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hope for from God, if we ourselves be not ready to forgive one another ?

He fhall have judgment without mercy, fays St. James, who hath fhewed no mercy. And in that excellent form of prayer which our Lord himfelf hath given us, he hath taught us fo to ask forgiveness of God, as not to expect it from him, if we do not forgive one another. So that if we do not practife this duty, as hard as we think it is, every time that we put up this petition to God, Forgive us our trefpaffes, as we forgive them that trefpafs against us; we fend up a terrible imprecation againft ourselves, and do in effect beg of God not to forgive us. And therefore, to imprint this matter the deeper upon our minds, our bleffed Saviour, immediately after the recital of this prayer, hath thought fit to add a very remarkable inforcement of this petition, above all the reft: For if (fays he) ye forgive men their trefpaffes, your heavenly Father will alfo forgive you but if ye forgive not men their trefpaffes, neither will your Father forgive your trefpaffes, Matth. vi. 14. 15.

And our Saviour hath likewife in his gospel reprefented to us, both the reasonableness of this duty, and the danger of doing contrary to it, in a very lively and affecting parable, delivered by him to this purpofe, Matth, xviii. 23. concerning a wicked fervant, who when his lord had but just before forgiven him a vast debt of ten thousand talents, took his poor fellow-fervant by the throat, and, notwithstanding his humble fubmiffion, and earnest intreaties to be favourable to him, haled him to prifon for a trifling debt of an hundred pence. And the application which he makes of this parable, at the end of it, is very terrible, and fuch as ought never to go out of our minds: So likewife (fays he) Jhall my heavenly Fa ther do alfo unto you, if ye do not from your hearts forgive every one his brother his trefpaffes, y 35. One might be apt to think at firft view, that this parable was overdone, and wanted fomething of a due decorum; it being hardly credible, that a man after he had been fo mercifully and generously dealt withal, as upon his humble request to have fo huge a debt fo freely forgiven, fhould, whilft the memory of fo much mercy was fresh upon him, even the very next moment, handle his fellow-fervant, who

had

had made the fame humble fubmiffion and request to him which he had done to his lord, with fo much roughness and cruelty, for fo inconfiderable a fum. This, I fay, would hardly feem credible; did we not fee in experience, how very unreasonable and unmerciful fome men are, and with what confidence they can ask and expect great mercy from God, when they will fhew none to men.

The greatness of the injuries which are done to us, is the reafon commonly pleaded by us why we cannot forgive them. But whoever thou art that makest this an argument why thou canst not forgive thy brother, lay thine hand upon thine heart, and bethink thyfelf how many more and much greater offences thou hast been guilty of against God. Look up to that juft and powerful being that is above, and confider well, whether thou dost not both expect and stand in need of more mercy and favour from him, than thou canst find in thine heart to fhew to thine offending brother.

We have all certainly great reafon to expect, that as we use one another, God will likewife deal with us. And yet after all this, how little is this duty practifed among Chriftians? and how hardly are the best of us brought to love our enemies, and to forgive them? and this notwithstanding that all our hopes of mercy and forgiveness from God do depend upon it? How ftrangely inconfiftent is our practice and our hope? And what a wide diftance is there between our expectations from God, and our dealings with men? How very partial and unequal are we, to hope fo easily to be forgiven, and yet to be fo hard to forgive?

Would we have God, for Chrift's fake, to forgive us thofe numberless and monftrous provocations which we have been guilty of against his divine Majefty; and fhall we not, for his fake for whofe fake we ourselves are forgiven, be willing to forgive one another?

We think it hard to be obliged to forgive great inju rics, and often repeated; and yet wo be to us all, and' most misferable fhall we be to all eternity, if God do not all this to us, which we think to be fo very hard and unreasonable for us to do to one another.

I have fometimes wondered how it fhould come to pafs, that fo many perfons fhould be fo apt to defpair of

Y 3

the

the mercy and forgiveness of God to them; efpecially confidering what clear and exprefs declarations God hath made of his readiness to forgive our greatest fins and provocations upon our fincere repentance: but the wonder will be very much abated, when we shall confider, with how much difficulty men are brought to remit great injuries, and how hardly we are perfuaded to refrain from flying upon thofe who have given us any confiderable provocation. So that, when men look into themselves, and fhall carefully obferve the motions of their own minds towards thofe against whom they have been juftly exafperated, they will fee but too much reason to think that forgiveness is no fuch easy matter.

