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we experience : that the bitter Things which
we fay of one another, Unbelievers, with feem-
ingly good Reafon, will fay after us : and when
we have taught them to condemn the feveral
Sorts of Chriftians, and efpecially their Teach-
ers, as the worft of Men, will, by a very plau-
fible Inference, condemn Chriflianity, as the
worft of Religions ? How zealbufly foever
therefore contending Parties may hold f aft what
they profefs : yet, violating the moft indifputa-
ble Duties by their Vehemence for difputable
Doctrines, they provoke great Numbers to fit
loofe to all Profeffion ; and do incredible Harm
to the Religion, which they would ferve. For,
let us try what Methods we will, Nothing can
ever fo effectually promote true Faith, as join-
ing to practife true Charity. But however una-
nimous Chriftians may be in other Refpefts,
they will neither do Honour to the Gofpel, nor



receive Benefit from it, unlefs thtfy are alfo

5. To be ferioufly and uniformly pious and
virtuous. Yet, moil unhappily, whatever elfe
we differ in, we agree but too well in negledting
this. Multitudes call themfelves Chriflians,
who feem never to have thought of any Care
of their Conduct; but make a folemn Profeffion
of the pureft and holieft Religion, that ever
was - y and at the fame Time, throughout their
Lives, do every Thing that they are inclined to,
and Nothing elfe. Others that will obfcrve fome
Reftraints, would find, upon a fair Examina-
tion, that they follow their Paffions, perhaps in
as many or more Cafes, than their Principles ;
or, which comes to the fame Thing, accommo-
date their Principles tofuit their Paffions. And
even they, who have little of any bad Inclina-
tion to lead them wrong, are very frequently
led almofl as wrong by indolent Compliance
with bad Cuftom. For from whence is it, that
the Generality of Men form their Rule of Be-
haviour ? Not from Scripture, orfromReafon:
but from Fafhion and common Practice: what-
ever they find People of tolerable Reputation do,
that they do like wife. When a farther Step of
wrong Indulgence is publicly taken, they pro-


ceed to take the fame; or, it may be, one
fomewhat lefs : the Duties, which others throw
off intirely, they practife rarely, and with In-
difference : the Liberties, which others indulge
without Referve, they approach towards with
Hefitation and by Degrees : but as the World
goes on from bad to worfe, they go on too -, and
imagine they are perfectly fafe, becaufe they are
a little behind. Now Men mould not indeed be
fuperftitioufly fcrupulous : but they fhould be
confcientioufly attentive to their Hearts and
Lives ; and reflect what ought to be done, as
well as obferve what is done. The Gofpel for-
bids, inftead of recommending, Conformity to
the World^ : by no Means with an Intention,
that we mould be fingular in Matters of Indif-
ference, but refolute againfl Compliances unlaw-
ful or dangerous. Chriftians, far from being per-
mitted to follow others into Sin, are defigned to
lead them into Piety and Virtue : to be the Light 9
the Salt of the Earth m : not to fet an Example of
ufelefs Rigour, much lefs of uncharitable Cen-
forioufnefs ; but of punctual and impartial Adhe-
rence to every Rule, which God hath appoint-
ed by Reafon or Scripture, and faithful Endea-
vours to attain the great End of his Appoint-

1 Rom. xii. 2. *" Matth. v. 13, 14.

ments :


ments : for without that, the exa&eft outward
Regularity is empty Form. Now the End of
the Commandment is Charity, out of a pure Heart
and of a good Conference 9 and of Faith unfeigned" :
a iincere Spirit of Love and Reverence towards
our Maker, our Redeemer and Sanctifier; of
Juftice and Goodnefs to our Fellow-Creatures,
of Reafonablenefs and Moderation, with Re-
fpect to the Advantages and Enjoyments of the
prefent Life ; for in thefe Things confifts our
Fitnefs for a better. This then is the real Tem-
per of ChrifUanity. And if we have either
never felt it, or perceive ourfelves declining and
deviating from it ; our Hearts growing fond of
worldly Objects, and finking down into that
lupine Difregard to God and our Duty, and a
Judgement to come, which is undeniably the
prevailing, and likely to be the fatal, Difle'mper
of the prefent Age : our Cafe and our Remedy
are plainly laid down in that awful Exhortation
to the Church of Sardis : I know thy Works :
that thou hajl a Name that thou livejl, and art
dead. Be watchful ; and ftrengthen the Thmgs
'which remain, that are ready to die. Remember,
how thou hajl received and heard-, and hold f aft,
and repent. If thou fo alt not watch, I will corns

i Tim. i. 5.

