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Sense of Religion more observable in
the middle and meaner rank of
MATT. xi. 25.
I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and
earth, because thou haft bid these things from
T hath been ever accounted a great preju-Ser ma
dice against any opinion or profession, and XVIII. never failed to be urged by the enemies thereof, where the cause would bear it, that it hath been generally received by mean and illiterate fort of people ; by such as were low in the opinion of the world, and in least reputation for knowledge and quickness of parts and apprehension: And this not without a very plausible fhew of reason; fince it must be allowed, that ignorance makes men easy and credulous, and this actually disposes them to
Ser m.superstition; to a ready afsent to error and XVIII. delusion, and such a zeal for what they m have once entertained, as makes them resty
and inflexible in it.
Now because this prejudice seems to lie fo fairly against the Gospel, which comes openly recommended to the poor and illiterate; which applies itself professedly to such, and speaks so plainly of the difficulty there is to be rich and wise to enter into the kingdom of heaven: Therefore my design from these words is, to remove this prejudice, and justify the wisdom and goodness of God in this matter.
And this I shall the rather do, because the enemies of revelation think they have this adu vantage against us; for though they do not yet, that I know of, urge it openly, however they insinuate that this gives a gloss and colour to all their arguments ; namely, that they are the men of conversation in the world, and of a more refined education and greater freedom of thought, who incline to reject and despise revelation. But this is so far from being any just prejudice against our cause, that, as I hope will appear, it is much to its advantage; it is no new thing; it was ever so from the begining of the Gospel. And the great author of our religion is so far from lamenting it, or being discouraged with it, that he praises God for it in this hearty form; I thank thee, O Father, Lord of beaven and earth, because thout bast hid these things from the wife and prudent, and kef revealed them unto babes.
Which ejaculation proceeded from a confi- Se R M. deration of that sort of reception his doctrine XVIII. found among men, and the occasion of it was this ; when the disciples of John the Baptist had departed from our Saviour, to whom they came on a message, to know whether he were the Meffias; he took this opportunity to discourse to the multitude concerning John, and t) shew them how inexcusable they were for no: receiving John's testimony concerning him.
It is plain, says he, you all allowed him to be a Prophet ; for surely you did not go into the wilderness upon such a trilling errand as to see a reed played upon by the wind; nor did you go out to him to gratify your curiosity in seeing some great and extraordinary personage ; you would have gone to court for this, and not to a desart. So that it is evident
you all went to him as to a Prophet. And so far you are in the right, for he is more than a Prophet; for the Prophets and the law only prophesied till John ; (i. e.) all that spoke of Christ under the law, only marked him out at a distance; but John actually points him out and says, this is he. Now though you acknowledged him to be a Prophet, as he is in truth more than a Prophet; and though ye were all baptized into his doctrine, which was that of the immediate presence of the Messias ; yet now you act in contradiction both to yourselves and him, in not rccciving
SER M. me for the Messias when he tells you plainly, XVIII. that I am he.
Upon this he observes to them how they frustrated all the methods of God for their conversion ; especially the Scribes and Pharisees; and Rulers, who of all men had the best title to him and his doctrine, and ought to have received him with the greatest readiness and chearfulness. But on the contrary, from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force (i. e.) from the beginning of John's baptism to this very day, it is obfervable how the wiseft and greatest men of the Jews, the generality of the rulers, neglected the high privileges of the Gospel, and despised the mercies of God offered to them in Christ: Whereas the publicans and finners, the proselytes, and mixt multitudes break in
their inheritance, seize upon their birth-right, and share it among them like a prey; and they whose more immediate right the Gospel is, are totally excluded from any share, like persons robbed and plundered of all their substance. Therefore it is that he rejoiced in Spirit, as St. Luke hath it, and of fered up this thanksgiving to almighty God, that he had thus hid these things from the wife and prudent, and had revealed them unto babes.
By babes, in this text, we are to understand innocent, plain, and honest persons of a low and meaner rank among men, who are little in the esteemr of the world for their want SERM. of riches and honour, their learning and parts: XVIII. As they are opposed to the wise, and rich, and powerful men of this world; and they are called babes from that simplicity and ingenuity of disposition which is generally remarkable in them; and hardly to be found among those whose minds are full of the knowledge, and the wealth, and grandeur of this life:
The occasion and meaning of these words being thus explained ; in enlarging on them I Thall observe this method.
1. I shall be a little more particular in shewing the truth of this saying of our blessed Saviour's.
2. I shall consider the reasons of this, and where the true cause of it lies. 3:
I shall shew where the great wisdom of God appears in this manner of dispensation.
4. And lastly I shall draw some inferences from the whole, and make some application of it to the two different forts of people mentioned in my text: . :: I. As for the truth of this saying, it hath appeared in a great degree already from what hath been said; and perhaps there is not any one thing more frequently and plainly inculcated in the holy fcriptures, than the great indisposition of the wise, and rich, and powerful
, for the reception and practice of the Gospel ; ånd therefore the
and ignorant, the people of no figure, or notice in the world, are every were fuppofed to be the only persons Vol. II. E