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ployed in the work of nature, which is to seek and pursue its own happiness and perfection.
If religion is attended with difficulties, yet the glories we attain to through the means of religion are worth the purchase. What is there that can be had without pains and trouble ? Not even the present enjoyment of this life. Why then should we think much of being at some trouble to purchase the eternal things of heaven? We do not grudge it in less matters, in the matter of our earthly hopes and desires. We lose nothing by religion that we could possibly keep long without it: a good man can suffer only in this world ; and were he not to suffer, yet the course of nature would soon part him and the world, and the enjoyments of it. And is it not worth our while to resign the things we cannot keep a little the sooner for the sake of that happiness, which once possessed can never be taken from us, but like our desires will be ever fresh and new, not impaired by use or palled by enjoyment?
It is wise to retire from the pleasures of the world, were it only to guard against this certain evil consequence, that if we follow the present things to the neglect and contempt of future happiness, the time will certainly come when our present enjoyments will be past and gone, when things future will be growing apace to be the things present; and then we shall have nothing left but this evil thought to haunt us perpetually, that we have had our good things in this world, and must expect evil things in the world to come; that we have for the time past been comforted, but must for the time to come be tormented. As short-lived as men are, they often outlast the world, that is, the enjoyments of it: they live to be past the pleasures of it, and can have no comfort or ease by any sense. And is not a wicked man in a fine condition, when he has no enjoyment in this world and no hopes in the next? Men, in the youth and vigor of age, may overcome the troublesome thoughts of another world: they are capable of a constant succession of worldly pleasures, which may extinguish thought and consideration : but if they live to be deserted by sense, to be exposed to thought and reflexion, how dismal a prospect have they! how
are they tormented with the thoughts of what is past! and how do they dread the thoughts of what is to come!
And happy were it for them if their fears were to be their only torment: but let their eyes but once be closed, and their fears must be succeeded by more than even their fears could suggest: the things future will then be the things present; and this thought, that they are eternal, will exclude all glimmerings of hope or comfort, and leave them the prey of pain and of despair.
Let us then work whilst we have the day; for the night cometh when no man can work. This is the day, and for aught we know, this only is the day of peace. Consider then the things which make for your salvation, and follow after them, for they lead to life and immortality.
SUMMARY OF DISCOURSE LXI.
GENERAL EPISTLE OF ST. JUDE, VERSE 3.
It is at all times the duty of pastors in the Christian church to be zealous in maintaining and propagating the faith of the gospel; but there are some seasons which more especially require of them vigilance to prevent, and of the people care to avoid, the danger of growing errors and superstitions. Such was the occasion of this Epistle, as we learn in verse 4. : hence the Apostle's exhortation in the text. If this was needful in the Apostle's time, when the mischief began first to show itself, what must it be in ours, when the evil seems full-grown, and to surround us in different shapes? when superstition on the one hand, and irreligion on the other, have left true Christians but a narrow path to walk in, and the transition from one of these extremes to the other is so much easier than from either to the truth that lies between them?
Another difficulty also distinguishes our times: St. Jude complains that teachers of perverse doctrines had crept in by stealth, though the churches themselves taught the true faith of the gospel. But in these latter days all churches are tainted with the infection by corrupt'members; the errors which we have to contend with are taught by authority as the necessary conditions of Christian communion : this point enlarged on. It is now then more needful than ever to exhort men to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. This however is to little purpose, unless you give them some sure mark of the right faith. If you ask of particular churches or societies of Christians which is the true faith, each answers that its own is right, and that of others wrong : hence no church must be believed on its own word alone, without giving a reason of its faith : yet this pretence of authority is all that can or does justify the dominion of the church of Rome. With how much better grace might St. Jude have told them of his own time, on his own authority, what the true faith was; but so far from doing it, he told them to inquire what it was as formerly delivered to Christians. Church authority is one of those unhappy subjects which is seldom seen but from one of its extremes. With some persons it can do every thing; with others, nothing : these considerations are too copious for the compass of a sermon; some observations are made on the text, which may be of use if duly considered. Firstly: since an Apostle of Christ, in the early days of the church, sent Christians to inquire after the faith delivered from the beginning, the Apostles themselves could be but teachers and witnesses of it, and had no authority or commission to make new articles; otherwise St. Jude's conduct would have been absurd. This truth may be proved from our Saviour's own words, (Mark xvi. 15.) That the gospel was to be taught, not altered, is more expressly declared by St. Matthew, (xxviii. 20.): the promise annexed, (ver. 20.) and lo! I am with you to the end of the world, relates to their commission; and on it they could depend only whilst they taught what Christ had commanded. Previously to our Saviour's leaving the world, he told his Apostles that he would send them a Comforter, (John xiv. 16.); and he describes his office, (ver. 26.) These verses enlarged on, showing that the office of the Spirit, and the Spirit itself, was given only to make them teachers of Christ's doctrine.
The conduct of the Apostles is next considered, and how they executed the commission intrusted to them. They first elected an Apostle in the place of Judas, and without doubt considered well the qualifications necessary to the office : these
are declared by St. Peter, (Acts i. 21. 22.) to belong to witnesses of the doctrines and works of Christ ; their business therefore evidently was to report the doctrines of Christ, not to deliver doctrines of their own. St. Luke particularly tells us that he wrote his gospel, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, (i. 3.): thus following the rule prescribed by St. Jude, and reporting the faith once delivered to the saints. St. John also refers to the beginning and first revelation of the gospel, to show the authority of the doctrines which he delivered, (1 Epist. i. 1-3.): these verses explained, showing also that a right of fellowship with the Apostles, or a right to church communion, depends on embracing the faith once delivered to the saints, and on no other doctrines of later date whatever. St. Paul's case was a singular one; he had not the qualification required in the Acts, or in the Epistle of St. Peter ; but the way by which this defect was supplied, will justify the observation we are on in the strongest manner imaginable. As St. Paul conversed not with Christ in the flesh, so had he not the gospel from any of the Apostles who did ; but he had it by immediate revelation from Christ himself; and therefore, says our Lord, I have appeared unto thee, &c. (Acts xxvi. 16.): hence he speaks to the Galatians, of his own authority, as an Apostle, (Gal. i. 1. 11. 12.) And this revelation extended not merely to points of doctrines, but to the knowlege of historical facts also; as is plain from 1 Cor. xi. 23. All these things prove that the Apostles were witnesses and teachers of the faith, and had no authority to add any thing to the doctrine of Christ, or to declare new articles. If then the Apostles who were so highly gifted, had not this power, can their successors without greatimpiety pretend to it? this point enlarged on in the case of the Romish church. Can then any sober. Christian trust himself to such guides, and not tremble when he reads, though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel, let him be accursed? When the corruptions of the church of Rome were generally