« AnteriorContinuar »
who have had little or no Knowledge of Him, who offered it. But in such Questions we have no Concerns. Our Bufiness is to take Care that it may extend to us, by embracing, with an active as well as joyful Faith, the. gracious Tenders of the Gospel Dispensation.
Indeed, the first Advantage, that we have from it, is before we are capable of knowing our Happiness, at the Time of our Baptifm. For Baptism restores the Infants of believing Parents, as will be proved hereafter in explaining it, to that Assurance of immortal Life, which our first Parents loft, and we by Consequence. But when administered to Persons of riper Years, as it conveys a further Privilege, the Pardon of their former actual Sins, it also requires a suitable Condition, the Exercise of an actual Faith, fuch as will produce future Obedience. And as Infants are baptized only on Presumption of their coming to have this Faith in due Time: so, if they live, and refuse to be instructed in it, or despise it, their Baptism will avail them Nothing, For it is a Covenant : at first indeed made for us;
but to be afterwards acknowledged and ratified by us, as it is in Confirmation. And in this Covenant we engage, on our Part, to keep ourselves,, with an honest Care, free from Sin: and God engages, on his, to consider us, (not because of our Care, though on Condition of it, but for the Sake of Christ,) as free from Guilt, notwithstanding such Infirmities and Failings as may overtake well-meaning Persons. He will not look on these as Breaches of his Covenant, but readily pass them over; provided we make a general Confession of them in our daily Prayers, and strive against them with a reasonable Diligence. For such Things we cannot expect to avoid entirely: but greater Offences we may. And therefore, if we fall into any habitual Wickedness, or any single Act of gross and deliberate Sin; we forfeit the Happiness, to which our Baptism entitles us : and. if we continue impenitent, the more Privileges we have, enjoyed, the more severely we shall be punished. F 3
For to whomfuever much is given, of him shall much be required":
But if God allows us Time; and we make Use of it, not only to be sorry for having lived ill, for this alone is not Gospel Penitence; but to be sorry from a Principle of Conscience; and to thew of what sort our Sorrow is, by living well afterwards, in all those Respects, in which we have been faulty, we become entitled again to the divine Favour. For though the Scripture declares it imposible to reneru some Sinners to Repentance ! : yet if this be taken strictly, it can mean only Blasphemers against. the Haly Ghost k Besides, impossible, in all Languages, often signifies no more than extremely difficult : and with God all Things are posible'. Experience proves, that great Numbers are renewed to Repentance : and that they ihall not be forgiven, when they repent, is no where said. It is true, there remains no more Sacrifice for Sin", no other Method of Salvation, than that, to which they have lost their Claim. But still, if they humbly apply for a fresh Interest in it; since the Apostle directs all Chritians to restore such to their Communion, as Bree thren, in the Spirit of Meekness"; there can be no Doubt, but God will receive them, as a Father, with Pity and Mercy. Indeed the Words of St. John alone would be sufficient to banish all Despondency from the Breast of every Christian Penitent. My little Children, these Things I write unto you, that ye sin not. But if any Man fin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous; and he is the Propitiation for our Sins.
You see then the inestimable Goodness of God, in providing Means, by which we not only fall be
pardoned, but have the Comfort of knowing beforehand, that we shall. But then you see also the only Terms, on which we are to expect it. And these are, not that we live on in a Circle of finning and repenting; not that we abstain from fome Sins, and indulge others : but that we so repent of all our Sins, as not wilfully to n Luke xii. 48. i Heb. vi. 4, 6.
* Matth. xii. 31. · Matth. xix. 26. / m Heb. X. 26.
o Gal. vi, 1.
ļs John ii. 1, 2.
fin again. And till we are arrived at this, we must never think ourselves in a safe Condition. For, as on the one Hand, if the wicked Man turn from his Wickedness, he shall live P; so on the other, if the righteous Man turn from his Righteousness, he fhall die, Blefed are they, whole Transgreffion is forgiven, and whose Sin is covered. Blessed are they, to whom the Lord imputeth-not Iniquity, and in whose Spirit there is no Guile".
p Ezek. xviii. 21, 27.
9 Ibid. 24
* Psal. xxxii. 1, 2.
