Copyright
Thomas Secker.

Works (Volume 1) online

. (page 13 of 20)
Online LibraryThomas SeckerWorks (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


worfe, by committing many Sins, which, however
prone to them, they might have had the Means
of avoiding ; and thus have deferved Punifhment
here and hereafter : that, Wickednefs prevail-
ing early, and fpreading wide in the World, firll

d Heb. v. 9.

K2 the



148 S E R M O N VII.
the Practice, then the Knowledge, both of true
Religion and moral Virtue, were in a great Mea-
fare loft out of it : but that the unfpeakable
Mercy and Wifdom of the Supreme Being pro-
vided a Remedy for thefe Evils, intimated in
general Terms to the earlieft Offenders, pro-
mifed more diftinctly in the fucceeding Ages,
and actually given when the proper Fulnefs of
'Time came e -, which Remedy was this. A Per-
fon, made known under the Character of the
only-begotten Son of God, and one with the
Father in a Manner to us incomprehenlible, af-
ter teaching Mankind from the Beginning by
various other Methods, took upon him our
Nature, was born of a Virgin, and dwelt on
Earth, to teach us perfonally by his Word and
Example : condefcended, for this compaflionate
Purpofe, to all the Inconveniences of the pre-
fent State of Things, to numberlefs Indignities
and Sufferings, and laftly to have his Life taken
away by the Hands of wicked Men ; humbling
himfelfunto Death, even the Death of the Crofs f ,
ufually inflicted on none but the vileft and low-
eft of Malefactors. In Consideration of this
meritorious Goodnefs of his, which he engaged,
before the World began, thus to manifeft, the

c Gal. Iv. 4. f Phil. ii. 8.

moft



SERMON VII. 149

mofl High eflablifhed with him a Covenant of
Grace and Favour, by which all Power in Hea-
ven and Earth was given him s ; and Provifion
was made, that whoever mould fincerely repent
of the Sins which he had committed, and throw
himfelf on the promifed Mercy of God ; whe-
ther as more obfcurely notified before the Re-
deemer's Incarnation, or more clearly afterwards -,
taking the Word of Truth for the Law of his
Life, and faithfully endeavouring to obey it,
mould not only have Pardon for his paft Tranf-
greflions, however heinous, but the Afliftance
of the divine Spirit to preferve him from future
ones : that a kind Providence fhould turn every
Thing to his Good, which befell him in this
World, and endlefs Felicity be his Portion in ;
the next. But then it was alfo denounced, that ,
whoever fhould either flight thefe Offers when
duly made -, or, profeffing to accept them,
live unfuitably to them, Chrifl fhould be of no
Benefit to fuch ; they fhould remain in their
Sins, with this heavy Aggravation of their
Guilt, that they had rejected the Counfel of
God for their Salvation ; and when Light was
come into the World, loved Darknefs rather than
y becaufe their Deeds were evt/*.
s Matth. xxviii. 1 8. b John iii, 19.

, K 3 This



150 S E R M O N VII.

This is, in brief, the Doctrine of Chriit
crucified. The main Parts of it, you fee, are
two : God's Goodnefs to us, and our Duty to
him : and if either be omitted, Men are not
taught as the T'ruth is in Jtfas 5 . Infilling on
moral Duties only, is overlooking the greatefl
of all Duties, Piety. Infifling on the Duties
of natural Religion only, is injurioufly defpif-
ing thofe of Revelation, which the fame Au-
thority hath enjoined. And laying before Men
all the Commandments of God, only omitting
to fay, how they mall be enabled to perform
them, and how they mall procure their Perfor^
mances, faulty as the beft of them are, to be
accepted, is failing them in Points of the moil
abfolute Neceflity.

