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Of the neceffity of good works.
TIT. iii. 8.
This is a faithful faying, and these things I will that thou affirm conftantly, that they which have believed in GOD, might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto
ROM thefe words I have propofed to handleS E R M. thefe two points.
First, the certain truth and credibility of this fay-The feing or propofition, "that they which have believed cond fer"in GOD, ought to be careful to maintain good this text. "works." This I have spoken to, and come now to the
Second, The great fitness and neceffity of inculcating frequently upon all that profefs themselves Chriftians, the indifpenfable neceflity of the practice of the virtues of a good life. In the handling of this point, I fhall do these two things.
First, I fhall fhew the great fitness and neceffity of preffing upon people the indifpenfable neceffity of the virtues of a good life. And,
Secondly, Answer an objection or two, to which the preaching of this kind of doctrine may feein liable. I begin with the
First of these, viz.
To fhew the great fitness - and neceffity of inculcating and preffing upon all
SER M. Chriftians the indifpenfable neceffity of the virtues of a good life. And this will appear to be very fit and neceffary upon these two accounts.
1. Because men are so very apt to deceive themfelves in this matter, and fo hardly brought to that wherein religion mainly confifts, viz. the practice of real goodness.
II. Because of the indifpenfable neceffity of the thing to render us capable of the divine favour and acceptance, and of the reward of eternal life and happiness.
I. Because men are fo very apt to deceive themfelves in this matter, and fo hardly brought to that wherein religion mainly consists, viz. the practice of real goodness. They are extremely defirous to reconcile (if it be poffible) the hopes of eternal happiness in another world, with a liberty to live as they lift in this prefent world; they are loth to be at the trouble and drudgery of mortifying their lufts, and fubduing and governing their paffions, and bridling their tongues, and ordering their whole converfation aright, and practising all thofe duties which are comprehended in those two great commandments, the love of GoD and our neighbour. They would fain get into the favour of GOD, "and make "their calling and election fure," by some easier way, than by "giving all diligence, to add to their "faith virtue, and knowledge, and temperance, and patience, and brotherly kindnefs, and charity."
The plain truth of the matter is, men had rather religion fhould be any thing, than what indeed it is, the thwarting and croffing of our vicious inclinations, the curing of our evil and corrupt affections, the due care and government of our unruly appetites and paffions, the fincere endeavour and conftant
practice of all holiness and virtue in our lives; and SERM therefore they had much rather have something that, might handsomely palliate and excuse their evil inclinations, than to extirpate them and cut them up; and rather than reform and amend their vicious lives, make God an honourable amends and compenfation for them in fome other way.
This hath been the way and folly of mankind in all ages, to defeat the great end and defign of religion, and to thrust it by, by fubftituting something efe in the place of it, which they hope may serve the turn as well, and which hath the appearance of as much devotion and refpect, and perhaps of more coft and pains, than that which God requires of them. Men have ever been apt thus to impofe upon themselves, and to please themselves with a conceit of pleafing GOD full as well, or better, by fome other way, than that which he hath pitched upon and appointed for them; not confidering that GOD is a great King, and will be observed and obeyed by his creatures in his own way; and that obedience to what he commands is better and more acceptable to him, than any other facrifice that we can offer, which he hath not required at our hands; that he is infinitely wife and good, and therefore the laws and rules which he hath given us to live by, are more likely and certain means of our happiness, than any inventions and devices of our own.
Thus I fay, it hath been in all ages. The old world, after that general deluge which God fent to punish the raging wickednefs and impiety of men, by sweeping all mankind from off the face of the earth, excepting only one family, which was faved to be the seminary of a new and better race of men; I fay after this, the world in a fhort space fell off A 3 from
SER M. from the worship of the true GoD, to the worship of idols and falfe gods; being unwilling to bring themselves to a conformity and likeness to the true GOD, they chofe falfe gods like themselves, fuch as might not only excufe, but even countenance and abett their lewd and vicious practices.
And when GOD had made a new revelation of himself to the nation of the Jews, and given them the chief heads and fubftance of the natural law, written over again with his own finger in tables of ftone, and many other laws concerning religious worship, and their civil converfation, fuited and adapted to their prefent temper and condition; yet how foon did their religion degenerate into external obfervances, purifications and washings, and a multitude of facrifices, without any great regard to the inward and fubftantial parts of religion, and the practice of thofe moral duties and virtues, which were in the first place required of them, and without which all the reft found no acceptance with GOD. Hence are thofe frequent complaints in the prophets, that their religion was degenerated into form and ceremony, into oblations and facrifices, the obfervance of fafts, and fabbaths, and new moons; but had no power and efficacy upon their hearts and lives; was wholly deftitute of inward purity and holinefs, of all fubftantial virtues, and the fruits of righteousness in a good life. Thus GoD complains by the prophet Ifaiah, ch. i. 11, &c. "To what pur"pofe is the multitude of your facrafices unto me,
faith the LORD? Bring no more vain oblations. "Incense is an abomination unto me, the new moons "and fabbaths, the calling of affemblies I cannot "away with; it is iniquity, even the folemn meeting. Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil