Of all the Divine Perfections Holiness is peculiarly ad∣mirable. The honour of it is secured in our Redemp∣tion. In the bitter Sufferings of Christ God de∣clared Himself unappeasable to Sin, though appease∣able to Sinners. The Priviledges purchased by Christ, are conveighed upon terms honourable to Ho∣liness. Pardon of Sin, Adoption, the Inheritance of Glory are annexed to special Qualifications in those who receive them. The Redeemer is made a quick∣ening Principle to inspire us with new Life. In or∣der to our Sanctification He hath given us the most perfect Rule of Holiness, He exhibited a compleat Pattern of it, He purchas'd and conveyes the Spi∣rit of Holiness to us. He presents the strongest Mo∣tives to perswade us to be holy. The perfect Laws of Christ are considered, as they enjoin an absolute sepa∣ration from all Evil, and command the practice of all substantial Goodness. Some particular Precepts, which the Gospel especially enforces, with the Reasons of them are considered.
OF all the Perfections of the Deity, none is more worthy of his Nature, and so peculiarly admirable as his Infinite Purity. 'Tis the most shining Attribute that derives a lustre to all the rest: He is glorious in Holiness. Wisdom degenerates into Craft, Power into Tyranny,* Mercy loses its nature without Holiness. He swears by it as his Supreme Excellency. Once have I sworn by my Holiness,*I Page 310 will not lie unto David. 'Tis the most venerable At∣tribute, in the Praise whereof the Harmony of Hea∣ven agrees. The Angels and Saints above are re∣presented, expressing their extasy and ravishment at the beauty of Holiness.*Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole Earth is full of his Glory. This He only loves and values in the Creature, being the Impression of his most Divine and amiable Perfection. Inferiour Creatures have a resem∣blance of other Divine Attributes: The Winds and Thunder set forth God's Power, the firmness of the Rocks, and the incorruptibility of the Heavens are an obscure representation of his Unchangeableness; but Holiness, that is the most Orient-Pearl in the Crown of Heaven, only shines in the reasonable Creature. Upon this account Man only is said to be formed after his Image. And in Men there are some appearances of the Deity, that do not entitle to his special Love. In Princes there is a shadow of his Sovereignty, yet they may be the objects of his displeasure; but a likeness to God in Holiness atracts his Eye and Heart, and infinitely endears the Crea∣ture to him. Now this Attribute is in a special man∣ner provokt by Mans sin, and we are restored to the favour and friendship of God, in such a manner, as may preserve the Honour of it intire and inviola∣ble.
This will fully appear by considering what our Redeemer suffered for the purchasing our Pardon, and the terms upon which the precious Benefits of his Death are conveied to us, and what he hath done to restore our lost Holiness, that we may be qualified for the enjoyment of God.
1. God's Infinite Purity is declared in his Justice, Page 311 in that He would not pardon Sin but upon such terms as might fully demonstrate how odious 'twas to him. What inflam'd the Wrath of God against his Belo∣ved Son, whom by a voice from Heaven he declared to be the object of his delight? What made Him in∣exorable to his Prayers and Tears, when He solli∣cited the Divine Power and Love, the Attributes that relieve the miserable, crying, Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee, let this Cup pass from me? What made him suspend all comforting Influences, and by a dreadful Desertion afflict him when he was environ'd with Sorrows? 'Tis Sin only that caused this fierce displeasure, not inherent, (for the Messiah was cut off but not for himself,) but imputed by his voluntary undertaking for us. God so loved the World, and so hated Sin, that He gave his Son to purchase our Pardon by Sufferings. When his Compassions to Man were at the highest, yet then his antipathy against Sin was so strong, that no less Sacrifice could reconcile Him to us. Thus God de∣clared himself to be unappeasable to Sin, though not to Sinners.
2. The Priviledges that are purchased by our Redeemers Sufferings, are dispenst upon those terms which are honourable to Gods Holiness. I will in∣stance in the three great Benefits of the Evangelical Covenant. The Pardon of Sin, Adoption into God's Family, and the Inheritance of Glory. All which are conditional, and annext to special Quali∣fications in the persons who have a title to them.
