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THE LIFE AND DEATH
BEGINNING AT THE TIME OF HIS FIRST MIRACLE, UNTIL THE SECOND
YEAR OF HIS PREACHING.
A Discourse upon that part of the Decalogue, which the
Holy Jesus adopted into the Institution and Obligation of
Christiunity. 1. When the holy Jesus had described the characterisms of Christianity, in these eight graces and beatitudes, he adds his injunctions, that in these virtues they should be eminent and exemplar, that they might adorn the doctrine of God; for he intended that the Gospel should be as leaven in a lump of dough, to season the whole mass; and that Christians should be the instruments of communicating the excellence and reputation of this holy institution to all the world. Therefore, Christ calls them salt, and light; and the societies of Christians," a city set upon a hill,” and “ a light set in a candlestick,” whose office and energy is to illuminate all the vicinage; which is also expressed in these preceptive words : "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven;" which I consider not only as a circumstance of other parts, but as a precise duty itself, and one of the sanctions of Christianity ;
which hath so confederated the souls of the disciples of the institution, that it hath in some proportion obliged every man to take care of his brother's soula. And since reverence to God, and charity to our brother, are the two greatest ends which the best laws can have, this precept of exemplary living is enjoined in order to them both : we must “ shine as lights in the world,” that God may be glorified, and our brother edified; that the excellency of the act may endear the reputation of the religion, and invite men to confess God, according to the sanctions of so holy an institution. And if we be curious that vanity do not mingle in the intention, and that the intention do not spoil the action, and that we suffer not our lights to shine, that men may magnify us, and not glorify God; this duty is soon performed, by way of adherence to our other actions, and hath no other difficulty in it, but that it will require our prudence and care, to preserve the simplicity of our purposes, and humility of our spirit, in the midst of that excellent reputation, which will certainly be consequent to a holy and exemplary life.
2. But, since the holy Jesus had set us up to be lights in the world, he took care we should not be stars of the least magnitude, but eminent, and such as might, by their great emissions of light, give evidence of their being immediately derivative from the Sun of Righteousness. He was now giving his law; and meant to retain so much of Moses, as Moses had of natural and essential justice and charity, and superadd many degrees of his own; that as far as Moses was exceeded by Christ in the capacity of a lawgiver, so far Christianity might be more excellent and holy than the Mosaical sanctions. And, therefore, as a preface to the Christian law, the holy Jesus declares, that “ unless our righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees,” that is, of the stricter sects of the Mosaical institution, “ we shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Which not only relates to the prevaricating practices of the Pharisees, but even to their doctrines and commentaries upon the law of Moses, as appears evidently in the following instances. For if all the excellence of Christianity had consisted in the mere
1 “Οπερ έστιν εν σώματι ψυχή, τούτ' εισίν εν κόσμω Χριστιανοί. – Just. Mart.
Sic S. Paulus, év os paiveo fe 006. postăpes év xóojew. – Phil. ii. 15.
command of sincerity, and prohibition of hypocrisy, it had nothing in it proportionable to those excellent promises and clearest revelations of eternity there expressed ; nor of a fit employment for the designation of a special and a new Lawgiver, whose laws were to last for ever, and were established upon foundations stronger than the pillars of heaven and earth.
3. But St. Paul, calling the law of Moses, a law of works b," did well insinuate what the doctrine of the Jews was, concerning the degrees and obligations of justice : for besides that it was a law of works, in opposition to the law of faith, (and so the sense of it is formerly explicated",) it is also a law of works, in opposition to the law of the Spirit; and it is understood to be such a law, which required the exterior obedience; such a law, according to which St. Paul so lived, that no man could reprove him; that is, the judges could not tax him with prevarication, such a law, which, being in very many degrees carnal and material, did not with much severity exact the intention and purposes spiritual. But the Gospel is “ the law of the Spirit.” If they failed in the exterior work, it was accounted to them for sin; but to Christians nothing becomes a sin, but a failing and prevaricating spirit. For the outward act is such an emanation of the interior, that it enters into the account, for the relation's sake, and for its parent. When God hath put a duty into our hands, if our spirits be right, the work will certainly follow; but the following work receives its acceptation, not from the value the Christian law hath precisely put upon it, but because the spirit from whence it came hath observed its rule. The law of charity is acted and expressed in works, but hath its estimate from the spirit. Which discourse is to be understood in a limited and qualified signification. For then also God required the heart, and interdicted the very concupiscences of our irregular passions, at least in some instances; but because much of their law consisted in the exterior, and the law appointed not, nor yet intimated any penalty to evil thoughts, and because the expiation of such interior irregularities was easy, implicit, and involved in their daily sacrifices, without special trouble; therefore the old law
b Rom, iji. 27.
c Vide Considerat. of Christ's first Preaching, n. 3.
was “ a law of works,” that is, especially and in its first intention. But this being less perfect, the holy Jesus inverted the order. 1. For very little of Christianity stands upon
the outward action; (Christ having appointed but two sacraments immediately :) and, 2. a greater restraint is laid upon the passions, desires, and first motions of the Spirit, than under the severity of Moses : and, 3. they are threatened with the same curses of a sad eternity, with the acts proceeding from them: and, 4. because the obedience of the spirit does in many things excuse the want of the outward act, God always requiring at our hands what he hath put in our power, and no more: and, 5. lastly, because the spirit is the principle of all actionsd, moral and spiritual, and certainly productive of them, when they are not impeded from without; therefore the holy Jesus hath secured the fountain, as knowing that the current must needs be healthful and pure, if it proceeds through pure channels, from a limpid and unpolluted principle.
4. And, certainly, it is much for the glory of God, to worship him with a religion, whose very design looks upon God as “ the Searcher of our hearts” and Lord of our spirits ; who judges the purposes as a God, and does not only take his estimate from the outward action as a man. And it is also a great reputation to the institution itself, that it purifies the soul, and secures the secret cogitations of the mind. It punishes covetousness, as it judges rapine; it condemns a sacrilegious hearto, as soon as an irreligious hand; it detests hating of our brother, by the same aversation which it expresses against doing him affronts. He that curses in his heart, shall die the death of an explicit and bold blasphemer; murmuring and repining is against the laws of Christianity; but either by the remissness of Moses's law, or the gentler execution of it, or the innovating or lessening glosses of the Pharisees, he was esteemed innocent whose actions were according to the letter, not whose spirit was conformed to
1 ου γαρ δοκεϊν δίκαιος, αλλ' είναι, θέλει,
Βαθεΐαν άλογα διά φρενός καρπούμενος, ,
Amphiar. apud Æschyl. Sept. con. Theb. 589. • Josephus reprehendit Polybium, quòd mortem Antiochi inflictam dixit ob cogitatum scelus sacrilegii, putans pænam non irrogari nisi ob perpetratum facinus : το γάς μηκέτι ποιήσαι το έργον βουλευσάμενον, ουκ ήν τιμωρίας άξιον.