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mysteries of nature, of diving into the depths be either by an absolute denial, or, at least, beneath, and of understanding the motions by an extenuation or diminution of his sin. and influences of the stars above, even this Though indeed this course will be found altoglorious, active thing, did they confine within gether as absurd as the other could be, it being the pitiful compass of the present fruition, every whit as irrational for a sinner to plead forbidding it to take a prospect so far as into his innocence before omniscience, as it would the morrow, as if to think, to contemplate, or be to oppose his power to omnipotence. Howbe serious, had been high treason against the ever, the last refuge of a guilty person is to empire and prerogative of sense, usurping the take shelter under an excuse, and so to mitithrone of their baffled and deposed reason. gate, if he cannot divert the blow. It was
And how comes it to pass, that even now the method of the great pattern and parent of adays there is often seen such a vast difference all sinners, Adam, first to hide, and then to between the former and the latter part of excuse himself, to wrap the apple in the leaves, some men's lives ? that those who first stepped and to give his case a gloss at least, though forth into the world with high and promising not a defence. But now, when the sinner abilities, vigorous intellectuals, and clear shall be stripped of this also, have all his exmorals, come at length to grow sots and epi cuses blown away, be stabbed with his own cures, mean in their discourses, and dirty in arguments, and, as it were, sacrificed upon their practices, but that, as, by degrees, they that very altar which he fled to for succour, remitted of their industry, loathed their busi- this, surely, is the height and crisis of a forlorn ness, and gave way to their pleasures, they condition. Yet this was the case of the malelet fall those generous principles, which, in factors who stand here arraigned in the text; their youthful days, had borne them upon the this was the consummation of their doom, wing, and raised them to worthy and great that they were persons not only unfit for å thoughts; which thoughts and principles not pardon, but even for a plea. being kept up and cherished, but smothered Now an excuse, in the nature of it, imports in sensual delights, God, for that cause, suffered these two things, them to flag and sink into low and inglorious 1. The supposition of a sin. satisfactions, and to enjoy themselves inore in 2. The extenuation of its guilt. a revel or a merry-meeting, a strumpet or a As for the sin itself, we have already heard tavern, than in being useful to a church or a what that was, and we will now see liow able nation, in being a public good to society, and they are to acquit themselves in point of its a benefit to mankind. The parts that God extenuation. In which, according to the two gave them, they, held in unrighteousness, grand principles of human actions which desloth, and sensuality, and this made God tó termine their morality, the understanding desert and abandon them to themselves, so and the will, the excuse must derive either that they have had a doating and a decrepit from ignorance or unwillingness, reason, long before age had given them such As for unwillingness, (to speak of this last a body.
first,) the heathen philosophers generally And therefore I could heartily wish, that asserted the freedom of the will, and its insuch young persons as hear me now, would violable dominion over its own actions, so lodge this one observation deep in their minds, that no force or coaction from without could namely, that God and nature have joined intrench upon the absolute empire of this wisdom and virtue by such a near cognation, faculty. or rather such an inseparable connection, that It must be confessed, indeed, that it hath a wise, a prudent, and an honourable old age, been something lamed in this its freedom by is seldom or never found, but as the reward original sin, of which defect the heathens and effect of a sober, a virtuous, and a well themselves were not wholly ignorant, though spent youth.
they were of its cause. So that hereupon the 4. I descend now to the fourth and last will is not able to carry a man out to a choice thing proposed, namely, The judgment, or so perfectly, and in all respects good, but that rather the state and condition penally conse still there is some adherent circumstance of quent upon the persons here charged by the imperfection, which, in strictness of morality, apostle with idolatry, which is, “ That they renders every action of it evil; according to were without excuse.
