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and give us ground to raise this general doctrine or theme of discourse :

Doctrine. God requires and expects higher improvements in virtue and religion from persons who enjoy peculiar advantages, or lie under special obligations. Now to improve this thought, and press it upon all our consciences, I shall' enquire,-1. What are the circumstances under which the disciples of Christ then lay that obliged them to superior virtue and goodness ; and 2. I shall endeavour to apply this to ourselves, by enquiring what peculiar circumstances of advantage and obligation, all or any of us lie under to exceed others in any instances of duty, either to God or our neighbour, and whether we have answered these engagements or no.

In answer to the first enquiry, What were the circumstancesof the disciples at this time? We may consider our Saviour in this sermon exhorting them to superior degrees of goodness, as they appeared under these two characters ; (1.) as they were Jews and not heathens, as a part of the nation and church of Israel, in distinction from the men of other nations or Gentiles ; or (2.) as they were the disciples of Christ, and not of the scribes or pharisees; as they were followers of a new preacher, who was neither authorised nor acknowledged by their priests and doctors of the law, who had no countenance from the established national church, and who frequently worshipped in separate assemblies*. And there is good reason for this twofold consideration of them, if we remember that in my text Christ compares his disciples with publicans, or the gatherers of the taxes, whom the Roman governors appointed, and who were most of them heathens, and were often guilty of oppression and injustice, and therefore he demands of his disciples greater degrees of goodness than they ever practised : and in the 20th verse of this chapter he compares them with the scribes and pharisees, the strict pretenders to religion, and the teachers of it among the Jews ; and assures them, that ercept their righteousness exceed that of the scribes and pharisees, they shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven ; Mat. v. 20.

I. If we consider the disciples of Christ as Jews, as a part of the nation and church of Israel, they had many special advavtages for religion above the heathen world, and many peculiar obligations. They are interested in those special marks of honour and love that God hath set upon the Jewish nation, they were chosen to be a peculiar people to the Lord, and were devoted to him from their infancy : they had their laws given them by God himself, as their King and Governor, and could have no doubt of the wisdom and justice and equity of them : they had a multitude of special revelations both of duty and grace from God as their King and their God; from God as the object of their worship and their everlasting Rewarder ? they had the living oracles committed to them for their instruction, wherein divine truths and duties were written down in plain language, as the lessons of their faith and the rules of their practice : they had many institutions of religion and worship dictated by God bimself, and they were not left to the wild and uncertain fancies of men to invent ceremonies of their own which God will never approve : they had the gospel preached to them under types and shadows, and there were many clear discoveries of the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to God to be obtained for sinners who return to God by repentance, and who rely on the promises of his grace. Well might our Saviour say, I expect from you superior degrees of religion and virtue above the heathen and the publican, above the Roman tax-gatherers that dwell amongst you, and even those of your own nation who make no strict profession of piety, or goodness. Think with yourselves therefore, examine your hearts and practice, what do you more than they? And let your consciences be able to give an honoura. ble answer.

* It is granted indeed, that our blessed Saviour did not separate himself from the Jewish national church, so as to abstain from the worship of the temple, because that was expressly of God's own establishment; oor did be avoid the synagogues while they would suffer him to preach there, and to waro the people against their traditions : yet there were so many corruptions in that day that bad crept into the patiooal church, that he found be could not fulfil bis ministry, por promote the salvation of souls accordiog to his desire, and bis heavenly commis. sion, without bolding separate assemblies.

11. Let the disciples of Christ be considered as the followers of a new preucher, in a way of distinction from the disciples of the scribes and the Jewish doctors of the law. They sat under the ministry of a rising prophet Jesus of Galilee, the supposed son of a carpenter, who bad no approbation nor authority nor countenance from the established church, who held separate assemblies for praying and preaching, and who taught the people sometimes on a mountain, sometimes in the wilderness, sometimes on the sea-shore, and at other times in private houses ; and here we shall find that the disciples lay under farther circumstances of engagement to greater purity and a higher perfection in holiness. They had the Son of God himself for their preacher, who spake so as never man spake, who had all his doctrines and his messages from heaven, and spake what his Father commanded him; a preacher, who explained the law in a more perfect manner, and raised it to sublimer degrees of virtue even than Moses bimself, who received it from God ; and he purifierl it also from the false and corrupt glosses which the scribes and doctors of that degenerate age bad put upon it; an ambassador from heaven, who published the tidings of rich grace and pardon and salvation in a clearer manner, and gave them stronger encouragements to repentance and faith and piety and brotherly love, than the world had ever knowo before.

They had miracles wrought to convince them of the truth of the commission of Christ from heaven ; Mat. iv. 24. The God of nature spoke often to them in some work of wonder, which was superior to all the powers of nature, to assure them that Jesus was the minister of his Father's grace to the sons of men. They had seen some of the prophecies fulfilled in him, and some of the characters of the Messiah exemplified in his person, in his doctrine and his conduct ; for though this sermon stands near the beginning of St. Matthew's history, yet it was by no means the first sermon that he preached, nor the very beginning of his ministry, as will easily appear if we consult Mat. iv. and Luke iv. where we have several accounts of his preaching before this.

