« AnteriorContinuar »
contrary, he in his heart really despises him for his cowardly, base silence. If any one should reply here, that the times and manners of men will not bear such a practice, I confess that it is an answer, from the mouth of a professed time-server, very rational: but as for that man that is not so, let him satisfy himself of the reason, justice, and duty of an action, and leave the event of it to God, who will never fail those who do not think themselves too wise to trust him. For, let the worst come to the worst, a man in so doing would be ruined more honourably than otherwise preferred.
4. And lastly. A fourth thing that makes a governor justly despised, is a proneness to despise others. There is a kind of respect due to the meanest person, even from the greatest; for it is the mere favour of Providence, that he, who is actually the greatest, was not the meanest. A man cannot cast his respects so low, but they will rebound and return upon him. What Heaven bestows upon the earth in kind influences and benign aspects, is paid it back again in sacrifice, incense, and adoration. And surely, a great person gets more by obliging his inferior, than he can by disdaining him; as a man has a greater advantage by sowing and dressing his ground, than he can have by trampling upon it. It is not to insult and domineer, to look disdainfully, and revile imperiously, that procures an esteem from any one; it will indeed make men keep their distance sufficiently, but it will be distance without reverence.
And thus I have shewn four several causes that may justly render any ruler despised; and by the same work, I hope, have made it evident, how little cause men have to despise the rulers of our church.
God is the fountain of honour; and the conduit by which he conveys it to the sons of men, are virtuous and generous practices. But as for us, who have more immediately and nearly devoted both our persons and concerns to his service, it were infinitely vain to expect it upon any other terms. Some, indeed, may please and promise themselves high matters, from full revenues, stately palaces, court-interests, and great dependencies: but that which makes the clergy glorious, is to be knowing in their profession, unspotted in their lives, active and laborious in their charges, bold and resolute in opposing seducers, and daring to look vice in the face, though never so potent and illustrious, and, lastly, to be gentle, courteous, and compassionate to all.
These are our robes and our maces, our escutcheons, and highest titles of honour; for by all these things God is honoured, who has declared this the eternal rule and standard of all honour derivable upon men, that "those who honour him, shall be honoured by him."
To which God, fearful in praises, and working wonders, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.
WHY CHRIST'S DOCTRINE WAS REJECTED BY THE JEWS.
"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."— JOHN, vii. 17.
WHEN God was pleased to new-model the world by the introduction of a new religion, and that in the room of one set up by himself, it was requisite that he should recommend it to the reasons of men with the same authority and evidence that enforced the former; and that a religion established by God himself should not be displaced by any thing under a demonstration of that divine power that first introduced it. And the whole Jewish economy, we know, was brought in with miracles; the law was writ and confirmed by the same almighty hand: the whole universe was subservient to its promulgation: the signs of Egypt and the Red Sea; fire and a voice from heaven; the heights of the one, and the depths of the other so that (as it were) from the top to the bottom of nature, there issued forth one universal united testimony of the divinity of the Mosaic law and religion. And this stood in the world for the space of two thousand years; till at length, in the fulness of time, the reason of men ripening to such a pitch, as to be above the pedagogy of Moses's rod, and the discipline of types, God thought fit to display the substance without the shadow, and to read the world a lecture of an higher and more sublime religion in Christianity. But the Jewish was yet in possession, and therefore that this might so enter, as not to intrude, it was to bring its warrant from the same hand of omnipotence. And for this cause, Christ, that he might not make either a suspected or precarious address to men's understandings, outdoes Moses, before he displaces him; shews an ascendant spirit above him, raises the dead, and cures more plagues than he brought upon Egypt, casts out devils, and heals the deaf, speaking such words, as even gave ears to hear them; cures the blind and the lame, and makes the very dumb to speak for the truth of his doctrine. But wha was the result of all this? Why, some look upon him as an impostor and a conjuror, as an agent for
Beelzebub, and therefore reject his gospel, hold fast their law, and will not let Moses give place to the magician.
Now the cause that Christ's doctrine was rejected, must of necessity be one of these two. 1. An insufficiency in the arguments brought by Christ to enforce it. Or, 2. An indisposition in the persons, to whom this doctrine was addressed, to receive it.