1. The Death of Christ is beneficial to Pardon and Life, only to those who repent and believe. The Holy God will by no means spare the guilty, that is, declare the guilty innocent, or forgive an Page 312 incapable subject. All the Promises of Grace and Mercy are with respect to Repentance from dead works, and to a lively Faith. The Son of God is made a Prince and a Saviour, to give Repentance and Remission of Sins. And the Apostle tells us, That being justified by Faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. The first includes a cordial grief for Sins past, and sincere effectual Re∣solutions to forsake them; and hath a necessary conjunction with Pardon, as by vertue of the Divine Command, so from a condecency and fitness with respect to God the giver of Pardon, and to the qua∣lity of the Blessing it self. The other Qualificati∣on is Faith, to which Justification is in a special manner attributed, not in respect of Efficiency or Merit, for the Mercy of God upon the account of Christs Satisfaction is the sole Cause of our Par∣don; but as a moral instrument, that is the Condi∣tion upon which God absolves Man from his guilt. And this Grace of Faith as it respects entire Christ in all his Offices, so it contains the Seed and first Life of Evangelical Obedience. It crucifies our Lusts, overcomes the World, works by Love, as well as justifies the person by relying on the Merits of Christ for Salvation.
2 Adoption into Gods Family (the purchase of Christ's Meritorious Sufferings, who Redeem∣ed us from the Servitude of Sin and Death) is conferr'd upon us in Regeneration.* For this Prerogative consists not meerly in an Extrinsick Relation to God, and a title to the Eternal In∣heritance; but in our participation of the Divine Nature, whereby we are the living Images of Gods Holiness. Civil Adoption gives the title, but not Page 313 the reality of a Son; But the Divine is efficacious, and changes us into the real likeness of our Heaven∣ly Father. We cannot enter into this state of Fa∣vour, but upon our cleansing from all Impurity: Be separate from the pollutions of the profane world,*and I will receive you; and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my Sons and Daughters, saith the Lord Al∣mighty. These are the indispensable terms upon which we are received into that honourable Alliance. None can enjoy the Priviledge, but those that yield the Obedience of Children.
3. Holiness is the Condition on which our future Blessedness depends. Electing Mercy doth not pro∣duce our Glorification immediately, but begins in our Vocation and Justification, which are the inter∣mediate Links in the Chain of Salvation. As Na∣tural Causes work on a distant object, by passing through the medium. God first gives Grace, then Glory.* The everlasting Covenant that is sealed by the Blood of Christ, establishes the connexion be∣tween them. Blessed are the pure in heart,*for they shall see God. The exclusion of all others is per∣emptory and universal: Without Holiness no Man shall see the Lord. The Righteousness of the Kingdom is the only way of entring into it.* A few good actions scattered in our lives, are not availeable, but a course of Obedience brings to Happiness.*Those who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for Glory, and Honour, and Immortality, shall inherit eternal life. This is not a mere positive Appointment, but grounded on the unchangeable respect of things. There is a rational convenience between Holiness and Happiness, according to the Wisdom and Goodness of God, and 'tis exprest in Scripture by the natural Page 314 relation of the Seed to the Harvest, both as to the quality and measure.*What a man sows that shall he reap, We must be like God in purity, before we can be in felicity. Indeed, 'twould be a disparagement to Gods Holiness, and pollute Heaven it self▪ to re∣ceive unsanctified Persons as impure as those in Hell. 'Tis equally impossible for the Creature to be happy without the favour of the Holy God, and for God to communicate His favour to the sinful Creature. Briefly, according to the Law of Faith, no wicked Person hath any right to the Satisfaction Christ made, nor to the Inheritance he purchased for Be∣lievers.
3. Man in his corrupt state is deprived of Spiritual Life, so that till he is revived by special Grace, he can neither obey nor enjoy God. Now the Redeemer is made a quickning Principle to inspire us with new life.
In order to our Sanctification he hath done four things.
First, He hath given to us the most perfect Laws as the Rule of Holiness.
Secondly, He exhibited the most compleat Patern of Holiness in his Life upon the Earth.
Thirdly, He purchas'd and conveyes the Spirit of Holiness, to renew, and to enable us for the per∣formance of our Duties.
Fourthly, He hath presented the strongest induce∣ments and motives to perswade us to be Holy.
