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nounced against the Perfons by whom thefe SER M. Offences come: Wo unto Him, Wo to XVIII. That Man, or That Body of Men, whofoever or how great Power foever they be, thro' whom the Offences come. That, in general, those who by their ill Behaviour bring reproach upon the Gospel of Chrift, are worthy of Punishment, notwithstanding the Neceffity of fuch Offences coming; appears from what has been shown under the fore-going Head; viz. that the Neceffity of Offences coming, is not that God lays a neceffity upon any Man to be wicked, (which would indeed excufe the Man, and transfer the Fault upon God himself;) but only declares, that mens voluntary wickedness and corruption is fuch, that it cannot be expected but Offences will come. We have an ex-. traordinary inftance of This kind, in the cafe of Judas. God decreed that the Son of Man should be betrayed to Death; and accordingly foretold by the Prophets, that One of his Followers fhould betray him. Yet God did not predeftinate Judas to be wicked: But Chrift, in order to accomplish the Will of God, chofe on purpose. Ff 4
SER M.One fuch Difciple whofe Heart he knew XVIII. was wicked, and gave him (as might have been given to any other wicked man) an opportunity to betray him. Thus both the Will of God was accomplished in the Death of Chrift; and yet Judas, like other wicked men, acted merely from the Wickedness of his own Heart, and therefore had no Excufe for his Crime: Matt. xxvi. 24. The Son of man goeth, as it is written of him; but Wo unto that man by Whom the Son of man is betrayed; it had been good for that man, if he had not been born. The expreffion is of the fame kind, and the manner of arguing the fame, as in the words of the Text; It is impossible but that Offences will come, but Wo unto Him through whom they come; It were better for him that a milftone were hanged about bis neck, and he caft into the Sea; that is, better were it for him, that he had never been born, or that he had quickly perished by fome untimely Death. Thus it appears plainly in general, that the Neceffity here mentioned of Offences coming, is no Excufe for those, by whofe Wickednefs they come.
BUT then further, the reason why a SER M. particular Wo, by way of Emphasis and XVIII. Diftinction, is denounced against the Perfons, by whom the Offences here spoken of arife; is because they are Offences of an extenfrue Nature; Hindrances to the propagation of the Gofpel; Sins, not only in the perfons who immediately commit them, but Stumbling-blocks caufing Others to fin likewife, and promoting in general the Cause of Satan. Now if they who turn many to righteousness, shall shine (as the Scripture affures us,) with a distinguished Glory as the Stars for ever and ever; and he that converteth a Sinner from the Errour of his Way, fhall hide a multitude of Sins: for the fame reafon, they who by corrupt Practices, or by abfurd and unreasonable Doctrines, (contrary to the express Command of our Saviour, Call no man Father upon Earth, for One is your Father which is in Heaven; and be not ye called Rabbi, for one is your mafter, even Chrift: They, I fay, who by introducing Doctrines upon the Authority of men, to this exprefs Command of
SER M. deter men from believing the Gospel, and XVIII. prevent them from coming into the way of righteousness; deferve juftly in proportion a greater Condemnation.
IV. THE Inferences I fhall draw from what has been faid, are:
Ift, FROM the explication which has been given of these words of our Saviour, It is impoffible but that Offences will come; we may learn, not to charge God with Evil; nor to afcribe to any Decree of His, the Wickedness and Impieties of Men. And whenever any Text of Scripture may poffibly in the literal Senfe to a careless Reader feem to give countenance to any fuch Notion, we must always be careful to compare with it other Expreffions of the like nature, which will be found in other parallel places of Scripture; and then the true Senfe of Both, will eafily appear, even to a mean Understanding.
2dly, SINCE our Saviour has forewarned us, that it must needs be that fuch Offences will come, as may prove Stumbling-blocks to the weak and unattentive; let us take care, fince we have received
ceived this Warning, not to ftumble or SER M. be offended at them. Let us not, be- XVIII. caufe Chriftians (as they call themselves) will lead wicked lives, and will be contentious for dominion over each other's Faith, and will introduce blind, corrupt, and unintelligible Doctrines; let us not, I fay, upon any of thefe Accounts, which our Saviour has fo plainly forewarned us of; let us not think at all the worfe of Christianity itself, of the true, the plain, the peaceable, the univerfally charitable and beneficent Doctrine of our Lord and Saviour Jefus Christ.
3dly, AND above all; As we ought not to take, fo much more ought we to be careful that we never give, any of these Offences. Let not any of them who call themselves Chriftians, live vicious and debauched lives. Let us not fow Divifions, by endeavouring to impofe upon each Other in matters of Faith, and by lording it (as the Apostle expreffes himself) over the heritage of God. Let us not, by departing from the unerring Rules of ReaJon and Scripture, corrupt the plain and he i beautiful Doctrine of Chrift; but endea