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their Hearts from the World, and in short; without quitting their Sins, and becoming new Crea
To say nothing of the vast Number of Inventions to this Purpose in the Church of Rome, by Dispensations, Pardons, Indulgences, Penances, Absolutions, their Doctrine of probable Opinions, loose Interpretations of Christian Duties; and where these are any thing severe, making them pass not for Duties, but Counsels of Perfection; but, I say, to pass by all these, and to look at Home among ourselves, how few are there among us, who seem to think themselves obliged to live up to the strict Rules of Christianity, and are not more governed by the Maxims and Customs of the World ? And wherever these two interfere, do not prefer the Customs of the World to the Precepts of Christ? I cannot pretend to tell how these loose Opinions and Practices have prevailed; no Author will own them in all their Consequences; but our own wicked Inclinations prepare us for fucking in all such Principles as tend to the favouring and justifying licentious Practices. So if any Authors have spoke of the Decrees of God, though the same Authors endeavour to reconcile that Doctrine with the Sincerity of his Exhortations to a good Life, we are apt to suck in the dangerous Part of the Doctrine, and to make use of it to justify our own evil Courses. If there be in Scripture any one Instance of a late Faith and Repentance that were accepted, (as I think there is but one, namely, that of the Thief upon the Cross ;) we are apt presently to apply it to ourselves, to a Purpose for which I dare say it was never intended ; not to encourage us to Repentance, as soon as we come
to be acquainted with Christ; (which one would think should be the natural Consequence of that Example,) but to delay our Repentance as long as we can; which makes a Cafe very different from that which is there put ; for that in all Probability was the first Time that Malefactor was acquainted with the Doctrine of Christ, and therefore, though late, it was as soon as he could exercise the Faith and Repentance of a Christian so that to apply this Case to a Man who has all his Life long been acquainted with the Christian Religion, without exercising Repentance and Amendment of Life, is, as I said, at least a Misapplication of the Case; and would not readily occur to our Thoughts, but that we are so apt to catch at every Thing that may encourage us in the broad Way of Sin. So as to the Nature of Repentance ; because we would indulge ourselves in our evil Courses, we are willing to believe that there is no more requisite towards it, but a certain Sorrow for Sin, without considering, that without Amendment of Life it is not a Repentance of the right Stamp. So because we have been taught that no Man lives without Sin; the Meaning of which is, that even the best of Men are subject to Error, and Ignorance, and Forgetfulness; and feveral other Sins of Weakness and Infirmity; we, to encourage ourselves in our loose Morals, are apt to apply this Doctrine to our great wilful Sins, deliberately continued in without Repentance. And fo in all other Things there is a strong Biass upon our Spirits, instead of the strict Ways of Duty, to flee to the loose Ways of Sin, contenting ourselves with any Colour of Probability, such as in other Cases would not satisfy a Min
Skill in the Way of common Reasoning. Not to speak now of the vast Multitudes of nominal Christians, who neither make Conscience to live up to the Precepts of Christ, nor seek out any Reafons, or so much as Pretences, to excuse it.
2. In the next Place, let us consider the Danger we run from this Prevalency of evil Example.
The greatest Part of Men are either not capable of examining the intrinsick Goodness or Badness of the Way, that is, of the Course of Life which they ought to follow, being blinded by Ignorance, or strongly biassed by the Prejudices of Education; or at least, if they are capable to do it with Pains and Application, are much more apt lazily to take Things as they find them, than to trouble themselves to dispute the common Practices of the World: when Men are in a well beaten, much frequented Road, where their Fellow-Travellers seem not to have the least Doubt of the Way, they march on with Confidence, though they should happen to be wrong, and so mislead and deceive one another. Men in this Respect are like Sheep; they love to herd together; and where one or two has the Hardiness or Rashness to lead the Way, the rest will certainly follow. Especially there is a Contagion in bad Example, our own Corrupt Inclinations giving us a strong Biass to the Thing, and then Example giving Courage and Countenance to it. So that it is a very hard Matter to refist both these, bad Inclination joined with bad Example. More particularly when the Example is Lo general, as to obtain the Authority of an esta
blished Custom or Fashion. Then it goes on with Boldness, and, like an impetuous Torrent, carries all down before it. It requires then not a feeble Light, and a weak Inclination, but a full Assurance, and a very firm Resolution to withstand it, and to row against the Stream: Efpecially where bad Customs and Fashions are armed with Power, so as to raise Persecution against those of a contrary Way. There are but few who have the Courage, and Patience, and Steadiness of Mind to hold out against Persecution. For many of those who abstain from vicious Courses, do not abstain out of any Firmness of Principle, but, either from a Goodness of natural Temper and Disposition, or from a Tincture of Education, or out of Respect to Parents, Tutors, Masters, Benefactors, or Governors.Some with an Eye to Profit or Preferment, and some from the flender Impressions of Shame or Fear: now all these, tho' in good Times they will make a Shift to hold on tolerably well in the Way of Duty,
fo soon as the Storm of Persecution arises, they are quickly beaten from their Constancy, and follow the Multitude to the doing of Evil ; so that it is no Wonder, as our Saviour observes in that many frequent this broad Way, and go in at this wide Gate ; and that the Way of Duty being deep and rocky, and full of Difficulties, especially in the Beginning, there are but few who find it out, and continue in it. It is like an old deserted Way, grown up with Bushes, or deep in Mud, ill cleared, and little trod or frequented; and therefore none will be apt to take it, but they who are very well assured that it is the only rightWay, and that all the rest are wrong..
In the last Place, we are to endeavour to find out the Duty our Saviour designed to teach these his first Disciples, and all other Christians to the End of the World, from this Observation of the great Numbers that frequent the broad Way that leads to Destruction, and the Smalness of the Number of those who frequent the narrow Way that leads to Life. Not to insist now on other good Ufes which might be made of this Doctrine, the main Design of our Saviour here feems to be, to caution us against a sinful Course of Life, though it should come recommended to us by Numbers, Custom, Authority, and Example, and with all the Invitations of Ease and Pleasure ; for all this is represented by the broad Way, much frequented by Company. And to give a greater Force to his Exhortation, he not only supposes, that often it may be fo, but acquaints us, that generally it will be fo; that the Way of Vice and Licentiousness will have the Advantage of Numbers and Fashion; and the Way of strict Virtue will be exploded, and looked out of Countenance ; - two Duties are naturally consequent upon this Observation ; Caution and Courage: First, Caution; as when an experienced Pilot lays down to a Skipper the feveral Rocks and Shelves, or Eddies and Currents he shall meet with in the several Parts of his. Voyage, it is with a Design, no Doubt, that he should either avoid them, or steer so much the more cautiously, if he must be obliged to go among them. This is our Case in the Voyage of Life ; We are in very great Danger from the prevailing Customs and Examples of the World.