But then, on the other Hand, fpeaking of
Nothing, but Chrifl and his Grace, is conceal-
ing what the Grace of God appeared unto all Men
to teach them: that denying Ungodtinefs and
worldly Lujlsy they fhould live foberly, right eoufly
and godly in this prejent World^, It is not there-
fore naming Chrifl ever fo often, or exalting his
Companion to the fallen Race of Adam ever fo
much, or defcribing his dreadful Sufferings ever
fo movingly, that is, preaching him as we
?EpK, iv. ?i. * Tit. ii. 11,12-

ought*



SERMON VIT. 151
ought, if all be not directed to make us become
like him. His own Sermon on the Mount is
almoft entirely filled with Precepts of Duty ;
of the common Duties of common Life. And
fo may other Sermons too, yet be truly Chrif-
tian, even without mentioning Chrift exprefsly,
provided the Necefiity of his Aid and his Merits
be unde-rilood throughout them ; and the great
Defign of his coming, the Reformation of the
Hearts and Lives of Men, be clofely purfued
in them. Thus then judge of our Difcourfes :
and, which is of more Importance, thus judge of
your own Improvement. It is neither talking
nor thinking highly of Chrift, nor being affect-
ed in the tenderer! Manner with his bitter Paf-
fion and dying Love, that conilitutes a Believer
in him, fuch as he will finally own : but herein
may we have Boldnefs in the Day of "Judgement >
if, as he iv <as 9 Jo arc we in thi$ World '.

Yet fUll the Sacrifice of him, as a Lamb
without Blemifo m , for our Sins, the Need we had
of it, and the Benefits we receive from it, arc
fuch capital and indifpenfable Article, that
every Preacher, who doth not frequently return
tp them, is without Excufe : and every Profcffor

1 i John iv. 17. m i Pet. j. 19.

K 4 of



i 5 2 SERMON VII.
of Chriftianity, who doth not live by the Faith
of the Sot? of God, who Joyed him, and gave him-
Jelffor him, fruftrates his Grace n , and will come
Jhort of his Glory . Accordingly, though St.
Paul 1 j imfelf hath confiderable Parts of Chapters,
in which little, if any Thing, is faid of our Sa-
viour; yet all prepares the Way for introducing
him again ; all points our Eye to him j all makes
Part of that Building, the Corner Stone of which
is Jefus Cbrift ".

Having thus explained, vthzX. preaching Cbrift
crucified is, I proceed to mew,

II. Why this Doctrine was to the Jews a
Stumbling-block, and to the Greeks Foolijhnefs:
which the Words of the Text, when unfolded,
will tell us plainly. T^he Jews require a Sign,
and the Greeks feek after Wifdom.

The former had been delivered from the
Bondage of Egypt by Signs and Wonders, by a
mighty Hand and a Jl retched out Arm q , A glo-
rious Appearance of God upon Mount Sinai had.
accompanied the Promulgation of their Law:
his vifible Prefence had dwelt with them, firft
in the Tabernacle, then in the Temple : his
miraculous Interpolations had given, preferved,

n Gal. ii. 20, 21. Rom. iii. 23. P Eph. ii. 20.

5 Peut. iy. 34. v. 15.

and



SERMON VII. 153

reftored to them the Land of Canaan, with
much earthly Profperity. Thefe Bleflings had
Co powerfully {truck the Imaginations of a grofs
and carnal People, that they paid in general but
little Attention to any that were not of a tem-
poral Nature. And therefore whenever their
Prophets foretold the Coining of the promifed
Redeemer, they were obliged, unlefs they would
have their Predictions defpifed and forgotten, to
defcribe him in Terms, literally denoting world-
ly Grandeur : as ruling in the Midft of bis Ene-
niles, judging among the Heathen r , and higher
than the Kings of the Earth s . They did how-
ever join to thefe Defcriptions fuch Circum-
ftances, as fufficiently determined their Words
to a fpiritual Meaning. But ftill the other, being
far more agreeable, was always uppermoft in the
Thoughts of the Jews : and they would image
to themfelves the expected Son of David, as a
mighty Conqueror, who mould prove himfelf
the true Meffiah by fupernatural Afliftances
from above, enabling him to exert a more than
human Force againfl the Nations, which held
them in Subjection, and extend the Jeivijk
Empire over the Globe.

In this Senfe it was, that they required a

f Pf. ex. 2, 6. Pf. Ixxxix. ^f:

Sign.



SERMON VII.

