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there is no enemy so mighty, which by the help SERM. afforded us we cannot master; so that, although we XVI. find ourselves able to do nothing of ourselves, yet Phil. iv. 13. we can do all things by Christ that strengtheneth
8. Another peculiar excellency of our religion is this, that it alone can appease and satisfy a man's conscience, breeding therein a well-grounded hope, and a solid comfort; healing the wounds of bitter remorse and anxious fear, which the sense of guilt doth inflict: There is no man, as king Solomon 2 Chron. vi. 36. said, and all men know, who sinneth not; who doth Eccles. vii. not find himself in thought, word, and deed, frequently thwarting the dictates of reason, violating the laws of piety and justice, transgressing the bounds of sobriety; who consequently doth not in his own judgment condemn himself of disorder, and of offence committed against the world's great Lawgiver and Governor, the just patron of right and goodness; who thence doth not deem himself obnoxious to God's wrath, and is not fearful of deserved punishment from him: which fear must Pœna potneeds be fostered and augmented by considering, culpa perthat as past facts are irrevocable, so guilt is inde- Ovid. lible, and punishment, except by the voluntary remission of him that is offended, inevitable; as also that there are no visible means of removing or abating such guilt by any reparation or amends that he can make, who is more apt to accumulate new offences, than able to compensate for what he hath committed: now in such a case, some man indeed Wisd. xii. may frame to himself hopes of mercy; may from the experience of God's forbearance to punish, and continuance of his bounty to sinners, presume that God
SERM. is placable, and will not be rigorous in his proceedings with him; may hopefully guess, that in favour God will admit his endeavours at repentance, will accept the compensations he offereth in lieu of his duty, may suffer his guilt to be atoned by the sacrifices he presenteth; yet can no man upon such presumptions ground a full confidence that he shall find mercy; he cannot however be satisfied upon what terms mercy will be granted, in what manner it shall be dispensed, or how far it shall extend; God never having exhibited any express declarations or promises to those purposes; no man therefore can otherwise than suspect himself to be in a bad state, or esteem himself secure from the purGen. iv. 7. suits of justice and wrath; as he knoweth that sin lieth at the door, so he cannot know but that vengeance may lie near it; hence common reason,
2 Cor. iii. 6. as well as the Jewish law, is a ministry of death, and a killing letter, carrying nothing in the looks or language thereof, but death and ruin; hence is a man (if at least he be not besotted into a careless Rom. viii. stupidity) shut up in an irksome bondage of spirit, under the grievous tyranny, if not of utter despair, yet of restless suspicion about his condition; which as it quencheth in his mind all steady peace and joy, so it dampeth his courage and alacrity, it enervateth his care and industry to do well, he doubting what success and what acceptance his undertakings may find; it also cooleth in him good affections towards God, whom that he hath offended he knoweth, and questioneth whether he can be able to reconcile.
From this unhappy plight our religion thoroughly doth rescue us, assuring us, that God Almighty is
is not only reconcilable, but desirous, upon good SERM. terms, to become our friend, himself most frankly proposing overtures of grace, and soliciting us to close with them; it upon our compliance tendereth, under God's own hand and seal, a full discharge of all guilts and debts, however contracted; it receiveth a man into perfect favour and friendship, if he doth not himself wilfully reject them, or resolve to continue at distance, in estrangement and enmity toward God. It proclaimeth, that if we be careful to amend, God will not be extreme to mark what we Psal. cxxx. do amiss; that iniquity, if we do not incorrigibly affect and cherish it, shall not be our ruin; that al- Ezek. xviii. though by our infirmity we fall often, yet by our repentance we may rise again, and by our sincerity shall stand upright; that our endeavours to serve and please God (although imperfect and defective, if serious and sincere) will be accepted by him: this is the tenor of that great covenant between heaven and earth, which the Son of God did procure by his intercession, did purchase by his merits of wonderful obedience and patience, did ratify and seal by his blood; did publish to mankind, did confirm by miraculous works, did solemnize by holy institutions, doth by the evangelical ministry continually recommend to all men; so that we can nowise doubt of its full accomplishment on God's part, if we be not deficient on ours: so to our inestimable benefit and unspeakable comfort doth our religion ease their conscience, and encourage them in the practice of their duty, who do sincerely embrace it, and firmly adhere thereto.
