Prichard Mayor.

Cur. Special. tent. die Dominico viio die Januarii, 1682. Anno (que) Regis Caroli secundi Angliae, &c. xxxiiiio.

THis Court doth desire Mr. James to print his Sermon lately preached at the Guildhall-Chappel before the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of this City.


A SERMON Preached at Guildhall-Chappel, Decemb. 24. 1682. BEFORE The Right Honourable THE Lord Mayor, &c.

By JOHN JAMES, M. A. Rector of Latimers in the County of Bucks.

LONDON: Printed for Richard Chiswell, at the Rose and Crown in St. Paul's Church-yard. 1683.

To the Right Honourable Sir Will. Prichard Knight, LORD MAYOR of the City of LONDON.

Right Honourable,

AMong the many that justly admire your Lordships Worth, and seriously bless God for the Happiness of London, in that the management of the Affairs of so great a Body, next under our Soveraign Lord the King, is committed into the hands of a Person of such known Integrity and eminent Loyalty, the Author of this Discourse doth cheerfully and heartily pro­fess himself to be one.

That this Discourse was acceptable to your Lordship when delivered in the Pulpit, I must needs impute to that Candour and Goodness which seems innate and connatural to your Lordships disposition, as is readily acknowledged by all that have but the least knowledge of your Lordships Wisdom and Prudence, so conspicuous in the good conduct and auspicious government of that great City: for though the Matter of it be incomparably great, yet the Manner of handling it falls infinitely short of the worth and excellency [Page]of so divine a Subject, which ought to be highly esteemed by all Christians, and had in everlasting remembrance by the Sons of Men.

For 'twas a designe highly becoming the Son of God, to oppose the Devil, that grand Enemy of all Goodness, and to confront the powers of Darkness; to deliver Men from the dominion of Sin, and to secure them from the Venge­ance of Almighty God. Indeed, a designe of this nature re­quired a Person of such excellent and extraordinary Worth, such divine Wisdom, and infinite Power, such ex­act Holiness, and Almighty Goodness, to destroy the Works of the Devil, and to bring everlasting Righteousness into the World.

And if the World had not been strangely infatuated when the Son of God became Man, neither the Jews would have required a Signe, nor the Greeks sought after Wis­dom, when he did so miraculously manifest his power to the ruine and destruction of the Devil, the most malicious and implacable Enemy of Mankind; whose insulting Tyranny was far more severe and arbitrary over the Jews, than the cruellest opposition of the Roman Empire; and his Policy infinitely above the Philosophical Wits and Reasonings of the Gentiles: that if the one had not trusted too much to their humane Wisdom, and the other longed too affectio­nately for a temporal deliverance, and a secular happiness, they must needs have celebrated the Nativity of the Son of God with the most solemn Hallelujahs and Hosanna's, have admired him as the great Power of God, and the Wisdom of God, who was made Man, that he might become unto men Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption.

But the Men of this Generation are most of all without excuse, that believe him to be the Son of God, and his [Page]coming into the World on purpose to destroy the Works of the Devil, and to take away the Sins of the World, and shall yet remain in slavery and subjection to the God of this World; and so do despite to the Holy One of God, and deny the Lord that bought them.

I hope therefore no eye will look with envy upon this Discourse, wherein no Dispute is commenced, no Contro­versie promoted, but with the great Impostor and deceiver of Souls; against whom every Christian ought to employ his utmost knowledge and skill, and exert his greatest vigour and zeal, being by the solemnity of an Oath, the Sacrament of Baptism, engaged thereto.

And since this was the grand designe of Christ's coming into the World, I conceived an Argument of this nature very proper and seasonable at this time, wherein we were to celebrate the Nativity of Christ, the Incarnation of the Son of God.

And because your Lordship hath commanded that this Discourse, whatever it be, should become publick (which else had remained as private as the Author) as I have e­ver esteemed Obedience the best Sacrifice, and a ready sub­mission to the pleasure of our Governours in all things law­ful, a most excellent Duty, and extreamly becoming all Christian Professors; so in compliance with your Lordships Command, it is now sent forth into the World: and I hope, under the Patronage of so honourable a Person, may be re­ceived with the like kindness and good affection, as it was by your Lordship.

And God grant that by the influence of his Grace it may be some way useful to those that read it, to carry on that great end and designe for which it is intended; I mean, to encourage men against the Wiles and Temptations of the Devil; and to perswade them to the works of Righteousness [Page]and Goodness, of Piety and Devotion, of Justice and Cha­rity, of Humility and Obedience, of Sobriety and Tempe­rance.

God Almighty direct and assist your Lordship in the management of those great Affairs committed to your charge, and continue you long in that famous City, to the Glory of his Name, the Credit of true Religion, the Honour of our Soveraign, and the happiness of the People at present under your Government; that you may reap in this World satisfaction of Mind in the discharge of a good Conscience; and in the World to come, everlasting Life: Which is the hearty Prayer of him who is,

Your Lordship's Very humble and most Obedient Servant, John James.

A SERMON Preached before the Lord Mayor, &c. Decemb. 24. 1682.

1 JOH. 3.8.

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

NO sooner were the Apostate Angels banish­ed the Court of Heaven, and by the just Judgment of God cast into the bottomless Pit to undergo the vengeance of eternal fire, but the sense of their torments exa­sperated their malice, and caused them to envy the feli­city of Man; which stayed not long within the breasts of those accursed Spirits, but like a sudden and unex­pected Floud that overflows its banks, and breaks down [Page 2]all resistance, they were restless in contriving the mi­sery of their fellow-creatures, and active as the flames of fire, till they had accomplisht this their horrid de­signe in tempting Man to apostatize from his Maker, that his Posterity might become obnoxious to the same everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his Angels.

And such was the unwearied activity, together with the subtilty of that cunning Serpent, that his hellish Plot soon took effect, in seducing our first Parents to hearken too attentively to his Enchantments, and through his treacherous suggestions, to question the truth of what God had spoken, and soon after to vio­late what he had commanded. And when this first Stratagem too fatally succeeded in the world, and to the ruine of man directly answered the designe and expectation of the Devil, it inspired a new life into that old Serpent, and encouraged him with the greater vi­gour to range up and down the world, seeking whom he might devour and destroy; that he hath long since usurpt a principality and dominion over the Souls of men, and to this day continues the Prince of the power of the Air, nay, the God of this World, working in the Children of dis­obedience, and leading them captive at his will.

But the All-compassionate God pitying the Ship­wrackt condition of Man, did not, as in justice he might, totally abhor, and eternally reject him: for since by his fall he had divested himself of his primitive Inte­grity, proved a Rebel to his Lord and Maker, listed himself into the service of the Devil, and so stood at o­pen defiance with Heaven it self; God Almighty, by the most signal instance of Wisdom, Power, and Goodness, hath at once manifested his unspeakable Love to Man­kind, and his implacable Enmity to those accursed Spi­rits, [Page 3]by sending his Son into the World, as the Captain of man's Salvation; who solemnly proclaimed open War with the Devil, bid defiance to him at his entrance into the World, and by Almighty power will over­come his aspiring Pride and desperate Malice, rescue men from the hands of that roaring Lion, and so at once demolish his usurped Kingdom, and destroy his works from off the face of the Earth.