that known and most true rule, Malum ex After the commission of sin, it is natural quolibet defectu. for the sinner to apprehend himself in danger, Nevertheless, the will has still so much and, upon such apprehension, to provide for freedom left, as to enable it to choose any act bis safety and defence; and that must be one in its kind good, whether it be an act of temof these two ways, namely, either by plead- perance, justice, or the like; as also to refuse ing his innocence, or by using his power. But any act in its kind evil, whether of intempesince it would be infinitely in vain for a finite rance, injustice, or the like ; though yet it power to contend with an infinite, innocence, neither chooses one nor refuses the other with if any thing, must be his plea, and that must such a perfect concurrence of all due ingre
dients of action, but that still, in the sight of taken out of their hands, forasmuch as they God, judging according to the rigid measures knew that there was a God, and that this God of the law, every such choice or refusal is made and governed the world, and upon that indeed sinful and imperfect. This is most account was to be worshipped and addressed certain, whatsoever Pelagius and his brethren to, and that with such a worship as should be assert to the contrary.
agreeable to his nature, both in respect of the But, however, that measure of freedom piety and virtue of the worshipper, and also which the will still retains, of being able to of the means of the worship itself. So that choose any act materially, and in its kind he was neither to be worshipped with impious good, and to refuse the contrary, was enough and immoral practices, nor with corporeal to cut off all excuse from the heathen, who resemblances. For how could an image help never duly improved the utmost of such a men in directing their thoughts to a Being power, but gave themselves up to all the filthi- which bore no similitude or cognation to that ness and licentiousness of life imaginable. In image at all? And what resemblance could 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, The only persons amongst the heathens who wisdom, and holiness, and such other attrisophisticated nature and philosophy in this butes, of which they had not the least mark particular, were the Stoics, who affirmed a or character ? fatal, unchangeable concatenation of causes, But now, if these things could not possibly reaching even to the elicit acts of man's will. resemble any perfection of the Deity, what So that according to them there was no act of use could they be of to men in their addresses volition exerted by it, but, all circumstances to God? For can a man's devotions be helped considered, it was impossible for the will not by that which brings an error upon his to exert that volition. But these were but thoughts? And certain it is, that it is natural one sect of philosophers; that is, but an hand- for a man, by directing his prayers to an ful in comparison of the rest of the Gentiles : image, to suppose the being he prays to reridiculous enough, for what they held and presented by that image. Which how injutaught, and consequently not to be laid in the rious, how contumelious, it must needs be to balance with the united judgment of all other the glorious, incomprehensible nature of God, learned men in the world, unanimously ex- by begetting such false and low apprehensions ploding this opinion. Questionless, therefore, of him in the minds of his creatures, let coma thing so deeply engraven upon the first and mon sense, not perverted by interest and most inward notions of man's mind, as a per- design, be judge. From all which it follows, suasion of the will's freedom, would never that the idolatrous heathens, and especially permit the heathens (who are here charged the most learned of them, not being able to by the apostle) to patronize and excuse their charge their idolatry either upon ignorance or sins upon this score, that they committed unwillingness, were wholly“ without excuse." them against their will, and that they had no So that it is to be feared, that Averroes had power to do otherwise. In which, every not the right way of blessing himself, when, hour's experience, and reflection upon the in defiance of Christianity, he wished Sit method of their own actings, could not but anima mea cum philosophis. give them the lie to their face.
And now, after all, I cannot but take notice, The only remaining plea, therefore, which that all that I have said of the heathen idolathese men can take sanctuary in, must be that try is so exactly applicable to the idolatry of of ignorance, since there could be no pretence another sort of men in the world, that one for unwillingness. But the apostle divests would think this first chapter of the Epistle them even of this also, for he says expressly, to the Romans were not so much an address in verse 19, “ that what might be known of to the ancient Romans, as a description of the God,” that famous and so much disputed of modern. To Yuwotòy Toữ Ogow, was manifested in them; But to draw towards a close. The use and and in verse 21, their inexcusableness is improvement of the foregoing discourse, shall stated upon the supposition of this very thing, be briefly to inform us of these two things, “ that they knew God,” but, for all that, 1st, The signally great and peculiar mercy “ did not glorify him as God.”' This was thé of God to those to whom he has revealed the sum of their charge; and how it has been gospel, since there was nothing that could made good against them we have already have obliged him to it upon the account of shewn in what we have spoken about their his justice : for if there had, the heathens, to idolatry, very briefly, I confess, but enough whom he revealed it not, could not have been to shew its absurdity, though not to account thus “ without excuse,” but might very ra. for its variety, when Vossius's very abridg- tionally have expostulated the case with their ment of it makes a thick volume in folio. great Judge, and demurred to the equity of
The plea of ignorance, therefore, is also the sentence, had they been condemned by
him. But it appears from hence, that what compassionately, yet I am sure we can prowas sufficient to render men inexcusable, was nounce nothing certainly; it is enough for not therefore sufficient to save them.
