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VOL. I, O lemnly

210 S E R M O N IX.
lemnly engaged to it. The Epiftle to the He-
brews therefore declares it is impoj/ible for thofe,
who were once enlightened, and have tafted of the
heavenly Gift) and were made Partakers of the
Holy Ghoftj and have tafted the good Word of God,
and the Powers of the World to come, if theyjkall
fall away, to renew them again unto Repentance :
feeing they crucify to themfehes the Son of God
afrefoy. and put him to an open Shame*. But
then, explicit and terrible as thefe Words are,
yet fome of them plainly relate to thofe mira-
culous Gifts and Powers, which we do not now
experience, and therefore cannot fin againft them
to that Degree, nor by Confequence make our
Condition fo defperate, as thofe who did : be-
fides that impojjible, both in Scripture and com-
mon Language, often means no more, than,
extremely difficult and hopelefs j but- not be-
yond the Reach of his Grace, with whom all
things arc pojjible\ And as this ImpofTibility
is exprefsly here faid to be that of renewing them
to Repentance : (which powerfully ftrengthens
what I have already proved to you, that the
Blafphemy againft the Holy Ghoft is unpardon-
able, only becaufe it leaves no Foundation tq

1: Hcb. vi. 4 6. J Matth. xix. 26.


S E ,R M O N IX. 211

repent upon) fo when any one is renewed to
Repentance, this PafTage contains not the leaft
Intimation, that he cannot be forgiven.

But fuppoiing a total and fettled Unbelief
and Apoftacy to be ever fo irretrievable ; yet
merely having doubted, nay, having inclined to
the wrong Side, or even been a good deal per-
fuaded of it, and that for fome Time, is very far
from being the fame Cafe. The Apoflles them-
felves at firft did not believe the Refurrection of
our Saviour : St. Thomas flood out a whole
Week : two of them in St. Luke fpeak of their
Perfualion, that this was he ivbo foould /javf
redeemed Ifrael, as pair, and at an End m . Yet,
as all this arofe from Infirmity, not Wickednefs,
they met with an eafy Pardon ; and fo will
others like them. But few of thofe, whom
Senfuality, and fewer ftill, whom vain Self-
opinion leads to Scepticifm, ever recover them-
felves. And as this affords no fmall Confirma-
tion to the awful Doctrine of the Text : fo it
mould warn all from taking fo much as the
firfc Steps in that fatal Path, from which Men
fo feldom return : but efpecially againfl fetting
out with treating Religion and Morals in a
fcornful and ludicrous Manner ; which is di-

w Luke xxiv. 21.

* O 2 redly

212 S E R M O N IX.

redtly oppoiitc to modeft and humble Inquiry ;
manifests a very criminal Partiality, as well as
Sufficiency ; and naturally terminates in a com-
plete Difregard to every Thing wife and good.

Thus much concerning Infidels and Apofl-
ates. Chriftians, while they continue fuch, are
in very little Danger of committing the Sin,
condemned in the Text. Some indeed have
imagined, that every deliberate Tranfgreffion
amounted to it, and was unpardonable 5 becaufe
the Epiflle to the Hebrews faith, that if we Jin
wilfully, after that we have received the Know-
ledge of the Truth, there remaineth no more Sacri-
fice for Sins, but a certain fearful looking for of
Judgement". But then it appears very plainly,
that not any wilful Sin whatever is meant there,
but that one only, which is mentioned immedi-
ately before and after -, laying aiide the Prof effion
of the Faith, treading under Foot the Son of God,
counting the Blood of the Covenant an unholy
'Thing, doing Defpite unto the Spirit of Grace :
that is, renouncing and reviling Christianity.
And it by no Means follows, that becaufe they,
who have rejected Chrift, will no where fine}
any other Atonement for their Sins, therefore
they who believe in him, but have criminally
n Heb. x. 26, 27.



