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TITUS i. 1.

Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness.

IN the last words of this verse, about which only our present discourse shall be concerned, we have a full though compendious account of the nature of the gospel, ennobled by two excellent qualities. One, the end of all philosophical inquiries, which is truth; the other, the design of all religious institutions, which is godliness; both united, and as it were blended together in the constitution of Christianity.

Those who discourse metaphysically of the nature of truth, as to the reality of the thing, affirm a perfect coincidence between truth and goodness; and I believe it might be easily made out, that there is nothing in nature perfectly true, but what is also really good. For although it is not to be denied, that true propositions may be framed of things in themselves evil, yet still it is certain that the truth of those propositions is good. Nothing so bad as the Devil, or worse than a liar; yet this affirmation, that the Devil is a liar, is hugely true and very good.

It would be endless to strike forth into the elogies of truth; for as we know it was the adored prize for which the sublimest wits in the world have always run, and sacrificed their time, their health, 74 their lives, to the acquist of it; so let it suffice us to say here, that as reason is the great rule of man’s nature, so truth is the great regulator of reason.

I. Now in this expression of the gospel’s being the truth which is after godliness, these three things are couched.

1. That it is simply a truth.

2. That it is an operative truth.

3. That it is operative to the best of effects, which is godliness.

And first for the first of these; it is a truth, and upon that account dares look its most inquisitive adversaries in the face. The most intricate and mysterious passages in it are vouched by an infinite veracity; and truth is truth, though clothed in riddles, and surrounded with darkness and obscurity: as the sun has still the same native, inherent brightness, though wrapt up in a cloud.

Even those transcendent enigmas of the Trinity, the incarnation of the Son of God, and the resurrection of the dead, they all challenge our assent upon the score of their truth. And that three is one and one three, is altogether as true as that three is three, though far from being so plain. It is hard indeed to conceive a reparation of the same numerical body having been transformed by so many changes, yet we have the divine word for it; and death itself is not more sure, than that men shall rise from the dead.

Now the gospel being a truth, it follows yet further, that if we run through the whole catalogue of its principles, nothing can be drawn from thence, by legitimate and certain consequence, but what is also true. It is impossible for truth to afford any thing 75but truth. Every such principle begets a consequence after its own likeness.

2. The next advance of the gospel’s excellency is, that it is such a truth as is operative. It does not terminate in notion, or rest in bare, unactive speculation, but from the head it shoots forth into the hand, and sets all the faculties of our nature at work. It does not dwell in the mind like furniture, only for ornament, but for use, and the great concernments of life. Most sorts of human knowledge are like the treasures of a covetous man, got with labour and much industry; and being got, they lie locked up and wholly unemployed: and indeed the very nature of them abstracts from practice. The knowledge of astronomy, geometry, arithmetic, music, and the like, they may fill the mind, and yet never step forth into one experiment; but the knowledge of the divine truths of Christianity is quick and restless, like an imprisoned flame, which will be sure to force its passage, and to display its brightness.

3. The third and highest degree of its perfection is, that it is not only operative, but also operative to the best of purposes, which is to godliness: it carries on a design for heaven and eternity. Some things are indeed active, but the design of their action is trivial, cheap, and contemptible; so that, in effect, it is no more than a sedulous and a laborious doing of nothing; which kind of actions, should they be arrested with that question, Cui bono? the vanity of such performances would quickly appear, that they were but a shooting without any aim, a raising of a bubble, and a pursuing of the wind. Every thing is ennobled by its design; and an action is advanced in its worth, when it drives at an 76 object grand and necessary; John xvii. 3, This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and whom thou hast sent, Christ Jesus. It serves the two greatest interests in the world, which are the glory of the Creator and the salvation of the creature; and this the gospel does by being the truth which is after godliness.

Which words may admit of a double sense.

1. That the gospel is so called, because it actually produces the effects of godliness in those that embrace and profess it. 2. That it is directly improvable into such consequences and deductions, as have in them a natural fitness, if complied with, to engage the practice of mankind in such a course.

