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Christian, and a faithful or constant friend to godliness, who is so easily brought to quarrel with it? Or is so easily turned from it, or hindered in it? Some peevish, childish persons are like sick stomachs, that no meat can please ; you cannot dress it so curiously, but they complain that it is naught, or this aileth it, or that aileth it, when the fault is in themselves; or like children, or sick persons that can scarce be touched but they are hurt: do you think that this sickliness or curiosity in religion, is a credit to you ? This is not the tenderness of conscience which God requireth, to be easily hurt by other men's differences and faults. As it is the shame of many ladies and gentlewomen, to be so curious and troublesomely neat, that no servant knoweth how to please them; so is it in religion, a sign of your childish folly, and worse, to be guilty of such proud curiosity, that none can please you, who are not exactly of your mind and way. All men must follow your humours in gestures, fashions, opinions, formalities and modes, or else you are troubled, and offended, and scandalized ; as if all the world were made to please and humour you ! Or you were wise enough, and great and good enough, to be the rule of all about you ! Desire and spare not, that yourselves and all men should please God as exactly as possible. But if the want of that exactness in doubtful things, or a difference in things disputable and doubtful among true Christians, do thereupon abate or hinder your love or estimation of your brethren, or communion with them, or any other Christian duty, or tempt you into censoriousness or contempt of your brethren, or to schism, persecution or any other sin; it is you that are the great offenders, and you that are like to be
the sufferers; and have cause to lament that sinful aptness to be thus scandalized.
Directions against Soul-murder, and partaking of other Men's Sins.
The special Directions given Part iii. Chap. xxii., to parents and masters, will in this case be of great use to all others; but because it is here seasonable to speak of it further, under the sixth commandment, and the matter is of the greatest consequence, I shall, 1. Tell you how men are guilty of soul-murder. 2. And then give you some general Directions for the furthering of men's salvation. 3. And next give you some special Directions for Christian exhortation and reproofs. First, Men are guilty of soul-murder by all these ways. 1. By preaching false soul-murdering doctrine. Such as denieth any necessary point of faith, or holy living; such as is opposite to a holy life, or to any particular necessary duty: such as maketh sin to be no sin: which calls good evil, and evil good; which putteth darkness for light, and light for darkness. 2. By false application of true doctrine, indirectly reflecting upon, and disgracing that holiness of life, which in terms they preach for ; by prevarication undermining that cause which their office is appointed to promote ; as they do, who purposely so describe any vice, that the hearers may be drawn to think that strict and godly practices, are either that sin itself, or but a cloak to hide it. 3. By bringing the persons of the most religious into hatred, by such false applications, reflections, or secret insinuations, or open calumnies; making men believe that they are all but hypocrites, or schismatics, or seditious, or fanatical, self-conceited persons ! Which is usually done either by impudent slanders raised against some particular men, and so reflected on the rest; or by the advantage of factions, controversies or civil wars; or by the falls of any professors, or the crimes of hypocrites: whereupon they would make the world believe that they are all alike ; as if Christ's family were to be judged of by Peter's fall, or Judas's falsehood. And the odious representation of godly men doth greatly prevail to keep others from godliness, and is one of the devil's most successful means for the damnation of multitudes of souls. 4. The disgrace of the persons of the preachers of the Gospel, doth greatly further men's damnation. For when the people think their teachers to be hypocrites, covetous, proud, and secretly as bad as others, they are very like to think accordingly of their doctrine, and that all strict religion is but hypocrisy, or at least to refuse their help and counsels. Even Plutarch noted, that, “It so comes to pass that we entertain not virtue, nor are rapt into a desire of imitating it, unless we highly honour and love the person in whom it is discerned.” And if they see, or think the preacher to be himself of a loose, and careless and licentious life, they will think that the like is very excusable in themselves ; and that his doctrine is but a form of speech, which his office bindeth him to say; but is no more to be regarded by them, than by himself. Two ways is men's damnation thus promoted. 1. By the ill lives of hypocritical, ungodly preachers, who actually bring their own persons into disgrace, and thereby also the persons of others, and consequently their sacred work and function. 2. By wicked preachers and people, who through a malignant hatred of those that are abler and better than themselves, and an envy of their reputation, do labour to make the most zealous and faithful preachers of the Gospel, to be thought the most hypocritical, or erroneous, or factious and schismatical. 