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the inconveniences which attend them, they Serm. are repented of and not executed, whereby X. as imprudence and levity of mind is discovered, so the tendency is to an habitual trifling in> and irreverence for sacred things. Therefore in things which are of an arbitrary nature (I do not speak of the essential duties of piety and virtue, to which we are under an antecedent indispensable obligation, though our repeated purposes of performing them ought to be made deliberately; but as to those matters which are more properly under our power) we should avoid precipitancy; and the thing being in itself lawful, what we have promised should be done without delay, for the reasons already insinuated, and because such foolish instability is displeasing to God. Wherefore, faith Solomon in the text, should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands.
Having insisted so much on the faults which, thro' the folly, inattention, and depravity of men, attend the performance of positive instrumental duties of religion, whereby they are rendered ineffectual to their proper ends, and unacceptable to God ; it is necessary to add one caution, and with it I (hall conclude; namely, that these duties do not come into disuse and contempt with us. This is an U 2 extreme
SeRm.extreme which some have fallen into, and X. perhaps never more than now. But how unreasonable is it? Because instituted religious services have been grossly abused, doth it therefore follow that they are altogether insignificant? Because they are not in themselves, and by the original design of the institutor, of equal importance with judgment, faith, mercy, and the love of God, but subordinated to them as means, therefore they are of no importance at all? Or, because they have been turned into superstition, and perverted so as to make void the moral commandments of God, and defeat virtue and goodness among men, by being substituted in the place of them, and relied on in opposition to them, as founding a claim to the favour of God, therefore the proper use of them for promoting virtue and goodness is to be laid aside? Surely God hath an unalienable right to our obedience; and since his institutions are mercifully intended for our advantage, and we ourselves may see the aptitude of them for that purpose, we ought to attend them dutifully and diligently from an affectionate regard to the authority by which they are enjoined; only taking care that we do it in a proper manner, with understanding, and an upright intention to serve the true
ends ends and purposes of them; for as experience S E R M, sheweth, that the superstitious abuse of exter- X. nal services in religion is infinitely hurtful, so on the other hand, it is matter of most sensible observation, that through the neglect and diiesteem of them, true piety declineth.
The Evil and Folly os CoveTous N E S S.
Luke XII. 15.
And he said unto them, take heed and beware, of covetousness, for a man's life conjisteth not in the abundance of the things which he fossefeth,
COvetousness denoteth twa different tempers of the mind; the first is an undue desire of that which is another person's property, contrary to justice, which is an universal law to mankind, and to that separate and peculiar right, to the enjoyment of life belonging to every individual which necessarily taketh place in our present condition. This sin is expresily prohibited in the tenth'commandment, and seemeth to be added as a security to some other precepts of the law, and a barrier against the violation of them. Our state in the world being such, that the ends of it could not be
obtained by a community of goods, andSErM. therefore requiring a distinction of property, the divine wisdom hath established it as a perpetual rule for the common safety and for preserving publick order and peace, that no man should invade the just possession of another by open violence, or endeavour to deprive him of it by secret fraud; which design also is pursued, and ought to be pursued, by human political constitutions. But the authority of God goeth farther than that of men; he not only forbiddeth outward acts of violence and deceit, which they forbid likewise, he Jayeth also a restraint on the appetites of the mind, and under the penalty of grievous inward remorse, and of his future displeasure, forbideth entering into any secret devices and purposes of heart which may have a tendency to injure our neighbour. The second signification of the word covetousness is, an immoderate desire of worldly possessions in whatever way they are to be acquired, even supposing it should be without injustice of any kind. This is certainly the source of the other evil: when riches become the idol of the heart, esteemed and desired far above what the real value and the proper use of them will justify, the next step is to wish for a deliverance from U a. *e