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out of Peoples Minds, in order to the preparing them for the Reception of Truth.
II. The Second was, that Christ is a great Friend, Promoter, and Encourager of good Morality.
III. And the Third was, to shew what Influence this Doctrine should have both upon our Judgment and Practice.
1. The First Thing I observe from the Words is, how requisite it is to remove all Mistakes and Prejudices out of Peoples Minds, in order to the preparing them for the Reception of the Truth.' Think not, says he, that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets
. There are some Mistakes and Prejudices so pernicious, that till they are rooted out, no good Plants of Religion or Virtue will thrive.. Such were several Mistakes and Prejudices mentioned in the New Teftarnent, concerning the Messiah, e.g. ebat Mistake the Jews were under, that his Kingdom was to be a Temporal Kingdom, and was to be set up by Force, and was to flow in Wealth and carnal Pleasure. Such likewise was their opinion, that the Privilege of Birthright was to answer for the Want of all other good Qualifications. Think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our Father, says John the Baptist, Matt. iii. 9. Sạch likewise was the Prejudice in my Text, that the Messiah was to destroy the Law and the Prophets; to free Men from the Obligation to Moral Duties. This Opinion must needs have been attended with very bad Consequences among all Sorts of People, both good and bad. The Good it must fill with Prejudice against Jesus and his Religion, if they thought what was so firmly
established in the Minds of Men by the Law of Nature, and what had been so exprelly revealed to Moses and the Prophets (who by many clear Proofs they had all Reason to believe were fent of God) must now be contradicted by him. For how could God contradict himself? Or what greater Proofs could Jesus bring that he was to deftroy, than Moses had brought to establish the Law Surely by this Doctrine, might good Men think, none will join themselves to Jesus, but the vicious Part of Mankind. And accordingly they seem to suspect him as profane and immoral himself, a Glutton and a Winebibber; and a Friend of Publicans and Siriners ; from this Opinion belike, that all who had a Mind to get loose from the Obligation of the Moral Law, were for betaking themfelves to him. On the other Hand, what Opinion could be more dangerous for bad Men, to sooth them in their Sins, and to prevent their Repentance and Amendment of Life, than this same Opinion; that our Saviour was to exempt his Followers from all Obligations to Moral Duties? Prejudices in general are Amulets and Charms against all good Doctrine; it is necessary the Enchantment be broken, before we can hope any good Documents will find Entrance.
II. The Second Thing I observed from the Words is; that our Saviour is a great Friend, Promoter and Encourager of good Morality. I am not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets, fays he, but to fulfil
. He came not to loosen any of the Obligationis to Moral Duties Men were under before, but to oblige us to, and encourage and assist us in the more strict and diligent Performance of them. I know not how a VOL. II.
great many, who are called by Christ's Name, have taken up other Notions of his Religion, as if they knew of some other Way of being faved by inward Acts of Faith and Repentance, without the conscientious Practice of Moral Duties; but certainly, if they will be at the Pains to observe, it is only wrong Notions of those other Duties Men have taken up, which have led them into this Error as to Morals. For whatever is said of Faith, or Love, or Hope, or Repentance, or any other Evangelical Grace, it is not to dispense with our Study of good Morality, but to further us in it. Faith, which is the Belief of the Gospel Promises, is a great Spur to Duty ; the Love of God cannot more naturally exert itself, than in a Respect to his Commandments; Hope of the Reward doth mightily quicken our Endeavours to perform the Conditions required of us ; and Repentance, without the due Fruits of Obedience, will be found vain and abortive. Whosoever studies the New Testament with a Mind free from Partiality and Prejudice, will find, that tho' it insists chiefly on a more internal Purity and Holiness than that recommended by other Moralists, yet that internal Purity is fo far from being any way inconsistent with the external, or derogatory from it, that it is a very great Help and Furtherer of it. An Heart free from impare Desires, is a great Guard against unclean Words and Actions; and so in all other Duties, an inward Principle of Holiness in the Heart will direct and govern all our Morals in the Sight of Men. But to set this Matter in a clearer Light, I intend to lay before you some Things, from the Consideration of which it will appear what
our Saviour has done to advance the Morals of Men, beyond whatever they were before ; and so to fulfil, or perfect" the Law and the Propbets.
1. First then, It is plain he has much better cleared up the spiritual Meaning of the Law, whereas the Jews commonly understood it only in an external, carnal Sense. By interpreting the Law in this true Sense, he has taught Mankind the true Purity, which is that of the Heart; and by this Means he has cut off sinful Actions in the Seed, before they grow ungovernable by à frequent Repetition, and have acquired the Strength of Habits and Customs.
2. He has likewise cautioned us against all the Causes, Occasions, and Inlets of Sin, than which nothing could have been a greater Bar against it : laying Restraints on the Eyes, and Ears, and Hands, and Tongue, and all our Members ; and commanding us to cut off the Temptations to it, and Occasions of it, if ever so dear and near unto us, and if ever so convenient, profitable, or pleasant. This keeps Vice at a Distance, and suffers it not to approach, to employ it's whole Strength to attack us.
3. He has more clearly proposed the Benefit, as well as Duty of Repentance, accepting of Repentance instead of Innocence; which is a mighty Encouragement to come off from a sinful Course. He has discovered to us the Mercy of God, in offering us gracious Terms of Reconciliation, and in providing and accepting a mighty Attonement for the Sins of the World; he has acquainted us with a powerful Mediation and Intercession at the Father's Right Hand, by virtue
of which all our Prayers come so well recommended, that if we put them up with that Seriousness and Assiduity that we ought, they ihall be sure to be heard and accepted.
4. He has called us more off from the Ceremonials of Religion, and taught us to bend all our Strength to the Substantials of it, the and weighty Matters of the Law ; which is a Thing that has a mighty Influence on Duty ; for besides that Men were apt to deceive themselves, by thinking to make up for their Deficiencies in great Matters, by an over-Zeal in these leffer Things; besides this, I say, their Care and Diligence being withdrawn from what it should be chiefly placed on, and diverted to a great many lesser Matters, is just like the Strength of a Stream subdivided into a great many lesser Rivulets, so weak, that it can't turn a Mill, or bear any great Burthen, which otherwise it might easily compass, if it had not been so diverted. 5.
There were a great many Things indulged the Jews, because of the Hardness of their Hearts; which kept them very low in Goodness and Virtue. The vast Liberty of Divorces, for Example, for every trifling Cause, was such an Indulgence to the Lusts of Men, that it could never consist with that Union of Hearts, and that firm Love and Friendship, which is so necessary to the Happiness of the Married State. This Unsettledness of their Circumstances made them that there could never be that Concern for the Family and Estate, or for the Education of the Children, that there is where the Parties are joined for Life. The very Prospect of a Possibility of parting, would naturally drive them into separate Interests; and