violated fome of his Precepts, cannot partake of
his Atonement, though they apply for it with
penitent Hearts. It is very true, St. 'John hath
told us, there is a Sin unto Death, at leaft was
in thofe Days, of which if any one was guilty,
he could give no Encouragement to pray for
him . But the whole Scripture tells us, that
not every wilful Sin is certainly unto Death :
and our Saviour in the Text hath told us,
that only the Blafphemy, the malicious Evil-
fpeaking, againft the Holy Ghoft is fuch. Now
they who believe in the Father and the Son
caanot furely think ill either of the Perfon or
the Operations of the Spirit ; and therefore can-
not be ordinarily tempted to fpeak ill of them,
with any real Meaning of what they fay : and
unmeaning profane Exprefiions, though un-
doubtedly very full of Guilt, and likely to pro-
duce more and greater Guilt, are yet far from
that moft abandoned Wickednefs, to which the
PafTage before us relates.

Sometimes indeed Chriftians, and very good
ones, may accufe themfelves of having enter-
tained irreverent Thoughts, and, it may be,
fpoken irreverent Words of Religion, of the
Scriptures, of the Holy Spirit himfeli*: but this

I John v. i .

O 3 hath


hath been, when they were under fo peculiar
a Difturbance cf Mind, that they had not the
Command of their Thoughts or Words : and
then they may be abfplutely fure, that the all-?
knowing, juft, and good God will not coniider
thefe Offences, as, in a moral Senfe, theirs.
In fome Diforders, it is no more pofiible for
Men to hinder wicked Thoughts from taking
PofTeffion of their Minds, or blafphemous
Words from coming cut of \he\r Mouths, than
to hinder any other Diftemper, (for plainly this
is one) which may attack any other Part of them,
from fhewing itfelf by its common Effects. And
it is no more a Crime, when they are in fuch a
Condition, to utter Things even againit God ;
than it is for a Child, in Convuliions or light-
headed, to ilrike its Parent. And though they
may not think themfelves difordered, and in
other Refpects may not be fo -, yet in this Want of
Self-government, proportionably to the Degree
of it, they certainly are. And it makes no Dif-
ference at all with Regard to their Innocence,
whether the Diforder be a natural bodily one,
affecting the Mind 3 which is notorioufly the
common Cafe, though attended fometimes with
very unaccountable Symptoms; or whether it
Strife from the Suggeilions of the wick'ed one.



For as he tempted Chriit himfeif, fo he hath
ever lince molefted Chriftians ; and often fug-
gefted the worft of Things to the bell of Men.
Our Words indeed, notwithftanding fuch Temp-
tations, we may for the moftPart rcitrain : but
we can by no Means always prevent Impref-
fions being made on our Imaginations : and how
ftrongly foever any one may experience them to
be made on his, ftill the wicked Thougnts,
which he laments all the while, is terrified at,
and almoft in Agonies about, certainly do not
proceed from his own Will and Choice ; and
for that Reafon, far from being unpardonable
Sins, they are in Truth no Sins at all ; but
grievous Afflictions, for which God will here-
after reward him, if he endeavours to fufFer
them patiently. This you would immediately
perceive, and fay, in the Cafe of any other
Perfon : and therefore, when Occailon requires,
you mould fay it to yourfelf, Bat if you cannoty
or if it proves to no great Purpofe, nay to fo
little that you are driven to the very Borders
of Defpair, yet Defpair itfelf, fo,far as it is a
mere Difeafe, is not an Offence againil God.

But then, how remote foever we are from
committing the Sin, which cannot be pardon-
ed; we may too eafily commit fuch, as will
O 4 not


not be pardoned : for none will, without true
Repentance. And every Tranfgreffion either
invites or drives us into repeated and worfe
Tranfgreffion s, which infenfibly fo harden us
through their Deceitfulnefs p , that though, while
the Day of Salvation q continues, we always
may repent, it becomes lefs and lefs likely, that
we ever mail. And even if we do, we (hall,
notwithstanding, even in this World, ufually
be great Sufferers one Way or another ; and,
unlefs we become uncommonly zealous in our
Duty, mail attain a much lower Degree of
Happinefs in the next, Bear in your Minds
therefore the Son of Siracb's Words : Flee from
Sin, as from the Face of a Serpent : for if
thoit comeft too near it, it will bite thee : the
^eeth thereof are as the 'Teeth of a hion, flay-
ing the Souls of Men. AH Iniquity is as a
two-edged Sword, the Wounds whereof cannot be
healed' : cannot be healed at all, without Dan-
ger and Difficulty and Pain $ nor fo perfetftly
at beft, but that flill either Weaknefs, or
Scars and Deformities however, will be left
behind. Let us therefpre carefully avoid al!
Sin : but particularly avoid all Sins relating to
>Heb. iii. 13. ' z Cor. vj. z. ' EccJjjp. xxi. 2, 3.



