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mysteries of nature, of diving into the depths beneath, and of understanding the motions and influences of the stars above, even this glorious, active thing, did they confine within the pitiful compass of the present fruition, forbidding it to take a prospect so far as into the morrow, as if to think, to contemplate, or be serious, had been high treason against the empire and prerogative of sense, usurping the throne of their baffled and deposed reason.

And how comes it to pass, that even nowadays there is often seen such a vast difference between the former and the latter part of some men's lives? that those who first stepped forth into the world with high and promising abilities, vigorous intellectuals, and clear morals, come at length to grow sots and epicures, mean in their discourses, and dirty in their practices, but that, as, by degrees, they remitted of their industry, loathed their business, and gave way to their pleasures, they let fall those generous principles, which, in their youthful days, had borne them upon the wing, and raised them to worthy and great thoughts; which thoughts and principles not being kept up and cherished, but smothered in sensual delights, God, for that cause, suffered them to flag and sink into low and inglorious satisfactions, and to enjoy themselves more in a revel or a merry-meeting, a strumpet or a tavern, than in being useful to a church or a nation, in being a public good to society, and a benefit to mankind. The parts that God gave them, they held in unrighteousness, sloth, and sensuality, and this made God to desert and abandon them to themselves, so that they have had a doating and a decrepit reason, long before age had given them such a body.

And therefore I could heartily wish, that such young persons as hear me now, would lodge this one observation deep in their minds, namely, that God and nature have joined wisdom and virtue by such a near cognation, or rather such an inseparable connection, that a wise, a prudent, and an honourable old age, is seldom or never found, but as the reward and effect of a sober, a virtuous, and a well spent youth.

4. I descend now to the fourth and last thing proposed, namely, The judgment, or rather the state and condition penally consequent upon the persons here charged by the apostle with idolatry, which is, "That they were without excuse.'

After the commission of sin, it is natural for the sinner to apprehend himself in danger, and, upon such apprehension, to provide for his safety and defence; and that must be one of these two ways, namely, either by pleading his innocence, or by using his power. But since it would be infinitely in vain for a finite power to contend with an infinite, innocence, if any thing, must be his plea, and that must

be either by an absolute denial, or, at least, by an extenuation or diminution of his sin. Though indeed this course will be found altogether as absurd as the other could be, it being every whit as irrational for a sinner to plead his innocence before omniscience, as it would be to oppose his power to omnipotence. However, the last refuge of a guilty person is to take shelter under an excuse, and so to mitigate, if he cannot divert the blow. It was the method of the great pattern and parent of all sinners, Adam, first to hide, and then to excuse himself, to wrap the apple in the leaves, and to give his case a gloss at least, though not a defence. But now, when the sinner shall be stripped of this also, have all his excuses blown away, be stabbed with his own arguments, and, as it were, sacrificed upon that very altar which he fled to for succour, this, surely, is the height and crisis of a forlorn condition. Yet this was the case of the malefactors who stand here arraigned in the text; this was the consummation of their doom, that they were persons not only unfit for a pardon, but even for a plea.

Now an excuse, in the nature of it, imports these two things,

1. The supposition of a sin.
2. The extenuation of its guilt.

As for the sin itself, we have already heard what that was, and we will now see how able they are to acquit themselves in point of its extenuation. În which, according to the two grand principles of human actions which determine their morality, the understanding and the will, the excuse must derive either from ignorance or unwillingness.

As for unwillingness, (to speak of this last first,) the heathen philosophers generally asserted the freedom of the will, and its inviolable dominion over its own actions, so that no force or coaction from without could intrench upon the absolute empire of this faculty.

It must be confessed, indeed, that it hath been something lamed in this its freedom by original sin, of which defect the heathens themselves were not wholly ignorant, though they were of its cause. So that hereupon the will is not able to carry a man out to a choice so perfectly, and in all respects good, but that still there is some adherent circumstance of imperfection, which, in strictness of morality, renders every action of it evil; according to that known and most true rule, Malum ex quolibet defectu.

