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true, they might have argued the other way, and concluded, that, because the good were moit of them ill-treated here, there was another place where they should meet with better usage: but it is plain they did not. Their thoughts of another life were, at best, obscure; and their expectations uncertain, Of manes, and ghosts, and the thades of departed men, there was some talk; but little certain, and Jess minded. They had the names of Styx and Acheron; of Elysian fields, and seats of the blessed: but they had them generally from their poets, mixed with their fables, and so they looked more like the inventions of wit, and ornaments of poetry, than the serious persuasions of the grave and the fober. They came to them bundled up amongst their tales; and for tales they took them. And that which rendered them more suspected, and less useful to virtue, was, that the philosophers seldom set their rules on men's minds and practices, by conlideration of another life. The chief of their arguments were from the excellency of virtue; and the highest they generally went, was the exalting of human nature, whose perfection lay in virtue. And if the prieit at any time talked of the ghofts below, and a life after this, it was only to keep men to their superstitious and idolatrous rites, whereby the use of this doctrine was lost to the credulous multitude, and its belief to the quicker-lighted, who suspected it presently of priestcraft. Before our Saviour's time, the doctrine of a future ftate, though it were not wholly hid, yet it was not clearly known in the world. It was an imperfect view of reason; or, perhaps, the decayed remains of an anticnt tradition, which rather seemed to float on men's fancies, than fink deep into their hearts. It was something, they knew not what, between being and not being. Something in man they imagined might escape the grave; but a perfect complete ļife of an eternal duration after this, was what entered little into their thoughts, and less into their persuasions. And they were so far from being clear herein, that we see no nation of the world publickly profeffed it, and built upon it; no religion taught it; and it was no where made an article of faith, and principle of religion, till Jesus Christ çame: of whoin it is truly said, that he at his appearing “ brought life and « immortality to light.” And that not only in the clear revelation of it, and in instances Mewn of men raised from the dead, but he has given us an unquestionable assurance and pledge of it, in his own resurrection and ascension into heaven. "How ḥath this one truth changed the nature of things in the world! and given the advantage to piety over all that could tempt or deter men from it! The philosophers, indeed, thewed the beauty of virtue; they set her off so as drew men's eyes and approbation to her; but leaving her unendowed, very few were willing to espouse her. The generality could not refuse her their esteem and commendation, but still turned their backs on her, and forsook her, as a match not for their turn. But now there being put into the scales, on her side, “an exceeding ç and immortal weight of glory," interest is come about to her; and virtue now is visibly the most enriching purchase, and by much
the best bargain. That she is the perfection and excellency of our nature, that the is herself a reward, and will recommend our names to future ages, is not all that can now be said for her. It is not strange that the learned Heathens satisfied not many with such airy commendations. It has another relish and efficacy to persuade men, that if they live well here, they shall be happy hereafter. Open their eyes upon the endless unspeakable joys of another life; and their hearts will find something solid and powerful to move them. The view of heaven and hell will cast a flight upon the short pleasures and pains of this present state, and give attractions and encouragements to virtue, which reason and interest, and the care of ourselves, cannot but allow and prefer. Upon this foundation, and upon this only, morality stands firm, and may defy all competition. This makes it more than a name, a substantial good, worth all our aims and endeavours; and thus the gospel of Jesus Christ hath delivered it to us.
5. To these I must add one advantage more we have by Jesus Christ, and that is, the promise of assistance. If we do what we can, he will give us his spirit to help us to do what, and how we thould. It will be idle for us, who know not how our own spirits move and act us, to ask in what manner the spirit of God shall work upon us. The wisdom that accompanies that fpirit knows better than we how we are made, and how to work upon us. If a wise man knows how to prevail on his child, to bring him to what he desires; can we suspect, that the spirit and wisdom of God should fail in it, though we perceive or comprehend not the ways of his operation ? Christ has promised it, who is faithful and just; and we cannot doubt of the performance. It is not requisite on this occasion, for the inhancing of this benefit, to enlarge on the frailty of minds, and weakness of our conftitutions; how liable to mistakes, how apt to go aftray, and how easily to be turned out of the paths of virtue. If any one needs go beyond himself, and the testimony of his own conscience in this point; if he feels not his own errors and pafiions always tempting him, and often prevailing, against the strict rules of his duty; he need but look abroad into any age of the world, to be convinced. Toa man under the difficulties of his nature, beset with temptations, and hedged in with prevailing custom, it is no small encouragement to set himself seriously on the courses of virtue, and practice of true religion, that he is from a sure hand, and an almighcy arm, promised affiftance to support and carry him throuch.
