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SERM. goodness; for he that hath the heart with resolution and LXV.
constancy to do well, notwithstanding any worldly discouragement, although he thereby doth cross the humour of the world, and incurreth the displeasure, envy, hatred, censure, and obloquy of men, he thus having exalted his virtue above the favour and fear of the world, hath set it in a safe place, hath rendered it impregnable.
The consideration of having attained so happy and so
worthy a victory over the most dangerous temptations (the 1 John v.1. victory of faith over the world) will be very comfortable;
and the sufferings which (from the disfavour, enmity, and opposition of men) do attend such a practice, being a kind of martyrdom, will yield all the joys and comforts (together with the hopes and rewards) of an heroical patience.
It will afford great satisfaction of mind to reflect on the consequences of such a practice; and to consider that our resolution hath engaged or confirmed others in goodness, hath preserved them from sin, hath withdrawn them from bad courses, and saved them from perdition ; that we have been instrumental to the salvation and happiness of any soul; that, beside our own sins, (which are a burden too heavy for any man well to bear, we have not the sins of others to account for, and shall not be loaded with the guilt of those whom our neglect of duty, our compliance with sin, our stupid coldness and indifference in regard to spiritual affairs, our dissimulation or connivance at the scandalous vio lation of God's honour and transgression of his laws, might
have encouraged in sin; that we are not liable to that reFizek. xlii. proof in the Prophet, Ye have strengthened the hands of the
wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way.
We shall highly oblige those whom by our good endeavour or example we shall convert to righteousness, or reclaim from iniquity, or shall anywise stop in their career
to ruin ; who when they shall recover from their error, 2 Tim. ii. and soberly reflect on their case, (when they shall åvavý. 26.
osv, become again sober, getting out, as it were, of their drunken fit,) will heartily thank us, will bless us, will pray for us, as having laid on them a very great obliga
23. xxvii. 6.
tion, and done them the greatest kindness that could be; SERM. so that they will be ready to say to us, as David did to LXV. Abigail, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who sent thee i Sam. XXV. this day to meet me: and blessed be thy advice, and blessed 32. be thou, which hast kept me this day from shedding of blood ; this will be the consequence of plain dealing in such cases, and that will be fulfilled which the Wise Man saith, He Prov.xxviib that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour six. 25. than he that flattereth with the tongue.
We thereby shall escape the sore complaints and fell curses of those whom our naughty or careless demeanour hath involved in sinful practice; for when their conscience is awakened into a sense of their guilt, when they feel the stings of remorse, when they perceive the extreme damage and woe which they have incurred, then will they discharge their resentments of heart against those who have anywise been accessary to their fall into such a condition; then in their bitterness of soul, in the agony of their sorrow and perplexity, they will be apt to exclaim, Cursed be the day that I knew such an one, or that I did converse with him, who did betray me into this plight, who did inveigle me into temptation, who did not pluck me back from that sinful practice by which I now so deeply suffer; cursed be his base cowardice, his fond modesty, his affected wisdom, his treacherous negligence, his unconscionable indifference, his impious want of zeal for God's honour and charity for my soul, which did keep him from checking me in my bad courses and reclaiming me to my duty by wholesome reproof, by seasonable advice, by exemplary practice before me; it will surely be a great comfort to us, that we have not giveni occasion for such complaints; but in proportion may say with St. Paul, I am pure from the blood of all men ; for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
It is also no small advantage to us, that by a good con- 17.xxxiii. 7. versation we shall procure the particular friendship and affection of good men; for it is that which discovereth good men to one another, which kindleth their affection toward each other, which draweth them together, and breedeth
Acts XX. 26. Ezek. vii.
Matt. v. 14.
SERM. a familiarity between them, and knitteth their hearts toLXV.
-gether in a holy love; from whence they come to enjoy the faithful advice, the kind assistance, the seasonable consolations, and the hearty prayers each of other ; the which great benefits are lost by concealment of ourselves, and reservedness in doing good; for how can any man know him to deserve love, whose goodness is not discernible ?
Such considerations may induce all persons, of every rank and condition, to observe this apostolical precept, so far as their capacities do reach ; I shall only adjoin, that it especially doth concern persons of quality, in proportion to their eminency in dignity, power, authority, reputation, or any peculiar advantage, whereby the beneficial efficacy of good 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 observers.
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 authorise 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.
They should by their innocence qualify themselves to post. ii. 17. 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 with Rom. xiii. those advantages, that by them they might 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 SERM. actions of men will lie at their door, so that they shall re- LXV. spectively be either highly rewarded for the virtues and good works, or severely punished for the vices and sins of mankind: the which most 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 ALL
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 we observe the world, we may easily therein discern LXVI. many persons, who being inwardly well disposed (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 Jetting 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 scandalous) for it; who think fit to compromise and compound the business between God and the world, maintaining a neutrality and correspondence with both, so as privately to court the one, and publicly to close with the other.