« PoprzedniaDalej »
play to you. But a true minister of Christ, to open to you the doctrine of the kingdom, and roundly to awaken you from security in sin, and to call you up to the most serious, holy, heavenly life, and follow you, and let you take no rest, till you yield and practise it; and to call you to open confession of your open scandalous sins, that you may make such reparation to the wronged honour of God and souls of men, as you are capable of; and accordingly to absolve you, or to bind you over to answer it at the bar of God, and charge the Church to avoid communion with you, if you are impenitent and incorrigible; such a minister as this (which is the minister of Christ's appointment) you abhor; at least, when he comes to touch your sores. Then you are too proud to be taught and ruled by such as these, though you hypocritically profess to be ruled by Christ, who ruleth his Church by his Spirit, word, and ministers, conjunct. Then you say, “Who gave you authority to do thus and thus by me?' As if you knew not that Christ in Scripture hath described, confirmed, and limited the ministerial office. Like condemned traitors, that should say to him that bringeth them a pardon, "Who gave you authority to make so bold with me?' or like a man that hath the plague or leprosy, that asketh the physician,
Who gave you authority to tell me that I am sick, and put me to such medicines as these ?' or as the Israelite to Moses, (Exod. ii. 14,) “Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?" “not understanding that God by his hand would deliver them, saith Stephen ; (Act. vii. 25 ;) or as the Jews to Christ, when he was teaching men the way to heaven, (Matt. xxi. 23,) " By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?” So because you hate the way of your recovery, you will not be saved without authority, nor be satisfied of their authority that would save you, but are like a beggar that should proudly refuse a piece of gold, and ask, “By what authority do you give . it me?' A minister that agreeth with God's description you cannot abide. (Acts xx. 18—36; Heb. xxiii. 7, 17; 1 Cor. iv. 1; 1 Thes. v. 12, 13; 1 Tim. v. 17, 20, and 2 Tim. iv. 1.) So
3 that, indeed, it is but a mock-minister, a mock-sacrament, a mock-prayer, and so a seeming, vain religion which
desire. 7. Lastly, you pretend also to sincere obedience. If we ask you, whether you are willing to obey God? you will say, God forbid that any should deny it. But when it comes to the particulars, and you find that he commandeth you that which flesh and blood is against, and would cost you the loss of worldly
prosperity, then you will be excused; and yet, that you may cheat your souls, you will not professedly disobey; but you will persuade yourselves that it is no duty, and that God would not have you do that which you will not do. Like a countryman's servant, that promiseth to do all his master bids him ; but when
1 he cometh to particulars, thrashing is too hard work, and mowing and reaping are beyond his strength, and ploughing is too toilsome; and in conclusion, it is only an idle life with some easy chars, that he will be brought to. This is the hypocrite's obedience. He will obey God in all things, as far as he is able, in the general: but when it comes to particulars, to deny himself, and forsake his worldly prosperity for Christ, and to contemn the world, and live by faith, and converse in heaven, and walk with God, and worship him in spirit and truth, to love an enemy, to forgive all wrongs, to humble himself to the meanest persons, and to the lowest works; to confess his faults with shame and sorrow, and ask forgiveness of those he has injured; these and other such works as these he will not believe to be parts of obedience, or at least, will not be brought to do them.
Poor souls, I have stood here a great while to hold yon the glass, in which, if you were willing, you might see yourselves. But if you will yet wink, and hate the light, and perish in your self-deceiving, who can help it?
Briefly and plainly, be it known to thee again, whoever thou art that hearest this, that if thou have not these five characters following, thy religion is all but vain and self-deceiving.
1. If God's authority, as he speaketh by his Spirit, word, and ministers, be not highest with thy soul, and cannot do more with thee than Kings and Parliaments and than the world and flesh. (Matt. xxiii. 8-10.)
2. If the unseen everlasting glory be not practically more esteemed by thee, and chosen, and sought, than any thing, or all things in the world. (Matt. vi. 21 ; Col. iii. 2; John vi. 27; 2 Tim. iv. 8, 9; Matt. xxii. 5; Luke xviii. 22, 23 ; Phil. iii. 20.)
3. If thou see not such a loveliness in holiness, as being the image of God, as that thou unfeignedly desirest the highest degree of it. (Matt. v, 20; Psalm cxix. 1-3, &c.; Phil. iii. 12–14.)
4. If any sin be so sweet and dear to you, or seem so necessary, that you consent not and desire not to let it go. (Matt. xix. 22; Phil, jïi. 8; Psalm lxvi. 18.)
5. If any known duty seem so costly, dangerous, troublesome, and unpleasant, that ordinarily you will not do it. (Matt. xvi. 24-26; Psalm cxix. 6.)
In a word, God must be loved and obeyed as God; Christ must be entertained as Christ; Heaven must be valued and sought as Heaven; and holiness loved and practised as holi
; ness; though not to the height of their proper worth (which none on earth is able to reach,) yet so, as that nothing be preferred before them,
But yet there is one more discovery, which, if I pass by, you will think I baulk a chief part of my text.
An unbridled tongue in a professor of religion is enough to prove his religion vain.
