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to differ with them about them; or if we do, we should do it in a pleasant, civil Way, that will give no Offence. And this leads me to say something of the Manner too of venting our own Opinions, especially if they differ from those of other Men : namely, that it be in an humble, Modest, Courteous and Submissive Manner; not with an Air of Positiveness, Passion, Want of Refpect, or Affectation of Superiority, or Ascendency: far less with Satyrical, Scornful or Reproaching Language or Behaviour. So much for the Description of this Duty of Reconciliation, or the Qualities of a reconcileable Temper.
II. The Second Thing I proposed, was to confider the Rank here assigned to this Duty ; where we find it exprelly preferred to the Offering the Gift upon the Altar. If thou bring thy Gift to the Altar, and there remembrest that thy Brother bath ought against thee; leave there thy Gift before the Altar, and go thy Way, first bé reconciled to thy Brother, and then come and offer thy Gift. It is most probable that our Saviour meant this Literally concerning the Free-will Offerings which the People were taught to offer unto God; and that he designed by this Doctrine to guard his Disciples against a current Opinion of the Scribes and Pharisees, which was, that the Gifts and Sacrifices brought to the Temple, were sufficient to expiate for all Offences which did not require Restitution, or were not to be punished by the Judge; and that without Amendment of Life, In Opposition to this dangerous Doctrine, we are here taught, that no Sacrifice or other Worship could be acceptable to God without Justice and Charity, and a Mind reconciled to our Brother. This is the Design of the Doctrine; but for removing the literal Difficulties in it; first, how we are to apprehend that the Reconciliation with the Brother could be so quickly dispatched, as that the Gift or Sacrifice being already brought to the Altar, yet the Offering it up could be delayed so long, till the Business was made up? In answer to this we are told, that it was customary with the Jews, who lived at some Distance from Jerusalem, to reserve their Oblations till the next Feast, at which they were obliged to attend, and then to offer them; so that in that Case they might comply with this Precept. But because the Precept speaks of the Gifts being already at the Altar, I see not how this will folve the Difficulty; and therefore I take it to be more a figurative, than literal Expression, and to be only a serious and vehement Sort of Asseveration of the Necessity of being in Charity with our Neighbour, before God will accept any of our more immediate Services to himself. And for confirming this Sense, let us consider,
1. That in several other Texts of Scripture, we are taught this fame Doctrine, that the most immediate Services performed to God, without true Charity in the Heart, are utterly disregarda ed by him. Solomon says, He that turneth away his Éar from hearing the Law, even his Prayer shall be abomination, Prov, xxviii. 9. And our Saviour says exprelly, that if we forgive not Men their Trespasses, neither will cur beavenly Father forgive our Trespases, Mat. vi. 15. And how often are we taught, that Mercy is better than Sacrifice? Meaning by Sacrifice all external Worship. And this my Text, the Ancients general
ly applied to the Preparation for the Holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper ; and they judged it absolutely necessary that we should be reconciled with our Adversaries, at least, as St Paul says, Rom. xii. 18. if it be possible, and as much as lieth in us, before we presume to receive it. : . 2. Let us consider, that Reason is consonant to Scripture in this Business; not that the Duties of the Second Table are in themselves of greater Worth and Dignity than those of the first; but that it is impossible to discharge the Duties of the first Table without Love and Charity in our Heart; and that we cannot have Love in our Hearts to God, if we entertain Malice against our Neighbour. And besides, to what use are those Devotions? Do we think to call in God's Aflistance towards the Promotion of our malicious Designs and Purposes? Would it not be a Thing highly Dishonourable to Almighty God, to make him a Party in any wicked, malicious Designs? Charity then' is absolutely necessary, I do not say preferable to Piety; but as a necessary Disposition of Heart, in order to Piety. For where there is no Charity, there can be no true Piety; and therefore the Question is not so much which is preferable, for they are Twins, that live and die together; and that Piety which is without Charity, is nothing but rank Hypocrifie. · III. I should now proceed to what I proposed in the last Place; namely, to make Application of this Doctrine, towards rectifying our Opinions, and mending our - Manners,
But I must be short upon it, because of your Time.
1. First then, This Doctrine concerning the Necessity of Reconciliation with our Neighbour, and the Preference of it to the Works of Piety without it, may teach us the Danger of those uncharitable Sects, which, pretending to great Piety and Devotion, hate all others besides their own small Party, and condemn them as Reprobates. It is strange, there is not the smallest pitifullest Sect that starts up, but they are presently out of Charity with all the rest of the World, and limit the Spirit and Grace of God to their own Party. They may brag of their Devotion as much as they please, and pretend to be never fo spiritual; we see from my Text, what fort of Spirit it is that begins and lays the Foun.. dation, in the uncharitable Condemnation of all others. This is an old Device of the grand Adversary, to multiply Parties and Factions; and to startle poor ignorant People, as if the World had been led on in Error all along till their New Lights sprung up, to bring them out of Darkness. If the Design were only to rouse the World out of their Inconfideration, and to call loudly for Repentance and Amendment of Life, or to stir up People to greater Ardours of Devotion, or to call them more inwards to a good Government of their own Hearts and Thoughts, and consequently of their Words and Actions; they should not need for this to leave the Church, or cry down the Minitry and Sacraments, and all the usual Means of Grace; like a Man, who N 2
finding the House dirty, instead of sweeping it, crys out, that there is no other Way but to set it on Fire and burn it, and then build up a new one. Such mad Reformers will never be satisfied. They think themselves the only Wise Men, and that they could govern the Church better without Pastors and Outward Ordinances, and a written Word. But though our Labours, alas! have not the Success which we defire, and might expect, if they will but go into any Country where there is no settled Ministry, and compare the Lives of the People with any other Country where there is a settled Ministry; they may quickly see the Difference. And to compleat the Comparison, let them enquire particularly among the People of any Country, whether they who wait on the Word and Sacraments, or 'they who turn their Backs upon them, live the best Lives; and they may quickly be convinced, that it is not the too diligent but the too negligent attending on the Ordinances, the Word and Sacraments, that occafions so great Abounding of Vice and Immorality; and so little of the true Practice of Piety.. ...2. This Doctrine may fhew us the right Preparation of Mind for Acts of Worship and Devotion. That noble Grace of Love and Charity doth not only stir us up to all the Duties we owe to our Neighbour, but likewise qualifies us for drawing near to God in the more immediate Duties of his Worship and Service. There is nothing doth more indispose us for: Prayer, than the Anger occa