There remains yet something to be said to those who will be ready to object. If the belief of Jefus of Nazareth to be the Messiah, together with those concomitant articles of his resurrection, rule, and coming again to judge the world, be all the faith required as neceffary to justification, to what purpose were the epistles written; I say, if the belief of those many doctrines contained in them, be not also necessary to falvation? And if what is there delivered, a Chriftian may believe or dilbelieve, and yet nevertheless be a member of Chriit's church, and one of the faithful?
To this I answer, That the epistles were written upon several ocs casions; and he that will read them as he ought must observe what it is in them is principally aimed at; find what is the argument in hand, and how managed, if he will understand them right, and profit by them. The observing of this will best help us to the true meaning and inind of the writer; for that is the truth which is to be received and believed, and not scattered sentences in a scriptures language accommodated to our notions and prejudices. We must look into the drift of the discourse, observe the coherence and connexion of the parts, and see how it is consistent with itself, and other parts of Scripture, if we will conceive it right. We must not cull out, as best suits our system, here and there a period or a verse, as if they were all distinct and independent aphorisins; and make thcle the fundamental articles of the Christian faith, and necessary to salvation, unless God has made them so. There be many truths in the Bible, which a good Christian may be wholly ignorant of, and so not believe, which, perhaps, some lay great stress on, and call fundamental articles, because they are the distinguishing points of their communion. The epistles, most of them, carry on a thread of argument, which in the style they are writ cannot every where be observed without great attention. . And to consider the texts, as they stand and bear a part in that, is to view them in their due light, and the way to get the true fenfe of them. They were writ to those who were in the faith, and true Christians already; and so could not be designed to teach them the fundamental articles and points neceslary to falvation : the epistle to the Romans was writ to all “ that were at Rome, beloved of God, called to be the saints, “ whose faith was spoken of through the world,” chap. i. 7, 8. To whom St. Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians was, he Thews, chap. i. 2, 4. &c. “ Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, « to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints; « with all them that in every place call upon the name of Jesus « Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours. I thank my God always " on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus « Christ; that in every thing ye are enriched by him in all utterRance, and in all knowledge: even as the testimony of Christ was « confirmed in you. So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting « for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.” And fo likewise the second was, “ To the church of God at Corinth, with all the saints
in Achaia," chap. i. 1. His next is to the “ churches of Galatia." That to the Ephesians was, “ To the faints that were at Ephesus, « and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” So likewise, “ To the “ faints and faithful brethren in Christ at Coloite, who had faith
in Christ Jefus, and love to the faints. To the church of the “ Thellalonians. To Timothy his son in the faith. To Titus « his own son after the common faith. To Philemon his dearly « beloved, and fellow-labourer.” And the author to the Hebrews, calls those he writes to, “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly ? calling," chap. iii. 1. From whence it is evident, that all those
whom St. Paul wrote to, were “ brethren, faints, faithful in the « church," and so “ Christians” already, and therefore wanted not the fundamental articles of the Chriftian religion; without a belief of which they could not be saved : nor can it be supposed, that the sending of such fundamentals was the reason of the apostle's writing to any of them. To such also St. Peter writes, as is plain from the first chapter of each of his epistles. Nor is it hard to observe the like in St. James and St. John's epistles. And St. Jude directs his thus : « To them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preservs6 ed in Jesus Christ, and called.” The epistles therefore being all written to those who were already believers and Christians, the occafion and end of writing the could not be to instruct them in that which was necessary to make them Christians. This, it is plain, they knew and believed already; or else they could not have been Christians and believers. And they were writ upon particular occafions; and without those occafions had not been writ, and so cannot be thought necessary to salvation; though they, resolving doubts, and reforming mistakes, are of great advantage to our