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plainer predictions. And then came John the Baptist, the forerunner, and Christ, the Messiah, and the Spirit upon the apostles, and finished the revelation : so that it may appear to be all one frame, contrived and indicted by one Spirit. And the effects of it have been according to these degrees of the revelation.
And the end of the world (whether at the end of the last two thousand years, or when else God pleaseth) will shortly shew the unbelieving themselves, that the period shall fulfil what is yet unfulfilled to the least jot and tittle.
The Image of God's Goodness.
II. The second part of God's image on our religion, is that of his matchless goodness. The whole system of it is, the harmonious expression of God's holiness and love. The particulars I must but name, lest I be too long.
1. The author of it, Jesus Christ, was perfectly good himself; being God and man; sinless in nature, and in life; living, and dying, and rising to do good; and making it his office and his work, even in heaven, to do mankind the greatest good.
2. The matter of the Christian religion, is God himself the infinite good. The use of it is, to teach men to know God, and to bring us to him. To which end it maketh a fuller discovery of his blessed nature, attributes and works, than is any where to be found in this world.
3. The utmost end of it is the highest imaginable; the pleasing and glorifying of God : for he that is the beginning of all, must needs be the end of all.
4. It leadeth man to the highest state of felicity for himself (which is an end conjunct in subordination to the highest.) There can be no greater happiness imaginable, than the Christian religion directeth us to attain.
5. It placeth our happiness so certainly and clearly in that which is happiness indeed, that it directeth man's intentions, and desires, and leaving them no longer to the old variety of opinions about the chiefest good : nature perfected, and working by its most perfect acts upon the most perfect object, and receiving the most full communications from him, and this for ever, must needs be the most perfect felicity of man. To have all our faculties fully perfect, and to live for ever in the perfect light and love of God, and to be accordingly beloved of him; this is the end of Christianity.
6. To this end, the whole design of the Christian religion is to make man good, and to cure him of all evil, and to prepare him justly for that blessed state.
7. To that end the great work of Jesus Christ is, to send down the sanctifying Spirit of God, to make men new creatures, and to regenerate them to the nature of God himself, and to a heavenly mind and life: that they may not only have precepts which are good, but the power of God to make them good, and a heavenly principle to fit them for heaven.
8. To that end, the principal means is, the fullest revelation of the love of God to man, that ever was made, and more than is any where else revealed. All the design of Christianity is but to shew God to man, in the fullest prospect of his goodness and unmeasurable love, that so he may appear more amiable to us; and may be more beloved by us; that loving goodness may make us good, and make us happy.
9. To encourage us to love and goodness, God doth in the Gospel give us the pardon of all our sins, as soon as ever we turn to him by faith and repentance: though we have deserved hell, he declareth that he will forgive us that desert. If we had come to hell before we had been redeemed, I think we should have taken that religion to be good indeed, which would have brought us the tidings of forgiveness, and shewed us so ready a way to escape.
10. And this mercy is given by an universal covenant, offered to all, without exception : and the conditions are so reasonable, that no one can have any just pretence against them. It is but to accept the mercy offered with a believing thankful mind, as a condemned man would do a pardon. And what can be more suitable to our miserable state?
11. And to bring us to all this, and make us holy, Christ hath given us a most holy word and doctrine: perfectly holy in its precepts, and in its prohibitions, and all
the subservient histories and narratives: and he hath added the perfect pattern of his holy life, that our rule and example might agree.
12. So good is this word, that it calleth us to the highest degree of goodness, and maketh perfection itself our duty; that our duty and happiness may agree ; and we may not have liberty to be bad and miserable; but may be every way bound to our own felicity: and yet so good is this covenant of grace, that it taketh not advantage of our infirmities to ruin us, but noteth them to humble us, in order to our cure : and it accepteth sincerity, though it command perfection. And Christ looketh not at our failings, as a severe judge, but as a physician, and a tender father.
13. So good is our religion, that the great thing which it requireth of us, is to prefer the greatest good, before the lesser, and not be like children who take it for their riches to fill their pin-box; or like foolish merchants, who had rather trade for trash, than for gold. The great business of Christian precepts is, to make us know that we are capable of better things than meat, and drink, and lust, and sports, and wealth, and worldly honours; that the love of God, and the felicity of the soul, in grace and glory, may be preferred before the pleasure of a swine. And is not that good, which calleth us up to the greatest good, and will not allow us to be such enemies to ourselves, as to take up with the lesser?
