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even to our parents or our children the charities of religion ought to be greater than the affections of society. And though we are bound in all offices exterior to prefer our relatives before others, be- " cause that is made a duty; yet to purposes spi-3 ritual, all persons eminently holy put on the efficacy of the same relations, and pass a duty upon us of religious affections.
10. At the command of Jesus the water-pots were filled with water, and the water was by his divine power turned into wine; where the dif- ?. ferent economy of God and the world is highly observable : ‘Every man sets forth good wine at first, and then the worse ;' but God not only turns the water into wine, but into such wine that the last draught is most pleasant. The world presents us with fair language, promising hopes, convenient fortunes, pompous honours; and these are the outsides of the bole: but when it is swallowed," these dissolve in the instant, and there remains bitterness, and the malignity of coloquintida. Every sin smiles in the first address, and carries light in the face, and honey in the lip; but when we have well drunk, then comes that which is worse;' a whip with six strings, fears and terrors of conscience, and shame and displeasure, and a caitive disposition, and diffidence in the day of death. But when, after the manner of the purifying of the Christians, we fill our water-pots with water, watering our couch with our tears, and moistening our cheeks with the perpetual distillations of repentance, then Christ turns our water into wine : first penitents, and then communicants; first waters of sorrow, and then the wine of the chalice; first the justification of correction, and then the
sanctifications of the sacrament, and the effects of the divine power, joy, and peace, and serenity, hopes full of confidence, and confidence without shame, and boldness without presumption. For Jesus keeps the best wine till the last;' not only because of the direct reservations of the highest joys till the nearer approaches of glory; but also because our relishes are higher after a long fruition than at the first essays: such being the nature of grace, that it increases in relish as it does in fruition, every part of grace being new duty and new reward.
O eternal and ever-blessed Jesu, who didst choose disciples to be witnesses of thy life and miracles, so adopting man into a participation of thy great employment of bringing us to heaven by the means of a holy doctrine, be pleased to give me thy grace, that I may love and revere their persons whom thou hast set over me, and follow their faith, and imitate their lives, while they imitate thee; and that I also, in my capacity and proportion, may do some of the meaner offices of spiritual building, by prayers, and by holy discourses, and fraternal correption, and friendly exhortations, doing advantages to such souls with whom I shall converse. And since thou wert pleased to enter upon the stage of the world with the commencement of mercy and a miracle, be pleased to visit my soul with thy miraculous grace, turn my water into wine, my natural desires into supernatural perfections, and let my sorrows be turned into joys, my sins into virtuous habits, the weaknesses of humanity into communications of the divine nature; that since thou keepest the best unto the last, I may, by thy assistance, grow from grace to grace, till thy gifts be tumed to reward, and thy graces to participation of thy glory, O eternal and ever-blessed Jesu. Amen.
Of Faith. 1. NATHANAEL's faith was produced by an argument not demonstrative, not certainly concluding: Christ knew him when he saw him first, and he believed him to be the Messias. His faith was excellent, whatever the argument was. And I believe a God, because the sun is a glorious body; or because of the variety of plants, or the fabric and rare contexture of a man's eye: I may as fully assent to the conclusion, as if my belief dwelt upon the demonstrations made by the prince of philosophers in the eight of his physics and twelve of his metaphysics. This I premise as an inlet into the consideration concerning the faith of ignorant persons: for if we consider upon what easy terms most of us now are Christians, we may possibly suspect that either faith hath but little excellence in it, or we but little faith, or that we are mistaken generally in its definition. For we are born of Christian parents, made Christians at ten days old, interrogated concerning the articles of our faith by way of anticipation, even then when we understand not the difference between the sun and a tallow-candle : from thence we are taught to say our catechism, as we are taught to speak, when we have no reason to judge, no discourse to discern, no arguments to contest against a proposition, in case we be catechized into false doctrine; and all that is put to us we believe infinitely, and without choice, as children use not to choose their language. And as our children are made Christians, just so are thousand others made Mahometans, with
the same necessity, the same facility. So that thus far there is little thanks due to us for believing the Christian creed: it was indifferent to us at first, and at last our education had so possessed us, and our interest, and our no temptation to the contrary, that as we were disposed into this condition by Providence, so we remain in it without praise or excellency. For as our beginnings are inevitable, so our progress is imperfect and insufficient; and what we begun by education, we retain only by custom. And if we be instructed in some slighter arguments to maintain the sect or faction of our country religion, as it disturbs the unity of Christendom; yet if we examine and consider the account upon what slight arguments we have taken up Christianity itself, (as that it is the religion of our country, or that our fathers before us were of the same faith, or because the priest bids us, and he is a good man, or for something else, but we know not what,) we must needs conclude it the good providence of God, not our choice, that made us Christians.
2. But if the question be, whether such a faith be in itself good and acceptable, that relies upon insufficient and unconvincing grounds; I suppose this case of Nathanael will determine us: and when we consider that faith is an infused grace,"if God pleases to behold his own glory in our weakness of understanding, it is but the same thing he does in the instances of his other graces. For as God enkindles charity upon variety of means and instruments, by a thought, by a chance, by a text of Scripture, by a natural tenderness, by the sight of a dying or a tormented beast; so also he may
produce faith by arguments of a different quality, and by issues of his providence he may engage us in such conditions, in which as our understanding is not great enough to choose the best, so peither is it furnished with powers to reject any proposition; and to believe well is an effect of a singular predestination, and is a gift in order to a grace, as that grace is in order to salvation. But the insufficiency of an argument or disability to prove our religion is so far from disabling the goodness of an ignorant man's faith, that is it may be as strong as the faith of the greatest scholar, so it hath full as much excellency, not of nature, but in order to divine acceptance. For as he who be. lieves only upon the stock of education made po election of his faith; so he who believes what is demonstrably proved, is forced by the demonstra tion to his choice. Neither of them did choose, and both of them may equally love the article.
3. So that, since a small argument in a weak understanding does the same work that a strong argument in a more sober and learned, that is, it convinces and makes faith, and yet neither of them is matter of choice; is the thing believed be good, and matter of duty or necessity, the faith is pot rejected by God upon the weakness of the first, nor accepted upon the strength of the latter principles. When we are once in, it will not be enquired by what entrance we passed thither: whe ther God leads us or drives us in, whether we come by discourse or by inspiration, by the guide of an angel or the conduct of Mones, whether we be born or made Christians, it is indifferent, so we be there where we should be; for this is but the gate of