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say, he is free from error? Have not you perceived in yourselves, that the truths which you heard a hundred times over, to little purpose, when you were children, were received more convincingly and satisfyingly when you were men. And that you have found a delightful clearness in some points on a sudden, which before you either resisted, or held with little observation or regard? And yet it is common with the scandalizers of souls, to cry out against all that conform not to their opinions and will, as soon as they have heard their reasons, that they are stubborn, and refractory, and wilful, and factious, and so turn from arguments to clubs; as if they had never known themselves or others, nor how weak and dark the understandings of almost all men are. But they shall have judgment without mercy, who shew no mercy. And when their own errors shall all be opened to them by the Lord, they will be loath they should all be imputed to their wilful obstinacy. And perhaps these very censorious men, may prove themselves to have been on the wrong side; for pride and uncharitableness are usually erroneous. Direct. x 11. ‘Engage not yourselves in an evil cause.’ For if you do, it will engage you to draw in others; you will expect your friends should take your part, and think as you think, and say as you say ; though it be never so much against truth or righteousness. Direct. x 111. “Speak not rashly against any cause or persons before you are acquainted with them; or have well considered what you say. Especially take heed how you believe what a man of any sect in religion doth speak or write against his adversaries of a contrary sect.’ If experience had not proved it in our days, beyond contradiction, it would seem incredible how little men are to be believed in this case", and how the falsest reports will run among the people of the sect, against those whom the interest of their opinion and party, engageth them to misrepresent P! Think not that you are excusable for receiving or venting an ill report, because you can say, ‘He was an honest man that spoke it:’ for many that are otherwise honest, do make it a
• Rsal. cxix. 69.
part of their honesty to be dishonest in this. They think they are not zealous enough for those opinions which they call their religion, unless they are easy in believing and speaking evil of those that are the adversaries of it. When it may be upon a just trial, all proveth false; and then all the words which you ignorantly utter against the truth, or those that follow it, are scandals or stumbling-blocks to the hearers, to turn them from it, and make them hate it". I am not speaking against a just credulity: there must be human belief, or else there can be no human converse; but ever suspect partiality in a party. For the interest of their religion is a more powerful charm to the consciences of evil speakers, than personal interest or bribes would be. How many legends tell us this, how easily some men counted godly, have been prevailed with to lie for God? Direct. xiv. ‘Take heed of mocking at a religious life; yea, or of breaking any jests or scorns at the weaknesses of any in religious exercises, which may possibly reflect upon the exercises themselves.” Many a thousand souls have been kept from a holy life, by the scorns of the vulgar, that speak of it as a matter of derision or sport. Reading the Scriptures, and holy conference, and prayer, and instructing our families, and the holy observation of the Lord's day, and church-discipline, are commonly the derision of ungodly persons, who can scorn that which they can neither confute nor learn: and weak people are greatly moved by such senseless means. A mock or jeer doth more with them than an argument; they cannot endure to be made a laughing-stock. Thus was the name of a crucified God, the derision of the heathens, and the scandal of the world, both Jews and Gentiles. And there is scarce a greater scandal or stumbling-block at this day, which keepeth multitudes from heaven, than when the devil can make it either a matter of danger or of shame to be a Christian, or to live a holy, mortified life. Persecution and derision are the great successful scandals of the world. And therefore seeing men are so apt to be turned off from Christ and godliness, never speak unreverently or disrespectfully of them. It is a profane and scandalous course of some, that if a preacher have but an unhandsome tone or gesture they make a jest of it, * Rom. iii. 7, 8. James iii. 14. Job xiii. 7, 8.