Sign '. Other Signs of his Miffion our Sa-
viour had fliewn without Number : but ftill
they demand to fee a Sign from Heaven u .
Every Miracle is a Sign from Heaven, had
they considered rightly. But the Sign, on
which their Hearts were fet, was that in
the Book of Daniel : when the Son of Man
ftould come with the Clouds of Heaven, and be
brought near to the Ancient of Days ; and have
given to him Dominion and Glory , and a King-
dom, that all People, Nations and Languages
jhouldferve him w . Our Saviour obferved their
Miftake, and told them, that the Sign, which
they deiired, mould indeed be given, but not to
that Generation : that the principal Evidence,
t.o be afforded them, was the Sign of the Prophet
Jonas x : the Refurredion of Jefus the third
Pay from the Grave, as Jonas rofe from the
Depth of the Sea. To following Ages farther
Signs were to be vouchfafed in their Order;
the Dominion, which they expected to fee
eitablimed at once, was deligned to take Place

* And a Sign of this Sort they expefted, even when the
Temple was burnt by the Romans. For that very Day a falfe
Prophet affured the People, us o 0o? STJ -n tstyv civetftMaut

Jofeph. B. I,



0.7TO TK <3>

" Matth.xvi. i. Mark viii.'ii. Luke xi. 16.

w Dan. vii. 13, 14. - x W[^tth. xii. 39.

by



SERMON VII. 155

by Degrees, pver the Souls and Conferences of
Men, not their Bodies and Fortunes merely :
and in this nobleil Senfe, the Kingdoms of this
World were to become the Kingdoms of our Lord
and of his Chrift 7. But at Length the Time will
come for a yet more awful Difplay of his re-
gal Power, in the lalt Judgement : and then
iL all they, who were fo prematurely impatient
for a Sign from Heaven, y<?, before they wim it,
the Sign of the Son of Man coming in the Clouds ,
with Power and great Glory z .

But fuch Reprefentations were likely to have
little Effect on fuch Minds. One, who
fliould at that tfime rejlore again the Kingdom to
Ifrael*, was what the whole People wanted.
And when they not only beheld the Meannefs
of our Saviour's Appearance, and heard the
Meeknefs of his Doctrine, but faw how care-
folly he avoided the Opportunities of obtaining
an earthly Kingdom, the leading Part of the
Nation immediately denied him. But when
he was arraigned and condemned, and fuffered
the Death of a Slave; then the Faith, even
of his Apoftles, almoft died with hirr}. We
trufted, fay two of his Difciples, as if now all
Hope was at an End, we trujle.d> that it had
7 &ev. xj. 115, 2 Matth, xxiv. 30. * Afts i. 6.

been



156 SERMON VII.

been he which ftould have redeemed Ifrael b . It is
true, they recovered themfelves : but the greater
Part of the yews did not : and a crucified Re-
deemer continues a Stumbling-block to them ;
or, in the Words of Sim em, a Signfpoken againfty
Jet for the Fall and Rijing again of many in Ifrael c ;
indeed for the utter Fall of that Church and
Nation, till the Seafon foretold mall come,
for which Providence hath left Room, by the
wonderful Prefervation of this one and only
People diftinct from all others for fo many
Ages, when by looking on him whom they havq
pierced, and mourning d , they {hall rife again,
and be as Life from the dead'.

As for the Greeks, or Gentiles, they did
not object to the Gofpel, that the Authority
of it wanted the Proof of Signs from Heaven j
but that the Preaching of it wanted the Re-
commendation of what they called Wifdom*
Neither the Manner of the Apoflles Teaching
was adorned with that plaufible Oratory, of
which they were fo fond ; which foothed the
. Ears, and entertained the Imagination 5 which
could make a bad Caufe victorious, and a good
one fufpected : nor yet was the Matter of
their Difcourfe made up of curious Specula-

b Luke xxiv. 21. e Luke ii. 34. d Zech. xii. 10.

John xix. 37. e Rom. xi. 15.

