« PreviousContinue »
way; and fo was the Jailor and his Family; and fo have all Chriftians been ever fince. All which fhew us what regard we are to have for this Sacrament, and what care Parents are to take to bring their Children to it; efpecially confidering, firft, the great Benefits they receive by this Sacred Ordinance. This is the Door of Entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, and therefore our Saviour would have Children brought to it, because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; Mark 10. 14. 'Tis the ordinary Means of Salvation; for he that believeth and is baptized, shall be faved; Mark 16. 16. The Spirit of God accompanying this Ordinance, gives the Remiffion of Sins, and feals to us the Promife of eternal Life. To this we may add, fecondly, the Confideration of the extreme Danger of denying or delaying of Baptifm; for he that believeth not, and is unbaptiz'd, shall be damned. By omitting of this Sacrament, we do as it were fhut the Gate of Heaven against Infants, and deprive them of the ordinary Way and Means of their Salvation; which fhould make all Parents afraid or afham'd of this Neglect.
2dly, From Nicodemus's denying the Baptifmal Regeneration, and others denying the Doctrine of the Trinity, because their weak Reafon cannot comprehend how these things fhould be, we may learn not to depend too much upon our own Reafon, but to rely chiefly on Divine Revelation in fuch Myfteries: For the former, we fee, is a crooked, erring and uncertain Rule; the latter is a fure, fafe and infallible Guide. We know how the Gentiles loft their way, when they had no better Conduct than their own Reafon; and how the Heathens were bewilder'd, when they follow'd only the blind and uncertain Guidance of natural Light; both which led them into many vain Superftitions and grofs Idolatrys: but thanks be to God, we are not left to grope in the dark as they were, but are happily aflifted by brighter Revelations. Let us not then prefer a Candle before the Sun, or fet up our dim Reafon above the Light of Divine Revelations; that is, let us not fcan Mysteries by our weak and fhallow Apprehenfions, but rather make them the Objects of our Admiration than Curiofity. Particularly in this of the Trinity, let us thankfully acquiefce in what God hath reveal'd to us of himfelf, evermore praising him, and saying, Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabbaoth.
Now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghoft, three Perfons and one God, be afcrib'd as is most due, all Glory, Honour, Praife, Might, Majesty and Dominion, both now and evermore. Amen.
The EPISTLE for the First Sunday after Trinity.
1 St. John iv. 7, to the end.
Beloved, let us love one another; for Love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God: he that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is Love, &c.
HE Collect for this Day teaches us to beg of God the Acceptance of our Prayers, and the Affiftance of our Infirmities, that fo in keeping his Commandments we may please him both in Will and Deed.
The Epiftle mentions and infifts upon the great Commandment of Love, which is indeed the Sum of all the Commandments; and the keeping of it is therefore ftil'd, the fulfilling of the Law.
It begins with an Exhortation to this excellent Grace, which it backs with many preffing Motives and Encouragements, and concludes with fome Marks and Trials of the Truth of it, as we fhall find in the following Discourse.
I begin, as the Epistle doth, with the Exhortation to this Grace of Love, in these words, Beloved, let us love one another; where 'tis qfher'd in with the kind Compellation of Beloved, the better to infinuate and inftil this Leffon into us. St. John is in Scripture ftil'd, The Beloved Difciple, or The Difciple whom Jefus loved; for he lean'd on his Breaft, and fo was nearest his Heart, and knew more of his Mind than any other: by which means his Breaft being inflam'd with the Love of God, breath'd out nothing but Love to the Brethren; Beloved faith he) let us love one a nother.
But what is the Love here exhorted to? Now tho Love be a Paflion better felt than defcrib'd, yet the Love here recommended may be thús defin'd; 'Tis a Vertue or gracious Difpofition of Soul, that keeps Men from doing any harm, and puts them upon doing all the good they can to one another. Where,
Firft, I ftile it a Vertue, for fo it is both moral and theological as it is dictated by the natural Law of Reafon, 'tis a moral Virtue, and fo 'tis handled by the Heathen Philofophers; as 'tis reveal'd and requir'd by the written Law of God, 'tis a theological Grace or Vertue, and fo 'tis handled by Divines. Again,
Secondly, I ftile it a gracious Difpofition of Soul, to fig nify the Seat of it, which is within the Heart, where all true Love is feated, not outward only in the Lip or the Tongue, which is no better than Hypocrify and Diffimulation. Again, *
Thirdly, Here are added the two effential Properties of Love, which are to do no manner of harm, and to do all poffible good to one another.
Ift, I fay, true Love keeps Men from doing any the leaft harm to another; for Love worketh no Ill to his Neighbour, yea, it thinketh no Evil, faith the Apostle, and harbours not the leaft Thought of doing any bad turn. Now Men, you know, may receive much harm from another fundry ways; as in the Soul, by drawing them into Sin, or creating to them any unneceffary Grief or Trouble; in the Body, by Maiming, Murder, and any other Acts of Violence; in his Goods, by taking or withholding from him any thing that is his; in his good Name, by spreading evil Reports, Backbiting and Detraction: From all which Evils the Love here requir'd will effectually reftrain us; for thefe being the com. mon Effects of Envy, Hatred and Malice, are inconsistent with that Love we owe to one another.
