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as ia yon Heth, that it is the pure bond, and tie of conscience, which keeps you from compliance in all other things, and by your meekness in suffering for such non-compliance, that yon are not (uch turbulent, factious incendiaries, as the wicked world standerously reports you to be. Convince the world, by your exact righteousness in all your civil dealings, and by the lip of truth in all your promises, and engagements, that you have the sear of God in your hearts, as well as the livery of Christianity upon your backs. In a word, so live, that none may have just ground to believe the impudent standers the devil raises in the world against you. Let your light so shine before men. that they may glorify your Father which is in heaven. Without your care, and circumspection, the shedding of a world of precious soul blood can never be prevented.
I. Let me advise, and beseech all men to be so just to others, and merciful to their own souls, as not to cast them away for ever, by receiving prejudices against godliness, from the miscarriages of some, who make more than a common prosession of it. To prevent this fatal essect of scandal, and prejudice at religion, I desire a few particulars may be impartially weighed.
first. Very many of those scandals, bandied np and down the world against the prosessors of godliness, are devised, and forged in hell, as so many traps, and snares to catch, and destroy men's souls, to beget an irreconcileable aversion, and enmity in men to the ways of God. *' They devise deceitful "matters (faith the Psalmist) against them that are quiet in the ** land," Psal. xxxv 20. Sojer. xviii 18. "Come, fay they, "let us devise devices against Jeremiah, and smite him with "the tongue." And there is as little equity in the credulous receiver, as there is honesty in the wicked forger of these standers: with one arrow of censure, you wound no less than three, viz. the honour of God, your innocent brother, and your own souis: As to the two former wounds, they will, in due time, be healed; God will vindicate his own name fully, and the reputation of his innocent servants shall be cleared, and repaired abundantly; but, in the mean time, your souls may perish, by the wounds, prejudices have given, so that you may never be reconciled to godliness, and its prosessors, whilst you live, but turn (coffers, and persecutors of them.
Secondly, Examine whether the matters that are charged upon them as thtir crimes, be not their duties. Sometimes it falls out to be so, and if so, you fight more immediately, and dirtctiy against God, than men. Thj* was David's case, Psal Ixix. 10. "When 1 wept, and chastened my sons, that wa9 ** to my reproach ;" my piety was turned to reproach. They calieJ his tears crocodile's tears, and his fastings hypocritical shadows of devotion, and humility. Thus the very matter of his duty was turned into scorn, and reproach. And so it was 'with the primitive Christians, their very owning of themselves to be Christian*, was crime enough to condemn them.
Thirdly, If prosessors of religion do in some things act unbecoming their holy prosession, yet every flip, and.failing in their lives, is no sufficient warrant for you to censure their persons as hypocrites, much less to fall upon religion itlelf, and condemn it tor the faults of them that prosess it. There's many an upright heart overtaken by temptation. You see their miscarriages, but you see not their humiliations, and self-condemnations, before God for them. 'Foul, and searful (faith a * grave di'vine) was the scandal of David; and what was the issue? Pre
* scntly the enemies of God, and godliness, began to lift their
* heads, and fall foul upon David's religion, 2 Sam. xii. they
* blasphemed the name of God. O this is he that was so grand 'a 2ealot, that the zeal of God's house did eat him up. This
* is the man, that, out of his transcendent zeal, danced before
* the ark; this is he that prayed thrice a day, at morning, 'noon, and night: This is he that was so precise, and strict in
* his family, that a wicked person should not dwell in his house.
* This your great, precise zealot, hath defiled the wise, and 'murdered the husband. Now you see what his religion is,
* now you see what comes of this prosession of so much holiness,
* and godliness.'
0 that men would seriously consider their evil in such censures as these! what is all this to religion? Doth religion any way countenance, or patronize such practices > Nay, doth it not impartially and severely condemn them? It is the glory of the Christian religion, that it is pure, and undefiled, James i. 27. These practices flow from no principle of religion, nor are chargeable upon it, for it teacheth men the very contrary, Tit. ii. 11, 12. If I see a Papist sin boldly, or an Arminian flight grace, I justly condemn their principles, in, and with their practices, because Popery sets pardons to sale, and Arminianilm exalts nature into the place of grace: But doth the doctrine of the gospel lead to any immoralities? Charge it, if you can.
Fourthly, And as senseless a thing it is, to condemn all, for the miscarriages, and faults of some; which, yet, is the com
* Jer. Dyke, of Scandal, p. 53,
mon practice of 'the world. Are all, that prosess godliness, loose, and careless? No, no: many are an ornament to their holy prosession, aud the glory of Christianity. And why must the innocent be condemned for the guilty? What is your reason, and ground for that? Why might not the enemies of Christianity have condemned the eleven apostles, upon the fall of Judas? Had they not as good a warrant for it, as you have for this? • ,
To conclude, You little know what a snare of the devil 19 laid for your souls, in all those prejudices, and ofsences, you take, at the ways, and prosessors of godliness; and what a wo you bring upon your own fouls by them. You speak evil of persons, and things, you know not, and prejudice is like still to keep you.in ignorance of them. "Wo to the world (faith "Christ) because of offences; and blessed is he that is not of*' sended at me." •
The eleventh way of ruining the precious foul, opened.
Xt. The eleventh way, wherein abundance of precious souls perish, in the christianized, and prosessing world, is the way of formal hypocriiy in religion, and zeal about the externals of worship. Such a generation of men have, in all ages, mingled themselves with the sincere worshippers of God; and the inducement to it is obvious, the form of godliness is an honour, but the power of it a burden. By the former, earthly interests are accommodated; by the latter, they are frequently exposed,, and hazarded.
