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profane and bad one. Open Profeffion would have restrained him from doing wrong, and others from tempting him: whereas a timorous Concealment expofes him both Ways. At least, it gives the irreligious a Pretence for faying and imagining, either that every one thinks as they do, or that no one can defend thinking otherwife: and deprives those, who are better difpofed, of a very animating and needful Support. For no Inticement to neglect our Duty is fo dangerous, as the Appearance of a general Neglect: nor any Perfecution fo effectual, as that of public Scorn. Therefore we should combine to shelter one another from it: declare frankly and with Spirit, in our private Conversation, as well as by our Attendance here, what Side we are of: not be afraid of a little, perhaps only feeming, Contempt from thofe, who are the jufteft Objects of Pity themselves; but be willing to fuffer the Affliction of Shame, amongst others, if it muft be fo, with the People of God1: the Number of whom is not yet become fo fmall, or fo deftitute of able Advocates, but that, would they unite for that End, they might abundantly keep each other in Countenance, and their

i Heb. xi. 25.

Adverfaries in Awe. We have every poffible Reafon to be zealous in our Caufe. Unbelievers have no fingle good one to be so in theirs. Yet they are active, and we are remifs: and what will this end in, unless we change our Conduct? But then if we do, there is a

4th, Most important Obligation incumbent on us, that of tempering our Zeal with Mildnefs and Charity. We ought indéed to contend earnestly for the Faith, whenever it is opposed: but in a Manner worthy of it. Cruel Actions, opprobrious Words, inward ill Will, unjust bad Opinion, are abfolutely forbidden us, even towards the Enemics of the Gofpel: and upon the Whole, we do treat them with a Moderation, which they are far from imitating. But ftill more gentle should we be to fuch, as believe Christianity, but only misunderftand it: efpecially confidering, that we are just as liable to mistake, as they. And it is a melancholy Confideration, that whilft one Part of thofe, who profefs our Religion, are fo cool about its general and effential Interests; most of the other are so immoderately warm about their own particular Systems and Perfuafions. Not only the Maintainers of established Opinions are apt to judge hardly of * Jude 3.


the rigid Oppofers of them, and they to return it but many, of greater Latitude, cry out for Liberty to themselves, though they enjoy it to the full, with a Spirit of Perfecution: and whilft they claim an unbounded Allowance for every new Notion, will give none to those, who retain the old; but throw Imputations or Contempt upon them, without Equity or Mercy. What can be the Confequence of this, but what we experience: that the bitter Things which we fay of one another, Unbelievers, with feemingly good Reason, will fay after us: and when we have taught them to condemn the feveral Sorts of Chriftians, and especially their Teachers, as the worst of Men, will, by a very plaufible Inference, condemn Christianity, as the worst of Religions? How zealously foever therefore contending Parties may hold fast what they profess: yet, violating the most indifputable Duties by their Vehemence for difputable Doctrines, they provoke great Numbers to fit loose to all Profeffion; and do incredible Harm to the Religion, which they would ferve. For, let us try what Methods we will, Nothing can ever fo effectually promote true Faith, as joining to practise true Charity. But however unanimous Chriftians may be in other Refpects, they will neither


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do Honour to the Gofpel, nor receive Benefit from it, unless they are also careful,

5. To be feriously and uniformly pious and virtuous. Yet, most unhappily, whatever else we differ in, we agree but too well in neglecting this. Multitudes call themselves Chriftians, who seem never to have thought of any. Care of their Conduct; but make a folemn Profeffion of the pureft and holiest Religion, that ever was; and at the fame Time, throughout their Lives, do every Thing that they are inclined to, and Nothing else. Others that will obferve fome Reftraints, would find, upon a fair Examination, that they follow their Paffions, perhaps in as many or more Cases, than their Principles; or, which comes to the fame Thing, accommodate their Principles to fuit their Paffions. And even they, who have little of any bad Inclination to lead them wrong, are very frequently led almost as wrong by indolent Compliance with bad Cuftom. For from whence is it, that the Generality of Men form their Rule of Behaviour? Not from Scripture, or from Reason: but from Fashion and common Practice: whatever they find People of tolerable Reputation do, that they do likewife. When a farther Step of wrong Indulgence is publicly taken, they proceed

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ceed to take the fame; or, it may be, one fomewhat lefs: the Duties, which others throw off intirely, they practise rarely, and with Indifference: the Liberties, which others indulge without Referve, they approach towards with Hefitation and by Degrees: but as the World goes on from bad to worse, they go on too; and imagine they are perfectly safe, because they are a little behind. Now Men should not indeed be fuperftitiously scrupulous: but they should be confcientiously attentive to their Hearts and Lives; and reflect what ought to be done, as well as obferve what is done. The Gospel forbids, inftead of recommending, Conformity to the World' by no Means with an Intention, that we should be fingular in Matters of Indifference, but refolute against Compliances unlawful or dangerous. Chriftians, far from being permitted to follow others into Sin, are defigned to lead them into Piety and Virtue to be the Light, the Salt of the Earth not to fet an Example of useless Rigour, much less of uncharitable Cenforioufnefs; but of punctual and impartial Adherence to every Rule, which God hath appointed by Reafon or Scripture, and faithful Endeavours to attain the great End of his Appoint

1 Rom. xii, 2.

m. Matth. v. 13, 14.



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