knowledge and practice. I do not deny, but the great doctrines of the Christian faith are dropt here and there, and Icattered up and down in most of them. But it is not in the epistles we are to learn what are the fundamental articles of faith, where they are promiscuously, and without distinction, mixed with other truths in discourses that were (though for edification indeed, yet) only occasional. We fhall find and discern those great and necessary points best in the preaching of our Saviour and the apostles, to those who were yet strangers, and ignorant of the faith, to bring them in, and convert them to it. And what that was, we have seen already out of the history of the Evangelists, and the Acts; where they are plainly laid down, so that nobody can mistake them. The epistles to particular churches, besides the main argument of each of them (which was some present concernment of that particular church to which they severally were addressed) do in many places explain the fundamentals of the Christian rcligion; and that wisely, by proper accommodations to the apprehenfions of those they were writ to, the better to make them imbibe' the Christian doctrine, and the more easily to comprehend the method, reasons, and grounds of the great work of salvation. Thus we see in the epiitle to the Romans adoption (a custom well known amongst those of Rome) is much made use of, to explain to them the grace and favour of God, in giving them eternal life; to help them to conceive how they became the children of God, and to allure thein of a share in the kingdom of heaven, as heirs to an inheritance. Whereas the setting out, and confirming the Christian faith to the Hebrews, in the epistle to them, is by allufions and arguments, from the ceremonies, facrifices, and æconomy of the jews, and reference to the records of the Old Testament. And as for the general epistles, they, we may fee, regard the state and exigencies, and fome peculiarities of those times. These holy writers, inspired from above,
writ nothing but truth, and in most places very weighty truths to us now; for the expounding, clearing, and confirming of the Chriftian doctrine, and establishing those in it who had embraced it. But yet every sentence of theirs must not be taken up and looked on as a fundamental article necessary to falvation ; without an explicit belief whereof, nobody could be a member of Christ's church here, nor be admitted into his eternal kingdom hereafter. If all, or most of the truths declared in the epistles, were to be received and believed as fundamental articles, what then became of those Christians who were fallen alleep (as St. Paul witnesses, in his first to the Corinthians, many where) before these things in the epistles were revealed to themmost of the epistles not being written till above twenty years after our Saviour's ascension, and some after thirty.
But farther, therefore, to those who will be ready to say, May those truths delivered in the epistles, which are not contained in the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, and are therefore by this account not necessary to salvation, be believed or disbelieved without any danger? May a Christian safely question or doubt of them?
To this I answer, That the law of faith being a covenant of free grace, God alone can appoint what shall be neceílarily believed by every one whom he will justify. What is the faith which he will accept, and account for righteousness, depends wholly on his good pleasure ; for it is of grace, and not of right, that this faith is accepted. And therefore he alone can set the measures of it; and what he has to appointed and declared is alone necessary. Nobody can add to these fundamental articles of faith, nor make any other necessary, but what God himself hath made and declared to be fo, And what these are, which God requires of those who will enter into, and receive the benefits of, the new covenant, has already been fewn. An explicit belief of these is absolutely required of all those to whom the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, and salvation through his name proposed.
The other parts of divine revelation are objects of faith, and are so to be received. They are truths, whereof no one can be rejected; none that is once known to be such may or ought to be disbelieved; for to acknowledge any proposition to be of divine revelation and authority, and yet to deny or disbelieve it, is to offend against this fundamental article, and ground of faith, that God
But yet a great many of the truths revealed in the gospel, every one does, and must confess, a man may be ignorant of; nay, disbelieve without danger to his falvation : as is evident in thole, who, allowing the authority, differ in the interpretation and meaning cr feveral texts of fcripture, not thought fundamental : in all which, it is plain, the contending parties, on one tide or the other, are ignorant of, nay, diibelieve the truths delivered in holy writ, unless contrarieties and contradictions can be contained in the fanie words, and divine revelation can mean contrary to itfelf.