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upon the Church, the Antiquity, Succeson, Infallibility of it ; and, without either Modesty or Proof, call us Hereticks. If Men have Reason on their fide, if they have Scripture for what they say, let them on God's Name produce it : We are always ready to consider and to submit to fuch Convi&tions. But otherwise to think to persuade us that we are in utter darkness when we see the Sun shining in our Faces ; That we must be damned for not believing that what we see, and taste, and know, to be but a bit of Bread, is not the Body of a Man; That they are not Infallible, who are a&tually involved in the groffest Errors; In a word, That our Church had no Being before Luther, every Article of whose Faith is founded upon the Authority of the Holy Scriptures, and has been professed in all Ages of the Church from the Apostles to this Day; this is certainly one of the most unreasonable Things in the whole World?
and what ought not by any means to stagger our stedfastness.
And now having secured our felves on both these fides, it only remains to preserve our Con
3dly, That if at any time any Arguments should
be offer'd to us that may deserve our regard, we then be sure to give them that due And wise Examination that we ought to do.
It is a very great Weakness, and indeed a very great fault in many Persons, that if at any time they begin to doubt in their Belief of any part of their Faith which they have been taught to profess, they presently abandon their own Guides, and run for Satisfa&tion to those who are the professed Enemies
of their Religion. From henceforth they hear nothing but what is ill of their Church; they are taught more and more to suspect the way that they are in; and then 'tis odds but a very little Examination suffices to make them leave it.
This is certainly a very great fault, and will one Day prove of very dangerous Consequence. What such Persons may think of changing their Religion, I cannot tell; but sure I am, our greatest Charity will hardly enable us to entertain any very comfortable Opinion of them. Nor are they such as those that we either say, or believe may be Saved, notwithstanding the Errors and Corruptions of that Church with which they Communicate.
He that will make a fafe Change from one Religion to another, must not think it enough to enquire into one or two Points, and having received a Satisfaction in them, embrace all the rest at a venture for their Sakes; but he must pass distinetly through every Article in debate. He must enquire, not only whether the Church of which he is at present a Member, be not mistaken in fome Points, it may be there is no Church in the World that is absolutely free from all kind of Error; But whether those mistakes be of such a Consequence, that he cannot communicate any longer with it on the account of them. When this is done, the greatest difficulty will still remain, to examine with the same Diligence every Article of that other Church to which he is tempted : For else, tho' he should have reason to forsake his own Church, he will yet be but little advantaged if he goes to another that is as bad, or, it may be, worse than that. If there he should find the most part well, yet so that there are but any One or Two Things fo Erroneous as to oblige
him to profess what he thinks to be false, or to praffife what is unlawful, even this will be fufficient to hinder him from reconciling himfelf to it. And in all this, there must be a serious, and diligent, and impartial Search. There must be no prejudice in favour of the One, or against the Other ; no desire that the Truth should be on this
fide, rather on thar: In fhort, nothing must be omitted, whereby he might reasonably ger a better Information. And to all this Care, there must be added fervent Prayer to God for his afftstance. He who falls away from his first Faith on any lefser Conviction than this, can never excuse himfelf from a Criminal Lightness in a matter of such Concern. And for him that fincerely does this, I shall, for my part, be content that he should leave the Church of England, whenever he can be thus convinced that any other, but efpecially that the Church of Rome is a safer way to Salvation.
And this may suffice to have been said to the
here stirred up the Christians to whom he
Now these our Text reduces to this One General Confideration
; That they both understood their Danger, and were expresly forewarn'd by his Epistle how careful it would behove them to be, to arm themselves against it: Te therefore, Beloved, feeing ye know thefe things before, beware. And
doubtless it is not only a great Security, but ought to be also a great Engagement to such a Vigilance, to be thus expresly forewarned of our Danger. And he who either neglecting or defpifing the Admonition, fuffers himself to be seduced from his own ftedfastness, myft certainly be utterly inexcufable both in the fight of God and Man for his Inconstancy.
But that which will aggravate this neglect yet much more, is the confideration of those Motives by which the Apostle here cautions them to Beware, and which therefore I must lay a little more diftin&tly before you. Now such were especially these two.
If. The dangerousness of those Seducers that were crept in amongst them: And this not fo much in respect of their cunning and diligence, tho' that too were considerable; as of the Motives they used to draw them from their stedfastness. There are, it may be, fcarce any two Things in the World, the weakness and corruption of Man's Nature confidered, more apt to seduce, than an easy Pra&tice, supported with high Pretences; when both the way that is offer'd is extremely agreeable to our foofe Inclinations, and the Proponent wonderfully confident in the tender of it ; And both these St. Peter here tells us, were to be found in the Hereticks against whom he forewarns them: And indeed twas upon this Account especially, that he feemed to be fo apprehenfive of their prevailing. For when (says he) they Speak great i Coç. ii. 18. fwelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonnefs. And therefore, as he said before, ver. 2. Many shall follow their Pernicious, or rather, as both the
Original Original Greek, and our own Marginal Note 'read it, their loose, their lascivious ways. But,
2dly. Another Danger there was, and that no less to be considered than the foregoing. The Christians to whom he wrote, were under fome Trial and Persecution for the Faith of Christ, and these Hereticks who chiefly provided for the ease and quiet of this present Life, had found out a remedy against that Danger too. They taught, That it was lawful on these Occasions to diffemble, or even to deny their Faith, and not to run any such hazards for it. Now this to weak Minds could not but be a strong Temptation to comply with them. Men, for the most part, are very easy in believing that, which they very much desire should be true. And therefore no wonder if our Apostle thought himself highly concerned amidst all these Dangers, to exhort them to beware, left being led away with the Error of the wicked, they should fall from their own stedfastness.
Such was the state of these Christians ; and I shall not need to make any Application. But now, if as we have seen their Dangers, so we shall also consider the Arguments which the Apostle here urges to confirm their Constancy, we shall be forced to acknowledge them to be such, as ought in all reason to have prevailed with them. For,
ist. As to the Temptations before mentioned they are indeed but too apt to seduce, because we are few of us so wise or so good as we ought to be: But to an upright and sincere Christian, they will" appear exceeding inconsiderable, and even deteftable. Confidence and Asurance stagger weak Minds: But if destitute of folid Reason, they only argue to wise Men the Vanity of the Undertaker,