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tion, and especially where they give great offence : Nor let those terms and ways of expression which scripture useth but very seldom, and upon particular occasions, be the perpetual or constant language of your ministry, in opposition to those expressions and ways of representation which scripture most frequently delights to use; and let no authentic systems of divinity, to which you are most inclined, nor the names of great men ever prevail with you to break this rule.
3. Dare not indulge yourself in a disgust to any scripture language, or an aversion to those scriptures which seem to run in' a style and expression different from the language which you generally chuse ; for even those expressions are designed for useful purposes by the Holy Spirit, and doubtless have attained some happy eod in the providence of God, in particular cases and persons : If you should once encourage such a vicious humour, it might proceed so far at last, as to render a great part of the bible the object of your disgust. Be sure therefore always to maintain upon your spirit such a reverential tenderness for the holy scripture, that you may never dare to rail against any expressions that scripture useth, por oppose them with violence, without a modest distinction in what sense they are proper,
and in what sense they are to be avoided. And this leads me to the second request.
II. When you hear any ministers, in preaching the gospel use the words, is free and absolute, conditional, unconditional, promises, laws, threatenings, commands, &c. exercise so much, charity as to believe they use thein in such a sense as the scripture approves of, and as secures the salvation of men,” according to their sincerest apprehensions.
If the preacher speak of the gospel as a free and absolute promise, always suppose he intends also, that all the duties of repentance and holiness are necessary, in order to salvation, though he does not like to call them conditions. If another should insist much on conditions in the gospel, suppose he means none of them to be performed merely by your owa strength, nor to include any thing of merit in them. If he speak of the laws of Christ, understand him conserning all those rules and directions and commands, which Christ hath given to his followers, but not in the strict and perfect notion of a law. Even if he calls the gospel a law, believe that he intends only in the largest sepse, and doth not mean that we are justified in the sight of God, by our performance of the duties of this law, believe that he intends it only in the largest sense, and doth not mean that we are justified in the sight of God, by our performance of the duties of this law as the proper matter of our righteousness before God: Or if he should happen to mention any such thing as justification by our good works of holiness, &c. take due heed to the condexion, and let charity persuade you that he is speaking concerning justification before men, or justification in our own consciences, or in the day of judgment, and not of a sinner's justifying righteousness in the sight of God, when he is first converted and accepted of him through faith in Jesus Christ.
Suffer not your disgust and anger immediately to be kindled at the sound of any of these words, as though they were at once undermining and perverting the gospel of Christ. Nor ever give yourself leave to reproach ministers, as no preachers of the gospel, merely because they chuse other modes of expression than those which you must estcem, and frequently use; for such a conduct will warp and bind down the consciences and spi. rits of men to a narrow and an uncharitable partiality. This will render every sermon offensive to them that is not conceived just in their beloved language, and will utterly prevent their profit by the various gifts Christ has bestowed on his ministers. There are some common christians in our age, who are most unhappy instances of this unchristian temper; and it is to those persons chiefly that I give this second advice.
III. “ Avoid all the high flights and extremes of zealous party-men,” and which way of preaching soever you approve and pursue, be sure to guard against all extremes, both of notion and language. Let the hopes of exalting free-grace never per. suade you to neglect to enfore the the duties of the gospel, and press them with zeal on the consciences of all men : Nor let the fear of encouraging licenciousness ever tempt you to turn the gospel of grace into a covenant of works: For God, in his gospel of free-grace, hath sufficiently provided for the honour of his holiness, and the sanctification of his own children.
You will tell me here perhaps, that scripture itself useth expressions as high upon particular occasions, and as much leaning to extremes as any men of party ainong us. But remember then, that the scripture uses such strong and high expressions not on one side only, but on both sides, and infinite wisdom hath done this more forcibly to argue and impress some present truth or duty: But while it is evident the holy writers have used high expressions, strong figures of speech, and vehement turns on both sides, this sufficiently instructs us that we should be moderate in our censures of either side, and that the calm doctrinal truth, stripped of all rhetoric and figures, lies nearer to the middle, or at least that some of these appearing extremes, are more reconcileable than angry men will generally allow. If the apostle charges the Corinthians, so run that ye may obtain ; 1 Cor. ix. 24. and tells the Romans, “It is not of him that willeth, or of him that runneth, but of God who sheweth mercy; Rom. ix. 16, we may plainly infer that our running and his mercy, our diligence and divine grace, are both necessary to our salvation.
IV. “Let the particular tempers, temptations and dangers of persons with whom you converse, or with whom you preach,
together with the growing errors of the times, have always some weight with you to bend your ministry a little more the one way or the other : And never affect to preach these matters in a disputative and controversial way, but rather in a plain and practical form, except the temptations of the age and nation, or of particular churches or christians seem to demand it. And indeed This seems to be one great reason, why scripture itself in different parts of it sonetimes manages the argument in a way of dispute, and at other times gives a different practical turn to the same truth, and uses so different language in the representation of the same doctrines. For the several books of scripture were written according to the various necessities of the church of God, and to obviate temptations of contrary kinds, and to prevent the danger of errors arising, by running to extremes on either side:
In the last age, in the times of the civil wars, antinomianism and errors of that nature, were very comman in the nation : This turned the labours and study of many pious men to vindicate and preach up the duties of the gospel, and works of holiness, as the proper business of the day. In this present age, the popish and pelagian doctrines of justification by works, and salvation by the power of our own free-will, are publicly maintain ed and preached abundantly through the land : the socinian and arminian errors are revived and spread exceedingly, whereby Jesus Christ is robbed of his godhead, or his satisfaction, or both, and the blessed Spirit denied in the glory of his offices: For deism and natural religion, in opposition to christianity, daily prevail.