All which, as it was represented to man immediate­ly after his fall, Gen. 3.15. that the Seed of the woman should bruise the Serpents head, and that Promise fre­quently renewed in succeeding Ages: so in the fulness of time it was happily begun by the Incarnation of the Son of God, who came to deliver men from the tyran­ny of the Devil, to invest them with the liberty of the Sons of God, and to bring everlasting Righteousness into the World; is still continued by his prevalency over the Devil, in confronting his Power, restraining his Malice, weakening his Interest in the World, and dis­possessing those evil Spirits from the heart of man; and, when time shall be no more, shall be perfectly accompli­shed, to the eternal horrour, confusion and amazement of the Devil and his Angels. Which is the just designe and proper import of these words: For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil.

By the works of the Devil is here meant all manner of sin, v. 5. for as he was the first Author, so he is the continual Promoter of that Corruption which resides in the breast of men, and that Impiety which reigns in the World. So that all sin, of what nature or quality soever it be, is the Brat and Off-spring of that diabolical Spirit, the proper effect of his spleen and malice to [Page 4]mankind, and, in the expression of our Apostle, the works of the Devil: for, he that committeth sin, is of the Devil; for the Devil sinn'd from the beginning.

The Son of God is the second person in the blessed Trinity, God coequal and coeternal with the Father and the Holy Ghost. Who was manifest in the flesh, became man, dwelt among us, and died for us, that he might destroy the works of the Devil: i. e. to teach and enable men to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.

That the Son of God was thus manifest to destroy the works of the Devil, will most evidently appear from the consideration of three very material instances.

  • 1. That the Son of God hath used those means, and taken that course, which does directly tend, and is abundantly able to subvert the power of the Devil.
  • 2. That in many remarkable instances he hath al­ready supplanted his Power in the World.
  • 3. That he will certainly obtain a most perfect Vi­ctory over the Devil, before he resigne up his Commission to his Father.

I. The Son of God hath used those means, and taken that course which does directly tend, and is abundant­ly able to subvert the power of the Devil. The truth of which Proposition will be fully illustrated, from the consideration of four things.

1. From the whole course and frame of his Life, whilst manifest in the World; wherein he was so far from complying with, that he did utterly discounte­nance [Page 5]the works of the Devil. The Generation of Mankind, according to the course of Nature, is too much attended with the heat of Lust, and the propaga­tion of Original Corruption into the Embryo at its first conception: therefore the ever-blessed Jesus coming in­to the World, was conceived by a most stupendous and admirable manner; the power of the Holy Ghost o­vershadowing a pure Virgin, that she became great with Child of the Son of God; and when the number of her months were accomplished, she brought him forth into the World as richly adorned with divine and supernatural Graces, as he was poor in respect of out­ward appearance. When his Infancy was past, that he came to the use of Reason and Understanding, a time wherein other men begin to discover the natural cor­ruption of their hearts, by their actual rebellion against God, the Son of God (truly so called from his divine­like nature and holy life, as well as his miraculous and happy birth) begins his Conversation with an even and a regular Piety, free from those sinful passions, though attended with the natural infirmities which mankind labours under; and accordingly regulates them according to the Laws of Nature, and the Plea­sure of his heavenly Father. His Charity was truly Christian and diffusive, such as extended to all orders and degrees of men. His meek and sweet disposition, with his humble and modest Spirit, such as appears in Infants before they can discern between good and evil. His conversing with men was free and familiar, easie and unaffected. His dutiful respects toward his Friends and Relations, transcending that of the most ingenuous disposition, though cultivated by the early advantages of a pious Education. Neither did he suffer his Reli­gion [Page 6]to decline, as some men do, when their years in­crease; but as he multiplied days, and grew in stature, he increased in wisdom and favour with God and man, Luke 2.52.

He was careful to omit no duty, and so desirous to give no offence; that where he might lawfully conform to the Customs of his Nation and Kindred, he did not with a morose and churlish disposition (like the men of our Age) depart from them, but with great freedom, and a cheerful spirit, comply with and conform to them: Witness his Circumcision the eighth day, his being baptized by John, his paying Tribute, &c. But where the sacred Bonds of Religion required and com­manded his obedience, neither the violent assaults of Satan,Mat. 16.22, 23 nor the courteous compellations of Friends, could constrain him to violate the dearest Heaven. He e­steemed Obedience the best Sacrifice to his Father, and preferred the service of God before the love and kind­ness of his dearest Friends;Heb. 10.7. chusing rather to die, than to sin against God.

For when his Enemies were most furiously inraged against him, and consulted to put him to death, he makes no evasion, nor unjust excuses; he denies not the truth, nor distrusts his Father; but committing his Case to the providence of God,Mat. c. 26. c. 29. he meekly en­dures their affronts and injuries; and when their ma­lice was so great as to put him to death, he patiently bears their indignation, their fury, and their wrath, like a good man and a glorious Martyr, praying for his Enemies till he gave up the Ghost.

Behold here a Mirrour of Piety, the Wonder of the world for his Devotion and Charity! Was there any action of his life, or the least circumstance attending his [Page 7]actions, that might justly bear the charge of sin? None certainly: for from his birth to his death, he was a most virulent Enemy to that wicked One, and a per­fect hater of his works. The Devils themselves confess he was the holy One of God: His most malicious Ene­mies could not but say he did all things well: Mark 5.7. Pilate that sate in Judgment upon him, could find no evil in him; and therefore according to his Wife's admonition,Mat. 27.19, 23, 24. proclaims him before a full Assembly of Scribes and Elders, to be a just person.

So that his whole Life was but one continued Series of actions perfectly designed against that wicked One. His Baptism was his solemn inauguration into this Office. His Conversation the most plain and easie,Mat. 11.28, 29. the most full and comprehensive, the most encouraging and authentick Pattern for his Followers to imitate in their Christian course of life, in defiance to that grand Impostor; that while they behold him as the Captain of their Salvation, despising the World, confronting the Devil, bearing Afflictions with patience, Persecutions with cheerfulness, resisting and overcoming Tempta­tions, forgiving and loving his Enemies, willing to live so long as God pleased, yet ready to die the most ig­nominious accursed death, since it was the determinate counsel of God: Whilst his Disciples thus consider his regular Piety, his undaunted Courage, they may learn to do likewise; and in opposition to the Prince of Dark­ness, be encouraged to do, to suffer, and to be, whatever God shall be pleased to call them to.

