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REVIVAL OF PRACTICAL RELIGION AMONG CHRISTIANS, By a serious Address to Ministers and People.

(Continued from Vol. IV.)


MAT. V. 57.-What do ye more than others?

SECTION I.-The Text applied to the Disciples. THAT excellent sermon which our Lord preached on the mount, seems to be addressed in a special manner to his disciples, though a mixed multitude might attend to hear it. The first verse of the chapter tells us that Jesus seeing the multitudes, went up into a mountain; aud when he was set, his disciples came unto him, and he opened his mouth and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: and there are several expressions in the sermon which plainly shews that the discourse was chiefly directed to the disciples; Mat. v. 13, &c. Ye are the salt of the earth, ye are the light of the world; which he would never say to a multitude of mixed people that followed him, made up probably of Galilean Gentiles, as well as Jews.

The words I have chosen are a warm and pathetic question put to the consciences of the disciples, with regard to the great duty of charity and love, which our blessed Saviour, had been just preaching in sublimer degrees than the ancient prophets, If you salute none but your brethren, if you love only those that love you, or as Luke vi. 33. If you do good them that do good to you, what do you more than others? For the publicans and sinners do the same. Persons who make no pretences to godliness, and who neither enjoy the advantages with which you are blessed, nor lie under equal engagements; they love their own friends as well as you, and make grateful returns for benefits received; they practise many duties of morality, but I expect that you my disciples should far excel them, both in the duties you practise, and in the manner of performance: I expect that you should love your enemies, and should bless them that curse you, and do good to them. that hate you, as in verse 44. What is here spoken thus warmly by our Lord to his own disciples, concerning love and civility and kindness to our fellow-creatures, may with the same justice be. applied to most of the duties which we owe to God or man,



and give us ground to raise this general doctrine or theme of discourse :

Doctrine. God requires and expects higher improvements in virtue and religion from persons who enjoy peculiar advantages, or lie under special obligations. Now to improve this thought, and press it upon all our consciences, I shall enquire,-1. What are the circumstances under which the disciples of Christ then lay that obliged them to superior virtne and goodness; and 2. I shall endeavour to apply this to ourselves, by enquiring what peculiar circumstances of advantage and obligation, all or any of us lie under to exceed others in any instances of duty, either to God or our neighbour, and whether we have answered these engage

ments or no.

In answer to the first enquiry, What were the circumstancesof the disciples at this time? We may consider our Saviour in this sermon exhorting them to superior degrees of goodness, as they appeared under these two characters; (1.) as they were Jews and not heathens, as a part of the nation and church of Israel, in distinction from the men of other nations or Gentiles ; or (2.) as they were the disciples of Christ, and not of the scribes or pharisees; as they were followers of a new preacher, who was neither authorised nor acknowledged by their priests and doctors of the law, who had no countenance from the established national church, and who frequently worshipped in separate assemblies*. And there is good reason for this twofold consideration of them, if we remember that in my text Christ compares his disciples with publicans, or the gatherers of the taxes, who the Roman governors appointed, and who were most of them heathens, and were often guilty of oppression and injustice, and therefore he demands of his disciples greater degrees of goodness than they ever practised and in the 20th verse of this chapter he compares them with the scribes and pharisees, the strict pretenders to religion, and the teachers of it among the Jews; and assures them, that except their righteousness exceed that of the scribes and pharisees, they shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven; Mat. v. 20.

I. If we consider the disciples of Christ as Jews, as a part of the nation and church of Israel, they had many special advantages for religion above the heathen world, and many peculiar obligations. They are interested in those special marks of

* It is granted indeed, that our blessed Saviour did not separate himself from the Jewish national church, so as to abstain from the worship of the temple, because that was expressly of God's own establishment; nor did he avoid the synagogues while they would suffer him to preach there, and to warn the people against their traditions: yet there were so many corruptions in that day that had crept into the national church, that he found he could not fulfil his ministry, nog promote the salvation of souls according to his desire, and his heavenly commis. sion, without holding separate assemblies.

