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SERM bling-block before the Blind, but shalt fear XVIII. thy God. In the literal fenfe, the Commandment is right, and, no doubt, intended in the Law: But the fpiritual sense is of more importance, and perhaps ultimately intended in the Law itfelf; Curfed be He, that by his Example or Authority, maketh the Weak to wander out of the way of Righteousness. In the parallel place of St Matthew's Gospel, our Savicur still more expreffly explains This to be the meaning of the Text; ch. xviii. 6. Whofo, fays he, fhall offend one of these little ones that believe in Me; one of these little ones; that is, any plain and fincere Chriftian, fuch a one as in the foregoing part of his Discourse he had compared for fimplicity and fincerity to to a a little Child; Whofo, fays, he, fall offend one of thefe little ones whofo fhall draw or lead fuch a one into Sin, better were it for him that a milftone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the fea. And then he goes on, ver. 7. It must needs be that Offences come; but Wo to that man, by whom, (not, by whose occafion perhaps, but by whofe Fault,) the Offence
Offence cometh. In which paffage what SER M. he means by Offence, he again explains, ver. 10; - Take heed that ye despise not one of thefe little ones; take heed left ye think it a light thing, a Matter of small confequence, to draw them into Sin; for I fay unto you, that in Heaven their Angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in Heaven: that is, thofe mean and fincere perfons, whom ye have fo little regard for, are the Care of Angels, and under the Protection of God,
BUT to confider more diftinctly the words of the Text: It is impoffible, fays our Saviour, but that Offences will come; but Wo unto Him, Wo to That Man, or In Body of Men, through whom they come. Difcourfing upon these words, it will be proper to show particularly, 1ft, What the principal of thofe Offences are, which hinder the propagation of the Gospel of Truth. 2dly, In what Senfe our Saviour must be understood to affirm, that it is impoffible but fuch offences will come; or, as it is expreffed in St Matthew, that it muft needs be that Offences come. 3dly, Why a particular Wo is, by way of em
SER M. phafs and diftinction, denounced against XVIII. the Perfons by whom thefe Offences come. 4thly and lastly, I fhall draw fome particular Inferences from the Whole.
I. IN the First place, it will be proper to confider, what the principal of those Offences are, which hinder the Propagation of the Gospel of Truth. And though every thing that is faulty in any kind, does in its measure and degree contribute to This Evil; yet whoever confiders the State of the Chriftian World, and the History of the Church in all Ages from the Beginning, will find that the Great Offences, (or, as the original word literally fignifies, the Stumbling-Blocks) which have all along chiefly hindred the Progrefs of true Christianity, are these which follow.
ft, Corruption of Doctrine. The Gofpel of Chrift, as taught by himself, and his Apoftles in its original Plainnefs and Purity, is a Doctrine of Truth and Simplicity, a Doctrine fo eafy to be underftood, fo reasonable to be practifed, fo agreeable to the natural notions and reafon of Mankind, fo beneficial in its offects
fects if men were really governed by it; SERM, teaching them nothing but the Worship XVIII. of the True God, thro' the Mediation of Chrift; and towards each Other, Juftice, Righteoufnefs, Meeknefs, Charity, and univerfal Good-Will; in expectation of a future judgment, and of a lafting State of Happiness in a better World, for them who love God and keep his Commandments: This Doctrine of Chrift, I fay, in its native Simplicity and Purity, is fo rea fonable, fo excellent, and of fuch irrefiftible Evidence; that had it never been cor rupted by Superftitions from within, it never could have been oppofed by Power from without; but it must of neceffity have captivated Mankind, to the obedience of Faith 'till the knowledge of the Lord had filled the Earth, as the Waters cover the Sea. But Offences foon came, and the Enemy fowed Tares among this Wheat. The Jewish Believers, even in the Apostles own times, contended for the neceffity of obferving the rites and ceremonies of the Law of Mofes; And This gave juft Offence to the Gentiles, and deterred them from readily embracing the Gofpel. Others,
SER M. built bay and ftubbie upon the foundation XVIII. of Chrift; bringing in mixtures of Jewish Fables, and questions that miniftred ftrife, rather than godly edifying; and introducing (after the Example of the Pharifees,) will-worship, and voluntary humilities, and commandments of Men; which, like a Cloud, darkned the clear Light, and obfcured the inexpreffible native beauty, of the glorious Gospel of Chrift. After This, Other Offences arofe from among the -Gentile-Converts, who by degrees. corrupting themselves after the Similitude of the Heathen - Worshippers, introduced Saints and Images, and Pompous Ceremonies, and Grandour into the Church, inftead of true Virtue and Righteoufnefs of Life. Concerning Thefe, our Saviour fpeaks, Rev. ii. 14; Thou haft them that kold the Doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to caft a ftumbling-block before the children of Ifrael, to eat things facrificed unto Idols, and to commit fornication: By fornication, meaning Spiritual fornication, or corruption of the plain and uniform Worship of God. These were Offences indeed; Offences, which gave occafion at length,