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“ of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into
a corner any more; but thine eyes shall see thy 66 teachers *.
If this promise is fulfilled to them, they will not greatly complain of the bread of adversity, although that is joined with it. But on the contrary they find it a hard trial to be deprived of lively ordinances and faithful ministers, however advantageous and pleasing their situation may be in temporal things, because these are not their good.
3. They account their profession a part of their good. They esteem it a high privilege to bear the name of Christ, though it exposes them to the reproach of the world. They account it a great and important trust to have the honour of the Gospel committed to them, and in some measure dependent on their conduct. When they are in their right minds, they would rather die than be guilty of any thing that might bring it into discredit. Wilfully they cannot, they dare not do it; but through ignorance and infirmity they are prone to mistake, and therefore need, and are desirous to observe, the caution in my text.
4. Their experiences are their good, their choice pearls; I mean the inward dealings of the Lord with their souls; the proofs they have had of his wisdom in bringing them thus far safely on their way to his kingdom, the discoveries he has given them of the deceitfulness of their own hearts, the manifestations of his grace, love, and nearness to them, notwithstanding all their unworthiness and unfaithfulness. Some of these experiences have cost them dear, have cost them many a pang, trouble, and conflict: yet they would not be without them to avoid all that they have suffered;
* Isa, xxx, 20.
and they are content to suffer on, if by any means they may increase this precious stock. They delight to recollect how low they were brought, how wonderfully delivered, what answers they have been favoured with to their poor prayers; and from hence to collect the all-sufficiency and goodness of him to whom they have fled for refuge, and to derive arguments wherewith to combat their unbelieving fears in time to come. Thus far their experiences are their good; not as the foundation of their hope, or the source of their comfort, for these their whole reliance is on the obedience and blood of Jesus the Saviour; but as evidences, that they have neither “ followed cunningly-devised fables, nor “received the grace of God in vain *.
Thus much in general, that you may all have sometiring whereby to try your spirits, and to know whether you
have embraced the good of the Lord's chosen peoplet. If your good does not lie in such things as I have mentioned, you have no durable riches, nothing but what you must soon leave behind you.
you be content to be stripped of all, and to enter poor, naked, and friendless, into an eternal world? O that you would take our Lord's advice. He might command, for he has all authority; but he says, “ sel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou
mayst be rich ; and white raiment, that thou mayst
be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do “ not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, “ that thou mayest sce:
But some there are whose hearts can go along with me in what I have said. The great God himself is your good. His word and ordinances, your profession
66 I coun
2 Pet. i. 16.; 2 Cor. vi. 1.
+ Psal. cvi. 4, 5.
I Rev. iii. 18.
of his name, and your experience of his goodness, are what you rejoice in. To you then I address the rest of my discourse. “ Let not your good be evil
spoken of.” I am,
II. To explain and apply this advice. The words plainly imply two things.
1. That there are many ready enough to speak evil of your good; many who despise the Gospel, and you for professing it; they watch for your halting, and will be glad of the smallest occasion to expose you. The world, that loves its own, will make allowances in other
Indiscretions, and even vices, will be charged to the account of human infirmity, and the amiable name of candour shall be employed to conceal or palliate such things as can by no means be justified. But if you are a professed believer in Jesus, you must not expect this candour will be extended to you; rather all your words and actions will be sifted, exaggerated ; and if any part of your conduct will bear a double construction, it will generally be viewed in the most unfavourable light. Nay, even when there is no just occasion afforded, falsehoods and calumnies have been and will be industriously propagated against the servants of Christ*. That it must be so, we are often warned by Scripture, and it is abundantly confirmed by experience.
2. That though it is impossible wholly to stop the mouths of evil-minded men, yet they would not be able to talk so fast if the imprudence of believers did not too often afford them advantage. That such occasions
Matth. v. 11.
should sometimes be given by those whose hearts and aims are in the main sincere, will not be thought strange to any person who is acquainted with the true state of human nature. Through inadvertence, want of experience, errors of judgement, sudden and unexpected temptations, and other evils inseparable from our present situation, persons, whose chief desire is to adorn the doctrine of their God and Saviour in all things, may and do in some instances cause their good to be evil spoken of. It is, however, our bounden duty, as we regard the honour of God and his truth, to endeavour as much as possible to “ cut off occasion from them that seek occasion in this respect.
In order to this, let us inquire, what are the most common objections which are made against the Gospel-preaching and profession, not only by malicious enemies, but sometimes by persons who discover no very bad intention, but are partly imposed upon by the misrepresentations of others, and partly stumbled by the faults of professors?
1st, It is objected, that our doctrine lays no sufficient stress upon good works. We dare not indeed recommend them out of their proper place, or propose them as the ground of our acceptance with God. But I hope none who attend here will dare to say, that they are not frequently reminded, that " without holiness no,
man shall see the Lord t." However, the world will judge more by what they see in you, than by what they hear from me.
Be upon your guard, therefore, lest by any instances of a trifling, foolish, unkind, or unjust conduct, you let your good be evil spoken of. It will
* 2 Cor. xi. 12.; 1 Pet. üi, 12.
+ Heb. xii, 14.
not be a sufficient apology to say, that your principles do not allow of these things, if those who know you can charge them upon your practice.
2dly, It is farther objected, that the evangelical system is a scheme chiefly made up of notions and subtle distinctions, and opens a door to a thousand disputes. This is one unhappy consequence of our many divisions and subdivisions, and the heat with which they are contended for by their respective partisans. Let this engage you to avoid a disputing contentious spirit. “ Be swift to hear, slow to speak*;" and when a reason is asked “ of the hope that is in you t,” give your answers with meekness and fear, lest you cause your good to be evil spoken of.
3dly, It is likewise a very common objection, that a usual effect of this doctrine is to make people idle and careless with regard to the necessary concerns and business of life. Indeed I should not be unwilling to plead with candid and fair reasoners, in behalf of young converts, on this point. At first setting out, the change is so great, their views of eternal things so strong and affecting, that, considering human infirmity, it can hardly be otherwise but that the attention will be almost entirely taken up with them for a season. While a sense of unpardoned sin is fixed upon the conscience, and a person now duly aware of the uncertainty of life, is in suspense about the greatest of all concerns, and knows not how or whither he shall be able to flee from the wrath to come, it is no wonder if this solicitude should in a great measure swallow up his thoughts, and leave him but little either leisure or ability to attend to other concerns, which, however proper in their respect
* James, i. 19.
+ 1 Pet. iii. 15.