« ForrigeFortsett »
religion like a daily diet; their consciences must be made tender, and their catechism enlarged; teach them, and make them sensible, and they are cured.
But the other sins in this place are more considerable : men sin without observation, because their actions have no restraint of an express commandment, no letter of the law to condemn them by an express sentence. And this happens, when the crime is comprehended under a general notion, without the instancing of particulars : for if you search over all the Scripture, you shall never find incest named and marked with the black character of death; and there are divers sorts of uncleanness to which Scripture therefore gives no name, because she would have them have no being. And it had been necessary that God should have described all particulars, and all kinds, if he had not given reason to man: for so it is fit that a guide should point out every turning, if he be to teach a child or a fool to return unto his father's roof. But he that bids us avoid intemperance for fear of a fever, supposes you to be sufficiently instructed that you may avoid the plague : and, when to look upon a woman with lust is condemned, it will not be necessary to add, “You must not do more,' when even the leasi is forbidden: and when to uncover the nakedness of Noah brought an universal plague upon the posterity of Cham, it was not necessary that the lawgiver should say, “You must not ascend to your father's bed, or draw the curtains from your sister's retirements. When the Athenians forbade to transport figs from Athens, there was no need to name the gardens of Alcibiades; much less was it necessary to add, that Chabrias should send no plants to Sparta. Whatsoever is comprised under the general notion, and partakes of the common nature and the same iniquity, needs no special prohibition; unless we think we can mock God, and elude his holy precepts with an absurd trick of mistaken logic. I am sure that will not save us harmless from a thunderbolt.
2. Men sin without an express prohibition, when they commit a thing, that is like a forbidden evil. And when St. Paul had reckoned many works of the flesh, he adds, and such like,' all that have the same unreasonableness and carnality. For thus polygamy is unlawful : for if it be
not lawful for a Christian ' to put away his wife, and marry another, unless for adultery,' much less may he keep a first, and take a second, when the first is not put away. If a Christian may not be drunk with wine, neither may he be drunk with passion ; if he may not kill his neighbour, neither then must he tempt him to sin, for that destroys him more; if he may not wound him, then he may not persuade him to intemperance, and a drunken fever; if it be not lawful to cozen a man, much less is it permitted that he make a man a fool, and a beast, and exposed to every man's abuse, and to all ready evils. And yet men are taught to start at the one half of these, and make no conscience of the other half; whereof some have a greater baseness than the other that are named, and all have the same unreasonableness.
3. A man is guilty, even when no law names his action, if he does any thing that is a cause or an effect, a part or unhandsome adjunct, of a forbidden instance. He that forbade all intemperance, is as much displeased with the infinite of foolish talk that happens at such meetings, as he is at the spoiling of the drink, and the destroying the health. If God cannot endure wantonness, how can he suffer lascivious dressings, tempting circumstances, wanton eyes, high diet? If idleness be a sin, then all immoderate mispending of our time, all long and tedious games, all absurd contrivances how to throw away a precious hour, and a day of salvation also, are against God, and against religion. He that is commanded to be charitable, it is also intended he should not spend his money vainly, but be a good husband and provident, that he may be able to give to the poor, as he would be to purchase a lordship, or pay his daughter's portion. And upon this stock it is that Christian religion forbids jeering and immoderate laughter, and reckons * jestings' amongst the things that are unseemly.' This also would be considered.
