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befl. Patience and Forgivenefs of Injuries we
treat as downright Mean-fpiritednefs ; Difcre-
tion in Conduct, as a formal difagreeable Thing;
Frugality as an odious one, though requifite for

b Eph. iv. 29.

P 4 the

232 S E^ R M O N X.

the Purpofes of Juftice, or made fubfervient to
thofe of Charity. But efpecially where difad-
vantageous Peculiarities throw any Thing of a
Shade on the true/I Merit -, we are extremely
apt to condemn and ridicule in the Grofs, what,
however clouded, we ought to diftinguifh, and
mention with due Honour. A little Ungrace-
fulnefs of Behaviour, or Meannefs of Appear-
ance, or Defect in Point of Abilities, or Ig-
norance of the World, though accompanied
with a worthy Heart, ihall provoke a harder
Cenfure from us, than a mifchievous Turn of
Mind, or a vicious Courfe of Behaviour : nay
we can fancy Circumftances, when we find
none, to render good Qualities defpicable.Then
while we thus depreciate real Virtues, we exalt
imaginary ones into their Places : falfe Honour,
falfe Good-nature ; which lead often to the
worfl of Crimes, and difguife them under the
beft of Names. In fhort, the Conversation,
even of thofe who are counted virtuous, by
others and themfelves, goes a great deal too
much, without their attending to it, on Maxims
directly contrary to the Principles which they
avow : and places both the Conduct and En-
joyment of Life upon a wrong Footing. For
Jnilancc : Are we not perpetually fpeaking of


S E R M O N X. 233
this prefent World, as if it were our All : nay,
of the outward Shew of Things here, as if it
were the true and only Happinefs of Man ?
What Impreffion muft this make, by Degrees,
on the Minds of thofe who hear us : indeed on
our own ? By thoughtlefsly talking thus upon
miftaken Suppofitions, we fhall come at Length
to forget they are fuch -, and act at leaft like
thofe, who think them true. But let us now

III. How wrongly we treat each other, in our
carelefs eafy Difcourfe ; not from deliberate ill
Will, but by Way of Amufement.

One raifes an idle Story, to divert the Com-
pany, at the Expence of a Perfon, who, it may
be, hath not given the lead Ground for it.
A fecond catches what he hears -, perhaps be-
lieves it too haftily -, perhaps doth not believe
it, but tells it notwithftanding : a third fills
it up with plaufible Circumftances : the general
Voice repeats it: and then, what every one fays,
paries for certain : efpecially if the Compoiition
be feafoned with a fmall Spice of Wit, it is uni-
verfally relifhed, and lafts for a long Time. But
if befides, it leflens an honourable Character ;
inftead of doubting, or being forry, People
echo it with immoderate Joy : and yet every



one thinks himfelf clear of all Blame, becaufc
he means only Entertainment. Poflibly he
did: and yet, as neither he, nor they that
heard him, would have been near fo much
entertained with a good Report, as an ill one ;
there is almoft always at the Bottom of this
Practice, a latent Malignity of Heart againft
our Fellow-Creatures -, our Brethren, for 'whom
Ghrift died , and whom both Nature and Re-
ligion command us to love. But whatever
the Principle be, the Effects are very bad. Un-
thinking Licentioufneis of Speech, concerning
Perfons of high Rank, may endanger even a
Nation's Peace. And yet what Numbers are
there, that will venture to alTert, without the
lean: Diffidence, whatever fuits their Humour,
on Matters, which perhaps they know Nothing
of: and when once they are got into the Road
of Talk, quicken their Pace, without perceiv-
ing it; and will go any Length, to keep one
another Company : fo that, to ufe the Terms
of Scripture, the Beginning of the Words of
-their Mouth is Foolifonefs : and the End, mif-
chievous Madnefs p . But in private Life, no one
can tell, what unhappy Confequences a falfe
Report to the Difad vantage of another, though

Rom. xiv. 15. P Eccl x. 13.