us, that God has asserted his justice, even in It is not said by the apostle, nor can it be his dealing with those whom he treats not proved by any ove else, that God vouchsafed upon terms of evangelical mercy. So that to the heathens the means of salvation, if so such persons can neither excuse themselves, be the gospel be the only means of it. And nor yet accuse him ; who, in the severest yet I will not, I dare not affirm, that God will sentence that he can pronounce upon the save none of those to whom the sound of the sinner, will (as the Psalmist tells us) “ be gospel never reached; though this is evident, justified when he speaks, and clear when he is that if he does save any of them, it must not judged.”. de by that ordinary, stated, appointed method 2dly, In the next place, we gather hence which the Scripture has revealed to us, and the unspeakably wretched and deplorable conwhich they were wholly ignorant of. For dition of obstinate sinners under the gospel. grant that the heathens knew that there was The sun of mercy has shined too long and too à God, who both made and governed the bright upon such, to leave them any shadow world, and who, upon that account, was to of excuse. For, let them argue over all the be worshipped, and that with such a worship topics of divine goodness and human weakas should be suitable to such a Being, yet ness, and whatsoever other pretences poor what principle of mere reason could assure sinking sinners are apt to catch at, to support them, that this God would be a rewarder of and save themselves by; yet how trifing such as diligently sought and served him ? | must be their plea! how impertinent their For certain it is, that there is nothing in the defence ! nature of God to oblige him to reward any For admit an impenitent heathen to plead, service of his creature; forasmuch as all that that, albeit his conscience told him that he the creature can do is but duty; and even had sinned, yet it could not tell him that now, at this time, God has no other obligation there was any provision of mercy for him upon him, but his own free promise to reward upon his repentance. He knew not whether the piety and obedience of his servants; which amendment of life would be accepted, after proinise reason of itself could never have found the law was once broke; or that there was out, till God made it known by revelation. any other righteousness to atone or merit for And moreover, what principle of reason could him, but his own. assure a man, that God would pardon sinners But no Christian, who has been taken into upon any terms whatsoever? Possibly it might the arms of a better covenant, and grown up know that God could do so, but this was no in the knowledge of a Saviour, and the docsufficient ground for men to depend upon. trine of faith and repentance from dead works, And then, last of all, as for the way of his can speak so much as one plausible word for pardoning sinners, that he should do it upon his impenitence. And, therefore, it was said à satisfaction paid to his justice by such a of him who came to the “marriage feast withSaviour as should be both God and man, this out a wedding garment,” that, being charged, was utterly impossible for all the reason of and apprehended for it, quéón, “ he was mankind to find out.
speechless,” struck with shame and silence, For that these things could be read in the the proper effects of an overpowering guilt, book of nature, or the common works of God's too manifest to be denied, and too gross to be providence, or be learned by the sun and defended. His reason deserted, and his voice moon's preaching the gospel, as some have failed him, finding himself arraigned, confondly (not to say profanely) enough asserted, victed, and condemned in the court of his it is infinitely sottish to imagine, and can in own conscience. deed be nothing else but the turning the grace So that if, after all this, his great Judge had of God into wanton and unreasonable propo- | freely asked him, what lie could allege or say sitions.
for himself, why he should not have judgIt is clear, therefore, that the heathens had ment to die eternally, and sentence to be no knowledge of that way by which alone we awarded according to the utmost rigour of the expect salvation. So that all the hope which law, he could not, in this forlorn case, have we can have for them is, that the gospel may made use of the very last plea of a cast crimi. not be the utmost limit of the divine mercy, nal, nor so much as have cried, “ Mercy, Lord, but that the merit of Christ may overflow, mercy.” For still his conscience would have and run over the pale of the church, so as to replied upon him, that mercy had been offered reach even many of those who lived and died and abused, and that the time of mercy was invincibly ignorant of him.
now past. And so, under this overwhelming But whether this shall be so or no, God conviction, every gospel sidner must pass to alone knows, who only is privy to the great his eternal execution, taking the whole load counsels of his own will. " It is a secret hid of his own damnation solely and entirely upon from us; and therefore, though we may hope himself, and acquitting the most just God,
BEING PALM SUNDAY.
