by all bodies of Christians, since the condemnation of Arianism under Constantine and his successors: wherefore the proceedings of the Socinians are both yain and unwarrantable ; because they will be never able to advance their own opinion, or meet any other success than breeding doubts and disturbances in the world-Rui ratione suá disturbant monia mundi.
The want of belief is a defect that ought to be concealed, when it cannot be overcome.
The Christian religion, in the most early times, was proposed to the Jews and heathens without the article of Christ's divinity; which, I remember, Erasmus accounts for, by its being too strong a meat for babes. Perhaps, if it were now softened by the Chinese missionaries, the conversion of those infidels would be less difficult: and we find, by the Alcoran, it is the great stumbling block of the Mahometans. But, in a country already Christian, to bring so fundamental a point of faith into debate, can have no consequences that are not pernicious to morals and public peace.
I have been often offended to find St Paul's allegories, and other figures of Grecian eloquence, converted by divines into articles of faith,