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the admirable zeal for God, and compassion for souls, which dwelt in that divine breast ! and Oh the wonderful unsearchable counsels of an all-wise God! He ordains Saul's seeking of asses to be the means of his finding a kingdom upon earth; and this poor woman's seeking of water, to be an occasion of her finding the way to the kingdom of heaven. She comes to the well of Jacob, and, behold, she meets with the God of Jacob there. The occasion, circumstances, and issue of this discourse, would each afford many good and profitable observations; but I think none more than this verse that I have selected; in which the mystery of the gospel grace is admirably unfolded, and the true Christian religion is excellently described. For so I understand our Saviour, not as speaking of faith, or knowledge, or any other particular grace, but of grace in general, of the Holy Spirit of God; that is, the gifts and graces of it, of true godliness; or, if you will, of the Christian religion; for that word I shall choose to retain throughout my discourse, as being most intelligible and comprehensive.
In which words we find the true Christian religion unfolded in the origin, nature, properties, consequence, and end of it. The origin of it is found in those words, “I shall give him;" the nature of it is described by "a well of water; the properties of it will be found in the phrase of “springing up;” the consequence of it, that the man that is endowed with it “shall never thirst;" the end or perfection of it is "everlasting life.” Of all these, by God's assistance, in this order.
FIRST. I begin at the original of it, as it seems meet I should; for indeed it is first found in the words, “ The water that I shall give him.” And here the proposition that I shall go upon must be,“ That the true Christian religion is of divine origin.” All souls are indeed the offspring of God. Those noble faculties of understanding, and a will free from constraint, do more resemble the nature of God than all the world besides. There is more of the glory, beauty, and brightness of God in a soul, than there is in the sun itself. The apostle allows it as a proper speech spoken in common of all men,
“ For we are also his offspring,” Acts xvii. 28. God hath impressed more lively prints of himself, and his divine essence, upon a rational soul, than he hath upon the whole creation: so that the soul of man, even as to its constitution, doth declare and discover more of the nature of God, than all the other things that he hath made, whereof the apostle speaks, Rom. i. 20. He that rightly converseth with his own soul, will get more acquaintance with God, than they that gaze continually upon the material heavens, or traverse the dark and utmost corners of the earth, or “go down unto the sea in ships:" the serious consideration of the little world will teach more of him than the great one could do; so that I scruple not to take the apostle's words concerning the word of God, and apply them to the nature of God, Rom. x. 6. “ Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven, to bring a discovery of God from thence ? or, who shall descend into the deep, to fetch it up from thence?” The nature and essence of God is nigh thee, even in thine own soul, excellently displayed in the constitution and frame, powers and faculties thereof. God hath not made any creature so capable of receiving and reflecting his image and glory, as angels and men; which has made me often to say, “ That the vilest soul of man is much more beautiful and honourable than the most excellent body, than the very body of the sun at noonday.” And, by the way, this may render sin odious and loathsome; because it hath defiled the fairest piece of God's workmanship in the world, and hath blurred the clearest copy which he has drawn of himself in the whole creation.
But though all rational souls be the children of God, yet all of them do not imitate their Father: though their constitution expresses much of the essence of God, yet their disposition expresses the image of the devil. But godly souls, who are "followers of God," are indeed his “dear children," Eph. v. 1. Holy souls, who are endowed with a divine and godlike disposition, and work the works of God, these are most truly and properly his offspring, Matt. v. 44, 45. And in this respect God's children are his “ workmanship, created unto good works,” Eph. ii. 10. Religion is of a divine origin: God is the author
and father of it, both from without and from within.
1. God is the author of it from without. When man had fallen from God by sin, and so had lost his way, and was become both unwilling and unable to return, God was pleased to set up that glorious light, his own Son, “the Sun of righteousness," in the world, that he might guide our feet into the way of peace, who is therefore called, “A light to lighten the Gentiles," Luke ii. 32; and compared to a candle set upon a candlestick, Mark iv. 21. God of his infinite free grace, and overflowing goodness, provided a Mediator, in and by whom these apostate souls might be reconciled, and re-united to himself; and “to as many as receive him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God," John i. 12.
Yet further, it pleased God in his infinite wisdom and mercy, to chalk out the way of life and peace in the Holy Scriptures, and therein to unlock the secrets of salvation to succeeding generations. Herein he hath plainly laid down the terms of the covenant of peace which was made in the Mediator, and given precepts and promises for the direction and encouragement of as many as will inquire into the same. These are the sacred oracles, which give clear and certain answers to all that consult them about their future state, Romans iii. 2. Christ Jesus opened the way into the holiest of all, and the Scriptures come after and point it out
unto us: he purchased life and immortality, and these bring it to light, 2 Tim. i. 10.
And yet further, that these might not be mistaken or perverted to men's destruction, which were ordained for their salvation, which sometimes doth come to pass, 2 Pet. iii. 16. God hath been pleased to commit these records into the hands of his church, and therein to his ministers, whom he hath appointed, called, qualified, and instructed for the opening, explaining, interpreting, and applying of them: so that they are called "scribes instructed unto the kingdom of God, and stewards of the mysteries, stewards over the household of God, to give unto every one his portion.” These apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, God hath given “ for the perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” Eph. iv. 11, 12.
These things hath God done for us, from without us: he hath set up a light, chalked out our way, and appointed us guides. To which I might add, the many incitements and motives which we call mercies or comforts of this life: and the many affrightments of judgments and afflictions, which God hath added to the promises and threatenings of his word, to bring us into the way of life. But all these are too little, too weak of themselves to bring back a straggling soul, or to produce a living principle of true religion in it. Therefore,
2. God is the author of religion from with