« FöregåendeFortsätt »
ments, and the manifold evil consequences both as to their bodies and souls, and good names, and estates, which they suffer upon the account of them. Whence we may cry out with the Preacher, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, which does not tend to the care of the immortal soul. For the bocły itself, to which alone such gratifications are suited, is ever tending toward the dust, and will soon be stripped of all sensation of all workily things, and entirely lose the relish of those things thit once had been most agreeable to it. And yet no man is exempt from this debt: we must all
down to the silent grave, and can carry none of those things along with us; and all our pleasur, s and ease, if they should happen to last so long, must then have their end. Whereas,
III. On the other hand, that, which serves the interest of our souls, is more lasting, and is never taken from us, whose state hereafter will be det imined by our behaviour in this life; heaven or hell, happiness or nisery, will be our final portion ; just as death finds us: as soon as death strikes, we either are in torments, or go to paradise ; either become the companions of devils, or the associates of holy angels, so to remain to all eternity; and therefore our greatest care should be to avoid the one and obtain the other. We are often determined in the affairs of this life by the hope and fear of things to come; as all our pursuits, and most of our actions, are for the sake of something future, and not yet in sight; that is, either to prevent some evil feared, or to obtain some good desired ; for, in the beginning of life, people apply themselves to become masters of some profession or trade, or business, in hopes of a livelihood, or of serviceableness, when they arrive at riper years; though thy are not sure they shåll ever live to be masters of what they labour after, nor certain of success in the most prudent steps they can take to accomplish the end of their worldly expectations, of which we have far less certainty than of an immortal state. Shall it then be said, that we shall be less diligent in the care of our souls, whose affairs are not so uncertain ? For, though we therein act upon a future prospect ; yet divine promise ascertains us of sucess
in the way of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Wherefore, though the benefit is future, that is no reason to abate our zeal in prosecuting it. I have observed, that reason does not prevail to slacken men's endeavours for their worldly gain: how unreasonable then must they be, who have the advantage of a better hope in their aims for another life, and yet neglect the means to attain that happy state? Again, it can be no excuse for a man to say, that he cannot comply with that self-denial, mortification, and other christian duties, which are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, and without which the soul languisheth, is sick, and his faith is dead: for he cannot be ignorant of that plain rule of wisdom, to decline a present pleasure for one equal to it of longer continuance; or to submit to a present inconvenience to prevent one more lasting; or to obtain a more lasting good, though there should be no difference in the things themselves, but only in their duration. A wise man will never refuse to go through a short course of physic in an ill habit of body, upon a fair prospect of procuring a regular state of health thereby; nor neglect to give a small sum of money in hand, upon security of enjoying a good inheritance in a few
years after: and shall he neglect to take proper care of his soul, to cleanse it from all impurity, and to prepare it for the enjoyment of that blessed state of eternal happiness, which is promised to all those who love God, and keep his commandments? Especially knowing that the most lasting things below bear no proportion to eternal happiness.