In the former of these senses, the gospel cannot universally sustain this appellation; forasmuch as in many hearts it is no sooner conceived but it proves abortive; and like the seed falling upon stony ground, it is choked by the thorns of cares and lusts, and other corruptions growing up and hindering it, so that it never brings forth fruit to perfection. Many entertain principles which they defy by their practices, and unlive all that they have believed; so that that which was intended for the cure of sin, by accident becomes its aggravation. Wherefore the latter sense only can take place here; that is, that the gospel, in its nature, is the most apt and proper instrument of holiness in the world, the most naturally productive of holy living and a pious conversation; unless a man prevaricates with the articles of his faith, runs counter to his profession, and acts contradictions.

Now the truth that we have declared to have thus an influence upon godliness, consists in these two things.


1. A right notion of God.

2. A right notion of what concerns the duty of man.

These two are the foundations of all sound and rational piety; and as it is a matter of great moment, so it is also of great difficulty, so to assert and state each of these, both in their just latitude, and yet within their due limits, that one may not in trench upon or evacuate the other.

It highly concerns us so to discourse of God in the matter of religion, that his prerogative of being the first cause of all things, and both the author and finisher of man’s salvation, be not infringed by such assertions as of necessity infer the contrary. And yet, on the other side, this prerogative of God is to be defended with such sobriety, as not in the mean time to leave the creature no scope of duty, or to render all exhortations and threatenings, and other helps of action, absurd and superfluous. The difficulty of doing right to both which, appears from this; that those who endeavour to assert one, usually encroach upon the other.

As for instance; some of those who manage the defence of God’s prerogative in being the first cause of all things, and sovereign author of our salvation, assert that the creature never advances into action, but by an irresistible predetermination of the faculty to that action; upon the presence of which predetermination the faculty cannot but act, and upon the absence or defect of which, it cannot possibly move or determine itself. And then, over and above this predetermination, they assert a concurrence of God to that action of the power or faculty, perfectly the same with that action. Which assertions, in spite of 78 all qualifications of them, leave it unapprehensible what place can reasonably he left for addressing exhortations to the will, when it is not at all in its power to proceed to the performance of the thing to which it is exhorted, but solely in the power of him that exhorts.

On the contrary; those who would redeem the will from this inactivity, usually extend the freedom of it to that compass, as to make God a mere stander by in the great business of the soul’s salvation; it being at the courtesy of the will’s choice and acceptance, whether all that God does towards the saving of a man shall, in the issue, become effectual or not effectual to that purpose. Such will not allow any thing to be liberty of will, but a perfect equilibrium and indifferency of choice as to good or evil; which for papists to assert, who in this assertion lay the foundation of their pretended merits, is no wonder; but why protestants should be so fond of it, I see no reason: for that this indifferency to good and evil is not of the intrinsic nature and essence of the will’s liberty, is clear from this; that then the saints, who are confirmed in the love of God and goodness, so that they cannot sin, or choose that which is evil, could not be said to love God freely; nor the devils to sin freely, for they cannot choose but sin; nor Christ to have done actions of holiness freely, for he could not do otherwise. Besides that the supposition of original sin, and the total depravation of man’s nature, renders such a liberty in those that are not renewed by baptism strangely absurd; for it is an apparent making of a corrupt tree to bring forth good fruit.

But you will say, that this nullifies all exhortations 79to piety; since a man in this case cannot totally come up to the thing he is exhorted to. But to this I answer, that the consequence does not hold: for an exhortation is not frustrate, if a man be but able to come up to it partially, though not entirely and perfectly. As, take a man under the original depravation of nature; though in this condition he cannot avoid all sin, both as to the matter and manner of the action, yet there is no particular sin but he may forbear; though the imperfection and obliquity of the end or motive inducing him so to for bear it, makes the manner of that forbearance not wholly void of fault. A man unregenerate, and unrenewed by grace, may choose whether he will be drunk, fornicate, or swear; but it is not in his power to be acted to these forbearances, out of a love to God, to piety, or virtue; and yet if they proceed not from such a principle, such forbearances are, in the sight of God, but faulty and imperfect.

I am not ignorant, that in giving an account of these matters there is a knot on both sides; and that, upon a nice screwing of consequences, not easily to be resolved; yet surely it concerns us so to discourse of these points in general, as neither to clip the divine prerogative, nor yet, on the other hand, to tie up the creature so, as to undermine duty by taking away the energy of precepts, threatenings, and exhortations.

II. To proceed therefore. There are three things that I shall deduce from this description of the gospel’s being the truth according to godliness.

1. That the nature and prime essential design of religion is to be an instrument of good life, by administering arguments and motives inducing to it.

2. That so much knowledge of truth as is sufficient 80 to engage men’s lives in the practice of godliness, serves the necessary ends of religion.

For I shew, if godliness were the design, it ought also, by consequence, to be the measure of men’s knowledge in this particular.

3. That whatsoever doth in itself or its direct consequences undermine the motives of a good life, is contrary to and destructive of Christian religion.

1. That the nature and prime essential design of religion is to be an instrument of good life, by administering arguments and motives inducing to it.

It were to be wished, that to produce reasons and proofs for such a proposition were wholly needless and vain; yet since the capricious and fantastic notions of some men have made it much otherwise, I shall endeavour to clear up the assertion I have laid down by these arguments.

1. The first is, because religion designs the service of God, by gaining over to his obedience that which is most excellent in man, and that is, the actions of his life, and continual converse. That these are the most considerable is clear from hence; because all other actions naturally proceed in a subserviency to these. As the actions of a man’s understanding, directing, and of his will commanding, they are all designed for the regulation of his constant behaviour; and that which is the end to which other things are designed, is, as such, more excellent than those things designed to that end.

2. The design of religion is man’s salvation: but men are not saved as they are more knowing or assent to more propositions, but as they are more pious than others. Practice is the thing that sanctifies knowledge; and faith without works expires, 81and becomes a dead thing, a carcass, and consequently noisome to God; who, even to those who know the best things, pronounces no blessing till they do them. Upon this ground it is, that when a man would gather some comfortable assurance of his future estate, he does not seek for evidences from his knowledge, and the boldness of his belief, but from his godliness, and the several instances of an holy life, the only infallible demonstration of a sincere heart; otherwise, it is probable that hell is paved with the heads of the knowing and the wicked, and the catalogue of the damned made up of such as knew their master’s will, and did it not.

3. A third argument is from hence, that the discriminating excellency of Christianity consists not so much in this, that it discovers more sublime truths, or indeed more excellent precepts than philosophy, (though it does this also,) as that it suggests more efficacious arguments to enforce the performance of those precepts, than any other religion or institution whatsoever. Compare the precepts of Pythagoras, of the stoics, and of Christian religion: Does Christian religion commend piety towards God, and justice to our neighbour? Does it arraign vicious affections and corrupt desires? So do they. Wherein then has it the preeminence? Why in this; that after they had taught the world their duty, what they were to do, and what not to do, they had no arguments prevalent with the nature of men, above their contrary propensions, to bind them over to such practices.

But Christianity has backed all its precepts with eternal life and eternal death to the performers or neglecters of them; whereas philosophy could do 82 nothing, but by taking in the assistance of fabulous stories, or by telling men, that virtue was a sufficient reward to itself; which, upon all experience, has been found an argument infinitely short, and unable to bear up the practices of men, contrary to the soli citations of their opposite, impetuous corruptions.

4. The fourth and last argument is from this; that notwithstanding the diversity of religions in the world, yet men hereafter will generally be condemned for the same things; that is, for their breaches of morality. Men shall be condemned for being false, lustful, injurious, profane, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, and the like. But these are the sins of all nations, and are universally found in the profession of all religions.

It is confessed there shall be an accession to men’s guilt, and more or less fuel added to their torments, according as the religion they lived under administered to them clearer or obscurer notions of duty, and more or less pregnant instructions to the exercise of piety; otherwise, men shall not so much be condemned for not believing of riddles and hard sentences, as for not practising of plain duties: for this is that which religion drives at; not to subtilize men’s conceptions, but to rectify their manners.

And these are briefly my reasons for the first deduction from the words, namely, that the nature and prime essential design of religion is to be an instrument of good life, by administering arguments and motives inducing to it.