'Twas Plato's opinion, as Tully reports, that if Vertue could but admit herself to view, she would appear so a­miable in the eyes of all men, that Vice in the most costly dress and gorgeous array would appear most [Page 8]contemptible and bare, if compared with her. If in­corporated Vertue in the Philosophers judgment would be so attractive of mens affections, certainly the un­spotted innocency of an incarnate Deity should be much more powerful to invite and perswade his Followers to the love and practice of Piety and Goodness, than the former conceit would be to engage men to the love and practice of Vertue: So that if men would consider that grand Exemplar of Piety, the life of the holy Jesus, his Example must needs inspirit their minds with the most active diligence, & undaunted courage, to fight manfully under his Banner, [...]eb. 12.1, 2, 3. as the Captain of their Salvation, against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, to run with patience the race that is set before them, and to continue in that spiritual Combat his faithful Servants and Souldiers un­to their lifes end.

2. From some remarkable actions of his Life, and e­specially the bitter passions of his Death, whereby he hath given a fatal blow to the power and designes of the Devil. The Son of God is not to be considered onely as a meer man, though just and innocent, but in refe­rence also to that grand undertaking, [The Redem­ption of the World from its slavery to Sin and subjecti­on to Satan], the Saviour of the World, the Redee­mer of Mankind: His very Birth struck a terrour to those evil Spirits; his Life shone with so glorious a light, that it confounded the Kingdom of Darkness: But the most signal Conquest he obtained over Death,Eph 2.13, &c. and the Devil that had the power of it, was by his me­ritorious Death and powerful Resurrection.

For when the Jews had crucified the Lord of Life, and laid him full low, even in the dust, that they began to triumph and applaud themselves in their supposed [Page 9]Victory, the Devils also rejoyced, as if they had van­quished the power of God. How miraculously did the Counsels of Heaven defeat the carnal policy of men, and the malicious designes of the Devil too! That death which they executed upon the Lord's Anointed, was converted to their own destruction, and, contrary to the Devils expectation, most happily proved the greatest Engine to rout his Forces, and destroy his King­dom. For can God die? or his holy One see corruption? No; the price of man's Redemption being paid by the Sufferings of the Son of God,Rom. 6.9, 10 he broke through the powers of the Grave; and in despight of the Devil, Hell, and Death, arose a mighty Conquerour over them all; and as a Trophey of Victory, led captivity captive, and treated them as he pleased: And when he had gi­ven sufficient demonstration of his Resurrection,Acts 1.9. he ascended gloriously into Heaven, from whence imme­diately he sent down the Holy Ghost upon his Disci­ples, and prevalently interceding with his Father, re­ceived power and authority to demolish the Kingdom of Satan,Eph. 2.19, 20, 21, 22. and by delivering men from his insulting Tyranny, to constitute a Kingdom of his own; and to preserve and keep it from the furious assaults of the Devil, by the power of his Providence, and the conduct of his Spirit. And now he is set down at the right hand of God, he continueth for ever; and having an unchangeable Priesthood, is able to save his Church and People to the utmost, seeing he ever liveth to make inter­cession for them, Heb. 7.24, 25. By which, and other such remarkable passages, preceding, accompanying, and following his death, he hath obtained a considera­ble interest in the very Forts and Dwellings of the Prince of this World, by turning many souls from dark­ness [Page 10]to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.

3. From the grand intent and designe of his Doctrine, which is most aptly contrived to destroy the works of the Devil, to deliver men from the power and domi­nion of sin, and to direct and encourage them to Righ­teousness and true Holiness. For,

First. The Christian Religion delivers the strictest Precepts for the rule of good living, with the greatest Majesty and Authority conceivable. In general, it commands men to love the Lord their God with all their heart, Mat. 22.37, 38, 39. and with all their soul, and with all their mind, and their neighbours as themselves; Mat. 7.12. to do as they would be done unto; to reject the Devil, and despise the World: to avoid every occasion of sin, Jam. 4.7. 1 Joh. 2.15. 1. Thess. 5.22. and appearance of evil; and whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, what­ever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any vertue, and if there be any praise, seriously to think of these things, and faithfully to do them, Phil. 4.8, 9.

More particularly,Heb. 11.3. 1 Tim. 6.15, 16 it requires men to acknowledge one God the Creator and Governours of the World, to conceive him as an infinite and incomprehensible Being, to testifie the inward reverence and devotion of their hearts,Rom. 12.1, 2. by the most ready and universal obedience to his Will; to love him for his Goodness; to stand in awe of his Justice and his Power;1 Joh. 4.8. Mat. 10.28. Mat. 6.25. 1 Thess. 5.18. Joh. 4.24. to depend upon his Provi­dence for their protection, and to express their thank­fulness for the receipt of his Mercies: to be serious in all parts of his Worship; to live always as in his pre­sence; and to manifest their respect to God, by their reverend behaviour to every thing that is appropriate to his service, or participates of his nature: Faithfully [Page 11]to believe all divine Revelations; humbly to submit to all the dispensations of his Providence, and sincerely to observe all the manifestations of his Will and Pleasure: To believe on the Son of God as the Saviour of the World, the great Doctor and Governour of the Church,Mat. 1.21. Jam. 4.12. 1 Tim. 2.5. and the alone Mediator between God Man.

It prescribes the particular Offices, engaging men to a due regulation of all their thoughts, words, and deeds, that do immediately respect their own persons.Luke 21.34. It di­rects them to Temperance and Moderation in eating and drinking, in sleeping and recreation; to Chastity and Purity both in the married and unmarried estate; to Humility and Modesty in the disposition and car­riage of men:Acts 24.16. To restrain every unruly Passion within the bounds of Reason, and to regulate every the most lawful Affection according to the rules of Religion: To guide and manage their Behaviour with sobriety and understanding, and to order their Discourse with gravi­ty and discretion.

