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Virtue or Efficacy upon the Soul , but of the Spirit, which is attended with the Influence of the Holy Ghost, Imprinting it upon the Heart, and working in the Soul all the Grace and Vertue propounded and promised in it. For the Letter killeth (faith he) that is, the first Covenant, that was written on Tables of Stone, cannot fave a Sinner, but rather denounces Wrath, and serves to aggravate his Condemnation. The Law worketh Death (faith St. Paul) and by it no Flesh living can be justified. But the Spirit giveth Life; that is, the New Covenant, by the Aids and Assistances of God's Holy Spirit, giveth Life, and not only so, but preserves and maintains it by the continual Comfort and Communication of Divine Grace.
From hence the Apostle takes occasion to shew the difference between the Legal and Evangelical Dispenfation, together with the Glory and Excellency of the latter above the former ., calling the one, The Ministration of Death and Condemnation; the other, The Ministration of the Spirit and Righteousness: advancing the Glory of the one above the o flier as far as Life exceeds Death, and the Consolations of the Spirit the Miseries of Condemnation. If the Ministration of Death (faith he) that was written and engraven in Stones, was glorious, so that the Children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the Face of Moses, for the Glory of his Countenance, which Glory was to be done away, how shall not the Ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? Where he allows some fort of Glory, and that in no small degree, to the Delivery of the Law, which brought nothing but Death with it: for its being engraven on Tables of Stone by the Finger of God himself, and adorn'd with the Appearance of Angels at the Delivery of it, and likewise with such a bright shining Light, which cast such a Splendor on Moses's Face, that dazzled the Eyes of the Beholders, could not but add a Glory to it ., tho that Glory was but transient, and to be done away. From whence the Apostle justly infers, that if that lower Dispenfation, which was only written on Stone, and externally represented good things, without affording any inward Grace or Strength to attain'to them, had yet such a Glory attending the publishing of ft -j how much more glorious and illustrious must the Dispenfation of the Gospel be, which is establish'd upon better Promises, with an additional Strength to perform the Conditions, and to obtain the Mercy granted in them? Tor, as he goes on,
If the Ai&minijlration of Condemnation be Glory, much -more doth the Ministration of Righteousness exceed in Glory: ineaning, that if the Law, which ministred only to Condemnation and Death, had such an outward Glory to usher it in, and to set it off• , how much more doth the Gospel, which ministreth to Life and Salvation, surpass it in true and permanent Glory?
'This is briefly the Sum and Sense of this Day's Epistle; which we may easily improve into the following Lessons.
I. Our great Weakness and Inability to do any thing of our selves, may serve to check all Pride and Presumption, and to keep us from trusting too much to our own Strength. He that relies upon his own Power, leans but upon a broken Reed, which will certainly fail and deceive him. David, a Man after Gdd's own Heart, and Peter, the chiefest of the Apostles, found the Truth hereof by fad Experience $ for both presuming too far upon their own Strength, betray'd their own Weakness, and shamefully fell into fbul Enormities. Which great Examples may teach us to beware of too much Confidence in our selves, or relying too • far upon our own Sufficiency: especially we of the Ministry should take heed of depending too much upon our own Parts in the Discharge of our Office, but rather implore the Astistance of God's Holy Spirit •, and instead of running before we are sent, to fay with the Apostle^ Who is sufficient for these things?
2. As the Sense of our Insufficiency should keep us from Presumption; so should the Sense of the Sufficiency we have from God preserve us from Despair: for tho we are unable to think or do any thing of our selves, yet his Grace is sufficient for iit; and we can do all things through Christ, that strengthens m , who is never wanting to the hearty Desires and Endeavours of his People: for he is ever more ready to hear us, than we are to pray to him arid the Returns of his Goodness far exceed both our Desires and Deserts. So that as we may not presume upon our own Power, which is no better than Weakness j so neither are we td despair of Divine Grace and Assistance, which is abundantly able to supply all Defects, and to help all our Infirmities, and consequently may at all times, in the Use of good Means, be fafely trusted to, and rely'd Upon.
3. This Discourse may teach (is to banish all Vain ConCelt of Merit, and to ascribe all that we have, are, or can
U 2 do, do, entirely to the Divine Bounty: for if all our SufRcien-' cy be of God, then we are nothing of our selves, and consequently can merit nothing at God's hands; for he that can do nothing, can deserve nothing: his Grace is altogether free and undeserv'd; we have nothing we can call our own, bat our Infirmities and Imperfections, which are rather to be bewail'd than boasted of. A due fense hereof may qualify us to receive this Divine Grace, but an arrogant Conceit of our own Worth and Self-sufficiency will certainly deprive us of it for God resisteth the Proud, and giveth Grace only to the Humble.
