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To these people doth St. Paul in this Chapter express a great Compassion, heartily wishing and praying for their Conversion. Prethren (saith he'in the First Verse) my hearty Desire and Prayer to God for Israel is, that they may be saved: that is, that they may come to thé Knowledge of the Truth in Christ Jesus, and by that Means obtain everlasting Salvation. And one Reason why he was thus concerned for them, he gives in the Words following, which are the Words I have read unto you: For I bear them Record (faith he) ihat they have a Zeal of God, but not according to Knowledge. It was a great Motive to him, to be concerned før their Happiness, that they were Zealous for Religion ; though he knew at the same Time, that the Religion they were then so Zealous of, was not the right Rcligion ; nor did the Zeal they shewed for it, proceed from right Principles, .
According to the Account I have now given of this Passage, Three Things we may take Notice of from it; viz.
I. The Apostle's approving; and tacitly :: commending that Zeal which his Coun11!'C, try Men expressed for Religion. : II. His mèck and charitable Behaviour to
wards them, even when their Zeal for - Religion was very faulty and blameable. · III. His Discoyery of the Faultiness of their
;. Zeal, which lay in this, That it was not L' according to Knowledge. * These Three Things I shall take for the Heads of my following Discourse upon this
Text, and shall afterwards make such Appli-
: I. Firft, I desire it may be observed, That Zeal of God in General, that is, a hearty and passionate Concernment for Religion, the Apostle here finds no fault with: On the contrary, he approves it as a commendable Thing; for you fee he represents it, as a Pièce of Virtue in his Country Men, and speaks it to their Commendation, that they had a Zeal of God; I bear them Record (faith he) that they have a Zeal of God. As much as to say, that he owned, they had that good Quality, and they were to be commended for it ; and for that Reason, he both wisheth them well, and affectionately prayeth for them.
That which I would from hence take Oco cafion to put you in mind of, is this; That Indifference and Unconcernedness for Religion is not, to have a Place among any one's Virtues and good Qualities; it is rather a very great Fault, howsoever it may sometimes pass for an Instance of Wisdom and Prudence.
If, indeed, Men had no Passions, or had so miortified their Passions, that they were rarely earnest or zealous about any Thing; their Unconcernedness for Religion, and the Things of God might be the less reproveable. But when Zeal and Passion is more or less wrought in every Man's Temper, and the calmest Men may be observed, on sundry Occasions, not to be without it; it is an inexcusable Fault, to have no Paffon, no Zeal for God and his Cause.
How can a Man answer it to his own Conscience, 'to be heartily angry, when an Affront, in Word or Deed, is done to himself; and yet to be altogether insensible, when God is affronted in his Presence ? to make a mighty bustle, when his own Right and Property is at Stake, though in never lo small a Matter; and yet to shew no Concernment for the Rights and the Honour of that God who made him, and by whose Favour alone it is that he can call any his own that he hath ? ;. . :0! What a World of Good might we all do, if we had a true Zeal of God? How many Occasions and Opportunities are there put into our Hands every Day (in whát Condition or Circumstances soever we are) which if we were acted by this Principle, would render us great Benefactors to Mankind, by discouraging Vice and Impiety, and promoting Virtue and Goodness in the World?
But, perhaps, I have set this Business of Zea! for God too high: Because none are capable of being thus Zealous, but those that have attained to a great Degree of Virtue and Piety, which we cannot suppose of all, nor the most. But however, it will be a Shame to all of us, if we do not come to such a pitch of Zeal, which the unbelieving Yews are here commended for. I bear them Record, faith St. Paul, that they have a Zeal of God. What was this Zeal of theirs ? Why, as I told you, (and as it plainly appears from the whole Chapter) it was an earnest and passionate Concernment for the Religion of their Country. Sure all
Men among us, both good and bad, may come up to this Degree of Zeal for God, and it is a Reproach to us if we do not. Especially considering that their Religion, at that Time,
was not God's Religion, but Ours is. | Indeed, the Publick Profession of Religion k in the right Way, is as much every Man's In
terest, and ought to be as much every Man's i Care, as any the dearest Thing he hath in this
World. Nay, to all-Men that believe they have Souls to lave, it is more valuable than any other worldly Privileges. It concerns us all, therefore, to be zealous in that Matter. The Duty we owe to God, to our Country, and to our felves, doth require it. In vain it is to be busy about other Things, and to neglect this. A Man will have but fmall Comfort, when he comes to die, to reflect that he has been Zealous of the Privileges and Property, and Rights of his Country-Men; but it was indifferent to him, how the Service of God, and the Affairs of Religion were managed.. . ..II. The Second Thing we obferve from this Pallage, is, The Apostle's Carriage to the Unbelieving Israelites, who though they were zealous for God, yet were in a great Mistake as to their Notions of the true Religion; He doth not bitterly censure them; He is not fierce nor furious against them; He doth not excite any person to use Force or Violence to them, but he rather pities them; He makes their Zeal that they had of God, an Inducement the more heartily to pray for them, that God would direct them in the right way that leads to Sal
vation. Tho” he is far from approving their