2dly, True Love not only keeps Men from the least harm, but puts them upon doing all the good they can to each other for Love wishes well to his Neighbour, and that will move to the doing all good Offices for him. Now as Men may receive much hurt, fo may they receive much good from one another: as in their Soul, by keeping them from Sin, and lightning the Burden of their Sorrows; in their Bodies, by preferving them from Violence and ill Ufage, by relieving their Neceffities, and healing their Diftempers; in their Goods, by defending them from Fraud, Rapine
and Oppreffion, and helping them to Right that fuffer Wrong. In their good Names, by vindicating them from all unjust Calumnies, Cenfures and evil Reports, and giving them the juft Praises due to their Merits and good Works. These and many other good Offices may be done to Mankind, which the true Love we are to bear to one another will make us ever ready and willing to perform. This is briefly the Nature and Properties of that Brotherly Love which we are here exhorted to: To prefs and recommend which, the Apostle tells us,
In the next words, the Rife, and Original of this Love, whence it comes, and how it may be attain'd; for Love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God: meaning, that Love is the most Divine and God-like thing that can be found in us, by it we become moft efpecially like unto God, and refemble him in that darling A tribute and Perfection, in which he most delighteth. Love is a Ray of the Divinity darted upon us, and where 'tis fix'd makes us in fome measure Partakers of the Divine Nature; for every one that loveth is born of God: He is of a heavenly Rife and Extraction, and comes from the Divine and Spiritual Seed; he is born not of the Will of Man, but of God, whom he resembles in his Nature and Perfection, as Children do their Parents in their Features and Comi plexion. Nothing makes us more the Children of God, or more nearly ally'd to the Divine Majefty, than this Grace of Love, which is our greatest Glory, and renders us most amiable and acceptable to him: for thereby God communicates himself to us, and gives us the most intimate Acquaintance with, and Knowledg of his Mind; for he that loveth, is not only born of God, but knoweth God: that is, not with a bare notional Knowledg, fuch as evil Men and Spirits have, which rather makes them tremble at, than rejoice at him; but with a faving experimental Knowledg, fuch as only good Men and Saints have, who are thereby made like unto God, and transform'd into the fame Image from Glory to Glory. Whereas,
He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is Love: He is an utter Stranger to the Divine Nature, and never felt its Influence; he knoweth nothing of God as he ought to know, being deftitute of Love; he hath nothing of God in him, who is made up of Love and Kindness to Mankind; he hath more of Envy and Enmity of the evil Spirits, to whom he conforms in his Nature, and with whom he fhall
have his Portion. To know God aright, is to be Followers of him as dear Children, and to walk in Love; for his very Nature and Effence confifts in Love, and we cannot imitate or resemble him more than by the Acts of Kindness and Charity.
But wherein doth this tranfcendent Love of God to Mankind appear? Why, among other things the Apostle gives us a high and eminent Inftance of it in the next Verfe; In this was manifefted the Love of God towards us, because that God fent his only-begotten Son into the World, that we might live thro him. When we were utterly loft and undone by the first Tranfgreffion, and thereby left in a helpless and hopeless Condition, God was pleas'd, out of his tender Mercy, to take pity upon us, and to fend his only Son out of his Bofom to recover us from this forlorn State : and Because nothing elfe could do it, he was content to die for us, that we might live thro him. When we were dead in Trefpaffes and Sins, he reftor'd us again to a Life of Grace, and by his Holy Spirit hath given us the affur'd Hopes of being rais'd to a Life of Glory. And what greater Expreffion of Love could be ever fhewn us, than the Father's in fending, the Son's in confenting, the Spirit's in affifting, and all of them in contriving and effecting these things for us?
Herein is Love (faith our Apostle) not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and fent his Son to be the Propitiation for our Sins; that is, herein will this Love of God appear the greater, that we did not begin with any Love to God, that might engage or encourage him to make this Return to us: for we, alas! had no fenfe of our Condition, no power to help our felves, no, nor yet Ability fo much as to ask any Relief; but he began with us, and was before-hand in his Love to us; yea, he was fo early as to prevent us with his Loving kindness, before we knew any thing of it, and fent his Son to propitiate his Wrath, and reconcile us to himfelf, when we were Enemies and Strangers to him: which muft enhance his Love above all Expreffion or Conception.
From hence the Apoftle very rationally infers, Beloved, if God fo loved us, we ought alfo to love one another. Thefe inexpreffible and unrequitable Acts of the Divine Love fhould ftir up in us fomething of a like Love and Af fection to the Brethren; not that we can answer or come up to the Height of his unparallel'd Love towards us, but that we should imitate and return in all the good Offices