Now, perhaps, some may think it the duty and business of the day to temporize, and by preaching the gospel a little more conformably to natural religion, in a more rational or legal form, to bring it down as near as may be to their scheme, that we inay gain them to hear and approve it, or at least, that we may pot offend them. But I am rather of an opinion, that we should in such a day stand up for the defence of the gospel in the full glory of its most important doctrines, and in the full freedom of its grace ; that we should preach in its divinest and most evangelical form, that the cross of Christ, by the promised power of the Spirit, may vanquish the vain reasonings of men, and that this despise doctrine triumphing in the conversion of souls, may confound the wise and the mighty, and silence the disputers of this world. This was the bold and glorious method St. Paul took at Corinth, where learning and reason and philosophy flourished in pride ; but they yielded several trophies of victory to the preaching of the cross. Paul could use the wisdom of words whensoever he had occasion for it, and had the excellency of speech at command when he pleased : This appears in several parts of his writings ; yet in his sermons at Corinth he disclaimed it all, and determined to know nothing among them but Jesus Christ and him crucified; I Cor. ii. 2.
Happy that man who hath attained the holy skill of joining promises and coinmands, duties and privileges, authority, terror and grace ; and who mingles them all wisely in his ministry ; who hath learned of St. Paul the divine art of addressing himself to the reason, the consciences, and the passions of men in such a variety of expressions of power, terror and love, as may most effectually answer the ends of his otice. Happy is he that knows how to display the gospel in all forms under which scripture represents it, to preach to the Jews, and to teach the gentiles ; to talk to the righteous and the wichieri in proper language, to the obstinate rebel, to the trembling sinner, and the mourning saint. Happy is lie that becomes all to all that he may gain the more souls ; 1 Cor. ix. 19–22. sometimes as without the law, yet under a law to Christ; sometimes as with the law, yet free from the bondage of it ; that never strives about words 10 no proft, but knows how to divide the word of truth aright, and to give etury 'ore their portion : This is the workman that needs not to be ashamed, and liath most reason to hope for success ; 2 Tim. ü. 14, 15.
To conclude ;“ Let us all apply ourselves with unbiassed minds, with new diligence and fervent prayers, to search the word of God, and draw all our notions of the gospel thence :" Let us enquire into the spiritual state, the dangers and necessities of the people to whom we minister, and this will be of great use to guide us to proper subjects and methods of discourse.
Let our conversation be such, as becomes the gospel in every form of it, whether absolute or conditional. Let our close walking with God be exemplary and instructive, that men may see our religion as well as hear it, and all may confess, that while we preach the gospel, we are zealous observers of the law. Let us maintain upon our own hearts a sweet and honourable sense of the riches of free-grace in Christ, together with a tender sense of the evil of sin, and a lively delight in holiness, that the daily experience of our own souls, and our inward christianity which is taught us, and wrought iu us by the Spirit of God, may instruct us how to preach to others.
Let that gospel which is written in the fleshly tables of our hearts, that is, in our very souls, by the finger of God, be mani. fested in every part of our niinistrations for the good of men. Thus we shali obtain the approbation of Jesus our Judge, in preaching his gospel of faith and love, and thus shall we have the pleasure of this testimony in our own consciences, that in the general course of our ministry we have sought to save the souls of others in the same way as we ourselves have sought to be saved: And that we have proposed the same truths to them, and reconincaded the same duties, which we ourselves believe and practise, in order to our own salvation. Amen.
The True Use of the Moral Law under the Gospel,
Exemplified in the Conference of Christ with a young Pharisee,
explained in a Sermon, May, 1711. Mat. xix. 17. If thou wilt enter into Life, keep the commandments.
SECTION 1.—THE INTRODUCTION. HERE it will be necessary to run over the short conference between Christ and this young man, which is recorded by several of the evangelists, because it will give us a plainer account how these words are introduced, and lead us into the knowledge of the true design of them.
Read from the 16th to the 23d verse : “And behold one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life ? 17. And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good ? there is none good but one, that is God? But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18. He saith unto him, which ? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. 19. Honour thy father and thy another, and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20. The young man saith unto him, all these have I kept from my youth : what lack I yet? 21. Jesus said unto him, if thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me. 22. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23. Then said Jesus anto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. This is the history.
The person who addressed the Lord Jesus Christ here, was a young man, and wealthy, as this sacred writer informs us; and that he was a ruler among the Jews, St. Luke gives us notice; Luke xviii. 18. That he was either a Pharisee, or at least one of the stricter sort of the Jews, seems evident, because he sought after eternal life, whereas the sadducees denied a future state, many of the bigher as well as the looser part of the nation disregarded it. He appears leavened with the common Pharisaical doctrine, viz. that the way to procure eternal life was by his own good works, by doing some good thing.
It is probable he had heard of the miracles and the fame of our blessed Lord, and believed him to be a teacher sent from God,