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to all, by telling men, ‘These are your godly men.” It is godliness that they quarrel with, while they pretend only to find fault with sin. Why else do you not find fault with the same sin equally in all ? Or, at least, persuade men by such examples to be less sinful, and more watchful, and not to be less religious and more loose. Tell me truly of any one that is more against sin than God, or any thing more contrary to it than godliness and true religion, or any men that do more against it than the most religious, and then I will join with you in preferring those. Till then remember how you condemn yourselves, when you condemn them that are better than yourselves. Direct. vi. ‘Think what a foolish, audacious thing it is to set yourselves against your God and judge.” Will you accuse him of evil, because men do evil? Are you fit to judge him 2 Are guilty worms either wise or just enough for such an attempt, or strong enough to bear it out? What do you but set your faces against heaven, and profess rebellion against God, when you blame his laws and government, and think the obeying and serving him to be evil? Direct. v11. ‘Consider what cruelty it is to yourselves, to turn the faults of others to your ruin, which should be your warning to avoid the like.” If another man sin, will you not only do so too, but be the more averse to repentance and reformation? Will you cut your throat, because another cut his finger, or did so before you? Why should you do yourselves such mischief? Direct. viii. “Remember that this was the design of the devil in tempting religious people to sin, not only to destroy them, but to undo you and others by their falls.” If he can make you think the worse of religion, he hath his design and will; he hath killed many at a blow. Yea, perhaps the sinner may repent, and be forgiven, when you that are driven from repentance and godliness by the scandal. may be damned. And will you so far gratify the devil, in the wilful destruction of yourselves? Sin is contagious; and this is your catching of the infection, if it prevail to drive you further from God? And thus this plague devoureth multitudes. Direct. 1x. “He that will think ill of godliness for men's sins, shall never want occasion of such offence, nor such
temptations to fly from God.” If you are so foolish or malignant, as to pick quarrels with God and godliness for men's faults, (which nothing but God and godliness can reform,) you may set up your standard of defiance against heaven, and see what you will get by it in the end. For God will not remove all occasion of your scandal. There ever have been, and will be, hypocrites in the church on earth. Noah's ark had a Ham, Abraham's family had an Ishmael, and Isaac's an Esau, and David's an Absalom, and Christ's a Judas. The falls of good men are cited in Scripture, to admonish you to take heed. Noah, Lot, David, Joseph's brethren have left a mark behind them where they fell, that you may take a safer way. If you will make all such the occasion of your malignity, you turn your medicine into your poison, and choose hell because some others choose it, or because some stumbled in the way to heaven.
And for those who are emboldened in sin, because they see their superiors or religious men commit it, or read that David, Noah, Peter, &c. fell, let them consider,
Direct. 1. ‘That it is rule, and not example, which you must chiefly live by.” Do the laws of God by which you must be judged, allow of sin! If they do, then fear it not.
Direct. 11. Is not the example of Christ much better than a sinner's ' If you will follow examples, follow the best, even that which was given you purposely to imitate. The greatest and most learned man is fallible, and the most reli gious is not wholly free from sin: sincerity writeth after a perfect copy, though it cannot reach it.
Direct. 111. ‘Consider that sin is not the better but the worse, for being committed by a religious, a great, or a learned man.” Their place, their knowledge, and profession aggravateth it. And shall that embolden you which God most hateth?
Direct. iv. “And consider that when he that falleth by a surprise, doth rise again by repentance, and is pardoned, those that are hereby emboldened to sin deliberately and impenitently, shall be condemned.’ You may sin with David or Peter when you will, but you cannot rise with them by true repentance, without that grace which you wilfully resist and forfeit.
Direct. v. Lastly, “Consider that the best men, and the greatest, are the most dangerous tempters, when they mislead us.” A David was a stronger temptation to Bathsheba, than another man could have been. A Peter might sooner mislead Barnabas, and others, into a sinful dissimulation and separation, than another could have done. Therefore do not think that where your danger is greatest, your venturousness should be most.
Practical Directions against Offence and Hurt by others.
