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In answer to this, it is true, that no Man liveth and finneth not; and should Conscience proceed upon the strict Rules of Justice, and pronounce 'Sentence accordingly, there is no Man's Heart but must condemn him: for the best of Men have reason to confess daily (as the Church directs) “ That they have left undone things which they “ ought to have done; and have done things which they s ought not to have done :” and if our Judg should be extreme to mark all that is done amiss, who could abide it? None could stand the Trial of Conscience here, or abide the feverer Trial of God hereafter. But for our Comfort, we may know,
That neither God nor Conscience do or will judg us by the strict Rules of Justice, but proceed herein by the Measures of Mercy, and the milder Terms of the Gospel, by which no involuntary Failings can ever hurt us, and greater Offences, if repented of and amended, shall never be laid to our Charge; for there is no Condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the Fles, but after the Spirit. If we avoid the Sollicitation of sensual Lusts, and give up our selves to the Conduct of God's Holy Spirit, our Hearts will not condemn us, and much less will 'God, the Searcher of Hearts, fuffer us to come into Condemnation. Holy Fob declares, that by holding fast his Integrity, his Heart Mould not reproach him as long as he lived; Job 27. 5,6. Neither will our Hearts condemn us whilst we faithfully discharge our Duty to the utmost of our power. And this, our Apostle here tells us, will give us Confidence towards God; that is, it gives us reasonable Grounds of Hope or Assurance, that God will not lay any thing to our Charge, but will acquit us at the last and great Day: which may abundantly convince us of the vast Benefit and Comfort of a good Conscience.
The Word here render'd Confidence towards God, is in the Original raggnoid, which signifies Freedom of Access, or Boldness of Speech; and gives us to understand, that a Heart set right towards God, and that cannot lay any great Matter to our Charge, may encourage us to draw nigh to him with the Confidence of Children to their heavenly Father, and to come boldly to the Throne of Grace, for Grace to help in time of need. Heb. 4. 16,
Being well affur'd (as St. John here tells us) that whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his Commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his fight ; mean
ing, that God will certainly hear our Prayers, and give us whatever we ask agreeable to his Will, and suitable to our Necessities : for by keeping his Commandments we please him, and while we do so, he hath oblig'd himself by Promise to hear and help us. So that if we are conscious of the Sincerity and Singleness of our Heart, whatever Failings we may have, we may draw nigh to God in full Assurance of Faith, having this Confidence, that in whatsoever we ask, he will hear us.
And the Conimandments he requires us to keep to this end, are believing in Christ, and loving one another; so the next words declare, And this is his Commandment, that we mould believe on the Name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us Commandment. These are the principal Acts of Obedience that he exacts from us, namely, to hold fast our Profession of Faith in Christ, and to perform the Duties we owe to our Brethren, as Christ hath taught and commanded us.
And to confirm us in this Confidence towards God, he adds what he had before often told us, that he that keepeth bis Commandments dwelleth in him, and be in him; that is, he is in a manner ingrafted and incorporated into Christ, as the Branches are in the Vine, and receives the Influences of Grace from him, as the Members do from the Head, being united to him by the Bond of Love and Charity. And that we may not want a Mark to try our felves by, the Apostle adds in the Close, Hereby we know that he abideth in us by the Spirit, which he hath given us : This is the Seal whereby the Lord' knoweth who are his ; 'tis the Touchstone to try our Sincerity, and to discern whether we belong to him. God resideth with his Holy Spirit, and if we feel the Blesfed Fruits and Graces of it within us, we may safely conclude, that God abideth in us, and we in him.
This is the Substance of this Day's Epistle; from which we may learn,
Ist, Not to be surpriz'd or dejected at the Hatred or Malice of the World. Our Apostle bids us not to marvel, or be troubled at it; for the Hatred of the World is rather a Sign of the Love of God, than any Mark of his Displeafure: The Friendship of the World is Enmity with God; and if we love the World, or have the Love of it, the Love of the Father is not in us. Our best Wisdom is to secure as much as possible the Love of God, and then to overlook and de
spise the Hatred of Men; for greater is he (faith the Apoftle) that is in us, than he that is in the World.
zdly, To secure to us the Love of God, let us cherish a true and unfeign'd Love to the Brethren. This is the way here and elsewhere prescrib’d to that end: he that loves his Brother is pass’d from Death to Life, but he that hateth him abideth in Death; yea, St. John here tells us, that he that hateth his Brother is a Murderer : he beareth that Rancour and Malice in his Heart, that when opportunity offers is apt to break out in Mischief and Slaughter, and we know that no such one hath any spiritual or eternal Life abiding in him; which should teach us to empty our Hearts of all such black Passions, and to harbour nothing but Kindness and Charity.
