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strangely apt to run into extremes in this particular. Some on the merit of their abstinence from unlawful pleasures, venture without scruple to be ill-humoured, hard-hearted, censorious, and unjust; while some again place the whole of a right character in a gay kind of good nature: and, either hurting, as they pretend, nobody but themselves; or, however doing others only such injuries, as they imagine matter of merriment; go almost whatever lengths of sensual gratification their desires prompt them to. Now these latter, far from being the harmless people, which they would have the world think them, usually contribute more by the unavoidable, and often foreseen, consequences of their vices, and the contagion of their examples, to bring misery into private life, and distress, if not ruin, upon the public, than almost any wicked persons that can be mentioned besides. But were they, in these respects, ever so innocent: yet our being rational creatures as indispensably binds us to sobriety, chastity, and decency, as our being social creatures doth to inoffensiveness and beneficence. A mind immersed in voluptuousness, nay filled with amusements and trifles, and attentive to them only or chiefly, is by no means in a moral state, and much less in a religious one: our evident capacity and formation for higher and better things, cannot but carry with it a proportionable obligation, to the improvement of our understandings in the knowledge of truth, and of our hearts in the esteem of virtue; to the care of acting worthily and usefully amongst our fellow-creatures, and qualifying ourselves for spiritual happiness with our Creator. Thus much even the light of nature will teach us. And if Revelation be consulted; there we shall find the strongest cautions, against that fondness for
sumptuous living, delicacy, and splendor, which brought the rich man into the place of torment* : against being lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of Godt. Scriptures, like these, are not designed to drive persons into unnatural rigours and austerities : but they are designed to restrain them from that habit and study of self-indulgence, which being attended perhaps with the commission of no flagrant sins, looks to be an allowable way of consuming time; but indeed brings poor wretches, often by quick degrees, to intire forgetfulness of God and themselves, and extinguishes all attention to what deserves it most. This lethargy of the mind is the great danger of a state of prosperity and affluence: which therefore, as many as are placed in that state should continually watch against, as being totally contrary to a spirit of religion; and remember, that whosoever so liveth in pleasure, as to live to it, is dead while he livethf: dead to all the purposes of Christianity here, and all the hopes of felicity hereafter.
V. Our Saviour's direction, that all nations be taught to observe every thing which he hath commanded, implies a prohibition of teaching any thing in his name, which he hath not commanded, either personally, while on earth, or by the holy spirit of truth after his ascension. For where his commission ends, there the powers of those, to whom he gave it, end also. Still, in matters left undetermined, or not fully determined by him, men of knowledge may signify their opinion, men of prudence may suggest their advice, and both are to be regarded in a proper degree. Superiors may likewise interpose their authority, so far as public order and peace require; * Luke xvi. 19, &c.
1 Tim. v. 6.
+2 Tim. iii. 4.
and, in all things lawful, others are bound to submit to them. But no man, or number of men, may presume to set up their own judgment, or their own will, for a law of Christ: or add a single article, as. a necessary one, to that rule of faith and practice, which was once delivered unto the saints *. Even St. Paul himself hath on one occasion accurately distinguished between what he, and what the Lord in person, spoket; between points in which he had express commandment, and points in which he gave his judgment as one that had obtained mercy to be faithful I: that is, in the trust of the Apostleship. And if such a person was thus careful, much more ought the ministers of religion in these latter ages, who can have no certain acquaintance with it, but from his writings and the rest of Scripture, be solicitous not to preach any other gospel, than that they have receivedg; nor build, on the foundation of Jesus Christ, superstructures that will not abide the trial||, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. They, who assume this power, usurp a dominion over their fellow-servants, to which only their Master in heaven hath a right: and they who obey this power, so far worship God in vain, who hath never required this at their hands **.
I have now gone through the second part of the text: the duties, which the Apostles and their successors were to enjoin. And therefore I proceed to set before you,
III. The protection and happiness, of which both they who faithfully preach the gospel, and they who sincerely embrace it, may be assured. Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
+ 1 Cor. vii. 10. 12. #1 Cor. vii. 25. Gal. i. 9. ll 1 Cor. iii. 11, 12, 13. 9 Matth. xv. 9.
# Jude v.
Is. i. 12.
Amongst men, choosing to be with any one is not only a natural consequence of having a regard for him, but on many important occasions a necessary means of showing that regard to his advantage. In condescension therefore to common language, God, though present every where, is described in holy writ as peculiarly drawing nigh unto, being, and dwelling with, those, who by a temper and conduct of piety and virtue intitle themselves to his love and fatherly care: whereas he is represented as departing from persons of a contrary character, not vouchsafing to look upon them, or beholding them afar off, till he returns to execute judgment on them. Of this kind is the manner of speech used in the text: where our blessed Lord, being about to leave the world, and go unto the Father, tells his followers, that though his visible and bodily presence was to be withdrawn very soon, he should be still as really present upon earth as ever: not only seeing, but watching, directing, and defending them continually. And therefore, notwithstanding St. Matthew thought fit to abstain from subjoining in his gospel any words of his own to these most solemn ones of our Saviour, yet his ascent into heaven is almost as well understood by them, as if it had been expressly related.
This gracious promise was doubtless immediately, and in the first place, made to the Apostles. But as the use, for which it was made, is perpetual; and the term for which it is expressed to be made, cannot possibly be confined to themselves; but must signify either, as we translate it, to the end of the world, or to the end of the gospel age, which is to last as long as the world: it must necessarily be extended to those, who should at any time succeed the Apostles in teaching the faith and duties of Christanity. And
since the presence of Christ with the teachers of his religion is designed for the benefit of those, who are taught it: therefore all such, in all ages, have a share in the assurance of the text. Accordingly, in many places of Scripture, the presence, not only of the Son of God, but of the Father, and Holy Spirit, is promised to every true believer without exception. St. Paul declares, If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his *. And Christ himself declares, if a man love me, my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with himt.
If then, as the church of Rome pretends, such expressions as these convey a promise of infallibility, or security of not departing from the right faith, to their church, or any person or persons in it; they convey the same to every church, and every person in it. But our Saviour's declaration is, not that any one or more churches may not, if they will, intirely throw off the faith ; and even all churches, as well as all men, fall both into many errors and many sins; but that this shall never happen through his forsaking them, but their forsaking him: and that, how great soever the apostacy of the latter times may be, (as St. Paul hath foretold it should be a very grievous one£;) how much soever at any time the church of Christ may be obscured, it shall never be extinguished: for it must continue to the end of the world, since he hath promised to be with it to the end of the world. In different ages he is present to it in different manners, as the circumstances of each require. His Apostles he directed by inspiration into all truth: and strengthened them with power to work miracles in confirmation of it. When reli
• Rom. viii, 9.
+ John xiv. 23.
I Tim. iv. 1.