14. Yea, when we have most, it still engageth us to seek more: and will not allow us to take
with low degree of grace, or with a little measure of the greatest good : but to shew us that God would have us to be still better, and to have more, it is made our duty still to ask more, and still to press higher, and labour to be better. Asking in prayer is made our daily work; and God's giving, and our receiving may be our daily blessedness.
15. The mercies here provided for us, extend both to soul and body; for though we may not prefer the less before the greater; yet we shall have it in its place : if we seek first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness, and labour first for the food which never perisheth, all other things shall be added to us; we shall have them to do us good, but not to do us hurt. “For godliness is profitable to
all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come;" 1 Tim. iv. 7, 8. vi. 6.
16. And that future perfect goodness may invite us to present imperfect goodness, the promises of the Gospel do second the precepts, with the strongest motives in the world : so that everlasting blessedness and joy is made the reward of temporal sincerity, in faith, love, and obedience. And if heaven itself be not a reward sufficient to invite men to be good, there is none sufficient.
Yea, the penalties and severities of the Christian religion, do shew the goodness of it. When God doth therefore threaten hell to save men from it, and to draw them up to the obedience of the Gospel. Threatened evil of punishment is but to keep them from the evil of sin, and to make men better; and he that will testify his hatred of sinful evil to the highest, doth shew himself the greatest enemy of it, and the greatest lover of good: and he that setteth the sharpest hedge before us, and most terrible warnings to keep us from damnation, doth shew himself most willing to
18. So good is Christianity, that it turneth all our afflictions unto good: it assureth us that they are sent as needful medicine, however merited by our sin; and it directeth us how to bear them easily, and to make them sweet, and safe, and profitable, and to turn them to our increase of holiness, and to the furtherance of our greatest good ; Heb. xii. 10, 11. Rom. viii. 18. 2 Cor. iv. 16-18.
19. It also establisheth a perpetual office, even the sacred ministry, for the fuller and surer communication of all this good beforementioned. In which observe these particulars, which shew the greatness of this benefit. 1. The person called to it, must (by Christ's appointment) be the wisest and best of men that can be had. 2. The number of them is to be suited to the number of the people, so that none may be without the benefit. 3. Their work is, to declare all this beforementioned goodness and love of God to man, and to offer them all this grace and mercy; and to teach them to be holy and happy, and to set before them the everlasting joys. 4. The manner of their doing it must be with humility, as the servants of all; with tender love, as fathers of theflock; with wisdom and skill, lest their works be frustrated; with the greatest importunity, even compelling
them to come in, as men that are loath to take any denial ; and with patient enduring all oppositions, as those that had rather suffer any thing, than the people's souls should be unhealed, and be damned ; and they must continue to the end, as those that will never give up a soul as desperate and lost, while there is any hope; and all this must be seconded with their own example of holiness, temperance, and love ; Acts xx. 2 Tim. ii. 24, 25. Matt. xxii. 8, 9.
20. So good is our religion, that nothing but doing good is the work in which it doth employ us. Besides all the good of piety and self-preservation, it requireth us to live in love to others, and to do all the good in the world that we are able ; Ephes. ii. 10. Matt. v. 16. and vi. 1, 2, &c. Titus ii. 14. Gal. vi. 7–9. Good works must be our study and our life ; our work and our delight; even our enemies We must love and do good to ; Matt. v. 44. Rom. xii. 19, 20, 21. And sure that doctrine is good, which is purposely to employ men in doing good to all.
21. So good is Christianity, that it favoureth not any one sin, but it is the greatest condemner of them all. It is all for knowledge against hurtful ignorance : it is all for humility against pride; and self-denial against all injurious selfishness; for spirituality, and the dominion of true reason, against sensuality and the dominion of the flesh; for heavenliness against a worldly mind; for sincerity and simplicity against all hypocrisy and deceit; for love against malice; for unity and peace against divisions and contentions ; for justice and lenity in superiors, and obedience and patience in inferiors; for faithfulness in all relations: its precepts extend to secret as well as open practices; to the desires and thoughts, as well as to the words and deeds : it alloweth not a thought, or word, or action, which is ungodly, intemperate, rebellious, injurious, unchaste, or covetous or uncharitable ; Matt. v.
22. All the troublesome part of our religion is but our warfare against evil; against sin, and the temptations which would make us sinful : and it must needs be good, if all the conflicting part of it be only against evil; Gal. v. 17.21. 23. Rom. vi. vii. viii. 1. 7–10. 13.
23. It teacheth us the only way to live in the greatest and most constant joy. If we attain not this, it is because we follow not its precepts. If endless joy foreseen, and