L E C T U RE XVI.
C RE E D.
Articles XI, XII. Part I. The Resurrection of the
Body, and the Life everlasting.
HE Resurrection of the Body and Life everlast
ing being the Consequences of the preceding Article, the Forgiveness of Sins, our Belief of that com. fortable Truth leads us naturally to believe these also. And as they complete the Whole of what we are concerned to know; so here the Profession of our Faith happily concludes, having brought us to the End of our Faith, the Salvation of our Souls a.
But, though this part of our Creed expresses only twoThings; yet it implies two more: and to comprehends. the four following Particulars :
I. That the Souls of all Men continue after Death.
II. That their Bodies shall at the last Day be raised up, and re-united to them.
* , Peter i. 9.
III. That both Souls and Bodies of good Persons (hal! enjoy everlasting Happiness.
IV. That those of the wicked shall undergo ever. lasting Punishment.
1. That the Souls of all Men continue after Death, We are every one of us capable of perceiving and thinking, judging and resolving, loving and hating, hoping and fearing, rejoicing and grieving. That Part of us, which doth these Things, we call the Mind or Soul. Now plainly this is not the Body. Neither our Limbs, nor our Trunk, nor even our Head, is what understands, and reasons, and wills, and likes or disikes : but something, that hath its Abode within the Head, and is upseen. A little Consideration will make any of you sensible of this. Then further : our Bodies inTrease, from an unconceivable Smallness, to a very large Bulk, and waste away again, and are changing, each Part of them, more or less, every Day. Our Souls, we know, continue all the while the same. Our Limbs may be cut off one after another, and perilh : yet the Soul not be impaired by it in the least. All Feeling and Motion may be lost almost throughout the Body, as in the Case of an universal Palsy: yet the Soul have lost Nothing. And though some Diseases do indeed disorder the Mind: there is no Appearance, that any have a Tendency to destroy it. On the contrary, the greatest Disorders of the Understanding are often accompanied with firm Health and Strength of Body: and the moft fatal Distempers of the Body are attended, to the very Moment of Death, with all poffible Vigour and Liveliness of Understanding. Since therefore these two are plainly different Things; though we knew no further, there would be no Reason to conclude, that one of them dies, because the other doth. But since we do know further, that it can survive so many Changes of the other; this alone affords a fair Probability, that it may
$ In quo igitur loco eft (mens)? Credo equidem in capite : & cur credem, adferre pofTuni. Cic. Tusc. Disp. 1. i. c. 29.
farvive the great Change of Death. Indeed whatever is once in Being, we are to suppose continues in Being, till the contrary appears. Now the Body, we perceive, becomes at Death infeosible, and corrupts. But to inagine the same Thing of the Soul, in which we perceive no Change at that Time, would be almost as groundless, as if having frequently heard the Music of an Organ, but never seen the Person that played on it, we should suppose him dead, on finding the Instrument incapable of playing any more. For the Body is an Instrument adapted to the Soul. The latter is our proper Self: the former is but something joined to us for a Time. And though, during that Time, the Connection is very close; yet Nothing hinders, but we may be as well after the Separation of our Soul from our preient Body, as we were before, if not beiter.
Then consider further : When the Body dies, only, the present Composition and Frame of it is dissolved, and falls in Pieces: not the least fingle Particle, of all that make it up, returns to Nothing; nor can do, unless God, who gave it Being, thinks ht to take that Being away. Now we have no Reason to imagine the Soul made
up of Parts, though the Body is. On the contrary, so far as the acutest Reasoners are able to judge, what perceives and wills must be one uncompounded Şubstance. And not being compounded, it cannot be diffolved, and therefore probably cannot die .
God indeed may put an End to it, when he pleases... But since he hath made it of a Nature to last for ever, we cannot well conceive, that he will destroy it after fo short a Space, as that of this Life: especially consider ing, that he hath planted in our Breasts, an earnest Defire of Immortality, and a Horror at the Thought of ceasing to be. It is true, we dread also the Death of our Bodies, and yet we own they must die: but then we believe, that they were not at first intended to die: and that they fhall live again wonderfully, improved.
• See Cic. Tusc. Disp. i. 29,