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against you as evil doers, they may by your works which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation *.” And it was the aggravation of the heretics' sin, that “many shall follow their permicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of".” Othen how carefully should ministers and all that are godly walk | The blind world cannot read the Gospel in itself, but only as it is exemplified by the lives of men: they judge not of the actions of men by the law, but of the law of God by men's actions ! Therefore the saving or damning of men's souls, doth lie much upon the lives of the professors of religion: because their liking or disliking a holy life doth depend upon them. Saith Paul of young women, “I will that they give no occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully; for some are already turned aside after satan".” Hence it is that even the appearance of evil is so carefully to be avoided, by all that fear God, lest others be drawn by it to speak evil of godliness. Every scandal (truly so called) is a stab to the soul of him that is scandalized, and a reproachful blot to the Christian cause. I may say of the faults of Christians, as Plutarch doth of the faults of princes. “A wart or blemish in the face, is more conspicuous and disgraceful than in other parts.' '
Direct. xx. ‘Let no pretence of the evil of hypocrisy make you so contented with your secret innocency, as to neglect the edification and satisfaction of your neighbours.” When it is only your own interest that is concerned in the business, then it is no matter whether any man be acquainted with any good that you do ; and it is a very small matter how they judge, or what they say of you; the approbation of God alone is enough. No matter who condemneth you, if he justify you. But when the vindication of your innocency, or the manifestation of your virtue, is necessary to the good of your neighbours’ souls, or to the honour of your sacred profession: the neglect of it is not sincerity, but cruelty.
* 1 Pet. ii. 11, 12. * 2 Pet. ii. 2. * 1 Tim. v. 14, 15.
Directions against Scandal taken, or an aptness to receive hurt, by the words or deeds of others.
It was not only an admonition, but a prophecy of Christ, when he said, “Woe to the world because of offences ! It must be that offences come.” And, “Blessed is he that is not offended or scandalized in me.” He foreknew that the errors and misdoings of some, would be the snare and ruin of many others; and that, when “damnable heresies arise, many will follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of".” Like men in the dark, where if one catch a fall, he that comes next him, falls upon him. There are four sorts of persons that use to be scandalized, or hurt by the sins of others. 1. Malignant enemies of Christ and godliness who are partly hardened in their malice, and partly rejoiced at the dishonour of religion, and insult over those that give the offence, or take occasion by it to blaspheme or persecute. 2 Some that are more equal, and hopeful, and in greater possibility of conversion, who are stopt by it in their desires, and purposes, and attempts of a godly life. 3. Unsound professors, or hypocrites, who are turned by scandals from the way of godliness, which they seemed to walkin. 4. Weak Christians, who are troubled and hindered in their way of piety, or else drawn into some particular error or sin, though they fall not off. So that the effects of scandal may be reduced to these two. I. The perverting of men's judgments, to dislike religion, and think hardly, either of the doctrine or practice of Christianity. II. The emboldening of men to commit particular sins, or to omit particular duties; or at least the troubling and hindering them in the performance: against which, I shall first give you distinctly some Meditative Direc
a 2 Pet. i. 2.