the Holy Ghoft, and praftife all Duties relat-
ing to him : that fo, abiding in his Fellowship,
being fupported by his Teftimony, and re-
joicing in his Comfort, we may at length be
feakd 'with the Spirit of Promife, the 1$arneft of
that Inheritance \ to which, &c.

i. 13,

S E k-


I 9 J

S E R M O N X.

MATTH. xii. 36,

JSvf I fay unto you, that every Idle Word, that
Men foall fpcaky they Jh all give Account there-
of in the D-ay of 'Judgement.

OUR bldTed Saviour, whenever his Hearers
were Perfons of well-difpofed Minds,
and free from Prejudices, taught them the Du-
ties of Religion in the plaineft Terms, But
Length of Time, and Difference of Language,
have made forne of his Expreffions, even on
fuch Occafions, hard to be underftood, or liable
to be mifunderftood : and hence, unlefs we are
both upright and confiderate, may ari& Mif-
takcs of great Importance. For if we inter-
pret thefe PaiTages with too much Indulgence
to ourfelves, as human Nature is very prone to
do. we corrupt the Purity of his Precepts, and



endanger our own Salvation : firft aiming at
lefs than we ought, then of Courfe falling mort
of that. And yet the oppofite Extreme, of
/training them too high, hath feldom done
Good, and often Harm: hath deterred weak Spi-
rits from taking the Burthen of Religion upon
them, entangled fcrupulous Tempers with end-
Jefs Perplexities, and made rigid ones uncha-
ritable and fuperiUtious : given the Enemies
of Chriftianity Opportunities of declaiming
againft it, as unnaturally fevere ; and tempted
the carelefs ProfeiTors of it, after rejecting, as
they well might, the over-ftrict Senfe of fuch
Phrafes, not to take the Pains of looking for
any ether; but go on, unrestrained by them,
to live as they pleafe.

Thus it hath happened in Relation to the
Text of Scripture, which I juft read to
you. Some few, undemanding by every idle.
Word, every needlefs or trifling one ; and by
giving Account, being condemned ; have either
forced themfelves to an abfurd Refervednefs
and Silence in Company, or been very uneafy,
that they were unable to do it j while the pro-
fane have ridiculed both them and the Gofpel,
on that Account. But the Generality of Man-
kind, foon perceiving, that this could not be



the Meaning of the Words, have never concern-
ed themfelves to inquire what was ; but have
freely taken all the fame Liberties in Difcourfe,
as if no fuch Warning had ever been given by
our blefled Lord.

Now that he was far from the Intention of
laying down unfociable Rules for Behaviour,
his whole Character fufficiently {hews 3 which
was in no Refpect harm and auftere, but hu-
mane and converlible. The whole Temper of
his Religion proves it yet more fully: it is an eajy
Take * ; it enjoins ivbatfoever Things are lovely
and of good Report^; it enjoins particularly,
being courteous c -, of which being affable is a
material Part : and this can never confiil with
difapproving, as unlawful, every Word that
might have been fpared. Difcourfe on Sub-
jects of little or no Importance is as necefTary,
at Times, for the Relaxation of our Minds, as
Exercife without Bufmefs for the Refrefhment
of our Bodies. It is a proper Exertion of that
Chearfulnefs, which God hath plainly defigned
us to ihew, on final! Occalions, as well as
great. Beiides, it wins and engages thofe, whom
fpeechlefs or fententious Gravity might not only
difpleafe, but prepoffefs againft every Thing

a Matih. xi. 30. b Phil, ir. 8. c i Pet. iii. 8.

