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Matt. v. 14.
SERM. advantage, whereby the beneficial efficacy of good LXV.
conversation is increased.
Such persons are like a city seated on a mountain, which cannot be hid; the height of their station and lustre of their quality do expose them to the observation of all; and their authority doth recommend their practice to the imitation of observ
Their example cannot fail of having a mighty influence; its light doth guide men, its weight doth sway them; it doth seem to warrant and authorize practice; inferiors would be afraid or ashamed to discost from it.
They have not the temptations which other men have to comply with sin out of fear, out of complaisance, out of design ; they being to lead and give law, not to follow or receive it; they being the first movers in conversation; the fashion being regulated by them, or indeed being merely a conformity to
their deportment. Copst. A
They should by their innocence qualify thempost. ii. 17.
selves to reprove others with authority and courage.
They in gratitude to God, who hath bestowed on them such advantages, are obliged to employ them for his service.
They particularly were designed and endowed Rom. xiii. with those advantages, that by them they might 3–6. 1 Pet. ii. 14. countenance, might encourage, might reward, might
by all means promote goodness in the world.
They accordingly are responsible for the influence their conversation hath; so that in the final account most actions of men will lie at their door, so that they shall respectively be either highly rewarded
for the virtues and good works, or severely punished SERM. for the vices and sins of mankind: the which most LXV. weighty consideration I leave by God's grace to be seriously applied by them who are concerned therein.
PROVIDE THINGS HONEST IN THE SIGHT OF
2 Cor. viii. 21.
Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the
Lord, but also in the sight of men. SERM. IF
F we observe the world, we may easily therein LXVI. discern many persons, who being inwardly well dis
posed (standing right both in judgment and affection to goodness) are yet loath to appear very good, and hardly will own Christian virtue in the constant discharge of public duties, or in strict abstinence from sinful practices; but commonly (against the dictate of their reason, and sense of their heart) neglect the one, and comply with the other : an odd sort of hypocrites or dissemblers; who studiously conceal their better part, and counterfeit themselves worse than they are; who adore God in their hearts, and address devotions to him in their closets, but scarce will avow him in their visible profession and practice; who have a conscience, but are shy of disclosing it, or letting it take air, and walk in open light, confining it as a criminal to close restraint or obscure retirement; who gladly would be religious and staunch, if there might be no notice taken of it, but take care of being remarkable (or as it were scan
dalous) for it; who think fit to compromise and SERM. compound the business between God and the world,
LXVI. maintaining a neutrality and correspondence with both, so as privately to court the one and publicly to close with the other.
Such practice is flatly repugnant to that rule, Rom. xii. which otherwhere in precept, and here by his own Eváriov ávexample, the holy apostle doth recommend to us;
θρώπων. . directing us not only before God, (that is, in our heart, and in our secret retirements, which God alone doth behold,) but also before men, that is, in our external and visible conversation, carefully to perform things good and laudable, eschewing whatever is bad or culpable.
Our obligation to which rule hath already been confirmed by divers other precepts in holy scripture, concurring in the injunction of it; and its observance urged by various positive considerations of great weight and force, (declaring how necessary it is for promoting God's honour and glory, how requisite it is for maintaining the dignity of our profession, and advancing the interests of goodness, how charity and justice toward our neighbour do exact it from us, how conducible it is to the public benefit of mankind, and how advantageous in many respects to our own particular welfare;) and not insisting further upon those considerations, I shall now only enforce it by scanning the common principles, grounds, motives, pretences or excuses of the contrary practice, which I before touched, of openly deserting virtue, or declining the performance of duty before men; and by shewing how very foolish and vain, how very naughty and base, how very mischievous, dangerous, and pernicious they are.
SERM. They chiefly are those which I shall immediately LXVI. touch and reflect upon.
1. Men commonly in their visible conversation do neglect their duty, or comply with sin out of modesty; because they are ashamed of doing that which may expose them to some disgrace or censure; because virtuous practice may raise distaste in the company, and provoke the scorn of those with whom they converse; because such a point of duty
is out of request, and slighted in the world; they Jer. i. 8. are afraid of men's faces; their tender forehead
cannot sustain derision, or endure to be flouted for being out of the mode, and wearing an uncouth garb of conscience.
But this plainly is a perverse and unmanly modesty; a fond, a vile, a shameful shame: fie on it! should any man be ashamed of that, which is his chief beauty, his best ornament, his sole dignity and glory? should a man be ashamed of being evidently wise in his conduct, of following his reason, of consulting his true interest, of pursuing his own certain welfare and felicity ? is it fit that any man should be ashamed of paying due acknowledgment, of yielding due reverence, of rendering due gratitude, of performing due service to his Creator, sovereign Lord, and great Benefactor; to whom he oweth all, upon whose will he entirely dependeth, at whose absolute disposal he is ? Surely these are no shameful things, but such rather wherein we ought to have the greatest confidence, which we ought to perform with the greatest assurance.
If we are bashful, let us be so in regard to things which are truly shameful; let us be ashamed of sin, that is, of our most real deformity, our turpitude,