The most R [...]verend Dr. IOHN TILLOTSON late Arch-Bishop of Canterbury.

Several Discourses,


Proving Jesus to be the Messias.

The Prejudices against Jesus and his Religion consider'd.

Jesus the Son of God, proved by his Resurrection.

The Danger of Apostacy from Christianity.

Christ the Author: Obedience the Condition of Salvation.

The Possibility and Necessity of Gospel Obedience, and its consistence with free Grace.

The Authority of Jesus Christ, with the Commission and Promise which he gave to his Apostles.

The Difficulties of a Christian Life consider'd.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

Children of this World wiser than the Children of Light.

By the Most Reverend Dr. JOHN TILLOTSON, Late Lord Arch-Bishop of Canterbury.

Being The FIFTH VOLUME; Published from the Originals, By Ralph Barker, D. D. Chaplain to his Grace.

LONDON, Printed for Ri. Chiswell, at the Rose and Crown in St. Paul's Churchyard, 1698.

THE CONTENTS Of the Fifth Volume.

  • SERM. I. Proving Jesus to be the Messias. MATTH. XI. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. NOW when John had heard in Prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his Disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come: or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said un­to them, go and shew John again these things which ye do hear, and see. The Blind receive their sight, and the Lame walk, the Lepers are cleansed, and the Deaf hear, the Dead are raised up, and the Poor have the Gospel preached unto them. And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me. Page I.
  • SERM. II, III. The Prejudices against Christianity consider'd. MATTH. XI. 6. And blessed is he whosover shall not be of­fended in me. p. 47, 91.
  • [Page]SERM. IV. Jesus, the Son of God, prov'd by his Resurrection. ROM. I. 4. And declared to be the Son of God, with Power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the Resurrection from the dead. p. 127.
  • SERM. V. The danger of Apostacy from Chri­stianity. HEB. VI. 4, 5, 6. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightned, and have tasted of the hea­venly gift, and were made partakers of the holy-Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance: seing they crucifie to themselves the Son of God a­f [...]sh, and put him to an open shame. p. 155.
  • SERM. VI. Christ the Author: and Obedience the Condition of Salvation. HEB. V. 9. And being made perfect, he became the Au­th [...] of eternal salvation unto all them tha [...] obey him. p. 197.
  • [Page]SERM. VII. The Possibility and Necessity of Gospel Obedience, and its consistence with free Grace. HEB. V. 9. And being made perfect, he became the Au­thor of eternal Salvation unto all them that obey him. p. 231.
  • SERM. VIII. The Authority of Jesus Christ, with the Commission and Promise which he gave to his Apostles. MAT. XXVIII. 18, 19, 20. And Jesus came and spake unto them, say­ing, All power is given unto me in hea­ven and in earth: Go ye therefore and teach all Nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Ghost: Teaching them to ob­serve all things whatsoever I have comman­ded you: And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the World. p. 265.
  • SERM. IX. The Difficulties of a Christian Life consider'd. LUKE XIII. 24. Strive to enter in at the strait Gate; for [Page] many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. p. 301.
  • SERM. X, XI. The Parable of the Rich Man, and Lazarus. LUKE XVI. 19, 20. There was a certain Rich Man, which was cloathed in Purple and fine Linen, and fa­red sumptuously every day: And there was a certain Beggar, named Lazarus, which was laid at his Gate full of Sores. p. 343, 379.
  • SERM. XII. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. LUKE XVI. 31. If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be perswaded tho' one rose from the dead. p. 417.
  • SERM. XIII. The Children of this World wiser than the Children of Light. LUKE XVI. 8. For the Children of this World are in their Generation wiser than the Children of Light. p. 447.

SERMON I.Vol. V. Proving Jesus to be the Messias.

MATTH. XI. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.‘Now when John had heard in Prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his Dis­ciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come: or do we look for a­nother? Jesus answered and said unto them, go and shew John again these things which ye do hear, and see. The Blind receive their sight, and the Lame walk, the Lepers are cleansed, and the Deaf hear, the Dead are raised up, and the Poor have the Gospel preached unto them. And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.’

ABOUT the time of our Savi­our's appearing in the World, there was a general expecta­tion of a Great Prince, that should come out of Judea, and govern all Na­tions: [Page 2] This the Gentiles had from the Prophecies of the Sybils, which spake of a great King that was to appear in the World about that time. So Vir­gil tells us, that the time of Augustus was the utmost date of that Prophe­cy, Ʋltima Cumaei venit jam carminis aetas: And Suetonius tells us, that all over the Eastern Countries, there was an ancient and constant Tradition, that such a Prince should spring out of Judea: And for this Reason it is, that our Sa­viour is call'd by the Prophet, the Ex­pectation of the Nations.

But more especially among the Jews, there was at that time a more lively and particular expectation, grounded upon the Predictions of their Prophets, of a Prince whom they call'd the Mes­sias, or the Anointed; and those who were more devout among them, did at that time wait for his appearance; as it is said of Simeon, that he waited for the consolation of Israel. Hence it was, that when John the Baptist ap­peared in the quality of an extraordi­nary Prophet, they sent from Jerusalem to enquire whether he were the Messias? John 1. 19. The Jews sent Priests and [Page 3] Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not, but confessed, I am not the Christ. The Sanhedrim, to whom it belonged to judge who were true Prophets, sent to know whether he was the Messias or not? He would not take this honour to himself, but told them the Messias was just at hand; and the next day, when Jesus came to be baptized of him, he bare record, that he was the Son of God, and that he saw the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him.

So that it is plain that he knew him, and bare witness of him, which makes it the more strange, that here in the Text, he should send two of his Disciples to enquire, whether he were the Messias or not? Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? That is, art thou the Messias, or not? for so he is call'd in the ancient Prophe­cies of him, [...], he that should come, Gen. 49. 10. The Scepter shall not depart from Judah, till Shiloh come.

For the resolution of this difficulty, it is very probably said by Interpre­ters, [Page 4] and I think there is no Reason to doubt of it, that John the Baptist did not send this Message for his own satis­faction, but to satisfie his Disciples, who were never very willing to ac­knowledge Jesus for the Messias, because they thought he did shadow and cloud their Master. From whence we may take notice, how Men's Judgments are apt to be perverted by Faction and Interest, and that good Men are too prone to be swayed thereby; for such we suppose the Disciples of John to have been; they will not believe their own Ma­ster, when they apprehend him to speak against their Interest; for they knew that they must rise and fall in their Re­putation and Esteem, as their Master did. They believed that their Master was a Prophet, and came from God; yet for all that, they could not digest his Testimony of Christ, because that set him above their Master; which they were sagacious enough to perceive, that it tended to the diminution and lessening of themselves. And that this was the thing which troubled them, appears plainly from the Complaint which they make to their Master, John [Page 5] 3. 26. The Disciples of John came to him and said, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, be­hold the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. This troubled them, to see him invade their Master's Office, and that he began to have more Fol­lowers than John had; he baptizeth, and all men come to him.

This prejudice John had endeavour­ed to root out of their minds, by tel­ling them, that he had always decla­red that he was not the Messias, v. 28. You your selves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. But when he percei­ved it still to stick with them, and that they observed all his Actions, and the Miracles that he wrought, as if they had a mind to pick a quarrel with him (for St. Luke, who relates the same Story, tells us, that when our Saviour had healed the Centurion's Servant, and raised from the dead the Wodows Son at Naim, the Disci­ples of John shewed him all these things) I say John Baptist perceiving that they watched him so narrowly, sent two of his Disciples to him, that [Page 6] they might receive full satisfaction from him. And St. Luke tells us, that upon their coming to him, he wrought many of his Miracles before them, to convince them that he was the true Messias, Luke 7. 21, 22. And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities, and plagues, and of evil spi­rits; and to many that were blind he gave sight; and then said to the Dis­ciples of John, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised, and to the poor the gospel is preached; and blessed is he that is not offended in me.

So that you see that the Reason why John Baptist sent to our Saviour to know whether he was the Messias, was not to satisfie himself, for he had no doubt of it; but perceiving his Disciples to be ill-affected towards our Saviour, and hearing them speak with some envy of his Miracles, he sent them to him, that by seeing what he did, and hearing what account he gave of himself, they might receive full satisfaction concerning him.

I have been the longer in the clearing of this, that Men upon every appearance of contradiction in the Evangelical History, may not be too forward to suspect the truth of it; but may be convinc'd, that if they would but have patience to examine things carefully, they would find that the Story does sufficiently vindicate it self; and tho' it be pen'd with great simplicity, yet there is sufficient care taken, to free it from being guilty of any contradiction to it self.

The Occasion of the words being thus cleared, there are in them these two things considerable.

First, What it was that John the Baptist sent his Disciples to be satisfied about; and that was, whether he was the Messias or not? Now when John had heard in Prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his Disciples. The Cir­cumstance of his being in Prison, seems to be mention'd, to intimate to us the Reason why he did not come himself along with them; he sent two of his Disciples to him, who said un­to [Page 8] him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? And then,

Secondly, The Answer which our Saviour returns to this Message; Je­sus answered and said unto them, go and shew John again the things which ye do see and hear; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are clean­sed, and the deaf hear, the dead are rai­sed up, and the poor have the Gospel prea­ched unto them; and blessed is he, whoso­ever shall not be offended in me.

So that these words contain, First, the Evidence which our Saviour gives of his being the true Messias. Se­condly, an Intimation that notwith­standing all this Evidence which he gave of himself, yet many would be offended at him, and reject him; blessed is he whosoever is not offended in me.

First, The Evidence which our Savi­our gives of his being the true Mes­sias: And to prove this, there were but two things necessary.

[Page 9]1. To shew that he was sent by God, and had a particular Commis­sion from him.

2. That he was the very Person of whom the Prophets foretold that he should be the Messias.

The first of these he proves by the Miracles which he wrought; and the second, by the correspondency of the things he did, with what was fore­told by the Prophets concerning the Messias; the Prophecies concerning the Massias were accomplish'd in him.

First, By the Miracles which he wrought; the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are clean­sed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up. Here is a brief enumera­tion of the several sorts of Mi­racles which our Saviour wrought, and these were a testimony to him that he came from God, and was sent and Commissioned by him to declare his Will to the World. So he him­self tells us, Joh. 5. 36. I have a greater [Page 10] witness than that of John, for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. Upon the Evidence of these Miracles, Nicodemus a Ruler among the Jews, was convinced that he was sent by God, John 3. 2. We know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that thou dost, ex­cept God be with him. Nay his great­est Enemies were afraid of his Mi­racles, knowing how proper an argu­ment they are to convince men, John 11. 47. when the Chief Priests and Pharisees were met together in Coun­cil against him, they concluded, that if he were permitted to go on and work Miracles, he would draw all men after him. What do we? (say they) for this man doth many Mira­cles; if we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him. This they said, upon occasion of the great Mi­racle of raising Lazarus from the Dead.

And in Reason Miracles are the highest Attestation that can be given to the Truth and Divinity of any [Page 11] Doctrine; and supposing a Doctrine not to be plainly unworthy of God, and contrary to those natural Notions which Men have of God and Reli­gion, we can have no greater Evi­dence of the truth of it, than Miracles; they are such an argument, as in its own nature is apt to perswade and in­duce belief.

All Truths do not need Miracles; some are of easie belief, and are so clear by their own light, that they need neither Miracle nor Demonstra­tion to prove them. Such are those self-evident Principles which Man­kind do generally agree in; others which are not so evident by their own light, we are content to receive upon clear demonstration of them, or very probable Arguments for them, without a Miracle. And there are some Truths, which however they may be sufficiently obscure and uncer­tain to most Men, yet are they so inconsiderable, and of so small conse­quence, as not to deserve the attesta­tion of Miracles; so that there is no reason to expect that God should in­terpose [Page 12] by a Miracle, to convince Men of them.

Nec Deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus Inciderit.

But for such Truths as are necessa­ry to be known by us, but are not sufficiently evident of themselves, nor capable of cogent Evidence, especially to prejudiced and interested Persons, God is pleased in this Case many times to work Miracles for our Conviction; and they are a proper Argument to convince us of a thing that is either in it self obscure and hard to be be­lieved, or which we are prejudiced against, and hardly brought to be­lieve; for they are an Argument à Majori ad Minus, they prove a thing which is obscure and hard to be be­lieved, by something that is more in­credible, which yet they cannot de­ny, because they see it done. Thus our Saviour proves himself to be an extraordinary Person, by doing such things as never man did; he convinceth them, that they ought to believe what he said, because they saw him do those things, which were harder to be [Page 13] believed (if one had not seen them) than what he said.

Miracles are indeed the greatest external confirmation and evidence that can be given to the truth of any Doctrine, and where they are wrought with all the advantages they are ca­pable of, they are an unquestionable demonstration of the truth of it; and such were our Saviour's Miracles here in the Text, to prove that he was the true Messias; here are Miracles of all kinds, the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are rai­sed up. For the nature of them, they are such as are most likely to be Di­vine, and to come from God, for they were healing and beneficial to Man­kind. Our Saviour here instanceth in those things which are of greatest be­nefit and advantage, and which free Men from the greatest miseries and inconveniencies; the restoring of sight to the Blind, and hearing to the Deaf; soundness and health to the Lame and the Leprous, and life to the Dead. And then for the number of them, they were many; not one [Page 14] instance of a kind, but several of e­very kind, and great multitudes of most of them; and for the manner of their operation, they were publick, in the sight and view of great multi­tudes of People; to free them from all suspicion of fraud and imposture, they were not wrought privately and in corners, and given out and noised abroad, but before all the People, so that every one might see them, and judge of them; not only among his own Disciples and Followers, as the Church of Rome pretends to work theirs, but among his Enemies, to convince those that did not believe; and this not done once, and in one place, but at several times, and in all places where he came, and for a long time, for three years and a half; and after his death, he endowed his Disciples and Followers with the same power, which lasted for some Ages. And then for the quality of them; they were Miracles of the greatest magni­tude; those of them, which in them­selves might have been performed by natural means, as healing the Lame, and the Leprous, and the Deaf, he did in a miraculous manner, by a word [Page 15] or a touch, yea and many times at a great distance. But others were not only in the manner of their operati­on, but in the nature of the thing un­questionably miraculous, as giving of sight to those that had been born blind, and raising up the dead to life, as Lazarus, after he had lain in the grave four days; and himself after­terwards, the third day after he had been buried; which, if there ever was or can be any unquestionable Mira­cles in the World, ought certainly to be reputed such. So that our blessed Saviour had all the Attestation that Miracles can give, that he came from God. And this is the first Evidence of his being the Messias.

The Jews acknowledge that the Messias, when he comes, shall work great Miracles; and their own Tal­mud confesseth, that Jesus the Son of Joseph and Mary did work great Mira­cles; and the History of the Gospel does particularly relate more and greater Miracles wrought by him, than by Moses and all the Prophets that had been since the World began; so that we may still put the same [Page 16] question to the Jews, which they did in our Saviour's time to one another; when Christ cometh, when the Messias whom ye expect comes, will he do more Miracles than these which this Man hath done?

But, Secondly, this will yet more clearly appear by the correspondency of the things here mentioned, with what was foretold by the Prophets concerning the Messias.

Not to mention innumerable Cir­cumstances of his Birth, and Life, and Death, and Resurrection, and Ascen­sion into Heaven, together with the success and prevalency of his Doctrine in the World, all which are punctu­ally foretold by some or other of the Prophets: I shall confine my self to the particulars here in the Text.

First, It was foretold of the Mes­sias, that he should work miraculous Cures. Isa. 35. 4, 5, 6. speaking of the Messias, he will come and save you; then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstop'd; [Page 17] then shall the lame man leap as an Hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing; this you see was fulfilled here in the Text. 'Tis true indeed, the Text mentions another Miracle which is not in the Prophet, that he raised the dead; but if God did more than he promised and foretold, this is no prejudice to the argument, if all that he foretold was accomplish'd in him. Besides, the Jews have a Proverb, that God is not content to perform barely what he promiseth, but he usually doth some­thing over and above his promise. That the Messias should heal the blind, and the deaf, and the lame, Isaiah Prophe­sied; and God makes good this Pro­mise and Prediction to the full; the Messias did not only do these, but which is more and greater than any of these, he raised the dead to life.

Secondly, It was likewise foretold of the Messias, that he should preach the Gospel to the poor, Isa. 61. 1. the spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; [...], to preach the Gospel or good tidings to the Poor; so the LXX render the [Page 18] words; and they are the very words used by our Saviour here in the Text. 'Tis true indeed, this was no Miracle, but it was the punctual accomplish­ment of a Prophecy concerning the Messias, and consequently an evidence that he was the Messias. But besides, it had something in it which was ve­ry strange to the Jews, and very dif­ferent from the way of their Doctors and Teachers: For the Rabbies among the Jews would scarce instruct any but for great Reward; they would meddle with none but those that were able to requite their pains: The ordi­nary and poorer sort of People they had in great contempt, as appears by that slighting expression of them, Joh. 7. 48, 49. Have any of the Ru­lers or of the Pharisees believed on him? but this People who knoweth not the Law are cursed. And Grotius upon this Text tells us, that the Jewish Masters had this foolish and insolent Proverb among them, that the spirit of God doth not rest but upon a rich man; to which this Prediction concerning the Messias was a direct contradiction: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach [Page 19] the Gospel to the Poor. In old time the Prophets were especially sent to the Kings and Princes of the People: but this great Prophet comes to preach the Gospel to the Poor. None have so little reason to be proud as the Sons of Men: but never was any so humble as the Son of God. our Saviour's whole Life and Doctrine was a contradiction to the false Opinions of the world; they thought the rich and great men of the World the only happy persons, but he came to preach glad tidings to the Poor, to bring good news to them whom the great Doctors of the Law despised, and set at nought; and there­fore to confound their pride and folly, and to confute their false Opinions of things, he begins that excellent Ser­mon of his with this Saying, Blessed are the Poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.

Thirdly, It was foretold of the Mes­sias that the World should be offend­ed at him, Isa. 8. 14. He shall be for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel. And Isa. 53. 1, 2, 3. Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the [Page 20] Lord revealed? he hath no form nor comeliness, and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him; he is despised and rejected of men, and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not; and this likewise is intimated in the last words of the Text, and blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me. Intimating, that notwithstanding the great works that he did among them, which testified of him that he came from God, notwithstanding the Pre­dictions of their Prophets concerning the Messias, were so clearly and pun­ctually accomplish'd in him; yet not­withstanding all this, they would take offence at him upon one account or other, and reject him and his Do­ctrine; but even this, that they re­jected him, and would not own him for their Messias, was another Sign and Evidence that he was the true Messias foretold by the Prophets; for among other things this was expresly Predicted concerning him, that he should be despised and rejected of men.

And thus I have done with the First thing I propounded to speak to; namely, the Evidence which our Sa­viour here gives of his being the true Messias.

First, The many and great Mira­cles which he wrought, prove that he came from God. And,

Secondly, The correspondence of the things he did, with what was fore­told by the Prophets concerning the Messias, declare him to be the true Messias.

I now proceed to the next thing I propounded to speak to, namely,

Secondly, An Intimation in the Text, that notwithstanding all the Evidence Christ gave of himself, yet many would be offended at him, and reject him and his Doctrine. In speaking to which, it will be very proper to con­sider,

First, How the Poor came to be [Page 22] more disposed to receive the Gospel, than others.

Secondly, What those Prejudices are which the World had against our Sa­viour and his Religion at its first ap­pearance, as also those which men have at this day against the Christian Religion, and to endeavour to shew the unreasonableness of them.

Thirdly, How happy a thing it is to escape and overcome the common Pre­judices which Men have against Re­ligion.

First, How the Poor came to be more disposed to receive the Gospel, than o­thers; the Poor have the Gospel preached unto them. Which does not only sig­nifie that our Saviour did more espe­cially apply himself to them, but like­wise that they were in a nearer dispo­sition to receive it, and did of all o­thers give the most ready entertain­ment to his Doctrine: And this our Saviour declares to us in the begin­ning of his Sermon upon the Mount, when he pronounceth the Poor blessed upon this account, because they were [Page 23] nearer to the Kingdom of God than others; Blessed are the Poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of God. So likewise St. James, Chap. 2. v. 5. Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the Kingdom, which he hath promised to them that love him? So that it seems the Poor were upon some account or other in a nearer disposition to receive the Gospel, than the Great and Rich Men of this World. And of this there are three Accounts to be given.

First, The Poor had no Earthly in­terest to engage them to reject our Sa­viour and his Doctrine. The High-Priests, and Scribes, and Pharisees a­mong the Jews, they had a plain worldly Interest which did engage them to oppose our Saviour and his Doctrine; for if he were received for the Messias, and his Doctrine embra­ced, they must of necessity lose their Sway and Authority among the Peo­ple; and all that which rendred them so considerable, their pretended skill in the Law, and in the Traditions and Observances of their Fathers, together with their external shews of Piety and [Page 24] Devotion, would signifie nothing, if our Saviour and his Doctrine should take place. And there are very few so honest and sincere, as to be content for truth's sake, to part with their Re­putation and Authority, and to be­come less in the esteem of men than they were before. Few are so impartial as to quit those things which they have once laid great weight upon, and kept a great stir about, because this is to acknowledge that they were in an Er­ror, and mistaken in their Zeal; which few have the ingenuity to own, tho' it be never so plain to others; and therefore it is no wonder that our Sa­viour's Doctrine met with so much resistance from those, who were so much concern'd in point of Honour and reputation, to make head against it. And this account our Saviour him­self gives us of their Infidelity, John 5. 44. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh of God only? And Chap. 12. 43. For they loved the praise of Men more than the praise of God.

And besides the point of Reputati­on, those that were Rich, were con­cerned [Page 25] in point of Interest, to op­pose our Saviour and his Doctrine; because he call'd upon Men to deny themselves, and to part with Houses and Lands, yea and life it self, for his sake, and for the Gospel's, which must needs be a very hard and unpleasant Doctrine to Rich Men, who had great Estates, and had set their Hearts upon them. Upon this Account it is that our Sa­viour pronounceth it so hard for a Rich Man to enter into the Kingdom of God; and compares it with those Things that are most difficult, and Humanly impossible; I say unto you, it is easier for a Camel to go through the eye of a Needle, than for a Rich Man to enter into the Kingdom of God.

But now the Poor were free from these Incumbrances and Temptati­ons; they had nothing to lose, and therefore our Saviour's Doctrine went down more easily with them; be­cause it did not contradict their In­terest, as it did the Interest of those who had great Estates and Possessions.

Secondly, Another Reason of this is, that those that are Poor, and enjoy little of the good things of this Life, are willing to entertain good News of Happiness in another. Those who are in a state of present Misery and Suffering, are glad to hear that it shall be well with them hereafter, and are willing to listen to the good News of a future Happiness; and there­fore our Saviour, when he had pro­nounced the Poor, Blessed, Luke 6. 20. He adds by way of Opposition, v. 24. But wo unto you that are rich; for ye have received your Consolation. They were in so comfortable a Con­dition at present, that they were not much concerned what should be­come of them hereafter; whereas all the Comfort that Poor Men have, is the hopes of a better Condition, non si male nunc, & olim sic erit, that if it be bad now, it will not be so always, and therefore no wonder if the Pro­mises and Assurance of a future Happiness be very welcome to them.

Thirdly, If by the Poor we do not only understand those who were [Page 27] in a low and mean Condition as to the Things of this World, but such likewise as had a Temper, and Dis­position of Mind suitable to the Po­verty of their outward Condition, which our Saviour calls Poverty of Spirit, by which he means Meekness and Humility, there is no doubt but that such a Frame and Temper of Spirit is a great Disposition to the receiving of Truth. And that this is included in the Notion of Poverty, is very plain, both from the Words of the Prophecy I cited before, Isa. 61. 1. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good Tidings to the meek, and to bind up the the broken-hearted, and likewise from our Saviour's Descrip­tion of these Persons, in one of the Evangelists, Matth. 5. 3. Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God. So that by the Poor, who are so nearly disposed to receive the Gospel, our Saviour intended those, who, being in a poor and low Condition in Respect of outward Things, were likewise meek and hum­ble in their Spirits. Now Meekness and Humility are great Dispositions [Page 28] to the entertaining of Truth. These Graces and Vertues do prepare the Minds of Men for Learning and In­struction; Meekness, and Modesty, and Humility are the proper Dispo­sitions of a Scholar. He that hath a mean Opinion of himself is ready to learn of others; he who is not blinded by Pride or Passion, is more apt to consider things impartially, and to pass a truer Judgment upon them, than the Proud and the Passio­nate. Passion and Pride are great Obstacles to the receiving of Truth, and to our Improvement in Know­ledge. Passion does not only darken the Minds of Men, but puts a false Biass upon our Judgments, which draws them off many times from Truth, and sways them that way, which our Passion enclines them. A Man of a calm and meek Temper, stands always indifferent for the re­ceiving of Truth, and holds the Bal­lance of his Judgment even; but Pas­sion sways and enclines it one way, and that commonly against Truth and Reason. So likewise Pride is a great Impediment to Knowledge, and the very worst Quality that a [Page 29] Learner can have; it obstructs all the Passages whereby Knowledge should enter into us, it makes Men refuse Instruction, out of a Conceit they need it not. Many Men might have known more, had it not been for the vain Opinion which they have entertained of the sufficiency of their Knowledge. This is true in all kinds of Learning, but more espe­cially as to the Knowledge of Di­vine things. For God loves to com­municate himself, and bestow his Grace and Wisdom upon meek and humble Minds. So the Scripture tells us, Psa. 25. 9. The Meek will he guide in Judgment, and the Meek will he teach his Ways. And 1 Pet. 5. 5. Be clothed with Humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth Grace to the hum­ble.

And thus I have shewn in what Respects the Poor were more dispo­sed for the receiving the Gospel, than others. I proceed now to the

Second Thing, namely, What those Prejudices and Objections are, which the World had against our Saviour [Page 30] and his Religion at their first Ap­pearance; as also to enquire into those which Men have at this Day against the Christian Religion, and to shew the Weakness and Unreasonableness of them. I begin,

First, With those Prejudices which the World had against our Saviour and his Religion at their first Ap­pearance.

Both Jews and Gentiles were offen­ded at him and his Doctrine; but not both upon the same account. They both took Exceptions at him, espe­cially at his low and suffering Con­dition; but not both upon the same Reason. I shall begin with the Ex­ceptions which the Jews took against our blessed Saviour and his Religion; and I shall reduce them all, or at least the most considerable of them (as I find them dispersed in the Hi­story of the Gospel, and in the Acts of the Apostles) to these Six Heads.

First, The Exceptions which they took against him upon account of his Extraction and Original.

Secondly, At the Meanness of his Condition, contrary to their Uni­versal Expectation.

Thirdly, As to his Miracles.

Fourthly, His Conversation.

Fifthly, The Prejudice that lay against him from the Opposition that was made by Persons of greatest Know­ledge and Authority among them. And▪

Lastly, That the Religion, which he endeavour'd to introduce, did abo­lish and supersede their ancient Re­ligion, as of no longer Use and Con­tinuance, though it was plain it was at first instituted by God.

First, The Exceptions which they took at his Extraction and Original. In relation to this they were offen­ded at three Things.

1. That his Original was known among them. This you find urged against him, John 7. 27. We know this Man whence he is, but when the [Page 32] Messias comes, no Man knows whence he is.

This to be sure was no just Ex­ception in reason against him. For what if his Extraction were known, might he not be from God for all that? They owned Moses for the greatest Prophet that ever was, and yet it was very well known from whence he was.

But they seem to refer to some Prophecy of the Old Testament, which did seem to assert so much. If they meant that his Extraction should be altogether unknown; they knew ve­ry well, and believed the contrary, that he was to be of the Line of Da­vid, and to come out of Bethlehem. If they referr'd to that Prophecy, that a Virgin should conceive and bear a Son, and so understood that he should be without Father; this was really true, tho' they thought that he was the Son of Joseph. And if he affirmed that he had no Father, he did sufficiently justifie it by his Miracles; that being as easie to be believed possible by a Divine Power, [Page 33] as the Miracles which he wrought; which yet they could not deny, be­cause they saw them.

2. Another Prejudice against his Extraction, was the Meanness of his Parents and Breeding. This you find mentioned, Matth. 13. 54, 55. Whence hath this Man this Wisdom, and these mighty Works? Is not this the Carpen­ter's Son, is not his Mother called Mary, and his Brethren James and Joses and Simon and Judas? And his Sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this Man these things? And they were offended in him. And so likewise, John 7. 15. How knoweth this Man Letters, having never learned?

A strange Prejudice and most un­reasonable. They could not believe him to be an extraordinary Person, because his Parents and Relations, his Birth and Breeding were so mean. He had been brought up to a Trade, and not brought up to Learning: whereas in Reason, this ought to have been an Argument just the other way; that he was an extraordinary Person, and Divinely assisted, who [Page 34] all on the sudden, without the help and assistance of Education, gave such Evidence of his great Wisdom and Knowledge, and did such mighty Works. This could not be imputed to his Breeding, for that was mean; therefore there must be something Extraordinary and Divine in it. Thus another Man, who had been free from Prejudice, would have rea­soned.

3. The most unreasonable Preju­dice of all, in respect of his Ex­traction, was grounded upon a spite­ful and malicious Proverb, concern­ing the Country where our Saviour was brought up, and they supposed him to be born; and that was Gali­lee. John 1. 46. Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? And John 7. 41. Shall the Messias come out of Galilee? And v. 52. Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no Prophet.

But it seems Nathanael, who was a good Man, was easily taken off from this common Prejudice, when Philip said to him, come and see. He bids him come and see the Works [Page 35] he did, and then refers it to him, whether he would believe his own Eyes, or an old Proverb. However it seems the Jews laid great weight upon it, as if this alone were enough to confute all his Miracles, and af­ter they had shot this Bolt at him, the Business were concluded clearly against him. But prudent and con­siderate Men do not use to give much Credit to ill-natur'd Proverbs; the good or bad Characters which are given of Countreys, are not under­stood to be universally true, and without Exception. There is no place but hath brought forth some brave Spirits, and excellent Persons; what­ever the general Temper and Dis­position of the Inhabitants may be. Among the Grecians, the Beotians were esteemed a dull People, even to a Proverb; and yet Pindar, one of their chief Poets, was one of them. The Scythians were a barba­rous Nation, and one would have thought no good could have come from thence; and yet that Country yielded Anacharsis an eminent Philo­sopher. The Idumeans were Aliens, and Strangers to the Covenant; and [Page 36] yet Job, one of the best Men that ever was, came from thence. God can raise up eminent Persons from a­ny place; Abraham from Ʋr of the Chaldees, and an Idolatrous People. Nay as our Saviour tells us, he can out of Stones raise up Children unto Abra­ham. The wise God, in the Govern­ment of the World, does not tie himself to our foolish Proverbs. It is not necessary to make a Man a Prophet, that he should be bred in a good Air. If God sends a Man, it matters not from what Place he comes.

Secondly, Another Head of Excep­tion against our Saviour, was the mean­ness of his outward Condition, so contrary to the Universal Expecta­tion of the Jews. The Jews, from the Tradition of their Fathers, to which they, (as the Church of Rome does at this Day,) paid a greater Reverence, than to the written word of God, were possest with a strong Perswasion, that the Messias, whom they expected, was to be a great Prince and Conqueror, and to sub­due all Nations to them; so that nothing could be a greater defeat to their Expectations, than the mean and [Page 37] low Condition, in which our Savi­our appeared; so that upon this Account they were almost universal­ly offended at him.

But this Prejudice was very unrea­sonable. For neither did their Pro­phets foretel any such thing, as the Temporal Greatness of the Messias: But on the contrary most expresly, that he should be despised and rejected of Men, that he should be a Man of Sorrows and Sufferings, and at last be put to death; which was directly contrary to what they expected from their ill grounded Tradition.

Thirdly, Against his Miracles they made these two Exceptions.

1. That he wrought them by Ma­gical Skill, and by the Power of the Devil.

Which was so exorbitantly unrea­sonable and malicious, that our Sa­viour pronounceth it to be an un­pardonable Sin, and for Answer to it, appeals to every Man's Reason, whether it was likely that the Devil should conspire against himself, and assist any Man to overthrow his own Kingdom? For it was plain, our Saviour's Do­ctrine [Page 38] was directly contrary to the Devil's Design; and therefore to assist him to work Miracles for the Confirmation of it, must have been apparently against his own In­terest, and to the Ruin of his own Kingdom.

2. They pretended that though he did many great Works, yet he gave them no Sign from Heaven. Matt. 16. 1. it is said, They desired him to shew them a Sign from Heaven. It seems they expected that God should give some immediate Testimony to him from Heaven; as he did to E­lias, when Fire came down from Heaven, and consumed his Enemies; And particularly they expected, that when he was upon the Cross, if he were the true Messias, he should have come down and saved himself: And because he did not answer their Ex­pectation in this, they concluded him an Impostor.

Now what could be more unrea­sonable; when he had wrought so many other, and great Miracles, perversly to insist upon some parti­cular [Page 39] kind of Miracle which they fancied? As if God were bound to gratifie the Curiosity of Men; and as if our Saviour were not as much declared to be the Son of God, by rising again from the Dead, as if he had come down from the Cross.

Fourthly, As to his Conversation, they had these three Exceptions.

1. That he used no severity in his Habit or Diet, took too much Free­dom, as they thought; came Eating and Drinking, that is, he freely used the Creatures of God, for the end for which they were given, with Temperance and Thanksgiving; and did not lay those rigorous Restraints upon himself in these matters, which many, that were esteemed the most Religious among them, used to do.

But he plainly shews them, that this Exception was meerly out of their Prejudice against him. For if he had come in the way of Auste­rity, they would have rejected him as well. They were resolved to find Fault with him, whatever he did. [Page 40] Matth. 11. 16. Whereunto shall I liken this Generation? John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a Devil. He lived in a more austere and melancholy way, he came in the way of Righteousness, used great Strictness and Severity in his Habit and Diet, and this they took Exception at. Our Saviour was of a quite contrary Temper, and that did not please them neither. The Son of Man came eating and drink­ing, and they say, behold, a Wine-bib­ber, and a Glutton. So that let our Saviour have done what he would, he could not have carried himself so, as to have escaped the Censures of Men, so peevishly and perversly dis­posed.

2. That he kept Company with Publicans and Sinners.

To which Exception nothing can be more reasonable than our Saviour's own Answer; that he was sent to be a Physician to the World, to call Sinners to Repentance; and there­fore they had no Reason to be angry, or think it strange, if he conversed with his Patients, among whom his proper Imployment lay.

3. They objected to him Prophane­ness in breaking the Sabbath, and that surely was plain, that he could not be of God, if he kept not the Sabbath-day. The Truth was he had healed one on the Sabbath-day.

To this our Saviour gives a most reasonable and satisfactory Answer, that surely it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath-day; that that was but a Positive Institution, but works of Mercy are Natural and Moral Du­ties; and God himself had declared, that he would have even his own Institutions to give way to those grea­ter Duties, that are of natural and eternal Obligation. I will have Mer­cy and not Sacrifice. And then from the End of the Sabbath; The Sab­bath was made for the Rest and Re­freshment of Man; and therefore could not be presumed to be inten­ded to his Prejudice. The Sabbath was made for Man: and not Man for the Sabbath.

Fifthly, Another great Prejudice a­gainst him, was, that Persons of the [Page 42] greatest Knowledge and Authority among them, did not embrace his Doctrine. John 7. 48. Have any of the Rulers, or Pharisees believed on him? So that here was the infallible Rule and Authority of their Church against him.

There is no doubt, but the Ex­ample and Authority of our Guides ought to sway very much with us, and over-rule us in doubtful Cases: but not against plain and convincing Evidence; there we ought to follow, and obey God rather than Men. There is sometimes a visible and palpable Corruption in those who are to lead us; they may have an Interest to oppose the Truth: And thus it was with the Pharisees and Rulers at that Time: And so it hath been among Christians in the great De­generacy of the Roman Church. The Christian Religion was never more endangered, nor never more cor­rupted, than by those who have been in greatest Authority in that Church, who ought to have understood Re­ligion best, and have been the prin­cipal Support of it. Men may err: [Page 43] but God cannot. So that when God sends a Prophet, or by his Word does plainly declare his Will to us, Hu­man Example and Authority ceaseth, and is of no force.

The last Prejudice I shall menti­on, which the Jews had against our Saviour and his Doctrine, was, that it did abolish and supersede their Religion, as of no longer Use and Continuance; though it was plain it was instituted by God.

This had been a very specious Pre­tence indeed, had not this been part of their Religion, and had not their own Prophets foretold, that the Messias should come and perfect what was wanting and defective in their Institution. It was expresly said in their Law, That God would raise un­to them another Prophet, like to Moses, and that they should hear him, when he came. So that in Truth, it was the Accomplishment of all those Re­velations which were made to the Jews, and did not reprove the Jewish Religion, as false; but as imperfect: And did not contradict and overthrow; [Page 44] but perfect and fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

And thus I have gone over the chief Exceptions and Offences which the Jews took at our Saviour and his Doctrine; and I hope sufficient­ly shown the Unreasonableness of them. I have not now time to pro­ceed to what remains: But by what hath been said, you may easily see, upon what slight and unreasonable Grounds Men may be prejudiced against the best Person and Things, and yet be very confident all the while that they are in the Right. For so no doubt many of the Jews, who opposed our Saviour and his Doctrine, thought themselves to be. Therefore it concerns us to put on Meekness and Humility and Mode­sty, that we way be able to judge im­partially of things, and our Minds may be preserved free and indifferent to receive the Truths of God, when they are offer'd to us: Otherwise Self-Conceit and Passion will so blind our Minds, and biass our Judgments, that we shall be unable to discern, and unwilling to entertain the plain­est [Page 45] and most evident Truths. We see here by the sad Example of the Jews, that by giving way to Passion, and cherishing Pride and Self-Con­ceit, Men may be so deeply preju­diced against the Truth, as to re­sist the clearest Light, and reject even Salvation it self, when it is of­fer'd to them. So that it is not in vain, that the Scripture saith, let every Man be swift to hear, and slow to Wrath; for the Wrath of Man worketh not the Righteousness of God; and exhorts us so earnestly, to receive with Meekness the Word of God, which is able to save our Souls.

SERMON II. The Prejudices against Christi­anity consider'd.

MATTH. XI. 6.‘And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.’

I Have from these Words propoun­ded to consider two things.

I. Those Prejudices and Objections which the World had against our Saviour and his Religion at their first Appearance; as also to enquire in­to those which Men at this day do more especially insist upon, against [Page 48] the Christian Religion; and to show the Unreasonableness of them.

II. How happy a thing it is to escape and overcome the common Prejudices which Men have against Religion.

I have entred upon the first of these, the Prejudices which the World had against our Saviour and his Religion. When this great Teacher of Mankind came from God, though he gave all imaginable Testimony and Evidence, that he was sent from Heaven; yet the greatest part of the World, both Jews and Gentiles, were mightily offend­ed at him, and deeply prejudiced against him and his Doctrine; but not both upon the same Account.

I have already given you an Ac­count of the chief Exceptions which the Jews made against our Saviour and his Doctrine, and have shewn [...] Unreasonableness of them.

[...] now to consider the [...] those Exceptions, which [...] and Heathen Philosophers [Page 49] took at our Saviour and his Doctrine. I shall mention these four.

First, That Christianity was a great Innovation, and contrary to the re­ceived Institutions of the World.

Secondly, They objected against the Plainness and Simplicity of the Doctrine.

Thirdly, That it wanted Demonstra­tion.

Fourthly, That the low and suffe­ring Condition of our Saviour was unsuitable to one that pretended to be the Son of God, and to be ap­pointed by him for a Teacher and Reformer of the World. These are the chief Exceptions which the Hea­then, and especially their Philoso­phers, took at our Saviour and his Doctrine.

First, That the Christian Religion was a great Innovation, and con­trary to the received Institutions of the World; and consequently that it did condemn the Religion, which had been so universally received and establisht in the World by so long a continuance of Time. And no wonder if this made a great Impres­sion upon them, and raised a migh­ty Prejudice in the Minds of Men, [Page 50] against the Christian Religion; no Prejudices being so strong as those that are fix'd in the Minds of Men by Education; And of all the Pre­judices of Education, none so vio­lent and hard to be removed, as those about Religion, yea though they be never so groundless and un­reasonable. Hath a Nation changed their Gods, which yet are no Gods? Intimating to us, that Men are ve­ry hardly brought off from that Re­ligion, which they have been brought up in, how absurd soever it be. When Christianity was first propoun­ded to the Heathen World, had Men been free and indifferent, and not prepossest with other Apprehen­sions of God and Religion; it might then have been expected from them, that they should have entertained it with a readiness of Mind, proporti­onable to the Reasonableness of it. But the Case was quite otherwise, the World had for many Ages been brought up to another way of Wor­ship, and inur'd to Rites and Super­stitions of a quite different Nature. And this sways very much with Men; Sequimur majores nostros, qui feliciter [Page 51] sequuti sunt suos, as one of the Hea­thens said in those Days, We fol­low our Ancestors, who happily follow'd theirs. Men are hardly brought to condemn those Opinions and Customs in Religion, which themselves, and their Forefathers have always em­braced and followed. And Wise Men especially are loth to admit so great a change in a matter of so great Concernment as Religion is. So that this must be acknowledged to have been a considerable Preju­dice against the Christian Religion at its first Appearance. But yet up­on a through Examination, this will not be found sufficient in Reason to withhold Men from embracing Chri­stianity, if we consider these four Things.

1. No prudent Person thinks that the Example and Custom of his Forefathers obligeth him to that which is evil in it self, and pernicious to him that does it; and there is no Evil, no Danger equal to that of a false Religion; for that tends to the ruin of Men's Souls, and their un­doing for ever. A Man might bet­ter alledge the Example of his Fore­fathers [Page 52] to justifie his Errors and Fol­lies in any other kind, than in this, which is so infinitely pernicious in the Consequences of it.

2. In a great Corruption and De­generacy, it is no sufficient Reason against a Reformation, that it makes a Change. When Things are amiss, it is always fit to amend and reform them; and this cannot be done with­out a Change. The wisest among the Heathen did acknowledge, that their Religion was mixt with very great Follies and Superstitions, and that the Lives and Manners of Men were extremely corrupt and degene­rate; and they endeavour'd, as much as they could, and durst, to reform these things. And therefore there was no Reason to oppose an effectu­al Reformation, for fear of a Change; a Change of Things for the better, though it be usually hard to be ef­fected, being always a thing to be desired and wisht for.

3. The Change which Christiani­ty designed, was the least liable to Exception that could be, being no­thing else in the main of it, but the reducing of Natural Religion, the [Page 53] bringing of Men back to such Ap­prehensions of God, and such a way of worshipping him, as was most suitable to the Divine Nature, and to the Natural Notions of Men's Minds; nothing else but a Design to perswade Men of the one true God Maker of the World, that he is a Spirit, and to be worshipt in such a manner, as is suitable to his Spi­ritual Nature. And then for mat­ters of Practice, to bring Men to the Obedience of those Precepts of Temperance, and Justice, and Cha­rity, which had been universally ac­knowledged even by the Heathens themselves to be the great Duties which Men owe to themselves and others. And that this is the main Design of the Christian Religion, the Apostle hath told us in most plain and express Words, Tit. 2. 11, 12. The Grace of God (that is, the Doctrine of the Gospel) which hath appeared to all Men, and brings Salva­tion, teacheth us, that denying Ʋngod­liness and worldly Lusts, we should live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present World.

And all that the Christian Re­ligion adds beyond this, is means and helps for our Direction, and Assistance, and Encouragement in the Discharge and Performance of these Duties. For our Direction, God hath sent his Son in our Na­ture, to declare his Will to us, and to be a Pattern and Example of Ho­liness and Virtue. For our Assistance, he hath promised the Aids of his Holy Spirit; and for our Encourage­ment, he offers to us Pardon of Sin in the Blood of his Son, and Eternal Life and Happiness in another World. This is a short Sum and Abridg­ment of the Christian Religion, and there is nothing of all this that can reasonably be excepted against.

4. God, considering the Prejudice of the Heathen against Christianity, by reason of their Education in a contrary Religion, was strong and vi­olent, was pleased to give such E­vidence of the Truth of Christiani­ty, as was of proportionable Strength and Force to remove and conquer this Prejudice. He was pleased to give Testimony to the first Founder of this Religion by mighty Mira­cles, [Page 55] and particularly by his Resur­rection from the Dead: But because the Report of these things was on­ly brought to the Heathen World, and they had not seen these things themselves; therefore he enabled those who were the Witnesses of these Things to the World, to work as great Miracles as he had done. And when they saw those who gave Te­stimony to our Saviour's Miracles, do as great and strange things them­selves, as they testified of him, there was no Reason any longer to doubt of the Truth of their Testimony. So that though the Prejudice of the Heathen against Christianity was very great, yet the Evidence which God gave to it, was strong enough to remove it. The Doctrine of Chri­stianity was such as might have re­commended it self to impartial Men, by its own Reasonableness: But meeting with violent Prejudices in those, to whom it was offer'd, God was pleased to give such a Confir­mation to it, as was sufficient to bear down those Prejudices.

Secondly, Another Objection against Christianity, was the Plainness and [Page 56] Simplicity of the Doctrine. They expected some deep Speculations in Natural or Moral Philosophy; they made full Account, a Teacher sent from Heaven would have instructed them in the profoundest Points, and discoursed to them about the first Principles of things, and the Nature of the Soul, and the chief end of Man, with a Subtilty and Eloquence infinitely beyond that of their grea­test Sophisters, and able to bear down all Opposition and Contradiction: But instead of this, they are told a plain Story of the Life and Miracles of Jesus Christ, and of his dying up­on the Cross, and rising from the Dead, and ascending into Heaven; and a few plain Precepts of Life; and all this deliver'd without any Ornaments of Art, or Insinuation of Eloquence, to gain the Favour and Applause of those to whom they re­lated these Things.

But now, this truly considered, is so far from being any real Ob­jection against the Christian Doctrine, that it is one of the greatest Com­mendations that can be given of it: For matter of Fact ought to be re­lated [Page 57] in the most plain, and simple, and unaffected manner; and the less Art and Eloquence is used in the telling of a Story, the more likely it is to gain Belief. And as for our Saviour's Precepts, how plain soe­ver they might be, I am sure they are a Collection of the most excel­lent and reasonable Rules of a good Life, and the freest from all Vanity and Folly, that are to be met with in any Book in the World. And can any thing be more worthy of God, and more likely to proceed from him, than so plain and useful a Doctrine as this? The Language of Law is not wont to be fine and perswasive, but short, and plain, and full of Authority. Thus it is among Men: And surely it is much fitter for God to speak thus to Men, than for Men to one another.

Thirdly, It is objected, that the Doctrine of our Saviour and his A­postles wanted Demonstration; they seemed to impose too much upon the Understandings of Men, and to de­liver things too Magisterially, not demonstrating Things from Intrin­sical [Page 58] Arguments, but requiring Be­lief and Assent without Proof.

This the Apostle St. Paul rea­dily acknowledgeth, that in preach­ing the Gospel to the World, they did not proceed in the way of the Heathen Orators and Philosophers, 1 Cor. 4. 4. My Speech and my Preaching was not in the enticing Words of Man's Wisdom: but in Demonstration of the Spirit and of Power; that is, they did not go in the way of Human Elo­quence and Demonstration: but yet their Doctrine did not want its E­vidence and Demonstration, though of another kind. They did not go about to bewitch Men by Eloquence, nor to entangle their Minds by sub­til Reasonings, the Force of which very few are capable of: But they offer'd to Men a sensible Proof and Demonstration of the Truth of what they delivered, in those strange and miraculous Operations, to which they were enabled by the Holy Ghost. And this was a sensible Evidence, even to the meanest Capacity, of a Divine Assistance going along with them, and giving Testimony to them. I appeal to any Man, whether the [Page 59] Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead, and his Ascending into Hea­ven, be not a clearer Demonstrati­on of another Life after this, and more level to the Capacities of all Mankind, than the finest and sub­tilest Arguments that can be drawn from the immaterial Nature of the Soul, its power of Reflection upon it self, and Independency upon the Body as to some of its Operations; which yet are some of the chiefest Ar­guments that Philosophy affords, to prove the Immortality of our Souls.

Fourthly, The Heathens objected, that the low and mean Condition of our Saviour, was unsuitable to one who pretended to be the Son of God, and to be appointed by God to be a Teacher and Reformer of the World. This to the Heathen Philo­sophers did not only appear unreasona­ble, but even ridiculous. So St. Paul tells us, 1 Cor. 1. 23. We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks Foolishness. To think that a Man, who appeared in such mean Circumstances, should be fit to reform the World; and one, who himself was put to Death, should be [Page 60] relyed upon for Life and Immortality.

This Objection I have heretofore considered at large, and therefore shall now speak but very briefly to it.

Besides those excellent Reasons and Ends which the Scripture assigns of our Saviour's Humiliation; as that he might be a Teacher and Exam­ple to us; that he might make Ex­piation for our Sins; that by suffer­ing himself, he might learn to com­miserate us; that by Death he might destroy him that had the Power of Death, that is the Devil; and might deliver those, who through fear of Death were all their lives subject to Bondage; I say, besides these, it was of great use that he should live in so mean and afflicted Condition, to confront the Pride, and Vanity, and Fantastry of the World; and to convince Men of these two great Truths, that God may love those whom he afflicts, and that Men may be innocent, and virtuous, and con­tented in the midst of Poverty, and Reproach, and Suffering. Had our Blessed Saviour been a great Tem­poral Prince, his Influence and Ex­ample might possibly have made [Page 61] more Hypocrites and servile Converts, but would not have perswaded Men one jot more to be inwardly good and virtuous: The great Arguments that must do that, must be fetched, not from the Pomp and Prosperity of this World, but from the Eternal Happiness and Misery of the other. Besides had he appeared in any great Power and Splendor, the Christian Religion could not have been so clear­ly acquitted from the Suspicion of a worldly Interest and Design, which would have been a far greater Ob­jection against it, than this which I am now speaking to.

Add to all this, that the wisest of the Heathen Philosophers did teach, that Worldly Greatness and Power are not to be admired, but despised by a truly wise Man; that Men may be virtuous, and good, and dear­ly beloved of God, and yet be li­able to great Miseries and Sufferings; and whoever suffers unjustly, and bears it patiently, gives the great­est Testimony to Goodness, and does most effectually recommend Virtue to the World. That a good Man un­der the hardest Circumstances of Mise­ry, [Page 62] and Reproach, and Suffering, is the fittest Person of all other to be the Mi­nister, and Apostle, and Preacher of God to Mankind. And surely they who say such things (which the Heathen have done) had no reason to object to our blessed Saviour his low and suffer­ing Condition.

As to that part of the Objection, that he who promis'd Immortality to others could not save himself from Death and Suffering; considering, that he who was put to Death, rescu'd himself from the Power of the Grave, it is so far from being ridiculous, that nothing can be more reasonable, than to rely upon him for our hopes of Immortality, who by rising from the Grave, and conquering Death, gave a plain demonstration that he was able to make good what he promised.

I have done with the Exceptions which were made against our Saviour and his Doctrine at their first Appear­ance in the World. I proceed in the

II. Place to consider the Preju­dices and Objections which Men at this day do more especially insist upon, against our Saviour and his Re­ligion: And they are many.

First, Some that relate to the In­carnation of our Saviour.

Secondly, To the Time of his Ap­pearance.

Thirdly, That we have not now sufficient Evidence of the Truth of Christianity; the main Arguments for it relying upon Matters of Fact, of which, at this distance, we have not, nor can expect to have suffi­cient Assurance.

Fourthly, That the Terms of it seem very hard, and to lay too great Restraints upon Human Nature.

Fifthly, That it is apt to dispirit Men, and to break the Vigour and Courage of their Minds.

Sixthly, The Divisions and Fa­ctions that are among Christians.

Seventhly, The wicked Lives of the greatest part of the Professors of Christianty. In answer to all which, I do not propose to say all that may be said; but as briefly as I can to offer so much, as may, if not give full Satisfaction, yet be suffici­ent to break the Force of them, and to free the Minds of Men from any great Perplexity about them.

As to the First, which relates to [Page 64] the Incarnation of our Saviour; and the Second to the Time of his Ap­pearance; I know that these and most of the rest I have mention'd, were urged by the Heathen against Christianity: But they are now more especially insisted upon both by the se­cret and open Enemies of our Religion.

The Objections against his Incar­nation I have elswhere consider'd. And therefore shall proceed to theJohn 1. 14. Serm. III. next, viz.

