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They first formed rash and wrong determi- Serm. nations in their several Councils (for all IX. their boasted Infallibility could never yet prevent this) then stamped those Decrees with the Seal of Orthodox Truth, and established them as certain Rules of Catholic Faith, from which they were never to depart. And by this means the groffest Errors have been maintained and enforced as the greatest Truths, and the best Religion in the World perverted, disfigured, abused and transformed into the very worst. All which might with ease have been prevented, only by stedfastly adhering to our Saviour's Advice as their Rule, Judge not according to the Appearance, but judge righteous Judgment.
4. No less happy will be the Consequence, if we observe it, than miserable if we neglect it. It would preserve us from many falfe Notions and bad Practices which now obtain in the World. In short, were this Advice universally followed, there would be but few Disputes left among Christians. We should all of us most certainly unite in the great things of Christianity, and should differ very peaceably in those little things
Sermi which it is no great matter whether we agree IX. in or no.
We should live more comfortably: and usefully in this world, and have more settled Hopes of Happiness in the other. For the common Source of our Doubts and Fears, is either a mistaken notion of the terms of Salvation, or a wrong Practice arifing from some other mistake.
Of so great Importance is the Rule which our Saviour lays down in the text, I proceed now,
II. To thew what Use we are to make of it, or how we are to form our Practice by it. Here I propose to lay before you
several Directions that are either included in, or necessary to a right Application of it. And,
1. Before we judge of any thing, we fhould consider our own Ability to judge of it, whether it falls within the compass of our Understanding; or whether we have that previous Knowledge of other things which is necessary to qualify us to form a right Judgment. If not, the matter does not belong to us, it is not cognizable in our Court, and we have nothing to do with it. Or if
we must needs settle our Judgment in such SERM.
There is a deal of this implicit or second-
SERM. fet à brand of Folly on that Man who exIX. pofes his own Ignorance, by his forwardness
to give his Opinion in every point whether he understand it or not. A Fool (faith he) uttereth all bis mind, but a wife Man keepeth it in till afterward (a). Every prudent Man dealeth with Knowledge, but a Fool layetb open bis Folly (b).
2. If it be concerning an Action or Event related by another that you are to judge, be first sure that it is matter of Fact. For if
upon proper Search you find it hath no Foundation in truth, you have nothing to do with it; and if you are not sure it hath, you ought to suspend your Judgment, however strong an Inclination you may
have to believe and judge. But be fure you never suffer either your Affent or Judgment to be biaffed by the positive or dogmatical Airs of an uncharitable Tale-Bearer. Before we give Credit to a Report we must always examine the Authority on which it is built, and consider the Character of him that relates it. If he is a Man of a weak and credulous Mind, of a superstitious or flanders ous Cast, he certainly deserves not an equal degree of Credit with one of Moderation, SERM. Understanding and found Judgment. And IX. a careful Attention to this single Rule, to examine well the matter of Fact before we proceed to judge of it, would be a means of preventing much of that unreasonable and unrighteous Judgment which some so readily pass upon men and things, to the great Prejudice of Truth and Religion.
degree (a) Prov. xxix. 11. (6) Provxii, 16.
3. Before we can rightly judge of any thing, we must acquaint ourselves with the trúe state of the Case, and lay together all the material Circumstances on both sides, whether it be a matter of Fact or Sentiment. Unless we understand the true state and circumstances of the Case, it is impossible the Judgment should determine any thing about it. Because these are it's materials to work upon, or the Marks by which to trace out Truth.
For instance, if it be an Action about which we are to judge, we must confider the Place where, the Time when, the Person by whom, the Manner wherein, and the Motives by which, that Action was performed. By a careful Attention to all which Circumstances the Guilt of a bad Action