The Perfection of Christ's Laws appears by comparing them with the Precepts of Moses. The Temple-Service was manag'd with Pomp suitable to the dis∣position of the Jews, and the dispensation of the Law. The Christian Service is Pure and Spiri∣tual. The Levitical Ceremonies and Ornaments are excluded from it, not only as unnecessary, but incon∣sist with its Spirituality. The obligation to the Rituals of Moses is abolisht, to introduce real Righteousness. The Indulgence of Polygamy and Divorce is taken away by Christ, and Marriage re∣stored to its Primitive Purity. He clear'd the Law from the darkening Glosses of the Pharisees. And enforc'd it by new Obligations. The Law of Christ exceeds the Rules which the highest Masters of Mo∣rality in the School of Nature ever prescribed. Philosophy is defective as to Piety, and in several things contrary to it. Philosophers delivered un∣worthy Conceptions of God. Philosophy doth not enjoin the Love of God, which is the first and great Command of the Natural Law. Philosophers lay down the servile Maxime▪ To comply with the common Idolatry. They arrogated to themselves the praise of their Vertue and Happiness. Philosophy doth not propound the Glory of God for the Supream End of all Humane Actions. Philosophy is defective as to the Duties respecting our selves and others. It allowes the first sinful motions of the lower Appetites. The Stoicks renounce the Passions. Philosophy insuffici∣ent Page 333 to form the Soul to Patience and Content under Afflictions: and to support in the hour of Death. A Reflection upon some Immoral Maxims of the seve∣ral Sects of Philosophers.
THe Perfection of the Laws of Christ will further appear, by comparing them with the Precepts of Moses, and with the Rules which the highest Masters of Morality in the School of Nature have prescribed for the directing our lives. The Gospel exceeds the Mosaical Institution;
1. In ordaining a Service that is Pure, Spiritual, and Divine, consisting in the Contemplation, Love and Praises of God, such as the holy Angels per∣form above. The Temple-Service was managed with Pomp and external Magnificence, suitable to the disposition of that People, and the dispensation of the Law. The Church was then in its Infant-state, as St. Paul expresses it; and that Age is more wrought on by Sense than Reason: For such is the subordination of our Faculties, that the vegetative first acts, then the sensitive, then the rational, as the organs appointed for its use, acquire perfection. The knowledg of the Jews was obscure and imper∣fect, and the external part of their Religion was ordered in such a manner, that the senses were much affected. Their Lights, Perfumes, Musick and Sa∣crifices were the proper entertainment of their ex∣ternal Faculties. Besides, being encompast with Nations whose Service to their Idols was full of Ce∣remonies, to render the temptation ineffectual, and take off from the efficacy of those allurements which might seduce them to the imitation of Idola∣try, God ordain'd his Service to be performed with Page 334 great splendour. Add further, The Dispensation of the Law was typical and mysterious, representing by visible material objects, and their power to ravish the Senses, Spiritual things, and their efficacy to work upon the Soul. But our Redeemer hath rent the Vail, and brought forth Heavenly things into a full Day, and the clearest Evidence. Whereas Mo∣ses was very exact in describing the numerous Cere∣monies of the Jewish Religion, the quality of their Sacrifices, the Place, the Persons by whom they must be prepared and presented to the Lord: We are now commanded to draw near to God with cleansed hands and purified hearts, and that Men Pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubt∣ing. Every place is a Temple, and every Christian a Priest, to offer up Spiritual Incense to God. The most of the Levitical Ceremonies and Ornaments are excluded from the Christian Service, not only as un∣necessary, but inconsistent with its Spiritualness: As Paint, they corrupt the native beauty of Religion. The Apostle tells us, that humane Eloquence was not used in the first preaching of the Gospel, lest it should render the truth of it uncertain, and rob the Cross of Christ of its Glory in converting the World: for 〈◊〉 would be apt to imagine that 'twas not the super∣natural vertue of the Doctrine, and the efficacy of its Reasons, but the artifice of Orators that over∣came the spirits of Men: So if the Service of the Gospel were made so pompous, the Worshippers would be enclin'd to believe, that the external part was the most principal, and to content themselves in that, without the aims and affections of the Soul, which are the life of all our Services. Besides, upon another account outward Pomp in Religion is apter Page 335 to quench than en••ame Devotion: For we are so compounded of Flesh and Spirit, that when the cor∣poreal Faculties are vehemently affected with their objects, 'tis very hard for the Spiritual to act with equal vigour; there being such commerce between the fancy and the outward Senses, that they are never exercised in the reception of their objects, but the Imagination is drawn that way, and cannot pre∣sent to the mind distinctly and with the calmness that is requisit, those things on which our thoughts should be fixt. But when those diverting objects are re∣moved, the Soul directly ascends to God, and looks on him as the Searcher and Judge of the Heart; and worships him proportionally to his perfections. That this was the design of Christ, appears particularly in the Institution of the Sacraments, which he ordain∣ed in a merciful condescension to our present state▪ for there is a natural desir• in us to have pledges of things promis'd; therefore he was pleased to add to the De∣claration of his Will in the Gospel, the Sacraments as confirming seals of his Love; by which the ap∣plication of his Benefits is more special, and the re∣presentation more lively, than that which is meerl• by the Word. But they are few in number, on Baptism and the Lords Supper, simple in their na∣ture, and easy in their signification, most fit to relieve our infirmity, and to raise our Souls to Heavenly things. Briefly, the Service of the Gospel is an∣swerable to the excellent light of knowledge shed a∣broad in the hearts of Christians.