It lays down also the most excellent Rules of Chari­ty and Justice toward their Neighbours, obliging every man to the greatest Sincerity, Uprightness, and Inte­grity to each other;Mat. 5.23, 24, 25. Rom. 13.7. to an universal Innocence and Harmlesness in all actions; to make Compensation where Offences have been committed; to carry a due Respect and Reverence, proper to the several Orders and Degrees of men; to observe all the positive Acts of Justice, distributive and commutative, according to the Offices of that Calling wherein divine Providence hath disposed man's Station; and to observe all the duties of Love and Charity, which the necessities of others require,Gal. 6.10. and the abilities of men do qualifie them for. In a word, the Christian Profession is so pure, so [Page 12]undefiled a Religion, that it prohibits the least impuri­ty, and gives no license to the smallest sin: for, the grace of God that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious ap­pearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, Tit. 2.11, 12, 13, 14. and purifie unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Secondly. It propounds the most convincing Argu­ments to encourage men against the Wiles and Tem­ptations of the Devil, and to perswade them to the sin­cere and constant practice of Vertue and Goodness. It threatens the Wicked with the Wrath and Indignation of God at present; and promiseth to the Vertuous and Good, the Providence of God, as his infinite Wisdom shall judge most expedient for them. But because it is manifest God doth not call Mankind to an account in this World, nor deal with them in strict Justice according to their deserts, (for his external Dispensations are ve­ry promiscuous both to the Good and Bad) therefore the Gospel doth seriously present to the consideration of men, an infallible certainty of a Judgment to come, when God shall render to every man according to his works,Acts 17.31. 2 Pet. 3.10. 2 Thess. 1.7. Mat. 25.30. ad fin. 2 Cor 5.10. It informs us of the nature of the Judge, the dreadful preparation for his coming to Judgment, the terrible appearance of his Majesty, the great proceedings of that day, and the irreversible Sen­tence past upon all concerned in it; that we may be confidently assured there are Rewards in store for every man, that the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him, and the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him. [Page 13]It represents the greatest fulness and exuberancy of di­vine Love:Rom. 2.7, 8, 9, 10. Life and Immortality to the Vertuous and Good; but the utmost severity of divine Justice, In­dignation and Wrath, Tribulation and Anguish, to the Vicious and Bad.

It assures to all that live according to the Rules of that holy Institution, eternal and solid Bliss both in Bo­dy and Soul: that the one, which was corruptible, shall put on incorruption; which was sown in dishonour, shall be raised in glory; which was sown in weakness, shall be rai­sed in power, 2 Cor. 15.42, 43. And the faculties of the other so eminently transformed, that the Under­standing, which now seeth the most perspicuous things but darkly and through a Glass, shall be endued with the greatest measure of knowledge, and entertained with the clearest sight of the divine nature, to behold with infinite satisfaction the glorious attributes of God, and the wonderful Counsels and effects of them all, in his works of Providence toward his several Creatures. The Will and Affections shall be perfectly transformed into the divine likeness; that Anger, Envy, Hatred, and such troublesome Passions, shall be utterly abolish­ed; Desire shall be sped into Fruition, and Hope shall be swallowed up in Victory; and those delightful and ravishing affections of Love and Joy, shall survive and remain to the eternal consolation of Soul and Body.

But it threatens the Wicked that they shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God, Mark 9.24 26. where are Flames so quick and scorching, that they shall seize up­on Soul and Body; Torments that shall always be be­ginning, never ending; which the damned themselves by their Malice shall increase, and by the gnashing of their Teeth shall help to be their own Executioners. [Page 14]So that those who comply with the Wiles and Tempta­tions of the Devil, must expect a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour them, Heb. 10.27. but those who resist that evil Spi­rit, and seriously renounce his works, may expect that glorious recompence of reward which God hath prepared for those that love and serve him, Heb. 11.39, 40.

Thirdly. To this purpose, that divine Oeconomy, which according to the Sanctions of the Gospel is ad­ministred in the Christian Church, was instituted by the Son of God. That the Ministers of the Gospel, as opportunity serves, and necessity requires, administer the sacred Rites of the Christian Religion in the Church of God,Mat. 28.19. by baptizing such as are duly disposed for that solemn Ordinance; that thereby they may be listed in­to the service of Christ, and by that religious Sacrament be obliged to fight manfully under his Banner against the World,Luke 22.19, 20 the Flesh, and the Devil: And distribute the Holy Communion to those pious and humble Souls, that are religiously disposed to celebrate the honour of God in that sacred Institution; that they may be encou­raged to quench the fiery darts of the devil, and have grace to serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

To them 'tis commanded to solemnize the Worship of God in publick,Mat. 10.12, 13 1 Tim. 2.1, 2. either as Priests to wait at the Altar of the Lord, to intercede with his Majesty in the behalf of his people, and to present in their stead Prayers and Supplications, and Thanksgivings to him; or as Em­bassadors to treat with the People in the business of Re­ligion,Mat. 28.20. 2 Cor. 5.20. and reveal the Will of God unto them; to ex­plain and confirm to their Understandings the Principles of Christianity, to represent to their Judgment and [Page 15]Reason, the vileness of sin, and the reasonableness of Gods service; that men may be reclaimed from their sinful and wicked ways, and become a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God.

But when sinners are obstinate and hard to be entrea­ted, the Censures of the Church are put into their hands, to exercise the power of the Keys in punishing the per­tinacious, and casting them out of the Church, that they may be brought to a just and lively apprehension of their sins; and from the Judgment of God executed upon them by his Ministers in the Church, be perswa­ded to reform and amend their lives, that they may not fall into the hands of divine Justice in the World to come; and so upon sufficient Evidence of their Repen­tance, receive Absolution, be dissolved from the Bonds of Satan, and admitted into the bosome of the Church again. For this power our Lord and Master commit­ted to his Apostles, and in them to the succeeding Go­vernours of the Church, Mat. 18.18. Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatso­ever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven. Which Commission was renewed again after his Resur­rection, when he breathed on them the Holy Ghost, Joh. 20.22, 23.

These are the principal means delivered in the Gospel, and instituted by the Son of God, to deliver men from the dominion of sin and Satan; and thereby to destroy the works of the Devil, by taking men off from the love and practice of sin.

4. From the mission and descent of the Holy Ghost into the World; where divine Inspiration is in two re­spects very remarkable: to take away and the sins of the World, and to promote the service and honour of God.

First. By enduing the Son of God and his holy Apo­stles with power from above, whereby they were ena­bled to confirm and ratifie the truth of the Christian Doctrine by the working of Miracles. If Christ had not done those works which no other person did, he would not, for in truth he could not, have obliged mankind to believe and obey it: which is the proper import and meaning of our Saviour's expression, Joh. 15.24. 'Twas therefore extreamly necessary that he should manifest the Divinity of his person, and confirm the truth of the Gospel, by such signal Testimonies as were uncontrola­ble: And such was his infinite Wisdom and Power, that while he was conversant among men, he gave the World all the satisfaction that was possible, that he came from God; when he wrought such miraculous works as were never heard of from the beginning of the World, presented them boldly to all Spectators, and committed the tryal of their reality to the test of their sences; which was an infallible evidence that the spirit of the Lord was upon him, and the power of God had over­shadowed him. Heb. 9.14. Rom. 8.11. But because he was mightily declared to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead, as through the eternal spirit he offered himself to God; so by the mighty assistance of the same holy Spirit, he arose again from the dead, and continues alive for ever.