First, He hath given to Men the most perfect Laws as the rule of Holiness. The principal parts of the Holy Life, are ceasing from evil, and the doing well. Now the Commands of Christ refer to the purifying of us from sin,* and the adorning us with all Graces Page 315 for the discharge of our universal Duty.
1. They enjoyn a real and absolute separation, from all filthiness of the Flesh and Spirit.* The outward and inward Man must be cleansed not only from Pollu∣tions of a deeper dy, but from all Carnality and Hypocrisie. The Grace of God that brings Salvation hath appeared to all Men,*teaching them to deny ungod∣liness, and worldly Lusts. All those irregular and impetuous desires which are raised by worldly Ob∣jects, Honours, Riches, and Pleasures,* and reign in worldly Men, Pride, Covetousness and Volup∣tuousness. The Gospel is most clear, full, and ve∣hement, for the true and inward Mortification of the whole body of corruption, of every particular darling sin. It commands us to pluck out the right eye,*and to cut off the right hand: That is, to part with eve∣ry grateful and gainful lust.* It obliges us to cruci∣fie the Flesh, with the affections and lusts. Humane Laws regard External actions as prejudicial to Soci∣eties: but thoughts and resolutions that break not forth into act, are not within the Jurisdiction of the Magistrate. But the Law of Christ reforms the po∣wers of the Soul, and all the most secret and inward motions that depend upon them. It forbids the first irregular desires of the carnal appetite. We must hate sin in all its degrees, strangle it in the birth, destroy it in the conception. We are enjoyned to fly the appearances and accesses of evil; what ever is of a suspitious nature, and not fully consistent with the purity of the Gospel, and what ever invites to sin and exposes us to the power of it, becomes vici∣ous and must be avoided. That glorious purity, that shall adorn the Church when our Redeemer presents it without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing,* every Page 316 Christian must aspire to in this Life. In short, the Gospel commands us to be Holy as God is Holy,* who is infinitely distant from the least conceivable pollu∣tion.
2. The Precepts of Christ contain all solid sub∣stantial goodness, that is essentially necessary in order to our supreme Happiness, and prepares us for the Life of Heaven. In his Sermon on the Mount, He commends to us Humility, Meekness, and Mer∣cy, Peaceableness and Patience, and doing good for evil, which are so many beams of Gods Image, the reflections of his Goodness upon intelligent Crea∣tures. And that comprehensive precept of the Apo∣stle describes the Duties of all Christians: whatsoever things are true;* Truth is the principal character of our profession, and is to be exprest in our Words and Actions: whatsoever things are honest, or venerable, that is answer the dignity of our High-calling, and agree with the gravity and comeliness of the Christi∣an profession: whatsoever things are just according to Divine and Humane Laws: whatsoever things are pure, we must preserve the Heart, the Hand, the Tongue, the Eye from impurity; whatsoever things are lovely and of good report, some Graces are amiable and attractive in the view of Men, as easiness to par∣don, a readiness to oblige, compassion to the afflicted, liberality to the necessitous, sweetness of conversati∣on without gall and bitterness: these are of univer∣sal esteem with mankind, and soften the most savage tempers. If there be any Vertue, and if there be any Praise think on these things. And St. Peter excites Believers, to joyn to their Faith, by which the Gos∣pel of Christ is embrac't, Intellectual and Moral vertues, without which 'tis but a vain picture of Page 317 Christianity. Add to your Faith Vertue,*and to Ver∣tue Knowledge, and to Knowledge Temperance, and to Temperance Patience, and to Patience Godliness, and to Godliness Brotherly kindness, and to Brotherly kindness Charity. He enforces the command, give all diligence that these things abound in you; and ye shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the Knowledge of Christ. Now these Graces purifie and perfect, refine and ra•se the humane nature, and without a Command their Good∣ness is a strong obligation.
I will take a more distinct view of the Precepts of Christ as they are set down in that excellent abridgement of them by the Apostle. The Grace of God that bringeth Salvation hath appeared to all Men,*teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live Soberly, Righteously, and Godly in this present world.
Here is a distribution of our duties with respect to their several Objects, our selves, others, and God. The first are regulated by Temperance, the second by Justice, the third by Godliness. And from the accomplishment of these is formed that Holiness without which no man shall see God.