2. Our Redeemer hath abolisht all obligation to the other Rituals of Moses, to introduce that real Righteousness which was signified by them. The carnal Commandments given to the Jews, are called Page 336Statutes that were not good;* either in respect of their matter, not being perfective of the humane nature, or their effect: for they brought Death to the disobedi∣ent, not Life to the Obedient: the most strict observa∣tion of them did not make the performers either bet∣ter, or more happy. But Christians are dead to these Elements,* that is, perfectly freed from subjection to them. The Kingdom of God consists not in Meat, and Drink,*but Righteousness, and Peace, and Joy in the Holy Ghost; for he that in these things serves Christ, is acceptable to God, and approved of Men. We are com∣manded to purge out the old leaven of Malice, and Wick∣edness, that sowers and swells the mind, and to keep the feast, with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. We are obliged to be free from the moral imperfections, the vices and passions, which were re∣presented by the natural qualities of those Crea∣tures which were forbidden to the Jews, and to puri∣fy the Heart instead of the frequent washings under the Law. But the Gospel frees us from the into∣lerable yoke of the legal abstinencies, observations, and disciplines, the amusements of low and servile Spirits, wherewith they would compensate their de∣fects in real Holiness, and exchange the substance of Religion for the shadow and colours of it. For this reason the Apostle is severe against those, who would joyn the fringes of Moses to the robe of Christ.
3. The indulgence of Polygamy and Divorce that was granted to the Jews, is taken away by Christ, and Marriage restored to the purity of its first Insti∣tution. The permission of these was by a political Law, and the effect was temporal Impunity. For God is to be considered not only in the relation of a Page 337 Creator and universal Governour, that gave Laws to regulate Conscience, but in a special relation to the Jews as their King. And as in a Civil State a prudent Governour permits a less evil, for the pre∣vention of a greater, without an approbation of it; So God was pleased in his Wisdom to tolerate those things, in condescension to their carnal and perverse humors, for the hardness of their Hearts,* lest worse inconveniences should follow: But our Saviour re∣duces Marriage to the Sanctity of its original, when man was formed according to the Image of God's Holiness. He that made them at the beginning, made them Male and Female: for this cause shall a Man leave Father and Mother, and cleave to his Wife,*and they twain shall be one flesh. What therefore God hath joyned together, let no Man put asunder. From the unity of the Person, that one Male was made and one Fe∣male, it follows that the super-inducing of another into the Marriage-bed is against the first Institution. And the Union that is between them not being only civil in a consent of wills, but natural by the joyn∣ing of two bodies, something natural must inter∣vene to dissolve it, viz. the Adultery of one par∣ty. Excepting that case, our Saviour severely for∣bids the putting the Wife away.
4. Our Redeemer hath improved the obligations of the moral Law, by a clearer discovery of the pu∣rity and extent of its precepts, and by peculiar and powerful Enforcements. In his Sermon on the Mount he clears it from the darkning glosses of the Phaisees, who observed the letter of the Law, but not the de∣signe of the Lawgiver. He declares that not only the gross act, but all things of the same alliance are forbidden; not only Murder, but rash Anger, and vili∣fying Page 338 words, which wound the Reputation. Not only actual pollution, but the impurity of the Eye, and the staining of the Soul with unclean thoughts, are all comprised in the prohibition. He informs them that every Man in calamity is their Neighbour, and to be relieved, and commands them to love their deadliest enemies. Briefly, He tells the multitude, that unless their Righteousness exceed the Righteous∣ness of the Scribes and Pharisees,* that is, the utmost that they thought themselves obliged to, they should not enter into the Kingdome of Heaven. Besides, our Sa∣viour hath superadded special Enforcements to his Precepts. The Arguments to perswade Christians to be universally Holy, from Christs Redeeming them for that great end, was not known either in the Oeco∣nomy of Nature, or the Law: For before our lapsed state there was no need of a Redeemer, and he was not revealed during the Legal Dispensation. His Death was only shadowed forth in Types, and foretold in such a manner, as was obscure to the Jews. The Gospel urges new reasons to increase our aversion from sin, which neither Adam nor Mo∣ses were acquainted with. So the Apostle dehorts Christians from uncleanness, because their bodies are Members of Christ,*and Temples of the Holy-Ghost, and therefore should be inviolably consecrated to purity. If the Utensils of the Temple were so sacred▪ that the employing them to a common use, was re∣venged in a miraculous manner; How much sorer punishment shall be inflicted on those who defile themselves, after they were sanctified by the Blood of the Covenant? The Gospel also recommends to us Love to one another,* in imitation of that admirable Love which Christ exprest to us, and commands the highest Page 339 Obedience, even unto death when God requires it, in conformity to our Redeemers Sufferings. These and many other Motives are derived from a pure vein of Christianity, and exalt the Moral Law to a higher pitch, as to its Obligation upon men, than in its first delivery by Moses.
