« AnteriorContinuar »
Work is the Immediate Effect of Charity. And if we measure the Different Excellencies of these Virtues by the Duration * of them, the Pre-eminence of Charity is very Clear. Extraordinary Faith, or, the Faith of Miracles, besides that even in the times f when it was vouchsafed, it was Necessary only to a Few persons, and Sufficient to the Salvation of None; thofe Times of its vouchsafement were very short, and it ceased in the first Ages of the Church. And That Faith, (an Afjent to the Scriptures) which is a Duty of Universal Obligation, will cease together with our Lives; when the Obligation of Duties will Cease, and be succeeded by the Reward of them. But Charity never faileth: The Extent of it is Equal to the Duration, not only of the Earth but of Heaven. 'Tis our Duty in This, and will be our Eternal Employment in a Future State. And how Excellent must That virtue be which is of Everlasting Continuance, and the
* Chrysost. in Ep. i. ad Cor. Homil. 34- & Gregor. Nyssen. de Anim. & Resur. \ Vide Chrysost.
Homil. 6. in Ep* ad Tit.
N 3 ContiContinuance of which will be the Support and Supply of our Everlasting Bliss? Most of these Reasons of Preferring Charity unto Faith, are likewise Reasons of its Preference unto Hope, and are so easily Applicable, that they need not be Repeated. This Difference indeed is observable, that whereas Charity is not the Source of Faith, but the Consequence of it; Hope is the Immediate Consequence of Charity, and directly derived from it. Our Assurance that there is a Future state of Happiness prepared sorGood men, is purely owing to our Faith; But the Hope of being our Selves Admitted into that State, ariseth Immediately from our being Conscious to our selves, that our Faith is Followed and Crowned by Charity. Faith, strictly speaking , cannot, as to its proper Acts and Exercise in the Understanding, be either Caused or Improved by Charity; but Charity gives both Rife and Improvement unto Hope. And, on This account, Charity is, in a greater Degree, Preferable to Hope, than to Faith. For though Faith without Charity be Imperfect, yet;
we may have Faith, from which Charity is to arise, before that Happy Effect be Actually drawn from it; whereas Hope can neither be Increas'd nor Begun without Charity. A man cannot but Love Happiness so as to Desire it, and a good opinion of Himself may lead him on to some Expectation of it; but, if he hath not Charity That Expectation must prove Vain, and That Desire sink into Everlasting Despair. True Faith and Hope are Necessary and Divine Endowments; But, without Charity, there is no colour of Consolation in the One, nor of Justification by the Other.
It remains, that we should proceed to some Application of this Discourse. And
Firsts Since a Stedsast Faith is no less Neceflary to Salvation, than a Holy Life; It highly concerns us, to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering. If it Must be, and that Moving occasion of our Sorrow and Pity cannot be avoided, that * Evil men and Seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving'and being deceived: Nevertheless, Continue thou in the
* 2 Tim. Hi. 13, 14, 15.
N 4 things things thou hafi learned and been assure ed of knowing of whom thou hafi learned them; and that from a child thou hafi known the Holy Scriptures. Let us Esteem it, as it ought to be Efteem'd, an Inestimable Blessing, that we have been carefully instructed in the Scriptures,- as soon as ever we became Capable of Instruction; And let us Testify our Gratitude, for having so Early Imbibed those Sacred Doctrines, by our Firm Adherence to th.em. Let no Vainglorious and Arrogant, no Bold and Daring, no Artful and Insinuating, no Designing and Fallacious men, who wrefi the Scriptures to their own DeflruBion Deceive and draw us into the lame Destruction with Them.
And because our Danger is most Apt to arise from the Various Interpretations, which have been, or may be given of the Holy Scriptures; the most Dangerous Errors and Heresies being Introduced under the Colour of Sacred Authority; Let us therefore provide for our Safety, by Depending, as it is our Duty to Depend, upon the General and Uninterrupted interrupted Sense of the Christian Church, concerning those passages of Scripture, which are hard to be understood, Concluding, That the Church, which is said to be * the Pillar and Ground of the Truth, and upon the Authority of which the Canon of the Holy Scripture depends, must be a competent Witness, if not a Judge of the Faith which was once delivered to the Saints, and the long Prescription -f for truth, supported by her Written Testimony, must be better grounds for a private Christian to rest upon, than any Modern Conjectures; That. the Determination of no Single person, is Equal to the Determinations of Multitudes, which have Excell'd in Judgment and Learning and Piety:. That, besides the Other Evil and Perilous consequences of Rejecting the Authority of the Christian Church, Those must needs be thought to run into manifest Danger of Error, who, in Opposition to that Authority, do Depend upon the Judgment pf One, or a Few particular persons,