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State and Condition of Citizens, or, Members of a Civil Community, denoting a Behaviour suitable to all the Laws and Customs of the City, or Community, to which they belong. And therefore, according to the just meaning of the expression in the Text, Conversation becoming the Gospel of Christ does not relate to our Words and Adions only, (as the Translation may seem to import) but fignifies our Conformity to all the Laws and Injunctions assigned in the Gospel; or a faithful Discharge of all the Duties incumbent upon us, as We are Subjects of Christ's Kingdom, and Therefore obliged to conduct our felves according to the Rules of Polity established in that Kingdom, the positive Institutions of the Gospel.
Since then the Gospel gives Laws to our Souls, as well as to our Bodies, and as plainly requires us to Believe the Truths therein Revealed, as to Obey the rules of Practice therein prescribed; And since Conversation becoming the Gospel of Christ does, according to the just Interpretation of the expression, signify our Conformity to all the Laws given in the Gospel; Hence it follows, that such a Conversation implies in it these two general Heads of Christian Duty, Faith and Otedience. And 'tis observable, that in the Distribution of Religion into these two general Heads of it, Obedience is to be understood, as relating purely to Practice; for, otherwise, the Distinction would not stand good, because Faith it self, as I shall have further occasion to observe, Below, may justly be styled Obedience, as Obedience, in it's Abstracted and Extensive signification, denotes the Observance of any Command whatsoever.
If, The First thing incumbent upon us, is Faith, or, a firm and stedfast Belief of the Truths revealed in the Gospel. For thus we are taught by our Blessed Saviour, in the first Demand which he made upon Mankind, at his entrance upon his Prophetical Office: * The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and Believe the Gospel. And the Indispen
.Mark. i. 15.
fable able obligations of Faith are again very clearly and Emphatically represented in our Lord's Commission given to the Apostles: * Go ye into all the IVorld, and preach the Gospel to every Creature. He that believeth and is baptized mall be saved; but he that believeth not, ball be damned. In which, and many other Texts, though Trust, or Hope, or other Christian Virtues may be implied in Faith; yet, without all doubt, the Ad of Believing, or the Affent of the Understanding is Positively Injoyned, and that as the Fundamental Duty, in the Profession of the Gospel.
But still, plain as this Law of Faith is; multitudes of Impious, or Self-conceited, or, Mistaken men do notoriously break through the Obligation of it. And Those, who are Disobedient to it, are ever straining their Thoughts, as other Transgreffours are wont to do, in palliating their Guilt under various Excuses and Pretences.
Sometimes they are found labouring to
* Mark xvi. 15, 16.
SERMON XI. 389 persuade themselves, that Fundamental Faith ar Articles of Faith are matters of pure Spe- : cally repeculation, which they may either take up ion gwahi or lay down at pleasure, without any all the li Guilt or Danger, so long as they lead very Geo good Moral Lives, and form their actions aptized jill on the principles of Virtue. er eth with Indeed there are Innumerable Specuind my lations, Innumerable Acts or Operations
of the Understanding, which are not points mpliedā. of Duty, either in respect of Natural Obthe ido ligation, or of Positive Precept, which je Unde may be Innocently Exercised or Suspendind the ed at pleasure; And every man may em
brace or reject whatsoever Propofitions he
pleaseth, concerning fuch points, accord- of Fx ing to his own measure and Manner of
Thinking, without any Imputation of Guilt. But, how great a number foever there may be of Speculations, which are purely Arbitrary, and in themselves neither morally Good nor Evil; Or, how great soever the variety may be of those Propofitions, which in themselves are, morally speaking, Indifferent, and may be Innocently either embraced or rejeçc 3
eted; yet can it not be concluded either from the Number or Variety of them, that we are at liberty to revolve and indulge whatever notions and speculations we please, and that we may Innocently and Safely yield our Afsent to, or withhold our Afsent from all propositions whatsoever, though finally terminating in the Understanding, in every case, according to our own Pleasure. Undoubtedly there are Blasphemous Thoughts of God, and various Propositions following from them, which cannot, without Sin, under the pure Obligations of Natural Religion, be voluntarily entertain'd and indulged in the Mind, though consider'd Absolutely in Themselves, and without any relation to Immorality flowing from them into Outward action.
And in respect of Positive Institutions, ’tis observable, that if the Bodily Passions or Affections, the Inferior Faculties in man, can be properly subject to Divine Laws; surely, the Understanding, the Superior and Nobler faculty, may well be thought capable of Pleasing or Pro