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some ordinances of God, or opportunities of getting good. And it is this temptation which is indeed the scandal. This is before proved in the instance of Peter, Gal. ii. who scandalized or hardened the Jews, by yielding to a sinful separation from the Gentiles, and fearing the censoriousness of the Jews, whom he sought to please; and the offending of whom he was avoiding, when he really offended them, that is, was a scandal, or temptation to them. Direct. 11. ‘He that will escape the guilt of scandal, must be no contemner of the souls of others, but must be truly charitable, and have a tender love to souls.” That which a man highly valueth, and dearly loveth, he will be careful to preserve, and loath to hurt. Such a man will easily part with his own rights, or submit to losses, injuries, or disgrace, to preserve his neighbour's soul from sin. Whereas a despiser of souls, will insist upon his own power, and right and honour, and will entrap and damn a hundred souls, rather than he will abate a word, or a ceremony which he thinks his interest requireth him to exact. Tell him that it will ensnare men's souls in sin, and he is ready to say as the Pharisees to Judas, “What is that to us? See thou to that.” A dog hath as much pity on a hare, or a hawk on a partridge, as a carnal, worldly, ambitious Diotrephes, or an Elymas hath of souls. Tell him that it will occasion men to sin, to wound their consciences, to offend their God, it moveth him no more than to tell him of the smallest incommodity to himself: he will do more to save a horse, or a dog of his own, than to save another's soul from sin. To lay snares in their way, or to deprive them of the preaching of the Gospel, or other means of their salvation, is a thing which they may be induced to, by the smallest interest of their own; yea, though it be but a point of seeming honour. And therefore when carnal, worldly men do become the disposers of matters of religion, it is easy to see what measure and usage men must expect: yea, though they assume the office and name of pastors, who should have the most tender, fatherly care of the souls of all the flocks, yet will their carnal inclinations and interests, engage them in the work of wolves, to entrap, or famish, or destroy Christ's sheep. Direct. 111. ‘Also you must be persons who value your own souls, and are diligently exercised in saving them from
temptations; or else you are very like to be scandalizers and tempters of the souls of others.’ And therefore when such a man is made a church-governor as is unacquainted with the renewing work of grace, and with the inward government of Christ in the soul, what devilish work is he like to make among the sheep of Christ, under the name of government! What corrupting of the doctrine, worship, or discipline of Christ! What inventions of his own to ensnare men's consciences ! And driving them on, by armed force, to do that which, at least to them, is sin, and which can never countervail the loss, either of their souls, or of the church, by such disturbances ! How merciless will he be, when a poor member of Christ, shall beg of him but to have pity on his soul! And tell him, ‘I cannot do this or swear this, or subscribe this, without the guilt of a deliberate sin; and I cannot sin without displeasing God, and hindering my salvation.” He that dare wilfully sin himself, and make it his deliberate choice, and dare play away his own salvation, at the poorest game that the devil will invite him to, and will sell his own soul at the basest price, even for a little pelf, or pleasure, or high titles for so short a time, certainly this man is unlike to be very tender of the souls of others, or to stick at scandalizing and ensnaring them, or to care any more to murder souls, than a butcher doth to kill a hog: Judas's heart will make them sell their Lord, or his flock, at Judas's price; and prepare themselves for Judas's reward. And hence it is, that the carnal seed even within the church, hath ordinarily persecuted the spiritual seed. For saith Paul, “As he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is
Direct. Iv. “To be well acquainted with the methods of satan, and the way of particular temptations, is a great help against your scandalizing others.’ He that seeth the devil as the principal in each temptation, and knoweth in what manner he engageth his instruments to carry on his work, and whither all this tendeth at the last, will scarce be willing to serve such a master in so bad a work. Remember that scandalizers and tempters of others, and hinderers of men's salvation, are the servants of the devil, and are executing his malice, for the damnation of their brethren's souls. And what reward can they expect for such a work from such a master? The devil useth them but as men do ferrets, whose mouths are sealed, because they must not partake of the prey; but only bring it to their master's hand. Live in a constant watchful resistance of temptations yourselves, and you will have no mind to the drudgery of tempting others. Direct. v. “Set not yourselves upon any worldly, ambitious design.” For the love of the riches and honours of the world, will not only engage you in a course of sinning, but also make it seem your interest, to make others as bad and miserable as yourselves, and to drive them on to serve your interests by their sin. Direct. v1. ‘Take heed lest a fleshly inclination do draw you to the love of fleshly pleasures.’ And that your minds be not set upon the pleasing of your fancies, sense, or appetite; either in meat, or drink, or clothes, or dwellings, or recreations, or any such delights: if once the love of these grow strong, it will conquer your reason, and seduce it into libertinism, and make you think that a voluptuous, fleshpleasing life, (so it be not by gross disgraced sins) is but the lawful use of the creature, which Christ hath purchased not only for our necessity, but for our delight; and that the contrary opinion is but the too much rigor of such as understand not their Christian liberty. Direct. vii. “Be not rashly and ignorantly zealous in soliciting and importuning others to your private opinions, before you are certain that they are of God.” O what abundance of zeal and labour hath many a man laid out, to make others of his mind, in the points of Antinomianism, Anabaptism, Separation, Popery, &c., thinking that the saving of their souls had lain upon it; and at last they find, that as they erred themselves, so all their labour was but to scandalize the weak, and lay a stumbling-block in their way to heaven Direct. v1.11. “Never persuade any man (much less compel him) to any thing unnecessary, which he taketh to be a sin’ (whatever you take it for yourselves). For if he judge it a sin, it is a sin to him. No man can innocently do that which he thinketh is forbidden him of God. And shall a
| Gal. iv. 29.