good :

222 SERMON 5C.

good : whereas obferving, even in flight Mat-
ters, the Apoftle's Rule, of graceful Speech, (for
fo the belt Interpreters underfland what is
tranflated Speech with Grace) jeafoned 'with Salt,
that ive may know how we ought to anjwer every
Man*, both expreffes and increafes mutual
Good-will ; and enables us, from being in-
nocently entertaining, to become ferioufly ufe-
ful. We may be fure therefore, that whatever
Difcourfe hath this general good Tendency, and
no bad one, be there otherwife ever fo little
Ufe or Significancy in it, cannot be in any
blameable Senfe, idle Words.

And indeed, if we look into what precedes
the Text, we fhall find it was not occaiioned
by Perfons faying more than they needed, but
other Things than they ought. And therefore
learned Men have fuppofed this rhrafe, of idle
Words, to be one of thofe many, in all Writers,
which imply more than they exprefs* In Scrip-
ture, unfruitful Works of Darknefs e means per-
nicious Works : what is unprofitable for you f ,
means, what would be hurtful to you. In com-
mon Speech, a worthlefs Man is one, who, be-
iides having no Good, hath much Harm in him.
And thus they underftand an idle Word to be

* Col. iv. 6. e Eph. v, 1 1. l Hsb. xiii. 17.


S E R M O N X. 223
riot merely an ufelefs, but a falfe AfTertion,
which is almoft always, at the fame Time, in
one Way or other, an injurious one : fuch as
evidently thole were, of which our Saviour is
here fpeaking. An Interpretation, that un-
doubtedly removes all Appearance of Harfhnefs
from this Part of his Doctrine, and is not with-
out Support from the Ufe of the Term in old
Writers. Yet ftill, the folemn Form of In-
troduction, But I fay unto you, feldom, if ever,
ufed by him, when he taught only common
and known Truths, inclines one flrongly to
look for fomewhat farther, than a bare De-
claration, that injurious and calumniating Lan-
guage is fmful. And, in Fad:, the Expreffion,
idle Words, in the Jewift Language, fometimes
denotes all fuch, as make up the carelefs eafy
Converfation of our Leifure-Time : agreeably
to which, the Writers in it mention them,
often with Contempt, or lower Marks of Dif-
like, as there is too often Caufe : but now and
then alfo with a Degree of Praife : as when a
noted Commentator of theirs, who lived above
500 Years ago S, explains that PafTage in the
firft Pfalm, His Leaf alfo jhall not wither, from
Rabbins yet older than himfelf, thus : that

3 R. David Kimchi.

A. even

224 S E R M O N X.

even the idle 'Talk, fo he expreffes it, of a good
Man ought to be regarded: the moft fuperfluous
Things he faith, are always of fome Value.
And other ancient Authors have the fame
Phrafe nearly in the fame Senfe.

Our Saviour therefore probably intended here
to fay, that we fhall give an Account, in the
Day of Judgement , of our moft unguarded and
unmeaning Difcourfe. Not that we fhall be
charged with the Whole of it, as criminal.
God forbid ! We may as well be charged with
every needlefs inarticulate Sound, or bodily
Gefture h . The Apoftle fpeaks of Perfons giving
their Account with yoy '. And fo may we give
ours, even concerning this Part of our Con-
verfation, if we take Care to be fuch as we
ought. For make the 'Tree good : and both the
Fruit k and the Leaves will be fo too. The full
Senfe of the Text then is, that not only our
ftudied and deliberate, but our flighter and
more negligent Words, as well as Actions,
will,, in Proportion to their Weight, have an
Influence on the future Determination of our
everlafting State. It appears, from what goes

h And indeed the Stoic Doftrine was : Digltum e.\-ere t peccas.
Perf. Sat. V. v. 119.

1 Heb. xiii. 17. k Matth. xii. 33.


before, that fome of the Jews had been mali-
cioufly afcribing the Miracles of Chrift to in-
fernal Powers. Others, without Queftion, as
it always happens, had thoughtlefsly taken up
and fpread the Notion, which they had heard.
He therefore, after confuting the former, lets
the latter alfo know their Share of the Guilt,
by adding, that, on every Occafion, out of the
Abundance of the Heart, the Mouth ffeaketh.
A good Man, out of the good Treafure of the
Heart, bringeth forth good Things : and an evil
Man, out of the evil Treafure, bringeth forth evil
Things. Then he goes on : But I fay unto
you, that every idle Word, that Men fiall fpeak,
they ft all give Account thereof in the Day of
Judgement. For by thy Words thou fialt be
jujUJied, and by thy Words thou jhalt be con-
demned \

Defigned ExprefTions, in Difcourfe, of Im-
piety towards God, Injuftice to Man, Difre-
gard to Virtue or Decency, can proceed only
from an abandoned Heart. But the Converfa-
tion of moil Perfons is full of unobferved
Faults and bad Tendencies : which, like a Mul-
titude of fmall Expences, make us Debtors be-
yond what we could imagine : and by con-

1 Matth. xii. 34 37.

VOL. I. P tinual,


tinual, though (lighter Impreffions on ourMorals
and Piety, gradually undermine what the moft
violent open Aflault could not have over-
turned. Each particular Offence appears a
Trifle : fome, taken alone, almofl imperceptible :
they difguife themfelves under the Shew of that
chearful Freedom, without which human Life
would be quite uncomfortable : and thus a
Number of Enemies, entering fingle, form a
Body at Length, that matters the Place. Now
though it may feem no great Overfight to ad-
mit one or two of thefe - y yet not to be alarmed
as they increafe upon us, is unpardonable Want
of Car,e. Therefore, to acquaint ourfelves bet-
ter with the Danger, and the Means of guard-
ing againft it, let us coniider, how common it
is to fpeak in a very unfit Manner, chiefly
through Inconfideratenefs, of Religion, moral
Virtue, and one another.

I. Of Religion. Both Prudence and good
Breeding, not to fay, a little Diftruft of their
own Abilities and Impartiality, might induce
even thofe, who have examined its Authority
and doubt of its Truth, if any fuch there be,
{till to be my of declaring againft what many
others, and pdlTibly fome of equal Abilities, af-
ter as full an Examination, hold facred. And yet



jfuch as have never examined in the leaft, nor
once put a QueiHon to themfelves about it,
can, with a moft contemptuous Negligence,
take for granted the Falfehood 6f the moft
awful Truths* and talk upon that Suppofition,
in fo allured and eafy a Manner, as if No-
body differed from them. Whenever they do
chance to hear of an Argument, that feems to
make for them, they applaud it, even without But a Jefl they look on, as
fuperior to all Argument : and if any Text of
Scripture can have an unfair ludicrous Turn
given it, or any Article of Faith be mifrepre-
fented into an Abfurdity, this they triumph
in, without Mercy * Now whatever Excufe
there may be for the Doubts, or the Miftakes,
of inquifitive and humble Minds : yet when
the ignorant or thoughlefs take upon ' them to
defpife the Laws of Heaven, without Pretence
for it ; and make the nobleft Hopes of human
Nature, the Theme of their Scorn and Ridi-
cule : this is a moft heinous Kind of idle Dif-

But there is another Sort, though not fo

(hocking yet more extenfively mifchievous ;

