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censure; looking on them as vassals to their humor, and renegadoes from their own conscience.
Moreover a good conversation certainly will engage Almighty God to protect our reputation, and to confer honor on us. For he as governor of the world, the patron of goodness, the dispenser of proper rewards to all, is in a manner bound to encourage those openly who visibly do own him and take his part, who promote his glory and interest, who pay him due service and obedience, who in regard to his authority do faithfully pursue that which is right and good; he surely will see fit to repay such in the same kind, by openly acknowleging, countenancing, and honoring them : accordingly he hath tied himself to do so by his express word and promise; for, • Them,' saith he, that honor me, I will honor; and they that despise me, shall be lightly esteemed :' he said it in reference to old Eli, who had neglected the duty of restraining his sons' from sin ; which is a case very much of kin to all neglect of exemplary piety. And, Whosoever,' saith our Lord, shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God; but he that denieth me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God:' the which (one most comfortable, the other most terrible) sentences are to be understood, He that confesseth our Lord not merely by verbal profession, (for divers such who say, Lord, Lord,' he will not so much as know at the final judgment,) but in real practice ; he that denieth him, not only by renouncing him with the tongue, but by disobeying him in scandalous conversation, by working iniquity, by the apostacy of bad manners.
VI. Lastly; The public discharge of a good conscience will yielà manifold advantages and great benefits to ourselves; not only as good (and thence needful to our salvation and our comfort) but as public; some of which I shall touch.
Such a practice will much secure and strengthen us in goodness; for he that hath the heart with resolution and constancy to do well, notwithstanding any worldly discouragement, although he thereby doth cross the humor of the world, and incurreth the displeasure, envy, hatred, censure, and obloquy of men, he thus having exalted his virtue above the favor 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 victory of faith over the world) will be very comfortable; and the sufferings which (from the disfavor, 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 violation of God's honor and transgression of his laws, might have encouraged in sin; that we are not liable to that reproof 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 endeavor 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, and soberly reflect on their case, (when they shall ávavúpeuv, 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 obligation, and done them the greatest kindness that could be ; so that they will be ready to say to us, as David did to Abigail, · Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who sent thee this day to meet me: and blessed be thy advice, and blessed 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 that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favor than he that flattereth with the tongue.'
We thereby shall escape the sore complaints and fell curses of those whom our naughty or careless demeanor 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 honor 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 given 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 conversation 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 a familiarity between them, and knitteth their hearts together 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 ob
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 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 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 actions of men will lie at their door, so that they shall respectively be either highly rewarded for their virtuous 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.
SUMMARY OF SERMON LXVI.
II CORINTHIANS, CHAP. VIII.-VERSE 21.
OBSERVATIONS on a set of hypocritical persons in the world, who, though inwardly well disposed, are yet loath to appear very good, and will hardly own Christian virtue in the constant and open discharge of its duties.
Their practice is very repugnant to the apostolical rule in the text, the observance of which may be farther enforced by scanning the common principles, motives, or excuses for the contrary practice, or showing their folly and baseness. They chiefly are as follow.
1. Men commonly in their visible conversation neglect their duty, or comply with sin, out of modesty ; because they are ashamed of doing what may expose them to some disgrace or censure, &c.; but it is plainly a perverse and unmanly modesty, a vile shame, for a person to be ashamed of that which is his chief beauty, his best ornament and glory! If we are bashful, let us be so in regard to things which are truly shameful; let us be ashamed of sin and its turpitude, &c.: this topic enlarged on.
2. Another principle, near of kin to the former, is a fear of losing the good-will, or getting the ill-will of men. It must indeed often happen, that whoever sticks firmly to his duty will forfeit the favor of men, or provoke their censure: but to fear this is a silly, base, and sorry fear, arguing wretched meanness of spirit and pitiful cowardice : for it is putting the favor of man, which can avail nothing to our main interests, before the favor of God, on whom all our felicity depends, and