If we measure them with eternity, they are as nothing ; and a minute compared with our whole lives is no proportion in comparison of time and eternal duration. Therefore whatever is temporal is incapable of giving full satisfaction, because it may be taken from us. So, when we are upon an inquiry after happiness, we may discern at first, that earth
says, It is not in me; for everything here is perishing, and must soon have an end. Thus the continuance of happiness is the most satisfying character of it; and the eternity of misery the most bitter ingredient thereof. It is impossible to be perfectly happy with the prospect of an end before one. This consideration would magnify inferior delights, to think that we should never be deprived of them: and light afflictions, with eternity written upon them, could not be born. What then shall we think of perfect happiness and complete misery, both of the highest kind, and both eternal, and in one of which mankind must live for ever? Then let us apply to ourselves the force and evidence of that question, What is a man profited, if he would gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or, what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Time bears no proportion to eternity. The most exalted pleasures of this life, which at best are but of a short continuance, can never compensate for the loss of that happiness, which God has prepared for them that love him. Yet there are too many who make this sad choice. Not that any one chooses evil for the sake of evil, or prefers misery before happiness: but as he, who obeys the commandments of God, chooses life; so he, who transgresses them, chooses death; that death which God has threatened to the sinner, even death eternal; for the wages of sin is death. Therefore,
IV. As the portion of the body at the last day must follow the condition of the soul, it is our greatest interest to consider the present state of human nature, and the means by which alone it is possible for us to be made happy. For, if we neglect the disorders of the understanding, will, and affections, which are the parts of the soul, the flesh will ruin us, at the very time it pretends to please us; and the devil will gain many opportunities to beguile us : while the understanding is darkened and shut to good instructions, the will inclines to choose the evil, and the affections are bent after the pleasures of sin. It is true, man was made holy and upright by God; but having by his voluntary transgression, and wilful disobedience, fallen from him, did presently sink into a corrupt and degenerate, into a miserable and cursed condition, both in respect of this life, and to that life which is to come; and the disobedience of our first parents involved their posterity, and entailed a depravity of nature upon their descendants; which depravity, though it is not a sin in us, till the will closes with it, and deliberately consents to it; yet it is certainly sinful in itself; and consequently is styled Original Sin. Therefore our church has rightly decreed, That
• Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is ingendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteoysiness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil; so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore, in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain; yea, in them that are regenerated. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.'* So thus, by original sin, man is not only deprived of the image of God, but becomes liable to his justice; and, as such, God cannot take pleasure in him: and that man who dies before he is restored to his.. favour, must be separated from him, and be for ever mi. serable. And as man could not recover himself, nor raise himself out of his own ruin; and as no creature was able to do it; the mercy of God pitied our misery, and his wisdom devised this expedient to reconcile his mercy and justice, viz. that no man should on account of original sin be eternally miserable, except through his own fault: and his goodness resolved, that the Son of God should undertake this work, and satisfy the offended justice of the Almighty, and repair the ruined nature of mankind. Thus,
God did enter into a new covenant with man, by way of remedy for what was past and could not be undone; which, as may
be fully collected from the gospel, was to this purpose: That, on condition of man's stedfast faith, sincere repentance, and perfect obedience, he should be restored through Christ to God's favour; and after death, to that life and happiness, which was promised to our first parents, without tasting of death.
And the condition on God's part of the covenant, the remission of sins, is always ready to be made good, if we fail not on our part of having worthily repented
• See the 9th Article of Religion.
reformed our lives. Our Saviour has made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world; he has suffered a cruel and ignominious death
upon the cross for our sakes, and by his death and sufferings has purchased this grace for us, that real repentance and sincere obedience shall be accepted instead of in
But without this repentance and renewed obedience we shall not be accepted upon any terms. crifice which he offered upon the cross, although of infinite value, will be of no avail to us, unless, in conformity to his death and resurrection, we die unto sin, and rise again unto newness of life. Nothing but a good life will entitle us to the favour and love of God; and without his favour we are of all creatures the most miserable. Not that the condition of the gospel covenant is a perfect unsinning obedience, but a sincere endeavour to obey all the commands of God to the utmost of our power. Which commands, in their general and most proper sense, are so far from being impossible to be observed, that on the contrary a man cannot easily transgress them, without a hardened conscience and deliberate choice. And whenever God requires more of us than we are naturally able to perform, he never fails to afford us proportionally great assistance, to enable us to perform what has requires. And if through the frailty and infanity of our nature we be at any time, notwithstanding our sincere endeavours to the contrary, surprised into the commission of sin, God accepts real repentance and a renewed obedience, instead of an uninterrupted course of holiness. Hence it is abundantly evident, that as the true and only design of the laws of the gospel is to make us holy and undefiled; so it is possible for us to be really holy according to the true intent and meaning of those laws. Wherefore, as the excellent nature and design of our religion sufficiently recommend it to our judgment; so the possibility of obeying it is a most powerful encouragement to set us in earnest about the practice of it. But then we must always consider, that as Gol requires nothing more of us, than a sincere obedience according to the gracious terms of the gospel covenant; so he will not accept of any thing less: for as it is possible