2. The Laws of Christ exceed the Rules which the best Masters of Morality in the School of Nature have prescribed for the Government of our Lives. 'Tis true, there are remaining Principles of the Moral Law in the heart of Man; Some warm sparks are still left which the Philosophers laboured to enliven and cherish. Many excellent Precepts of Morality they delivered, either to calm the Affections, and lay the storms in our Breasts, whereby the most men are guilty and miserable, or to regulate the civil Con∣versation with others. And since the coming of Christ, Prometheus-like,* they brought their dead Torches to the Sun, and stole some light from the Scriptures. Yet upon searching we shall easily discover, that notwithstanding all their boasts, to purge the Soul from its defilements, contracted by its union with the Body, and to restore it to its pri∣mitive Perfection, They became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened. Although the vulgar Heathens thought them to be guides in the safe way, yet they were Companions with them in their wanderings; And Truth instructs us, that When the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch. I will briefly shew that their Morals are defective, and mixt with false Rules: only premising three things. 1. That I shall not insist on their Ignorance of our Redeemer, and their Infidelity in respect of those Evangelical Mysteries, that are only discover'd Page 340 by Revelation; for that precisely considered, doth not make them guilty before God: But only take no∣tice of their defects in natural Religion, and moral Duties,* to which the Law written in the heart obliges all Mankind.
2. That Vertue is not to be confounded with Vice, although 'tis not assisted by special Grace. Those who performed acts of Civil Justice, and Kindness, and Honour, were not guilty as those who violated all the Laws of Nature and Reason. Their heroic Actions were praise-worthy among men, and God gave them a temporal Reward; although not being enlivened by Faith, and purified by Love to God, and an holy Intention for his Glory, they were dead works, unprofitable as to Salvation.
*3. Their highest Rule, viz. To live according to Nature, is imperfect and insufficient. For although Nature in its original Purity furnisht us with per∣fect Instructions, yet in its corrupt state 'tis not so enlightened and regular, as to direct us in our uni∣versal Duty. 'Tis as possible to find all the Rules of Architecture in the ruines of a Building, as to find in the remaining Principles of the natural Law, full and sufficient Directions for the whole Duty of Man, either as to the performing good, or avoiding evil.*The Mind is darkened and defiled with error, that indisposes it for its office.
I will now proceed to shew how insufficient Phi∣losophy is to direct us in our Duty to God, our selves, and others.
First, In respect of Piety, which is the chief Du∣ty of the reasonable Creature, Philosophy is very de∣fective, nay in many things contrary to it.
1. By delivering unworthy Notions and Con∣ceptions Page 341 of the Deity. Not only the vulgar Hea∣thens chang'd the truth of God into a lie, when they measured his Incomprehensible Perfections by the narrow compass of their Imaginations, or when looking on Him through the appearing disorders of the World, they thought Him unjust and cruel; As the most beautiful Face seems deformed and monstrous in a disturbed stream; But the most re∣nowned Philosophers dishonoured Him by their base apprehensions. For the true Notion of God signi∣fies a Being Infinite, Independent, the universal Creator, who preserves Heaven and Earth, the ab∣solute Director of all Events, that his Providence takes notice of all Actions, that He is a liberal Rewarder of those that seek Him, and a just Reven∣ger of those that violate his Laws: Now all this was contradicted by them. *Some asserted the World to be eternal, others that Matter was; and in that denied Him to be the first Cause of all things. Some limited his Being, confining Him to one of the Poles of Heaven: Others extended it only to the Ampli∣tude of the World. The †Epicureans totally denied his governing Providence, and made Him an idle Spectator of things below. They asserted, That God was contented with his own Majesty and Glory; That whatever was without Him was neither in his thoughts nor care: as if to be employed in ordering the various accidents of the world, were incompa∣tible with his Blessedness, and He needed their Impiety to relieve Him. Thus by confining his Power, who is Infinite, they denied Him in con∣fessing Him. ‖ Others allowed Him to regard the great affairs of Kingdoms and Nations, to manage Crowns and Scepters; but to stoop so low as to re∣gard Page 342 particular things, they judged as unbecoming the Divine Nature, as for the Sun to descend from Heaven to light a Candle for a Servant in the dark. They took the Scepter out of God's hand, and set up a foolish and blind Power, to dispose of all mu∣table things.*Seneca himself represents Fortune as not discerning the worthy from the unworthy, and scattering its gifts without respect to Vertue. Some made Him a Servant to Nature; That he necessarily turn'd the Spheres;* Others subjected Him to an in∣vincible Destiny, that He could not do what He de∣sired. Thus the wisest of the Heathens dishonoured the Deity by their false imaginations, and instead of representing him with his proper Attributes, drew a picture of themselves. Besides, their impious fan∣cies had a pernicious influence upon the lives of Men: especially the denial of his Providence; for that took away the strongest restraint of corrupt nature, the fear of future Judgment. For humane Laws do not punish secret crimes that are innumerable, nor all open, as those of persons in power, which are most hurtful: Therefore they are a weak instrument to preserve Innocence and Virtue. Only the respect of God to whom every heart is manifest, every action a Testimony, and every great Person a Subject, is of equal force to give check to sin in all, in the dakrness of the night, and the light of the day, in the works of the hand, and the thoughts of the heart.
