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and distempers, and of the consequent troubles and losses of others and himself. I hope I shall not meet with many,besides malignant hypocrites, who will be so impenitent and peevish, as to fly in the face of the reprover and director, and say that I open the nakedness of many servants of Christ, to the reproach and dishonour of religion. I have told you from the word of God, that it is God's way, and must be ours, to lay the just dishonour upon the sinner, that it may not fall upon religion and on God. And that the defending or excusing odious sins, in tenderness of the persons who committed them, is the surest and worst way to bring dishonour (first or last) both upon religion and on them. A Noah, a Lot, a David, a Solomon, a Peter, &c. shall be dishonoured by God in holy record to all ages, that God may not be more dishonoured by them! And the truly penitent are willing that it should be so; and account their honour a very cheap sacrifice, to offer up to the honour of religion which they have wronged. And till you come to this, you come short of true repentance. He that defendeth his open sin (unless he could deny the fact), doth as bad as say, 'God liketh it; Christ bid me do it; the Scripture is for it, or not against it; religion taught it me, or doth not forbid it me; the godly allow it, and will do the like.' And what can be said more blasphemously against God, or more injuriously against religion, the Scriptures, and the saints? But he that confesseth his sin, doth as good as say, ' Lay all the blame on me, who do deserve it; and not on God, on Christ, on Scripture, on religion, or on the servants of God; for I learned it not from any of them, nor was encouraged to it by them; none are greater enemies to it than they; if I had hearkened to them, I had done otherwise.' It is one of the chief reasons why repentance is so necessary, because it justifieth God and godliness.
And alas, it is too late to talk of concealing those weaknesses and crimes of Christians, which are so visible before all the world! Which have had such public effects upon churches, kingdoms, and states; which have kept almost all the Christian churches, in a torn, and bleeding, woful state, for so many hundred years, to this present day, which have separated the churches of the east and west, and defiled both. And have drawn so much blood in Christian countries, and keep us yet like distracted persons, gazing strange
ly at our nearest friends, and running away by peevish separation, from our brethren, with whom we must live in heaven; and mistakingly using those as enemies, with whom (if we are Christians as we profess) we are united in the same Head, and by the same Spirit, which is a Spirit of Love. In a word, when our faults are so conspicuous as to harden the infidels, heathens, and ungodly, and to hinder the conversion of the world; and when they sound so loud in the mouths of our common reproaching enemies; and when they have contracted so much malignity as to refuse a cure by such wars, divisions, church-desolations, plagues and flames, as we have seen, it is then too late to say to the preachers of repentance, Be silent, lest you open the nakedness of Christians, and disgrace religion and the church.' We must not be silent, lest we disgrace religion and the church to save the credit of the sinners.
Whoever readeth the holy Scriptures, and ever understood the Christian faith, must needs know that nothing in all the world, is so much against every one of our errors and misdoings. It is only for want of more religion, that any professors of religion do miscarry. Nothing but the doctrine of Christianity and godliness did at first destroy the reign of their sin; and nothing else can subdue the rest, and finish the cure. It is no disgrace to life that so many men's lives are burdensome with sickness, which the dead are not troubled with. Nor is it any disgrace to learning, that scholars, for want of more learning, have troubled the world with their contentious disputes. Nor is it any disgrace to reason, that men's different reasons, for want of more reason, doth set the world together by the ears. We can ne
ver magnify you enough as you are Christians and godly, unless we should ascribe more to you than your bounteous Lord hath given you, who hath made you little lower than angels, and crowned you with glory and honour; Psal. viii. 5,6. But your sins are so much the more odious, as they are brought so near the holy presence and as they are aggravated by greater mercies and professions. And God is so far from being reconciled, or reconcilable to any one of them, that though he see not such iniquity in Jacob, as is in heathens and the ungodly, (because it is not in them to be seen) yet he seeth more aggravated iniquity in such sins. as you do commit, in many respects, than in the heathens.
