Page images
PDF
EPUB

Ser M. ment, without living good and virtuous XIV.

Lives.

The Wit of Man has fought out many Inventions to save the Trouble of being truly religious, and to find a shorter and easier Way to Heaven than is marked out in the holy Scriptures.

The Church of Rome has invented the Art of transferring Merit, by taking from those who have an Overplus, to give to others who want it, in the Shape of Indulgences, which exhibit in many Cases a plenary Remission of all Sins. The Policy of that Church is

very
curious

upon this gainful Article ; for the Body of their Divines do all allow that these indulgencies granted by the Pope out of the common Treasury of Merits, of which he has the Key, cannot discharge Sinners from eternal Punishment; that would have been too gross, but the specious Words, of plenary Pardon of all Sins, is a Biit that Catches the Ignorant and Unlearned, who would never purchase those Indulgencies at so dear a rate upon any other Consideration.

And I am sorry to observe, that even among the reformed Churches, certain Doc

XIV.

[ocr errors]

trines have been broached tending greatly S ERM.
to the Discouragement of real Virtue. I
shall mention two or three that you may
be aware of them. The first is the afcri.
bing to Faith a greater Efficacy towards
Salvation than is warranted by the Word
of God. The holy Scriptures do indeed in
fome Places ascribe great Powers to Faith,
especially when they oppose it to the Works
of the ceremonial Law, which was totally
abolished by our Saviour's Death. On the
other Hand the Gospel does as frequently
and more severely require good Works, and
tells us, that Faith without Works is dead.
The Word Faith is allowed to be of most
various and uncertain Signification ; but the
Sense of good Works is clear and deter-
mined, and cannot casily be mistaken. For
Men therefore to be always exalting Faith,
and pressing Christians to expect Salvation
by relying and resting on Christ, whilst
good Works are fightly passed cver, is a
Practice of dangerous Consequence, as it
tends to supersede the Trouble of a vir-
tuous and self-denying Life, and the Prac-
tice of Holiness without which no Manfall
Jee the Lord.

The

E e 3

SE R M.

Another Doctrine is, that Saints canXIV.

not fall from Grace ; which is the result of a fond Persuasion that God did from all Eternity, out of his sovereign good Pleasure, clect a certain Number of the Children of Adam to everlasting Life exclusively of all others. And because there is an absolute Necessity of Holiness, they have contrived that he shall predestinate them to this likewise. The plain Consequence from which, is that wicked Men are left free to do Evil, while good Men are under an irresistible Necessity of doing Good, which is in Effect to make all true Piety and Virtue impossible; for wicked Men cannot attain to it, because they are Reprobates, and the Elect cannot have it be*cause it is the Effect of Necessity, which destroys the Nature of true Virtue.

These Doctrines which are picked out of certain Scraps of the holy Scriptures, without regard to the Context and Scope of the Argument, and which cannot after the fubtilest Distinctions be reconciled to the undoubted Sense of many plain and clear Texts, and to the general Drift and Tenor of the whole, are meer Strains of Enthusiasm, and how piously foever they

may

[ocr errors]

XIV.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

may be intended, are only sweet Baits that tend S er mi
to ensnare the ignorant and credulous, and to
substitute some easier and more palatable Me-
thods of Salvation in the room of true Virtue.

I shall mention but one more, and
that is the natural Impotency of Man to
do any thing good and acceptable to God.
A Maxim which if taken in that strict Sense
in which it has been often affirmed and de-
fended, must discourage all Attempts to
reform and begin a religious Course ; for
when a Man is once persuaded of this, he
has nothing to do but to sit still, and to
wait till the Grace of God shall descend
miraculously upon his Soul like the Fire from
Heaven upon Elijah's Altar, and quicken
his dead Faculties to Life and Activity.

Men are apt enough of themselves to catch at every Pretence for neglecting the Duties of Religion, and are pleased above all Things to plead a natural Disability proceeding from God. St. Paul was aware of this, and fearing that the Doctrine of God's Grace might be abused to Idleness, he exhorts the Philippians to work out their own Phil. 2.10, Salvation with fear and trembling, from this"". very Motive, that it is God which worketh in them both to will, and to do, of his good

Pleafure.

[ocr errors]

SDRM. Pleasure. It is against common Sense to w press a Man utterly impotent and dead in his

Limbs with a Palsey, to move and stir because we are ready to affist him, for what is Help to a dead Man. St. Paul therefore plainly supposes that they had some Power of their own for making Efforts towards their own Salvation, and that upon exerting this, they could not fail of the Concurrence of God's Grace to render it effectual. This is consistent with Realon, and the Nature of Man, and of moral Virtue ; but the Doctrine of utter Impotency is contrary to plain Fact, and most absurd in itself.

I am afraid that amongst our selves something as dangerous is to be found, and that many in their Practice remove Religion off its true Basis, and reft it more upon a certain Exactneis in outward Observances and Formalities, than in the Purity and Devotionof the Heart, and the unversal Righteousness of the Life; hoping to compound for Defects in the latter, which is more difficult, by exceeding in the former, which is more easy.

Now there, and all other vain Conceits and Imaginations, that divert Men from real and fubitantial Goodness, and substitute

fome

« PreviousContinue »