3dly, Let us so fix our Minds in the Love of God and our Neighbour, that our Hearts may not condemn us for lack of either; for if our Hearts condemn us, God, who is greater than our Hearts, and knoweth all things, will ratify the Sentence, and condemn us much more.
4thly, Let us labour for a calm, clear and absolving Conscience, and that will give us Confidence towards God; it will give us Confidence in our Prayers, and make us go boldly to him for a Supply of what we want, and a Blersing upon what we do. In a word, that our Hearts may not condemn us, let us abandon all base and unworthy things, and keep steddy to the immutable Rules of Honesty and Vertue, fo 'fhall we have the Testimony of a good Confcience; which will be the best Cordial at the Hour A Death, and the best Friend at the Day of Judgment,
DISCOURSE XV. The GOSPEL for the Second Sunday after
St. Luke xiv. 16-25. A certain Man made a great Supper, and bade ma
ny, and sent his Servant at Supper-time to say to them that were bidden, Come, for all things are now ready; and they all
, with one Consent, began to make Excuse, &c.
N this Gospel our Blessed Saviour, according to his usual way of instructing the People, fets forth in a Pa
rable the liberal Provisions he hath made in the Gospel for all that will come to him; as also the Way and Manner of his inviting them ; together with the Danger of refusing his Invitations : of each of which particularly.
The Gospel and the Parable too begin thus; A certain Man made a great Supper, and bade many. This certain Man is by St. Matthew, in reciting
the fame Parable, faid to be a certain King; Chap. 22. 2. This great Supper here is, by the other Evangelists, said to be a great Feast made at the Marriage of his Son, which is wont to be sumptuous and magnificent: both which fignify to us the ample and glorious Entertainment that God the Father hath made and offer'd to us by his Son; and that not only in the general Provisions of the whole Gospel, but more particularly in the Heavenly Feast of the Holy Eucharist : wherein he gives us not the common and ordinary Bread of the Earth, but Bread from Heaven, the Bread of Life, which alone can feed our Souls to Life eternal, He presents us with Dainties far above the Quails and Manna of the Israelites, yea above Angels Food, even the Body and Blood of his dear Son, as à Token of his Love, and the Means of our Reconciliation: which great things affording both Plenty and Pleasure, are here represented by a Supper or Marriage-Feast, an Enter
tainment commonly attended with great Joy and many Endearments.
To this great Feast or Supper the Parable adds, He bade many, which signifies that general and generous Invitation or Offer of all the Mercies of the Gospel to all that will receive and accept of them. Ho, every one that thirfteth (faith the Prophet) come ye to the Waters, and he that hath no Mony, come ye buy and eat; yea, come buy Wine and Milk without Mony, and without Price : Ifa. 55. I. This was a Prophecy or Promise of those gracious Tenders of Mercy and Salvation, that should be made by the Messias in the latter Days, which should be free to all that would come upon his kind Invitation. The Call is earnest, and repeated several times, being bidden to come three times in one Verfe; and left any should keep back for their Poverty and Meanness, he bids then come buy and eat Bread without Mony, and likewise to come buy and drink Wine without Price. Their Hunger and Thirst were the main Qualifications look'd for, and their hearty Acceptance was all the Price that was expected.
Accordingly we find this gracious Promise and Prophecy fulfild by our Blessed Saviour in his free and frequent Calls upon Sinners to come to him, and to accept of Life and Salvation from him: Come unto me (faith he) all ye that are wea.
and heavy laden, and I will give you Reft; Mat. 11. 29. Yea, we find him blaming and bewailing the Folly of such as refuse it, saying with some Trouble and Concern, You will not come unto me, that ye may have Life; with many other Expoftulations to the fame purpose : All which shew us the infinite Love of Christ to Mankind, in providing such great and good things for them, and likewise in so earnestly and importunately inviting us to accept of them.
But who are the Messengers employ'd to bid the Guests to this great Supper? Why, St. Luke here makes mention of but one Servant, but St. Matthew of more. By the fending of one Servant here, may perhaps be meant God the Father's fending his Son with the Offers of Grace and Mercy : By the sending of more Servants, mention'd by St. Matthew, may be meant Christ's sending his Apostles and Ministers upon the fame Errand; who as Ambassadors in Christ's stead beseech us in his Name to partake of the Feast of fat things prepard for them.
The Words of the Invitation to them that were bidden are, Come, for all things are now ready. St. Matthew adds,