Nevertheless, the will has still so much freedom left, as to enable it to choose any act in its kind good, whether it be an act of temperance, justice, or the like; as also to refuse any act in its kind evil, whether of intemperance, injustice, or the like; though yet it neither chooses one nor refuses the other with such a perfect concurrence of all due ingre

But, however, that measure of freedom which the will still retains, of being able to choose any act materially, and in its kind good, and to refuse the contrary, was enough to cut off all excuse from the heathen, who never duly improved the utmost of such a power, but gave themselves up to all the filthiness and licentiousness of life imaginable. In all which it is certain that they acted willing-wood or stone bear to a spirit void of all senly, and without compulsion, or rather indeed sible qualities and bodily dimensions? How greedily, and without control. could they put men in mind of infinite power, wisdom, and holiness, and such other attributes, of which they had not the least mark or character?

taken out of their hands, forasmuch as they knew that there was a God, and that this God made and governed the world, and upon that account was to be worshipped and addressed to, and that with such a worship as should be agreeable to his nature, both in respect of the piety and virtue of the worshipper, and also of the means of the worship itself. So that he was neither to be worshipped with impious and immoral practices, nor with corporeal resemblances. For how could an image help men in directing their thoughts to a Being which bore no similitude or cognation to that image at all? And what resemblance could

The only persons amongst the heathens who sophisticated nature and philosophy in this particular, were the Stoics, who affirmed a fatal, unchangeable concatenation of causes, reaching even to the elicit acts of man's will. So that according to them there was no act of volition exerted by it, but, all circumstances considered, it was impossible for the will not to exert that volition. But these were but one sect of philosophers; that is, but an handful in comparison of the rest of the Gentiles: ridiculous enough, for what they held and taught, and consequently not to be laid in the balance with the united judgment of all other learned men in the world, unanimously exploding this opinion. Questionless, therefore, a thing so deeply engraven upon the first and most inward notions of man's mind, as a persuasion of the will's freedom, would never permit the heathens (who are here charged by the apostle) to patronize and excuse their sins upon this score, that they committed them against their will, and that they had no power to do otherwise. In which, every hour's experience, and reflection upon the method of their own actings, could not but give them the lie to their face.

dients of action, but that still, in the sight of God, judging according to the rigid measures of the law, every such choice or refusal is indeed sinful and imperfect. This is most certain, whatsoever Pelagius and his brethren assert to the contrary.

The only remaining plea, therefore, which these men can take sanctuary in, must be that of ignorance, since there could be no pretence for unwillingness. But the apostle divests them even of this also, for he says expressly, in verse 19, "that what might be known of God," that famous and so much disputed of τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, was manifested in them ; and in verse 21, their inexcusableness is stated upon the supposition of this very thing, "that they knew God," but, for all that, "did not glorify him as God." This was the sum of their charge; and how it has been made good against them we have already shewn in what we have spoken about their idolatry, very briefly, I confess, but enough to shew its absurdity, though not to account for its variety, when Vossius's very abridgment of it makes a thick volume in folio.

The plea of ignorance, therefore, is also

But now, if these things could not possibly resemble any perfection of the Deity, what use could they be of to men in their addresses to God? For can a man's devotions be helped by that which brings an error upon his thoughts? And certain it is, that it is natural for a man, by directing his prayers to an image, to suppose the being he prays to represented by that image. Which how injurious, how contumelious, it must needs be to the glorious, incomprehensible nature of God, by begetting such false and low apprehensions of him in the minds of his creatures, let common sense, not perverted by interest and design, be judge. From all which it follows, that the idolatrous heathens, and especially the most learned of them, not being able to charge their idolatry either upon ignorance or unwillingness, were wholly " without excuse." So that it is to be feared, that Averroes had not the right way of blessing himself, when, in defiance of Christianity, he wished Sit anima mea cum philosophis.

And now, after all, I cannot but take notice, that all that I have said of the heathen idolatry is so exactly applicable to the idolatry of another sort of men in the world, that one would think this first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans were not so much an address to the ancient Romans, as a description of the modern.