IV. And lastly, I shall shew, that a pious and well disposed mind, attended with a readiness to obey the known will of God, is the surest and best meaus to enlighten the understanding to a belief of Christianity. Of these in their order; and,
And for this, Christ, who had not only an infinite power to work miracles, but also an equal wisdom both to know the just force and measure of every argument or motive to persuade or cause assent; and withal, to look through and through all the dark corners of the soul of man, all the windings and turnings, and various workings of his faculties; and to discern how and by what means they are to be wrought upon; and what prevails upon them, and what does not: he, I say, states the whole matter upon this issue; that the arguments by which his doctrine addressed itself to the minds of men, were proper, adequate, and sufficient to compass their respective ends in persuading or convincing the persons to whom they were proposed: and, moreover, that there was no such defect in the natural light of man's understanding, or knowing faculty; but that, considered in itself, it would be apt enough to close with, and yield its assent to, the evidence of those arguments duly offered to, and laid before it. And yet, that after all this, the event proved otherwise; and that, notwithstanding both the weight and fitness of the arguments to persuade, and the light of man's intellect to meet this persuasive evidence with a suitable assent, no assent followed, nor were men thereby actually persuaded; he charges it wholly upon the corruption, the perverseness, and vitiosity of man's will, as the only cause that rendered all the arguments his doctrine came clothed with unsuccessful. And consequently, he affirms here in the text, that men must love the truth before they thoroughly believe it; and that the gospel has then only a free admission into the assent of the understanding, when it brings a passport from a rightly disposed will, as being the great faculty of dominion, that commands all, that shuts out and lets in what objects it pleases, and, in a word, keeps the keys of the whole soul.
This is the design and purport of the words, which I shall draw forth and handle in the prosecution of these four following heads.
I. I shall shew what the doctrine of Christ was, that the world so much stuck at, and was so averse from believing.
II. I shall shew that men's unbelief of it was from no defect or insufficiency in the arguments brought by Christ to enforce it.
III. I shall shew what was the true and proper cause, into which this unbelief was resolved.
First, for the doctrine of Christ. We must take it in the known and common division of it, into matters of belief, and matters of practice.
The matters of belief related chiefly to his person and offices. As, That he was the Messias that should come into the world: the eternal Son of God, begotten of him before all worlds; that in time he was made man, and born of a pure virgin: that he should die and satisfy for the sins of the world; and that he should rise again from the dead, and ascend into heaven; and there, sitting at the right hand of God, hold the government of the whole world, till the great and last day; in which he should judge both the quick and the dead, raised to life again with the very same bodies; and then deliver up all rule and government into the hands of his Father. These were the great articles and credenda of Christianity, that so much startled the world, and seemed to be such, as not only brought in a new religion amongst men, but also required new reason to embrace it.
The other part of his doctrine lay in matters of practice; which we find contained in his several sermons, but principally in that glorious, full, and admirable discourse upon the mount, recorded in the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of Saint Matthew. All which particulars, if we would reduce to one general comprehensive head, they are all wrapt up in the doctrine of self-denial, prescribing to the world the most inward purity of heart, and a constant conflict with all our sensual appetites and worldly interests, even to the quitting of all that is dear to us, and the sacrificing of life itself, rather than knowingly to omit the least duty, or commit the least sin. And this was that which grated harder upon, and raised greater tumults and boilings in the hearts of men, than the strangeness and seeming unreasonableness of all the former articles, that took up chiefly in speculation and belief.
And that this was so, will appear from a consideration of the state and condition the world was in, as to religion, when Christ promulged his doctrine. Nothing farther than the outward action was then looked after, and when that failed, there was an expiation ready in the opus operatum of a sacrifice. So that all their virtue and religion lay in their folds and their stalls, and what was wanting in the innocence, the blood of lambs was to supply. The Scribes and Pharisees, who were the great doctors of the Jewish Church, ex
• See Sermon III. p. 17.
were not so, yet their insufficiency was not the cause of their rejection.
