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the place of God; and we become, in sense and effect, Idolaters. If we love the things of the world and trust in them, the world is our God. When the Apostle says, whose God is their belly *, he means* that all are idolaters, and the worst of idolaters, even self-xcorshippersj who make the gratification of their appetites the object of their actions, instead of making the Commandments of God the rule of their obedience. They act as their lusts command; not as God commands; and so, their belly is. their God. This may seem a coarse expression, but it is very true: the happiness of such a person being like that of a beast, which knows of nothing above this present life. If the heart be set upon diversions, spectacles, appearance, precedence, or any other thing which is merely of this world; it signified! not what the ohject is, if it takes the affections away from God, to whom they are due; and in comparison of whom, all things are to be given up, if he requires it; even father, mother, *vife, children; yea, and life itself also. This is our Saviour's doctrine to bis Disciples: God will have no competitor.
Let every Churchman then ask himself, with this attention to the sense of the Commandments, "Do I i-hew that I have God for my God, by loving his worship? Do I frequent it when I have an opportunity? Or, do I pat it from me as a thing that is needless, *nd prefer some other employment?" If that should be the case, then you have some higher object of your affections; some other God, whom you secretly prefer to the true. You may say, this is rigid doctrine; but this is the doctrine to which you and I are bound, if we are Churchmen indeed, and not in name and appearance only; and I should deceive you if I were to preach any other. I cannot here go through the
* Phil. iii. 19.
Commandments; but I give you a key, with the help of which you may go through them for yourselves.
You are commanded farther to love your neighbour as yourself: by which it is meant, that you should act toward him by the same rule and measure as you would act toward yourself. He that means to hurt himself is justly accounted a madman; for no man in his right senses ever yet hated his own Jlesh: therefore certainly you are not to hurt your neighbour by any injurious act: no, nor by any injurious word. But now let every person ask himself, "Did I never raise any evil report against a neighbour, whom I do not like? Or, if I do not make evil myself, do I never take a pleasure in hearing it; and afterwards in reporting wbat I hear? This ought not to be: wh$t envy delights to publish, charity should delight to conceal; for by so doing our own faults will be covered; of which we have much need. All the Commandments might be treated in this way: but instead of proceeding farther, let me observe to you again, concerning them all, that it will signify little to you, how much the Church excels the Conventicle, in having the Commandments of God fairly written ia letters of gold, to remind people of their duty; unless they are also written in the heart, and made a rule of action: or, as the Apostle speaks, in language taken from the original history of the Commandments, unless they are transcribed from the tables of stone to the fleshly tables of the heart *. For the heart of man is by nature as hard as those tables on which the Commandments were first engraved: but God hath promised by the Prophet, to change that heart of stone Into an heart of flesh, a substance soft and yielding,
* 2 Cor. iiiv3.
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on which an impression may be made: and when it is> made, let us pray, and let us endeavour, that it may never be effaced any more.
I would speak with you a little in the same way about the other Sacrament of the Church, the Supper of the Lord. It is a blessed thing that the Church of England, after the example of the primitive times, offers it so frequently to the people: while perhaps among some other classes of Christians, the observation of it is neglected for a year, or several years, together. You are therefore to thank God that you have such frequent opportunities of partaking of the Holy Communion; and you do well in appearing there; but then you are seriously to ask yourselves, what brings you there? Is it custom; or the example of your neighbours; or the fear of being singular? Or, is it, as it ought to be, a belief in Christ as the life of the world; and a desire to partake of that life? Do you go, as the Hebrews went, out in the wilderness to gather manna for their life; knowing that your spiritual life cannot be supported in this wilderness without bread from heaven? Do you go for the strengthening and refreshing of your souls, as the Catechism properly expresses it, that like labouring men you may be better enabled to work out your own salvation; and, together with your spiritual strength, receive a pledge of a blessed resurrection and a glorious immortality!
I have hitherto said nothing of the duty of prayer: but here the Church most eminently leads the way, in appointing a form of morning and evening service for every day of the year; and particular forms for every season of the year. But does it give us only the form? Does it not also teach us the sense and spirit of prayer? that prayer is an evidence of the Christian life, as breathing is the evidence of our natural life: that we are under dangers and necessities, put of which nothing but the right hand of* God, stretched out to those that cry unto him, can possibly save and deliver us: it therefore supposes that Churchmen pray every day—twice a-day—as they certainly ought, either at the Church, or in their families, or both. "What must (or rather what does) become of families who do not pray together? What must become of single persons who do not pray for themselves by themselves? By disuse they become more and more averse to their duty, and farther from God in their lives and conversations; and he, of course, is farther from them. Such persons therefore as do not accustom themselves to pray; what are they? Are they true members of the Church of England? If they dp not pray, they are not Christians; and cannot be said to be members of any Church: they cast themselves out of all Churches. Their life is a passage through storms and tempests over a dangerous sea: what will become of them in life? What will become of them in death? What will become of them after death? For the soul will continue in such a state after death, as if. lives and dies in. If it dies without prayer, it will continue without Qod. The souls of the righteous are represented to us in the Revelation as still continuing ia prayer, and uttering to God what was the petition of their lives, how long, 0 Lord, holy a?id true*, &c. In this language do they cry unto God to fulfil that righteous judgment upon the world, which rthe Church of the living prayeth for; particularly in the Burial Service, where we call upon God to accomplish the number of his elect, and to hasten his kingdom.
Enough has been said, I hope, to convince you, what it is, in propriety of speech, to hear the Church;
* Rev. vi. JO.
that it is not to hear with your ears only, but to understand with your heart; to keep up to the sense of her doctrines, and the life and spirit of her forms. When our blessed Saviour described in few words the character of Nathaniel, he said, behold an Israelite in deed: for all were not Israel in spirit, that were of Israel by their birth and education. So may we now say of him, that keeps up to the life, while he follows the forms of the Church; behold a Churchman indeed: and it is devoutly to be wished, that the portrait I Lave drawn were more frequently verified. But as there were not many Nathaniels when Christ visited the Church of Israel; so it is to be feared, that of the Nathaniels of the present day there is no great number: and there will be fewer every day, if the delusions and deceptions, with which mankind are so easily drawn away, should increase upon us as they have of late years. I have shewn you plainly how the cha? racter is to be attained; and instead of blaming me,, as if I had brought up a new doctrine to disturb your consciences, you are to examine yourselves impartially by this plain rule of hearing the Church. You may have persuaded yourselves that if you believe the facts t>f Christianity, you have the religion of the Church; and that nothing more is necessary. But the facts of the Christian history are all without you: what is it that happens within you? Do you believe the inward distempered state of your nature; and that the Gospel is a remedy, sent from Heaven to those who are poor and blind, and naked*? To believe the Gospel truly, is not to believe that there is such a thing as the Gospel, (for the Devils know that;) but that it is the power of God for the salvation of man; that there is
• Rev. iii, 17.