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And in Jesus Ehrist, &c.
THAT JESUS IS THE TRUE MESSIAS.
ACTS, CHAP. IX.-VERSE 22.
But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the
Jews, which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is the very Christ.
In conformity to St. Paul's design and practice implied here, I have formerly propounded to explain and persuade these particulars. 1. What is the right notion and reason of this name or title, Christ. 2. That there was destinated to come into the world a Person, who signally, according to that right notion, should be the Christ. 3. That Jesus, whom we avow, is that Person, the very Christ. 4. In what manner, and on what accounts, the New Testament representeth Jesus to be the Christ. 5. What application the point requireth.
In prosecution of which particulars, having dispatched the first and second, I did enter into the third, which is of highest consequence, beginning to declare that Jesus, our Lord, is the Christ, from the circumstances of his coming into the world, and from his personal qualifications; which having in some measure performed, I shall now proceed to declare the same from the exact correspondency of his undertakings and performances to those, which, according to ancient presignifications and prophecies, the Messias was designed to un
dertake and accomplish; together with the consequences of what the Messias was to do, and what answerably Jesus did effect.
1. One great performance of the Messias was, by inspiration and in the name of God, to make a complete dis covery of divine truth; to publish a law of universal and perpetual obligation; to institute a religion consummate in all respects, which should correct the faults and supply the defects of all precedent dispensations, which should therefore be, as it were, God's last will and testament, after which no other revelation was to be expected : I will,' said Moses of him, *put words into his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I command him; and it shall come to pass, that whoever will not hearken unto my words, which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him :' by him Isaiah foretold that • God shall teach us of his ways, and we shall walk in bis paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of God from Jerusalem : by him Jeremiah signified, that “God would put his law into the inward parts of men, and write it in their hearts;' it was, as it is said in Daniel, part of his work • to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy;' and his days in the prophets are commonly styled the last days,' because, it seemeth, of the perfection of his doctrine, and immutability of his law ; where such an intire instruction and final resolution in all points was commonly expected by the Jews, as the Samaritan woman did intimate;
I know,' said she, according to the current persuasion then, that the Messias cometh ; and when he shall come, he will tell us'all things.'
Now accordingly Jesus (our hope, and author of our faith) hath taught a doctrine, hath proclaimed a law, hath instituted a religion, which on strict and careful examination will be found most perfect in all respects; such in its nature as cannot but indispensably oblige all that understand it; such as is worthy of God, and suitable to his designs of glorifying himself, and obliging his creature; in short, he hath been author of such an institution, as may be demonstrated the most excellent and complete that can be. For (briefly to show this by considering the main, if not all imaginable excellences of any
religion, law, or doctrine) it is impossible that any doctrine should assign a more true, proper, complete notion or character of God himself, more congruous to what reason dictateth, the works of nature declare, the purest tradition attesteth, common experience doth intimate concerning God; more apt to breed in our hearts the highest affection and everence toward him, or to engage us in the strictest practice of duty and obedience to him ; none can ascribe unto God higher perfections of nature, can more assert unto him all his due rights and prerogatives, can better commend and justify to us all his actions and proceedings, can represent him more amiable in his goodness, more terrible in his justice, more glorious and venerable in all his ways of providence; can consequently better direct or dispose us to render unto him a worship worthy of him and acceptable to him ; can also therefore with more security and advantage commend unto us the imitation of him in our disposition and demeanor.
Nor could any doctrine more clearly and fully inform us concerning ourselves; concerning our nature, our original, our end, all our state, past, present, final; what the dignity of our nature is, for what purposes we were designed and framed, wherein our happiness doth consist, what shall be our state after death, how we shall be judged and dealt with then; the knowlege of which particulars is of so immense consequence, for the satisfaction of our minds and direction of our lives; concerning which therefore men in all times have so earnestly inquired and disputed, without any sure resolution but from hence.
