صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

made to be the state of every returning sinner; and men are taught that they must pass through the terrors of the Law, before they can receive the mercies of the Gospel. The law was a schoolmaster to bring the synagogue to Christ; it was so to them who were under the law, but it cannot be so to us, “ who are not under the law, but under grace.” For if they mean 'the law of works, or that interposition which was the first intercourse with man, they lose their title to the mercies of the Gospel; if they mean the law of Moses,' then they do not “ stand fast in the liberty, by wbich Christ hath made them free.” But whatsoever the meaning be, neither of them can concern Christians. For God hath sent his Son to establish a better covenant in his blood, to preach repentance, to offer pardon, to condemn sin in the flesh, to publish the righteousness of God, to convince the world of sin by his Holy Spirit, to threaten damnation, not to sinners absolutely, but absolutely to the impenitent, and to promise and give salvation to his sons and servants.

5. I. The use that we Christians are to make of the law, is only to magnify the mercies of God in Jesus Christ, who hath freed us from so severe a covenant, who does not judge us by the measures of an angel, but by the span

of a man's hand. But we are not to subject ourselves, so much as by fiction of law or fancy, to the curse and threatenings of the covenant of works, or of Moses' law, though it was of more instances and less severity, by reason of the allowance of sacrifices for expiation.

6. II. Every Christian man sinning, is to consider the horrible threatenings of the Gospel, the severe intermination of eternal pains, the goodness of God leading to repentance, the severity of his justice in exacting great punishments of criminals, the reasonableness of this justice punishing such persons intolerably, who would not use so great a grace in so pleasing a service, for the purchase of so glorious a reward. The terrors of the law did end in temporal death, they could affright no farther; but in the Gospel, heaven and hell were opened, and laid before all mankind : and therefore, by these measures, a sinner is to enter into the sorrows of contrition and the care of his amendment. And it is so vain a thing to think every sinner must, in his repentance, pass under the terrors of the law, that this is a very

destruction of that reason, for which they are fallen upon the opinion. The Law is not enough to affright sinners; and the terrors of the Gospel are far more to persevering and impenitent sinners, than the terrors of the law were to the breakers of it. The cause of the mistake is this: the Law was more terrible than the Gospel is, because it allowed no mercy to the sinner in great instances : but the Gospel does. But then if we compare the state of those men who fell under the evils of the Law, with these who fall under the evils threatened in the Gospel, we shall find these to be in a worse condition than those by far, as much as hell is worse than being stoned to death, or thrust through with a sword. This we are taught by that excellent author of the divine Epistle to the Hebrews; “He that despised Moses's law, died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace?” So that, under the Gospel, he that sins and repents, is in a far better condition, than he that sinned under the Law, and repented. For repentance was not then allowed of; the man was to die without mercy. But he that sins and repents not, is, under the Gospel, in a far worse condition than under the Law; for under the Gospel, he shall have a far sorer' punishment, than under the Law was threatened. Therefore, let no man mistake the mercies of the new covenant, or turn the grace of God into wantonness. The mercies of the Gospel neither allow us to sin, nor inflict an easier punishment; but they oblige us to more holiness, under a greater penalty. In pursuance of which, I add,

7. III. The covenant by which mankind must now be judged, is a covenant of more mercy, but also of more holiness : and therefore let no man think that now he is disobliged from doing good works, by being admitted to the covenant of faith: for though the covenants are opposed, as old and new, as a worse and a better, yet faith and works are not opposed. We are, in the Gospel, tied to more, and to more excellent works than ever the subjects of any law were; but if, after a hearty endeavour, we fall into infirmity, and

i Heb. x. 28, 29.

[ocr errors]

still strive against it, we are pitied here, but there we were not. Under the first covenant, the covenant of works, no endeavour was sufficient, because there was no allowance made for infirmities, no abatements for ignorance, no deductions of exact measures, no consideration of surprises, passions, folly, and inadvertency: but under the new covenant, our hearty endeavour is accepted; but we are tied to endeavour higher and more excellent things than they. But he that thinks this mercy gives him liberty to do what he please, loses the mercy, and mistakes the whole design and economy of God's loving-kindness.

8. IV. To every Christian it is enjoined, that they be perfect: that is, according to the measure of every one : which perfection consists in doing our endeavour. He that does not do that, must never hope to be accepted, because he refuses to serve God by something that is in his power. But he that does that, is sure that God will not refuse it; because we cannot be dealt withal upon any other account, but by the measures of what is in our power; and for what is not, we cannot take care.