2. A second inference from the gospel’s being the truth according to godliness is this.

That so much knowledge of truth as is sufficient to engage men’s lives in the practice of godliness, 83serves the necessary ends of religion; for if godliness be the design, it ought also, by consequence, to be the measure of men’s knowledge in this particular: which consideration, well and duly improved, would discover how needless it is, to say no more, that ignorant people should be let loose to read and judge of writings that they do not understand. The principles of Christianity, briefly and catechistically taught them, is enough to save their souls; but, on the other hand, they may read themselves into such opinions and persuasions, as may at length destroy a government, and fire a whole kingdom: and for this I shall not seek for arguments, after experience.

3. The third and great consequence, from the gospel’s being the truth according to godliness, shall be this.

That whatsoever does in itself, or its direct consequences, undermine the motives of a good life, is contrary to and destructive of Christian religion.

Now the doctrines that more immediately concern a good life are reducible to these three heads.

1. Such as concern the justification of a sinner.

2. Such as concern the rule of manners.

3. And such as concern repentance.

All which things are such vital ingredients of religion, that an error in any of them is like poison in a fountain, which must certainly convey death and contagion to every one that shall taste the streams. It will be of some moment therefore to bring the doctrines that lie under these several heads to a particular examination, that so, having a distinct view of life and death before us, we may both secure our choice and direct our practice.

First of all then, concerning the justification of a 84 sinner. The great business that we have in this world, is to endeavour to be saved, and the means to that is to be justified. This, therefore, is the great mark at which all our actions are to be levelled, the great prize for which we run: and, consequently, if it is not stated and proposed to us upon such terms as shall employ and call forth the utmost attempts of the soul, the nerves of piety are cut, and obedience is overlaid by taking away its necessity. How this may be done, let us take a brief survey.

1. First then, that doctrine that holds that the covenant of grace is not established upon conditions, and that nothing of performance is required on man’s part to give him an interest in it, but only to believe that he is justified; this certainly subverts all the motives of a good life. But this is the doctrine of the antinomians: and the foundation of this they have laid in another wild, erroneous assertion, that every believer was actually justified from eternity, and that his faith is only a declaration of this to his conscience, but no ways effective of any alteration of his state or condition. Justified in the sight of God he was before his belief, but his belief at length gives him the knowledge of it; and so makes him not more safe, but more confident than he was before.

But certainly this inevitably takes away the necessity of godliness: for it asserts that a sinner, and an ungodly person, while such, may stand justified before God. For the better understanding of which we must observe, that a man may be said to be a sinner in a double respect: 1. In respect of the law, as having not continued in all things written in the 85law, to do them. 2. In respect of the gospel, as having not believed and repented; which are the terms upon which, through Christ, we are accepted as righteous.

As for the former of these respects, all men are sinners upon a legal score, as not having performed an entire, indefective, legal obedience. But in the latter sense, upon evangelical allowances, a man that believes is not counted to be in a state of sin, though legally he is.

Now the forementioned doctrine allows justification to these sinners also; for if a man is actually and perfectly justified from all eternity, whereas he comes but in some period of his life to believe and repent, does it not invincibly follow, that he was justified before that belief and repentance; and, consequently, while he was under an estate of unbelief and impenitence? which assertion is the very bane of all piety and gospel obedience. It dashes all industry in the ways of holiness, lodges a man’s hands in his bosom, and renders a pious life superfluous and precarious.

2. That doctrine that teaches that a man may be accepted with God for the righteousness and merits of other saints, poisons and perverts the nature of justification, so as to render it utterly ineffectual to engage men in a course of godliness. For if there is a treasury of good works and merits deposited in the custody of the church, and to be dispensed by her to whom she pleases, for all the purposes of salvation, a man need not be rich in good works of his own, provided he be rich enough in money to purchase himself a propriety in those of other men. So that it is not a good life, but a good purse that is 86 necessary to the justification of a sinner: yet upon such wretched doctrines as these is built one of the most externally glorious fabrics that the world has yet seen.