pounded the law no farther. They accounted no man a murderer, but he that struck a knife into his brother's heart: no man an adulterer, but he that actually defiled his neighbour's bed. They thought it no injustice nor irreligion to prosecute the severest retaliation or revenge: so that at the same time their outward man might be a saint, and their inward man a devil. No care at all was had to curb the unruliness of anger, or the exorbitance of desire. Amongst all their sacrifices, they never sacrificed so much as one lust. Bulls and goats bled apace, but neither the violence of the one, nor the wantonness of the other, ever died a victim at any of their altars. So that no wonder, that a doctrine that arraigned the irregularities of the most inward notions and affections of the soul, and told men, that anger and harsh words were murder, and looks and desires, adultery; that a man might stab with his tongue, and assassinate with his mind, pollute himself with a glance, and forfeit eternity by a cast of his eye; no wonder, I say, that such a doctrine made a strange bustle and disturbance in the world, which then sat warm and easy in a free enjoyment of their lusts; ordering maters so, that they put a trick upon the great rule of virtue, the law, and made a shift to think themselves guiltless, in spite of all their sins; to break the precept, and at the same time to baffle the curse. Contriving to themselves such a sort of holiness, as should please God and themselves too; justify and save them harmless, but never sanctify nor make them better.
But the severe notions of Christianity turned all this upside down, filling all with surprise and amazement; they came upon the world, like light darting full upon the face of a man asleep, who had a mind to sleep on, and not to be disturbed: they were terrible astonishing alarms to persons grown fat and wealthy by a long and successful imposture; by suppressing the true sense of the law, by putting another veil upon Moses; and, in a word, persuading the world, that men might be honest and religious, happy and blessed, though they never denied nor mortified one of their corrupt appetites.
And thus much for the first thing proposed; which was to give you a brief draught of the doctrine of Christ, that met with so little assent from the world in general, and from the Jews in particular. I come now to the
Second thing proposed: which was to shew, That men's unbelief of Christ's doctrine was from no defect or insufficiency in the argu- | ments brought by Christ to enforce it. This I shall make appear two ways.
1. By shewing, that the arguments spoken of were in themselves convincing and sufficient.
2. By shewing, that upon supposition they
And first, for the first of these, — That the arguments brought by Christ for the confirmation of his doctrine were in themselves convincing and sufficient. I shall insist only upon the convincing power of the two principal; one from the prophecies recorded concerning him, the other from the miracles done by him. Of both very briefly. And for the former. There was a full entire harmony and consent of all the divine predictions receiving their completion in Christ. The strength of which argument lies in this, that it evinces the divine mission of Christ's person, and thereby proves him to be the Messias; which by consequence proves and asserts the truth of his doctrine. For he that was so sent by God, could declare nothing but the will of God. And so evidently do all the prophecies agree to Christ, that I dare with great confidence affirm, that if the prophecies recorded of the Messiah are not fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, it is impossible to know or distinguish when a prophecy is fulfilled, and when not, in any thing or person whatsoever; which would utterly evacuate the use of them. But in Christ they all meet with such an invincible lustre and evidence, as if they were not predictions, but after-relations; and the penmen of them not prophets, but evangelists. And now, can any kind of ratiocination allow Christ all the marks of the Messiah, and yet deny him to be the Messiah? Could he have all the signs, and yet not be the thing signified? Could the shadows that followed him, and were cast from him, belong to any other body? All these things are absurd and unnatural; and therefore the force of this argument was undeniable.
Nor was that other from the miracles done by him at all inferior. The strength and force of which, to prove the things they are alleged for, consists in this, that a miracle being a work exceeding the power of any created agent, and consequently being an effect of the divine omnipotence, when it is done to give credit and authority to any word or doctrine declared to proceed from God, either that doctrine must really proceed from God, as it is declared, or God, by that work of his almighty power, must bear witness to a falsehood; and so bring the creature under the greatest obligations that can possibly engage the assent of a rational nature, to believe and assent to a lie. For surely a greater reason than this cannot be produced for the belief of any thing, than for a man to stand up and say, This and this I tell you as the mind and word of God; and to prove that it is so, I will do that before your eyes, that you yourselves shall confess can be done by nothing but the almighty power of that God that can neither deceive nor be deceived. Now if this be an
irrefragable way to convince, as the reason of all mankind must confess it to be, then Christ's doctrine came attended and enforced with the greatest means of conviction imaginable. Thus much for the argument in thesi; and then for the assumption that Christ did such miraculous and supernatural works to confirm what he said, we need only repeat the message sent by him to John the Baptist; "that the dumb spake, the blind saw, the lame walked, and the dead were raised." Which particulars none of his bitterest enemies ever pretended to deny, they being conveyed to them by an evidence past all exception, even the evidence of sense; nay, of the quickest, the surest, and most authentic of all the senses, the sight: which, if it be not certain in the reports and representations it makes of things to the mind, there neither is, nor can be naturally, any such thing as certainty or knowledge in the world. And thus much for the first part of the second general thing proposed, namely, That the arguments brought by Christ for the proof of his doctrine, were in themselves convincing and sufficient.
