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Ser M. ment, without living good and virtuous XIV.
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
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
trines have been broached tending greatly S ERM.
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 be intended, are only sweet Baits that tend S er mi
I shall mention but one more, and
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
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