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See an instance of a general accufation of this kind against all the worshippers of the true God, by Haman in the book of Efther." And Haman faid unto king Aha"fuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad, and "difperfed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom, and their laws are diverfe from all people, nei"ther keep they the king's laws; therefore it is not for "the king's profit to fuffer them."a
The prophet Jeremiah met with the fame treatment at different times. Neither prince, nor priefts, nor prophets, were able to bear without refentment, the threatenings which he denounced in the name of God." Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking "all that the Lord had commanded him to speak unto all "the people, that the priests and the prophets, and all the "people took him, faying, Thou fhalt furely die. Why "haft thou prophefied in the name of the Lord, faying, "This houfe fhall be like Shiloh, and this city fhall be de"folate without an inhabitant, and all the people were "gathered against Jeremiah in the houfe of the Lord.b"Then fpake the priests and the prophets unto the prin"ces and to all the people, faying, This man is worthy to “die, for he hath prophefied against this city, as you have "heard with your ears."c We find him afterwards exprefsly accused of treachery on the fame account. "And "when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the "ward was there, whofe name was Irijah, the fon of She"lemiah, the fon of Hananiah, and he took Jeremiah the "prophet, faying, Thou falleft away to the Chaldeans.”d
The prophet Amos is another instance, precifely parallel to the laft. Becaufe of his fidelity to God, he was invidiously represented as an enemy to the king." Then "Amaziah the priest of Beth-el fent to Jeroboam king of
Ifrael, faying, Amos hath confpired against thee in the "midft of the houfe of Ifrael: the land is not able to bear "all his words."e
Our bleffed Lord and Saviour fell under the fame accufation. However plain and artlefs his carriage, he is call
a Efther iii. 8. b Jer. xxvi. 8, 9. c Ibid. ver. 11. d Jer. xxxvii. 13. See alfo chap. xxxviii. 4. e Amos vii. 10.
ed a deceiver of the people.. "There was much murmur"ing among the people concerning him, for fome faid,
he is a good man: others faid, Nay, but he deceiveth "the people. "a His enemies endeavored to embroil him with the civil government by this infidious question, " Is "it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not?" And that which brought him at laft to the crofs was the fame pretended crime. "And from thenceforth Pilate fought to "release him: but the Jews cried out, faying, If thou let "this man go, thou art not Cæfar's friend: whofoever "maketh himself a king, fpeaketh against Cæfar."b
I fhall close this view of the Scripture hiftory, with the paffage of which my text is a part. The whole crime of the apoftle Paul, and his companion, was; reaching the doctrine of the crofs of Chrift, his great and darling theme. We are told, he "opened" and " alledged, that Christ must "needs have fuffered, and rifen again from the dead." Then the Jews, to whom this doctrine always was a ftumbling-block, were "moved with envy," and endeavored to inflame the resentment of the idolatrous multitude: they took for their affociates the most wicked and profligate, "Certain lewd fellows of the bafer fort:" They "fet all "the city in an uproar:" And as, no doubt, the friends of Paul and Silas would endeavor to protect them from the injurious affault, their enemies very gravely charge them as the authors of the confufion, both there and elfewhere. "They that have turned the world upfide down, "are come hither alfo."
Having produced thefe inftances from the holy Scriptures, which are liable to no exception, I fhall fay but little on the fubfequent periods of the church. Only in general, the fame fpirit will be found to have prevailed in every age. Whoever will take the pains to look into the hiftory of the church before the reformation, cannot fail to obferve, that when any one, either among the clergy or laity, was bold enough to reprove the errors in doctrine, or the ambition, luxury, and worldly lives of his cotemporaries, he was immediately branded as a factious and
a John vii. 12.
b John xix. 12.
diforderly perfon, and often feverely punished as an ene my to the peace of the church.
