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SERM. the Mosaical dispensation was in the design thereof mutable and transitory; that God intended, what the apostle affirms effected by our Saviour, an abrogation of the precedent command for its weakness and unprofitableness. Thus doth God's design concerning the abolition of this religion appear by verbal testimonies; the same we see also declared by real effects his providence hath made good his word; he hath not only disobliged men from that religion, but hath manifestly discountenanced it; yea, hath disabled even the most obstinate adherents in opinion and will thereto from the practice and exercise thereof, according to its primitive rules and prescriptions. Long is it (for above fifteen hundred years) since they, exiled from their ancient country, and scattered over the world, have wanted a place whither to resort, wherein to perform those most weighty parts of worship and service to God, oblation of sacrifices, incense and tithes; their tribes being confounded, the distinction of priesthood and people seems taken away; all the mysterious emblems of God's special presence, all the tokens of God's favour and endearment to them are embezzled and quite lost; nothing is left substantial or solemn in their religion, which if they would they could put in practice: all that they retain of their ancient institution is the observation of some petty formalities, in matters of less importance; which also they have so blended and corrupted with impure mixtures of their own device and forgery, false and impious opinions, ridiculous and uncouth ceremonies, idle and absurd stories, that we may justly suppose genuine Judaism nowhere to be found; that it cannot be, nor is indeed any where, practised.
Heb. vii. 18.
So that what reason shewed fit to be, what God SERM. XV. had declared should be, that experience doth attest to be done; the cessation and abolition of that way of religion, both as to obligation and use.
So I pass over this second step of my intended Discourse that no other religion, excepting Christianity, which hath been, or is in being, can reasonably pretend to have proceeded from God, as a universal, complete, and final declaration of his mind and will to mankind. Such as we argued it probable that so wise a God, so just a Lord, so gracious a Father would sometime afford to his poor miserable creatures and children, the sons of Adam.
I have two great steps yet to take: one, that Christianity is in itself a doctrine and law endued with the forementioned conditions; in all respects worthy to come from God, apt to promote his glory, and procure man's benefit. Another, that it de facto did proceed from God, was attested to by him, and established by his authority. Which propositions I shall hereafter, by God's grace, endeavour to prove.
And in Jesus Christ, &c.
OF THE EXCELLENCY OF THE CHRISTIAN
1 Cor. ii. 6.
We speak wisdom to those which are perfect. SERM. THE meaning of these words, upon viewing the context, and weighing the scope of St. Paul's discourse, I take to be in effect this; that however such parts of the Christian doctrine, which St. Paul discovered unto those whom he began to instruct 1 Cor. iii. therein, the milk which he gave the babes in Christ to drink, especially as propounded, proved, and persuaded in so plain and simple a manner, without advantages of subtile reasoning or elegant language, might seem to persons really ignorant, unskilful, and dull of apprehension, (although much conceited of their own knowledge, wit, and reach,) or to men prepossessed with contrary notions and corrupt affections, to be foolish and unreasonable: yet that the whole doctrine, such as it is in itself, being entirely disclosed unto perfect men, that is, to men of an adult and improved understanding, well disposed and capable, void of prejudicate conceits, and cleansed
from vicious dispositions, would appear wisdom; SERM. wisdom, that is, not only exactly true, but highly important, and very well suited to the attainment of the best ends; even those ends, which it pretendeth to bring about, which are manifestly the most excellent that any knowledge can aim at; the glorifying of God, and salvation of man: this I suppose to be St. Paul's assertion here; and thereof it is my intent, by God's assistance, to endeavour now some declaration and proof, by representing briefly some peculiar excellencies and perfections of our religion; which may serve to evince the truth, and evidence the wisdom thereof; to make good, that indeed our religion well deserveth the privilege it doth claim of a divine extraction, that it is not an invention of man, but, as St. Paul calleth it, the wisdom of God, 1 Cor. ii. 7. proceeding from no other author but the God of truth and wisdom. It is indeed a common subject, and so the best ever should be; it is always profitable, and now seasonable to inculcate it, for the confirmation of ourselves, and conviction of others, in this age of wavering and warping toward infidelity; wherefore, regarding more the real usefulness of the matter than the squeamish fancy of some auditors, I shall without scruple propound what my own meditation hath suggested about it.
1. The first excellency peculiar to the Christian Matt. xi.27. doctrine I observe to be this; that it assigneth a knoweth true, proper, and complete character or notion of any man God; (complete, I mean, not absolutely, but in re- save the spect to our condition and capacity;) such a notion to whomas agreeth thoroughly with what the best reason Son will dictateth, the works of nature declare, ancient tra- reveal him. dition doth attest, and common experience doth in
Son, and he
SERM. timate concerning God; such a character as is apt XVI. to breed highest love and reverence in men's hearts toward him, to engage them in the strictest practice of duty and obedience to him. It ascribeth unto him all conceivable perfections of nature in the highest degree; it asserteth unto him all his due rights and prerogatives; it commendeth and justifieth to us all his actions and proceedings. For in his essence it representeth him one, eternal, perfectly simple and pure, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, independent, impassible, and immutable; as also, according to his essential disposition of will and natural manner of acting, most absolute and free, most good and benign, most holy and just, most veracious and constant; it acknowledgeth him the maker and upholder of all beings, of what nature and what degree soever; both material and immaterial, visible and invisible; it attributeth to him supreme majesty and authority over all. It informeth us, that he framed this visible world with especial regard to our use and benefit; that he preserveth it with the same gracious respect; that he governeth us with a particular care and providence; viewing all the thoughts, and ordering all the actions of men to good ends, general or particular. It declareth him in his dealings with rational creatures very tender and careful of their good, exceedingly beneficent and merciful toward them; compassionate of their evils, placable for their offences, accessible and inclinable to help them at their entreaty, or in their need; yet nowise fond or indulgent to them; not enduring them to proceed in perverse or wanton courses; but impartially just, and inflexibly severe toward all iniquity obstinately pursued; it, in short, describeth