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Discourses and in all their Actions, but none so plain and convincing, as when they ridicule and vilifie those Persons who deserve the greatest Honour and Reverence, when they deride and blaspheme the Brightest Image, the Divinest Appearance of God in Man, and are Despisers of those that are good.
The Words are the worst part of an ill Character of a bad sort of Men that should rise up in the Church, or rather against it, in the latter Ages of the World; when through the Degeneracy of Human Nature, Christian Piety should not only suffer a great Decay, and be at a low Ebb, but even fall under downright Contempt, and its Professors with it ; when Goodness should not only grow out of fashion, but into shame; when Religion should be discountenanc'd and laugh'd off the Stage ; and when the Impudent Harden'd Transgreffor, not content to walk in the Counsel of the Ungodly, or to stand in the Way of Sinners, should advance to the highest pitch of Impiety, to the very Ridge of Devilism, and take the Chair of the Scornful; making his Mocks at God and Religion, and throwing that Contempt upon Goodness and Good Men, which is due only to himself, and his own Wickedness and Folly.
Whether we are not now entring upon the Line of this Cloudy Interval of these latter and more degenerate days, whether the present Age be not concern'd in this black Character, I thall leave to be consider'd by those who shall observe
that prophane Humour and Irreligious Genius that appears fo visible in it, and seems to make up its very Ayr and Complexion ; while in the mean time I chufe rather to proceed to the Confideration of the Words before me, which making the Contempt of Good Men one of the Marks of a Wicked and Profligate Age, do thereby imply, that Good Men do not deserve the Contempt of Wicked Men, but rather their greatest Honour and Esteem : That nevertheless 'tis their Lot sometimes to fall under it, and that the Age is most abominably Wicked and Corrupt when they do so. So that we have here Three things to confider,
1. That Honour and Reverence which is due to Good Men.
2. That Contempt which they do really meet with.
3. The heinous Injustice and Impiety of all fuch Contempt.
1. We are to confider that Honour and Reverence, which is due to good Men. Whereof that we may take a just Account, it will be necessary to lay open the true Ground and Foundation of Honour in general; which when duly stated and placed upon a right bottom, will be a Measure to direct us in our Judgment of that Honour which belongs to Good Men, to inform us whether they are truly Honourable or no; and to what degree they are so. Now I suppose that God is the only true Fountain and Original of all Honour; according to that acknowledgment
we are taught to make to him in our daily Prayers, Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory; and that Confession of the Elders in the Revelations, who are brought in, casting their Crowns down before the Throne, and saying, Rev. 4. II. Worthy art thou, O Lord, to receive Glory, Honour, and Power. By which Exprefsion joynd to that Devotional and Reverential act of theirs, in casting their Crowns before the Throne, they plainly acknowledge God to be the only true Fountain and Original of all Honour; and that it was from this great Sun of the Intellectual World, that they receiv'd every Ray of their Celestial Light and Glory. And therefore it was, that they cast their Crowns before the Throne the very fame. Homage that every inferior Magistrate or Major of a City pays to the King, in de livering up to him his Scepter or Mace (the Insign of his Honour,) when he passes through the Corporation. And by this the King is acknowledg?d to be the only Foundation of all Civil Honour and Power, that is, the only visible one, the highest Fountain of it that rises upon Earth. But this is only in a Secondary Sense, and in a Subordinate and Derivative way. For this Fountain, has also its Fountain, and must be traced up to a higher Original, even to him by whom Kings reign, and Princes decree Justice.
But now, if God be the true Fountain of all Honour, (which I suppose is a Principle that will readily find admittance, wherever the Notion of God does, it will then follow that Creatures are
no further Honourable, than as they partake of his Excellency and Perfection ; no further, than as in some measure they represent God; even as an inferior Magistrate is no further honourable in a civil respect, than as he partakes of the Power, and represents the Person, of the King. That therefore which stamps any person with a Character of Dignity, and makes him truly honourable; must be some real Excellence or other, either Inhering or Adhering, either Moral, Intellectual or Political; whereby he resembles God, or some Perfection of the Divine Nature. Thus those who are in Power or Authority, and are Honourable, as representing and partaking of the Sovereign Regality of God; those that have great Intellectual Indowments, that are Knowing and Learned, are so far Honourable, as representing the Wisdom of God, and so also thofe that are Good, (as we shall further see by and by) are Honourable, as resembling and representing the Goodness of God, the excellent and immutable Order and Regularity of the Divine Will. So much of God as appears in any Man, or in any Creature, so much as he has of what is Divine, so far he is truly Honourable; so far he is honour’d by God, and so far he ought to be honoured and respected by his Fellow-Creatures. And the greater that Perfection is whereby any Person resembles God, and the more he has of it, the greater will the Honour be which thence redounds to him, because he is thereby supposed to resemble God so much the more. And upon
this Account, we shall find it further necessary to .conclude, that the more this Excellency or Per
fection is our own, the more Right and Property we have in it, the more its acquisition depends upon the use of our Free Will; still the more honourable will it render the Poffeffors of it, and the greater respect will be due to them; because therein they do yet more resemble God, as representing not only this or that of his particular Perfections, but also in some sort that general one of his Afeity or Independency.
These are the true Grounds of all that Honour which is Natural and Real, which is founded in Reason and Sense, and does not depend upon the arbitrary Humours and unaccountable Fancies of Unprincipld Men. It all resolves into fonie resemblance of God, fome Participation of the Divine Nature, some Excellence or . Perfection that carries a Representation of the Supream Good, some Image or Appearance of God in Man. That Person who has any thing of this, (as all Men have in some degree or other,) is so far honourable ; and he that has most of it, in whom the Glory of the Divinity does molt brightly shine, in whom there is the greatest Appearance of God, he it is that is most Honourable. Whereupon Jesus Christ, being (as the Author to the Hebrews tells us, Heb. 1. 3.) the Brightness of his Father's Glory, and the Express Image of his Person, comes to have a right to the Greatest and most Superlative Honour and that even in respect of his Human Nature, which upon the account: