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seat of the scornful! But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” “The ungodly are not so: but like the chaff which the wind driveth away: therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous : for the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Psal. i.) This. is scripture distinction, which God will make good.
I make no question, but the worst of you will put by all this in
your self-deceit, and say, it is not holiness that we speak against, but it is hypocrisy, or schism, or some such accusation that malice shall suggest, will be your mask. But will you answer me these few questions.
Quest. 1. Why then do you not imitate them so far as they do well? Why are you not as much in works of holiness as they? In reading, and meditating on the word of God, in holy conference, and secret prayer, and instructing your families, &c. And then leave them, and spare not where they do amiss.
Quest. 2. Why do you not hate the sins of the notoriously ungodly, who show them without shame? Nay, why do you make such men your companions ?
Quest. 3. Why go you to the heart, that is unseen, and arrogate the prerogative of God, to censure men of hypocrisy, and such secret sins that are out of your discerning? If you know your heart by outward actions, insist upon your proofs.
Quest. 4. Why speak you not of their good as well as of the supposed evil? Why are you not more in speaking well of what is well, than in speaking ill of what is ill?
Quest. 5. Why is it that you speak of men that you know not? And of others that are innocent, for the sake of those you imagine to be guilty? And why do you so greedily snatch at any matter of reproach, and take it by hearsay from the most ignorant, rash, or malicious mouths.
Quest. 6. If it be hypocrisy, or other vice, that you so hate, why do you not hate them in yourselves? Why live you so viciously while you profess obedience to the Lord ? And why do you take on you to believe a heaven and hell hereafter, and to give up yourselves in covenant to God, and live so contrary to that professed belief and covenant ?
Quest. 7. Do you not feel that it is partly malice, and partly the recrimination of a guilty galled conscience, that fain would steal a little peace by thinking others to be as bad as you?
I shall dismiss this unhappy sort of men with these two requests : 1. You are the men that of all others have the most notable advantage from your conviction, of the misery of your present state: and therefore, I beseech you, take that advantage. One would think it should be the easiest matter in the world, for such as you to know that you are ungodly, that hate godliness and oppose it. You have no plausible pretence for self-fattery or self-deceit. And therefore confess your misery, and look out to Christ, for help and pardon, while there is hope and time.
2. For the time to come, will you but try a serious, holy life before you speak against it any more? For shame, speak not evil of the things you know not, as those brutes described, Jud. x. And holiness was never well known but by experience. O that
you would be entreated but to yield to this most equal motion! Away with your worldly, fleshly lives; and live in faith and holiness, a just, a spiritual, and a heavenly life, but one year, or one quarter, or one month, and then if, by experience, you find just cause for it, reproach a holy life, and spare not.
II. To the second sort, (that speak evil of men upon differences of opinion, especially while they profess the same religion, in all the essential, necessary parts,) I shall propose
aggravations of their sin, for their humiliation.
1. Consider, can you think it agreeable to the law of Christ, to reproach men behind their backs, and unheard, for that which you never soberly and christianly told them to their faces? Did you lovingly first admonish them, and impartially hear what they can say for themselves ? What is your end in speaking against your brother? Is it to do him hurt, or good? If hurt, be sure you do him justice; and backbiting is not the way of justice. If good, you cross your own intention. For what good can it do him, that another hears him evil spoken of?
2. If you are Christ's disciples, it must be known to all men by your special love to one another. (John xiii. 25.) And is reproach and evil speaking the fruit or evidence of such love? Can you
talk so of the friends that are most dear to you, or that you love indeed?
How do our hearts rise against that man, that speaks reproachfully of our dearest friends! Love would scarce suffer
you to endure such abuse of Christians in another, without a serious reprehension : much less to be the abuser of them yourselves.
- 3. Your evil speaking of your brethren destroyeth love in others, as it proves the want of it in yourselves. And to destroy their love is to destroy their souls. You do your worst to quench the love, both of him that you speak evil of, and of them to whom you speak it. Good is the object of love; and therefore to speak (well) of men, and manifest them to be lovely, is the only way to make them loved, Evil is the object of hatred : and therefore to speak evil of them, is to make them seem hateful, and draw men to the guilt of hating them. To praise a man will do more to make him loved, than if you only entreat another to love him; and to dispraise a man will do more to make him hated, than if you directly persuade another to hate him. And what service you do the devil, and what disservice unto Christ, by destroying love, and sowing hatred among his servants, were you impartial you might easily discern,
4. Is it not shame and pity, that the followers of Christ should imitate the devil, and ungodly men, as by detraction and reviling words they do? You aggravate your brethren's faults ; and find faults where there are none; and so do Satan and un-. godly men. You have a secret desire to make them seem contemptible and vile ; and so have Satan and ungodly men, hereby you seem to justify the wicked, and encourage them in their reproaching. They think they may boldly speak such a language of you all, as they hear you speak of one another. O what pity is it to hear the professed children of the Lord, to use the hell-bred language of his enemies, as if they had gone to school to Satan!
