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of all the duties to be performed either to God or man; first, because it is most evident, that the virtues just now mentioned, while they render us good and happy in ourselves, tend directly to make us dutiful to God, and both just and beneficent to mankind; as it is, on the contrary, that he who is not thus principled, is neither in a capacity, nor disposition, to demean himself, as he ought, to God or man: and, secondly, because the motives to the performance of our duty, both to our Maker, and neighbour, work on us chiefly, if not only, through that regard we have for our own happiness, temporal and eternal. What is it prevails on us to do the duties of either table? Is it not because we firmly believe we shall be happy, if we do, and miserable, if we do not, perform those duties? He therefore who sins against God, or his neighbour, sins against himself. He only, who is a good man in himself, is prepared to be a good servant to the former, and a good neighbour or fellow Christian to the latter. Thus, you see, the law of God is perfect, and takes in every branch of our duty to God, ourselves, and our neighbours.
St. Paul tells us, this . law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good ;' and our Saviour, expressly mentioning these commandments, saith, 'If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. But, as all men are not tempted to the transgression of the same commandments, and few or none to the transgression of them all ; lest any man should think himself excusable in the breach of some, while he keeps the rest, St. James gives him to understand, that whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all ; for he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. He who transgresses any one law of God, tramples on the authority of the Lawgiver; and it is only for want of inclination, not of disrespect for God, if he does not violate all the rest.
But although it is certain, that, in strict justice, all transgressions of God's law render us liable to the punishment, yet we are not to despair on falling into sin, because our covenant of peace with God is a covenant of mercy, as well as works, established between a gracious Maker, who knows the temptations wherewith we are beset; and frail creatures, who cannot always stand upright. If all our
righteousnesses are as filthy rags; if, after we have done all we can, we are unprofitable servants;' and cannot, by our best performances, merit the joys of heaven; neither shall our worst actions sink us into the pit of misery, if we repent and amend. It is not on the footing of our own, but Christ's righteousness, that we are to be saved. He that is without sin, may claim salvation of his own goodness, and bring in God as his debtor ; 'for to him that worketh is the reward, not reckoned of grace, but of debt; but to us who work not, but believe on him that justifieth the ungodly, our faith is counted for righteousness' in the sight of God, who deals with us as children whom his Son hath redeemed from the punishment of sin by his precious blood, not rigorously exacting justice, but graciously extending mercy. There is none who is righteous, none who is good, but God; yet he who is comparatively called the righteous man, falls seven times a day; but he does not, like the reprobate, sin through malicious wickedness, nor fall, but through infirmity; and, when he does fall, he rises again in a sincere repentance, with new resolution. While he endeavours to render his great Master all due allegiance and obedience, and still keeps the field, with all his strength against his enemies, he is, no doubt, the object of mercy, although the discharge of his duty should be attended with much imperfection ; although he should be often worsted, yet, as long as he does not submit, he is still on God's side, and under his banner. An unsuccessful battle is not a sufficient cause why so gracious a commander should cast him off for ever. There is great difference between a defeat, if it is not total, and a treacherous revolt, or a base submission.
However, we must not suffer this doctrine, sweet as it is true, to encourage us to carelessness in sin; but must make it our chief motive to repentance. We are not to despise the richness of God's goodness, and forbearance, and longsuffering,' as if we knew not that the goodness of God leadeth, or inviteth us to repentance.' We must not after our hardness, and impenitent heart, treasure up unto ourselves wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds ; to them, who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life ; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doth evil; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good. We are still, in the midst of all our soothing hopes of mercy, to remember, that our vows are solemnly pledged to God in baptism for a faith and practice as conformable to the conditions of our covenant, as we can possibly make them. If, through a miserable fondness for our own ways, and a mistaken overstretch of God's supposed compassion,' we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law, died without mercy; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unboly thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace ? Although all this shuts not the door against repentance for sins committed after baptism; yet it is sufficient to shew us the necessity of standing fast in that faith we engaged for, and walking in those commandments we promised to keep, by an awful vow, when we entered into covenant with God; for we see, that by a final falling away from this covenant, in either respect, we'trample on the Son of God;' we profane the holy covenant; we insult the Spirit of God; and consequently replunge ourselves into a state of war and enmity with the Almighty Being, insomuch that we are here called “his adversaries,' and threatened as such, with fearful judgments, and fiery indignation.' It had been infinitely better for us to have continued in our natural state, born in sin, and the children of wrath,' on account of Adam's sin and our own, than to have sinned against the light, against a solemn contract, voluntarily entered into with Almighty God, and sealed, on his side, with the blood of his son; and on ours, by an awful vow. It had indeed been better for us,' as St. Peter says, , not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after we have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto us.'
We ought to consider, that this is not a covenant contrary to our nature, and imposed on us by another, for his own good, and not ours; but that its conditions are absolutely necessary to purify our nature, and prepare us for happiness; that as such, we freely choose to inake them the foundation of peace with God; that they are therefore laws of our own enacting, although God first drew them up, and proposed them; that they are to us truly a law of liberty, because we gave them the force of laws in respect to ourselves, by our own voluntary ratification; and that, on all these accounts, it would be foolish, preposterous, and impious to the highest degree, in us, to slight them, by a cool or partial observation of them, since God hath put it in our power to treat them with a more suitable respect.
To conclude therefore ; let us make the articles of this most interesting covenant the subject of deep and continual meditations. Let us reflect, that our eternal happiness absolutely depends on the observation, and our eternal misery infallibly pursues the transgression of it. Let us consider, what it cost to procure this contract; no less than the blood of Christ, the eternal, the only-begotten Son of God. Let us consider, that it is with the awful God we have exchanged promises in this important treaty of peace. With our thoughts intensely stretched on these reflections, let us fear and tremble exceedingly before God, on the review of all our past transgressions; and, in the strength of this fear, deepened by a truly penitential sorrow, improved by an ingenuous shame, and lifted above despair by an ardent love of God, let us now at length, like true champions for God, for religion, for heaven, resolutely address ourselves to the performance of our vows.
And, in order to a successful accomplishment of this arduous warfare, may the gracious captain of our salvation be pleased to bestow on us the whole armour of God, and the powerful aids of his Holy Spirit ; that' we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, and more than conquerors, through him that loved us, may serve him henceforth without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. And now, to the blessed and only Poten
tate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, or can see, be honour and power everlasting. Amen.
THE COVENANT OF PEACE RENEWED AND
1 Cor. XI. 28.
Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and
drink of that cup.
Among all the wise sayings of the ancient philosophers, none is so much, or so justly, admired, as this, ‘Know thyself.' Real knowledge, in all its branches, is the most useful and ornamental possession we can possibly attain to. Without necessary knowledge, a man is but a brute or idiot; without some knowledge of civility, of the arts and sciences, he is but a clown. But necessary knowledge is first to be acquired; then that which is useful; and afterward that which is ornamental. Of the first, some articles are more necessary than others; for instance, the knowledge of God, and ourselves. Yet in a very numerous class of men, curiosity and pride have advanced the last kind of knowledge into the place of the first, and preferred parade to necessity. They know all manner of persons and things, but God: they know what passes every where, but in themselves : their minds are dieted on the frothy part of learning; but are strangers to man's meat, or solid food; and often even to milk, the nourishment of babes.
Few men have time to lay out on the pursuit of much knowledge ; and of those that have, the greater part are rendered unhappy, or ridiculous, by always hunting for deep or remote refinements; and so continue, through their whole