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we should act according to the laws of a reasonable nature, and constantly pursue the great end of our creation, which can never be obtained by us, unless we regulate our actions by those wise and excellent rules which he hath prescribed us, and which he hath prescribed us upon no other inducement, but only to oblige us to be happy. For as to any advantage that will accrue to him from our actions, it is altogether indifferent to him whether we obey him or no; for he was always infinitely happy within himself, and would have always been so, though we had never had a being; so that his felicity depends not upon us; and were it not that the superabundant goodness of his nature doth for ever incline him to make us happy as well as himself, he would never have . concerned himself about us, but would have let us alone to do as we list, and abandoned us to the fate of our own actions. He therefore, being infinitely happy within himself, can have no self-ends to serve upon his creatures; because, within the circle of his own divine being he hath all that he needs, and all that he desires ; but being infinitely good, as he is infinitely happy, we are sure that our good must be the only end of his intermeddling with our actions, and his giving laws to direct them. And if we consult the particular laws which he hath given us, we shall find they all of them most naturally tend to perfect and rectify our disordered natures, to exalt and spiritualize our affections, and inspire us with all those divine dispositions that are requisite to qualify us for the bappiness of the world to come. And now methinks, if we had any sense of our own interest, this consideration should mightily encourage us to obedience, to think that while we are serving
our blessed Master, we are serving ourselves to the best purposes, and that his service and our interest are so combined and united, that by the same actions we may gratify him, and do ourselves the greatest kindness in the world ; that he exacts nothing from us but what he was obliged to do by the infinite care and concern he hath for us; and that he had been less kind, should he have required less, and must necessarily have substracted from us some degree of our happiness, should he have abated us any part of our duty. O blessed Jesus, who can complain of thy service, when thy very commands are tokens of thy love; when all the duty thou requirest of us, is only to be kind to ourselves in doing those things, which, if thou hadst never commanded, our own interest would have obliged us to, had we but understood it as well, or regarded it as much as thou dost ?
3. But then consider again, as he is full of grace to us in his own personal temper, and in those mild and gentle laws which he hath given us; so, thirdly, he is full of grace to us also in respect of that gracious pardon and forgiveness which he hath procured for, and promised to us, if we will heartily repent and amend. I confess, though his personal temper should be never so sweet, and his laws never so gentle, yet if he should upon every wilful offence exclude us from all hope of pardon, it might justly discourage the generality of men from engaging any further in his service; because, more or less, we have all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God. So that if upon every wilful act of rebellion we should stand for ever excluded from his favour, we should generally be left in a desperate condition, and then to what purpose should we serve him any longer, when by all our future loyalty and submissions, we must never hope to be readmitted into his grace and favour? To remove this great discouragement therefore, the blessed Jesus hath obtained for us this public grant and charter of mercy from his Father, that if now at last we will repent and amend our ways, notwithstanding all our past rebellions, we shall find mercy, and be as freely received into his grace and favour, as if we never had offended him; and this merciful grant he hath published to us in the promises of his gospel : so that now we cannot make the least doubt of our pardon and acceptance with him, upon our unfeigned repentance, without calling his truth and veracity into question. And now, what reasonable cause of discouragement have we from returning to the service of our blessed Master, when we are so amply assured that our past disobediences to him shall, upon our return, be forgotten for ever? For, in the name of God, what can we desire more? Is it reasonable that the wise governor of the world should pardon offenders, whether they repent or no ? that he should let them take their swing in wickedness, and never take any cognizance of their actions ? Let us speak plainly; would we have him govern us or no? If not, we are infinitely besotted, that for the sake of a few paltry lusts, that are our plague and shame, would deprive ourselves of all the blessings and benefits of his government. But whatsoever we would have, it is by no means fit that he should surrender up his just authority over us, because we are fools and madmen; and if we think it fit that he should govern us, we cannot be so senseless as to think it reasonable that he should pardon our sins till we repent of them; because by so doing he would give up all, and leave us absolute masters of ourselves. So that if we ourselves had been called to the privy-council of heaven, to give our vote to those laws by which we were to be ruled and governed, doubtless we could not have had the confidence to ask either gentler laws or greater indulgences than the blessed Jesus hath freely granted us in his gospel. If God should have told us, that he would impose nothing on us without our own consent, and bid us ask for ourselves any thing that is fit and modest, doubtless the utmošt that any modest man could have craved would have been only this; " Lord, if thou wilt be but so “ merciful as to give us such laws as are suited to “ our natures, and are conducive to our happiness, “ and so far to consider our weakness and instability,
as not to cast us away from thy favour for ever
upon every wilful transgression, but to pardon and “ receive us again upon our unfeigned repentance ; “ this is all the favour we would ask, and for this
we would praise and adore thy goodness for ever “ and ever.” Since God therefore, out of his own grace and goodness, hath granted this indulgence to us, why should we be discouraged from returning to our duty, though we have never so notoriously violated and neglected it ? For now we are fully assured that we can never be excluded from all hope of pardon, till we are past all possibility of repentance.
4. He is full of grace to us also, in respect of that abundant assistance which he hath promised and vouchsafed to us. I do confess, though notwithstanding our former rebellions, if he should be never so ready to receive us into fàvour again upon our unfeigned repentance; yet, unless he will also assist us in our repentance, and enable us to conquer the difficulties of it, we have still very great reason to be discouraged from his service: for, by our own evil habits, we have so disabled ourselves from returning to our duty, that without the concurrence of a supernatural grace it will be in vain for us to attempt it: for he that from a state of habitual sin enters into a course of repentance, must strive all along against the current of his nature; which, at first especially, and when he is weakest, will be so swift and impetuous, that by his own single strength it will be impossible for him to stem or conquer it; and unless he be assisted by a greater strength than his own, he will be inevitably borne down and carried away with it, though he struggle never so vigorously against it; so that it is no encouragement at all to the service of Christ, that he will receive us to pardon when we heartily repent, unless he will also enable us to repent by the concurrence of his grace with our honest endeavours. But this discouragement also he hath removed out of our way, by making us a public grant and promise of his grace and assistance; for he hath assured us, that he will give his holy Spirit to every one that asks it, Luke xi. 13. that if we will work out our own salvation, he will work in us to will and to do, Phil. ü. 12, 13. and that to him that hath, that is, improves that grace which he bath, it shall be given more abundantly, Matt. xiii. 12. so that though we cannot do all by our own single strength, yet we can do so much as will oblige our blessed Master to enable us to do all ; and therefore, that we do not do all, is as much our fault as if we could, because we are able to do all through Christ, who will strengthen us, if we will but do what we can; so that this, methinks, should be sufficient to encourage any