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SERMON XXXI. The divine eloquence of our Saviour
JOHN vii. 46.
HEN the chief Priests and Pharisees, XXXI.
the most inveterate enemies of our Saviour, saw that his divine discourses met with success among the people, they began to be apprehensive what might be the consequence; for many believed on him ; infomuch, that the multitude was already divided, and they had reason to fear, as they did, that the world might go after him: And since they had no other way of confuting him but by force, they sent soldiers to apprehend him; who when they came, and heard those excellent discourses he made to the people at the feast, returned without executing their commands; and made no other excuse for themselves but that in the words of this text, that never man spake like this man. They did not say for themselves,
that they could not find an opportunity, or SERM. that they feared the multitude, which they XXXI. might have done, as the case stood, with great Thew of probability; but they freely and ingenuously confessed the truth, that though they went with command and firm resolution to seize him, yet there were such charms and conviction in all he said, that he sent them away with a full persuasion that he was an excellent person. He spoke so well in his own defence, and reasoned so clearly concerning things, out of the reach of the common understanding of men before, that they were even amazed to hear, and had neither heart nor power left to lay hands upon him.
I shall not stay to draw a comparison between those great names for oratory among the heathen, and the divine eloquence of our blessed Saviour: I shall only observe in short, that they adapted themselves and all they said to men's lusts and passions; to their corrupt appetites and inclinations, and took all advantages of their ignorance, and prejudice, and credulity; whereas our Saviour laid all that aside, and applied himself only to the purest reason of men, and their best and most regular inclinations; having no end but one, namely, to lay a firm foundation for holiness: They persuaded by soothing and cherishing the imperfections of nature; his discourses tended only to heal and rectify them: They moved with sensible representations only; he insisted on things spiritual and insensible: Their great
SERM. topicks were riches, and honours, and pleaXXXI. sures, and ease, and splendor; his rhetorick
was crosses and misfortunes, afflictions and miseries, torments and death; insomuch, that he preached what was altogether new to the world, that they were blessed that mourn; and that through much tribulation men must enter into the kingdom of Heaven: They used all the methods of delusion and fallacy, those words of men's wisdom; he overcame only by undisguised and naked truth. By this short comparison, we see how little those mighty standards of heathen eloquence begin to appear already; for in truth their oratory was but one great art of deceiving. How very different from this is that of our Saviour, who never spoke but that men might become more wise, and virtuous, and holy? It is no strange thing that a great father of the primitive church made it the first of his three wilhes, to have seen our Saviour in the flesh: But it may juftly raise our admiration, that the second should be the hearing St. Paul preach; for who was more like to have gratified his curiosity, and filled his expectations, than he who was the very Word of God; as he was the most excellent person that ever was, so he was the greatest orator. The tongues of men and angels are not able to describe this divine eloquence, according to the worth and dignity of it. But since he is our great Lord and Master whom we must follow, tủough at such an immense distance behind; and a guide that
we must ever keep in sight, though we can SERM. never overtake him; and that we of the cler- XXXI. gy are to imitate him in a double sense, as well in his manner of teaching, as in the practice of holiness; I shall enter upon the consideration of this divine eloquence of our Saviour; that through the assistance of that Spirit that was on him without measure, among the other perfections of his most holy life, we may in some degree copy after him in this, which is the great privilege and glory of our order. And in doing this, I shall
I. Consider the matter and substance of what he spoke, and the style he used.
II. I shall consider some of those advantages our blessed Saviour had, beyond allothers, to speak as never man spake; and how far he is imitable by us in those instances.
. I. And first, as to the matter and substance of his speech, it excelled all others in these three respects.
1. That it was of things beyond the reach of men to conceive, those mysteries of Christianity which lay' hid from the foundation of the world, and which it was impossible for the utmost strength of reason to discover any thing of. And indeed who could reveal the secret will and mind of God, besides him who came down from God? Who but he that was the eternal wisdom of the Father, could shew men that there was a satisfaction to be made to the justice of God for the sins of men ? that God incarnate was to lay down his life a ransom for ma
SERM. ny: and that through his blood, repenting XXXI. finners were to be made clean? The whole
world had been used to offer facrifices, in order to appease their Deities; but he alone could discover to us, that the blood of bulls and of goats could not take away sin; and therefore, that what efficacy there was in them, was only, as they had a respect to that one great facrifice, which alone could be a sufficient atonement for them.
Who besides could teach men, that a supernatural assistance was necessary to think rightly in religious matters, to help us to form true notions of God and ourselves; and that we could never overcome our evil inclinations, and raise our minds to virtue and holiness, by mere strength of nature? He alone could teach how the lost condition of mankind was to be restored; how our Nhattered and distempered nature was to be healed; and by what methods we are again to be re-instated in the favour of God; how we are to recover the divine image we lost in our fall, and again become perfect, as our Father which is in Heaven is perfeet.
He alone could teach us the doctrine of the Trinity; that we are to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost ; that God is a Spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth; that the inward rectitude of our minds is necessary to please him who is the searcher of bearts, and that he values no outward observances without įt; that he will have mercy, and not sacrifice;