Nor could a more accurate rule of life (more congruous to reason and suitable to our nature, or perfective thereof; more conducible to our welfare and our content; more apt to procure each man's private good, and to promote the public benefit of all) have been prescribed; nothing can be more just, or comely, or pleasant, or beneficial to us, than are the duties of piety (consisting in love, reverence, gratitude, devotion, obedience, faith and repentance toward God) which Christianism doth require. No directions concerning our deportment toward our neighbors and brethren can be imagined comparable to those (those of hearty love, good-will, beneficence,
compassion, readiness to forgive, meekness, peaceableness, and the like) which the Christian law injoineth. No precepts or advices concerning the management of ourselves (the ordering our souls and our bodies in their respective functions and fruitions) can be devised more agreeable to sound reason, more productive of true welfare and real delight unto us, than are those of being humble and modest in our conceits, calm and composed in our passions, sober and temperate in our enjoyments, patient and contented in our state, with the like, which the Christian doctrine doth inculcate. No other method can raise us up so near to heaven and happiness as that which we here learn of abstracting and elevating our minds above the fading glories, the unstable possessions, the vanishing delights of this world ; the fixing our thoughts, affections, and hopes on the concernments of a better future state.
No religion also can be purer from superstitious alloys, or freer from useless incumbrances (or from, as Tertullian* calleth them, “busy scrupulosities') than is this, (such as it is in its native simplicity, and as it came from its author, before the pragmatical curiosity, or domineering humor, or covetous designings of men had tampered with it,) it only requiring a rational and spiritual service, consisting in performance of substantial duties plainly necessary or profitable; the ritual observances it injoineth being, as very few in number, in nature simple and easy to observe, so evidently reasonable, very de-. cent and very useful, able to instruct us in, apt to excite us to, the practice of most wholesome duties.
No religion also can have the like advantage of setting before us a living copy and visible standard of good practice, affording so compendious an instruction, and so efficacious an incitement to all piety and virtue : so absolutely perfect, so purposely designed, so fitly accommodated for our imitation, and withal so strongly engaging us thereto, as the example of Jesus our Lord, such as it is in the gospels represented to us.
Neither can any religion build our duty on more solid grounds, or draw it from better principles, or drive it to better ends, or press it with more valid inducements than ours; which
* Tert, in Marc. lib. ii.
builds it on conformity to the perfect nature of God, and to the dictates of his infallible wisdom, on the holy will and most just authority of our natural Lord and Maker; which draweth it from love, reverence, and gratitude to God, from a hearty goodwill to men, and from a sober regard to our own true welfare ; which propoundeth God's honor, our neighbor's edification, and our own salvation, as the principal ends of action; which stirreth up good practice by minding us that we shall thereby resemble God, express our thankfulness, and discharge our duty to him, obtain his mercy and favor, acquire present comfort of mind and future bliss, avoid regrets of conscience here, and endless torments hereafter.
Neither can any doctrine afford more encouragements to the endeavors of practising it than doth this, which tendereth sufficient help and ability toward the performance of whatever it enjoineth ; offering (on our seeking them or asking for them) God's infallible wisdom to direct us in our darknesses and doubts, God's almighty strength to assist us in our temptations and combats, God's loving spirit to comfort us in our afflictions and distresses.
Nor can any doctrine in a more sure or kindly manner appease and satisfy a man's conscience, so as to produce therein a well-grounded hope and solid comfort ; to heal the wounds of bitter remorse and anxious fear, which the sense of guilt doth inflict, than doth this, which assureth us that God Almighty, notwithstanding all our offences committed against him, is not only reconcilable to us, but desirous to become our friend; that he doth on our repentance, and compliance with his gentle terms, receive us unto perfect grace and favor, discharging all our guilts and debts, however contracted; that our endeavors to serve and please God, although imperfect and defective, if serious and sincere, shall be accepted and rewarded
Such is the doctrine, law, and religion of Jesus; expressed in a most unaffected and perspicuous way, with all the gravity and simplicity of speech, with all the majesty and authority of proposal becoming divine truth; so excellent, and so complete in all respects, that it is beyond the imagination of man to conceive any thing better, yea, I dare say, repugnant to the nature