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dom and much circumspection are required, that neither under a pretence, nor under a real endeavour after the inward spiritual graces of Christ and their due exercise, we do not countenance ourselves in the neglect of those outward duties which are any way useful unto the glory of God, and the good of mankind. These are some of the causes, and other there are of an alike nature, from the powerful influence whereof upon their minds, men have changed gospel holiness for other ways of obedience, which also they give other names unto.


Apostacy into profaneness and sensuality of life; the causes and occasions of it. Defects in public teachers and guides in religion.

THAT which yet remaineth to be considered under this head of backsliding from the commands of the gospel, and the obedience required in them, is of a worse kind, and of a more pernicious consequence. And this is that open apostacy into profaneness and sensuality of life, which the generality of them who are called Christians are in most places of the world visibly fallen into. If any be otherwise minded, if they suppose and judge that the ways and walkings of the generality of churches and individual Christians, of whole nations that profess themselves to be so, are such as the gospel requireth and approveth of, they seem either to be ignorant of the true state of these things in the world, or to be highly injurious unto the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ. To suppose that he by his gospel giveth countenance unto, or conniveth at, that darkness, profaneness, sensuality, those bloody contentions and oppressions; in a word, all those filthy and noxious lusts which at this day have overwhelmed the Christian world, doth what he can to render and represent it not only useless, but extremely pernicious unto mankind. For they do say therein, that by him and his doctrine countenance is given unto that degeneracy in wickedness, which heathenism would not allow, whereby the world is filled with confusion, and in danger to be precipitated into ruin. I shall therefore at pre

sent take it for granted (with the highest readiness to give up that concession when any tolerable evidence shall be given to the contrary), that there is among and in the churches whereunto the generality of Christians do reckon themselves to belong, a visible apostacy from that piety, holiness and righteousness, which the gospel indispensably requireth in all the disciples of Christ, and which the primitive Christians did earnestly follow and eminently abound in. An inquiry into the means and causes hereof, is that which now lies before us. And that especial instance which I shall always regard, is the church of Rome, which as it hath given the most eminent example of apostacy in this kind of any church in the world; so whatever of the same nature befalleth others, it is sufficiently represented therein.

The immediate internal causes (which are, as the rise and original of all sins, so of those wherein this apostacy doth consist, because they are not peculiar hereunto, but equally respect all sins at all times), belong not unto our present inquiry. By these causes I intend in general the depravation of nature, the power and deceitfulness of sin, love of the world, the profits, honours, and pleasures of it, the rage of the flesh after the satisfaction of its sensual lusts, with the aversation of the minds of men from things spiritual and heavenly, as being 'alienated from the life of God,' through the darkness and ignorance that is in them. For these and the like depraved affections being excited and acted by the crafty influences of Satan, and inflamed with temptations, do incline, induce, and carry men into all manner of wickedness with delight and greediness;' Jam. i. 14, 15. But whereas all these things in general respect equally all times, occasions, and sins, and whereas it is the constant work of the ministers of the gospel (those I mean, who understand their employment, with the account they must give of the souls committed unto their charge) to discover the nature, detect the deceit, and warn men of the danger of these principles and occasions of sin within them and without them; I shall not need particularly here to insist upon them. It is the more public external means and causes which have produced, furthered, and promoted the apostacy complained of, that we shall take under consideration.


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The first occasion hereof in all ages hath been given by, or taken from, the public teachers, guides, or leaders of the people in the matter of religion. I intend them of all sorts, however called, styled, or distinguished, into what forms or orders soever they are cast by themselves or others. And I name them so at large, because it is known how variously they are multiplied, especially in the church of Rome, where (as to these parts of the world) this apostacy began, and by which it is principally promoted, and that by all sorts of them. These at all times have and must have an especial influence into the holiness or unholiness of the people; yea, the purity or apostacy of the church, as to outward means, doth principally depend upon them, with the discharge of their office and duty. In many things they succeed into the room of the priests of old, and frequently fall under the command and rebuke given unto them; Mal. ii. 1-9. O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it. And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.'