2. Philosophy is very defective as to Piety, in not injoyning the Love of God. The first and great Com∣mand in the Law of Nature, (the order of the Pre∣cepts being according to their dignity) is, Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy Heart, Soul, and Strength. 'Tis most reasonable that our Love should first ascend to Page 343 Him, and in its full vigor: For our Obligations to him are infinite, and all inferior objects are incompara∣bly beneath him. Yet Philosophers speak little or nothing of this, which is the principal part of natu∣ral Religion. Aristotle who was so clear-sighted in other things, when he discourses of God, is not only affectedly obscure, to conceal his ignorance, as the Fish which troubles the Water for fear of being catcht; but 'tis on the occasion of speculative Sci∣ences, as in his Phisicks, when he considers him as the first cause of all the motions in the World; or in his Metaphysicks, as the supreme Being, the knowledg of whom he saith is most noble in it self, but of no use to Men. But in his Morals, where he had reason to consider the Deity as an object most worthy of our Love, Respect, and Obedience in an infinite De∣gree, he totally omits such a representation of him, although the Love of God is that alone which gives price to all moral Virtues. And from hence it is that Philosophy is so defective as to Rules for the pre∣paring Men for an intimate and delightful Communi∣on with God, which is the effect of Holy and Perfect Love, and the supreme Happiness of the reasonable Nature. If in the Platonical Philosophy there are some things directing to it, yet they are but frigidly exprest, and so obscurely, that like Inscriptions in ancient Medals or Marbles which are defac't, they are hardly legible. This is the singular Character of the Gospel, that distinguishes it from all humane Institutions; it represents the infinite amiableness of God, and his goodness to us, to excite our Affecti∣ons to him in a Superlative manner: it commands us to follow him as dear Children, and presses us to seek for those Dispositions which may qualifie Page 344 us for the enjoyment of him in a way of Friendship and Love.
3. The best Philosophers laid down this servile and pernicious Maxime,* That a wise Man should al∣wayes conform to the Religion of his Country. So∣crates who acknowledged one Supreme God, yet (ac∣cording to the counsel of the Oracle that directed all to Sacrifice according to the Law of the City) he ad∣vised his Friends to comply with the common Idola∣try, and those who did otherwise he branded as su∣perstitious and vain. And his practice was accor∣dingly. For he frequented the Temples, assisted at their Sacrifices, which he declares before his Judges, to purge himself from the Crime of which he was accused. Seneca speaking of the Heathen worship, acknowledges 'twas unreasonable, and only the mul∣titude of fools rendered it excusable, yet he would have a Philosopher to conform to those customs in Obedience to the Law, not as pleasing to the God's. Thus they made Religion a dependance on the State. They performed the Rites of heathenish Superstiti∣on, that were either filthy, phantastical, or cruel, such as the Devil the master of those Ceremonies or∣dain'd. They became less than Men by worshipping the most vile and despicable Creatures, and sunk themselves by the most execrable Idolatry beneath the Powers of darkness, to whom they offered Sacri∣fice. Now this Philosophical Principle is the most palpable violation of the Law of Nature: for that instructs us that God is the only object of Religion, and that we are to obey him without exception from any inferior Power. Here 'twas Conscience to dis∣obey the Law, and a most worthy cause wherein they should have manifested that generous contempt of Page 345 Death they so much boasted of. But they detained the truth in unrighteousness, and although they knew God,*they glorified him not as God, but chang'd the Glory of the Incorruptible God, into an Image made like to a corrup∣tible Man, and to Birds, and Beasts, and creeping things. A sin of so provoking a nature, that God gave them up to the vilest · lusts, whereby they defiled and de∣based themselves; Carnal impurity being a just pu∣nishment of Spiritual.