And because he committed the promulgation of the Gospel to his Apostles, whom he sent as Embassadours to preach Salvation to the World, and exhort sinners to be reconciled to God; the powers of the Holy Ghost was indispensably requisite to inform their Understan­dings with the Mind of God, to reveal the sacred My­steries of Religion clearly to their apprehensions, that they be assured of their heavenly Call to the divine Em­ployment: [Page 17]therefore they had apparitions of Angels, and received the Bath-col, voices from Heaven. So St. Paul by a most miraculous Light from Heaven, is stricken down to the Earth, and called to the Apostleship, Acts 9. Hereupon he became so serious and earnest to assert both his Calling and Gospel to descend from Heaven, Gal. 1.1. Paul an Apo­stle, not of men, neither by men, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father. They had extatical Visions; Peter was in a Trance, Paul wrapt up to the third Heavens: They had monitory Dreams and Impulses from the Spirit; by all which, they had a full assurance of the Divinity of their Message, and the truth of their Call to the Apostleship.

But 'twas equally necessary, for the Conviction of the Un­believing World, that they should confirm the divine Au­thority of these things, by sufficient external Arguments: therefore they were endued with the gift of Tongues, and the power of working Miracles; when according to the pro­mise of our Lord, the Holy Ghost descended from Heaven upon a full Assembly, as they were met together to solem­nize the Worship of God, Acts 2. that they began to speak with other Tongues, and to utter divers sorts of Languages, insomuch that their Auditors admired the marvelous works of God, when they heard the Servants of Christ speaking e­very one in their own Tongue. Thus they were qualified by an extraordinary Inspiration, to teach all Nations, and to preach the Gospel throughout the whole World. And as they had diversity of Gifts, and different Administrations, so they were enabled by the power of the Holy Ghost to work Miracles,2 Cor. 12, 8, 9, 10, 11. and in the Name of Christ to do even what they list. To them was given the power of healing all manner of Diseases, the raising the Dead to life. But one great and signal Gift they received, which to the highth of admiration they manifested to the World; the frequent ef­fusion of the Spirit upon themselves, the communicating of [Page 18]it to others by praying, preaching, and laying on of hands, whereby evil Spirits became subject to them, that they pre­vailed over the Devil and his deluding Oracles, whose Tongues they silenc'd, whose Forgeries they discover'd, whose Favorites they strangely and in a moment struck dead, and restrained the malice and fury of Lucifer himself.

Were these the effects of any other power than the Spirit of the Lord? Was it ever heard that a meer Mortal was able to do the like? to alter the course of Nature, and pro­duce effects directly contrary to the production of natural causes? Is it within the power of the Mighty? or can the Devils themselves bring it to pass? No: It requires an Om­nipotent arm; no less than that which created the World, and setled the particular Beings therein: to change their courses, to alter their natures, to work not onely with slender and unlikely means, but without and against all pro­bable methods, certainly none but the Spirit of the Almigh­ty can do thus. When therefore the power of working Miracles is the alone work of a Deity, and such remarkable instances were plainly manifest by Christ and his Apostles, to discover the Divinity, and procure the belief of his Do­ctrine; it's a plain Argument, that that extraordinary pow­er with which they were invested, was on purpose designed to discard the Devil, and confront his Power; because that Doctrine which was confirmed by them, is directly contrary to the designes and projects of that evil Spirit.

Secondly. By its continual influence upon the Understan­ding and Wills of men, to enable them to resist the Devil, and overcome his Temptations. Though the Doctrine of the Gospel had such an undeniable Evidence as the Power of Miracles, to ascertain the truth and verity of it, that one would think no man, which believes the matter of fact, that such miracles were wrought, should doubt of the truth, or question the divine Authority of the Christian Religion, and [Page 19]consequently would soon resigne up their Understanding to the obedience of Faith, to be governed by the Laws of that di­vine Institution: yet he that considers how little men regard the Authority of that divine Testimony, and consider the ex­cellency of the Gospel discovery, and how careless men are to be strict and serious in their Conversations, and how soon debauched by the most easie Temptation, who profess to believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, and assent to his Doctrine as infallibly true, will soon perceive the necessity of some supernatural assistance, to bring the hearts of men to the love, and their lives to the practice of all necessary truths contained therein, over and above that miraculous diffusion at the first delivery and preaching of it.

And blessed be the Name of God, such is the large and plentiful effusion of divine Grace now under the dispensation of the Gospel, that 'tis always ready at hand to assist the spi­rits of men, in all religious purposes and holy undertakings, Joh. 14.26.16. And in several places of the Gospel, the Spirit is promised to the devout and humble petitions of honest Christians, Luke 11.13. Joh. 16.23.26. So that the most degenerate Soul that does but seriously apply his mind to fear God and keep his Commandments, will find such con­tinual assistance from the blessed spirit of Grace, as will ena­ble him to mortifie his own Corruption, to quench the fiery darts of the Devil, to vanquish all oppositions in the way to Goodness, and with ease and pleasure to do the Will of God.

For this very purpose the Son of God intercedes with his Father, and presents our Prayers to the Throne of Grace by vertue of his own intercession, that the Promise of the Holy Ghost may be continued to his Church to the end of the world, to sanctifie the hearts of his People, and to fill their Souls with all those graces that accompany Salvation; to enlighten the Understanding, to convince the Judgment, to awaken the Consciences of men, that they may believe and [Page 20]consider the great and weighty Principles of Religion, and be preserved from all false Doctrine, Heresies, and Schisms: to press upon their consideration the folly and unreasonableness of sin, with the dreadful consequences of a wicked life; the excellency of true Religion and Goodness, with the blessed ef­fects of a vertuous Conversation, that men may be perswaded to depart from evil, and do good: to remove the obstinacy and perverseness that is natural to fallen man, that their Spirits may become pliable and submissive to the providential dea­lings of God, respective and obedient to the Laws and Con­stitutions of Heaven, and entirely devoted to his Will and Pleasure: to confirm their Faith, increase their Integrity; to assist them against Temptations; to support them with pati­ence under afflictions; to compleat their Charity, to perfect their Repentance, and to enable them by Promises, Encourage­ments, and Gifts, to suffer for the Lord Jesus, and the profession of the Gospel, if called to it. All this and much more is the Promise of the Father, to purchase of the Son of God, and the gift of them both to give the holy Spirit to the Church, first to sanctifie and make it good,Gal. 5.22. 1 Thess. 5.23. then to preserve it spotless and unblamable to the coming of the Lord.

These are the principal means invented by the Wisdom of God to take away the sins of the world, to destroy the works of the devil; and in infinite mercy presented to mankind by his onely begotten Son, to deliver them from the power of dark­ness, and by turning them away from their iniquities, to translate them into the kingdom of his dear Son. And what can the wit of man conceive, what doth the weakness of men want as far­ther needful to promote and carry on this blessed and glorious designe? What could God have done more to subvert the power of the Devil, and to reconcile Mankind to himself?