By an unbridled tongue is not meant all the sins of our speech. “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. For in many things we offend all.” (Jam. iii. 2.) Every unwarrantable jest, or angry word, or hasty, rash expression, is not enough to prove a man's religion to be in vain. Though Christ says that we shall answer for
we shall be condemned for every idle word.” But when the tongue is unbridled, and is not kept under a holy law, but suffered to be the ordinary instrument of wilful known sin, or of gross sin, which men might know and will not ; this proves the person void of holiness, and, consequently, his religion vain.
It is true, every hypocrite hath not an unbridled tongue : some of them have the bridle of moral precepts, and some of religious education, and some of the presence and awe of persons whom they esteem; common knowledge, with natural mansuetude and moderation doth bridle the tongues of many an hypocrite ; but as every wicked man is not a drunkard, or fornicator, and yet every drunkard or fornicator (that liveth in it) is a wicked man; so every hypocrite hath not an unbridled tongue, (his vice may be some other way :) but every man that hath an unbridled tongue is an hypocrite, if withal he profess himself a Christian. The sins of the tongue are of three sorts.
1. Such as are against piety, 2. Such as are against justice. 3. Such as are against charity.
1. Against piety, that is, directly against God, are blasphemy, perjury, rash swearing, swearing by creatures, light and unreverent using of God's name and attributes, and words and works;
pleading for false doctrine, or false worship, disputing against truth and duty; scorning at godliness, or reasoning against it. These and such impieties of the tongue, are the evidences of profaneness in the speaker's heart; though some of them much more than others; and if the tongue is not here bridled, all is in vain.
2. Sinful speeches against justice and charity are these :reproaching parents, or governors, or neighbours ; railing and reviling, cursing, provoking others to do mischief, or commit .(ny sin, disputing against and dissuading men from truth and luty; and hindering them by your speeches from a holy life, and the means of their salvation ; calling good, evil, and evil, good; lying, slandering, false-witness bearing, backbiting ; extenuating men's virtues, and aggravating their faults beyond the certain apparent truth ; receiving, and reciting, and carrying on evil reports, which you know not to be true ; endeavouring to cool men's love to others, by making them seem bad, when we cannot prove it, mentioning men's faults and failings without a call and just occasion; unchaste, immodest, ribald speeches; cheating and deceitful words to wrong others in their estates; with other such like.
But undoubtedly that sin of the tongue which the Apostle here had particular respect to, was the reproaching of fellowChristians, especially upon the occasion of some differences of judgment and practice in the smaller matters of religion ; the Judaizing Christians gave liberty to their tongues to reproach those that refused the use of those ceremonies which they used themselves, and placed much of their religion in ; the quarrel was the same that was decided by the Apostles, Acts xv., and by Paul, Romans xiv. and xv., and throughout the Epistle to the Galatians. And this is the religion that James calls vain here, which was much placed in ceremonies, with a pretence of highest knowledge, and a censorious vilifying of all that would not do as they
There are especially three sorts that use to reproach each other about the matters of religion.
1. Those that are hardened to that height of impiety, as to make a mock at seriousness and diligence in the practice of Christianity itself, hating and reproaching them that dare not sell their souls at as base a price as they.
2. Those that have so far extinguished charity by faction and self-conceit, as to confine their love and honour to their party, and to speak evil of those that are not of their own opinions.
3. Those that give liberty to their tongues unseasonably, unmeasurably, or unwarrantably to speak hardly of those that they suffer by upon religious accounts; though, perhaps, they are their superiors whom they are bound to honour.
1. The first sort are arrived at such a measure of maliciousness and misery, that they are as mad men, the objects of compassion to all men save themselves. Their sin and misery is so notorious, that I need not say anything to discover it to others that have anything of reason and true religion; and for themselves, being so far forsaken of God, as to hate and reproach the ineans of their salvation, no wonder if withal they are given over to that blindness as not to understand the words that should convince them, and neither to see their shame, nor the light that would discover it; and to such impenitency, as not to feel or fear the wrath and threatenings of the Almighty ; but boldly to rage on, till hell hath brought them to their wits. (Prov. xiv. 16.) “A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil, but the fool rageth, and is confident." Yet this much, briefly, I shall say to these, if any of them be this day my auditors, that I may not leave them as utterly past hope.
1. Thou art one of the most self-condemned, stigmatized, slaves of Satan, in the world. Thou bearest openly so undoubted a brand of wickedness, that there is no room for any rational hope in thy self, or any of thy friends, that ever thou shouldest be saved, if thou die in such a state ; some hope is left that yet thou mayest be converted, but none that thou shouldest be saved without conversion. It is possible with God that can do all things, that yet thy wilful blindness may be cured, and thy tongue may unsay all that thou hast said ; and thou mayest cry out of thy folly, and cry shame against thyself, for that which now thou gloriest in. It is possible for God of such a stone to make a child of Abraham ! and to melt that hardened heart of thine, and lay it bleeding at the feet of Christ, and to make thee wish with tears or groans, that such thoughts had never entered into thy heart, nor such words of malice proceeded from thy mouth. And happy art thou, if God will have so much mercy on thee, that hast derided mercy, as to vouchsafe thee such a change. And pray for it, and pray hard, and pray again, if thou love thy soul; for this is thy hope, and thou hast no other. For that ever such a wretch as thou shouldest be saved, in the state that now thou art in, is as impossible as for God to lie, and as impossible as for the devils to be saved. I