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fore, he exhorts his Hearers to be exem- SERM. plary in the Performance of those moral IV. Duties, and backs his Exhortation with Lo these two strong Arguments :
Firft, That not only they themselves, but others also, would receive Benefit by them, and be incited to praise God for his Blessings bestowed upon them through their Hands. And,
Secondly, That others, allured by the Amiableness of their good Works, would be induced to follow their Steps, and to imitate their shining Example, and hereby glorify their Father which is in Heaven : Let your Light fo shine before Men, that they may see your good Works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.
THAT, by Light here, is meant the Light of good Works, is plain from the Words which follow in the next Chapter, Mat. vi. where our Saviour tells us, that the Light of the Body is the Eye ; but the Light of a Christian's Soul, or rather of his Life and Conversation, are good Works : If therefore the Light which is in us be Darkness, how great is that Darkness ! And therefore the State of Nature and Sin is called a State of Darknefs in the Holy Scripture ; but the State of Grace and Regeneration, the State of Light, who
i Pet ii.
Serm. bath called you out of Darkness into bis
IV. marvellous Light. For as, in the greater um World, Light is one of the most excellent
and beautiful of God's Creatures and the 9:
Medium through which the Perfections of all the rest are discovered, and their Benefits conveyed down to us : So in the lesser World (as Man was called by the Philosophers) the Knowledge of our Duty, and the Conformity of our Actions to this Knowledge, is that alone which can render our Lives happy and desirable ; and as, at the Creation of the World, all other Things were obscured, and wrapped up in Darkness and Confusion, until Almighty God, by the Power of his Word, created Light : So is it with Man in his natural Estate, his Soul is full of Darkness and Obscurity, Ignorance and Error, until God enlightens his Soul with the Gifts and Graces of his Holy Spirit, shews hiin what it is he ought to do, and enables him to govern his Affections, Words, and Actions, by the Dictates of fanctified Reason. If, therefore, the Day-fter from on high is risen in our Hearts, if our Souls are enlightened, by the good Grace of God, let us make it appear to the World, by the Fruits of a good Life, and by becoming eminent Examples of Piety and
Goodness ; laying out ourselves in good SERM. Actions that others, seeing our good Works, IV. may glorify our Father which is in Hea
From the Words thụs explained, I shall shew,
Į. WHAT is here meant by good Works, or
what Qualifications are necessary to de
nominate a Work good.
Encouragements, to engage us to be-
Performance of good Works.
with an Inference or two,
1. What is meant by good Works, or, what Qualifications are necessary to denominate a Work good.
But here I beg Leave to premise, that by good Works I mean, not such Works, as are perfectly and intirely good, such as are exactly agreeable to the Law of God in every Particular, and in every Circumstance; for it is not in the Power of the best Man to perform any such good Work: The Evangelical Prophet has long since told us, that the best and most perfect of our religious Performances are tainted with Sin ; But, by good Works, is meant, such
SERM. good Works as God has promised to accept of IV, for the Sake of his dear Son, who has at
toned for our Sins, and offers up our Prayers and good Works to his Father, having first washed off their Impurity, and filled up their Imperfections with his precious Blood, and by the Merits of his Passion. Those Works which good Men perform, which flow from an upright Heart, and a sincere Endeavour to please God, are here called good Works, and ought to have these following Qualifications.
1. It is requisite that all our good Works flow from a right Principle, and that our good Deeds be performed for this very Reason, because they are the Commands of the great Governour of the World, in whom we live, and move, and have our Being, who has given us all that we' pofsefs, and has a Right to exact our Obedience, and therefore, will either reward, or punish us at the Last Day. We muft have à full and settled Conviction upon our Minds, that though all our Works are maimed and imperfect, and, by Confequence, a very unfit Sacrifice to be offered up unto God, yet they will be rendered acceptable unto him, by the Merits and Intercefsion of our crucified Saviour ; this
is that Faith, without which it is impof- SERM, fible to please God, viz. the Belief that IV. our blessed Saviour died to attone for our
Heb. xi. Sins, and to make up the Defects of our Words and Actions, and to present them holy and undefiled in the Sight of God.
It is from the Assurance of this Faith, that we can approach with Confidence, and offer up our Prayers at the Throne of Grace, in the prevailing Name of our Saviour and Redeemer. And, if our good Actions do not proceed from this Priņciple of Faith in Jesus Christ, they will be fo far from being shining Lights, thạt they will be only Splendida Peccata, varnished Sins; and then, how can we imagine that our good Works should light others to Heaven, when we ourselves enter not in through Unbelief. Those Persons Heb. iv. who have not heard of a Saviour, and 6. yet live up to the Principles of Natural Religion, may have such Allowance made them, as we Christians cannot reasonably expect ; and it is very probable that God, out of his wonderful Goodness and Mercy, may apply the Merits of Christ's Death and Passion to such Persons who never have had the Means nor Opportunity to believe on him.