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: 9. The last advantage now mentioned of this doctrine is, that it propounds and asserts itself in a manner very convincing and satisfactory; in a plain style of speech, becoming the majesty and sincerity of divine truth ; simply, without affectation or artifice; but yet with an imperious and awful confidence in its own wisdom and authority, &c. This topic enlarged on. Conclusion.
And in Jesus Christ, &c.
OF THE EXCELLENCY OF THE CHRISTIAN
I CORINTHIANS, CHAP. II.-VERSE 6.
We speak wisdom to those which are perfect.
The meaning of these words, on 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 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 knowlege, 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 intirely 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; 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 knowlege 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 endeavor 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,' 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 in fidelity ; 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 doctrine I observe to be this ; that it assigneth a true, proper, and complete character or notion of God; (complete, I mean, not absolutely, but in respect to our condition and capacity ;) such a notion as agreeth thoroughly with what the best reason dictateth, the works of nature declare, ancient tradition doth attest, and common experience doth intimate concerning God; such a character as is apt 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, must veracious and constant; it acknowlegeth 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 ereatures 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 entrea. ty, 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 him most amiable in his goodness, most terrible in his justice, most glorious and venerable in all his ways of providence : whatever perfections in essence, state, or practice, either philosophers (by rational, collection from innate notions, or from contemplation of natural effects, or on observing occurrences in human affairs) or other institutions from the relics of primitive tradition, by po-, litic reflexion on things, from other fountains, or by other means whatever, have by parts (imperfectly, obscurely, and faintly) attributed to God, all those our religion, in a full, clear, and peremptory manner, with advantage beyond what I can express, doth ascribe and assert unto him; not intermixing therewith (as other doctrines and institutions may be observed to do) any thing unworthy of him, or misbecoming him; adjoining nothing repugnant to that which natural light discerneth or approveth; but showing somewhat beyond what it can descry, concerning God's incomprehensible nature and manner of subsistence, his unsearchable counsels of wisdom, his admirable methods of providence, whereby he hath designed to commend. his goodness to us, and to glorify his justice ; which sorts of truths exceeding man's reach to devise or comprehend as it becometh God (who so far transcendeth us in wisdom and knowlege) to reveal them; so they, wondrously conspiring with the perfections of God otherwise discernible by us, do argue or confirm the divinity of the doctrine, which acquainteth us with them : for a doctrine, how plausible soever, which should teach
us nothing about God, that by other means could not be found out, and whose bottom common sense might not fathom, there were no urgent cause why we should derive it from heaven, or why we should not rather deem it the invention of some witty or subtile man. But such a doctrine as this, (which as it telleth us nothing about divine things, that contradicteth reason, so it informeth us many things, which no understanding of man had ever conceived, none can penetrate,) we may justly presume to come from a superior wisdom, we must at least arow it worthy of God; in the coutrivances of man's wit or fancy about things of this nature, as in divers instances it hath happened, most probably many flaws and incongruities presently would have appeared ; they would have clashed with themselves, or with the dictates of common reason : that, for instance, God should out of his own bosom send down his eternal Son to partake of our nature, and appear in our flesh, that with utmost advantage he might discover God's will and merciful intentions toward us, that he might set before us an exact pattern of good life; that by bis obedience and patience he might expiate our sin, and reconcile God to mankind; that he might raise in us a hope of, and lead us in the way to, happiness; this indeed is a mystery, and a depth of wisdom, which we should never have thought of, nor can yet thoroughly sound by thinking, which we better may admire, than we can understand: but neither doth good reason disallow it, nor can disprove it; yea, good reason so far confirmeth it, as it cannot but admit it to import nothing but that which is plainly true and most credible, the immense goodness and justice of God; concerning which nothing ought to seem strange or uncouth to us, since even by the care expressed in matters of ordinary providence divine goodness appeareth so unaccountably vast and high, that on consideration thereof worthily might Job and the psalmist exclaim ; What is man, that thou shouldest magnity him ? and that thou shouldest set thy heart on bim?! • Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowlege of him ? or the son of man, that thou makest such account of him ?'
Now thus to instil into the minds of men a right and worthy notion of God, is palpably a great excellency of any doctrine or religion : for beside that a true knowlege of God (even