Images de page
PDF
ePub

better, by fome other way, than that which he hath pitched upon and appointed for them, not confidering that God is a great King, and will be obferved and obeyed by his creatures in his own way; and that obedience to what he commands is better and more acceptable to him, than any other facrifice that we can offer, which he hath not required at our hands; that he is infinitely wife and good, and therefore the laws and rules, which he hath given us to live by, are more likely and certain means of our happiness, than any inventions and devices of our own.

Thus, I fay, it hath been in all ages. The old world, after that general deluge which God fent to punish the raging wickednefs and impiety of men, by fweeping all mankind from off the face of the earth, excepting only one family, which was faved to be the feminary of a new and better race of men; I fay, after this, the world in a fhort fpace fell off from the worship of the true God to the worship of idols and falfe Gods ; being unwilling to bring themselves to a conformity and likenefs to the true God, they chofe falfe Gods like themfelves, fuch as might not only excufe, but even coun tenance and abett their lewd and vitious practices.

And when God had made a new revelation of himfelf to the nation of the Jews, and given them the chief heads and fubftance of the natural law, written over again with his own finger in tables of stone, and many other laws concerning religious worship, and their civil converfation, fuited and adapted to their prefent tem per and condition; yet how foon did their religion degenerate into external obfervances, purifications and washings, and a multitude of facrifices, without any great regard to the inward and fubftantial parts of religion, and the practice of thofe moral duties and virtues, which were in the first place required of them, and without which all the reft found no acceptance with God? Hence are those frequent complaints in the prophets, that their religion was degenerated into form and ceremony, into oblations and facrifices, the obferv. ances of fafts, and fabbaths, and new moons; but had no power and efficacy upon their hearts and lives; was wholly deftitute of inward purity and holiness, of

VOL. IX.

F

all

all fubftantial virtues, and the fruits of righteoufness in a good life. Thus God complains by the prophet Ifaiah, chap. i. 11. &c. To what purpose is the multitude of your facrifices unto me, faith the Lord? Bring no more vain oblations. Incenfe is an abomination unto me; the new moons and fabbaths, the calling of affemblies I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the folemn meeting. Wajh ye, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes. Ceafe to do evil, learn to do well, feek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherlefs, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reafon together, faith the Lord. Though your fins be as fearlet, &c. Upon these terms, God declares himself ready to be reconciled to them, and to have mercy on them. But all their external fervices and facrifices, feparated from real goodness and righteoufnefs, were fo far from appealing God's wrath, that they did but increase the provocation. And to the fame purpofe, chap. Ixvi. 2.3. To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite fpirit, and trembleth at my word. He that killeth an ox, is as if he flew a man: he that facrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck: he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered fwines blood: he that burneth incenfe, as if he bleed an idol. Yea, they have chofen their own ways, and their foul delighted in their abomination. Jer. vi. 19. 20. Hear, O earth; behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, becaufe they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it. To what purpose cometh there to me incenfe from Sheba? and the fweet cane from a far country?. Your burnt-offerings are not acceptable, nor your facrifices fweet unto me. They thought to please God with coftly incenfe and facrifices, whilft they rejected his law. And chap. vii. 4. 5. 6. Truft ye not in lying words, Jaying, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are thefe. For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; if ye oppress not the franger, the fatherless, and the widow, and fhed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other Gods to your hurt: then will I caufe you to dwell in this place. And ver. 8. 9. 10. Behold, ye truft in lying words that

[ocr errors]

can

cannot profit. Will ye fteal, murder, and commit adultery, and fwear falfly, and burn incenfe unto Baal, and walk after other Gods whom ye know not; and come and ftand before me in this houfe, which is called by my name, and fay, we are delivered to do all these abominations? This was to add impudence to all their other impieties, to think that the worship of God, and his holy temple, did excufe thefe grofs crimes and immoralities. Micah vi. 6. 7. 8. There God reprefents the Jews, as defirous to please God at any rate, provided their lufts and vices might be fpared, and they might not be obliged to amend and reform their lives: Wherewith fhall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleafed with thousands of rams, and with ten thousands of rivers of oil? fball I give my firft-born for my tranf greffions, the fruit of my body for the fin of my foul? All this they would willingly do: but all this will not do without real virtue and goodness. He hath fhewed thee, O man, what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

And in the time of our bleffed Saviour, thofe who pretended to be most devout among the Jews, were wholly bufied about their pretended traditions of wabing of hands, and the outfides of their cups and difbes, and about the external and leffer things of the law, the tything of mint, and, anife, and cummin, and all manner of herbs, omitting, in the mean time, the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith, and the love of God, as our Saviour defcribes their religion, Matth. xxiii.

