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They were very bad times, when all the prophets SERM. did strive so earnestly to reclaim men from their LXVII. wickedness; being reproached and persecuted for doing so, but not deterred from doing it: the resentment they had of the badness of times did not make them abandon the means of its recovery from it.
The whole world did lie in wickedness when the 1 John v. apostles did undertake the reformation of it. In fine, if men generally upon such accounts of None call
eth for justdespairing prudence neglect to own goodness, what ice, nor must the consequence be? what, but that piety eth for shall be cashiered, that virtue shall be discarded, truth that conscience shall be quite exploded and exterminated from the world? that consequently an horrible deluge of various mischiefs, a general prevalence of lewdness and luxury, of fraud and violence, of faction and tumult, a violation of all faith and friendship, a dissolution of all order and peace will ensue?
And what must grow upon this state of things ? what but another flood of judgments, and woful vengeance? when God's patience hath been tried to the utmost, and his goodness tired with bearing such a load of abominations, he will be forced to cry out, Shall I not visit for these things ? shall not my soul Jer. v. 29. be avenged on such a nation as this?
10. Another principle of dispensing with con- Stulta caliscience in public duties and conversation before men, verse imiis a kind of perverse wisdom, or subtle craft, affect- tata pruing the name of discretion.
Cic. de Off:
iii. p. 143. Men see there are divers inconveniences attending the profession of respect to God and conscience in all their doings; that the world may dislike and
Isa. i. 24.
SERM. disesteem them, that divers persons will hate, maLXVII.
lign, reproach, and persecute them for it; that they may chance to be crossed in their designs, and lose profits or preferments thereby; therefore they deem it advisable to decline it in open view, making up the defect by adoring and serving God in private.
Thus they think to salve all, by maintaining a neutrality, and compounding the business, yielding an open conformity to the world, and reserving a secret regard to God; sinning publicly, and privately repenting; retaining their credit, quiet, ease,
pleasure, with their conscience and peace of mind; Gal. v. 11. affecting some piety, but avoiding the scandal of it.
They would hold fair with both sides; so that neither the world should persecute them for crossing its humour, nor God punish them for transgressing his will.
They drive a subtle trade, hoping to gain on all hands, both the benefits of the other, and the ad. vantages of this world; to save their soul, and serve their worldly interests together :
This they would believe a point of special wisdom, Eccles. vii. prescribed by Solomon: Be not righteous overmuch, 16, 17.
neither make thyself overwise ; for why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not overmuch wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before the time?
But this rooking trick, to hedge thus and save stakes, to play fast and loose, to dodge and shuffle with God, God doth not like, nor will suffer himself to be gulled with it.
He will not be satisfied with such a mongrel, parservice (the external, visible part thereof) which is SERM. most honourable to him, and most beneficial to our
tial, and halting service. i Kings He will not allow us to withhold that half of his
He cannot endure a double heart, or a double face; one looking upward to heaven, another downward to the earth e.
He exacteth from us an integrity of heart and perfection of obedience; that we should love him with our whole heart, that we should be perfect with him, that we should walk uprightly, not deflecting to the right hand or left from our duty.
He will not endure that we should hold amity or correspondence with his enemies; particularly with the world, the friendship whereof he hath declared inconsistent with his favour; and that it is a spiritual adultery to impart any of our affections to it; according to that of St. James; Ye adulterers and Jam. iv. iii. adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship ofis. the world is enmity with God? so that whosoever (John xv. will be a friend of the world becometh the enemy 12;
xxxviii. We may shift as well as we can in the world, pro- 0. Tr.
Phil. ii. 5. vided that we hold innocence, and do not conspire with it against God, by violation of our duty to him': Be wise as serpents, innocent as doves. Matt. X. 16. (as lambs, Luke x. 3.)
They reproach good men as superstitious; who are afraid of invisible powers; who let go things in
nl John ii.
e Psal. xii. 2. Jam. i. 8. iv. 8. 2 Chron. xii. 33. Tim. ji. 8. Siyawos. Psal. xxxviii. 37. Their heart was not whole with him. (0. Tr.) Deuter. xviii. 13. Job i. 8. Psalm xliv. 18. cxix. 51. 2 Chron. xxxiv. 2. Job xxiii. 11. Matthew vi. 24. Luke xvi. 13. Avoi kupions.
* Rom. xvi. 19. Σοφούς εις το αγαθόν, ακεραίους δε εις το κακόν.
SERM. hand (present interests and pleasures) for a reverLXVII. sion and hope.
As if God's word were not sufficient security; as if we may not as well rely upon things conspicuous to reason, as those which are obvious to sense.
If Christianity be plainly false, they say well; but if it be true, very absurdly; yea if probable, very imprudently; yea if possible, not wisely.
They charge conscientious men with timorousness, faintheartedness.
It is timorousness or blameable fear to dread things without reason, things nowise formidable, which cannot hurt us; such a timorous man is he, that out of fear of men, (of displeasing them, of suffering by them, of their reproach,) &c. transgresseth his duty.
But to fear God is wisdom, soberness, duty, virtue; it is handsome and honourable, becoming our nature, our condition; the passion of fear was chiefly put in us for this purpose, as its best use.
Is it courage, and not rather madness to provoke, to resist, to challenge, to cope with the Almighty? is it courage to throw one's self down a precipice, to leap into the infernal lake? is it gallantry to dare transgress all reason and sobriety? is it brave to be wild and senseless, &c.?
It is true courage to resist and repel sin assaulting a man with whatever advantages; to dare to do well, although vain men deride, and spiteful men hate us for it.
It is a kind of martyrdom to be ill used by the world for adhering to his duty ; and he hath a share in that, Blessed are they, who suffer for righteous
Gal. v. 11.
In fine, it is a vain prudence to be thus politic SERM. with God; whereby we shall lose the whole, or that LXVII. part which is invaluable, out of presumption to save Matt. x. 39. a small inconsiderable part.
'O súgwo one
ψυχήν αυIf this be prudence, then, as St. Paul saith, is the cu auráv.
του, απολίoffence of the cross ceased.
Matt. x. 38. Then our Lord prescribed a foolish condition.
Then were the apostles very imprudent, who deserted all, and suffered so much for their conscience; being content to secure their spiritual interest, and to obtain the eternal rewards of piety; choosing the Luke x. 42. better part, which could not be taken from them.
What the true wisdom is in such cases St. James hath told us : Who is a wise man, and endued with Jam. iii. 13. knowledge among you ? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
Phil. iii. 8.