And (that which is our common trouble, is) that you hurt not yourselves alone by your iniquities; families are hurt by them; neighbours are hurt by them; churches are distracted by them; kingdoms are afflicted by them; and thousands of blind sinners are hardened and everlastingly undone by them. The ignorant husband saith, 'I will never follow sermons nor Scriptures, nor be so religious, while I see my wife, that maketh so much ado with religion, to be as peevish and discontented, and foul-tongued, and unkind, and contemptuous, and disobedient as those that have no religion.' The master that is profane saith, ' I like not your religion, when that servant which most professeth religion in my house, is as lazy, and negligent, and as surly and saucy, and as ready to dishonour me, and answer again, and as proud of his little knowledge, as those that have no religion at all.' The like I might say of all other relations. All the dishonour that this casteth upon grace is, that you have too little of it; and it is so weak in you, that its victory over your flesh and passions is lamentably imperfect. A servant hearing a high commendation of a gentleman, (that he was of extraordinary wisdom and godliness, and bounty, and patience, and affability, and what not) did think with himself, How happy a man were I, if I could but dwell in this man's house' which at last he procured, but ere long went away. His friend meeting him, asked him how he came so quickly to forsake his happiness? Did not his master prove as was reported? He answered, 'Yes, and better than report could make him, or I could ever have believed. But though my master was so good, my mistress was so unreasonable,and clamorous, and cruel, that she would beat us, and pull us by the hair, and throw scalding water upon us; and there was no living with her.' So faith I hope is the master in your hearts; and that is as good as can be well believed; but the flesh is mistress, which should be but a servant; and that maketh such troublesome work with some of you, that some quiet-natured infidels are less vexatious companions than you. Nay, and I wonder if you can be very confident of your own sincerity, as long as such fleshly vices, and headstrong passions do keep up the power of a mistress in you. I wonder if you do not fear, lest (as a woman said, 'I will call my husband Lord with Sarah, if 1 may have my will fulfilled,' so) grace and faith should have no more than the
regent titles, while your flesh hath so much of its will fulfilled. I know too many cheat themselves into comfort, with the false opinion, that because they have a party in them that striveth against their sins, it is a certain sign that they have the Spirit and are sanctified, though the flesh even in the main doth get the victory. And I know that many have sincerity indeed, who yet have many a foil by boisterous passions, and fleshly inclinations: but I am sure, till you know which party is predominant, and truly beareth the governing sway, you can never know whether you are sincere. As once a servant, when his master and mistress were fighting, answered one at the door, who desired to speak with the master of the house, 'You must stay till I see who gets the better before I can tell you who is the master of the house.' So truly I fear the conflict is so hard with many Christians, between the Spirit and the flesh, and holdeth so long in a doubtful state; and sense, and passion, and unbelief, and pride, and worldliness, and selfishness prevail so much, that they may stay themselves a great while before they can be well resolved which is master. For (to prosecute my similitude) in innocent man, spiritual reason was absolutely master, and fleshly sense was an obsequious servant, (though yet it had an appetite which needed government and restraint). In wicked men, the fleshly sense and appetite is master, and reason is a servant, though reason and the motions of the Spirit may make some resistance. In strong Christians spiritual reason is master, and the fleshly sense and appetite is a servant, but a boisterous and rebellious servant, tamed according to the degrees of grace and spiritual victory; like a horse that is broken and well ridden, but oft needeth the spur, and oft the reins. So that a Paul may cry out, "O wretched man," &c. In a weak Christian the Spirit is master, but the flesh is mistress, and is not kept in the servitude which it was made for, as it ought. And, therefore, his life is blemished with scandals, and his soul with many foul corruptions; he is a trouble to himself and others. The good which he doth, is done with much reluctancy, and weakness; and the evil which he forbeareth, is oftentimes very hardly forborne. His flesh hath so much power left, that he is usually uncertain of his own sincerity; and yet too patient both with his sin and his uncertainty. And he is many times a greater troubler of the
church, than many moderate unbelievers. The hypocrite, or almost-christian, hath the flesh for his master, as other wicked men, but reason and the commoner grace of the Spirit, may be as mistress with him; and may have so much power and respect, above a state of utter servitude, as may delude him into a confident conceit, that grace hath the victory, and that he is truly spiritual; when yet the supremacy is exercised by the flesh. He that hath an ear to hear let him hear. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life.-He shall not be hurt of the second death. He shall eat of the hidden manna.-He shall have power over the nations.-I will give him the morning star. I will confess him before my Father and the angels.—He shall be a pillar in the temple of God, and go out no more. I will grant to him to sit with me in my throne;" Rev. ii. 188.8.131.52. 28. iii. 5. 12. 21.