VOL. I. E on


on thee as a Thief; and thou Jhalt not know what
Hour I will come upon thee . But then to do this
effectually, we muft obey the whole Injunction
of the Text : and not only hold f aft that which
is evidently good y but,

6. and laftly, Abftain from all Appearance
of Evil. It might be tranflated, from every
Kind of Evil. But even then, the Senfe would
be much the fame. For though doing what
we know to be wrong is a grofTer Kind of Wick-
ednefs : yet doing what appears to us wrong,
though we are not fure of it, is a real Kind :
and, even were we abfolutely doubtful, frill, if
taking one Courfe may be acting amifs, and
taking the contrary cannot -, the general Rule
certainly is, to lean always towards the fecurer
Side: for why mould we run into Danger need-
lefsly ? And yet what Numbers of miferable
Creatures are there, whom the Obfervance of
this one Direction would have made happy :
who faw the fafe Path, but would prefer the
pleafing one -, exulted in it for a while, then
were enfnared of a fudden, and loft perhaps for
ever ! Nor is it Pleafure only, but Intereft,
Power, Vanity, Refentment, every Thing with-
in us and around us, in its Turn, that may en-

c Rev. Hi. i, 2, 3.



danger our Innocence, by tempting us to ven-
ture upon what we hope, but are not fatisfied,
is lawful. Go not therefore in a Way, 'wherein
thou may ejl fall : be not confident in a plain Way p .
Even fuch Actions, as appear to us very allow-
able, yet, if they appear evil to others, it is, ordi-
narily fpeaking, both our Prudence and our
Duty to abilain from, as much as, with tolera-
ble Convenience, we can. Whatever indeed,
on mature Confideration, we are fully perfuaded
we ought to do, that we muil do, let the
World think as it will. But where we appre-
hend a Thing to be only permitted : if the wife
will difapprove it, or the injudicious misinterpret
it ; if the good will be afflicted, or the bad re-
joice at it ; if rigid and warm Tempers will be
guilty of cenfuring us for it ramly ; or eafy and
complying ones follow us in it, againfl their
Judgements ; if our taking harmlefs Liberties
will encourage others to take fmful ones : in
mort, if any how, by doing what otherwife we
might, we mall induce any one elfe to do what
he ought not : the great Law of Chriilian Cha-
rity requires, that no Man put a Stumbling-block*
or Qccajion to fall \ in his Brother s Way ; or do
any Thing, whereby he is grieved, or of ended,

P Ecclus. xxxii. zo, 21.

E 2 r


or made weak q . Shewing this tender Care nei-
ther to intice nor provoke a fmgle Perfon, if
it can be avoided, into Sin of whatever Sort,
but to pleafe our Neighbour for bis Good, to Edifi-
cation r y is a Precept, I believe, peculiar to
the Gofpel : or at leaft hath fo peculiar a Strefs
laid on it there, as to diftinguifh our Religion,
greatly to its Honour, from every other Infli-
tution of Life, that the World hath known.

After fuch an Addition to all the reft, there
cannot be a completer Provifion imagined, by
Rules of Behaviour, for the Virtue, the Peace,
the eternal Felicity of Mankind. And there-
fore Nothing remains, but what mufl depend
on ourfelves ; that, having the befl and fullefr.
Directions, the nobleft Promifes, the mofl gra-
cious Helps, we think ferioufly, while it is Time,
what Ufe we ought to make, and what we do
make, of thefe Advantages. The Word of
God will fhew us the firft : our own Confciences,
if honeftly confulted, will tell us the latter.
Happy are they in the higheft Degree, who
can ftand the Comparifon of the two : and
happy they, in the next Place, whom a deep
$enfe, that at prefent they cannot, excites ef-
fectually to earnefl Supplications, and faithful

^ Rom. xiv. 13, 15, 21. r Rom. xv. 2.



