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the greater sin, because this virtue is the firmest bond of human society, upon the observation whereof, the peace and happiness of mankind does so much depend.
2. Mercy, which does not only signify the inward affection of pity and compassion towards those that are in misery and necessity, but the effects of it, in the actual relief of those whose condition calls for our charitable help and assistance; by feeding .the hungry, and cloatning the naked, and visiting the sick, and vindicating the oppressed, and comforting the afflicted, and ministring ease and relief to them if it be in our power. And this is a very lovely virtue, and argues more goodness in men than mere justice doth. For justice is a strict debt; but mercy is favour and kindness. And this perhaps may be the reason of the different expressions in the text, that when God barely commands us to do justly, he requires we should love mercy, that is, take a particular pleasure and delight in the exercise of this'virtue, which is so proper and agreeable to mankind, that we commonly call it humanity, giving it its name from our very nature. In short, it is so excellent a virtue, that I should be very sorry that any religion should be able to pretend to the practice of it more than our own.
3. Piety; to walk humbly with thy God. To watit humbly in the fear of the Lord; so the Chaldee paraphrase renders these words. And this phrase may comprehend all those acts of religion which refer immediately to God; a firm belief of his being and perfections; an awful sense of him, as the dread Sovereign and righteous Judge of the world 5 a due regard to his service, and a reverent behaviour of ourselves towards him in all acts of worship and religion, in opposition to atheism and a profane neglect and contempt of God and religion; a new and monstrous kind of impiety! which of late years hath broke in upon us, and got head among us, not only contrary to the example of former ages, but in despite of the very genius and temper of the nation, which \s naturally devout and zealous in religion. - v
Or else this phrase of walking humbly with God, may refer more particularly to the posture and condition of the people of Israel at that time, who Were fallen under the heavy displeasure of God for their fins. And then the duty required is, that being sensible how highly God hath been offended by us, by the general corruption and vitiousness of the age, which like a leprosy hath spread itself almost over the whole body ot the nation, and by that open lewdness and those insolent impieties which are daily committed amongst us; I fay, that being deeply sensible of this, we do with all humility acknowledge our sins to God, and repent of them, and implore his mercy and forgiveness, and resolve by his grace to turn every one from the evil of our ways, and from the wickedness that ism our hands; which God grant We may every one do * this day, according to the pious design and intention of it. And if we be sincere in this resolution, who can tell but God will turn and repent, and turn away his anger from us, that we perlsb not} Nay, we have great reason to believe, that he will be pacified towards us. So he hath declared, Isa. i. 16. Wash ye, make ye clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; tease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the opprejsed, judge the fatherless, plead for the .widow. Come now and let us reason together, faith the Lord; though your fins be as scarlet, they shall be at white as snow though they be red- like crimson, they shall be as wool. But if we continue unreformed God will say to us, as he does there to the people of Israel, To what purpose is the multitude of your satrifices unto me? Your calling of assemblies I cannot away with, it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting , and when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mint eyes from you, and when ye make'many prayers, lwill not hear. To which, let me add that excellent saying of the son of Syrach to this purpose, EccluS. xxxiv. 25, 26. He that wajheth himself after the touching of a dead body, if he touch it again, what availetk his washing t So if it with a man that sast. .• . .- - ".' tth
* This sermon was preached upon occasion of a publick fasteth for his fins, and goeth again and doth the fame things. Who will hear his prayer, or what doth his humbling profit him t
H. Let us consider by what ways and means God hath made known these duties to us, and the goodness and obligation of them, He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth tht Lord require of thee > 1 shall mention five ways whereby God hath discovered this to us: .'. 1