But it will be objected, perhaps, that the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ does equally evacuate all motives to a good life; for if his righteousness, which is infinitely perfect and exact, be imputed to us, what need we produce any of our own? To this I answer, that the reason is not the same. For though the righteousness of Christ be imputed to us, yet it renders not a good life on our part needless, since this is made the very condition of that imputation. That is, if we fill the measures of sincerity, in doing the utmost that we are able, Christ’s righteousness shall be imputed to us for justification, notwithstanding our failing in many things, which, by reason of the infirmities of our nature, we have not done. Thus, therefore, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is suspended upon a man’s own personal righteousness, as its necessary antecedent condition.

But now it is otherwise in the imputation of the merits of the saints to any man, since this cannot proceed upon any such condition of personal obedience on his part. For thus the argument against it will run: either that man does the utmost that he is able, and lives as well as he can, according to the terms of e\ angelical sincerity, or he does not; if he does, then what need can he have of the righteousness and merits of the saints, who themselves were able to do no more while they lived in the flesh? But if he does not acquit himself in an holy life, and it be admitted that the righteousness of the saints 87may supply such a defect, so as to render the man accepted before God; is it not as clear as the sun, that by this means the sinner is discharged from pressing after godliness, as necessary to his justification? For it seems he may want it, and yet, for all that, have his business done to his hand.

How much the great God has been dishonoured, and how many poor souls have been murdered, by such assertions as these, is sad to consider: for they have been abused into a confidence in, and reliance upon, such supports; which, in the invaluable concernments of eternity, have deceived and given them the slip, and let them fall without remedy into the bottomless gulf of endless perdition. God amend or rebuke such pernicious impostors.

In the next place, let us consider the doctrines that relate to the rule of life and manners, which is the law of God.

1. First then, that doctrine that exempts all believers from the obligation of the moral law is directly destructive of all godliness; which doctrine is taught and asserted by the antinomians, who from thence derive that name, as being opposers of the law. But now, if there be no obligation upon men to the duties of the moral law, how can it be necessary for them to perform any such duties? and consequently the command of loving God with all their strength and all their soul, of not worshipping images, of not dishonouring God’s name, of obeying parents, of not committing murder and adultery, and the like, concerns not these persons. But if this be their opinion, it is well that they are not able to escape the force of human laws, as they do the obligation of the divine.


I confess the apostle Paul oftentimes opposes the law to grace, and affirms of believers, that they are not under the law, but under grace. But what does he mean by these expressions? why his meaning is founded upon a twofold acceptation of the law.

1. That it may be taken as a covenant conveying life upon absolute, entire, indefective obedience, and awarding death to those who fail in the least iota or punctilio.

2. It may be taken as a rule of life and a transcript of the duty of man.

Now it is in the former sense only that believers are not under the law; for if they were, they could not possibly be saved, since all men have sinned; and the law, as a covenant, promises life only upon the terms of such an exact obedience, as excludes all sin. But the covenant of grace, under which believers are, promises life upon condition of such obedience as is sincere, though legally imperfect: that is, such an one as is not absolutely exclusive of all sin, but only of the reign, and power, and dominion of sin.

Yet all this does not loose them from the obligation of the law as it is a rule of life, to which they are to conform their actions. The law tells believers what they are to do, and withal obliges them to do it; but what measure of obedience will be accepted of a man, in order to his salvation, that is deter mined not by this rule, but by the covenant of grace declared in the gospel; which, upon the account of Christ’s merits, pardons and dispenses with many deviations from that strict rule, and condemns for none, but such as are inconsistent with a state of sincerity.


The forementioned persons, who cashier this obligation of the law also, and admit it for not so much as a rule, resigning themselves up to the sole conduct of their own heart, which they call the spirit; these, I say, as needs they must, assert also, that believers cannot sin: for since sin is a transgression of a law, it roundly follows, that those who are obliged to no law can be guilty of no transgression.

But this doctrine is so broadly impious, that it does not undermine a good life, but directly blow it down. And therefore I shall only say this of the abettors of it, that those who can own themselves to be without sin, demonstrate themselves to be without shame.