thing unnecessary be preferred before the saving of a soul? Yea, before the souls of thousands, as by many merciless men it is ? Indeed, if there be an antecedent necessity (as well as a lawfulness in the thing), and such a necessity as is not in your power to take away, then the doing it will be his sin, and the not doing it his greater sin; and the greater sin, is most to be avoided (but by convenient means). Direct. 1x. “Remember the charge which you have of the souls of one another.” Though you be not magistrates or pastors: (for their care of souls is so unquestionable and so great, that scandal in them is like parents murdering their own children.) Yet no private man must say as Cain, “Am I my brother's keeper.” Every man is bound to do his best for the saving of his neighbour; much more to forbear infecting, seducing, scandalizing, and destroying him. Direct. x. ‘Keep up a special tenderness of the weak. So doth God himself, and so must we.” “He gathereth the lambs with his arms, &c.".” If his infants cry he doth not therefore knock out their brains, or turn them out of doors. Nor doth he say, they are not his children, for every ignorance or peevish passion which they are guilty of. Christ doth not turn men out of his school, because they want knowledge. For why then will he have little children come 2 And what do they come for, but to learn ? He doth not hate his new born babes, but feedeth and nurseth them with a special tenderness: and he hath commanded and communicated the like tenderness to his ministers; who must not be weak with the weak, and froward with the froward; but in meekness and patience must bear with the weak, and endure their most bitter censures and requitals. “For the servants of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves", &c.” And if they are long learning before they come to a knowledge of the truth, they are not therefore to be cast off. He that can read, Rom. xiv. and xv. 1 Cor. xii. 12. viii. Gal. vi.; and yet can be so merciless and cruel, as to cast men out of the ministry or church, or to ruin them, for tolerable weakness, which God hath so earnestly charged us to bear with in our brethren. either he doth not understand what he readeth, or not believe it, or hath somewhat else which he more regardeth at his heart, than the authority or love of God. Direct. x 1. “Do not censure every man to be wilful or obstinate, who is not of your opinion, when he hath heard your reasons, how clear soever they may seem to you.’ Alas! how many things are there besides wilful obstinacy, to hinder one man from being as wise as another. If a few times repeating over the reasons of an opinion, is enough to implant it in all the hearers, why do your children go so long to school, and after that to the universities? And why are you so long preaching to all your parishioners? Sure you preach not novelties to them as long as you live And yet thirty or forty years painful preaching, even of the same fundamentals of religion, shall leave many ignorant of them in the best parishes in the land. There must be a right and ripe disposition in the hearers, or else the clearest reasoning may be ineffectual. A disused or unfurnished mind, that hath not received all the truths which are presupposed to those which you deliver, or hath not digested them into a clear understanding, may long hear the truest reasons, and never apprehend their weight. There is need of more ado than a bare unfolding of the truth, to make a man receive it in its proper evidence. Perhaps he hath been long prepossessed with contrary opinions, which are not easily rooted out. Or if he be but confident of the truth of some one opinion, which is inconsistent with yours, no wonder if he cannot receive that which is contrary, to what he so verily believeth to be the truth. There is a marvellous variety of men's apprehensions, of the same opinions or reasons, as they are variously represented to men, and variously pondered, and as the natural capacity of men is various, and as the whole course of their lives, their education, company, and conversation, have variously formed their minds. It is like the setting together all the parts of a watch when it is in pieces; if any one part of many be misplaced, it may necessitate the misplacing of those that follow, without any wilful obstinacy in him that doth it. If in the whole frame of sacred truth, there be but some one misunderstood, it may bring in other mistakes, and keep out many truths, even from an honest, willing mind. And who is there that can
m Isa. xl. 11. * 2 Tim. ii. 24, 25.