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great Temptations, either to corrupt -
been delivered to them, was to exhort
of certain false Teachers that were
it their great Endeavour by any Means, to bring in damnable Heresies. And he foresaw that their wicked Industry would be likely to prove but too fatally successful; for, Many
(says he) Shall follow their pernicious
Truth shall be evil Spoken of.
Things before, beware, left ye also, being led
your own Stedfaftness.-
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ : To him be
Such was the Occasion of these Words; and the Profecution of them at this Time, will engage me to explain the Nature, and to exhort you to the Pra&tice of Two Duties, than which I know none more proper for our serious Confideration ; Growth in Grace, and Stedfastness in Religion; and from both which there are hut roo many Seducers on every Hand, to turn us aside. I shall pursue both in this following Order.
I. I will shew you, what the true Nature of that
Stedfaftness in Religion is, to which our Text
here exhorts us. II. By what Motives especially it was, that the
Apostle ftirr'd up the Christians, to whom he wrote, and that I would now crave Leave to
exhort you to fuch a Stedfastness. IH. How highly, both necessary in its self it is,
but especially how advantageous to this great End, that we should all of us endeavour what in us lies, to grow in Grace, and in the Knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Fefus Chrift.
I. What the true Nature of that Stedfastness
in Religion is, to which our Text exhorts us, aud which I am from thence to recommend
For 'tis not every Firmness that deserves the Name of a true and rational Stedfastness: And a Man may as well exceed, by a perverfe, unwarrantable Resolution not to hearken to any Motives, though never so reasonable, to change his Opinion ; as by an unfix'd and irresolute Temper, abandon himself to every Wind of Doétrine, that shall come to turn him aside from it.
Constancy in Religion, is a Virtue that, like all others, must be regulated by Prudence. It must be firm, but it must be well-grounded too. And he who would go about at all Adventures, to recommend a Perseverance in that Faith, whatever it be, in which a Man has been Born and bred, without allowing a just Enquiry to be made into the Grounds of it, and even a Liberty to forsake it too, should they prove less solid than they ought to be; he may indeed provide for their Security, who chance to be already in the right Way, but shall render it utterly impossible for those that are not, ever to come to the Knowledge of it.
It is not therefore such a blind Stedfastness as this, a Constancy in our Religion, whether it be good or bad, that either the Apostle here means, or that I would now recommend to you. This would be to make a Plea for Obstinacy, rather than Constancy; whilst by such a Rule, it would be the Duty of a Few to remain a few, a Heathen a Heathen; for a Papist or Socinian to continue all their Lives Papist or Socinian, no less than for one of the Church of England to be firm and stedfast to the Faith and Communion of it. That which I understand by a true. Stedfastness, is this: When a Man is upon rational and good Grounds evidently persuaded of the Truth and
Purity of his Religion, then to resolve to stick close to it, and not suffer any base, unworthy Motives, to draw him aside from it. Our Religion must first be well grounded, and then it will be true Stedfastness to adhere to it. And therefore to give such necessary Directions as may fuffice for the Practice of this Duty, I must distinctly
consider it in both its Respects, and as it stands in the Middle between the Two Extremes of a blind Obstinacy on the one Hand, and of a weak Inftability on the other; and by either of which, the true Nature of it will become equally destroy'd
First then: He that will be truly stedfast in his
Religion, must take heed that he does not mistake Obstinacy for Stedfasiness.
This is an Error so much the rather to be remarked on this Occasion, in that a daily Experience sadly shows us at once, both the Danger and Easiness of such a Mistake. It is a strange Perverseness in some Men, that they make it no less than a Mortal Sin, to have any Doubts, though never fo reasonable, of any the least Do&trine they have once been taught to profess. And there is hardly an Immorality so heinous and provoking, fo contrary to the Honour of God, and so destructive of Salvation, which their Spiritual Guides will not fooner over-pass, than such a Scruple. Insomuch, that by the express Order of the Church which Í am now speaking of, 'tis made a part of Mens folemn Reception into their communion, * the very Condition of being admitted into a State of Proselitism with them, not only to abjure for the present, all those. Tenets which they are pleased to call
* See the R. Pontific. Ord. ad Reconcil. Hæret. Spondeo fub Anathematis Obligatione, Me nunquam Quorumlibet fuafionibus vel quocunque alio modo ada. Reverlurum. Et si (quod abfit) ab hâc me unitate aliquâ Occasione vel Argumento divifero, perjurii Reațum incurrens, æternæ obligacus pænæ Inveniar. &c.
Heretical, but also to imprecate upon their Heads, all the Miseries of Eternal Torments, if ever they suffer themselves BY ANY OCCASION OR ARGUMENTS WHATSOEVER, to be hereafter better instructed.
This is, in good, Truth, to make a Faétion of Religion; 'tis a Combination rather than a Constancy: And what' wretched Effects it has upon the Minds of those unfortunate, deluded Men, that have once suffered themselves to be thus engaged, appears in this; that no rational Motives, no Arguments, though never so clear, are almost able to work upon them. The fad Vow they have made, fecurs continually upon their Minds: They have Sirorn to continue where they are gone, at all Adventures; and therefore they now as obstinately resolve never to return to the Truth, as they once weakly fuffered themselves to be seduced from it.
To avoid such an unhappy Obstinacy as this, and be constant in our Religion upon such rational Grounds as may justify us before God and Man, from the Charge of a Pertinacious Firmness, we may please to observe these following Dire&tions.
If, Let our Religion be founded in Knowledge; i. e. Let us be clearly and evidently convinced of the Truih of that to which we do adhere, and then we may be sure we cannot be justly charged with Obstinacy for our adhering to it.
He who takes up his Religion upon Trust, that receives all the Articles of his Creed by Wholefale; believes as his Church believes, but it may be knows not either what that is, or wherefore he does fo; 'tis evident that such a credulous Disciple as this, may be blindly obftinate, but he cannot be wisely