1. By a kind of natural instinct. '.; . . • 2. By natural reason. .: i.
3. By the general vote and consent of mankind. . 4. By external revelation. - . > t.' .
5. By the inward dictates and motions of God's Spirit upon the minds of men. • .
First, By a kind of natural instinct, by which I mean a secret impression upon the minds of men, whereby they are naturally carried to approve some things as good and fit, and to dislike other things, as having a native evil and deformity in them. And this I call a natural instincl, because it does not seem to proceed so much from the exercise of our reason, as from a natural propension and inclination, like those instincts, which are in brute creatures, of natural affection and care toward their young ones. And that these inclinations are precedent to all reason and discourse about them, evidently appears by this, that they do put forth themselves every whit as vigorously in young persons, as in those of riper reason; in the rude and ignorant sort of people, as in those who are more polished and refined. For we see plainly that the young and ignorant have as strong imprefli-ons of -piety and devotion,'as true a fense of gratitude, and justice and pity, as the wiser and more knowing part of mankind. A plain indication, that the reason of mankind is prevented by a kind of natural instinct and anticipation, concerning the good or evil, the comeliness or deformity of these things. And though this do not equally extend to all the instances of our duty, yet as to the great lines and esfentia)-par-ts-.o-f it, mankind hardly need to consult aay other oracle, than the mere propensions and in.. - . j conations clinations of their nature; as whether we ought to reverence the divine nature, to be grateful to those who have conferred benefits upon us, to speak the truth, to be faithful to our promise, to restore that which is committed to us in trust, to pity and relieve those that are in misery, and in all things to do to others as we would have them to do to us. And this will further appear, if we consider these two things:
1. That men are naturally innocent or guilty to themselves, according to what they do in these things. So the Apostle tells us, Rom. it. 14, 15. When the Gentiles which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves, and do shew the effect of the law written in their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts by turns (that is, according as they do well or ill) accufing or excufing them. There is a secret comfort in innocence, and a strange pleasure and satisfaction in being acquitted by our own minds for what we do. But, on the contrary, when we contradict those natural dictates, what uneasiness do we find in our own breasts i Nay, even before the fast Is committed, our conscience is strangely disquieted at the thoughts of it. When a man does but design to do a bad thing, he is as guilty to himself, as if he had committed it. Of this we have a considerable instance, in the first violence that was offered to nature, Gen. iv. 6. The Lord said unto Cain, why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? The very thought of that wickedness which he did but then design, did disorder his mind, and make a change in his very countenance. Guilt is the natural concomitant of heinous .crimes, which so soon as ever a man commits, his spirit receives a secret wound, which causeth a great deal of smart and anguish. For guilt is restless, and -puts the mind of man into an unnatural working and fermentation, never to be settled again but by repentance. The wicked are like the troubled sea when it tannot rest; which plainly shew s that the mind of man hath a kind of natural sense os good and evil; because . whenever we offend against nature, mir consciences
are touched to the quick, and we receive a sting into our foul, which shoots and pains us, whenever we reflect on what we have done. I appeal to that witness which every man carries in his breast, whether this be not true.
i. Men are naturally full of*hopes and fears, according as they follow or go against these natural .dictates. A good conscience is apt to fill men with confidence and good hopes. It does not only give ease, but security to the mind of man, against the dread of invisible powers, and the fearful apprehensions of a future judgment. Whereas guilt sills men with dismal apprehensions of danger, and continual misgivings concerning their own safety. Thus it was with Cain aster he had slain his brother; It shall come to pass that every one that findeth me shall stay me. Nay, when a man hath done a secret fault, which none can accuse him of, yet then is he haunted with the terrors of his own mind, and cannot be secure in his own apprehensions; which plainly shews that men are conscious to themselves, when they do well, and when they do amiss; and that the fame natural instinct which prompts men to their duty, fills them with good hopes when they have done it, and with secret fears and apprehensions of danger when they have done contrary to it.
Secondly, God shews men what is good, by natural reason; and that two ways; by the convenience of things to our nature; and by their tendency to our happiness and interest.
First, Reason shews us the convenience of things to our nature; and whatever is agreeable to the primitive design and intention-of nature, that we call good ; whatever is contrary.thereto, we call evil. For example, to honour and love God. It is natural to honour great power and perfection, and to love goodness wherever it is. So likewise gratitude is natural, to acknowledge benefits received, and to be ready to requite them 5 and the contrary is monstrous, and universally abhorred: and there is no greater sign that any thing is contrary to nature, than if it fee detested by the whole kind. It is agreeable also J' . w