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SERM." them is holy;" when all this while they are as CXXXI. covetous, and earthly-minded, and, to serve their

covetousness, will strain a point of truth or justice, and hardly do an act of charity in their whole lives, but what is extorted from them by mere importunity, or fome fuch urgent neceffity, in point of decency and reputation, that for fhame of the world they know not how to avoid it; when their paffions are as fierce and ungoverned, their hearts as full of gall and bitterness, their tongues of flander and evilfpeaking, their humours as proud, and furly, and cenforious, as theirs can be who are openly prophane, and feem to neglect and despise all religion : and yet because they serve GOD (as they call it) and make an external appearance of piety and devotion, are good church-men, and attend upon the ordinances of God, they think they have discharged the whole business of religion admirably well, and are very good children of GoD, and in a state of great grace and favour with him. Whereas the performance of all thefe duties, and the ufe of all these means feparated from that which is the great end of religion, the conformity of ourselves to God, in those qualities and difpofitions which I have mentioned, is fo far from finding acceptance with God, that is is an abomination to him. So GOD every where declares in fcripture, telling us, that "the prayer of the "wicked is an abomination to the LORD," and that he difdains to be praised by men of unhallowed lips and lives; and that unless with "the praises we of"fer to him, we crder our converfation aright, we "fhall not fee the falvation of GOD." With what contempt does he fpeak of this formal and external religion, without the power of it upon our hearts and lives! "To what purpofe is the multitude of 66 your

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your facrafices to me? Will the LORD be pleafed SERM "with thousands of rams, and ten thousands of CXXXI. "rivers of oil? He hath fhewed thee, O man, "what is good; and what doth the LORD require "of thee, but to do juftly, and to love mercy, and "to walk humbly with thy Gon? Is not this the "faft which I have chofen, to break the bands of "wickedness, and to let the oppreffed go free; to "deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring "the poor, that are caft out, to thine houfe; when "thou feeft the naked, that thou cover him, and "that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh."

Nor is it hearing of the word that will avail us, unless we be doers of it. "Bleffed are they (fays "our SAVIOUR) that hear the word of God, and "keep it. He that heareth these fayings of mine, " and doth them, fhall be likened to a wife man, "who hath built his house upon a rock." Nor will. bare receiving the facrament recommend us to GOD; but performing the obligation, which thereby we take upon ourselves, to abstain from all fin and wickedness; otherwife "we tread under foot "the son of GOD, and prophane the blood of the

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covenant, whereby we should be fanctified, as if "it were an unholy thing." Can any man think that to be religion, which has no effect upon the lives of men, which does not teach them to govern their words and actions, who reads thofe plain words of St. James? "If any man among you feem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but de"ceiveth his own heart, that man's religion is vain. "Pure religion and undefiled before GoD and the Father is this, to vifit the fatherlefs and widows "in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." When religion produceth B4



SER M. thefe real effects, then the means of religion do tru


ly ferve the end of it, and we are not only "hearers "of the word, but doers of it," and "fhall be "bleffed in our deed."

So that as there is an obligation upon us to use the means of religion, which Cop hath instituted, with great care and confcience; fo we fhould chiefly mind that, which is the end of all religion, which is to make us partakers of a divine nature, and make us like to GOD, especially in those amiable and excellent qualities, which are the glory and beauty of the divine nature, his benignity and goodness, his mercy and patience. Theie, because they are the primary perfections of Gop, are the principal duties both of natural and revealed religion, and of an eternal and indifpenfable obligation; because they have their foundation in the nature of GOD, which is fixt and unalterable. And all pofitive inftitutions, when they come in competition with thefe, are to ftoop and vail to them. Natural and moral duties, efpecially thofe of goodness and mercy, and charity, are fo frongly bound upon us, that nothing in any revealed religion can cancel the obligation of them, or juftify the violation of thefe great and indifpenfable laws. Our SAVIOUR in his religion has declared nothing to the prejudice of them: but, on the contrary, has ftraitned our obligation to them, as much as is poffible: "The fon of man came not


to destroy mens lives, but to fave them;" fo that they know not what manner of fpirit they are "of," who think to pleafe GoD by hating men, who are made after the image of GoD, and "by kill

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ing one another, to do him good fervice;" who, to advance his cause and religion in the world, will break through all the obligations of nature and civil focie


ty, undermine government, and difturb the peace of S ERM. mankind,

Whereas our SAVIOUR did not by any thing in his religion defign to alter the civil government of the world, or to leffen and diminish the rights of princes, or to fet men loofe from allegiance to them, or to make treafon and rebellion, bloody wars and barbarous maffacres lawful, for the propagating of his faith. He had (as one would imagine) as much power as the pope; but yet he depofed no princes, nor excommunicated and discharged their fubjects from their fidelity and obedience to them, for their opposition to his religion; he hath affumed no fuch power to himself. By what authority

"then doth his vicar do thefe things? and who 66 gave him this authority?" Our LORD tells us plainly, "his kingdom was not of this world;" and that without any diftinction of in ordine ad fpiritualia, and therefore he wrefted no prince's kingdom out of his hands, nor feized it as forfeited to himself,

But this power the pope claims to himself, and hath exercised it many a time, disturbing the peace of nations, and exercising the most barbarous cruelties in the world, under a pretence of zeal for GOD and religion as if because religion is so very good a thing in itself, it would warrant men to do the very worst things for its fake; which is the ready way to render religion contemptible and odious, and to make two of the beft things in the world, GoD and religion, good for nothing.

If we would preferve in the minds of men any reverence and efteem for religion, we must take heed how we destroy the principles of natural religion, and undermine the peace and happiness of human



SERM. fociety, for the glory of GoD, and under pretence CXXXI. of following divine revelation, and being led by a

church that cannot err; for every church doth certainly err, that teacheth any thing plainly contrary to the principles and dictates of natural religion, and utterly inconfiftent with the effential perfections of GOD, and with the peace and order of the world: for "GOD is not the GoD of confufion, but of or"der;" which St. Paul appealeth to, as a principle of eternal truth, and naturally known: but they that pretend that religion prompts men to fedition and cruelty, do reprefent GoD as the God of confufion, and not of order.

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Therefore whatever men may through an ignorant zeal, or for ambitious ends, pretend to be religion; let us place it in that which is unquestionable, the imitation of the divine perfections, and let us (as the apoftle exhorts) "put on, as the elect of "Gop, bowels of mercy, kindness, meekness, long-fuffering, and above all, let us put on cha"rity, which is the very bond of perfection." The great perfection of the divine nature, or rather the very effence of GOD, is love. So St. John fpeaks, "GOD is love, and he that dwelleth in love, "dwelleth in GoD, and GoD in him." And it is very remarkable that in these very qualities of charity, and kindness, and compaffion, which we peculiarly call humanity, we approach nearest to the divinity itfelf, and that the contrary difpofitions do transform us into wild beafts and devils.

And yet as feverely as I fpeak against these principles and practices, I have an hearty pity and compaffion for thofe who are under the power of fo great a delufion, and upon a pretence of being made the only true Chriftians in the world, are feduced


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