4. Are there not tongues enough sharpened against us in the world, but we must wound each other with our own ? . Is it not enough, if we are the seed of Christ, that every where the serpent's seed do hate us; and that all manner of evil is falsely spoken of
us, and that we are not made as the scorn and the offspring of all things, but we must also hate and reproach each other ? Have you not load enough from the world? Have you not enemies enough to do the work of enemies, but friends must do it? And hath not Satan instruments and tongues enough of his own, but we must use those that are Christ's against himself?
6. If thou hate thy brother, yet sure thou dost not hate thyself. Why then dost thou hurt and shame thyself?. His hurt is but to be defamed, which is little, if any thing at all (for it is much in himself whether it shall hurt him.) But thy hurt
that doeth it, is to provoke God against thee, and incur his wrath, and wound thy soul by the guilt of sin. And if another hurt thee in the heel, wilt thou therefore stab thyself to the heart ? If another be bad, wilt thou become so by unjust defaming him? And how dost thou cross thine own intentions ? The stone that thou castest at him, flies back in thy face. Thou proclaimest thy own transgression and shame, when thou art uncharitably proclaiming his. Is not a backbiter, a reviler, is not a malicious calumniator, a worse name (which thou takest to thyself) than that which thou canst fasten on him whom thou dost reproach?
7. Thy uncharitable speeches are a dangerous sign of an unhumbled and unpardoned soul. If thou canst not forgive, thou art not forgiven. Did you know yourselves, it would teach you to deal more compassionately with others. You would have the act of oblivion as extensive as you could, if you knew what danger you are in yourselves. Do you not know as much by yourselves as you have to reproach your brother with? Do you not then invite both God and man to take you at the worst, and use you as you use your brother? Methinks you should rather be desirous of a more tender and inJulgent way, as knowing what need yourselves have of it.
If you say, O but he hath done thus and thus against me. Let conscience say what you have done yourselves against God and others. If you say, he is a schismatic, an hypocrite, or this or that; remember that malice is blind, and never wants matter of accusation or reproach, and innocency is no defence against it: else Christ and his prophets and apostles had been better used by the world. And ask conscience whether more than you can truly say of him, may not be said against yourselves. If all such must be defamed, how infamous will
8, If you will speak ill, you must hear ill. You teach men how to use you. “Si mihi pergit quæ vult dicere, quæ non vult audiet."
“ Benedictis si certasset, audisset bene," saith the comedian. And God usually in justice suffereth it to be. And as those that by violence trample down others, when they feel themşelves; on the higher ground, do oft live to be trampled on themselves ; so those that take their advantages to insult and defame others, do usually live to be defamed. 66 For with whai measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. Judge not therefore, that ye be not judged.” (Matt. vii. 1, 2.)
To which of these two former ranks you should refer the common names of scorn that religious persons have been most loaded with among us, you must judge by the particular occasion and person. It is not my intention or desire to plead for any faction, disobedience, irregularity, or hypocrisy; much less to palliate heresies or odious crimes that are cloaked with the name or profession of religion. It is the hypocrite that I am all this while detecting. But I must say that it hath been the highest brand or character of hypocrisy and impudent profaneness conjunct; and one of the most crying transgressions of this land, that men, baptized into the name of Christ, have made a scorn at the diligent serving of him, and lived in the hatred of that religion in the life and practice, which themselves profess. And that if upon some small circumstantial differences, any of their superiors have encouraged them to use any nickname of reproach against their most conscientious brethren, they have been glad of the occasion, and used those reproaches against the serious practice of religion, which others pretend to use only against men's different opinions, which they account their exorbitancies or mistakes. How the names of zealots, precisians, puritans, and such like, have been used in this land ; and what sort of people have been made thereby (and by the discountenance of those that should have cherished a diligent, holy life) to be the common scorn; and how great a hinderance this hath proved to the salvation of many thousand souls, is a thing that is much more sad to mention, than difficult to prove. And when one nickname is grown out of use, the serpentine enmity watcheth for the opportunity that is afforded by differences and discountenance of the times, to take up another that may have a sharper sting. The dead form of religion, and as much as you will of words and shows, they can reverence or endure: but life, and seriousness, and practice, is the thing they hate. Just like a bear, or other ravenous creature, that will let their prey alone while it seem dead and stirs not; but if it stir, they leap upon it, and tear it into pieces. And therefore it is that the diligent zealous exercise of religion among the Papists, by images, and tautologies, and lifeless ceremonies and forms, is not half so much hated or reproached by the vulgar, as the serious exercise of unquestionable duties, that all are