Secondly, As to the Time of our Saviour's Appearance, it is object­ed, if he be the only Way and Means of Salvation, why did he come no sooner into the World; but suf­fer'd Mankind so long without any Hopes or Means of being saved? This was objected by Porphyry of old, and still sticks in the Minds of Men. To this I answer,

I. It is not fit for Creatures to call their Creator to too strict an Account of his Actions. Goodness is free, and may act when and how it pleaseth; and as God will have Mer­cy on whom he will have Mercy, so he may have Mercy at what Time he pleaseth, and is not bound to give us [Page 65] an Account of his Matters. This is much like the Objection of the Atheist against the Being of God; That if there were such an Infinite and Eter­nal Being, he would surely have made the World sooner, and not have been without all Employment for so long a duration: Such another Objecti­on is this against our Saviour, That if he had been the Son of God, he would have begun this great and merciful Work of the Redemption of Mankind sooner, and not have delay'd it so long, and suffer'd Mankind to perish for four Thousand Years together.

But it seems in the one as well as the other, God took his own time, and he best knew what time was fit­test. The Scripture tells us, That in the fulness of Time, God sent his Son; when things were ripe for it, and all Things accomplisht that God thought requisite in order to it. In judging of the Actions of our Earth­ly Governours, those who are at a distance from their Councils, what Conjectures soever they may make of the Reasons of them, will never­the less, if they have that Respect for their Wisdom which they ought, believe, that how strange soever some of [Page 66] their Actions may seem, yet they were done upon good Reason, and that they themselves, if they knew the Secrets of their Counsels, should think so. Much more do we owe that Reve­rence to the infinite Wisdom of God, to believe that the Counsels of his Will are grounded upon very good Reason, tho' we do not see many Times what it is.

2. It is not true that the World was wholly destitute of a Way and Means of Salvation before our Savi­our's coming. Before the Law of Moses was given, Men were capa­ble of being received to the Mercy and Favour of God, upon their O­bedience to the Law of Nature, and their sincere Repentance for the Vi­olation of it, by virtue of the Lamb that was slain from the Foundation of the World. Men were saved by Christ both before and under the Law, without any particular and ex­press Knowledge of him. There were Good Men in other Nations, as well as among the Jews; as Job, and his Friends also, seem to have been. In all Ages of the World, and in eve­ry Nation, they that feared God, and wrought Righteousness were accepted of [Page 67] him. The Sacrifice of Christ, which is the Meritorious Cause of the Sal­vation of Mankind, looks back as well as forward; and God was reconcile­able to Men, and their Sins were pardon'd, by Virtue of this great Propitiation that was to be made. In which Sense perhaps it is, that Christ is said to be the Lamb slain from the Foundation of the World. Heb. 9. 25, 26, the Apostle intimates to us, that if this Sacrifice which was of­fer'd in the last Ages of the World, had not been available in former A­ges, Christ must have often suffer'd since the Foundation of the World: but now hath he appeared once in the Con­clusion of the Ages, to put away Sin by the Sacrifice of himself.

3. He did appear at that Time, in which the World stood most in need of him; when the whole World, both Jews and Gentiles, were sunk into the greatest Degeneracy both in Opinion and Practice, and the Condition of Mankind seemed to be even desperate and past Remedy. This was the needful time, when it was most seasonable for this great Physician to come, and show his Pity and Skill in our Recovery. God [Page 68] could have sent his Son many Ages before: but he thought fit to try other ways first, and to reserve this powerful Remedy to the last; last of all he sent his Son.

4. The Time of our Saviour's Appearing was of all Ages of the World the fittest Season for his Coming; Whether we consider,

1. That the World was at that Time best prepared and disposed for receiving the Christian Religion: Or,

2. That this was the fittest Season that ever had been, for the easie diffusing and propagating of this Re­ligion. I assign these Reasons as ten­ding to give Men some Satisfaction, why this great Blessing was delay'd so long; it being rather an Argu­ment of Wisdom and Goodness, than of the want of either, to defer Things to that time, in which they are most likely to have their effect. Not but that perhaps other and better Rea­sons may be given. To be sure God had very good Reasons for this Dis­pensation, whether we can hit upon them or not. In the mean Time [Page 69] these seem not to be altogether in­considerable.

1. That the World was at that time best prepared and disposed for receiving the Christian Religion. All the while our Saviour's Coming was delay'd, God's Providence was dis­posing things for it, and training up Mankind for the entertaining of this great Blessing. The Jewish Re­ligion was always very burdensom, but much more so, towards the Ex­piration of the Jewish State, partly by the Intolerable Multitude of ex­ternal Observances, which were dai­ly multiplyed upon them, under Pre­tence of Traditions from their Fa­thers; and partly by reason of their Subjection to the Romans, which made the Exercise of their Religion in many Respects more difficult.

And the Heathen World was in a very good Measure prepared for Christianity, by being civilized. A­bout the time of our Saviour's co­ming into the World, Philosophy and Learning had been so diffused by the Roman Conquests, as had brought a great part of the World from Barbarism to Civility. Besides [Page 70] that their Philosophy had this Ef­fect upon Men, to refine their Rea­son, and in a good Degree to detect the Follies of the Heathen Idolatry and Superstition.

'Tis true indeed Learning and Phi­losophy flourisht a great while before in the Time of the Grecian Empire, and perhaps before that in some o­ther Nations; and the Conquests of the Grecians were very speedy and of vast Extent: But yet they were neither so Universal, nor so well settled; nor did they propagate their Philosophy and Civility together with their Conquests, as the Romans did. So that there was no Age of the World, wherein Mankind were so generally prepared and disposed for the receiving of the Gospel, as that wherein our Saviour appeared.

2. This was likewise the fittest Season for the easie diffusing and propagating of the Christian Religi­on. The Romans, together with their Conquests, did very much pro­pagate their Language, which made the ways of Communication far more easie; And by the long and frequent Correspondence of the several Parts [Page 71] of that Empire one with another, the ways of Travel and Passage from one Country to another were more ready and open. So that no Age can be instanc'd, in all Respects so convenient for the speedy propaga­ting of a new Religion, as that wherein our Saviour appear'd, viz. when the Roman Empire was at its height. And it was very agreeable to the Goodness and Wisdom of the Divine Providence, that the bravest and most virtuous People in the World (infinitely beyond either the Persians or Grecians) should be cho­sen by God, as one of the chiefest Means for the spreading of the best and most perfect Revelation that ever God made to the World.

Thirdly, It is objected, that we have not now sufficient Evidence of the Truth of Christianity, the main Arguments for it relying upon matters of Fact, of which, at this Distance, we have not, nor can be suppos'd to have, sufficient Assurance. To this I answer,

1. That Men not only may have, but have an undoubted Assurance of matters of Fact, ancienter than these [Page 72] we are speaking of; and the distance of them from our Times creates no manner of Scruple in the Minds of Men concerning them. That there was such a Man as Alexander the Great, and that he conquer'd Darius and the Persians; That Julius Caesar invaded our Nation, and in some measure subdued it; and that he overcame Pompey in the Battel of Pharsalia; and innumerable other Things, which I might instance in, that were done before our Saviour's Time, are firmly believed without any manner of Doubt and Scruple by Mankind, notwithstanding they were done so long ago. So that ancient matters of Fact are capable of clear Evidence, and we may have sufficient Assurance of them. And where there is equal Evidence, if we do not give equal Belief, the fault is not in the Argument; but in the Passion or Prejudice of those, to whom it is proposed.

2. We have every whit as great Assurance, (nay greater, if it can, or needed to be) of the matters upon which the proof of Christianity relies, as of those which [Page 73] I have mentioned. The matters of Fact, upon which the Truth of Christianity relies, are, that there was such a Person as Jesus Christ; that he wrought such Miracles; that he was put to death at Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate; that he rose again from the dead, and was visi­bly taken up into Heaven; that he bestowed miraculous Gifts and Pow­ers upon the Apostles, to make them competent Witnesses of his Resurre­ction, and of the Truth of that Doctrine which they publisht in his Name; that accordingly they preach­ed the Gospel to the World, and in a short space, without any Human Advantages, did propagate it, and gain Entertainment for it, in most parts of the then known World.

Now these matters of Fact have the same Testimony of Histories, wrote in those Times, and conveyed down to us, by as general and uncontrol­ed a Tradition, as the Conquests of Alexander, and Julius Caesar. So that if we do not afford equal Belief to them, it is a sign that we have some Prejudice or Interest against the one, more than against the other, though [Page 74] the Evidence for both be equal. Nay I go further, that the Evidence for these things which are the Foun­dation of Christianity, is so much the greater, because that which de­pended upon it, was of far greater Concernment to the World, and consequently Mankind were more ob­liged to search more narrowly into it.

For our Saviour's Life, and Death, and Resurrection, we have the Te­stimony of a great number of Eye­witnesses, who have wrote the Hi­story of these things. And though they were truly extraordinary Per­sons, and gave Testimony to them­selves by Miracles; yet at present I desire no more, but that they be looked upon, as knowing and ho­nest Relators of what they heard and saw; and that the same Credit be given to them, which we give to Livy, and Arian, and Q. Cur­tius, for plain Events, and matters of Fact.

But yet I must add withal, that besides the Miracles which they wrought, they gave greater Testi­mony of their Integrity, than any [Page 75] Historian in the World ever did. For they willingly suffer'd the grea­test Persecution and Torment, yea and Death it self, in Confirmation of the Truth of what they deliver'd. And for the propagating of the Chri­stian Religion through so great a part of the World, it is evident by the Effect beyond all Denyal.

So that for the matters of Fact, upon which the Truth of Christia­nity does depend, here is greater, and more advantagious Evidence of History, than for any other Matter of equal Antiquity whatsoever.

3. As to the substance of these matters of Fact, we have the con­curring Testimony of the greatest Enemies of the Christian Religion. That there were such Persons as our Saviour and his Apostles, that they preached such a Doctrine, that they wrought such Miracles; for this we have the Acknowledgment of the Jews, and the Testimony of the Heathen Historians, and particular­ly of Celsus, and Porphyry, and Ju­lian, who were the particular and most learned Adversaries of the Christian Religion. So that as to [Page 76] the Matters of Fact, there is no Ob­jection against them, whatever use we may make of them, or whatever Conse­quences we may draw from them. And I presume it agreed by all Objectors, that if these matters of Fact be true, they are a sufficient Foundation of the Truth of our Religion, and we are very unequal to our Religion, if we make a doubt of these things, which the greatest Enemies of Chri­stianity never had the Face to deny.

4. And besides all this, to recom­pence the Disadvantage which we have of those who saw the Miracles of our Saviour and his Apostles, we have the Testimonium rei, the Evi­dence of the Effects of these things to confirm our Belief of them; and this is an Advantage, which the first Ages of Christianity could not have. We see our Saviour's Predictions of the Success of his Religion in the World, in the propagating and esta­blishing of it, fully accomplisht, notwithstanding the fierce Opposition and Resistance that was made against it by the greatest Powers of the World. We see the Dispersion of the Jews in all Nations, and the [Page 77] Misery and Contempt which they every where suffer; and that now for above Sixteen Hundred Years, they have continued a distinct Peo­ple, and a Spectacle of the Divine Justice and Severity, for rejecting and crucifying the Son of God, and for a lasting and standing Testimo­ny of the Truth of our Saviour's Prediction, and of the Christian Re­ligion.

So that though we live at this distance from the first rise and be­ginning of Christianity; yet we have the Relation of those Things, which give Confirmation to it, con­veyed down to us in as credible a manner, as any ancient matter of Fact ever was; and the Effects of things remaining to this day, do give Testimony to the Truth of it.

Fourthly, It is objected, that the terms of Christianity seem very hard, and to lay too great Restraints upon Human Nature. It commands us to mortifie our Lusts, and subdue our Passions, and deny Ʋngodliness, and to live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present World; to be ho­ly in all manner of Conversation; to [Page 78] have respect to whatever things are ho­nest, and true, and just, and virtu­ous, and of good report; and to deny our selves; and to part with the dearest Enjoyments of this Life, yea and with Life it self, for the sake of Christ, and his Gospel. Now these seem to be very hard Terms, to fore­go all the present Pleasures and En­joyments of this Life, in hopes of a future Happiness which we are less assur'd of.

To this I answer,

1. That this is a greater Objecti­on against Religion in general, than the Christian Religion. For Natural Religion requires of us all the main Duties that Christianity does, and gives us far less Assurance of the Reward of our Obedience. Natural Religion requires Piety, and Justice, and Charity, the due Government of our Appetites and Passions, as well as Christianity does; but does not discover to us the Rewards of a­nother World, by many Degrees so clearly, as our Lord and Saviour, who hath brought Life and Immortality to Light by the Gospel, and by his Resurrection from the Dead, and [Page 79] Ascension into Heaven, hath given us full Assurance of another Life af­ter this, and of a glorious Immor­tality. So that tho' we have not, nor can have the Evidence of Sense, for a Future State, yet we have all the Rational Evidence for it, that can be wisht or expected; and much more than Men have for those Adventures of their Lives and Fortunes, which they frequently make in this World, and think themselves reasonable in so doing.

2. The Restraints which Christia­nity lays upon Men, are in the judg­ment of Mankind so far from being an Objection against it, that they are highly to the Commendation of it. Nay it were the greatest Objection that could be against our Religion, if it did set us at Liberty from those Restraints. What can be more to the credit of any Religion, than to command Men to be just, and cha­ritable, and peaceable? And what more to the Advantage of the Pro­fessors of it? And on the contrary, what can reflect more upon any Re­ligion, than to indulge and allow Men in any Vice contrary to these? [Page 80] It shews Men are glad to make any thing an Objection against Chri­stianity, when they lay hold of that, which, if it had been otherwise, they would have made ten times more Clamour against it for the con­trary.

3. As for most of those Restraints which Christianity lays upon us, they are of that Nature, so much both for our Private and Publick Advantage, that setting aside all Considerations of Religion, and of the Rewards and Punishments of another▪ Life, they are really good for us, and if God had not laid them upon us, we ought in Reason, in or­der to our Temporal Benefit and Ad­vantage to have laid them upon our selves. If there were no Religion, I know Men would not have such strong and forcible Obligations to these Duties; but yet I say, though there were no Religion, it were good for Men, in order to Tem­poral Ends, to their Health, and Quiet, and Reputation, and Safety, and, in a word, to the private and publick Prosperity of Mankind, that Men should be temperate, and chast, [Page 81] and just, and peaceable, and charitable, and kind, and obliging to one another, rather than the contrary. So that Reli­gion does not create those Restraints arbitrarily, but requires those things of us, which our Reason and a Re­gard to our own Advantage, which the Necessity and Conveniency of the Things themselves, without any Consideration of Religion, would in most Cases urge us to.

4. As to the case of Persecution for Religion; besides that it does not now happen so frequently, as it did in the beginning of Christiani­ty, nay very seldom in comparison, if all things be consider'd it cannot be thought unreasonable; both because Religion offers to us, in Considera­tion of our present Sufferings, a Happiness unspeakably greater than that which we forego for the sake of Religion; and because when it happens, God does extraordinarily enable Men to go through it with Courage and Comfort, as we see in the Examples of the primitive Christians; who in great Numbers of all Tempers and Ages, did vo­luntarily chuse to give up themselves [Page 82] to these Sufferings, when there was no necessity laid upon them, but fair terms of Retreat were offer'd to them by their Enemies. It is one thing, when a Man suffers by the Law, and cannot help it; and ano­ther thing when Men may avoid Suffer­ing. In the former Case Men sub­mit to necessity, and bear it as well as they can; in the latter Case, if Men suffer, it is a Sign they firmly believe the Reward of it; and if they suffer chearfully, and with Joy, as most of the Martyrs did, it is a plain Evidence that God af­fords them extraordinary Support in their Sufferings; and then the Case is not very hard, when Religion puts them upon nothing, but what it gives them cause, and enables them, to rejoyce in the doing of it.

Fifthly, It is objected, that the Christian Religion is apt to dispirit Men, and to break the Courage and Vigour of their Minds, by the Pre­cepts of Patience, and Humility, and Meekness, and of forgiving Injuries, and the like. This Objection hath made a great Noise in the World, and hath been urged by Men of [Page 83] great Reputation, and a deep insight into the Tempers of Men, and the Af­fairs of the World. It is said to be particularly insisted upon by Machi­avel, and very likely it may; tho' I think that elsewhere he is pleased to speak with Terms of Respect, not only of Religion in general, but likewise of the Christian Religion; and (which seems very much to con­tradict the other,) he says in the first Book of his Discourses upon Li­vy (Ch. 11.) That the greatness and Success of Rome is chiefly to be a­scribed to their Piety and Religion, and that Rome was more indebted to Numa Pompilius, for settling Reli­gion among them, than to Romulus the Founder of their State; and the Reason he gives is much to our pre­sent Purpose; For says he, without Religion there can be no Military Discipline, Religion being the Foun­dation of good Laws and good Dis­cipline. And particularly he com­mends the Samnites, who betook themselves to Religion, as their last and best Remedy to make Men cou­ragious, nothing being more apt to raise Men's Spirits than Religion.

But howsoever this Objection be, I dare appeal both to Reason and Experience for the Confutation of it.

1. To Reason, and that as to these two things.

(1.) That the Christian Religion is apt to plant in the Minds of Men Principles of the greatest Resolution and truest Courage. It teacheth Men upon the best and most rational Grounds to despise Dangers, yea and Death it self, the greatest and most formidable Evil in this World; and this Principle is likely to inspire Men with the greatest Courage; for what need he fear any thing in this World, who fears not Death, after which there is nothing in this World to be feared? And this the Chri­stian Religion does, by giving Men the assurance of another Life, and a Happiness infinitely greater than any is to be enjoyed in this World. And in order to the securing of this Happiness, it teacheth Men to be holy, and just, and to exercise a good Conscience both toward God and Man, which is the only way to free a Man from all inward and tor­menting [Page 85] Fears of what may happen to him after Death. This makes the righteous Man to be (as Solomon says) bold as a Lion. Nothing renders a Man more undaunted as to Death, and the Consequences of it, than the Peace of his own Mind; for a Man not to be conscious to himself of having wilfully displeased him, who alone can make us happy or misera­ble in the other World. So that a good Man, being secure of the Fa­vour of God, may upon that Ac­count reasonably hope for a greater Happiness after Death than other Men: Whereas a bad Man, if he be sober, and have his Senses awak­ned to a serious Consideration of things, cannot but be afraid to die, and be extremely anxious and solici­tous what will become of him in another World. And surely it would make the stoutest Man breathing a­fraid to venture upon Death, when he sees Hell beyond it. Possibly there may be some Monsters of Men, who may have so far supprest the Sense of Religion, and stupified their Consciences, as in a good Mea­sure to have conquer'd the fears of [Page 86] Death, and of the Consequences of it. But this happens but to a very few, as the Poet tells us in the Person of an Epicurean.

Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas, Atque metus omnes & inexorabile fatum Subjecit pedibus, strepitum (que) Acherontis avari.

There are very few that attain to this Temper, and but at some times. So that if Vice and Wickedness do generally break the Firmness of Men's Spirits; it remains, that no­thing but Religion can generally give Men Courage against Death. And this the Christian Religion does emi­nently to those who live according to it; our blessed Saviour having delivered us from the fear of Death, by conquering Death for us, and gi­ving us Assurance of the glorious Rewards of another Life.

(2.) Meekness, and Patience, and Humility, and Modesty, and such Virtues of Christianity, do not in Reason tend to dispirit Men, and break their true Courage, but only [Page 87] to regulate it, and take away the Fierceness and Brutishness of it. This we see in Experience, that Men of the truest Courage, have many times least of Pride and Insolence, of Pas­sion and Fierceness. Those who are better bred, are commonly of more gentle and civil Dispositions: But yet they do not therefore want true Courage, though they have not the Roughness and Foolhardiness of Men of ruder Breeding. So in a true Christian, Courage and Greatness of Mind is very consistent with Meek­ness, and Patience, and Humility. Not that all good Men are very couragious; there is much of this in the Natural Tempers of Men, which Religion does not quite alter. But that which I am concerned to main­tain is, that Christianity is no hin­drance to Mens Courage; and that caeteris paribus, supposing Men of e­qual Tempers, no Man hath so much Reason to be valiant, as he that hath a good Conscience; I do not mean a blustering, and boisterous, and rash Courage; but a sober, and calm, and fixt Valour.

2. I appeal to Experience for the Truth of this. Did ever greater Courage and Contempt of Death ap­pear in all Ages, and Sexes, and Conditions of Men, than in the primitive Martyrs? Were any of the Heathen Souldiers comparable to the Christian Legion, for Resolution and Courage, even the Heathens themselves being Judges? The Re­ligion of Mahomet seems to be con­trived to inspire Men with Fierce­ness and Desperateness of Resolution, and yet I do not find, but that ge­nerally where there hath been any equality for Number, the Christians have been superiour to them in Va­lour, and have given greater In­stances of Resolution and Courage, than the Turks have done. So that I wonder upon what Grounds this Objection hath been taken up a­gainst Christianity, when there is nothing either in the Nature of this Religion, or from the Expe­rience of the World, to give any tolerable Countenance to it. And surely the best way to know what Effect any Religion is likely to [Page 89] have upon the Minds of Men, is to consider what Effects it hath had in the constant Experience of Mankind. There remains the o­ther two Objections, which I men­tion'd, but I must reserve them to another Opportunity.

SERMON III. The Prejudices against Jesus and his Religion consider'd.

MATTH. XI. 6.‘And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.’

FROM these Words I pro­posed to consider these Two Things.

I. The Prejudices and Objections which the World at first had, and many still have against our Blessed Saviour and his Religion.

II. That it is a great Happiness to escape the common Prejudices which Men are apt to entertain against Reli­gion.

I have considered those Objections which the Jews and Heathen Philoso­phers made against our Saviour and his Religion: And,

II. Those which at this Day are insisted upon by the secret and open Enemies of our Religion. And I mentioned seven, the two last of which I shall now speak to.

Sixthly, It is objected, That there are many Divisions and Factions among Christians. This I confess is a great Reproach and Scandal to our Religion: but no sufficient Ar­gument against it. And,

1. To lessen and abate the Force of this Objection, it is to be consi­der'd, that a very great part of the Divisions that are among those that are call'd Christians, are about things that do not concern the Essentials of Christianity, and therefore they are no Argument that Christianity is not true, because they bring no Suspici­on of Doubt and Uncertainty upon the Fundamentals of Christianity which all agree in, though they dif­fer in other things. 'Tis true indeed they are very undecent, and contra­ry to the Nature and Precepts of the [Page 93] Christian Religion, which above any Religion in the World, does strictly require Love and Unity. They take off much from the Strength and Beau­ty of our Religion: but do by no means destroy the Truth of it.

2. How many and great soever they may be, yet they can with no Colour of Reason be imputed to the Christian Religion, as giving a­ny Cause and Encouragement to them, however by Accident it may be the Occasion of them. For no Man doubts but that the best thing in the World may be perverted by bad Men, and made an Occasion of a great deal of Mischief in the World, and yet be very innocent of all that Mischief. No Man can deny but that Christianity does strictly enjoyn Love, and Peace, and Unity among all the Members of that Profession; and so far as Christians are factious and unpeaceable, so far they are no Christians. So that a Man may as well except against Philosophy, be­cause of the Differences that were among the Philosophers, and say there was no Truth among them, because they were not all agreed in [Page 94] all Things; as call the Truth of Christianity in question, for the dif­ferences that are among Christians. Nay a Man might every whit as well except against Laws and Go­vernment; because, notwithstanding them, there are frequent Seditions and Rebellions, infinite Suits and Controversies occasion'd even by the very Laws: But no Man was ever so unreasonable as to think this a good Reason against Laws and Go­vernment.

3. The Divisions of Christians are so far from being an Argument against Christianity, that on the contrary, they are an Argument that Men should embrace Christianity more heartily, and make more Conscience of obeying the Precepts of it. And if they did this, the greatest part of those Contentions and uncharita­ble Animosities which are among them would presently cease. If the Chri­stian Religion were truly entertained, and Men did seriously mind the Pre­cepts of it, and give up themselves to the Obedience of its Laws, Dif­ferences would not be easily com­menced, nor so vehemently prosecu­ted, [Page 95] nor so pertinaciously continued in, as they are. Men would not, up­on every slight Reason, and little doubt and Scruple, rend and tear the Body of Christ in pieces, and separate themselves from the Commu­nion of the Church they live in, and in which they were baptized and received their Christianity.

If Men seriously consider'd, and truly understood what they do, when they divide the Church of Christ up­on little Scruples and Pretences, they would hardly be able to think them­selves Christians, whilst they conti­nued in these unchristian and uncha­ritable Practices.

If Men would but be, or do what Christianity requires, there would be no occasion for this Objection; and if Men will not, Christian Religion is not to be blamed for it, but those that act so contrary to the plain Precepts and Directions of it. I proceed to the,

Seventh and last Objection, The vicious and wicked Lives of a great part of the Professors of Christianity. This is a heavy Objection indeed, and such an one, that tho' we may [Page 96] justly be ashamed to own the Truth of it, yet can we not have the face to deny it. 'Tis so sad a Truth, that it is enough to confound us, and to fill all our Faces with Shame and Blushing: But yet it is an Objection not so strong against Christianity, as it is shameful to Christians. And notwithstanding the utmost Force of it, we have no cause to be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; but the Gospel of Christ may justly be asha­med of us. For whatever we be, The Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto Salvation. The Natural Tendency of it is to reform and save Men, and the wrath of God is therein re­vealed against all Ʋngodliness and Ʋn­righteousness of Men, however they may detain the Truths of God in Ʋnrigh­teousness, and not suffer them to have their due and proper Influence upon their Hearts and Lives.

But that I may give a more clear and particular Answer to it, I desire you to attend to these following Con­siderations.

1. It cannot be denyed, but that Christianity hath had once very great and marvellous Effects upon the [Page 97] Hearts and Lives of Men. And for this, I appeal to the Lives and Manners of the Primitive Christians, for which we have not only the Te­stimony of our own Books and Wri­ters, but even of the Adversaries of our Religion. What Reformation Christianity at first wrought in the Manners of Men, we have clear and full Testimony, from what the Apo­stles wrote concerning the several Churches which they planted in se­veral Parts of the World. What hear­ty Unity and Affection there was among Christians, even to that De­gree, as to make Men bring in their private Estates and Possessions for the common Support of their Brethren, we may read in the History of the Acts of the Apostles. The City of Co­rinth, by the Account which Strabo gives of it, was a very vicious and luxurious place, as most in the World; and yet we see by St. Paul, what a strange Reformation the Christian Re­ligion made in the Lives and Man­ners of many of them: 1 Cor. 6. 9, 10, 11. Be not deceived; neither for­nicators, nor adulterers, nor idolaters, nor effeminate, nor thieves, nor cove­tous, [Page 98] nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you: But ye are washed, but ye are sancti­fied, but ye are justified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. And surely it is no small matter to reclaim Men from such a profligate course of Life. The Apostle instanceth in Crimes and Vices of the first Rate, from which yet he tells us many were cleansed and purified by the Name of the Lord Jesus, and the Spirit of God; that is, by the Power and Efficacy of the Christian Doctrine, together with the Co-operation of Gods Ho­ly Spirit.

After the Apostles, the Ancient Fathers, in their Apologies for Chri­stianity, give us a large Account of the great Power and Efficacy of the Christian Doctrine upon the Lives and Manners of Men. Tertullian tells the Roman Governours, that their Prisons were full of Malefact­ors, committed for several Crimes; but they were all Heathens. De ve­stris semper aestuat carcer, Their Pri­sons were thronged with Criminals of [Page 99] their own Religion: But there were no Christians to be found commit­ted there for such Crimes; Nemo il­lic Christianus, nisi hoc tantùm, &c. There were no Christians in their Prisons, but only upon account of their Religi­on. Or if there were any Malefa­ctors that had been Christians, they left their Religion when they fell in­to those Enormities. And afterwards he adds, that if Christians were ir­regular in their Lives, they were no longer accounted Christians, but were banisht from their Communi­on as unworthy of it. And they ap­pealed to the Heathens, what a sud­den and strange change Christianity had made in several of the most lewd, and vicious, and debauched Persons, and what a visible Refor­mation there presently appeared in the Lives of the worst Men, after they had once entertained the Chri­stian Doctrine.

And these Testimonies are so much the stronger, because they are Pub­lick Appeals to our Adversaries, which it is not likely, they who were so persecuted and hated as the Chri­stians were, would have had the [Page 100] Confidence to have made, if they had not been notoriously true, even their Enemies themselves being Judges.

And that they were so, we have the Confession of the Heathen them­selves. I shall produce two remar­kable Testimonies to this Purpose, and one of them from the Pen of one of the bitterest Enemies that the Christian Religion ever had.

Pliny, in his Epistle to Trajan the Emperour, gives him an Account, ‘That having examined the Christians, setting aside the Superstition of their way, he could find no Fault; and that this was the Sum of their Er­rour, that they were wont to meet before Day, and sing a Hymn to Christ, and to bind themselves by a Solemn Oath or Sacrament, not to any wicked Purpose; but not to steal, nor rob, nor commit Adulte­ry, nor break their Faith, nor de­tain the Pledge. So that it seems the Sum of their Errour was, to oblige themselves in the strictest manner against the greatest Vices and Crimes.’ Which methinks is a great Testimony from an Enemy and a [Page 101] Judge, one who would have been ready to discover their Faults, and had Opportunity of enquiring into them.

My other Witness is Julian the Emperour and Apostate, who in one of his Epistles tells us, ‘The Christi­ans did severely punish Sedition and Impiety. And afterwards exhorting the Heathen Priests to all Offices of Humanity,’ and especially Alms to­wards the Poor; he tells them, they ought to be more careful in this par­ticular, and to mend this Fault; Be­cause (says he) the Galileans taking advantage of our Neglect in this kind, have very much strengthned their Im­piety (for so he calls their Religion) by being very intent upon these Offices, and exemplary in their Charity to the Poor, whereby they gained many over to them.

And in his 49th Epist. to Arsaci­us the High-Priest of Galatia, he re­commends to him, among other Means for the Advancement of Paganism, the building of Hospi­tals, and great Liberality to the Poor, not only of their own Re­ligion, but others. For, says he, [Page 102] it is a Shame that the impious Galile­ans should not only maintain their own poor, but ours also; wherefore let us not suffer them to out-do us in this Virtue. Nothing but the force of Truth could have extorted so full an Acknowledgment of the great Humanity and Charity of the Chri­stians, from so bitter an Enemy of our Religion as Julian was. If he owned it, we may be sure it was very great and exemplary.

So that you see that the Christian Religion had a very great Power and Efficacy upon the Lives and Manners of Men, when it first ap­peared in the World. And the true Spirit and Genius of any Religion, the Force of any Institution is best seen in the primitive Effects of it; before it be weakned and dispirited by those Corruptions, which in time are apt to insinuate themselves into the best things. For all Laws and Institutions are commonly more vi­gorous, and have greater Effects at first, than afterwards; and the best things are apt in time to degenerate and to contract Soil and Rust. And it cannot in Reason be expected o­therwise. [Page 103] So that though it be a thing to be bewailed, and by the greatest Care and Diligence to be resisted, yet it is not so extremely to be wonder'd at, if Christianity, in the space of Sixteen Hundred Years, hath abated much of its first Strength and Vigour.

Especially considering, that there were several Circumstances, that gave Christianity mighty Advantages at first, especially the miraculous Pow­ers which did accompany the first Publication of the Gospel; which must needs be full of Convi­ction to those who saw the won­derful Effects of it: The extraordi­nary Operation of the Spirit of God upon the Minds of Men, to dispose them to the receiving of it: The persecuted and suffering State that Christians were generally in, which made those who embraced the Pro­fession, to be generally serious and in good earnest in it, and kept up a continual Heat and Zeal in the Minds of Men for that Religion which cost them so dear, and for which they suffer'd so much: And the fury of their Enemies against it, [Page 104] did naturally inflame their Love and Kindness to one another; nothing being a greater Endearment among Men, than common Sufferings in a common Cause. So long as Christi­ans were not corrupted by Secular Interests; and by denying all for Christ, were free from Covetousness and Ambition, the great roots of all Evil, The Church of Christ, though she was black, yet she was comely, and terrible, as an Army with Banners; She was all this while in an excellent Posture to resist the Temptations, and fight against the Vices and Cor­ruptions of the World: But after the World broke in upon the Church, and Christianity was countenanced by the Powers of the World, and water'd with Secular Preferments and Encouragements, no wonder if the Tares began to grow up with the Wheat; Then Iniquity began to abound, and the Love of many to grow cold. When the Sun of Prosperity began to shine upon the Christian Profession, then no wonder if the Vermin bred and swarmed every where. When it grew creditable and advantagious for Men to be Christi­ans, [Page 105] this must in all Reason make a World of Hypocrites, and counter­feit Professors.

These things, I reckon, must in Reason make a mighty Difference between the first Ages of Christia­nity, and those which have follow'd since; and no wonder, if the real Fruits and Effects of Religion in these several States of Christianity be very unequal. For Prosperity and Adversity made a wide difference in this Matter. The Persecution of a­ny Religion naturally makes the Pro­fessors of it real; and the Prosperi­ty of it does as naturally allure and draw in Hypocrites. Besides that even the best of Men are more cor­rupted by Prosperity, than Affliction.

But though Christians were best under Persecution, yet God did not think fit always to continue them in that State, because he would not tempt them, and tire them out with perpetual Sufferings; and after he had given the World a sufficient Experiment of the Power and Effi­cacy of the Christian Religion, in maintaining and propagating it self in despite of all the Violence and [Page 106] Opposition of the World, sufficient for ever to give Reputation to it; he then thought good to leave it to be kept up by more Human Ways, and such as offer less violence to the Nature of a Man. Being once establisht and settled in the World, and upon equal Terms of Advantage with other Religions, God left it to be supported by more ordinary Means; by pious Education, and diligent Instruction, and good Laws and Government, without Miracles, and without Persecution, and with­out those extraordinary and overpow­ring Communications of his Grace and Spirit which he afforded to the first Ages of Christianity.

I have insisted the longer upon this, that Men may see what Ef­fects Christianity hath had upon the Lives of Men, by which we may see the proper Nature and Efficacy of it; and withal may not wonder so much that it hath not the same Ef­fects now. Though it be matter of great Shame to us, that they are so vastly disproportionable to what they were at first.

2. Tho' the Disproportion be ve­ry great between the Effects of Christianity at first, and what it hath now upon the Lives of Men; yet we ought not to deny, but it hath still some good Effects upon Mankind; and it is our great Shame and Fault that it hath no better. If we will speak justly of things, as to the general civility of Life and Manners, Freedom from Tyranny, and Barbarousness, and Cruelty, and some other enormous Vices, yea and as to the exemplary Piety and Vir­tue of great Numbers of particular Persons of several Nations, there is no Comparison between the general State of Christendom, and the Pa­gan and Mahometan parts of the World. Next to Christianity, and the Law of Moses, (which was con­fined to one Nation) Philosophy was the most likely Instrument to reform Mankind that hath been in the World; and it had very considera­ble Effects upon some particular Persons, both as to the rectifying of their Opinions, and the reform­ing of their Lives: But upon the generality of Mankind it did very [Page 108] little in either of these Respects, espe­cially as to the rectifying of the absurd and impious Opinions of the People concerning God, and their superstitious Worship of the Deity. Whereas the Christian Religion did universally, where-ever it came, set Men free from those gross Impieties and Superstitions, and taught Men to worship the only true God in a right Manner.

Tho' we must confess, to the Eter­nal Reproach of the Christian Reli­gion, that the Western Church hath degenerated so far, that it seems to be in a great Measure relapst in­to the Ignorance and Superstition of Paganism; out of which Degenera­cy, that God hath rescued us, as we have infinite Cause to adore his Good­ness, so we have all the reason in the World to dread and detest a Return into this spiritual Egypt, this House of Darkness and Bondage, and the bringing of our Necks again under that Yoke, which neither we nor our Fathers were able to bear.

So that you see that there are still very considerable Effects of the Christian Religion in the World, [Page 109] yea and I doubt not but in those pla­ces where it is most corrupted and degenerated; because they still retain the essential Doctrines of Christiani­ty, which have not quite lost their Force, notwithstanding the many Errours and Corruptions that are mixt with them. And as God knows, and every Man sees it, that the genera­lity of Christians are very bad, not­withstanding all the Influence of that excellent Religion which they profess; yet I think it is very evident, Men would be much worse without it. For though very many who have entertained the Principles of Christi­anity are very wicked in their Lives; yet many are otherwise: And those that are bad have this Advantage by their Religion, that it is in its Na­ture apt to reduce and recover Men from a wicked Course, and some­times does: whereas the case of those Persons would have been de­sperate, were it not for those Prin­ciples of Religion which were im­planted in them by Christian Edu­cation, and though they were long supprest, yet did at last awaken them to a Consideration of their [Page 110] Condition, and proved the happy Means of their Recovery.

3. I will not deny but there are some Persons as bad, nay perhaps worse, that have been bred up in the Christian Religion, than are com­monly to be found in the Darkness of Paganism; for the Corruption of the best Things is the worst, and those who have resisted so great a Light as that of the Gospel is, are like to prove the most desperately wicked of all other. There is no­thing that Men make worse use of, than of Light and Liberty, two of the best and most pleasant Things in the World. Knowledge is many times abused to the worst Purpose, and Liberty into Licentiousness and Sedition: and yet no Man for all that thinks Ignorance desirable, or would wish a perpetual Night and Darkness to the World; and con­clude from the Inconveniencies of abused Liberty, that the best State of things would be, that the gene­rality of Mankind should be all Slaves to a few, and be perpetually chain­ed to the Oar, or condemned to the Mines.

There are many times as bad Con­sequences of good things, as of bad: but yet there is a great difference between good and bad for all that. As Knowledge and Liberty, so like­wise the Christian Religion is a great Happiness to the World in ge­neral, though some are so unhappy as to be the worse for it; not because Religion is bad, but because they are so.

4. If Religion be a matter of Mens free Choice, it is not to be expected that it should necessarily and con­stantly have its Effect upon Men; for it works upon us, not by way of Force or natural Necessity, but of Moral Perswasion. If Religion, and the Grace of God which goes along with it, did force Men to be good and virtuous, and no Man could be so unless he were thus vi­olently forc'd, then it would be no Virtue in any Man to be good, nor any Crime and Fault to be otherwise. For then the Reason why some Men were good, would be because they could not help it; and others bad, because the Grace of God did not [Page 112] make them so whether they would or not.

But Religion does not thus work upon Men. It directs Men to their Duty by the shortest and plainest Precepts of a good Life; it perswades Men to the Obedience of these Pre­cepts, by the Promises of Eternal Happiness, and the Threatnings of Eternal Misery in case of obstinate Disobedience; it offers us the Assist­ance of Gods Holy Spirit, to help our Weakness, and enable us to that, for which we are not sufficient of our selves: But there is nothing of Vio­lence or Necessity in all this. Af­ter all, Men may disobey these Pre­cepts, and not be perswaded by these Arguments, may not make use of this Grace which God offers, may quench and resist the Holy Ghost, and reject the Counsel of God against them­selves. And the Case being thus, it is no wonder, if the Temptations of this present World prevail upon the vicious Inclinations of Men against their Duty, and their true Interest; and consequently if the Motiyes and Arguments of the Christiane Religi­on have not a constant and certain [Page 113] Effect upon a great part of Mankind. Not but that Christianity is apt to bring Men to Goodness; but some are so obstinately bad, as not to be wrought upon by the most power­ful Considerations it can offer to them.

5. It cannot be denyed, but that Christianity is as well framed to make Men good, as any Religion can be imagined to be; and there­fore where-ever the Fault be, it can­not be in the Christian Religion, that we are not good. So that the bad Lives of Christians are no suf­ficient Objection either against the Truth or Goodness of the Christian Doctrine. Besides the Confirmation that was given to it by Miracles, the Excellency of the Doctrine, and its proper Tendency to make Men holy and virtuous, are a plain Evi­dence of its Divine and Heavenly Original. And surely the Goodness of any Religion consists in the suf­ficiency of its Precepts, to direct Men to their Duty; in the force of its Arguments to perswade Men to it; and the suitableness of its Aids and Helps to enable us to the Dis­charge [Page 114] and Performance of it. And all these Advantages the Christian Religion hath above any Religion or Institution that ever was in the World. The reasonable and plain Rules of a good Life are no where so perfect­ly collected, as in the Discourses of our Blessed Saviour and his Apostles. No Religion ever gave Men so full Assurance of the mighty Rewards and Punishments of another World; nor such gracious Promises of Divine Assistance, and such Evidence of it, especially in the Piety, and Virtue, and Patience, and Self-denyal of the Primitive Christians, as the Doctrine of God our Saviour hath done, which teacheth Men to deny Ʋngodliness and worldly Lusts, and to live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present World, in contemplation of the blessed hope and the glorious appearance of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all Iniquity, and puri­fie to hiwself a peculiar People zealous of good Works.

6. and lastly, After all that hath or can be said, it must be acknow­ledged, and ought sadly to be la­mented [Page 115] by us, that the wicked Lives of Christians are a marvellous Scandal and Reproach to our Holy Religion, and a great Obstacle to the spreading of it in the World, and a real Objection against it to prejudiced Persons, with whom it doth justly bring into doubt the Goodness and Efficacy of the Insti­tution it self, to see how little Ef­fect it hath upon the Hearts and Lives of Men. It is hard for a Man to maintain the Reputation of an excellent Master in any kind, when all the World sees, that most of his Scholars prove Dunces. Whatever Commendation may be given to any Art or Science, Men will questi­on the Truth and Reality of it, when they see the greatest part of those who profess it, not able to do any thing answerable to it. The Christian Religion pretends to be an Art of serving God more decent­ly and devoutly, and of living bet­ter than other Men: but if it be so, why do not the Professors of this excellent Religion shew the Force and Virtue of it in their Lives? And though I have sufficiently shewn, [Page 116] that this is not enough to overthrow the Truth, and disparage the Ex­cellency of the Christian Doctrine; yet it will certainly go a great way with prejudiced Persons, and it can­not be expected otherwise.

So that we have infinite Reason to be ashamed, that there is so plain a contrariety between the Laws of Christianity, and the Lives of the greatest part of Christians; so no­torious and palpable a difference be­tween the Religion that is in the Bible, and that which is to be seen and read in the Conversations of Men.

Who that looks upon the Man­ners of the present Age, could be­lieve, if he did not know it, that the holy and pure Doctrine of the Christian Religion, had ever been so much as heard, much less pre­tended to be entertained and belie­ved among us? Nay among those who seem to make a more serious Profession of Religion, when we con­sider how strangely they allow them­selves in Malice and Envy, in Pas­sion, and Anger, and Uncharitable Censures, and evil Speaking, in fierce [Page 117] Contentions and Animosities; who would believe that the great Instru­ment of these Mens Religion, I mean the Holy Bible, by which they pro­fess to regulate and govern their Lives, were full of plain and strict Precepts of Love and Kindness, of Charity and Peace, and did a hundred times with all imaginable Severity, and under pain of forfeiting the Kingdom of God, forbid Malice and Envy, and Revenge, and evil speaking, and rash and uncharitable Censures, and tell us so plainly that the Christian Religion obligeth Men to put off all these; and that if any Man seem to be religious, and bridleth not his Tongue, that Man's Religion is vain? Do Men read and hear these Things every day, and profess to believe them to be the Truths of God, and yet live as if they were verily perswaded they were false? What can we con­clude from hence, but either that this is not Christianity, or the greatest part of us are no Christi­ans?

So that if one of the Apostles or Primitive Christians should rise from [Page 118] the Dead, and converse among us, how would he wonder to see the Face and Complexion of Christiani­ty alter'd from what it was in their Days; and were it not for the Name and Title which we bear, would sooner guess us to be any thing than Christians.

So that upon the whole Matter, there is no Way to quit our selves of this Objection, and to wash away the Reproach of it, but to mend and reform our Lives. 'Till this be done, it is unavoidable, but the vi­cious Manners of Men will affect our Religion with Obloquy and Re­proach, and derive an ill Conceit and Opinion of it into the Minds of Men. And I cannot see how Chri­stianity can ever gain much ground in the World, 'till it be better ad­orned and recommended by the Professors of it. Nay we have just cause to fear, that if God do not raise up some great and eminent In­struments to awaken the World out of this stupid Lethargy, that Chri­stianity will every Day decline, and the World will in a short Space be [Page 119] overrun with Atheism and Infideli­ty. For Vice, and Superstition, and Enthusiasm, which are the reigning Diseases of Christendom, when they have run their Course, and sinisht their Circle, do all naturally end, and meet in Atheism. And then it will be time for the great Judge of the World to appear, and effe­ctually to convince Men of that, which they would not be per­swaded to believe by any other Means. And of this our Saviour hath given us a terrible and fear­ful Intimation, in that Question of his; When the Son of Man comes, shall he find Faith upon Earth? Our Saviour hath not positively affirmed it, and God grant that we may not make it, and find it true.

And thus I have, by God's As­sistance, given the best Satisfaction I could, to the most material Ex­ceptions I have met with against our blessed Saviour and his Religi­on. The

II. Thing remains briefly to be spoken to, viz. How happy a Thing it is to escape the common Prejudi­ces [Page 120] which Men are apt to entertain against Religion, Blessed is he, whoso­ever shall not be offended in me. And this will appear if we consider these Three or Four Things.

First, That Prejudice does many times sway and biass Men against the plainest and clearest Truths. We see in daily Experience, what a false Byass Prejudice puts upon Mens Un­derstandings. Men that are educa­ted in the grossest Errors and Su­perstitions, how hard it is to con­vince them that they are in a wrong Way! and with what Difficulty are they perswaded of their Mistake! Nay they have hardly the Patience to be told they are in an Error, much less to consider what may be offer'd against it. How do the Pas­sions and Lusts of Men blind them and lead them aside from the Truth, and encline them to that side of the Question, which is most favourable to their Lusts and Interests? How partially do Men lean to that part which makes most for their Advan­tage, though all the Reason in the World lye on the other side?

Now Ignorance and Mistake are a great Slavery of the Understanding, if there were no worse Consequen­ces of our Errors: and therefore our Saviour says excellently, that the Truth makes Men free; Ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free.

Secondly, Prejudice does not only by ass Men against the plainest Truths, but in Matters of greatest Concern­ment, in things that concern the Ho­nour of God, and the Good of o­thers, and our own Welfare and Happiness. Prejudices against Reli­gion occasion Mistakes of the highest Nature, and may lead Men to Su­perstition and Idolatry, and to all manner of Impiety, nay many times to Atheism and Infidelity. The Prejudices against the Doctrine of our Saviour are of another Concernment, than the Prejudices which Men have against the Writers of Natural Phi­losophy or Eloquence, or any other Human Art or Science. If a Man's Prejudice make him err in these Matters, the Thing is of no great Moment: but the business of Reli­gion [Page 122] is a matter of the greatest and weightiest Concernment to Man­kind.

Thirdly, The Consequence of Mens Prejudices in these things prove ma­ny times fatal and destructive to them. Men may upon unreaso­nable Prejudices reject the Counsel of God against themselves; as it is said of the Chief Priests and Pharisees a­mong the Jews. Men may oppose the Truth so obstinately and perver­sly, as to be Fighters against God, and to bring certain Ruin and swift Destructi­on upon themselves, both in this World, and the other; as the Jews did, who by opposing the Do­ctrine of the Gospel, and persecuting our Saviour and his Disciples, fill'd up the measure of their Sins, 'till Wrath came upon them to the uttermost. It is easie to entertain Prejudices against Religion, and by considering only the wrong side of things, to fortifie our Prejudices to such a Degree, and entrench our selves so strongly in our Errors, that the plainest and most convincing Truths shall not be able to have any Access to us, or make any Impression upon us: but all this [Page 132] while we do in truth undermine our own Happiness, and are secret­ly working our own Ruin; and while we think we are opposing an Enemy, we are destroying our selves; for who hath harden'd himself against God and his Truth, and prospered? The Principles of Religion are a firm and immoveable Rock, against which the more violently we dash our selves, the more miserably we shall be split and shatter'd. Our Blessed Saviour and his Religion, have been to many, and are to this day a Stone of stum­bling, and a Rock of Offence; but he himself hath told us what shall be the Fate of those who are offended at him; Whosoever shall fall on this Stone, shall be broken; but upon whom­soever it shall fall, it shall grind him to Powder. And therefore well might he say here in the Text, blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.

Fourthly, There are but few in comparison, who have the Happiness to escape and overcome the common Prejudices which Men are apt to en­tertain against Religion. Thus to be sure it was when Christianity first [Page 124] appeared in the World: And tho' among us the great Prejudice of E­ducation be removed; yet there are still many, who upon one Account or other, are prejudiced against Religion, at least so far, as not to yield to the Power of it in their Lives. Few Men are so impartial in considering things, as not to be swayed by the Interest of their Lusts and Passions, as to keep the Ballance of their Judgments even, and to suffer nothing but Truth and Reason to weigh with them. We generally pretend to be Pilgrims and Strangers in the World, and to be all travelling towards Heaven: but few of us have the Indifferency of Travel­lers; who are not concern'd to find out the fairest and the easiest Way, but to know which is the right Way, and to go in it. Thus it should be with us, our End should always be in our Eye, and we should chuse our way only with Respect to that; not considering our Inclination so much as our Design; nor chusing those Principles for the Government of our Lives, which are most agree­able to our present Desires, but those [Page 125] which will most certainly bring us to Happiness at the last; and that I am sure the Principles of the Chri­stian Religion, firmly believed and practised by us, will do.

Let us then be perswaded by all that hath been said upon this Ar­gument, to a firm Belief of the Chri­stian Doctrine. I hope you are in some Measure satisfied, that the Ob­jections against it are not such, as ought much to move a wise and con­siderate Man. If we believe that God hath taken so much care of Man­kind, as to make any certain Reve­lation of his Will to them, and of the way to Eternal Happiness; let us next consider, whether any Re­ligion in the World can come in Competition with the Christian, and with half that Reason pretend to be from God, that Christianity is able to produce for it self, whe­ther we consider the Things to be believed, or the Duties to be pra­ctised, or the Motives and Argu­ments to the Practice of those Du­ties, or the Divine Confirmation that is given to the whole. And [Page 126] if we be thus perswaded concerning it, let us resolve to live up to the Laws and Rules of this Holy Religion. Our belief of it signifies nothing, without the Fruits and Effects of a Good Life. And if this were once resolved upon, the Difficulty of believing would cease; for the true Reason why Men are unwilling to believe the Truths of the Gospel, is because they are loth to put them in Practice. Every one that doth Evil, hateth the Light. The true Ground of most Mens Prejudice against the Christian Doctrine, is because they have no mind to obey it; and when all is done, the great Ob­jection that lies at the bottom of Mens Minds against it, is, that it is an Enemy to their Lusts, and they cannot profess to believe it without condemning themselves, for not complying with it in their Lives and Practice.

SERMON IV. Jesus, the Son of God, prov'd by his Resurrection.

ROM. I. 4.‘And declared to be the Son of God, with Power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the Resurrection from the dead.’

ST. Paul in the beginning of this Epistle (according to his Custom in the rest) stiles him­self an Apostle, particularly call'd, and set apart by God, for the preach­ing of the Gospel; the main Subject whereof was, Jesus Christ our Lord; Who as he was, according to his [Page 128] Divine Nature, the eternal Son of God; so according to his Humane Nature, he was not only the Son of Man, but also the Son of God. According to the Flesh (that is the Weakness, and Frailty, and Morta­lity of his Humane Nature) he was the Son of David, that is, of his Posterity by his Mother, who was of that House and Line. Made of the seed of David, according to the Flesh, v. 3. But according to the Spirit, of Holiness; (that is, in regard of that Divine Power of the Holy Ghost, which was manifested in him, espe­cially in his Resurrection from the Dead,) he was demonstrated to be the Son of God; even according to his Humane Nature; Declared to be the Son of God, with Power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the Resurre­ction from the dead.

All the Difficulty in the Words, is concerning the meaning of this Phrase; of Christ's being declared to be the Son of God: The word is [...], which most frequently in Scripture does signifie predestina­ted, decreed, determined; but it likewise signifies, that which is de­fined, [Page 129] declared, demonstrated, put out of all Doubt and Controversie. And in this Sense our Translation renders it. As if the Apostle had said, that our Lord Jesus Christ, tho' according to the Frailty and Weakness of his Humane Nature, he was of the Seed of David; yet in respect of that Divine Power of the Holy Ghost, which manifested it self in him, especially in his Re­surrection from the Dead, he was declared to be the Son of God, with Power, that is, mightily, powerfully demonstrated to be so; so as to put the matter out of all Dispute and Controversie.

