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CHIEF HEADS OF THE SERMONS.
John ix. 2, 3.
this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
• parents : but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. P. 1.
The circumstance of this blindness, thus expressed in the words of the first verse, was the occasion of those words that follow in the two next; in which we have,
1. A question of Christ's disciples. The design of the proposal may be twofold. (1.) Simply and positively as their opinion, really judging all maladies of the body to come from the antecedent demerit of sin, as past and actually committed, or as future and foreknown by God, 2. (2.) Only for argument sake, 3.
2. The answer or rejoinder of Christ, in which, by a reprehensive shortness, he both clears the man's innocence, and vindicates God's proceedings, 4.
The words thus cleared briefly exhibit to us the erroneous curiosity of the disciples, in their inquiry into the reason of God's judgments, and the state of another man's soul: the design of them is prosecuted in three propositions, 7.
I. That men are prone to charge God's judgments upon false causes. And,
1. These false causes are shewn; which are, (1.) Sin on his
part that suffers, 8. (2.) Hatred on God's part, 9. 2. The principles are shewn, inducing men to make such false references: and these are, (1.) The fallibility of the rule, and the falseness of the opinion by which they judge, 11. (2.) Their inability in discerning, joined with their confidence in pronouncing, 13. (3.) The inbred malice of our nature, 15.
II. That not always the sin or merit of the person afflicted, but the will of God that afflicts, is sometimes the sole, but always the sufficient reason of the affliction, 17.
In support of which, God's own testimony, Job xlii. 7, is produced; a distinction is made between punishments and afflictions, 18. and God's proceeding herein cleared from injustice upon these reasons: 1. His absolute, unaccountable dominion and sovereignty over the creature, 18. 2. "The essential equity of his nature, 20. 3. His unerring, all-disposing wisdom, 23.
III. God never inflicts evil upon men but for the great end of advancing his own glory, and that usually in the way of their good.
This is sufficiently clear in the present instance, 24. and expressed in those words of the text, that the works of God might be made manifest in him. The works that God intends thus to glorify, usually are, 1. The miraculous works of his power, 25. 2. The works of his grace, 27.
. The use and improvement of the doctrine thus discussed is a confutation and reproof of the bold, uncharitable interpreters of God's providences; whose peremptory way of judging is peculiarly odious to him for the cursed cause of it, curiosity ; which may be properly accounted the incontinence of the mind, and is but one remove from the rebellion of it, 30.
PSALM CXxx. 4. But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be
feared. P. 33. After man had once sinned, and so was for ever disabled
to stand before God upon terms of the law, which spoke nothing but irrevocable death to him who transgressed in the least iota, had God continued this inexorable sentence, it would of necessity have wrought in man these two things:
1. Horror of despair, 33. 2. Height of malice, 34.
God therefore assumes to himself the most endearing description in these words; which consist of two parts, 37.
I. A declaration of mercy in these words, There is forgiveness with thee; and the greatness of it is displayed in the consideration of three things,
(1.) The principle from which it flows. It is from the free, spontaneous motion of God's good pleasure, 37. This evinced by sundry reasons, 38. His mercy shewn to be consistent with his justice, 40. and the former to be made glorious, first, In the relaxation of the law, which required of every sinner a satisfaction in his own person ; second, That, as he was pleased to be satisfied with a surety, so he himself found and provided this surety, 41.
(2.) The sins that are the subject-matter of it: and the greatness of the pardon advances upon considering them, as they are heightened by these two properties; 1. Their number, 45. . 2. Their greatness, 47.
(3.) The persons on whom this pardon is conferred, who are men; that is, very worthless and inconsiderable creatures, in comparison of those to whom the same pardon is denied, 49.
II. The end and design of such a declaration, which is fear and obedience; under which head are shewn,
1st, What that fear is, which is here intended. Now there are three sorts of fear. 1. An anxious, distracting, amazing fear; such as Moses felt upon the sight of God, 51. 2. A slavish and servile fear; such an one as is called the spirit of bondage, 52. 3. A filial, reverential fear; such an one as is enlivened with a principle of love: which is that alone that is designed in these words, 52.
2dly, How God's forgiveness may be an argument to en, force this fear. As, (1.) because the neglect of the fear of God, upon supposal that he has forgiven us our sins, is highly disingenuous, 54. (2.) Also most provoking and dangerous, 55.
Hence we learn, 1. The different nature of Christ's spiritual kingdom from all other kingdoms in the world, in respect of the fear of the subject, 56. 2. Upon what ground every man is to build the persuasion of the pardon of his sins, namely, the effects this persuasion of God's mercy works upon their spirits: for he, that from God's mercy gathers no arguments for his fear, may conclude thus much, that there is indeed forgiveness with God, but no forgiveness for him, 57.
PREACHED JUST AFTER CROMWELL'S DEATH.
DEUT. xxix. 4. Yet the Lord has not given you an heart to perceive, nor
eyes to see, nor ears to hear unto this day. P. 59. God's miraculous favours to the children of Israel are shortly enumerated, and their invincible hardness, strange unbelief, and frequent rebellion under them. An interchange of mercies on God's part and murmurings on theirs being the continual custom and manner of their whole life, Moses might well accompany the repetition of the covenant, with this upbraiding reprehension, 59-61.
From the several phrases of the same signification in the text, we may collect the exceeding stupidity and total ignorance of the Jews, in apprehending the divine dispensations; or refer them to those several means which God suited to every apprehensive faculty of their soul, that he might force his convictions upon them, 62.
The words afford us these observations.
1 Observ. That the heart may remain unaffected and unconvinced in the midst of convincing means; so termed, (1.) Because they do actually convince some, though they miscarry in others. (2.) Because they have a fitness or aptitude to convince all, 62, 63.