I come now to the other part of it, which is to shew, That admitting or supposing that they were not sufficient, yet their insufficiency was not the cause of their actual rejection. Which will appear from these following
(1.) Because those who rejected Christ's doctrine, and the arguments by which he confirmed it, fully believed and assented to other things conveyed to them with less evidence. Such as were even the miracles of Moses himself, upon the credit and authority of which stood the whole economy of the Jewish constitution. For though I grant that they believed his miracles upon the credit of constant unerring tradition, both written and unwritten, and grant also that such tradition was of as great certainty as the reports of sense; yet still I affirm, that it was not of the same evidence, which yet is the greatest and most immediate ground of all assent.
The evidence of sense (as I have noted) is the clearest that naturally the mind of man can receive, and is, indeed, the foundation both of all the evidence and certainty too, that tradition is capable of; which pretends to no other credibility from the testimony and word of some men, but because their word is at length traced up to, and originally terminates in, the sense and experience of some others, which could not be known beyond that compass of time in which it was exercised, but by being told and reported to such, as, not living at that time, saw it not, and by them to others, and so down from one age to another. For we therefore believe the report of some men concerning a thing, because it implies that there were some others who actually saw that thing. It is clear, therefore,
that want of evidence could not be the cause that the Jews rejected and disbelieved the gospel, since they embraced and believed the law, upon the credit of those miracles that were less evident. For those of Christ they knew by sight and sense, those of Moses only by tradition; which, though equally certain, yet were by no means equally evident with the other.
(2.) They believed and assented to things that were neither evident nor certain, but only probable; for they conversed, they traded, they merchandised, and, by so doing, frequently ventured their whole estates and fortunes upon a probable belief or persuasion of the honesty and truth of those whom they dealt and corresponded with. And interest, especially in worldly matters, and yet more especially with a Jew, never proceeds but upon supposal, at least, of a firm and sufficient bottom: from whence is manifest, that since they could believe and practically rely upon, and that even in their dearest concerns, bare probabilities; they could not, with any colour of reason, pretend want of evidence for their disbelief of Christ's doctrine, which came enforced with arguments far surpassing all such probabilites.
(3.) They believed and assented to things neither evident nor certain, nor yet so much as probable, but actually false and fallacious. Such as were the absurd doctrines and stories of their rabbins: which, though since Christ's time they have grown much more numerous and fabulous than before, yet even then did so much pester the church, and so grossly abuse and delude the minds of that people, that contradictions themselves asserted by rabbis were equally received and revered by them as the sacred and infallible word of God. And whereas they rejected Christ and his doctrine, though every tittle of it came enforced with miracle, and the best arguments that heaven and earth could back it with; yet Christ then foretold, and afterwards confirmed, that prediction of his in John, v. 43, that they should receive many cheats and deceivers coming to them in their own name: fellows that set up for Messiahs, only upon their own heads, without pretending to any thing singular or miraculous, but impudence and imposture.