And therefore following our own Translation, I shall handle the Words in this Sense, as containing this Pro­position in them: That the Resur­rection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the Dead, by the Holy Ghost, is a pow­erful demonstration that he was the Son of God.

And it will conduce very much to the clearing of this Proposition to consider these Two things.

First, upon what Account Christ, as Man, is said to be the Son of God.

Secondly, In what Sense he is said to be declared to be the Son of God, by his Resurrection from the Dead. The Consideration of these Two Par­ticulars will fully clear this Proposi­tion, and the Apostles Meaning in it.

First, Upon what Account Christ, as Man, is said to be the Son of God. And for our right Apprehen­sion of this Matter, it is very well worthy our Observation, that Christ as Man, is no where in Scripture said to be the Son of God, but with relation to the Divine Power of the Holy Ghost, some way or other e­minently manifested in him; I say the Divine Power of the Holy Ghost, as the Lord and Giver of Life, as he is call'd in the Ancient Creeds of the Christian Church. For as Men are na­turally said to be the Children of those from whom they receive their Life and Being; so Christ, as Man, is said to be the Son of God, because he had Life communicated to him, from the Father, by an immediate [Page 131] Power of the Spirit of God, or the Holy Ghost. First at his Concepti­on, which was by the Holy Ghost. The Conception of our Blessed Sa­viour was an immediate Act of the Power of the Holy Ghost, oversha­dowing, as the Scripture expresseth it, the blessed Mother of our Lord: And then at his Resurrection, when after his Death, he was, by the Operation of the Holy Ghost, raised to Life again.

Now upon these two Accounts only, Christ as Man, is said in Scripture to be the Son of God. He was really so upon Account of his Conception; but this was secret and invisible: but most eminently and remarkably so, upon account of his Resurrection, which was open and visible to all.

1. Upon Account of his Concep­tion by the Power of the Holy Ghost. That upon this Account he was called the Son of God, St. Luke most expresly tells us, Luke 1. 35. where the Angel tells the Virgin Mary, that the Holy Ghost should come upon her, and the Power of the High­est should overshadow her, and therefore [Page 132] that Holy Thing, which should be born of her, should be call'd the Son of God. And this our Saviour means by the Father's sanctifying him, and sending him into the World; For which Reason he says he might justly call himself the Son of God, John 10. 35, 36. If he call them Gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scrip­ture cannot be broken: Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the World, Thou blasphemest, because I said I am the Son of God? If there had been no other Reason, this had been sufficient to have gi­ven him the Title of the Son of God, that he was brought into the World by the Sanctification, or Di­vine Power of the Holy Ghost.

2. Christ is also said in Scripture to be the Son of God, and to be declared to be so upon Account of his Resurrection from the Dead, by the Power of the Holy Ghost. His Resurrection from the Dead, is here in the Text ascribed to the Spirit of Holiness, or the Holy Ghost. And so in other places of Scripture, Rom. 8. 11. If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the Dead, dwell in you: [Page 133] And, 1 Pet. 3. 18. Being put to Death in the Flesh: but quickned by the Spirit; that is, he suffer'd in that frail mor­tal Nature which he assumed; but was raised again by the Power of the Holy Ghost, of the Spirit of God which resided in him. And upon this Account he is expresly said in Scrip­ture to be the Son of God. Psa. 2. 7. I will declare the decree; The Lord hath said unto me, thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee; to which perhaps the Apostle alludes here in the Text, when he says that Christ was decreed to be the Son of God, by his Resurrection from the Dead. To be sure these Words, this day have I be­gotten thee, St. Paul expresly tells us were accomplisht in the Resurrecti­on of Christ; as if God by raising him from the Dead, had begotten him, and decreed him to be his Son. Acts 13. 32, 33. And we declare unto you glad Tidings, how that the Promise which was made unto the Fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto their Chil­dren, in that he hath raised up Jesus again, as it is also written in the se­cond Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

He was the Son of God before, as he was conceived by the Ho­ly Ghost; but this was secret and invisible, and known only to the Mo­ther of our Lord: And therefore God thought fit to give a publick and visible demonstration of it, so as to put the matter out of all que­stion, he declared him in a power­ful manner to be his Son, by gi­ving him a new Life after Death, by raising him from the Dead; and by this new and eminent Testimo­ny given to him, declared him a­gain to be his Son, and confirmed the Title which was given him be­fore upon a true, but more secret Account, of his being conceived by the Holy Ghost.

And as our Saviour is said to be the Son of God upon this twofold Ac­count, of his Conception by the Ho­ly Ghost, and his Resurrection to Life by the Spirit of God: So the Scripture (which does solicitously pur­sue a Resemblance and Conformity between Christ and Christians) does likewise upon a twofold Account (answerable to our Saviour's Birth and Resurrection) call true Believers and [Page 135] Christians, the Children of God; viz. Upon Account of their Regenerati­on or new Birth, by the Operation of the Spirit of God; and upon Ac­count of their Resurrection to Eter­nal Life, by the Power of the same Spirit.

Upon account of our Regenerati­on and becoming Christians by the Power and Operation of the Holy Spirit of God upon our Minds, we are said to be the Children of God, as being regenerated and born again by the Holy Spirit of God. And this is our first Adoption. And for this Reason, the Spirit of God conferred upon Christians at their Baptism, and dwelling and residing in them afterwards, is call'd the Spirit of A­doption; Rom. 8. 15. Ye have recei­ved the Spirit of Adoption, whereby you cry, Abba Father. And Gal. 4. 5, 6. Believers are said to receive the Adoption of Sons; God having sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their Hearts, crying Abba Father; That is, all Chri­stians, for as much as they are rege­nerated by the Holy Spirit of God, and have the Spirit of God dwelling in them, may with Confidence call [Page 136] God Father, and look upon themselves as his Children. So the Apostle tells us, Rom. 8. 14. That as many as are led (or acted) by the Spirit of God, are the Sons of God.

But though we are said to be Chil­dren of God upon account of our Regeneration, and the Holy Spirit of God dwelling and residing in Chri­stians; yet we are eminently so, upon account of our Resurrection to Eternal Life, by the mighty Power of God's Spirit. This is our final Adoption, and the Consummation of it; and therefore Rom. 8. 21. this is cal­led the glorious Liberty of the Sons of God, because by this we are for e­ver deliver'd from the Bondage of Corruption; and by way of Eminen­cy, the Adoption, viz. the Redemption of our Bodies.

We are indeed the Sons of God be­fore, upon account of the regenera­ting and sanctifying Virtue of the Holy Ghost; but finally and chiefly upon account of our Resurrection by the Power of the Divine Spirit. So St. John tells us, that then we shall be declared to be the Sons of God, after another manner than we are now: [Page 137] 1 Jo. 3. 1. Behold what manner of Love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the Sons of God. Now we are the Sons of God, (that is, our Adoption is begun in our Rege­neration and Sanctification) but it doth not yet appear what we shall be; we shall be much more eminently so at the Resurrection. We know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him.

But the most express and remar­kable Text to this Purpose, is, Luke 20. 36. where good Men, after the Resurrection, are for this Reason said to be the Children of God, be­cause they are the Children of the Re­surrection. But they who shall be ac­counted worthy to obtain that World, and the Resurrection from the Dead, neither marry, nor are given in Mar­riage, neither can they die any more; for they are equal to the Angels, and are the Children of God, being the Chil­dren of the Resurrection. For this Reason they are said to be the Chil­dren of God, because they are raised by him to a new Life; and to be made Partakers of that which is pro­mised to them, and reserved for them. For all that are raised by the [Page 138] Power of God, out of the Dust of the Earth, are not therefore the Chil­dren of God; but only they that have part in the blessed Resurrecti­on to Eternal Life, and do inherit the Kingdom prepared for them. Not those who are raised to a perpetual Death, and the Resurrection of Con­demnation. These are not the Chil­dren of God; but the Children of Wrath, and the Children of Perdition.

But the Resurrection of the Just, is the full and final Declaration, that we are the Children of God; not only because we are restored to a new Life, but because at the Resur­rection, we are admitted to the full Possession of that blessed Inheritance which is purchased for us, and pro­mised to us.

And the Spirit of God which is conferred upon Believers in their Re­generation, and afterwards dwells and resides in them, is the Pledge and earnest of our final Adoption, by our Resurrection to Eternal Life; and upon this account, and no o­ther, is said to be the Earnest of our future Inheritance, and the Seal [Page 139] and Confirmation of it. Eph. 1. 13. In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed by that Holy Spirit of Pro­mise, which is the earnest of our Inhe­ritance, until the redemption of the pur­chased Possession; that is, the Holy Spirit of God which Christians were made Partakers of, upon their sin­cere Belief of the Christian Religi­on, is the Seal and Earnest of our Resurrection to Eternal Life; as the Apostle plainly tells us, in that re­makable Text; Rom. 8. 11. If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quick­en your mortal Bodies, by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

I have been the longer upon this, because it serves fully to explain to us those obscure Phrases, of the Seal, and Earnest, and first Fruits of the Spirit, which many have mistaken to import some particular and spiri­tual Revelation or Impression upon the Minds of good Men, assuring them of their Salvation. Whereas the Apostle intended no more by them, but that the Spirit of God which dwells in Believers, enabling them to mortifie [Page 140] the deeds of the Flesh, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, is a Pledge and Earnest to us, of a blessed Re­surrection to eternal Life by the Pow­er of the Spirit of God, which now dwells in us, and is the same Spi­rit which raised up Jesus from the dead. And in this Chapter, the Spi­rit of God is said, v. 16. To bear wit­ness to our Spirits, that is, to assure our Minds, that we are the Children of God; that is, that we are his Children now, and consequently Heirs of a glorious Resurrection to Eternal Life: For so it follows in the next Words, and if Children, then Heirs, Heirs of God, and joint Heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together. And this being glorified together with Christ at the Resurrection, he calls, v. 19. the manifestation of the Sons of God. Thus you see how in Conformity to the Son of God, our elder Brother, we are said to be the Sons of God, because we are now regenerated, and shall at the last day be raised up to Eternal Life, by the Power of the Spirit of God. I proceed to the

Second Thing I propounded to speak to, for the clearing of these words, namely, in what Sense Christ is said to be declared, or demonstrated to be the Son of God by his Resurre­ction from the dead. By which the Apostle means these two things.

1. That by his Resurrection from the dead, he was approved by God to be the true Messias, and vindica­ted to the World from all Suspicion of being a Deceiver and Impostor. And consequently in the

2. Place, That hereby God gave Testimony to the Truth and Divini­ty of his Doctrine.

1. By his Resurrection from the dead, he was approved by God to be the True Messias, foretold by the Prophets, and expected at that time by the Jews, and sufficiently vindi­cated to the World to be no Decei­ver and Impostor.

And for our fuller Understanding of this, we are to consider these two Things.

(1.) What the Apprehensions and Expectations of the Jews were con­cerning the Messias. And,

[Page 142](2.) What the many Crimes were which they laid to our Saviour's charge, and for which they condem­ned him.

(1.) What the Apprehensions and Expectations of the Jews were con­cerning the Messias. And it is ve­ry plain from the Evangelical Histo­ry, that they generally apprehended these two things of him: That the Messias was to be the Son of God, and the King of Israel; and there­fore that our Saviour, by affirming himself to be the Messias, did call himself the Son of God, and the King of Israel; John 1. 41. Andrew tells his Brother Simon, We have found the Messias, v. 45. Philip tells Nathanael, We have found him, of whom Moses in the Law, and the Prophets did write; that is, the Messias. v. 49. Natha­nael upon Discourse with our Savi­our, being convinced that he was the Messias, owns him in these Terms; Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel. John 6. 69. Peter declares his Belief that he was the Christ, or the Messias, in these Words, We believe and are sure that thou art the Son of the living [Page 143] God. This appears likewise from the High-Priest's Question to him, Matth. 26. 63. Art thou the Christ, (that is, the Messias) the Son of the living God; or as it is in St. Mark, the Son of the Blessed; compared with Pilat's Question, Art thou the King of the Jews? And when he was upon the Cross, some reviled him under the Notion of the Son of God, Matth. 27. 40. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the Cross: Others un­der the Notion of the King of Isra­el, v. 42. If he be the King of Israel, let him come down from the Crost. From all which it is plain that the Jews expected and believed, that the true Messias was to be the Son of God, and the King of Israel; and whoever was not so, was a Decei­ver and Impostor. But our Saviour affirmed himself to be the true Mes­sias, and the Son of God. Now God by raising him from the dead did abundantly vindicate him to the World, from all suspicion of Impo­sture; and gave Testimony to him, that he was all that he said of him­self, viz. the true Messias, and the Son of God.

Which will further appear, if we consider, (2dly,) What were the Crimes which the Jews laid to our Saviour's Charge, and for which they con­demned him; and they were main­ly these two, That by giving him­self out to be the Messias, he made himself King of Israel, and the Son of God. Of the first of these, they accused him to Pilate; hoping by this Accusation to make him guilty of Sedition against the Roman Go­vernment; for saying, that he was the King of Israel. Of the other they accused him to the Chief Priests, as being guilty of Blasphemy, in that not being the Messias, he call'd himself the Son of God. And upon this they laid the main stress, as being a thing that would condemn him by their Law. They charged him with this in his life-time, as appears by those Words of our Saviour, John 10. 36. Say ye of him whom the Fa­ther hath sanctified, and sent into the World, Thou blasphemest, because I said I am the Son of God? And when he was arraigned before the Chief Priests, they accused him of this, and he [Page 145] owning this Charge, that he call'd him­self the Son of God, upon this they judge him guilty of Death. Matth. 26. 65, 66. Then the High-Priest rent his Cloaths, and said, He hath spoken Blasphemy; what further need have we of witness? Behold, now ye have heard his Blasphemy. What think ye? They answe­red, He is guilty of Death. And when Pilate told them, that he found no Fault in him, they still instance in this as his Crime, John 19. 7. We have a Law, and by our Law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

Now this being the Crime which was charged upon him, and for which he was crucified, and put to Death; God, by raising him up from the dead, and taking him up into Hea­ven, gave Testimony to him, that he was no Impostor, and that he did not vainly arrogate to himself to be the Messias and the Son of God. God by rai­sing him from the dead, by the Power of the Holy Ghost, gave a mighty Demon­stration to him, that he was the Son of God. For which Reason he is said by the Apostle, 1 Tim. 3. 16. to be justified by the Spirit. The Spirit gave Testimo­ny [Page 146] to him at his Baptism, and by the mighty Works that appeared in him in his Life time; but he was most e­minently and remarkably justified by the Holy Ghost, by his Resurrection from the Dead; God hereby bearing him Witness, that he was unjustly con­demned, and that he assumed nothing to himself, but what of right did be­long to him, when he said he was the Messias, and the Son of God. For how could a Man that was condem­ned to die, for calling himself the Son of God, be more remarkably vindicated, and more clearly proved to be so; than by being raised from the dead, by the Power of God?

And, 2dly, God did consequently hereby give Testimony to the Truth and Divinity of our Saviour's Doctrine. Being proved by his Resurrection to be the Son of God, this proved him to be a Teacher sent by him, and that what he declared to the World was the Mind and Will of God. For this none was more likely to know, and to report truly to Man­kind, than the Son of God, who came from the Bosom of his Father. And because the Resurrection of Christ is [Page 147] so great a Testimony to the Truth of his Doctrine, hence it is that St. Paul tells us, that the belief of this one Article of Christ's Resurrection, is sufficient to a Man's Salvation, Rom. 10. 9. If thou shalt confess with thy Mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy Heart, that God hath rai­sed him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. The Reason is plain, because the Resurrection of Christ confirmed the Truth and Divinity of his Do­ctrine; so that the belief of our Sa­viour's Resurrection does by necessary Consequence infer the belief of his whole Doctrine. That God raised him from the dead, after he was condem­ned and put to Death for calling him­self the Son of God, is a demonstration that he really was the Son of God; and if he was the Son of God, the Do­ctrine which he taught was true, and from God.

And thus I have shewn you, how the Resurrection of Christ from the dead, is a powerful Demonstration that he was the Son of God.

All that remains, is briefly to draw some practical Inferences from the Consideration of our Saviour's Resur­rection.

1st. To confirm and establish our Minds in the belief of the Christian Religion, of which the Resurrection of Christ from the Dead is so great a Confirmation. And therefore I told you that this one Article is mentioned by St. Paul as the Sum and Abridg­ment of the Christian Faith; If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the Dead, thou shalt be saved. The belief of our Saviour's Resurrection doth by neces­sary consequence infer the belief of his whole Doctrine; for he who be­lieves that God raised him from the Dead, after he was put to death for calling himself the Son of God, cannot but believe him to be the Son of God; and consequently that the Doctrine which he delivered was from God.

2dly. The Resurrection of Christ from the Dead assures us of a future Judgment, and of the Recompences and Rewards of another World. That Christ was raised from the Dead, is a demonstration of another Life af­ter this; and no man that believes the immortality of our Souls, and a­nother Life after this, ever doubted [Page 149] of a future Judgment; so that by the Resurrection of Christ from the Dead, God hath given assurance un­to all men of a future Judgment, and consequently of the Recompen­ces and Rewards of another World.

The consideration whereof ought to have a mighty influence upon us, more especially to these three pur­poses.

1st. To raise our minds above the present Enjoyments of this Life. Were but men convinced of this great and obvious Truth, that there is an infinite difference between Time and Eternity, between a few days and everlasting Ages; would we but sometimes represent to our selves, what thoughts and apprehensions dy­ing Men have of this World, how vain and empty a thing it appears to them, how like a Pageant and Sha­dow it looks, as it passeth away from them; methinks none of these things could be a sufficient temptation to any Man to forget God and his Soul; but notwithstanding all the present delights and allurements of Sense, we should be strongly intent upon the concernments of another World, [Page 150] and almost wholly taken up with the thoughts of the vast Eternity which we are ready to enter into. For what is there in this World, this vast and howling Wilderness, this rude and barbarous Country which we are but to pass through, which should detain and entangle our Affections, and take off our Thoughts from our Everlast­ing Habitation, from that better, and that heavenly Country, where we hope to live and to be happy for ever?

2dly. The Consideration of the Re­wards of another World should com­fort and support us under the troubles and afflictions of this World. The hopes of a blessed Resurrection are a very proper Consideration to bear us up under the evils and pressures of this Life. If we hope for so great a Happiness hereafter, we may be con­tented to bear some Afflictions in this World; because the Blessedness which we expect will so abundantly recom­pence and outweigh our present Suf­ferings. So the Apostle assures us, Rom. 8. 18. We know that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the Glory [Page 151] that shall be revealed in us. The con­sideration whereof was that which made the Primitive Christians to tri­umph in their Sufferings, and in the midst of all their Tribulations to re­joyce in the hopes of the Glory of God; because their Sufferings did really prepare and make way for their Glo­ry. So the same Apostle tells us, 2 Cor. 4. 17. 18. Our light Afflicti­ons which are but for a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and Eternal weight of Glory; whilst we look not at the things which are seen; for the things which are seen are Temporal, but the things which are not seen are Eter­nal.

3dly, and lastly, The assurance of our future Reward is a mighty En­couragement to Obedience and a Holy Life. What greater Encou­ragement can we have than this, that all the good which we do in this World will accompany us into the o­ther? That when we rest from our la­bours, our works will follow us? That when we shall be stript of other things, and parted from them, these will still remain with us, and bear us company? Our Riches and Ho­nours, [Page 152] our sensual Pleasures and En­joyments will all take their leave of us, when we leave this World; nay many times they do not accompany us so far as the Grave, but take occasion to forsake us, when we have the greatest need and use of them: but Piety and Virtue are that better part which cannot be taken from us. All the good actions which we do in this World will go along with us in­to the other, and through the Merits of our Redeemer procure for us, at the hands of a Gracious and Merciful God, a Glorious and Eternal Reward; not according to the meanness of our Services, but according to the Boun­ty of his Mind, and the vastness of his Treasures and Estate.

Now what an encouragement is this to Holiness and Obedience, to consider that it will all be our own another day; to be assured that who­ever serves God faithfully, and does suffer for him patiently, does lay up so much Treasure for himself in ano­ther World, and provides lasting Comforts for himself, and faithful and constant Companions, that will never leave him nor forsake him?

Let us then do all the good we can, while we have opportunity, and serve God with all our might, know­ing that no good action that we do shall be lost and fall to the ground, that every Grace and Virtue that we exercise in this life, and every de­gree of them, shall receive their full re­compence at the Resurrection of the Just.

How should this inspire us with Resolution and Zeal and Industry in the Service of God, to have such a Reward continually in our Eye? how should it tempt us to our Duty, to have a Crown and a Kingdom offered to us, Joys unspeakable and full of Glory, such things as Eye hath not seen, nor Ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man? And such are the things which God hath laid up for them who love him heartily, and serve him faith­fully in this World.

SERMON V. The danger of Apostacy from Christianity.

HEB. VI. 4, 5, 6.

‘For it is impossible for those who were once enlightned, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made par­takers of the holy-Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance: seeing they crucifie to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.’

THESE words are full of difficulties, and the misunder­standing of them hath not only been an occasion of a great deal of trouble, and even despair to particu­lar persons, but one of the chief Rea­sons [Page 156] why the Church of Rome did for a long time reject the Authority of this Book; which by the way I can­not but take notice of as a demonstra­tive Instance both of the fallible Judg­ment of that Church, and of the fallibi­lity of Oral Tradition; for St. Jerome more than once expresly tells us, that in his time (which was about 400 years after Christ) the Church of Rome did not receive this Epistle for Canoni­cal: But it is plain, that since that time, whether moved by the Evi­dence of the thing, or (which is more probable) by the Consent and Autho­rity of other Churches, they have re­ceived it, and do at this day acknow­ledge it for Canonical; from whence one of these two things will necessa­rily follow; either that they were in an error for 400 years together while they rejected it; or that they have since erred for a longer time in re­ceiving it. One of these is unavoida­ble; for if the Book be Canonical now, it was so from the beginning; for Bellarmine himself confesseth (and if he had not confessed it, it is never­theless true and certain) that the Church cannot make a Book Cano­nical, [Page 157] which was not so before; if it was not Canonical at first, it can­not be made so afterward; so that let them chuse which part they will, it is evident, beyond all denyal, that the Church of Rome hath actually er­red in her Judgment concerning the Authority of this Book; and one error of this kind is enough to destroy her Infallibility, there being no greater Evidence that a Church is not Infalli­ble, than if it plainly appear that she hath been deceived.

And this also is a convincing in­stance of the Fallibility of Oral Tra­dition. For if that be Infallible in delivering down to us the Canonical Books of Scripture, it necessarily fol­lows, that whatever Books were deli­vered down to us for Canonical in one Age, must have been so in all A­ges; and whatever was rejected in a­ny Age, must always have been reje­cted: but we plainly see the contrary, from the instance of this Epistle, con­cerning which the Church of Rome (which pretends to be the great and faithful Preserver of Tradition) hath in several Ages deliver'd several things. This is a peremptory instance both of [Page 158] the Fallibility of the Roman Church, and of her Oral Tradition.

Having observed this by the way, which I could not well pass by upon so fair an occasion, I shall betake my self to the explication of these words; towards which it will be no small ad­vantage to consider the particular Phra­ses and Expressions in the Text. It is impossible for those who were once enlight­ned; that is, were solemnly admitted into the Church by Baptism, and em­braced the profession of Christianity. Nothing was more frequent among the Ancients, than to call Baptism, [...] Illumination, and those who were bap­tized were called, [...] enlight­ned Persons, because of that Divine Illu­mination which was convey'd to the minds of Men by the knowledge of Christianity, the Doctrine whereof they made Profession of at their Bap­tism. And therefore Justin Martyr tells us, that by calling upon God the Father, and the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the name of the Holy Ghost, [...], the enlightned Person is washed; and again more expresly, [...], this Laver (speaking of Baptism) is called [Page 159] Illumination. And St. Cyprian gives us the Reason; because by virtue of Bap­tism in expiatum pectus ac purum de­super se lumen infundit, Light is in­fused from above into the purified Soul. And that this Expression is so to be understood here in the Text, as also Chap. 10. 32. the Syriac and Ethiopic give us good ground to believe; for they render the Text thus, It is im­possible for those who have been once bap­tized, and have tasted of the Heavenly Gift. And at the 10th. Chap. v. 32. which we translate, But call to remem­brance the former days, in which after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; that is, call to mind the former days, in which after by Baptism ye had publickly embraced the Pro­fession of Christianity, ye were upon that account exposed to many grie­vous Sufferings and Persecutions. So that I think there can be no great doubt, but, by those that were once enlight­ned, the Apostle means those that were baptized.

To proceed then, For it is impossible for those who were once enlightned, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost; these [Page 160] two Expressions seem to denote the Spiritual Benefits and Graces of the Holy Ghost conferred upon Christians by Baptism; particularly Regenera­tion, which is the proper work of the Holy Ghost, and Justification and Remission of Sins. So we find Faith, whereby we are justified, called the Gift of God, Eph. 2. 8. Faith is the gift of God; and our Justification is called a Gift, and a free Gift five se­veral times in one Chapter, Rom. 5. 15, 16, 17, 18. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift; for if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many; and what this free Gift is, he tells us in the next words, viz. Justification, or Remission of Sins, v. 16. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift; for the judgment was by one to Condem­nation; but the free gift is of many offen­ces unto justification. For if by one man's offence, death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one; Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one, judg­ment [Page 161] came upon all men to condemnation: even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justifi­cation of life. So that by the Heavenly Gift, I understand remission of Sins; and by being made partakers of the Ho­ly Ghost, the sanctifying Power and Efficacy of God's Spirit.

And have tasted the good word of God; that is, entertained the Gospel, which is here called the good word of God; by reason of the gracious promises contained in it, particularly the Pro­mises of Eternal Life and Happiness.

And the powers of the World to come, [...], the Pow­ers of the Gospel Age; that is, the mi­raculous Powers of the Holy Ghost which were bestowed upon Men, in order to the propagation of the Gos­pel. And that this is the true meaning of this Phrase, will I think be very plain to any one who shall but con­sider, that the word [...] is gene­rally in Scripture used for miraculous Powers and Operations; and particu­larly to express the miraculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost, which were be­stowed upon the Apostles and first Christians; (I need not cite the par­ticular [Page 162] Texts for the proof of this, they are so many and so well known;) And then if we consider farther, that the times of the Gospel, the days of the Messias, are frequently called by the Jews Seculum futurum, The Age to come. And indeed this is the very Phrase used by the LXX concerning our Saviour, Isa. 9. 6. where he is called, according to our Translation, The E­verlasting Father, but according to that of the LXX [...], The Father of the future Age. And this very Phrase is used once more in this Epistle to the Heb. ch. 2. 5. For unto the Angels hath he not put in subjection the World to come, whereof we now speak. He had said before, that the Law was given by Angels. v. 2. If the word spoken by Angels was stedfast; but the dispensation of the Gospel, which he calls The World to come, or the future Age, was not committed to them, this was administred by the Son of God; Ʋnto the Angels hath he not put into sub­jection the World to come. And 'tis ob­servable, that this Phrase is only used in this Epistle to the Hebrews, because the Jews very well understood the meaning of it, being that whereby [Page 163] they commonly exprest the times of the Gospel, according to that ancient Tradition of the House of Elias, which distributed the duration of the World into three [...], or Ages; the Age be­fore the Law, the Age under the Law, and the Age of the Messias, which they called the Seculum futurum, or the Age to come; and which is likewise in Scripture called, The last days, or times, and the conclusion of the Ages; Concerning which, it was particularly prophesied, that the Holy Ghost should be poured forth upon Men in miraculous Gifts and Powers. And to this very pur­pose the Prophet Joel is cited by St. Peter, Acts 2. 16, 17. This is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel, And it shall come to pass in the last days, (saith God) I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your Sons and your Daughters shall prophesie, &c. From all which it is very evident, that by tast­ing the powers of the World to come, is meant, being partakers of the mira­culous gifts of the Holy Ghost, which were poured forth in the Gospel Age, by the Jews commonly called, The World to come.

If they shall fall away; that is, if [Page 164] after all this they shall apostatize from this Profession, out of love to this pre­sent World, or from the fear of Per­secutions and Sufferings.

It is impossible to renew them again to Repentance; that is, it is a thing very difficult, hardly to be hoped for, that such wilful and notorious Apostates should be restored again by Repen­tance. For the word [...], which we translate Impossible, is not always to be taken in the strictest sense, for that which absolutely cannot be; but many times for that which is so very difficult, that it seems next to an im­possibility. So our Saviour, that which in one place he calls exceeding hard, viz. for a rich Man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, he afterwards calls impossible with Men; and so here I understand the Apostle, that those who apostatize from Christianity, after Baptism and the benefits of it, 'Tis exceeding hard to recover them again to Repentance: This Phrase [...], to renew them a­gain to Repentance, some understand of restoring them again to the Peace and Communion of the Church, by a course of Penance, such as was pre­scribed [Page 165] in the ancient Church to great Offenders; and then they understand by [...], not a Natural, but a Moral Impossibility; that which can­not be done according to the Orders and Constitutions of the Church; that is, the Church did refuse to admit A­postates, and some other great Offen­ders, as Murderers and Adulterers, to a course of Penance, in order to their Reconciliation with the Church; This Tertullian tells us was the strictness of the Church in his time, Neque Idololatriae, neque Sanguini pax ab Ecclesiâ redditur; they admitted neither Idolaters, nor Murderers to the reconciliation of the Church. Though they were never so penitent, and shed never so many tears, yet he says they were jejunae pacis lacrimae, their tears were in vain, to reconcile them to the Peace and Communion of the Church. He says indeed, they did not absolutely pro­nounce their case desperate in respect of God's Pardon and Forgiveness; sed de veniâ Deo reservamus, for that they referr'd them to God: but they were never to be admitted again into the Church; so strict were many Churches, and that upon the Autho­rity [Page 166] of this Text; though the Church of Rome was more moderate in this matter, and for that Reason call'd the Authority of this Book into question.

But I see no reason why these Words should primarily be understood of re­storing Men to the Communion of the Church by Penance: but they seem to be meant of restoring Men to the Favour of God by Repentance; of which indeed their being restored to the Communion of the Church was a good sign. This the Apostle says was very difficult, for those who after Bap­tism, and the several benefits of it, did apostatize from Christianity, to be recover'd again to Repentance.

Seeing they crucifie to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. This is spoken by way of Aggravation of the crime of Apostacy, that they who fall off from Christiani­ty, in effect and by interpretation do crucifie the Son of God over again, and expose him to shame and reproach, as the Jews did; for by denying and re­nouncing of him, they declare him to be an Impostor, and consequently worthy of that death which he suffer­ed, and that Ignominy which he was [Page 167] exposed to; and therefore, in account of God, they are said to do that, which by their actions they do approve; so that it is made a Crime of the highest Nature, as if they should crucifie the Son of God, and use him in the most ignominious manner, even tread under foot the Son of God, as the expression is to the same purpose, Ch. 10, 29.

Thus I have endeavour'd, as briefly and clearly I could, to explain to you the true meaning and importance of the several Phrases and Expressions in the Text; the sense whereof a­mounts to this, that if those who are baptized, and by Baptism have recei­ved Remission of Sins, and do believe the Doctrine of the Gospel, and the Promises of it, and are endow'd with the miraculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost, if such persons as these shall after all this apostatize from Christianity, it is very hard, and next to an impossibility, to imagine how such Persons should recover again by Repentance, seeing they are guilty of as great a Crime, as if in their own Persons they had put to Death and ignominiously used the Son of God; because by rejecting of [Page 168] him, they declare to the World that he suffered deservedly.

Having thus explained the words, in order to the further vindication of them, from the mistakes and misap­prehensions which have been about them, I shall endeavour to make out these five things.

1st, That the Sin here mention'd is not the Sin against the Holy Ghost.

2dly, That the Apostle does not de­clare it to be absolutely impossible, but only that those who are guilty of it are recover'd to Repentance with great difficulty.

3dly, That it is not a partial Apo­stacy from the Christian Religion by any particular vicious Practice.

4thly, That it is a total Apostacy from the Christian Religion, and more especially to the Heathen Idolatry, which the Apostle here speaks of.

5thly, The Reason of the difficulty of the recovery of those who fall in­to this Sin.

1st, That the Sin here mention'd is not the Sin against the Holy Ghost, which I have heretofore discoursed of, and shewn wherein the particular Na­ture of it does consist. There are three [Page 169] things which do remarkably distin­guish the Sin here spoken of in the Text, from the Sin against the Holy Ghost described by our Saviour.

1st, The Persons that are guilty of this Sin here in the Text, are evidently such as had embraced Christianity, and had taken upon them the Pro­fession of it: whereas those whom our Saviour chargeth with the Sin against the Holy Ghost, are such as constantly opposed his Doctrine, and resisted the Evidence he offer'd for it.

2dly, The particular nature of the Sin against the Holy Ghost consisted in blaspheming the Spirit whereby our Saviour wrought his Miracles, and saying he did not do those things by the Spirit of God, but by the assistance of the Devil; in that malicious and unreasonable imputing of the plain Effects of the Holy Ghost to the Power of the Devil, and consequently in an obstinate refusal to be convinced by the Miracles that he wrought: but here is nothing of all this so much as intimated by the Apostle in this place.

3dly, The Sin against the Holy Ghost is declared to be absolutely unpardon­able, both in this World, and in that [Page 170] which is to come: but this is not declared to be absolutely unpardonable; which brings me to the

2d, Thing, namely, That this Sin here spoken of by the Apostle, is not said to be absolutely unpardonable. It is not the Sin against the Holy Ghost; and whatever else it be, it is not out of the compass of God's Pardon and Forgiveness. So our Saviour hath told us, that all manner of Sin whatsoever that men have committed is capable of pardon, excepting only the Sin against the Holy Ghost. And though the Apostle here uses a very severe Expression, that if such persons fall away, it is impossible to renew them again to Repentance; yet I have shewn that there is no necessity of understanding this Phrase in the strictest sense of the word impossible; but as it is elsewhere used, for that which is extreamly difficult. Nor in­deed will our Saviour's Declaration, which I mention'd before, that all Sins whatsoever are pardonable, except the Sin against the Holy Ghost, suffer us to understand these words in the most ri­gorous Sense.

3dly, The Sin here spoken of, is not a partial Apostacy from the Christian [Page 171] Religion by any particular vicious Pra­ctice. Whosoever lives in the habitual practice of any Sin plainly forbidden by the Christian Law, may be said so far to have apostatized from Chri­stianity: but this is not the falling a­way which the Apostle here speaks of. This may be bad enough, and the great­er Sins any Man who professeth him­self a Christian lives in, the more no­toriously he contradicts his Profession, and falls off from Christianity, and the nearer he approacheth to the Sin in the Text, and the danger there threatned: but yet for all that, this is not that which the Apostle speaks of.

4thly, But it is a total Apostacy from the Christian Religion, more especi­ally to the Heathen Idolatry, the re­nouncing of the true God, and our Saviour, and the Worship of false Gods, which the Apostle here speaks of. And this will be evident, if we consider the occasion and main scope of this Epistle. And that was to con­firm the Jews, who had newly embra­ced Christianity, in the profession of that Religion; and to keep them from apostatizing from it, because of the Persecutions and Sufferings which at­tended [Page 172] that Profession. It pleased God, when Christianity first appeared in the World, to permit the Powers of the World to raise a vehement Persecution against the Professors of it, by reason whereof many out of base fear did a­postatize from it, and in testimony of their renouncing it, were forced to Sacrifice to the Heathen Idols. This is that which the Apostle endeavours to caution and arm Men against through­out this Epistle. Ch. 2. 1. Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should fall away: And, Chap. 3. 12. it is call'd an evil heart of Ʋnbelief to apostatize from the living God. Take heed, Brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of Ʋnbelief, to depart from the living God; that is, to fall from the Worship of the true God to Idolatry. And, Chap. 10. 23. Let us hold fast the Profession of our Faith with­out wavering, not forsaking the assembling of our selves together; that is, not de­clining the Assemblies of Christians, for fear of Persecution; and, v. 26. it is call'd a sinning wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the Truth; and, v. 39. a drawing back to Perdition. [Page 173] And, Ch. 12. it is call'd by way of E­minency, the Sin which so easily besets; the Sin, which in those times of Per­secution, they were so liable to.

And I doubt not, but this is the Sin which St. John speaks of, and calls the Sin unto Death, and does not require Christians to pray for those who fall into it, with any assurance that it shall be forgiven; 1 John 5. 16. There is a Sin unto Death; I do not say that he shall pray for it. All Ʋnrighteousness is Sin, and there is a Sin not unto Death. We know that whosoever is born of God, sin­neth not; that is, does not fall into the Sin of Apostacy from Christianity to that of the Heathen Idolatry: But he that is begotten of God, keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And then, v. 21. he adds this Caution, Little Chrildren keep your selves from Idols. Which sufficiently shews, what that Sin was which he was speaking of before.

So that this being the Sin which the Apostle design'd to caution Men a­gainst throughout this Epistle, it is very evident what falling away it is he here speaks of, namely, a total A­postacy from Christianity, and more especially to the Heathen Idolatry.

5thly, We will consider the Rea­son of the difficulty of Recovering such Persons by Repentance. If they fall away, it is extremely difficult to re­new them again to Repentance; and that for these three Reasons.

1. Because of the greatness and heinousness of the Sin.

2. Because it renounceth, and casteth off the means of Recovery.

3. Because it is so high a Provoca­tion of God to withdraw his Grace from such Persons.

1. Because of the greatness and heinousness of the Sin, both in the Nature and Circumstances of it. It is a downright Apostacy from God, a direct renouncing of him, and reje­cting of his Truth, after Men have owned it, and been inwardly perswaded and convinced of it; and so the Apostle expresseth it in this Epistle, calling it an Apostacy from the living God, a sinning wilfully after we have received the know­ledge of the Truth. It hath all the Ag­gravations that a Crime is capable of, being against the clearest Light and Knowledge, and the fullest Convicti­on of a Man's Mind, concerning the Truth and Goodness of that Religion which he renounceth; against the [Page 175] greatest Obligations laid upon him by the Grace and Mercy of the Gospel; after the free Pardon of Sins, and the Grace and Assistance of God's Spirit received, and a miraculous Power con­ferr'd, for a Witness and Testimony to themselves, of the undoubted Truth of that Religion which they have em­braced. It is the highest Affront to the Son of God, who revealed this Religion to the World, and sealed it with his Blood; and, in effect, an ex­pression of as high Malice to the Au­thor of this Religion, as the Jews were guilty of, when they put him to so cruel and shameful a Death.

Now a Sin of this heinous Nature is apt naturally either to plunge Men into hardness and impenitency, or to drive them to despair; and either of these Conditions are effectual Barrs to their Recovery. And both these Dangers the Apostle warns Men of in this Epistle. Ch. 3. 12, 13. Take heed, Brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil Heart of Ʋnbelief, to apostatize from the living God: but exhort one a­nother daily, whilst it is call'd to day, lest any of you be hardned through the deceitfulness of Sin. Or else the Refle­ction [Page 176] upon so horrid a Crime is apt to drive a Man to Despair; as it did Ju­das, who, after he had betray'd the Son of God, could find no ease but by ma­king away himself; the guilt of so great a Sin fill'd him with such Ter­rors, that he was glad to flye to Death for Refuge, and to lay violent hands upon himself. And this likewise was the Case of Spira, whose Apostacy, though it was not total from the Chri­stian Religion, but only from the Pu­rity and Reformation of it, brought him to that desperation of Mind which was a kind of Hell upon Earth. And of this danger likewise the Apostle ad­monisheth, Ch. 12. 15. Looking dili­gently, lest any man fail of the Grace of God (or as it is in the Margine, lest any Man fall from the Grace of God) lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you; and then he compares the Case of such Persons to Esau, who, when he had renounced his Birth­right, to which the Blessing was an­nex'd, was afterwards, when he would have inherited the Blessing, re­jected, and found no place of Repen­tance, though he sought it carefully with Tears.

2dly, Those who are guilty of this Sin, do renounce and cast off the means of their Recovery; and therefore it becomes extreamly difficult to renew them again to Repentance. They reject the Gospel, which affords the best Ar­guments and Means to Repentance, and renounce the only way of Pardon and Forgiveness. And certainly that Man is in a very sad and desperate Condition, the very nature of whose Disease is to reject the Remedy that should cure him. And this, the Apostle tells us, was the Condition of those who apostatized from the Gospel, Chap. 10. 26, 27. For if we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more Sa­crifice for Sin; but a certain fearful look­ing for of Judgment, and fiery Indignation, which shall devour the Adversary. The great Sacrifice and Propitiation for Sin was the Son of God; and they who renounce him, what way of Expia­tion can they hope for afterward? what can they expect, but to fall into his Hands as a Judge, whom they have rejected as a Sacrifice and a Sa­viour? And then,

3dly. Those who are guilty of this [Page 178] Sin, provoke God in the highest man­ner to withdraw his Grace and Holy Spirit from them, by the Power and Efficacy whereof they should be brought to Repentance; so that it can hardly otherwise be expected, but that God should leave those to themselves, who have so unworthily forsaken him; and wholly withdraw his Grace and Spirit from such Persons, as have so noto­riously offer'd despite to the Spirit of Grace.

I do not say that God always does this, he is sometimes better to such Persons than they have deserved from him, and saves those who have done what they can to undo themselves, and mercifully puts forth his Hand to recover them who were draw­ing back to Perdition; especially if they were suddenly surprized by the violence of Temptation, and yielded to it, not deliberately and out of choice, but merely through weakness and in­firmity, and so soon as they reflected upon themselves, did return and repent: This was the case of St. Peter, who be­ing surprized with a sudden fear denied Christ; but being admonish'd of his Sin by the signal which our Saviour had given him, he was recovered by a speedy and hearty Repentance. And [Page 179] so likewise several of the Primitive Christians, who were at first overcome by fear to renounce their Religion, did afterwards recover themselves, and died resolute Martyrs: but it is a very dangerous State, out of which but few recover, and with great difficulty.

And thus I have done with the five things I propounded to make out, for the clearing of this Text from the mistakes and misapprehensions which have been about it. I shall now draw some useful Inferences from hence by way of Application, that we may see how far this doth concern our selves; and they shall be these.

1st. From the Supposition here in the Text, that such Persons as are there described (namely, those who have been baptized, and by Baptism have received remission of Sins, and did firmly believe the Gospel, and the Pro­mises of it, and were endowed with mi­raculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost,) that these may fall away; this should cauti­on us all against Confidence and Secu­rity; when those that have gone thus far may fall, let him that standeth take heed.

Some are of opinion, that those whom the Apostle here describes are [Page 180] true and sincere Christians, and that when he says, it is impossible if they fall away, to renew them again to Repentance, he means that they can­not fall away totally, so as to stand in need of being renewed again to Re­pentance: But this is directly contrary to the Apostle's design, which was to caution Christians against Apostacy; because if they did fall away, their recovery would be so exceeding diffi­cult; which Argument does plainly suppose that they might fall away.

On the other hand, there are others who think the Persons, here described by the Apostle, to be Hypocritical Chri­stians, who for some base ends had en­tertained Christianity, and put on the Profession of it, but not being sincere and in good earnest, would forsake it when Persecution came. But besides that this is contrary to the description which the Apostle makes of these Per­sons, who are said to have tasted of the Heavenly Gift, and to have been made par­takers of the Holy Ghost; by which if we understand Justification and Remission of Sins, and the Sanctifying Virtue of the Holy Ghost, which in all proba­bility is the meaning of these Phrases, [Page 181] these are Blessings which did not be­long to Hypocrites, and which God does not bestow upon them; I say, be­sides this, there is no reason to ima­gine that the Apostle intended such Persons, when it is likely that there were very few Hypocrites in those times of Persecution; for what should tempt Men to dissemble Christianity, when it was so dangerous a Profession? or what Worldly Ends could Men have in taking that Profession upon them, which was so directly contrary to their Worldly Interests?

So that upon the whole matter, I doubt not but the Apostle here means those who are real in the Profession of Christianity, and that such might fall away. For we may easily imagine, that Men might be convinced of the Truth and Goodness of the Christian Doctrine, and in good earnest embrace the Pro­fession of it, and yet not be so perfect­ly weaned from the World, and so firm­ly rooted and established in that Per­swasion, as when it came to the Tryal to be able to quit all for it, and to bear up against all the Terrors and Assaults of Persecution; so that they might be real Christians, and no Hypocrites, [Page 182] though they were not so perfectly established and confirmed, and so sin­cerely resolved as many others. They were not like St. Paul, and those tryed Persons whom he speaks of, Rom. 8. 35, 37. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or di­stress, or persecution, or famine, or na­kedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than Conquerours. (They had been try'd by all these, and yet had held out) upon which he breaks out into those triumphant Expressi­ons; I am perswaded, that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. They might not (I say) be like those: and yet for all that be real in their Profession of Christia­nity, and no Hypocrites.

In short, I take them to be such as our Saviour describes him to be, who received the seed into stony places, namely, he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receceiveth it: yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of [Page 183] the word, by and by he is offended. This is no description of a Hypocrite; but of one that was real, as far as he went, (for he is said to receive the word with joy) but was not well rooted, and come to such a confirmed State, as resolute­ly to withstand the assaults of Persecu­tion.

So that tho' we have truly embraced Christianity, and are in a good degree sincere in the Profession of it, yet there is great Reason why we should neither be secure nor confident in our selves. Not secure, because there is great danger that our Resolution may be born down one time or other by the Assaults of Temptation, if we be not continually vigilant, and upon our Guard. Not confident in our selves; because we stand by Faith, and Faith is the gift of God; therefore as the Apostle infers, we should not be high minded, but fear. Men may have gone a great way in Christianity, and have been sincere in the Profession of it; and yet afterwards may aposta­tize in the foulest manner, not only fall off to a vicious Life, but even de­sert the Profession of their Religion. I would to God the Experience of the World did not give us too much Rea­son [Page 184] to believe the Possibility of this. When we see so many revolt from the Profession of the reformed Religion, to the Corruptions and Superstitions of Rome; And others from a religious and sober Life, to plunge themselves into all kind of Lewdness and Debauchery, and it is to be feared, into Atheism and Infidelity; Can we doubt any longer whether it be possible for Christians to fall away? I wish we were as certain of the possibility of their Recovery, as we are of their Falling, and that we had as many Examples of the one as of the other.

Let us then be very vigilant over our selves, and according to the Apo­stle's Exhortation, 2 Pet. 3. 17. See­ing we know these things before, beware, lest we also being led away with the Error of the wicked, fall from our own stedfast­ness.

2dly, This shews us how great an Ag­gravation it is, for Men to Sin against the Means of Knowledge which the Gospel affords, and the Mercies which it offers unto them. That which ag­gravated the Sin of these Persons was, that after they were once enlightned, that is, at their Baptism were instructed in [Page 185] the Christian Doctrine, the clearest and most perfect Revelation that ever was made of God's Will to Mankind, that after they were justified freely by God's Grace, and had received Remissi­on of Sins, and had many other Bene­fits conferred upon them; that after all this, they should fall off from this Holy Religion. This was that which did so heighten and enflame their Guilt, and made their Case so near desperate. The two great aggravati­ons of Crimes are Wilfulness and In­gratitude; if a Crime be wilfully com­mitted, and committed against one that hath obliged us by the greatest Fa­vours and Benefits. Now he commits a fault wilfully, who does it against the clear knowledge of his Duty. Ig­norance excuseth; for so far as a Man is ignorant of the Evil he does, so far the Action is involuntary: but know­ledge makes it to be a wilful Fault. And this is a more peculiar Aggravati­on of the Sins of Christians, because God hath afforded them the greatest means and opportunities of Knowledge; that Revelation which God hath made of his Will to the World by our Blessed Saviour, is the clearest Light that ever [Page 186] Mankind had, and the mercies which the Gospel brings are the greatest that ever were offer'd to the Sons of Men; the free Pardon and Remission of all our Sins, and the assistance of God's Grace and Holy Spirit, to help the weakness of our Nature, and enable us to do what God requires of us. So that we who sin after Baptism, af­ter the knowledge of Christianity, and those great Blessings which the Gospel bestows on Mankind, are of all Persons in the World the most inex­cusable. The Sins of Heathens bear no proportion to ours, because they never enjoyed those means of Know­ledge, never had those Blessings con­ferred upon them, which Christians are Partakers of; so that we may ap­ply to our selves those severe words of the Apostle in this Epistle, How shall we escape, if we neglect so great Salvation? Hear how our Saviour aggravates the Faults of Men upon this account, of the wilfulness of them, and their be­ing committed against the express Knowledge of God's Will; Luke 12. 47, 48. The Servant which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, nei­ther did according to his will, shall be beat­en [Page 187] with many stripes; for unto whomsoe­ver much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom Men have commit­ted much, of him they will ask the more. The Means and Mercies of the Gospel are so many Talents committed to our Trust, of the neglect whereof a severe Account will be taken at the Day of Judgment. If we be wilful Offenders, there is no Excuse for us, and little hopes of Pardon. If we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, (says the Apostle in this Epistle) there remains no more sacrifice for sin. I know the Apostle speaks this particularly of the Sin of Apostacy from Christianity; but it is in proportion true of all o­ther Sins, which those who have re­ceived the Knowledge of the Truth are guilty of. They, who after they have entertained Christianity, and made some progress in it, and been in some measure reformed by it, do again relapse into any vicious course, do thereby render their Condition very dangerous. So St. Peter tells us, 2 Pet. 2. 20, 21. If after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the know­ledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, [Page 188] and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them, not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy Commandment delivered unto them. Therefore we may do well to consider seriously what we do, when, under the Means and Opportunities of Knowledge which the Gospel affords us, and the inesti­mable Blessings and Favours which it confers upon us, we live in any wick­ed and vicious course. Our Sins are not of a common rate, when they have so much of Wilfulness and Un­worthiness in them. If Men shall be severely punish'd for living against the Light of Nature; what vengeance shall be poured on those who offend against the Glorious Light of the Gospel? This is the Condemnation, that Light is come, &c.

3dly, The Consideration of what hath been said is Matter of Comfort to those, who upon every Failing and Infirmity are afraid they have commit­ted the unpardonable Sin, and that it is im­possible for them to be restor'd by Re­pentance. There are many who being of a dark and melancholy Temper, [Page 189] are apt to represent things worse to themselves than there is reason for, and do many times fancy themselves guilty of great Crimes, in the doing or neglecting of those things which in their nature are indifferent, and are apt to aggravate and blow up every little Infirmity into an unpardonable Sin. Most Men are apt to extenuate their Sins, and not to be sensible e­nough of the Evil and Heinousness of them; but it is the peculiar Infelicity of Melancholy Persons, to look upon their Faults as blacker and greater, than in truth they are; and what­soever they hear and read in Scripture, that is spoken against the grossest and most enormous Offenders, they apply to themselves; and when they hear of the Sin against the Holy Ghost, and the Sin unto Death, or read this Text which I am now treating of, they pre­sently conclude that they are guilty of these Sins, and that this is a description of their Case. Whereas the Sin against the holy Ghost is of that nature, that probably none but those that saw our Saviour's Miracles are capable of committing it; and excepting that, there is no Sin whatsoever that is un­pardonable. [Page 190] As for the Sin unto Death, and that here spoken of in the Text, I have shewn that they are a total A­postacy from the Christian Religion, more especially to the Heathen Idola­try; which these Persons I am speak­ing of, have no reason to imagine them­selves guilty of. And though great and notorious Crimes committed by Chri­stians, may come near to this, and it may be very hard for those who are guilty of them, to recover themselves again to Repentance; yet to be sure, for the common Frailties and Infirmi­ties of Human Nature, there is an o­pen way of Pardon in the Gospel, and they are many times forgiven to us upon a General Repentance; so that upon account of these, which is commonly the case of the Persons I am speaking of, there is not the least ground of Despair; and though it be hard many times for such Persons to receive Comfort, yet it is easie to give it, and that upon sure Grounds, and as clear Evidence of Scripture, as there is for any thing; so that the first thing that such Persons, who are so apt to judge thus hardly of them­selves, are to be convinced of (if pos­sible) [Page 191] is this, that they ought rather to trust the Judgment of others con­cerning themselves, than their own I­magination, which is so distemper'd, that it cannot make a true Representa­tion of things. I know that where Me­lancholy does mightily prevail, it is hard to perswade People of this: but 'till they be perswaded of it, I am sure all the Reason in the World will signi­fie nothing to them.