4. They arrogated to themselves the sole praise of their Virtues and Happiness.* This impiety is most visible in the writings of the Stoicks, the Pharises in Philosophy. They were so far from depending on God for Light and Grace in the conduct of their Lives, & from praying to him to make them vertuous, that they opposed nothing with more pride and con∣tempt.* They thought that Wisdom would loose its value and lustre, that nothing were in it worthy of admiration, if it came from above, and depended up∣on the Grace of another. They acknowledged that the natural Life, that Riches, Honours, and other inferiour things, common to the worst, were the gifts of God; but asserted that Wisdom and Vertue, the special perfection of the Humane Nature, were the effects of their own industry. Impious folly! to be∣lieve that we owe the greatest benefits to our selves, and the lesser only to God. Thus they robb'd him of the Honour of his most precious Gifts. So strongly did the poison of the old Serpent, breathed forth in those words, Ye shall be as God, that infected the first Man, still work in his Posterity. Were they Angels Page 346 in perfection, yet the proud reflecting on their excel∣lencies would instantly turn them into Devils. And as they boasted of vertue, so of happiness as intirely depending upon themselves. They ascribe to their Wise-man an absolute Empire over all things, they raise him above the Clouds; what ever may disquiet, or disorder, they exempt him from all Passions, and make him ever equal to himself, that he is never sur∣prised with accidents, that 'tis not in the power of pains or troubles to draw a sigh or tear from him, that he despises all that the World can give or take, and is contented with pure and naked Vertue; in short they put the Crown upon his Head, by attributing all to the power of his own Spirit. Thus they con∣tradicted the Rites of Heaven. Their impiety was so bold that they put no difference between God and their wise person,* but this, that God was an im∣mortal Wise-Person, and a wise Man was a mortal God. Nay, that he had this advantage, (since 'tis great art to comprize many things in a little space,) to enjoy as much happiness in an age, as Jupiter in his eternity. And which is the highest excess of Pride and Blasphemy,* they prefer'd the wretched im∣perfect vertue and happiness of their Wise-Man, before the Infinite and unchangeable Purity and Feli∣city of God himself. For God they said is wise & happy by the priviledg of his Nature, where as a Philoso∣pher is so by the discourse of Reason, and the choice of his will, notwithstanding the resistance of his Passions, and the difficulties he encounters in the World. Thus to raise themselves above the Throne of God, since the rebellious Angels, none have ever attempted besides the Stoicks. 'Tis no wonder, that they were the most early opposers of the Gospel; for Page 347 how could they acknowledg God in his state of abase∣ment and humility, who exalted their Verutous Man above him in his Majesty and Glory. Yet this is the Sect that was most renowned among the Hea∣thens.*
5. Philosophy is very defective, in not propound∣ing the Glory of God, as the end to which all our actions should finally refer. This should have the first and chief place in that Practical Science: For every Action receiving its specification and value from its End, that which is the Supreme and com∣mon to all Actions, must be fixt before we come to the particular and subordinate; and that is the Glory of God. Now the design of Philosophers in their Precepts, was either.
First,* To use Vertue as the means to obtain Repu∣tation and Honour in the World. This was evident in their Books and Actions. They were sick of self-love, and did many things to satisfie the Eye. They led their lives as in a Scene, where one person is within, and a∣nother is represented without, by an Artificial imita∣tion of what is true. They were swell'd with pre∣sumption, having little merit, and a great deal of vanity. Now this respect to the Opinion of others, corrupts the intention, and vitiates the action. 'Tis not sincere Vertue, but a superficial appearance that is regarded. For 'tis sufficient to that purpose, to seem to be vertuous without being so. As a proud person would rather wear counterfeit Pearls that are esteemed right, then right which are esteem∣ed counterfeit.* So one that is vain-glorious prefers the reputation of being vertuous, before real Vertue. From hence we may discover that many of their most specious Actions were disguised Sins, their Vertues Page 348 were false as their Deities. Upon this account St. Austin condemns the Heroical Actions of the Romans as vicious;*Virtute civili, non vera, sed veri simili, humanae gloriae servierunt. Pride had a principal part in them.
*Or secondly, The end of Philosophy was to pre∣vent the mischiefs which licentiousness and disorders might bring upon men from without, or to preserve inward peace, by suppressing the turbulent passions arising from Lust, or Rage, that discompose the mind. This was the pretended design of Epicurus, to whom Vertue was amiable only as the Instrument of plea∣sure.
Or thirdly, The heighth of Philosophy was to propound the beauty of Vertue,* and its charming Aspect, as the most worthy Motive to draw the Af∣fections. Now supposing that some of the Heathens, (although very few) by discovering the internal beauty of Vertue, had a love to it, and perform'd some things without any private respect, but for the rectitude of the action, and the inward satisfaction that springs from it, yet they were still defective. For Vertue is but a ray of the Deity, and our duty is not compleat, unless it be referred to his Glory, who is the principle and patern of it. In short, the great Creator made Man for himself, and 'tis most just that as his Favour is our sovereign happiness, so his Glory should be our supreme end, without which nothing is regular, and truly beautiful. By these se∣veral instances it appears how insufficient Philosophy is to direct us in our principal duty, that respects God.
Page 3492. Philosophy was defective in its directions about moral duties that respect our selves or others.
1. Philosophers were not sensible of the first in∣clinations to sin. They allow the disorder of the sensitive appetite as innocent, till it passes to the supreme part of the Soul, and induces it to delibe∣rate, or resolve upon moral actions. For they were ignorant of that Original and intimate pollution that cleaves to the humane nature; and because our faculties are natural, they thought the first motions to forbidden objects, that are universal in the best as well as worst, to be the necessity of Nature rather then the effect of Corruption. Accordingly all their Precepts reach no farther than the Counsels of the Heart: But the desires and motions of the lower fa∣culties, though very culpable, are left by them indiffe∣rent. So that 'tis evident that many defilements and stains are in their purgative vertues.