when they, who profefs Religion, and think they

are ferious in die Profeflion, as furely, if it be a

P 2 Truth,


Truth, it is the moft ferious one that can be,
allow themfelves inadvertently in laying what
tends to its Ruin : when they fpeak with Dif-
regard of the appointed Methods of fupport-
ing it in the World ; when they join in loofe
Harangues againft Enthufiafm and Superftition,
without putting in due Cautions to diftinguim
them from the moft rational Feelings of Love,
and Marks of Refpect, to our Maker, Re-
deemer, and Sanctifier, which Chriflianity hath
enjoined : when they, who by no Means in-
tend to be profane, repeat the profane Things
that others have faid or done, with Indulgence
and Pleafure : when they carry on Difcourfe,
that reflects upon Doctrines, which they them-
felves inwardly believe ; and treat Duties with
Indifference, or even Contempt, which at the
fame Time they acknowledge, and, it may be,
practife, as Duties. This unmeaning Com-
pliance with faihionable Talk, which they
might eafily avoid, yet not be remarkable ; or
if they were, it would be to their Honour ;
brings them by Degrees to think flightly of
what they have been affecting to fpeak ilightly
of; till their Piety waftes away into an empty
Form : and it is feldom long, before they grow
afhamed of even that. Thus is their Month
tbdr Deftruftion* and their Lips the Snare of their



Souls m . At leaft they lead others into a wrong
Way, who are afterwards tempted to go farther;
they permit themfelves to be fufpected ; they
defert the Defence of Religion, when it wants
all poffible Help 5 and are falfe to their own
Caufe. All good Men therefore mould be very
careful, that their outward Appearance do not
contradict their inward Faith. Doubtlefs there
are Seafons, in which Pleafantry is proper : but
there are Subjects, on which it is never pro-
per ; and Religion is one. Abruptly intruding
grave Maxims into the Midft of Mirth, with-
out any Thing to call for them, would be dif-
guflful and abfurd, But {till, whatever Dif-
ference of Manner different Occafions may re-
quire, as they certainly require a very great
one j we fhould always continue the fame in
our gayeft Hours, that we are in our mofh
ferious ; and preferve an Uniformity of Cha-
racter throughout, Nor can there be any Cha-
racter more confident or amiable, than theirs,
whom dutiful Regard to the greateft and beit
of Beings influences, not only to be juft and
good in their Behaviour, but fometimes in-
ftructive, fometimes entertaining, always inno-
cent, in their Converfation.

OT Prov. xviii. 7.

P 3 This


This Head of irreligious idle Words could
not have been concluded, without fevere Anir
madverfions on the monftrous Cuftom of un-
meaning Oaths and Imprecations, if the Sinful-
nefs of it were not fo notorious, and fo often fet
before you, that I hope you can have no Doubt,
but fuch Language will be a dreadful Article of
Account in the Day of Judgement. Let us
therefore proceed to confider,

II. What Sort of Ufage moral Virtue fre-
quently meets with, in our familiar Difcourfe :
not from any premeditated Defign againft it j
for that belongs to another Subject; but prin-
cipally through Inadvertency. How favourably
are moft of us apt to fpeak even of grofs Vices,
when high Rank, or fuperficial Agreeablenefs,
give them a falfe Luftre : and how commonly
4o we treat the bafeil and moil cruel Behaviour,
that Men are guilty of jn Purfuit of their Plea-
fure, as Matter of Diverfion only -, as no Ex-
ceptions againft their Characters, but rather
perhaps a Kind of Recommendation ! How im-
perfedly fometimes is the Decency of Conver-
fation preferved amongfl; Perfons of tolerably
good Repute : in direct Contradiction to the
Appftle's Precept, Let no corrupt Cammunication



proceed out of your Mouth " : and with what
ftrange Indulgence are Offences of this Kind
ufually received ! How thoughtlefsly do many
applaud and propagate vile Notions of human
Nature, that tend only to make it yet viler ;
and gratify a prepofterous Vanity, by reprefent-
ing their Species worfe, than it is. Concerning
themfelves indeed, the Patrons of fuch Opinions
may, in a good Meafure, deferve Belief. Yet
even they are not quite fo bad, as they abfurdly
endeavour to have it imagined, all Mankind
are ! How many again will defend Immorali-
ties, of which they would by no Means be
guilty: and are profligate in their Difcourfe,
while they are regular in their Lives ! Nor doth
it content us always, by our idle Talk to keep
Wickednefs in Countenance : but we lay Vir-
tue under pofitive Difcouragements. Modefty
and ChafHty, in one Sex at leaft, with too many
is a Matter of great Raillery. Of Uprightnefs
and Honefly, on fome Occafidns, we fpeak with
but a contemptuous Kind of Approbation at

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