« PreviousContinue »
ift, From the many Arts that Sinners use to hide and conceal their Wickedness: He that doth evil (faith our Saviour) cometh not to the Light, left his Deods Jould be reprov'd; John 3. 19, 20. And,
2dly, From the many Shifts and Evasions Men fly to, to leffen and excuse it: of which no other Account can be given, but the Shape that attends it ; for else they would not be so backward to own, nor so forward to conceal it. Indeed Sin and Shame came into the World at once, and have ever fince gone hand in hand together. Our first Parents had no sooner sinned, but they presenta ly hid themselves, and their Posterity have been gathering Fig-leaves, to hide their Nakedness ever since.
Now this Shanie proceeds partly from the natural Turpitude and Deformity of Sin, which hath that Baseness and Ugliness in it, that renders it odious and loathsome in the fight of God and Man; and therefore cannot but create Shame and Blushing in those that practise it.
And partly from the Power of natural Conscience, which, as God's Deputy, marks and reprehends the Sinner when he doth amils; bringing Trouble to the Mind, and Shame upon the Countenance : For where there is a Conscioufness of Guilt within, there will be Blushing and Confusion without. And
Partly, likewise from the juft Judgment of God, who inflicts this as a Punishment of Vice, and makes Shame the Companion of Folly. So we find him threatning the Jews, I will bring an everlasting Reproach, upon them, and a perpetual Shame, that Mall not be forgotten; Jer. 23.40. And elsewhere, They shall be greatly asham'd, and cover'd mith everlasting Confusion; Jer. 20. IT. Indeed, 'tis but just with God to fix a Brandi of Infamy upon the Brow, that is bent against him ; and to cover that Face with Confusion, that fets it felf against Heaven : 'Tis a righteous thing (faith the Apostle) to render Tribulation and Anguish upon every Soul that doth evil.
Thus we see how justly the Apostle upbraided these Romans, and in them all sorts of Sinners, with the Unfruitfulness and Shamefulness of their former evil Courses; saying, What Fruit had you then in those things, whereof ye are now ajamid ?
But he minds them of a worse thing yet, than all this, and that is the fatal End and Iffue of all Sin and Wicked
ness; For the End of all these things is Death. The Wil .dom of a Man is best feen in propounding, to himself good End, and pursuing it by right and proper Means. Now tho all Men defire Good, and propound Happiness for their End, yet too many mistake the Way, that leads to it: To seek for it in the Ways of Sin, is to seek the Living among the Dead; for Sin is the Cause and Occasion of all our Misery, and to hope for Happiness that way, is to seek Life and Salvation in the Paths that lead to Death and Destruction ; for the End of those things is Death.
Now the Death here mention'd as the End of these things, is both temporal and eternal Death ; the former is the Separation of the Soul from the Body for awhile, the latter is the Separation of Body and Soul from Christ for evermore.
For the first, That temporal Death is the Effect and Punishment of Sin, is evident from the Sentence pronounc'd upon the first Tranfgreffion; In the Day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.' 'Twas our first Parents Difobedience that brought Mortality and Death upon all their Offspring, who have ever since felt the Stroke of it. So the Apostle testifies; As by.one Man Sin entered into the World, and Death by Sin, even so Death passed upon ali Men, for that all have sinned ; Rom. 5. 12.
Bat the Death here chiefly intended by the Apostle, is eternal Death, which is the everlasting Destruction both of Body and Soul ; call'd in Scripture the second Death, because it follows the former, and knows no Ease or End. This is the forest and worst of Evils that can befal us : for whereas all other Miseries find some Remedy or ReJief, and have their Period in the Grave; this goes farther, and hath all the Doors of Hope fhut against it: it leaves Men to groan under endless, easeless, and renie. dilefs Torments. And yet this is the Portion of all wil. ful and impenitent Sinners, and will be the bitter End and Wages of Unrighteousness.
But how doth Sin thus bring forth Death, or lead to this wretched and fatal End? Why, it hath both a natural Tendency, as an efficient Cause, to produce it; and a moral Tendency, as a meritorious Cause, to deserve it.
1. I fay, Sin hath a natural Tendency, as an efficient Cause, to produce Death: for it destroys the Health, Strength, and Vigour of the Body, and fo brings on tem
poral Death; and likewise destroys the Power, Peace and Tranquillity of the Soul, and so leads to spiritual and eternal Death, Intemperance as naturally overwhelms the Spirits, as Water drowns what is cast into it; and the Flames of Lust as necessarily waste and consunie, as the Fire burns any combustible Matter : so that Death is the necessary Consequent of Sin, and proceeds from it as naturally as an Effect does from its Cause.