4thly, This should make Men afraid of great and presumptuous Sins, which come near Apostacy from Christianity; such as deliberate Murder, Adultery, gross Fraud and Oppression, or noto­rious and habitual Intemperance. For what great difference is there, whe­ther Men renounce Christianity; or professing to believe it, do in their Works deny it? Some of these Sins which I have mention'd, particularly Murder and Adultery, were ranked in the same degree with Apostacy, by the Anci­ent Church; and so severe was the Discipline of many Churches, that Persons guilty of these Crimes, were never admitted to the Peace and Com­munion of the Church again, whate­ver Testimony they gave of their Re­pentance. [Page 192] I will not say but this was too rigorous; but this shews how inconsistent with Christianity these Crimes, and others of the like degree of heinousness, were in those days thought to be. They did not indeed, as Tertullian tells us, think such Per­sons absolutely incapable of the Mercy of God; but after such a Fall, so no­torious a Contradiction to their Chri­stian Profession, they thought it unfit afterwards that they should ever be reckon'd in the number of Christians.

5thly, It may be useful for us upon this Occasion to reflect a little upon the an­cient Discipline of the Church, which in some places (as I have told you) was so severe, as in case of some great Crimes after Baptism, as Apostacy to the Heathen Idolatry, Murder, and Adultery, never to admit those that were guilty of them, to the Peace and Communion of the Church; but in all Churches was so strict, as not to admit those who fell after Baptism into great and notorious Crimes, to Reconcilia­tion with the Church, but after a long and tedious course of Penance, after the greatest and most publick Testimo­nies of Sorrow and Repentance, after [Page 193] long Fasting and Tears, and the great­est signs of Humiliation that can be imagined. In case of the greatest Of­fences they were seldom reconciled, till they came to lye upon their Death­beds: And in case of other scandalous Sins, not 'till after the Humiliation of many Years. This perhaps may be thought too great Severity; but I am sure we are as much too remiss now, as they were over rigorous then: but were the Ancient Discipline of the Church in any degree put in practice now, what case would the generality of Christians be in? In what Herds and Shoals would Men be driven out of the Communion of the Church? 'Tis true, the prodigious Degeneracy and Corruption of Christians hath long since broke these Bounds, and 'tis morally impossible to revive the strictness of the ancient Discipline in any measure, till the World grow bet­ter: but yet we ought to reflect, with shame and confusion of Face, upon the purer Ages of the Church, and sadly to consider, how few among us would in those Days have been accounted Christians; and upon this Considera­tion to be provoked to an Emulation [Page 194] of those Better Times, and to a Re­formation of those Faults and Miscar­riages, which in the best days of Chri­stianity were reckon'd inconsistent with the Christian Profession; and to remember, that though the Discipline of the Church be not now the same it was then, yet the Judgment and Se­verity of God is; and that those who live in any vicious course of Life, though they continue in the Commu­nion of the Church, yet they shall be shut out of the Kingdom of God. We are sure that the Judgment of God will be according to Truth, against them which commit such things.

6thly, and lastly, The Consideration of what hath been said, should confirm and establish us in the Profession of our Holy Religion. 'Tis true, we are not now in danger of apostatizing from Christianity to the Heathen Idolatry; but we have too many sad Examples of those who apostatize from the Profes­sion of the Gospel, which they have taken upon them in Baptism, to A­theism and Infidelity, to all manner of Impiety and Lewdness. There are many who daily fall off from the Pro­fession of the Reformed Religion, to the [Page 195] gross Errors and Superstitions of the Roman Church, which in many things does too nearly resemble the old Pa­gan Idolatry. And what the Apostle here says of the Apostates of his time, is proportionably true of those of our days, that they who thus fall away, it is extreamly difficult to renew them again to Repentance. And it ought to be remem­bred, that the guilt of this kind of A­postacy hath driven some to Despair; as in the Case of Spira, who, for resist­ing the Light and Convictions of his Mind, was cast into those Agonies, and fill'd with such Terrors, as if the very pains of Hell had taken hold of him; and in that fearful Despair, and in the midst of those Horrors, he breathed out his Soul.

Let us then hold fast the Profession of our Faith without wavering; and let us take heed how we contradict the Pro­fession of our Faith, by any Impiety and Wickedness in our Lives; remem­bring, that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. I will con­clude with the words of the Apostle im­mediately after the Text, The earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them [Page 196] by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God. But that which beareth thorns and briars, is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned. And how gladly would I add the next words! But, beloved, we are perswaded better things of you, and things that ac­company salvation, though we thus speak.

SERMON VI. Christ the Author: and Obedience the Condition of Salvation.

HEB. V. 9.‘And being made perfect, he became the Au­thor of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.’

THIS is spoken of Christ, our great High Priest under the Gospel; upon the Excellency of whose Person, and the Efficacy of his Sacrifice for the Eternal Benefit and Salvation of Mankind, the Apostle insists so largely in this, and the follow­ing Chapters; but the Summ of all is briefly comprehended in the Text, that our High Priest being made perfect, became the Author of eternal salvation to them that obey him.

In which words we have these four things considerable,

1st, The great Blessing and Benefit here spoken of, and that is Eternal Sal­vation; and this implies in it, not only our Deliverance from Hell, and Re­demption from Eternal Misery; but the obtaining of Eternal Life and Happi­ness for us.

2dly, The Author of this great Bles­sing and Benefit to Mankind; and that is Jesus Christ, the Son of God; who is here represented to us under the notion of our High Priest, who, by making Atonement for us, and reconciling us to God, is said to be the Author of Eternal Salvation to Mankind.

3dly, The Way and Means whereby he became the Author of our Salvation; being made perfect, he became the Author of Eternal Salvation. The word is [...], having consummated his work, and finish'd his Course, and receiv'd the Reward of it. For this word hath an al­lusion to those that run in a Race, where he that wins receives the Crown. And to this the Apostle plainly alludes, Phil. 3. 12. where he says, not as though I had already attained, [...], not as if I had already taken hold of the Prize; [Page 199] but I am pressing, or reaching forward towards it; [...], or were al­ready perfect; that is, not as if I had finish'd my Course, or had the Prize or Crown in my hand; but I am pressing forward towards it. In like manner, our blessed Saviour, when he had finish'd the Course of his Humiliation and Obe­dience, which was accomplish'd in his Sufferings, and had receiv'd the Reward of them, being risen from the Dead, and exalted to the Right Hand of God, and crown'd with Glory and Honour, he is said to be [...] made perfect; and therefore when he was giving up the Ghost upon the Cross, he said, John 19. 30. [...], it is finish'd, or per­fected; that is, he had done all that was necessary to be done, by way of suffer­ing, for our Redemption. And the same word is likewise used Luke 13. 32. concerning our Saviour's Suffer­ings, I do cures to day and to morrow, [...], and the third day I shall be perfected; this he spake concerning his own death. And therefore, Chap. 2. 10. God is said to make the Captain of our Sal­vation perfect through Sufferings; [...]. And thus our High Priest being made perfect in this Sense, [Page 200] that is, having finish'd his Course, which was accomplished in his Sufferings, and having received the Reward of them, in being exalted at the Right Hand of God, he became the Author of Eternal Sal­vation to us.

4thly, You have here the qualification of the Persons, who are made Partakers of this great Benefit, or the Condition upon which it is suspended, and that is Obedience. He became the Author of eternal Salvation to them that obey him.

These are the main things contained in the Text. For the fuller Explication whereof, I shall take into considerati­on these five things.

1st. How, and by what means Christ is the Author of our Salvation.

2dly, What Obedience the Gospel re­quires as a Condition, and is pleased to accept as a Qualification, in those who hope for eternal Salvation.

3dly, We will consider the possibility of performing this Condition, by that Grace and Assistance which is offer'd, and ready to be afforded to us by the Gospel.

4thly, The necessity of this Obedience, in order to Eternal Life and Happiness.

And 5thly, I shall shew that this is no [Page 201] prejudice to the Law of Faith, and the free Grace and Mercy of God, declared in the Gospel.

1st, We will consider how, and by what means Christ is the Author of our Salvation; and this is contain'd in these words, Being made perfect, he became the Author of Eternal Salvation, that is (as I told you before) having finish'd his Course, which was accomplish'd in his last Sufferings; and having received the Reward of them, being exalted at the right hand of God, he became the Au­thor of eternal Salvation to us; so that by all that he did, and suffer'd for us, in the days of his Flesh, and in the state of his Humiliation, and by all that he still continues to do for us, now that he is in Heaven at the right hand of God; he hath effected and brought a­bout the great Work of our Salvation. His Doctrine and his Life, his Death and Sufferings, his Resurrection from the Dead, and his powerful Intercession for us at the Right Hand of God, have all a great influence upon the reforming and saving of Mankind; and by all these Ways and Means, he is the Author and Cause of our Salvation; as a Rule, and as a Pattern, as a Price and Propi­tiation, [Page 202] and as a Patron and Advocate that is continually pleading our Cause, and interceding with God on our be­half, for mercy and grace to help in time of need.

And indeed our condition requir'd an High Priest who was qualified in all these respects, for the recovery of Man­kind out of that corrupt and degenerate state into which it was sunk; an High Priest whose lips should preserve knowledge, and from whose mouth we might learn the Law of God; whose life should be a perfect Pattern of Holiness to us, and his Death a propitiation for the sins of the whole World; and by whose Grace and Assistance, we should be endowed with Power and Strength to mortifie our Lusts, and to perfect Holiness in the Fear of God; and therefore such an High Priest became us, who was holy, harm­less, undefiled, and separate from Sinners, who might have compassion on the ignorant, and them that are out of the way, and be­ing himself compast with infirmities, might have the feeling of ours, being in all points tempted as we are, only without sin; and, in a word, might be able to save to the utmost all those that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us.

By these Qualifications our High Priest is described in this Epistle; and by these he is every way suited to all our Defects and Infirmities, all our Wants and Necessities; to instruct our Ignorance by his Doctrine, and to lead us in the Path of Righteousness by his most Holy and most Exemplary Life; to expiate the guilt of our Sins by his Death; and to procure Grace and Assi­stance for us, by his prevalent Intercessi­on on our behalf. By all these ways, and in all these respects, he is said to be the Author of Eternal Salvation.

1st, By the Holiness and Purity of his Doctrine, whereby we are perfectly in­structed in the Will of God and our Duty, and powerfully excited and per­swaded to the Practice of it. The Rules and Directions of a holy Life were very obscure before, and the Mo­tives and Encouragements to Virtue but weak and ineffectual, in comparison of what they are now render'd by the Revelation of the Gospel. The general corruption of Mankind, and the vici­ous Practice of the World, had in a great measure blurr'd and defac'd the Natural Law; so that the Heathen World, for many Ages, had but a very [Page 204] dark and doubtful knowledge of their Duty, especially as to several instances of it. The Custom of several Vices had so prevail'd among Mankind, as almost quite to extinguish the natural Sense of their Evil and Deformity. And the Jews, who enjoy'd a considerable degree of Divine Revelation, had no strict regard to the Morality of their Actions; and contenting themselves with some kind of outward Conformity to the bare Let­ter of the Ten Commandments, were al­most wholly taken up with little Cere­monies and Observances, in which they placed the main of their Religion, al­most wholly neglecting the greater Du­ties and weightier matters of the Law.

And therefore our Blessed Saviour, to free Mankind from these wandrings and uncertainties about the Will of God, revealed the Moral Law, and explained the full force and meaning of it, clear­ing all doubts, and supplying all the de­fects of it, by a more particular and ex­plicite Declaration of the several parts of our Duty, and by Precepts of great­er Perfection, than the World was suf­ficiently acquainted withal before; of greater Humility and more Universal Charity; of abstaining from Revenge, [Page 205] and forgiving Injuries, and returning to our Enemies Good for Evil, and Love for ill-will, and Blessings and Prayers for Curses and Persecutions. These Virtues indeed were sometimes, and yet but very rarely, recommended before in the Counsels of wise Men; but either not in that degree of Perfection, or not under that degree of Necessity, and as having the force of Laws, and laying an universal obligation of in­dispensable Duty upon all Mankind.

And as our blessed Saviour hath given a greater clearness, and Certainty, and Perfection, to the rule of our Duty, so he hath reveal'd, and brought into a clear­er Light, more powerful Motives and Encouragements to the constant and careful Practice of it; for Life and Im­mortality are brought to light by the Gospel; the Resurrection of Christ from the Dead being a plain and convincing De­monstration, of the Immortality of our Souls, and another Life after this, and an Evidence to us both of his Power, and of the fidelity of his promise, to raise us from the Dead. Not but that Mankind had some obscure Apprehensi­ons of these things before. Good Men had always good hopes of another Life, [Page 206] and future Rewards in another World; and the worst of Men were not without some fears of the Judgment and Venge­ance of another World: but Men had disputed themselves into great doubts and uncertainties about these things; and as Men that are in doubt, are al­most indifferent which way they go; so the uncertain apprehensions which Men had of a future State, and of the Rewards and Punishments of another World, had but a very faint influence upon the minds of Men, and wanted that pressing and determining force to Virtue and a good Life, which a firm Belief and clear Conviction of these things, would have infused into them.

But now the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ hath scatter'd all these Clouds, and chased away that gross Darkness which hid the other World from our sight, and hath removed all doubts concerning the Immortality of Mens Souls, and their future State; and now the Kingdom of Heaven, with all its Treasures of Life, and Happiness, and Glory, lies open to our view, and Hell is also naked before us, and Destruction hath no covering. So that the hopes and fears of Men are now perfectly awakened, and all sorts of [Page 207] Considerations that may serve to quick­en and encourage our Obedience, and to deter and affright Men from a wicked Life, are exposed to the view of all Men, and do stare every Man's Conscience in the face. And this is that which renders the Gospel so admirable and powerful an Instrument for the reforming of Man­kind, and, as the Apostle calls it, the mighty power of God unto Salvation; because there­in Life and Immortality are set before us, as the certain and glorious Reward of our Obedience; and therein also the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven, a­gainst all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. So that considering the perfection of our Rule, and the powerful enforce­ments of it upon the Consciences of Men, by the clear discovery and firm assu­rance of the Eternal Recompence of a­nother World; nothing can be imagi­ned better suited to its end, than the Do­ctrine of the Gospel is to make Men wise, and holy, and good, unto Salvati­on; both by instructing them perfectly in their Duty, and urging them power­fully to the practice of it.

2dly, The Example of our Saviour's life is likewise another excellent Means to this End. The Law lays an Obligation [Page 208] upon us; but a pattern gives life and encouragement, and renders our Duty more easie, and practicable, and familiar to us; for here we see obedience to the Divine Law practised in our own Na­ture, and performed by a Man like our selves, in all things like unto us, Sin only excepted. 'Tis true indeed, this excep­tion makes a great difference, and seems to take off very much from the encoura­ging Force and Virtue of this Example. No wonder if he that was without Sin, and was God as well as Man, perform­ed all Righteousness; and therefore, where is the encouragement of this ex­ample? That our Nature, pure and un­corrupted, supported and assisted by the Divinity to which it was united, should be perfectly conformed to the Law of God, as it is no strange thing, so nei­ther doth it seem to have that force and encouragement in it, which an Example more suited to our weakness might have had. But then this cannot be de­ny'd, that it hath the advantage of per­fection, which a Pattern ought to have, and to which, though we can never at­tain, yet we may always be aspiring to­wards it; and certainly we cannot bet­ter learn, how God would have Men [Page 209] to live, than by seeing how God him­self lived, when he was pleased to assume our Nature, and to become Man.

And then, we are to consider, that the Son of God did not assume our Nature in its highest Glory and Perfection, but compast with Infirmities, and liable in all points to be tempted like as we are; but still it was without Sin; and there­fore God doth not exact from us perfect Obedience, and that we should fulfil all Righteousness, as he did; he makes al­lowance for the corruption of our Na­ture, and is pleased to accept of our sin­cere, though very imperfect Obedience. But after all this, his human Nature was united to the Divinity, and he had the Spirit without measure; and this would indeed make a wide difference between us and our Pattern, as to the purpose of Holiness and Obedience, if we were destitute of that assistance which is ne­cessary to enable us to the discharge of our Duty: But this God offers, and is ready to afford to us, for he hath pro­mised to give his holy Spirit to them that ask him; and the Spirit of him that raised up Christ Jesus from the Dead, dwells in all good men, who sincerely desire to do the Will of God; in the working out our [Page 210] Salvation, God worketh in us both to will and to do.

So that as to that Obedience which the Gospel requires of us, if we be not wanting to our selves; if we do not re­ceive the Grace of God in vain, and quench and resist his blessed Spirit, we may be as really assisted as the Son of God himself was; for, in this respect, all true and sincere Christians are the Sons of God; so that St. Paul tells us, Rom. 8. 14. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God.

So that if all things be duly consider'd, the Life of our blessed Saviour, as it is the most perfect, so in the main, it is a very proper Pattern for our imitation, and could not have come nearer to us, without wanting that perfection which is necessary to a compleat and absolute Pattern. The Son of God conde­scended to every thing that might ren­der him the most familiar and equal Ex­ample to us, excepting that, which as it was impossible, so had been infinitely dishonourable to him, and would have spoil'd the perfection of his Example; he came as near to us as was fit or possi­ble, being in all things like unto us, Sin on­ly excepted; that is, abating that one [Page 211] thing, which he came to destroy and a­bolish, and which would have destroy­ed the very end of his coming; for if he had not been without Sin, he could neither have made an expiation for Sin, nor have been a perfect Pattern of Holi­ness and Obedience.

And as the Life of our blessed Savi­our had all the perfection that is requi­site to an absolute Pattern (so that by considering his Temper and Spirit, and the actions of his Life, we may reform all the vicious inclinations of our Minds, and the exorbitances of our Passions, and the errors and irregularities of our Lives) so it is a very powerful Example, and of great force to oblige and provoke us to the imitation of it; for it is the Example of one whom we ought to re­verence, and have reason to love, above any Person in the World: The Exam­ple of our Prince and Soveraign Lord, of our best Friend and greatest Benefa­ctor, of the High Priest of our Professi­on, and the Captain of our Salvation, of the Author and Finisher of our Faith, of one who came down from Heaven for our sakes, and was contented to as­sume our Nature, together with the in­firmities of it, and to live in a low and [Page 212] mean condition, for no other reason but that he might have the opportunity to instruct and lead Mankind in the way to Life, to deliver us from Sin and Wrath, and to bring us to God and Happiness. 'Tis the Example of one who laid down his Life for us, and seal­ed his Love to us in his Blood, and whilst we were Enemies, did and suf­fer'd more for us, than ever any Man did for his Friend.

And surely these Considerations can­not but mightily recommend and endear to us this Example of our Lord and Savi­our. We are ambitious to imitate those whom we highly esteem and reverence, and are apt to have their Examples in great veneration, from whom we have received great Kindnesses and Benefits, and are always endeavouring to be like those whom we love, and are apt to conform our selves to the Will and Plea­sure of those from whom we have re­ceived great Favours, and who are con­tinually heaping great Obligations up­on us.

So that whether we consider the Ex­cellency of our Pattern, or the mighty Endearments of it to us, by that infi­nite Love and Kindness which he hath [Page 213] exprest towards us, we have all the temptation, and all the provocation in the World, to endeavour to be like him; for who would not gladly tread in the steps of the Son of God, and of the best Friend that the Sons of Men ever had? Who would not follow that Example to which we stand indebted for the great­est Blessings and Benefits that ever were procured for Mankind? Thus you see of what force and advantage the Exam­ple of our blessed Saviour is toward the Recovery and Salvation of Mankind.

3dly, He is the Author of Eternal Sal­vation, as he hath purchased it for us, by the Merit of his Obedience and Suffer­ings, by which he hath obtained Eter­nal Redemption for us; not only delive­rance from the wrath to come, but E­ternal Life and Happiness, when by our Sins we had justly incurred the wrath and displeasure of Almighty God, and were liable to Eternal Death and Mise­ry. He was contented to be substituted a Sacrifice for us, to bear our Sins in his own Body on the Tree, and to expiate the guilt of all our Offences by his own Suf­ferings. He died for us, that is, not only for our Benefit and Advantage, but in our place and stead; so that if he had [Page 214] not died, we had eternally perrish'd; and because he died, we are saved from that eternal Ruine and Punishment, which was due to us for our Sins.

And this, tho' it be no where in Scri­pture call'd by the Name or Term of Satisfaction, yet, which is the same thing in effect, it is call'd the price of our Redemption; for as we are Sinners, we are liable and indebted to the Justice of God, and our Blessed Saviour by his Death and Sufferings hath discharged this Obligation; which Discharge, since it was obtained for us by the shedding of his precious Blood, without which, the Scripture expresly says, there had been no Remission of Sin, why it may not pro­perly enough be called Payment and Sa­tisfaction, I confess I cannot understand. Not that God was angry with his Son, for he was always well pleased with him; or that our Saviour suffer'd the ve­ry same which the Sinner should have done in his own Person, the proper Pains and Torments of the damned: but that his perfect Obedience and grievous Suf­ferings, undergone for our sakes, and upon our account, were of that Value and Esteem with God, and his volun­tary Sacrifice of himself in our stead, so [Page 215] highly acceptable and well pleasing to him, that he thereupon was pleased to enter into a Covenant of Grace and Mer­cy with Mankind; wherein he hath promised and engaged himself to forgive the Sins of all those who sincerely re­pent and believe, and to make them par­takers of Eternal Life. And hence it is, that the Blood of Christ, which was shed for us upon the Cross, is call'd the Blood of the Covenant; as being the Sanction of that new Covenant of the Gospel, into which God is entred with Mankind; and not only the Confirmation, but the very Foundation of it; for which rea­son, the Cup in the Lord's Supper, (which represents to us the Blood of Christ) is call'd the New Testament in his Blood, which was shed for many for the remission of Sins.

4thly, and lastly, Christ is said to be the Author of our Salvation, in respect of his powerful and perpetual Intercession for us at the right Hand of God. And this seems to be more especially intima­ted and intended, in that Expression here in the Text, that being made perfect, he be­came the Author of eternal Salvation to them that obey him. Which Words of his being perfected, do, as I have shew'd [Page 216] before, more immediately refer to his Sufferings, and the Reward that follow­ed them, his Exaltation at the right hand of God, where he lives for ever to make In­tercession for us; by which perpetual and most prevalent Intercession of his, he pro­cures all those Benefits to be bestowed upon us, which he purchased for us by his Death; the forgiveness of our Sins, and our Acceptance with God, and perfect Restitution to his Favour, upon our Faith and Repentance, and the Grace and Assistance of God's Holy Spirit to inable us to a sincere Discharge of our Duty, to strengthen us against all the Temptations of the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, to keep us from all Evil, and to preserve us to his Heavenly King­dom.

And this is that which our Apostle calls obtaining of Mercy, and finding Grace to help in time of need, ch. 4. v. 16. of this Epist. Our blessed Saviour, now that he is advanced into Heaven, and exalted on the right hand of the Majesty on high, doth out of the tenderest Affection and Compassion to Mankind, still prosecute that great and merciful Design of our Salvation, which was begun by him here on Earth, and in Virtue of his me­ritorious [Page 217] Obedience and Sufferings does offer up our Prayers to God, and as it were plead our Cause with God, and re­present to him all our Wants and Necessi­ties, and obtain a favourable Answer of our Petitions put up to God in his Name, and all necessary supplies of Grace and Strength, Proportionable to our Temp­tations and Infirmities.

And by Virtue of this powerful In­tercession of our blessed Saviour and Re­deemer, our Sins are pardoned upon our sincere Repentance, our Prayers are graciously answered, our Wants are a­bundantly supplyed, and the Grace and Assistance of God's Spirit are plentifully afforded to us, to excite us to our Duty, to strengthen us in well doing, to com­fort us in Afflictions, to support us un­der the greatest Tryals and Sufferings, and to keep us through Faith unto Salvation.

And for this reason, as the purchasing of our Salvation is in Scripture attribu­ted to the Death and Sufferings of Christ; so the perfecting and finishing of it is ascribed to the prevalency of his Inter­cession at the right Hand of God for us. So the Apostle tells us, ch. 7. v. 25. That he is able to save to the uttermost all those that come to God by him; seeing he ever [Page 218] liveth to make Intercession for us. He dyed once to purchase Salvation for us; and that we may not fall short of it, but receive the full Benefit of this Pur­chase, he lives for ever to make Intercessi­on for us; and thus he saves to the utter­most all those that come to God by him; that is, he takes care of the whole business of our Salvation from first to last. And now that he is in Heaven, he is as intent to pro­cure our Welfare and Happiness, and as tenderly concerned for us, as when he lived here among us upon Earth, as when he hung upon the Cross, and poured out his Soul an Offering for our Sins; for he appears at the right Hand of God in our Nature, that which he assumed for our sakes, which was made subject to, and sensible of our Infirmities, and which was tempted in all things like as we are, only without Sin; and therefore he knows how to pity and succour them that are tempted; and from the remembrance of his own Sufferings, is prompted to a compassionate Sense of ours, and never ceaseth in virtue of his Blood, which was shed for us, to plead our Cause with God, and to intercede powerfully on our behalf.

So that the Virtue and Efficacy of [Page 219] Christ's Intercession on our behalf, is founded in the Redemption, which he wrought for us, by his Blood and Suf­ferings; which, being entred into Hea­ven, he represents to God on our Behalf. As the high Priest under the Law did enter into the holy place, with the Blood of the Sacrifices that had been offered, and in virtue of that Blood, interceded for the People: So Christ by his own Blood entred into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal Redemption for us; as the Apostle speaks, ch. 9. v. 12. He entred into the Holy Place, that is into Heaven it self, to make Intercession for us, as the Apo­stle explains himself, v. 24. Christ is not entred into the holy places which are made with hands; but into Heaven it self, to ap­pear in the presence of God for us. And ch. 10. v. 12. speaking of Christ's appea­ring for us at the right Hand of God, this Man (says he) after he had offer'd one Sacrifice for Sin for ever (that is, a Sa­crifice of perpetual Virtue and Efficacy) sat down at the right Hand of God, that is to intercede for us in virtue of that Sa­crifice.

From all which it appears, that the Virtue of Christ's Mediation and Inter­cession for us in Heaven, is founded in [Page 220] his Sacrifice, and the price of our Re­demption which he paid on Earth, in shedding his Blood for us.

From whence the Apostle reasons, that there is but one Mediator between God and Men, by whom we are to address our Prayers to God; 1 Tim. 2. 5. There is one God, and one Mediator between God and Men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave him­self a Ransome for all. His Mediation is founded in his Ransome, or the Price which he paid for our Redemption. The Apostle indeed does not say there is but one Mediator between God and Man in express words, but surely he means so; if by saying there is one God, he means there is but one God; for they are joined together, and the very same Expression used concerning both; There is one God, and one Mediator between God and Men: that is, there is but one God, and one Me­diator. But then, they of the Church of Rome endeavour to avoid this plain Text, by distinguishing between a Medi­ator of Redemption, and a Mediator of Intercession: But now if Christ's Medi­ation, by way of Intercession, be founded in the Virtue of his Redemption; then if there be but one Mediator of Redemption, then there is but one Mediator of Inter­cession [Page 221] in Heaven for us. There is one God, and one Mediator between God and Men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a Ransom for all. So that the Power and Prevalency of his Intercession is founded in his Ransome, that is, the Price of our Redemption; in virtue whereof alone he intercedes with God for us, as the Apo­stle to the Hebrews does most plainly assert. So that all other Intercessors in Heaven for us, are excluded from of­fering and presenting our Prayers to God, besides our High Priest, who is at the right hand of God, and lives for ever, to make intercession for us, and by virtue of his Intercession, is able to save to the ut­termost all those that come to God by him, that is, who put up their Prayers to God in the alone Virtue of his Mediation. So that as there is no need of any other, if his Intercession be available to save to the uttermost: So there is great danger in applying to any other (whether Saint or Angel, or even the Blessed Virgin,) if the benefit of his Intercession be limit­ed to those who come to God by him. And thus I have shewn by what means Christ is the Author of our Salvation; which was the first thing I propos'd to be consider'd. I proceed to the

Second thing I proposed to enquire in­to; namely, what Obedience the Gospel requires as a Condition, and is pleased to accept as a Qualification in those who hope for Eternal Salvation. And this I shall explain, first Negatively, and then Positively.

1st, Negatively; It is not a mere out­ward profession of the Christian Religion, and owning of Christ for our Lord and Law-giver, that will be accepted in this case. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, (saith our Saviour) shall en­ter into the Kingdom of God. By which we may very reasonably understand, all that profession of Religion, which falls short of Obedience and a Holy Life; as the profession of Faith in Christ, being baptized into his Name and Religion, the mere Belief of his Doctrine, and the owning of him for our Lord and Sa­viour; no, nor the external Worship of him, and profession of Subjection to him, by Prayer and hearing his Word, and communicating in the Holy Sacrament. No, though this be set off in the most glorious manner, by pro­phesying and working Miracles in his Name; for so it follows in the next words, Many shall say to me in that day, [Page 223] Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy Name, and in thy Name have cast out De­vils, and in thy Name have done many wondrous works. We have eat and drank in thy presence, and have heard thee preach in our Streets. But he tells us, that nothing of all this, without Obedience to his Laws, will be sufficient to gain us ad­mission into Heaven.

2dly, Positively; That which God re­quires as a Condition, and will accept as a Qualification in those who hope for E­ternal Life, is Faith in Christ, and a sincere and universal Obedience to the Precepts of his Holy Gospel. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of God: but he that doth the will of my Father which is in Hea­ven. And here in the Text it is expresly said, That Christ is the Author of Eternal Salvation to them that obey him, [...], to them that hearken to him; that is, to them that do so hear and believe his Gospel, as to obey it; to them, and no other, he is the Author of Eternal Salvation.

And that we may the more clearly and distinctly understand what Obedience it is, which the Gospel exacts as an in­dispensable Condition of Eternal Salva­tion, [Page 224] and a necessary qualification in all those who hope to be made partakers of it; we may be pleased to consider, that there is a virtual and an actual O­bedience to the Laws of God; a perfect and a sincere Obedience to them; the ex­plication of these Terms, will give us a distinct conception of the thing we are speaking of.

1st, There is a virtual, and there is an actual Obedience to the Laws of God. By an actual Obedience, I mean the Practice and Exercise of the several Graces and Virtues of Christianity, in the course and tenour of a holy Life; when out of a good Conversation Men do shew forth their Works, and by the out­ward actions of their Lives, do give real Testimony of their Piety, Justice, Sobriety, Humility, Meekness, and Charity, and all other Christian Graces and Virtues, as occasion is ministred for the Practice and Exercise of them.

By a virtual Obedience, I mean a sin­cere belief of the Gospel, of the Holi­ness and Equity of its Precepts, of the Truth of its Promises, and of the Ter­ror of its Threatnings, and a true Re­pentance for all our Sins. This is Obe­dience in the Root and Principle; for he [Page 225] who sincerely believes the Gospel, and does truly repent of the Errors and Mis­carriages of his Life, is firmly resolved to obey the Commandments of God, and to walk before him, in Holiness and Righteousness all the days of his Life; so that there is nothing that prevents or hinders this Man's actual Obedience to the Laws of God, in the course of a holy and good Life, but only the want of time and opportunity for it. And this was the case of those, who, upon the hear­ing of the Gospel when it was first preached to them, did heartily embrace it, and turn from their Sins, and the Wor­ship of Idols, to the true and and living God, but perhaps were cut off soon after; (as there were many, who being but new­ly gained to Christianity, were presently put to Death, and suffer'd Martyrdom for that Profession;) There is no doubt to be made, but that in this case, a virtual Obedience was in such Persons a sufficient qualification for Eternal Life.

But where there is time and op­portunity for the Exercise of our Obe­dience, and the practice of the virtues of a holy Life, there actual Obedience to the Laws and Precepts of the Gospel, is ne­cessary to qualifie us for Eternal Hap­piness; [Page 226] so that tho' a man do sincerely be­lieve the Gospel, and truly repent of his Sins, and resolve upon a better Life; yet if he do not afterwards in the course of his Life put this resolution in practice, and bring forth fruits meet for Repentance, and amendment of Life, and persevere in a Holy Course, his first Resolution of O­bedience, though it were sincere, will not avail him to Salvation. Nay, if he should continue for some time in the Resolution and Practice of a holy and virtuous Life, and afterwards fall off from it, and turn from the holy Command­ment deliver'd unto him, his latter end would be worse than his beginning; all his righteousness that he hath done would not be remember'd; he should die in his iniqui­ty. For without holiness no man shall see the Lord. If any man draw back, God's Soul will have no pleasure in him. This is so very clear and plain from Scripture, that no Man can entertain a contrary perswasion, without contradicting the whole tenor of the Bible.

The Sum of what I have said is this, that a virtual Obedience, and sincere Faith and Repentance are sufficient, where there is no time and opportunity for actual Obedience and the practice of a [Page 227] holy Life: but where there is opportunity for actual Obedience, and the continued practice of a good Life, and perseve­rance therein; they are indispensably necessary in order to our Eternal Salva­tion, and a well-grounded hope and as­surance of it.

2dly, There is a perfect, and there is a sincere Obedience. Perfect Obedience consists in the exact Conformity of our hearts and lives to the Law of God, without the least imperfection, and without failing in any point or degree of our Duty. And this Obedience, as it is not consistent with the frailty and infirmity of corrupt Nature, and the imperfection of our present State, so nei­ther doth God require it of us as a ne­cessary Condition of Eternal Life. We are indeed commanded to be perfect, as our Father which is in Heaven is perfect: But we are not to understand this strictly and rigorously; for that is not only im­possible to Men in this present State of Imperfection, but absolutely impossible to Humane Nature, for Men to be perfect, as God is perfect: but the plain meaning of this Precept is, that we should imi­tate those Divine Perfections of Good­ness, and Mercy, and Patience, and Pu­rity, [Page 228] and endeavour to be as like God in all these as we can, and be still aspi­ring after a nearer resemblance of him, as may be evident to any one who con­siders the connexion and occasion of these words.

By a sincere Obedience I mean such a conformity of our lives and actions to the Law of God, as to the general course and tenour of them, that we do not live in the habitual practice of any known Sin, or in the customary neglect of any material and considerable part of our known Duty; and that we be not wilfully and deliberately guilty of the single act of heinous and notorious Sins, as I have formerly explained this matter more at large, in another Discourse. And this Obedience, even in the best of Men, is mixt with great Frailty and Imperfection; but yet because it is the utmost that we can do in this State of Infirmity and Imper­fection, the terms of the Gospel are so merciful and gracious, as that God is pleased for the sake of the meritorious Obedience and Sufferings of our Blessed Saviour, to accept this sincere, though imperfect Obedience, and to reward it with Eternal Life. And this, I doubt [Page 229] not, after all the intricate disputes, and infinite Controversies about this busi­ness, is the true and clear state of this matter.

And this sincere Obedience which the Gospel requires of us, as a Condition of our Happiness, though it be sometimes called by Divines, Evangelical Perfection; yet it is but very improperly so called; for nothing is properly perfect to which any thing is wanting; and great defects and imperfections must needs be ac­knowledged in the Obedience of the best and holiest Men upon Earth; and they who pretend to Perfection in this Life, do neither understand the Law of God, nor themselves, but (as St. John says of such Persons) they deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them; and besides other Imperfections, these two are evident in them, Ignorance and Pride.

And thus much may suffice to have spoken to this second Particular, name­ly, what Obedience the Gospel re­quires as a Condition, and is pleased to accept as a Qualification for Eternal Life.

SERMON VII. The Possibility and Necessity of Gospel Obedience, and its con­sistence with free Grace.

HEB. V. 9.‘And being made perfect, he became the Au­thor of eternal Salvation unto all them that obey him.’

FOR the Explication of these Words, I propos'd to consider these Five Things.

1st. How, and by what Means Christ is the Author of our Salvation.

2dly, What Obedience the Gospel re­quires as a Condition, and is pleased to accept as a Qualification, in those who hope for eternal Salvation.

3dly, The Possibility of our perform­ing this Condition, by that Grace and [Page 232] Assistance which is offer'd, and ready to be afforded to us by the Gospel.

4thly, The Necessity of this Obedience, in order to eternal Life and Happiness.

5thly, The Consistency of this method and means of our Salvation with the Law of Faith, and the free Grace and Mercy of God declared in the Gospel.

I have handled the Two first of these, and now proceed to the

Third Thing I propos'd to consider, viz. The possibility of our performing this Condition, by that Grace and As­sistance which is offer'd and ready to be afforded to us by the Gospel. For if Christ be the Author of eternal Salvation only to those who obey him; then those who live in disobedience to the Gospel, are in a state of Damnation. But there can­not be the guilt of Disobedience, where Obedience is impossible; no Man being guilty, or justly liable to Punishment, for the not doing of that, which it was no ways possible for him to do. Therefore the Covenant of the Gospel, into which God is entred with Mankind, doth necessa­rily suppose the possibility of perform­ing the Condition of it; otherwise it leaves them in as bad a Condition as they were in before, because it only of­fers [Page 233] new Blessings and Benefits to us, but sets us never the nearer the obtain­ing of them, if so be the Condition upon which they are granted be altogether impossible to us; nay it renders our State many degrees worse, if our not perfor­ming the Condition of such gracious Offers bring us under new and grea­ter guilt.

If it be said, that some few Persons have great Benefit by it, because they by an especial and effectual Grace shall be enabled to perform the Conditions of this Covenant; is not this a mighty straitning to the Grace and Mercy of the Gospel, to confine it within so narrow a compass, as still to leave the greatest part of Mankind in a worse Condition, than if Salvation had never been offer'd to them? As it certainly does, if (as this Doctrine does necessarily suppose) the Guilt and Punishment of Men shall be greatly increased and heightned by their Contempt of, and Disobedience to the Go­spel; when at the same time it is acknow­ledged, that it was not possible for those Men to obey it, for want of that special and effectual Grace, which is necessary to enable them thereto. I do not love to handle these Points contentiously, but [Page 234] this in my Apprehension does as much derogate from the Amplitude and Riches of God's Grace in the Gospel, as any thing that can easily be said.

And therefore, for the right stating and clearing of this Matter, I shall en­deavour to make out these Three Things.

1. That we are not sufficient of our selves, and by any power in us, to per­form the Condition of the Gospel.

2. That the Grace of God is ready to enable and assist us to the Performance of these Conditions, if we be not wan­ting to our selves.

3. That what the Grace of God is ready to enable us to do, if we be not wanting to our selves, that may properly be said to be possible to us, and, in some sense, in our Power.

1. That we are not sufficient of our selves, and by any Power in us, to per­form the Condition of the Gospel. The Grace of God doth clearly appear in the whole business of our Salvation: By Grace ye are saved (says the Apostle) and that not of your selves, it is the Gift of God. Faith is the Gift of God, and so is Re­pentance. It is God that works in us both to will and to do of his own goodness; that is, who both enclines and excites us to [Page 235] that which is good, and enables us to do it. Without me (says Christ) ye can do nothing. And through Christ strengthning me (saith St. Paul) I am able to do all things; all things which God requires of us, and expects to be done by us in order to our Salvation. Without the Grace of Christ, we are without strength; and are not sufficient of our selves, as of our selves, to think a good thought; that is, we are not sufficient of our selves to design or resolve upon any thing that is good; but our sufficiency is of God.

The Depravation of our Nature hath brought a great Impotency and Disabi­lity upon us to that which is good; and we have made our selves much weaker by evil Practice; by the Power of evil Habits, we are enslaved to our Lusts, and sold under Sin. So that if at any time we are convinced of our Duty, and from that Conviction have an Inclinati­on to that which is good, evil is present to us. When the Law of God gives us the knowledge of our Duty, and stares our Consciences in the Face, there is a­nother Law in our Members, warring against the Law of our Minds, and bringing us in­to Captivity to the Law of Sin, which is in our Members. Sin brings us under the [Page 236] Power of Satan, and gives him domini­on over us. For his Servants ye are whom ye obey; so that he rules and bears sway in us, and we are led Captive by him at his pleasure. Evil and vicious Habits are a kind of second Nature super-induced up­on us, which takes away our Power and Liberty to that which is good, and ren­ders it impossible to us to raise and res­cue our selves; so that we are Prisoners and Captives, 'till the Son of God set us free; and dead in Trespasses and Sins, 'till he give us Life. And therefore the Prophet represents the Recovery of our selves from the Bondage of Sin, by such things as are naturally impossible, to shew how great our Weakness and Impotency is; Jer. 13. 23. Can the Ethiopian cleanse his Skin, or the Leopard his Spots? Then may ye also do good, who are accustomed to do evil. And by how much stronger the Chains of our Sins are, and the more unable we are to break loose from them; by so much the greater and more evident is the necessity of the Divine Assistance, and of the Power of God's Grace, to knock off those Fetters, and to rescue us from this Bondage and Slavery.

2. The Grace of God is ready to as­sist and enable us to the Performance of [Page 237] these Conditions, that is, to Faith and Repentance, and all the purposes of Obe­dience and a Holy Life; if we be not wanting to our selves, and do not reject or neglect to make use of that Grace, which God offers us, and is ready to af­ford to us in a very plentiful Manner. And this is that which renders all the Mercies of the Gospel effectual (if it be not our own Fault, and wilful Neglect) to the great End and Design of our Sal­vation; and without this all the graci­ous offers of the Gospel would signifie nothing at all to our Advantage.

And this likewise is that which ren­ders the Unbelief and Impenitency and Disobedience of Men utterly inexcusa­ble; because nothing of all this does pro­ceed from want of Power, but of Will to do better. And therefore this is so necessary an Encouragement to all the endeavours of Obedience and a good Life, that Men should be assured of God's readiness to assist and help them in the do­ing of their duty, that without this the re­velation of the Gospel, though never so clear, would signifie nothing to us, all the Precepts and Directions for a good Life, and the most vehement Perswasions and Exhortations to Obedience, would have no Force and Life in them; for what [Page 238] signifies it to direct the dead, and speak to them that cannot hear, and to per­swade Men, tho' it were with all the ear­nestness in the World, to those things which it is impossible for them to do.

Therefore our blessed Saviour, when he had laid down, and explained the Precepts of Holiness, and Virtue, in his Sermon upon the Mount, to encourage them to what he had been directing and proposing to them, he assures them that God is ready to afford his Grace and As­sistance to all those that are sincerely de­sirous to do his Will, and do earnestly implore his Grace and Assistance to that purpose, Matth. 7. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. Ask, (saith he) and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be o­pened unto you: For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. So that if any Man want the Grace and Assistance of God's holy Spirit, it is his own fault; it is either for want of seeking, or for want of earnestness in asking; for our Saviour expresly assures us, that he denies it to none; for every one that asketh, receiveth.

And to give us a more lively and sensible Assurance of this, he represents the care and kindness of God to Men, by the Affections of earthly Parents to their [Page 239] Children, who tho' they be many times e­vil themselves, yet are not wont to deny their Children necessary good things, when they decently and dutifully beg them at their Hands; What Man is there of you, whom if his Son ask Bread, will he give him a Stone? Or if he ask a Fish, will he give him a Serpent? If ye then being evil, know how to give good Gifts unto your Children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven, give good things to them that ask him? Here is a general Promise and Declaration, that upon our humble and earnest Prayer to God, he will grant us whatever is good and necessary, by which is certainly intended in the first place, Spiritual good Things, because these are the best and most necessary; and to satisfie us that our Saviour did in the first place, and more especially mean these, St. Luke does particularly instance in the Grace and Assistance of God's Ho­ly Spirit, Lube 11. 13. How much more shall your Heavenly Father give the holy Spirit to them that ask him? The holy Spi­rit, that is, the continual Presence and Influence of it to all the purposes of Gui­dance and Direction, of Grace and As­sistance, of Comfort and Support in our Christian Course.

And what else is the meaning of that [Page 240] Parable of our Saviour's concerning the Talents entrusted with every Man, ac­cording to his Capacity and Opportuni­ties, Matth. 25, I say, what else can be the meaning of it but this? That God is before-hand with every Man, by affording the Advantages and Oportuni­ties of being happy, and such a measure of Grace and Assistance to that end, which if he faithfully improve, he shall be admitted into the Joy of his Lord.

And upon this Consideration of the gracious Promises of the Gospel to this purpose, it is, that the Apostle St. Paul doth so earnestly exhort Christians to en­deavour after the highest Degree of uni­versal Holiness and Purity, that we are capable of in this Life; 2 Cor. 7. 1. Ha­ving therefore these Promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse our selves from all filthiness of Flesh and Spirit, perfecting Holiness in the fear of God. And so likewise Phil. 2. 12, 13. Wherefore, my beloved, work out your own Salvation with fear and trem­bling (that is, with great Care and Con­cernment, lest you should fall short of it) for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do, of his good pleasure. The Consideration of God's readiness to as­sit us, and of his Grace which is always at hand to stir up our Wills to that which [Page 241] is good, and to strengthen us in the do­ing of it, ought to be a great Argument and Encouragement to us, to put forth our utmost Endeavours, and so co-ope­rate with the Grace of God toward our own Salvation.

And the Apostle St. Peter useth the same Argument to press Men to use their utmost Diligence, to make their calling and election sure, by abounding in all the Virtues of a good Life; 2 Pet. 1. 3, 4. According as his Divine Power hath given us all things which pertain to Life and Godliness, (that is, hath so plentifully furnisht us with all the requisites to a godly Life) through the knowledge of him that hath called us to Glory and Virtue, (that is, by knowledge of the Gospel and the Grace therein offered to us) whereby he hath given unto us exceeding great and precious Promises, that by these ye might be Partakers of a Divine Nature, having escaped the Corruption that is in the World through Lust. And then from the consideration of this Divine Power, con­veyed to us by the Gospel, and the Promises of it, he exhorts Men to give all diligence, to add to their Faith Virtue, and Knowledge, and Temperance, and Pa­tience, and Godliness, and brotherly Love, and Charity.

And indeed the Scripture every where ascribes our Regeneration and Sanctifi­cation, the Beginning, and Progress, and Perseverance of our Obedience, to the powerful Grace and Assistance of God's holy Spirit; we are said to be re­generate and born again of the Spirit, to be renewed and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, to be led by the Spirit, and by the Spirit to mortifie the deeds of the Flesh, and, in a word, to be kept by the mighty Power of God through Faith unto Salvation.

3. What the Grace of God is ready to enable us to do, if we be not want­ing to our selves, may properly be said to be possible to us, and in some sense, in our Power. That may be said to be possible to us, which tho' we cannot do of our selves, as of our selves, (that is by our own Natural Power) yet we can do by the Help and Assistance of another, if that Assistance be ready to be afforded to us; as we are sure the Grace of God's Holy Spirit is, because he hath promi­sed it to them that seek it, and he is faith­ful who hath promised.

That cannot be said to be wholly out of a Man's Power, which he may have for asking; that which we are able to do by the Strength and Assistance of [Page 243] another, is not impossible to us. Sure­ly St. Paul, did no ways derogate from the Grace of God, when he said, I am a­ble to do all things thro' Christ strengthen­ing me; he reckons himself able to do all that, which by the strength of Christ he was enabled to do.

And this is the true Ground of all the Perswasions and Exhortations, which we meet with in Scripture, to Holiness and Obedience, which would all be, not on­ly to no purpose, but very unreasonable, if we were wholly destitute of Power to do what God commands: but if he be always ready at hand to assist us by a Grace sufficient for us, if he co-operate with us in the Work of our Salvation, then is there abundant ground of Encou­ragement to our Endeavours; and if we fall short of eternal Salvation, it is wholly our own fault; it is not because God is wanting to us in those Aids and Assistances of his Grace which are neces­sary; but because we are wanting to our selves, in not seeking God's Grace more earnestly, or by neglecting to make use of it when it is afforded to us. For it is re­ally all one, both to the encouragement of our Endeavours, and to the rendring of our Disobedience inexcusable, whether [Page 244] we be able of our selves to perform the Condition of the Gospel, or God be ready to assist us by his Grace and Holy Spi­rit to that purpose.

Wherefore, as the Apostle exhorts, Heb. 12. 12, 13, 14, 15. Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make strait paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healed. Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord; looking diligently lest any man fail of the Grace of God; intimating, that it is want of care and diligence on our part, if the Grace of God fail of its end, and be not effectual to all the purposes of Faith, and Repentance, and Obedi­ence. God does not with-hold his Grace from us: but Men may receive it in vain, if they do not make use of it. And thus I have done with the third thing I proposed to consider from these words. I proceed to the

Fourth, viz. To consider the Neces­sity of this Obedience, in order to our obtaining of Eternal Life and Happi­ness. Christ is the Author of Eternal Sal­vation to them that obey him; that is, to such, and only to such, as live in Obedi­ence to the Precepts of his holy Gospel, [Page 245] to them who frame the general course of their lives according to his Laws. Some Men seem to be so afraid of the Merit of Obedience and good Works, that they are loth to assert the Necessity of them, and do it with so much cau­tion, as if they were not throughly per­swaded of it, or did apprehend some dangerous consequence of it: but this fear is perfectly groundless; as if Merit could not be excluded, without casting off our Duty, and releasing our selves from any Necessary Obligation to be good. For any Man surely may easily discern a plain difference between a worthiness of desert, and a fitness of receiving a Rebel, being penitent and sorry for what he hath done; though he cannot deserve a pardon, yet he may thereby be qualified and made meet to receive it; though Repentance do not make him worthy, yet it may make him capable of it, which an ob­stinate Rebel, and one that persists in his disloyalty, is not. This is a thing so plain of it self, that it would be waste of time and words to insist longer upon the proof of it.

Now the Necessity of Obedience, in [Page 246] order to eternal Life and Happiness, re­lies upon these three grounds.

1st, Upon the Constitution and Ap­pointment of God.

2dly, The general Reason of Re­wards.

3dly, Upon the particular Nature of that Reward, which God will confer upon us for our Obedience.

1st, The Constitution and Appoint­ment of God. Eternal Life is the Gift of God; and he may do what he will with his own, he may dispense his Gifts and Favours upon what Terms and Condi­tions he pleaseth; and therefore, if he hath plainly declared, that to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for Glory, and Honour, and Immortality, he will give eternal Life; that without ho­liness, no Man shall see the Lord; but if we have our fruit unto holiness, our End shall be everlasting Life; who shall re­sist his Will, or dispute his Pleasure? The Right and Authority of God in this matter is so unquestionable, that it admits of no contest; and the Bles­sings and Benefits propos'd, are so infi­nitely great and unvaluable, that no con­dition of obtaining them, which is pos­sible to be perform'd by us, can be [Page 247] thought hard and unequal; so that we ought thankfully to receive so great a favour, let the terms and conditions of it be what they will; and if there were no other reason for the imposing of these Conditions upon us, of Faith, and Re­pentance, and Obedience, but merely the Will and Pleasure of God, this were enough to silence all Objections a­gainst it.

But 2dly, The Necessity of Obedience, in order to eternal Life, is likewise found­ed in the Reason of Rewards in general. For though the measure and degree of our Reward, so infinitely beyond the proportion of our best Duty and Ser­vice, as eternal Life and Happiness is, I say, though the measure and degree of this Reward be founded in the immense Bounty and Goodness of God; yet the Reason of Reward in general, is necessa­rily founded in our Obedience to God's Laws; for according to the true nature and reason of things, nothing but Obe­dience is capable of Reward. For though Authority may pardon the breach and transgression of Laws, and remit the punishment due thereto; yet to reward the contempt of Laws, and wilful dis­obedience to them, is directly contrary [Page 248] to the design of Government, and does plainly overthrow the very Reason and End of all Laws, and makes Obedience and Disobedience to be all one, if so be they are equally capable of Reward; and therefore nothing can be more absurd and senseless, than for any Man to hope to be rewarded by God, who does not live in a sincere Obedience to his Laws. Eve­ry man that hath this hope in him, (that is, in Christ Jesus, to be sav'd by him) pu­rifieth himself, even as he is pure; that is, endeavours to be like him in the purity and obedience of his life; and nothing surely can be more unreasonable, than to expect to be rewarded by the great Governour and Judge of the World, if we be disobedient to his Laws; for where Obedience to Law is refused, there all reason and equity of Reward ceaseth. No wise Prince can think fit to reward Disloyalty and Contempt of his Laws; because to reward it, would be to encourage it; much less will God, the great and infinitely wise Governour of the World.