4. If all our Sufficiency be of God, then let us thankfully own from whence we receive it, and duly employ what we have in his Service. This is the End of all the Gifts and Graces bestow'd upon us, that we should use them to the Honour of God that gave them, and the Good of them for whose fake they were given: by so doing we shall not only procure a Blessing upon what we have, hut find the Favour of obtaining more. He in the Parable, that employ'd his Talents well, improv'd them to great advantage, and gain'd more ., but the wicked and unprofitable Servant, that hid his Talent in a Napkin, and made no use of it, was depriv'd of what he had; and instead of entring into his Master's Joy, was doom'd to endlefe and unspeakable Misery.
J. Since this Sufficiency is deriv'd to us by the Gospel* Covenant, we learn the Excellency arid Benefit of it above the Legal Dispenfation. The Law exacted Duty, but afforded no Strength to perform it; it requir'd perfect and univerfal Obedience to all Its Precepts, and pronounc'd a Curse upon every one that continu'd not in all things that are written in the Book of the Law, to do them; but gave no power to keep, nor any Pardon for the Breach of them: for which reason the Letter of the Law is faid to kill, and the Law it self to be a Ministration of Death and Condemnation; because it left Men in a hopeless and helpless State, without any Remedy or Relief. Whereas the Gospel, on the other hand, not only requires Duty, but promises Grace to assist and enable to the Performance of it; and therefore as the Law is stil'd The Letter, so the Gospel is stil'd The Spirit: the one is faid to kill, call'd therefore a dead Letter; the other to give Life, call'd therefore The Ministration of the Spirit and Righteousness. In short, the Gospel relieves us from the Curse and Sentence pf the Law, by the fanctions fying Grace and Assistances of the Holy Spirit ^ it requires no more than it gives Strength to perform, it accepts of Sincerity instead of perfect Obedience: and if we happen to fall by a Temptation, it helps us to rife again by Repentance.
And therefore we should bless God for making this New Covenant, and taking us under this easy and gracious Dispenfation: We are not under the Law (faith St. Paul) hut under Grace; for which we have great reason to thank God, and to make a right Use of it.
Lastly, Since all our Sufficiency is of God, we are taught where to seek it, and how to find it in time of need ., and that is, by having recourse unto God by Prayer, who hath promis'd to give Wisdom to them that ask it, and Grace to them that lack and desire it: To him therefore let our Prayers and Praises be directed, who is able and willing to dat more for us than we can ask or think. Amen,
The Gospel for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity.
St. Mark vii. 31, to the end.
Jefsa departing from the Coasts of Tyre and Sidon, came unto the Sea of Galilee, through the midst of the Coasts of Decapolis; and they bring unto him one that was deaf and had an Impediment in his Speech, &c.
TH E Subject of this Gospel is a Relation of a Miracle wrought by our Saviour on the Person of a certain deaf and dumb Man, who was miraculously heal'd of both his Infirmities: In which we may observe,
First, Something going before it.
U 3 First,
Firsts As for what went before ^ 'tis an account of his Progress, or moving from one place to another, to exercise and exert his Divine Power and Goodness for the Welfare of Mankind: So we read here, that he departed from the Coasts of Tyre and Sidon, and came to the Sea of Galilee, passing through the Coasts of Decapolis; and elsewhere we read of his going to Capernaum, to Cesarea, to the Sea of Tiberias, and to many other places on the fame Errand. This St. Luke expresses by his going about doing good, Atts 10.38. where we read of Jesus 0/Nazareth's being anointed 'with the Holy Ghost, and with Power-, and his going' about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the Devil', for God was with him. He did not confine his Kindness to one Place, or shut up himself by a grave Retirement and Sequestration from the World; but went from place to . place, freely conversing and doing good to the Bodies and Souls of Men. His Charity was univerfal, and extended to all Persons and Places where he came. This was the chief Business of his Life, to go up and down doing good", and where he did not find, he sought out Objects of his Kindness and Compafiion, doing for them more than they could wifh^or hope for themselves. He travel'd not only thro the Country of Judæa, but all the Regions round about, scattering every where the Influences of his Bounty and Goodness: Instances hereof are many and great in the Histories of the four Evangelists, who have left upon Record his excellent Sayings and Instructions for the Welfare of Mens Souls, together with the various Kindnesses shew'd to their Bodies, and both with a Charity and Goodness not to be parallel'd; as may be seen throughout the whole four Gospels.'
: This we observe from Christ's departing from the Coasts of Tyre and Sidon, and earning to Galilee through the Coasts of Decapolis; which St. Mark relates here as previous to the' Miracle there done by him. And this will lead me,
Secondly, To the Miracle it self j which the following words declare to us: Christ being there, they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an Impediment in his Speech. Tkis wa* generally the Course and Custom of the People in all Places where he came, to bring to him all diseased Persons, and such as were possessed with evil Spirits: so St. Matthew tells us, Chap. A. 24,25. His Fame went through
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