Imágenes de páginas

the evil that he has done, but also concerning the good which he has omitted. He must inquire, how far he has fallen short of that poverty of spirit, and purity of heart, which he ought to have come up to: and how far he has been wanting in those duties which a thorough zeal would have pushed him on to. And when he has done this, let him be proud if he can. · 2. Man is the creature of God, depends upon him, and has received all from him. And therefore let him do the utmost he can, he does no more than his duty : and, ftriétly speaking, cannot merit of him. He that will pretend to merit, must be his own master; he must have a right over his own actions; he must be free to dispose of his affections and services as he pleases. For, if he be antecedently bound, if he hath no liberty, no freedom, no right to dispose of himself, or any thing he is possessed of, 'tis plain such an one cannot merit. And this is the direct case between God and man. God is the great Lord, the great Proprietor of heaven and earth. He that gives alms, does but restore a part of what God lent him: he that takes patiently the loss of goods, or health, or friends, does but give back what he had no right to retain : he was but tenant at will, and had no right to any thing longer than God thought fit

to continue it. And in all other instances of duty the case will still be plainer. If he adore and worship God, there is infinite reason that he should; for he depends upon him for his being and preservation. If he love God never so much, God has deserved much more than he can pay him: not only the enjoyments of life, but even life it self, being derived from him. From this argument it will follow, that it is impofsible for a creature to merit of its Creator : angels themselves never could. For might it not be said with as much truth concerning them, as concerning man, W bo made thee to differ? Or what hast thou which thou didst not receive ? And if thou hast received it, why dost thou boast as if thou had/t not received it? 1 Cor. iv. 7. And the same may be concluded concerning Adam in Paradise. For I demand, had he kept the covenant of God, had he done this by divine grace, or by his own strength? If by the grace of God, as divines generally hold, then may we apply the expression of St. Austin to Adam, as well as to any one now under the dispensation of the gospel : that when God rewards the works of man, he does only crown in him his own gifts. But supposé he had done this by his own natural strength : were not the endowments of nature, as much the gifts of God, as . Ff3


the endowments of grace? The one were natural, the other supernatural gifts: both gifts still, tho' of a different kind. If it be here objected, if this be so, how comes St. Paul to affirm, To him that worketh is the reward due, not of grace but of debt? Rom. iv. 4. I answer, firft, God seems, when he enters into covenant with man, to suf pend, or lay aside the natural right which he has over himn as his creature; and to tranfa&t with him, as free, and master of himself : but this is all infinite condescension. Secondly, It seems unsuitable to the infinite goodness of God, to bereave man of the life and happiness he has once conferred upon him, unless he forfeits it by fome demerit: The gifts and calling of God are without repentance; nor can I think how death, which has so much evil in it, could have entered the world, if fin had not entered it first. In this sense, unfinning obedience gives a kind of right to the continuance of those good things, which are at first the mere effects of divine grace and bounty. Lastly, A covenant of works being once established, 'tis plain, that as fin forfeits life, so obedience must give a right to it: and as the penitent could not be restored, but by an act of grace, so he that commits no fin, would need no pardon. But then life it felf, and an ability to work righ

teousness, teousness, must be owing to grace antecedent to the covenant: and fo fuch an one would have whereof to boast comparatively, with respect to others who fell ; but not before God. The sum of all is, man has nothing to render to God, but what he has received from him; and therefore can offer him nothing but his own: which is no very good foundation for merit. But fuppose him abfolute master of himself; sup pose him holding all things independent of God. Can the service of a few days merit immortality and glory, angelical perfection, and a crown? He must be made up of vanity and presumption, that dares affirm this. :

3. God stands in no need of our fervice; and 'tis our own, not bis interest we promote by it. The foundation of merit amongft men is impotence and want : the prince wants the service and tribute of the subject; the subject the protection of the prince: the rich needs the ministry and the labour of the poor ; the poor fupport and maintenance from the rich. And it is thus in imaginary, as well as real wants. The Juxury and pleafure of one, must be provided for and supported by the care and vigilance of others and the pomp and the pride of one part of the world cannot fubFf 4


fift, but on the fervitude of the other. In these cases therefore, mutual wants create mutual and mutual merit. But this is not the case between God and man. God is not fubje&t to any wants or necessities : nor is his glory or happiness capable of diminution or increase. He is a Monarch, that needs no tribute to support his grandeur, nor any strength or power besides his own, to guard his throne. If we revolt, or rebel, we cannot injure him: if we be loyal and obedient, we cannot profit him. He has all Fulness, all Perfection in himself: he is an almighty and all-sufficient God. But on the quite contrary, tho' God have no wants, we have many : and tho'bis Majesty and felicity be subject to no vicissitude, we are subječt to many. Our service to God therefore is our own interest; and our obedience is designed to procure our own advantage: we need, we daily need his support and protection; we depend intirely on his favour and patronage : In him we live, and move, and have our being : and from him, as from an inexhaustible fountain, we derive all the streams of good, by which we are refreshed and im. proved.' To know, and love him, is our wisdom; to depend upon him, our happiness and security; to serve and worship him, our perfection and liberty ; to enjoy


« AnteriorContinuar »