Imatges de pÓgina
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SERM.: The Conclusion from the first part of I.

this Remark is certain ; that the actual Change of external Injunctions in Religion shews them to be of a changeable Nature. From the latter it is only very probable, that because the Obligations to Virtue, on the contrary, never were altered, neither can they ever; be. And therefore a further Reason is required for the. Proof of it, which may be derived from the Divine Nature, and Attributes. The Perfection of God Theweth his Immutability, and our natural Understanding, as well as the Scriptures, will assure us, that with bim is no Variableness, neither Shadow of Turning. His Grace and Mercy, his Justice and Truth, are no less certain from the fame Testimonies : And indeed without the Knowledge of them, there would be little Ground for any Religion at all, An indispensable, everlasting Part of it, therefore, we may conclude to be, the Imitation of those Attributes of our Father which is in Heaven, since he is of purer Eyes: than to behold Iniquity, and the Righteous. Lord cannot but love Righteousness.

And, And, to add another Proof, every Man SERM.

1. feels that in this Respect he hath created us in bis own Image ; and implanted in our Breasts a Principle, that witnesses and declares against Injustice and Cruelty in ourselves as well as others; and applauds and rejoices in the Actions of Uprightness and Beneficence in others as well as our selves.

A third Argument, if needful, might be urged from the Condition of Mankind; that without these Offices of Equity and Charity the World could not subsist, but Violence and Fraud must overflow all; and leave both Publick and Private to lye in Mifery and Confusion.

When these Things are laid together, that the two great Commandments of loving God and our Neighbour, as they were from the Beginning, have ever remained the fame ; that the latter (to which my Argument confines me) is founded on the Necessity of human Condition, and in the Nature of God, and of Man"; that the other Part of Religion is, on the contrary, of itself subject to Alteration, and hath been introduced and abrogated at known

Periods

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SERM. Periods of Time ; and that the Duties of 1. it, tho* cnjoined by God's Authority also,

are never acceptable to him, unless in Conjunction with those of the higher Rank : It may be justly inferred likewise (what I propounded before) that these of the positive Kind were not instituted for their own Sakes, but as Means, Helps and Guards for obtaining and preserving their End, (of everlasting Obligation) the Fear of God, and Justice and Charity to Man. And if it were consistent with the Com. pafs of this Discourse, I might still make it more evident, by observing to you, how cach Point of these Institutions is and was adapted by the Divine Wisdom to serve those great Ends : How the Observation of them is framed to withdraw and deter from Vice ; and lead, and admonish and inflame both our own and others Hearts to the Love of all Virtue and Goodness.

Now this Explanation of the Text, and these Reasons for it, lead me to offer you fome Inferences or Cautions, that relate to them, and flow from them. , The First is, that we suffer no Pretences of Sanctity, to mislead us in judging

meanly meanly of moral. Virtue. We fee of what Şerm. Price it is in the Sight of God; so great,

I. that other Duties are valuable for the Sake of it. How dangerous then must it be to distinguish between Religion and Morality ; when it is plain, that Morality is of the principal and indispensable Part of Religion ? Ought we not rather to say, instead of flighting the Attainments of tie moral Man, that whoso is not such, howeğer enlightened and zealous and religious he appear, this Man's Religion is vain ? To be just and liberal, and sober, are Things that severally cross the Inclinations and Interests of our corrupt Nature ; and to gratify these Inclinations and Interests are those false Schemes baited, which set up external Services and Splendor, or the Exercises of Devotion and Austerities, or a deceitful Trust built upon scholastic Notions, inItead of the Mortification of our Pride, or Covetousness, or Intemperance. For to save these Darlings, what Absurdities do we not clofe with as probable and even certain? This has invented and recommend. ed infinite Superstitions of false Religion, - and too many Corruptions of the true ; a

Desire

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SERM. Defire of keeping our Sins, and silencing
I. the Reproach of Conscience ; nay,

proving ourselves to God's Acceptance, at
the fame Time. But alas ! these Devices
are so far from producing that Effect, that
those very Services, which otherwise he
receives as Worship and Honour from
fuch Hands, are rejected as Indignities and
Profanations ; for the Sacrifice of the Wick-
ed is an Abomination to the Lord, Prov. xy.
8. So that without Honesty there can be
no Religion. Hypocrisy, - (or at best, Su-
perstition) is the true Name of all Preten-
fions and Performances which are deftitute
of it.

But Secondly, in handling this Subject, the Works of Mercy and Charity, are in a special Manner to be recommended. The Words of the Text cannot but put us in Mind, that with such Sacrifices God eyer was and fill is well-pleased. And as they fignify that the Offerings he receives from : the Hands of the Poor have in all Times been most acceptable to him ; so they suggest a particular Argument, why we Christians ate more obliged to abound in this Grace, That is, the Freedom God

has

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