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J. First, I am to shew that these Words do properly belong to this Subject, and that by giving that which is holy to Dogs, and casting our Pearls before Swine, is meant the adminiftring our Admonitions and Reproofs to unfit Persons, such as will abuse them, and hate and persocute us for our Pains. I am not ignorant that several Interpreters of good Note make this Verse to be altogether new Matter, and interpret it to be a Caution chiefly to the Apostles and Ministers of the Gospel, not to throw away that precious Pearl of the Gospel upon Persons who abuse it, and raise Persecutions against the Preachers and Professors of it. But, with Submiflion, though there is some Truth in this Doĉtrine, I must think the other Sense preferable, I mean that which makes these words to be an Exception from the difficult Duty of fraternal Admonition and Reproof immediately preceding; and that for the following Reasons.
(1.) Because I am not satisfied that there were any such Officers as Apostles then constituted, when our Saviour preached this Sermon on the Mount; far less that they had then received their Commission to preach the Gospel ; and therefore as I have interpreted all the rest of the Sermon in such a Sense as suits all Chriftians, I think these Words are to be so interpreted too.
(2.) In this Sense they suit much better with the Order and Position in which they are here placed; for as our Saviour was giving Directions concerning the right Way of administring the difficult Duty of fraternal Admonition and Re
proof, no Body can deny that this is fit to be made one of those Directions, namely, to forbear it towards them, who both will be the worse for it themselves, and will unmercifully fall a persecuting the Monitors and Reprovers.
(3.) If the Words are applied to the publick preaching of the Gospel, that it is not to be preached to them who abuse it, or persecute the Preachers, I am not satisfied of the Truth of this Doctrine ; for I observe both our Saviour and his Apostles, and the primitive Bishops and Ministers after them, preached the Gospel promifcuously to all, good and bad, and ran the Hazard of Persecution. And I think it not improbable that our Saviour expected of the Apostles, and their Successors, the Pastors of the Church, that they should run greater Hazards for the Gospel than private Christians ; and therefore he told them, Mat. x. 16. that be sent them forth as Sheep among Wolves; and indeed it was scarce possible to preach the Gospel to promiscuous Multitudes, as they did, but that there would be fome such wicked and persecuting Men among them. And therefore this Precept does not seem to me to relate so much to promiscuous Multitudes, where there is a · Mixture of good and bad, as to private wicked Men, or at least to such Multitudes, of whom the far greater Part are of a wicked and persecuting Spirit.
(4.) Lastly, It is not the bare preaching of the Gospel, but the Reproofs mixed in with it, which are the cutting Things that stir up Peoples Passions, and provoke their Refentments; and therefore the Words seem much more applicable to this of Admonitions and Rebukes, than to
the publick preaching of the Gospel. Not but that by a Parity of Reason it may be extended to all Rebukes, and all Acts of Discipline and Censure, administred to wicked and persecuting Men. But some perhaps may think that the Word Pearl, is not so applicable to private Admonitions and Corrections, as to the Gospel it self. To this it may be answered, that the Words are a common Proverb among the Jews, only adapted to this Occasion; and that the throwing away of good Advice and Reproof on obstinate wicked Men, may very well be compared to the throwing of Jewels or Pearls before Swine, especially Solomon having used the Comparison in the fame Sense, Prov. xxv. 12. As an Ear-ring of Gold, and an Ornament of fine Gold, fo is a wise Reproper upon an obedient Ear.
II. I am to explain who are here meant by Dogs and Swine. They are certainly Men of cursed Dispositions, there being no Creatures under the Law more stigmatized for Uncleanness, But to answer more particularly ; it is not all wicked People who are to be meant by these Compellations, but only such incorrigible Perfons, who become worse for Reproof themselves, and are ready, on that Account, to rail at, and persecutę others. But more especially there are These two Sorts of Persons to whom this Duty of Admonition and Reproof ought not to be performed, by the Direction of my Text.
1. The Perfecutors of the Monitors and Reprovers, who, like fierce Dogs, (when we would beat them from Carrion) grin and threaten, and
at last, if we come too near them, are ready to flee upon us, and tear us to pieces.
2. They who blafpheme and rail against our pious Admonitions, expose, ridicule, and contemn them, and wallow more and more in the Mire of their Sins and Follies.
As to the first of those Persons, the fierce Dog, who is enraged at Admonition and Reproof, there is a great deal of Reason why he ought not to be troubled with it, it not being God's Design to expose good People needlessly, where there is no manner of Hope that their Pains or Sufferings will do any good. Precious in the Sight of the Lord, is the Death of bis Saints ; and therefore it is not to be supposed, that he is for throwing away their Lives needlessly for no manner of Benefit. And besides, a Person of that fierce Temper towards those who would perform that charitable Office of fraternal Admonition, is in no manner of right Disposition for receiving Benefit from it. For all who would benefit by the Word of God, either publickly preached, or privately applied, must receive it in Meekness, Jam. i. 21. A Temper directly contrary to that of Rage and Fierceness, described by that of the Dog in the Text.
And as to the second Sort of Persons here described, the Swine, wallowing in Uncleanness, and if you take never so much Pains to wash them, who love still to swallow more and more in Filthiness; it is to as little Purpose to spend Admonitions and Reproofs upon them; for they are obstinate and incorrigible in their evil Ways; and the more Pains is taken upon them, there is only so much more Contempt thrown upon facred Things,
and the Persons admonished and reproved, only have their Sins so much the more aggravated in the Sight of God, and give so much a more scandalous Example to the World.
III. The third Thing I am to consider, is the Danger of not complying with this Prohibition, from these Words ; left they trample them under their Feet, and turn again and rent you. If we will not then comply with this Advice, we are here told the Danger we incur by our Imprudence.
1. The Danger of having all our good Admonitions trampled upon.
2. Then the Danger of being persecuted our selves by those Scoffers at holy Things.
The first is the greatest Danger, the Contempt of all sacred Admonitions, expressed here by the trampling them under the Feet of these lewd Men. The Expression is métaphorical ; but how many of the evil Consequences may fall under it, is not easy to account for, Contempt alone being generally reckoned as the Heighth of Disobedience. Though a Man, who is strongly under the Power of evil Habits, cannot presently Thake them off, and get rid of them ; yet if he has a. Respect for the Truth, and an Honour for the Persons who administer it, and when he hears it, hears it meekly ; there is great Hopes that these good Beginnings, if duly cultivated, will be blessed with a suitable Progress, and at last crowned with an happy Conclusion. But where the Truths of God, instead of Honour and Respect, meet with Hatred and Contempt, fuch Perfons are then in the Condition of a Patient