" who is righteous in all his works, and holy such high and undeserved privileges, should in all his ways."
nevertheless abuse and despise them by an To whom, therefore, be rendered and unworthy, wicked, and ungrateful deportment ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, under them. majesty, and dominion, both now and for For men must not think that the gospel is evermore. Amen.
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 SERMON X X.
God and the souls of men, something is ex
pected on both sides, there being a fixed, inOF SACRAMENTAL PREPARATION.
dissoluble, and (in the language of the parable) a kind of marriage-tie between duty and
privilege, which renders them inseparable. PREACHED AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY, APRIL 8, 1688,
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 “And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, amongst all the rest, that it seems more pecunot having a wedding garment ?"-MATT. Xxii. 12. liarly to aim at, or at least may more appo
sitely and emphatically be applied to, than to The whole scheme of these words is figura- any other whatsoever; and that is the blessed tive, as being a parabolical description of God's sacrament of the eucharist, by which all the vouchsafing to the world the invaluable bless benefits of the gospel are in a higher, fuller, ing of the gospel, by the similitude of a king, and more divine manner conveyed to the with great magnificence, solemnizing his son's faithful, than by any other duty or privilege marriage, and with equal bounty bidding and belonging to our excellent religion. And inviting all about him to that royal solemnity, for this, I shall offer these three following
together with his severe animadversion, both upon those who would not come, and 1. Because the foundation of all parables is, upon one who did come in a very unbeseem as we have shewn, some analogy or similitude ing manner.
between the tropical or allusive part of the For the better understanding of which words, parable, and the thing couched under it, we must observe, that in all parables, two and intended by it. But now, of all the things are to be considered.
benefits, privileges, or ordinances of the gosFirst, The scope and design of the parable ; pel, which of them is there that carries so and,
natural a resemblance to a wedding supper, as Secondly, The circumstantial passages, serv that which every one of a very ordinary dising only to complete and make up the narra cerning faculty may observe in the sacrament tion.
of the eucharist ? For, surely, neither the Accordingly, in our application of any par- preaching of the word, nor yet the sacrament able to the thing designed and set forth by it, of baptism, bears any such resemblance or we must not look for an absolute and exact affinity to it. But, on the other side, this correspondence of all the circumstantial or sacrament of the eucharist so lively resembles, subservient passages of the metaphorical part and so happily falls in with it, that it is indeed of it, with just so many of the same, or the itself a supper, and is called a supper, and that like
passages in the thing intended by it; but by a genuine, proper, as well as a common it is sufficient that there be a certain analogy, and received appellation. or agreement between them, as to the prin 2. This sacrament is not only with great cipal scope and design of both.
propriety of speech called a supper; but, moreAs for the design of this parable, it is, no over, as it is the grand and prime means of doubt, to set forth the free offer of the gospel, the nearest and most ivtimate union and conwith all its rich privileges, to the Jewish junction of the soul with Christ, it may, with Church and nation, in the first place; and a peculiar significancy, be called also a wedding upon their refusal of it, and God's rejection supper. And, as Christ frequently in Scripture of them for that refusal, to declare the calling owns himself related to the Church, as an of the Gentiles in their room, by a free, un husband to a spouse; so, if these nuptial enlimited tender of the gospel' to all nations dearments, by which Christ gives himself to whatsoever ; adding, withal, a very dreadful the soul, and the soul mutually gives itself to and severe sentence upon those who, being so Christ, pass between Christ and believers in freely invited, and so generously admitted, to any ordinance of the gospel, doubtless it is
most eminently and effectually in this; which find it needful to speak so much as one word is another pregnant instance of the notable upon. For, would any man in his wits venresemblance between this divine sacrament ture to die without preparation? And if not, and the wedding supper in the parable; and let me tell you, that nothing less than that consequently, a farther argument of the ele which will fit a man for death, cau fit him for gant and expressive signification of one by the sacrament. The truth is, there is nothing tle other.