Endeavours, that they foon may. I conclude
therefore with the Words following my Text.
The very God of Peace Janft if y you wholly : and
I pray God your whole Spirit, and Soul and Body,
be preferred blamelefs unto the Coming of our Lord
Jejits Chrift*.

i Theff. v. 23.

E 2 S E R-


LUKE xii. 57,

Yea, and why even of yoiirfehes judge ye not
what is right ?

THE Duties, which God hath enjoined
us, though reafonable and beneficial in
the higheft Degree, are yet, through the De-
pravity of human Nature, and the Prevalence
of bad Cufloms, become fo unacceptable, that
they are practifed, as we mutt be fenfible, but
imperfectly by the beft, and very little by the
largeft Part of the World. Yet avowedly to
neglect doing what they ought, is too (hock-
ing a Behaviour to fit eafy upon the Minds
of Men. Some Plea therefore they muft find
out, either to juftify, or at lead to excufe,
their Manner of Life. And various are, and
ever have been, the Excufes, invented by the
irreligious and immoral, not only to main-
E 4 tain


tain fome Chara&er amongft others, but chiefly

to quiet themfelves.

Now of all thefe, one of the beft, if it were
a true one, would be that of Ignorance : not
knowing that fuch and fuch Things are in-
cumbent on us, This appears to be a Cafe,
to which not only Companion muft Jiave Re-<
gard, but which even Juftice itfelf muft acquit
of Guilt. And therefore it is no Wonder, if
many ihelter themfelves under fo favourable a

The lower Part of Mankind, in general, on
almoft every Occafion, alledge, that they have
not the Advantages of Education and Inftrudion
which others have : that they are not able, per-
haps even to read that holy Book, in which
their Duty is fet forth : and if they be, yet the
fame Quickncfs to underfland it, or Leifure to
ftudy it, cannot be looked for from them, as if
their Minds had been improved by Rules of
reafoning and judging, and their Time at their
own Difpofal. A great deal they think may be
required, with the utmoft Reafon, from thofe
of higher Rank : but from fuch as they are,
little or nothing.

But, befides this vulgar Sort, there is alfp a
learned Kind of Ignorance, pleaded by fome,



whofe Freedom of Inquiry and fuperior Saga-
city hath given them Caufe, they apprehend,
to be very diffident of many Points, that others
are firmly perfuaded of. And therefore they
argue, that though it may be the Duty of
common People, who, for Want of the Means
of Knowledge or of Abilities to ufe them,
muft believe what they are taught ; though it
may be right and necelTary for them, in Con-
fequence of their Belief, to practife Virtue
and Piety very confcientioufly : yet it muffc
not be expected, that thofe of greater Genius,
who are more enlightened, and perceive many
Doubts in thefe Matters, mould put them-
felves under difagreeable Restraints, merely on
Account of uncertain Speculations -, and con-
form their Lives to the rigid Precepts of Chrif-
tianity, when they are really not well fatisfied
of the Authority of it - t nor, it may be, even
pf natural Religion.

Thus, you fee, the lowefl Incapacity and the
higheft Self-opinion can urge in Effect the
fame Argument, to evade what Men have no
Mind to. And I mall now (hew, that in both
it is inconclulive - t and fully confuted by our
Saviour's home Queflion, Tea, and why even of
yourfehes judge ye not what is right ?


