« AnkstesnisTęsti »
they are rain : Psal. xciv. 8–11. Doth not thy religion represent God to thee as the searcher of the beart, and trier of the reins? as a God, who looks quite through thee, and discerns every breathing of a thought and of a desire in thee? as an allseeing and all-knowing God, who will bring every secret and hidden thing into open and public judgment ? Live, then, according to these truths : live as always under the eye and observation of thy God; as one, who art accountable to him, not only for the more remarkable actions of thy life, but for every cogitation of thy heart, and every the least motion of thy soul; or, else, thou provest thyself to be a very fool, in not believing a religion which thou dost profess, or else in not practising á religion which thou dost believe.
2. Consider : Thy profession hath beautified and adorned thee: it hath honoured thee in the esteem of all serious and sober persons; who think well and speak well of thee, because of that profession and appearance of piety and godliness, which is in thee.
Now, as thy profession of the doctrine of Christ hath commended thee to the esteem and acceptance of good men; so do thou commend that doctrine to the esteem of evil and wicked men, by a life altogether suitable to the precepts of it. Sadden not the hearts of the children of God, by thy miscarriages: they have received thee as a brother, and as a fellowmember with them of the same body mystical : approve thyself, by the continued holiness of thy life, to be worthy the repute which they give thee. Never think to maintain it by any hypocritical, dissembling arts: a rotten limb will at last fall off, and stink in all their nostrils: if thy profession be not sound, thy apostacy will be most certain. Keep up the credit of that religion among wicked men, which hath given thee so much credit among the good: let them never have an occasion, through thy miscarriages, to open their black mouths, and to blaspheme the holy and reverend name of God.
3. Consider: There is no other way left to redeem and vindicate the lost credit of your religion, but by a life suitable to the precepts of it.
Its honour lies bleeding, and is insulted over by wicked men; who scorn and deride it, who triumph in its disgraces, and ask, “ What now is become of your God, and of your godliness ?" Christians, if you have any kindness for either, shew the profane world, that, even in this languishing state of religion, yet - there is beauty and lustre enough left in it, to dazzle the eyes
of all who look maliciously upon it.
(1) Redeem its credit, as to the Doctrines of it.
Be not giddy, wavering, and uncertain; but sound in the faith: not tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. Let not every glaring delusion, every skipping light, every whiffling pretender to new notions, pervert your minds with good words and fair speeches, which the Apostle gives as the character of a company of deceivers in his days, Rom. xvi. 18. and agrees but too well with a great many in ours.
The errors and here. sies, which have thus crept in, have torn the church in pieces; and each sect and opinion hath gained so many proselytes, that, between them, they have made a great many atheists; who, seeing that Christians are not yet agreed what to believe, will themselves believe nothing; and, knowing that many tenets in vogue are false and absurd, are strongly tempted to reject all, even those that are true: as Averroes, that learned commentator upon Aristotle, refused to become a Christian, because of that monstrous error of Transubstantiation; and
this reason for it, Cùm Christiani adorant quod comedunt, sit anima mea cum Philosophis: “ Since the Christians eat what they adore, let my soul be among the Philosophers.” Now, Christians, retrieve this lost honour of your religion; and let it appear, by your holding fast the form of sound words, that the doctrine of Christ is certain in the principles which it teacheth; and that the truths of it are built upon such clear evidence, that neither the subtlety of those who lie in wait to deceive, nor yet the malice of those who oppugn them, could ever shake or make you forego your belief.
(2) Redeem the credit of religion, as to the Duties which it commands.
Let it appear, that the most severe duties which it imposeth upon you, as mortification, self-denial, contempt of the world in its pleasures, profits, and honours, are not so unreasonable nor impossible, as the world takes them to be, by your constant and cheerful performance of them. Recover again that credit, which others, or perhaps you yourselves, have formerly made it lose through a loose and vain conversation, by your holiness and strictness for the time to come. Convince the world, that debauchery is not necessary; and that the doctrine of Christ was 'not given, only to take up your more serious or melancholy hours: but that it is an universal rule for the guidance of your whole life, and that it hath an influence into all your actions. Till you do this, religion must needs suffer and bleed; and, I pray God, it may not utterly expire, and die among us.
