Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Had man continued in the purity of his first religion, he had wanted no second; the doctrine of nature had led him to the enjoyment of the glorious hopes of life and immortality to which he was born. But when he fell under the power of sin, he grew both blind and impotent, had but little knowlege left to find his duty, and still less his ability to perform it: this point enlarged on.

The Son of God came into the world not merely to restore the religion of nature, but to adapt it to the state and condition of man; to supply the defects, not of religion, which continued in its first purity and perfection, but of human nature, which was fallen from the original dignity of the creation. If death came in as the penalty of disobedience to the law of nature, it was an evil for which natural religion could afford no remedy; since no law provides a remedy against its own penalties : and though the world retained some notion of a future state, yet its hopes seemed to be rather the remains of that first state in which nature had the full prospect of life before her, and which subsisted when the blessing itself was forfeited, than any just assurance of a future life, to be purchased by virtue and obedience. To repair this breach, and to settle religion once more on the sure foundation of the hopes and fears of eternity, our blessed Lord brought life and immortality to light again by the gospel, &c.

But to what purpose was it to restore religion from the corruptions of ignorance and superstition ? to what end was this better, hope brought in ? Since our first parents, who wanted not this hope or this knowlege, yet fell wretchedly from both by transgression, what security can we, their sons, still worse than they, promise ourselves from these advantages ? It is we who are weak and degenerate, and who stand in need of restoration. Hence it is that our admission into the gospel is attended with a new birth unto righteousness; hence it is that we are put under the conduct and direction of the Holy Spirit,

[ocr errors]

who is always ready to comfort and support the faithful: this point enlarged on.

It is true, the gospel has taught us things which by nature we could not know; but they are all designed to confirm and strengthen our hope in God: it is true also, that some of its institutions are only necessary to supply us with spiritual strength to do our duty: these are the additions which it has made to natural religion ; and we may well forgive the injury. Our blessed Saviour saw that the hopes of nature were lost, and therefore he brought to light again life and immortality.

These considerations may suggest to us what probable ground there is for success in our endeavors to spread the gospel of Christ in the dark corners of the world; and what is the true method of proposing it to the uninstructed part of mankind.

DISCOURSE VI.

.

Preached before the Incorporated Society for the Propagation

of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, at St. Mary-le-Bow, Feb. 17, 1715.

MATTHEW, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 17.

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the

kingdom of heaven is at hand.

The design of this meeting being to promote the propagation of the gospel in foreign parts ; and the success of this work depending on such methods as human prudence can suggest, now left destitute of those miraculous assistances which the church of Christ in her infancy enjoyed; the occasion will naturally suggest to your thoughts the consideration of the encouragements and difficulties which attend this undertaking ; and of the methods proper to attain this end, so much to be desired by every good and pious Christian : but yet, since I succeed much abler men, who have gone before me in the performance of this duty, and have with great judgment considered these necessary points; since also I stand at present before so many much abler, whose thoughts have long dwelt on this important subject; I beg leave to decline the unequal task, and to spend the time allotted me in considering on what foot the gospel first set out in the world, when it was published by our blessed Saviour and his Apostles; and what it had to recommend it to the reason of mankind, abstracted from those signs and wonders which were wrought by the hand of God for its confirmation.

The holy Evangelist tells us that the first doctrine which

>

our blessed Lord taught was that of repentance : · From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent:' that he taught it as necessary to qualify men for the kingdom of heaven; · Re. pent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' What is to be understood by the kingdom of heaven's being at hand,' be learned from the parallel place in St. Mark, chap. i. 14. 15. • Now, after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand : repent ye, and believe the gospel.' Now whatever we understand by the kingdom of heaven,' it is plain that the reason why it was said to be at hand, was because the time was fulfilled for the publishing the gospel to all the world; and that the exhortation in St. Matthew, Repent, for the kingdom of

1 heaven is at hand,' is the same with that recorded in St. Mark,

Repent ye, and believe the gospel.' From whence it is evident that repentance was inculcated as necessary to prepare us for receiving the gospel of Christ Jesus.

The same appears likewise from the preaching of John the Baptist, who taught the same doctrine, and in the same words with our blessed Saviour ; he was that 'voice crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.' As it was his proper office to prepare the world for the reception of the great Prophet who was to come after him, we may certainly conclude from his preaching, what was the necessary preparation required; and as his doctrine was confined to the single point of repentance, this was undoubtedly the necessary qualification for all who were to receive the gospel of the kingdom of God.

As our Saviour, and his forerunner the Baptist, taught repentance as the first necessary step to the gospel; so also did the Apostles. When the twelve were sent out by our blessed Lord in the 6th of St. Mark, the Evangelist tells us in the 12th verse, that “they went out and preached, that men should repent:' St. Peter, in his first sermon recorded in the 2nd of the Acts, exhorts his countrymen to “ repent, and be baptised for the remission of sins :' verse 38. And in the 20th of the Acts, St. Paul tells us how he had spent his time, ' testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God,

and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ :' verse 21st; which were the very topics insisted on by our Lord, when he called on men to 'repent' and to believe the gospel.' The same account he gives of his preaching to king Agrippa, Acts xxvi. 20. namely, that he had showed both to Jew and Gentile, ‘that they should repent

and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. In the 11th of the Acts it is said that the Apostles and brethren in Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.' St. Peter was called on to render an account of his conduct, in communicating the privileges of the gospel to the Gentiles: when he had vindicated himself to their satisfaction, they thus expressed themselves : • Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. Now it is evident that what God granted to the Gentiles was the same that the Gentiles received, and therefore 'repentance unto life' was the word of God,' published to the world by our Lord and his Apostles; and for this reason the writer to the Hebrews reckons repentance from dead works, and faith towards God, to be the first principles, or main foundation of the doctrine of Christ. Heb. yi. 1.

Before I proceed to lay before you consequences which arise from ahis state of the case, I beg leave to make an observation or two in order to clear the way for what is to follow. You may observe then, that repentance was the very first thing insisted on, wherever the gospel was published, before any new law or doctrine was promulged, or so much as mentioned. The proof of this I need not attempt, since the passages already produced do plainly contain it, and indeed the nature of the thing speaks it; for the repentance taught could not respect any new law to be delivered to the world, against which no offence having been committed, no repentance could be required.

Secondly, that the gospel was ushered in by the doctrine of repentance, not only when it was delivered to the Jew, but also when it was proclaimed to the Gentile world. The Jews lived under the divine law delivered by Moses, and were guilty of many offences committed against that law, to which they owed obedience; but the Gentiles were not under that law, nor had they been ever called to the obedience of it; and there

the

« ZurückWeiter »