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SER M. service and obedience, as they are to him for the reCCVIII.
:ward of it, which they challenge as of right and jus
tice belonging to them. Nay, so high have they carried this doctrine, as to pretend not only to merit eternal life for themselves, but to do a great deal more in works of supererogation, for the benefit and advantage of others; that is, when they have done as much as in strict duty they are obliged to, and thereby paid down a valuable consideration for heaven, and as much as in equal justice between God and man it is worth, their surplusage of their good works they put as a debt upon God, and as so many bills of credit laid up in the treasury of the church, which the pope by his pardons and indulgencies may dispense and place to whose account he pleaseth. And thus by one device or other they have enervated the christian religion to that degree, that it has quite lost it's virtue and efficacy upon the hearts and lives of men ; and instead of the fruits of real goodness and righteousness, it produceth little else but superstition and folly; or if it bring forth any fruits of charity, it is either so mis-placed upon these chimeras (as hiring of priests to say so many masses for the dead, to redeem their souls out of purgatory) that it signifies nothing; or else the virtue of it is spoiled by the arrogant pretence of meriting by it. So apt have men always been to deceive themselves by an affected mistake of any thing for religion, but that which really and in truth is so. And this is that .which the apostle St. Paul foretold would be the great miscarriage of the last times, that under a great pretence of religion men should be destitute of all goodness, and abandoned to all wickedness and vice, “having a form of godliness, but denying the pow.“er of it,” 2 Tim. iii. 5.
And · And though things have been much better since SERM. that happy reformation from the corruptions and errors of popery, yet even among proteftants the malice and craft of the devil hath prevailed so far, as to undermine, in a great measure, the necessity of a good life, by those luscious doctrines of the Antinomians, concerning free grace, and the justification of a sinner merely upon a confident persuasion of his being in a state of grace and favour with God, and consequently that the gospel dischargeth men from obedience to the laws of God, and all manner of obligation to the virtues of a good life; which doctrines, how false and absurd soever in themselves, and pernicious in their consequences, did not only prevail very much in Germany, a little after the beginning of the reformation, but have since got too much footing in other places, and been too far entertained and cherished by some good men, who were not sufficiently aware of the error and danger of them. But blessed be God, the doctrine of our church, both in the articles and homilies of it, hath been preserved pure and free from all error and corruption in this matter on either hand, asserting the necessity of good works, and yet renouncing the merit of them in that arrogant sense,inwhich the church of Rome does teach and affert it; and so teaching justification by faith, and the free grace of God in Jesus Christ, as to maintain the indispensable necessity of the virtues of a good life.
And thus I have done with the first reason, why it is so fit and necessary to press frequently upon * Christians the indispensable necessity of the virtues of a good life, viz. becaule men are and have ever been 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. I shall · be brief upon the
SERM. 11. Reason, namely, because of the indispensable CCVIII.
necessity of the thing to render us capable of the divine favour and acceptance, and of the reward of eternal life. And this added to the former, makes the reason full and strong. For if men be lo apt to decieve themselves in this matter, and to be deceived in it be a matter of such dangerous consequence, then it is highly necessary to inculcate this frequently upon Christians, that no man may be mistaken in a matter of fo much danger, and upon which his eternal happiness depends. Now if obedience to the laws of God, and the practice of virtue and good works be necessary to our continuance in a state of grace and favour with God, and to our final justification by our absolution at the great day, if nothing but holiness obedience can qualify us for the blessed sight of God, and the glorious reward of eternal happiness; then it is matter of infinite consequence to us, not to be mistaken in a matter of fo great importance; but that we “ work out our salvation with fear and «s and trembling,” and “ give all diligence to make " our calling and election sure," by “ adding to " our faith and knowledge, the virtues of a good Les life:” that “ by patient continuance in well-do... ing, we seek for glory, and honour, and immor." tality, and eternal life;" and that we so demean our selves " in all holy conversation and godliness," as that we may with comfort and confidence "wait for .. the bleffed hope, and the glorious' appearance of - the great God, and our SaviouR JESUS CHRIST; .65 who gave himself for us, that he might redeem .. us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a pecu
6 liar people zealous of good works.” That this is - indispensably necessary to our happiness, I have in my former discourse shewn at large, from the great end
and design of religion in general, and of the christi-SERM.
, CCVIII. an religion in particular, from the whole design and doctrine of the gospel, from the constant tenour of the bible, and from the nature and reason of the thing.
I know it hath been the great design of the devil and his instruments, in all ages, to undermine religion, by making an unhappy separation and divorce between godliness and morality, between faith and the virtues of a good life; and by this means not only to weaken and abate, but even wholly to destroy the force and efficacy of the christian religion, and to leave men as much under the power of the devil and their lufts, as if there were no fach thing as christianity in the world. But let us not deceive our felves; this was always religion, and the condition of our acceptance with God, to endeavour to be like God in purity and holiness, in justice and righteousness, in mercy and goodness, “ to cease to do evil, and foc to learn to do well.” And this you will find to be the constant doctrine of the holy scriptures, from the beginning of the bible to the end. Gen. iv.7. “If thou “ doeft well, shalt thou not be accepted ?" Psal. xv. 1, 2. “ LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? « who shall dwell upon thy holy hill? He that walk“eth uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and “ speaketh the truth from his heart.” Pfal. 1. 23. « To him that ordereth his conversation aright, will " I shew the salvation of God.” Isa, i. 16, 17, 18. .“ Wash ye, make you clean, put away the evil of “ your doings from before mine eyes, cease to do « evil, learn to do well, feek judgment, relieve the “ oppreffed, judge the fatherless, plead for the wi*« dow. Come now, and let us reason together, faich « the LORD. Though your fins be as fcarlet, they 4. lhall be as white as snow.” Ifa. iii. 10, 11. “ Say
SER M. " ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him:
“ for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Wounto
And our blessed SAVIOUR, in his sermon upon the mount, tells us plainly what manner of persons we must be, if ever we hope to be happy, and to enter into the kingdom of God; and wherein his religion consists, in righteousness, and purity, and meekness, and patience, and peaceableness; and declares most expresly, that if we hope for happiness upon any other terins than the practice of these virtues, we “build “ upon the sand.” Acts x. 34. “ Of a truth I per« ceive,” says St. Peter there, « that God is no re« specter of persons; but in every nation, he that fear,“ eth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted « with him.” Gal. vi. 7,8. “Be not deceived, GOD “ is not mocked : for whatsoever a man soweth, that « shall he also reap: for he that soweth to the flesh, “ shall of the flesh reap corruption ; but he that low.“ ech to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life ever,“ lasting." Eph. v. 6. “ Let no man deceive you .“ with vain words : for because of these things com,“eth the wrath of God upon the children of disobe
“ dience.” 1 John iii. 7. “Little children let no man ,“ deceive you. He that doth righteousness is righteous, ,"even as he is righteous.” And here in the text, .“ This is a faithful saying, &c. These things are
“ good and profitable to men,” acceptable to God, . and honourable to religion, and the only way and ' means to eternal life, through the mercy and merits • of Jesus CHRIST our blessed LORD and Saviour.