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Good Company, Good Government of our Pasfions, and the like. And particular Means fitted for the acquiring of every particular Virtue ; and perhaps adapted to our particular Occasions and Circumstances. The Manner too, with some Pain and Violence to ourselves, is here pointed at, in the Words, pulling out, cutting off, and casting from
And so I come now to the · 3. Third and last Thing I proposed to consider from the Words, namely, the Danger of Suffering any Member to go on in being an Instrument of Sin : For it is profitable for thee that one of thy Members should perish, and not that thy whole Body fhould be cast into Hell. By this we see the vast Consequence of governing all our Members, fo as that none of them may prove an Occasion of Sin. It is amazing and dreadful to think how easy and imperceptible almost the Beginnings of Sin are, but how fatal the End of it: It begins with a Glance of the Eye, a Touch of the Hand, a Sound of the Ear, a Word of the Tongue, a Motion or Dance of the Feet, an idle Visit, or some fuch thing: It proceeds to a sinful Delight, and then to actual Wickedness : From fingle Acts of which it
goes on to an Habit or Custom, till the whole Soul is polluted. This bad Disposition of the Soul prevents the Influence of good Exhortations, and all the Means of Grace; or if they have any Operation, it goes no farther than fome feeble Resolutions of Amendment, and these perhaps at some distant Time, which the Force of the evil Habit doth easily break through and dissipate; fo that the Man is fast bound in the Fetters of his evil Customs, till Death feizes him, before he has repented and amended. And as Death feizes him,
so Judgment finds him, and commits him to Hell Torments, from which there is no Redemption, So that from the first to the last; a very small matter of Care in the Beginning, the restraining the Extravagancy of a Thought, the Keeping the Eye from fixing on a dangerous Object, the Keeping off of our Hands, or the declining a Visit; in short a little Good Government of the Senses and Members, might have prevented a whole Eternity of Misery in Hell. But the Mischief is, tho' all this is very Natural, the Devil doth so blind Mens Understandings, that they will not perceive or believe it, till it is too late : and then they would give a thousand Worlds, if they had them, to have their Life to begin again, that they might become New Men and Women. We may' tell you over and over, till we are weary, that this Infidelity will be your Ruin; but at the same time may complain with the Prophet, Who hath believed our Report? O Mortify in time your unruly Members, and indulge them not in finful Courses ; better to suffer the pain of a little Self-Denial now, than to suffer one Sin, which will certainly spread like a Gangrene, and at last, if not cut off in time, infect both Soul and Body, that they will be good for nothing but to be cast into Hell. Thus now we fee what Abundant Care our Saviour has taken to stop up all the Doors and Windows, and Avenues, and Flood-Gates by which Sin enters. To Some, this Restraint upon the Eyes and Hands, and the former upon the Heart and Thoughts, may seem severe. But if ye consider the Matter right, ye will find it quite otherwise ; it being much easier to keep out Sin, particularly the Sins pf Uncleanness, of which our Saviour was here
treating, from the Heart, and Eyes, and Hands, than indulging them there, to refrain from the outward gross Acts of Fornication and Adultery. It is eafier to abstain altogether, than beginning any Sin, not to go on to the Finishing of it. So much for the first Sense of the Words I mentioned. The other two I must reserve to another Opportunity. I shall conclude with the Words of St Paul to the Coloffans: (a) Mortify therefore your Members which are upon the Earth, Fornication, Uncleanness, inordinate Affection, evil Concupiscence, and Covetousness, which is Idolatry; for which things fake, the Wrath of God cometh on the Children of Difobedience.
He that hath Ears to hear, let him hear.
Now to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be all Praise, Honour, and Glory, Might, Power, and Dominion, for ever and ever.
(a) Col. iii. 5.
S E R M O N XX.
MATT. V. 29.
cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee
. Ver. 30. And if thy right Hand offend thee, cut it
off, and cast it from thee : for it is profitable for thee that one of thy Members should Perish, and not that thy whole Body should be caft into Hell.
The Second Sermon on this Text.
N a former Discourse on these Words, I shewed
you that the chief Purport and Design of them, is to cut off all the Occasions of Sin, particularly the Sins of Uncleanness, of which our Saviour had been treating immediately before. This Advice he wraps up in a figurative Expression, borrowed from that Operation of Surgery, whereby we take off gangren’d Members, that the Contagion of them
may not further spread to infect the whole Body. This in general is the Purport of the Words ; but what particular Advices are aimed at under this general Exhortation, Interpreters are not so fully agreed. Without troubling you
with any Opinions of the Probability of which I am not mytelf well satisfied; there were three Things I told you might very naturally fall under this general Advice; namely,
1. The curbing our Curiosity and evil Inclinations, as to the use of our bodily Members ; the restraining, mortifying, and governing of them, that they should not act but by the superiour Direction of our Reason and Conscience.
2. The abandoning the Friendship and Conversation of such beloved Persons, and the Use of such beloved Things (though ever so dear and necessary, like a Right Eye, or a Right Hand) as betray us into sinful Courses.
3. The cutting off our Affection to all darling predominant Sins, which we love as well as a Right Eye, or a Right Hand.
Now having spoke to the first of these, the denying our felves as to the Use of the Members of our Bodies, whenever they would lead us into sinful Courses, I proceed now 'to the other Two Things meant by pulling out of the Right Eye, and cutting off of the Right Hand.
II. The second Thing then I told you might be meant by these Words, and which is likewise a cutting off the Occasions of Sin, was, that if any Person or any Thing, as dear to us as an Eye or a Hand, even a right Eye, or right Hand, should prove the Occasion of our falling into any sinful Course, that we should abandon the Friendship, Conversation or Enjoyment of such Persons or Things.
1. To begin with the Persons; there are many ways they may prove to us the Causes or Occafions of Sin; and many ways too they are to be cut off or laid aside ; for one general Rule will not