Page images
PDF
EPUB

in Christ abundantly enjoy under the christian law. Tho' it is not to be doubted, that all good men amongst the Jews were enlightned and assisted by the holy Spirit of God, for of our selves we can do nothing; and even bad men restrained by the same Spirit from being worse; yet this was not the matter of any formal

and explicit promise under that dispensation; nor were those blessed influences so freely, frequently, and eminently poured out, as since the coming of our Saviour. Remision of fins was but sparingly proposed to them, at no small trouble and expence in facrifices; and even this was still but for offences of a second rank. But there were many greater evils, from which-the criminal Few could not be justified by the law of Moses: for in the twentieth chapter of Leviticus, and elsewhere, we find excision threatned to several impieties, either by the immediate hand of God, or by the magistrate. In these cases the

Jew had no place left for expiatory facrifices, tho' God might nevertheless, where true repentance intervened, be merciful to him in another world, thro'the intended future facrifice of Christ. And to this after-dispensation by Christ, was reserved that general and publick promise of pardon for all fins, even blasphemy it felf, except the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. This our Saviour himself proclaimed while he was on earth, and commanded his Apostles also, that * repentance and remission of fins jould be preached in his name amongst all nations, beginning at Jerusalem; who accordingly published this great advantage of the Gospel where ever they came, declaring, that. t all who believe are justified by Christ from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses

. Again, what Moses

. and the Prophets promised to the Jews for their

* Mat. xii. 31. Luke xxiv. 47.

| Acts xiii. 39:

obedience, obedience, was only with regard to this present life; ą long and happy establishment in the land of Canaan, the outward blessings of providence, health and riches, a numerous posterity, à fruitful soil, a flourishing and prosperous state. And what they threatned upon disobedience, was only oppression from their enemies, captivity, a temporal death, and other things contrary to the rewards just mentioned. But the Gospel rewards and punishments are of infinitely greater consequence, even eternal life and happiness in heaven, or everlasting misery in hell. It was Christ who brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. He clear'd the doctrine of the resurrection both by arguments and instances, by raising others from the dead, and rising again himself. He repeated and confirm’d the promises of it in plainer expressions, revealed the future judgment, and described the state of the just and unjust which should follow thereupon, as far as was any ways necesary to guard the observance of his precepts, to excite men to piety and virtue, by the assurance of a crown of never fading glory, joy, and peace in heaven, to the obedient; and deter men from the love and practice of fin by the most dreadful and perpetual punishments that will attend it in another world. And by all this added a strength and sanction to the christian law, very far above that of the Jewish.

3. And lastly, He improved it in the extent and compass of its jurisdiction, or the number of subjects under the obligation of it. The law of Moses was given but to one particular nation, and demanded not obedience from any other, except those few religious foreigners who should from time to time become voluntary profelytes. The rest of the world were left to live by the dictates of mere natural conscience, and the dim light of reason, sometimes improved, but oftner perplex'd by the various and

uncertain

a

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

uncertain schemes of philosophy. But the Church of God, which for so many ages was confined to a corner of the earth, the land of Canaan, was to be extended to all nations without distinction, when the Messiah should appear. His law was to be universal, and to oblige the whole race of mankind. And no law could be better fitted for that purpose : The whole burden of ceremonies being laid aside, the institution of Christ is such as flows from natural and eternal right; is agrceable to the reason and capacity of all mankind; a plain and practicable inftitution; and the fittest of any that could be contrived to suit with all the various circumstances of those that are to be governed by it; and to make all societies, under what political form foever, fafe and happy in the due observance of it. This revelation therefore was in its own nature too great, too general a blessing to be engrossed by any one particular people. Twas adapted to the good of all

, and all who would should have the benefit of it : For so the Prophets long before Christ came had prophesied: * Bebold my servant, whom I uphold, says God, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him, he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have judgment in the earth, and the ifles shall wait for his law. Accordingly, the Apostles of Christ were sent by him with a general commission to preach the Gospel in all nations, not only in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, but unto the # uttermost part of the earth. And this, blessed be God, we find in a great part accomplished, and wait for the more compleat accomplishment thereof, when the || fulness of the Gentiles Mall come in. Having now discharged my self

* Isa. xlii. I, 4.
1 Rom. xi. 25.

| Luke xxiv, 47

# Ads i. 8.

of

of the first general head, and Mewn you, that by our Saviour's fulfilling the law and the Prophets, is here meant his perfecting the moral law; which not oniy needed, but expected such an improvement from the Messiah, and actually receiv'd it, as ye have seen in many particulars; I must now direct your thoughts to consider,

II. In what instances our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharifees.

(1.) We must go upon a right bottom and foundation of practice; we must not mistake and do unrighteous things for righteous. The Scribes and Pharisees, notwithstanding that they were teachers of the law of God, were notoriously under this fundamental error; they trusted in themselves that they were righteous, pretended not only more than others, but even exclusively of others, to that excellent character; and yet the zeal, which they made such a figure with, was but so much the greater a violation of the true righteousness, because they mistook in the application of it; under a false idea of serving God they persecuted the Son of God, and with the utmost bitterness rejected the only true religion, for religion's fake. St. Paul also, while he continued a Pharisee, did the same, supposing himself the more righteous for his severity against the Christians; for, says he, * I verily thought with my self, that I OUGHT to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And fo he testifies of his countreymen the Jews in general, that they had t a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. It was an ignorant zeal, and wrong grounded, mistaking evil for good, and good for evil. 'Tis easy to discern how fatal such a mistake must be, and that' the greater progress men make in such a sort of righteousness, the farther they are wandering from the true way to heaven. But the Scribes and Pharisees are not the only bigots that have been thus mistaken. The histories of the Church, and the experience of late and present ages can shew, that the same spirit of delusion has possess’d too many Christians; who having first been drawn afide into errors of the greatest consequence, have under the notion of righteousness, not only obftinately defended and improved those errors, but furiously press’d them upon others; imagining all this while, that by inhumanity they were doing God good service. Others there are, who, having cherish'd in themselves many weak and unreasonable fcruples, have wrought their minds to such an acquired blindness, as to make a duty of a notorious fin, and maintain schism and disorder, cven by dint of conscience. It is of the utmost moment 'therefore, that we should guard against such dreadful mistakes; and be sure that what we do under the supposition of righteousness, be really such according to the rule of righteousness, which God has given us.

* AAs xxvi. 9.

Rom. X, 2.

must

(2.) The design and end of our good actions must be righteous allo; for where this is wanting, there is a defect in the very life and substance of the duty. Where the intention is indirect, and what we do is but the issue of some secret schemes for reputation or secular intereft, there may be policy in it, but there is no religion; our righteousness is no better than that of the Scribes and Pharisees. For these, our Saviour tells us, did all their good works purely to be seen of men: They prayed, and fasted, and gave alms, but it was to gain them applause * among the people; that they might be

[ocr errors]

* Mat. xxiii. 5, 6, 7.

publickly

« PreviousContinue »