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penitence in the sight of God. To those who are in any degree thus disposed, it not only repeats the obscurer, yet instructive and comfortable, intimations, of pardon, grace, and reward; which the patriarchal ages enjoyed, as a light shining faintly in a dark place*; and which after-times lost, and wandered on in the thickest night: but it visits men like the day-spring from on high, close followed by the Sun of Righteousness beaming forth to cheer our hearts, and guide our feet into the way of peacef. Instead of the shadows and figures of the Mosaic law, which veiled, and, in a great measure, concealed, what they exhibited; it presents us with the undisguised truth and very substance: sets before our eyes that great atonement to the justice of Heaven, which other victims were appointed to presignify; and opens the whole treasure of divine bounty; free forgiveness, kind assistance, eternal happiness, to the worst of sinners, on the equitable, the advantageous terms of ingenuous sorrow, thankful faith, and universal, though still imperfect, obedience.
Come every one that thirsteth, come to the waters of life, and buy without money and without pricet. Instead of a heavy yoke of ceremonial restraints, and rigorous observances unexplained, necessary for the immature and injudicious age of the Jewish dispensation; God hath considered Christians as grown up to a manly capacity of rational service, and fuller knowledge of his counsels. He hath therefore communicated to us a much greater number of doctrinal truths, all fitted to instruct our worship, and inflame our gratitude ; but hath reduced our ritual performances to two; both of them clear and important in their meaning; easy and affecting in their use, and fully guarded * 2 Peter i. 19. + Luke 1. 78, 79.
Isa. lv. 1.
against being esteemed beyond their use: first, baptism, which most aptly signifies our engagements to preserve ourselves from the defilement of sin, and God's promise to look on us as free from the guilt of it : then the holy Eucharist: which, with equal propriety, expresses our Saviour's giving his body to be broken, and his blood to be shed, for the sake of man; and our being nourished, and strengthened, and united to him for ever, by imbibing and digesting his doctrine, and receiving into our souls, by faith, the beneficial influences of his death.
Thus then the new Commandment, delivered by our blessed Lord, is an authentic republication, both of the primitive religion of man before the fall, and of the additional instructions given him after it; with such improvements of these last, as make up, together with the former, a complete institution of piety, fitted to answer all our necessities to the world's end. To prevent or detect any corruptions or mistakes in so important a system of doctrine, the blessed author of it hath provided, that we should have the very words, in which he delivered it, recorded in the Gospels; and his true meaning confirmed, and further explained, in the writings of his immediate disciples : which inestimable treasure Providence hath watched over through every age: and, by its assistance, the old Commandment hath once more in these latter days been rescued from dangerous perversions, and happily restored to its original purity.
But besides, he hath made yet another provision for securing, not only the genuine belief, but the faithful practice of it. As man is a social creature, and capable of receiving at least as much benefit from uniting in religion, as in other things : so he hath formed his followers into a spiritual society, or
church; to celebrate the worship of God more solemnly, and bear a public testimony to his truths; to exhort, and provoke one another to love and good works * ; to restore in the spirit of meekness them that re overtaken in faults t, but put away from amongst
in the grossly and obstinately wicked f; that if possible, the reverence of so awful a censure may bring them to recollect themselves and repent; or, supposing it fails, that yet the innocence of the rest, and the honour of the Christian name, may be preserved. And that all this may be performed in a due manner, he hath instituted a regular subordination and succession of pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of the body of Christ Ş. An appointment evidently suitable, both to the nature of a being, which so greatly wants instruction and admonition, as man; and to the nature of a religion, that will so very well bear to be shewn in a full light. However defectively, therefore, or wrongly, this institution may be administered through our faults ; or how much soever it may be despised, or obstructed, through yours; yet, in itself, it is visibly of excellent use; and, which is remarkable, peculiar to the religion delivered in Scripture. For, in the Gentile world, through many centuries, we have no one instance of any public teaching, much less any moral discipline, attending their worship. And indeed, when Julian attempted to set up preachers of heathenism, in opposition to those of Christianity, it was immediately foretold him, and the event verified the prediction, that what had proved so effectual to establish truth, would only serve to expose and ruin error. Such then being the nature of our holy religion, * Heb. x. 24, 25.
+ Gal. vi. 1. 1 Cor. v. 13.
§ Eph. iv. 11, 12
and such the methods taken to preserve it from corruption, and make it a perpetual instrument of present and eternal happiness to mankind; whoever sincerely honours God, loves' his fellow-creatures, or wishes well to his own soul, must see and feel himself deeply concerned to embrace and respect the Gospel of Christ; which God cannot have revealed for such noble purposes, and left any one at liberty to slight a single part of it. But then we must remember, that neither professing nor admiring it, will serve for any thing but our condemnation ; unless we receive it into an honest and good heart *, and bring forth the fruits of it in pious and virtuous lives. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doth righteousness, is righteous : he that committeth sin, is of the devil. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devilt; and hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his Commandments I. • Mark iv. 20. Luke viii. 15. + 1 John jïi. 7, 8. | 1 John ii. 3.
1 PETER IV. 8.
And above all things have fervent charity among your
selves : for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
A RELIGION, the precepts of which are all just and good, must immediately be acknowledged to be so far true; but if, besides the general temper from which it appoints every particular duty to be done, be the proper and right one, then the argument in its favour strengthens. And if, lastly, the means which it prescribes to form this temper, be well adapted to produce it in the worst of men, and raise it still higher in the best, nothing more can be wanting to prove the practical part of such an institution, which is always the most important part, worthy of him, who alone perfectly knows both the obligations arising from our original nature, and the assistances needful in our present circumstances.
Now this is evidently the case of Christianity. Its injunctions comprehend every dictate, the very purest and sublimest, of natural piety and virtue, without any single article contradictory to them : whereas all religions of human invention have both omitted right things, and commanded wrong ones. The precepts it hath added, peculiar to itself, are few and unexcep tionable. And the motives from which the whole is to be practised, are two, the most rational and excellent that can be conceived: the first and great commandment, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all