Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

are all but little enough, and it is well we can S erm,
preserve our innocency when all is done. XXIV.

Nor can it be any disparagement to them
grace of God, but for the praise and glory of
it, that it is powerful enough to prevail with
men to put in practice all those means of vir-
tụe recommended to us in the holy scriptures,
and that it gives a blessing and success to them
in the attainment of virtue and holiness. St.
Paul who had miraculous degrees of the fpi-
rit, and had vouchsafements and revelations
beyond any they can pretend to, tells us it
was his own practice to keep his body under,
and bring it in subjection. And to convince
us how necessary a means of virtue this may
be, he adds this reason for his so doing, left,
while he preached to others, he bimself mould
be a cast away. Our Saviour who had the spi-.
rit without measure, yet lived a life of con-
stant severity, and self-denial, and fasted
forty days and forty nights, and bid his dif-'
ciples watch and pray, that they enter not into
temptation. And after the Holy Ghost had
come upon them, fasting and prayer was
their constant practice. And if after this, these
perfons will think or say, they have less occa-
sion for mortifications and felf-denial than
any of these, we must leave them to their
spiritual pride, and, in the humility of our
souls, fet ourselves to the practice of what
the wisdom of God hath thought necessary

for

Ser m. for us, thus thrcugh the spirit to mortify the XXIV.deeds of the body.

And as we learn from hence the necessity of mortifications and self-denial, which the text supposes frequently to occur in the course of a christian life, so we learn likewise the true limitation of them ; how far they are to be esteemed and thought necessary; and wherein the just value of them lies; namely, as far as they are instrumental to the prevention of a sin, or obtaining of a virtue ; it is when our eye offends us we are to pluck it out, when it is the occasion of fin or hindrance of a virtue; for otherwise, where men over-value things of this nature, and lay too great a stress upon them, considered in themselves without farther regard to the end or design of them, they become foolish and superstitious.

By this mistake men lose the end, and rest

only in the means, as is manifest and visible in 4 the church of Rome; for to what purpose are

all those whippings with scourges, and lashing of themselves; that pageantry of heathen cruelty? What means that shunning of the conversation of the world in cloysters; their pilgrimages, their antique shavings, and frightful dresses; their hair clothes; going barefoot, with eyes fixt on the ground, and all that strange variety of ill contrived penances ; who requires these things at their hands? Our Saviour indeed bids us cut off our right hand, and pluck out our right eye when it offends, us (i. e.) to part

[ocr errors]

with the dearest enjoyment in this world, when SER M.
it is the occasion of a sin or the hindrance of a XXIV.
virtue ; therefore they will cut off a great many
things which do not offend them, and sparę
and cherish thofe things that do ; in hopes that
their penances shall atone for the guilt of
those fins they indulge themselves in ; thus they
pervert our Saviour's design in this, as they do
in all other respects ; destroying the power of
godliness, and turning all religion into air.

III. Another thing which is evidently implied in these words is, that there is no purging or expiation of a sin in another life; and that there can be no such place as purgatory, where by undergoing very acute pains, for a limited time, and enduring exquisite torture in proportion to the greatness of mens sins, or by the prayers of the church which are offered up for them; all their vitious inclinations are cured, and they perfectly cleansed from the guilt of all their sins, and in the

very

same disposition for heaven as if they had mortified and subdued all their sinful inclinations in this life.

I say it is plain from the text, how there is no such provision made in another world, to save men the labour of acquiring true virtue and holiness here; for there is a direct opporition here made between the kingdom of God on the one hand, and hail fire on the other, a fire which never shall be quenched', and the whole force of what our Saviour fays need pends upon this supposition, that there is an

unavoidable

[ocr errors]

SER M. unavoidable necessity of mens taking up with XXIV. one or the other, and that they are for ever to who be determined by that choice they make in this

world. Whereas upon the principle of the church of Rome in this matter, it is easy to evade the force of the dilemma; namely, that we may keep both our eyes in this world, and yet enter into the kingdom of God through purgatory; it is only the being cast into a place where their worm will die, and their fire be quenched after a season, at least in respect of us who shall be delivered out of it by the prayers of the saints upon earth.

But here we are taught, that men are under a fatal necessity, either of entering into the kingdom of God, or of being cast into a fire which shall never be quenched ; and that the final issue of things in another world will depend upon our cutting off our limbs here, and plucking out our eyes, (i. e.) upon the effectual mortification of all our sinful appetites and vitious inclinations, while we are in this world; now is the only time of putting ourselves into a posture for heaven ; and if we flip this short space of life, we shall never have another

opportunity afforded us in all eternity.

And yet how contrary is the doctrine of the church of Rome to this plain and express doctrine of our Saviour, which teaches US,

that in case men do slip their time here, yet there is a farther remedy hereafter ; another way

of being purged from their fins, though more

painful

to

painful and troublesome than that which is S E R M.
here proposed to us : Upon which groundless XXIV.
confidence people omit the practice of all those
virtues and

graces,
that have

any thing of trouble or uneasiness in the attainment of them, and indulge their vices; so strangely are men milled and deluded, by the opinion they have of others, contrary to their own sense and reason : For if they would freely use that measure of understanding they have, instead of observing this plain express doctrine of our Saviour, they would never give themselves

up the conduct of those who teach the very reverfe of this precept; and, by keeping their people in ignorance, do in effect take away both their eyes, and send them blindfold into that fire which shall never be quenched.

4. Another thing I shall obferve to you from these words is, that the only sure and effectual means of overcoming temptation is to cut off all the occasions and opportunities of finning, either to remove the temptation from us, or ourselves from the temptation ; if we suffer it near us, it is odds but it will gain upon the strongest and most sincere resolutions : And therefore, our blessed Saviour who knew the infirmity of our nature, and the utmost of our strength, prescribes us this as the only expedient in cases of strong and dangerous temptations; to cut off and cast away from us any thing that offends us, and is the occasion of drawing us into a fin; and the reason why

the

1

1

« PreviousContinue »