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Os the necessity os good works.
T 1 T. in. 8.
This is a faithful faying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly^ that they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good arid profitable unto men.
ROM these words I have proposed to handleS ERM. these two points. ,_ i[_f
First* the certain truth and credibility of this fay-The seine or proposition, " that they whieh have believedcond ser" "in God, ought to be careful to maintain good this text. u works." This I have spoken to, and come now to the
Second) The great fitness and necessity of inculcating frequently upon all that profess themselves Christians, the indispensable necessity of the practice of the virtues of a good life. In the handling of this point* 1 shall do these two things.
First* I shall shew the great fitness and necessity of pressing upon people the indispensable necessity . of the virtues of a good life; And*
, Secondly* Answer an objection or two, to which the preaching of this kind of doctrine may seem liable. I begin with the
First of these, viz. T.o shew the great fitness and necessity of inculcating and pressing upon all
Vot. XI. A 2 Christians
8 ER M. Christians the indispensable necessity of the virtues ',of a good life. And this will appear to be very sit and necessary upon these two accounts.
I. Because men are so very apt to deceive themselves in this matter, and so hardly brought to that wherein religion mainly consists, viz. the practice of real goodness.
II. Because of the indispensable necessity of the thing to render us capable of the divine favour and acceptance, and of the reward of eternal life and happiness.
I. Because men are so very apt to deceive themselves in this matter, aud so hardly brought to that wherein religion mainly consists, viz. the practice of real goodness. They are extremely desirous to reconcile (if it be possible) the hopes of eternal happiness in another world, with a liberty to live as they list in this present world; they are loth to be at the trouble and drudgery of mortifying their lusts, and subduing and governing their passions, and bridling their tongues, and ordering their whole conversation aright, and practising all those duties which are comprehended in those two great commandments, the love of God and our neighbour. They would fain get into the favour of God, "and make "their calling and election sure," by some easier way, than by " giving all diligence, to add to their "faith virtue, and knowledge, and temperance, "and patience, and brotherly kindness, and charity."
The. plain truth of the matter is, men had rather religion should be any thing, than what indeed it is, the thwarting and crossing of our vicious inclinations, the curing of our evil and corrupt affections, the due care and government of our unruly appetites' and passions, the sincere endeavour and constant
practice of all holiness and virtue in our lives; and$ E R M. therefore they had much rather have something that v might handsomely palliate and excuse their evil inclinations, than to extirpate them and cut them up j and rather than reform and amend their vicious lives, make God an honourable amends and compensation for them in some other way.
This hath been the way and folly of mankind in all ages, to defeat the great end and design of religion, .and to thrust it by, by substituting something ese in the place of it, which they hope may serve the turn as well, and which hath the appearance of as much devotion and respect, and perhaps of more cost and pains, than that which God requires of them. Men have ever been apt thus to impose upon themselves, and to please themselves with a conceit of pleasing God full as well, or better, by some other way, than that which he hath pitched upon and appointed for them; not considering that God is a great King, and will be observed and obeyed by his creatures in his own way; and that obedience to what he commands is better and more acceptable to him, than any other sacrifice that we can offer, which he hath not required at our hands; that he is infinitely wife and good, and therefore the laws and rules which he hath given us to live by, are more likely and certain means of our happiness, than any inventions and devices of our own.
Thus I fay, it hath been in all ages. The old world, after that general deluge which God sent to punish the raging wickedness and impiety of men, by sweeping all mankind from off the face of the earth, excepting only one family, which was saved to be the seminary of a new and better race of men; I say after this, the world in a short ipace fell off
A 3 from
S E R M.from the worship of the true God, to the worship CCVIII
';of idols and false gods; being unwilling to bring
themselves to a conformity and likeness to the true God, they chose false gods like themselves, such as might not only excuse, but even countenance and abett their lewd and vicious practices.
And when God had made a new revelation of himself to the nation of the Jews, and given them the chief heads and substance of the natural law, written over again with his own singer in tables of stone, and many other laws concerning religious. worship, and their civil conversation, suited and adapted to their present temper and condition; yet how soon did their religion degenerate into external observances, purifications and washings., and a multitude of sacrifices, without any great regard to the inward and substantial parts of religion, and the practice of those moral duties and virtues, which were in the first place required of them, and without which all the rest found no acceptance with God. Hence are thole frequent complaints in the prophets, that their religion was degenerated into form and ceremony, into oblations and sacrifices, the observance of fasts, and sabbaths, and new moons; but had no power and efficacy upon their hearts and lives; was wholly destitute of inward purity and holiness, of all substantial virtues, and the fruits of righteousness in a good life. Thus God complains by the prophet Isaiah, ch. i. ii, &c. " To what pur"pose is the multitude of your sacrasices unto me, f faith the Lord? Bring no more vain oblations. f' Incense is an abomination unto me, the new moons "and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies I cannot *' away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meets' ing. Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil