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power could be sufficient to introduce the worst religion. By all which steps, through these several reigns, it plainly appears that the utmost desire of the court of Rome is to have a popish prince on this throne; they reckon their work done if once they obtain this point: give them but a popish prince to their heart, they will soon instruct him what to do with vows and promises, and coronation oaths; and in such a case the people likewise would be instructed to know their own interest, when it was too late to help themselves.
When James the First came to the crown, surrounded by a hopeful issue of protestant princes, the cause of popery was at the last gasp: they saw their downfal if this family stood, in which there was a prospect of a long succession of protestant heirs. A desperate case requires desperate remedies; here was no room for art and management, and therefore violence was now first used, and the horrid plot of the fifth of November was contrived, which, had it took effect, would have rid them not only of a protestant king, but of their greatest fear, the protestant heirs.
By what methods they afterwards distressed the king, and laid the foundation of that ruin which broke out in his son's time, to the destruction of this church and nation, and one of the best princes it ever had, would be tedious to relate. Nor need I say much of the succeeding reigns, which so nearly resemble the former, that from the restoration to our present gracious king, the case seems to be much the same as it was from the Reformation to James the First King Charles the Second had no issue; and if he was not himself a papist, his successor was, in whose time this church and nation were brought to the brink of ruin : and though he had been saved from a bill of exclusion by the interests and loyalty of the church, yet no sooner was he on the throne, but he imprisoned her bishops, dispensed with her laws, and broke down all the fences that were raised for her security; in which confusion she had utterly perished, had not the providence of God rescued her by the means of a protestant prince, happily allied to the crown of England by marriage and by birth. In his and his successor's time the eyes of the popish faction were on the Pretender to the crown, and all their hopes centred in him.
As long as there was any prospect of defeating the protestant succession, they kept themselves within bounds, and were contented to work by policy, and not by force : but no sooner did they see a king of the reformed communion, with a numerous issue, mounted on the throne, but they threw off the mask ; as they did in the like case of James the First, attempted directly his destruction and ruin. And will not all this teach us wherein our true interest does consist? Fas est et ab hoste doceri : if we cannot judge for ourselves, let us learn of our enemies to know wherein to place our security. The two greatest efforts of popery to bring ruin on this church and nation by force and violence, have been, one at this time, the other in James the First's reign ; and their great provocation was, to see a succession of protestant princes likely to be established among us. And this is their fear, so is it our security. And if we consider the circumstances of times past, the doubtful condition we have often been in, when our happiness has depended on one single life, we shall have reason to think that Providence has both wisely and mercifully provided for our safety at this time. When the family of James the First was partly corrupted with popery, and near being extinguished for want of heirs, how providentially did God preserve one branch free from the infection, from which the present royal family is descended! And yet, to come to that which is the melancholy part of the application, how insensible do we seem to be of this blessing ! What rebellions, what tumults and riots have we seen in the short compass of this reign ! as if the people had forgot not only the care of their king, but of their country, their religion, and themselves : as if the fears of popery were all vain; as if superstition and idolatry, and the very terrors of an inquisition, were the mere delusions of a sick mind. These are the blessings which some are contending for ; these will be the rewards of their pious undertaking to set up a popish prince over these kingdoms. It is an easier matter to kindle the fires of
persecution, than it will be to extinguish them. Should the wishes of some take place, and a popish prince prevail over us; and should he not be so good as they vainly expect he will, where will they go next for protection ? What prince or family in
Europe is left, to which they may fly for succor ? The protestant religion has its last support; if it fails now, there is no other refuge; and should it be once lost in England, it will dwindle every where else ; popery will overrun all like a torrent, and we shall return to a worse darkness than that from which we came out. If therefore we have any sense of loyalty to our present gracious king; if we have not quite forgot that obedience on which we have so long valued ourselves; if we have any concern for our religion and the welfare of our souls, which depends on it; if we have any natural affection for our country, our friends, our families, or ourselves; let us show it by a cheerful and steady obedience to the prince whom God has set over us. All these motives plead not so much for him as for ourselves : for if ever obedience to their prince was the true interest of a people, now is the time it is so.
The second observation I made to you was, that notwithstanding the hopeless prospect of human affairs, the text affords ground of dependence on God.
In this part of our case, the application, I bless God, is made to my hands. His care over us has already appeared, aud we are like to be saved, whether we desire it or no.
Let us then raise our hearts to a just sense of our deliverance, that we may unfeignedly adore his holy name for all his mercies; and let us strive together to promote his glory by a constant and steadfast adherence to the church established, by a dutiful and ready submission to our prince, and by love and charity one among another,
SUMMARY OF DISCOURSE VI.
MATTHEW, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 17.
The occasion of this meeting naturally suggests to our thoughts a consideration of the encouragements and the difficulties which attend the undertaking, as well as of the methods proper to be observed for attaining to so desirable an end. This however is declined ; and instead of it, á view is taken of the gospel; on what foot it first set out in the world, and what it had to recommend it to the reason of mankind, abstracted from those signs and wonders which were wrought by God for its confirmation.
The first doctrine which our Lord taught was that of repentance, as necessary to qualify men for the kingdom of Heaven. Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. What is to be understood by this expression may be learned from Mark i. 14. 15. Whatever we understand by the kingdom of Heaven, it is plain that the reason why it was said to be at hand, was because the time was fulfilled for the publishing the gospel to all the world, and that the exhortation of the text agrees with that in St. Mark, Repent ye, and believe the gospel : whence it is evident that repentance was inculcated, as necessary to prepare us for receiving the gospel of Christ. The same appears also from the preaching of John the Baptist. So also did the Apostles teach repentance as the first necessary step: this fully shown by examples. Before the consequences which arise from this state of the case are stated, a few observations are made to clear the way for what is to follow. We may
observe then, that repentance was the very first thing insisted on,
wherever the gospel was published; before any new law was promulged, or even mentioned. Secondly, the gospel was ushered in by the doctrine of repentance, not only when it was delivered to the Jews, but also when it was proclaimed to the Gentile world : therefore the repentance taught did not regard any particular institution, but that general law of nature to which every man owed obedience in virtue of the reason and understanding with which God had endowed him. Thirdly, true repentance requires change of mind, and leads to a reformation of manners, with due obedience, for the future, to that law of righteousness against which the offence was committed : for where the obligation to any law ceases, there can be no call to repentance for disobedience: this doctrine shown to be that of Scripture.
The consequences now shown, which seem to be the natural result of this method, made use of in the publication of the gospel : the first of which is, that the religion of the gospel is the true original religion of reason and nature. It is so in part; it is all that and more. Repentance was necessary; but it was not all : it was the first step towards Christian ferfection : see Heb. vi. 1.
This will appear by considering the nature of that repentance which our Lord, and those who came after hini, preached to the world : repentance supposes a transgression, and transgression supposes a law; for, as the Apostle argues, where there is no law, there is no transgression : and since repentance consists in a change of mind, in rectifying what was before amiss, and in fulfilling that obedience which was before wanting, it is évident that to repent of the violation of
law is to return to the obedience of it. The question then is, against what law those offences were committed, the repentance for which was so necessary, that without it there was no admission into the gospel. At the time of its publication there were many
forms and institutions of religion in the world; but