tions,



SERMON VII. 157

tions, abftrufe Points in Philofophy debated
with Acutenefs, Theories, built upon (lender
Foundations to great Heights, then attacked
with fubtle Objections, and defended with
more fubtle Refinements. Thefe were the De-
lights of the learned Greeks : who, as St. Paul
and indeed their own Writers obferve particu-
larly of the Athenians, fpent their Time in No*
thing elfe, but either to tell or to hear fome
new Thing f . Immediately therefore, when he
had begun to preach in that City, they ap-
ply to him with great Eagernefs : May we know,
what this new Doftrine, 'whereof thou fpeakeft,
is g ? But when they found no fuch Gratifi-
cation of their Fancy as they expected ; but
a grave Reproof of their favourite SuperfH-
tions, a ferious Call to Repentance, a folemn
Denunciation of a future Recompence ; and the
Foundation of thefe difagreeable Doctrines laid
in a mere Fact, which was contrary to all their
Schemes and Syftems, that God would judge
the World in Righteoujhefs by that Man, 'whom
he had ordained, whereof he had given Affurance
to all Men, in that he h&Q raifed him from the
dead: fome, we read, mocked ; and of thofe,
who faid more civilly, that they would hear him

f Afts xvii. 21. * Verfe 19.

again



158 SERMON VII.

hgain of that Matter h , we have no Caufe to
believe, that many did. Nor would the prin-
cipal Romans afford to our holy Faith more
Attention. For when St. Paul was arguing
before Agrippa, being a> Jew, from the Pro-
phets, that Chrift was to fuffer and rife again ;
Fejlust the Governor, inftantly interrupted him :
Paul, thou art bcjide thyfelf -, much Learning
doth make thee mad*.

This was the Treatment, which Men, wife
in their own Conceits k , and bigotted to their
own Opinions, gave the Gofpel of Chrift. Its
Doctrines had Nothing amufing to Minds full
of trifling Curiofity : its Precepts had many
Things difgufting to human Senfuality and
Pride: its Proofs were inconfiftent with their
prevailing Notions. So it was reje&ed. with-
out Examination by Perfons, whom' the Irony
of Job fuits perfectly well : no Doubt, but ye
are the People : and Wifdom ft all die with you ! .
It ought to furprize no one, that this Sort of
Men, who have always been too common in
the World, and never more than now, mould
fcorn ChriiKanity Awhile they continue fuch
as they are, they cannot embrace it.

h Ah xvii. 3?, 32. ' A&s xxvi. 23, 24. k Rcm. xii. 16.
1 Job xiit 2.

But,



SERMON VII. 159

But, God be thanked, there have ever been
tome of more equitable Difpofitions : and to
thcfe it hath conitantly appeared in that Light,
which the Text exprefles,

III. But unto them, which are called, both yews
and Greeks, Chrift the Power of God and the
Wifdom sf God. They who would iiiffer the
Voice of Reafon and Revelation to call upsn
them, arrd would attend to the Call,, quickly
difcovered, under the Meannefs of ChrhTs Ap-
pearance, divine Power; and under the Plain-
nefs of his Doctrine, divine Wifdom.

The Jews had no Caufe to expect military
Exploits, miraculous Victories, and outward
Splendor in their Mefiiah-. Their own Pro-
phets had foretold, that he was to come to them
lowly and meek ; to be defpifed and rejected of
Men, to four out his Soul unto Death an Offer ^
ing for Sin, and make Inter cefflon for the T^ranf-
greffbrs*. Of other Softs of Miracles they had
many more, performed by him and his Dif-
ciples, than by Mofes and the Prophets. If
his Death, for Want of knowing the Scrip tunes,
appeared an Objection 5 his riling again, and
,Afcenlion into Heaven, was a full Proof of his
Authority. If he brought them no Deliverance

m Zech. ix. q. Matth. xxi. 5. n If. liii.

4 from



SERMON VlL

from their temporal Enemies ; yet he freed
them from infinitely more formidable onesy
from Sin and Guilt and the Wrath of God; and
Inftead of a mort-lived Tyranny over the Na-
tions of the Earth, he obtained for them an
eternal Triumph over Death and Hell - y and
made them Kings and Priejls imto God, to reign
with him for ever and ever . Thus was he, in
much the moft important Senfe, the Power of
God unto Salvation p : and his real Greatnefs-
exceeded all that they looked for, unfpeakably
more, than his vifible Appearance fell be-*
Heath it.

As to the Defed of that Wifdom, which
the Greeks required in the Gofpel : it had not
indeed the Wifdom of this World) or of the vain
Difputers of this World^j who profejfing them-
Jehes to be wife became Fools* : but, void as it
appears of Argumentation and Ornament, every
fingle Truth, that can lead Men to Virtue and
Happinefs, is taught in it much more fully and
convincingly, than iA all the preceding -In-
ilitutions either of Philofophy or Religion.
The Being, Attributes and Providence of God,
the Apoftles proved, were clearly feen, being

Rev. i. 6. v. 10. xx. 6. xxli. 5. P R.om. i. 16.