leemingly in a Trifle, may have. Or if it were
a true Report ; let us afk ourfelves, how could
our Tempers, how indeed would our Characters
bear, that every Thing, which is true of us,
{hould be fpread abroad ? A nd were the Per-
fon, who had done it, to fay in his own De-
fence, that he had no Defign of hurting us ;
when however he had no Regard, whether he
hurt us or not; would this appear a fufficient
Plea ? The Harm done is not the lefs, often the
greater, for the negligent Manner it is done
in. That procures Belief: whereas apparent
Malice, or Paffion, would render what we fay
fufpected. Befides, Anger is frequently founded
on Provocations, that a little excufe the In-
juries it doth: but indolently treading under Foot
the Reputations of others, is wanton Cruelty ;
that with the gayeft Indifference delivers Per-
fons over to Reproach or Contempt, it may be
for Life, rather than an ill-natured Story, or a
lucky Turn of Words, mall be loft ; that puts
the good Name of another, on which his All
may depend, into the Balance, and lets the
Love of Talk, the Vanity of having early In-
telligence, or any other filly Fancy, outweigh
it. Every one fhould ftrive indeed to make
fuch Converfatipn harmlefs, by exprefling a



Difregard and Diflike to it. But, as this will
never be done effectually ; fo, if it were^ the
Guilt of thefe charitable Communicators would
be much the fame ; for they certainly did not
defign to be thus infignificant.

There is yet another, and frequently a more
fatal Way frill, of injuring others by unmean-
ing Difcourfe : when, merely to enliven the
prcfent Hour, we give them, with falfe Civi-
lity, a higher Opinion of their own Ac-
complimments, or our Efteem of them, or
good Intentions towards them, than we ought.
Many ridiculous Miftakes, and many ferious
Inconveniences, are Men thus drawn into :
they lofe the little Knowledge they had of
themfelves ; affecl; what mifbecomes them, at-
tempt what they are unequal to. - 3 and take
wrong Steps in Life, that always expofe and
often ruin them : to the great Diverfion, fome-
times, of thofe, who mould be otherwife moved
at feeing the Mifchief to which they have con-

Thefe Inftances, without feeking for more,
abundantly fhew the Need of watching over
our freeft and eafieft Converfation, and die
Juftice of its undergoing God's final Cenfure.
Lo> there is not a Word in my Tongue, but thou,



O Lord, know eft it altogether^. And whatever
he obferves whether good or bad in us, the
righteous Judge of the whole Earth will ac-
cordingly reward or punifh. Perhaps we may
not particularly forefee the Harm we do by
our irreligious, immoral, or injurious idle
Words; but we cannot help forefeeing, that
not a little may arife from them : and it muft
be, in general, a wrong Turn of Mind, that
prompts us to them. For as the Fruit de-
claret h if the T^ree have been dreffed j fo is the
Utterance of a Conceit in the Heart of Man* . It
is very true, that the Government of the Tongue
at all Times is a Matter of great Difficulty :
and if any one offend not in Word, the fame is a
perfect Man s , indeed. But ftill we might offend
much lefs than we do, and approach much
nearer to this Perfection, would we but often
recollect, that for thefe things alfo God will
bring us into Judgment ' : a Confideration, that
fhould make us, like the Pfalmift, keep our
Mouth, a<s it were with a Bridle u .

Poffibly it may be objected, that fuch At-
tention as this would embarrafs Converfation
with endlefs Reflraints, which will make it

Pf. cxxxix. 3. r Ecclus. xxvii. 6. s James Hi. 2.

