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believers and unbelievers agreed in no common principles, we were not capable of preaching to unbelievers, nor convincing them, nor of conversing with them. There are many excellent things which nature doth approve, and which both parties are agreed to be good; by the advantage of these, as granted principles, we must convince them of the conclusions which they yet deny; and not as the scandalous Christian, so absurdly affect singularity, as to make light of all good which is taken for good by unbelievers, and to seek for eminency in nothing but what the world thinks evil. There is a glory in some good works, which all do honour, and which manifesteth itself.
2. And then the goodness of the work doth manifest the goodness of the doer. Every man's work is so far his own, that he is related to it, and by it, either as laudable, or as culpable; as it is Gal. vi. 4,5; “Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another; for every man shall bear his own burthen.” God himself will judge men according to their works; and so will men ; and so must we (much) do by ourselves; for it is the rightest judging which is likest God's.
This subordinate honour God grants to his servants :
If their works were not an honour to them, as the next agents, they could be none to him in their morality, as man's acts ; though they might, as acts in general, be ordered to good by his own goodness. If God's natural works of creation (sun, and moon, and earth, &c.) were not praiseworthy in themselves, God would not be praised for them as their Maker. There are works that God is said to be dishonoured by; (Rom. ii. 23, 24;) and what are they but such as are really had, and a dishonour to the authors ? It is so far from being true, that no praise, or honour, or comfort from good works, is to be given to man; that God himself is not like else to be honoured by them as morally good, if the actors be not honoured by them; the world must first be convinced that Christians are far better than other men, and the righteous more excellent than his neighbour, before they will glorify God as the author of their goodness. In God's own judgment, “Well done,” is the first word, and “ Good and faithful servant,” is the second, and “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” is the third.
Two sorts of scandalous persons rob God of his honour in his saints.
1. Those that professing Christianity live wickedly, or, at least, VOL. XVII.
no better than other men ; whose lives tell the world that Christians are but such as they.
2. Those that slander and belie true believers, and would hide their goodness, and make them odious to the world.
As for them that say only that we have no righteousness in ourselves by which we can be justified, I shall not differ with them, if they do but grant that all shall be judged according to their works, and that he that is accused as an infidel, impenitent, an hypocrite, or an unregenerate, ungodly person, must against that accusation be justified by his own faith, repentance, sincerity, and holiness, or be unjustified for ever,
3. The next thing to the work, and the person that is hereby honoured, is the christian religion itself, with the Spirit's operations on the souls of Christians; the outward doctrine and example of Christ, who teacheth his servants to be better than the world, and the inward sanctification of the Spirit, which maketh them better. The air and food are commended which make men healthy, and the medicines are praised which cure the dis
; that is accounted good, as a means and cause which doth good, and which maketh men good ; if Christians were more commonly and notoriously much better than all other men, the world would believe that the gospel and the christian religion were the best.
But when scandalous Christians appear as bad, or worse than infidels, the world thinks that their religion is as bad, or worse, than theirs.
4. The next ascent of honour is to the Maker or Author of our religion ; the world will see that he is good that maketh so good a law and gospel, and that maketh all his true disciples so much to excel all other men. And here the first honour will be to the Holy Spirit, which reneweth souls, and maketh them holy ; and the next will be to the Son, our Saviour, who giveth us both the word and Spirit ; and the highest or ultimate glory will be to God the Father, who giveth us both his Son and his Spirit.
And thus honour ascendeth to the highest by these steps, and the world beginneth at that which is nearest to them, and reason will proceed by these degrées ; 1. The excellent holy lives of Christians are better than those of other men. 2. Therefore Christians are better than other men. 3. Therefore their religion is the best, or the word and work which make them such. 4. Therefore the Spirit is good which makes them good; the Saviour is good who giveth them the word and Spirit, and God, the Fountain of all, even the Father of mercies, is the Fountain of all good, and consequently the end of all. And thus God is known and glorified by our works.
II. The works which thus glorify him are first to be described in general, and then enumerated in special.
I. In general, 1. They must be such as make or show men to be in their places like to God; they must be such as represent the particular perfections of God, which are called his communicable attributes; and such as declare his relations to us; and such as declare his attributes, as so related, and his works.
As, 1. We must so live that men may see that indeed we take not ourselves to be our own, but God to be our absolute owner; and that it is not ourselves, but he, that must of right dispose both of us and ours, and that we willingly stand to his disposal. (1 Cor. vi. 19.) “ Ye are not your own.”
2. We must so live as may declare that we are not lawless, nor the mere servants of men, but the resolved subjects of God, the sovereign King of all; and that really we are ruled by his laws and will, and not by our own lusts or wills, nor by the wills of
any, but as under him ; and that we fear not any hurt to the flesh, or them that can but kill the body, in comparison of that one Lawgiver and Judge, who is able to save or destroy for ever; (Luke xii. 4 ; James iv, 12; 1 Cor. vii. 23 ;) and that we are moved more by his promises, than by all that mortal men can give us; and trust wholly to the heavenly reward of glory, and not to the transitory prosperity of this world, believing that God is true and just, and none of his word shall never fail. (1 Peter i. 3.) “We are begotten again unto a lively hope, through the resurrection of Christ to an inheritance incorruptible,” &c.