and say, ‘He whined, or he spoke through the nose,' or some such scorn they cast upon him; which the hearers quickly apply to all others, and turn to a scorn of preaching, or prayer, or religion itself: or if men differ from each other in opinion in matters of religion, they are presently inclined to deride them for something in their worshipping of God! And while they deride a man as an Anabaptist, as an Independent, as a Presbyterian, as Prelatical, they little know what a malignant tincture it may leave upon the hearer's mind, and teach carnal persons to make a jest of all alike. Direct. xv. ‘Impute not the faults of men to Christ, and blame not religion for the faults of them that sin against it.’ This is the malignant trick of satan, and his blinded instruments: if an hypocrite miscarry, or if a man that in all things else hath walked uprightly, be overthrown by a temptation in some odious sin, they presently cry out, “These are your professors your religious people ! that are so precise, and pure, and strict Try them, and they will appear as bad as others!' If a Noah be once drunk, or a Lot be overthrown thereby, or a David commit adultery and murder, or a Peter deny his master, or a Judas betray him, they presently cry out, ‘They are all alike P And turn it to the scorn of godliness itself. Unworthy beasts! Asif Christ's laws were therefore to be scorned, because men break them And obedience to God were bad, because some are disobedient Hath Christ forbidden the sins which you blame, or hath he not? If he have not, blame them not, for they are no sins; if he have, commend the justness and holiness of his laws. Either the offenders you blame, did well or ill. If they did well, why do you blame them 2 If they did ill, why do you not commend religion, and the Scripture which condemneth them 7 Either it is best for all men to live in such sins as those which these lapsed persons or hypocrites committed, or it is not. If it be, why are you offended with them for that which you allow 2 If it be not, why do you soothe up the wicked in their sins, and excuse an ungodly life, because of the falls of such as seem religious ! There is no common ingenuity in this, but malicious spite against God and holiness, (of which, more in the next Chapter). Direct. xvi. ‘Make not use of civil quarrels to lay an odium upon religion.” It is ordinary with ungodly, malicious men, to labour to turn the displeasure of rulers, against men of integrity; and if there be any broils or civil wars, to snatch any pretence, how false soever, to call them traitors and enemies to government. If it be but because they are against an usurper, or because some fanatic persons (whom they oppose) have behaved themselves rebelliously or disobediently; a holy life (which is the greatest friend to loyalty) must be blamed for all. And all is but to gratify the devil in driving poor souls from God and holiness. Direct. xv.11. “When you think it your duty to speak of the faults of men that profess a godly life, lay the blame only on the person, but speak as much and more in commendations of godliness itself; and commend that which is good in them, while you discommend that which is evil.” Is their praying bad? Is their instructing their families, and sanctifying the Lord's day, bad? Is their fearing sin, and obeying God, bad 2 If not, why do you not say as much to commend them for these, or at least to commend these in themselves, as you do to discommend them for their faults? Why do you not fear lest the hearers should be drawn to dislike a godly life by your disgracing persons accounted godly 2 And therefore warn them to think never the worse of godliness for this? You that give the poison, should in reason give an antidote, if it be not your design to poison souls. Is it really your design by speaking against men accounted godly, to draw the hearers to the hatred of godliness, or is it not ? If it be, you are incarnate devils: if it be not, why do you endeavour it, by making odious the persons, under the name of professors and godly men 2 And why do you not speak more to draw people to a godly life? And to imitate them in that which is good, while they disclaim them in that which is evil? Direct. xviii. “Be especially tender of the reputation of those, that the souls of men have most dependance on ; as the preachers of the Gospel, and the most eminent men of knowledge and religiousness".” Not that I desire that sin should be the better thought of for being theirs, or that evil should be called good in any ; but experience hath told the world since God and the devil had their several ways and servants upon earth, that it hath been the devil's most usual successful course, to wound religion through the sides of the religious, and to blame the persons, when he would turn men from the way ! For he knoweth that religious persons have their faults, and in them his malice may find somewhat to fasten on ; but religion hath no fault, and malice itself is seldom so impudent, as to speak directly against a holy, heavenly life. But the way is to make those disgraceful and odious, who are noted to lead such a life; and then secretly to infer, “If those that seem godly be no better, you need not be godly, you are as well as you are. This religion is but a fantasy; a needless, if not a troublesome, hurtful thing.’ Seeing therefore that the devil hath no blow at religion, so fair as by striking at the persons of the preachers and professors of it, every friend of Christ must be acquainted with his design, and must not serve him in it, but counter-work him, and preserve the reputation even of the persons of the religious : not so much in charity to them, but for the people's souls, and the honour of Christ. Direct. xix. ‘Let all that preach and profess the Gospel, and a godly life, be sure that they live according to their profession.” That the name of God be not evil spoken of among the wicked through their misdoings". It was the aggravation of David's sin which God would not quite forgive, that he made the enemies of the Lord blaspheme'. “Servants must count their masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed ".” The duties of good women are particularly named by the apostle “: with this motive to the practice of them, “That the Word of God be not blasphemed.” Obedience to government is commanded with this motive, “For so is the will of God, that with well-doing, you may put to silence, the ignorance of foolish men W.” And, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul: having your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that whereas they speak * Rom. ii. * 2 Sam. xii. 14." " 1 Tim. vi. 1. Rom. ii. 24. * Tit. ii. 3–5. y 1 Pet. ii. 15.
* Ita comparatum est ut virtutem non suspiciamus, neque ejus initandae studio corripimur, misi eum in quo ea conspicitur, summo honore et amore prosequamur, Plutarch. in Cat. Utic,