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IV. FOURTHLY, Let it be observed, the true difciple of Chrift fets no bounds to his obedience: He neither ftraitens it with regard to the fubject, nor the degree or measure. He does not pick and chufe what commands he will comply with, and reject the reft; he does not fingle out the most eafy, grateful, popular, or advantageous virtues; but as cheerfully takes up the yoak of the moft difficult and painful, the most unpopular and felf-denying, whenever providence puts an occafion for them in his way. He does not only adhere to his duty while the fea is fmooth, the weather fair, and the wind favourable; but under the roughest ftorms of temptation, affliction, or perfecution: He will not recede in any point from a good confcience, let what will happen; his duty he both knows and does, the event he leaves to God. Nor will he ftint his virtues as to the growth and meafure of them; he knows he can never be too good, and therefore he inceffantly labours to grow better; he daily strives to improve in a more nice and strict obedience to all God's commands, in a more fervent and devout performance of all duties, and in a more exalted degree, and a more exact practice of every virtue. In fhort, he aims at perfection, though in this life he cannot reach it: The love of God conftrains him; he would be like God, because he loves him, and is therefore in love with holiness. he thinks (and he thinks truly too) that he does not fufficiently do the will of God, if he can fatisfy himself with any thing fhort of an exact and perfevering conformity thereto: for we are exprefly commanded by our holy Mafter, * to be perfect, as our Father which is in heaven is perfect; that is, fincerely to endeavour to come as near the pattern of
* Mat. v. 48..
his excellent holiness as we can, by copying it in all manner of virtues, and in the moft exalted height of them. So St. Paul exhorts also, * I befeech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jefus Chrift, that as ye have received of us how je ought to walk, and to pleafe God, ye would abound more and more. And fo St. Peter too, † Giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity: for if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jefus Chrift. Where ye fee plainly, that it is required, not only that these things fhould be in us, but that we should abound in them; and by this continual and induftrious progress towards perfection, we shall make it appear we are true Chriftians. If it be demanded, whether this height of perfection, or continual industry to attain it, be fo neceffary, that we cannot be true difciples of Chrift without it? I anfwer, That be alone belongs to Chrift, who hath the Spirit of Chrift abiding in him; and where the Spirit of Chrift dwells, it will affuredly poffefs a man with a moft ardent defire and ambition to be whatever Chrift would have him, and to speak and act, as Chrift would speak and act upon a like occafion; it will always ftimulate and excite to farther degrees of holiness, because he inwardly delights in the law of God, and is thoroughly convinced of the reasonableness, the pleafure, and the excellence of the divine life. I anfwer alfo, that though perfection cannot be attain'd in this life, and therefore we may be Chriftians without attaining it; yet our duty herein is fo
* Thef. iv. I. † 2 Pet. i. 5.
‡ Rom. viii. 9.
plainly laid down, that I dare by no means fay we can be faved without fincerely and diligently aiming at it, and coming up to it as nearly as we may; and though Almighty God may please, out of the fulness of his mercy, to accept of lefs, yet fince he requires fo much, it must be look'd upon as the only fafe rock, whereon to lay the foundation of a Chriftian's hopes of happiness. Perhaps this may offend those who are for getting to heaven with as little trouble as they can, and are for no more virtue, piety and goodness, than they think will just ferve to fave them: But this cannot be help'd; for we must be faithful, and in setting down the meafures of duty, we are not to examine what men ufually do, or what they have a mind to do, but what God requires of them.
THUS (by the bleffing of God) I have finished my explication of this moft excellent fermon of our Saviour in the mount, and have endeavoured to fhew the true meaning, latitude, and extent of every precept: And were this noble fcheme of religion put in practice by all thofe that pretend to be the difciples of Chrift, how glorious and how comfortable a place would even this world be: which, on the contrary, neglecting thefe rules, which would make them happy, as well as holy, it is filled with violence and injuftice, feuds and factions, impiety, profanenefs, and hypocrify, lewdnefs and debauchery, cenforioufnefs and hard-heartedness, and every vice that may make one another uneafy here, or lead to eternal mifery hereafter.
WHAT yet remains, is only to confider the hiftorical conclufion of the Evangelift upon this fermon, and his general obfervation of the manner of our Saviour's teaching, and the effect of it.
MATTH. Vii. 28, 29.
And it came to pass, when Jefus had ended thefe fayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine.
For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes.
HESE are the words of the Evange lift St. Matthew, wherein he fhews what effect our Saviour's most excellent fermon had upon the audience, The people were aftonished at his doctrine. And likewife what it was that made that impreffion upon them, viz. the difference there was in the authority of his teaching, from that of the Scribes. Let us therefore look into the ground of their aftonifhment, the difference they obferved in our Saviour's way of teaching, from that of the Scribes. The Evangelift expreffes it thus, He taught them os solav xwv, as one that had power or authority, and εσίαν not as the Scribes. Commentators differ in explaining this word sola, which our tranflation renders authority; but including the feveral of their interpretations, and adding farther what I take to be
implied therein, I fhall fum up the differences of our Saviour's teaching, from that of the Jewish doctors, fo far as I think was here intended by that diftinguishing character of authority or power, under the following heads.
(1.) He taught them as a Prophet fent from God to perfect and compleat the revelation of his will, and not as a merely humán teacher. The fpirit of prophecy had ceased in the Church for feveral ages; the Scribes did not pretend to it. They only taught what they had learn'd in the fchools of their Rabbi's, explain'd and commented upon the facred text; and this very corruptly too. But our Saviour knowing that he was come from God, with full authority not only to refcue the moral law from their falfe gloffes, but to refine upon the text it felf, not only to explain, but to improve and perfect it, exprefs'd himself in a manner fuitable to his high commiffion. Ye have been taught, fays he, by your learned doctors, fo and fo; BUT I SAY UNTO YOU, thus and thus. Here therefore, was an air of authority in his preaching, which the Scribes neither did nor could pretend to, and which accordingly his audience knew nothing of before.
(2.) THIS authority in his preaching was attended with, and illuftrated by a power of working miracles; which evidently fhewed him to be a teacher more than human. For though this upon the mount was one of his firft fermons, yet even before this (yea, and immediately before it) he had gone about healing all manner of fickneffes, and all manner of difeafes among ft the people. And the admiration of this divine power in him, it was that actually drew the multitude together about him, when he deliver'd this excellent fermon. Here therefore, was fuch a proof of his prophetic mif fion, fuch an authority added to his difcourfes, as Eę 2 muft