3. We must so live as may declare that God is our grand benefactor, from whom we have all the good that ever we received, and from whom we hope for all that ever we shall possess ;
and that he is infinitely good, the original and end of all created good: we must live as those that believe that we are made for God, even to glorify him, and please his blessed will; not by making him beholden to us, but by a willing receiving of his mercies, and a willing improvement of them to our own felicity; and as those that believe that his love is better than life itself, and that to know him, and love him, and glorify him for ever, is the ultimate end and happiness of man. (Psalm iv. 7, 8, and Ixiii. 3, and lxxiii, 25, 26, 28; Phil. iii. 7, 8; Matt. vi. 33; 1 Peter i. 5, 6, 8, 9; 2 Cor. v. 1.) 2. And we must so live in relation to Christ, and to his Spirit, as may declare to the world that the mercy of the Father is conveyed to us by the Son, and the grace of the Father and the Son by the Spirit ; and what wonders of wisdom, goodness and power, truth and justice, holiness and mercy, are manifest in Christ, and his mediation to mankind. (Gal. ii. 20; Eph. iii. 16, 17; Phil. i. 20, 21; John xvii. 10.) : 3. In some the works that glorify God must have these three parts of his likeness upon them."
1. They must be works of light, like the light which from the Father of lights doth illuminate us. Christians must be muchi wiser than the men of the world, in holy, though not in worldly things. (Col. i. 9, 28, and iii. 16.) Darkness is the state of Satan's kingdom, and ignorant Christians are scandalous, and a dishonour to Christ; not those that are ignorant of unnecessary, unprofitable, or unrevealed things but those that are ignorant of revealed, necessary, saving truths. (1 Cor. iii. 2; Heb. v. 11, 12.)
2. They must be works of holy love to God and man, which show that God and goodness have our hearts, and that we would imitate God in doing good to all, according to our places and power. (Gal. vi. 10; Rom. xiii. 10–12.)
3. They must be works of life and power, where serious diligence 'expresseth zeal; and that we set ourselves no lower bounds, than with all our heart, and mind, and might. (2 Tim. i. 7; Rom. xii. 11.) Thus much for the general description of them.
II. The description of a Christian, whose works glorify God, according to scripture and experience, may be given you in the following particulars.
I. He is one that placeth his saving religion in the practical knowledge of the only true God, and Jesus Christ the Saviour, whom he hath sent. (John xvii. 3.) He puts no limits to his endeavours after useful knowledge, but what God hath put by his word or providence; he would abound in holy wisdom, and thinks it worth his greatest diligence, and is still upon the increasing hand; he hath so much knowledge of the lesser matters of religion, as to keep him from scandalous miscarriages about them ; but it is the knowledge of God, and of a crucified and glorified Christ, in which he taketh wisdom to consist. (John xvii. 3 ; 1 Cor. ii. 2.) This is the light in which he hath his daily conversation, the light which governeth his will ·and practice, which feedeth his meditations, his prayers, and his discourse; which repelleth his temptations, which maintaineth his hope, and is his daily work of recreation, his food, and feast,
For they will now perceive. 1. That his religion is not a matter of names and words, and trifling controversies, but hath the greatest and most excellent subject in the world; and as nature teacheth all to reverence God, so it will tell them that they must reverence that religion, that conversation, and that person, who is most divine, and where the most of God appeareth.
2. And they will see that his religion consisteth not in uncertainties, which no man can be sure of when he hath done his best ; but in things so sure as none should doubt of; which will easily bring men over to consent; and shame or silence contradicters.
3. And then they will see that it is a religion which all sober persons are united in, and doth not lose its authority or reve rence, by the divisions, wranglings, and digladiations of sects of different minds; for God is denied by no sober man, nor the essentials of christianity by any true Christian.
4. And men will see that our religion is no matter of indifferency, which one may do well enough without, but of absolute necessity to salvation, and that which man was made and redeemed for; and a religion of the greatest subject, the greatest certainty, the greatest consent, and the greatest necessity, will honour itself and its author in the world, if it be rightly represented in the lives of them that do profess it.
But when men's overdoing shall pretend that all this is too little, and shall seek to raise it, as to more perfection, by their own inventions, or uncertain opinions in doctrine, worship, church-discipline, or practice, they presently cast it as a footbail before the boys in the streets, and make it a matter of doubtful, endless disputations, of multiplied sects, of pernicious contentions, and cruel persecutions; and then the reverence and glory of it is gone, and every philosopher will vie with it in subtilty, and every stranger will presume to censure it, if not to blaspheme it, and deride it. And thus overdoers are the scandals of the world.
II. The Christian that will glorify God, and his profession, must be conscionable in the smallest matters, but he must ever describe and open the nature of his religion, as consisting in great and certain things, and not talk too much of smaller matters, as if it were those that men were to be saved by: Tell men of the necessity of believing, fearing, obeying, trusting and loving God, and of coming to him by Jesus Christ, the great Mediator between God and man; tell them of the intrinsic evil of