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SER M. of piety and devotion was turned into a fierce zeal and contention about matters of no moment and importance; of whichwe have a moft remarkable inftance here in our own nation, when Auftin the monk arrived here to convert the nation, and preach the Gospel amongst us, as the church of Rome pretended; but against all faith and truth of history, which affures us that christianity was planted here among the Britains several ages before, and perhaps fooner than even at Rome itself, and not only fo, but had got confiderable footing among the Saxons before Austin the monk ever fet foot amongst us; I fay, when Austin the monk arrived here, the two great points of his chriftianity, were to bring the Britains to a conformity with the church of Rome in the time of Eafter, and in the tonfure and fhaving of the priests, after the manner of St. Peter, as they pretended, upon the crown of the head, and not of St, Paul, which was by fhaving or cutting clofe the hair of the whole head, as from fome vain and foolish tradition he pretended to have learned: the promoting of these two cuftoms was his great errand and business, and the zeal of his preaching was spent upon these two fundamental points; in which after very barbarous and bloody doings, he at last prevailed. And this is the converfion of England, fo much boafted of by the church of Rome, and for which this Auftin is magnified for fo great a faint; when it is very evident from the hiftory of thofe times, that he was a proud, ignorant, turbulent, and cruel man, who instead of first converting the nation to the faith of CHRIST, confounded the purity and fimplicity of the chriftian religion, which had been planted and established among us long before.
In latter ages, when the man of fin was grown up
to his full ftature, the great bufinefs of religion was SERM.. the pope's abfolute and univerfal authority over all Christians, even kings and princes, in order to spiritual matters; ecclefiaftical liberties and immuni→ ties; and the exemption of the clergy, and all matters belonging to them, from the cognizance of the fecular power; the great points which Tho. a Becket contended fo earneftly for, calling it the cause of CHRIST, and in the maintenance whereof he perfisted to the death, and was canonized as a faint and a martyr. And among the people, their piety confifted in the promoting of monkery, and founding and endowing monafteries; in infinite fuperftitions, foolish doctrines, and more abfurd miracles to confirm them; in purchafing indulgencies with money, and hearing of maffes for the redemption of fouls out of purgatory; in the idolatrous worship of faints and their relicks and images, and especially of the bleffed virgin, which at last grew to that height, as to make up the greatest part of their worship and devotion both publick and private. And indeed they have brought matters to that abfurd pafs, that one may truly fay, that the whole business of their devotion is to teach men to worship images, and images to worship GOD. For to be prefent at divine service and prayer celebrated in an unknown tongue, is not the worship of men and reasonable creatures, but of ftatues and images, who though they be prefent in the place where this fervice is performed, yet they bear no part in it, being void of all fenfe and underftanding of what is done. And indeed in their whole religion, fuch as it is, they drive fo ftrict a bargain with God, and treat him in fo arrogant a manner, by their infolent doctrine of the merit of good works, as if GOD were as much beholden to them for their
SER M. fervice and obedience, as they are to him for the reward of it, which they challenge as of right and juftice belonging to them. Nay, fo high have they carried this doctrine, as to pretend not only to merit eternal life for themselves, but to do a great deal more in works of fupererogation, for the benefit and advantage of others; that is, when they have done as much as in strict duty they are obliged to, and thereby paid down a valuable confideration for heaven, and as much as in equal juftice between GoD and man it is worth, their furplusage of their good works they put as a debt upon GOD, and as so many bills of credit laid up in the treasury of the church, which the pope by his pardons and indulgencies may dispense and place to whofe account he pleaseth. And thus by one device or other they have enervated the christian religion to that degree, that it has quite loft it's virtue and efficacy upon the hearts and lives of men; and inftead of the fruits of real goodness and righteousness, it produceth little elfe but fuperftition and folly; or if it bring forth any fruits of charity, it is either fo mif-placed upon these chimeras (as hiring of priests to fay fo many maffes for the dead, to redeem their fouls out of purgatory) that it fignifies nothing; or else the virtue of it is spoiled by the arrogant pretence of meriting by it. So apt have men always been to deceive themselves by an affected mistake of any thing for religion, but that which really and in truth is fo. And this is that which the apostle St. Paul foretold would be the great mifcarriage of the last times, that under a great pretence of religion men fhould be destitute of all goodness, and abandoned to all wickedness and vice, "having a form of godliness, but denying the pow"er of it," 2 Tim. iii. 5.
And though things have been much better fince SER M. that happy reformation from the corruptions and errors of popery, yet even among proteftants the malice and craft of the devil hath prevailed fo far, as to undermine, in a great measure, the neceffity of a good life, by thofe luscious doctrines of the Antinomians, concerning free grace, and the juftification of a finner merely upon a confident persuasion of his being in a state of grace and favour with GoD, and confequently that the gospel dischargeth men from obedience to the laws of GOD, and all manner of obligation to the virtues of a good life; which doctrines, how false and abfurd foever in themselves, and pernicious in their confequences, did not only prevail very much in Germany, a little after the beginning of the reformation, but have fince got too much footing in other places, and been too far entertained and cherished by fome good men, who were not fufficiently aware of the error and danger of them. But bleffed be GOD, the doctrine of our church, both in the articles and homilies of it, hath been preferved pure and free from all error and corruption in this matter on either hand, afferting the neceffity of good works, and yet renouncing the merit of them in that arrogant fense, inwhich the church of Rome does teach and affert it; and fo teaching juftification by faith, and the free grace of God in JESUS CHRIST, as to maintain the indispensable neceffity of the virtues of a good life.
And thus I have done with the first reafon, why it is fo fit and neceffary to prefs frequently upon Chriftians the indispensable neceffity of the virtues of a good life, viz. because men are and have ever been so very apt to deceive themselves in this matter, and fo hardly brought to that wherein religion mainly confifts, viz. the practice of real goodness. I fhall be brief II. Rea
II. Reason, namely, because of the indispensable neceffity of the thing to render us capable of the di vine favour and acceptance, and of the reward of eter nal life. And this added to the former, makes the reafon full and strong. For if men be so apt to decieve themselves in this matter, and to be deceived in it be a matter of fuch dangerous confequence, then it is highly neceffary to inculcate this frequently upon Christians, that no man may be mistaken in a matter of fo much danger, and upon which his eternal happiness depends. Now if obedience to the laws of GOD, and the practice of virtue and good works be necessary to our continuance in a state of grace and favour with GOD, and to our final justification by our absolution at the great day, if nothing but holiness obedience can qualify us for the bleffed fight of GOD, and the glorious reward of eternal happinefs; then it is matter of infinite confequence to us, not to be mistaken in a matter of fo great importance but that we" work out our falvation with fear and " and trembling," and "give all diligence to make "our calling and election fure," by "adding to "our faith and knowledge, the virtues of a good "life:"that" by patient continuance in well-do"ing, we seek for glory, and honour, and immor"tality, and eternal life;" and that we fo demean our felves" in all holy converfation and godlinefs," as that we may with comfort and confidence "wait for "the bleffed hope, and the glorious appearance of "the great GOD, and our SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST; " who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a pecu"liar people zealous of good works." That this is indifpenfably neceffary to our happiness, I have in my former discourse fhewn at large, from the great end