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And when they were thus plac'd, He took the seven Loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his Disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the People. Where his giving of Thanks before his distributing the Creatures to them,, signifies his rendring Acknowledgments to God for his Bounty, and making outward and solemn Expressions of it, before we use or receive his Creatures for our Refreshment: whose excellent Example herein may teach us to do the seme, to render unto God the Praise os his Gifts, and to lift up our Eyes unto him, who openeth hjs Hand, and filleth all things living with Plenteousnefs; setting out to every one their Portion, and giving them their Meat in due season. This is a Tribute of Homage we owe to the Almighty Donor for all hfs Blessings, and is a piece of Service highly profitable for us, and acceptable to him.
It follows, And they had a few small Fishes; and he blessed, and ''he commanded them to set them also before them: Where his blessing the few Fishes, denotes not only his Acknowledgments to God for his Liberality, but his fanctifying them to us for our Support and Comfort; for all the Creatures are fanctify'd by the commanding Word <jf God, and his Blefling is deriv'd upon theni by Prayer and Thanksgiving. ,
But what Comfort did the Multitude reap from those (mail Provisions? Why, that the next words tell us ; So they did all eat, and were filled. Wonderful! that so small a Quantity of Provisions mould increase and multiply to the filling of so vast a Multitude: for the next Verse tells us, that they were about four thoufand; and St. Matthew, that they were about five thoufand, beside Women and Children. And what is more strange than all this, 'tis here faid that they took up of the broken Meat, that was left, seven Baskets; or, as St. Matthew hath it, twelve Baskets full; which was vastly more than was at first before them: after which they were all sent away fully fatisfy'd.
But tho this Miracle be prodigiously great and astonishing, yet there is something far more wonderful and amazing, that occurs every day to a wise Observer; and that is the feeding and filling not of Thoufands only, but of Millions of Creatures, with daily and hourly Provisions by natural and ordinary Means; which being common and constant, are not so much admir'd as some rare and uncommon Occurrences, which in themselves are far less wonderful. However, both are Matters of our loudest Praises arid
P 4 ThankiThanksgivings: and whoso u wise will pander these things-, and he shtill understand the Loving-kindness of the Lord.
Thus we fee the Miracle held forth in the Gospel for this Day ., the Improvement and Application whereof being made at large m the Gospels for the fourth Sunday in Lents and the last Sunday aft&t^Jrtnity, I shall not need to repeat it -here, but refer the Reader to them. .'..
DISCOURSE XXVI. ,
The Epistle for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity.
Rom. viii. 12 iS. : .
Brethren, we are Debtors, not to the Flejh, to livens ter the Flesh; for if ye live after the Flesh yeshall die; hut if ye, thro the Spirit, do mortify the Deeds of the Body, ye [hall live: for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God, &c.
TH E Collect for this Day beseeches God, whose never-failing Providence ordereth all things, both in Heaven and Earth, to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us,
Now the things hurtful to us are chiefly the Works of the Flesh, which lead to Death and Damnation ., and the things profitable for us are the Fruits of the Spirit, which lead to Life and Salvation. Accordingly, the Epistle for the Day treats of both these, exhorting us to pat away the one, and to put on the other. It begins with the kind Competition of Brethren ^ Brethren (faith he) we are Debtors, Where the Apostle takes these new-converted Romans into the Relation of a spiritual Fraternity, (tiling them Brethren, hoping by that loving and endearing Title the better to in. ftil bis Advice and Precepts into them. To which end, he first puts them m mind of the great Debt that lies upon all Christians, by virtue of that Holy Profession they have taken upon them • , Brethren, we are Debtors: that is, we have many Obligations lying upon us by our receiving the GoP pel, and embracing Christianity • , being bound, by the Condition of our spiritual Being, to lead another Course of Life than we did before. And this Debt is contracted not barely by our Christian Profession, which obliges as to all Purity and Holinefe • , but likewise by the Covenant and Pro* wise we thereby enter into; as also by the many Benefits and Privileges that we are entitled to, and receive by it: all which are strong Engagements to leave our former sinful Courses, and to live in Newness of Life, now we have emwrac'd the Christian Faith.
But the Apostle proceeds, in the next words, to declare more particularly the Debt that lies upon us on these accounts • , which he expresses first negatively, We are Debtors (faith hie) not to the Flesh, to live after the Flesh: that is, tho our fleshly Part hath many natural Appetites and Desires, that call upon us to be gratify'd • , and we are so far indebted to Nature, as to be oblig'd to answer and fatisfy the regular Demands of it• , yet we are not bound to hearken to the irregular Motions of corrupt Nature, or to follow the Sway of our sinful Lusts: yea, we are oblig'd to the contrary, to mortify our earthly Members by Fasting and Prayer, and to make no provision for the Flefb, to fulfil the Lusts thereof. To wnich the Apostle adds a strong Reason or Inducement • , For if ye live after the Flesh ye shalt die: If ye give up your selves to the Command of a carnal and sensual Appetite, and suffer your selves to be carry'd away by the Temptations of your fleshly Lusts, ye will inevitably expose your selves to the Destruction of Body and Soul• , Death will be the certain End and Issue of soch,unmortify'd Lusts: for to be carnally minded is Deaths ver. 6. And that not a temporal Death only, or a short Separation of Body and Soul, but eternal Death, which is a Separation of both from God for ever. For the carnal Mind it Eti' inity against God • , it is not subject to the Law of God, nor indeed can be: and what carries such a direct Enmity and Opposition against God, can never be so reconcil'd as eve/ to enjoy him. So that we cannot be Debtors to the Flesh, to live after the Flesh, which is attended with such a fatal Destruction.