74 S E R M O N IV.

Thefe Words appear, by the parallel Places
in the other Evangelifls, to have been ori-
ginally defigned againft thofe amongft the
Jews, who, from Diflike of the Strictnefs of our
blelTed Lord's Morality, pretended Ignorance of
his divine Miffion, after he had given abundant
Proofs of it j when yet, without any feparate
Proofs of it at all, the main Things which
he taught, carried their own Evidence along
with them, and every Man's Heart bore Wit-
nefs to their Truth. They had feen Miracles,
of various Kinds, performed in Atteilation of
his Claim : yet ftill they were not content
without more, and thofe of their own chufing.
I'he Pharifees came forth, with, the Sadducees
alfo, tempting him, and fought of him a Sign from
Heaven ". But he, with no lefs Dignity than
Prudence, refufed to gratify a Curiofity, both
ill-meaning and endlefs : and Jighing deeply
in his Spirit, as St. Mark informs us b , at this
perverfe Difpontion of theirs ; told them, with
a kind, becaufe needful, Severity of Speech,
where the Defect lay. A wicked and adulterous
Generation fceketh after a Sign c : your fmful
Inclinations and Lives, not the Want or the
Defire of fufficient Evidence, prompt you

* Matth. xvi. i. Mark viii. ij. b Verfe 12. c Matth. xvi. 4.

4 to

to this Demand : and verily I fay unto you y there
foall be no Sign given, no fuch vifible Manifefta-
tion of divine Glory as you infolently require,
vouchfafed to this Generation*: nor is it re-
quifite. When ye fee a Ckud rife out of the
Weft, ftraitway ye fay, there cometh a Shower,
and fo it is. And when ye fee the South Wind
blow, ye fay there will be Heat, and it cometh to
fafs. Te Hypocrites, ye can difcern the Face of
the Sky and of the Earth : but how is it that ye
do not difcern this Time e ? That is : on other Oc-
cafions you appear very able to judge of Things
by the proper Indications of them. How can you
then, with any Colour of Sincerity, pretend, that
amidfl fo many Prophecies fulfilled, and fo
many Miracles performed, you have not, after
all, fufficient Conviction, that this is the Seafon
when the Mefliah mould appear, and that I am
He? Nay, as to the principal Part of my Doc-
trine, which is the real Caufe of your Antipathy
to the Whole -, as to the great Precepts of pure
Religion and uniform Virtue, and your Need of
Repentance and Faith in God's Mercy ; what
Occafion is there for any farther Demonftrations
pf them, than your own Hearts, if honeflly

d Mark viii, 12. e Luke xii. 54, 55, 56.



confulted, will not fail to afford ? Yea, and why
even of yourfefoes judge ye not what is right ?

Now this Method of reafoning is equally
applicable to Unbelievers and Cavillers in all
Ages, It is in vain for them, to invent new Dif-
ficulties, or magnify old ones, concerning the
Authority of our Religion ; while the Reafon
of Things, the Truth of Fa&s, and the Nature
of God and Man continue to exhibit fo full
Proof of thofe fundamental Articles of it, the
eternal Obligation of moral Duties, the Sinful-
nefs of every one's Nature and Life, the Necef-
fity of Repentance, and humble Application
for Pardon and Grace. And, lince the true
Quarrel of fuch Perfons is againfl thefe Doc-
trines, and thefe cannot be maken : they had
much better reconcile themfelves to the Whole,
than make fruitlefs Attacks upon one Part ;
in which if they were to fucceed, (as they never
will) they would, in Point of Argument, be
almofl as far from their favourite Scheme, of
Liberty to do what they pleafe, and think
highly of themfelves notwithstanding, as they
were before. Suppofe there are fome Doctrines,
againfl which they can find more Objections,
than their Neighbours : there are furely others, s
of which they can difcern more clearly the cer-


tain Grounds. If not, they have employed their
imagined fuperior Faculties to very ill Purpofe.
Or, were they to doubt of ever fo many Points;
yet, if they take Pains for it, and force them-
felves to doubt, hunting every Way for Difficul-
ties, afking for no Solutions, and turning a deaf
Ear to them when offered ; they have no more
Excufe for any Part of their confequent wrong
Behaviour, than if they had no Doubts at all* For
the Whole of their Cafe is : they perplex Things
on Purpofe, in order to complain that they are
not clear : walk with their Eyes wilfully mut,
and then infift, that they cannot be blamed, if
they ftumble ; for it is quite dark, and they
do not fee a Step of their Way.