[...] dly, the Necessity of Obedience will yet more evidently appear, if we con­sider the particular Nature of that Re­ward, which God will confer upon us [Page 249] for our Obedience. The happiness of Heaven, which is the Reward promised in the Gospel, is described to us by the sight and enjoyment of God. Now to render us capable of this blessed Re­ward, it is necessary that we be like God; but nothing but Obedience and Holiness, and being renewed after the I­mage of him who created us in righteous­ness, can make us like to God. For he that would be like God must be holy, and just, and good, and patient, and merciful, as God is; and this alone can make us capable of the blessed sight and enjoyment of God; for unless we be like him, we cannot see him as he is, and if we should be admitted into Heaven, we could not find any pleasure and happi­ness in communion with him. Blessed are the pure in heart (says our Saviour) for they shall see God. Without Holiness (says the Apostle) no man shall see the Lord. And indeed, it is in the very nature of the thing impossible, that a wicked Man (whilst he remains so) should ever be happy, because there can be no agreeable and delightful Society between those that are of a quite con­trary temper and disposition to one a­nother, between him who is of purer eyes [Page 250] than to behold iniquity, and a sinful and impure Creature. For what fellowship (saith the Apostle) can righteousness have with unrighteousness? what communion hath light with darkness, or God with Belial? that is, with the wicked and disobedi­ent. Till we become like to God in the frame and temper of our minds, there can be no happy Society between him and us; we could neither delight our selves in God, nor he take any plea­sure in us; for he is not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with him. The wicked shall not stand in his sight, he hateth all the workers of iniquity. It cannot be otherwise, but that there must be an eternal jarring and discord between the righteous and holy God, and wicked and unrighteous Men. I will behold thy face (says David) in righteousness. There is no looking God in the face, upon any other terms. If we have been workers of iniquity God will cast us out of his fight, and in great anger bid us to depart from him; and we also shall desire him to depart from us, as being unable to bear the sight of him.

So that there is great reason why Holiness and Obedience should be made the Conditions of Eternal Life and Hap­piness, [Page 251] since in the very Nature of the thing it is so necessary a Qualification for the blessed sight and enjoyment of God, who is the Cause and Fountain of Happiness. I come in the

Fifth and last place, To shew that this Method and Means of our Salvati­on, is no prejudice to the Law of Faith, and to the free Grace and Mercy of God declared in the Gospel. The Go­spel is called the Law of Faith, and the Law of Grace, in opposition to the Jewish Dispensation, which is called the Law, or Covenant of Works, because it con­sisted so much in external Rites and Ob­servances, which were but types and sha­dows of good things to come, (as the Apo­stle calls them in this Epistle;) and which, when they were come, that Law did expire of it self, and was out of date, the obligation and observance of it was no longer necessary; but a better Covenant, which was establish'd upon better Promises, came in the place of it, and Men were justified by Faith, that is, by sincerely embracing the Chri­stian Religion, and were no longer un­der an obligation to that external, and servile, and imperfect Dispensation, which consisted in Circumcision, and [Page 252] in almost an endless number of exter­nal Ceremonies. These are the works of the Law so often spoken of by St. Paul, concerning which, the Jews had not only an opinion of the necessity of them, to a Man's Justification and Sal­vation, but likewise of the Merit of them; in opposition to both which o­pinions, St. Paul calls the Covenant of the Gospel, the Law of Faith, and the Law of Grace.

But there is no where the least intima­tion given, either by our Saviour, or his Apostles, that Obedience to the Precepts of the Gospel (which are in substance the Moral Law cleared and perfected) is not necessary to our acceptance with God, and the obtaining of Eternal Life; but on the contrary, 'tis our Saviour's express Direction to the young Man, who ask'd, what good thing he should do, that he might obtain Eternal Life; If thou wilt (says he) enter into Life, keep the Commandments; and that he might understand what Commandments he meant, he instanceth in the Precepts of the Moral Law. And indeed, the whole tenour of our Saviour's Sermons, and the Precepts and Writings of the Apostles, are full and express to this pur­pose. [Page 253] Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven: but he that doth the Will of my Father which is in Heaven. Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine (that is, these Precepts which I have delivered) and doth them not, I will liken him to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand, and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. If ye know these things, happy are ye, if ye do them. In every Nation, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him. In Jesus Christ neither Circumci­sion availeth any thing, nor Ʋncircumcision; but Faith, that is acted and inspired by Cha­rity. And that the Apostle here means, that Charity, or Love, which is the fulfilling of the Law, is evident from what he says elsewhere; that neither Circumcision availeth any thing, nor Ʋncir­cumcision; but the keeping of the Com­mandments of God; In which Text it is plain, that the Apostle speaks of the terms of our Justification, and what is available with God to that purpose. And St. James to the same purpose, tells us, that by the works [Page 254] of Obedience our Faith is made perfect, and that Faith without Works is dead; and surely a dead Faith will neither justifie nor save any Man. St. John likewise ve­ry earnestly cautions us to take heed of any such Doctrine, as would take away the necessity of Righteousness and Obe­dience; Little Children (says he) let no man deceive you, he that doth Righteous­ness is righteous, as he is righteous. To all which, I shall only add the plain words of my Text, that Christ became the Au­thor of eternal Salvation to them that obey him.

So that no Man hath reason to fear, that this Doctrine of the necessity of O­bedience to our Acceptance with God, and the obtaining of eternal life, should be any ways prejudicial to the Law of Faith, and the Law of Grace. For so long as these three things are but assert­ed and secured,

1st. That Faith is the Root and Prin­ciple of Obedience and a holy Life, and that without it, it is impossible to please God.

2dly, That we stand continually in need of the Divine Grace and Assistance, to enable us to perform that Obedience, which the Gospel requires of us, and is pleased to accept in order to eternal life. And,

[Page 255] 3dly, That the forgiveness of our Sins, and the Reward of eternal Life, are foun­ded in the free Grace and Mercy of God, conferring these Blessings upon us, not for the merit of our Obedience, but only for the merit and satisfaction of the Obe­dience and Sufferings of our blessed Savi­our and Redeemer; I say, so long as we assert these three things, we give all that the Gospel any where ascribes to Faith, and to the Grace of God revealed in the Gospel.

I have been careful to express these things more fully and distinctly, that no Man may imagine, that whilst we assert the Necessity of Obedience and a Holy Life, we have any design to dero­gate in the least from the Faith and the Grace of God; but only to engage and encourage Men to Holiness and a good Life, by convincing them of the absolute and indispensable necessity of it, in order to eternal Salvation. For all that I have said, is in plain English no more but this, that it is necessary for a Man to be a good Man, that he may get to Heaven; and whoever finds fault with this Do­ctrine, finds fault with the Gospel it self, and the main end and design of the Grace of God therein revealed to Mankind, [Page 256] which offers Salvation to Men upon no other terms than these which I have men­tioned; and to preach and press this Do­ctrine, is certainly, if any thing in the World can be so, to pursue the great End and Design of the Christian Religion, so plainly and expresly declared by St. Paul, Tit. 2. 11, 12. The grace of God that bring­eth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teach­ing us, that denying Ʋngodliness and world­ly Lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present World. And if the Grace of God declared in the Gospel, have this effect upon us, then we may with Confidence wait for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearance of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all Iniquity, and purifie to himself a peculi­ar People zealous of good works; and then he adds, these things teach, and exhort, and rebuke with all Authority; that is, declare and inculcate this Doctrine, and rebuke severely those who teach or practise con­trary to it. And he repeats it again with a more vehement Charge to Titus, to press upon Men the necessity of Obedience and good Works, Chap. 3. 8. This is is a faith­ful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they who have believ­ed [Page 257] in God, be careful to maintain good Works.

All that now remains, is to make some useful Inferences from what hath been said upon this Argument, and so to con­clude this Discourse.

First of all, To convince us that an empty Profession of the Christian Reli­gion, how specious and glorious soever it be, if it be destitute of the fruits of O­bedience and a holy Life, will by no means avail to bring us to Heaven. No profession of Faith in Christ, no Subje­ction to him, tho' we be baptized in his Name, and list our selves in the num­ber of his Disciples and Followers, tho' we have made a constant Profession of all the Articles of the Christian Faith, and have performed all the external parts and duties of Religion, have gone constantly to Church, and frequented the Service of God, and have joined in publick Prayers to God with great appearance of Devo­tion, and have heard his Word with great Reverence and Attention, and received the blessed Sacrament with all imagina­ble expressions of Love and Gratitude to our blessed Redeemer; nay, tho' we had heard our blessed Saviour himself teach in our streets, and had eaten and drunken in his presence; yet if all this while we have not [Page 258] done the will of God, and obeyed his Laws, none of all these will things signifie any thing to bring us to Heaven, and make us Partakers of that Salvation, which he hath purchased for Mankind.

But we cannot plead so much for our selves, as those did, of whom our Savi­our speaks. None of us shall be able to alledge for our selves at the great day, that we had prophesyed in his Name, and in his name had cast out Devils, and in his name had done many wonderful Works; and yet if we could alledge all this, it would do us no good. All that such can say for themselves is, that they have call'd him Lord, Lord, that is, they have made profession of his Religion, and been call'd by his Name, that they have paid an outward Honour and Respect to him, and declared a mighty Love and Affe­ction for him; but they have not done his will, but have hated to be reformed, and have cast his Commandments behind their backs, they have only born the Leaves of an outward Profession, but have brought forth no fruit unto Holiness, and therefore can have no reasonable expectation, that their End should be everlasting Life. So that when these Men shall appear before the great and terrible Judge of the [Page 259] World, they shall have nothing to say, but those vain Words, Lord, Lord; to which our Saviour will answer in that Day, why call ye me Lord, Lord, when ye would not do the things which I said? Not­withstanding all your profession of Faith in me, and subjection to me, ye have been workers of Iniquity, therefore depart from me, I know ye not whence ye are.

Secondly, The Consideration of what hath been said should stir us up to a thankful acknowledgment of what the Author of our Salvation hath done for us; and there is great reason for thank­fulness, whether we consider the great­ness of the Benefit conferred upon us, or the way and manner in which it was pur­chased, or the easie and reasonable terms upon which it may be obtained.

1st, If we consider the greatness of the Benefit conferred upon us, and that is Salvation, eternal Salvation, which com­prehends in it all the Blessings and Bene­fits of the Gospel, both the Means and the End, our Happiness, and the Way to it, by saving us from our Sins; from the guilt of them, by our Justification in the Blood of Christ; and from the Power and Dominion of them, by the sanctifying grace and virtue of the Holy Ghost.

And it comprehends the End, our De­liverance from Hell and the Wrath to come, and the bestowing of Happiness upon us, a great and lasting Happiness, great as our Wishes, and immortal as our Souls; all this is comprehended in eternal Salvation.

2dly, If we consider the way and man­ner in which this great Benefit was pur­chased and procured for us; in a way of infinite Kindness and Condescension, in the lowest Humiliation, and the unpa­rallel'd Sufferings of the Son of God; for never was there any sorrow like unto his sor­row, wherewith the Lord afflicted him in the day of his fierce Anger; in his taking upon him the form of a Servant, and the person of a Sinner, and his becoming obedient to death, even the death of the Cross, which was the Punishment of the vilest Slaves, and the most hainous Malefactors. The Son of God came down from Heaven, from the highest pitch of Glory and Hap­piness, into this lower World, this Vale of Tears, and sink of Sin and Sorrow; and was contented himself to suffer, to save us from eternal Ruin; to be the most de­spicable, and the most miserable Man that ever was, that he might raise us to Glory and Honour, and advance us to [Page 261] a state of the greatest Happiness that Hu­mane Nature is capable of.

3dly, If we consider the easie and rea­sonable Terms upon which we may be made Partakers of this unspeakable Be­nefit, and that is by a constant and sin­cere and universal Obedience to the Laws of God, which supposeth Repentance to­wards God, and Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Root and Principle of all the Virtues of a good Life; that is, by doing that which best becomes us, and which is most agreeable to the original Frame of our Nature, and to the dictates of our Reason, and which, setting aside the consideration of the Reward, is real­ly best for our present Benefit and Ad­vantage, our Comfort and Happiness, even in this World; for God, in giving Laws to us, hath imposed nothing upon us, but what in all reason ought to have been our choice, if he had not imposed it; nothing but what is for our good, and is in its own nature necessary to make us capable of that Happiness which he hath promised to us. And what can be more gracious, than to make one Benefit the Condition of a greater? Than to promise to make us happy for ever, if we will but do that which upon all accounts is really best, and most for our Advantage in this present Life?

Thirdly, Here is abundant Encourage­ment given to our Obedience; we have the divine Assistance promised to us, to enable us to the performance of the most difficult parts of our Duty; we have the holy Spirit of God to help our Infirmities, to excite us to that which is good, and to help and strengthen us in the doing of it.

For our further Encouragement we are assured of the divine Acceptance in case of our sincere Obedience, notwith­standing the manifold Failings and Im­perfections of it, for the sake of the perfect Righteousness and Obedience, and the me­ritorious Sufferings of our blessed Saviour: And tho' when we have done all that we can do, we are unprofitable Servants, and have done nothing but what was our duty, yet God is pleased to accept what we can do, because it is sincere, and to forgive the defects and imperfections of our Obedience, for his sake, who fulfilled all righteousness.

And besides all this, we have the en­couragement of a great and everlasting Reward, infinitely beyond all proportion of any service and Obedience that▪ we can perform. And if God be ready to assist and strengthen us in the doing of our duty, and be willing so graciously to accept, and to reward at such a rate the Sincerity of our endeavours to please him, [Page 263] notwithstanding all the failings and im­perfections of our best service and Obedi­ence; what can we possibly desire more for our encouragement, to patient continuance in well-doing, and to be stedfast and unmovea­ble, and abundant in the work of the Lord.

Fourthly, and lastly, The consideration of what hath been said upon this Argument may serve severely to rebuke the ground­less Presumption of those, who rely with so much confidence upon Christ for eter­nal Salvation, without any conscience or care to keep his Commandments; as if Salvation lay upon his Hands, and he knew not how to dispose of it, and were glad of any one that would come and take it off upon any terms. No, he came to save us from our Sins, to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purifie to himself a pecu­liar people zealous of good Works.

So that the Salvation which he hath purchased for us, doth necessarily imply our forsaking of our Sins, and return­ing to God and our Duty; and his Death and Sufferings are not more an argument of his great Love to Mankind, than they are a demonstration of his perfect hatred of Sin. So that if we continue in the Love and Practice of Sin, we defeat the whole design of his coming into the World, and [Page 264] of all that he hath done and suffered for us; and the Redemption which Christ hath wrought for us will not avail us in the least. Salvation is far from the wick­ed, (says David, Psal. 119. 155.) If we have been workers of Iniquity; the Saviour of the World, when he comes to judge it, will bid us to depart from him.

From all that hath been said, it is e­vident, that it is the greatest Presumpti­on in the World, for any Man to hope to obtain eternal Salvation by any device whatsoever, or in the Communion of any Church whatsoever, without Obe­dience and a holy Life. For tho' our O­bedience cannot merit; yet it is necessa­ry to qualifie and dispose us for it: tho' it does not make us strictly worthy; yet it makes us meet to be made partakers of the inheritance of the Saints in light.

SERMON VIII. The Authority of Jesus Christ, with the Commission and Pro­mise which he gave to his A­postles.

MAT. XXVIII. 18, 19, 20.‘And Jesus came and spake unto them, say­ing, All power is given unto me in hea­ven and in earth: Go ye therefore and teach all Nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Ghost: Teaching them to ob­serve all things whatsoever I have com­manded you: And lo, I am with you al­way, even unto the end of the World.’

THESE Words are the last that our Blessed Saviour spake to his Apostles, immediately before his Ascension into Heaven; and there are these Three things contained in them.

[Page 266]I. A Declaration of his own Autho­rity; All power is given unto me both in heaven and in earth.

II. A Commission to his Disciples, grounded upon that Authority; Go ye therefore, and teach all Nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have com­manded you.

III. A Promise to encourage them in this work; And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

I. Here's our Saviour's Declaration of his own Authority; All power is given un­to me in heaven and in earth. Here's an unlimited Power and Authority given him over all Creatures in Heaven and Earth. This, the Scripture tells us, was conferred upon him, as a Reward of his Sufferings; Phil. 2. 8, 9, 10. He hum­bled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a Name, which is above every name; that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; that is, that all Creatures, Angels, and Men, and De­vils, should do Homage, and acknowledge Subjection to him.

[Page 267]II. Here is the Commission he gave to his Apostles, by virtue of this Autho­rity; Go ye therefore and teach all Nations. The Commission which he here gives, is founded in the Authority he had before received. Having all Power committed to him, he constitutes and appoints the Apostles, and their Successors, to ma­nage the Affairs of this his spiritual King­dom upon Earth. And this seems to be the same Commission, which St. John mentions in other words, John 20. 21. As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you; that is, as my Father commission'd me before, so now having received full Authority from him, I commission you.

Now in this Commission, which our Saviour gave to his Disciples, I shall take notice

First, Of the general Import and De­sign of it.

Secondly, A more particular Declara­tion how they were to manage this De­sign.

First, The general Import and Design of this Commission; Go ye, and teach all Nations. The word which we translate teach, is [...], disciple all Nations, endeavour to make all the World Chri­stians. One would think here was a Pow­er [Page 268] plainly enough given them, to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, as well as to the Jews. Which will more fully appear, if we compare this passage in St. Matthew with the other Evangelists. St. Mark, ch. 16. 15. hath it; Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. From which Text I suppose St. Francis thought himself bound to preach to Beasts and Birds, and accordingly did it very often, and with wonderful success, as they tell us in the Legend of his Life. But to ex­tend our Saviour's Commission so far, is want of common sense; in which St. Francis (tho' they tell us he had other Gifts and Graces to an eminent degree) was plainly defective.

But to proceed, St. Luke, ch. 24. 47. tells us, our Saviour commanded, that Repentance and remission of Sins should be preached in his Name among all Nations, be­ginning at Jerusalem. So that their Com­mission did plainly extend to the Gentiles, as well as to the Jews; only they were to begin with the Jews, and to preach the Gospel first to them, and when they had gone over Judea and Samaria, then to pass to other Nations, as St. Luke doth most expresly declare, Acts 1. 8. Ye shall receive power; after that the holy Ghost [Page 269] is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses un­to me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.

But see the strange power of Prejudice, to blind the Eyes even of good Men, in the plainest matters. The Disciples of our Saviour, for all they had entertain­ed a new Religion, yet they retained the old Pride and Prejudice of their Nation, against the rest of the World; as if none but themselves had any share in the fa­vour of God, or were to have any part in the Salvation of the Messias.

Our Saviour did so far consider this Prejudice of theirs, that he never in his life time acquainted them with this mat­ter, so as to make them fully to under­stand it, because they were not able to bear it. And it is very probable, that this is one of those things which our Sa­viour meant, John 16. 12, 13. I have yet many things to say unto you; but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth. That is, he should lead them into the knowledge of those Truths, of which they were not then capable. And tho' our Saviour, after his Resurrection, seems to have declared this sufficiently to them; [Page 270] yet by their practice after his Ascension, it appears that they understood all this only of the Jews, namely that they were to preach the Gospel first to the Jews that were at Jerusalem, and in Judea, and then to those that were dispersed in other Nations; for 'tis clear from the History of their first Preaching, recorded in the Acts, that they preached to none but to the Jews, and the Proselytes of the Jewish Religion. So strong was their Prejudice, that they had not the least suspicion that this Blessing of the Gospel was intended for the Heathen World; nor were they convinced to the contrary, 'till St. Peter had a special Vision and Revelation to this purpose, and the holy Ghost came upon the Gentiles in miracu­lous gifts, as he had done before upon the Jews that were converted to Chri­stianity. And thus the Spirit of God led them into this Truth, and then they un­derstood this Command of our Saviour's in a larger Sense. And to this St. Peter plainly refers, Acts 10. 42. where he tells us, how that Christ after his Resurrecti­on appeared to them, and commanded them to preach unto the People. So like­wise do Paul and Barnabas, Acts 13. 46. where they speak thus to the Jews, It was [Page 271] necessary that the word should first he preach­ed to you, but seeing you put it from you, lo we turn to the Gentiles, for so hath the Lord commanded us. Now he no where com­manded this, but in this Commission, which he gave them before his Ascension.

Secondly, You have here a particular declaration how they were to manage this work of making Disciples to the Christian Religion.

1. By baptizing them into the Chri­stian Faith.

2. By instructing them in the Precepts and Practices of a Christian Life.

1. By baptizing them into the Chri­stian Faith, which is here call'd bapti­zing them into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Ghost. Baptism is a solemn Rite appointed by our Sa­viour for the initiating of Persons into the Christian Religion: But it was a Cere­mony in use before, both among the Jews and Gentiles. The Heathen obser­ved it at the initiating Persons into their Religious Mysteries; and the Jews, when they admitted Proselytes to their Religion; at which time the Males (as Maimonides tells us) were both circum­cised and baptized, the Women were on­ly baptized. One Circumstance of the Bap­tism [Page 272] of grown Persons was, that standing in the Water up to the Neck, they recited several Precepts of the Law. And as the Jewish Writers further tell us, this Ceremony did not only belong to them that were of grown Years, but to the Children of Proselytes, if it were desi­red, upon condition, that when they came to Years they should continue in that Religion.

Now tho' this was a religious Ceremo­ny used both by Jews and Gentiles, and without any Divine Institution, that we know of, our blessed Saviour (who in none of his Institutions seems to have favour'd unnecessary Innovations) was so far from the superstition of declining it upon this account, that it had been in religious use both among Jews and Gentiles, that he seems the rather to have chosen it for that very reason. For see­ing it was a common Rite of all Religi­ons, and in it self very significant of that Purity which is the great design of all Religion, it was the more likely to find the easier Acceptance, and to be most suitable to that, which he intended to be the universal Religion of the World.

As for the form of Baptism, into the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the [Page 273] holy Ghost, it plainly refers to that short Creed, or Profession of Faith, which was required of those that were to be baptized, answerable to the reciting of the Precepts of the Law, at the baptizing of Proselytes among the Jews; now the Articles of this Creed were reduced to these three Heads, of the Father, Son, and holy Ghost, and contains what was neces­sary to be believed concerning each of these. And this probably is that which the Apostle calls the Doctrine of Baptism, Heb. 6. 2. viz. a short Summary of the Christian Faith, the Profession whereof was to be made at Baptism; of which the most ancient Fathers make so frequent mention, calling it the rule of Faith. It was a great while indeed before Christi­ans tied themselves strictly to that very form of Words, which we now call the Apostles Creed, but the Sense was the same, tho' every one exprest it in his own Words; nay the same Father reciting it upon several Occasions, does not confine himself to the very same Expressions: A plain indication that they were not then strictly bound up to any form of Words, but retaining the sense and substance of the Articles, every one exprest them as he pleased. So that to baptize in the name [Page 274] of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Ghost, is to perform this Rite or Sa­crament by the Authority of, and with special Relation to the three Persons of the blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and holy Ghost, as the chief Objects of the Chri­stian Faith, whereof solemn Profession was then made. So that upon this form in Baptism appointed by our Saviour, compared with what is elsewhere said in Scripture, concerning the Divinity of the Son, and the holy Ghost, is princi­pally founded the Doctrine of the blessed Trinity, I mean in that simplicity, in which the Scripture hath delivered it, and not as it hath been since confounded and entangled in the Cobwebs and Niceties of the Schools. The Scripture indeed no where calls them Persons, but speaks of them, as we do of several Persons, and therefore that word is not unfitly used to express the difference between them, or at least we do not know a fitter word for that purpose.

By baptizing then in the name of the Fa­ther, Son, and holy Ghost, is meant, the initiating of Men by this solemn Rite or Ceremony into the Christian Religion, upon their profession of the necessary Doctrines of it, concerning the Father, [Page 275] Son, and holy Ghost, and a solemn Stipu­lation and Engagement to live according to those Doctrines: Which promise of a suitable Life and Practice was likewise made at the same time, as Justin Martyr and other of the ancient Fathers do te­stifie.

But before I leave this Head, it is ve­ry fit to take particular notice what use the Anabaptists make of this Text, so as in effect to lay the whole stress of their Cause upon it; as if by virtue of this Command of our Saviour's, and the man­ner wherein it is exprest, all Infants, e­ven those of Christian Parents, who are themselves already admitted into the new Covenant of the Gospel, were excluded from Baptism; because it is here said by our Saviour, Go ye, and disciple all Nations, baptizing them; from whence they infer; (and very clearly and strongly as they think) that none are to be baptized▪ but such as are first throughly instructed in the Christian Religion, and made Disci­ples, which Infants are not, but only those who are grown to some Maturity of Years and Understanding: But the Opinion and Practice of the ancient Church in this matter, is a sufficient Bar to this Inference, at least to the clearness [Page 276] of it. And indeed it cannot reasonably be imagined, that the Apostles, who had all of them been bred up in the Jewish Religion, which constantly, and by vir­tue of a divine Precept and Institution, admitted Infants into that Church, and to the benefits of that Covenant, by the Rite of Circumcision, and likewise the Infants of Proselytes by Baptism, (as I observed before) I say no Man can rea­sonably imagine, that the Apostles could understand our Saviour, as intending by any consequence from this Text, to ex­clude the Children of Christians out of the Christian Church, and to debar them of the benefits of the New Covenant of the Gospel: The Children of Christians being every whit as capable of being ta­ken into this new Covenant, and of par­taking of the Benefits of it, as Children of the Jews were of being admitted into the old: Unless we will suppose (which at first sight seems very harsh and unrea­sonable) that by the terms of the Christi­an Religion, Children are in a much worse condition, than the Children of the Jews were under the Law. So that the pari­ty of Reason being so plain, nothing less than an express Prohibition from our Saviour, and an exception of Children [Page 277] from Baptism, can be thought sufficient to deprive the Children of Christians of any Priviledge, of which the Jewish were capable. For the plain meaning of this Commission to the Apostles is, to go and proselyte all Nations to the Christian Religi­on, and to admit them solemnly into it by Baptism, as the Jews were wont to proselyte Men to their Religion by Cir­cumcision and Baptism; by which Rites also they took in the Children of the Pro­selytes, upon promise that when they came to Years they should continue in that Religion. And if this was our Sa­viour's meaning, the Apostles had no reason, from the Tenour of their Com­mission, to understand that the Children of Christian Proselytes were any more excluded, than the Children of Prose­lytes to the Jewish Religion, unless our Saviour had expresly excepted them; for it is a favourable Case, and in a mat­ter of Priviledge, and therefore ought not to be determined to debar Children of it, upon any obscure consequence from a Text, which it is certain was ne­ver so understood by the Christian Church, for 1500 Years together. I have done with the first part of their Commis­sion, which was to disciple or proselyte [Page 278] all Nations to the Christian Religion, and to admit them into the Christian Church, by the Rite or Sacrament of Baptism. I proceed to consider the

Second part of their Commission, which was to instruct Men in the Precepts and Duties of a Christian Life, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have com­manded you. You see how their Commis­sion bounds and limits them, they were to teach others those Precepts which Christ had taught and deliver'd to them; they had no Power by virtue of this Commission to make new Laws, which should be of universal and perpetual Ob­ligation, and consequently necessary to the Salvation of all Christians; they were only to be the Publishers, but not the Authors of this new Religion. And therefore St. Paul, when the Corinthians consulted him about several things rela­ting to Marriage and Virginity, he on­ly gives his advice, but would not take upon him to make a Law in those cases that should be binding to all Christians. And for the same Reason Christians do generally at this day, think themselves absolved from the Obligation of that Canon, which was made even in a Coun­cil of the Apostles, as to all those Bran­ches [Page 279] of it, the reason whereof is now cea­sed. But notwithstanding this, the Au­thority which our Saviour conferred up­on his Apostles to teach his Doctrine, does in the nature of it necessarily imply a Power of governing the Societies of Christians, under such Officers, and by such Rules, as are most suitable to the nature of such a Society, and most fit to promote the great Ends of the Christian Religion: For without this power of go­verning, they cannot be suppos'd to be endowed with sufficient Authority to teach; and therefore in pursuance of this Commission, we find that the Apostles did govern the Societies of Christians by such Rules and Constitutions, as were fitted to the then present circumstances of Christianity. And as they did ap­point temporary Officers upon emergent Occasions, so they constituted others that were of perpetual use in the Church, for the instructing and governing of Christians, and that in such a subordina­tion to one another, as would be most ef­fectual to the attaining of the end of Go­vernment; which subordination of Go­vernours, hath not only been used in all Religions, but in all the well regulated Civil Societies that ever were in the [Page 280] World. And this may suffice to have spoken of the second part of their Com­mission.

The Third and last thing in the Text, is the Promise which our Saviour here makes for the encouragement of the Apo­stles in this Work; Lo, I am with you al­ways, even unto the end of the World; that is, tho' I be going from you in person, yet I will still be present with you by my Power and Spirit. And surely this must needs be a great Encouragement to have him engaged for their Assistance, who had all Power in Heaven and Earth committed to him, as he tells them at the 18th. verse.

I shall endeavour therefore, as far as the time will permit, to explain to you the true meaning and extent of this Pro­mise. That it is primarily made to the Apostles no Man can doubt, that consi­ders that it was spoken to them imme­diately by our Saviour; and in regard to them, the meaning of it is plainly this, that our Saviour would send down the holy Ghost upon them, in miraculous Gifts, to qualifie and enable them for the more speedy planting and propagating of the Gospel in the World, and that he would be with them, and assist them ex­traordinarily in this Work.

And that this is the primary mean­ing of it, in regard to the Apostles, will be very plain, by considering how this Promise is exprest by the other Evan­gelists; Mark 16. 17. instead of this Pro­mise, you have these words, immediate­ly after our Saviour had given them Commission to go and preach the Gos­pel, Go ye into all the World, and preach the Gospel to every Creature: He that be­lieveth and is baptized, shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned. And then it follows, These signs shall follow them that believe; in my Name they shall cast out Devils, and shall speak with new Tongues. And Luke 24. 39. instead of lo, I am with you, it is said, Bohold, I send the promise of my Father upon you, that is, the mira­culous gifts of the holy Ghost; for it fol­lows in the next Words, but tarry ye in the City of Jerusalem, untill ye be endowed with power from on high. This St. Luke himself interprets of the Promise of the Holy Ghost, Acts 1. 4, 5. He commanded them that they should not depart from Jeru­salem, but wait for the promise of the Fa­ther, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with Water, but ye shall be baptized with the holy Ghost, not many days hence. And, v. 8. Ye shall receive [Page 282] power after that the holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Sa­maria, and unto the uttermost part of the Earth. So that no Man that compares these Texts together, can doubt, but that this was the primary meaning of this Promise, as it was made to the Apostles.

But then it is as plain likewise, that this Promise is to be extended farther than to the Persons of the Apostles, even to all those that should afterwards suc­ceed them in this Work of Preaching the Gospel, and baptizing, because our Sa­viour adds, that he would be with them to the end of the World; which Words be­cause they reach far beyond the Apostles Times, (as I shall shew by and by) must necessarily be extended to such Persons in after Ages, as should carry on the same Work.

There are two famous Controversies about the Sense of these Words, in which this Promise is exprest.

The First is concerning the Circum­stance of time mentioned in this Promise, alway, to the end of the World.

The other concerning the Substance of the Promise it self, what is meant by our Saviour's being with them. In the first [Page 283] we have to deal with the Enthusiasts, in the latter with the Papists. I shall exa­mine the Pretences of both these, as brief­ly and plainly as I can.

First, Concerning the Circumstance of time exprest in these words, alway, to the end of the world. The Enthusiasts would perswade us, that the meaning of these Phrases is not to be extended beyond that Age, and that this Promise is to be limi­ted to the Apostles Persons, and that the Sense of it is, that Christ would be with the Apostles [...], all their Days, so long as they should live, and that would be, [...], to the end of that Age; thus they tran­slate it, and with no worse design than to take away the Necessity of a Gospel Ministry.

But this Pretence will vanish, if we can make good these two things.

1. That the Letter of this Promise ex­tends farther than the Persons of the A­postles, and the continuance of that Age.

2. However that be, it is certain that the reason of it extends to all that should succeed them in their Ministry, to the end of the World.

1. The Letter of this Promise extends farther than the Persons of the Apostles, [Page 284] and the continuance of that Age. I will easily grant that the Phrase [...] signifies only continually, I will be with you continually; but then the other Phrase [...], until the end of the World, is several times in Scripture undeniably used for the End and Dissolution of all things, and can­not with any Probability be shewn to be ever used otherwise. In this Sense it is unquestionably used three times, Matth. 13. The Harvest is the end of the World. v. 39. So shall it be at the end of the world. v. 40. and v. 49. it is said, that at the end of the World, the Angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from the j [...]st, and cast them into the Furnace; which must ei­ther be understood of the end of the World, and of the day of Judgment, or there will be no clear Text in the whole Bible to that purpose; and it is very probable, that this Phrase is used in the same Sense, Matth. 24. 3. where the Disciples ask our Saviour, What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? as will appear to any one that considers our Saviour's Answer to this Question; the latter part whereof can­not, without too much Violence, be ac­commodated to any thing but the final [Page 285] Dissolution of the World. Now if this Phrase be every where else in Scripture used in this Sense, there is no reason why it should be taken otherwise in the Text, only to serve the purpose of an unreasonable Opinion.

I know there are Phrases very near akin to this, which are used in a quite different Sense, namely, for the expira­tion of the Jewish State; and that we may know how to distinguish them, it is observable, that when the Scripture speaks of the end of the World, it is call'd [...], the end of the Age, in the singular Number; but when it speaks of the Times before the Gospel, it always expresseth them in the plural; the reason of which is, that famous Tra­dition among the Jews, of the House of Elias, which distributed the whole du­ration of the World into three Ages; the Age before the Law, the Age under the Law, and the Age of the Messias; and this last Age they looked on with great difference from the rest, as the famous and glorious Age, which was to be as it were the beginning of a new World: And therefore the Jews in their Writings con­stantly call it the seculum futurum, the Age, or the World to come: And there­fore [Page 286] the Apostle in this Epistle to the Hebrews, calls the State of the Gospel by that name, as best known to them, Heb. 2. 5. But unto the Angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we now speak; that is, the Law was given by the disposition of Angels; but the dis­pensation of the Gospel, which is call'd the World to come, was managed and administred by the Son of God. So like­wise Heb. 6. 5. those miraculous Powers which accompanied the first preaching of the Gospel, are call'd [...], the Powers of the World to come, that is, of the Gospel Age.

So that this last Age of the Gospel, is that which the Scripture by way of Emi­nency calls the Age; those that went be­fore are constantly call'd [...], the A­ges, in the plural number. So we find, Eph. 3. 9. the Gospel is call'd the dispensa­tion of the Mystery that was hid in God, [...] from Ages; and you have the same Phrase, Col. 1. 26. Upon the same account, the expiration of the Jewish State, is in Scripture called the last times, and the last days. Heb. 1. 2. But in these last days, God hath spoken to us by his Son: 1 Cor. 10. 11. These things are written for our Admonition, upon whom [...] [Page 287] [...], the ends of the Ages are come. In the same Sense the Apostle, Heb. 9. 26. speaking of Christ, says, that he appeared, [...], at the end of the Ages, to take away Sin; that is, at the Conclusion of the Ages which had gone before, in the last Age. So that if we will be governed in the Interpretation of this Text, by the constant use of this Phrase in Scripture, the Letter of this Pro­mise will extend to the end of the World.

2. But however this be, it is certain that the Reason of this Promise does ex­tend to all those that should succeed the Apostles in their Ministry, to the end of the World: I will suppose now (to give our Adversaries their utmost scope) that which we have no reason to grant, that the Letter of this Promise reacheth only to the Apostles and their Age, and that our Saviour's meaning was no more but this, that he would send down the holy Ghost upon them in miraculous Gifts, to qualifie and inable them for the speedy planting and propa­gating of the Gospel in the World, and that he would be with them, 'till this Work was done. Now supposing there were nothing more than this intended in the letter of it, this ought not much to [Page 288] trouble us, so long as it is certain, that the Reason of it does extend to the Suc­cessors of the Apostles in all Ages of the World. I do not mean, that the Rea­son of this Promise does give us sufficient Assurance, that God will assist the Tea­chers and Governours of his Church in all Ages, in the same extraordinary man­ner, as he did the Apostles, because there is not the like reason and necessity for it; but that we have sufficient Assurance from the Reason of this Promise, that God will not be wanting to us, in such fitting and necessary Assistance, as the state of Religion, and the welfare of it in every Age shall require: For can we imagine that God would use such ex­traordinary means to plant a Religion in the World. and take no care of it after­wards? That he who had begun so good a Work, so great and glorious a Design▪ would let it fall to the ground for want of any thing that was necessary to the Support of it?

This is reasonable in it self; but we are not also without good ground for thus extending the general reason of par­ticular Promises beyond the Letter of them. The Apostle hath gone before us in this, for Heb. 13. 5, 6. he there ex­tends [Page 289] two particular Promises of the Old Testament to all Christians, Let your Conversation (says he) be without Cove tousness, and be content with such things as ye have: For he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. And again, The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what Man can do unto me. These Promises were made to particulur Persons; the first of them to Joshua, and the other to David; but yet the Apostle applies them to all Chri­stians, and to good Men in all Ages, be­cause the general Ground and Reason of them extended so far. He who gave Jo­shua and David this encouragement to their Duty, will certainly be as good to us, if we do ours.

And thus I have done with the first Controver [...]ie about the Sense of these Words, which concerns the Circum­stance of time mentioned in this Promise, always, to the end of the World, and have plainly shewn, that both the Letter and the Reason of this Promise does extend further than the Persons of the Apostles, and the continuance of that Age, even to all that should succeed them in their Mi­nistry to the end of the World. I come now to consider,

Secondly, The Substance of the Pro­mise [Page 290] it self, namely, what is meant by our Saviour's being with them. And here our Adversaries of the Church of Rome would fain perswade us, that this Pro­mise is made to the Church of Rome, and that the meaning of it is, that that Church should always be infallible, and never err in the Faith. But as there is no men­tion of the Church of Rome in this Pro­mise, nor any where else in Scripture upon the like Occasion, whereby we might be directed to understand this Pro­mise to be made to that Church; so to any unprejudiced Person, the plain and obvious Sense of this Promise can be no other than this, that our Saviour having commissionated the Apostles to go and preach the Christian Religion in the World, he promises to assist them in this work, and those that should succeed them in it, to the end of the World. But how any Man can construe this Promise, so as to make it signifie the perpetual Infallibili­ty of the Roman Church, I cannot for my life devise; and yet this is one of the main Texts upon which they build that old and tottering Fabrick of their Infal­libility.

Here is a general Promise of Assistance to the Pastors and Governours of the [Page 291] Church, in all Ages to the end of the World; but that this Assistance shall always be to the degree of Infallibility, (as it was to the Apostles) can neither be concluded from the letter of this Pro­mise, nor from the Reason of it; much less can it be from hence concluded, that the Assistance here promised▪ if it were to the degree of Infallibility, is to be limited and confined to the supream Pastor and Governor of the Roman Church.

That the Assistance here promised shall always be to the degree of Infalli­bility, can by no means be concluded from the Letter of this Promise. Indeed there is no Pretence or Colour for it; he must have a very peculiar Sagacity, that can find out in these words, I am with you always, a promise of infallible Assistance. Is not the Promise which God made to Joshua, and which the Apostle to the Hebrews applies to all Christians, and to all Good Men in all Ages, I will ne­ver leave thee nor forsake thee, the very same in sense with this, I will be with you always? and yet surely, no Man did ever imagine, that by virtue of this Promise, every Christian, and every good Man is infallible.

But neither can it be inferr'd from the Reason of this Promise, that this Assist­ance shall always be to the degree of Infallibility. It was so indeed to the A­postles; the miraculous Gifts of the ho­ly Ghost, which were bestowed upon them for the more speedy and effectual planting and propagating of the Gospel in the World, were a divine Testimo­ny and Confirmation to the Doctrine which they delivered; and having this divine Testimony given to them, we are certain that they were secured from Er­ror in the delivery of that Doctrine. So that the Apostles had no other Infallibi­lity, but what depended upon, and was evidenced by the miraculous Gifts wherewith they were endowed; and therefore without the like Gifts, none can with Reason pretend to the like In­fallibity. For Infallibility signifies an extraordinary Assistance of God's Spi­rit, whereby those who are thus assisted are secured from Error. This every con­fident Man may, if he pleaseth, pretend to; but no Man is to be believed to have it, but he who can give such Evidence of it, as is fit to satisfie reasonable Men, that he hath it. Now the only suffici­ent Evidence of such an extraordinary [Page 293] Divine Assistance is the Power of Mira­cles. This indeed is the great exter­nal Testimony of a Teacher come from God, if he do such Works as none can do, except God be with him; and this Evidence the Prophets of old, and our Saviour, and his Apostles, always gave of their Infallibility. And if the Pope and gene­ral Councils, can give the Testimony of such Miracles for their Infallibility, as Moses, and our Saviour, and his Apo­stles did work, we are ready to acknow­ledge it. Such a Testimony as this would give the World a thousand times more Satisfaction concerning their In­fallibility▪ than all the subtil Arguments of Bellarmine, and all their Writers. But if they cannot, they may dispute about it to the end of the World; and every Man that hath but the same confidence may pretend to it, with as much reason as they do.

But to proceed in my Argument, here is a plain Reason why this extraordina­ry Assistance should be granted to the Apostles at first; and another Reason as plain, why it should not be continued afterwards. It was reasonable, and in some degree necessary, that the Apostles should be thus assisted at the first publi­cation [Page 294] of the Gospel, namely to give sa­tisfaction to the World, that they were faithful and true Witnesses of the Do­ctrine and Miracles of Christ. But since this Doctrine and these Miracles are re­corded to Posterity, by those very Per­sons that were thus assisted, here is as plain a Reason, why after the Gospel was planted and establisht in the World, this Infallibility should cease. So long as we have an infallible Foundation of Faith, namely, the Divine Revelation consigned in Writing, and transmitted down to us by Testimony of undoubted Credit, what need is there now of a fixt and standing Infallibility in the Church? But having handled this Argument more at large else-where, I shall insist no further upon it here.

I have now done with the three things I propounded to discourse upon, from this Text. You have heard what Authority our Saviour had given him; what Com­mission he gave to his Disciples; and what Assistance he hath promised to the Pastors and Governors of his Church to the end of the World; namely such an Assistance, as is suitable to the exigen­cies of the Church, in the several Ages and States of Christianity; which As­sistance [Page 295] was at first very extraordinary and miraculous. God was pleased to give witness to the first Teachers and Pub­lishers of the Gospel, with signs and won­ders, and divers Miracles, and Gifts of the holy Ghost; and this at first was in a ve­ry great degree necessary, it not being otherwise imaginable, how Christianity could have born up against all that Force and violent Opposition which was rais­ed against it: But this extraordinary as­sistance was but a temporary and tran­sient Dispensation. God did, as it were, pass by, in the strong and mighty Wind, in the Earthquake, and in the Fire: but he was in the still Voice, that is, he designed to settle and continue in that Dispensa­tion, in that more calm and secret way of Assistance, which offers less Violence to the Nature of Man, but which was intended for the constant and permanent Dispensation. So that we have no reason to think, that God hath now forsaken his Church, though he be not with it in so sensible and extraordinary a manner.

But then if any particular Church desire and expect this blessed Pre­sence and Assistance of God's holy Spirit, we must remember, that there is a Condition to be performed on our [Page 296] parts. For how absolute soever this Pro­mise may be, in respect of the Church universal; it is certainly conditional, to any particular Church, as sad experi­ence in many Instances hath shewn. God hath long since left the Church of Jeru­salem, where the Gospel was first pub­lisht; he hath left the Church of Anti­och, where the Believers of the Gospel were first call'd Christians; he hath left the famous Churches of Asia, to that de­gree of Desolation, that the Ruins and Places of some of them, are hardly at this Day certainly known. And this may also be the fate of any particular Church, not excepting Rome her self, for all her Pride and Confidence to the contrary. Behold therefore the Goodness and Severity of God: towards them that fell Severity; but towards us Goodness, if we continue in his Goodness: otherwise we also shall be cut off.

This, as I observed before, is spoken particularly to the Roman Church; the Apostle supposeth that the Church of Rome her self may be guilty of Aposta­cy from the Faith, and cut off by Unbe­lief, and indeed seems to foretel it; which how it consists with their confi­dent Pretence to Infallibility, let them look to it.

And let all particular Churches look to themselves, that they do not forfeit this Promise of Divine Assistance. For Christ hath not so tyed himself to any particular Church, but that if they for­sake him, he may leave them, and remove his Candlestick from them. There have been many sad Instances of this, since the first planting of Christianity; and we have no small Reason to apprehend that it may come to be our own case; for certainly we have many of those marks of Ruin among us, which did foretel the Destruction of the Jewish Church and Nation; horrible Propha­ness and Contempt of Religion, Divisi­on and Animosities to the highest de­gree, and an universal Dissoluteness and Corruption of Manners. And why should we, who do the same things, think our selves exempted from the same Fate? What can we expect, but that God should deal with us, as he did with them, Take away the Kingdom of God from us, and give it to a Nation that will bring forth the fruits of it?

The Condition of this great Promise here in the Text, to the Pastors and Go­vernors of the Christian Church, is the faithful Execution of their Commission; [Page 298] if they do sincerely endeavour to gain Men to the Belief and Practice of Chri­stianity, Christ hath promised to be with them. The performance of this Con­dition doth primarily concern the chief Governours of the Church, and next to them, the Ministers of the Gospel in ge­neral, that they would be diligent and faithful in their respective Stations, teaching Men to observe all things, whatso­ever Christ hath commanded. And if we would make this our great Work, to instruct our respective Charges, in the necessary Doctrines of Faith, and the indispensable Duties of a good Life, we should have far less trouble with them about other matters. And that we may do this Work effectually, we must be serious in our Instructions, and exempla­ry in our Lives. Serious in our Instru­ctions; this certainly the Apostle requires in the highest degree, when he charg­eth Ministers, so to speak, as the Oracles of God, to which nothing can be more con­trary, than to trifle with the Word of God, and to speak of the weightiest mat­ters in the World, the great and ever­lasting Concernments of the Souls of Men, in so slight and indecent a man­ner, as is not only beneath the Gravity [Page 299] of the Pulpit, but even of a well regu­lated Stage. Can any thing be more un­suitable, than to hear a Minister of God from this solemn place to break Jests upon Sin, and to quibble upon the Vi­ces of the Age? This is to shoot with­out a Bullet, and as if we had no mind to do Execution, but only to make Men smile at the mention of their Faults; this is so nauseous a Folly, and of so per­nicious consequence to Religion, that hardly any thing too severe can be said of it.

And then if we would have our In­structions effectual, we must be exem­plary in our Lives. Aristotle tells us, that the manners of the Speaker have [...], the most soveraign power of Perswasion. And therefore Cato puts it into the definition of an Orator, that he is, vir bonus, dicendi peritus, a good Man, and an eloquent Speaker. This is true as to all kinds of Perswasion; the good Opi­nion which Men have of the Speaker, gives great weight to his Words, and does strangely dispose the Minds of Men to entertain his Counsels. But the Reputation of Goodness is more especi­ally necessary and useful to those whose proper Work it is to perswade Men to [Page 300] be good; and therefore the Apostle, when he had charged Titus to put Men in mind of their Duty, he immediately adds, in all things shewing thy self a Patern of good Works. None so fit to teach others their Duty, and none so likely to gain Men to it, as those who practise it themselves; because hereby we convince Men that we are in earnest, when they see that we perswade them to nothing, but what we chuse to do our selves. This is the way to stop the Mouths of Men, and to confute their Malice, by an exemplary piety and Virtue. So St. Peter tells us, 1 Pet. 2. 15. For so is the will of God, that by well doing ye put to silence the Ignorance of foolish Men.

SERMON IX. The Difficulties of a Christian Life consider'd.

LUKE XIII. 24.‘Strive to enter in at the strait Gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.’

THERE are two great Mistakes about the Nature of Religion, equally false, and equally per­nicious to the Souls of Men; and the De­vil, whose great design it is, to keep Men off from Religion by any Means, makes use of both these Mistakes, to serve his own Purpose and Design up­on the several Tempers of Men. Those who are melancholy and serious, he dis­heartens and discourageth from attempt­ing it, by the extream trouble and dif­ficulty [Page 302] of it, representing it in so hor­rid and frightful a Shape, encumber'd with such Difficulties, and attended with such Troubles and Sufferings, as are in­superable, and intolerable to Human Na­ture; whereby he perswades Men, that they had better never attempt it, since they may despair to go through with it.

On the other hand, those who are sanguine and full of hopes, he possesses with a quite contrary Apprehension; that the business of Religion is so short and easie a Work, that it may be done at any time, and if need be, at the last Moment of our Lives, tho' it is not so well to put it upon the last hazard; and by this means, a great part of Mankind are lull'd in security, and adjourn the business of Religion from time to time; and because it is so easie, and so much in their Power, they satisfie themselves with an indeterminate Resolution to set about that business some time or other before they die, and so to repent, and make their Peace with God once for all.

These Pretences contradict one ano­ther, and therefore cannot be both true, but they may both be false, as indeed they are, and Truth lies between them; Religion being neither so slight and easie [Page 303] a Work as some would have it, nor so extreamly difficult and intolerable, as others would represent it. To confute the false apprehensions which some have of the easiness of it, our Saviour tells us, there must be some striving; and to sa­tisfie us, that the difficulties of Religion are not so great and insuperable, as some would make them, our Saviour tells us, that those who strive shall succeed and enter in; but those who only seek, that is, do not vigorously set about the business of Religion, but only make some faint At­tempts to get to Heaven, shall not be a­ble to enter in. Strive to enter in at the strait Gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, but shall not be able.

The occasion of which words of our Blessed Saviour, was a Question, that was put to him, by one of his Disciples, concerning the number of those, that should be Saved, v. 23. One said unto him, Lord, are there few, that be Saved? To which curious Question, our Savi­our (according to his manner, when such kind of Questions were put to him) does not give a direct Answer, because it was neither Necessary, nor Useful for his Hearers to be Resolved in it, it did not concern them, to know what Num­ber [Page 304] of Persons should be Saved, but what course they should take that they might be of that Number; and there­fore, instead of satisfying their Curiosi­ties, he puts them upon their Duty; ad­monishing them, instead of concerning themselves what should become of others, to take care of themselves. And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able. He does not say, that but few shall be saved; (as some have presumptuously ventur'd to determine) but only few in compa­rison of those many, that shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

In these Words we may consider these Two Things.

First, The Duty enjoined, Strive to enter in at the strait gate.

Secondly, The Reason or Argument to enforce it, for many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

First, The Duty enjoined; Strive to enter in at the strait gate. Which words being Metaphorical, I shall strip them of the Metaphor, that so we may see the plain meaning of them. Now by this Metaphor, or rather Allegory, these Three Things are plainly inten­ded.

[Page 305] 1st. The Course of a Holy and Chri­stian Life, in order to the obtaining of Eternal Happiness, is here represented to us by a way, which every Man, that would come to Heaven, must walk in. For so St. Matth. (who expresseth this more fully) makes mention of a way; as well as a gate, by which we must enter into it; Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth to Life. And this, tho' it be not express'd by St. Luke, is necessarily understood, Strive to enter in by the strait gate, that is, into the way that leads to life.

2dly. The first Difficulties of a Holy and Religious Course of Life, are here represented to us by a strait Gate. For the Gate at which we enter, and the way in which we walk, can signifie nothing else, but the beginning and progress of a Holy and Religious Course.

3dly. Our Diligence and Constancy in this Course, are represented by striving, a word which hath a great Force and Emphasis in it, [...], a Metaphor taken from the earnest Contention which was used in the Olympick Games, by those who strove for Mastery in run­ning or wrestling, or any of the other Exercises which were there used.

Secondly, Here is a Reason added to enforce the Exhortation or Duty; for many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able; that is, there are a great many that will do something in Christianity, and make some faint attempts to get to Heaven, who yet shall fall short of it, for want of such a firm Resolution and Earnestness of Endeavour, as is necessary to the attaining of it.

Having thus explained the Words, I shall take occasion from the first part of them, namely, the Duty or Exhortation, to handle these three Points, very useful for us to consider, and to be well instruct­ed in.

1st. The Difficulties of a Holy and Christian Course.

2dly, The firm Resolution, and ear­nest Endeavour that is required on our part, for the conquering of these Diffi­culties.

3dly, That these Difficulties are not so great and insuperable, as to be a just Discouragement to our Endeavours; if we will strive, we may master them.

First, The Difficulties of a Holy and Christian Course. And these are either from our selves, or from something without us.

[Page 307]1. From our selves, from the Origi­nal Corruption and Depravation of our Nature, and the power of evil Habits and Customs, contracted by vicious Pra­ctices. Our Natures are vitiated and de­praved, inclined to evil, and impotent to good; besides that being habituated to Sin and Vice, it is a matter of infi­nite Difficulty to break off a Custom, and to turn the course of our Life ano­ther way. Now because this is the diffi­culty of our first Entrance into Religion, it is represented by a strait Gate which is hard to get through.