4 Cor. i. zo. ' Rom. i. 32.

underftood



SERMON VIL 161

undtrjlood by the Things that were made * : the
Nature and Obligation of Piety and Morals,
the Forgivenefs of Sins upon Repentance, the
inward Affiftance of divine Grace, the future
Happineis of the good, and Punifhment of the 1
bad, thefe Things they did not ingenioufly
harangue upon, after the beloved Manner of
the Greeks, and leave them in the fame Un-
certainty in which they found them, but gave
for their AfTertions concerning them, the ir-
refragable Teftimbny of Miracles which mufl
proceed from the Almighty; and fome of them
fuch as, in their Opinion, even the Almighty
was unable to perform. For that God him-
felf JJoould raife the dead, was thought a Thing
incredible with them\ But as no juft Reafon -
ing can (hew it to be impoffible, it is mord
certainly his Work for being beyond our Com-
preheniion. And this is that undeniable De-
monftration of the Spirit and of Power, which
infinitely excells all the enticing Words of Man s
Wijdom u , not only in the Strength of its Evi-
dence, but the Efficacy of its Influence too.
For after (he deepeft Philcfophers, and rnofl
florid Orators had weaned themfelves for Ages

Rom. i. 20. l Afts xxvi. 8. u i Cor. ii. 4.

VOL. L L in



162 S E R M O N VII.

in framing elaborate Difcourfes about Religion
and Virtue, without being able to fet up the
true Profeffion of either, fo much as in a fingle
Village ; the unlearned Difciples of Chrift laid,
in a few Years, fuch Foundations of both
throughout the World, as have fupported them
to this Day, and ever will. For the Foolijh-
nefs of God is tuifer than Men, and the Weaknefs
of God is jlronger than Men ^.

Since therefore the Whole of the Gofpel
is fo firmly proved, and mon: Parts of it
fo evidently rational, and no Part of it evi-
dently otherwife ; be we ever fo incapable of
penetrating into the Depths of fome Doctrines,
and the Reafons of fome Proceedings, yet well
may it become us to think, that he, who fees
all Things, may eafily fee many, which we do
not ; and to reverence the Wifdom of God in a
Myftery, even the hidden Wifdom 'which he or-
dained before the World y unto our Glory*. Whe-
ther Sinners could be faved no other Way,
than by the Death of his Son ; or why, if they
could, he hath preferred that to the reft ; we
have no Right to afk. What he hath chofen,
we might be fure is beft, even did no Reafon
at all for it appear. But he hath made known

w 1 Ccr. \. 25. x i Cor. ii. 7.

feveral



SERMON VII. 163

feveral to us : fome clearly, fome as- through
a Glafs darkly y ; but the obfcureft of them alj
to be contemplated with awful Refpedt.

By his eternal Son, God made the World,
and hath adminiftered it from the Beginning.
He therefore was plainly the fit Perfon to con-
duct the moft important of all its Affairs, the
Recovery of Mankind from Sin and Mifery ;
that in all Things, as the Apoftle expreffes it,
he might have the Pre-eminence, and in him all
Fulnefs dwell z . In Order to recover and re-
form Men, he muft inftruct them : and doing
it himfelf was unquelUonably the moft effica-
cious Method. But how muft he come to do
it ? Had he appeared in a Station of Power
and Wealth ; many would have been ready to
pay Court to him : but few, to obey his Pre-
cepts from the Heart. Even in his low Eftate,
fome followed him a while, merely for the
Loaves. And how much more Hypocrify, a
very improper Qualification for the King-
dom of Righteoufnefs, would there have been
amongft his Hearers, had the Circumftances
of the Teacher been more inviting ! And how
unfurmountable a Difgrace might they have

y i Cor. xiii, 12. * See Col. i. 13 20.

L 2 brought



1 64 SERMON VII.

brought upon his whole Undertaking in its
very Infancy, inftead of the Honour and Sup-
port which it received from the unimpeached
Integrity of its firft afflifted Profeflbrs !

