Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

power when the life is vulgar, and hath nothing in it holy and extraordinary.

9. The holy Jesus, in the choice of his apostles, was resolute and determined to make election of persons bold and confident, (for so the Galilæans were observed naturally to be, and Peter was the boldest of the twelve, and a good sword-man, till the spirit of his Master had fastened his sword within the scabbard, and charmed his spirit into quietness ;) but he never chose any of the Scribes and Pharisees, none of the doctors of the law, but persons ignorant and unlearned ; which, in design and institutions whose divinity is not demonstrated from other arguments, would seem an art of concealment and distrust. But in this, which derives its rays from the fountain of wisdom most openly and infallibly, it is a contestation against the powers of the world upon the interests of God, that he who does all the work might have all the glory, and in the productions in which he is fain to make the instruments themselves, and give them capacity and activity, every part of the operation, and causality, and effect, may give to God the same honour he had from the creation, for his being the only workman; with the addition of those degrees of excellence which, in the work of redemption of man, are beyond that of his creation and first being

THE PRAYER.

O eternal Jesu, Lord of the creatures, and Prince of the

catholic church, to whom all creatures obey, in acknowledgment of thy supreme dominion, and all according to thy disposition, co-operate to the advancement of thy kingdom, be pleased to order the affairs and accidents of the world, that all things in their capacity may do the work of the Gospel, and co-operate to the good of the elect, and retrench the growth of vice, and advance the interests of virtue. Make all the states and orders of men disciples of thy holy institution : let princes worship thee, and defend religion; let thy clergy do thee honour by personal zeal, and vigilance over their flocks ; let all the world submit to thy sceptre, and praise thy righteousness, and adore thy judgments, and revere thy laws: and,

in the multitudes of thy people within the enclosure of thy nets, let me also communicate in the offices of a strict and religious duty, that I may know thy voice, and obey thy call, and entertain thy Holy Spirit, and improve my talents; that I may also communicate in the blessings of the church; and when the nets shall be drawn to the shore, and the angels shall make separation of the good fishes from the bad, I may not be rejected, or thrown into those seas of fire which shall afflict the enemies of thy kingdom; but be admitted into the societies of saints, and the everlasting communion of thy blessings and glories, O blessed and eternal Jesu. Amen.

DISCOURSE IX.

Of Repentance. 1. The whole doctrine of the Gospel is comprehended by the Holy Ghost in these two summaries, “ faith and repentance *;" that those two potent and imperious faculties; which command our lower powers, which are the fountain of actions, occasion and capacity of laws, and the title to reward or punishment, the will and the understanding, that is, the whole man considered in his superior faculties, may become the subjects of the kingdom, servants of Jesus, and heirs of glory. Faith supplies our imperfect conceptions, and corrects our ignorance, making us to distinguish good from evil, not only by the proportions of reason, and custom, and old laws, but by the new standard of the Gospel ; it teaches us all those duties which were enjoined us in order to a participation of mighty glories; it brings our under standing into subjection, making us apt to receive the Spirit for our guide, Christ for our master, the Gospel for our rule, the laws of Christianity for our measure of good and evil : and it supposes us naturally ignorant, and comes to supply those defects which, in our understandings, were left after the spoils of innocence and wisdom made in paradise upon Adam's prevarication, and continued and increased by our

[ocr errors]

a Acts, xx. 21.

ance.

neglect, evil customs, voluntáry deceptions, and infinite prejudices. And as faith presupposes our ignorance, so repentance presupposes our malice and iniquity. The whole design of Christ's coming, and the doctrines of the Gospel, being to recover us from a miserable condition, from ignorance to spiritual wisdom, by the conduct of faith ; and from a vicious, habitually-depraved life, and ungodly manners, to the purity of the sons of God, by the instrument of repentance.

