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tion; and do we, as much as our extremity will permit, patiently undergo burdens ; desire, as much as in us lies, perfectly to resign our wills to the will of God, and to improve all the incommodities of our bodies to our spiritual advantage? Then do we give a true and faithful testimony to the religion we profess.
In a word, are we provoked to anger and wrath, and do we exercise gentleness, meekness, and longsuffering ? are we excited to inordinate and lawless lusts, and do we exercise the graces of modesty, purity, and chastity ? are we tempted to covetousness and avarice, and do we yet bestow our alms and benevolence? do we requite bad turns with good ? do we desire the prosperity of those that wish us evil ? do we pray for those that curse us ? do we love our enemies, and are we in charity with all men ? Then do we glorify our Father which is in heaven. These are the Christian virtues, all of which every man in some degree, higher or lower, is capable of being endued with: for it would be altogether contrary to the goodness and justice of God to require the performance of any thing as necessary to the salvation of all men in general, if he had not capacitated all men to such performance : the poor man therefore, as well as the rich, may live virtuously and submissively to the will of God, may deny himself and subdue his unruly affections, may be as charitable as the rich man is, if his mind be but as well disposed, supposing that his stock were but as large and his estate as plentiful: these I say are the virtues in which if we are conspicuous, then may our light be said to shine before men.
There is yet one thing more, wherein our light may properly be said to shine before men; for which indeed all men may not seem universally capacitated, in respect of their neighbors, wheu we consider the distance between them in estate and condition, and the dependance of one on another; yet every man may and ought to do it, as he shall find occasion, to those of the same rank and condition with himself; and which, if so done, will have the same effect, as if every man should freely assume the liberty to undertake it without any respect to the condition of persons; I mean the advising and reproving others in so meek, courteous, and friendly a manner,
that the person thus reproved may not have the least cause to suspect that the person reprehending him rejoices in the occasion, or has any design of extolling himself and magnifying his own righteousness; but may suppose that whatever he does proceeds merely from his good-will and charity, desiring to reduce his brother from that which he knows to be evil, as he desires others should deal with him, were he himself going on in any evil way, through ignorance, or the misgovernance of his passions. Example and advice are in this case very great helps to each other : and as it is impossible, or in the highest degree improbable, that our advice should be at all effectual, if we ourselves contradict it in our example, life, and actions ; so neither will our example have as good an effect as it might, unless our advice be adjoined thereunto. For some possibly there may be so ignorant, that though they see our good actions and approve well of them, yet will they question whether they are so much concerned, or whether they have the same reason to follow us in them, as we have to do them. Others possibly there are, who, for want oftentimes of a kind reproof from persons they converse with, are at length persuaded to believe that they needed it not; and though, peradventure, what they may have done was not altogether commendable, yet doubtless they thought it was very excusable, since it passed, as they supposed, uncontrolable in the judgment of sober persons; who however had only too much bashfulness, or it may be cowardice, which permitted them not openly to condemn it. So that another way in which we may manifest our light to the world, is the adjoining to a holy life and pious example, wholesome counsel and good advice, in a nieek, friendly, and submissive manner ; by which means if we shall persuade any one, who is but a professed Christian, to be so indeed, or shall convert him, who is a stranger, to Christianity, our light will so shine before men, that they, and we in them, shall glorify our Father which is in heaven.
II. We come now to the second thing we propounded as the subject of this discourse ; which was to show the error and mistake, and let me add the dangerous condition too, of a sort of men, who, like those hypocrites whom our Saviour describes in the 6th chapter of this gospel, make a mighty noise and
bustle in the world, love to pray standing in the synagogues and in corners of the streets, to be of a sad countenance, and to disfigure their faces, to make long prayers though to no purpose, to give alms even to the undoing of themselves and families, at sueh a time when they can have all the world to be spectators, and who, for these reasons, think themselves to be the only true lights which God has sent into the world, to be the only fit persons to teach and instruct his people, though they themselves are most commonly very ignorant and illiterate, many of them not able to give a true account of any one article in the Christian faith, or a just and full exposition of any verse in the whole bible.
