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Duty conftitutes a principal Part of both Law and Gofpel, and is as neceffary as the Love of our Neighbour, which is one half of our Duty.
(2.) Let us confider, that the faithful Discharge of this Duty is the principal Thing which makes Converfation ufeful. There have been many Inventions to make it pleafant and agreeable, but few to make it ufeful and profitable to the Concerns of our Souls. And indeed, bating those Things which we have defcribed, as comprehended under the Duty of Fraternal Admonition, it will be a very hard Matter, to find much more in Converfation, that tends to our fpiritual Benefit. Perhaps it may be faid, though we our felves are not directly inftructed or admonished in Conversation, yet as the Difcourfe is often pretty free of thofe that are Absent, we may indirectly be benefited by the Commendations or Cenfures of other Mens Actions. It is true, and this, if defigned for our Benefit, is one handfome Way of brotherly Admonition. And for that Reafon, even this is almoft banished out of Conversation; whatever has a Tendency to awaken our Neighbour to any Sense of his Duty, being thought a Piece of ungenteel Breeding. The only Way then to make Converfation useful, efpecially between intimate Friends, would be to retrieve this much neglected Duty of Fraternal Admonition, and with a true Spirit of Love and Charity to put it in Practice.
(3.) Let us confider, that in fome Refpects Fraternal Admonition is a more effectual Inftrument of the Converfion and Sanctification of Men, than even good Books and Sermons; for
they do only in general tell us our Duty, leaving the particular Application to our own Confciences. But this comes clofer home, with a Thou art the Man; and fomething more ftill, that the World knows our Guilt or Hypocrifie; which is of great Confideration to induce us to mend our Manners. And therefore the Banishing fuch an effectual Means of Grace out of the World, or, which is the fame thing, the bringing it into Defuetude, is a great Wound to Religion, and has a very bad Influence on Christian Morals.
(4.) Let us confider; That the Practice of this Duty of fraternal Correption would be the Destruction of Flattery, that greatest Bane of So→ ciety, which has eaten out all that's good in Converfation. As Flattery conceals Men from them, felves, and represents their Virtues in a magnifying Glass, but their Vices through the other end of the Profpective; fo Fraternal Admonition reprefents every thing in its true Colours. Flattery feeds Pride and Vanity; Fraternal Admonition nourishes Humility. Flattery fhuts the Door to Repentance and Amendment; Fraternal Admonition is a great Spur to both. Flattery tends to deceive Men, and Fraternal Admonition to bring them to the Knowledge of themselves. Certainly the avoiding so many Mischiefs, and the bringing in fo many Bleffings, must be an unspeakable Benefit to human Society.
(5.) Fraternal Admonition is one of the greateft Acts of Charity. It is great in refpect of the Object of its Care, being the Soul's, and eternal Salvation of Men; and it is great in regard of the Difficulty of it; for I know no Duty requires fo
much Skill and Dexterity, fo much Wisdom and Prudence, fo much Courage and Patience, to manage it to good Advantage, as this does. And it is a Duty attended with the greatest and best of Confequences, the right Forming of the Minds and Manners of Men; And therefore it is an Art, which of all other deserves to be the most feriously studied.
(6.) Laftly, It is a Duty, which of all other is the most amply Rewarded. If there be in Heaven, as I do not doubt there are, different Degrees of Glory, one of the highest, I question not, fhall be conferred upon them, who prove Inftrumental in the Conversion of many Souls to God, according to that of St. James, in the End of his Epiftle: Brethren, if any of you do err from the Truth, and one convert him, let him know, that be who converteth a Sinner from the Error of bis Way, fball fave a Soul from Death, and shall bide a multitude of Sins, Jam. v. 19. And that of Daniel, Dan. xii. 3. And they that be wife, Shall fhine as the Brightness of the Firmament; and they that turn many to Righteousness, as the Stars for ever and ever.
So much for inducing us to fet about this difficult Duty of Fraternal Admonition.
I should now, in the last Place, confider the great Prudence here recommended in Adminiftring this Duty; for there are fome Men, here compared to Dogs and Swine, fo uncapable of admitting it, and who would receive it with fo much Contempt and Profanenefs, and with fo much Wrath and Indignation, that a great deal of Harm is to be feared, but no Good to be expected from it, when administred to them. And
[SERM. therefore our bleffed and merciful Saviour, in fuch Cafes, doth not require it at our Hands, but exprefly forbids our Adminiftring it to fuch Perfons, and on fuch Occafions: Give not that which is holy unto Dogs, &c. But this is a Subject of that Extent and Difficulty, that though I would very willingly be excufed from it, yet having baulk'd none of the Difficulties of this excellent Sermon on the Mount hitherto, I shall choose rather to give it a diftinct Confideration by it felf, than to leave it thus imperfect. But this will be work for another Day's Meditation.
God bless what we have heard at prefent, and give us Grace to bring forth the Fruits of it in a good Converfation our felves, and in our zealous Endeavours to reclaim others from the evil of their Ways, that we with them may at last obtain the end of our Faith, the Salvation of our Souls, through the Grace and Merits of our bleffed Saviour and Redeemer Jefus Chrift. To whom, &c.
MAT. VII. 6.
Give not that which is holy unto the Dogs, neither caft ye your Pearls before Swine, left they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rent you.
The Eighth Sermon on this Text.
AVING in fome former Difcourfes against Cenforioufnefs and rafh Judgment, both confidered the Vice it felf here prohibited, and the Reasons fuggefted in the Text against it, I came at last to the oppofite Duty, which I propofed in these Four Particulars:
I. That we should employ our Cenforiousness chiefly against our felves; by cafting out first the Beam out of our own Eye.
II. That we should have charitable Thoughts of our Neighbour, and put the best Conftruction on his Designs and Actions they are capable of.
III. That in Cafe of his Sin and Error, we should perform the Office of Monitors to our Neighbour himself, inftead of expofing him to others.
Thefe Three I have already confidered; now follows,