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A DISCOURSE

WHEREIN IS HELD FORTH

THE OPPOSITION OF THE DOCTRINE, WORSHIP, AND PRACTICE

OF THE

ROMAN CHURCH,

ΤΟ

THE NATURE, DESIGNS, AND CHARACTERS

OF

THE CHRISTIAN FAITH.

HE that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow, is an observation which holdeth true of no part of knowledge so much as of the knowledge of mankind. It is some relief to him who knows nothing of foreign wickedness, to hope there are other nations wherein virtue is honoured, and religion is in esteem; which allays his regrets, when he sees vice and impiety abound in his own country: but if by travelling or reading, he enlarge his horizon, and know mankind better, his regrets will grow, when he finds the whole world lies in wickedness. It argues a cruel and inhuman temper to delight in beholding scenes of horror and misery; and certainly none, who either honours his Maker and Redeemer, or is a lover of mankind, can without sorrow look on and see the indignities done to God and his Son Christ, and see the enemy of the human race triumphing over the world with such absolute authority, and so much enraged cruelty; and that not only in the dark region of it, which the Sun of Righteousness hath not yet visited with his gospel, but that where Christ should have a throne Satan's seat should also be, is justly surprising and astonishing. That almost all Christendom hath fallen from their first love, is what

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none, whose eyes are open, can deny; and it is little less evident, that the greater part of it hath made shipwreck, and erred from the faith; and that the church, whose faith was once spoken of throughout the world, is now become the mother of the fornications of the earth. It is true, the scriptures warned us of a falling away, of a mystery of iniquity, of an Antichrist to be revealed in due time, and of a Babylonish Rome, which should bewitch the earth with her sorceries, but should be varnished over with fair colours and specious pretences, so that mystery should be on her forehead. Being then warned of so much danger to the Christian religion, it is a necessary (though painful) inquiry to see if this Antichrist be yet come, or if we must look for another.

But because some have stretched the notion of Antichristianism so far, that things harmless and innocent come within its compass; and others have so much contracted it, that they might scape free; we are to take a view of the nature and designs of the Christian religion, and to conclude from that what must be Antichristianism: it being not only a bare contradiction to some branches or parts of the gospel, (for then every error or heresy were Antichristianism,) but a design and entire complex of such opinions and practices as are contradictory to and subversive of the power and life of Christianity: and if we find any such thing to be broached and received into the world, we may, with the least hazard of uncharitableness, pronounce it to be Antichristianism; and if it be acted or animated by any head, he may be concluded Antichrist.

The designs of the Christian religion run betwixt these four heads: The first is, to give us right apprehensions of the nature and attributes of God, that we may conceive aright of him, and adore him suitably to his nature and according to his will, and thereby be admitted to a free converse with him, and become partakers of the Divine nature. How little of God was known by the twinklings of nature's light, even to the better and wiser part of the world, Tully's books of the nature of the gods do sufficiently inform us. But if the philosophers were so much to seek in it, what shall we expect from the vulgar? And indeed Homer's Iliad and Ovid's Metamorphoses were wretched systems of divinity; and yet such, and such like, were the sentiments of the nations about

the Godhead. It is true, the seed of Abraham were delivered from that darkness, and knew God by his name Jehovah, and had laws and ordinances given them by God; yet their worship was so carnal, and did so strike upon and affect the senses, that we will be soon satisfied it was not so sublime and free as became the spirituality of the Divine nature, and so was only fitted for the infancy of the people of God; but by Christ the mystery that lay hid from ages and generations was revealed; for he declared the Father, and revealed him, and taught us to renounce idols and vanities, and to serve the living God, commanding all men every where to repent, the times of ignorance, wherein God winked at idolatry, being then over ; that so mankind, being God's offspring, might feel after him, and not worship him any more in the blinding grossness of idolatry, but in a pure spiritual manner; and whereas the law came by Moses, by Christ came grace and truth; grace in opposition to the severity of the law; and truth, as opposed, not to falsehood, but to the figures and shadows of Moses his law; and therefore God is to be worshipped in spirit and truth, in opposition to the carnal ordinances and typical rites, which shadowed out the truth in the law.