2. There are likewise other difficul­ties from without; as namely, the Op­position and Persecution of the World, which was very raging and violent in the first beginnings of Christianity. And this our Saviour represents by the rug­gedness and roughness of the Way, as St. Matth. expresseth it, Chap. 7. 14. Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to Life, [...], confragosa est via, (so Grotius renders it) the Way is craggy, full of Afflictions and Troubles.

So that these are the two great Diffi­culties in a Christian Course, Indisposi­tion from within, and Opposition from without.

[Page 308]1. Indisposition from within. And this makes Religion so much the more diffi­cult, because it checks us at our very first Entrance upon our Christian Course, and makes us unwilling to set out. The Cor­ruption of our Nature, and those vici­ous Habits which by a long custom of Sin we have contracted, do strongly en­cline us the contrary way, so that a Man must offer great Force and Violence to himself, that will conquer this Difficul­ty. It is one of the hardest things in the World to break off a vicious Habit, and to get loose from the Tyranny of Cu­stom. The Prophet Jeremiah speaks of it, as next to a natural Impossibility, chap. 13. 23. Can the Ethiopian change his skin? or the Leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do e­vil. This requires great Striving indeed. Nothing shows the Spirit, and Resolu­tion of a Man more, than to contend with an inveterate Habit; for in this case a Man strives against the very bent and inclination of his Soul; and 'tis easier to set a Man against all the World, than to make him fight with himself: and yet this every Man must do, who from any wicked course of Life, betakes himself seriously to Religion; he must as it [Page 309] were lay violent Hands upon himself, and fight with the Man he was before; and this in Scripture is emphatically ex­prest to us, by crucifying the old Man, with the Affections and Lusts thereof. A Chri­stian when he first enters upon a Holy and good Course of life, is represented as two Persons or Parties at civil Wars one with another; the Old, and the New Man: So that whoever will be a Christian must put off himself, and become another Man; and 'tis no easie matter for a Man to quit himself.

2. In our Christian Course, we must likewise expect to meet with great Op­position from without. Blessed be God, Christianity hath generally been for ma­ny Ages free from this Difficulty, which attended the first Profession of it; it was then indeed a very steep and craggy way, very rough and thorny, not to be tra­velled in without Sweat and Blood; then the Dangers and Hazards of that Pro­fession were such, as were not to be en­countred by a mere moral Resolution, and the natural Strength of Flesh and Blood; the Persecution that attended it was so hot, and the Torments which threatned it so terrible, that the sensu­al and inconsiderate part of Mankind [Page 310] would rather venture Hell at a distance, than run themselves upon so present and evident a Danger.

But since these Ages of Persecution, this Difficulty hath been in a great mea­sure removed. Not but that the true Re­ligion hath still its Enemies in the world; but they are not let loose, as they were in those times: It is still persecuted and exposed to the Malice and Reproach, but not to the Rage and Fury of unreasona­ble Men. In the calmest times there is hardly any Man can be a strict and sin­cere Christian, without being liable to Hatred and Contempt, without deny­ing himself many of those worldly Ad­vantages, which those who make no Conscience of the strict Laws of Christi­anity may make to themselves; so that at all times it requires a good degree of Constancy and Resolution to persevere in a Holy Course, and to bear up against the Opposition of the World, and to with­stand its Temptations, to be harmless and blameless in the midst of a crooked and per­verse Nation; not to be infected with the eminent and frequent Examples of Vice, and carryed down with the stream of a corrupt and degenerare Age. So that tho' our Difficulties be not always the [Page 311] same, and equal to those which the Pri­mitive Christians encountred, yet there is enough to exercise our best Resoluti­on and Care; tho' the main Body of the Enemies of Christianity be broken, and the Sons of Anak be destroyed out of the Land; yet some of the old Inhabitants are still left, to be Thorns in our Sides, and Pricks in our Eyes, that true Religion may always have something to exercise its Force and Vigour upon. I have done with the first Point, the Difficulties of a Christian Course. I proceed to the

Second, The earnest Endeavour that is to be used on our Part, for the con­quering of these Difficulties. And to the business of Religion, if we will set upon it in good earnest, these three things are required.

1st, A mighty Resolution to engage us in a Holy and Christian Course.

2dly, Great Diligence and Industry to carry us on in it.

3dly, An invincible Constancy to car­ry us through it, and make us persevere in it to the end.

1st, A mighty Resolution to engage us in a Holy and Good Course. For want of this, most Men miscarry and stumble at the very Threshold, and ne­ver [Page 312] get through the strait Gate, never master the Difficulties of the first En­trance. Many are well disposed toward Religion, and have fits of good Incli­nation that way, (especially in their young and tender Years) but they want firmness of Resolution to conquer the Difficulties of the first entrance upon a religious and virtuous Life; like the young Man that came to our Saviour, well inclined to do some good thing, that be might inherit eternal Life; but when it came to the point, he gave back, he was divided betwixt Christ and the World, and had not Resolution enough to part with all for him.

Many Men (I doubt not) have fre­quent Thoughts and Deliberations a­bout a better Course of Life, and are in a good Mind to take up, and break off that lewd and riotous Course they are in; but they cannot bring themselves to a fixt Purpose and Resolution: and yet without this nothing is to be done, the double minded Man is unstable in all his ways. There must be no Indifferency and Irresoluteness in our Minds, if we will be Christians; we must not stop at the Gate, but resolve to press in. We see that Men can take up peremptory Reso­lutions [Page 313] in other matters, to be rich and great in the World, and they can be true and stedfast to these Resolutions; and why should not Men resolve to be Wise and Happy, and stand to these Resolutions, and make them good? God is more ready to assist and strengthen these kind of resolutions than any other; and I am sure no man hath so much reason to resolve upon any thing, as to live a Holy and Virtuous Life; no other resolution can do a man that good, and bring him that comfort and happi­ness, that this will.

2dly, The business of Religion, as it requires a mighty Resolution to en­gage us in a holy and good course, so likewise a great Diligence to carry us on in it. When we are got through the strait gate, we must account to meet with many difficulties in our way; there are in the course of a Christian's Life many Duties to be performed, which require great pains and care; many Temptations to be resisted, which will keep us continually upon our guard; a great part of the Way is up Hill, and not to be climb'd without Labour; and the Scripture frequently calls upon us, to work out our Salvation with fear and [Page 314] trembling, that is, with great Care and Industry; to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure; to follow Holi­ness, [...], to pursue it with great ear­nestness. Nothing of this World that is of value, is to be had upon other terms; and we have low thoughts of Heaven, if we think any pains too much to get thither.

3dly, The business of Religion re­quires an invincible Constancy to car­ry us through it, and to make us per­severe in it to the End. Resolution may make a good entrance; but it requires great Constancy and Firmness of Mind, to hold out in a good Course. A good Resolution may be taken up, upon a present heat, and may cool again; but nothing but a constant and steady tem­per of Mind will make a man persevere; and yet without this, no Man shall ever reach Heaven. He that continueth to the end shall be saved; but if any Man draw back, God's Soul will have no pleasure in him. God puts this Case by the Pro­phet, and determines it, Ezekiel 18. 24. When the righteous Man turneth away from his Righteousness, shall he live? all his Righ­teousness that he hath done, shall not be mentioned; in his Trespass that he hath [Page 315] trespassed, and in his Sin that he hath sin­ned, in them he shall die; nay, so far will his Righteousness be from availing him, if he do not persevere in it, that it will render his Condition much worse, to have gone so far towards Heaven, and at last to turn his Back upon it. So St. Peter tells us, 2 Pet. 2. 20, 21. For if after they have escaped the Pollutions of the World, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again en­tangled therein and overcome; the latter end is worse with them than the beginning; for it had been better for them not to have known the way of Righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy Commandment delivered unto them. I proceed to the

Third Point, namely, That the Difficul­ties of a Holy and a Christian Life are not so great and insuperable, as to be a just ground of discouragement to our Endeavours. All that I have said con­cerning the Difficulties of Religion, was with no design to damp, but rather to quicken our Industry; for, upon the whole matter, when all things are duly considered, it will appear, that Christ's yoke is easie, and his burthen light; that the Commandments of God are not [Page 316] grievous; no, not this Commandment of striving to enter in at the strait gate; which I shall endeavour to make ma­nifest, by taking these Four things into consideration.

1. The Assistance which the Gospel offers to us. God hath there promised to give his holy Spirit to them that ask him; and by the assistance of God's Ho­ly Spirit, we may be able to conquer all those difficulties. Indeed if we were left to our selves, to the impotency and weakness of our own Nature, we should never be able to cope with these Difficulties; every Temptation would be too hard for us; every little Opposition would discourage us: but God is with us, and there is nothing too hard for him. If the Principles of a Ho­ly Life, were only the Birth of our own Resolution, they would easily be born down; but they are from God, of a Heavenly Birth and Original; and what­soever is born of God, overcometh the World. John 1. 12, 13. As many as received him, to them gave he power ( [...], the priviledge) to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his Name, which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

God considers the Impotency of Hu­mane Nature, in this deprav'd and de­generate state into which we are sunk, and therefore he hath not left us to our selves; but when he commands us to work out our own Salvation, he tells us for our Encouragement, that he himself works in us both to will and to do; he does not bid us to be strong in our own strength, for he knows we have no strength of our own, but to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might; and what may not even a weak Crea­ture do, that is so, powerfully assisted? If we will but make use of this strength, nothing can be too hard for us. All that God expects from us is, That we should comply with the motions of his Spirit, and be as sincere in the Use of our own endeavours, as he is in the offers of his Grace and assistance.

2. Let us consider, That the greatest Difficulties are at first; 'tis but ma­king one manful Onset, and sustaining the first Brunt, and the Difficulties will abate and grow less, and our strength will every day increase and grow more. The Gate is strait: but when we have once got through it, our feet will be set in an open place. After some strugling [Page 318] to get through, we shall every day find our selves at more Ease and Liberty. It will be very hard at first, to master our vicious Inclinations, to change the ha­bit of our Minds, and the course of our. Lives, and to act contrary to what we have been long accustomed: but this Trouble lasts but for a little while; these Pangs of the New-Birth, tho' they be sharp, yet they are not usually of long continuance.

It does indeed require great Reso­lution and firmness of Mind, to En­counter the first Difficulties of Religion: but if we can but stand it out for one brunt, our Enemy will give way, and the pleasure of Victory will tempt us on. It is troublesome to conflict with great Difficulties, and Men are loth to be brought to it: but when we are en­gaged, it is one of the greatest plea­sures in the World to prevail and Conquer. Many Men are loth to go to War; but after a little Success, they are as loth to give over; that which was a terrour to them at first, turns into a pleasure.

3. Consider that Custom will make any course of life tolerable, and most things easie. Religion, and the pra­ctice [Page 319] of a Holy Life is difficult at first: but after we are once habituated to it, the trouble will wear off by degrees, and that which was grievous will be­come easie; nay, by degrees, much more pleasant than ever the contrary practice was. We see the daily expe­rience of this, in the most difficult and laborious Employments of this World; a little pains tires a Man at first, but when he is once seasoned and enured to Labour, Idleness becomes more tedi­ous and troublesome to him than the hardest work. Custom will make a­ny thing easie, tho' it be a little unna­tural. Nothing is more unnatural than Sin; 'tis not according to our Original Nature and Frame, but it is the Cor­ruption and Depravation of it, a second Nature superinduced upon us by Cu­stom: whereas the practice of Holiness and Virtue is agreeable to our Origi­nal and Primitive State, and Sin and Vice are the perverting of Nature, contrary to our Reason, and the design of our Beings, and to all Obligations of Duty and Interest: But by returning to God and our Duty, we return to our Primitive State, we act naturally, and according to the intention of our Beings; [Page 320] and when the force of a contrary Cu­stom is taken off, and the Byass clapt on the other side, we shall run the ways of God's Commandments with more delight and satisfaction, than ever we found in the Ways of Sin.

For Sin is a violence upon our Na­tures, and that is always uneasie, yet it is made more tolerable by Custom: but Religion restores Men to their natural State, and then we are at ease and rest. Religion is at first a yoke and burthen: but unless we take this upon us, we shall never find rest to our Souls.

4thly and lastly, consider the Reward that Religion propounds, and this must needs sweeten and mitigate all the Troubles and Difficulties that are occa­sioned by it. This strait gate, through which we must enter, and this craggy way which we are to climb up, leads to life; and he is a lazy man indeed, that will not strive and struggle for Life. All that a man can do, he will do for his Life, for this miserable Life, which is so short and uncertain, and born to trouble as the sparks fly upward; a Life not worth the having, nor worth the keeping with any great care and trouble, if it were not in order to a better and [Page 321] happier life. But 'tis not this life which our Saviour means; that indeed were not worth all this striving for: 'Tis Eternal Life; a State of Perfect and endless Hap­piness; of joys unspeakable and full of glory. And who would not not strive to enter in at that gate, which leads to so much Felicity? Can a Man possibly take too much pains, be at too much trouble for a few Days, to be happy for ever?

So often as I consider what incredible Industry Men use for the Things of this Life, and to get a small Portion of this World, I am ready to conclude, That either Men do not Believe the Re­wards of another World, or that they do not understand them; else they could not think much to be at the same pains for Heaven, that they can chear­fully bestow for the obtaining of these Corruptible things. Can we be so un­conscionable, as to think God unreason­able, when he offers Heaven and Ever­lasting Happiness to us, upon as easie Terms, as any thing in this World is ordinarily to be had? And are not we very foolish and unwise, to put away Eternal Life from us, when we may have it upon Terms so infinitely below the true worth and value of it?

I have now done with the Three Things which I propounded to speak to from the first part of these Words, which are so many Arguments to en­force the Exhortation here in the Text; to strive to enter in at the strait gate, and to give all Diligence, by the course of a Holy and Virtuous life, to get to Hea­ven; and we may assure our selves, that nothing less than this will bring us thi­ther. So our Saviour tells us, in the latter part of the Text; that many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able. I pro­ceed now to the

Second part of the Text; the Reason or Argument whereby this Exhortation is enforced; Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able. Every seeking to enter in will not gain our ad­mission into Heaven; therefore there must be striving: For Men may do many things in Religion, and make several faint Attempts to get to Heaven, and yet at last fall short of it, for want of that earnest Contention and Endeavour which is necessary to the attaining of it. We must make Religion our business, and set about it with all our might, and persevere and hold out in it, if ever we [Page 323] hope to be admitted to Heaven; for many shall seek to enter, that shall be shut out.

Now what this seeking is, which is here opposed to striving to enter in at the strait gate, our Saviour declares after the Text, v. 25. When once the Master of the House is risen up, and hath shut to the door; and ye begin to stand without, and knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, we have eaten and drunk in thy Presence, and thou hast taught in our streets; but he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; de­part from me all ye workers of Iniquity. St. Matth. mentions some other Preten­ces which they should make; upon which they should lay claim to Hea­ven, Mat. 7. 21, 22, 23. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven: but he that doth the Will of my Father which is in Hea­ven. Many will say unto me in that Day, Lord, Lord, have we not Prophesyed in thy Name? and in thy Name have cast out Devils? and in thy Name done many wonderful Works? And then will I pro­fess unto them; I never knew you, depart [Page 324] from me ye that work Iniquity. After all their seeking to enter in, and notwith­standing all these Pretences, they shall be shut out, and be for ever banisht from the Presence of God. This shall be their doom, which will be much the heavier, because of the disappointment of their confident expectation and hope. So St. Luke tells us, v. 28. There shall be weeping and gnashing of Teeth; when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the Prophets in the Kingdom of God, and ye your selves thrust out. And they shall come from the East, and from the West, and from the North, and from the South, and shall sit down in the King­dom of God. To which St. Matthew adds, Chap. 8. v. 12. But the Children of the Kingdom shall be cast out into utter dark­ness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And then our Saviour concludes (Luke 13. 30.) Behold, there are last that shall be first, and first which shall be last. From all which it appears, with what Confidence many Men, upon these false Pretences (which our Saviour calls seek­ing to enter in) shall lay claim to Hea­ven, and how strangely they shall be disappointed of their expectation and hope; when they shall find themselves [Page 325] cast out of Heaven, who they thought had out-done all others in Religion, and were the only Members of the true Church, and the Children and Heirs of the Kingdom; and shall see others, whom they thought to be out of the Pale of the true Church, and excluded from all terms of Salvation, come from all Quarters, and find free Admission into Heaven; and shall find themselves so grosly and widely mistaken, that those very Per­sons, whom they thought to be last, and of all others farthest from Salvation, shall be first; and they themselves, whom they took for the Children of the Kingdom, and such as should be admitted into Hea­ven in the first place, shall be rejected and cast out.

So that by seeking to enter, we may un­derstand all those things which Men may do in Religion, upon which they shall pre­tend to lay claim to Heaven, nay and confidently hope to obtain it; and yet shall be shamefully disappointed, and fall short of it. Whatever Men think, and believe, and do in Religion, what Priviledges soever Men pretend, what Ways and Means soever Men endeavour to appease the Deity, and to recommend themselves to the Divine Favour and [Page 326] Acceptance, all this is but seeking to enter in, and is not that striving which our Saviour requires. If Men do not do the will of God, but are workers of Iniquity, it will all signifie nothing to the obtaining of Eternal Happiness.

Our Saviour here instanceth in Mens Profession of his Religion, calling him Lord, Lord; in their personal Familiarity and Conversation with him, by eating and drinking in his Presence and Company; in their having heard him preach the Doctrine of Life and Salvation, thou hast taught in our streets; in their having pro­phesied, and wrought great Miracles in his Name and by his Power, Have we not prophesied in thy Name? and in thy Name cast out devils? and in thy Name done many wonderful Works? These were great and glorious Things which they boasted of; and yet nothing of all this will do, if Men do not the Will of God; notwithstanding all this, he will say un­to them, I know ye not whence ye are, de­part from me, ye workers of Iniquity.

And by a plain Parity of Reason, whatever else Men do in Religion, what Attempts soever Men may make to get to Heaven, upon what Priviledges or Pretences soever they may lay claim to [Page 327] eternal Life, they will certainly fall short of it, if they do not do the will of God, but are workers of Iniquity. My business therefore at this time shall be, to disco­ver the several false Claims and Preten­ces which Men may make to Heaven, and yet shall never enter into it. And to this purpose, I shall instance in seve­ral Particulars, by one or more of which, Men commonly delude themselves, and are apt to entertain vain and ill-groun­ded hopes of eternal Salvation.

1st, Some trust to the external Profes­sion of the true Religion.

2dly, Others have attained to a good degree of Knowledge in Religion, and they rely much upon that.

3dly, There are others that find them­selves much affected with the Word of God, and the Doctrines contained in it.

4thly, Others are very strict and de­vout in the external Worship of God.

5thly, Others confide much in their being Members of the only true Church, in which alone Salvation is to be had, and in the manifold Priviledges and Ad­vantages which therein they have above others of getting to Heaven.

6thly, Others think their great Zeal for God, and his true Religion, will cer­tainly save them.

[Page 328] 7thly, Others go a great way in the real Practice of Religion.

8thly, Others rely much upon the Sin­cerity of their Repentance and Conver­sion, whereby they are put into a state of Grace, and become the Children of God, and Heirs of everlasting Life; and being once truly so, they can never fall from that State, so as finally to miscarry.

Lastly, Others venture all upon a Death-bed Repentance, and their Im­port unity with God to receive them to Mercy at the last.

I shall briefly go over these parti­culars, which are the several ways whereby Men seek to enter into Heaven, and hope to get thither at last; and shall shew the Insufficiency of them; and that there is something beyond all this necessary to be done for the attain­ment of Everlasting Salvation.

1st, Some trust to the mere external Profession of the true Religion, and think it enough to call Christ, Lord, Lord, to be baptized in his Name, and thereby to be admitted Members of the Christian Church. What the Apostle says of the Profession of the Jewish Religion, and the outward Badge of it, Circumcision, may be applyed to the Profession of Chri­stianity [Page 329] made in Baptism, Rom. 2. 17, 25, 28, 29. Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the Law, and makest thy boast of God. Circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the Law; but if thou be a breaker of the Law, thy Circumcision is made Ʋn­circumcision: For he is not a Jew that is one outwardly, neither is that Circumcision, which is outward in the Flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and Circumcisi­on is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter. The Case is the same of those who make only an outward Pro­fession of Christianity. Baptism verily profitteth, if we perform the Condition of that Covenant which we entred into by Baptism; but if we do not, our Bap­tism is no Baptism: For he is not a Christian, which is one outwardly, nor is that Baptism which is outward in the Flesh; but he is a Christian which is one inward­ly, and Baptism is of the Heart, in the Spirit, and not in Water only. So St. Peter tells us, 1 Pet. 3. 21. that Baptism is not only the washing of the Body with Water, and the putting away of the Filth of the Flesh; but the answer of a good Consci­ence towards God.

The Promise of eternal Life and Happiness is not made to the external [Page 330] Profession of Religion, without the sin­cere and real Practice of it. Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, (says our Saviour) and do not the things which I say? The Scrip­ture hath no where said, he that is bap­tised shall be saved; but he that belie­veth and is baptised, he that repenteth and is baptised, shall be saved. This deserves to be seriously considered by a great ma­ny Christians, who have nothing to shew for their Christianity, but their Names; whose best Title to Heaven is their Bap­tism, an Engagement entred into by others in their Name, but never confir­med and made good by any Act of their own; a thing which was done before they remember, and which hath no other ef­fect upon their Hearts and Lives, than if it were quite forgotten.

2dly, There are others who have at­tained to a good degree of Knowledge in Religion, and they hope that will save them. But if our Knowledge in Religion, though never so clear and great, do not descend into our Hearts and Lives, and govern our Actions, all our hopes of Heaven are built upon a false and sandy Foundation. So our Saviour tells us, Matth. 7. 26. Every one that heareth these Sayings of mine, and doth them [Page 331] not, shall be likened unto a foolish Man, which built his House upon the Sand. And John 13. 17. If ye know these things; happy are ye, if ye do them.

There is not a greater Cheat in Reli­gion, nothing wherein Men do more grosly impose upon themselves, than in this matter, as if the Knowledge of Re­ligion, without the Practice of it, would bring Men to Heaven. How diligent are many in reading and hearing the Word of God, who yet take no care to practise it in their Lives? Like those in the Prophet, Ezek. 33. 31. of whom God complains, They come unto thee as the Peo­ple cometh, and they sit before thee as my People, and they hear my Words; but they will not do them. None do so foolishly, and yet so deservedly miss of Happiness, as those who are very careful to learn the way to Heaven, and when they have done, will take no pains at all to get thither.

3dly, There are others who find them­selves much affected with the Word of God, and the Preaching of it; and this they take for a very good Sign, that it hath its due effect upon them. And this happens very frequently, that the Word of God makes considerable Impressions [Page 332] upon Men for the present, and they are greatly affected with it, and troubled for their Sins, and afraid of the Judgments of God, and the terrible Vengeance of another World; and upon this they take up some Resolutions of a better Course, which after a little while vanish and come to nothing. This was the Tem­per of the People of Israel, they deligh­ted to hear the Prophet speak to them in the Name of God, Ezek. 33. 32. And loe, thou art unto them as a very lovely Song of one that hath a pleasant Voice, and can play well upon an Instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not. Mark 6. 20. it is said that Herod had a great re­verence for John the Baptist, that he obser­ved him, and heard him gladly; but yet for all that, he continued the same cruel and bad Man that he was before. And in the Parable of the Sower, Matth. 13. 20. there are one sort of Hearers mention'd, who, when they heard the word, received it with joy; but having no root in themselves, they endured but for a while, and when Tri­bulation or Persecution ariseth, because of the Word, presently they are offended. There are many Men who have sudden Moti­ons in Religion, and are mightily af­fected for the present: but it must be a [Page 333] rooted and fixt Principle that will endure, and hold out against great Difficulties and Opposition. Acts 24. 25. it is said, that when St. Paul reasoned of Righteous­ness, and Temperance, and Judgment to come, Felix trembled; and nothing is more frequent, than for Men to be mightily strartled at the Preaching of the Word, when their Judgments are convinced and born down, and their Consciences touched to the quick; a lively representation of the Evil of Sin, and the infinite Danger of a sinful Course, may stir up the Passions of Grief and Fear, and dart such stings into the Con­sciences of Men, as may make them ex­tremely restless and unquiet, and work some good Thoughts and Inclinations in them towards a better Course; and yet like Metals, when the heat is over, they may be the harder for having been melted down.

4thly, Others shew great Strictness and Devotion in the Worship of God, and this they hope will be accepted, and can not fail to bring them to Heaven: and yet some of the worst of Men have been very eminent for this. The Pharisees were the most exact People in the World in matter of external Ceremony and De­votion; [Page 334] and yet for all this, our Saviour plainly tells them, that they were farther from the Kingdom of God, than those who seemed to be farthest, than Publi­cans and Harlots; and that because they were so very bad, under so great a pre­tence of Devotion, therefore they should re­ceive the greater Damnation.

Not but that External Devotion is a necessary expression of Religion, and highly acceptable to God, when it pro­ceeds from a pious and devout Mind, and when Men are really such in their Hearts and Lives, as their external De­votion represents them to be: But when the outward Garb of Religion is only made a Cloak for Sin and Wickedness, when there is nothing within to answer all the Shew that we see without, no­thing is more odious and abominable to God. These are mere Engins and Pup­pits in Religion, all the Motions we see without proceed from an artificial Contrivance, and not from any inward Principle of Life; and as no Creature is more ridiculous than an Ape, because the Beast makes some pretence to human Shape; so nothing is more fulsome than this hypocritical Devotion, because it [Page 335] looks like Religion, but is the farthest from it of any thing in the World.

5thly, Others confide very much in their being Members of the only true Church, in which alone Salvation is to be had, and in the manifold Priviled­ges and Advantages which they have thereby above others, of getting to Hea­ven. Thus the Jews confined Salvation to themselves, and looked upon all the rest of the World as excluded from it. And not only so, but they believed that by one means or other every Israelite should be saved. So that they were the Jewish Catholick Church, out of which there was no hope of Salvation for any.

The same Pretence is made by some Christians at this day, who engross Sal­vation to themselves, and will allow none to go to Heaven out of the Com­munion of their Church; and have so ordered the matter, that hardly any that are in it can miscarry. They are Members of an infallible Church, which cannot possibly err in Matters of Faith, they have not only eat and drunk in Christ's presence, but have eat and drunk his ve­ry Corporal Presence, the natural Sub­stance of his Flesh and Blood; they have not only our blessed Saviour, but innu­merable [Page 336] other Intercessors in Heaven; they have not only their own Merits to plead for them, but in case they be de­fective, they may have the Merits of o­thers assigned and made over to them, out of the infinite Stock and Treasure of the Church, upon which they may chal­lenge Eternal Life, as of right and due belonging to them; and by a due course of Confession and Absolution, may quit scores with God for all their Sins from time to time. Or if they have neglected all this, they may, after the most flagi­tious course of Life, upon Attrition (that is, upon some Trouble for Sin, out of fear of Hell and Damnation) joyned with Confession, and Absolution, get to Heaven at last; provided the Priest mean honestly, and do not for want of Intention, deprive them of the saving Benefit and Effect of this Sacrament.

But is it possible Men can be deluded at this Rate! as to think that Confidence of their own good Condition, and want of Charity to others, will carry them to Heaven? That any Church hath the Priviledge to save impenitent Sinners? And they are really impenitent, who do not exercise such a Repentance, as the Gospel plainly requires; and if Men die [Page 337] in this state, whatever Church they are of, the great Judge of the World hath told us, that he will not know them, but will bid them to depart from him, because they have been Workers of Iniquity.

6thly, Others think that their Zeal for God and his true Religion will cer­tainly save them. But Zeal, if it be not according to Knowledge, if it be mistaken in its Object, or be irregular and exces­sive in the degree, is so far from being a Virtue, that it may be a great Sin and Fault; and tho' it be for the Truth, yet if it be destitute of Charity, and separa­ted from the Virtues of a good Life, it will not avail us. So St. Paul tells us, that tho' a Man should give his Body to be burnt; yet if he have not Charity, it is no­thing.

7thly, Others go a great way in the real Practice of Religion, and this sure willdo the business. And it is very true, and certain in experience, that Religi­on may have a considerable Awe and Influence upon Men's Hearts and Lives, and yet they may fall short of Happiness. Men may in many considerable Instances perform their Duty to God and Man; and yet the retaining of one Lust, the practice of any one known Sin, may hin­der [Page 338] them from entring in at the strait Gate. Herod did not only hear John glad­ly, but did many things in Obedience to his Doctrine; and yet he was a very bad Man. The Pharisee thanked God (and it may be truly) that he was not like other Men, an extortioner, or unjust, or an a­dulterer; and yet the penitent Publican was justified before him. The young Man who came to our Saviour to know what he should do to enter into Life, and of whom our Saviour testifies, that he was not far from the Kingdom of God, and that he wanted but one thing; yet for want of that he miscarried. And St. James as­sures us, that if a Man keep the whole Law, and yet fail in one point, he is guilty of all. If we be workers of Iniquity in any one kind Christ will disown us, and bid us depart from him.

8thly, Others rely upon the Sincerity of their Repentance and Conversion, whereby they are put into a state of Grace, from whence they can never fi­nally fall. They did once very hearti­ly repent of their wicked Lives, and did change their Course, and were really reformed, and continued a great while in that good Course. And all this may be certainly true; but it is as certain that [Page 339] they are relapsed into their former evil Course: And if so, the Prophet hath told us their Doom, that if the righteous Man forsake his Righteousness, his Righ­teousness shall not be remembred; but in the Sin that he hath sinned, in that shall he die. So that a Righteous Man may turn from his Righteousress, and commit Iniquity and dye in it. For the Prophet doth not here (as some vainly pretend) put a case, which is impossible in Fact should happen, un­less they will say, that the other Case which he puts together with it, of the wicked Mans turning away from his wicked­ness, and doing that which is lawful and right, is likewise impossible, which God forbid. And that Men may fall from a state of Grace is no matter of Discourage­ment to good Men; but a good caution against Security, and an Argument to greater Care and Watchfulness, accor­ding to that of the Apostle, Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall; which Ad­monition were surely to little purpose, if it were impossible for them that stand to fall.

Lastly, Others venture all upon a Death bed Repentance, and their Impor­tunity with God to receive them to Mer­cy at last. This indeed is only to seek, and [Page 340] not to strive to enter in; and these per­haps are they whom our Saviour repre­sents as standing without, and knocking at the door, saying Lord, Lord, open unto us; Or as St. Matthew expresseth it, Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, which is most probably meant of the day of Judgment, when their Case is brought to the last extremity; and next to that is the day of Death, when Men are en­tring into a state of endless Happiness or Misery. And no wonder, if the Sinner would then be glad, when he can no lon­ger continue in this World, to be admit­ted into Happiness in the next: but the Door is then shut to most Sinners, and it is a Miracle of God's Grace and Mer­cy, if any Repentance that Men can then exercise, (which at the best must needs be very confused and imperfect) will then be accepted; if any Importu­nity which Men can then use, will be a­vailable. For with what Face can we expect, that after all the evil Actions of a long Life, God should be mollified to­ward us by a few good Words, and ac­cept of a forc'd and constrained Repen­tance for all our wilful and deliberate Crimes, and that he should forgive us all our Sins upon a little Importunity, [Page 341] when we can sin no longer, and would repent no sooner.

Let us then by all that hath been said, be effectually perswaded to mind the bu­siness of Religion in good earnest, and with all our might, especially the Pra­ctice of it, in the exercise of all the Gra­ces and Virtues of a good Life. Let us heartily repent of all the Sins of our past Life, and resolve upon a better course for the future; and let us not delay and put off this necessary Work to the most unfit and improper time of old Age, and Sickness, and Death: but let us set about it presently, and enter upon a good Course, and make all the Speed and Pro­gress in it we can.

And let us remember, that whatever we do in Religion will not bring us to Heaven, if we do not do the will of our Fa­ther which is in Heaven; if we do not give up our selves to a constant and universal Obedience of his Laws. This is to strive to enter in at the strait Gate: And tho' we strive to enter in a Thousand other Ways, we shall not be able; and after all our Confidence and Conceit of our selves, and our own Righteousness, and Secu­rity of our Salvation from the Priviledges of any Church, it will be a strange [Page 342] Damp and Disappointment to us, to see the sincere Christians, who have done the Will of God, and lived in Obedi­ence to his Laws, to come from all quar­ters, and Churches in the World, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Ja­cob in the Kingdom of God, when we who thought our selves the Children of the Kingdom, shall be cast out, because we have been Workers of Iniquity. I will con­clude all with those plain Words of the Apostle, Rom. 2. 7, 8, 9. To them, who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and Immortality; eter­nal Life: But unto them that are contenti­ous, and do not obey the Truth, but obey Ʋnrighteousness; indignation and wrath, tribulat on, and anguish upon every Soul of Man that doth evil; in the day when God shall judge the Secrets of Men by Jesus Christ according to the Gospel.

SERMON X. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
Sermon I.

LUKE XVI. 19, 20.‘There was a certain Rich Man, which was cloathed in Purple and fine Linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain Beggar, named Lazarus, which was laid at his Gate full of Sores.’

I Intend by God's Assistance to go o­ver this Parable, than which I think there is none in the whole Gospel, which is more apt to affect Men, or which is more artificially contrived, and in the Circumstances whereof a greater Deco­rum is observed.

It is a great Question among Inter­preters, whether this Narration concern­ing the Rich Man and Lazarus be a Pa­rable, [Page 344] or a History, or a mixture of both: That it is not a History, the resemblance between it, and others of our Saviour's Parables, will easily convince any Man that is not contentious; besides that, in some ancient Copies, 'tis usher'd in with this Preface, And he spake a Parable to his Disciples, A certain Rich Man, &c.

But yet, as some of the Ancients have not improbably conjectur'd, it seems to be such a kind of Parable, as had some­thing of a real Foundation; as namely, that there was such a poor Man as La­zarus is here described, and of that Name among the Jews: For in a meer Parable 'tis altogether unusual to name Persons, nor is this done in any other of our Savi­our's Parables.

But whether this be so or not, is not worth the disputing, because it alters not the case as to our Saviour's purpose, and the Instructions which we may learn from it.

In the handling of this Parable, I shall explain it as I go along, and draw two sorts of Instructions or Observations from it.

The First sort of Observations shall be from the Circumstances which serve for the Decorum of the Parable: And [Page 345] these I will not warrant to be all inten­ded by our Saviour; but only to be true in themselves and useful, and to have a probable rise from some Circumstances of the Parable; and therefore I shall speak but very briefly to them.

The Second sort of Observations shall be such, as are grounded upon the main Scope and Intent of the Parable; and these I shall insist more largely upon. I begin,

First, With those Observations and Instructions which I shall gather up from the Circumstances which serve for the Decorum of the Parable; and I shall take them in order as they lie in the Parable.

Ver. 19. There was a certain Rich Man, which was cloathed in purple and fine linnen, and fared sumptuously every Day. Some think that our Saviour in this descripti­on reflected upon Herod, because he de­scribes this Rich Man to be cloathed in Purple. But this Conjecture is without reason; for besides that, it was not our Saviour's Custom in his Preaching, to give secret Girds to the Magistrate; 'tis certain that it was long after our Sa­viour's time, that Purple was appropri­ated to Kings. It was then, and a great while after, the wear of rich and pow­erful [Page 346] Men, and of the Favourites and great Men of the Court, who are fre­quently in ancient Histories call'd the Purpurati, those that wore Purple.

That which I observe from hence, is, that the rich Man is not here censured for enjoying what he had, for wearing rich Apparel, and keeping a great Ta­ble. This of it self, if it be according to a Man's Estate and Quality, and with­out intemperance, is so far from being a fault, that it is a commendable vir­tue. But here was his Fault, that he made all to serve his own Sensuality and Luxury, without any consideration of the Wants and Necessities of others: Whereas, one of the great Uses of the plentiful Tables of Rich Men, is from the superfluity of them to feed the Poor and the hungry.

Ver. 20. And there was a certain Beg­gar named Lazarus; as if our Saviour had said, for instance, poor Lazarus whom ye all knew. And here I cannot but take notice of the Decorum which our Saviour uses. He would not name any Rich Man, because that was invidious, and apt to provoke. He endeavours to make all Men sensible of their Duty; but he would provoke none of them by [Page 347] any peevish Reflection; for nothing is more improper than to provoke those whom we intend to perswade. While a Man's Reason is calm and undisturbed, it is capable of Truth fairly propounded; but if we once stir up Men's Passions, it is like muddying of the Waters, they can discern nothing clearly afterwards. But to proceed in the Parable.

There was a certain Beggar named Laza­rus, which was laid at the Rich Man's gate full of Sores, and was desirous to be fed with the crumbs which fell from his Table, moreover the Dogs came and licked his sores. Here are three great Aggravations of the Rich Man's uncharitableness.

1st, That here was an Object presen­ted it self to him.

2dly, Such an Object as would move any ones Pity, a Man reduced to extream Misery and Necessity.

3dly, A little Relief would have con­tented him.

1st, Here was an Object presented it self to him, Lazarus laid at the Rich Mans Gate; so that so often as he went out of his own House and came in, he could not but take notice of him. Good Men that are charitably disposed, will enquire out Objects for their Charity, and not al­ways [Page 348] stay 'till they thrust themselves upon them: But he is a very bad Man, who, when an Object of great Pity and Charity is presented, is so far from re­lenting towards him, that he stops his Ear to his Cry, and turns away his Face from him. He is an uncharitable Man, who being Rich, and hearing of the Mi­series of others, does not take them in­to Consideration: But what we see with our Eyes is much more apt to affect us. So that this was an Argument of a very cruel disposition in the Rich Man, that having so many Occasions of seeing La­zarus, he should never be moved to commiserate him.

2dly, Here was such an Object presen­ted to him, as would move any ones Pity, a Man reduced to extream Mise­ry and Necessity. Here was no com­mon Object of Charity, a Man, not on­ly in extream Want, but in great Pain and Anguish, and so helpless, that he was unable to keep off the Dogs from being troublesome to him. And yet this did not move him.

3dly, A very little Relief would have contented this Poor Man, and have been a great Kindness to him; that which the Rich Man might have spared with­out [Page 349] the least Prejudice to himself. He would have been glad to have been fed with the crumbs which fell from the Rich Man's table; and yet the Parable inti­mates, that the Rich Man was so hard­hearted, as not to afford him these.

Ver. 22. And it came to pass that the Beggar died, and was carried by the Angels into Abraham's bosom. Here was a great and sudden Change! He, who when he was alive was neglected by Men, and contumeliously exposed like a dead Car­cass to the Dogs, when he dies, is at­tended on by the Angels, and by them safely conveyed into a state of unspeak­able Happiness. He, who lay at the Rich Man's Gate, and could find no entrance there, is admitted into Heaven. The Beggar died, and was carried into Abraham's bosom.

'Tis very observable, that our Savi­our in this Parable represents Men as passing immediately out of this Life into a state of Happiness or Torment. And as in no other place of Scripture, so neither in this, where it had been so pro­per, does our Saviour give the least In­timation of the state of Purgatory, which the Church of Rome hath devised, and makes so much Profit and Advantage of, [Page 350] which, because it is so visible and appa­rent, we may without Uncharitableness suppose to be the reason why they keep such a stir about it.

And was carried by the Angels into A­braham's bosom. It was an ancient Tradi­tion among the Jews, that the Angels did attend good Men at their Death, and carry their Souls into Paradise, which is here call'd Abraham's bosom. And this was a proper place for Lazarus, who had been neglected by the Rich Man; to be conveyed into Abraham's Bosom, who was of a quite contrary temper, and loved to entertain and relieve Stran­gers.

And Paradise is fitly call'd Abraham's bosom, because the Jews had so great a Veneration for Abraham, and that deser­vedly for his eminent Faith and Obedi­ence, that they gave him the first place among the blessed. Hence is the Ex­pression, Matth. 8. 11. of sitting down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of God. Now this Expressi­on of being in Abraham's bosom, is an Al­lusion to the Custom of Feasts among the Jews, where the most esteemed and beloved Guest sat next him that was chief at the Feast, and leaned on his Bo­som. [Page 351] Hence St. John is call'd the Disci­ple whom Jesus loved, because when he sat at Meat, he leaned on his Bosom▪ John 13. 23. Hence likewise is the Expres­sion of our Saviour's being in the Bosom of his Father, to signifie his dearness to him, John 1. 18. No Man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

I proceed. The Rich Man also died, and was buried. The Rich Man also died; this is very elegant and emphatical, insinu­ating to us, what the Scripture so often takes notice of, that Riches, for all Men's confidence in them, will not deliver from Death. This Rich Man indeed was out of Danger of being starved and famisht, as poor Lazarus was: But Death had other ways to come at him. It is pro­bable enough, that he might be surfet­ed by faring sumptously every day. The Rich Man also died.

And was buried. And here again we may observe the strict Decorum which our Saviour uses in this Parable. It is not said of Lazarus, that he was buried, but only that he died; it is probable that he was flung out of the way into some Pit or other: But of the Rich Man it is said, [Page 352] he was buried. And this is all the Ad­vantage which a Rich Man hath by a great Estate after he is dead, to have a pompous and solemn Funeral; which yet signifies nothing to him after Death, because he is insensible of it.

Ver. 23. And in Hell he lift up his Eyes being in Torments, and seeth Abraham a­far off, and Lazarus in his bosom. As cor­poral Acts are attributed to God in Scrip­ture, so likewise to separated Souls.

In Hell he lift up his Eyes, being in Tor­ments; Intimating to us, that this sen­sual and voluptuous Man had stupidly past away his Life without any serious Thoughts and Consideration: but now at last he was awakned, when it was too late, and began to consider. In Hell he lift up his Eyes, being in Torments.

O the Stupidity of Sinners! who run on blindly in their Course, and never open their Eyes 'till they are fallen into the Pit; who cannot be brought to consider, 'till Consideration will do them no good; 'till it serve to no other pur­pose, but to enrage their Consciences, and to multiply the Stings of them.

Thus it was with this Rich Man, he lift up his Eyes being in Torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bo­som. [Page 353] Our Saviour represents him as see­ing that which would then most pro­bably come to his Mind. Feeling his own Misery, he began to consider the happy Condition of the poor Man whom he had so cruelly neglected. And indeed one great part of the Torment of Hell consists in those Reflections, which Men shall make upon the Happiness which they have wilfully lost and neglected, and the Sins whereby they have plunged themselves into that miserable State.

Ver. 24. And he cried, and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send La­zarus, that he may dip the tip of his Finger in Water, and cool my Tongue; for I am tormented in this Flame. See how the Scene is changed; now he is fain to beg Relief of the Beggar, who had sued to him in vain.

Send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his Finger in Water, and cool my Tongue. Here is another very decent Circum­stance; the Rich Man is represented as not having the Face to beg any great Relief from Lazarus, towards whom he had been so hard-hearted. To dip the tip of his Finger in Water, to cool his Tongue, had been a very great Favour from Lazarus, to whom the Rich Man [Page 320] had denyed even the Crumbs which fell from his Table.

For I am tormented in this Flame. The Scripture loves to make use of sensible Representations, to set forth to us the Happiness and Misery of the next Life; partly by way of Condescention to our Understandings, and partly to work more powerfully upon our Affections. For whilst we are in the Body, and im­merst in Sense, we are most apt to be moved by such Descriptions of things as are sensible; and therefore the Torments of wicked Men in Hell, are usually in Scripture described to us, by one of the quickest and sharpest Pains that Human Nature is ordinarily acquainted withal, namely, by the pain of Burning; Fire being the most active thing in Nature, and therefore capable of causing the sharpest Pains.

But we cannot from these and the like Expressions of Scripture certainly deter­mine that this is the true and proper Pain of Hell: All that we can infer from these Descriptions is this, that the Suf­ferings of wicked Men in the other World, shall be very terrible, and as great, and probably greater than can possibly be described to us by any thing [Page 321] that we are now acquainted withal; for who knows the Power of God's An­ger, and the utmost of what Omnipotent Justice can do to Sinners? For as the Glory of Heaven, and the Joys of God's Presence are now inconceivable; so like­wise are the Torments of Hell, and the Miseries of the Damned. Eye hath not seen, nor Ear heard, neither have entred into the Heart of Man, those dreadful things which God prepares for them that hate him. Who can imagine the ut­most significancy of those Phrases which the Scripture uses to set forth this to us, of God's being a consuming Fire, of being tormented in Flames, of God's Wrath and Jealousie smoaking against Sinners, and all the Curses that are written in his Book, falling upon them? Who can conceive the Horror of those Expressions of the Worm that dies not, and the Fire that is not quenched, of God's pouring out the Vials of his Wrath, of being deliver'd over to the Tormentor, of being cast into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone? These forms of Speech seem to be borrowed from those things which among Men are most dreadful and affrighting, and to be cal­culated and accommodated to our Capa­cities, [Page 356] and not so much intended to ex­press to us the proper and real Torments of Hell, as to convey to us in a more sensible and affecting manner the sense of what the Scripture says in general, that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Ver. 25. But Abraham said, Son re­member that thou in thy life time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. Abraham said, Son, re­member. It is very observable, how our Saviour chuses to represent to us the dis­course between Abraham and the Rich Man; tho' there was the greatest diffe­rence between them imaginable, the one was in Heaven, and the other in Hell, yet they treated one another civi­ly. Abraham is brought in giving the common terms of Civility to this wretch­ed wicked Man, and calling him Son; Son remember. It was indeed a very se­vere thing which he said to him, he put him in mind of his former Prosperity, and of his Fault in his unmerciful Usage of Lazarus; Remember Son, that thou in thy life time receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus, &c. But yet whilst he speaks such sharp things to him, he 'bates bad Lan­guage. [Page 357] A Man may say very severe things, where a just Occasion requires it; but he must use no reviling; rem ipsam dic, mitte malè loqui, say the thing, but use no bad Language. And this, as one says, is the true art of Chiding, the proper Stile wherein we must use to reprove. If we do it with Malice, and Anger, and Contempt, it is misbecom­ing, even tho' we despair of doing good: but if we hope for any good Effect, we are like to miss of it this way; for as the Apostle says excellently, the wrath of Man worketh not the righteousness of God.

Some think that Abraham gives the Rich Man the Title of Son ironically, and by way of Jeer: but without all reason. For surely there is not so much bad Nature in Heaven, as to scoff at those who are in Misery. Besides that we find our Saviour observing this De­corum of good Language in other of his Parables; as particularly, in that of the King who invited Guests to the Marri­age of his Son, Matth. 22. 11. When the King saw there the Man, that came without his wedding Garment, tho' he past a very severe Sentence upon him, yet he gives him the common terms of Ci­vility; Friend, how camest thou hither?

This should teach us Christians, how we ought to demean our selves towards those who are at the greatest distance from us, and how we ought to behave our selves towards one another in the greatest Differences of Religion. None sure can be at greater distance, than A­braham in Paradise, and the Rich Man in Hell; and yet our Saviour would not represent them as at terms of Defiance with one another. One might have ex­pected that Abraham should have reviled this poor Wretch, and disdain'd to have spoken to him: But this is not the Tem­per of Heaven, nor ought it to be of good Men upon Earth, even towards the worst of Men.

How does this condemn our Rudeness and Impatience with one another in our religious Differences! We think no Terms bad enough to use towards one another: and yet one of the most famous Disputes that we find mentioned in Scripture, and that between the most opposite Parties that can be imagined, was managed af­ter another Fashion; I mean that re­corded by St. Jude between Michael the Arch-Angel, and the Devil, v. 9. Yet Michael the Archangel, when contending with the Devil, he disputed about the Body [Page 325] of Moses, durst not bring a railing Accusa­tion, he durst not allow himself this, no not in the heat of Dispute, when Per­sons are most apt to fly out into Passion, because it was indecent, and would have been displeasing to God; this I believe is the true reason why it is said, he durst not bring a railing Accusation. And yet I may add another, which is not improper for our Consideration, I am sure it hath a good Moral; the Devil would have been too hard for him at railing, he was better skill'd at that Weapon, and more expert at that kind of Dispute.

Which Consideration may be a good Argument to us against reviling any Man. If we revile the good, we are unjust, because they deserve it not: if we revile the bad, we are unwise, because we shall get nothing by it. I could al­most envy the Character which was gi­ven of one of the Romans; Nescivit quid esset malè dicere, he knew not what it was to give bad Language.

I proceeed. Son, remember that thou in thy Life time receivedst thy good things. Thy good things, those which thou didst va­lue and esteem so highly, and didst place thy chief Happiness in, as if there had been no other good to be sought after. [Page 360] Thy good things, and indeed so he used them, as if he had been the sole Lord and Proprietor of them, and they had not been committed to him, as a Steward, to be dispensed for his Master's use, for the cloathing of the naked, and the feed­ing of the hungry, and the relieving of those in distress.

Ver. 27, 28. Then he said, I pray thee therefore Father, that thou wouldest send him to my Father's house: For I have five Bre­thren; that he may testifie unto them, lest they also come into this place of Torment. Here the Rich Man, tho' in Hell, is re­presented as retaining some tenderness for his Relations, as solicitous lest they should be involved in the same Misery with himself. The last piece of that which commonly remains in Men, is natural Affection, which is not so much a Virtue, as a natural Principle, and is common to many brute Beasts. When a Man puts off this, we may give him up for lost to all manner of Goodness. To be without natural Affection, is the worst Character can be given of a Man. Our Saviour represents this Rich Man in Hell as not so totally degenerate as to be quite destitute of this.

I think some attribute this Motion of [Page 361] the Rich Man concerning his Brethren to another Cause; as if he had desired it, not out of kindness to them, but out of regard to himself, as being afraid that if his Brethren, who probably were corrupted by his Example, had perisht by that means, it would have been an Aggravation of his Torments. But this Conjecture is too subtile, and without a­ny good ground; for every Man car­ries his Burthen of Guilt with him out of this World, and it is not increased by any Consequence of our Actions here. For the Crime of a bad Example is the same, whether Men follow it or not, be­cause he that gives bad Example to others, does what in him lies to draw them into Sin; and if they do not follow it, that is no mitigation of his Fault.

I have but one Observation more, and that is from the mention of his Brethren as his nearest Relations, which is a great Aggravation of the Rich-Man's Uncha­ritableness, because he is represented as having no Children to take care for, and yet he would not consider the Poor.

And thus I have, as briefly as I could, endeavour'd to explain this Parable, and have made such Observations from the Circumstances of it, as may be useful for [Page 362] Instruction. But as I premised at first, I will not warrant all these Observati­ons to be certainly intended by our Sa­viour; I know very well that every Circumstance of a Parable is not to be prest too far, the Moral Accommodati­on does chiefly belong to the main Scope of it, and many Circumstances are only brought in to fill up the Parable, and to make handsomer way for that which is most material, and principally intended: But so long as the Observa­tions are true and useful, and have a fair Colour and Occasion from the Circum­stances, it is well enough; to be sure there is no harm done. I proceed to the second sort of Observations, namely, such as are drawn from the main scope and intent of the Parable, which I promised to speak more largely to; and they are Six, which I shall handle in order.

First, I observe that Uncharitableness and Unmercifulness to the Poor, is a great and damning Sin. We find no o­ther fault imputed to the Rich Man but this, that he took no care out of his Su­perfluity and Abundance to relieve this poor Man that lay at his Gate. He is not charged for want of Justice, but of Charity; not for having got a great E­state [Page 363] by Fraud or Oppression, but that in the midst of this Abundance he had no Consideration and Pity for those that were in want.

I shall endeavour to make out this Observation by the parts of it.

1st, That Unmercifulness and Uncha­ritableness to the Poor is a great Sin.

2dly, Such a Sin, as alone and without any other guilt, is sufficient to ruin a Man for ever. I shall speak to these se­verally.

1st, That Unmercifulness and Uncha­ritableness to the Poor is a very great Sin. It contains in its very Nature two black Crimes, Inhumanity and Impiety.

1. Inhumanity; it is an Argrment of a cruel and savage Disposition, not to pity those that are in Want and Mise­ry. And he doth not truly pity the Miseries of others, that doth not relieve them when he hath Ability and Opor­tunity in his Hands. Tenderness and Compassion for the Sufferings of others is a Virtue so proper to our Nature, that it is therefore call'd Humanity, as if it were essential to Human Nature, and as if without this, we did not deserve the Name of Men. To see a Man like our selves, bone of our bone, and flesh of [Page 364] our flesh, labouring under Want and Necessity, and yet not to be moved to commiserate him, this is a sign that we have put off our own Nature, otherwise we should pity the Sufferings of it in o­thers. For when-ever we behold a Man like our own selves groaning under Want and prest with Necessity, and do not re­lent toward him, and are not ready to relieve him, we are hard-hearted to our own Nature, and do in some sense what the Apostle says no Man ever did (that is, none retaining the Temper and Af­fections of a Man) hate his own Flesh.

