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Matter of such Moment, were to be stupid and insensible, rather than Religious. And when we come to appear before Christ in fudgment, we shall be sentenced, not according to our own Opinions or Apprehensions of ourselves, whether Good or Evil, but according to the Sincerity of our Lives, to the Extent of our Charity, and to the Truth of our Repentance. And all these Supported and made Persoet by the Merits and Satisfa&tion of a most Gracious and Merciful Redeemer, who will Pity and Pardon beyond what we are able to express or to conceive. But,
4thly, And to conclude this point, The last Device by which the Devil, in these Days especially, has endeavoured to hinder our Piety, is, by turning that Zeal into Strifes and Disputes about Religion, which ought to have been employed on the Practice of it.
For indeed, were we now to enquire what the great Demonstration of all our Zeal is, both in the Priests and the People, what other Account should we be able to bring back than this, That they are all hot and furious for their several particular Opinions; as if the whole Gospel of Christ, and all the Hopes of Eternity, depended on them, but for the Practice of a Gospel-Life, for that Devotion, that Charity, that Humility and Integrity, which were once the great Care and Ornament of the Christian Church, these, God knows, are but little regarded by the moft of us.
If, if, We confider the Publick Effects of these controversies to a Decay of Piety: What a Desolation shall we find too often occafiond by
them? I need not tell you how many countries
2dly, We look upon these Disputes in themfelves only, without regarding any such desperate effe&ts of them: I wish I had no Occasion to say how prejudicial they have even thus been, and without God's Infinite Mercy, might have been much more to our common Christianity: Whilft by the means of these, not only Schisms and Herefies (and even those too, St. Paul reckons among the Works of the Flesh, Gal. v. 20. which whofo are Guilty of, cannot Inherit the Kingdom of God) have crept into the Church ; but, Some from these Contests have concluded all our Re ligion to be uncertain ; and esteem'd it the wifeft way not to join with any of us, till we can fomewhat better agree to which of us they ought to go. Others, considering the manner how thefe Controversies' have, of late especially, been managed and carried on, have with some colour of Reason, been tempted to believe all our Pretences to be only Deçeit and Visions for that surely did
those who stand up in the Defence of Religion, believe it themselves, they would never defend their Faith in such a Manner, as utterly contradicts all the Morality of it.
Which of the great Articles of Christianity have not our Modern Disputes callid in Question ? It is but a very little while since the Mystery of the Sacred Trinity, and the Glorious Incarnation of the Son of God, have again been struck at, by those who plainly shew they care not what becomes of Christianity, if they cannot make their Popish Heresy prevail with it. And that if not info plain and direct a manner as the Arians and Socinians of our Days do; yet in another no less repugnant to the belief of them. For if the Contradi&tions, as they say, be indeed as great in these, as 'tis plain they are in that other Mystery, or rather as one of their own great Defen
ders of it truly called it, That Card. Perron. MONSTER of Transubftantiation,
to which they are compared; I doubt all considering Persons will resolve from the Self-evident falfeness of the one, to conclude against the others ; rather than from their belief of those, to give up their assent to this.
If we look to the Morality of the Gospel; let the Heat and the Passion, the Bitterness, and the Evil-speaking ; shall I add, and even the Fraud and Dissimulation which have appeard in these Debates, be a sad Evidence how destructive such Disputes are of true Piety and Religion. Whilst to lessen an Adversary, or to be thought to get the better in an Argument, Men value not how or what they write ; but seem resolved at any rate to maintain their Point, tho' for the doing of it they are forced to such shifts, as without
God's Infinite Mercy, must lose them their own Souls.
What shall I say to that Epidemical Uncharitableness that is from hence diffused into the feverál Parties of Christians ? Whilst every one seems to reckon his Enemy no better then a Heathen and a Publican; and having by their uncharitable Censures cut him off from the hopes of God's Mercy hereafter, think themselves afterwards disengaged from all Obligations, even of common humanity towards him now.
I speak not this, as if I meant to accuse those of our Church who have so generously stood in the Gap, and sacrificed their Peace, their Quiet, and their Interests to the defence of an excellent Cause, and a truly Orthodox, Catholick, and ApoPolick Church: And much less would I be thought liereby to discourage you from being as zealous for the Faith, and as Constant in its Defence, as both your Duty requires, and as, 1 bless God, you all of you are this Day, and I hope, and am perfuaded, will ever be so. But I speak this to deplore the sad state of Christianity, and to bewail those Divisions, than which nothing has been more destructive to the practice of Religion. I speak it, earnestly to beseech and 'exhort you, even by the Bowels and Mercy of Christ Jesus, that you will be careful to add to your Faith Works: To adorn your Holy Profession, by a suitable Conversation: To live to the Honour of your Church, as well as to dispute for it: And seeing ye know what Danger these Controversies are apt to bring to the decay of Piety, that you would be careful to prevent them, and not suffer your Zeal for your Faith, ever to carry you to any unchristian or unwarrantable Measures in the Defence of it.
And thus have I ser before you some of those Devices whereby the Devil is wont to hinder our Piety; I have but just time to mention a very few of the other kind, viz.
Ildly, Those by which he is wont to draw us into the commishon of Sin.
It has been an ancient Remark, and the Reafon whereof is so deeply rooted in our very Natures, as may justly make it a first Principle in this Enquiry ; That Evil
, as such, is not desirable. No Man ever commits a fin for sinning Sake, but upon the Account of some good or other which he either really does, or at least thinks shall accrue to him thereby.
Now 'tis upon this, the Devil founds all his Devices to deceive us. He observes our Interests, our Tempers, and Inclinations ; what it is that either our Condition, or Circumstances, or Designs in the World render us the most apt to be caught with, and accordingly offers his Temptations to us in such a manner as may be most like to prevail with us.
So that then to arm our felves against those Artifices by which he is wont to draw us into Sin, we shall need no long search, no laborious énquiry into his particular Temptations. Only let us turn our Eyes into our own Souls; there let us consider what Sins they are we are the most apt to fall into, what Passions the most command us, to what Irregularities our Tempers, or our Circumstances lay us the most open, and this will presently both shew us our Danger, and how we ought to fortify our felves against it.