That this was the cafe with the first reformers, both at home and abroad, is too well known to need any proof. And we have had still more recent examples of it in both parts of the united kingdom. The noble struggle which many in England made, about an hundred years ago, for their liberties facred and civil, ftill bears the name of the grand rebellion. And it is remarkable, that, however juft a title they had to stand up for their rights as men and Christians, yet their doing fo at that time, was in a great measure owing to the fury and violence of their enemies, who were, in every refpect, the aggreffors. A very judicious hiftorian fays on this fubject, "That which, upon "the whole, was the great caufe of the parliament's ftrength and the king's, ruin, was, that the debauched "rabble through the land, took all that were called Puri"tans for their enemies; fo that if a man did but pray in "his family, or were but heard repeat a fermon, or fing a "pfalm, they presently cried out, Rebels, roundheads, and "all their money and goods that were portable, proved "guilty, how innocent foever they were themselves. This "it was that filled the armies and garrifons of the parlia "ment with fober pious men. Thoufands had no mind "to meddle with the wars, but greatly defired to live peaceably at home, when the rage of foldiers and drunkards "would not fuffer them."a
And in Scotland, after the restoration, though there was no ftruggle for civil liberty, all who chose to obey God rather than man, either in the fubftance or circumftances of religious duties, were charged with treafon, and fuffered as rebels. They were expelled from the church; yet cenfured as fchifmatics. They were harraffed, fined and imprifoned, when living in peace, without any fault but
concerning the law of their God;" and yet complained of as troublesome. They were banifhed, excommunicated, and denied the common benefits of life; and yet, when the extreme rigor of their oppreffors compelled them to take up arms in felf-defence, they were condemn
a Calamy's Life of Baxter, Chap. IV.
ed in form of law for refifting that government which had denied them its protection.
I forbear to add any more particular examples; but from the deduction above given, it will plainly appear, that worldly men have been always difpofed, firft to opprefs the children of God, and then to complain of injury from them, that by flander they might vindicate their oppreffion. Their flander too, hath flill run in the fame ftrain; troublers of Ifrael, deceivers of the people, ene mies to Cæfar, and turners of the world upfide down, have been the opprobrious titles generally given to the moft upright and moft faithful men, in every age and country.
We proceed now,
II. In the fecond place, To enquire, what it is in true religion that gives occafion to this charge, and makes the world prone to believe it.
That there must be fomething of this kind is very evident. So uniform an effect, could not take place without an adequate caufe. And, to a ferious and attentive obferver, I am perfuaded it is not difficult to difcern. The general cause of this effect is, that, in an equivocal fenfe, the charge is juft. True religion does, indeed, give trouble and uneafinefs to wicked men, while they continue fuch; and it cannot be fuppofed, but they will deeply refent it. In order to illuftrate this a little more fully, I beg your attention to the three following obfervations.
1. The example of the fervants of God, is a continual and fenfible reproach, to the contrary conduct of the men of the world. Nothing can preferve peace to any man, but fome meafure of felf-fatisfaction. As a deceived heart turns the wicked afide, fo the continuance of felf-deceit is necessary to his tasting those pleasures of fin in which his mistaken happiness is placed. To reproach his conduct, therefore, is to difturb his dream, and to wound his peace. And as pride, however finely disguised, has the dominion in every unrenewed heart, how offenfive muft every fpecies of reproof be, to men of this character? Now, is not the example of every good man, a fevere and fenfible, though filent, reproof to the wicked? With whatever
fpecious arguments men may fometimes plead for fin, with whatever falfe pretences they may often excuse and palliate it to their own minds, when it is brought into one view with true religion, it is not able to bear the comparifon. The example of good men to the wicked is, like the fun upon a weak eye, diftreffing and painful. It is excellent in itself, but it is offenfive to them. If I may speak fo, it flashes light upon the confcience, roufes it from a ftate of infenfible fecurity, points its arrows, and sharpens its fling. What else was it that produced the first act of violence that ftands upon record, the murder of Abel by his brother Cain? Of this the apostle John speaks in the following terms, "Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, "and flew his brother: and wherefore, flew he him? "Because his own works were evil, and his brother's " righteous."
And, as every worldly man's own confcience is thus made troublesome to him by the example of the children of God: fo it tends to fet finners at variance with one. another, and expofes the conduct of each to the cenfure of the reft. Sin, however univerfally practifed, is yet generally fhameful. Confcience though bribed, and comparatively blind in a man's own cafe, is often juft and impartial, at least under far lefs bias, in the cafe of others. It is in this way, and in this way alone, that the public honor and credit of religion is preserved, amidst fo great a majority who are enemies to it in their hearts. Muft not then, the example of a ftrict and confcientious perfon, fet in the ftrongest light the faults of thofe who act a contrary part, fo often as they happen to fall under obfervation together. Nay, does it not open the eyes of the world upon many leffer blemishes which would otherways efcape its notice? The degree of fhame that attends any practice, is always in proportion to the fenfe which the bulk of mankind have of the evil of it. And this fenfe cannot, by any means, be more ftrengthened, than by an example of what is good; as deformity never appears fo fhocking as when compared with perfect beauty. Thus, a truly pious man is, by every inftance of his vifible conduct, expofing to