1. In respect to our selves; we must live sober∣ly. Temperance governs the sensual appetites and affections by sanctified reason. The Gospel allows the sober and chast use of pleasures, but absolutely and severely forbids all excess in those that are law∣ful, and abstinence from all that are unlawful, that stain & vilify the Soul, and alienate it from converse with God, and mortifie its lust to spiritual delights. By sensual complacency Man first lost his Innocence and Happiness, and till the flesh is subdued to the spirit, he can never recover them. The carnal mind is Page 318 enmity against God.*Fleshly lusts war against the Soul. Therefore we are urged with the most affectionate earnestness, to abstain from them, by withdrawing their incentives, and crucifying our corrupt inclina∣tions. In short, the Law of Christ obliges us, as to deal with the body as an enemy, (that is disposed to revolt against the Spirit) by watching over all our senses, lest they should betray us to temptations, so to preserve it as a thing consecrated to God, from all impurity, that will render it unworthy the ho∣nour of being the Temple of the Holy Ghost.
2. We are commanded to live Righteously, in our relation to others. Justice is the supreme Vir∣tue of humane Life, that renders to every one what is due. The Gospel gives rules for Men in every state and place, to do what Reason requires. As no condition is excluded from its Blessedness, so eve∣ry one is obliged by its Precepts. Subjects are com∣manded to obey all the lawful commands of Autho∣rity,* and not resist; and that upon the strongest motive not onely for Wrath, but for Conscience. They must obey Man for Gods sake,* but never dis∣obey God for Mans sake. And Princes are obliged to be an encouragement to good Works, and a terror to the evil;*that those who are under them may lead a quiet and a peaceable life,*in all Godliness and Honesty. It in∣joynes all the respective duties of Husbands, and Wives,* Parents, and Children, Masters and Ser∣vants. And that in all contracts and commerce none defrauds his Brother:* accordingly in the esteem of Christians, he is more religious who is more righ∣teous than others. Briefly, Christian righteousness is not to be measured by the rigor of Laws, but by that rule of universal Equity delivered by our Saviour, Page 319Whatsoever ye would have others do to you, do it to them.*
3. We are instructed by the Law of Christ to live Godly. This part of our duty respects our appre∣hensions, affections and demeanour to God, which must be sutable to his Glorious perfections. The Gospel hath revealed them clearly to us, viz. the Unity, Simplicity, Eternity and Purity of the Di∣vine Nature, that it subsists in three Persons, the Fa∣ther, Son, and Spirit, and his Wisdom Power and Goodness in the Work of our Redemption. It requires that we pay the special Honour that is due to God, in the esteem and veneration of our Minds, in the subjection of our Wills, in the as∣sent of our Affections to him as their proper object. That we have an intire Faith in his Word, a firm Hope in his Promises, a Holy Jealousie for his Ho∣nour, a Religious care in his Service. And that we express our reverence, love, and dependance on him in our Prayers and Praises. That our Worshp of Him be in such a manner, as becomes God who re∣ceives it, and Man that presents it. God is a pure Spirit, and Man is a reasonable Creature, there∣fore •e must worship him in Spirit and Truth. And since Man in his fallen State cannot approach the Holy and Just God without a Mediator, he is direct∣ed by the Gospel to address himself to the Throne of Grace, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can reconcile our Persons, and render our Services acceptable with his Father.
Besides the immediate service of the Deity, God∣liness includes the propension and tendency of the Soul to him in the whole conversation, and it con∣tains three things.
1. That our Obedience proceeds from love to Page 320 God as its vital Principle. This must warm and ani∣mate the external action: this alone makes Obedi∣ence as delightful to us, so pleasing to God. He shews Mercy to those who love him, and keep his Com∣mandments.*Faith works by Love, and enclines the Soul to obey with the same Affection, that God en∣joins the Precept.
2. That all our Conversation be regulated by his Will as the Rule. He is our Father and Sovereign, and the respect to his Law gives to every action the formality of Obedience. We must choose our Duty because he commands it. Whatsoever ye do in word, or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, that is, for his command, and by his assistance.
