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Christ; Acts iv. 18, v. 40. It is a text enough to make one tremble, to think into what a desperate condition the Jews were carried by a partial, selfish zeal; "who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us, and they please not God, and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sin alway, for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost." 1 Thess. ii. 15. 16. When the interest of themselves and their own nation and priesthood, did so far blind and pervert them, that they durst persecute the preachers of the Gospel, and "forbid them to speak to the people that they may be saved;" it was a sign that 66 'wrath was come upon them to the uttermost." A Christian indeed had rather be without Jeroboam's kingdom, than 'make Israel to sin,' and 'make the basest of the people priests,' and 'stretch out his hand against the prophet of the Lord' 1 Kings, xii. 30, 31. xiii. 4. He had rather labour with his hands, as Paul, and live in poverty and rags, so that the Gospel may be powerfully and plentifully preached, and holiness abound, than to live in all the prosperity of the world, with the hindrance of men's salvation. He had rather be a door-keeper in the house of God, than be a lord in the kingdom of satan. He cannot rise by the ruins of the church, nor feed upon those morsels that are the price of the blood of souls.
2. And the weakest Christian is in all this of the same mind, saving that private and selfish interest is not so fully overcome, nor so easily and resolutely denied; Luke xiv. 26. 33.
3. But here the hypocrite sheweth the falseness of his heart. His own interest is it that chooseth his religion; and that he may not torment himself, by being wicked in the open light, he maketh himself believe, that whatsoever is most for his own interest, is most pleasing unto God, and most for the good of souls and the interest of the Gospel; so that the carnal Romish clergy can persuade their consciences, that all the darkness and superstitions of their kingdom, and all the opposition of the light of the Gospel of Christ, do make for the honour of God and the good of souls; because they uphold their tyranny, wealth, and pomp, and pleasure. Or if they cannot persuade their consciences to believe so gross a lie, let church and souls speed how
they will, they will favour nothing that favoureth not their interest and ends. And the interest of the flesh and Spirit, and of the world and Christ, are so repugnant, that commonly such worldlings take the serious practice of godliness for the most hateful thing, and the serious practisers of it for the most insufferable persons; Acts vii. 57. xxi. 36. xxii. 22. xxiv. 5, 6. John xix. 15. The enmity of interests, with the enmity of nature, between the woman's and the serpent's seed, will maintain that warfare to the end of the world; in which the prince of the powers of darkness shall seem to prevail (as he did against our crucified Lord): but he shall be overcome by his own successes, and the just shall conquer by patience, when they seem most conquered. The name, and form, and image of religion, the carnal hypocrite doth not only bear, but favour, and himself accept; but the life and serious practice he abhorreth, as inconsistent with his worldly interest and ends. For these he can find in his heart, with Ahab, to hate and imprison Micaiah, and prefer his four hundred flattering prophets; 1 Kings xxii. 6. 8. 24. 27. If Luther will touch the pope's crown and the friars' bellies, they will not scruple to oppose and ruin, both him and all such preachers in the world, if they were able: John xi. 48, 50. Acts v. 28.
LVI. 1. A Christian indeed, is one whose holiness usually maketh him an eyesore to the ungodly world; and his charity and peaceableness, and moderation, maketh him to be censured as not strict enough, by the superstitious and dividing sects of Christians. For seeing the church hath suffered between these two sorts of opposers, ever since the suffering of Christ himself; it cannot be but the solid Christian offend them both, because he hath that which both dislike. All the ungodly hate him for his holiness, which is cross to their interest and way; and all the dividers will censure him for that universal charity and moderation, which is against their factious and destroying zeal (described, James iii). Even Christ himself was not strict enough (in superstitious observances) for the ceremonious, zealous Pharisees. He transgressed, with his disciples, the tradition of the elders, in neglecting their observances, who transgressed the commandment of God by their tradition; Matt. xv. 2,3. He was not strict enough in their uncharitable observation of the sabbath-day; Matt. xii. 2. John, who was eminent
for fasting, they said, had a devil. "The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'behold a man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.' But wisdom is justified of her children;" Matt. xi. 18, 19 And the weak Christians; Rom. xiv. 1-3. did censure those that did eat those meats and do those things, which they conceived to be unlawful. They that err themselves, and make God a service which he never appointed, will censure all as lukewarm, or temporizers, or wide-conscienced men, that err not with them, and place not their religion in such superstitious observances, as "touch not, taste not, handle not," &c. Col. ii. 18. 21-23. And the raw, censorious Christians are offended with the charitable Christian, because he damneth not as many and as readily as they, and shutteth not enough out of the number of believers, and judgeth not rigorously enough of their ways. In a word, he is taken by one sort to be too strict, and by the other to be too compliant or indifferent in religion; because he placeth not the kingdom of God in meats and days, and such like circumstances, but in "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;" Rom. xiv. 15-17. And as Paul withstood Peter to the face, for drawing men to make scruple or conscience of things lawful; Gal. ii. 11-13; so is the sound Christian withstood by the superstitious, for not making scruple of lawful things.