tions, and then some Practical Directions against them both together. - I. Direct. 1. ‘Consider what an evident sign it is, of a very blind or malicious soul, to be so apt to pick quarrels with God and godliness, because of the sins of other men.” Love thinketh not ill of those we love: ill will and malice are still ready to impute whatever is amiss, to those whom they hate. Enmity is contentious and slanderous; and will make a crime of virtue itself, and from any topic fetch matter of reproach. There is no witness seemeth incredible to it, who speaketh any thing that is evil of those they hate. An argument “a baculo ad verbera’ is sufficient. Thus did the heathens by the primitive Christians; and will you do thus by God? Will you terrify your own consciences, when they shall awake, and find such an ugly serpent in your bosom, as malice and enmity against your Maker and Redeemer? It is the nature of the devil, even his principal sin. And will you not only wear his livery, but bear his image, to prove that he is your father ? And by community of natures, to prove that you must also have a communion with him in condemnation and punishment? And doth not so visible a mark of devilism upon your souls, affright you, and make you ready to run away from yourselves? Nothing but devilish malice can charge that upon God or godliness, which is done by sinners against his laws. Would you use a friend thus? If a murder were done, or a slander raised of you, or your house were fired, or your goods stolen, would you suspect your friend of it? Or any one that you honoured, loved, or thought well of 2 You would not certainly, but rather your enemy, or some lewd and dissolute persons that were most likely to be guilty. You are blinded by malice, if you see not how evident a proof of your devilish malice this is, to be ready when men that profess religion do any thing amiss, to think the worse of godliness or religion for it! The cause of this suspicion is lodged in your own hearts. Direct. 11. “Remember that this was the first temptation, by which the devil overthrew mankind, to persuade them to think ill of God, as if he had been false to his word, and had envied them their felicity.” “Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your WOL. W. 1, Q
eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil".” And will you not be warned by the calamity of all the world, to take heed of thinking ill of God, and of his Word, and of believing the devil's reports against him? Direct. 111. “Consider that to think ill of God, is to think him to be a devil; and to think ill of godliness is to take it to be wickedness: and can man be guilty of a more devilish crime?’ Nay, is it not worse than the devil that tempteth you to it can commit. To be God is to be good, even the infinite, eternal, perfect good, in whom is no evil, nor mone can be. To be a devil, is to be evil, even the chief that do evil, and would draw others so to do. It is not an ugly shape in which a painter doth represent the devil, which sheweth us his ugliness indeed : an enemy of godliness is more like to him than the picture: it is his sinfulness against God, which is his true deformity. Therefore to suspect God to be evil, is to suspect him to be the devil, so horrid a blasphemy doth this sin partake of. And if godliness be bad, then he that is the author and end of it, cannot be good. Direct. Iv. “Consider what horrible blindness it is to impute men's faults to God, who is the greatest adversary to sin in all the world, and who will most severely punish it, and to godliness which is perfectly its contrary.’ There is no angel in heaven so little to be suspected to be the friend of sin as God. Creatures are mutable in themselves; angels have the innocent imperfection of creatures; saints on earth have a culpable imperfection through the remainder of sin. If you had only suspected these, you might have had some pretence for it; but to quarrel with God or godliness, is madder than to think that light is the cause of darkness. Direct. v. “And think what extremity of injury and injustice this is to God, to blame him or his laws, for those sins of men which are committed against him and his laws.’ Who is it that sin is committed against but God? Is it not he that made the laws, which it is the transgression of Are not those laws, think you, strict enough against it? Is it not their strictness which such as you dislike? Were they laws that would give you leave to be worldly, sensual, * Gen. iii. 4, 5.
and proud, you would never quarrel with them; and yet you charge men's sins on these laws, because they are so strict against them. Do you impute sin to God, because he will judge men for it to hell fire, and cast them for ever out of his glorious presence into misery 3 O cursed impudence How righteous is God in condemning such malicious souls! Tell us if you can, would you have had God to have forbidden sin more strictly? Or condemned it more severely? Or punished it more terribly 2 If you would, you pray for greater vengeance than hell upon yourselves a Woe to you, when he executeth but so much as he hath already threatened! Shall the crime of rebels be imputed to the king, against whom they rebel? If a thief shall rob you, or a servant deceive you, or a son despise you, is he just that will so much increase your injury, as to lay the blame of all upon yourselves? You will say, “It is not God that we are offended with.” But if it be at a holy life, it is at God: for what is godliness, but the loving, and serving, and obeying God? If you say, that it is not godliness neither: why then do you distaste or speak against a godly life, on this occasion ? If you say, “It is these hypocrites only that we dislike:” what do you dislike them for 2 Is it for their virtue or their vices? If it be for their sins, why then do you not speak and do more against sin, in yourselves and others? We will concur with you to the utmost in opposing sin wherever it be found. If it be their hypocrisy that you blame, persuade yourselves and other men to be sincerely godly. How would you have hypocrisy avoided? By an open profession to serve the devil? Or by sincerity in serving God? If the latter; why then do you think evil of the most serious obedience to God? Alas! all Christian countries are too full of hypocrites. Every one that is baptized, and professeth Christianity, is a saint or a hypocrite! All drunken, covetous, ambitious, sensual, unclean Christians, are hypocrites, and not Christians indeed. And these hypocrites can quietly live a worldly, fleshly life, and never lament their own hypocrisy, nor their perfidious violating their baptismal vow. But if one that seemeth diligent for his soul prove an hypocrite, or fall into any scandalous sin, here they presently make an outcry; not to call the man from his sin, but to make a godly, diligent life seem odious