2. The Stoicks not being able to reconcile the passions with reason, wholly renounced them. Their Philosophy is like the River in Thrace,
For by a fiction of fancy they turn their vertuous Person into a Statue, that feels neither the inclinati∣ons of Love, nor aversions of hatred; that is not toucht with Joy or Sorrow; that is exempt from Fears and Hopes. The tender and melting affecti∣ons of nature towards the misery of others, they intirely extinguish as unbecoming perfect Vertue. They attribute Wisdom to none, but whom they rob of Humanity. Now as 'tis the ordinary effect of fol∣ly Page 350 to run into one extreme by avoiding another, so 'tis most visibly here. For the Affections are not like poisonous plants to be eradicated; but as wild, to be cultivated. They were at first set in the fresh soil of Mans nature by the hand of God. And the Scripture describes the Divine perfections, and the actions proceeding from them, by terms borrowed from humane affections, which proves them to be innocent in their own nature. Plutarch observes when Lycurgus commanded to cut up all the Vines in Sparta, to prevent Drunkenness, he should rather have made Fountains by them, to allay the heat of the Wines, and make them bene∣ficial: So true Wisdom prescribes how to moderate and temper the affections, not to destroy them. 'Tis true they are now sinfully inclin'd, yet being removed from Carnal to Spiritual objects, they are excellently serviceable. As Reason is to guide the Affections, so they are to excite Reason, whose o∣perations would be languid without them. The na∣tures that are purely spiritual, as the Angels, have an understanding so clear, as suddenly to discover in objects their qualiteis, and to feel their efficacy; but Man is compounded of two natures, and the mat∣ter of his body obscures the light of his mind, that he cannot make such a full discovery of good or evil at the first view, as may be requisite to quicken his pursuit of the one, and flight from the other: Now the Affections awaken the vigour of the Mind, to make an earnest application to its object. They are as the Winds which although sometimes tempestu∣ous, yet are necessary to convey the Ship to the Port. So that 'tis contumelious to the Creator, and injuri∣ous to the humane nature, to take them away as Page 351 absolutely vicious. The Lord Jesus who was pure and perfect, exprest all humane affections according to the quality of the objects presented to him. And his Law requires us not to mortifie, but to purify, consecrate, and employ them for spiritual and ho∣nourable uses.
4. Philosophy is ineffectual by all its Rules to form the Soul to true Patience and Contentment under sufferings. Now considering the variety and greatness of the changes, and calamitys to which the present life is obnoxious, there is no Vertue more necessary. And if we look into the World before Christianity had reform'd the thoughts and lan∣guage of Men, we shall discover their miserable er∣rours upon the account of the seeming confusion in humane affairs, the unequal distribution of temporal good and evils here below. If the Heathens saw Injustice triumph over Innocence; and crimes worthy of the severest punishment, crown'd with Prosperity; if a young man dyed who in their esteem deserved to live for ever, and a vicious person lived an age, who was unworthy to be born, they complained that the World was not governed according to Righte∣ousness: but rash fortune or blind fate ruled all. As the Pharisee in the Gospel, seeing the Woman that had been a notorious sinner so kindly received by Christ, said within himself, If this Man were a Prophet, he would know who it is that touches him. So they concluded, if there were a Providence, that did see and take care of sublunary things, that did not only permit, but dispose of all affairs, it would make a visible distinction between the Vertuous and the Wicked.
'Tis true, God did not to leave the Gentiles with∣out Page 352a witness of himself; for sometimes the reasons of his Providence in the great changes of the World were so conspicuous, that they might discover an eye in the Scepter, that his Government was managed with infinite Wisdom. Other Providences were vail'd and mysterious, and the sight of those that were clear should have induc'd them to believe the Justice and Wisdom of those they could not com∣prehend. As Socrates having read a Book of Hera∣clitus a great Philosopher,* but studiously obscure, and his Judgment being demanded concerning it, reply'd, that what he understood was very rational, and he thought what he did not understand was so. But they did not wisely consider things. The present sense of troubles tempted them, either to deny Pro∣vidence, or accuse it. Every day some unhappy wretch or other reproacht their Gods for the disasters he suffered.* Now the end of Philosophy was to re∣dress these evils, to make an afflicted to be a con∣tented state. The Philosophers speak much of the Po∣wer of their Precepts to establish the Soul in the insta∣bility of worldly things, to put it into an impregna∣ble fortress, by its situation above the most terrible accidents. They boasted in a Poetical bravery, of their Victories over Fortune, that they despised its flattery in a calm, and its fury in a storm, and in eve∣ry place erect Trophies to Vertue triumphing over it. These are great words, and sound high, but are empty of substance and reality. Upon tryal we shall find that all their Armour though polish't and shining, yet is not of proof against sharp Afflictions. The Arguments they used for comfort are taken,
*1. From necessity; that we are born to Sufferings, the Laws of humanity, which are unchangeble, sub∣ject Page 353 us to them. But this consideration is not only ineffectual to cause true contentment, but produces the contrary effect. As the strength of Egypt is de∣cribed to be like a reed that will pierce the hand in∣stead of suporting it. For our desires after freedom from miseries are inviolable: so that every evil the more fatal and inevitable 'tis, the more it afflicts us. If there be no way of escape, the Spirit is overcome by impatience, or dispair.
2. From reflexion upon the miseries that befal others.* But this kind of consolation is vicious in its cause, proceeding from secret envy and uncha∣ritableness. There is little difference between him that regards anothers misery to lessen his own, and those who take pleasure in other afflictions. And it administers no real comfort; If a thousand drink of the waters of Marah, they are not less bitter.
3. Others sought for ease under sufferings by re∣membering the pleasures that were formerly enjoy∣ed. But this inflames rather than allays the Distem∣per. For as things are more clearly known, so more sensibly felt by comparison; He that is tormented with the Gout, cannot relieve his misery, by re∣membring the pleasant Wine he drank before his fit.
4. The Stoicks Universal Cure of afflictions was, to change their opinion of them, and esteem them not real evils. Thus Posidonius (so much commen∣ded by Tully) who for many years was under tortu∣ring Diseases and survived a contiunal Death; being visited by Pompey at Rhodes, he entertained him with a Philosophical Discourse, and when his pains were most acute, he said, Nihil agis dolor, quanquam sis mo∣lestus, nunquam te• esse confitebor malum: In vain dost Page 354 thou assault me pain; though thou art troublesome, thou shalt never force me to confess thou art evil. But the folly of this boasting is visible: for though he might appear with a chearful countenance in the Paroxism of his Disease to commend his Philosophy, like a Mountebank that swallows poison to put off his Druggs, yet the reality of his grief was evident: his Sense was overcome, though his Tongue remain∣ed a Stoick. If words could charm the Sense not to feel pains, or compose the mind not to resent afflictions, 'twere material to give molifying Titles to them. But since 'tis not Fancy that makes them stinging, but their contrariety to Nature, 'tis no relief to represent them otherwise than they are.
5. Others compos'd themselves by considering the benefit of patience. Discontent puts an edge on troubles;* to kick against the pricks exasperates the pain, to be restless and turmoiling increases the Fea∣ver. But this is not properly a consolation; for al∣though a calm and quiet submission prevents those new degrees of trouble, which by fretting and vexing we bring upon our selves, yet it doth not remove the evil, which may be very afflicting and grievous in its own nature; so that without other considera∣tions to support the mind, it will sink under it. And as these, so many other Arguments they used to fortifie the Spirit against Sufferings, are like a hedg which at a distance seems to be a safe retreat from Gunshot, but those who retire to it, find it a weak Defence. This appears by the carriage of the best instructed Heathens, in their calamities, Professing themselves to be wise in their Speculations, they be∣came fools in practice, and were confounded with all their Philosophy, when they should have made use Page 355 of it. Some kill'd themselves for the apprehension of sufferings; their death was not the effect of courage but cowardise; the remedy of their fear. Others, impatient of disappointment in their great designs, refused to live. I will instance in two of the most eminent among them, Cato and Brutus, they were both Philosophers of the manly sect; and Vertue never appeared with a brighter lustre among the Hea∣thens, than when joyned with a Stoical resolution.* And they were not imperfect Proficients, but Ma∣sters in Philosophy. Seneca employs all the orna∣ments of his Eloquence to make Catoes Elogy:* He represents him as the consummate exemplar of Wisdom, as one that realized the sublime Idea of Virtue described in their Writings. And Brutus was esteemed equal to Cato. Yet these with all the power of their Philosophy were not able to bear the shock of Adversity. Like raw Fencers, one thrust put them into such disorder, that they forgot all their instructions in the place of trial. For being unsuccesful in their endeavours to restore Rome to its liberty, overcome with discontent and dispair, they laid violent hands upon themselves. Cato be∣ing prevented in his first attempt, afterwards tore open his Wounds with fierceness and rage. And Bru∣tus ready to plunge the Sword into his Breast, com∣plained that Vertue was but a vain name; so insuffici∣ent are the best Precepts of meer natural Reason to relieve us in distress. As Torrents that are dryed up in the heat of Summer when there is the most need of them, so all comforts fail in extremity, that are not derived from the Fountain of Life.
I will only add how ineffectual Philosophy is to sup∣port us in a dying hour. The fear of Death is a Passi∣on Page 356 so strong that by it Men are kept in bondage all their days. 'Tis an Enemy that threatens none whom it doth not strike, and there is none but it threatens. Certainly that Spectre which †Caesar had not courage to look in the face is very affrighting. Alexander himself that so often despised it in the Field; when passion that transported him, cast a Vail over his Eyes, yet when he was struck with a mortal Disease in Babylon, and had Death in his view, * his Palace was filled with Priests and Diviners, and no super∣stition was so sottish, but he used to preserve him∣self. And although the Philosophers seem'd to con∣temn Death, yet the great preparations they made to encounter it,* argue a secret fear in their Breasts. Many Discourses, Reasonings, and Arguments are employed to sweeten that cruel necessity of it, but they are all ineffectual.
*1. That 'tis the condition of our nature: to be a Man and immortal are inconsistent. But this con∣solation afflicts to extremity. If there were any means to escape, the soul might take courage. He is doubly miserable, whose misery is without reme∣dy.
2. That it puts a period to all temporal evils. But as this is of no force with those who are prospe∣rous, and never felt those miseries which make Life intolerable, so it cannot rationally relieve any that have not good hopes of felicity after death. The Heathens discovered not the sting of Death, as 'tis the wages of sin, and consigns the guilty to eternal Death; so that they built upon a false foundation, as if it were the cure of all evils.