2. That doctrine which asserts any sin to be in its nature venial, that is, such as God cannot in justice punish with damnation, tends to subvert a good life: but the doctrine of the church of Rome asserts this; and lays the foundation of this assertion in a distinction between works done against the law, and works done beside the law. Now they say a thing is done beside the law, when though it is a deviation from the law, yet it is not contrary to the end of the law, which is love to God, but very fairly consistent with it: that is, though a man does such and such things, yet the doing of them ejects not the love of God out of his heart, and so long the design and purpose of the law is served and complied with, notwithstanding all such diminutive transgressions.

But this discourse is very weak and impertinent. For when they say, that some actions destroy not the creature’s love to God, and so are only beside 90 the law, as not overthrowing the end of it; they either understand that those actions destroy not that love as to the habit, or the act. If they intend the former, they speak nothing to the purpose; for an action may be sinful, and yet not drive the principle of habitual love to God out of the soul; forasmuch as an habit is not destroyed by every contrary action: as a man may be habitually holy, and yet sometimes be surprised with the commission of unholy actions; and as to the main, a wise man, though possibly he may have spoke or done some things in his life unwisely. But however, neither the holiness of one, or the wisdom of the other, makes an unholy or unwise action to be upon that account holy or wise.

But if, on the other side, they assert, that these kind of sins interrupt not the actual exercise of the creature’s love to God, they will prove that which I believe was never yet proved; namely, that it is possible for a man, in one and the same action, to deviate from the law of God, and yet to exert an act of love towards him; which indeed amounts to a plain contradiction: for since to love God is to perform his commands, if we assert that that love is not for the present hindered or intermitted by some transgressions of those commands, does it not clearly follow, that a man may perform the command, and yet transgress it at the same time and in the very same action?

But it is not directly my business to insist here upon the absurdity of this doctrine, but to demonstrate the impiety of it, so far as it tends to abate men’s endeavours in the pursuit of a stricter course of holiness; which surely it does with a very great 91and pernicious efficacy. For if men can pervert their judgments so, as to look upon some deviations from the law of God, the great rule of life, as no sins, taking sin strictly and properly, they will proceed to a general undervaluation of the nature of sin; and, keeping a due proportion, if small sins must pass for no sins, the greatest sins must lose many degrees of their greatness. The heart of man will insensibly be wrought upon to make a sport of sin, and to trifle with two the most dreadful things in the world, a strict law and an infinite justice.

But there are no two things that seem to bear so great a resemblance one to another, as the state of the Christian church perverted by the doctors of the church of Rome, and the state of the Jewish church corrupted by the glosses and doctrines of the Pharisees. For as the Romists hold fast the distinction of mortal and venial sins; so the Pharisees, with the same result, distinguished of the divine precepts and commandments, that some were great, that is, necessary to be observed, and some small, that is, such as did not bind the conscience with so strict an obligation, but that the violation of them might, with a very fair comportment with the divine justice, be dispensed with. And it is with direct allusion to this distinction of theirs, that our Saviour speaks in Matt. v. 19, Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men to do so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; that is, in the Hebrew dialect, he shall have nothing to do there at all; least being here not only a term of diminution, but of absolute negation.

The meaning and design of those words was 92 Christ’s clearing himself from the common imputation that the scribes and pharisees loaded him with, of being an underminer of the law of Moses. As if he had said, I am so far from having an intent to destroy or untie the binding force of the law, that I enforce a stricter observation of it than those that make this charge against me. For whereas they teach that some of the divine commandments are to be reputed little, and such as men are not bound to the strict observance of; I on the contrary affirm, that there are no such little commands, (as they call them,) but that the very least of them obliges so indispensably, that the violation and neglect of it will, without repentance, exclude from heaven, and bind over to damnation.

And no question, but, were he now amongst us, he would rebuke the modern Pharisees, and patrons of venial sins, in the same manner; who, by that unhallowed distinction, have lopped off a large proportion of that obliging force that belongs to every divine precept, and so in effect have made the law itself faulty and defective; not obliging where men are pleased not to be obliged; and making that to be no duty, which licentious persons are unwilling should be so. Indeed he that sins against the law is bad enough, but he that makes even the law to sin, that he may discharge himself, is incurable and in sufferable.

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