Direct. 1. ‘Lay well your foundation, and understand the nature and reasons of religion; and then you will be so far from disliking it for the errors and falls of others, that it will be written upon your minds, as with a beam of the sun, That there can be no reason against obeying God, and against the careful securing of our salvation.’ This will be the first and undoubted principle, which nothing in the world can make you question. Whatever scandals, persecutions or sufferings may attend a holy life, you will still be past doubt that there is no other way. No other eligible, no other tolerable, no other rational, or that will lead to happiness. Whatever falls out in the world, if the most great, or learned, or religious fall away, it will not make you question, Whether a man be a living creature, nor whether the sun be light, nor whether two and two be four. No more should it make you question, Whether God be better than the creature, heaven than earth, or a life of holiness than a life of sin. You will say as Peter, “Lord, whither should we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life".” Whatever scandals are given, or whatever befall the church, or if all the disciples of Christ forsake him, this remaineth as sure as that the earth is under us, that there is no other way than holiness, for a wise man once to take into his thoughts. -
Direct. II. “Get once a sincere love to God, and a holy life, and then no scandals will make you jealous of it, nor think of looking any other way.” It is want of true and hearty love, that maketh you so easily taken off.
Direct. 111. ‘To this end, know religion by experience; and this will put you past all doubt of his goodness.’ He that never tasted sugar, may be persuaded by argument that it is not sweet, or may think it bitter when he seeth another spit it out; and he that knoweth godliness, but by looking on, or hearsay, may thus be drawn to think it bad: but so will not he that hath truly tried it; I mean not only to try what it is to hear, and read, and pray; but what it is to be humble, holy and heavenly, both in heart and life. Direct. Iv. “When you see any man sin, be sure you do that duty which it calls you to.' Every fall that you see of others doth call you to see the odiousness of sin (as you will do when you see a drunkard spewing, or a thief at the whipping-post). And it calleth you to search for, and lament the root of such sin in yourselves, and set your watch more strictly upon such a warning; and it calls you to compassionate the sinner, and if you have hope and opportunity to endeavour his recovery. If you will conscionably do this duty which is your own, you will be the less in danger of hurt by scandal. It is duty that must help to prevent infection. Direct. v. ‘Be watchful among all men, high and low, learned or unlearned, good and bad.’ Venture not blindly upon the singular opinion of any men whatsoever; nor into any new unproved way. Remember that all men are a temptation to others; and therefore be armed and watch against such temptation. Know well what it is, that is the peculiar temptation, which the quality of those that you have to do with, layeth before you. Spend no day or hour in any company, good or bad, without a wise and careful vigilancy. Direct. v1. ‘Be as little as you can in scandalous and tempting company.’ Presume not to touch pitch, and promise yourselves to escape defilement; especially fly from two sorts of scandals. First, The discourses and societies of heretical or schismatical men, who speak perverse things to draw away disciples after them". Those that presume to run into such snares, and think their own understanding and stability are sufficient to preserve them, do shew by their pride that they are near a fall". Secondly, The company of sensual persons, at stage-plays, gaming, inordinate plays,
* John vi. 68.
and wanton dalliance. For this is to bring your tinder and gunpowder to the fire; and the less you fear it, the greater is your danger. Direct. v11. ‘Look more at the good that is in others, than at their faults and falls.’ The fly that will fall on mone but the galled ulcerous place, doth feed accordingly. Hs a professor of religion, covetous, drunk, or any other ways scandalous? Remember that it is his covetousness or drunkenness that is bad. Reprove that, and fly from it. and spare not; but religion is good; let that therefore be commended and imitated. Leave the carrion to dogs and crows to feast upon; but do you choose out the things that are commendable, and mind, and mention, and imitate those. Direct. v1.1.1. Lastly, ‘Think and speak as much against the sin and danger of taking scandal, as against the sin and danger of giving it.” When others cry out, ‘These are your religious people,’ do you cry out as much against their malignity and madness, who will dislike or reproach religion for men's sins. Which is to blame the law-makers or laws, because they are broken ; or to fall out with health, because many that once were in health, fall sick; or to find fault with eating, because some are lean; or with clothing, because some are cold. Open to yourselves and others, what a wicked and perilous thing this is, to fall out with godliness, because some are ungodly, that seemed godly. Many cry out against scandal, that never think what a heinous sin it is to be scandalized, or to suffer men's sins to be a scandal to you; and to be the worse, because that others are so bad. No one must differ from them in an opinion, or a fashion of apparel, or in a mode or form of worship, but some are presently scandalized; not knowing that it is a greater sin in them to be scandalized, than in the other by such means (supposing them to be faulty) to give them the occasion. Do you know what it is to be scandalized or offended in the Scripture sense ? It is not merely to be displeased, or to dislike another's actions (as is before said); but it is to be drawn into some sin, or hindered from some duty, or stopped in the course of religion, or to think the worse of truth, or duty, or a godly life, because of other men's words or actions; and do you think him a good