(4) Consider, for your encouragement, that, if you thus adorn the doctrine of Christ, it will for ever adorn you; and, as you have made it glorious in the world, it will make you for ever glorious in heaven.
This is the reward, which it promiseth. It will put a wreath of beams, a diadem of stars, a crown of glory upon your heads : Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father : Matt. xiii. 43. And therefore those, who are careful to adorn the doctrine of Christ, are but like those, who put ornaments and hang jewels on those clothes, which them. selves are to wear: the beauty and lustre, which reflect from them all, redound to themselves. So we are promised, 1 Sam. ji. 30. Them, that honour me, I will honour. And, to shut up all, consider that place of the Apostle, Gal. vi. 16. As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
WITHDRAWING FROM SUCH AS WALK DISORDERLY.
FROM 2 THESS. iii. 6.
NOW WE COMMAND YOU, BRETHREN, IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD
JESUS CHRIST, THAT YE WITHDRAW YOURSELVES FROM EVERY BROTHER THAT WALKETH DISORDERLY, AND NOT AFTER THE TRADITION WHICH YE RECEIVED OF US.
These words are as authoritative and pressing a command, as any we meet with in the whole Book of God. In them we may observe both the Matter and the Form of this injunction.
First. The Matter is, Separation from the converse of wicked and profane Christians: who are here described to be such as walk disorderly: ATENTUS, that walk out of line, and keep not their ranks: a word borrowed from military discipline, which requires every soldier to march in his file, and to keep that order in which he was placed by his leader.
But, because there can be no irregularity, but a rule must first be presupposed; and no disorder, where no orders have been given : therefore the Apostle farther explains whom he means, and whom he would characterize by this note of walking disorderly; and those he tells us are they, who walk not after the tradition which they had received : i. e. according to that doctrine, which was taught and delivered to them by the Apostles and Ministers of Christ.
First. All, who commit gross and flagitious Wickedness and who live in a course of foul and notorious Impieties, are justly branded as those who walk disorderly.
Though they make profession of a holy faith, yet they contradict and enervate it by an unholy life: they take upon them the name of Christians, but yet live as without God and without Christ in the world. The doctrine of the Gospel teacheth nothing but holiness and purity: it is a doctrine according to godli. ness, as the Apostle expresseth it, 1 Tim. vi. 3 : all its precepts, exhortations, promises, and threatenings, the whole drift and design of it, tend only to make us more holy, and to impress upon us some strictures of the purity of God our Heavenly Father. And, therefore, certainly, they, who live in the com: mission of any scandalous crimes, must needs be guilty of most wretched disorder: they break their ranks, and fly out into open rebellion; yea, while they march under the banner of Christ, they fight against their own captain, and are to be reputed not his soldiers, but his enemies.
And not only these, but,
Secondly. All, who are Erroneous and Heretical, are disorderly persons.
Others transgress the rule, but these destroy it: they pluck up the very boundaries of the faith; and deny, not only their obedience to the truth, but the truth itself. And, though they may varnish over their damnable doctrines with fair shews and good speeches; and seem to be very mortified, spiritual, and heavenly persons, that thereby they may gain proselytes, and a veneration among them: yet are they far more pernicious and baneful to the Church of Christ, than those, who are openly profane and scandalous. For, since the mind and understanding is the leading principle of man, if that be perverted, it must needs have a malign influence upon all the inferior faculties : our notions are the guide of our actions; and, consequently, an error in judgment stops not there, nor rests only swimming and floating in the brain; but challengeth the same privilege which the divinest truth hath, to direct and govern our lives, and so, by a wretched improvement, becomes a transgression in practice too. He, who hath denied the faith, must, if he will be coherent to his own principles, refuse that obedience which is consequent upon it. As a vertigo, and dizziness in the head, causeth a reeling and staggering motion in the feet; so those, who are vertiginous and giddy in their opinions, must of necessity be disorderly in their conversations: they can never walk steadily by a rule, which they deny to be so. And thus error is not only