4. Besides the express laws of our religion, there is an universal line and limit to our passions and designs, which is called the analogy of Christianity;' that is, the proportion of its sanctity, and the strictness of its holy precepts. This is not forbidden ; but, does this become you? Is it decent to see a Christian live in plenty and ease, and heap up money,
and never to partake of Christ's passions ? There is no law against a judge's being a dresser of gardens, or a gatherer of sycamore fruits; but it becomes him not, and deserves a reproof. If I do exact justice to my neighbour, and cause him to be punished legally for all the evils he makes me suffer, I have not broken a fragment from the stony tables of the law: but this is against the analogy of our religion; it does not become a disciple of so gentle a Master to take all advantages that he can. Christ, that quitted all the glories that were essential to him, and that grew up in his nature when he lodged in his Father's bosom; Christ, that suffered all the evils due for the sins of mankind, himself remaining most innocent; Christ, that promised persecution, injuries, and affronts, as part of our present portion, and gave them his disciples as a legacy, and gave us his Spirit to enable us to suffer injuries, and made that the parts of suffering evils should be the matter of three or four Christian graces, of patience, of fortitude, of longanimity, and perseverance ; he that of eight beatitudes, made that five of them should be instanced in the matter of humiliation and suffering temporal inconvenience ;—that blessed Master was certainly desirous that his disciples should take their crowns from the cross, not from the evenness and felicities of the world ; he intended we should give something, and suffer more things, and forgive all things, all injuries whatsoever. And though together with this may consist our securing a just interest; yet, in very many circumstances, we shall be put to consider, how far it becomes us to quit something of that, to pursue peace; and when we have secured the letter of the law, that we also look to its analogy; when we do what we are strictly bound to, then also we must consider what becomes us, who are disciples of such a Master, who are instructed with such principles, charmed with so severe precepts, and invited with the certainty of infinite rewards. Now, although this discourse may seem new and strange and very severe, yet it is infinitely reasonable, because Christianity is a law of love and voluntary services; it can in no sense be confined with laws and strict measures : well may the ocean receive its limits, and the whole capacity of fire be glutted, and the grave have his belly so full that it shall cast up all its bowels, and disgorge the continued meal of so many thousand years ;
but love can never have a limit; and it is indeed to be swallowed up, but nothing can fill it but God, who hath no bound. Christianity is a law for sons, not for servants ; and God, that gives his grace without measure, and rewards without end, and acts of favour beyond our askings, and provides for us beyond our needs, and gives us counsels beyond commandments, intends not to be limited out by the just evennesses and stricken measures of the words of a commandment. Give to God “ full measure, shaken together, pressed down, heaped up, and running over;" for God does so to us : and when we have done so to him, we are infinitely short of the least measure of what God does for us; “ we are still unprofitable servants.” And therefore, as the breaking any of the laws of Christianity provokes God to anger, so the prevaricating in the analogy of Christianity stirs him up to jealousy. He hath reason to suspect our hearts are not right with him, when we are so reserved in the matter and measures of our services; and if we will give God but just what he calls for by express mandate, it is just in him to require all of that at our hands without any abatement, and then we are sure to miscarry. And let us remember, that when God said he was “a jealous God,” he expressed the meaning of it to be, he did “punish to the third and fourth generation.” “ Jealousy is like the rage of a man :” but if it be also like the anger of God, it is insupportable, and will crush us into the ruins of our grave.
But because these things are not frequently considered, there are very many sins committed against religion, which, because the commandment hath not marked, men refuse to mark, and think God requires no more. I am entered into a sea of matter, which I must not now prosecute; but I shall only note this to you, that it is but reasonable we should take accounts of our lives by the proportions, as well as by the express rules, of our religion, because in human and civil actions all the nations of the world use to call their subjects to account. For that which in the accounts of men is called reputation and public honesty, is the same which in religion we call analogy and proportion; in both cases there being some things which are besides the notices of laws, and yet are the most certain consignations of an excellent virtue. He is a base person that does any thing against public
honesty; and yet no man can be punished, if he marries a wife the next day after his first wife's funeral : and so he that prevaricates the proportions and excellent reasons of Christianity, is a person without zeal and without love; and, unless care be taken of him, he will quickly be without religion. But yet these, I say, are a sort of persons, which are to be used with gentleness, and treated with compassion : for no man must be handled roughly to force him to do a kindness; and coercion of laws and severity of judges, serjeants, and executioners, are against offenders of commandments; but the way to cure such persons is the easiest and gentlest remedy of all others. They are to be instructed in all the parts of duty, and invited forward by the consideration of the great rewards which are laid up for all the sons of God, who serve him without constraint, without measures and allays, even as fire burns, and as the roses grow, even as much as they can, and to all the extent of their natural and artificial capacities. For it is a thing fit for our compassion, to see men fettered in the iron bands of laws, and yet to break the golden chains of love; but all those instruments, which are proper to enkindle the love of God and to turn fear into charity, are the proper instances of that compassion, which is to be used towards these men.
2. The next sort of those who are in the state of sin, and yet to be handled gently and with compassion, are those, who entertain themselves with the beginnings and little entrances of sin : which as they are to be more pitied, because they often come by reason of inadvertency, and an unavoidable weakness in many degrees; so they are more to be taken care of, because they are undervalued, and undiscernibly run into inconvenience. When we see a child strike a servant rudely, or jeer a silly person, or wittingly cheat his play-fellow, or talk words light as the skirt of a summer garment; we laugh, and are delighted with the wit and confidence of the boy, and encourage such hopeful beginnings : and in the meantime we consider not, that from these beginnings he shall grow up, till he become a tyrant, an oppressor, a goat, and a traitor. “ Nemo simul malus fit, et malus esse cernitur; sicut nec scorpiis tum innascuntur stimuli, cum pungunt :” “ No man is discerned to be vicious so soon as he is so ;” and vices have their infancy and their