But further : Nothing enforces Precepts, like
Example. Now what Example could the Mef-
lias have fet, in the Midft of worldly Pomp
and Grandeur ? A very ufeful one certainly in
fome Points to fome of his chief Officers, and
others about his Perfon : but removed from the
Sight, and unfuitable to the Condition of the
Bulk of Mankind : whereas in the Sort of Life,
which he chofe, an extremely public, though
a mean one, he was a daily and familiar Pat-
tern to all Men, of the moft general and dif-
ficult Virtues : of Condefceniion, Diiinterefted-
nefs, and Delight to do Good ; of Indifference
to worldly Enjoyments, Compofednefs under
Contempt, Meeknefs under malicious Provo-
cations, and Refignation to God's Will under
the bittereft Sufferings of every Kind. Thefe
Things, moft of us, in one Part or another of
our Pilgrimage, have Need to practife : and
we find them fo hard to learn, that the En-
couragement of his having done and born much
more than he requires of us, and the ArTur-

ance,



SERMON VII. 165
ance, that having been tempted himfelf, he will
fuccour us iv hen we are tempted*, will, in a
Time of Trial, be BlefTings unfpeakable.

Then confider bendes, how great a Con-
firmation his Humility and Patience add to the
other Proofs of his Authority. A Claim to
worldly Power, by Virtue of a divine Com-
mifiion, raifes Apprehenlions of unfair Delign.
But when a Perfon, declaring himfelf to come
from Heaven, renounces every Thing on Earth,
which Men ufually hold dear ; when he mews
by plain Facts, that his Errand is, not to be
minijiered unto y but to minifter, and to lay doivn
bis Life for bis Followers h ; when he forefees
and foretells, that his Doctrine will bring him
to the mamefulleft and cruelleft of Deaths, and
yet goes on, and meets it calmly : here is the
ftrongefb Evidence of Sincerity ; and the moft
engaging Motive to love him, who hath fo
loved us, as to feal with his Blood the Truth
of the good Tidings, which he came to bring us.

But there is yet one Reafon more of our
Saviour's Paflion, of which if we fee not
diftinctly the full Force, we fee however,
that it may be of infinite Force. Mankind
are Sinners. Our firfl Parents were fo : we
Heb. ii. 18. "Matth.xx. 28.

L 3 have



166 SERMON VII.
have all been fo, few of us think to what a
Degree : and ciofe upon Sin follow Weaknefs
and Guilt. The good Inilrudions and Ex-
ample of our blefTed Lord have indeed, without
any Thing farther, a powerful Tendency to
reform us, if we have Strength to reform our-
felves, on feeing that we ought. But what
can they do for us, if we have not; which
Experience too often proves to be our Cafe ? Or
fuppoiing them to do it ever fo effe&ually, ftill
it would be true, that we have been Sinners -,
have dishonoured our Maker, and broken his
Laws : and who but himfelf can tell, what
Satisfaction the Holinefs of his Nature and the
Honour of his Government may demand to be
made for fuch Offences ? Mere Sorrow for
having done amifs very feldom frees us in this
World from the ill Confequences of Tranf-
greffion : and what Security can we have, that
it will in the next ? Living well for the fu-
ture, is making no Amends for having finned
before : for it is no more than our Duty, if we
had never finned at all : belides that what
Men call living well, efpecially Men deftitute
of the Spirit of Chrift, is mixed with innumer-
able and grievous Faults. In this State of
Things then, where is the Certainty, that our

Sins



SERMON VII. 167

Sins would or could be forgiven ; or the Au-
thority of God kept up in the Eyes of his
Creation otherwife, than by puniming the
guilty ? And if that was to be done, the whole
Race of Mankind muft fall under the Sen-
tence. Here it was therefore that his un-
fearchable Wifdom interpofed, who, alone
knowing the fittefl Means of reconciling Juf-
tice with Goodnefs, pitched upon this : that,
as a terrifying Monument of the ill Defert of
Iniquity, his beloved Son ihould in our Na-
ture, and in our Stead, fuffer Death - y and for
an eternal Demonftration of the divine Be-
nignity, his undergoing it voluntarily fhould be
rewarded with the higheft Glory to himfelf;
and with Pardon, and Grace, and Life eternal


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryThomas SeckerWorks (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 20)