From all which it follows, that the Jews could not allege so much as a pretence of the want of evidence in the argument brought by Christ to prove the divinity and authority of his doctrine, as a reason of their rejection and disbelief of it; since they embraced and believed many things, for some of which they had no evidence, and for others of which they had no certainty, and for most of which they had not so much as probability. Which being so, from whence then could such an obstinate infidelity, in matters of so great
clearness and credibility, take its rise? Why, this will be made out to us in the
Third thing proposed, which was to shew, What was the true and proper cause into which this unbelief of the Pharisees was resolved. And that was, in a word, the captivity of their wills and affections to lusts directly opposite to the design and spirit of Christianity. They were extremely ambitious aud insatiably covetous, and therefore no impression from argument or miracle could reach them; but they stood proof against all conviction. Now, to shew how the pravity of the will could influence the understanding to a disbelief of Christianity, I shall premise these two considerations,
1. That the understanding, in its assent to any religion, is very differently wrought upon in persons bred up in it, and in persons at length converted to it. For in the first, it finds the mind naked, and unprepossessed with any former notions, and so easily and insensibly gains upon the assent, grows up with it, and incorporates into it. But in persons adult, and already possessed with other notions of religion, the understanding cannot be brought to quit these, and to change them for new, but by great consideration and examination of the truth and firmness of the one, and comparing them with the flaws and weakness of the other. Which cannot be done without some labour and intension of the mind, and the thoughts dwelling a considerable time upon the survey and discussion of each particular.
of them; but perpetually to carry away and apply my mind to other things. Thus far is the understanding at the disposal of the will.
2. The other thing to be considered is, that in this great work, the understanding is chiefly at the disposal of the will. For though it is not in the power of the will, directly either to cause or hinder the assent of the understanding to a thing proposed and duly set before it; yet it is antecedently in the power of the will, to apply the understanding faculty to, or to take it off from, the consideration of those objects, to which, without such a previous consideration, it cannot yield its assent. For all assent presupposes a simple apprehension or knowledge of the terms of the proposition to be assented to. But unless the understanding employ and exercise its cognitive or apprehensive power about these terms, there can be no actual apprehension of them. And the understanding, as to the exercise of this power, is subject to the command of the will, though, as to the specific nature of its acts, it is determined by the object. As for instance, my understanding cannot assent to this proposition,That Jesus Christ is the Son of God; but it must first consider, and so apprehend, what the terms and parts of it are, and what they signify. And this cannot be done, if my will be so slothful, worldly, or voluptuously disposed, as never to suffer me at all to think
Now, these two considerations being premised, namely, that persons grown up in the belief of any religion cannot change that for another, without applying their understanding duly to consider and compare both; and then, that it is in the power of the will, whether it will suffer the understanding thus to dwell upon such objects or no. From these two, I say, we have the true philosophy and reason of the Pharisees' unbelief; for they could not relinquish their Judaism, and embrace Christianity, without considering, weighing, and collating both religions. And this their understanding could not apply to, if it were diverted and took off by their will; and their will would be sure to divert and take it off, being wholly possessed and governed by their covetousness and ambition, which perfectly abhorred the precepts of such a doctrine. And this is the very account that our Saviour himself gives of this matter in John, v. 44, "How can ye believe," says he, "who receive honour one of another?" He looked upon it as a thing morally impossible, for persons infinitely proud and ambitious, to frame their minds to an impartial unbiassed consideration of a religion that taught nothing but self-denial and the cross; that humility was honour, and that the higher men climbed, the farther they were from heaven. They could not with patience so much as think of it, and therefore, you may be sure, would never assent to it. And again, when Christ discoursed to them of alms, and a pious distribution of the goods and riches of this world, in Luke xvi. it is said in the 14th verse, "that the Pharisees, who were covetous, heard all those things, and derided him.” Charity and liberality is a paradox to the covetous. The doctrine that teaches alms, and the persons that need them, are by such equally sent packing. Tell a miser of bounty to a friend, or mercy to the poor, and point him out his duty with an evidence as bright and piercing as the light, yet he will not understand it, but shuts his eyes as close as he does his hands, and resolves not to be convinced. In both these cases, there is an incurable blindness caused by a resolution not to see; and to all intents and purposes, he who will not open his eyes, is for the present as blind as he that cannot. And thus I have done with the third thing proposed, and shewn what was the true cause of the Pharisees' disbelief of Christ's doctrine: it was the predominance of those two great vices over their will, their covetousness and ambition. Pass we now to the
Fourth and last, which is to shew, That a pious and well-disposed mind, attended with