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Were not any government appointed in vain, if such SERM. pretences might exempt or excuse from conformity to its LVIII. orders ? Can such ever be wanting ? Is there any thing de- Punerous de viseable, which may not be impugned by some plausible vos š acista, reason, which may not disgust a squeamish humour? Is múzen. Social there any matter so clearly innocent, the lawfulness where Ilist.vii. 13. of a weak mind will not question; any thing so firm and solid, in which a small acuteness of wit cannot pick a hole; any thing so indisputably certain, that whoever affecteth to cavil may not easily devise some objections against it?

Is there any thing here that hath no inconveniences attending it ? are not in all human things conveniences and inconveniences so mixed and complicated, that it is impossible to disentangle and sever them ; can there be any constitution under heaven so absolutely pure and perfect, that no blemish or defect shall appear therein ? can any providence of man foresee, any care prevent, any industry remedy all inconveniences'possible ? Is a reformation satisfactory to all fancies anywise practicable ; and are they not fitter to live in the Platonic idea of a commonwealth than in any real society, who press for such an one ? To be facile and complaisant in other cases, bearing with things which do not please us, is esteemed commendable, a courteous and humane practice : why should it not be much more reasonable to condescend to our superiors, and comport with their practice ? is it not very discourteous to deny them the respect which we allow to others, or to refuse that advantage to public transactions which we think fit to grant unto private conversation ?

To what purpose did God institute a government, if the resolutions thereof must be suspended till every man is satisfied with them; or if its state must be altered so often as any man can pick in it matter of offence or dislike; or if the proceedings thereof must be shaped according to the numberless varieties of different and repugnant fancies b?

• Ου γαρ μόνον την αρίσης (πολιτείας) δε θεωρείν, αλλά και την δυνατήν. Αrist. Pol. iv. 1.

Si ubi jubeantur quærere singulis liceat; pereunte obsequio etiam imperium intercidit. Tac. I. p. 450. Otho.

SERM. Are, I pray, the objections against obedience so clear LVIII. and cogent, as are the commands which enjoin, and the rea

sons which enforce it? are the inconveniences adhering to it apparently so grievous, as are the mischiefs which spring from disobedience ? do they in a just balance counterpoise the disparagement of authority, the violation of order, the disturbance of peace, the obstruction of edification, which disobedienee produceth ?

Do the scruples (or reasons, if we will call them so) which we propound, amount to such a strength and evidence, as to outweigh the judgment of those whom God hath authorized by his commission, whom he doth enable by his grace, to instruct and guide us c? May not those, whose office it is to judge of such things, whose business it is to study for skill in order to that purpose, who have most experience in those affairs specially belonging to them, be reasonably deemed most able to judge both for themselves and us what is lawful, and what expedient ? have they not eyes to see what we do, and hearts to judge concerning the force of our pretences, as well as we?

Is it not a design of their office to resolve our doubts Qui fidei et veritati and void our scruples in such cases, that we may act Cypr. Ep. securely and quietly, being directed by better judgments

than our own ? Are they not strictly obliged in conscience, are they not deeply engaged by interest, to govern us in the best manner ? Is it therefore wisdom, is it modesty, is it justice for us to advance our private conceits against their most deliberate public resolutions ? may we not in so doing mistake ? may we not be blind or weak, (not to say fond, or proud, or perverse ?) and shall those defects or defaults of ours evacuate so many commands of God, and render his so noble, so needful an ordinance quite insignificant ?

Do we especially seem to be in earnest, or appear other

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• Dixisti sane scrupulum tibi ess: tollendum de animo, in quem incidisti ; Incidisti sed tua credulitate irreligiosa, &c. Cypr. Ep. 69. (ad Florent.) vid optime et appotsic de hac re disserentem.

wise than illusively to palliate our naughty affections and SERM. sinister respects, when we ground the justification of our LVIII. nonconformity upon dark subtilties and intricate quirks; which it is hard to conceive that we understand ourselves, and whereof very perspicacious men cannot apprehend the force ? Do we think we shall be innocent men, because we are smart sophisters? or that God will excuse from our duty, because we can perplex men with our discourses ? or that we are bound to do nothing, because we are able to say somewhat against all things ?

Would we not do well to consider what huge danger they incur, and how massy a load of guilt they must undergo, upon whom shall be charged all those sad disorders and horrid mischiefs which are naturally consequent on disobedience? What if confusion of things, if corruption of manners, if oppression of truth, if dissolution of the Church do thence ensue; what a case then shall we be in, who confer so much thereto? Would not such considerations be apl to beget scruples far more disquieting an honest and truly conscientious mind, than any such either profound subtilties or superficial plausibilities can do, which dissenters are wont to allege ? For needeth he not to have extreme reason (reason extremely strong and evident) who dareth to refuse that obedience which God so plainly commandeth; by which his own authority is maintained ; on which the safety, prosperity, and peace of the church dependeth ; in which the support of religion, and the welfare of numberless souls is deeply concerned ?