But to draw towards a close. The use and improvement of the foregoing discourse, shall be briefly to inform us of these two things,

1st, The signally great and peculiar mercy of God to those to whom he has revealed the gospel, since there was nothing that could have obliged him to it upon the account of his justice for if there had, the heathens, to whom he revealed it not, could not have been thus "without excuse," but might very rationally have expostulated the case with their great Judge, and demurred to the equity of the sentence, had they been condemned by

him. But it appears from hence, that what was sufficient to render men inexcusable, was not therefore sufficient to save them.

It is not said by the apostle, nor can it be proved by any one else, that God vouchsafed to the heathens the means of salvation, if so be the gospel be the only means of it. And yet I will not, I dare not affirm, that God will save none of those to whom the sound of the gospel never reached; though this is evident, that if he does save any of them, it must not De by that ordinary, stated, appointed method which the Scripture has revealed to us, and which they were wholly ignorant of. For grant that the heathens knew that there was a God, who both made and governed the world, and who, upon that account, was to be worshipped, and that with such a worship as should be suitable to such a Being, yet what principle of mere reason could assure them, that "this God would be a rewarder of such as diligently sought and served him?" For certain it is, that there is nothing in the nature of God to oblige him to reward any service of his creature; forasmuch as all that the creature can do is but duty; and even now, at this time, God has no other obligation upon him, but his own free promise to reward the piety and obedience of his servants; which promise reason of itself could never have found out, till God made it known by revelation. And moreover, what principle of reason could assure a man, that God would pardon sinners upon any terms whatsoever? Possibly it might know that God could do so, but this was no sufficient ground for men to depend upon. And then, last of all, as for the way of his pardoning sinners, that he should do it upon a satisfaction paid to his justice by such a Saviour as should be both God and man, this was utterly impossible for all the reason of mankind to find out.

For that these things could be read in the book of nature, or the common works of God's providence, or be learned by the sun and moon's preaching the gospel, as some have fondly (not to say profanely) enough asserted, it is infinitely sottish to imagine, and can indeed be nothing else but the turning the grace of God into wanton and unreasonable propositions.

It is clear, therefore, that the heathens had no knowledge of that way by which alone we expect salvation. So that all the hope which we can have for them is, that the gospel may not be the utmost limit of the divine mercy, but that the merit of Christ may overflow, and run over the pale of the church, so as to reach even many of those who lived and died invincibly ignorant of him.

But whether this shall be so or no, God alone knows, who only is privy to the great counsels of his own will. It is a secret hid from us; and therefore, though we may hope

compassionately, yet I am sure we can pronounce nothing certainly; it is enough for us, that God has asserted his justice, even in his dealing with those whom he treats not upon terms of evangelical mercy. So that such persons can neither excuse themselves, nor yet accuse him; who, in the severest sentence that he can pronounce upon the sinner, will (as the Psalmist tells us) "be justified when he speaks, and clear when he is judged."

2dly, In the next place, we gather hence the unspeakably wretched and deplorable condition of obstinate sinners under the gospel. The sun of mercy has shined too long and too bright upon such, to leave them any shadow of excuse. For, let them argue over all the topics of divine goodness and human weakness, and whatsoever other pretences poor sinking sinners are apt to catch at, to support and save themselves by; yet how trifling must be their plea! how impertinent their defence!

For admit an impenitent heathen to plead, that, albeit his conscience told him that he had sinned, yet it could not tell him that there was any provision of mercy for him upon his repentance. He knew not whether amendment of life would be accepted, after the law was once broke; or that there was any other righteousness to atone or merit for him, but his own.

But no Christian, who has been taken into the arms of a better covenant, and grown up in the knowledge of a Saviour, and the doctrine of faith and repentance from dead works, can speak so much as one plausible word for his impenitence. And, therefore, it was said of him who came to the "marriage feast without a wedding garment," that, being charged, and apprehended for it, quen, "he was speechless," struck with shame and silence, the proper effects of an overpowering guilt, too manifest to be denied, and too gross to be defended. His reason deserted, and his voice failed him, finding himself arraigned, convicted, and condemned in the court of his own conscience.

