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IV. The Fourth and last Advice with Regard to these Admonitions and Correptions; namely, that we should take care so prudently to administer them, that they may, do no Hurt, but give them to such Persons, and at such Times, and in such a Manner, as is most likely to do Good. Give not that which is Holy unto the Dogs, &c.
The Words being made up of a proverbial Speech, and that likewise wrapt up in a parabolical Phrase, have given Latitude to different Interpretations. In order to the finding out the true Sense, we must enquire into these four
Things"; first; to whom this Precept is given ; then, who are here meant by Dogs and Swine ; and thirdly, what is meant by giving our holy Thing's and Pearls to those Dogs and Swine; and lastly, what are the Dangers of Transgrefsing this Precept, viz. the Trampling under Foot the Pearls and holy Things, and the perfecuting those who adminifter them.
1. We are to enquire to whom this Precept is here given. And as to this, I can fee no great Difficulty in it; It is given to the fame Persons to whom all the rest of the Sermon is addressed, to the fame Perfons to whom the preceding Precept against raih Judging is directed; that is, to all Christ's Disciples, or all Christians. And indeed I cannot but take this Verse ás belonging to the fame Subject concerning rash Judging, and as a proper Part of it; for as in the Verse immediately foregoing, our Saviour gave Direction concerning the Qualifications of the Monitors, that they should first try the Virtue of their Admonitions upon themselves; fo now
in this Verse, he describes to us the Qualifications of the Persons whom we are to admonish. And this leads me to
2. The Second Thing I was to enquire into ; namely, who are to be meant here by Dogs and Swine ; for they are the only Persons, it seems, excluded from our Admonitions. There are two Properties of the Dog, I think here chiefly pointed at; his .obftinate Barking, and his cruel Biting, and both these help to discover to us, what sort of Persons we are to forbear to Ad. monish or Reprove : namely, first, the barking Cur; who, if you offer himn ever so good Advice, and in ever fo discreet and calm a Manner, will never listen to it, or be convinced; but will fcold and argue again, from a mere Spirit of Disputatiousness and Contradiction. Arguments are but thrown away upon fuch a one; he is tesolved not to be convinced, but will have the last Word, though it is no more to the Purpose than, as we say, the Barking of a Dog. This is the Spirit of obstinate Hereticks, and likewise of wilful, habitual Sinners; you may talk to them till your heart akes, you are never the nearer ; they will bark on, their Passions will be more and more provoked; but neither their Herefies forsaken, nor their Lives amended : and therefore when we perceive this Obstinacy of Temper, we had as good let them alone; for no good, but a great deal of Hurt and Anger, is like to come from their incensed Paflions. Secondly, Another fort of Person we are here excused from Admonishing or Reproving is, he that is meant by the fierce biting Dog: Those Men, who are so far from being perswaded to
Amendment by our good Admonitions, that they only hate us for them, and take all Opportunities to injure and persecute their Monitors. So much for what is meant by Dog's. Swine are chiefly noted for their Impurity, loving to root in Mud; and not contented, like other Creatures, to wade through dirty Places when there is Occasion, but loving to wallow all over in the Mire, till there is not one clean part about them. And this Filthiness is so inherent in their Temper, and so inseparable from it, that no Labour or Pains can cure it; but the Sow that is washed will wallow in the first Mire again. By Swine then, we are to understand Men of the most profligate Lives, who are a meer Disgrace to their Christian Profeffion; and such as are fo rooted in their Wickedness, that they shew an Incorrigibleness in it; and if you take never so much Pains to wash and clean them, they continually break through all Exhortations, Resolutions, Vows and Promises ; and upon the first Presenting of a Temptation, run upon it as greedily, as the Sow that was washed wallows over Head and Ears in the first Mire she comes at.
3. We are to enquire what is to be meant by Giving that which is Holy to Dogs, and casting our Pearls before Swine This we do, whenever we throw away our Admonitions and Reproofs upon any of the above described unqualified Perfons: I mean, the obstreperous, obstinate Defenders of their Evil Ways; the fierce Persecutors, or the habitual ill Livers, who are Proof against all the Means of Grace. The Word Cafiing of Pearls, implies a rash and inconsiderate Throwing away something of Value, where
it will do no good. And it is no new Thing for Admonitions and Reproofs to be compared to Jewels, or Pearls, or precious Things. A Word fitly spoken, says Solomon, Prov. XXV. ii, i2. is like Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver. And again, as an Ear-ring of Gold, and an Ornament of fine Gold, fo is a wise Reprover upon an obedient Ear.
4. The last Thing to be enquired ifito, in ' Order to the Explication of the Words, is the Dangers they incur who transgress this Precept. And there are two here mentioned.
1. That the Dog and Swine trample all such Admonitions under their Feet; that is, they despise and contemn them; implying that there is an Encrease of their own Sin and Guilt, by their ao busing the Means of Grace; and likewise that the Means of Grace themselves are rendred more contemptible by being thus abused by such ill Men. 2. That they turn again, and fall upon the Monitors, and persecute them. So that there is a threefold Danger here intimated. That godly Admonitions, and all such facred Things, fall under Contempt; that the Safety and Tranquillity of the Monitor are endangered ; and the Sin and Condemnation of the admonished are much encreased. All which it will be fit to consider a little more particularly.
(1.) Let us consider the Contempt of Admonitions and all other facred Things, which will probably follow upon our Throwing them away upon such unworthy and unqualified Persons.
They trample them under their Feet. It is im-
not only harden their Hearts, and disbelieve, but how they mock and ridicule the most facred Truths. It is no easy Matter even for good Men to manage holy Things with that Honour and Decency, which is due to their great Worth and Dignity. What must we think then of the unworthy Treatment they meet with, when they fall into the Hands of the profanest Sort of Debauchee's, who have no Relish for such Things, except it be to mock and ridicule them? as we hear of some, who, when they beard of the Resurrection of the Dead, mocked; Acts xvii. 32. so far were they from believing that Doctrine of the greatest Consequence.
(2.) Another evil Effect of obtruding godly Admonitions and Reproofs upon Men, that are arrived to such a superlative Degree of Wickedness, is, that it stirs up the Hatred and Indignation of such Persons against their Monitors, which accordingly exerts it self in spiteful angry Words, and malicious persecuting Actions. We know what wicked Use Herod made of John Baptist's wholsome Reproofs ; for St. Luke tells us, Luk. iii
. 19. that being reproved by him for Herodias bis. Brotber Philip's Wife, and for all the Evils which he had done, be added yet this above all, that be shut up John in Prison. We are here told the principal Cause of that Alienation of Herod's Affection from John the Baptis, of whom he had had a good Opinion formerly. But this Freedom of Admonition did so foon four his Mind against him, that he not only put him in Prison, but afterwards consented to his Murder there. Severe Truths are fo choaking to Persons arrived to an high Degree in evil Habits, that