2. And this is a loud publication of the excellence and glories of the Gospel, and the felicities of man over all the other instances of creation. The angels, who were more excellent spirits than human souls, were not comprehended and made safe within a covenant and provisions of repent

Their first act of volition was their whole capacity of a blissful or a miserable eternity: they made their own sentence when they made their first election; and having such excellent knowledge, and no weaknesses to prejudge and trouble their choice, what they first did was not capable of repentance; because they had at first, in their intuition and sight, all which could afterward bring them to repentance. But weak man, who knows first by elements, and, after long study, learns a syllable, and in good time gets a word, could not at first know all those things which were sufficient or apt to determine his choice, but as he grew to understand more, saw more reasons to rescind his first elections. The angels had a full peremptory will, and a satisfied understanding, at first, and therefore were not to mend their first act by a second contradictory: but poor man hath a will always strongest when his understanding is weakest, and chooseth most when he is least able to determine; and, therefore, is most passionate iņ his desires, and follows his object with greatest earnestness, when he is blindest, and hath the least reason so to do. And therefore God, pitying man, begins to reckon his choices to be criminal just in the same degree as he gives him understanding. The violences and unreasonable actions of childhood are no more remembered by God, than they are understood by the child. The levities and passions of youth are not aggravated by the imputation of malice, but are sins of a lighter dye, because reason is not yet impressed, and marked upon them with characters and tincture in grain, But he who (when he may choose, because he understands) shall choose the evil, and reject the good, stands marked with a deep guilt, and hath no excuse left to him, but as his degrees of ignorance left his choice the more imperfect. And because every sinner, in the style of Scripture, is a fool, and hath an election as imperfect as is the action, that is, as great a declension from prudence as it is from piety; and the man understands as imperfectly as he practises : therefore, God sent his Son to “ take upon him, not the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham b,” and to propound salvation upon such terms as were possible, that is, upon such a piety which relies upon experience, and trial of good and evil; and hath given us leave, if we choose amiss at first, to choose again, and choose better; Christ having undertaken to pay for the issues of their first follies, to make up the breach made by our first weaknesses and abused understandings.

3. But as God gave us thiş mercy by Christ, so he also revealed it by him. He first used the authority of a Lord, and a Creator, and a Lawgiver: he required obedience, indeed, upon reasonable terms, upon the instance of but a few commandments at first, which when he afterwards multiplied, he also appointed ways to expiate the smaller irregularities; but left them eternally bound without remedy, - who should do any great violence or a crime. But then he bound them but to a temporal death. Only this, as an eternal death was also tacitly implied, so also a reinedy was secretly ministered, and repentance particularly preached by homilies distinct from the covenant of Moses' law. The law allowed no repentance for greater crimes; “ he that was convicted of adultery, was to die without mercy :” but God pitied the miseries of man, and the inconveniences of the law, and sent Christ to suffer for the one, and remedy the other;" for so it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations d.” And now this is the last and only hope of man, who, in his nat condition, is imperfect, in his customs vicious, in his habits impotent and criminal. Because man did not remain innocent, it became necessary, he should be penitent®, and that this penitence should, by some means, be made acceptable, that is, become the instrument of his pardon, and restitution of his hope. Which, because it is an act of favour, and depends wholly upon the Divine dignation, and was revealed to us by Jesus Christ, who was made, not only the Prophet and Preacher, but the Mediator of this new covenant and mercy; it was necessary we should become disciples of the holy. Jesus, and servants of his institution; that is, run to him to be made partakers of the mercies of this new covenant, and accept of him such conditions as he should require

b. Heb. ii. 16.

c Lev, xx. 10.

d Luke, xxiv. 46.

of us.

4. This covenant is then consigned to us when we first come to Christ, that is, when we first profess ourselves his disciples and his servants, disciples of his doctrine and servants of his institution; that is, in baptism, in which Christ, who died for our sins, makes us partakers of his death. “ For we are buried by baptism into his death f,” saith St. Paul. Which was also represented in ceremony by the immersion appointed to be the rite of that sacrament. And then it is that God pours forth, together with the sacramental waters, a salutary and holy fountain of grace, to wash the soul from all its stains and impure adherences. And, therefore, this first access to Christ is, in the style of Scripture, called “regeneration, the new birth, redemption, renovation, expiation, or atonement with God, and justification 8.” And these words in the New Testament relate principally and properly to the abolition of sins committed before baptism. For we are “justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past : to declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness.” And this is that which St. Paul calls“ justification by faith,” that “ boasting might

e Parcus deorum cultor et infrequens,

Insanientis dum sapientiæ
Consultus erro, nunc retrorsum
Vela dare, atque iterare cursus

Cogor relictos.- Hor. lib. i. od. 34. i Rom. vi. 4. 8 1 Pet. iii. 21. Rom. v. 1. Tit. iii. 5, 7. Rom. iii. 26. Gal. . 16.

« PoprzedniaDalej »