: Ecd. xi. 9. " Pf. xxxix. 2.



quite difagreeable : and the Awe of Religion iri
our chearful Moments, damp the whole Plea-
fure of Society. Nor can it be denied, that
obferving Rules in their Difcourfe, would, to
fome Perfons, for fome Time, be a grievous
Tafk. But fo it is in every Thing that we
undertake to learn, efpecially if we have learnt
wrong before : and yet we mall never learn to
good Purpofe, without obferving Rules: and
the clofer Pains we take at firft, the more
graceful and eaiier Figure we mall make after-
wards, in Performances of any Kind, Men
of Underftanding and Application may foon
qualify themfelves to be very entertaining on
harmlefs and ufeful Subjects: and confequently
running into others mud imply, either low
Abilities, or bad Difpofitions, or criminal
Though tlefsnefs. But if Converfation doth lofe,
by due Regulations, a little of its Poignancy 4
it lofes its Venom too : and furely the Delight
of hearing, or faying, improper lively Things,
may well be given up, to avoid the exquifite
Uneafinefs theyfometimes caufe, and the various
ill Effects they generally have. As for the
Awe of Religion : \ *ere it in our Choice, whe-
ther there mould be an Infpedtor of our Actions
and Words and Thoughts, or not 3 it might



deferve Confideration, what Influence on the
Comfort of our Beings that Infpection would
have. But {ince we know there is one, un-
der whofe Eye we live continually ; our only
Concern is to fuit our Behaviour to this our
Condition, be it more pleafing, or be it lefs.
Not that in Reality there could be a happier,
than Subjection to his fatherly Care, who con-
fiders our Frame, and knoweth whereof we are
made : who hath given us every Principle of
Joy and Delight, that belongs to our Nature;
and approves of the innocent Ufe of them
all. But then the moft indulgent Superior,
that will preferve himfelf a Superior, as God
ailuredly will, muft require fo much Regard to
his Pre fence, as mail reftrain us, not only
from wilful and flagrant Offences, but from
that fupine Negligence, which, though it be
mewn in lefTer Inftances only, yet, by the in-
ceffant Repetition of them, argues great Difre-
gard ; fuch, that, were we to coniider ourfelves
only as God's Creatures, we mould be obliged
to avoid confcientioufly. But if we confider
ourfelves as fallen, fmful, redeemed Creatures,
redeemed by the Love of him, whom If we love
ive mujl keep his Commandments* > and whofe

* Pf, ciii. 14. j* John xir. 15.



Wrath we fhall not efcape, if we negleft fa
great Salvation?, here will be additional Motives
of the ilrongeil Sort, not only to fet a Watch
before our Mouths, and keep the Door of our
Lips 7 -, but to purify our Hearts*, through Faith
in him : and when we have thus, for there is
no other Way, healed the Fountain, then it will
fendforthfweet Water^: then, if the Senfe of our
Obligations, and our Danger, in this Refpecl,
fhould, as it will, by reprefenting Converfation
in a different Light, from what we had feen
it in before, moderate our Fondnefs for it -,
leffen the Time we fpend in it, and the Share
we take to ourfelves of it ; make us cautious of
faying more than hath at lean: a general good
Tendency, and careful to a greater Degree, in
Proportion as we are obliged to live more in
Company, and as our Difcourfe will be more
regarded there : we mall plainly perceive, that
no Manner of Harm follows, but more Good
than a little, by the Leifure we thus gain for
ferious Thought, valuable Books, and requifite
Employments of feveral Kinds. A more tho-
rough Acquaintance, in Retirement, withour-

7 Heb. ii. 3. * Pf. cxli. 3. * Afts xv. 9.

* 2 Kings ii. 21. James iii- 1 1.


S E R M O 1ST X. 24*
lelves and our Duty, our own Affairs and ufe-
ful Knowledge; will fend us back into Com-
pany, from Time to Time, greatly improved^
both in proper Subjects of Difcourfe, and
proper Cautions for fpeaking of them in fuch
'a Manner, as to be at once agreeable, inno-
cent, and inftructive. Thus prepared by the
cool Reflections of Solitude, we might enjoy the
full Pleafure of Society, without any Remorfe
enfuing : and turn that Part of our Lives, in.
which too commonly our beft Inclinations
wither away, and many bad ones take deep
Root, into a continual Exercife of benefiting
bur Fellow-Creatures, and advancing ourfelves
in the Favour of our Maker; For, to any on
thus difpofed> numberlefs Opportunities would
occur, at fuch Times, of 'Communication, which
is good to the Ufe of edifying and miniflering
Grace unto the Hearers c : Opportunities of
making Religion and Morals look chearful and
amiable -, of infinuating feafonable Advice ; of
foftening rugged Tempers ; of confirming right
Refolutions, and putting wrong Behaviour out
of Countenance* And in Proportion as the
natural or acquired Abilities of Men are

c Eph. iv. 29.

