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the love of God. This is to transfer Judaism, SERM. not the true religion taught by the Prophets to VI." the Israelites, but the perverse notions and spirit, which prevail'd among them in their worst and most degenerate times, into christianity; so much the more inexcusable, as the dispensation we are under, does in comparison with the former, bear the character of spirit and truth. Who can think that baptism, the Lord's supper, prayer, not to speak of usages meerly of human invention, will be any more available, without the new creature and faith working by love, than circumcision, facrifices, and the diftinction of meats and days?
It is altogether as unreasonable to expect acceptance by faith without works, which is really dead. The law of faith indeed excludes boasting ; but not diligence in good works. Let us therefore give all diligence to make our calling and ele&tion sure, 2 Pet. i, 10. and the way is mark'd out, ver. 5, 6, 7, of the same chapter ; and let us rememe ber the doctrine of the apostle John, 1 epist. jii. 7. Little children let no man deceive you, be that doth righteousness is righteous, even as be is righteous,
Acts xxiv. '16. And herein do I exercise myself to have als ways a conscience void of offence towards,
God and towards men. SERM. T HESE words are a part of St. Paul's VII.
apology for himself before Felix the
Roman governor. He was vehe mently accused by the Jews as an heretick, a mover of sedition, and guilty of profan. ing the temple of Jerusalem. But, the particular crime objected to him, and which principally ftir’d up their rage, was his be inga ring-leader of the sect of the Nazarenes ; so they called the christians. In his defence he expressly denies the facts charg'd upon him ; such as his having mov'd fedition in Jerusalem, and profan’d the temple : But, for what they called heresy, he frankly, acknowledged it, at the same time infisting, that it was innocent both with respect to re
ligion and civil society. For as to religion, SERM. he agreed with the Jews in worshipping the VII. God of his and their fathers, and receiving without exception what they also profess'd to be the rule of their faith, namely, all that is written in the law of Moses and the prophets : Particularly he hoped in God, which the Pharisees themselves, his fierce accusers, also allowed, for a future resurrection of the dead, as that which shall complete the felicity of good men. What harm could poflibly accrue to the interest and profession of true religion, where such prin û ciples were uniformly maintained ? Especially if we add, what the apostle asserts to have been the genuine effect of thein upon his mind, and his conversation ; and herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offence towards God and towards men. This is the true test, by which our pretended zeal for religion, and belief of its doctrines, are to be tried and determined. Without it zeal is but a human, indeed a corrupt passion: And faith, or profession, be it ever so found, no better than infidelity. . But, he that sincerely exercises himself herein, to have always a conscience void of offence, in effect the same, that feareth.
SERM.God and worketh righteousness, will be ac. VII. cepted with God as his approved fervant;
and fulfils all the purposes of religion: At the fame time he ought to be acknowledged a good member of society, and is not justly obnoxious to civil government. The cafe being so, it is of great importance to underftand, and still of greater importance to imitate the example of the apostle. In order to which I will endeavour in the following discourse, ist, To show what it is to have a confcience void of offence towards God and towards men; 2dly, I will consider this as the proper fubject of our constant attention and exercise; 3dly, The necessity and reasonableness of it.
First, I am to fhew what it is to have a conscience void of offence towards God and towards men. I suppose every one of us to know what conscience is, so far as is neceffary to the present purpose. We all know that our minds, conscious of their own fentiments, affections, dispositions and voluntary actions, have a power of reflecting on themselves, and what passes in them; nay, by a multitude of occasions are unavoidably led to it. And nothing upon a review oc
curs of greater moment, and yet more ob-Serm. viously, than our own moral characters, our VII. tempers, our works; which are accompared nied with the highest pleasure in our approbation, or the most painful self-reproach.
It is true the principle of self-love deeply -rooted in our nature, makes us always sen
fible to our own interests ; so that a consciousness of having wisely promoted it, gives "pleasure. As, on the other hand, it is galling to consider, that we have been wanting to ourselves, and imprudently taken the measures which tend to obstruct our own happiness. But, moral conscience is of a peculiar kind; and, abstracting from the natural good and evil, or pleasure and pain to ourselves, which must follow, the first and simplest reflection on our having done right or wrong, immediately gives joy or reinorse. Perhaps there is not a rational being, to whom some characters and works do not appear at first sight to have an inseparable turpitude ; and a consciousness of them is horridly offensive : As the opposite dispositions and works are necessarily judged amiable.
The painful sense of evil done is accompanied with fear, because of apprehended ill deserving, which the mind is imme