Page images

SERM. done all we could, we muft ftill fall much short of


the perfection of GoD's law, and the duty therein laid upon us. Alas! which of us does near fo much as we can, and is not confcious to himself that it is through his own fault and neglect, that he is fo unlike his heavenly Father in goodness and mercy, in righteousness and true holiness; and that he still partakes in fo great a measure of thofe, not only unreafonable and brutish, but even devilish paffions of malice and hatred, of rage and cruelty, of impatience and implacable revenge; and that these ungodlike qualities do fo frequently prevail upon us, and have fo much dominion over us!

We are fo far from being what we ought, in thefe and many other refpects, that we are far from what we might be, if we would mind our duty with care and confcience, and make it our fincere endeavour to fubdue ourselves to a conformity to GoD, and to a perfect holiness in his fear.

Would we but often fet GOD before our eyes, and represent to ourselves those excellent and amiable perfections of the divine nature, which are fo comfortable and beneficial to us, and to which we stand fo infinitely obliged, his goodness and mercy and patience, upon which all our hopes of happiness do depend, and to which we are indebted, that we are not miferable paft recovery; that goodness and patience which he continually exerciseth towards us, (for we provoke him every day) and exercifeth towards us, on purpose to endear those perfections to us, from which we reap fo much comfort and advantage; that by the pattern of perfection itself, and the example of him who is so much above us, so no ways obliged to us, nor tied by any interest to be concerned for us; and who being happy in himself, neither hopes


hopes nor fears any thing from us: I fay, by an ex- SER M. ample that has all these advantages, we might be provoked to be fo affected towards one another, (who have mutual obligations one to another, and mutual expectations of good or evil one from another) as we have always found GOD to be towards us, and as we defire he should still continue; and miferable creatures are we, whenever he ceaseth to be fo: and we have reason to fear he will cease to be fo, if this example of his goodness and patience towards us, do not transform us into the image of the divine perfections, and prevail upon us to imitate thofe excellencies, which we have fo much reafon to approve and admire, and be in love withal.

These confiderations, taken both from ingenuity and intereft, fhould awaken our floth, and stir up our moft refolute and vigorous endeavours after that perfection which our SAVIOUR here requires, and make us afhamed of our lazy complaints, that our duty is fet fo high, that the endeavours of our whole life cannot reach it; when yet we have hardly made one step towards it, and are fo remifs and unconcerned about it, as if we could do it at any time with the greatest ease; and at an hour's warning, before we leave the world, could fulfill this precept of our LORD, of "being perfect, as our Father which is in heaven is perfect."

[ocr errors]

And yet, let me tell you, fo far as any of us are from refembling our heavenly Father in fome good degree and measure, fo far are we diftant from heaven, and the temper of the bleffed; fo far are we utterly unqualified for the blissful fight and enjoyment of GOD for unless we be firft like him, we cannot fee him as he is: only "the pure in heart fhall fee GoD," and therefore "every man that has this • hope


[ocr errors]

SERM hope in him," fhould "purify himself even as " he is pure."


And thus I have, as briefly as I could, difpatched the four things I propounded for the explication of this text; namely, how we are to conceive of the divine perfections, and to give fome rules to regulate and govern our opinions concerning the attributes and perfections of God; to explain the extent of this duty, and vindicate the poffibility of it.

All that now remains, is to draw fome ufeful inferences from this difcourfe which I have made; and they shall be these two.

I. That the strongest and surest reasonings in religion, are grounded upon the effential perfections of God.

II. That the truest and most fubftantial practice of religion, confifts in the imitation of GOD.

I. That the strongest and fureft reafonings in religion, are grounded upon the effential perfections of GOD; fo that even divine revelation itself doth suppose these for its foundation, and can fignify nothing to us, unless these be firft known and believed. Unless we be firft perfuaded of the providence of GOD, and his particular care of mankind, why fhould we believe that he would make any revelation of himself to men? Unless it be naturally known to us, that GOD is true, what foundation is there for the belief of his word? And what fignifies the laws and promises of GOD, unless natural light do first affure us of his fovereign authority and faithfulnefs? So that the principles of natural religion are the foundation of that which is revealed; and therefore, in reason, nothing can be admitted to be a revelation from God, which plainly contradicts his effential perfection, and, confequently, if any pretends di

vine revelation for this doctrine, that God hath from SERM, CXXXI, all eternity abfolutely decreed the eternal ruin of the greatest part of mankind, without any refpect to the fins and demerits of men, I am as certain that this doctrine cannot be of God, as I am fure that GOD is good and juft; because this grates upon the notion that mankind have of goodness and juftice. This is that which no good man would do, and therefore cannot be believed of infinite goodness; and therefore if "an apostle or angel from heaven" teach any doctrine which plainly overthrows the goodness and juftice of GoD, "let him be accurfed." For every man hath greater affurance that GoD is good and juft, than he can have of any fubtle fpeculations about predeftination and the decrees of GOD.

And for the fame reafon I cannot believe, upon the pretended authority or infallability of any man or church in the world, that God would not have men understand their public prayers, and the lessons of fcripture which are read to them. A leffon not to be understood is nonfenfe: a leffon is fomething to be learned, which how it can be without being understood, is hard to comprehend.

And as little can I believe, upon the authority of any perfon or church whatfoever, that GoD fhould reveal his will to men in the holy fcriptures, with a defign to have it hid, and locked up from the genera lity of mankind in an unknown tongue. And much lefs can I believe (which yet is the express doctrine of the council of Trent) that the faving efficacy of the facrament depends upon the intention of the priest, Which is to fay, that though people believe, and live never so well, they may be damned by fholes and whole parishes together, at the pleasure of the priest, and for no other reafon, but because he is fo



SERM. wicked as not to intend to fave them. Can any man believe this, that hath any tolerable notion of GOD's goodness? May we not in this cafe appeal, as Abraham did, to the goodness and justice of Gop, and expoftulate with greater reason than he did, much after the fame manner, "Wilt thou destroy "the righteous for the wicked? that be far from "thee to do after this manner." To damn the righteous for the wicked, and that righteous people fhould lie at the mercy of a wicked prieft, to be damned or faved at his pleasure, "that be far from "thee; shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" And can there be a greater affront to the goodness and justice of GOD, than to imagine he should deal with men after this manner? If this be to do right, there is no poffibility of doing wrong.

And to give but one inftance more: I can never believe, upon the authority of any man, or church whatsoever, that our SAVIOUR, in the celebration of his last fupper, did with his own hands give away his own natural body into the hands of his difciples, and give his blood fhed, before it was fhed; that the whole doctrine of Christianity fhould mainly rely upon the evidence of miracles, the affurance of which depends upon the certainty of sense; and yet that an effential part of that doctrine fhould overthrow the certainty of fenfe. I can never while I live believe these two things, that the last thing our SAVIOUR did before his death, fhould be to teach his disciples not to believe their own fenfes, as he must do if he taught them tranfubftantiation; and that the very first thing he did after he was rifen from the dead, fhould be to teach them the quite contrary, by appealing to the certainty of fenfe for the proof of his refurrection; for when they doubted of his refurrection,

« PreviousContinue »