VOL. I< Q,, greater.


greater, or their Rank fecures to them more Re-
gard, the more extenlively ferviceable they may
be in this Way. But where all thefe Advan-
tages meet together in an eminent Degree, it
is inexpreffible, what Bleffings to Mankind
they, who enjoy them, might be, would they
but ufe them well. For then, not only the
bufier Part of their Time would be fpent in
promoting Piety and Virtue, Prudence and
Happinefs ; but their moft difengaged and
freeft Hours become Seafons of delightful Im-
provement to all about them : ir* which, imi-
tating the kindly Influences of Heaven, their
Doffrine would drop as the Rain, their Speech
diftil as the Dew : as the fmall Rain upon the
tender Herb, and as the Showers upon the Grafs d .

* Deut. xxxii. 2

S E R-

C 243 J


MATTH. xiii. .16.

But blejjed are your Eyes, for they fee > and your
Ears, for they bear.

OUR Saviour, in the Parable of the Sower,
which occafioned thefe Words, com-
pares the Reception of his Doctrine in the Hearts
of Men to that of Seed in different Sorts of
Ground. Some are like the High- way, beaten
and hard, an dpen Thorough -fare to all Comers
and Goers : there it lies loofe on the Surface,
and is immediately crufhed under Foot, or de~
voured by the Fowls of the Air : the very fiiil
Suggeftion of the Devil, the World, or the Flefh,
dellroys at once the Effect of all the Inftruction
in their Duty that is given them. Others refem-
ble a light, but {hallow Soil, with a Rock under-
neath : where the Seed quickly fprings up, but
is quickly alfo fcorched and withered. They

are glad to believe, and forward to profefs, what
promifes the Favour of God and future Happi-
nefs ; but impenetrable to all Attempts of a
thorough Change within : bad Inclination re-
fifls firmly at the Bottom, while external Per-
formances make afpecious App earance to the Eye .
Whenever the Time comes, that they are to fufFer
or lofe any Thing for doing their Duty, this is
much too difficult a Service for them ; they
have no Root fufficient to furnim them with
Strength to bear it ; they are burnt up, and
fhrivel away to Nothing. In a third Sort, the
Seed of the Word takes deeper Hold, and makes
very ftrong and promiling Shoots : but Thorns
and bad Weeds, the earlier PofTeftbrs of the
Field, rife up and choak it. For thefe grow of
fhemfelves: but it requires Culture, and Watch-
fulnefs to root them out : inftead of which, too
many plant them in the Midft of the Corn,
intangle themfelves, without Need, in the Cares
and Riches and Pleafures of this Life, which
they heedlefsly indulge, till every better Prin-
ciple is weakened, overfhadowed and fmothered.
But ftill there remains a fourth Sort, who, in an
honeft and good ,Heart, having beard the Word,
keep it, and bring forth Fruit a , yet very un-

* Luke viii. 15.



equally, fame an hundred Fold, fomejixty, feme

The Perfons, to whom this Doctrine was de-
livered, gave immediate Proof of its Truth.
The Generality, fond of the Shew of Religion,
but dreading to undertake the Practice of it in
earneft, bearing beard not, and feeing faw not ^ 9
to any ufeful Purpofe, what in this Form of
Speech our Saviour laid before them : as indeed
he declares he knew would be their Cafe, and
therefore defignedly ufed a Manner of Expref-
fion, which they would not take the Trouble,
fmall as it was, to underftand c . For fuch nei-
ther deferved plainer Inductions, nor would
have made any other than a bad Ufe of them ;
which could only have increafed their Guilt.
Nay, his Difciples themfelves apprehended his
Meaning, though obvious enough, but imper-
fectly; and defired to have it explained to
them d . This however mewed a good Difpo-
fition : and therefore he not only condefcends
to their Requeft, but aflures them it was a Hap-
pinefs unfpeakable to have any Degree of proper
Attention to, and ferious Senfe of, a Thing fo
infinitely important, as God's Word. Bleffed
(ire your Eyes, for they fee ; and your Ears, for

> Matth. xiii, 14. c Ib. * Luke viii. 9.

