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It remains only to infer fome practical Leffons from the feveral Parts of it. And,
1. From the Apoftle's thanking of God for the Grace bestow'd on thefe Corinthians, and the Benefits receiv'd thereby, we may learn to congratulate the Good that others enjoy, as well as our felves, and to thank God for one another's Welfare. There are fome of fo narrow and ftingy a Spirit, as to look no farther than themselves, and to have little or no regard to the Good of others. They may perhaps be fenfible, and in fome measure grateful too, for the Mercies they receive themselves; but are too infenfible and unthankful too for whatever is confer'd on their Neighbours, tho perhaps they themselves may reap fome Benefit by it.
This is what St. Paul complain'd of to the Philippians, that he knew no Man like-minded with himself, that would naturally care for their State; for all feek their own, but none the things that are of Jefus Chrift. Phil. 2. 19, 20.
There are others of a worfe or more malignant Spirit, that never look on the Good of others, but with an evil and envious Eye, and inftead of rejoicing in it, and thanking God for it, only repine and murmur at it. This is a wicked and diabolical Temper, that like the evil Spirits, is griev'd at the Good, and pleas'd with the Evil that befals their Neighbour; but St. Paul here teaches better things, to rejoice in the Gifts and Graces given to others, and to be thankful to God for them, as well as our own.
2. From the Riches of Divine Grace convey'd to these Corinthians by the preaching of the Gofpel, we may learn to fet a due Price and Value upon the Light of the Gospel, and the many ineftimable Bleffings we receive by it. If we weigh things aright, we cannot raife our Thoughts too high of this tranfcendent Privilege; for without it we should, like the benighted Heathens, walk on ftill in Darkness; and being left to the blind and uncertain Conduct of Nature, be unavoidably bewilder'd, and lofe our way to Heaven. We had then been deftitute of all faving Knowledg of God, of Chrift, and of our felves, and fo must have groped on in the dark to our utter Ruin. But now, by the preaching of the Gofpel, we are thorowly inftructed in all these, and infallibly directed in the Way that leads to true Happiness. This is a Mercy that is highly worthy of our loudeft Praifes and Thanksgivings, and may teach us to make a right Ufe and Improvement of it. While
we have the Light (faith the Apostle) let us walk in the Light, and work by it, left our Ingratitude and Abuse of it cause it to be withdrawn from us, and fo lofe an invaluable Bleffing, which we knew not how to use. The Neglect or Contempt of it will heighten both our Sin and our Punishment; and better had it been, not to have had the Gospel and the Means of Grace, than to defpife or neglect them, and to turn the deaf Ear to its Calls and Admonitions. This we shall do well to remember before it be too late, left the Night come too faft upon us, and this prove at laft to be our Condemnation, that Light is come into the World, but we loved Darkness rather than Light, because our Deeds were evil. John 3.
3. The Teftimony given of Chrift being fo fully confirm'd by the Gifts and Graces of the Gofpel, let us learn to perfevere in the Faith, and Love of the Truth, even to the end. This the Apoftle exhorts to in all his Epiftles, to continue stedfaft in the Faith, and not to be fhaken by the Subtlety of falfe Teachers, many of whom are gone abroad into the World, to deprave or deftroy the Faith There are other Temptations from the Allurements of the World and the Flesh, which we are to labour by the Grace of God to withstand and conquer.
To which end, the Apostle, in the last place, directs us to wait for the fecond Coming of our Lord Jefus, who shall confirm us unto the end. The continual expecting and preparing for that Day, will keep us always upon our watch, and fortify us against the Wiles of the Wicked: 'twill make us hold fast the Profeffion of our Faith without wavering, and daily move us forward in our Chriftian Courfe; and by that means we fhall be found blameless and unreprovable in the Day of our Lord Jefus Chrift: which God grant, for the fake of Jefus Chrift, &c.
1 DISCOURSE XLVII.
The GOSPEL for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity.
St. Matthew xxii. 34, to the end.
When the Pharifees heard that Jefus had put the Sadducees to filence, they were gather'd together. Then one of them, who was a Lawyer, asked him a Question, tempting him and faying, Mafter, which is the great Commandment in the Law, &c.
E pray in the Collect for this Day for Grace to withstand the Temptations of the World, &c. The Epiftle gave us an Inftance of it in fome of the Corinthians, who by the Grace of the Gofpel fuccefffully withstood them. But the Gofpel for the Day furnishes us with a much higher and better Inftance of it, in the Perfon of our Saviour, who was fet upon by the Sadducees, Scribes, and Pharifees, with all the Art and Subtlety of Temptation; and yet we read that he effectually with ftood, worsted, and filenc'd them all. We read elfewhere how he vanquifh'd the Power and Temptations of the Devil, Mat. 4. and here how he baffled the Wifdom and Wickedness of the World.
