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use to men's souls, as armour is to their bodies : for as the end of armour is to defend men's bodies, and secure them against the weapons of their enemies; so the great end and design of the Christian religion is to defend men's souls from whatsoever is hurtful and injurious to them. Now there are but two sorts of evils in the world, both which are injurious to the souls of men. The first is the evil of sin, and the second is the evil of misery; and against both these Christianity doth strongly arm us.
First, for the evil of sin, which upon several accounts is injurious to men's souls : it overthroweth the order and economy of their natures, enslaving their reasons to their passions and appetites; as it discomposeth the tranquillity of their minds, by inspiring them with wild and inconsistent passions ; and it disturbeth the peace of their consciences, by suggesting black thoughts and horrible reflections to them: these and several other ways is vice injurious to our souls. And therefore it is the design of Christianity to arm us against this great evil, to secure and defend us against all the weapons of unrighteousness. Hence the apostle telleth us, that the grace of God, that is, the gospel, was revealed from heaven for this very end, to teach us to deny all ungodliness and worldly lust, and to live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present world, Titus ii. 11, 12. And St. John telleth us, that for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil, 1 John üi. 8. This was the errand of the Son of God into the world, and the design of that incomparable religion he taught, to destroy the works of the Devil: and
indeed if we consider what an effectual course Christianity taketh to defend us against sin, we must confess it to be the most excellent armour in the world : for,
1. First, It restraineth us from it by the purest laws. The laws of Christian religion have made so great a gulf between our sins, and separated us from them by such an infinite distance, that it is impossible for them to come at us, or for us to go to them, whilst we persevere in our obedience to them : for they do not only forbid us that which is really evil, but do also command us to abstain from all appearances of evil, and do remove us so far out of the territories of sin, that they will not permit us to approach the borders of it: and lest we might unhappily go farther than we should, they forbid us to go as far as we may, and will not allow us so much as to come within the skirts and suburbs of iniquity. For in moral actions the distance is frequently so small between the utmost of what is lawful and the nearmost of what is sinful, that there are very few men in the world can set a rule to themselves, Hitherto may I go, and no farther; and therefore, without any infallible guide to point out to them the just and particular limits of lawful and unlawful, men can hardly be secure, whilst they dwell upon the frontiers and neighbourhood of sin; and therefore the gospel commands us at least to endeavour to keep at distance from sinning, and not come near the pitch, lest we be defiled by it. Neither doth it only restrain us from outward acts, but also from inward inclinations to evil: we must be so far from murdering our brother, that we must not hate or wish ill to him; so far from practising rapine and oppression, that we must not so much as covet our neighbour's possessions; so far from acting adultery, that we must not look upon a woman to lust after her. Thus the laws of our religion, you see, do strike at the very root of sin, and choke the very springs from whence those bitter streams derive; and do not, like other laws, merely restrain our outward practice, but also lay reins upon our desires, and extend their empire to freeborn thoughts. In this respect therefore Christianity doth most effectually arm us against sin, as it restraineth us from it by the purest laws that ever
Secondly, By dissuading us from it with the most prevailing arguments. There is no article of the Christian faith but is a copious topic of motives to virtue: and if men would but take the pains to extract from each their proper and just inferences, and to ponder those great obligations to gratitude and duty which the several articles of their religion do devolve upon them, Christianity must necessarily do wonders in the world, and work strange alterations in the lives and manners of Christians : for there is no stone that it leaveth unturned, nothing within us that is capable of persuasion but it addresseth to. To win upon our hope, it proposeth to us a happiness so extensive, that we can neither desire nor imagine beyond it; a happiness that is equal to the utmost capacities of our natures, and parallel to the longest duration of our beings; that hath not the least tang of misery in it, no bitter farewell nor appendant sting to it; but is all quintessence composed of the purest extracts of joy and pleasure. What greater motive can be urged to dissuade us from sinning, than the hope of such a happiness as doth so infinitely outbid all that vice can proffer us, and is weighty
enough to preponderate all its temptations, though all the world were in the counterbalance? But if we are so wedded to our lusts, that no hope of advantage will disengage us from them, Christianity thunders against them all the dreadful threats that are capable of scaring us into sober purposes : it denounceth unquenchable fire and eternal vengeance against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men; and alarms our fears with all the inconceivable horrors that an everlasting hell menaceth. And that this may not scare us only from open profaneness into close and secret hypocrisy, it assureth us, that there will be a day of fearful account, and wherein all that we acted behind the curtain shall be brought into public view upon an open theatre, and proclaimed to all the world by the trumpet of God and the voice of an archangel. And that we may be assured that these terrors of the Lord are not mere bugs and scarecrows, it giveth us a fearful example of God's severity against sin in the death and sufferings of his own Son; wherein he hath proclaimed himself an implacable enemy to vice, in that he would not pardon it without the blood of the most beloved darling of his soul. And certainly he that, after this assurance of God's severity against sin, can dare to be wicked, is a most valiant and courageous sinner: and if, after he hath confronted the tribunal of God, and outfaced the flames of hell, he can laugh at this fearful example of divine severity, he is fit for a reserve or a forlorn hope, and may boldly venture to be wicked through all the terrors in the world. But if men should be so senselessly wicked, as not to be persuaded either by hope or fear, yet perhaps ingenuity may prevail; which that it may, Christianity presseth us with the most endearing motives in the world: it sets before us the infinite obligations which God hath laid upon us, in bestowing upon us our beings, in surrounding us with his careful providence, but above all, in giving his Son to die for us; and to infer this last, it representeth our most kind and merciful Redeemer groaning under the cruelty of our sins; it bringeth forth his bloody garments, as Anthony did those of the murdered Cæsar, and spreadeth them before our eyes, and in the most passionate manner accuseth our sins for being his assassins and murderers : and can we find in our hearts to hug his executioners, to harbour the traitors that slew our friend, our friend that loved us a thousand times better than we love ourselves ? Surely, if we should, we should deserve to be branded for the most disingenuous and most ill-natured persons in the world : for it is impossible that any kindness should oblige us, if we find in our hearts to be wicked, in spite of all the love of God, and all the wounds and blood of our Redeemer. Thus you see with what powerful arguments Christianity doth arm us against sin.
Thirdly, It armeth us against it with the most powerful grace and assistance. Christianity is animated with a divine Spirit, that hath all along enlivened and actuated it, and rendered it in all ages so successful and victorious : it was by virtue of this divine Spirit that it triumphed, in its very infancy, over all the power and malice of the world, that, like the palm-tree, it grew by depression, and conquered in the midst of flames; insomuch that within less than an hundred years after the death of Christ, it had made successful inroads into the remotest kingdoms, and captivated a great part of mankind into