But let us now proceed to thofe, who ac-
knowledge themfelves, as many of the former
would, if they had more Modefty, the lefs
knowing Part of Mankind. Some of thefe
profefs a fecond-hand Sort of Scepticifm ;
built not fo much on their own Judgement, as
that of their admired Leaders juft mentioned.
But fmce the Mafters are indefenfible, their
implicit Difciples muft be yet more fo. For,
if the QuefKon is to be decided by the Au-
thority of Men of Letters and Abilities, the
greatefl Number and mofl eminent, beyond



all Comparifon, have confeffedly been always
on the Side of Religion : even excluding the
Clergy, as interefled in the Cafe : which, how-
ever, is by no Means thought a fufficient Rea-
fon, in other Profeffions, why Men of known
Skill and Probity fhould be difregarded, in
what they unanimoufly affirm, after careful

But the Generality of the unlearned con-
fefs the Obligation of Chriflianity moil readily;
yet daily tranfgrefs its Laws : and, when they
are charged with their Fault, plead Ignorance,
as we have feen, amongft other Things, efpe-
cially the lower Part of them, to excufe their
Difobedience to the cleareft Revelation of God's
Will, that the World ever knew ; and whofe
early Diftin&ion it was, that the Poor had the
Gofpel preached to them f . Why then may we
not fay to fuch, as our Saviour faid to the
Jews ; Te Hypocrites, ye can difcern the Face of
the Sky and of the Earth ? You can judge in all
the common Affairs of Life. You can attain
to a competent Skill, many Times to great
Perfection, in your feveral Employments, and
Trades: though attended with many Diffi-
culties, and requiring much -Application and

f Matth. xi. 5.



Dexterity. You can forefee, at a Diflance,
what will make for your worldly Intereft, or
againft it : you can lay Schemes, full of Cun-
ning and long Reach, for guarding againft
Dangers, retrieving Lolfes, fecuring and im-
proving Advantages. What hinders you then
from arriving at the Knowledge of Religion ;
which coniifts in Things much eafier to be un-
derflood : Love and Reverence to God, Juftice
and Goodnefs to your Fellow - creatures, rea-
fonable and virtuous Government of yourfelves,
humble Recourfe to the divine Mercy when you
have done amifs, and faithful Ufe of the divine
Affiftance to amend ? If you have Instructors in
the Management of Bufinefs, and the Wifdom of
this World : have you not Instruction alfo in the
Precepts of a Chriftian Life ? One Day in feven
of your Time, at leaft, you are not only al-
lowed, but enjoined, to fpend principally in
learning and thinking of your Duty. The
Word of God is read to you, if you are not
able to read it yourfelves : it is explained to^
you, if it be not already plain enough : and
the moft important Parts are the plaineft of
all. The feveral Articles of Chriftian Faith
and Practice are taught you in your earlier!
Childhood^ and imprinted on your Memory


8o S E R, M O N IV.

at the Time, when Impreffions are moft lafling.
They are afterwards more distinctly propofed to
you from this Place, Week after Week ; and
inforced on you by Motives no lefs powerful,
than the Love of eternal Happinefs and the
Dread of eternal Mifery. There is no Sin
you pradtife, no good Action you omit, but
you are publicly warned, at one Time or ano-
ther, of your Fault and the Danger of it ; and
there is no Doubt or Scruple, that can difquiet
you, concerning any Branch of your Behaviour,
but you may open your Cafe often to your
more learned and more prudent Neighbours,
always to the Ministers of God's Word, and
receive Satisfaction about it. What poffible
Room is there left then for pleading Ignorance
of your Lord and Mailer's Will ? This is a
Defcription of the Means of Knowledge, with
which the loweft and meanefl among Believers
are provided. And even to thefe may be
applied, though not in an equal Degree, yet
with great Truth, what our Saviour declared
to his immediate Difciples : Verily I fay unto
yoti, that many Prophets and righteous Men
have defired to fee thofe Things that ye fee, and
have not feen them ; and to hear thofe Things
<which ye hear, and have not heard them : but



