« הקודםהמשך »
religion, are full as zealous to bring over proselytes, as any papist or fanatick can be. And, therefore, if those who are in station high enough to be of influence or example to others; if those (I say) openly profess a contempt or disbelief of religion, they will be sure to make all their dependents of their own principles ; and what security can the publick expect from such persons, whenever their interests, or their lusts, come into competition with their duty ? It is very possible for a man, who hath the appearance of religion, and is a great pretender to conscience, to be wicked and a hypocrite ; but it is impossible for a man, who openly declares against religion, to give any reasonable security that he will not be false, and cruel, and corrupt, whenever a temptation offers, which he values more than he does the power wherewith he was trusted. And if such a man doth not betray his cause and his master, it is only because the temptation was not properly offered, or the profit was too small, or the danger was too great. And hence it is, that we find so little truth or justice among us : because there are so very few, who, either in the service of the publick, or in common dealings with each other, do ever look farther than their own advantage, and how to guard themselves against the laws of the country; which a man may do by favour, by secrecy, or by cunning, though he breaks almost every law of God.
Therefore, to conclude: It plainly appears, that unless men are guided by the advice and judgment of conscience founded on religion, they can give no security that they will be either good subjects, faithful servants of the publick, or honest in their
mutual dealings; since there is no other tie, through which the pride, or lust, or avarice, or ambition of mankind, will not certainly break one time or other.
Consider what has been said, &c.
HEB. xiii. 1.
Let brotherly love continue. In the early times of the Gospel, the Christians were very much distinguished from all other bodies of men, by the great and constant love they bore to each other ; which, although it was done in obedience to the frequent injunctions of our Saviour and his apostles, yet, I confess, there seemeth to have been likewise a natural reason, that very much promoted it. For the Christians then were few and scattered, living under persecution by the heathens round about them, in whose hands was all the civil and military power; and there is nothing so apt to unite the minds and hearts of men, or to beget love and tenderness, as a general distress. The first dissensions between Christians took their beginning from the errours and heresies that arose among them; many of those heresies, sometimes extinguished, and sometimes reviving, or succeeded by others, remain to this day; and having been made instruments to the pride, avarice, or ambition of ill-designing men, by extinguishing brotherly love, have been the cause of infinite calamities, as well as corruptions of faith and manners, in the Christian world.
The last legacy of Christ was peace and mutual love; but then he foretold, that he came to send a sword upon the earth: the primitive Christians accepted the legacy, and their successors down to the present age have been largely fulfilling his prophecy, But whatever the practice of mankind hath been, or still continues, there is no duty more incumbent upon those who profess the Gospel, than that of brotherly love; which whoever could restore in any degree among men, would be an instrument of more good to human society, than ever was, or will be done by all the statesmen and politicians in the world.
It is upon this subject of brotherly love, that I intend to discourse at present, and the method I observe shall be as follows:
I. First, I will inquire into the causes of this great
want of brotherly love among us.
II. Secondly, I will lay open the sad effects and con
sequences, which our animosities and mutual hatred have produced.
III. Lastly, I will use some motives and exhortations,
that may persuade you to embrace brotherly love, and continue in it.
I. First, I shall enquire into the causes of this great want of brotherly love among us.
This nation of ours hath, for a hundred years past, been infested by two enemies, the papists and fanaticks : who, each in their turns, filled it with blood
and slaughter, and, for a time, destroyed both the church and government. The memory of these events hath put all true protestants, equally upon their guard against both these adversaries, who, by consequence, do equally hate us.
The fanaticks revile us, as too nearly approaching to popery; and the papists condemn us as bordering too much on fanaticism. The papists, God be praised, are, by the wisdom of our laws, put out of all visible possibility of hurting us; besides, their religion is so generally abhorred, that they have no advocates or abettors among protestants to assist them. But the fanaticks are to be considered in another light; they have had, of late years, the power, the luck, or the cunning, to divide us among ourselves; they have endeavoured to represent all those who have been so bold as to oppose their errours and designs, under the character of persons disaffected to the government; and they have so far succeeded, that nowadays, if a clergyman happens to preach with any zeal and vehemence against the sin and danger of schism, there will not want too many, in his congregation, ready enough to censure him as hot and high-flying, an inflamer of men's minds, an enemy to moderation, and disloyal to his prince. This hath produced a formed and settled division between those who profess the same doctrine and discipline ; while they who call themselves moderate, are forced to widen their bottom, by sacrificing their principles and their brethren, to the incroachments and insolence of dissenters; who are therefore answerable, as a principal cause of all that hatred and animosity now reigning among us. Another cause of the great want of brotherly love,