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THE VANITY OF A
FORMAL PROFESSION OF RELIGION.
IN EIGHT SERMONS
ON TITUS I. 16.
THEY PROFESS THAT THEY KNOW GOD; BUT IN WORKS THEY DENY HIM, BEING ABOMINABLE, AND DISOBEDIENT, AND ONTU
TITUS i. 16.
EVERY GOOD WORK REPROBATE.
SINCE it is too obvious, that many persons are apt to whether it be by natural light, or express superadded revesatisfy themselves with the mere profession of Christi- lation. And therefore we find this expression made use o! anity; and to reckon that while they explicitly own the to signify religion among the Jews, while they were a petrue religion they are sound Christians and good protes- culiar people unto God. It is said, Hezekiah, a good king, tants, without considering whether that religion carries "spoke comfortably to the Levites," to their hearts, accorddue and suitable impressions on their hearts or not; I have ing to the Hebrew," who taught the good knowledge of therefore thought it might not be unuseful, to discourse a the Lord,” 2 Chron. xxx. 22. That is, instructed the peoLittle from this Scripture, and show the vanity and insig-ple in religion, according to the revelation of the mind nificance of an empty profession, a profession which re- and will of God, which was then afforded them. futes and contradicts itself. To make way for what I in Thirdly, We find this phrase expressly used to signify tend from this passage of Scripture, there are a few things the Christian religion in particular. And thus the same that it will be necessary for me to recommend to your notice. apostle uses it in another place. “Awake to righteousness
First, that this phrase, the knowing of God, is a usual and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God, I expression to signify religion in general; inasmuch as it is speak this to your shame," 1 Cor. xv. 34. As if he had the primary, the most deep and fundamental, thing in all said, “You do not know God, you do not demean and bereligion. It is, as I remember the moralist styles it, "The have yourselves like those, who understand the principles foundation of foundations." Hence, from so noted and of your own religion.” And again, says the apostle, “ After principal a part, the denomination is put upon the whole. you have known God, why turn ye back to the weak and To know God, therefore, is to own him, to acknowledge beggarly elements, whereunto ye again desire to be in him as our God; and thereupon to carry ourselves suit- bondage ?" Gal. iv. 9. That is, Why do you follow the ably towards him. In the first commandment, which es- gnostics in mixing judaical and pagan rites with the relitablishes the relation betwixt God and us, it is intimated, gion of Christ. that if we will have him to be our God, we must have no Fourthly, We are therefore further to collect, that the other gods before him, Exod. xx. 3. And again, one of apostle does here, in this place, particularly intend the the prophets expresses it by knowing no other god but Him. Christian religion. “They profess that they know God;" "I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt; and that is, they profess to be Christians. For it is very evident thou shalt know no other god but me, for there is no sa- he writes of such, as professed the only true religion. The viour beside me," Hos. xiii. 4. The import then of the teachers who seduced and corrupted them, it is evident, expression, is to own him as God, in relation to ourselves; were professed Christians, though very corrupt and unand consequently to love and fear him, to hope and delight sound ones; for they endeavoured to deprave others; not in hiin, and the like. All which result from the relation indeed as avowed adversaries to the Christian name, but betwist him and us; according to that well known obser- as deceivers and gainsayers. It is true, the apostle said, vation and rule among the Hebrews; that "words of they ought to be convinced ; by which he implies that knowledge import life and sense, as consequent; as words there were some common agreed principles among them, of life and sense suppose knowledge antecedent." which might be the ground of such conviction. He calls
Secondly, This phrase imports not only natural religion, them deceivers, who by cunning insinuations laboured to but also that which is revealed. Knowing God therefore pervert the Christian doctrine, and to render it favourable is not to be taken so abstractedly, as though it meant no to licentious and immoral practices. And therefore those, more than only to entertain the notion of the Deity, and whom they had perverted, must be of the same stamp; the practice of those duties that we are led to by the light not wholly of the Jewish religion, for that their teachers of nature; but more generally whatever duty he is pleased were not; but judaizing Christians. They who lived so to enjoin also by revelation. We then know and acknow- remote from Judea, cannot be thought to have entertained ledge him as God, with respect to his sovereignty and do the principles of the Jewish religion entirely; nor so minion, when we are universally observant of his will; generally, and in such numbers, as is here implied, for how or by what means soever it is made known to us; many whole houses were subverted,” Tit. i. 11. Much
• This Sermon is without date; but it is very probable it was preached on January 16, 1690.