If he had raised up some mighty Prophet in the World, and furnished him with the Inspiration of the Almighty, that he had spoken as one having Authority, and commended his [Page 21]Message to us in the Name of the Lord; we should certainly have received him in the Name of a Prophet: or if an An­gel had descended from Heaven, and appeared visibly to us Mortals, and delivered his Embassage to us in a Seraphick manner, and backt it with Reasons clear as his Angelical na­ture; we should certainly have admired the goodness of God, and acknowledged our selves obliged to so gracious a Dispen­sation. But that God himself should descend from those Re­gions above into this dark and dismal World, become one like us, one of us, and so in a way agreeable to our humane capacities, deliver us the Records of Heaven, tell us the terms on which our Eternity depends, assure us upon his undoubt­ed Veracity, that upon our obedience or disobedience to them, Heaven or Hell, Life or Death are ascertained to us; that he should delineate to our very eyes in plain and legi­ble Characters, the excellency of his Doctrine by the Piety and Innocency of his Life, and so recommend his Precepts to our practice by his own Example set before us; that he should convince and assure us of the Divinity of his Person and Doctrine, by many and undeniable Miracles; that he should seal the truth of what he delivered by his own bloud; offer up his Life a Sacrifice to death, to procure life to the sinful World; that by his divine power he should rise out of the Grave, gloriously ascend to Heaven, intercede with his Father on our behalf, and from thence send us another Com­forter, even the spirit of Truth, which should inform our minds with the knowledge of all necessary truths, and bring us to the love and practice of all Christian Vertues and Graces: Certainly this method is abundantly able to destroy the works of the Devil, and the prevail with sinners to lead godly and pious lives. Which will most evidently appear, if we pro­ceed to consider the second Argument to illustrate the truth of the Apostles Assertion.

II. The Son of God hath in many remarkable instances [Page 22]already supplanted the Power of the Devil, in delivering ma­ny Souls from the tyranny and dominion of that insulting Enemy, notwithstanding the great disadvantages and discou­ragements that the Christian Religion hath met with in the World both from Jews and Gentiles, from the first plantation of the Gospel until now.

For though the Jews were circumcised the eighth day, and in their Childhood kept in cruel bondage under their Parents and Masters, who constrained them to learn the Law of Mo­ses; and when they came to riper years, were taught by the Scribes and Pharisees, who sate in Moses Chair, that their Religion was eternal, and the Oeconomy thereof never to be altered; and therefore were bound to reject any person that should broach any other Doctrine, to discard him from their Synagogues, to stop his mouth that he might not speak, and their ears that they might not hear. And 'tis notorious that the Gentiles were no less fortified in their Heathen Rites, and superstitious Customs, every Nation having their respective Deities, whom they constantly adored and offered Sacrifice to; and some of them so careful to secure the honour of their Gods, and all under their Authority in their Idolatrous ob­servances, that as Melanchton notes in his Epistle to his Com­ment upon the Romans, every Athenian made a Vow at his admission to the Liberties and Franchises of the City, se pug­nare pro diis, solum, & cum aliis, not onely to fight valiantly in the front of an Army, to defend and vindicate their Gods, but, like the Roman Scaeva, to withstand whole Legions.

Adde to all this, the Opposition that was to be expected without, the Scoffs and Jears that Christians must expect from their Neighbours, the Censures of their Laws, and the displeasure of their Governours; the meanness of Christ, and the unworthiness of his Apostles, the poverty and weakness of them both; that they were utterly unable to supply the wants of their Disciples, or defend them from the malice and [Page 23]cruelty of their Enemies. But above all, consider the cor­ruption of their hearts, and the contrariety of the Gospel to their former course of life, forbidding the least Impurity, and threatening vengeance against the smallest sin which they poor wretches were wholy immersed in; and in honour of their Gods, were not onely taught to practise, but comman­ded to observe.

And yet notwithstanding such great contradictions, the Gospel of Christ, which is the power of God to salvation, con­strained both Jews and Gentiles with a holy violence to break asunder their unlawful Oaths, to disclaim their former Religions, to flie from the snares and delusions of the Devil, and to become Proselytes to the Religion of Jesus.

For when that glorious Light the Sun of Righteousness ap­peared in the World, the beams of his Majesty were imme­diately dispersed over the face of the Earth, and his Glory in a short time dispelled that hideous darkness which had over­spread the World, and brought Life and Immortality to light. For so the Evangelist tells us, that by the miraculous instinct and conduct of a Star, the news of his birth was revealed to the furthermost parts of the Earth, as soon as ever he was born; and the Princes thereof came to pay their Adoration to him, and when they saw him, fell down and worshipped him, Mat. 2. And when he entered upon his Prophetick Of­fice, though he did not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets, yet the Children of men slockt in abun­dance to hear him, deservedly counting it their greatest ho­nour to become the Disciples of so glorious a Master. So great Worth they saw in his Person, and such Excellency in his Doctrine; such glorious Rewards he propounded to them, & such intolerable miseries he warn'd them to flie from, that they made hast to deliver themselves from the bonds of sin, by which they were detained Captives to the will of the Devil, and without delay became the Followers of Christ, glo­rying in nothing more, than in being Christians.

And as our Lord himself did so miraculously rescue the Souls of men from their subjection to Sin and Satan, so that life and vigour which continually attends the dispensation of the Gospel, hath been illustriously manifest in opposition to all the Powers of Darkness, and the Malice of Hell it self. For as his Apostles went up and down preaching the Gospel, the Lord added to the Church dayly such as should be saved: Three thousand Souls became Converts to the Christian Faith at one Sermon of St. Peter's, Acts 2.41. In the Roman Em­pire and the Province of Judea, multitudes, multitudes thron­ged into the Kingdom of Christ; and not onely the weak and impotent people, but the great ones, and wise men of the Earth, cheerfully embraced this divine Religion, accounting their Strength weakness, and their Wisdom folly, until then. Cornelius a Centurion became a Proselyte to it; Nero's Fa­mily had some Saints; Sergius Paulus a Proconsul, and Dionysius the famous Areopagite at Athens, became Converts to the Christian Faith. And the Histories of the Church present us with many and many excellent Persons of great esteem for their admirable Learning, and vast Endowments, who in a short space of time voluntarily forsook the Pomps and Vanities of this wicked World, and sincerely devoting themselves to the service of Christ, were deservedly famous in their Generations for Piety and Devotions. Which very Argument Arnobius insists upon when he reasoned with the Heathen to perswade them to receive the Faith of Christ; that men of the greatest Wits and Parts,Tam mag­nis Ingeniis paediti O­ratores, Grammati­ci, Rhetores Consulti Juris ac Medici, Philosophie etiam secreta rimantes Magisteria hec expetunt, spretis quibus paulò antè fidebant, &c. Arnob. cont. Gent. l. 2. p. 44. Orators, Gramma­rians, Rhetoricians, Lawyers, Physitians, and Philosophers, forsook their former Sentiments, and adhered to the Doctrine of Christ.

