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SERM. stantial goodness, profitable to men; conducible to LXIV.
our own welfare, and to the benefit of others.
As gallant actions, becoming a noble rank, elevated above the vulgar level, do illustrate and dignify nobility itself; so doth a worthy conversation, beseeming our high station in the heavenly kingdom, our near alliances to God, those splendid titles and glorious privileges assigned to every faithful Christian in the evangelical charter, render our state admirable, and make it seem an excellent advantage to be a Christian.
Hence in the apostolical writings an observance of the evangelical laws is so much and often enforced by this consideration; for upon this account we are
exhorted to a careful discharge of our duty, that Tit. ii. 10. we may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in Phil. i. 27. all things; we are urged to have our conversation Eph. iv. 1.
worthy of the gospel; to walk worthy of the voca
tion wherewith we are called, to behave ourselves Rom. xvi. as worthily becometh saints, (that is, persons insti
tuted in so holy a religion, and designed to so pecuEph. v. 8. liar excellency in virtue ;) to walk as children of
the light, (that is, of truth and knowledge revealed 1 Thess. ii. from heaven ;) to walk worthy of God, who hath Col. i. 10. called us unto his kingdom and glory; worthy of
the Lord unto all well-pleasing, being fruitful in every good work; the which enforcements of duty do imply a visible practice, producing the visible effects of ornament and credit to our religion, recommending it to the minds and consciences of
Contrariwise, the defect of good conversation before men in Christians is upon divers accounts disgraceful to our religion. For
It tempteth men to judge, that we ourselves do SERM. not heartily believe its truth or value its worth ;
LXIV. that we do not approve its doctrine for reasonable, or take its advantages for considerable; or deem the name and state of a Christian to be honourable; seeing we are not concerned to own them, or do not care to engage our reputation in avowing and abetting them in that way which doth best signify our mind and meaning 8: for men certainly will judge of our sense not so much by what we say as from what we do; not by our verbal profession or pretence, but from our practice, as the surest indication of our heart.
Wherefore when they hear us to confess our faith, and see us act like infidels, they will be forced to esteem us either for subdolous hypocrites or for inconsistent fools; who assume the name of Christians, and pretend to great advantages thence, yet in effect do not mind or regard them; highly commending the rules of our religion, but not at all observing them; greatly admiring the example of our Saviour, but not caring to imitate it; describing heaven for a most happy place, but not striving to get thither in the sole way which our Lord prescribeth, of faithful and diligent obedience to his precepts.
Seeing, I say, this repugnance between our profession and our practice will induce men to charge us with hypocrisy or folly; and if the professors be taken for counterfeits or fools, the profession itself will hardly scape from being held imposture or folly.
Our religion at least will thence be exposed to the censures of being no better than a fond device,
8 Ει δέ τις ελεγχθη πράξας τι άνομον, ο τοιούτος ου μόνον εαυτόν έβλαψεν, αλλά και βλασφημίαν προσέτριψε τη εκκλησία. Const. Αp. ii. 8.
SERM. and a barren notion, unpracticable, ineffectual, and LXIV. insignificant to any good purpose.
The visible misbehaviour, I say, of Christians will assuredly derive obloquy and reproach on Christianity, if not as bad, yet as vain, impotent, impertinent, and useless; especially those who are disaffected to it will hence take advantage to insult upon it with contemptuous scorn; To what, will they say, do your fine rules serve? what effects do your glorious hopes produce? where are the fruits of that holy faith and heavenly doctrine which you so extol and magnify?
Whereas also bad conversation commonly doth not only deprive men of the benefits which our religion promiseth, but doth carry with it hurtful fruits; men that see or feel them will be apt to impute them to religion.
If a Christian be unjust, censorious, factious, anywise offensive or troublesome, although irreligion be the cause of such things, yet religion must bear the blame, and they presently exclaim,
Quantum religio potuit suadere malorum. Whence St. Paul (who as a powerful instructor doth impress matters of duty by the most proper
motives) doth often and upon all occasions urge this 2 Cor. vi. 3. consideration; he chargeth us to give no offence in μηθή. . any thing, that the ministry (or evangelical dis
pensation) be not blamed, or exposed to the censure of any captious Momus; he biddeth us to forbear
harsh judgment and all uncharitable dealing, that Rom. xiv. our good be not evil spoken of; he presseth the
discharge of our duty in each calling and relation,
that by neglect thereof the gospel be not defamed: 1 Tim. vi. 1. Let, saith he, as many servants as are under the
"Iva in pw
yoke, count their own masters worthy of all ho- SERM. nour, that the name of God and his doctrine be LXIV. not blasphemed; and, Let women be discreet, Tit. ii. 5. chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed; and, I will that younger women marry, 1 Tim. v. bear children, guide the house, (so as) to give no occasion to the adversary (that is, to persons disaffected to Christianity) to speak reproachfully (of it): which discourse, by clear parity of reason, may be applied to any other state or relation.
Now seriously what greater mischief can we do, what heavier guilt may we contract, than by working dishonour to God's adorable name, than by casting reproach on God's heavenly truth, than by drawing a scandal on that holy religion, which the Son of God came down from heaven to establish, for the glory of God and salvation of mankind ? Surely next after directly blaspheming God, and defying religion with our own mouths, the next crime is to Rom. ii. 24.
δι' υμάς. . make others to do so, or in effect to do it by their profane tongues.
There remain divers arguments of very great moment, which the time will not suffer me to urge; and therefore I must reserve them to another occasion.
PROVIDE THINGS HONEST IN THE SIGHT OF
Rom. xii. 17.
Provide things honest in the sight of all men. SERM. I HAVE formerly discoursed upon this apostolical LXV.
precept; and having declared the meaning of it, (briefly importing that we should have a special care of our external behaviour, coming under the view and observation of men, that it be perfectly innocent and inculpable,) I did propose divers motives inducing to the observance of it; but divers others of great importance the time would not allow me to urge; I shall therefore now proceed to offer them to your consideration.
I did then shew that a regard to the reason and nature of things, to the satisfaction of our conscience, to the honour of God, and to the credit of our religion, did require from us a good conversation before men; I now further add, that,
I. The real interest of piety and virtue do exact such a conversation, as the most effectual way holding, advancing, and propagating them among
Example is a very powerful thing either way, both for attraction to good and seduction to evil; such is