Page images
PDF
EPUB

est, sibi

SERM. being from ruin, and to enjoy it with comfort. He LX.

by making so rich a provision for the sustenance of

our lives, and satisfaction of our appetites, by framquisque commissus ing our bodies to relish delight, and suiting so many Ep. 121. accommodations in wondrous correspondence to our

senses, hath sufficiently intimated it to be his pleasure, that we should in reasonable measure seek them and enjoy them; otherwise his care would have been vain, and his work useless; yea, he might seem to have laid an ill design to tempt and ensnare us: he certainly had no such intent; but as he made us out of goodness, as he made us capable of tasting comfort, as he hath furnished us with means of attaining it, so he meaneth that we should partake thereof.

He also expressly hath commanded us to love all men, not excluding ourselves from the number ; to love our neighbour, and therefore ourselves; who of all are nearest to ourselves; who occur as the first objects of humanity and charity; whose needs we most sensibly feel; whose good is in itself no less considerable than the single good of any other person; who must first look to our own good before we can be capable to love others, or do any good to our neighbour.

He therefore hath made the love of ourselves to be the rule and standard, the pattern, the argument of our love to others; imposing on us those great commands of loving our neighbours as ourselves, and doing as we would be done unto ; which imply not only a necessity, but an obligation of loving ourselves.

He doth enforce obedience to all his commands by promising rewards, yielding immense profit and

Matt. xvi.

LX.

transcendent pleasure to us, and by threatening pu- SERM. nishments grievous to our sense; which proceeding is grounded upon a supposition that we do and ought greatly to love ourselves, or to regard our own interest and pleasure.

He doth recommend wisdom or virtue to us, as most agreeable to self-love; most eligible, because it yieldeth great benefit to ourselves; because, as the Wise Man saith, he that getteth it, doth love his Prov. xix.

8, 16. xi. 17. own soul; he that keepeth it, shall find good.

Aristotle saith of a virtuous man, that he is the greatest self-lover; Δόξειε δ' αν ο τοιούτος είναι μάλλον Eth. ix. 8. φίλαυτος: απονέμει γαρ εαυτό τα κάλλιστα, και μάλιστα αγαθά, και χαρίζεται εαυτού το κυριωτάτω.

He dissuadeth from vice, as therefore detestable, because the embracing it doth imply hatred of ourselves, bringing mischief and damage to us; because, as the Wise Man doth express it, he that sinneth, Prov. viii. wrongeth his own soul; he that despiseth instruc- xxix. 24. tion, despiseth his own soul; he that committeth injury, hateth his own soul.

He commendeth his laws to our observance, by Deut.x. 12. declaring them in their design and tendency chiefly Neh. ix: 13. to regard our good and advantage ; made apt to pre-&c. serve the safety and quiet, to promote the wealth and prosperity of our lives ; to bring ease and comfort to our minds, grace and ornament to our names, salvation and happiness to our souls.

In fine, God chargeth and encourageth us to affect and pursue the highest goods whereof we are capable ; most ample riches, most sublime honours, most sweet pleasures, most complete felicity ; He, Rom. ii. 7. saith St. Paul, will render to them, who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and ho

Prov. jii. iv.

SERM. teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that inLIX. structed me!

To these things I shall only add one rule, which we may well suppose comprised in the precept we treat upon ; which is, that at least we forbear openly to dissent from our guides, or to contradict their doctrine; except only, if it be not so false (which never, or rarely, can happen among us) as to subvert the foundations of faith, or practice of holiness. If we cannot be internally convinced by their discourses, if their authority cannot sway with us against the prevalence of other reasons, yet may we spare outwardly to oppose them, or to slight their judgment; for doing thus doth tend, as to the disgrace of their persons, so to the disparagement of their office, to an obstructing the efficacy of their ministry, to the infringement of order and peace in the church: for when the inconsiderate people shall see their teachers distrusted and disrespected; when they perceive their doctrine may be challenged and opposed by plausible discourses; then will they hardly trust them, or comply with them in matters most certain and necessary; than which disposition in the people there cannot happen any thing more prejudicial or baneful to the church.

But let thus much serve for the obedience due to the doctrine of our guides ; let us consider that which we owe to them in reference to their conversation and practice.

The following their practice may well be referred to this precept; for that their practice is a kind of living doctrine, a visible law, or rule of action; and because indeed the notion of a guide primarily doth imply example; that he which is guided should respect the guide as a precedent, being concerned to SERM. walk after his footsteps.

LIX. Most of the reasons, which urge deference to their judgment in teaching, do in proportion infer obligation to follow their example; (which indeed is the most easy and clear way of instruction to vulgar capacity ; carrying with it also most efficacious encouragement and excitement to practice ;) they are obliged, and it is expected from them, to live with especial regularity, circumspection, and strictness of conversation ; they are by God's grace especially disposed and enabled to do so; and many common advantages they have of doing so; (a more perfect knowledge of things, firmness of principles, and clearness of notions; a deeper tincture, and more savoury relish of truth, attained by continual meditation thereon; consequently a purity of mind and affection, a retirement from the world and its temptation, freedom from distraction of worldly care and the encumbrances of business, with the like.)

They are often charged to be exemplary in conversation, as we before shewed, and that involveth a correspondent obligation to follow them. They must, like St. John Baptist, be burning and shining John V. 35. lights; stars in God's right hand; lights of the world; whose light should shine before men, that Matt

. V. 14, men may see their good works; and by their light direct their steps.

They are proposed as copies, which signifies that we must in our practice transcribe them.

We are often directly commanded to imitate them; ão Msueño be tàu niotiv, whose faith imitate ye, (that is, their faithful perseverance in the doctrine and

Rev. xvi. 20.

SERM. practice of Christianity,) saith the apostle in this LIX.

chapter.

Their conversation is safely imitable in all cases wherein no better rule appeareth, and when it doth not appear discordant from God's law and the dictates of sound reason; for supposing that discordance, we cease to be obliged to follow them; as

when our Lord prescribeth in respect to the PhaMatt. xxiii. risees; Whatever they bid you observe, that ob

serve and do; but do not after their works; for they say and do not.

It is indeed easier for them to speak well than to do well; their doctrine therefore is more commonly a sure guide than their practice; yet when there wanteth a clearer guidance of doctrine, their practice may pass for instructive, and a probable argument or warrant of action.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »