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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
fpirit, 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 cha-
racter of spirit and truth. Who can think
that baptism, the Lord's supper, prayer, not
to speak of usages meerly of human inven-
tion, will be any more available, without
the new creature and faith working by love,
than circumcision, facrifices, and the dif-
tinction 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 election 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.
Little children let no man deceive you,
be that doth righteousness is righteous, even as
be is righteous.
Of a Conscience void of Offence.
And herein do I exercise myself to have al
ways a conscience void of offence towards
God and towards men.
HESE words are a part of St. Paul's
apology for himself before Felix the
Roman governor. He was vehemently accused by the Jews as an heretick, a mover of sedition, and guilty of profaning the temple of Jerusalem. But, the particular crime objected to him, and which principally ftir'd up their
was his be ing a 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 sedia tion in Jerusalem, and profan'd the temple : But, for what they called heresy, he frankly acknowledged it, at the same time insisting, 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 resurrec-
tion of the dead, as that which shall com-
plete the felicity of good men. What harm
could possibly accrue to the interest and
profession of true religion, where such prin-
ciples were uniformly maintained ? Especi-
ally if we add, what the apostle asserts to
have been the genuine effect of them upon
his mind, and his conversation ; and herein
do I exercise myself to have always a consci-
ence 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 infide-
lity. · But, he that sincerely exercises him-
self 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 same 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 under-
ftand, and still of greater importance to imi-
tate 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 subject of our constant attention
and exercise; 3dly, The necessity and reason-
ableness 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 necefsary to the present purpose. We all know that our minds, conscious of their own sentiments, 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 oc5
curs of greater moment, and yet more ob_Serm.
viously, than our own moral characters, our VII.
tempers, our works; which are accompa-
nied with the highest pleasure in our appro-
bation, 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 consci-
ousness of having wisely promoted it, gives
pleasure. As, on the other hand, it is
galling to consider, that we have been want-
ing 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 of-
fensive : As the opposite dispositions and
works are necessarily judged amiable.
The painful sense of evil done is accom-
panied with fear, because of apprehended
ill deserving, which the mind is imme-