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pect, because they were copied from the Jewish. The Apostles were twelve in number, after the twelve Patriarchs who were heads of the trihes of Israel *; and the Disciples were seventy, after the seventy Elders of Moses. History also does abundantly testify, that in Christian Churches, wherever they were planted, there .was a Bishop, and Priests, and Deacons; answering to the High Priest, and Priests, and Levites of the Law. For the Christian and Jewish Churches were not two, but a continuation of the one Church of God. Things were thus regularly ordained, because it is of infinite consequence to man, that he should always be able to know, by certain outward marks and signs, where and with whom the gifts of God are to be found. Wherespiritual things are administered there is ever something open to the sight of all, as a rule to direct, that we may never be left in uncertainty.
The same rule will hold good, if we apply it to the spirit and character of individual men. We are never to judge of a man from any thing which he thinks, or has thought, or which he now says and tells, of what passes in his own mind. That may be evidence to him, but it is none to us; and is therefore never to be drawn into a rule. There must be some outward mark; therefore saith our Lord, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven." We may call ourselves the Disciples of Christ in heart and affection, and think ourselves to be such: but how are other men to know that we are truly so? Here again we have an outward sign to direct us: "By this shall all men knozv that ye are my Disciples, if ye have love
* I am not sure that a division into tribes does not take place, in a mystical sense, in the Christian Chutph. See and coosidei Acts x-xvi. 7. Jam. i. 1.
one to another *. The reason is good, and the rule is general: we are to know men by their fruits, not by their thoughts; and to judge of them accordingly, not by . what they say, but by what they do.
After this, you will not wonder, that a contrary rule is followed by those who have any intention to deceive. They lead you off in the first place from outward means and visible evidences; that when you are unsettled in this respect, the way may be open, and you may be carried into farther delusion.
Having now laid my foundation, by shewing you the invariable rule of divine wisdom, with the reasons of it; this alone, if you bear it in mind, may be sufficient to keep you in the right way, and preserve you from going into the by-paths of religion. But as there are specious objections, from which well-disposed mindst may be in danger, I shall produce and answer some of the chief of them.
1. It is made a grand objection against the Church, that the people who follow it are formal and lifeless in their profession. Too many of them are so: we see and lament it: but how many soever they may be, this is no reason for leaving them—far from it: for, hath it not always been thus? The Kingdom of Heaven is like a net cast into the sea, which gathered of every kind, both bad and good\. In the Church, the righteous and the wicked are mixt together; and if this be a reason for leaving the Church, it always was a reason; the best people should always have left it; and then, what would have become of it? Allowing such persons to be as good as they think themselves, would it not be better that they should stay, and try "if they can amend, by their good advice and example,
* John xiii. 35. f Matt. xiii. 47.
those who Are not so perfect as themselves? That would be a charitable measure. Besides, if the bad affright and drive them away from the Church, ought not the good to prevail with them to continue in it? Is it just to desert the righteous for the sake of the wicked? Many devout godly people are to be found in the Church, more than are commonly observed. Much of the fear and love of God is with many Christians, who make no great shew of themselves. In the worst of times, the Church has many who know God, and are known of him. Could any thing be more corrupt than the generality of the Jewish people were in the time of our blessed Saviour? Yet you read of Anna the Prophetess, who departed not from the Temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. Many bad people frequented the place, but that was no reason with her for leaving it; she did not follow the people, she followed God; and there at the latter end of her days she found him: she saw the blessed Jesus there; which would not have happened, if she had objected to the bad members of the congregation, as not holy and good enough for her to assemble with. And did not Christ himself frequent this same Temple afterwards, and teach in it afterwards, though there were many great and scandalous abuses, which he endeavoured to reform; net by taking affront and leaving the congregation, but by staying with them, and bearing with their contradiction and ill humours.
But, as the heart of man, when judging of itself, is very deceitful, it may not be for reasons of piety, as they believe and would have it supposed, M'hen persons forsake the congregation; but for reasons of 8 very different kind; for pride; for distinction; to shew the world how much wiser they are; and if that 5
should be the case, will not the pride that separates them from man separate them from God at the same time,, and spoil all their religion, instead of bringing them nearer to perfection? Christians would not be so weak as they are in this respect, if they did but duly consider, that true piety does not lead to •will' worshipi in which men consult the pleasing of their fancy; but in a conformity of the mind to the will and the ways of God. This is the severest trial of man, and few are able to endure it: nay, not one amongst us, without the special grace of God, disposing the heart to self-abasement, and poverty of spirit
There is another danger which persons may bring themselves into, by boasting of an higher degree of piety than that of the Church: for while they do themselves no real good, they may be doing much harm to other Christians. The great godliness, on which they value themselves, may prove at last to be false and counterfeit; or it may appear weak and ignorant; more zealous than wise; or it may be envious and quarrelsome: and thereby they will give persons occasion to say, that all pretension to superior piety is a suspicious thing, generally taken up for some bad purpose. Thus they bring universal reproach upon a religious character: it being concluded from their example, that honest and sensible people will be better thought of, if they purposely avoid all appearances of godliness, and discover as little of it as possible in their words and actions. This is a fearful conclusion, and hastens many a dangerous downfall. I have heard, and many others must have heard, persons talking and arguing after this fashion, whom it is out of our power to convince; and perhaps it is convenient to themselves that they never should be convinced. It is one lamentable consequence of division, that the mouths of such vain talkers are opened. Per* sons divided in their religious sentiments watch one another with an evil eye; and instead of hiding one another's faults, are delighted with detections and aggravations. This is to the great disadvantage of all piety: it is an evil we should be studious to avoid; and the prospect of that havock which it makes amongst us, should be one great inducement towards a prudent and charitable union with our fellow Christians.
It is said farther, that there is better teaching out of the Church. . But I do sincerely believe on the other hand, that bad as teaching of the Church may be, there is worse teaching out of it than in it. This indeed we must confess, that so far as the doctrine depends upon the minister, it is not always right: but we may say at the same time, that so far as the doctrine depends upon the Church, it is never wrong. The Church duly delivers the teaching of God in the Scriptures; and has an unexceptionable form of sound Christian teaching in her Homilies: I wish the people heard them more frequently, and that the spirit of those Homilies was followed by all the Teachers of the Church.
But, does all religion consist in man's preaching? Some argue as if they thought so. Hath not God preached to us all in his Gospel; and doth he not say, "My House shall be called the House of Prayer ?.' Did not the Apostles, though appointed to preach in all the world, go to pray in the Temple r They understood that God had ordained them to preach, with design that they should convert the world to the practice of praying; and it would have been strange, if they had not set the example of it in their own persons.—Preaching meant at first the publishing of the