3. That the Glory of God be the supreme End of all our Actions. This Qualification must adhere not only to necessary Duties, but to our natural and civil Actions. Our light must so shine before men, that they may see our good works,*and glorifie our Fa∣ther which is in Heaven. Whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, all must be done in a regular, and due proportion to the Glory of God. A general Designation of this is absolutely requisite,* and the renewing of our intentions actually in matters of moment. For He being the sole Author of our Lives and Happi∣ness,* we cannot without extream ingratitude and dis∣obedience, neglect to glorifie Him in our Bodies and Spirits which are his.
This Religious tendency of the Soul to God, as the Supreme Lord and our utmost End, sanctifies our Actions, and gives an excellency to them above what is inherent in their own nature. Thus moral Duties towards Men,* when they are directed to God, become Divine. Acts of Charity are so many Sa∣cred Page 321 Oblations to the Deity. Men are but the Altars upon which we lay our Presents, God re∣ceives them, as if immediatly offer'd to his Majesty, and consumed to his Honour. Such was the charity of the Philippians towards the relief of the Apostle, which he calls An odour of a sweet smell, a Saerifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.* The same Bounty was an act of Compassion to Man, and Devotion to God. This changes the nature of the meanest and most troublesome things. What was more vile and harsh than the employment of a Slave, yet a respect to God makes it a Religious Service, that is the most noble & voluntary of all humane Actions. For the Be∣liever addressing his service to Christ, and the Infidel only to his Master,* he doth chearfully what the other doth by constraint,* and adorns the Gospel of God our Sa∣viour as truly, as if he were in a higher condition.
All Vertues are of the same descent and family, though in respect of the matter about which they are conversant, and their exercise they are different, Some are heroical, some are humble, and the lowest being conducted by Love to God in the meanest offices, shall have an eternal Reward. In short, Piety is the principle and chief ingredient of Righ∣teousness and Charity to Men. For since God is the Author of our common Nature, and the relations whereby we are united one to another, 'tis necessary that a regard to him should be the first, and have an influence upon all other Duties.
I shall further consider some particular Precepts, which the Gospel doth especially enforce upon us, and the Reasons of them.
1. That concerning Humility, the peculiar Grace of Christians, so becoming our state as Creatures Page 322 and Sinners, the parent and nurse of other Graces, that preserves in us the light of Faith, and the heat of Love; that procures Modesty in Prosperity, and Patience in Adversity; that is the root of Gratitude and Obedience, and is so lovely in God's eyes, that He gives Grace to the Humble: This our Saviour makes a necessary qualification in all those who shall enter into his Kingdom; Except ye be converted and become as little children,*ye shall not enter into the King∣dom of Heaven. As by Humility he purchas'd our Salvation, so by that Grace we possess it. And since Pride arises out of Ignorance, the Gospel to cause in us a just and lowly sense of our unworthiness, disco∣vers the nakedness and misery of the humane Nature, devested of its primitive Righteousness. It reveals the transmission of Original Sin, from the first Man to all his Posterity, wherewith they are infected and debased; a Mystery so far from our knowledg, that the participation of it seems impossible, and unjust to carnal Reason.*We are dead in Sins and Trespasses, without any Spiritual strength to perform our Duty. The Gospel ascribes all that is good in Man to the free and powerful Grace of God. He works in us to will and to do of his good pleasure.* He gives Grace to some because He he is Good, denies it to others be∣cause He is Just, but doth injury to none, because all being guilty, He owes it to none. Grace in its being and activity entirely depends upon Him. As the drowsie Sap is drawn forth into flourishing and fruitfulness by the approaches of the Sun; so habitual Grace is drawn forth into act by the presence and influences of the Sun of Righteousness. With∣out me,* our Saviour tells his Disciples, ye can do no∣thing. I have laboured more abundantly than they all,Page 323 saith the Apostle, yet not I,*but the Grace of God in me. The operations of Grace are ours, but the Power that enables us is from God. Our preser∣vation from Evil, and perseverance in Good, is a most free unmerited Favour, the effect of his renew∣ed Grace in the course of our Lives. Without his special assistance, we should every hour forsake Him, and provoke Him to forsake us. As the Iron can∣not ascend or hang in the Air longer than the virtue of the Loadstone draws it; So our Affections can∣not ascend to those glorious things that are above, without the continually attracting Power of Grace. 