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SUMMARY OF SERMON XVI.
I CORINTHIANS, CHAP. II.-VERSE 6.
MEANING of the text considered; that however such parts of the Christian doctrine which St. Paul discovered unto those whom he began to instruct therein, might seem to ignorant, prejudiced, and dull or corrupt persons, foolish and unreasonable; yet that the whole doctrine, such as it is in itself, being intirely disclosed unto perfect men, (that is, to men of improved minds and good dispositions,) would be wisdom; that is, not only exactly true, but highly important, and well suited to the attainment of the best ends, &c. Some of its chief excellencies briefly recommended.
1. The first peculiar to it is, that it gives a true, proper, and complete character or notion of God; not indeed absolutely, but in respect to our condition and capacity: such a notion as agrees thoroughly with what the best reason dictates, the works of nature declare, ancient tradition attests, and common experience intimates: this topic enlarged on inferences drawn from it favorable to Christianity.
2. A second is, that it faithfully informs us concerning ourselves, our nature, our origin, our end, &c. points about which, otherwise, by no reason, history, or experience, could we be well resolved and satisfied: what it teaches us in these respects dilated on.
3. It is a peculiar excellence of our religion, that it prescribes an accurate rule of life, most congruous to reason, and suitable to our nature; most conducive to our welfare; most
apt to promote each man's private good, and the public benefit of all, &c. Its precepts directing our practice in relation to God fully considered: those by which our deportment towards our fellow creatures should be regulated: consideration also of the laws and directions prescribed by it for the regulation of our own souls and bodies.
4. In addition to the above, this consideration may be annexed; that as it delivers so excellent and perfect a rule of life, so it delivers it unto us pure from any alloy debasing, free from any clog incumbering it; for that it chiefly requires of us only a rational and spiritual service, not withdrawing us from good practice by tedious and external rites, &c.
5. Our religion hath also this especial advantage, that it sets before us a living copy and visible standard of good practice; wherein we have all its precepts compacted, as it were, into one body, and at once exposed to our view: great efficacy of example pointed out that of our blessed Lord fully shown.
6. Farther, our religion doth not only thus truly and fully acquaint us with our duty; but, which is another peculiar virtue thereof, it buildeth our duty on the most solid grounds, presseth it with the most valid inducements, draweth it from the best principles, and driveth it to the best ends: the advantage which it possesses over any system of philosophy, in these respects, pointed out, &c.
7. It is a peculiar advantage of Christianity, which no other law or doctrine so much as pretends to, that it not only clearly teaches, and strongly persuades us to so excellent a way of life, but provides us also with sufficient help and ability to practise it; our law is not a dead letter, but has a quickening spirit accompanying it, &c.
8. Another peculiar excellence is, that it alone can appease and satisfy a man's conscience, breeding therein well-grounded hope and comfort, healing the wounds of bitter remorse and fear, which the sense of guilt inflicts: this topic enlarged on.
9. The last advantage now mentioned of this doctrine is, that it propounds and asserts itself in a manner very convincing and satisfactory; in a plain style of speech, becoming the majesty and sincerity of divine truth; simply, without affectation or artifice; but yet with an imperious and awful confidence in its own wisdom and authority, &c. This topic enlarged on. Conclusion.
And in Jesus Christ, &c.
OF THE EXCELLENCY OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
I CORINTHIANS, CHAP. II.—VERSE 6.
We speak wisdom to those which are perfect.
THE meaning of these words, on viewing the context, and weighing the scope of St. Paul's discourse, I take to be in effect this; that however such parts of the Christian doctrine, which St. Paul discovered unto those whom he began to instruct therein, the milk which he gave the babes in Christ to drink,' especially as propounded, proved, and persuaded in so plain and simple a manner, without advantages of subtile reasoning or elegant language, might seem to persons really ignorant, unskilful, and dull of apprehension, (although much conceited of their own knowlege, wit, and reach,) or to men prepossessed with contrary notions and corrupt affections to be foolish and unreasonable: yet that the whole doctrine, such as it is in itself, being intirely disclosed unto perfect men, that is, to men of an adult and improved understanding, well disposed and capable, void of prejudicate conceits, and cleansed from vicious dispositions, would appear wisdom; wisdom, that is, not only exactly true, but highly important, and very well suited to the attainment of the best ends; even those ends, which it pretendeth to bring about, which are manifestly the most excellent
that any knowlege can aim at; the glorifying of God, and salvation of man: this I suppose to be St. Paul's assertion here; and thereof it is my intent, by God's assistance, to endeavor now some declaration and proof, by representing briefly some peculiar excellencies and perfections of our religion; which may serve to evince the truth, and evidence the wisdom thereof; to make good, that indeed our religion well deserveth the privilege it doth claim of a divine extraction, that it is not an invention of man, but, as St. Paul calleth it, the wisdom of God,' proceeding from no other author but the God of truth and wisdom. It is indeed a common subject, and so the best ever should be; it is always profitable, and now seasonable to inculcate it, for the confirmation of ourselves, and conviction of others, in this age of wavering and warping toward infidelity; wherefore, regarding more the real usefulness of the matter than the squeamish fancy of some auditors, I shall without scruple propound what my own meditation hath suggested about it.
1. The first excellency peculiar to the Christian doctrine I observe to be this; that it assigneth a true, proper, and complete character or notion of God; (complete, I mean, not absolutely, but in respect to our condition and capacity ;) such a notion as agreeth thoroughly with what the best reason dictateth, the works of nature declare, ancient tradition doth attest, and common experience doth intimate concerning God; such a character as is apt to breed highest love and reverence in men's hearts toward him, to engage them in the strictest practice of duty and obedience to him. It ascribeth unto him all conceivable perfections of nature in the highest degree; it asserteth unto him all his due rights and prerogatives; it commendeth and justifieth to us all his actions and proceedings. For in his essence it representeth him one, eternal, perfectly simple and pure, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, independent, impassible, and immutable; as also, according to his essential disposition of will and natural manner of acting, most absolute and free, most good and benign, most holy and just, most veracious and constant; it acknowlegeth him the maker and upholder of all beings, of what nature and what degree soever; both material and immaterial, visible and invisible; it