We find, in the Jewish church, abundance of such chaff intermixed with the wheat, which the doctrine of Christ discovered, and purged out of the flour, Mat. iii. 9, 12. such-were the Pharisees, who were exceeding zealous for traditions, and the external rites, and ceremonies of the law, but inwardly full of all fihhinels, Mat. xv. 7, 8, 9. Men that honoured the dead, and persecuted the living faints; that reverenced the material temple, and destroyed the living temples; that strained at gnats of ceremonies, and swallowed down the grossest immoralities.
And well had it been, if this generation had ended with that state, and time of the church; but we find a prophecy of the increase of these men in the latter days, 2 Tim. iii. 5. which is every where sadly verified. Religion runs into stalk, and blade, into leaves, and suckers, which should be concocted into pith and fruit: Yea, it is of fad consideration, that, a-iongst many high pretenders to reformation, their zeal, which should nourish the vitals of religion, and maintain their daily work of mortification and communion with God, spends itself io some jy-opiaion, whilst practical godliness visibly languisheth in their conversations. How mnny are there that hate doctrinal Errors, who yet perish by practical ones? who hate a false doctrine; but, in mean time perish by a false heart? 'Trs very difficult to reclaim this fort of men from the error of their way; and thereby save their souls from hell. However, let the means be used, and the success left with God.
The eleventh way to hell, by formality, barred up,
i. fto sin entangles the (buls of men faster, or damns them with more certainty, and aggravation, than the sin of formal hypocrisy: it holds the soul fastest on earth., and sinks it deepest into hell. There was no fort of men upon whom the doctrine of Christ, and the apostles, had so little success, and efsect, as the Scribes and Pharisees; they derided him, when publicans, and sinners, trembled, and believed, Luke xvi. 14, 15. The form of Godliness wards off all convictions; their zeal for the externals of religion secures them against the sears of damnation, whilst, in the mean time, their hypocrisy plunges them deeper into hell, than others that never made such shews of sanctity, and. devotion: "He shall appoint him his portion with "hypocrites;" Mat. xxiy. 51. that is, he (hall be punished in hell, as hypocrites are punished, viz. with the greatest, and sorest punishment. Hypocrisy is a double iniquity, and will be punished with double destruction .- their ungrounded hopes of heaven serve but to pully up their wretched souls to a greater height of vain confidence, which gives them the more dreadful jerk in their lamentable, and eternal disappointment.
2. Blind, superstitious zeal, which spends itself only about the externass of religion, usually prepares, and engageth men in a more violent persecution of those that are really godly, and conscientious. The Lord opened a great door of opportunity at Antioch, to Paul; the whole city came together to attend the discoveries of Christ in the first publication of the gospel, and the poor Gentiles began to taste the sweetness of the gospel; butthe devil perceiving his kingdom begin to totter, immediately stirred up his instruments to persecute the apostles, and drive them out of the country: and who more fit for that work, than the devout, and honourable women? Acts xiii. 15. These stirred up their husbands, and all they had influence upon, under a fair pretence of zeal for the law, to obstruct th« progress of the gospel. No bird (faith one) like the living bird, to draw others inta the net. Men of greatest names, and pretensions to religion; if graceless, are the most dangerous iasttu
Vol. III. Ooo
tncots the • devil can employ to the ruin, and extirpation of
true godiinese. 8ucb a zealot was Paul, in his unregeneratc
3. Nothing is more common, than to find men hot, and zealous against false worship, whilst their hearts are as cold as a .stone, in the vitals, and essentials, of true religion. Many can dispute warmly against adorations of images, praying to angels; and saints departed, who all the while are like those dead images which others worship. Jehu was a zealot against idolatry; and yet the vital power of true godliness was a stranger to his foul, 2 Kings x. 15, 16. The Pharisees spared no pains to make a proselyte, and yet all the while were the children of the devil themselves, Mat.xxlii. 15.
This is a fad case, yet what more common? The Lord open the eyes of these men, and convince them, in season, that their *eal runs in the wrong channel, and spends itself upon things which shall never profit them. O if they were but as much concerned to promote the love of God, and lise of Godliness In themselves, and others, as they are about some external accidents, aod appendages of religion, what blessings weuld they be to the world, and what evidence would they have of their own sincerity?
The twelfth way so hell, opened.
XH. The twelfth way to hell, 'o which many fouls are carried on smoothly, and securely, to their own destruction, is, the way of mere civility, and moral hone/ty, wherein men rest as in a sase state, never doubting but a civil lise will produce an issue Into an happy death. Moral honesty is a lovely thing, and greatly tends to the peace, and order of the world; but it is fcot saving grace, nor gives,any man a good title to Christ, and salvation. indeed there can be no grace in that soul in which civility, and irforal honesty are not found: but these may be found in thousands that have no grace.
That which ruins souls, is not the exercise of moral virtues, but their reliance upon them: they use their morality as a shield to secure their'consciences from the convictions of the word, which would shew them their sinful, and miserable state by nature. Thus the Pharisee, Luke xviii. 11, 12. "God, I thank "thee, that 1 am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, "adulterers, or even as this publican;" he blesseth himself in the conceits of his own sasety, and happiness. Let debauched, and prophane persons look to it, I am well enough l though,
f Satan ascends by the rib-, as by a ladder to the heart. ^Grtgor,