bleffed are your Eyes, for they fee ; and your Ears,
for they hear e . Ignorant and knowing are
comparative Terms : and Men ufually compare
themfelves with thofe, that are next them only -,
and draw falfe Conclufions from doing fo. A
Chriflian, of fmaller Opportunities for Improve-
ment than fome of his Fellow-ChrifHans, thinks
every Thing ought to be forgiven him for that
Reafon. And yet, in Reality, not only the ad-
mired Sages of heathen Antiquity, but the Patri-
archs that were favoured with Communications
from Heaven, the Prophets and Penmen of
Scripture under the Jewim Difpenfation, nay
the immediate Fore-runner of our blefled Lord
himfelf, who faw him and converfed with him
on Earth, hadlefs Means of Acquaintance with
the Dodlrines of Religion, than the poorefl
Difciple of Chrift now may have, if he will.
Verily I fay unto you, among them that are born
of Woman, there hath not rifen a greater than
John the Baptift : not with/landing, be that is
leaft in the Kingdom of Heaven, in the Gofpel
Age, is greater than be h .

But it may be imagined perhaps, that the
Benefits of religious Inllruclion are partially re~
prefented, and fpoken of much too highly, by

Matth. xiii. 16. * Matth, xi, 1 1 ,

VOL. I. F thofc


thofe who are concerned in difpenfi^; them.
Why, be it fo then. Let us lay aliiie for a
while th.e Confideration of what you learn here.
Your Maker hath by no Means truiled you in-*
tirely to pur Care : but hath appointed your
Parents, your Friends, every ferious Peribn
around you, for your Inftructors too : nay, to
cooperate with all thefe, he hath placed a faith-
ful Witnefs and Monitor of his Truths in every
Breafbj and therefore the Want of out ward Helps
can never juflify TranfgrejTors. W^hat Mojes laid
in God's Name to the Jews, is true in Relation
to all Men : tfhe Commandment , which I com-
mand thee this Day, is not hidden from thee, nei-
ther Is It far off: but the Word Is very nigh unto
thee. In thy Mouth and in thy Heart > that thou
may eft do it'\ And what Ifalah faid of Chrifti-
anity, holds in Proportion of natural Coriicience:
An high Way ft all be there : and it fhall be called
the Way ofHolmejs : the 'way-faring Men, though
Tools ^ fiatt not err therein k . The Duties of
Mankind are not fo intricate and perplexed,
but that a good Heart, without a very fagacious
Head, may eafily find its Way through them.
For the Confirmation of this, let us take a View
of the fundamental Parts of practical Religion ;

* Deut. jqcx. u, 14. k If. xxxv. 8.



thofe which Men are mofl apt to fall in ; and fee
which of them all any one can fairly fay he was
ignorant of, or doubtful about, and had not
the Means of fufficient Light to direct his

To begin with the Belief and Worfhip of
Almighty God. Is not every Man capable of
feeing, let him be ever fo little acquainted with
Nature, that the Heavens and the Earth, the
Order of the Seafons, the Returns of Day and
Night, the whole Frame of Things in general,
is full of Ufe and Beauty ; and mufl be the
Work, of amazing Power, Wifdom and Good-
nefs ? Doth not every Man feel, that he is frail
and dependent, that his Life and Being is not
owing to himfelf, nor confequently, that of his
Parents to them, and therefore they all proceed
from a fuperior Caufe ? Doth not every Man
perceive, that he is fearfully and 'wonderfully
made J ; that the feveral Parts of his Competition
are exactly fitted to the feveral Purpofes of Life;
the Eye for feeing, the Ear for hearing, each
Member for its refpective End? And his inward
Inclinations and Affections no lefs fo, than his
outward Limbs ? Muft not every Man be fenfi-
We, that the Supports and Conveniences, which

1 Pf. cxxxix. 14.

F 2 he


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