This the Scripture speaks of as a most barbarous sort of Inhumanity, and calls it Murder, 1 John 3. 15. Whoso hateth his Brother is a Murderer; and not to re­lieve our Brother in want is to hate him; for this is the Instance which the Apo­stle gives at the 17th. verse, Whoso hath this Worlds Goods, and seeth his Brother in want, and shutteth up his Bowels of Compas­sion from him; whoso doth not consider the Poor, is a Man-slayer and a Murde­rer, he is cruel to his own Nature, nay were he sufficiently sensible of the Con­dition of Humane Nature, he is cruel to himself.

Seest thou a Poor Man in great Mise­ry [Page 365] and Want, there is nothing hath be­fallen him, but what is common to Man, what might have been thy Lot and Por­tion as well as his, and what may hap­pen to thee or thine another time. Make it therefore thine own Case; (for so the Providence of God may make it one time or other, and thou provokest him to make it so speedily, by thy unmerci­ful Disposition toward the Poor;) I say, make it thine own case, if thou wert in the Poor Man's Condition, and he in thine, consult thine own Bowels, and tell me how thou wouldst wish him to be affected toward thee. Wouldst thou be willing that he should slight and repulse thee, and shut up his Bowels of Compas­sion from thee? If not, then do not thou deal so with him, consider that it may be thine own case, therefore do not thou give the World any bad Example in this kind, do not teach Men to be un­merciful, lest they learn of thee, and thou find the ill Effects of it, when it comes to be thine own Condition. This is the first Aggravation of this Sin, the Inhumanity of it. But,

2. Besides the Inhumanity of this Sin, it is likewise a great Impiety toward God. Unmercifulness to the Poor hath [Page 366] this fourfold Impiety in it; it is a Con­tempt of God; an Usurpation upon his Right; a slighting of his Providence; and a plain Demonstration that we do not love God, and that all our Pre­tences to Religion are hypocritical and insincere.

1. It is a Contempt of God, and a re­proaching of him; so Solomon tells us, Pro. 14. 31. He that oppresseth the Poor, (not only he that dealeth unjustly with a Poor Man, but he that is uncharitable towards him, as appears by the Oppo­sition, but he that honoureth him hath Mer­cy on the Poor; here Oppression of the Poor is opposed to want of Charity to­wards him;) He that oppresseth the Poor reproacheth his Maker; how is that? He despiseth God who made him after his own Image and Likeness: For the Poor Man bears the Image of God as well as the Rich; so that thou canst not oppress or neglect him, without some reflection upon God, whose Image he bears.

2. The uncharitable Man is an Usur­per upon God's Right. The Earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof, and he hath given it to the Children of Men, not absolutely to dispose of as they please, but in trust, and with certain [Page 367] reservations, so as to be accountable to him for the disposal of it. In respect of other Men, we are indeed true Propri­etors of our Estates: but in respect of God, we are but Stewards; and he will call us to an Account how we have laid them out. So much as we need is ours; but beyond what will support us, and be a convenient Provision for our Fami­ly, in the Rank wherein God hath placed us, all that is given to us, that we may give it to others. And if God hath been liberal to us in the Blessings of this Life, it is on purpose to give us an Oportuni­ty, and to engage us to be so to others that stand in need of our Charity; and we are false to our Trust, if we keep those things to our selves, which we re­ceive from God for this very end that we might distribute them to others, ac­cording to the proportion of our Ability and their Necessity. This is to hide our Lord's Talent in a Napkin, and that which thou storest up in this Case is un­justly detained by thee; for God intended it should have been for Bread for the hungry, and for Cloaths for the naked, for the Relief and Support of those who were ready to perish.

3. The uncharitable Man is impious [Page 368] in slighting of God's Providence. He does not consider that Riches and Po­verty are of the Lord, that he can soon change our Condition, and that it is an easie thing with him to make a Rich Man poor. We do not sufficiently re­verence the Providence which rules the World, if when God hath blest us with Plenty and Abundance, we have no pity and regard for those that are in need. God can soon turn the Wheel, and lay thee as low as the poor Man whom thou dost neglect. He can cast down the mighty from their Seat, and exalt the humble and Meek; fill the hungry with good things, and send the rich empty away.

God's Providence could easily have disposed of things otherwise, to have se­cured every Man from want: but he hath on purpose order'd this variety of Condi­tions, high and low, rich and poor, not that some Men might have an Advantage to insult over and despise others, but that there might be an Oportunity for the exercise of several Virtues; that the poor might have an Oportunity to ex­ercise their Dependance upon God, and their Patience and Submission to his Will; and that the rich might show their Temperance, and Moderation, and Charity.

4. Unmercifulness to the Poor is a plain Demonstration that we do not love God, and that all our other pretences to Religion are hypocritical and insincere. St. James tells us, that pure Religion and un­defiled before God and the Father, is this, to vi­sit the fatherless and the Widow, Ja. 1. 27. That the Wisdom which is from above is full of Mercy and good fruits, ch. 3. 17. St. John represents this uncharitable Disposition as utterly inconsistent with the true Love of God, 1 John 3. 17. But whoso hath this Worlds Goods, and seeth his Bro­ther have need, and shutteth up his Bowels of Compassion from him; how dwelleth the love of God in him? In vain does such a Man pretend to love God; nay ch. 4. v. 20. he tells us that it is impossible such a Man should love God. If a Man say I love God, and hateth his Brother, he is a Lyar; for he that loveth not his Brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? This deserves to be seriosly consider'd by those who make a great shew of Devotion, and are at great pains in Prayer, and Fasting, and reading, and hearing the Word of God, and in all other frugal Exercises of Re­ligion, which stand them in no Mony; lest all their Labour be lost for want of [Page 370] this one necessary and essential part, lest with the young Man in the Gospel, after they have kept all other Command­ments, they be rejected by Christ for lack of this one thing. I have done with the first part of the Observation, that Unmercifulness is a very great Sin. I proceed to the

2d, That it is such a Sin, as alone, and▪ without any other Guilt, is suffici­ent to ruin a Man for ever. The Parable lays the Rich Man's Condemnation up­on this; it was the guilt of this Sin that tormented him when he was in Hell. The Scripture is full of severe Threat­nings against this Sin. Prov. 21. 13. Whoso stoppeth his Ears at the cry of the Poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard. God will have no regard or pity for the Man that regardeth not the Poor. That is a terrible Text, Ja. 2. 13. He shall have Judgment without Mercy, that hath shewed no Mercy.

Our Saviour hath two Parables to represent to us the Danger of this Sin; this here in the Text, and that in Luke 12. concerning the Covetous Man that enlarged his Barns, and was still laying up, but laid nothing out upon the Poor; upon which our Saviour makes this Ob­servation, [Page 371] which is the Moral of the Pa­rable, v. 21. So is he that layeth up Trea­sure for himself, and is not rich towards God; So shall he be, such an issue of his Folly may every one expect, who lay­eth up Treasure for himself, but does not lay up Riches with God. How is that? The Scripture tells us, by Works of Mercy and Charity; this our Saviour calls laying up for our selves Treasures in Heaven, Matth. 6. 20. And Luke 12. 33. he calls giving of Alms, providing for our selves Bags that wax not old, a Treasure in Heaven that faileth not.

There is no particular Grace and Virtue to which the Promise of eternal Life is so frequently made in Scripture, as to this of Mercy and Charity to the Poor. Matth. 5. 7. Blessed are the merci­ful, for they shall find Mercy. Which Pro­mise, as it does not exclude a Reward in this World, so it seems principally to respect the Mercy of God at the great Day. Luke 14. 12, 13, 14. When thou makest a Feast, invite not the Rich, for they will recompence thee again: but invite the Poor, and the maimed, and the lame, and the blind, for they cannot recompense thee; but thou shalt be recompensed at the Resur­rection of the Just. Luke 16. 9. Make [Page 372] therefore to your selves friends of the Mam­mon of Ʋnrighteousness, that when ye shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. 1 Tim. 6. 17, 18, 19. Charge them that are rich in this World, that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to com­municate, laying up in store for themselves a good Foundation, as the word [...] is sometimes used, a good Treasure against the time which is to come, that they may lay hold of eternal Life.

But the most considerable Text of all other to this purpose, is in Matth. 25. where our Saviour gives us a description of the Judgment of the great Day: And if that be a true and proper representa­tion of the process of that Day, then the grand enquiry will be, what Works of Charity have been done or neglected by us, and accordingly Sentence shall be past upon us.

The proper Result from all this Dis­course is to perswade Men to this neces­sary Duty. Our eternal Happiness does not so much depend upon the exercise of any one single Grace or Virtue, as this of Charity and Mercy. Faith and Repen­tance are more general and fundamental [Page 373] Graces, and as it were the Parents of all the rest: But of all single Virtues the Scripture lays the greatest weight upon this of Charity; and if we do truly be­lieve the Precepts of the Gospel, and the Promises and Threatnings of it, we cannot but have a principal regard to it.

I know how averse Men generally are to this Duty, which makes them so full of Excuses and Objections against it.

1. They have Children to provide for. This is not the case of all, and they whose case it is, may do well to consider, that it will not be amiss to leave a Blessing, as well as an Inheri­tance to their Children.

2. They tell us, they intend to do something when they die. I doubt that very much; but granting their Inten­tion to be real, why should Men chuse to spoil a good Work, and to take away the Grace and Acceptableness of it, by the manner of doing? It shews a great backwardness to the Work, when we de­fer it as long as we can. He that will not do good, till he be enforced by the last necessity, diu noluit, was long un­willing. It is one of the worst Comple­ments we can put upon God, to give a thing to him when we can keep it no lon­ger.

3. Others say they may come to want themselves, and it is Prudence to pro­vide against that. To this I answer,

(1.) I believe that no Man ever came the sooner to want for his Charity. Da­vid hath an express Observation to the contrary, Psa. 37. 25. I have been young and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his Seed begging bread. And tho' he use a general word, yet that by the righteous here he inten­ded the merciful Man, is evident from the next words, he is ever merciful and lendeth.

And besides David's Observation, we have express Promises of God to secure us against this Fear. Psa. 41. 1, 2. Bles­sed is he that considereth the poor, the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble, the Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, and he shall be blessed upon the Earth. Pro. 28. 27. He that giveth unto the Poor shall not lack.

(2.) Thou mayest come to want, tho' thou give nothing; thou may'st lose that which thou hast spared in this kind as well as the rest; thou may'st lose all, and then thou art no better secured a­gainst want, than if thou hadst been charitable. Besides that, when thou art brought to Poverty, thou wilt [Page 375] want the Comfort of having done this Duty, and may'st justly look upon the neglect of this Duty as one of the Cau­ses of thy Poverty.

(3.) After all our Care to provide for our selves, we must trust the Providence of God; and a Man can in no case so safe­ly commit himself to God, as in well-doing. If the Providence of God (as we all be­lieve) be peculiarly concern'd to bless one Man more than another, I dare say the charitable Man will not have the least Portion.

4. There is a worse Objection than all these made by some grave Men, who would be glad under a pretence of Piety to slip themselves out of this Duty; and that is this, that it savours of Popery to press good Works with so much earnest­ness upon Men, as if we could merit Heaven by them; So that they dare not be charitable out of a pious Fear, as they pretend, lest hereby they should entertain the Doctrine of Merit.

But if the Truth were known, I doubt Covetousness lyes at the bottom of this Objection: However it is fit it should be answered. And,

(1.) I say that no Man that is not pre­judiced either by his Education or Inte­rest, [Page 376] can think that a Creature can me­rit any thing at the hand of God, to whom all that we can possibly do, is an­tecedently due; much less that we can merit so great a Reward as that of E­ternal Happiness.

(2.) Tho' we deny the Merit of good Works, yet we firmly believe the neces­sity of them to Eternal Life. And that they are necessary to Eternal Life, is as good an Argument to perswade a wise Man to do them, as if they were meri­torious; unless a Man be so vain-glori­ous as to think Heaven not worth the having, unless he purchase it himself at a valuable Consideration.

And now let me earnestly intreat you, as you love God and your own Souls, not to neglect this Duty; lest you bring your selves to the same miserable state with this Rich Man, to whom the least Charity that could be askt was denied. Our Saviour hath purposely left this Pa­rable on record, to be a testimony and a witness to us; lest we being guilty of the same sin, should come into the same place of torment.

And if any ask me, according to what proportion of his Estate he ought to be charitable? I cannot determine that. [Page 377] Only, let no Man neglect his Duty, because I cannot (and it may be no one else can) tell him the exact proportion of his Charity to his Estate. There are some Duties that are strictly deter­mined, as those of Justice; but God hath left our Charity to be a free-will Offering. In the proportion of this Du­ty, every one must determine himself by Prudence and the Love of God: God hath left this Duty undetermined, to try the largeness of our Hearts towards him; only to encourage us to be abun­dant in this Grace, he hath promised, that according to the proportion of our Cha­rity, shall be the degree of our Happi­ness, 2 Cor. 9. 6. He that soweth plenti­fully, shall reap plentifully. But let us be sure to do something in this kind; any part of our Estate rather than none.

I will conclude with that excellent Counsel of the Son of Syrach, Eccl. 4. My Son defraud not the Poor, and make not the needy Eye to wait long; make not a hun­gry Soul sorrowful, neither provoke a Man in his distress; add not more trouble to a Heart that is vexed, defer not to give to him that is in need. Reject not the suppli­cation of the afflicted, nor turn away thy face from a poor Man; turn not away thy Eye [Page 378] from the needy, and give him none occasion to curse thee. For if he curse thee in the bitterness of his Soul, his Prayer shall be heard of him that made him. Let it not grieve thee to bow down thine Ear to the poor, and give him a friendly answer with meekness. Be as a father to the fatherless, and instead of a husband to their mother; so shalt thou be as the Son of the most high, and he shall love thee more than thy Mother doth.

SERMON XI. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
Sermon II.

LUKE XVI. 19, 20.‘There was a certain Rich Man, which was cloathed in Purple and fine Linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain Beggar, named Lazarus, which was laid at his Gate full of Sores.’

I Proceed to our Second Observation, that a Man may be poor and mise­rable in this World, and yet dear to God. This beggar Lazarus, tho' he was so much slighted, and despised in his life-time by this great rich Man, yet it appeared when he came to die, that he was not neglected by God, for he gave his Angels charge concerning him, to convey him to Happiness; v. 22. The [Page 380] Beggar died, and was carried into Abra­ham's bosom.

But this Truth is not only represent­ed to us in a Parable, but exemplified in the Life of our blessed Saviour. Ne­ver was any Man so dear to God as he was, for he was his only begotten Son, his beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased: And yet how poor and mean was his Condition in this World! Insomuch that the Jews were offended at him, and could not own one that appeared in so much Meanness, for the true Messias. He was born of mean Parents, and per­secuted as soon as he was born; he was destitute of worldly Accommodations; The Foxes had holes, and the Birds of the Air had nests; but the Son of Man had not where to lay his head. He was despised and rejected of Men, a Man of Sorrows, and ac­quainted with Grief.

God could have sent his Son into the World with Majesty and great Glory, and have made all the Kings of the Earth to have bowed before him, and paid Homage to him: but the Wisdom of God chose rather that he should ap­pear in a poor and humble, in a suffering and afflicted Condition, to confound the Pride of the World, who measure [Page 381] the Love of God by these outward things, and think that God hates all those whom he permits to be afflicted.

Now it was not possible to give a greater and clearer Demonstration of this Truth, that Goodness and Suffering may meet together in the same Person, than in the Son of God, who did no Sin, neither was Guile found in his Mouth; yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and to put him to Grief.

Afflictions in this World are so far from being a sign of God's Hatred, that they are an Argument of his Love and Care; whom the Lord loveth he chastneth, and scourgeth every Son whom he receiveth. Those he designs for great things here­after, he trains up by great Hardships in this World, and by many Tribulati­ons prepares them for a Kingdom. This course God took more especially in the first planting of Christianity; the poor chiefly were those that received the Gospel. Not many mighty, nor many noble; but the base things of the World, and the things that were despised did God chuse. Hearken, my beloved Brethren, saith St. James, ch. 2. 5. Hath not God chosen the poor in this World, rich in Faith, and Heirs of the Kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

Now this Consideration should per­swade to Patience under the greatest Sufferings and Afflictions in this world. God may be our Father, and chasten us severely; nay this very thing is rather an Argument that he is so. God may love us tho' the World hate us. 'Tis but exercising a little Patience, and these Storms will blow over, and we shall be removed into a calmer Region, where all tears shall be wiped from our eyes; and death and sorrow shall be no more. This was the Portion of the Son of God here; but it is a faithful saying, that if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him, if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him. Therefore those who suffer in this world ought not to be moved, as tho' some strange thing hapned unto them; but should rather rejoice, in as much as they are parta­kers of Christs sufferings, that when his glory shall be revealed, they also may be glad with exceeding joy, 1 Pet 4. 12 13. I pro­ceed to a

Third Observation, which is the diffe­rent Estate of good and bad men after this life; Lazarus dyed, and was carried by the Angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man dyed, and went to hell. This the Justice of the Divine Providence seems [Page 383] to require; so that if there had been no Revelation of God to this purpose, it is a thing very credible to Natural Rea­son, whether we consider God or our selves. If we consider God; our Reason tells us, that he is the holy and righteous Governor of the World, and conse­quently, that he loves Goodness and hates Sin, and therefore is concern'd to countenance the one, and discountenance the other, in such a solemn and publick manner, as may vindicate his Holiness and Justice to the whole World. Now the Dispensations of his Providence are promiscuous in this world; and there­fore it seems very reasonable, that there should be a general Assizes, a fair and open Tryal; when God will render to every Man according to his works.

And if we consider our selves, this will appear very credible; for this hath been the constant Opinion, not only of the common People, but of the wisest Persons, who had only the light of Na­ture to guide them. Nay if we do but search our own Consciences, we shall find an inward and secret acknowledg­ment of this, in that inward peace and satisfaction we find in any good Action, and in that shame and fear and horrour [Page 384] that haunts a Man after the commission of any, tho' never so secret a Sin.

And as Reason and Scripture together do assure us of a future Judgment; so likewise, that Men, when they pass out of this World, shall meet with the pro­per Consequences and Rewards of their Actions in the other. And tho' the Hap­piness or Misery of Men be not so com­pleat as it shall be after the publick Judgment; yet it is unspeakably great. Lazarus is represented as very happy im­mediately after his passing out of this World, he is said to be carried into A­braham's bosom; by which the Jews ex­press the Happiness of the future State. And the Rich Man is represented, as in great Anguish and Torment. But what the Happiness of good Men, and the Misery of wicked Men shall be in the other State, we can but now imperfect­ly and unskilfully describe. Each of these I have in another Discourse spoken Serm. on Rom. 6. 21, 22. something to. I proceed to a

Fourth Observation, the vast diffe­rence between Men's Conditions in this World, and the other. The Rich Man prospered here, and was afterward tor­mented: Lazarus was poor and misera­ble in this World, and happy in the [Page 385] other; v. 25. Remember that thou in thy life time receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus evil things; but now he is com­forted, and thou art tormented. And it is very agreeable to the Wisdom of God, to make such a difference between Mens Conditions in this World and the other; and that for these two Reasons.

1st, For the trying of Men's Virtue.

2dly, In order to the Recompencing of it.

1. For the Tryal of Men's Virtue. For this End principally God ordains the Sufferings of good Men, and permits the best of his Servants many times to be involved in the greatest Calamities, to try their Faith in him, and Love to him; to improve their Virtue, and to prevent those Sins into which the mighty Temp­tations of a perpetual Prosperity are apt to draw even the best of Men; to take off their Affections from the love of this vain World, and to engage and fix them there, where they shall never repent that they have placed them; to prove their Sincerity towards God, and to exercise their Patience and Submissi­on to his Will; to prepare them for the Glory of the next Life, and to make the [Page 386] Happiness of Heaven more welcome to them, when they shall come to it.

2dly, In order to the Recompencing of Men; that they who will take up with the Pleasures and Enjoyments of this present World, and take no care for their future State, that they who will grati­fie their Senses, and neglect their im­mortal Souls, may inherit the proper Consequences of their wretched Choice. And on the other hand, that they who love God above all things, and had ra­ther endure the greatest Evils, than do the least, that they who look beyond the present Scene of things, and believe the reality and Eternity of the other State, and live accordingly, may not be disappointed in their Hopes, and serve God, and suffer for him for nothing. From this consideration of the Difference between the Condition of Men in this World and the other, we may infer,

1. That no Man should measure his Felicity or Unhappiness by his Lot in this World. If thou receivest thy good things, art rich and honourable, and hast as much of the things of this World as thine Heart can wish, art splendidly attired, and farest sumptuously every day; art in no trouble like other Men, neither [Page 387] art plagued like other folk; do not upon this bless thy self as the happy Man. On the other Hand, art thou poor and miserable, destitute of all the Conve­niences and Accommodations of this Life? Do not repine at thy Lot, and mur­mur at God for having dealt hardly with thee. No Man can be pronounced hap­py or miserable for what befals him in this Life; no Man knows Love or Hatred by these things; this Life is but a short and inconsiderable duration, and it mat­ters not much what Entertainment we meet withal, as we are passing through this World: The state of Eternity is that, wherein the Happiness or Misery of Men shall be determined. He is the happy Man who is so in that Life which shall never have an end; and he is mise­rable that shall be so for ever.

2. We should not set too great a va­lue upon the blessings of this Life. We may receive our good things here, and be tormented hereafter; nay this very thing will be no inconsiderable part of our Torment, none of the least Aggra­vations of our Misery, that we did re­ceive our good Things. Nothing afflicts a Man more, and toucheth him more sensibly when he is in Misery, than the [Page 388] remembrance of his former Prosperity; had he never been happy, his Misery would be the less.

Therefore we should be so far from applauding our selves in the Prosperity of this World, that we should rather be afraid of receiving our good things here; lest God should put us off with these things, and this should be all our Porti­on, and lest our Misery in the next World should be the greater for our having been happy.

The Felicities of this World are tran­sient, and tho' our Happiness were ne­ver so compleat, yet it is going off, and passing away; and when it is gone and past, if Misery succeed it, it had better never have been. Remember, thou in thy life time receivedst thy good things; these things are only for our life time, and how short is that! Did Men seriously consider this, they would not set such a price upon any of the transient Enjoy­ments of this Life, as for the sake of them to neglect the great Concernments of another World. We are apt to be dazled with the present glittering of worldly Glory and Prosperity: But if we would look upon these things as they will be shortly gone from us, how [Page 389] little would they signifie! The Rich Man here in the Parable did, no doubt, think himself a much happier Man than poor Lazarus that lay at his Door; and yet after a little while, how glad would he have been to have changed Conditi­ons with this poor Man! When he was in Torments, then no doubt he wisht that he had suffer'd all the Misery and Want in this World which Lazarus did, provided he might have been com­forted as he was, and carried by Angels into Abraham's bosom. We should value this World, and look upon it, as this Rich Man did, not when he enjoyed it, but when he was taken from it; and we should esteem it and use it while we may, as he wisht he had done when it was too late.

3. We should not be excessively troubled, if we meet with Hardship and Affliction here in this World; because those whom God designs for the great­est Happiness hereafter, may receive evil things here. Thus our blessed Savi­our, the Captain of our Salvation, was made perfect through Sufferings; this was the method which God used towards his own Son, first he suffer'd, and then entred into Glory. He suffered more than any of us [Page 390] can bear; and yet he supported himself under all his Sufferings by the considera­tion of the Glory that would follow; for the Joy that was set before him, he endured the Cross, and despised the shame.

The same Consideration should arm us with Patience and Constancy under the greatest Evils of this life. The Evils that we lie under are passing and going off; but the Happiness is to come. And if the Happiness of the next World were no greater, nor of longer continuance, than the Miseries of this World; or if they did equally answer one another; yet a wise Man would chuse to have Mi­sery first, and his Happiness last. For if his Happiness were first, all the Plea­sure and Comfort of it would be eaten out, by dismal Apprehensions of what was to follow: but his Sufferings, if they were first, would be sweetned by the consideration of his future Happiness; and the bitterness of his Sufferings would give a quicker Relish to his Happiness when it should come, and make it greater.

But a good Man under the Sufferings of this life, hath not only this Comfort, that his Happiness is to come, but like­wise that it shall be infinitely greater [Page 391] than his Sufferings; that these are but short, but that shall never have an end. And this was that which fortified the first Christians against all that the Ma­lice and Cruelty of the World could do against them. They thought themselves well paid, if through many Tribulations they might at last enter into the Kingdom of God; because they believed that the Joys of the next life would abundantly recompence all their Labours and Suf­ferings in this World. They expected a mighty Reward far beyond all their Sufferings; they were firmly perswaded that they should be vast Gainers at the last. So the Apostle tells us of himself, Rom. 8. 18. I reckon that the Sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compa­red with the Glory that shall be revealed. And to the same purpose, 2 Cor. 4. 17, 18. Our light Afflictions, which are but for a moment, work for us an eternal weight of Glory, whilst we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are tem­poral, but the things which are not seen are eternal. If we would consider all things together, and fix our Eyes as much up­on the Happiness and Glory of the next World, as upon the Pomp and Splendor [Page 392] of this, if we would look as much at the things which are not seen, as the things which are seen, we should easily perceive, that he who suffers in this World does not renounce his Happiness, only puts it out to Interest, upon terms of the greatest Advantage.

4. We should do all things with a Regard to our future and eternal State. It matters not much what our Conditi­on is in this World, because that's to continue but for a little while: but we ought to have a great and serious Re­gard to that State that never shall have an end. Therefore whenever we are doing any thing, we should consider what Influence such an Action will have upon the Happiness or Misery of the next Life. We should measure every Action, and every Condition of our Lives by the reference of them to Eter­nity. To be rich and great in this world will contribute nothing to our future Happiness; all these things which we so much dote upon, and pursue with so much eagerness, will not commend any Man to God; they will signifie no­thing when we come to appear before our Judge. Death will strip us of these things, and in the other World, the [Page 393] Soul of the poorest Man that ever lived shall be upon equal Terms with the richest. Nothing but Holiness and Vir­tue will then avail us; and it is but a little while and we shall all certainly be of this Mind, that the best thing Men can do in this World, is to provide for the other. I proceed to a

Fifth Observation, that the State of Men in the next World is fixt and un­changable; which I ground upon v. 26. Between us and you there is a great Gulf fixt, so that they that would pass from hence to you cannot, neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. By which Words our Saviour seems not only to intend, that they that are in Heaven and Hell can have no Communication and Intercourse with one another; but likewise that they are lodg'd in an immutable State. Those that are happy are like to continue so; and those that are miserable are immu­tably fixt in that State.

1. As to those that are in Happiness there can be no great doubt. For what can tempt Men that have so narrowly scap'd the Dangers and Temptations of a wicked World, and are possest of so great a Happiness by the free Grace and Mercy of God, to do any thing where­by [Page 394] they may forfeit their Happiness; or so much as to entertain a Thought of offending that God, to whom they can­not but be sensible how infinitely they are obliged. In this imperfect state few Men have so little Goodness as to sin without a Temptation; but in that state where Men are perfectly good, and can have no Temptation to be otherwise, it is not imaginable that they should fall from that state.

2. As to the state of the damned, that that likewise is immutable, the Scripture does seem plainly enough to assert, when it calls it an everlasting Destruction from the presence of the Lord, and uses such Expressions to set forth the continuance of their Misery, as signifie the longest and most interminable Duration, ex­pressions of as great an Extent as those which are used to signifie the Eternal Happiness of the blessed; and as large and unlimited, as any are to be had in those Languages wherein the Scriptures are written.

Besides that wicked Men in the o­ther World are in Scripture represent­ed, as in the same Condition with the Devils, of whom there is no ground to believe that any of them ever did or will [Page 395] repent. Not because Repentance is im­possible in it's own nature to those that are in extream Misery; but because there is no place left for it. Being under an irreversible Doom, there is no encou­ragement to Repentance, no hope of Mercy and Pardon, without which Re­pentance is impossible. For if a Man did utterly despair of Pardon, and were assured upon good ground, that God would never shew Mercy to him, in this case a Man would grow desperate, and not care what he did. He that knows that whatever he does, he is mi­serable and undone, will not matter how he demeans himself. All motives to Repentance are gone after a Man once knows it will be to no purpose. And this the Scripture seems to represent to us, as the case of the Devils and damned Spirits. Because their state is finally de­termined, and they are concluded under an irreversible Sentence, therefore Re­pentance is impossible to them.

Sorry, no doubt, they are, and hear­tily troubled that by their own Sin and Folly they have brought this Misery upon themselves; and they cannot but conceive an everlasting Displeasure a­gainst themselves, for having been the [Page 396] Cause and Authors of their own Ruin; and the Reflection upon this will be a perpetual spring of Discontent, and fill their Minds with eternal Rage and Vex­ation; and so long as they feel the into­lerable Punishments of Sin, and groan un­der the insupportable Torments of it, and see no end of this miserable State, no hope of getting out of it, they can be no otherwise affected, than with Discon­tent at themselves, and Rage and Fury against God.

They are indeed penitent so far, as to be troubled at themselves for what they have done; but this Trouble works no Change and Alteration in them; they still hate God who inflicts these Punish­ments upon them, and who they believe is determined to continue them in this miserable state. The present Anguish of their Condition, and their despair of bettering it, makes them mad; and their Minds are so distracted by the wildness of their Passions, and their Spi­rits so exasperated and set on Fire by their own giddy Motions, that there can be no rest and silence in their Souls, not so much as the liberty of one calm and sedate Thought.

Or if at any time they reflect upon the [Page 397] evil of their Sins, and should entertain any thought of returning to God and their Duty, they are presently checkt with this Consideration, that their case is determined, that God is implacably offended with them, and is inexorably and peremptorily resolved to make them miserable for ever; and during this Per­swasion, no Man can return to the love of God and Goodness, without which there can be no Repentance.

This Consideration, of the immutable state of Men after this Life, should en­gage us with all seriousness and diligence to endeavour to secure our future Hap­piness. God hath set before us good and evil, Life and Death, and we may yet chuse which we please; but in the other World, we must stand to that Choice which we have made here, and inherit the Consequences of it.

By Sin Mankind is brought into a mi­serable State; but our Condition is not desperate and past Remedy. God hath sent his Son to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give Repentance and Remission of Sins. So that tho' our Case be bad, it need not continue so, if it be not our own fault. There is a possibility now of changing our Condition for the better, [Page 398] and of laying the foundation of a perpe­tual Happiness for our selves. The Grace of God calls upon us, and is ready to as­sist us; so that no Man's Case is so bad, but there is a possibility of bettering it, if we be not wanting to our selves, and will make use of the Grace which God offers, who is never wanting to the sin­cere endeavours of Men. Under the In­fluence and Assistance of this Grace, those who are dead in trespasses and sins, may pass from death to life, may be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. So long as we are in this World there is a possibility of being translated from one state to another, from the dominion of Satan, into the kingdom of God's dear Son. But if we neglect the opor­tunities of this life, and stand out against the offers of God's Grace and Mercy, there will no Overtures be made to us in the other World. After this life is ended, God will try us no more; our final miscarriage in this World will prove fatal to us in the other, and we shall not be permitted to live over again to correct our Errors. As the Tree falls, so it shall lie; such a State as we are settled in, when we go out of this World, shall be fixt in the other, and there will be [Page 399] no possibility of changing it. We are yet in the hand of our own Counsel, and by God's Grace we may mould and fashion our own Fortune. But if we tri­fle away this Advantage, we shall fall in­to the hands of the living God, out of which there is no Redemption. God hath yet left Heaven and Hell to our choice, and we had need to look about us, and chuse well, who can chuse but once for all and for ever. There is yet a space and opor­tunity left us of Repentance; but so soon as we step out of this Life, and are en­tred upon the other World, our Condi­tion will be sealed, never to be reverst. And because after this Life there will be no further hopes of Mercy, there will be no possibility of Repentance. This is the accepted time, this is the day of Sal­vation; therefore to day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts; lest God swear in his Wrath that we shall not enter into his rest. I proceed to a

Sixth Observation, that a standing Revelation of God is Evidence sufficient for Divine things. They have Moses, and the Prophets, let them hear them; that is, they have the Books of Moses and the Prophets, written by Men divinely in­spired, these do sufficiently declare to [Page 400] them the Will of God and their Duty; and it is unreasonable to demand or ex­pect that God should do more for their Conviction and Satisfaction.

I know very well the Text speaks on­ly of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, those of the New being not then extant, when this Parable was deliver'd. But what is here said concerning the Scrip­tures of the Old Testament, is equally applicable to the New; and tho' Abra­ham do only recommend Moses and the Prophets, there is no doubt but he would have said the same concerning Christ and his Apostles, if the Books of the New Testament had been then extant. So that what I shall say upon this Ob­servation, does indifferently concern the whole Scripture.

And that I may make out this Obser­vation more fully, I shall take these Five things into consideration.

1st, What we are to understand by a Divine Revelation.

2dly, Give a brief Account of the se­veral kinds of it.

3dly, Shew what Advantage this standing Revelation of the Scriptures hath above any other way of conveying the Will of God to the World.

[Page 401] 4thly, That there is sufficient Evidence for the Divinity of the Scriptures.

5thly, That it is unreasonable to ex­pect that God should do more for our Conviction, than to afford such a stand­ing Revelation of his Mind and Will. I shall go over these as briefly as I can. I begin with the

1st, What we are to understand by a Divine Revelation. By a Divine Re­velation we are to understand a superna­tural Discovery or Manifestation of any thing to us; I say supernatural, because it may either be immediately by God; or by the mediation of Angels, as most, if not all the Revelations of the Old Testa­ment were. A supernatural Discovery or Manifestation, either immediately to our Minds, by our Understandings and inward Faculties; (for I do not so well undestand the distinction between Un­derstanding and Imagination, as to be careful to take notice of it,) or else me­diately to our Understandings by the mediation of our outward Senses, as by an external Appearance to our bodily Eyes, or by a Voice and Sound to the Sense of Hearing. A Discovery or Ma­nifestation of a thing, whether it be such as cannot be known at all by the [Page 402] use of our natural Reason and Under­standing; or such as may be discovered by natural Light, but is more clearly revealed or made known, or we are a­wakened to a more particular and at­tentive consideration of it. For it is not at all unsuitable to the Wisdom of God, to make a supernatural Discovery to us of such things as may be known by the light of Nature, either to give us a clea­rer manifestation of such Truths as were more obscurely known, and did as it were lie buried in our Undestandings; or else to quicken our Minds to a more serious and lively consideration of those Truths.

2dly. For the several kinds of Divine Revelation. That they were various, the Apostle to the Hebrews tell us, ch. 1. 1. God who at sundry times, and in se­veral manners, spake to the Fathers by the Prophets; where by Prophets we are to understand not only those who did foretel future things; but any Person that was divinely inspired, and to whom God was pleased to make any superna­tural Discovery of himself.

Now the several Kinds of Revelati­on taken notice of by the Jews, are Vi­sions; Dreams; Prophesie; Oracle; In­spiration, [Page 403] or that which they call the Holy Ghost; voice Bath-col; or that which was the highest of all, which they call gradus Mosaicus, the degree of Revela­tion which was peculiar to Moses. The Jewish Writers, especially Maimonides, have many subtil Observations about the differences of these several kinds of Re­velation, which depend upon subtil and Philosophical Distinctions of the Facul­ties of Perception; as that some of these Revelations were by impression only up­on the Understanding; some only upon the Imagination; some upon both; some upon the outward Senses: But the simple and plain difference between them, so far as there is any ground in Scripture to di­stinguish them, seems to be this; Visi­on was a Representation of something to a Man, when he was waking, in op­position to Dreams, which were Repre­sentations made to Men in their Sleep. Prophesie might be either Dream or Vi­sion, and the Jews observe that it was always one of these two ways, which they grounded upon Numb. 12. 6. If there be a Prophet among you, I the Lord will make my self known to him in a Vision, and will speak unto him in a Dream. But Prophesie in the strict Notion of it, had this peculiarly belonging to it, that it [Page 404] was not only monitory or instructive, but did foretel some Event of Concern­ment to others; and the Jewish Doctors tell us, that it was a clearer Revelation, and carried greater assurance along with it; and that this was common to all the three, that there was something of Exta­sie and Transport of Mind in all these.

The fourth sort of Revelation, which was by Oracle, which is call'd Ʋrim and Thummim, was a rendring of Answers to Questions, by the High-Priest looking upon the Stones in the Breast-plate, which how it was done, is uncertain.

The fifth sort of Revelation is that which they call the Holy Ghost, which was a more calm and gentle Inspiration, without any extraordinary Transport of Mind or Extasie; such as David had in the writing of the Psalms.

The lowest of all was that which they call'd Bath-col, which was by a Voice from Heaven; and this is the Way of Reve­lation, which the Jews observed did only continue among them from the Days of the Prophet Malachi to our Saviour.

The highest of all was that which they call'd gradus Mosaicus, to which the Jews give several Prerogatives above all the other ways of Revelation; as that it was done by Impression merely upon [Page 405] the Understanding, without Extasie, or Rapture, or Transport, when he was waking, and in his ordinary Temper, and his Senses not bound up either by Extasie or Sleep, that it was a Reve­lation immediately from God himself, and not by the Mediation of Angels; without any Fear, or Amazement, or Fainting, which was incident to other Prophets; and the Spirit of Prophesie rested upon him, and he could exert it arbitrarily, and put it forth when he would. Of which, thus much is evi­dently true from the Story of him, that the Spirit of Prophesie did rest more con­stantly upon him, and that he could ex­ert it with greater freedom, and with­out any discernable Amazement or Tran­sport from his ordinary Temper: But that it was by Impression merely upon his Understanding, as that is a distinct Faculty from the Imagination, is not so certain; that it was always by an im­mediate Communication from God, without the Mediation of Angels, seems not to be true; for St. Stephen tells us, that the Law was given by the disposition of Angels, Acts 7. 53. And St. Paul, that it was ordained by the Angels in the hand of a Mediator, that is Moses, Gal. 3. 19. [Page 406] But that the Revelation which was made to him, had some singular Prerogatives above those of other Prophets, is plain from Scripture, Numb. 12. 5, 6, 7, 8. when Aaron and Miriam contended with Moses as being equal to him, God tells them that there was a vast difference between him and other Prophets; Hear now my Words, if there be a Prophet among you, I the Lord will make my self known unto him in a Vision, and will speak unto him in a Dream. My Servant Moses is not so,—With him will I speak Mouth to Mouth, even appa­rently, and not in dark Speeches, &c. Exod. 33. 11. And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a Man speaketh unto his Friend. Deut. 34. 10. And there arose not a Prophet since in Is­rael like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. All which signifies at least this, that God made the clearest, and most familiar, and most perfect Disco­veries to Moses of any of the Prophets; only our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom God hath discovered his Will to us un­der the New Testament, did excel Mo­ses; Moses being but a faithful Servant that is, humilis amicus, a meaner sort of Friend; but the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, who came from the bosom of his Father, and was inti­mately acquainted with the secrets of [Page 407] his Will, and had not the Spirit given him by measure, but the most plentiful Effu­sion of it, being anointed above his Fellows.

Now these being the several sorts and degrees of Revelation, which God hath made of himself to the World, the Ho­ly Scriptures are a System or Collection of these, the authentick Instrument or Record, by which the things revealed any of these ways, are transmitted to us, and is therefore call'd the Word of God, as containing those things which God in several Ages hath spoken to the World; that is matters of Divine Reve­lation, which are necessary to be known by Men, in order to their Eternal Hap­piness. And this being now the great and standing Revelation of God, which is to continue to the end of the World, I intend to limit my Discourse solely to this, as being the only Revelation which we are concern'd to enquire after.

And therefore in the 3d Place to shew you what Advantages this stand­ing Revelation of the Scriptures hath, above private Revelations made to par­ticular Persons, and frequently repeated and renewed in several Ages; that so it may appear both agreable to the Wis­dom of God to settle Revelations in this way, as being more commodious; and [Page 408] likewise to his Goodness, it being a re­al Priviledge which these later Ages of the World enjoy, that they have a more fixt and certain way of being acquainted with the Will of God, than those Ages had, which were govern'd by such pri­vate Revelations, as were now and then made to particular Persons. And the Ad­vantages are these.

1. It is a more certain way of con­veyance of things, and more secure and free from Imposture. Suppose a Revela­tion made to a particular Person, which is of general Concernment, that this may have a general and lasting effect, he must impart it to others, as many as he can, and give them the best Assurance he can of it; and these must relate it to others; and so it must pass from hand to hand, to be delivered from Parents to their Children. Now this way of convey­ing a Revelation by Oral Report must needs be liable to many Uncertainties, both by involuntary Mistakes, through Weakness of Memory or Understand­ing; and wilful Falsifications and Impo­stures, out of Malice and Design. So that the effect of an unrecorded Revelation can neither be large nor lasting, it can but reach a few Persons, and continue [Page 409] a little while in its full Credibility; and the further it goes, the weaker, like Cir­cles made in Water, which the more they inlarge themselves, and the longer they continue, the less discernible they are, 'till at length they quite disappear. Whereas being once recorded by Persons secured from Error, by Supernatural and Divine Assistance, they are not lia­ble to those easie Falsifications or Mis­takes, which traditional Reports and Relations are necessarily, through hu­man Malice or Weakness, liable to.

2. It is a more general and universal way of Conveyance; Which is evident from the common Experience of the World, who have pitched upon this way of writing things in Books, as that which doth most easily convey the knowledge and notice of things to the generality of Men.

3. It is a more uniform way of Con­veyance; that is, things that are once written and propagated that way, lye e­qually open to all, and come in a man­ner with equal Credit to all; it being not morally possible that a common Book, that passeth through all hands, and which is of vast Importance and Concernment, should be liable to any material Corrup­tion, [Page 410] without a general Conspiracy and Agreement, which cannot be, but that it must be generally known. So that considering the commonness, and uni­versal Concernment of this Book of the Scriptures, all Men are in a manner e­qually, that is, every Man is sufficient­ly and competently assur'd of the credit of it; that is, that we are not in any ma­terial thing imposed upon by false Co­pies. But in traditional Revelation it is quite otherwise; Tradition being a ve­ry unequal and ununiform way of Con­veyance. For seeing it may be of general Concernment, and all cannot have it at the first hand, that is, immediately from him to whom it was made; but some at the second, others at the third, fourth, or fifth hand, or much further off; the Credit of it will be necessarily weakned by every Remove. A Report that comes through many Hands, being like the Argument we call Induction; and as the Strength and Goodness of that depends upon the Truth of every one of those In­stances that make it up, so that if any of them fail, the whole Argument is naught; so the credit of a Report that passeth through twenty hands, depends upon the Integrity and Sufficiency of all [Page 411] the Relators, and whatever there is ei­ther of Falsehood and Malice, or of In­capacity of Understanding, or Frailty of Memory in any of the Relators, so much Weakness is derived into the Report or Testimony; and consequently the assu­rance which we can have of a private Revelation, which is deliver'd traditio­nally through a great many Persons, must needs be very unequal.

4. It is a more lasting way of Con­veyance. Which likewise appears by Experience, we having now nothing at all of the History of ancient times, but what is conveyed down to us in Writing.

5. It is a more human way of Con­veyance, which requires less of Mira­cle and supernatural Interposition for the Preservation of it. This Book of the Scriptures may with ordinary human Care be transmitted intire, and free from any material Error, to all succeeding A­ges. But Revelations unwritten, if they have any lasting and considerable Effect, they must at least in every Age be re­newed and repeated; otherwise in a very short space, either through the unfaithfulness, or carelessness and frail­ty of Men, they will either be quite lost, [Page 412] or so corrupted and depraved, that they will signifie nothing.

From all which it appears, that we have so little cause to murmur and re­pine at the Providence of God, which in these later Ages of the World does not make those more immediate Disco­veries and Manifestations of himself to us, that he did to former Ages, that we have rather great reason to admire the Wisdom and Goodness of God's Provi­dence, which hath privileged us with this standing Revelation of his written Word, which hath so many ways the Ad­vantage of frequent and extraordinary Revelation, and in respect of the gene­rality of Mankind, is much more use­ful and effectual to its end▪ I know there are some that have endeavour'd to per­swade the World, that Doctrines may much better be preserved by common Rumor and Report, than by Writing and Record; but I hope there is no Man so destitute of common Sense as to be­lieve them, contrary to the Experience of all Men.

I come now to the 4th thing I pro­pos'd to be consider'd; namely, That there is sufficient Evidence of the Divi­nity of the Scriptures. By the Divinity [Page 413] of the Scriptures, I mean, that they were revealed by God, and that the things contained in them were not invented by Men, but discovered to Men by God; and that the Pen-men of these Books did not write their own private Concep­tions, but were inspired by the Holy Ghost. Now if we can be satisfied of this, we ought to receive the Scriptures with the same Reverence, as if an An­gel from Heaven should declare these things unto us, or as if God should im­mediately reveal them to our Minds; for nothing can come with greater Autho­rity than this, that we believe it to be revealed by God; and provided we be assured of this, it matters not which way; the thing hath the same Authority.

Now that we have sufficient Evidence of the Divinity of the Scriptures, will best appear, by considering what is suf­ficient to give Authority to a Book, so that no prudent or reasonable Man can question, but that the Book was writ by him whose Name it bears. For what Evidence we would accept of, for the Authority of other Books, we must not refuse in this case for the Scriptures; if we do, we deal unequally, and it is a sign that we do not want Evidence for the Autho­rity of the Scriptures, but that we have no mind to believe them.

Now the utmost Authority that any Book is capable of, is, that it hath been transmitted down to us by the general and uncontroll'd Testimony of all Ages, and that the Authority of it was never questioned in that Age wherein it was written, nor invalidated ever since.

And this Evidence we have for the Authority of the Scriptures. As for the Old Testament, I shall not now labor in the proof of that by Arguments pro­per to it self, but shall take the Divinity of them upon the Authority of the New, which, if it be proved, is sufficient Evi­dence for it, tho' there were no other.

Now for the Scriptures of the New Testament, I desire but these two things to be granted to me at first.

1. That all were written by those Per­sons whose Names they bear; and for this we have as much Authority, as for any Books in the World, and so much as may satisfie Men in other cases, and therefore not to be rejected in this.

2. That those who wrote those Books were Men of Integrity, and did not wil­fully falsifie in any thing; and this can­not reasonably be denyed, because these very Persons gave the utmost Evidence that Men could give of their Integrity. The highest Attestation that any Man [Page 415] can give of the Truth of what he relates, is to lay down his Life for the Testimo­ny of it; and this the Apostles did.

Now if this be granted, that they did not falsifie in their Relations concern­ing the Miracles of Christ, and his Re­surrection, and the miraculous Gifts which were bestowed upon the Apostles after his Ascension; this is as great an Evidence as the World can give, and as the thing is capable of, that our Saviour was a Teacher come from God, and that the Apostles were extraordinarily assisted by the Holy Ghost; and if this be granted, what can be desired more to prove the Divinity of their Writings?

But it may be said, that tho' the Apo­stles were granted to be Men of Integri­ty, and that they did not wilfully falsi­fie in their Relations, yet they might be mistaken about those Matters. But that they were not, we have as much Evi­dence as can be for any thing of this Na­ture, namely, that the things which are related are plain sensible matters of Fact, about which no Man need mis­take unless he will; and they did not write things upon the report of others, who might possibly have designs to de­ceive, but upon the surest Evidence in the World, their own Knowledge, and [Page 416] the Testimony of their Senses; the things that we have seen and heard testifie we unto you. So that if they were mistaken in these things, no Man can be sure of any thing; and by the same Reason that we disbelieve the Authority of the Scriptures upon this account, we must believe no­thing at all. This is in short the whole force of the Argument for the Divinity of the Scriptures, which I might have enlarged infinitely upon; but I design now only briefly to represent to you, that we, who live at the distance of so many Ages from the time of this Reve­lation, are not destitute of sufficient Evi­dence for the Authority of the Scriptures, and such Evidence, as they who reject in other Cases, are esteemed unreasonable. I should come now to the

5th, and last Thing, namely, that it is unreasonable to expect, that God should do more for our Conviction, than to af­ford us a standing Revelation of his Mind and Will, such as the Books of the holy Scriptures are. But this I shall refer to another Oportunity, in a particular Dis­course upon the 31 verse, which contains the main Design, the Sum, and Substance of this whole Parable.

SERMON XII. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
Sermon III. Preach'd at Whitehall, Anno 1678.

LUKE XVI. 31.‘If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be perswaded tho' one rose from the dead.’

THESE Words are the Conclu­sion of that excellent Parable of our Saviour concerning the Rich Man and Lazarus, and they are the fi­nal Answer which Abraham gives to the Rich Man's last Request; who being in great Torment, and not able to obtain any Ease for himself, is represented as concerned for his Relations, whom he had left behind him upon Earth; lest [Page 418] they also by their own Carelessness and Folly should plunge themselves into the same Misery that he was in, and there­fore he begs of Abraham, that he would send Lazarus to his Father's House, where he had five Brethren, that he might testi­fie unto them, lest they also should come into that place of Torment. To which Re­quest Abraham answers, that there was no necessity of such an extraordinary course to be used toward those who had sufficient means of Conviction so near at hand, if they would but hearken to them, and make use of them. Abraham saith unto him, they have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.

But the Rich Man presseth his Re­quest further, upon this Reason, that they might not perhaps be moved by Moses and the Prophets, nay it was likely they would not be moved by them; for they had always had them, and yet they remained impenitent: But if a special Messenger should be sent to them from the dead, this certainly could not fail to awaken them, and bring them to Repen­tance, v. 30. And he said, nay, Father A­braham, but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. To which Abra­ham makes this peremptory Reply, If [Page 419] they hear not Moses and the Prophets, nei­ther will they be perswaded, tho' one rose from the dead.

In which Words Abraham absolutely denies that there is any such Probability, much less Certainty, that those who re­ject a publick credible Revelation of God, such as that of the Holy Scrip­tures is, should be effectually convin­ced by a Messenger from the dead. And our Saviour brings in Ahraham deliver­ing himself very positively in this mat­ter, and therefore we may presume it to be our Saviour's own Sense, and may rely upon it for a Truth; which howe­ver at first sight it may not be so evident, yet I hope in the progress of this Dis­course to make it sufficiently clear.

But before I undertake that, I shall premise a Caution or two to prevent all Mistake in this matter.

First, That we are not to understand these Words too strictly and rigorously, as if the thing were simply and in it self impossible, that a Man who is not con­vinced by hearing or reading Moses and the Prophets, should be brought to Re­pentance any other way. For it is very possible in the Nature of the thing, yea and likely enough, that a Man who is [Page 420] not convinced by calm Evidence and Perswasion, may yet be very much wrought upon by a strange and amazing Accident; and if one, whom he had known when he was alive, should ap­pear to him from the dead, and declare the certainty of a future State, and the condition of things in another World, there is little doubt to be made, but that this would more rouze and awaken him to consider his Danger, than all the Threatnings of God's Word; and 'tis very possible that, by the Concurrence of God's Grace, this might prove an ef­fectual Means to convince such a Man, and to bring him to Repentance. And yet for all this, it is not probable upon the whole matter, and if all Circumstan­ces be duly consider'd, that this should generally have a permanent effect upon Men, so as throughly to reclaim such Persons as do obstinately resist the Light and Counsels of God's Word.

Secondly, Another Caution I would give is this, That we are not to under­stand these Words so, as to weaken the force of that Argument from Miracles for the Proof and Confirmation of a Di­vine Doctrine; as if our Saviour inten­ded to insinuate, that Miracles are not [Page 421] a proper and sufficient Argument to con­vince Men. For our Saviour does not here oppose Moses and the Prophets to a miraculous Testimony; but he advan­ceth the publick Evidence and Testimo­ny which Moses and the Prophets had a­bove the Evidence of a single and pri­vate Miracle; for Moses and the Prophets had their Confirmation from Miracles; and Miracles are the great Evidence and Attestation which God hath always gi­ven to the Divinity of any Person or Do­ctrine; and therefore Abraham cannot be thought to speak any thing to the Prejudice of Miracles, when he says, If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, nei­ther will they be perswaded, tho one rose from the dead. Nay so far is he from that, that this reasoning of his is rather for the Advantage of Miracles. For Moses and the Prophets had the Confirmation of many and great, of publick and unque­stionable Miracles; a credible Relation whereof was conveyed down to after Ages. So that if rational Means of Con­viction were the thing desired, it was not likely that those, who were not per­swaded by Moses and the Prophets, which were acknowledged by themselves to have had the Confirmation of so many [Page 422] undoubted Miracles, should in reason be convinced by a private and single Mi­racle.