0.3 tbty


they hear, A Truth, which, though applicable
more eminently, beyond Companion, to thole
who heard and faw the Word of Life himfelf,
yet muft hold in Proportion of all, who are
taught, by the Miniftry of his Servants, the
Chriftian Doctrine. ThisPaffage then afierts in a
ftrong Manner the Benefit of religious Inftruo
tion : which many appear, unhappily for them-
felves and others, to undervalue exceedingly.

Indeed we are all very apt to overlook and
flight the Advantages, that we have long en-
joyed without Interruption, even in our worldly
Affairs. Health and Plenty, Safety and Liberty,
excite in us very little Thankfulnefs : but the
Things of another, and, we imagine, diftant
Life, make a ftill fainter Impreffion. Hence
great Numbers t hough tlefsly difregard Religion:
and fome avowedly difbelieve it. No Wonder,
if many of thefe think teaching it needlefs, or
even hurtful. But others alfo, who profefs to
acknowledge the Duties, that we owe to our
Creator, of a fober, and righteous, and godly
Life ; yet maintain, that in Goodnefs, nay Juf-
tice, he is bound to make them, and inFadt hath
made .them all, fo evident by Nature to every
Man, that we want no farther Information to
know the Whole of them. But how dp -they



prove this ? The Goodnefs of God is extended
to his various Creatures in Degrees extremely
different ; and none is intitled to claim this De-
gree or that. The Juftice of God permits him
to give as low Capacities to Men as he pleafes ;
and binds him only to require, in Proportion to
what he gives. Why then may he not put us
under a Neceility of learning from each other,
in a great Meafure, the Way to future Happi-
nefs, as well as the Methods of procuring to
ourfelves the Conveniences and Neceflaries of
common Life ? Should we not be wretchedly
furnifhed with thefe, indeed mould we be able
to fubiift, were each Generation, each Man, to
provide them for his own Ufe, without being
previoufly taught e ? And muft we not have
been much more at a Lofs in Matters of a
moral and fpiritual Nature ? We are endued
with Reafon : but we fhould apply it very
little, if at all, to Subjects of this Kind ; and
make a very flow Progrefs in them, if we did ;
unlefs Education, that is, Inflruction, opened
the Way, and directed our Steps. We have an
inbred Senfe of Good and Evil, which enables

e Neque tarn eft acris acies in naturis hominum & ingeniis, ut
re: tantas quifquam, mil monftratas, poffit videre ; neque tanta
tamen in rebus obfcuritas, ut eas non penitus acri vir ingenio
cernat, fi rnodo afpejerit. Cic. deOr. 1. 3. 31.


us, in many Things, ofourfehes to judge what is '
right f . But then, however it comes to pafs,
which our boafted Faculties will fcarce be able
to tell us, this moral Perception is by no Means
perfect or diftincl: ; and it is mixed with Pafr
{ions and Appetites, far livelier and flronger,
that frequently obfcure, and pervert
it. Still in Fad, the Duties of Life feem plain
to moil of us : and fo we are tempted to con^
elude, there is no Occafion for Jnfbruction in
them. But how came they to be thus plain ?
Why, principally becaufe we have always had
Jnftrudion. Confider thofe Nations that have
little : for none are intirely deititute -, every
where Parents teach their Children, and all
Men teach one another, fomething : but frill
is the Whole of their Duty plain to them ?
There are doubtlefs Parts of it, which they
cannot well avoid understanding : and they
might, with all their Difadvantages, understand
more than they do : but can they, every one of
them, with Eafe find put the Whole ? How
dreadful a Condemnation muit they, who affirm
this, pafs on Millions at once, for having found
out fo little ? We Chriftians are more chari-
j/ahle, and think their Darknefs, though not a

f Lakexii. 57.



