« ElőzőTovább »
you shall find incomparably more sweetness and satisfaction, more joy and peace in them, than ever you found in the ways of sin and folly. Possibly some, who only as spies have entered upon the borders of this Land of Canaan, have brought up an evil report upon it, when they have returned back again to the wilderness. But, I beseech you to believe the concurrent testimonies of all good men, who have searched it throughout, and have neither interest nor design to deceive you. Believe the testimony of a Caleb, of a Joshua, rather than the reports of those, whose sloth or cowardice represents all attempts difficult, and all difficulties insuperable. Believe the testimony of God himself, who assures you, it is a land flowing with milk and honey. Let me therefore encourage you, in the words of Caleb; Let us go up.....and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. All imagined hardships shall vanish before us; and, instead of rough encounters, we shall certainly enjoy ourselves in pleasure and peace. This is the only way, wherein we can enjoy either God or ourselves. And this way, which is joy and peace throughout, will infallibly bring us to that blessed presence, where there is fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore.
VIRTUES WHICH ADORN RELIGION.
FROM TITUS ii. 10.
THAT THEY MAY ADORN THE DOCTRINE OF GOD OUR SAVIOUR IN ALL THINGS.
RELATIVE Duties are, of all others, both the most difficult to perform; and, when performed, the best and surest trials of true Christianity and of the power of real godliness.
Difficult they are, because most of the temptations, which assault us, are chiefly bent against the careful and conscientious discharge of these. For they so often come to be put in prac tice, that the Devil can never want either matter or occasion for his suggestions. They are so interwoven with our lives, and mingle themselves with all our actions and concerns, that it must needs be much harder not to miscarry here, than it is in other duties of religion, which do not so frequently call upon us: inasmuch as it is far more difficult not to do that negligently, which we are to do always; than that, which only now and then requires our care and attendance. And our own experience, I believe, can sufficiently testify, that it is a greater task, and that we are fain to use more force and violence upon ourselves, to demean ourselves as Christians at home in our own families, in our shops, in our trades and daily employments, than in the church and the more solemn and immediate worship of God.
And, as Relative Duties are the most difficult; so are they the most certain and infallible evidences of true grace that can be given. For, as persons usually wear masks and vizards
abroad, but lay them aside when they come home: so the hypocrite, however he may be masked and, disguised in duties which are beside his ordinary course of life; yet, when he returns to his domestic and ordinary converse, he will certainly' lay aside his vizard, and appear in the management of his daily affairs, to be what indeed he is, unjust and unconscionable. For, truly, it is almost impossible to lay such a violence upon nature, as to personate and counterfeit that, which must be perpetual and customary. And therefore it fares with such as with players; who, though upon the stage they act the parts of kings and nobles, yet strip off all their pomp and ostentation in the tiringroom, and return home to their abject and sordid life again.
Now, upon both these accounts, both because they are difficult and because they are the surest testimonies of our sincerity, we find the Apostle so often inculcating the practice of these Relative Duties upon Christians. Neither do I know any one subject, on which he is either so large or so pressing. We have ample directions given us concerning our demeanour in them, 1 Cor. vii. throughout the whole chapter: Eph. v. from the 22d verse to the end: Eph. vi, from the 1st to the 10th verse: Col. iii. from the 18th verse to the end of the chapter: and Col. iv. 1. and 1 Tim. vi. 1, 2. Nay, there is scarce any Epistle, wherein the duties of our relations are not pressed upon us, as the greatest part and the best evidence of true Christianity. So, in this chapter of my text, the Apostle exhorts Titus, who was constituted overseer of the Church of Crete; both to a sedulous care of performing his own duty towards them, as standing in that spiritual relation; and likewise earnestly to urge upon them the performance of their Relative Duties, according to the capacities and stations wherein they respected each other: and, that he might rightly divide to each their portion, he directs him what instructions he should give the aged, vv. 2, 3. that the men should be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience to the women; that they should not be false accusers, or make-baits, sowing strife and dissention by idle tattle and groundless rumours; that they should not be given to much wine, but should be teachers of good things: to the younger; vv. 4, 5, 6. that the women should be sober, and love their husbands, and their children; that they should be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, and obedient to their own husbands that the men should be sober-minded, not puffed up with vain-glory and self-conceit, the sins usually of that age: and then, in the 9th
and 10th verses, he descends to the duties of servants; and lays an injunction upon him to exhort them, that they be obedient unto their own masters, pleasing them well in all things: not answering again, when they are reproved; not to purloin from them, but to be faithful in the trust which is committed to them.