But how then are we faid to be Debtors? Why, 'tis to the Spirit, to live after the Spirit, who hath regenerated and begotten us again to a new Life; 'tis to him we owe our Reception into Christ's Church, and being call'd thereby into a State of Salvation. This hath laid upon us a Debt of Thankfulness and Obedience, which we are to be always paying; and that is to be done by living after the Spirit, by observing and obeying its godly Motions, and by governing our selves and Actions by the Gifts and Graces of it: for as to live after the Flesh is to follow the corrupt Inclinations of the Flesh, and to obey it in the Lusts thereof-, so to live after the Spirit is to follow the Conduct of God's Holy Spirit, and to observe the Dictates and Directions of that Divine Guide. As for the former, we have no Obligation, but to renounce and forfake all the Works of the Flesh, which are hurtful to all that indulge themselves in them: for the latter, we are indebted to labour for, and to bring forth the Fruits of the Spirit, which are highly useful and profitable for us. And to this our Christian Profession, and the Hopes we have from it, strongly oblige us: for 'tis but reasonable that we should act and live up to what we pretend to; and being enter'd upon a new and better Covenant, that is establisiYd upon better Promises than we had before, we should answer it by a suitable Converfation. Hence St. Peter, mentioning the exceeding great Dignity and Advantages of our Christian Profession, filling Christians, A chosen Generation, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a peculiar People; wills them not to do any thing unworthy of themselves, that might debase the Honour, or deprive them of the Benefit of their high and holy Calling. And because nothing could more endanger both, than living after the Flesh, he beseeches them, as Strangers and Pilgrims, to abstain fromsiejbly Lusts, which war against the Soul', i Pet. 2.9,10,11. And to this St. Paul here gives us abundant Encouragement ., for tho he before told us, that if we live after the Flesh, we shall die, yet he adds, that if we thro the Spirit do mortify the Deeds of the Body, we /ball live. And tho to be carnally minded is Death, yet to be spiritually minded is Life and Peace: where, as eternal Death is the Wages and Consequent of a linful and sensual Course os Life; so eternal Life will be the End and Reward of a spiritual and heavenly Converfation. The Proof whereof the Apostle gives us in the following words;
For as many as are led. by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God; meaning, that being led by the Spirit of God, and living by the Dictates and Directions of it, we become the Sons and Children of God, and consequently he will deal with us as his Children, and bestow upon us the Inheritance of eternal Life. And this Son (hip we have not. barely by Right of Creation •, for in that respect all, even the worst of Men, are faid to be the Sons of God •, but by a new Title of Regeneration and Adoption, whereby from Aliens and Outcasts we are taken into Christ's Family, and entitled to all the Privileges of the Sons of God. This he farther confirms in the next words, faying, For ye have not received the Spirit of Bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of Adoption, whereby ye cry., Abba, Father: meaning, that we are not now in the Condition of Servants or Slaves, who are call'd upon to do their work, and instead of Wages are in continual fear of the Lash •, neither are we now, as the Jews sometimes were, in Bondage to the beggarly Elements of the World, or the childish Rudiments of Moses's Law, which was a State of Servility and Thraldom: but now our Condition in Christ is mightily alter'd• , we have another Spirit that carries us above all such servile and (lavish Fears, and gives us the Boldness and Confidence of Children, even the Spirit of Adoption, which enables us to go freely to him, and cry, Abba, Father: a Form of Speech whereby Children were wont to address their Parents, signifying that we are allow'd to come to God, not as Servants to a hard Master, but as Sons to a tender and loving Father, expecting all fatherly Ufage from him, even Assistance to perform his Commands, and Assurance to receive the Reward of them.
But how are we confirm'd in the Belief and Certainty of our Sonship? Why, that the next words declare, The Spirit it self beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are the Children of God; meaning, that we have the Testimony of God's Holy Spirit, concurring with our own Spirits, to confirm us in the Truth of our filial Relation to him. Our own Spirit of it self is fallible, and might be apt to flatter and deceive us in this matter; but the Testimony of God's Holy Spirit is infallible, and cannot deceive us: The Heart of Man is deceitful, faith the Prophet, and not to be trusted alone; but the Spirit of God is a Spirit of Truth, that leads into all and nothing but Truth: and having the concurrent Testimony of both these for the Truth of our Son