'Tis by humble Prayer wherein we acknowledg our wants and unworthiness, and declare our depen∣dance upon the Divine Mercy and Power, that we obtain Grace. Now from these Reasons the Gospel commands Humility, in our demeanor towards God and Men. And if we seriously consider them, how can any crevise be opened in the heart for the least breath of Pride to enter? How can a poor diseased wretch that hath neither Money, nor can by any industry procure nourishment, or Physick for his deadly Diseases, and receives from a merciful per∣son not only Food, but Soveraign Medicines brought from another World (for such is the Divine Grace sent to us from Heaven) without his desert, or pos∣sibility of retribution, be proud towards his Bene∣factor? How can he that only lives upon Alms, boast that he is rich? How can a Creature be proud of the Gifts of God, which it cannot possess without Humility, and without acknowledging that they are derived from Mercy? If we had continued in our Integrity, the praise of all had been entirely due to God; For our Faculties and the excellent disposi∣tions Page 324 that fitted them for action, were bestowed upon us freely by Him, and depended upon his Grace in their exercise. But there is now greater reason to attribute the Glory of all our goodness solely to him: for He revives our dead Souls by the infusion of Grace, without which we are to every good work re∣probate. Since all our Spiritual Abilities are Gra∣ces, the more we have received the more we are obliged, and therefore should be more humble and thankful to the Author of them. And in comparing our selves with others, the Gospel forbids all proud reflections upon our selves as dignified above them, For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? And if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? If God discern one from another by special gifts, the Man hath nothing of his own that makes him excellent. Although inherent Graces command a respect from others to the Person in whom they shine, yet he that possesses them ought rather to consider himself in those qualities that are natural, and make him like the worst, than in those that are divine, proceeding from the sole Favour of God, and that exalt him above them.
Add further, that God hath ordained in the Gospel Repentance, and Faith, which are humbling Graces, to be the conditions of our obtaining Pardon. By Repentance we acknowledge that if we are con∣demned, 'tis just severity, and if we are Saved 'tis rich Mercy.* And Faith absolutely excludes boast∣ing. For it supposes the Creature guilty, and re∣ceives Pardon from the Sovereign Grace of God, up∣on the account of our Crucified Redeemer. The benefit, and the manner of our receiving it was ty∣pified Page 325 in the miraculous cure of the Israelites by looking up to the Brasen Serpent. For the act of seeing is performed by receiving the Images which are derived from the objects: 'tis rather a Passion then an Action; that it might appear that the heal∣ing Virtue was meerly from the Power of God, and the Honor of it intirely his. In short, God had re∣spect to the lowliness of this Grace, in appointing it to be the qualification of a Justified person: for the most firm reliance on Gods Mercy, is alwayes joyned with the strongest renouncing of our own Me∣rits. Briefly, to excite humility in us, the Gospel tells us, that the Glorious reward is from rich bounty and liberality.*The gift of God is Eternal Life through Je∣sus Christ our Lord. As the Election of us to Glory, so the actual possession of it proceeds from pure Favour. There is no more proportion between all our Services and that High and Eternal felicity; than between the running a few steps, and the obtain∣ing an Imperial Crown. Indeed not only Heaven, but all the Graces that are necessary to purify and prepare us for it, we receive from undeserved Mercy. So that God crowns in us not our proper Works, but his own proper Gifts.
2. The Gospel strictly commands Self-denial, when the Honor of God and Religion is concern'd. Jesus tells his Disciples, If any Man will come after me, let him deny himself,*and take up his Cross and follow me. Life and all the endearments of it, Estates, Honours, Relations, Pleasures must be put under our feet, to take the first step with our Redeemer. This is absolutely necessary to the being of a Christi∣an. In the preparation of his mind and the resoluti∣on of his will, he must live a Martyr, and whenso∣ever Page 326 his duty requires, he must break all the Retina∣cula Vitae, the voluntary bands that fasten us to the World, and die a Martyr, rather than suffer a di∣vorce to be made between his Heart and Christ. Whatsoever is most esteem'd and lov'd in the world, must be parted with as a snare, if it tempts us from our Obedience; or offered up as a Sacrifice, when the Glory of God calls for it. And this command that appears so hard to sense, is most just and reason∣able. For God hath by so many titles a right to us, that we ought to make an intire Dedication of our selves and our most valuable interests to him. Our Redeemer infinitely denied himself to save us, and 'tis most just we should in gratitude deny our selves to serve him. Besides, an infinite advantage redounds to us: for our Saviour assures us, that whosoever will save his life when 'tis inconsistent with the performance of his duty,*shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for his sake, shall find it. Now what is more pru∣dent, than of two evils that are propounded to choose the least? that is, Temporal Death, rather than Eter∣nal; and of two goods that are offered to our choice, to prefer the greater, a Life in Heaven, before that on the Earth. Especially if we consider that we must shortly yeeld the present life to the infirmities of Nature, and 'tis the richest traffick to exchange that which is frail and mortal, for that which remains in its perfection for ever.