These are the duties, which St. Paul gives in charge, to so great a pastor as Titus, who was set over the whole island of Crete, as the chief pastor in dignity, and I think in authority and jurisdiction too. These, I say, are the duties, which so great an Apostle enjoins so great a Pastor earnestly to press upon them. But, alas! have we not many, so superciliously proud and so puffed up with a vain conceit of their greater perfection, that they would account that minister flat and dull, who should insist upon such low things as these are? Nothing, now-a-days, is thought worthy an auditory, but some high mystical speculations; which, too often, are as far from being intelligible, as they are from being practicable. And, for these common and daily duties of a Christian Life, they undervalue them as below their attainments: and leave them to honest, moral men; as fit for such only, whom they despise and undervalue too. Let me tell such pharisaical spirits, that it is not their sublime notions, nor their refined phrases; it is not any affected, new-fangled way of expressing the awful and tremendous truths of the Gospel; it is not their contemning the weaknesses of some, nor their judging the miscarriages of others: but it is the careful and conscientious practice of these mean and slighted duties of a Christian Life, that gives a lustre to religion, and makes the face of it look beautiful and amiable. And therefore the Apostle, after he had given such a strict and particular charge concerning these sundry duties, subjoins the reason why he would have him so instant in exhorting them to these and that is in the words of my text, That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
Now, here, I shall,
I. Shew WHAT IT IS to ADORN THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST.
And shall consider
What is meant by the Doctrine of God our Saviour.
i. To the FIRST, briefly.
Though God be an essential name, and therefore common to each glorious Person of the Ever-Blessed Trinity, yet that addition of our Saviour seems to restrain it to the Second Person, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is God our Saviour in a most especial manner. And this Doctrine of God our Saviour, here spoken of, is nothing else but the Gospel of Christ; containing, both those truths which Christ himself immediately taught, and those also which he by the Holy Ghost inspired the apostles and penmen of the Scripture to reveal unto the world.
Now the whole sum of this doctrine of Christ consists in these Two things:
In Principles, containing the Mysteries of Faith.
In Precepts, enjoining the Duties of Obedience. Some things in the Doctrine of our Saviour we are to know and believe, which could never have been discovered to us, but by divine revelation. Such are, the mysteries of the Trinity, the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Redemption of the World by his death and passion, the Way of obtaining Justification and eternal Salvation by believing; and such other profound truths, which neither reason, nor the works of creation and providence, could ever have disclosed to us, but are now made known only by the Gospel.
Other things in this doctrine, we are commanded, not only to believe, but to practise. And those are, not only all the duties of the Moral Law, respecting both God and Man, which are now taken into the pale and within the protection of the Gospel; but also the duties, which immediately belong unto the Covenant of Grace; such as our believing on Jesus Christ, accepting him in all his offices, and relying upon him alone for life and eternal happiness.
This, in sum, is the Doctrine of God our Saviour: and, by this, we may the easier give a resolution to
ii. The Second thing propounded: WHAT IT IS TO adorn this
And that I shall do, both Negatively and Positively.
(1) It is not to add any new beauty or excellency unto it, which was not in it before.
For this doctrine is every way perfect and complete and so it is affirmed to be, James i. 25. Whoso looketh into the perfect