« VorigeDoorgaan »
the Lord, yet I give my advice or counsel;" as hath been excellently discovered by the late incomparable Bishop of Winchester, in his Resp. ad Apologiam.
46. And now, though I have gone through and quite absolved my text, yet I can scarce think my sermon finished, till I have endeavoured to make it beneficial unto you, by applying it to your consciences and practice: but when I should come to that, I confess I find these times, wherein we live, so indisposed for such an application, that I know not which way to begin with you; for, shall I seriously enjoin you, as by a precept from God, that where you have unjustly oppressed, or cunningly and closely defrauded your neighbour, that you should, as Zaccheus did here, restore unto him fourfold? No, I dare not adventure so far, I have received no such commandment from the Lord; and, then I should be guilty of that, Moses upon which was an unjust accusation laid and Aaron: "Ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi."
47. Shall I then endeavour to persuade you to conform yourselves to this pattern of Zaccheus, as to a counsel? Alas! the times are such, that well were we, if, as some have turned all counsels into precepts, that the same men would not, at least in their practice, convert all precepts into counsels: if they would not think, that the moral, legal precepts were antiquated and dissolved by bringing in the new covenant of grace; or if not quite abrogated, yet left so arbitrary, that they should become matters of no necessary importance and consequence; duties which, if we shall perform, we shall thereby approve our gratitude and thank
fulness unto God our Saviour; and yet, if by chance they are left undone, since they are esteemed no necessary conditions of the new covenant, there is no great danger, as long as we can keep a spark of faith alive, as long as we can persuade ourselves, that we have a firm persuasion of God's mercy in Christ to ourselves in particular; which kind of newly-invented faith an * adversary of our church pleasantly, and I fear, too truly, defines, when he says, It is nothing but a strong fancy.
48. These things therefore considered, I will leave the application of Zaccheus's extraordinary restitution to your own consciences, according as God and your own souls shall agree together: only I beseech you not to make a counsel of restitution in general, but to free yourselves from the burden and weight of other men's riches, lest they over-leaven and swell you so unmeasurably, that you shall not be able to press in at that strait gate, which would lead you unto those blessings and glorious habitations, which Christ hath purchased for you, not with these corruptible things of silver and gold, but with his own precious blood: unto which habitations God of his infinite mercy bring us all, for the same our Lord Jesus Christ's sake to whom with the Father, &c.
* Dr. Carrier, in his Epistle to King James.
"For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”—GAL. v. 5.
THIS day the wisdom of the ancient, primitive, and, I think, apostolic church, hath dedicated to the memory of an epiphany, or apparition of a miraculous star, which was sent to guide the magi, or wise men of the east, to the place where our Saviour was born. But suppose there were such a star seen, and three men of the east conducted by it; must all the Christian world presently fall a rejoicing for it? There was reason, indeed, that they should be exceeding glad, but shall we therefore lose a whole day's labour by it? To say the truth, there is no reason for it; therefore, either better grounds must be found out for rejoicing, or it were well done to make Christmas a day shorter hereafter.
2. But for all this, if we well consider it, we gentiles might better spare any holiday in the year than this; for there is none, besides this, properly our own, but the Jews will challenge an equal interest in it. The appearing of the star then is the least part of the solemnity of this day: for a greater and more glorious light, than the star, this day arose unto us, even that so long expected light which was to lighten the gentiles, which was to give light to them which sat in darkness, and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet in the way of peace. This day, as
St. Paul saith, repávη n xáρiç тöv OεOU. (Tit. ii. 11.) There was an epiphany likewise of the grace of God, to wit, the gospel; which now, as on this day, began to bring salvation, not to the Jews only, but to all men, even to us sinners of the gentiles, of whom these three wise men were the first fruits. And, to say the truth, the appearing of Christ himself, unless he had brought with him this light to lighten the gentiles in his hand, had not been sufficient to make a solemn day for us. The star then was not that light, but it was sent to bear witness of that light, namely, the glory whereof fills my text fuller than the majesty of God ever filled the temple. For here we have the whole nature of the gospel comprehended and straitened within the narrow compass of my text, yet no part of it left out; yea, we have not only the gospel discovered by its own light, as it is in itself, but in comparison with those twinkling, cloudy stars of Jewish ordinances, and that once glorious, but now eclipsed light, the law of works. Since then this is the day, which the Lord hath made for us, we will rejoice and be glad in it; and we will be ready to hearken, especially to any thing that shall be spoken concerning our epiphany, concerning that blessed light, for many ages removed out of our sight, and as on this day beginning to appear in our horizon.
3. The words of my text I find so full and swelling with expression, so fruitful and abounding in rich sense, that I am almost sorry I have said so much of them to fit them to this day: but, in recompense, I will spare the labour of shewing their dependence and connexion with the preceding part of the Epistle, and consider them as a
loose severed thesis; in which is contained, not only the sum and extract of this Epistle, but likewise of the Christian religion in general, in opposition both to the Mosaical law given to the Jews, and the law of works, called also the moral, natural law, which from the beginning of the world hath been assented to, and written in the hearts of all mankind. The sense of which words, if they were enlarged, may be this: We Christians, by the tenor and prescript of our religion, expect the hope of righteousness, i. e. the reward, which we hope for by righteousness; not as those vain teachers newly sprung up among you Galatians, would have us, by obedience unto the carnal, ceremonial law of Moses, but through the Spirit, i. e. by a spiritual worship; neither by performing the old covenant of works, which we are not able to fulfil, but by faith, by such an obedience as is prescribed unto us in the gospel: "We through the Spirit wait," &c.
4. In these words, then, which comprehend the complete essence of the covenant of grace, we may consider, First, The conditions on man's part required, in these words, "through the Spirit," and "by faith." Secondly, Upon the performance of our duty, there follows God's promise, or the condition, which God will make good unto us: and that is, the "hope of righteousness," or justification. In the former part, namely, the obedience which is required from us Christians, we may consider it, First, In opposition to the Mosaical law, by these words, through the Spirit;" which import, that it is not such an outward, carnal obedience, as Moses' law required; but an internal, spiritual worship of the heart and soul.