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The fool hath said in his heart, &c. Psa. xiv. 1 38
IX. God is faithful, &c. 1 Cor. x. 13
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall
come. For men shall be lovers of their ownselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy. Without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good. Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”—2 Tim. iii. 1--5.
To a discourse upon these words, I cannot think of any fitter introduction, than that wherewith our Saviour sometime began a sermon of his, “This day is this scripture fulfilled.” And I would to God, there were not great occasion to fear, that a great part of it may be fulfilled in this place.
Two things are contained in it: First, The real wickedness of the generality of the men of the latter times, in the four first verses. For by “men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, boasters, proud,” &c. I conceive is meant, men generally shall be so; otherwise this were nothing peculiar to the last, but common to all times; for in all times some, nay, many, have been lovers of themselves, covetous, boasters, próud;" &c. Se
condly, We have here the formal and hypocritical godliness of the same times, in the last verse; “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof;" which latter ordinarily and naturally accompanies the former. For, as the shadows are longest when the sun is lowest, and as vines, and other fruit-trees, bear the less fruit, when they are suffered to, luxuriate and spend their
sap upon superfluous suckers, and abundance of leaves : so commonly, we may observe, both in civil conversation, where there is great store of formality, there is little sincerity; and in religion, where there is a decay of true cordial piety, there men entertain and please themselves, and vainly hope to please God, with external formalities and performances, and great store of that righteousness, for which Christ shall judge the world.
It were no difficult matter to shew, that the truth of St. Paul's prediction is by experience justified in both parts of it; but my purpose is to restrain myself to the latter, and to endeavour to clear unto you that, that in our times is generally accomplished: that almost in all places the power of godliness is decayed and vanished; the form and profession of it only remaining: that the spirit and soul, and life of religion, is for the most part gone; only the outward body or carcass, or rather the picture or shadow of it, being left behind. This is the doctrine, which at this time I shall deliver to you; and the use, which I desire most heartily you shall make of it, is this: to take care, that you confute, so far as it concerns your particulars, what I fear I shall prove true in the general, :::
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