Nay, so mightily prevailed the Word of God, in despight of the Devil and all the Powers of Darkness, that within an Age [Page 25]or two after the Incarnation of the Son of God, his dominion was as large as the World, and extended over the Territories of the whole Earth. Hesterni sumus,Apol. C. 36. c. 1.& vestra omnia implevi­mus, &c. saith Tertullian, For the Temple of Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, and the daily Sacrifice perfectly ceased: and such the Reformation in the Gentile World, that the De­vils forsook their ancient Habitations, and trembled,Eus. Ecc. Hist. l. 2. c. 3. l. 3. c. 8. where­ever the noise of the Gospel sounded; their clamorous Ora­cles soon became dumb, and their principal Deities mute as a Child; their great Gods forsook their beloved Temples; and though some were chained, yet they were constrained to run away.

Nay, so bold and confident were the Primitive Christians in their Apologies before their Persecutors, that they chal­lenged the Governours and Rulers,Tert. Apol. c. 23, 22. before whom they ap­peared, to bring any persons possessed with evil Spirits, or grieved with any other Infirmities, and if they did not in the Name of Christ restore the one sound to his health, & the o­ther to an entire mind, they would be content to die the most ignominious accursed death. Nay,Lact. de fals. Sap. l. 2. c. 25, 26 to discover the excellen­cy and vertue of the Christian Religion, they were bold to say, that by the Administration of the Gospel they would undertake to convince the most obstinate, to convert the most obdurate sinner, and to transform the most diabolical and hellish nature into a divine and heavenly temper; ve­rifying hereby those lofty Expressions of the Apostle, that the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, Heb. 4.12. Mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, 2 Cor. 10.4, 5.

And to this very day the Son of God hath rode in triumph over the Devil, not onely by teaching men to deny all ungoali­ness and worldly lusts, to live soverly, righteously, and godly in [Page 26]this present world; but by redeeming them actually from all iniquity, and purifying to himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. Thus it was prophesied of the Messiah, Isai. 61.1. and fulfilled by him when he appeared in the World, as he himself testifies: The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath appointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bound, and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, Luke 4.18, 19. In a word, the glorious company of the Apostles, the goodly fellowship of the Prophets, the no­ble Army of Martyrs, and all the Saints of God that have departed this life in his Faith and Fear, and now make up that part of the Church Triumphant in the Kingdom of Heaven, waiting for the accomplishment of our Victory, and the perfecting of the Body of Christ, have been redee­med by the Bloud of the Son of God, delivered by him from the snares of Death and the power of the Devil, and are now sate down with the Lamb of God in the highest Heavens.

III. The Son of God will most certainly obtain a per­fect Victory over the Devil, before he resigne up his Commission to his Father; as from all eternity he was fore­ordained, and in the fulness of time solemnly inaugurated into this Office. As to this very day he hath been faithful in the administration of it to the destruction of Satan's King­dom; so he will undoubtedly continue till he hath accom­plished the number of his Elect,1 Cor. 15.28. compleated the body of the Church Triumphant, and subdued the Power and Authority of his Enemies. So that though the Devil disturb the Peace of the Church, and make his rendezvouz in the World, see­king whom he might devour and destroy; yet the Son of God, who in his Resurrection led captivity captive, and to this day hath gone on conquering and to conquer, will still proceed in this victorious manner, till he hath perfectly routed the Devil and [Page 27]his Angels, and his place be found no more on the Earth, as it is prophesied by St. John, Rev. 12. For at the last and dreadful day, there shall be a general conflagration in the World, to consume the Wickedness thereof; when the Devil and his Angels shall be constrained to appear before this glo­rious Prince, and receive their final doom which was denoun­ced upon them when they were cast out of Heaven, to be thrust into the bottomless Pit with all their accursed Crew, to be tormented day and night, and to dwell in everlasting burnings; when the great Redeemer of the World, the Cap­tain of mans Salvation, shall gloriously ascend to the King­dom of his Father, and in triumphant Chariots carry up with him an innumerable company of blessed Saints, who shall sit down with him in his Fathers Kingdom, and reign as Kings and Queens for evermore.

We have hitherto considered the truth of the Proposition delivered in the Text, That it was the grand designe and purpose of the Son of God to destroy the works of the De­vil; that he was manifest in the World to deliver Man from his Power and Dominion; to teach and enable them to walk in the ways of Vertue and Goodness. From which Argu­ment, 'tis just and obvious to infer three things.

1. From hence men may learn whether they be indeed the Servants of God, and Disciples of Christ; or the Slaves and Vassals of the Devil. 'Tis the continual Employment of that accursed Spirit, to lay Snares in our way to Heaven, to tempt and entice Souls to the practice of sin, and thereby to ascertain their eternal Ruine: On the other side, 'tis the constant endeavour of our blessed Saviour, to deliver men from their evil ways, to encline their hearts to the Love, and their lives to the Practice of all manner of Goodness; there­by to reconcile them unto God, and to save them in the day of the Lord. Flatter not your selves then in a business of so great concernment. Our Apostle lays down a plain Rule from this Doctrine: He that doth righteousness, is righteous, e­ven [Page 28]as Christ is righteous v. 7. He that committeth sin, is of the Devil, v. 8. Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin, v. 9. And, in this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the Devil; whosoever doth not righteousness, is not of God, v. 10. Let men pretend what they will, a sinful and wicked life is a plain Mark and Character of one that belongs to the De­vil: as on the contrary, a vertuous and godly Conversation is the onely signe of a Child of Grace, the onely certain evi­dence of a good Christian.

That man who in the general course of his life carries a sincere respect to the Commandments of God, and in good earnest studies to conform his actions to his holy Laws; that carefully avoids the occasions of evil, and seriously resists the Wiles and Temptations of the Devil; that despiseth not any Precept of the Gospel, because the matter of it may seem small and inconsiderable; nor refuseth the severest duty, because of the pains and trouble it may put him to: Such a man is the honest upright Christian, a true Disciple and Sevant to the Son of God; notwithstanding his infirmities and frail­ties, which through Inadvertency, Surprize, or a violent Temptation, he may sometimes commit; which as 'tis im­possible for the best man in this imperfect State to secure and fortifie himself against, so the Mercies of God in the dispen­sation of the Gospel, doth graciously pardon, and through the Merits of Christ, readily pass them over.

But he that committeth sin, is of the Devil; He that casts off the fear of God from his eyes, and lives in a constant course of a wicked life; that complies with the Temptations of the Devil, but is careless and indifferent in the Profession and Practice of Religion; that habituates himself to the practice of any one known sin, or the neglect of any neces­sary Christian duty; though he be not arrived to the highth of wickedness, but make some shew and appearance of Re­ligion, by prosessing the Christian Faith, frequenting the publick Offices of Religion, and exercising the material parts [Page 29]of some Vertues and Graces; yet if his Obedience be not uniform and entire according to the scope and tenour of the Gospel, he is certainly in a state of sin and iniquity; and whatever his Profession or Confidence be, without contro­versie a Child of the Devil: for St. James tells us, that true Christian Wisdom must shew itself without partiality without hypocrisie: and the same Apostle confidently assures us, that whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all. Jam. 3.18. [...] 2.10.

