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(1.) First, It is necessary for the Honour of the Truths and Duties conveyed in these good Admonitions; as it is not for the Reputation of good Wine to be presented in a dirty Glass. In that Case Men would be more apt to have their Stomachs turned with the Nastiness of the Glass* than their Appetite gratified with the Goodness of the Liquor. In the same manner it happens with good Doctrine, when proposed by a very ill Man, or a notorious Hypocrite; the Word of God is then blasphemed, or evil spoken of on their Account. And therefore we find the Scripture always requires the greatest Purity and Holiness of them, who are to convey the Knowledge of divine Truths and Duties to others.
(2.) Another Reason why this Qualification is so requisite in them who admonish and censure others, is the great Decency and Decorum of the Thing. As in a Play, the Poet or Author would be much blamed, if he did not make every Person whom he introduces, act the Part which is most suitable for him; e. g. if he gave all the Rashness and, Follies of Youth to be acted by one who sustains the Person of an old Man; or the Cares and Gravity of Age to be acted by him, who sustains the Person of a Youth; so in the Business of Life, it is fully as improper to bring in a Drunkard giving Precepts of Sobriety, or a lewd prosane Wretch giving Precepts of Chastity. This would be only an effectual Way to teach Men Hypocrisy instead of Sincerity in all Duty. And this leads me to,
(3.) A 'Third Reason why we should first amend our own great Faults, before we presume to correct others; namely, because of the bad
Vol. IV. F Success Success such Admonitions and Reproofs would probably have in the World. I know no Duty more difficult, or that requires a greater Degree of Prudence to execute it aright, than this Duty of fraternal Admonition and Correption; and if so great a Blunder were committed in the Performance of it, as that the Person who administers it, should himself be notoriously guilty of the same, or worse Faults, his Reproofs would be looked upon as Mock-Reproofs, and he himself as guilty of the greatest Impertinency. The Truth would suffer purely through his Default; and instead of being reformed, Men would be hardened in their Sins, by such a preposterous and ill-contrived Reprehension.
2. The other Qualification required here in the Censurer is, that he set about the Duty of correcting his Neighbour, not from any sinister hypocritical Design, but from a sincere Design of discharging his own Duty, and of doing good to his Neighbour. These Reproofs are apt to be abused, to serve the Ends of Pride, Vanity, Hypocrisy, Insolence, and Imperiousness. But the only true End we ought to propose to ourselves is, that of Love and Charity to our Neighbour; that as we relieve our indigent Neighbour in his Want, so we admonish our erring or sinning Neighbour as to the Evil of his Ways. It is the inward good Motives and Principles in all Duties, which God chiefly regards; and therefore we should watch our own Hearts, lest we set about Duty, I mean, the external Part of Duty, from wrong Principles; for that alters the whole Nature of the Action, and from a virtuous, makes, it a vicious one. Now the
Want Want of these good Principles in this Duty of fraternal Correption, is that very Thing which our Lord here taxes with Hypocrisy. The bad. Principles and sinister Designs of Men in this Affair are very many, and very intricate; so that I cannot pretend to a full Enumeration of them. Only that we may be the better guarded against them, I shall endeavour to point at the chief Heads of the bad Principles, which make this Duty of censuring degenerate into Hypocrisy, when they are intermixed with the Discharge of it.
(1.) First, The Duty of fraternal Admonition having some Resemblance with the Dictates of a morose and surly Disposition, which both loves to find Fault, and to censure severely, and punish rigidly, that may easily be mistaken for the Duty itself. But there is a great inward Difference between them; the one from a mere Moroseness of Temper, delighting to find Faults, and to exercise Severity; the other being grieved at the Faults, and applying himself with an unwilling Willingness to the Remedy of Admonition, as a Patient sets himself to take an unpleasant, but necessary Potion of Physick.
(2.) Pride-and Vanity finding Nourishment from our Neighbour's bad, as well as from our own good Qualities and Actions, it is an easy Thing for it to counterfeit this Duty of fraternal Admonition, at least in that Part of it which relates to the severe censuring of our Neighbour. It is true, it is as defective in another Part, which is the Discretion and Prudence requisite in carrying the Censure no farther than to the Person himself, who was to be admonislied and re
F 2 formed; formed; for Pride and Vanity is apt to publish it to their Hurt and Reproach.
(3.) When a Man takes upon him to perform the Office of a Monitor to others, who secretly indulges himself in the fame Sins, without hearty Endeavour of Amendment, it is much to be suspected that such a Person acts from downright Dissimulation and Hypocrisy; and that he reproves the same Vices in others, only that he may the better hide and conceal them in himself.
(4.) There are some, who, from a mere Bigottry, or Addictedness to Party, are apt to censure and reprove such Faults, as are most contrary to the Principles and Practices of their own Sect and Party; in the mean time overlooking all those other Faults, though ever so gross, which their own Party approves, either by Principle or Practice. Now all such Persons, instead of performing the Duty of fraternal Correption, are only promoting the Business of Faction, and their Censures will be so esteemed of by Almighty God.
(5.) There is a fly fort of Hatred and Enmity, which chuses to vent itself in this censorious Way, and under Pretence of rectifying and reforming our Neighbour's Errors and Miscarriages, only aims at exposing them, with a mischievous, not an edifying Design. These few Instances may convince us, that our Saviour had a great deal of Reason, when he was handling this Subject of fraternal Admonition and Correption, to guard us against Hypocrisy, and all other By-ends in ourselves, and that we should
with with a clear charitable Intention set about this difficult Duty. But,
II. Second/y, Besides Charity and Sincerity in the Censurer, there are other Qualifications required on the Part of the Offender, which the Censurer must carefully observe; and is he finds they are wanting, he is, in Prudence, to defer his Admonitions and Reproofs till he find them. These are contained in the last Verse of my Text; Give not that which is holy unto the Dogs; neither cast ye your Pearls before Swine, Icjl they trample them under their Feet, and turn again and rent you. In speaking to which Words, I shall endeavour to do these Four Things:
1. To (hew that they properly belong to this Subject, and that by giving that which is holy to Dogs and Swine, is meant the Administring our Admonitions and Reproofs to unfit Persons.
2. To explain what Dispositions these are in our Neighbour, described by Dogs and Swine, which prohibit our administring this Duty of fraternal Admonition or Correption to him in these Circumstances.
3. I sliall consider the Danger of not complying with this Prohibition; from these Words, lejl they trample them under their Feet, and turn again and rend you.
4. I shall consider the Duty of Prudence to find out and observe, when our Neighbour is in such Circumstances, that we are excused from the Duty of censuring and admonishing him.
F 3 I. First,