The second branch of the Christian religion is, to hold forth the method of man's reconciliation with his Maker. For the sense of all mankind agrees in this; that sin is an indignity done God, which deserveth punishment, and cannot be expiated by any service man can do: it was therefore necessary there should be a mean found for encouraging sinners to embrace a religious life; of which all had reason to despair, without pardon were offered to penitents, upon the change of their lives. Now this was what the heathen could not dream how

to procure. It is true, the Jews had sacrifices for expiating of sin, but these could never quiet their consciences, since the common sense of mankind tells that the blood of beasts cannot appease God. The mystery therefore of the reconciliation of sinners to God is the proper character of the Christian religion; which holds forth to us how the eternal Word was made man, and endured unspeakable sufferings for the sins of men, even to the death of the cross; and was raised up by God, and carried to heaven, where he is vested with all power and authority; and by the merits of his death hath a right to

grant pardon, give grace, and confer eternal life on all that believe on him; by whom God conveys all things to us, and through whom we are to offer up all our worship to God, he being the Mediator betwixt God and man.

The third head of the Christian religion is, to teach the perfectest, clearest, and most Divine rules, for advancing of the souls of men to the highest perfection of their natures. It is true, noble pieces of morality were acknowledged and taught by the heathen philosophers; and the books of the Old Testament have the doctrine of virtue, purity, humility, and meekness laid open very fully; but without derogating from these, it must be acknowledged, that as the doctrine of Christianity teacheth all these precepts with clearer rules and fuller directions, so they were in it recommended by the example of its author, backed with the strongest motives, and enforced with the greatest arguments. In these are the lessons of purity, chastity, ingenuity, humility, meekness, patience, and generosity, so clearly laid down, and so fully evinced, that no man, who is so much a man as to love those things whereby his mind may be improved to all that is truly great and noble, but must be enamoured of the Christian religion, as soon as he is taught. it.

The fourth design of religion is, to unite mankind in the closest bonds of peace, friendship, and charity, which it doth not only by the rules prescribed for the tempering our passions, forgiving of injuries, and loving our enemies, and by the doctrine of obedience to those in authority over us; but likewise by associating us into one body, called the church; wherein we are to worship God jointly, and to be coupled in one by the use of the sacraments, which are the ligaments of this body.

Having thus viewed the great designs of the Christian religion in the several branches and parts thereof, I shall add to this the main distinguishing characters of our religion, which are also four.

The first is, its verity; that it is not founded on the tattles of persons concerned, nor on the reveries of dotards, nor received with a blind credulity, being founded on the authority of the great God, which appeared visibly in those that published it, chiefly in the person of Jesus Christ, who by his

miracles that were wrought in sight of all the people, even his enemies looking on, and not being able to deny them, but chiefly by his resurrection from the dead, was declared to be the Son of God, which was seen and known by many, who followed not cunningly devised fables, but were the eyewitnesses of his majesty, who went in his name, and published it to the world, confirming it by miracles and mighty wonders, attesting it notwithstanding all the persecutions they met with, most of them confirming it with their blood: and this doctrine was received and believed by the better part of mankind, though it being contrary to all the interests of the flesh, whose mortification it teacheth, its reception cannot be imputed to credulity or interest.

The second character of our religion is, its genuine simplicity and perspicuity, that all its doctrines and rules are clearly and distinctly held out to us, not like the heathen divinity, much whereof lay in dark oracles in the books of the Sibyls, and in other pretended mysteries, which none but the priests might handle and expound. The Jewish religion was also veiled with types and figures, so that it was not easy to see the substance and truth through all these foldings and shadows. But the glory of the Christian religion, as to this particular, is nobly laid out by St. Paul, in these words, 2 Cor. iii. 18. But we all, with open face as in a glass beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.

The third character is, the reasonableness of the Christian religion, it containing none of these absurd incredible things, which abounded among the heathens; nor of these rites of Judaism, the reasons whereof, besides the will of God in enjoining them, could not be assigned; but both the doctrines and precepts of the Christian religion are fitted for mankind, and so congenial to his nature, that they well deserve the designation of reasonable service, or rational worship, God having made our souls and them of a piece.

And the fourth character of our religion is, its easiness; Christ's yoke is easy, and his burden light, Matt. xi. 30. Wherein we are freed from all the barbarous and cruel rites of Gentilism, and from the oppressive bondage of Judaism, which was a law of ordinances, and a yoke that our fathers

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