Now the religion of these men generally proceeds either from pride ; or from a froward cross-grained nature and disposition ; or lastly, from such a vitiated temper of body and sort of melancholy, as disposes them to solitariness and retiredness, to black and dismal apprehensions of things, and to that which they call by the name of religion, being strongly persuaded that they alone understand wherein true religion consists, though in very deed they are not servants to religion, but slaves and vassals to superstition. We shall consider these three causes whereby such people as we now reprehend are moved to act, separately and by themselves; to wit, pride ; a froward, peevish, and cross-grained disposition; and natural temper, or that which we call religious melancholy; and we shall show that whoever acts or is guided only by any one of these principles, as to his religion, is so far from being a light before men, so unlikely to propagate the doctrine and precepts of our Saviour in persuading any to submit to its governance and direction, that he acts quite contrarily, and, as much as in him lies, renders the gospel of Christ despicable or contemptible, and dishonors our Father which is in heaven.
1. The first mover then to these men's religion, I say, may be pride; which is generally most prevalent in those who have something of wit and natural parts, whereby they can more imperiously, and it may be, more persuasively dictate, than the rest of their neighbors. Now pride being a passion which easily and naturally springs up in every man, where there is any thing more than ordinary to give it fuel and maintain it,
and there being hardly any one who does not think that he excels in something or other, by how much a man fancies himself fitted for a higher employment, by so much generally is his pride advanced, which will not suffer him to be at rest, till he falls to action, and has given proof of his abilities. Religion therefore being a thing, which (though too little practised) bears a good name, receiving respect and honor almost from every man's profession, and which is really accounted of highly and esteemed by a great many; a man may take as much pride in appearing outwardly a promoter of religion, as he does in honors and preferments, in wealth and increase, in wit and beauty, or any of those things in the enjoyment of which we generally account ourselves happy. Let us suppose then that a man, who generally converses with such people as have not so large a reach as himself, who is able to talk eloquently and passionately, and is very well acquainted with his own abilities, tinds the people among whom he lives very willingly disposed to some religion or other, but generally to that of their country, and who possibly have many frightful objections (too many now to name) against the person that is set over them to instruct them; supposing this, I say, what a fair opportunity has such a man of being presently cried up for an oracle ! and how must his spirits needs be exalted, to see all the people depending on his mouth, whilst he talks mysteries and revelations, wholly unintelligible, and which his auditors believe (quite contrary to the method of rational men's faith) only because they understand them not, and his confidence pronounces them boldly! But such a person as this, being one of the few to whom we may allow a good competent measure of wit, whilst a very little judgment serves bis turn, though, when he first entered into the service, he did not profess the Christian religion from any excellency which he believed to be in it more than any other, but only because he knew that others did; though he cared not to convert any to the belief of the gospel, but that he might have the honor and credit of overpersuading them; though thus he stood affected at first, yet possibly in a considerable time, being put oftentimes to make some search into what he dictates, that he may do it the more plausibly; such person, I say, through that little reason which he has, may at
length be convinced that there is something of reality, more than he dreamt of, in that religion which he professes. If this should occur, he in the next place concludes on his inspiration, makes no doubt but he was called from heaven, and
grows ten times more proud and insolent than he was before. Never certainly was there such a light as he is like to prove; never such a divine revelation ; never such an extraordinary manifestation of God's grace to a human creature ; so that at last he grows perfectly mad with his conceitedness and folly, and will allow no man in the world, besides himself, the privilege of performing any service to God, in the reformation of his creatures, and in rendering their wills, by a due prescription of his laws and commandments, pliable and comformable thereto.
Such persons as these, I say, do falsely pretend to have their light shining before men; and whilst in appearance they would seem to consult the glory of God, it is their only design to magnify and extol themselves in the eyes of the world : whilst they would be the great apostles and instructors of the people, they do but privately insult over their infirmities, or laugh at their weakness ; and instead of meekness, humility, low and humble thoughts of themselves, they are filled with pride, vain-glory, and self-conceitedness; which being perfectly contrary to the laws of God, no man who is guilty of them can be said to glorify God which is in heaven, but to do quite the contrary.
2. A second mover to such men's religion which we here reprove, is nothing but a peevish and froward disposition, that is never pleased but with what itself does, constantly finding fault with and contradicting whatever suits not its humor, be it never so unaccountable or unreasonable. And are not those, think we, fit to be instructors, and mightily to propagate the gospel of Christ, who take the task on them only that they may undo what others have done, and then know not themselves where to begin or bow to proceed? Are not those men like to glorify God exceedingly, who will not suffer men's minds to be fixed and resolved any where, but would have all the world as confounded as themselves in their notions and apprehensions of things ? Such men, should they go on as other orderly Christians do, making it their great concern to live a holy and virtuous life, and being indifferent to things in