2. And the weak Christian is in the same case, so long as he followeth prudent, pious, charitable guides. But if he be taken in the snares of superstitton, he pleaseth the superstitious party, though he displease the world.
3. And whereas the solid Christian will not stir an inch from truth and duty, to escape either the hatred of the wicked, or the bitterest censures of the sectary, or the weak; the hypocrite must needs have one party on his side: for if both condemn him, and neither applaud him, he loseth his peculiar reward: Matt. vi. 2. 5. xxiii. 5-8.
LVII. 1. The confirmed Christian doth understand the necessity of a faithful ministry, for the safety of the weak, (as well as the conversion of the wicked) and for the preservation of the interest of religion upon earth! And therefore no personal unworthiness of ministers, nor any calumnies of enemies can make him think or speak dishonourably of that sacred office. But he reverenceth it as institutéd
by Christ; and though he loathe the sottishness and wickedness of those that run before they are sent, and are utterly insufficient or ungodly, and take it up for a living or trade only, as they would a common work; and are "sons of Belial, that know not the Lord, and cause the offering of the Lord to be abhorred;" 1 Sam. ii. 2. 17. Yet no such temptation shall overthrow his reverence to the office, which is the ordinance of Christ; much less will he be unthankful to those who are able and faithful in their office, and labour instantly for the good of souls, as willing to spend and be spent for their salvation. When the world abuseth and derideth, and injureth them, he is one that honoureth them both for their work and master's sake, and the experience which he hath had of the blessing of God on their labours to himself. For he knoweth that the smiting of the shepherds, is but the devil's ancient way for the scattering of the flock; though he knoweth that " if the salt hath lost its savour, it is good for nothing, neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out, and it is trodden under foot; (he that hath ears to hear, let him hear);" Luke xiv. 34, 35. Matt. v. 13, 14. Yet he also knoweth, that he "that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward;" Matt. x. 41, 42. And that, "he that receiveth them, receiveth Christ, and he that despiseth them (that are sent by him) despiseth him;" Luke x. 16. He therefore readily obeyeth those commands, Heb. xiii. 17. "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as those that must give an account; 1 Thess. v. 12, 13. We beseech you brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their works' sake, and be at peace among yourselves; 1 Tim. v. 17. Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honour; especially they who labour in the word and doctrine."
2. But though the weak Christian be of the same mind so far as he is sanctified, yet is he much more easily tempted into a wrangling censoriousness against his teachers, though they be never so able and holy men; and by seducers may be drawn to oppose them, or speak contemptuously of them, as the Galatians did of Paul, and some of the Corinthains; accounting him as their enemy for telling them the truth
when lately they would have plucked out their eyes to do him good; Gal. iv. 15, 16.
3. But the hypocrite is most easily engaged against them, either when they grate upon the guilt of his former sin, or open his hypocrisy, or plainly cross him in his carnal interest, or else when his pride hath conquered his sobriety, and engaged him in some sect or erroneous way, which his teachers are against, and would reduce him from; John vi. 66. Mark v. 27. 2 Chron. xxv. 16.
LVIII. 1. A Christian indeed is one that hath stored up such manifold experience of the fulfilling of God's promises, and the hearing of prayers, and the goodness of his holy ways, as will greatly fortify him against all temptations to infidelity, apostasy, or distrust. No one hath stronger temptations usually than he, and no one is so well furnished with weapons to resist them. The arguments of most others are fetched out of their books only; but he hath moreover a life of experience to confirm his faith, and so hath the witness in himself. He hath tried and found that in God, in holiness, in faith, in prayer, which will never suffer him to forsake them. Yea, it is like that he hath upon record some such wonders in the answer of prayers, as might do much to silence an infidel himself. I am sure many Christians have had such strange appearances of the extraordinary hand of God, that hath done much to destroy the remnants of their own unbelief; Psal. lxvi. 16.
2. But the experiences of the younger, weaker Christians are much shorter, and less serviceable to their faith; and they have not judgment enough to understand and make use of the dealings of God; but are ready to plead his providences unto evil ends and consequences, and to take their own passionate imaginations for the workings of the Spirit. It is ordinary with them to say,' this or that was set upon my heart, or spoken to me,' as if it had been some divine inspiration, when it was nothing but the troubled workings of a weak distempered brain: and it is their own fancy and heart that saith that to them, which they think the Spirit of God within them said; Heb. v. 11-13. 2 Thess. ii. 21. John iv. 1. 1 Tim. iv. 1. 1 Cor. xii. 10. Jer. xxiii. 28, 29. 32. xxix. 8.
3. And the hypocrite wanteth those establishing experiments of the power of the Gospel, and the hearing of pray