9. The last advantage which I shall mention of 1 Cor. i. 17. this doctrine is this; that it propoundeth and as
SERM. serteth itself in a manner very convincing and satisfactory: it propoundeth itself in a style and garb of speech, as accommodate to the general capacity of iqu. Eurip.its hearers, so proper to the authority which it
μῦθος τῆς ἀληθείας
in Cels. lib. claimeth, becoming the majesty and sincerity of di
6. Lact. iii. vine truth; it expresseth itself plainly and simply,
Matt. vii. without any affectation or artifice, without ostentation of wit or eloquence, such as men study to insinuate and impress their devices by: it also speaketh with an imperious and awful confidence, such as argueth the speaker satisfied both of his own wisdom and authority; that he doubteth not of what he saith himself, that he knoweth his hearers obliged to believe him; its words are not like the words of a wise man, who is wary and careful that he slip not into mistake, (interposing therefore now and then his may-be's and perchances,) nor like the words of a learned scribe, grounded on semblances of reason, and backed with testimonies; nor as the words of a crafty sophister, who by long circuits, subtile fetches, and sly trains of discourse doth inveigle men to his opinion; but like the words of a king, carrying with them authority and power unEccles. viii. controllable, commanding forthwith attention, assent, and obedience; this you are to believe, this you are to do, upon pain of our high displeasure, at
· Οὐ γὰρ κτύπον ῥημάτων, οὐδὲ λέξεως κόμπον, οὐδὲ ὀνομάτων καὶ ῥημάτων κόσμον καὶ συνθήκην ὀψόμεθα περιττὴν καὶ ἀνόητον (πόῤῥω γὰρ ταῦτα τῆς φιλοσοφίας ἁπάσης) ἀλλὰ ἰσχὺν ἄμαχον καὶ θείαν, καὶ δογμάτων ὀρθῶν ἀμήχανον δύναμιν, καὶ μυρίων χορηγίαν ἀγαθῶν. Chrys. Proæm. in Joh.
f Quæ quidem tradita sunt breviter, ac nude; nec enim decebat aliter, ut cum Deus ad hominem loqueretur, argumentis assereret suas voces, tanquam fides ei non haberetur, sed ut oportuit est locutus, quasi rerum omnium maximus judex, cujus non est argumentari, sed pronunciare verum. Lact. iii. 1.
your utmost peril be it; your life, your salvation de- SERM. pendeth thereon: such is the style and tenor there- XVI. of, plainly such as becometh the sovereign Lord of all to use, when he shall please to proclaim his mind and will unto us. It freeth us from laborious and anxious inquiries, from endless disputes and janglings, from urging ineffectual arguments, and answering cross difficulties, &c. It doth also assert itself and approve its truth to the reason of man the most advantageously that can be; with proofs most suitable to itself, and in themselves most effectual; 5 waving those inferior methods of subtile argumentation and plausible language with which men are wont to confirm or set off their conceits; which how weak they are, how unfit to maintain truth, their unsuccessfulness doth evince; seeing by those means scarce any man hath been able thoroughly either to settle himself in or to draw others to a full persuasion concerning any important truth, discosted from sense: such methods therefore the Christian doctrine hath waved, (or rather slighted, as beneath itself,) applying arguments to the demonstration of its truth, far more potent, more sublime, and indeed truly divine; beside its intrinsic worth, or the excellency shining in itself, (which speaketh it worthy of God, and goeth more than half way in proving it to proceed from him,) there is no kind of attestation needful or proper, which God hath not afforded thereto; God is in himself invisible and undiscernible to any sense of ours, neither could we endure the lustre and glory of his immediate presence; it
Legant nostra-quam excellenter quam divine, non tanquam ex philosophorum concertationibus strepere, sed tanquam ex oraculis et Dei nubibus intonare. Aug. de Civ. Dei, ii. 19.