These Considerations being premised by way of Caution, I come now to make out the Truth of what is here asserted in the Text. And for the full clearing of this matter, I shall speak to these two Propositions.

First, That it is unreasonable to ex­pect that God should do more for the Conviction of Men, than to afford them a standing Revelation of his Mind and Will; such as that of the holy Scrip­tures is. And if so, then

Secondly, That upon the whole mat­ter it is very improbable, that those who reject this publick Revelation of God, should be effectually convinced, tho' one should speak to them from the dead.

First, That it is unreasonable to ex­pect that God should do more for the Conviction of Men, than to afford them a standing Revelation of his Mind and Will; such as that of the Holy Scriptures is. This is strongly imply'd in Abraham's first Answer, They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them; as if he had said, having such Means of Conviction so near at hand, why should they desire [Page 423] and expect any other? It is in this case of the Scriptures, as in that of God's Providence; God does not commonly prove his Providence to Men by extraor­dinary instances of his Power, and by changing the Course of Nature, to con­vince every Man in the World that he governs it: but by standing Testimo­nies of his Wisdom, and Power, and Goodness; by these God does suffici­ently satisfie considerate Men of his Go­vernment and Care of the World; and tho' he do seldom manifest himself in supernatural and extraordinary ways, yet he hath not left himself without a Witness, by the constant course of Na­ture, in the returns of Day and Night, in the Revolutions of the Seasons of the Year, in that he gives us rain from Hea­ven and fruitful Seasons, filling our Hearts with food and gladness. And these standing Arguments of his Providence, tho' they be not so much taken notice of, because they are so common, yet are they daily Miracles, and we can hardly imagine greater, and we should be strangely a­mazed at them, but that they are so ve­ry frequent and familiar.

The case is the same as to Divine Re­velation. God hath not thought fit to [Page 424] gratifie the perverse Curiosity of Men, by affording to every Man a particular and immediate Revelation of his Mind and Will: but he hath given us a stand­ing Revelation, which at first had the greatest and most miraculous Confirma­tion, and he hath still left us sufficient Means of being assured of the Truth of this Revelation, and of the Confirma­tion that was at first given to it; and we tempt God, by demanding extraordi­nary Signs, when we may receive so a­bundant Satisfaction in an ordinary way. This being admitted, I shall pro­ceed in the

Second Place to shew, That it is upon the whole Matter, and all Circumstan­ces consider'd, very improbable, that those who reject this publick Revelati­on from God, should be effectually con­vinced, tho' one should speak to them from the dead. And this is that which is expresly asserted here in the Text, If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, nei­ther will they be perswaded, tho' one rose from the dead. Not but that any Man would be very much startled and amazed, if one should come from the dead to warn him of the Danger of his wicked Life; but yet for all that, it is very unlikely [Page 425] that they who obstinately and perverse­ly refuse to be convinced by Moses and the Prophets, would be effectually per­swaded, (that is, so as to be brought to Repentance and Reformation of their Lives) tho' one should rise from the dead. And that for these Reasons.

1. Because if such Miracles were fre­quent and familiar, it is very probable they would have but very little effect; and unless we suppose them common and ordinary, we have no Reason to expect them at all.

2. Men have as great or greater Rea­son to believe the Threatnings of God's Word, as the Discourse of one that should speak to them from the dead.

3. The very same reason which makes Men to reject the Counsels of God in his Word, would in all probability hin­der them from being convinced by a particular Miracle.

4. Experience does abundantly testi­fie, how ineffectual extraordinary ways are to convince those who are obstinate­ly addicted and wedded to their Lusts.

5. An effectual Perswasion (that is, such a Belief as produceth Repentance, and a good Life) is the Gift of God, and depends upon the Operation and Con­currence [Page 426] of God's Grace, which there is no reason to expect either in an extraor­dinary way, or in an extraordinary de­gree, after Men have obstinately reject­ed the ordinary Means which God hath appointed to that end.

1. If such Miracles, as a special Mes­senger from the dead to warn and ad­monish Men, were frequent and fami­liar, it is very probable they would have but very little effect upon Men; and un­less we suppose them common and ordi­nary, we have no reason to expect them at all. For it is unreasonable at first sight, that the worst and more obstinate sort of Sinners should expect this, as a peculiar Favour and Privilege to them­selves, and that God should not do as much for others, who have deserved it more, and would probably make better use of it; and if these things were com­mon, it is very probable that Men would not be much moved by them. It may be, while the Apprehension of such a thing were fresh upon them, they would take up some good Resolutions; as Sin­ners usually do, while they are under present Convictions of Conscience, and the Hand of God, by some great Afflicti­on or Sickness, lies heavy upon them: [Page 427] but still they would be apt to defer their Repentance, and put it off 'till the pre­sent Amazement were a little over, and the terrour of their first Apprehensions were abated and worn off by degrees, and after a little while they would re­turn to their former Course. And this is too too probable, from what we see Men do in other cases not very much remote from this. It is a very terrible and ama­zing thing to see a Man die, and so­lemnly take his last leave of the World. The very Circumstances of dying Men are apt to strike us with horror; to hear such a Man how sensibly he will speak of the other World, as if he were just come from it, rather than going to it; how severely he will condemn himself for the Folly and Wickedness of his Life; with what Passion he will wish that he had lived better, and served God more sincerely; how seriously he will resolve upon a better Life, if God would be pleased to raise him up, and try him but once more; with what Zeal and Ear­nestness he will commend to his best Friends and nearest Relations, a religi­ous and virtuous Course of Life, as the only thing that will minister Comfort to them when they come to be in his [Page 428] Condition. Such Discourses as these, are very apt to move and affect Men for the time, and to stir up in them very good Resolutions, whilst the present Fit and Impression lasts: but because these sights are very frequent, they have seldom a­ny great and permanent effect upon Men. Men consider that it is a very common Case, and Sinners take Exam­ple and Encouragement from one a [...]o­ther; every one is affected for the pre­sent, but few are so effectually convin­ced, as to betake themselves to a better Course.

And if Apparitions from the dead were as common, as it is for Men to die, we may reasonably presume that the Dis­courses of dead and dying, of those that are going, and those who come from the dead, would have much the same effect upon the generality of Men.

But if we suppose this a singular Case, (which there is no reason to do) in that case the Effect would probably be this; a Man that were strongly addicted to his Lusts, and had no Mind to leave them, would be apt when the Fright were over, to be easily perswaded that all this was merely the work of Fancy and Imagination; and the rather, be­cause [Page 429] such things did not happen to others, as well as to himself.

2. We have as great or greater Reason to believe the Warnings or Threatnings of God's Word, as the Discourses of one that should come to us from the dead. For the Threatnings of God's Word a­gainst such Sins as natural Light con­vinceth Men of, have the natural Guilt and Fears of Men on their side, the particular Testimony of every Man's Conscience, and the concurrent Testi­mony of Mankind to the Probability of the thing; and to give us full Assurance of the Truth and Reality of them, we have a credible Relation of great and unquestionable Miracles wrought on purpose to give Testimony to those Per­sons who denounced those Threatnings, that they came from God. So that here is a very publick and authentick Testimony given to the Threatnings of God's Word, more sutable to the gene­rality of Mankind, and of greater Au­thority than a private Apparition, or a single Miracle; and if that will not convince Men, why should we suppose that this will?

3. The Very same Reason which makes Men to reject the Counsels of God [Page 430] in his Word, would, in all probability, hinder Men from being convinced by an Apparition from the Dead. It is not generally for want of Evidence, that Men do not yield a full and effectual Assent to the Truth of God's Word, I mean, that they do not Believe it so as to Obey it: but from the Interest of some Lust. The true cause is not in Mens Understandings, and because there is not Reason enough to satisfie them, that the Scriptures are the Word of God; but in the obstinacy of their Wills, which are enslaved to their Lusts. And the Disease being there, it is not to be Cured by more Evidence; but by more Consideration, and by the Grace of God, and better Resolutions.

The Man is addicted to some Vice or other, and that makes him unwilling to entertain those Truths which would check and control him in his Course. The light of God's word is offensive to him, and therefore he would shut it out. This Account our blessed Saviour gives of the Enmity of the Jews against him and his Doctrine, John 3. 19. Light is come into the World, and Men love darkness ra­ther than light, because their Deeds are evil: for every one that doeth evil, hateth the [Page 431] light, neither cometh he to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. Upon the same account it is, that Men resist the Doctrine of the Holy Scriptures; not because they have sufficient Reason to doubt of their Divine Authority; but because they are unwilling to be go­vern'd by them, and to conform their Lives to the Laws and Precepts of that Holy Book: For the Wills of Men have a great Influence upon their Un­destandings, to make assent easie or difficult; and as Men are apt to assent to what they have a mind to, so they are slow to believe any thing which crosseth their Humours and Inclinations; so that tho' greater Evidence were of­fer'd, it is likely it would not prevail with them, because the mater does not stick there. Their Wills are distem­per'd, Men hate to be reform'd, and this makes them cast the Laws of God behind their Backs; and if God himself should speak to them from Heaven, as he did to the People of Israel; yet for all that, they might continue a stiff-necked and re­bellious People. Tho' the Evidence were such as their Understandings could not resist; yet their Wills might still hold out, and the present condition of their [Page 432] Minds might have no lasting influence upon their Hearts and Lives; [...]uch a violent Conviction might affect them for the present, but the Sense of it might perhaps wear off by degrees, and then they would return to their former hard­ness. Men, by a long and obstinate continuance in sin, may bring them­selves to the Temper and Disposition of Devils; who, tho' they believe and tremble at the thoughts of God and his Threatnings, yet they are wicked still; for so long as Men retain a strong affe­ction for their Lusts, they will break through all Conviction, and what E­vidence soever be offer'd to them, they will find some way or other to avoid it, and to delude themselves. The plain truth of the case is this, (if Men will honest­ly speak their Consciences, they cannot deny it) they do not call for more Evi­dence, either because they want it, or are willing to be convinced by it; but that they may seem to have some Excuse for themselves, for not being convinced by that Evidence which is afforded to them.

4thly, Experience does abundantly testifie, how ineffectual extraordinary ways are to convince and reclaim men of depraved Minds, and such as are ob­stinately [Page 433] addicted to their Lusts. We find many remarkable Experiments of this in the History of the Bible. What Wonders were wrought in the sight of Pharaoh and the Egyptians! yet they were harden'd under all these Plagues. Balaam, who greedily follow'd the wages of unrighteousness, was not to be stopt by the admonition of an Angel. The Jews, after so many Miracles which their Eyes had seen, continued to be a stiff neck'd and gain-saying People; so that it is hard to say which was more pro­digious, the Wonders which God wrought for them, or their Rebellions against him; and when in the fulness of time, the Son of God came and did a­mong them the works which never man did, such, as one would have thought, might have brought the worst People in the World to Repentance, those of Tyre and Sydon, of Sodom and Gomorrah; yet they Repented not. Yea the very thing, which the rich man here in my Text, requested of Abraham for his Bre­thren, was done among them; Laza­rus did rise from the dead, and testifi­ed unto them, and they were not perswa­ded.

And which is yet more, our Saviour [Page 434] himself, according to his own Predic­tion while he was alive, rose again from the dead the third day, and was visibly taken up into Heaven; and yet how few among them did believe, and give glory to God! So that we see the very thing here spoken of in the Text, made good in a famous instance; they who be­lieved not Moses and the Prophets, which testified of the Messias, were not per­swaded when he rose from the dead.

And does not our own Experience tell us, how little effect the extraordi­nary Providences of God have had up­on those who were not reclaimed by his Word. It is not long since God shewed himself among us, by terrible things in Righteousness, and visited us with three of his sorest Judgments, War, and Pestilence, and Fire; and yet how does all manner of Wickedness and Impiety still reign and rage among us! It is a very sad Consideration, to see how little those who have outlived these Plagues, have been reformed by them; we have not return'd to the Lord, nor sought him for all this.

I may appeal to the experience of particular Persons. How frequently do we see Men, after great Afflictions, [Page 435] and tedious Sufferings, and dangerous sicknesses, return to their former Evil Courses! and tho' they have been up­on the brink of Eternity, and the ter­nors of Death have compass'd them about, and the pains of Hell have almost taken hold of them, tho' they have had as lively and sensible Convictions of another World, as if they had spoken with those that had come from thence, or even been there themselves; yet they have taken no warning, but upon their De­liverance and Recovery, have been as mad, as furious Sinners as they were before; so that it ought to be no such wonder to us, which the Text tells us, that if Men hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be perswaded, tho' one rose from the dead. Especially, if we consider in the

5th and last place, That an effectu­al perswasion (that is, such a Belief as produceth Repentance and a good Life) is the gift of God, and depends upon the operation and concurrence of his Grace, which is not to be expected in an extraordinary way, where Men have obstinately rejected the ordinary means appointed by God for that end. To be effectually perswaded to change [Page 436] our Lives, and become new Men, is a Work not to be done without the assi­stance of God's Grace; and there is lit­tle reason to expect that God will af­ford his Grace to those, who reject and despise the Counsels of his Word. The Doctrine of Salvation contained in the Holy Scriptures, and the Promises and Threatnings of God's Word, are the ordinary Means which God hath ap­pointed for the Conversion of Men, and to bring them to Repentance; and if we sincerely use these means, we may confidently expect the concurrence of God's grace, to make them effectual: but if we neglect and resist these means, in confidence that God should attempt our Recovery by some extraordinary ways; tho' he should gratifie our presumptuous and unreasonable Curio­sity, so far as to send one from the dead to testifie unto us; yet we have no rea­son to expect the assistance of his Grace, to make such a Conviction effectual to our Repentance, when we have so long despised his Word, and resisted his Spirit, which are the power of God un­to Salvation.

Without his Grace and Assistance, the most probable means will prove in­effectual, [Page 437] to alter and change our cor­rupt Natures; by Grace we are saved, and that not of our selves; it is the Gift of God. This Grace is revealed to us in the Gospel; and the Assistances of it are conveyed to us by the Gospel; and it is great presumption to promise to our selves, the assistance of God's Grace in any other way than he hath been pleased to promise it to us.

And thus I have shewn you, as briefly and plainly as I could, how un­likely it is, that those who obstinate­ly reject a clear and publick Revela­tion of God, should be effectually con­vinced and brought to Repentance by any Apparitions from the dead.

I shall only make two or three Infe­rences from this Discourse which I have made, and so conclude.

1st. Since the Scriptures are the pub­lick and standing Revelation of God's Will to Men, and the ordinary Means of Salvation, we may hence conclude, That People ought to have them in such a Language as they can understand. This our Saviour plainly supposeth in the Discourse which he represents be­tween Abraham, and the Rich Man, de­siring that Lazarus might be sent from [Page 438] the dead to his Brethren, to testifie unto them; to which Request Abraham would not have given this Answer and Advice, they have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them, had he supposed that the Scriptures then were, or for the future ought to be lockt up from the People in an unknown Tongue; for the Rich Man might very well have re­plied, nay, Father Abraham, but they are not permitted to have Moses and the Prophets in such a Language as they can understand; and therefore there is more need why one should be sent from the Dead to testifie unto them.

Nor would Abraham have said again, if they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be perswaded. For how should Men hear what they cannot un­derstand, so as to be perswaded by it.

It is evident then, that our Saviour, according to the Reasoning of this Pa­rable, takes it for granted, that the Holy Scriptures are the standing and ordinary means of bringing Men to Faith and Repentance, and that the People are to have the free use of them. But since our Saviour's time, the Church of Rome hath found a migh­ty inconvenience in this, and therefore [Page 439] hath taken the Scriptures out of the Hands of the People. They will not now let them have Moses and the Prophets, the Gospel of our blessed Saviour, and the Writings of his Apostles, because they are really afraid they should hear them, and by hearing of them, be con­vinced and perswaded of the Errours and Corruptions of their Church; but instead of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, they have put into their Hands a Legend of famous Apparitions of Men from the dead, testifying unto them concerning Pur­gatory and Transubstantiation, and the Worship of the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, and the great benefit and re­freshment which Souls in Purgatory have by the Indulgences of the Pope, and the Prayers of the living put up to Saints and Angels on their behalf; so that in the Church of Rome, quite contrary to our Saviour's method, Men are perswaded of their Religion, of their New Articles of Faith, and Ways of Worship, not by Moses and the Pro­phets, not by the Doctirne of the Ho­ly Scriptures (for they every where te­stifie against them) but by absurd Ro­mances, and ill-contriv'd Fictions of Ap­paritions [Page 440] from the Dead. I will dismiss this matter with this one Observation, that however interested and confident Men may set a bold face upon any thing, yet it cannot to considerate Men but seem a very hard case, that there should be no Salvation to be had out of the Church of Rome; and yet the ordinary, and (in our Saviour's Judgment) the most effectual Means of Salvatioin are not to be had in it.

But I pass from this, to that which does more immediately concern our Practice.

2dly, Let us hear and obey that pub­lick Revelation of God's Will, which in so much Mercy to Mankind, he hath been pleased to afford to us. This is an inestimable Privilege and Advantage which the World in many Ages was de­stitute of, having no other Guide to conduct them to eternal Happiness but the Light of Nature, and some particu­lar Revelations, which now and then God was pleased to make of his Will to Men: But now God hath set up a great and standing Light in the World, the Doctrine of the holy Scriptures; and by the Gospel of his blessed Son, hath given the knowledge of Salvation to all Men, for [Page 441] the remission of their Sins, through the ten­der Mercies of God, whereby the day spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sat in darkness, and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace, to convince us of the Error of our ways, and to direct us in our Duty. We, upon whom the ends of the world are come, do enjoy all the Ad­vantages of divine Revelation which the World ever had, and as great as the World ever shall have. God in these last days hath spoken unto us by his Son, and if we will not hear him, God will imploy no other extraordinary Prophet and Messenger to us. If the wrath of God so clearly revealed from Heaven by the Gospel of our blesled Saviour, against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of Men; if the Terror of the great day, and the fear of eternal Torment; if the dreadful Sufferings of the Son of God for our Sins, and the merciful offers of Pardon and Reconci­liation in his Blood, and the glorious hopes of eternal Life and Happiness will not prevail with us to leave our Sins, and to amend our Lives, we have no reason to expect that God should use any farther means to reclaim us; that he should ever [Page 442] make any more Attempts for our Reco­very. And therefore,

3dly, and lastly, Those who are not brought to Repentance, and effectually perswaded by this clear and publick Re­velation which God hath made of his Will to Men in the Holy Scriptures, have reason to look upon their Case as desperate.

Methinks it should not be a desirable thing to any of us to be convinced by an Apparition, the thing is so dreadful and full of Terror; besides that it argues Men to be strangely hardned in a bad Course, and obstinately bent upon their evil ways, when nothing will affright them from their Sins, but what will al­most put them out of their Wits; when nothing will keep them from running into Hell, but a fearful and ghastly Mes­senger from thence. What a terrible sight would it be to any of us, to meet one of our Companions, whom we had lately known in this World, fresh come out of those Flames, with the smell of Fire and Brimstone upon him! What Imagination can paint to it self the dread and horror of such a Spectacle! The Rich Man here in the Parable, when he was in Hell, is represented as sensible [Page 443] of the inconvenience of this, and there­fore he did not desire to be sent himself to his Brethren, but desired that Lazarus might go and testifie unto them; he was apprehensive how frightful a sight he himself must needs have been to them, and therefore he desires that they might have a gentler warning by one, who from out of Abraham's Bosom had seen the Miseries of the damned, but en­joyed the State of the blessed.

But let not us tempt God by any such unreasonable Demand, who speaks to us every day by the plain Declarations of his Word, and hath of late Years call'd so loudly upon us by the Voice of his Providence to repent and turn to him; by so many Miracles of Mercy and De­liverance, as God hardly ever wrought for any Prince and People, and by such terrible Vollies of Judgments, and full Viols of wrath, as have seldom been poured out upon any Nation. God speaks to you by his Ministers, Men like your selves (God knows, poor frail and sinful Men,) but we are sure, that when we call you to Repentance, we deliver to you the Will and Pleasure, the Counsels and Commands of the great God, which (whatever Account may [Page 444] be made of us) do certainly challenge your most awful Attention and Regard. And we are sensibel that we are call'd to a very difficult and unpleasant work, to content with the Lusts and Vices of Men, to strive against the strong and impetuous Stream of a wicked and per­verse Generation; and nothing in the World could move us to this unwel­come and grievous Importunity, but a great and just Sense of our own Duty, and your Danger. And if we will not take these Warnings, why should we expect that God should vouchsafe to send an express Messenger to us from the other World, to certifie us how all things are there, and that not so much to help the weakness of our Faith, as to humor the perverseness of our Infidelity? And why should we imagine that this Course would prove more effectual? Let us not deceive our selves, the same Lusts which now detain Men so strongly in Impenitency and Unbelief, would in all probability hurry them on to Hell, tho' an Angel from Heaven should meet them in their way, to give a stop to them. This indeed might startle us; but nothing is like to save us, if the Word of God and his Grace do not.

But are we in earnest, and would we be perswaded, if one should rise from the dead? God hath condescended thus far to us, there is one risen from the dead to testifie unto us, Jesus the Son of God, who died for our Sins, and rose again for our Justification, and is ascended into Heaven, and set down at the right hand of God, to assure us of a blessed Resur­rection and a glorious Immortality. And if this will not satisfie us, God will gratifie our Curiosity no farther. If we will not believe him, whom God hath sent, and to convince us that he hath sent him, hath raised him up from the dead, we shall die in our Sins, and perish in our Impenitency. God hath in great Mercy to Mankind done that which is abundantly sufficient to convince those who are of a teachable Temper and Disposition: But in great Wisdom and Justice he hath not thought fit to provide any Remedy for the wilful Ob­stinacy and intractable Perverseness of Men.

Now God who hath the Hearts of all Men in his Hands, perswade us all, to break off our Sins by Repentance, and to give Glory to God, before Death and Darkness come, and the day of our final [Page 446] Visitation overtake us, when we may perhaps be surprised by a sudden stroke, of seized upon by a violent Disease, and may have no sense and apprehension of our approaching Danger, or if we have, may find no place for Repentance, tho' we seek it with Tears; which God grant may never happen to be the case of any of us, for his Mercy's sake in Christ Je­sus, To whom with the Father, &c.

SERMON XIII. The Children of this World Wiser than the Children of Light.
Preached at Whitehall, Anno 1683.

LUKE XVI. 8.‘For the Children of this World are in their Generation wiser than the Children of Light.’

THESE Words are in the Pa­rable of the Rich Man's Stew­ard, who being call'd upon to give up his Accounts, in order to his being discharged from his Office, cast about with himself, what course he had best to take, to provide for his sub­sistence, when he should be turned out of his Employment. At last he resolves upon this, That he will go to his Lords Debtors, and take a favourable Account of them; and instead of a hundred measures of Oil, write down fifty, [Page 448] and instead of a hundred measures of wheat, write down four score; that by this means he might oblige them to be kind to him in his Necessity. The Lord hearing of this, commends the unjust Steward, because he had done wisely; That is, he took notice of his Dishonesty; but praised his Shrewdness and Sagacity, as having done prudently for himself, tho' he did not deal justly with him; and this is usual among Men. When we see a Man ingeniously bad, to com­mend his Wit, and to say it is great pity, he doth not use it better, and apply it to good purposes. Upon the whole, our Saviour makes this Ob­servation; that the Children of this World, are in their Generation wiser than the Children of Light; as if he had said, thus did this worldly Wise-man, thus provident was he for his future Securi­ty and Subsistence. He no sooner un­derstands that he is to be turned out of his Office, but he considers what Pro­vision to make for himself against that time. And is it not pity, that good Men do not apply this Wisdom to better and greater purposes? For is not every Man such a Steward, entrust­ed by God with the Blessings of this [Page 449] Life; and many opportunities of doing good? For all which, since he must shortly give an Account, he ought in all Reason so to use them, as thereby to provide for the Happiness of another Life, against this temporal Life have an end.

And this is all the Parallel intended in this Parable, as we may see by our Saviour's Application of it. For Para­lels are not to be stretched to an ex­act Parallel in all the Parts and Cir­cumstances of them; but only to be ap­plyed to the particular point and pur­pose intended. A Parable, and the Moral accomodation of it, being (as one well observes) not like two Plains, which touch one another in every part; but like a Globe upon a Plain, which only toucheth in one Point. Thus our Saviour separates the Wisdom of this Steward from his Injustice, and pro­poseth that to our imitation; The Chil­dren of this World are in their Genera­tion wiser than the Children of Light.

The Words are a Comparison; in which we have

1st. The Persons compared, the Chil­dren of this World, and the Children of Light. It is a very usual Phrase among [Page 450] the Hebrews, when they would express any thing to partake of such a Na­ture, or Quality, to call it the Son or Child of such a thing. Thus good Men are call'd the Children of God, and bad Men the Children of the Devil; those who mind earthly things, and make the things of this World their greatest aim and Design, are called the Children of this World and those who are better enlightned with the Knowledge of their own immortality, and the Belief of a future state after this life, are call'd the Children of Light.

2dly. Here is the thing, wherein they are compared, and that is, as to their Wisdom and Prudence.

3dly. The Object of this Prudence, which is not the same in both; as if the Sense were, that the Children of this World are wiser than the Children of Light, as to the things of this World; but here are two several Objects intended, about which the prudence of these two sorts of Persons is respectively exercised; the concernments of this World and the o­ther. And our Saviour's meaning is, that the Children of this world are wiser in their generation; that is, in their way, viz. as to the Interests and Concernments [Page 451] of this World, than the Children of Light are in theirs, viz. as to the Interests and Concernments of the other World.

4thly. Here is a decision of the mat­ter, and which of them it is that ex­cels in point of Prudence, in their way; and our Saviour gives it to the Children of this World; they are wiser in their ge­neration, than the Children of Light.

Now this Proposition is not to be ta­ken in the utmost strictness and rigour; as if it were universally true, and with­out any exception; as if no Man had e­ver been so Wise and Provident for his Soul, and the Concernments of another World, as Worldly Men are for the Interests and Concernments of this Life. For there are some that are Fools at large, and imprudent in their whole conduct and management, both as to the Affairs of this World, and the other; who are in too strict a sense, the Chil­dren of this world. They mind nothing but this World, and yet are grosly im­prudent, even in their prosecution of their temporal Interests. They neg­lect and fore-go all other worldly Ad­vantages, for the sake of a little sen­sual Pleasure; and then they lose and destroy that too, by an over hot and [Page 452] eager pursuit of it, and turn it at last into Gall and Wormwood. And there are others, (as St. Paul for instance) who, I doubt not, have been as prudent, and zea­lous, and industrious for the promoting of Religion, and the Salvation of them­selves and others, as any Man can be about the Affairs of this present Life; and I hope there are some such in every Age, but God knows they are very few, and their Wisdom and Industry is seldom so equal, and constant, and uniform, as that of the Men of this World.

So that we are to understand this Say­ing of our Saviour's with the same Al­lowance as we generally do all Moral and Proverbial Speeches, that they are true for the most part, and the Instances and Exceptions to the contrary are very rate. It is seldom seen, that good Men are so wise for the Concernments of their Souls, and of Religion, as many world­ly Men are for their worldly Interests.

In speaking to this Proposition, I shall do these thre things.

First, Confirm and illustrate the Truth of it, by considering the several Parts and Properties of Wisdom.

Secondly, Give some probable Account of this, by considering what Advanta­ges [Page 453] the Children of this world have above the Children of light.

Thirdly, I shall draw some Inferences from the whole, by way of Application.

First, I shall endeavour to confirm and illustrate the Truth of this, by con­sidering the several parts and pro­perties of Wisdom. Now this is Wis­dom, to mind and regard our chief end, and by all means to promote it; and this Regard to our chief End doth ex­press it self chiefly in these particulars; in our being firmly fixt and resolved upon it; in chusing the fittest Means for the compassing and accomplishing of it; in a diligent Use of those Means; in an in­vincible Constancy and Perseverance in the prosecution of it; and in making all things to submit and to stoop to it. These are the principal parts and pro­perties of Wisdom; and I shall shew, that in all these the Children of this World do usually excel the Children of Light.

1st. They are usually more firmly fixt and resolved upon their End. Whate­ver they set up for their End, Riches, or Honours, or Pleasures, they are fixt up­on it, and steady in the Prosecution of it. If they set up for Riches or Honour, they [Page 454] neglect and despise Pleasure, if it cross either of those Ends. And this fixt Re­solution of the End is the great spring of Action, and that which inspires Men with Vigour and Diligence in the use of Means; and the more resolved Men are upon the End, the more active and industrious they will be in the use of Means; for the End governs the Means, and gives Law and Measure to our Acti­vity and Industry in the use of them, and sweetens and allays the Trouble and Difficulty of them.

So that where the End is once firmly fixt and resolved upon, there will not be wanting fervour of Prosecution; but if we be wavering and unsteady as to our End, this will weaken our Hands, and quench the heat of our endeavours, and abate the eagerness of our Pursuit, and according to the degree of it, will derive a debility and inconstancy into all our Motions. The double minded Man (as St. James says) being unstable in all his ways. Now the Children of this world are commonly more fixt and resolved upon their End, than the Children of light. 'Tis rare to see the whole Life and Acti­ons of a good Man, so constantly and uniformly conspiring to the furtherance [Page 455] of his great End, so directly tending to the Salvation of his Soul, and the increase of his Glory and Happiness in another World; as the Actions of a worldly Man, and the whole Course of his Life do, to the advancing of his worldly Interests. The covetous or ambitious Man seldom do any thing, to the best of their know­ledge, that is impertinent to their End, much less contrary to it; through every thing that they do, one may plainly see the End they aim at, and that they are always true to it: Whereas the best Men do many things, which are plain­ly cross and contrary to their End, and a great many more, which have no re­latioin to it; and when they mind it, it is rather by fits and starts, than in any even course and tenor of Actions.

And of this we have a famous instance in that worldly and secular Church, which now for several hundreds of Years hath more steadily pursued the End of secular Greatness and Dominion, than any other Church hath done the Ends of true Religion, the Glory of God, and the Salvation of the Souls of Men, so that there is hardly any Doctrine or Practice peculiar to that Church, and differing from our common Christianity, [Page 456] but it hath a direct and visible tendency to the promoting of some worldly Inte­rest or other. For instance, Why do they deny the People the Holy Scriptures and the Service of God, in a language which they can understand? but that by keeping them in Ignorance, they may have them in more perfect Slave­ry and Subjection to them? Why do they forbid their Priests to marry? but that they may have no Interest distinct from that of their Church, and leave all to it when they die? To what end is Auricular Confession? but to keep Peo­ple in awe, by the knowledge of their Secrets? Why must the Laity only re­ceive the Sacrament in one kind, but to draw a greater Reverence to the Priest, whose Priviledge it shall be to receive in both? And why is the Intention of the Priest necessary to the efficacy of the Sacraments? but to perswade the People, that notwithstanding the gra­cious Intention of God toward Man­kind, they cannot be saved without the good will of the Priest? The Doctrines of Purgatory and Indulgences are a plain device to make their Markets of the Sins and Souls of Men. I might in­stance in a hundred things more in that [Page 457] Church, which are of the same tenden­cy. This St. John foretold should be the Character of the Spirit of Antichrist, that it should be a worldly Spirit, and the Doctrines of it should serve a Secu­lar Interest and Design, 1 John 4. 5. They are of the World, and they speak from the World, and the World hears them. What Church is there in the World, so true throughout to the interest of Religi­on, as this worldly Church hath been to its own Secular Power and Greatness?

2dly. The Children of this world are wi­ser in the choice of Means in order to their End; and this is a great part of Wisdom. For some Means will bring a­bout an End, with less pains, and difficul­ty, and expence of Time than others. And the Men of the World are very ingenious in discerning the fitness and force of Means to their several Ends. To what a certainty have Men reduced all the ways and arts of Gain, and growing rich, and of rising to Honour and Preferment? What long Trains will Men lay to bring about their desired End? What subtil methods have Men divised, to insinuate themselves into Court; and when they are there, to plant themselves in the Eye of their Prince, and in the Sunshine of his Favor? [Page 458] and then they have as many ways of worming others out, as of screwing themselves in.

But in the Concernments of our souls, and the Affairs of another World, how dull and injudicious are we? and how awkardly and untowardly do we ap­ply Means to Ends, as if Men were on­ly wise to do evil, but to do good had no un­derstanding, as the Prophet complains? By what incongruous and irregular Means do many (who would seem to be, and sometimes perhaps are very zealous in Religion) endeavour (as they think) to promote God's Glory, by pi­ous Frauds and counterfeit Miracles, and telling officious Lies for God? What a compass do many Men fetch to go to Heaven, by innumerable devices of will-Worship, by voluntary Severities, nei­ther pleasing to God, nor profitable to Men? By tedious Pilgrimages, and senseless Ceremonies, and innumerable little external Observances, of no Virtue and Efficacy in Religion? and by wan­dring through a wilderness of Opinions, and the bushes and brakes of unprofita­ble Questions, and Controversies? Where­as the way to Heaven lies plain and straight before us, consisting in Simpli­city [Page 459] of Belief, and in Holiness and In­nocency of Life. Not but that there are great differences in the Church of Rome, between the Secular Priests and and the Regular; betwen the Jansenists and the Jesuits: but they still unite in a common Interest, and are subject to Antichrist their common Head. They do not separate from one another, and excommunicate one another, and declare against one another, that they are not of the true Church. Satan never casts out Satan; and tho' he love Divisions a­mong Christians, yet he always takes care, that his own Kingdom be not divi­ded against it self, so as to endanger the Ruin of it. And whenever they have a­ny hopeful design for the extirpation of Protestants, they can lay aside their Enmities, and be reconciled in such a design. Then the Pope and the Kings of the Earth take counsel together, and like Herod and Pilate, when Christ was to be crucified, can be made Friends at a days warning. Whereas the Divisi­ons of the true Church are pernicious to it; and as we see at this Day among our selves, our senseless Differences and wild Heats on both sides, do contribute to the setting up of Popery, and the [Page 460] ruin of the Reformed Religion; and yet no Perswasion, no Experience can make us wiser.

3dly. The Children of this world are commonly more diligent in the Use of Means for the obtaining of their End; they will sweat and toil, and take any Pains, rise up early, and lie down late, and eat the bread of Carefulness; their thoughts are continually running upon their Bu­siness, and they catch at every Oportuni­ty of promoting it; they will pinch Na­ture, and harass it; and rob themselves of their Rest, and all the Comfort of their Lives, to raise their Fortune and Estate. What Drudges were Caesar and Alexander in the way of Fame and Am­bition? How did they tire themselves and others with long and tedious Mar­ches? To what Inconveniences and Dangers did they expose themselves and Thousands more? What Havock and Destruction did they make in the World, that they might gain to them­selves the empty Title of Conquerors of it? When the Men of the World en­gage in any Design, how intent are they upon it, and with what vigour do they prosecute it? They do not counterfeit a Diligence, and seen to be more serious [Page 461] and industrious than in truth they are; they are rather Hypocrites the other way, and would conceal their Covetous­ness and Ambition, and not seem to as­pire after Riches, and Honours, so much as indeed they do.

But in the pursuit of better things, how cold and remiss are we? With what a careless indifference do most Men mind their Souls? How negli­gent and formal, and many times Hy­pocritical are they in the Service of God, and the Exercise of Religion? With what a pitiful Courage, and with what faint Spirits do they resist Sin, and encounter the Temptations of it; and how often, and how easily are they foil'd and baffl'd by them?

4thly. The Men of the World are more invincibly constant and pertina­cious in the pursuit of Earthly things; they are not to be birbed or taken off by favour or fair Words; not to be daunted by Difficulties, or dasht out of Countenance by the Frowns and Re­proaches of Men. Offer an Ambitious Man any thing short of his End and Aim, to take him off from the prose­cution of it; he scorns the motion, and thinks you go about to fool him out [Page 462] of his Interest. Bait a Covetous Man with Temptations of Pleasure, to get his Money from him; how generously will this mean spirited Man trample up­on Pleasure, when it would tempt him from his Design of being rich?

Difficulties do not daunt them, but whet their Courage, and quicken their Endeavours, and set a keener edge upon their Spirits. Give an Ambitious Man almost a demonstration of the impossi­bility of his attempt; contrà audentior ibit, he will go on so much the more boldly and resolutely. In the ways of Religion Men are apt to be discoura­ged and put out of Countenance, by Contempt and Reproach: but a Co­vetous Man is not to be jeer'd and flurted out of his Money and Estate; he can be content to be Rich, and give leave to those that are not so, to laugh at him.

Populus mihi sibilat, at mihi plaudo.

The Rich Worldling can hug him­self and his Bags, when the World hisseth at him; he can bear to be hated, and persecuted, and have all manner of E­vil spoke against him for Money sake, And in the pursuit of these Designs, Men will, with great Resolution, en­counter [Page 463] Enmity and Opposition, and endure great Sufferings and Persecution. How many have been Martyrs to their Lusts, and have Sacrificed their Ease and Health, and even their Lives in the prosecution of their Ambitious, and Covetous, and Voluptuous Designs?

But on the other hand, how easily are Men check'd and diverted from a good Course, by the Temptations and Advantages of this World? How ma­ny are cold in their Zeal for Religion, by the Favour and Friendship of this World? And as their Goods and E­state have grown greater, their Devo­tion hath grown less. How apt are they to be terrified at the apprehension of Danger and Sufferings; and by their fearful Imagination, to make them greater than they are; and with the People of Israel, to be dishearten'd from all further Attemps of entring into the land of promise, because it is full of Gi­ants and the Sons of Anak? How ea­sily was Peter frighted into the deny­al of his Master? And when our Savi­our was apprehended, how did his Disciples forsake him, and flie from him? And tho' they were constant afterwards to the Death, yet it was a great while [Page 464] before they were perfectly armed and steel'd against the fear of Suffering.

5thly. The men of the World will make all things stoop and submit to that, which is their great End and De­sign; their End rules them, and governs them, and gives Law to all their Actions; they will make an Advantage of every thing, and if it will not serve their End one way or other, they will have no­thing to do with it. If an ambitious Man seek Wealth, it is but in order to his De­sign, to purchase Friends, and strength­en his Interest, and make his rising the easier; he will lay his whole Estate at the stake, rather than miss of his End. The covetous Man will quit his Pleasure, when it lies cross to his Interest; if he have any expensive Lust, and chargea­ble Vice, he will turn it off, or exchange it for some more frugal and profitable Sin.

But in the affairs of Religion, and the concernments of our Souls, how frequent­ly do Men act without a due Regard and consideration of their great End? and instead of making other things sub­mit to it, they often bow and bend it to their inferiour Interests. They make Heaven stoop to Earth, and Religion to [Page 465] serve a worldly Design; and the glory of God to give way to gain; and the great Concernments of their Souls, and their eternal Salvation, to their Tempo­ral Profit and Advantage. The Men of the World are generally true to their great End, and pay it that Respect which is due to it, and will suffer nothing to take place of it in their Esteem and Affection; and if Men were as wise for their Souls and for another World, they would bring all things to their great End, and make all the Concernments of this Temporal Life to yield and give way to the great Concernments of their Eternal Happiness. I proceed in the

Second Place to give some Account of this, whence it comes to pass, that the Children of this World are wiser in their generation than the Children of Light. And this I shall do, by considering what Ad­vantages the Children of this World have, as to the Affairs of this World, above what good Men have, as to the Con­cernments of another World. I shall in­stance in four or five of the chief.

1st, The Things of this World are present and sensible, and because of their nearness to us, are apt to strike power­fully upon our Senses, and to affect us [Page 466] mightily, to excite our Desires after them, and to work strongly upon our Hopes and Fears: but the things of an­other World being remote from us, are lessen'd by their distance, and conse­quently are not apt to work so power­fully upon our Minds; they are invisi­ble to us, and only discerned by Faith, which is a more obscure and less certain Perception of things, than we have of those Objects which are presented to our bodily Eyes. The things which God hath prepared for them that love him, the Glo­ry and Happiness of the next World, are things which Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard. The Children of Light do not see God, as the Children of this World see Mammon.

2dly, The sensual Delights and Enjoy­ments of this World, are better suited and more agreable to the corrupt and degenerate Nature of Men, than Spiri­tual and heavenly things are to those that are regenerate. In this lapsed and degenerate state of Mankind, Appetite and Sense are apt to prevail above Rea­son; and therefore those things which are most delightful to Sense we savour and mind, and love to busie our selves a­bout them, because they are most suitable to the animal life, which is the governing Principle of corrupt Nature.

And the Reason of this is plain, be­cause that Principle in worldly and sen­sual Men which pursues earthly things, is in those who are unregenerate, entire and undivided, and consequently the Affections and Inclinations of the whole Man do all tend one way, and run out towards those things in a full and undi­vided Stream: Whereas good Men are but regenerate in part, and tho' they have a principle of spiritual Life in them, yet their Affections are divided, and there is a great strugling and conslict be­tween flesh and Spirit, and it is a great while before the spiritual Principle doth clearly prevail, and get a perfect Victo­ry over our sensual Appetites and Incli­nations. Mens Affections to the World are entire and unbroken, and therefore they pursue these things with all their might: But the best Men are but good in part; and that heavenly Principle which is in them, is very much hindred in its Operations by a contrary Principle, our earthly and sensual Inclinations, which are hardly ever perfectly subdu'd and brought under in this World.

3dly, The worldly Man's Faith, and Hope, and Fear of present and sensible things, is commonly stronger than a [Page 468] good Man's Faith, and Hope, and Fear of things future and eternal. Now Faith, and Hope, and Fear, are the great Prin­ciples which govern and bear sway in the Actions and lives of Men. If a Man be once firmly perswaded of the reality of a thing, and that it is good for him, and possest with good hopes of obtain­ing it, and great fears and apprehensions of the Danger of missing it, this Man may almost be put upon any thing. The Merchant trafficks, and the Husband­man plows and sows in Faith and Hope, because he is convinced that Bread is ne­cessary to the support of Life, and hopes that God will so bless his Labours, that he shall reap the fruit of them; and plainly sees, that if he do not take this Pains, he must starve. But how few are there that believe, and hope, and fear concerning the things of another World, as the Children of this world do concerning the things of this World? If any Man asks me, how I know this? I appeal to Experience; it is plain and visible in the Lives and Actions and En­deavours of Men. Good Men are sel­dom so effectually and throughly per­swaded of the Principles of Religion, and the truth of the Sayings contained [Page 469] in the holy Scriptures, as the men of the World are of their own Sayings and Proverbs. Men do not believe that Ho­nesty is the best Policy, or as Solomon ex­presseth it, that he that walketh uprightly walketh surely; as the Men of the World believe their own Maxims, that a Man may be too honest to live; that plain Dealing is a Jewel, but he that wears it shall die a Beggar. Few Men's hopes of Heaven are so powerful and vigorous, and have so sensible an effect upon their Lives, as the worldly Man's hopes of Gain and Advantage. Men are not so afraid to swear, as they are to speak Treason; they ae not so firmly per­swaded of the danger of Sin to their Souls and Bodies in another World, as of the danger to which some Crimes against the Laws of Men do expose their Temporal Lives and Safety; and there­fore they will many times venture to of­fend God, rather than incur the Penal­ty of human Laws.

4thly, The Men of the World have but one Design, and are wholly intent upon it, and this is a great Advantage. he that hath but one things to mind, may easily be skill'd and excel it. When a Man makes one thing his whole business, [Page 470] no wonder if he be very knowing and wise in that. Now the Men of the World mind worldly things, and have no care and concernment for any thing else. It is a saying I think of Thomas Aquinas, Ca­ve ab illo qui unicum legit librum: He is a dangerous Man that reads but one Book; he that gives his Mind but to one thing, must needs be too hard for any Man at that. Application to one thing, especi­ally in matters of Practice, gains a Man perfect Experience in it, and Experience furnisheth him with Observations about it, and these make him wise and pru­dent in that thing.

But good Men, tho' they have a great affection for Heaven and heavenly things, yet the business and necessities of this Life, do very much divert and take them off from the Care of better Things, they are divided between the Concernments of this Life and the other; and tho' there be but one thing necessary in comparison, yet the Conveniencies of this Life are to be regarded; and tho' our Souls be our main care, yet some Consideration must be had of our Bodies, that they may be fit for the service of our Souls; some Provision must be made for their present Support, so long as we continue [Page 471] in these earthy Tabernacles; and this will necessarily ingage us in the World, so that we cannot always and wholly apply our selves to heavenly things, and mind them, as the Men of the World do the Things of this World.

5thly, and lastly, The Men of the World have a greater Compass and Li­berty in the Pursuit of their worldly De­signs, than good Men have in the Pro­secution of their Interest. The Children of Light are limited and confined to the use of lawful Means for the compassing of their ends; but the Men of the World are not so strait laced, quocunque modo rem, they are resolved upon the Point, and will stick at no Means to compass their End. They do not stand upon the nice Distinctions of good and evil, of right and wrong, invented by speculative and scrupulous Men, to puzle business, and to hinder and disappoint great Designs. If Ahab have a Mind to Naboth's Vineyard, and Naboth will not let him be honest, and have it for a valuable Consideration, he will trie to get it a cheaper way. Na­both shall by false Witness be made a Traitor, and his Vineyard by this Means shall be forfeited to him. And thus the unjust Steward in the Parable provided [Page 472] for himself, he wronged his Lord, to se­cure a retreat to himself in the time of his Distress.

The Third and last thing only remains, to make some Inferences from what hath been said, by way of Application. And

1st, Notwithstanding the Commen­dation which hath been given of the Wisdom of this World, yet upon the whole matter, it is not much to be va­lued and admired. It is indeed great in its way and kind: but it is applied to little and low Purposes, imployed about the Concernments of a short Time and a few Days, about the worst and meanest part of our selves, and accompanied with the neglect of greater and better things, such as concern our Soul, and our whole Duration, even our Happiness to all E­ternity. And therefore that which the World admires and cries up for Wisdom, is in the esteem of God, who judgeth of things according to Truth, but Vanity and Folly. The wisdom of the world (saith St. Paul) is foolishness with God. The Rich Man in the Parable, who increased his Goods, and enlarged his Barns, and laid up for many Years, did applaud himself, and was no doubt applauded by others for a very wise Man: but because he laid [Page 473] up Treasure for himself, and was not rich towards God, that is, did not employ his Estate to good and charitable Purposes, therefore God, who calls no body out of his right Name, calls this Man Fool; Thou Fool, this night shall thy Soul be taken from thee, and then whose shall all these things be? And our Saviour here in the Text, while he commends the Wisdom of the Chil­dren of this World, he adds that which is a considerable blemish and abatement to it, The Children of this World are wiser, [...], for their Age, for the concernments of this present Life; but this is but a short and purblind Wisdom, which sees but a little way, and considers only things present and near at hand: whereas true Wisdom hath a larger and farther Prospect, and regards the future as well as the present, and takes care to provide for it. Nay our Saviour gives the Wisdom of this World it's utmost due, when he says, The Children of this World are wise for their generation; for this is the very best that can be said of it, it seldom looks so far, and holds out so long. Many Men have survived their own Pro­jects, and have lived to see the Folly and ill Fate of their covetous and ambitious Designs. So the Prophet tells us, Jet. 17. 11. As the Partridge sitteth on eggs, [Page 474] and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth ri­ches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a Fool.

This is Wisdom, to regard our main Interest; but if we be wrong in our End, (as all worldly Men are) the faster and farther we go, the more fatal is our Er­ror and Mistake. The Children of this World are out in their End, and mistaken in the Main; they are wise for this World, which is inconsiderable to Eternity; wise for a little while, and Fools for ever.

2dly, From what hath been said we may infer, that if we lose our Souls, and come short of eternal Happiness, it is through our own Fault and gross Neg­lect; for we see that Men are wise enough for this World; and the same Prudence, and Care, and Diligence applyed to the Concernments of our Souls, would infal­libly make us happy. Nay our Saviour here in the Text tells us, that usually less Wisdom and Industry, than the Men of this World use about the things of this World, is exercised by the Children of Light, who yet at last, through the Mercy of God, do attain eternal Life.

So that it is very plain, that if Men would but take that care for their im­mortal Souls, which they generally do [Page 475] for their frail and dying Bodies, and be as heartily concerned for the unseen World, and for Eternity, as they are for things visible and temporal, they would with much more certainty gain Heaven, than any Man can obtain worldly Riches and Honours. And can we in Consci­ence desire more, than to be happy for ever, upon as easie and upon more cer­tain Terms, than any Man can be rich or great in this World? For we may miss of these things after all our Travel and Pains about them; or if we get them, we may lose them again: But if we seek the Kingdom of God and his Righteousness, if we be sincerely good, we are sure to have the Reward of it, even that eternal Life, which God, that cannot lie, hath promised; if we lay up for our selves Treasures in Hea­ven, they will be safe and secure there, where no Moth can corrupt, nor Thieves break through and steal.

If we would seriously think of the o­ther World, and were throughly possest with a firm belief of the eternity of that Happiness or Misery, which remains for Men after this Life, we should pray to God, and hear his Word, and per­form all the duties of Religion, with the same Care and Concernment, with the same fervour and intention of Mind, as [Page 476] Men prosecute their worldly business. Were we fully perswaded of the unseen Glories and Torments of the other World, we should be much more affect­ed with them, than with all the Temp­tations and Terrors of Sense; because in Reason they are much more considera­ble. The disgrace of the Pillory will fright Men from Perjury; and will not everlasting Shame and Confusion? The fear of Death will deter many Men from robbing and stealing, who would per­haps venture upon these Crimes, if there were no danger in them; and will not the Horrors of the second Death, of the Worm that dies not, and the Fire that is not quenched, have as great an awe and in­fluence upon us? If they have not, it is a sign, that we do not equally believe the danger of Human Laws, and the Dam­nation of Hell.

Surely Men have not the same belief of Heaven, and Affection for it, that they have for this World. If they had, their Care and Diligence about these things would be more equal. For we are not so weak as we make our selves; we are not yet so degenerate, but if we would set our selves seriously to it, and earnestly beg the Assistance of God's Grace, we might come to know our Du­ty, [...] [Page 479] Pains for the deceitful Riches; than we do for the true; and be contented to hazard more for a cor­ruptible Crown, than we for an incorruptible! That they should love Pleasure more, than we do God, and mind their Bodies and temporal Estates more, than we do our Souls and our eternal Happiness!

Do but observe the Men of the World, what a Pace they go, what large and nimble steps they take in the pursuit of earthly things, they do not seek Riches as if they sought them not, and love the World as if they loved it not, and enjoy the present delights of this World, as if they possest them not; tho' the fashion of this world passeth away: but we seek Heaven, as if we sought it not, and love God as if we loved him not, and mind Eternity and the World to come, as if we minded them not; and yet the fashion of that World doth not pass away.

But to all this it may be said, you have al­ready told us, that the Children of this world have so many Advantages above the Children of Light, that it is no wonder if they excel and outstrip them; and it is very true, that in many respects they have the Advantage of them. But if the Children of Light would look about them, and take all things into consideration, they might see something very considerable to ballance the Ad­vantages on the other side. It is true, the things of this World are present and sensible: but so long as we have sufficient Assurance of the reality of a future State, and of the Rewards and Punish­ments [Page 480] of it, the Greatness and Eternity of these is such an amazing Consideration, that no distance can render them inconsiderable to a prudent and thinking Man. And tho' the Men of the World have an entire Principle, which is not divi­ded between God and the World; whereas in good Men there is a great conflict of contrary Princi­ples, the Flesh and Spirit: yet this disadvantage is likewise ballanced by that powerful Assistance of God's Grace, which is promised to all good Men, who heartily beg it of him, and are sincere­ly resolved to make use of it. And lastly, tho' the Men of the World have many Ways to compass their Ends: yet the Children of Light have one great and infallible one. All the Means which the Men of the World use to accomplish their Designs, may fail and miscarry; for the Race is not to the swift, nor the Battel to the strong, nor yet Bread to the wise, nor Riches to Men of understanding, nor Fa­vour to Men of skill; but time and chance happen to all: but he that sincerely serves God, and useth the Means for the attaining of everlasting Salvation, is sure to attain it; if we seek the righteousness of God as we ought, we shall certainly be admitted into his Kingdom. And this surely is an unspeakable Ad­vantage which the Children of Light have above the Children of this World, that if we faithfully use the Means, we cannot fail of the End, if we have our fruit unto holiness, our end shall be everlasting Life; Which God of his infinite Goodness grant to us all, for his Mercy's sake.


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