2. This Argument is an excellent Criterion to judge of the truth of Doctrines, which are delivered as the Doctrines of Christ, whether they be so or no. Our Apostle gives us an admonition and direction to this purpose, 1 Jo. 4.1, 2, 3. Beloved, believe not every Spirit, but try the Spirits, whether they be of God. Every Spirit that confesseth that Jesus is come in the flesh; that is, every Doctrine which is consonant with the Incarnation of the Son of God, and the design of his being manifest in the world, is of God; for God manifested in the flesh, is a great Mystery of Godliness, 1 Tim. 3.15. and St. Paul calls the Christian Faith, the truth which is after God­liness, Tit. 1.1.

But every Spirit that confesseth not that Jesus is come in the flesh; that is, every Doctrine which is contrary to the design of his Incarnation, that is apt to hinder a good life, or invalidate the necessity of it, cannot be from God. What­ever Doctrine gives licence or connivance to sin, must needs proceed from the Devil, that enemy of all goodness, though the Author pretend to an Infallible Spirit, like the Church of Rome; or to Divine Inspiration, like our Modern Enthu­siasts.

Yet in the Church of Rome such Doctrines as these are so­lemnly constituted, as Essential parts of the Christian Re­ligion, and imposed upon the Christian world, with the same authority, as the most Fundamental Articles of the Christian Faith: Thus the Sacrament of Penance, joyned [Page 30]with Confession, is represented as sufficient to Salvation; The Doctrine of Purgatory, which supposeth an expiation of sin (by the Prayers of the living) after death: Prayers in an unknown Tongue: The prohibition of the Scriptures without licence to the people: The dispensing of Indul­gences; the Popes Supremacy and Infallibility; and others of the same nature, are imposed with the same Authority, and received with the same Veneration and Piety, as the belief of Deity, the Redemption of the world by the Son of God, and the Rewards of another Life. It's need­less, and would be too tedious, to consider them particularly; but what man of common sense and understanding, is not able to see, that these Doctrines are directly, and of their own nature, great impediments and obstructions of a good life, and therefore are not of God?

To the same ill purpose tend those frequent discourses of the Absolute Decrees of God, the irresistibility of Divine Grace, together with the weak and imperfect description of Faith, with the strange Metaphorical expressions by which those Doctrines are unhappily represented to the world; with Doctrines of like affinity confidently vented and spread abroad by the too curious and bold discoverers of hidden and unrevealed Mysteries. For that Faith that doth not ingage men to become new Creatures, and to keep the Commandments of God, can never justifie, much less save them; and that Grace which shall infallibly work to con­vert men, however disposed, may make men careless and oscitant to the duties of Religion, but doth neither require nor incourage their care and industry; and those decrees which have irrevocably and absolutely sentenced men to Heaven or Hell from all Eternity, may pamper some with presumption, drive others to despair, but can have no effi­cacy to perswade men to work out their Salvation with fear and trembling. And therefore those persons that have im­bibed these opinions, ought to have a great care to keep their [Page 31]Hearts sounder than their Heads; that they may be good, though they apprehend no rational necessity why they should be so. But if such men be good upon false and per­nicious Principles, (as I make no question but many such erroneous persons are) what eminent Lights might they be in the Church of God, for sanctity and holiness of life, if they would suffer right Reason, and the acknowledged Principles of Religion to supplant their Erroneous Opini­ons, and be perswaded to embrace the truth as it is in Jesus!

Lastly, the consideration of this Doctrine should be a prevalent and most effectual Argument to perswade those that believe the truth and purport of it, to leave off their sins, and to lead Religious and godly lives. We acknowledge our selves Christians, and thereby profess to believe the Doctrine of Christ, to live in obedience to his commands, and in the stricter imitation of his holy life: let us then look unto Jesus, the Captain of our Salvation, that we may prosecute that great and glorious end, for which he came into the world, be­came Emmanuel, God with, and incarnate among us. That he was manifest in the flesh to destroy the works of the devil, hath been in some measure represented to your consideration, both from his holy life, and meritorious death, the design and tendency of his Doctrine, the mission and dispensation of the Holy Ghost, the many signal and eminent victories over the Devil throughout the world, in rescuing many Souls from the tyranny of the Devil, and the powers of dark­ness, and giving them power to become the Sons of God. You there­fore that call your selves by that worthy name of Christians, consider the high Priest of your profession, and the great obligation that lies up­on you to walk worthy of your calling, and to live as becomes the Gospel, by renouncing the Devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; that as you profess to believe the Articles of the Christian Faith, ye may keep Gods holy will and Commandments all the days of your life: That having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, ye may be partakers of the Divine Nature; and as the Apostle exhorts, give all diligence to add to your faith vertue, and to vertue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience god­liness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness cha­rity, and that these things may be in you and abound: 2 Pet. 1.4. &c. [Page 32]This our Baptismal Covenant obligeth us to; this the Sacrament of the Lords Supper would enable us to effect; this the principles of our Christian profession require; this the precepts of our most holy Religion commands; for this the blessed promise of Gods Grace is tendered to Mankind in the dispensation of the Gospel; this the blessed hope of Eternal Glory should incourage us to, and the dread­ful apprehension of everlasting damnation should make us afraid to neglect.

And if hitherto we have been so desperately mad, to continue in slavery and subjection to the Devil, and thereby to stand at open de­fiance, and direct hostility with the Son of God: Let us not persist a moment longer in so wretched, so miserable a condition; but im­mediately break off our League with Satan, and become the servants and worshippers of the only true God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. For though our case be very bad, whilst inslaved to the Tyranny of the Devil; yet since we enjoy the Gospel, that word of Everlasting life; no man ought to conclude, that his con­dition is desperate. For now is the accepted time, now is the day of Sal­vation, 2 Cor. 6.2. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all accepta­tion, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save the chiefest of sinners, 1 Tim. 1.15. So that the Son of God is willing to save us from our sins, and the malice of the Devil too, if we be willing to leave off our sins, and to serve him in holiness and righteousness: we may yet be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, and so be rescued from the slavery of the Devil and our lusts, into the glorious liberty of the Sons of God.

But at this time especially, in which we are to Commemorate the Incarnation of the Son of God, who came to visit us in great hu­mility, and in infinite mercy to deliver us from the power of the Devil, we should seriously resolve to banish sin from our hearts and lives, that the Son of God may take possession of our Souls; and dwelling in our Spirits by Faith, we may bring forth the fruits of Pie­ty and Charity, and all other Christian Vertues and Graces, to the praise and honour of his blessed Name; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and raigneth, with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, now and for ever. Amen. Amen.


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