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CCVIII.

practice of all holiness and virtue in our lives; and SER M therefore they had much rather have something that, might handsomely palliate and excufe 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 thruft it by, by fubftituting fomething ese 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 pleasing 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 obferved 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 inventions and devices of our own. any

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 feminary of a new and better race of men ; I fay after this, the world in a fhort pace fell off A 3

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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 chose falfe gods like themselves, such 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 those 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 holiness, 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

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"of your doings from before mine eyes. Ceafe to SERM. "do evil, learn to do well; feek judgment, relieve, "the oppreffed, judge the fatherless, plead for the "widow. Come now, and let us reafon together, "faith the LORD. Though your fins be as fcarlet, "&c." Upon thefe terms GoD declares himself ready to be reconciled to them, and to have mercy. on them. But all their external services and facrifi-, ces, separated from real goodness and righteousness,, were fo far from appealing God's wrath, that they did but increase the provocation. And to the fame purpofe, chap. lxvi. 2, 3. "To this man will I "look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite fpirit, and trembleth at my word. He that kill"eth an ox, is as if he flew a man: he that facrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck: he "that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swines "blood: he that burneth incenfe, as if he bleffed

an idol, Yea, they have chofen their own ways, " and their foul delighted in their abomination.". Jer. vi, 19, 20. "Hear, O earth: behold, I will

bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of "their thoughts, because they have not hearkened "unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it. "To what purpose cometh there to me incenfe " from Sheba? and the sweet cane from a far coun"try? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor "your facrifices fweet unto me." They thought to please GoD with coftly incenfe and facrifices, whilft they rejected his law. And chap. vii .4, 5, 6.

Truft ye not in lying words, faying, the temple "of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the tem

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ple of the LORD are thefe. For if ye thoroughly "amend your ways, and your doings: if ye tho"roughly execute judgment between a man and

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SERM. his neighbour; if ye opprefs not the ftranger, the fatherlefs, and the widow, and fhed not in"nocent blood in this place, neither walk after other <i gods to your hurt: then will I cause you to dwell "in this place." And ver. 8, 9, 10. "Behold, ye truft in lying words that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear “falsly, and burn incenfe unto Baal, and walk af"ter other gods, whom ye know not and come "and stand before me in this house, which is call"ed by my name, and fay, we are delivered to do "all these abominations ?" This was to add impudence to all their other impieties, to think that the worship of GOD, and his holy temple did excufe these grofs crimes and immoralities. Micah. vi. 6, 7, 8. There GOD reprefents the Jews, as defirous to please GoD at any rate, provided their lufts and vices might be fpared, and they might not be obliged to amend and reform their lives. "Wherewith "fhall I come before the LORD, and bow my felf "before the high GOD? Shall I come before him, "with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, " and with ten thousands of rivers of oyl? Shall I “give my first-born for my tranfgreffions, the fruit "of my body for the fin of my foul?" All this they would willingly do: but all this will not do without real virtue and goodness, " he hath fhewed "thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the "LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to "love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

And in the time of our bleffed SAVIOUR, those who pretended to be moft devout among the Jews, were wholly bufied about their pretended traditions of washing of hands, and the outfides of their cups and

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and dishes, and about the external and leffer things SER M. of the law, the tything of mint, and anife, and cummin and all manner of herbs, omitting in the mean time the weightier matters of the law, "judgment, "mercy, and faith, and the love of GoD," as our SAVIOUR describes their religion, Matth. xxiii. 23.

And after the clear revelation of the gospel, the best and most perfect inftitution that ever was, in the very beginning of chriftianity, what licentious doctrines did their creep in, " turning the grace of GoD "into lafciviousness," and releafing men from all moral duties, and the virtues of a good life?" by "reafon whereof the way of truth was evil spoken "of," as St. Peter, and St. Jude exprefly tell us, concerning the fect of the Gnofticks. And St. John likewife defcribes the fame fect by their arrogant pretences to extraordinary knowledge and illumination, whilst they walked in darkness, and allowed themfelves in all manner of wickedness of life; they pretended to perfection and righteousness, without keeping the commandments of GOD.

And in the next following age of christianity, how was it pestered with a trifling controverfy about the time of the observation of Easter, and with endlefs difputes and niceties about the doctrine of the Trinity, and the two natures and wills of CHRIST! by which means the practice of chriftianity was greatly neglected, and the main end and design of that excellent religion almoft quite defeated and loft.

After this, when the mystery of iniquity began to fhew itself, in the degeneracy of the Roman church from her primitive fanctity and purity, and in the affectation of an undue and boundless power over other churches, the chriftian religion began to be over-run with fuperftition, and the primitive fervour

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