9. V. To do our endeavour or our best, is not to be understood equally in all the periods of our life, according to the work or effect itself, not according to our natural powers, but it is accounted for by the general measures and great periods of our life. A man cannot pray always with equal intention, nor give the same alms, nor equally mourn with sharpness for his sins. But God having appointed for every duty proper seasons and solemnities, hath declared, that he does his best, who heartily endeavours to do the duty in its proper season: but it were well we would remember, that he that did a good act to-day, can do the same to-morrow in the same circumstances; and he that yesterday fought a noble battle and resisted valiantly, can, upon the same terms, contend as manfully every day, if he will consider and watch. And though it will never be, that men will always do as well as at some times, yet when at any time they commit a sin, it is not because they could not, but because they would not, help it.

10. VI. He that would be approved in doing his best, must omit no opportunity of doing a good action; because, when it is placed in its proper circumstances, God lays his

hand upon it, and calls to have it done, and there can be no excuse for the omission. He does not do his best, that does not do that, because such a person does voluntarily omit the doing of a good, without just cause; and that cannot proceed from an innocent principle.

11. VII. He that leaves any thing undone which he is commanded to do, or does what he is commanded to forbear, and considers or chooses so to do,-does not do his best, cannot plead his privilege in the Gospel; but is fallen under the portion of sinners; and will die, if he does not repent and make it up some way or other, by sorrow, and a future diligence.

12. VIII. To sin against our conscience, can, at no hand, consist with the duty of Christian perfection; because he loves not God with all his heart, nor serves him with all his strength, who gives some of his strength, and some of his affection, to that which God forbids.

13. IX. No man must account that he does his duty, that is, his best, or according to the perfection required of Christians; but he that does better and better, and grows towards the measures of the fulness of Christ. For perfection' is an infinite word; and it could not be communicated to several persons of different capacities and degrees, but that there is something common to them all, which hath analogy and equivalent proportions. Now nothing can be 'perfect, but that to which nothing is wanting; and therefore a man is not any way perfect but by doing all, all that he can; for then nothing is wanting to him, when he hath put forth all his strength. For perfection is not to be accounted, by comparing the subjects wbich are perfect; for in that sense nothing is perfect but God; but perfection is to be reckoned by every man's own proportions : for a body may be a perfect body, though it have not the perfection of a soul; and a man is perfect when he is heartily and entirely God's servant, though he have not the perfection of St. Paul; as a man is a meek man, though he be not so meek as Moses or Christ. But he is not meek, if he keeps any fierceness or violence within. But then because to be more perfect is incident with human nature, he that does not endeavour to get as much as he can, and more than he hath, he hath not the perfection of holy desires. Therefore,

14. X. Every person that is in the state of grace, and designs to do his duty, must think of what is before him, not what is past ; of the stages that are not yet run, not of those little portions of his course he hath already finished.

Ut cum carceribus missos rapit ungula currus,
Instat equis auriga saos vincentibus, illum

Præteritum temnens extremos inter eantemk. For so did the contenders in the Olympic races, never look behind but contend forwards: and from hence St. Paul' gives the rule I have now described. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling. Let therefore as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” That is, no man can do the duty of a Christian, no man can in any sense be perfect, but he that adds virtue to virtue, and one degree of grace unto another,

Nil actum credens, cum quid superesset agendum ". “Nothing is finished, as long as any thing is undone.” For our perfection is always growing; it stands not, till it arrive at the teleiwols antov, the crowning of him that runs. For the enforcing of which the more, I only use St. Chrysostom’s argument; Ει δε ο τοσαυτα παθών, ει δε ο διωκόμενος, ει δε ο την νέκρωσιν έχων, ούπω εθάρρει περί της αναστάσεως εκείνης, Ti åv čítwiev nueis; If St. Paul, who had done so much, and suffered so much, was not very confident, but that if he did look back, he might also fall back ; what shall we say, whose perfection is so little, so infant and imperfect, that we are come forwards but a little, and have great spaces still to measure?

15. XI. Let every man that is, or desires to be, perfect, endeavour to make up the imperfection or meanness of his services, by a great, a prompt, an obedient, a loving, and a friendly mind. For in the parable our blessed Lord hath taught us, that the servant who was bidden to plough the field, or feed the cattle, is still called an unprofitable servant", because he hath done only what was commanded him; that is, they had done the work,' utcunque,' some way or other;'

1 Phil. iii. 13, 14.
n Luke, xvii. 7.

k Horat. Serm. 1. 1. 11 1.
m Lucan, ii. 657.

« السابقةمتابعة »