honour and love that God hath set upon the Jewish nation, they were chosen to be a peculiar people to the Lord, and were devoted to him from their infancy: they had their laws given them by God himself, as their King and Governor, and could have no doubt of the wisdom and justice and equity of them : they had a multitude of special revelations both of duty and grace from God as their King and their God; from God as the object of their worship and their everlasting Rewarder? they had the living oracles committed to them for their instruction, wherein divine truths and duties were written down in plain language, as the lessons of their faith and the rules of their practice they had many institutions of religion and worship dictated by God himself, and they were not left to the wild and uncertain fancies of men to invent ceremonies of their own which God will never approve they had the gospel preached to them under types and shadows, and there were many clear discoveries of the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to God to be obtained for sinners who return to God by repentance, and who rely on the promises of his grace. Well might our Saviour say, I expect from you superior degrees of religion and virtue above the heathen and the publican, above the Roinan tax-gatherers that dwell amongst you, and even those of your own nation who make no strict profession of piety or goodness. Think with yourselves therefore, examine your hearts and practice, what do you more than they? And let your consciences be able to give an honourable answer.

II. Let the disciples of Christ be considered as the followers of a new preacher, in a way of distinction from the disciples of the scribes and the Jewish doctors of the law. They sat under the ministry of a rising prophet Jesus of Galilee, the supposed son of a carpenter, who had no approbation nor authority nor countenance from the established church, who held separate assemblies for praying and preaching, and who taught the people sometimes on a mountain, sometimes in the wilderness, sometimes on the sea-shore, and at other times in private houses; and here we shall find that the disciples lay under farther circumstances of engagement to greater purity and a higher perfection in holiness. They had the Son of God himself for their preacher, who spake so as never man spake, who had all his doctrines and his messages from heaven, and spake what his Father commanded him; a preacher, who explained the law in a more perfect manner, and raised it to sublimer degrees of virtue even than Moses himself, who received it from God; and he purified it also from the false and corrupt glosses which the scribes and doctors of that degenerate age had put upon it; an ambassador from heaven, who published the tidings of rich grace and pardon and salvation in a clearer manner, and gave them stronger encouragements to

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repentance and faith and piety and brotherly love, than the world had ever known before.

They had miracles wrought to convince them of the truth of the commission of Christ from heaven; Mat. iv. 24. The God of nature spoke often to them in some work of wonder, which was superior to all the powers of nature, to assure them that Jesus was the minister of his Father's grace to the sons of men. They had seen some of the prophecies fulfilled in him, and some of the characters of the Messiah exemplified in his person, in his doctrine and his conduct; for though this sermon stands near the beginning of St. Matthew's history, yet it was by no means the first sermon that he preached, nor the very beginning of his ministry, as will easily appear if we consult Mat. iv. and Luke iv. where we have several accounts of his preaching before this.


Let us consider another great advantage they enjoyed above others; they had the ablest and most sublime pattern of holiness always before them, who practised self-denial, humility, zeal for the honour of God, mortification to the world, resistance of temptations, and retired devotion, in a superior manner to whatever any mere mortal attained or practised. And besides all this, they made a profession of greater strictness and purity by their adherence to Christ and his preaching, who appeared in the world as a new teacher, to reform the vices of men, and found fault with the preachers of the established church, for the many corruptions both of doctrine and practice that reigned amongst them.

Now, "To what purpose (might our Lord say) and for what end are all these advantages given you, if not to make you wiser and better than the rest of the nation? And what is it you pretend in following my sermons and attending upon my ministry in separate assemblies? Is it not that you may become more strictly religious, and that your virtue and your goodness may exceed your neighbours? If the teachings of the scribes and the doctors of the law are sufficient for your instruction, and equal to your wishes and your hopes, why do ye follow me from town to town, and from one part of the nation to the other? Does not your own profession of being my disciples oblige you to greater degrees of piety? And have you not peculiar advantages for this end, by attending on my ministrations? I expect therefore that you should live, and speak, and act to the honour of God and the good of men, in a degree and manner far superior to what the sinners and publicans can pretend to, and that you exceed in rightousness all the pretences and the practices of the pharisees and the scribes.

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