So that if, after all this, his great Judge had freely asked him, what he could allege or say for himself, why he should not have judg ment to die eternally, and sentence to be awarded according to the utmost rigour of the law, he could not, in this forlorn case, have made use of the very last plea of a cast criminal, nor so much as have cried, " Mercy, Lord, mercy." For still his conscience would have replied upon him, that mercy had been offered and abused, and that the time of mercy was now past. And so, under this overwhelming conviction, every gospel sinner must pass to his eternal execution, taking the whole load of his own damnation solely and entirely upon himself, and acquitting the most just God,

"who is righteous in all his works, and holy in all his ways.”

To whom, therefore, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for Amen.

evermore.

SERMON XX.

OF SACRAMENTAL PREPARATION.

PREACHED AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY, APRIL 8, 1688,

BEING PALM SUNDAY.

Now, though I question not but that this parable of the wedding supper comprehends in it the whole complex of all the blessings and privileges exhibited by the gospel; yet, I conceive, that there is one principal privilege

not having a wedding garment ?”—MATT. xxii. 12.

"And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, amongst all the rest, that it seems more peculiarly to aim at, or at least may more appositely and emphatically be applied to, than to any other whatsoever; and that is the blessed sacrament of the eucharist, by which all the benefits of the gospel are in a higher, fuller, and more divine manner conveyed to the faithful, than by any other duty or privilege belonging to our excellent religion. And for this, I shall offer these three following

THE whole scheme of these words is figurative, as being a parabolical description of God's vouchsafing to the world the invaluable blessing of the gospel, by the similitude of a king, with great magnificence, solemnizing his son's marriage, and with equal bounty bidding and inviting all about him to that royal solemnity, - together with his severe animadversion, both upon those who would not come, and upon one who did come in a very unbeseeming manner.

For the better understanding of which words, we must observe, that in all parables, two things are to be considered.

First, The scope and design of the parable; and,

Secondly, The circumstantial passages, serving only to complete and make up the narration.

such high and undeserved privileges, should nevertheless abuse and despise them by an unworthy, wicked, and ungrateful deportment under them.

For men must not think that the gospel is all made up of privilege and promise, but that there is something of duty to be performed, as well as of privilege to be enjoyed. No welcome to a wedding supper without a wedding garment, and no coming by a wedding garment for nothing. In all the transactions between God and the souls of men, something is expected on both sides, there being a fixed, indissoluble, and (in the language of the parable) a kind of marriage-tie between duty and privilege, which renders them inseparable.

Accordingly, in our application of any parable to the thing designed and set forth by it, we must not look for an absolute and exact correspondence of all the circumstantial or subservient passages of the metaphorical part of it, with just so many of the same, or the like passages in the thing intended by it; but it is sufficient that there be a certain analogy, or agreement between them, as to the principal scope and design of both.

As for the design of this parable, it is, no doubt, to set forth the free offer of the gospel, with all its rich privileges, to the Jewish Church and nation, in the first place; and upon their refusal of it, and God's rejection of them for that refusal, to declare the calling of the Gentiles in their room, by a free, unlimited tender of the gospel to all nations whatsoever; adding, withal, a very dreadful and severe sentence upon those who, being so freely invited, and so generously admitted, to

VOL. I.

reasons:

1. Because the foundation of all parables is, as we have shewn, some analogy or similitude between the tropical or allusive part of the parable, and the thing couched under it, and intended by it. But now, of all the benefits, privileges, or ordinances of the gospel, which of them is there that carries so natural a resemblance to a wedding supper, as that which every one of a very ordinary discerning faculty may observe in the sacrament of the eucharist? For, surely, neither the preaching of the word, nor yet the sacrament of baptism, bears any such resemblance or affinity to it. But, on the other side, this sacrament of the eucharist so lively resembles, and so happily falls in with it, that it is indeed itself a supper, and is called a supper, and that by a genuine, proper, as well as a common and received appellation.

