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SERM. confiftent with a worthy partaking of the I.
Lord's-Supper, and might be a means of drawing back some weak converts to their heathenish Superstition.
Others affirmed it to be lawful on the following principles. That the meat itfelf could not defile their Conscience, provided they had no superstitious view in eating it; that the christian state into which they were entered, gave them a liberty of eating any thing, provided they received it with Sobriety and Thanksgiving; and that it was not fit that this part of their chriftian liberty should be abridged by the weakness or unreasonable fcrupulosity of another Man's Conscience.
The Apostle stands as Umpire or Moderator between these two different parties; and does not absolutely decide the point in favour of either of them: but here, as well as in the fourteenth Chapter to the Romans, where he handles this matter more at large, he steers a middle course; and tells both parties that in such a matter as this, which was not essential to Christianity, they might each of them pursue their own way, and act according to their own judgment; provided that herein they had a particular regard to these SERM, three things; 1. Not to act contrary to their I. Conscience, or the persuasion of their own mind concerning the lawfulness of the thing they allowed. 2. Not to disturb the peace of the Church, which they should endeayour by all means to maintain ; and 3. To give no just offence to others : For, says he, if thy Brother be grieved by thy meat, thou walkeft not charitably ra). So in the Text, give none Offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of GOD; that is, to no one person in the World: for the Jews, the Gentiles, and Christians (which last are here meant by the Church of God) comprehended at that time all mankind.
In treating of these Words, I propose,
1. To open to you the nature of the Duty
here recommended. II. To enforce it with some proper heads
1. I am to open to you the nature of the Duty here recommended, Wherein I fhall
1. What we are to understand by the word Offence.
2. With what restrictions the Precept in the Text must reasonably be taken.
3. What is the proper latitude and extent of it in a few particulars, wherein men are most apt to forget it.
1. What are we to understand by the word Offence.
This word is taken in two senses. The Scripture acceptation of it is very different from that in which it is commonly used.
In the sacred Writings it generally signifies a Stumbling-block; or whatever is the occafion of another's Fall. Thus it is used Rom. xiv. 20, 21. It is evil in that man who eateth with Offence, (that is, though eating this kind of meats be in itself an indifferent thing, yet if a man, by using this Liberty of his, be the occafion of drawing another to act contrary to his Conscience, his eating in that case is no longer indifferent, but sinful;) for it is good neither to eat Flesh, nor to drink Wine, 'nor any thing whereby thy Brother: Rumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. In this sense it is explained ver. 13, of that chapter, Judge this rather, that no Man put a Stum
bling-block, or an occasion to fall, in bis Bro- Serm. ther's way. To offend a Brother, in this sense,
I. is to cause him to offend; and to give him Offence, is to be the occasion of his Sin; and to draw him on, by our Example, to act contrary to his own Conscience.
But the word Offence, in the common ac'ceptation of it, is taken in a very different sense, to signify an occasion of Anger, Grief, or Resentment. Whoever finds these passions stirring in his mind, is said to be offended; and whatever be the Incentive or Cause of them, is called the Offence. And this dis tinction ought carefully to be remembered ; because an inattention to it hath created
many needless scruples of Conscience, and been the ground of much confusion in our Ideas concerning the just nature and extent of the Duty here required.
But in this latter fenfe we sometimes find the word used in Scripture, as well as in the former. As Psal. cxix. 165. Great peace have they that love thy Law, and nothing small offend them; that is, nothing shall greatly interrupt that Peace. Mat. xvii. 27. Nevertheless, left we should offend them, go thou to the Sea, and cast an Hook, and take up the Fish
SERM. that first cometh up; that is, that we may not I.
give them any just cause of Anger or Resentment against us; or let us wave our Privilege at prefent for Peace fake.
It is this latter sense in which I intend to open and improve the words of the Text; and consider them as a Precept, to follow after things that make for peace, and to keep our Conscience void of Offence towards all men. In which fenfe I proceed now,
2. To confider with what restrictions this Precept must reasonably be taken.
For there are certain limits within which it is circumscribed, and beyond which if it goes, it is no lopger a Virtue. The Apostle's Exhortation is, -- If it be posible, and as much as in you lies, live peaceably with all men. But that very command implies, that sometimes the thing is not possible. There are indeed a great many things which a wise man would facrifice to peace; but there are some things which a good man cannot. The rights of conscience are facred, and the obligations of Religion inviolable. And whilst a Christian stedfastly resolves at all times to keep them fo, it is not possible but he must give Offence to come. The bright