3. The Gospel enjoyns Universal Love among Men.* This is that fire which Christ came to kindle upon the Earth; 'tis the abridgment of all Christian per∣perfection, the fulfilling of the Divine Law, for all the particular Precepts are in substance, Love. He that loves his Neighbor will have a tender regard to Page 327 his Life, Honour and Estate, which is the sum of the second Table. The extent of our Love must be to all that partake of the same common nature. The universal consanguinity between Men should make us regard them as our allies. Every Man that wants our help is our Neighbour. Do good to all, is the command of the Apostle.* For the quality of our Love it must be unfeigned without dissimulation. The Image of it in Words without real Effects, provokes the Divine displeasure: for as all falshood is odious to the God of Truth, so especially the counterfeiting of Charity, that is the impression of his Spirit, and the seal of his Kingdom. A sincere pure affection, that rejoyces at the good, and resents the evils of others as our own, and expresses it self in all real Offices, not for our private respects, but their benefit, is required of us. And as to the degree of our Love,* we are commanded above all things to have fervent Charity among our selves. This princi∣pally respects Christians,* who are united by so many sacred and amiable bands, as being formed of the same Eternal Seed, Children of the same Heavenly Father, and joynt-Heirs of the same Glorious Inheri∣tance. Christian Charity hath a more noble Principle than the affections of nature, for it proceeds from the Love of God shed abroad in Believers, to make them one Heart and one Soul, and a more Divine pattern, which is the Example of Christ; Who hath by his Sufferings restored us to the Favour of God, that we should Love one another, as He hath Loved us. This Duty is most stricty injoyn'd, for without Love, Angelical Eloquence is but an empty noise,* and all other Virtues have but a false lustre; Pro∣phesie, Faith, Knowledge, Miracles, the highest out∣ward Page 328 Acts of Charity or Self-denial, the giving our E∣states to the Poor, or Bodies to Martyrdom, are neither pleasing to God, nor profitable to him that does them.
Besides, That special branch of Love, the for∣giving of Injuries, is the peculiar Precept of our Saviour. For the whole World consents to the returning evil for evil. The vicious Love of our selves makes us very sensible, and according to our preverse judgments to revenge an injury, seems as just as to requite a benefit. From hence revenge is the most Rebellious and Obstinate Passion. An Of∣fence remains as a thorn in the mind, that inflames and torments it, till 'tis appeased by a vindication. 'Tis more difficult to overcome the Spirit then to gain a Battel. We are apt to revolve in our thoughts in∣juries that have been done to us, and after a long distance of time the memory represents them as fresh as at the first. Now the Gospel commands a hearty and intire forgiveness of injuries, though repeated never so often to seventy seven times. We must not only quench the Fire of Anger, but kindle the Fire of Love towards our greatest Enemies. I say unto you, Love your Enemies,*Bless them that Curse you, do good to them that hate you, Pray for them which despitefully use you, and Persecute you. This is urged from the consideration of God's forgiving us,* who being infi∣nitely provoked, yet pardons innumerable faults to us, moved only by his Mercy. And how reasonable is it that we should at his command remit a few faults to our Brethren? To extinguish the strong inclina∣tion that is in corrupt Nature to revenge, our Sa∣viour hath suspended the Promise of Pardon to us upon our pardoning others. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also for∣give Page 329 you. But if ye forgive not their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. He that is cruel to another cannot expect Mercy, but in every Prayer to God indites himself, and virtually pro∣nounces his own Condemnation.