great or considerable in the world, which 3dly and lastly, The very manner of cele ought to be done, or ventured upon, without brating this sacrament, which is by the break preparation ; but, above all, how dangerous, ing of bread, was the way and manner of sottish, and irrational is it, to engage in any transacting marriages in some of the eastern thing or action extempore, where the concern countries. Thus Q. Curtius reports, that when is eternity! Alexander the Great married the Persian None but the careless and the confident Roxana, the ceremony they used was no (and few are confident but what are first careother but this, panem gladio divisum uterque less) would rush rudely into the presence of libabat, he divided a piece of bread with his a great man; and shall we, in our applications sword, of which each of them took a part, and to the great God, take that to be religion, so thereby the puptial rites were performed. which the common reason of mankind will Besides, that this ceremony of feasting belongs not allow to be manners? The very rules of most properly both to marriage and to the worldly civility might instruct men how to eucharist, as both of them have the nature of order their addresses to God. For who, that a covenant. And all covenants were, in old is to appear before his prince or patron, would times, solemnized and accompanied with fes not view and review himself over and over, tival eating and drinking; the persons newly with all imaginable care and solicitude, that confederate always thereupou feasting together there be nothing justly offensive in his habit, in token of their full and perfect accord, both language, or behaviour ? But especially, if he as to interest and affection.
be vouchsafed the honour of his table, it would And now these three considerations together, be infinitely more absurd and shameful to apso exactly suiting the parable of the wedding pear foul and sordid there; and in the dress supper to this spiritual, divine banquet of the of the kitchen, receive the entertainments of gospel, if it does not primarily, and in its the parlour. first design, intend it; yet certainly, it may What previous cleansings and consecrations, with greater advantage of resemblance be ap- and what peculiar vestments were the priests, plied to it, than to any other duty or privilege under the law, enjoined to use when they belonging to Christianity.
were to appear before God in the sanctuary ! Upon the warrant of which so very parti- And all this upon no less a penalty than death. cular and extraordinary a cognation between This and this they were to do, lest they died, them, I shall, at present, treat of the words lest God should strike them dead upon the wholly with reference to this sacred and divine spot, as we read in Levit. viii. 35, and in many solemnity, observing and gathering from them, other places in the books of Moses. And so as they lie in coherence with the foregoing exact were the Jews in their preparations for and following parts of the parable, these two the solemn times of God's worship, that every propositions,
σάββατον had its προσάββατον or παρασκευή, 1. That to a worthy participation of the that is, a part of the sixth day, from the bour holy mysteries and great privileges of the of six in the evening, to fit them for the duties gospel, and particularly that of the Lord's of the seventh day. Nor was this all, but they Supper, there is indispensably required a suit- had also a agoraçãoxev, beginning about three able preparation.
in the afternoon, to prepare them for that ; 2. That God is a strict observer of, and a and indeed, the whole day was, in a manner, severe animadverter upon, such as presume to but preparative to the next, several works partake of those mysteries, without such a being disallowed and forborne amongst them preparation.
on that day, which were not so upon any of And first, for the first of these, namely, the foregoing five; so careful, even to scrupu. That to a worthy participation of the holy losity, were they to keep their Sabbath with mysteries, &c.
due reverence and devotion, that they must Now this proposition imports in it two not only have a time to prepare them for that, things :
but a farther time also to prepare them for 1. That to a right discharge of this duty, a their very preparations. preparation is necessary.
Nay, and the heathens, (many of them at 2. That every preparatiou is not sufficient. least,) when they were to sacrifice to their And first, for the
greatest and most revered deities, used, on the First of these, That a preparation is neces- evening before, to have a certain preparative sary. And this, I confess, is a subject which rite or ceremony, called by them coena pura, I am heartily sorry that any preacher should --that is, a supper, consisting of some peculiar