The Gofpel begins thus, When the Pharifees heard that Jefus had put the Sadducees to filence, &c. The Sadducees were a Sect among the Jews, that deny'd Angels and Spirits, and faid there was no Refurrection. Accordingly, fome of them, to expose the Refurrection, and to entrap our Saviour, came to him with this captious Question, concerning a Woman that had feven Husbands, asking, In the
furrection whofe Wife shall he be of the feven, for they all had her? Jefus knowing their Wickedness, reply'd, Ye err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the Power of God: meaning, that they difcover'd their great Ignorance of a future State; For in the Refurrection they neither marry nor are
given in Marriage, but are as the Angels of God in Heaven: The Relation of Husband and Wife is only during this Life, and is diffolv'd and fwallow'd up in the next. And as touching the Resurrection of the Dead, he quoted to them out of the Law, which they held in great eftimation, that God was the God of Abraham, and the God of Ifaac, and the God of Jacob, who being all dead, muft rife and live again; for God is not the God of the Dead, but of the Living. Upon the hearing hereof, they were all aftonifh'd, and could make him no Anfwer. And then it follows, when the Pharifees heard that Jefus had put the Sadducees to filence, they were gather'd together, with a defign to fet upon him, and to intangle him in his Talk. Then one of them, who was a Lawyer or a Scribe, asked him a Queftion, tempting him and faying, Mafter, which is the great Commandment in the Law? This Queftion was mov'd not with a Defire to be fatisfy'd, but with a Defign to enfnare him in his Anfwer, and to hear what he would fay. This Way and Method of their dealing with our Saviour by infidious and intangling Questions, hath been fufficiently laid open in the Gofpel for the Sunday immediately before this, and therefore I fhall add no more here concerning it.
As for the Anfwer here given to this enfnaring Question of the Lawyer, it was fuch as he could no way gainfay or object against, viz. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy Heart, and with all thy Soul, and with all thy Mind, and thy Neighbour as thy felf. Both which being explain'd in the Gospel for the thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, I fhall refer the Reader to it.
All that will be requifite to add here, is about the Order and Greatness of thefe Commandments: for the Lawyer's Queftion. being, Which is the great Commandment in the Law? our Saviour told him, that the loving of God above all things, is the first and great Commandment; and the loving our Neighbour as our felves, is the fecond, and like unto it and that upon thefe two Commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. Each of which will require a little Explication. And,
Firft, How is the Love of God faid to be the first Commandment? Why, partly in Order of Time, and partly in Order of Nature.
Ift, I fay, 'tis fo in Order of Time; the Love of God being the first thing to be taught and learnt of all that come
to him; for all true Religion begins with it, and is founded upon it 'tis the firft Step we are to make towards our Maker, and that will lead us on to all the other parts of our Duty and Obedience to him. He that begins betimes with the Love of God, will move on cheerfully after in the Ways of his Commandments: but he who is not touch'd with an unfeigned Love of him, will be ftill wandering in the By-paths of Sin and Iniquity. So that our first and principal Care fhould be, to fet our Hearts right towards God, and to turn the Stream of our Affections to him; and that will keep us right ever after.
2dly, The Love of God is the firft in Order of Nature, as being the Root and Spring of all other Vertues. He that truly loves God, will fear him above all things, will truft in all Conditions, will honour him in all his Actions, will worship him at all times, and in a word will ferve and depend upon him in the whole Courfe of his Life, All thefe Vertues grow and thrive upon a Stock of Love; whereas he that wants or cafts off the Love of his Maker, will foon feel a Decay in all these Graces, and become an utter Stranger and Enemy to the Ways of God: which fhould teach us to be rooted and grounded in Love, the Firft Commandment. But,
Secondly, How is the loving of God faid to be the great Commandment? Why,
ft, Upon the account of the Greatness and Dignity of the Object, it being converfant about God, the greatest and nobleft of all Beings. For tho all other Graces have fome relation to him, having God for their Author; yet there is none that fo immediately relates to him, as this of Love, having the Divine Nature and Perfections for its Object, and being wholly employ'd in the Contemplation and Admiration of them. Now the Greatness of the Object ever adds a Value and Dignity to the Act relating to it; as the ferving of a King is greater than the ferving of a Subject. Now what greater and fublimer Object can there be, than the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, whofe tranfcendent Excellencies render him infinitely lovely in himfelf, and whofe fuperlative Bounty makes him in the highest meafure amiable unto us? And therefore this Precept of Love, which is fo directly employ'd and terminated in him, muft be the great Commandment: and fo it is,