« FöregåendeFortsätt »
whether it be a Calumny or a Truth, the Product of Spite, Atheism, and Prophaneness, or of an humble Conscience of Humane lnfirmity, and the real difficulty of finding out Truth and Right in some cases. 1 Answer, Be it so, yet have we a Clew that will easily wind us out of this Labyrinth, and that is Sincerity, by which I mean an honest and humble Endeavour to know our Duty, and a steady Resolution to perform it ; this will either prevent our Exror, or else prevent the mischief and malignity of it ; the upright Man Thall never want light to guide him into truth and Right, or Goodness and Charity to extinguish like a Soveraign Antidote the Venom and Poyson of falle Principles and Error, for that of Solomon, He that diwalks uprightly, walks Safely, Prov. 10. 9. And the Gospel promises of Spiritual Aslistance and Illumination, can import no less. And thus I am got clear of the first Difficulty.
A Second Objection I am to expect is this, But alas when we know our Duty, how hard a Task is it to do it? If nothing less than acting and living up to the Dictates of Conscience, can gain Dus a Conscience void of Offence, alas,
who then can have it ! Is it not Pelagianism, Popery, or something worse to assert the possibility of keeping the Commandments of God? Is it so ? What means then that place of our Saviour, If a man love me he will keep my Commandments, John 14. 23.
and many other to the same purpose ? But without entring into this Controversie, I answer, When I tell you, that a Conscience void of Offence is such a one as doth not reproach us with any wilful violations of our Duty, I neither exclude Sin in the past life, nor defects in the present: But first, I exclude a deliberate continuance in any known fin : And in the next place, I make a difference, as the Scriptures and the Fathers have taught me, between Defelts and Crimes, between Infirmity and Wickednes; for such is the frailty of Humane Nature, that it unavoidably. subjects us to the one, and such the Power and Excellency of our Religion, that it raises us above the other.
It is now high time to proceed from this general to a more particular and distinct Survey of this Duty in my
Text: This by St. Paul is divided into two branches, our Duty towards
God, and our Duty towards Man; and each of these may again be sub-divided into two, for our Duty towards God may regard either his Publick or Private Worship ; and our Duty towards Man may regard cither his Publick or Private Rights.
First, Of our Obligation to the Publick Worship or Service of God. I need not tell you surely how much the Honour of Religion, and the safety of the Nation depends upon the due performance of this. The Honour of our Religion ; 'tis not the Service of the Closer, but of the Temple which falls under Publick Notice and Observation ; and therefore 'tis the Unity and Order, the Comeliness and Devoutness of this that creates a Veneration for Religion, and raises the Reputation of a Church ; and how far the safety of the Nation is in. teressed in this, not only Scripture and Reason too, but our own Experience can inform us. Scripture and Reason tell us, That a House divided against it self cannot stand, Mat. 12. 25. And experience, fad, lad Experience teaches us, that we no sooner divide in our Opinions and Worship, but we divide in our Affections too, and such is the Folly of
some, and the Cunning and Malise of others, that 'tis impossible, or next to impossible, but that these Cantons and Divisions should be presently formed into Combinations and Factions, which first sharpned their Tongues and Pens, and then their Swords against one another.
But to mention other Obligations to the Publick Worship of God, this is the best and most effectual means of
promoting the Glory of God, and the Happines and Edification of Man, Publick and So. lemn Adorations are the moft Illustrious Testimonies we can render God of our Homage and Dependance: United Prayers do most powerfully prevail either to engage the Favour, or appease the difpleasure of God: And Publick Instru&ion, which ought always to be a part of the Publick Service of God, is so necessary, that I doubt the World would grow Atheistical and Barbarous without it; since 'tis to be feared that not only the far greater part of the Common-People, but fome also of better Quality, owe all the Divinity they have to Holy-days and Sundays.
Now this being so, the Glory of God, and Good of Man, the Honour of Re
ligion, and the Safety of our Nation des pending so much
the Publick WorShip of God, it is easie for us to infer what Obligation every Man lies under to advance and support the Solemnity and Credit of it, and what guilt they contract, who either causelesly absent, or, which is worse, divide from it; And how much more they who either by a careless, rude, and contemptuous carriage at Church, or by their open and notorious Immoralities at other times, are a scandal to it: Or they, lastly, who by studied and malicious Ca. lumnies and Aspersions beget in Men a dil-esteem and contempt of it.
But though it be the Duty of every Chriftian not only to Worship God publickly, but also as much as in him lies to advance Unity and Order in the Publick Worship, and to support and raise the Esteem of it; yet surely none can be more obliged to this than the Magistracy, Nobility, and Gentry of a Nation; Mens Gratitude to God ought to be proportioned to their Obligations, and those whom God has distinguished from the rest of Mankind by his particular Fayours, ought to distinguish themselves by a more particular and eminent Zeal