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only inftru&t, admonish, or persuade; SER M. it cannot compel. The Gofpel-Means II. of Grace, powerful as they are, yet are not, and ought not to be irresistible. They are Moral Causes, which do not violently constrain our Wills and Affections; but only by gentle Methods folicit and incline them. They work
not like a Medicine, or a Charm, with out our Concurrence and Co-operation. And therefore let the Discoveries of our Duty and Happiness now made, be never so bright and clear, yet a Multitude of Chriftians may ftill fo live, as if there were no fuch Discoveries. And this is no greater a Wonder, than it is, that the Lufts and Paffions of frail Men should often get the better of their Reason, and the truest Sense and Knowledge of our Duty give way in the Prefence of mighty Temptations; which always hath been, always will, and must be the Cafe, while human Nature confists (as it doth) of jarring Princi ples, and the corrupt Part of us is (as it generally is) the prevailing Ingredient in the Compofition.
SERM. Let the Gospel have never fo little II. Success in promoting Holiness, yet all who have confidered it must own, that it is in it felf as fit as any thing that can be imagined for that purpose, and incomparably more fit than any other Course that ever was taken. If therefore the defired End be not attained, we must not blame the Means, which are confeffedly appofite and proper, but the Men, who refuse or neglect to make use of them. The Rules of Health, and the Prescriptions of the Physician may be good; and yet few be the better for them, if few ftrictly observe them. It is no Disparagement to the Art, if those receive no great Benefit from it, who do not furrender themfelves up to the Methods it prefcribes.
Did Philofophy fuffer in the Opinion of wife Men, on the Account of the Debaucheries that reigned in those Ages, wherein it flourished most, among the Grecians and Romans? Was it then thought a good Inference, that, because
because Men were very diffolute, when SERM. Wisdom was at the Height, and the II. Light of Reason fhone brightest, there~ fore, Wisdom and Reason were of little Ufe towards making Men Vertuous? No! the Excellence and Fitnefs of the Rule was univerfally acknowledged; and all the Blame was laid on those who did not comply with it. Object in the like manner, against natural Religion to a Deift; and he will give you the like Answer. And why then should he not receive the fame Apology for revealed Religion, in its Turn? If the ill Conduct of those who embrace any Rule of Life and Manners, be a reafonable Exception against the Rule it. felf, there's an End of all Rules whatfoever; fince none there are, from which most of those, who in Theory approve them, do not in Practice mightily fwerve and decline. But,
2. The prefent Wickedness of Chriftians cannot be owing to any Defect in the Doctrine of Chrift, nor be urged as a Proof of the real Inefficacy of it VOL. II. towards
SERM. towards rendring Men holy; because II. there was a Time, when it had all the
Phil ii. 15.
Success of this kind, that could be expected; the Time, I mean, of its earliest Appearance in the World; when the PraEtice of the Generality of Chriftians was a just Comment on the Precepts of Christ ; and they could appeal from their Do&trines to their Lives, and challenge their worst Enemies to fhew any remarkable Difference between them. When they were, as the Apoftle speaks, blameless, and harmless, the Sons of God, without Rebuke, in the mids of a crooked and perverfe Nation, among whom they fhone as Lights in the World. When they were fo far from Injuftice and Wrong, and the feveral wicked Arts of Deceiving, that in the vaft Multitude of Converts, No Man faid that ought was Aasiv.32 his own, but they had all things common, and were not only of one Faith, and of one Worship, but of one Heart, and of one Soul. Now, if the Efficacy and Power of the Christian Doctrine must be tried by its Fruits, why may we
not have leave to take it at its first fet- SE RM. ting out, and to argue, that the most immediate, and nearest must have been the most natural and genuine Effects of it? He that would try the Goodness of a Spring, should go to the FountainHead it felf, and not judge of it by Streams from thence at a great Diftance derived, which many other Waters may perhaps have fallen into during its Course, and many impure Mixtures have defiled.
The Gospel is the same now, as it was then; equally the Power of God unto Salvation, equally mighty in pulling down of Strong Holds; and there- 2 Cor. x.4 fore, that it doth not still produce the fame Effects, must be owing, not to any Ineptitude or Defect in the Means, but to other Causes and Confiderations, fome of which I fhall now briefly explain. And,
1. There muft needs be a great Dif parity between the first Chriftians, and those of these latter Ages; because Chritianity was the Religion of their