Juilification, yet a conliderable Excufe : but
then we mufl infifl, that Light would be a
great Blefling to them, and that Inflruction is
neccfTary to introduce it. F6r what wretched
Ignorance of mofl evident, and what flrange
Belief of moil abfurd, Things, in Religion and
Morals, doth all Hiflory mew to have prevailed,
for fucceflive Ages, through Nations, knowing
and learned in other Refpedts, but untaught in
this ?

Nay, to look no farther than ourfelves : how
many do we fee of low Capacity, that, with the
befl Help, know little, and, with lefs, would
fcarce know any Thing ? How many of better
Capacity want Leifure from worldly Cares, and
would have no Time for Improvement, if the
frequent Return of this Day did not give it
them ? How many, even with Leifure, would
never turn their Minds to the Confideration of
their Duty, if they were not called to it fo
Joudly here, and Knowledge in a Manner forced
upon them ? How many indeed, of higher
Rank as well as lower, appear after all very
poorly grounded in the moil important Princi-
ples and Precepts ?

It mufl be confidered too, that our own Rea-

fon, had we ever fo much of it, and ever fo much

5 Time

250 S E R- M O N XL

Time and Inclination to ufe it, cannot teach
us all that we are concerned to know ; but .
there are Doctrines of the greatefl Moment to
fallen Creatures, as we are, to be learnt from
Revelation. Nor is it fufficient, that each
Man ftudy thefe in the Bible for himfelf. God
hath exprefsly provided, that fome mall inftrudl
others in them. Books, written in diftant
Countries and Ages, cannot be intelligible other-
wife. And feveral very interefting Parts of
Scripture are plainly fuch, that were moft Men
afked, as the Eunuch was by Philip, Under-
Jtandeft thou what thou readeji? they mufl anfwer,
as he did, How can /, except fome Man fiould
guide me s ? And well may they admit fuch
Guides, as defire to lead them, only by proving
that the Way is right.

But further : were every fingle Dictate, both
of Reafon and Revelation, ever fo eafy to be un-
derftood -, yet the Number of them, ariiing
from the various Relations, in which we ftand
to our Maker and our Fellow-creatures, is
much too great to afford any Hope of their be-
ing all diilinclly apprehended by all, unlefs it
be made the Buiinefs of fome, to point them out
to the reft. Or, thouh we could each, of our-


S E R M . O N * XL 251

fclves, form a general Notion of the Whole :
yet particular Circumftances often perplex a
general Duty ; and raife confiderable Doubts,
what ought to be done ; where ftill it is of great
Confequence to do right. The very wifeft fre-
quently need Advice in fuch Cafes : much more
then muft it be of {landing Ufe to others.

Be/ides : what is in itfelf extremely evident
may appear, to a prejudiced Mind, uncertain or
abfurd. And it is very common for Men to be
prejudiced greatly againft plain Truths : fome-
times through Ignorance or Weaknefs ; but
much oftener, that wrong Belief may quiet
them in wrong Practice. NJ one indeed Can
directly believe what he will, merely becaufe he
will: but many have ftrange Arts of mifrepre-
fentingThings,and putting fairMafks upon foul
Errors ; which public Inftruction is excellent-
ly fitted to pull oft; and preferve all, who are
not obftinate in cheating themfeives, from final
Ruin. Minds, that have a wrong Bias, if fuf-
fcred to proceed without Contradiction, would
mould their Religion into alrnoll any Shape they
plcafed : and great Numbers of well-meaning
Perfons would either fall of their own Accord,
or be led by others, into childim and hurtful
Superftitions. For human Nature hath always



been found exceeding prone to them : and the
preaching of the Gofpel in its Purity is the
fafeft and moil effectual Prefervative agamffc
them. But it is not Supefilition, or Enthu-
fiafm, alone, that endangers the Welfare of
Mankind, whatever fome would have us think.
Thefe undoubtedly may be pernicious : but

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