4. The Gospel enjoins Contentment in every state, which is our great Duty and Felicity, mainly influential upon our whole life, to prevent both Sin and Misery. Be content with such things as you have, for he hath said, I will never leave thee,*nor forsake thee. It forbids all Murmurings against Providence, which is the seed of Rebellion, and all anxious thoughts concerning things future. Take no thought for to morrow, we should not anticipate evils,* by our apprehensions and fears, they come fast enough; Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. Our corrupt Desires are vast and restless as the Sea, and when contradicted they betray us to Discontent and Dis∣obedience. The Gospel therefore retrenches all in∣ordinate Affections, and vehemently condemns Co∣vetousness, as a Vice not to be named among Saints but with abhorrency. It discovers to us most clearly, that temporal things are not the materials of our Happiness. For the Son of God voluntarily denied himself the enjoyment of them. And as the high∣est Stars are so much distant from an Eclipse, as they are above the Shadow of the Earth; so the Soul that in its esteem and desires is above the world, its brightness and joy cannot be darkened or eclipsed by any accidents there. The Gospel forbids all vain Sorrows, as well as vain Pleasures; and distin∣guishes real Godliness from an appearance, by con∣tentment as its inseparable Character. Godliness with Content is great gain.* When we are in the saddest Page 330 circumstances, our Saviour commands us to possess our Souls in Patience,* to preserve a calm Constitution of Spirit, which no storms from without can dis∣compose. For this end he assures us that nothing comes to pass without the Knowledge and Efficien∣cy, or at least, Permission of God. That the H•irs of our Head are numbred, and not one falls to the Earth without his License. Now the serious belief of a Wise, Just and Powerful Providence that governs all things, hath a mighty efficacy to maintain a con∣stant tranquillity and equal temper in the Soul a∣midst the confusions of the World. God works all things according to the counsel of his own will:* and if we could discover the immediate reasons of every Providence, we cannot have more satisfaction then from this General Principle, that is applicable to all, as light to every colour, That what God doth is al∣ways best. This resolves all the doubts of the most in∣tangled minds, and rectifies our false judgments. From hence a Believer hath as true content in com∣plying with God's Will, as if God had complyed with his, and is reconciled to every condition. Be∣sides, the Gospel assures us, that all things work to∣gether for the good of those that love God. For their Spiritual good at present;* by weakening their cor∣ruptions: for affliction is a kind of manage, by which the sensual part is exercised and made pliable to the motions of the Spirit: and by increasing their Graces, the unvaluable Treasures of Heaven. If the dearest Objects of our Affections, the most worthy of our Love and Grief are taken away, 'tis for this reason, that God may have our Love himself, in its most full and inflamed degree. And Afflictions are in order to their Everlasting good. Now the certain ex∣pectation Page 331 of a blessed issue out of all troubles, is to the Heart of a Christian as the putting a Rudder to a Ship, which without it is exposed to the fury of the winds, and in continual dangers, but by its guidance makes use of every Wind to convey it to its Port. Hope produces not only acquiescence,* but joy in the shar∣pest Tribulations. For every true Christian being or∣dained to a Glorious and Supernatural Blessedness hereafter; all things that befal them here below, as means, are regulated and transformed into the nature of the End to which they carry them. Thus temporal evils are turned into good. Our light Afflictions which are but for a moment,*work for us a far more exceeding weight of Glory. To consider this Life as the passage to another, that is as durable as Eternity, and as blessed as the Enjoyment of God can make it; that the present miseries have a final respect to future Happi∣ness, will change our opinion about them, and render them not only tolerable, but so far eligible as they are instrumental and preparatory for it. If the Bloo∣dy as well as the Milky way leads to God's Throne, a Christian willingly walks in it.
In short, A lively Hope, accompanies a Christian to his last expiring breath, till it is consummated in Celestial fruition. So that Death it self, the universal terror of Mankind, is made desirable, as an entrance into Immortality, and the first day of our Triumph. Thus I have considered some particular Precepts of Christ, which are of greatest use for the government of our Hearts and Lives; and the reasons upon which they are grounded, to make them effectual. Now to discover more fully the compleatness of the Evange∣lical Rule, I will consider it with respect to the Law of Moses, and the Philosophy of the Heathens.