3. They encouraged themselves from their igno∣rance of the consequences of death, whether it on∣ly Page 357 changed their place, or extinguish'd their persons.*Socrates who dyed with a seeming indifference, gave this account of it; That he did not know whether death was good or evil. But this is not fortitude, but folly: as Aristotle observes, That a readiness to en∣counter dangers arising from ignorance, is not true valour but a brutish boldness. What madness is it then for one that enters upon an eternal state, not knowing whether it shall be Happy or Miserable, to be uneffected with that dreadful uncertainty?
But now the Gospel furnishes us with real reme∣dies against all the evils of our present state. 'Tis the true Paradise wherein the Tree of Life is planted, whose Leaves are for the healing of the Nations. We are assured that God disposes all things with the Wisdom and Love of a Father, and that his Pro∣vidence is most admirable, and worthy of praise in those things, wherein they who are only led by sence, doubt whether it be at all. For as 'tis the first point of prudence to keep off evils, so the second and more excellent is, to make them beneficial. Christians are more then Conquerours through Christ that loves them. They are always in an ascendent State; and believing, rejoyce with an unspeakable and glorified Joy. Death it self is not only disarmed, but made subser∣vient to their everlasting good. Briefly, Christian Patience endures all things, as well as Charity, be∣cause it expects a blessed issue. It draws from pre∣sent miseries the assurance of future Happinss. A Believer while he possesses nothing but the Cross, sees by Faith the Crown of the Eternal Kingdom hanging over his head; and the lively hope of it makes him not only patient, but thankful and joyful. This sweetens the loss of all temporal goods and the Page 358 presence of all temporal evils. St. Paul in his Chains was infinitely more contented than Caesar or Seneca, than all the Princes and Philosophers in the World.
I will conclude this Argument by a short reflecti∣on on the immoral maxims of several Sects of Phi∣losophers.* The Cynicks assert that all natural acti∣ons may be done in the face of the Sun; that 'tis worthy of a Philosopher, to do those things in the presence of all, which would make impudence it self to blush. A maxime contrary to all the rules of de∣cency, and corruptive of good manners. For as the despising of Vertue, produces the slighting of repu∣tation: So the contempt of reputation causes the neglect of Vertue. Yet the Stoicks with all their gravity were not far from this advice. Besides, among other unreasonable Paradoxes, they assert all sins are equal; that the killing a Bird is of the same guilt with the murdering a Parent: a Principle that breaks the restraints of fear, and shame, and opens a passage to all licentiousness. They commended Self-Murder in several cases; which unnatural fury is culpable in many respects,* of rebellion against God, injustice to others, and cruelty to ones self. Zeno the founder of that Sect practised his own Doctrine. For falling to the ground, he interpreted it to be a Summons to appear in another World, and strangled himself. Aristotle allows the appetite of revenging injuries, to be as natural as the incli∣nation to gratitude, judging according to the com∣mon rule that one contrary is the measure of another. Nay he condemns the putting up an injury as dege∣nerous and servile. He makes indignation at the pros∣perity of unworthy Men a Vertue, (and to prove it, tells us the Grecians attributed it to their Gods Page 359 as a passion becoming the excellency of their natures.) But if we consider the Supreme Disposer of all things may do what he pleases with his own, that he is in∣finitely Wise, and in the next World will dispense Eternal recompences; there is not the least cause of irritation for that seeming disorder.* He also al∣lows pride to be a noble temper that proceeds from a sublime Spirit. He represents his Hero by this a∣mong other characters, that he is displeased with those who mention to him the benefits he hath recei∣ved, which make him inferiour to those that gave them; as if humility and gratitude, were qualities contrary to magnaminity. He condemns Envy (as a vice) that would bring down others to our mean∣ness, but commends Emulation, which urges to as∣cend to the height of them that are above us. But this is no real Vertue, for it doth not excite us by the worth of moral good, but from the vain desire of equality, or preheminence. And Plato himself, though stiled Divine, yet delivers many things that are destructive of moral honesty. He dissolves the most sacred band of humane society, ordaining in his Common-wealth a Community of Wives. He allows an honest man to lie in some occasions; where∣as the rule is Eternal, We must not do evil,*that good may come thereby. In short, a considering Eye will discover many spots, as well as beauties in their most admired institutions. They commend those things as Virtues which are Vices, and leave out those Ver∣tues which are necessary for the perfection of our nature, and the Vertues they commend, are defective in those qualities that are requisit to make them sin∣cere. If Philosophy were Incarnate, and had ex∣prest the Purity and Efficacy of all its Precepts in Page 360 real actions, yet it had abundantly fallen short of that Supernatural, Angelical, Divine Holiness which the Gospel requires. Till the Wisdom of God re∣mov'd his Chair from Heaven to Earth to instruct the World, not only the depravation of the lower facul∣ties, but the darkness of the humane understanding, hindred Men from performing their universal duty. The Gospel alone brings light to the Mind, Peace to the Conscience, Purity to the Affections, and rectitude to the Life.