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1. The want of common honesty and integrity among men.
So indeed it used to be called, common honelty ; but it grows so rare now, that it is like to lose that name. Righteousness, truth, and faithfulness, are almost failed from among the children of men; all ranks of men have corrupted themselves in this kind; this is grown almost an universal depravation, there is hardly any trade or profession which hath not something of knavery
and fallhood woven into the very mystery of it, and is become almost a necessary part of it. Where is the generous honesty and uprightness which did heretofore possess the spirits of men, and which is an inseparable companion of true courage? but we are now passing an pace into foreign manners and vices, and
form of religion will serve, when justice and integrity are gone.
II. The want of peace and love. How full of factions and divisions are we? and these managed with all imaginable heat and animosity one toward another ; as if the badge of Christianity were changed, and our Saviour had said, Hereby shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye hate one another.
All the differences among Christians, of what denomination foever, are sadly to be lamented; but I almolt despair as to the difference between us and the church of Rome, because the reconciliation is impossible, unless they renounce their principles. They cannot come over to us, because they think they are infallible ; and we cannot pass over to them, because we know they are deceived; fo that there is a great gulf between us and them. We must not only renounce the scriptures, but our reason and our senses, to be of their mind. We cannot communicate with them in the sacrament, because they have taken away one half of it, which is as plainly instituted and commanded, as the other part, which is left. We cannot worship the virgin Mary, and the saints, much less their images, because it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God. In short,
feveral of their articles of faith are such as no credulity can lwallow; and several parts of their worship are fuch, as no piety can join with.
But this we bewail, that those who agree in the fame essentials of faith and worship should be so forward to divide and separate from one another, merely upon forms of government, and circumstances of worship. What can justify the breach of communion and peace, upon such terms? Either church-government is of divine right, or it is not. If it be, why do not men submit to the form which is established by authority? If it be not, what kind of government can contend for that right, with any equality of advantage, againit that which cannot be denied to have almost universally obtained in most ages and parts of the Christian world?
As for the circumstances of worship, there is scarce any man hath the face to contend, that any of those used in our church are clearly condemned by the word of God; and what else can make them unlawful? One of the chief causes of feparation, is a form of prayer; the lawfulnefs of which our Saviour hath abundantly justified, and I do not think was ever questioned by any writer in the Chriftian church, for near upon lixteen hundred years; and is it worth while to break the peace of the church, and violate one of the greatest precepts of Christianity, upon little and flight pretences of unlawfulness, and doubtful reasons of convenience and expee dience; and about such things as are no more reasonable grounds of quarrels among Christians, than the differences of mens ftature and faces would be a jult ground for mankind to make war upon one another?
Where is the power of religion, when the peace and unity of Christians is violated upon these terms? It is a sign that the life and substance of religion is little regarded by us, when men can afford to employ so much zeal about these things.
And that men may be effectually persuaded to mind the fubitance of religion more, let me desire them to imprint these three considerations upon their minds.
1. That the parts of religion are subordinate to one another, and are to be minded each in their due place. The means of religion are less worth than the end, and VOL. IX.
therefore deserve our regard chiefly in order to that. The circumstances of religion are less considerable than the means and instruments of it, and therefore are to be subordinated to them. Faith is in order to the praEtice of a good life, and signifies nothing, unless it produces that. So that the issue, and uplhot of all, is a holy and virtuous life, To deny ungodliness and worldly lufts, and to live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present world; to love God and oilr neighbour ; to deal justly, and to be kind, and peaceable, and charitable towards all men.
II. Consider that religion consists in an entire and universal obedience to the will of God, in a respect to all his commandments, and hating. every evil way. Here the power of godliness consists in being holy in all manner of conversation.
III. Consider that religion chiefly respects God, and another world. A form of religion, if it were artificially contrived, might possibly serve to cheat men, and be useful enough to all the interests and advantages of this world : but we are to do all things in reference to God, who cannot be imposed upon with shews and pretences; and with regard to another world, where no form of religion will be current, without the power of it. Yea, and in reference to this world, if there be
advantage in seeming religious, certainly the best way to seem to be fo, is to be so indeed.
S E R
Of the necessity of good works.
Til. jji. 8. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that
thou afirm constantly, that they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
The first sermon on this text.
His epistle of St. Paul to Titus, whom he had
inade Bishop of Crete, contains directions how
he ought to demean himself in that great charge.
1. By appointing in every city Bishops or elders, to teach and govern those that were already, or should afterwards by their means be converted tờ the faith of Christ : and to be very careful to make choice of worthy and fit persons into this high office; men of sound doctrine and unblameable lives, chap. i. from ver. 5. to the end.
2. By his own doctrine and conversation among them. And this is the subject of the two following chapters, in which he gives him a strict charge, to be very careful both of his doctrine and his life. Of his doctrine, that it be according to the soundness and purity of the gospel; not such corrupt and adulterate stuff
, as the false Apostles and teachers were wont to vend among them, chap. ii. 1. But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine ; which he elsewhere calls the doEtrine of truth which is according to godliness, fuch a doErine as tends to reform the lives of men, to make them better, and more like to God. And then he should be careful likewise, that his life and conversation be exem plary in all virtue and goodness; without which the
best words will be of little weight, and the wiselt doerines and councils of small efficacy and force to persuade others to the practice of them, ver. 7. In all things Wewing thy self a pattern of good works. When sound doctrine is seconded by the good life of the teacher, it must have great authority and force of persuasion, ver: 15. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority; let no man despise thee. If the minister of God do but so preach and lo live, this will give him authority, and set him above contempt ; let men despise such an one if they can.
More particularly, as he would have him instruct men in general in all the virtues of a good life; fo more e1pecially, the several ages and conditions of men in the duties and virtues respectively belonging to them; to young and old, men and women.
And because great scandal had been brought upon the Christian religion, by the undutiful carriage of fervants and subjects towards their masters and magistrates, upon a false notion of Christian liberty, advanced and propagated by the false Apostles and Gnostic Libertines, he gives Titus, in particular, charge to put Christians in mind of their duty in this particular, and to inculcate it earnestly upon them, that the Christian religion might not be flandered upon this account, chap. ii. ver. 9. 10. Exhort servants to be obedient to their masters, &c. that they may adorn i he doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. Chap. iii. 1. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, and to be ready to every good work; that is, in short, to endeavour to be good in all relations, and in all sorts and kinds of goodness.
And then, ver. 8. he lays great stress and weight upon this matter, that Christians should constantly and upon all occasions be taught the great necessity of the virtues of a good life. This is a faithful saying, &c. which folenn and vehement kind of expression, the Apostle feems to insinuate, that the false Apostles did exalt the virtue of faith, to the prejudice and neglect of a good life; as if by a mere speculative belief and profession of the Christain religion, men charged and released from the practice of all virtue and goodness. And this is very probable, because we find