Let us consider another great advantage they enjoyed above others; they had the ablest and most sublime pattern of huliness always before them, who practised self-denial, humility, zeal for the honour of God, mortification to the world, resistance of temptations, and retired devotion, in a superior manner to whatever any mere mortal attained or practised. And besides all this, they made a profession of greater strictness and purity by their adherence to Christ and his preaching, who appeared in the world as a new teacher, to reform the vices of men, and found fault with the preachers of the established church, for the many corruptions both of doctrine and practice that reigned amongst them.

Now, “To what purpose (might our Lord say) and for what end are all these advantages given you, if not to make

you wiser and better than the rest of the nation ?

And what is it you pretend in following my sermons and attending upon my minisiry in separate assemblies ? Is it not that you may become more strictly religious, and that your virtue and your goodness may exceed your neighbours ? If the teachings of the scribes and the doctors of the law are sufficient for your instruction, and equal to your wishes and your hopes, why do ye follow me from town to town, and from one part of the nation to the other ? Does not your own profession of being my disciples oblige you to greater degrees of piety? And have you not peculiar advantages for this end, by attending on my ministrations? I expect therefore that you should live, and speak, and act to the honour of God and the good of men, in a degree and manner far superior to what the sinners and publicans can pretend to, and that you exceed in rightousness all the pretences and the practices of the phurisees and the scribes.

Sect. II.--The Application of the Words of the Text to our own

Age and Circumstances. Thus having shewn how reasonable was this demand of Christ upon his own disciples, we come in the next place to apply all this to our own case, to our own age and circumstances. And here in order to enforce this enquiry upon our consciences, what do we more than others? We shall consider our character and our privileges ; (1.) That we are christians, and not Jews nor heathens. (2.) That we are protestants and not papists. (3.) That we are protestant dissenters, who worship God in separate assemblies, and follow the teachings of men who have no commission from the established and national church; and under each of these characters we shall enquire how much our circumstances of advantage and obligation are superior to those of the rest of the world from whom we are distinguished, and whether our behaviour has been answerable to these special engagements.

I. We are christians, and not Jews nor heathens. Let me speak to each of these apart :

1st, We are not born in a land of heathenism, in gross darkness and in the shadow of death, and therefore our piety and virtue should far exceed all the practices of the heathen world. We are not left to the teachings of the book of nature, and to the silent lectures which the sun, moon and stars can read us : nor are we abandoned merely to the instructions of religion that we may derive from “ the beasts of the earth and the towls of the heaven," or any of the works of God the Creator.

We are not given up in the things of religion merely to the wandering and uncertain conduct of our reason, feeble as it is in itself, corrupted by the fall of Adam our first father, beset with many sins and prejudices, and turned aside from the truth by a thousand false lights of sense and appetite, fancy and passion, by the vain customs of the country, and the corruptions of our sinful hearts. We are not bewildered among the poor remains of divine tradition delivered down from Adam to Noah, and from Noah to his posterity in the several nations of the earth ; we are not left to spell out our duty from those sorry broken fragments of revelation, which are so lost and defaced amongst most of the nations, and so mingled with monstrous folly and delusion, that it is hard to find any reliques of truth or goodness in them. We are not given up to foul idolatry and wild superstition, nor to the slavish and tyrannical dictates of priests and kings, who contrive what ceremonies they please, and impose them on the people, which is the case of a great part of the heathen world,

Poor and deluded creatures ! feeling about in the dark for the way to happiness, in the midst of rocks and precipices and endless dangers, and led astray into many mischiefs and miseries by those whom they take for guides and rulers. And what an infamous and shameful thing would it be for us, who have the divine light of the gospel shining among us to direct our paths, if we should read among the records of the heathen nations, that any of them have behaved better than we have done, either in duties to God or man, and exceeded us either in personal or in social virtues ? Nay, what a scandal would it be to our profession, if we should not abundantly exceed all the shining virtues of the heathen nations, since the divine light that shines upon us, and the divine lessons that are published amongst us, are so infinitely superior to all that the heathen world has enjoyed ?

And yet, to our shame and reproach, there are- several single examples found in ancient history of some of their moral and social virtues, beyond what most of us have arrived at. What patience under injuries and cutting reproaches is ascribed to Socrates ? What a contentment of soul under great poverty, what calmness under oppression and pain, and what a noble disinterestedness in the comforts or calamities of this life was found in Epictetus the Stoic philosopher? What a friendly and forgiving spirit in Antonius the emperor ? What a moderation in the en-, joyments of life, what a brave contempt of present death, and what a generous love of their country and self-denial for the public good do we read of in some of the ancient Romans, be, fore the ages of splendor and luxury had corrupted them? It is granted indeed these instances are but few and rare, and we have good reason to bope and believe that the virtues which are practised in the christian world are abundantly more common and numerous, and therefore they pass without suchi public notice and renown : but is it not a shame there should be any one instance of heathen virtue transcending the practice of christians ?

And if we consult the histories of their religious affairs, we shall find several examples of their. zeal for sorry superstitions and ridiculous idolatries, rising higher than ours has done in the practice of our divine religion : how far have their self-denial and sufferings, their fatigues and fervency in the worship of their idols, transcended our devotion to the living and true God? What costly honours have they done to some of their mediator gods and goddesses, beyond what we have a heart to do for our Jesus, the only true Mediator between God and man? With what curiosity and exactness and unwearied diligence have the votaries of those false deities, in some of the eastern and western nations, in ancient and later times, fulfilled their washings,

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