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then-World, Rom. i. 21. Because thatSznu, when they knew God, they glorified him not
as God, and did not like to retain God^^^
in their Knowledge-, therefore God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.
Again: By the same measure of judging, may easily be understood the Nature of That Errour, and the Degree of its ill Effect, which the Nation of the Jews had very generally fallen into, in and before our Saviour's time; viz. their laying the great Stress of Religion, more upon the exact Observance of certain Outward Ceremonies, than upon the habitual Practice of Moral Virtue. The Ceremonies of the Jewish Law, besides their perpetual typifying of the Mesjiah to come, and their distinguishing in a most remarkable manner the National Worshippers of the God of Heaven from all the idolatrous Nations of the Earth; were moreover appointed of God to be continual Emblems, and as it were Memorials of their Obligation to Moral Holiness, Sanflify your/elves, iaith the Lord, Levit. xi. 44; and ye shall be Holy, for 1 am Holy; And if ye will obey
Se R fA.my voice indeed, and keep my covenants
VI- ye JJsa/l be unto me a Kingdom of Priests,
E^sxbTs af'd a H°b Nation. So far therefore as their Observance of the Ceremonies of the Law, promoted the End for which thole Ordinances were appointed j So far as they kept that people steddy in their Adherence to the Worfoip of the True God, and, by the Care required in avoiding every natural Impurity, continually reminded them to be much more fearful of whatever was morally such: So far thole Ceremonies were of real EJleem in the Sight of God, and of real religious Advantage to Men. Whensoever the Observance of the fame outward Ceremonies, was separate from the internal Moral Benefit; the Ceremony then became lifeless, and the Observation of it vain. But when at any time the Ceremony came in competition with the Moral Duty, or was preferred before it, or was presumed to be acceptable in the Stead of it; in the Stead of the Weightier matters of the Law, Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness; Then the Ceremony, though of God's own appointment, became (as the Prophets in the Old Testament, and our Saviour in the Gospel, perpetually
petually declare j it became) odious to 9 E R M. God, and abominable in his Sight.
Lastly: By the same Rule may be judged the degree of Malignity of any erroneous Notions or Opinions among Christians. The End and D?/£* of the Gojpel of Christ, is to restore Sinners to the Favour of God, by bringing them back to the Practice of Righteousness and 7rae Holiness, So far as Any Errour 'whatsoever hurts not and prevents not This Designso far as 'tis merely speculative, and produces no Fruit of evil Consequences in Practice; so far 'tis innocent, and may be ascribed to Weakness. But in what degree soever its Influence is hurtful to Virtue, in the very fame proportion 'tis always Faulty in Men, and blame-worthy before God.
For instance: With regard to erroneous Notions concerning God: Every Opinion concerning the Divine Nature or Perfections, which is in itself absurd and unintelligible, is just so far hurtful to Religion, as it diverts Men from the Practice of the Law of Righteousness, by filling them with a childish and superstitious imagination, that God is pleased with their 1 pretending S E R M.pretending or fanfying that they believe VI. they know not what. Notions concerning absolute and unconditionate Predestinationt f are just so far faulty and blame-worthy in Religion, as they cut the Sinews and demoI lifh all the Motives of Virtue, by ascribing to God such a Sovereignty, as dejlroys -j , all the Other Perfections of his Nature; a Sovereignty, denoting a Power of acting, < in Moral Matters, without regard to Moral Reason; Which, in Truth and Reality, is no more an Attribute of God, than the Power of acting in natural things, contrary to Natural Possibility. Erronev ous Notions concerning Faith, (taking it to signify a mere credulity; whereas in J truth, when spoken of as a Christian vir; tue, it always means Fidelity, or ASling Faithfully and steddily upon Christian Principles:) Errours concerning Grace; (taking it to signify an Operation of God j upon Men, when indeed it denotes His I gracious Acceptance of their Repentance 'and Amendment, brought about by the Motives and Assistances of the Gospel:) Errours concerning the Merits of Christ, (when vitious and debauched persons hope . ( to be faved by His Merits, instead of reI' forming
forming and amending their Manners in S E R M. order to obtain Forgivcnefe through His Intercession:) And, still more than all^^*^ these, Applications made to Angels, and.] to Saints departed, and to Images of Wood and Stone, and Other the like Inventions All These things, are, upon One and the lame Account, destructive of true Religion j in that they suppose Obedience to the eternal and unchangeable Law of God, which is the Practice of Moral Virtue, may be commuted for by | any other Performances whatsoever: Which is indeed the Essence of all Super- fe stition: 'Tis, in the Allusion made by our Saviour in the Text, the Fruit of the Thorn or Bramble-Bush, instead of Grapes.
Again; With regard likewise to erroneous Notions concerning our Duty towards Men: Every Opinion that leads in Practise to Contentiousness, Pride, Cruelty, and the like; is evidently so far not innocent, but destructive of Religion, as 'tis inconsistent with the Great and Eternal Law of Charity and Good-inill towards Mankind. From whence may easily be perceived the extreme Malignity of the