23.

And after the clear revelation of the gofpel, the beft and most perfect inftitution that ever was, in the very beginning of Chriftianity, what licentious doctrines did there creep in, turning the grace of God into lafcivioufnes, and releafing men from all moral duties, and the virtues of a good life? by reafon whereof the way of truth was evil Spoken of, as St. Peter, and St. Jude exprefly tell us concerning the fect of the Gnofticks. And St. John likewife defcribes the fame fect by their arrogant pretences to extraordinary knowledge and illumination, whilst they walked in darkness, and allowed themfelves in

[blocks in formation]

all manner of wickedness of life; they pretended to perfection and righteoufnefs, without keeping the commandments of God.

And in the next following age of Christianity, how was it pestered with a trifling controverfy about the time of the obfervation of Easter, and with endless difputes and niceties about the doctrine of the trinity, and the two natures and wills of Chrift! by which means the practice of Chriftianity was greatly neglected, and the main end and defign of that excellent religion almoft quite defeated and loft.

After this, when the mystery of iniquity began to fhew itself, in the degeneracy of the Roman church from her primitive fanctity and purity, and in the affectation of an undue and boundless power over other churches, the Chriftian religion began to be over-run with fuperftition, and the primitive fervour of piety and devotion was turned into a fierce zeal and contention about matters of no moment and importance; of which we have a moft remarkable inftance here in our own nation, when Austin the monk arrived here to convert the nation, and preach the gofpel among us, as the church of Rome pretended; but against all faith and truth of hiftory, which affures us that Chriftianity was planted here among the Britains feveral ages before, and perhaps fooner than even at Rome itfelf; and not only fo, but had got confiderable footing among the Saxons before Auftin the monk ever fet foot amongit us; I fay, when Austin the monk arrived here, the two great points of his Christianity were, to bring the Britains to a conformity with the church of Rome in the time of Easter, and in the tonfure and fhaving of the priests, after the manner of St. Peter, as they pretended, upon the crown of the head, and not of St. Paul, which was by fhaving or cutting close the hair of the whole head, as from fome vain and foolish tradition he pretended to have learned the promoting of thefe two cuftoms was his great errand and bufinefs, and the zeal of his preaching was spent upon these two fundamental points; in which, after very barbarous and bloody doings, he at laft prevailed. And this is the converfion of England, fo much boasted of by the church of Rome, and for,

which this Auftin is magnified for fo great a faint; when it is very evident from the hiftory of thofe times, that he was a proud, ignorant, turbulent, and cruel man, who, instead of first converting the nation to the faith of Christ, confounded the purity and fimplicity of the Chriftian religion, which had been planted and eftablifhed among us long before.

In latter ages, when the man of fin was grown up to his full ftature, the great bufinefs of religion was the Pope's abfolute and univerfal authority over all Chriftians, even Kings and Princes, in order to spiritual matters; ecclefiaftical liberties and immunities; and the exemption of the clergy, and all matters belonging to them, from the cognizance of the fecular power, the great points which Tho. a Becket contended fo earnestly for, calling it the cause of Chrift, and in the maintenance whereof he perfifted to the death, and was canonized as a faint and a martyr. And among the people, their piety confifted in the promoting of monkery, and founding and endowing monafteries; in infinite fuperftitions, foolish doctrines, and more abfurd miracles to confirm them; in purchafing indulgences with money, and hearing of maffes for the redemption of fouls out of purgatory; in the idolatrous worship of faints, and their relicks and images, and efpecially of the bleffed Virgin, which at laft grew to that height, as to make up the greateft part of their worship and devotion both publick and private. And indeed they have brought matters to that abfurd pafs, that one may truly fay, that the whole bufinefs of their devotion is to teach men to worship images, and images to worship God. For to be prefent at divine fervice and prayers celebrated in an unknown tongue, is not the worship of men and reasonable creatures, but of ftatues and images, which though they be prefent in the place where this fervice is performed, yet they bear no part in it, being void of all fenfe and understanding of what is done. And indeed in their whole religion, fuch as it is, they drive fo ftrict a bargain with God, and treat him in fo arrogant a manner by their infolent doctrine of the merit of good works, as if God were as much beholden to them for their fervice and obedience, as they are to him for the reward of it, which

F 3

they

« PrécédentContinuer »