Did, let me farther ask, the Apostles, when they settled orders in the church, when they imposed what they conceived needful for edification and decency, when they inflicted spiritual chastisements upon disorderly walkers, regard such pretences ? or had those self-conceited and selfwilled people (who obeyed not their words, but resisted and 2 Tim. iy. rejected them) no such pretences ? had they nothing, think 1 Tim. i. we, to say for themselves, nothing to object against the 20. apostolic orders and proceedings? They had surely; they 14, 6.

2 Thess. iii. failed not to find faults in the establishment, and to pretend

SERM. a kind of tender conscience for their disobedience ; yet this LVIII. hindered not, but that the Apostles condemned their mis

behaviour and inflicted severe censures upon them?

Did not also the primitive bishops (and all spiritual governors down from the beginning every where almost to these days of contention and disorder) proceed in the same course ; not fearing to enact such laws concerning indifferent matters and circumstances of religion, as seemed to them conducible to the good of the Church? Did not all good people readily comply with their orders, how painful soever, or disagreeable toflesh and blood, without contest or scruple? yet had not they as much wit, and no less conscience than ourselves? They who had wisdom enough to descry the truth of our religion through all the clouds of obloquy and disgrace, which it lay under: who had zeal and constancy to bear the hardest brunts of persecution against it; were they such fools as to see no fault, so stupid as to resent nothing, or so loose as to comply with any thing ? No surely; they were in truth so wise as to know their duty, and so honest as to observe it.

If these considerations will not satisfy, I have done ; and proceed to the next point of our duty, to which the precept in our text may extend, concerning the doctrine of our guides: in which respect it may be conceived to imply the following particulars to be performed by us, as instances, or parts, or degrees thereof.

1. We should readily and gladly address ourselves to hear them ; not out of profane and wilful contempt or slothful negligence declining to attend upon their instruc

tions; there were of old those, of whom the Prophets Neh. ix. 29. complain, who would not so much as hearken to the words Prov. i. 24. of those whom God sent unto them ; but stopped their

ears, withdrew the shoulder, and hardened the neck, and would not hear : there were those in the evangelical times,

who did anwây còn náryov, thrust away the word of God, Matt. x. 14. judging themselves unworthy of eternal life; who would not

admit or hear the word of life, and overtures of grace proLuke viii. pounded by the Apostles: there were Gadarenes, who be

Is. lxv. 12.
lxvi. 4.
Jer. vii. 13.
vi. 10.
Acts xiii.
46.

secched our Lord himself to depart from their coasts: there

37.

have always been deaf adders, who stop their ears to the SERM. voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely; no wonder LVIII. then if now there be those who will not so much as allow a Psal. Iviïi. hearing to the messengers of God, and the guides of their 4, 5. soul: some out of a factious prejudice against their office, or their persons, or their way, do shun them, giving themselves over to the conduct of seducers; some out of a profane neglect of all religion, out of being wholly possessed with worldly cares and desires, out of stupidity and sloth, (indisposing them to mind any thing that is serious,) will not afford them any regard: all these are extremely blameable, offensive to God, and injurious to themselves. It is a heinous affront to God (implying an hostile disposition toward him, an unwillingness to have any correspondence with him) to refuse so much as audience to his ambassadors; it is an interpretative repulsing him; so of old he expressed it; I, saith he, spake unto you, rising early and speaking, Jer. vii. 13. but ye heard not ; I called

you,

but
ye

answered not : so under the Gospel; He, saith our Lord, that heareth you, Luke x. 16. heareth me ; and he that despiseth (or regardeth not) you despiseth me; and, We are ambassadors of Christ, as though 2 Cor. v.20. God did beseech you by us ; we pray you in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God. It is a starving our souls, depriving them of that food which God hath provided for them ; it is keeping ourselves at distance from any means or possibility of being well informed and quickened to the practice of our duty, of being reclaimed from our errors and sins: it is the way to become hardened in iinpiety, or sinking into a reprobate sense.

This is the first step to obedience; for how can we believe, except. we hear ? this is that which St. James urgeth, Let every man be quick to hear; and which St. Pe Jam. i. 19. ter thus enjoineth, Like new-born babes, desire the sincere 1 Pet. ii. 2. milk of the word that ye may grow thereby : we should especially be quick and ready to hear those whom God hath authorised and appointed to speak ; we should desire to suck the milk of the word from those who are our spiritual parents and nurses.

2. We should hear them with serious, earnest attention

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