That holy, humble, laborious ministry, which Christ first instituted in the church, was the great means of converting

men unto evangelical obedience, and the preserving of them, therein. This their doctrine, their spirit, their example, their manner and course of life, their prayers, preaching and entire endeavour tended unto, and were blessed and prospered of God unto that purpose; then were the lives of Christians a transcript of the truth of the gospel. But through the degeneracy of the following ages, those who succeeded them became troubled fountains, polluting and corrupting all the streams of Christian religion. It is no uneasy thing to observe, in the course of ecclesiastical records and stories, how by various degrees the leaders of the church became corrupt, and did corrupt the people; giving them in themselves an example of strifes, divisions, ambition, worldly-mindedness; and by their negligence in discharge of their duty, depriving them of the means of being made better by the power of the doctrine and commands of the gospel. Under the Old Testament, the priests and prophets led the people into a double apostacy. First into that of superstition, and idolatry; Jer. xxiii. 15. And this continued prevailing among them, until their sin issued in a desolating calamity. This was the Babylonish captivity, wherein all their idols were buried in the land of Shinar; Zech. v. 11. After the return of the people from thence, when they would no more be inveigled into idolatry, whereof God designed that captivity for an effectual cure, the same sort of persons by negligence, ignorance, and their evil example in profaneness, turned them off from God and his law. This was begun in the days of Malachi, the last of the prophets, and ended in the total apostacy and destruction of that church and people. And when the whole came unto its last issue, in the rejection of the Lord Christ, the Son of God, the same sort of persons, even the guides and teachers, led and even forced the body of the people, into that great rebellion and impenitency therein, as is evidently declared in the gospel. And it is to be feared, that something of the like nature hath fallen out among Christians also: the first apostacy the Christian world fell into, was by superstition and idolatry, principally under the conduct of the church of Rome. And this, as it will always be, was accompanied with wickedness of life in all sorts of persons. Many churches and nations being delivered from this abomination, it is well if,

by the same means, they are not falling into that of a worldly, sensual, profane conversation.

The Scripture is so full on this subject, and the nature of the thing itself is such, as seems to require a deep and thorough consideration of it. But the nature of my design will not admit of enlargements on any particular head, for I intend only to point at the chief springs and occasions of this evil; and accordingly this part of our subject must be only briefly (as that preceding) treated on.

What was before asserted in general, namely, That the well-being of the church depends on the right discharge of the office of the ministry, will, I suppose, be acknowledged by all; and it is plainly declared by the apostle, Ephes. iv. 12-15. In proportion thereunto it will thrive or decay. The nature of this office, the ends of its institution, the works and duties of it, with the universal experience of all ages and places, do evince this observation beyond all contradiction. If therefore those who undertake the exercise of this office, do eminently and notoriously fail in the performance and discharge of the duties thereof, especially if they do so generally, and in any long succession of time, it cannot be but that the people will be corrupt, and degenerate from the rule of the gospel. The flocks will not be preserved, where the shepherds are negligent; and fields will be overrun with weeds, thorns, and briers, if they be not duly tilled. I shall therefore, in the first place, call over some of those things, which are indispensably required in and of the ministers and teachers of the church, that it may be preserved in its purity, and kept up unto its duty in evangelical obedience. And I shall insist only on those, which all men will acknowledge to be such duties, or which none who own the gospel can or dare deny so to be.

First, It is required of them that they keep pure and uncorrupted the doctrine of the gospel, epecially that concerning the holiness enjoined in it, both as to its nature, causes, motives, and ends. So of old, the priest's lips were to preserve knowledge, and the people were to seek the law at his mouth. This was one main end for which the Lord Christ gave unto, and instituted the office of the ministry in the church. Ephes. iv. 11-15. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pas

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