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Serm. in a condition of yielding to the fincere belief XVIII. of its doctrines, and hearty practice of its pre
cepts: And accordingly it is directed to them in particular; and all others are, as it were, given over as men of whom there is little hopes. i Cor. i. 26. You see your calling, brethren, (says St. Paul) bow that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. It is true they are not peremptorily excluded; but however, the Gofpel speaks of them with a great deal of diffidence, and very little assurance of
them. And therefore in James ii. 5. it is said, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world to be heirs of the kingdom ? And as it follows, the rich men blafpheme that worthy name by which
Now this is so remarkably fact, with respect to the christian religion, that it is become one great argument of its truth and divinity; for among many other things which were foretold of the state of the Gospel, several hundred years before it appeared in the world, this was one; and particularly Ifai. xxix. 19. speaking of the times of the Gospel, says that, the micek fi:all incrcase their joy in the Lord, and it is the poor among men skall rejoice in the holy one of Israel
. This, as well as all the other circumstances foretold, had a most exact completion; and therefore, when the disciples of John came to ask our Saviour whether he were the Meflias instead of a direct answer he obfcrves to them, how the blind receive their
ye are called.
fight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead S er mi are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel XVIII. preached to them. And accordingly the men our Saviour chofe for his disciples were of mean employs, uneducated, and people of his own humble rank in the world. When he began to preach we find, (Luke vii. 29.) that the multitudes and the publicans heard him; but the Scribes, (i. e.) Lawyers, and the Pharisees rejected the counsel of God towards them; des spising the doctrine of our Saviour, as they had before done the baptism of John ; infomuch that they themselves used this as a powerful argument against him; have any of the Rulers and the Pharisee's believed on bim? They were the Scribes (i. e.) Lawyers who came tempting him, and endeavouring to entrap him with insidious questions: He was condemned by the High-Priest and council of the Jews; and was åt last crucified by the power of the magistracy.
After he was gone, and the management of affairs was left to his Disciples, the success was the very same greät multitudes were converted, but still of the meaner fort: And among the Philosophers or Statesmen, the rich and great, and wise men of the world, it was only an odd person here and there that embraced the Gospel. The Christians were of so little note that they could not obtain interest enough in the civil power to stop a persecution, undertaken upon any frivolous pretence ; insomuch that they underwent ten of them E 2
Serm. successively." And though the number of XVIII. christians was very great in the world, yet it was three hundred
years before the Gospel was received at court; and it was no sooner there but it found the poison too strong for the cure: It was remarkably corrupted by what it was designed to reform ; and then began the Arian heresy, with all its various brood of errors, to infect and rend the church in pieces.
Till then heresy never paft into a law, nor was supported by the civil power. improper to fay the church was corrupted, because though there were many hereticks, yet they were always a sect by themselves, and the church never failed to use that power the then had of declaring against vice and error ; and purging herself of all infection; and cutting off all unorthodox members, either in doctrine or practice, from the mystical body of Christ. The governors
of the church had not yet given up that power, derived iminediately from Christ, into the hands of the civil magistrate; and betrayed that jurisdiction, in matters purely ecclesiastical, which they had no power to dispose of; nor others to receive, or exercise it for them.
Nor doth this saying of our Saviour's respect only the first times of the Gospel, but is universally true of all ages of the church. It is among the middle and lower rank of people that there is general the truest and most fee rious sense of religion ; and very little of the
true zeal and spirit of the Gospel is visible in Ser M. the courts of princes, Wherever there is most XVIII. of worldly business and grandeur, there religion finds the coolest entertainment: Not but that there are and have been many particular instances of the contrary; but my meaning is the same with our Saviour's in my text, that this is generally true. And accordingly, the experience of our own age can let us see plainly, how it is the statesmen, and philosophers, and politicians of the world that flight and difregard the Gospel ; it is the pretended wits of the
age who make sport with it; and the refined modish freethinkers, fubtle reasoners that watch to spy out fallacies, and would seripusly argue it out of the world.
II. I am to enquire into the reason of this, and where the true cause of it lies. And before I come to speak more particularly to this, it will be necessary to shew, that it is not any want of evidence, or reasonableness in christianity, that occasions this disesteem of it in the opinion of the rich, and great, and cunning men of this world ; and which makes it more acceptable to the plainer fort of people. If there could have been a religion more agreeable to the highest reason of man, we had not had this. The mysteries of our religion are revealed to us by the same God who gave us our faculties of knowledge, and for him to give us a religion which we cannot entertain without acting in contradiction to these, would be to leave us under a neceflity of disobeying
Serm.him. But if the truths which God hath rea XVIII. vealed to us in Christ be agreeable to the
purest, and most uncorrupt reason of men ; lo that if they consider them without prejudice, it is impossible but they must afsent to them then they are left without excuse; and the name of God will be justified in their condemnation, as it will be glorified in the salvation of all those who believe and entertain them heartily
Now to make it appear that christianity is agreeable to the strictest and most refined reason of men, let us suppose ourselves in a meer state of nature; the very condition that the enemies of revelation are bringing us to as fast as they can; and then consider what things mankind would wish to be resolved in, and what are the points of greatest concernment to us, about which we should be most inquisitive, and which would certainly take up our most anxious thoughts; and we shall find them to be these following.
1. How we came into being; what fort of beings we really are ? And what ends we were made for.
2. How mankind came to be corrupted, and in this miserable condition of infirmity.
3. What cure can be found for this corruption of our natures; to restore us to health both of body and mind.
4. Whether there be another life after this, 5.
What shall be the reward of virtue and the punishment of vice.