Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
On the Necessity of Morality in Religion
By Samuel Clarke (16751729)
From Sermon on the Practice of Morality leading to the Practice of the Gospel
NO man can become a true disciple of Christ, who is not affected with a sincere love of God and virtue; nor can any one who already professes the name of Christ behave himself as becomes that holy profession by any other methods or forms of religion whatever, than by the practice of righteousness and true virtue, in obedience to the moral commands of God. When our Saviour had worked the miracle of the loaves, recorded in the beginning of this chapter (John vi.); many of the Jews believed on him; that is, they professed themselves his disciples, not out of any regard to the excellency and holiness of his doctrine, but in hopes of being supported by him in the world. To these persons he says (verse 26): Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life. This doctrine, when they relished not, but began to murmur, he reproves them with somewhat more earnestness in the words of the text; No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: It is vain to profess to be my disciples upon any other foot, than that of regard to God, and to the world to come. Upon which they murmured still more (verse 61); he replied again (verse 64), There are some of you that believe not therefore said I unto you, that no man can come to me, except it were given unto him of my father: given unto him of my Father, that is, in the same sense, as he elsewhere tells the apostles that it was given to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, because they were unprejudiced, willing to hear and to understand; and came to him, not upon any temporal design, but being persuaded, as St. Peter expresses himself (verse 68 of this chapter), that he had the words of eternal life.
Upon account of the necessary and inseparable connexion of these two things; of a steady regard to the eternal obligations of the moral law of God in every one who professes to embrace the Revelation of Christ; upon this account (I say) it is, that our Lord declares (John vii. 16, 17), My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. And again (viii. 42), If God, says he, were your father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Like to which, is that of the apostle St. John (1 John ii. 13), I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the father; (verse 24), If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the son, and in the father; (2 John 9), He that abideth in the doctrine (that is, he that obeys the laws) of Christ, he hath both the father and the son. On the contrary, to the immoral and hypocritical Pharisees, who hated the doctrine of virtue and righteousness, Ye neither know me, says our Lord, nor my father (John viii. 19). And, speaking of the persecutions which the vicious and debauched world would bring upon his disciples; These things, says he, will they do unto you, because they know not him that sent me (John xv. 21). They have both seen and hated both me and my father (verse 24). And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the father, nor me (xvi. 3); that is, they have no true sense, either of natural religion, nor revealed.
The sum therefore and application of the whole is this: the great end and design of the gospel of Christ is to restore sinners to the favour of God, by bringing them back to the practice of true virtue. Vicious and corrupt minds therefore, who are enemies to the moral laws of God, must always naturally be averse to the doctrine of the gospel. Consequently such persons are very apt, either to oppose and persecute the true disciples of Christ; or else, if in times of prosperity they themselves embrace the profession of Christianity, they always place their religion in outward forms and ceremonies, or in certain systems of opinion, consistent with unrighteous practice. For to a true sense of Christs religion no man can come, except the Father draw him, that is, except the love of God and virtue be his motive.