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of the church of Rome ; as we have too much reason to remember upon * this day.
But to proceed in the further explication of the text, the meaning whereof, in short is this; that the ritual and instrumental parts of religion, and all laws and duties concerning them, are 9s less value and esteem with God, than those whichare of a moral nature, especially the great duties and offices of piety and humanity, of the love of God, and of our neighbour. And if we consider the matter well, we shall see the reason of it to be very plain; because natural and moral duties are approved of God, for themselves, and for their own fake, upon account of their own natural and intrinsical goodness; but the ritual and instrumental parts of religion are only pleasing to God in order to these, and so far as they tend to beget and promote them in us; they are not naturally good in themselves, but are instituted and appointed by God for the fake of the other; and therefore great reason there is that they should be subordinate, and give way to them, when they come in competition with one another.
For this is a known rule, which takes place in all laws, That laws .of less importance should give way to those that are '.of greater quoties leges ex circumstantia ctlliduntur, it a ut utraque fervari non potest, fervanda est lex potior: " Whenever two laws "happen to be in such circumstances as to clash witU "one another, so that both of them cannot be ob"served, that law which is better, and of greater "consequence is to be kept." And Tully gives much the fame rule in this matter. "In comparing "of laws (fays he) we are to consider which law is "most useful, and just, and. reasonable to be obserr "ved." From whence it will follow, that when two laws, or more, or how many soever.they be, cannot be observed, because they clash with one a» other; (a maximit confervanda putetur, qua ad tnaximas res pertinert videatur: " It is reasonable "that thatlaw should be observed, which is of great"est moment and concernment."
* Preached ea Nov. isiSS.
By what hath been said, we may learn what is the meaning of this faying, which our Saviour more than once cites out of the Prophet, I will have mercy,and not sacrifice.
Prom the words thus explained, I shall take occasion to prosecute the two propositions which I mentioned before, namely,
First, That natural religion is the foundation of instituted and revealed religion.
Secondly, That no instituted religion was ever designed to take away the obligation of natural duties i but is intended to establish and confirm them. And both these are sufficiently grounded in the reason of our Saviour's discourse from this rule, I zvill have mercy, and not sacrifice.
.- I. That natural religion is the foundation of instituted and revealed religion; and all revealed religion does suppose, and take for granted, the clear and undoubted principles and precepts of natural religion, and builds upon them. By natural religion^ I mean obedience to the natusal law, and the performance of such duties as natural light, without any ex. press and supernatural revelation, doth dictate to men. These ly at the bottom of all religion, and are the great and fundameata-l duties which God requires of all mankind; as, that we should love God, and behave ourselves reverently towards him; that we should believe his revelations; and testify our dependences upon him, by imploring his aid and direction in all our necessities and distresses; and acknowledge our obligations to him for all the blessings and benefits which we receive; that we should moderate our appetites, in reference to the pleasures and enjoyments of this world, and use them temperately and chastly; that we should be just and upright in all our dealings with one another true to our word, and faithful to our trust; and in all our words and actions observe that equity towards others, which we desire they should use towards us; that we should be kind, and charitable, merciful and compassionate one towards another; ready to do good to all, and apt not only to. pity, but to relieve them in their misery and ne. .. . cesluy^ ceffity. These, and such like, are those which we call moral duties; and they are of eternal and perpetual obligation, because they do naturally oblige, without any particular and express revelation from God. And these are the foundation of revealed and instituted religion, and all revealed religion does suppose them, and build upon them; for all revelation from God, supposeth us to be men, and alters nothing of those duties to which we were naturally obliged before. And this will clearly appear, if we consider these three things;
First, That the scripture every where speaks of these, as the main and fundamental duties of the Jewish religion.
Secondly, That no instituted service of God, no positive part of religion, was ever acceptable to him, when these were neglected.
Thirdly, That the great design of the Christian religion, was to restore and reinforce the practice of the natural raw.
1. That the scripture every where speaks of these as the main and fundamental duties of the Jewish religion. When our Saviour was asked, which was the first and great commandment of the law; he answered, Thou fialt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy foul, and with all thy strength; and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. One would have expected he would have given quite another answer, and have pitched upon some of those things which were so much magnified among the Jews, and which they laid so much weight upon 5 that he should have instanced in sacrifice, or circumcision, or the law of the sabbath but he overlooks all these as inconsiderable in comparison, and instan'ccs only in those two great heads of moral duty, . the love of God, and our neighbour; which are of na-tural and perpetual obligation, and comprehend under them all other moral duties.
And these are those which our Saviour calls the law and the Prophets- and which he fays he came not to destroy, but to fulfil, Matth. v. 17, 18, 19, 20. Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the
ProphetsProphets. 1 am not come to destroy, but to fulfil' for verily I fay unto you, till heaven and earth pass-, one jot, or one tittle sh all in no wife pass from the law till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, andshall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the fame shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I fay unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of ths Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no cafe enter into the kingdom of heaven.
That our Saviour doth not here speak of the judicial or ceremonial law of the Jews, but of the duties of the moral law, will, I think, be very plain, from these following considerations.
First, That the judicial or ccremoitial laws of the Jews were to pass away, and did so not long aster; but this law, which our Saviour speaks of, was to be perpetual and immutable; for he tells us, that heaven and earth fhould pass away, but one jot or one tittle if this law fhould not pass.
Secondly, The observation of the law which our Saviour speaks of, confuted in such things as the Scribes and Pharisees neglected; for he tells his disciples, upon this occasion, that except their righteousness did exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, they should in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. But now the Scribes and Pharisees were the most accurate and punctual people in the world, in observing the precepts of the judicial and ceremonial law; they were so far from taking away any thing from these observances, that they had added to them, and enlarged them, by innumerable traditions of their own; so exact were they, that they "would pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, as our Saviour observes; but then they were extremely defective in moral duties; they were tinnatural to their parents, and would pretend that their estates were consecrated to God, that under this pretence of positive religion, they might excuse themselves from a natural duty, and let their parents starve for God's fake; they were covetous, and unjust, and devoured widows houses; in a word, our Saviour tells us, they neglected the weightier matters of the law, mercy, judgment, and the love of God, and keeping faith with men; so that it is in, these things, that our Saviour means, that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, viz.. in the practice of moral duties, which were neglected by them; and consequently it is the moral law which our Saviour came to co anrm and establish.
Thirdly, If we consider the instances which our Saviour gives in his following discourse, by which we may best judge what he means. He instances in murder, and adultery, and perjury, which are undoubtedly forbidden by the natural law; and then he instances in several permissions which were indulged to them for the hardness of their hearts, but yet did intrench upon the dictates of right reason, and the first and original constitution of things ; as the permission of divorce upon every slight occasion, and of revenge, and retaliation of injuries.
Fourthly, If we consider, that by the law and the Prophets, out Saviour means that which was principally designed and ultimately intended by themj which was the observation of moral duties; which as they were written in the two tables, by the immediate finger of God himself, so are chiefly inculcated by the Prophets. And so we find this phrase of the law and the Prophets elsewhere used by our Saviour, when he mentions that great rule of e« cjuity, that we should do to others as we would have them do to us, Matth. vii. iz. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the Prophets. But how was this the law and the Prophets, when this rule was never so much as mentioned in either? our Saviour means, that this is the foundation of all those duties of justice and mercy, which are so much inculcated in the law and the Prophets.
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