2. This sacrament is not only with great propriety of speech called a supper; but, moreover, as it is the grand and prime means of the nearest and most intimate union and conjunction of the soul with Christ, it may, with a peculiar significancy, be called also a wedding supper. And, as Christ frequently in Scripture owns himself related to the Church, as an husband to a spouse; so, if these nuptial endearments, by which Christ gives himself to the soul, and the soul mutually gives itself to Christ, pass between Christ and believers in any ordinance of the gospel, doubtless it is

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most eminently and effectually in this; which is another pregnant instance of the notable resemblance between this divine sacrament and the wedding supper in the parable; and consequently, a farther argument of the elegant and expressive signification of one by

the other.

3dly and lastly, The very manner of celebrating this sacrament, which is by the breaking of bread, was the way and manner of transacting marriages in some of the eastern countries. Thus Q. Curtius reports, that when Alexander the Great married the Persian Roxana, the ceremony they used was no other but this, panem gladio divisum uterque libabat, he divided a piece of bread with his sword, of which each of them took a part, and so thereby the nuptial rites were performed. Besides, that this ceremony of feasting belongs most properly both to marriage and to the eucharist, as both of them have the nature of a covenant. And all covenants were, in old times, solemnized and accompanied with festival eating and drinking; the persons newly confederate always thereupon feasting together in token of their full and perfect accord, both as to interest and affection.

And now these three considerations together, so exactly suiting the parable of the wedding supper to this spiritual, divine banquet of the gospel, if it does not primarily, and in its first design, intend it; yet certainly, it may with greater advantage of resemblance be applied to it, than to any other duty or privilege belonging to Christianity.

Upon the warrant of which so very particular and extraordinary a cognation between them, I shall, at present, treat of the words wholly with reference to this sacred and divine solemnity, observing and gathering from them, as they lie in coherence with the foregoing and following parts of the parable, these two propositions,

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find it needful to speak so much as one word upon. For, would any man in his wits venture to die without preparation? And if not, let me tell you, that nothing less than that which will fit a man for death, can fit him for the sacrament. The truth is, there is nothing great or considerable in the world, which ought to be done, or ventured upon, without preparation; but, above all, how dangerous, sottish, and irrational is it, to engage in any thing or action extempore, where the concern is eternity!

First of these, That a preparation is necessary. And this, I confess, is a subject which I am heartily sorry that any preacher should

None but the careless and the confident (and few are confident but what are first careess) would rush dely into the presence of a great man; and shall we, in our applications to the great God, take that to be religion, which the common reason of mankind will not allow to be manners? The very rules of worldly civility might instruct_men_how to order their addresses to God. For who, that is to appear before his prince or patron, would not view and review himself over and over, with all imaginable care and solicitude, that there be nothing justly offensive in his habit, language, or behaviour? But especially, if he be vouchsafed the honour of his table, it would be infinitely more absurd and shameful to appear foul and sordid there; and in the dress of the kitchen, receive the entertainments of the parlour.

What previous cleansings and consecrations, and what peculiar vestments were the priests, under the law, enjoined to use when they were to appear before God in the sanctuary! And all this upon no less a penalty than death. This and this they were to do, lest they died, lest God should strike them dead upon the spot, as we read in Levit. viii. 35, and in many other places in the books other places in the books of Moses. And so exact were the Jews in their preparations for the solemn times of God's worship, that every σάββατον had its προσάββατον or παρασκευή,that is, a part of the sixth day, from the hour of six in the evening, to fit them for the duties of the seventh day. Nor was this all, but they had also a προπαρασκευή, beginning about three in the afternoon, to prepare them for that; and indeed, the whole day was, in a manner, but preparative to the next, several works being disallowed and forborne amongst them on that day, which were not so upon any of the foregoing five; so careful, even to scrupulosity, were they to keep their Sabbath with due reverence and devotion, that they must not only have a time to prepare them for that, but a farther time also to prepare them for their very preparations.

Nay, and the heathens, (many of them at least,) when they were to sacrifice to their greatest and most revered deities, used, on the evening before, to have a certain preparative rite or ceremony, called by them coena pura, that is, a supper, consisting of some peculiar

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