5. The neglect of ministerial duties is a common cause of sin, and of men's damnation. When they that take the charge of souls, are either unable or unwilling to do their office; when they teach them too seldom, or too unskilfully, in an unsuitable manner; not choosing that doctrine which they most need, or not opening it plainly and methodically in a fitness to their capacities, or not applying it with necessary seriousness and urgency to the hearers’ state. When men preach to the ungodly who are near to damnation, in a formal pace, like a schoolboy saying his lesson, or in a drowsy, reading tone, as if they came to preach them all asleep, or were afraid of wakening them. When they speak of sin, and misery, and Christ, of heaven and hell, as if by the manner they came to contradict the matter, and to persuade men that there are no such things. The same mischief followeth the neglect of private, personal inspection. When ministers think that they have done all, when they have said a sermon, and never make conscience of labouring personally to convince the ungodly, and reclaim offenders, and draw sinners to God, and confirm the weak. And the omission (much more the perversion) of sacred discipline, hath the like effects. When the keys of the church are used to shut out the good, or not used when they ought, to rebuke or shut out the impenitent wicked ones; nor to difference between the precious and the vile, it hardeneth multitudes in their ungodliness, and persuadeth them that they are really of the same family of Christ, as the godly are, and have their sins forgiven, because they are partakers of the same holy sacraments. (Not knowing the difference between the church mystical and visible, nor between the judgment of ministers, and of Christ himself.) 6. Parents’ neglect of instructing children, and other parts of holy education, is one of the greatest causes of the perdition of mankind, in all the world: but of this elsewhere. 7. Magistrates’ persecution or opposition to religion, or discountenancing those that preach it, or most seriously practise it, tendeth to deceive some, who over-reverence the judgment of superiors, and to affright others from the obedience of God. 8. Yea, the negligence of magistrates, masters and other superiors, omitting the due rebuke of sinners, and due correction of the offenders, and the due encouragement of the good, is a great cause of the wickedness and damnation of the world. 9. But above all, when they make laws for sin, or for the contempt, or dishonour or suppression of religion, or the serious practice of it; this buildeth up satan's kingdom most effectually, and turneth God's ordinance against himself: thousands under infidel and ungodly princes, are conducted by obedience to damnation; and their rulers damn them as honourably as the physician killed his patients, who boasted that he did it ‘secundum artem,’ according to the rules of art. 10. The vulgar example of the multitude of the ungodly, is a great cause of men's impiety and damnation. They must be well resolved for God and holiness, who will not yield to the major vote, nor be carried down the common stream, nor run with the rabble to excess of riot. When Christianity is a sect which is every where spoken against", it proveth so narrow a way that few have a mind to walk in
it. Men think that they are at least excusable, for not being wiser and better than the multitude. Singularity in honour, or riches, or strength, or health, is accounted no crime; but singularity in godliness, is, at least, thought unnecessary. “What! will you be wiser than all the town, or, than such and such superiors ?’ is thought a good reprehension of godliness, where it is rare; even by them who hereby conclude their superiors, or all the town to be wiser than God. 11. Also the vulgar's scorning and deriding godliness, is a common cause of murdering souls; because the devil knoweth, that there cannot one word of solid reason be brought against the reason of God, and so against a holy life; he therefore teacheth men to use such weapons as they have. A dog hath teeth, and an adder hath a sting, though they have not the weapons of a man. A fool can laugh, and jeer, and rail; and there is no great wit or learning necessary, to smile, or grin, or call a man a Puritan, or precisian, or heretic, or schismatic, or any name which the malice of the age shall newly coin. Mr. Robert Bolton largely sheweth how much the malignity of his age, did vent itself against godliness, by the reproachful use of the word, * Puritan.’ When reason can be bribed to take the devil's part (either natural or literate reason) he will hire it at any rate; but when it cannot, he will make use of such as he can get. Barking or hissing may serve turn, where talking and disputing cannot be procured. Drum and trumpets in an army, serve the turn instead of oratory, to animate cowards, and drown the noise of dying men's complaints and groans Thousands have been mocked out of their religion and salvation at once, and jeered into hell, who now know, whether a scorn, or the fire of hell, be the greater suffering. As tyrants think that the greatest, and ablest, and wisest men, must either be drawn over to their party or destroyed; so the tyrant of hell, who ruleth in the children of disobedience, doth think that if reason, learning and wit, cannot be hired to dispute for him against God, they are to be suppressed, silenced and disgraced ; which the noise of rude clamours, and foolish jeers is fit enough to perform. 12. Also idle, senseless prating against religion as a needless thing, doth serve turn to deceive the simple: igno