But our comfort in this cafe is, that God is not as man; that his ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts; but as the heavens are high above the earth, fo are his ways above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts.

And the best way to keep ourselves from defpairing of God's mercy and forgiveness to us, is to be easy to grant forgiveness to others: and without this, as God hath reafon to deny forgiveness to us, fo we ourselves have all the reafon in the world utterly to defpair of it.

It would almoft tranfport a Christian to read that admirable paffage of the great Heathen Emperor and philo fopher M. Aurelius Antoninus, 1.7. "Can the gods, 86 fays he, that are immortal, for the continuance of fo " many ages, bear without impatience with fuch and fo 66 many finners as have ever been; and not only fo, "but likewife take care of them, and provide for them, "that they want nothing: and doft thou fo grievously "take on, as one that can bear with them no longer; "thou that art but for a moment of time; yea, thou "that art one of thofe finners thyfelf?"

1 will conclude this whole difcourfe with those weighty and pungent fayings of the wife fon of Sirach, Ecclus xxviii. 1. 2. 3 4. He that revengeth fhall find vengeance from the Lord, and he will certainly retain his fins. Forgive thy neighbour that hath hurt thee, fo fhall thy fins alfo be forgiven when thou prayeft. One man bearetb hatred against another; and doth he feek pardon of the Lord? He

fheweth

fheweth no mercy to a man like himself; and doth he ask for giveness of his own fins?

Enable us, O Lord, by thy grace, to practife this excellent and difficult duty of our religion; and then, Forgive us our trefpaffes, as we, forgive them that trefpafs against us, for thy mercies fake in Jefus Chrift. To whom with thee, O Father, and the Holy Ghoft, be all honour and glory, adoration and obedience, both now and ever. Amen,

SERMON

XXXIV.

The care of our fouls, the one thing needful,

Preached before the King and Queen at Hampton-court, April 14. 1689.

LUKE X. 42.

But one thing is needful.

'N the accounts of wife men, one of the first rules and measures of human actions is this, To regard every

I

thing more or lefs, according to the degree of its confequence and importance to our happiness. That which is moft neceffary to that end, ought in all reason to be minded by us in the first place; and other things only fo far as they are confiftent with that great end, and fubfervient to it.

Our bleffed Saviour here tells us, that there is one thing needful; that is, one thing which ought firit and principally to be regarded by us: and what that is, it is of great concernment to us all to know, that we may mind and purfue it as it deferves.

And we may easily understand what it is, by confidering the context, and the occasion of thefe words; which

was

was briefly this. Our Saviour, as he went about preaching the kingdom of God, came into a certain village, where he was entertained at the house of two devout fifters. The elder, who had the care and management of the family, and the affairs of it, was employed in making entertainment for such a guest; the other fat at our Saviour's feet, attending to the doctrine of falvation which he preached.

The elder, finding herself not able to do all the businefs alone, defires of our Saviour that he would command her fifter to come and help her. Upon this our Saviour gives her this gentle reprehenfion, Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful. And what that is, he declares in the next words, And Mary hath chofen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her; that is, the hath chofen to take care of her falvation, which is infinitely more confiderable than any thing else.

Our Saviour doth not altogether blame Martha for her refpectful care of him; but commends her fifter for her greater care of her foul; which made her either wholly to forget, or unwilling to mind other things at that time. So that, upon the whole matter, he highly approves her wife choice, in preferring an attentive regard to his do&trine, even before that which might be thought a neceffary civility to his perfon.

From the words thus explained, the observation which 1 fhall make is this:

That the care of religion and of our fouls is the one thing neceffary, and that which every man is concerned in the first place and above all other things to mind and regard.

text.

This obfervation feems to be plainly contained in the I fhall handle it as briefly as I can; and then, by way of application, fhall endeavour to perfuade you and myfelf to mind this one thing necessary.

And in fpeaking to this ferious and weighty argument, I fhall do thefe two things.:

1. I fhall endeavour to fhew wherein this care of religion and of our fouls does confift.

2. To convince men of the neceffity of taking this

care.

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