2. Sin hath a moral Tendency as a meritorious Cause to deserve Death; for there is a Guilt in Sin that obliges to Punishment, and Death is said to be the Wages of Sin, which Justice therefore requires to be paid ; and this we may be affor'd will be done either in this World, or in that which is to come.
This is the bad Fruit, and the bad End of all vitious Courses, which are attended with Mischief and Shame here, and endless Misery and Torment hereafter; of which the Apostle here minds the converted Romans.
But not (faith he) being made free from Sin; and become the Servants of God, ye have your Fruit unto Holiness, and the End everlasting Life: that is, you being deliver'd from the Slavery ye were in unto Sin, and brought over to the Service of God, you have other and better Fruit than you had before ; Fruit that will improve you in Grace and Ho. liness now, and e'er long bring you to endless Glory and Happiness : for as Death is the Wages of Sin, being as due to it as Wages to Work, and Hire to the Labourer; so the Gift of God is eternal Life: 'which God of his infinite Grace and Goodness hath made the Portion of the Righteous, and assign'd as the Reward of a holy and vertuous Life ; and that thro Fesus Christ our Lord, that is, by the Merits of his Death, and the Virtue of his Satisfaction.
This is the Scope of this Day's Epiftle; from which we may infer a few things. As,
ift, From St. Paul's speaking to these Romans after the nianner of Men, because of the Infirmities of the Flesh, we may learn to condescend to the Capacities of our Hearers, and to accommodate our Speeches to the Weakness of their Understandings; otherwise we do but beat the Air, and prove Barbarians to one another.
2dly, The Apostle's advising them to make those Menia bers the Servants of Righteousness, which they had before us'd as the Instrunients of Sin, teaches us to beftow at least
the fame pains in the Service of God, that Sinners do in the Drudgeries of their Lusts, and then we shall foon find the Comfort more, and the Reward greater. Did Men go as cheerfully and heartily to Church, as they do to a Market, and take as much care to provide for their Souls, as they do for their Bodies; did they mind the next World, as frequently as they do this, and be as., sollicitous to ob tain Heaven hereafter, as they are to gain and secure a little Spot of Earth here; they would find their Labour turn to a far better Account, and their Pains recompens'd with a higher and nobler Reward.
3dly, From the Unfruitfulness, Shamefulness and Destructiveness of all sinful Courses, let us learn to abhor and abandon theni. Who but a Madman would labour for nothing; and weary himself for what is worse than nothing ? And yet fo do all they that have Fellowship with the unfrụitful Works of Darkness: we have seen what bitter Fruit the Soul, Body and Estate reap from these things so that to continue in them is but to court Misery, and be fond of our own Destruction.
Again, Who is there but fhuns Disgrace, and Aies from Shame and Confusion of Face ? And yet the Wise-man tells us, this is the Promotion of Fools: and therefore if Interest will not, let the Shame of the World prevail with us to leave all vile and vitious Courses; but if neither of thefe can, let the fatal End and Issue of Sin dissuade us from it: we see the End of it is Death; and who, that considers what he doth, would follow that which leads to fo miserable an End ?
In: a word then, let us die unto Sin, that we may efcape eternal Death; and let us live unto Righteousness, that having our Fruit unto Holiness, our End may be everlasting Life : Which God grant, &c.
The GOSPEL for the Seventh Sunday after
St. Mark vil. I 1 O. In those Days the Multitude being very great, and shaving nothing to eat, Jesus -called bis Disciples unto him, and faith unto them, I have Compass fion on the Multitude, because they have now been with me three Days; and have nothing to eat; and if I fend them away fafting to their own Houses, they will faint by the way, for divers of them came from far, &c.
THIS Miracle of the Loaves is order'd by the Church
to be read three times in the Year, in the Gospels
for three feveral Sundays: the firit on the fourth Sunday, in Lent, of which before, the second on this seventh Sunday after Trinity, of which now; the third on the last Sunday after Trinity, of which hereafter. And this perhaps was appointed, partly for the Greatness, and partly for the Commodioufness of the Miracle; it being fit to instruct, and apt to take with the multitude, who are sooner won and wrought upon by Arguments taken from the present Profits and Provisions of this Life, than from future, tho more heavenly Food.
There is indeed some cireumftantial Difference between the three Evangelists in the relating of it. Asy
(1.) In the Circumstance of Time when it was done : St. Matthew relates it as done just after the News of the beheading of Fohn the Baptift; Mat. 14. St. Mark here, immediatetx after a Miracle wrought upon a deaf and dumb Man; St John about the time of the Passover, John 6.4. Vol. IV. Part 2 :