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Pomp, and tells us, that Solomon in all his Glory was not arrayed like a Lily of the Field.
These are the chief Doĉtrines of Christ's Sermon on the Mount, and shou'd be always the Pattern of ours. We shou'd recommend to our Hearers Meekness and Patience, Diligence and Honesty, Temperance and Sobriety, Modesty and Godliness, a love of their Duty, a love of Justice, a love of Truth, a love of their King, a love of their Country, and a general love for all Mankind. This will make them Doers of the Word, as well as Hearers. It was this Application of Precepts to Life, which seemed to be the chief Intent of David's Discourses ; who always studied, that the Testimonies of the Lord might not only be his Delight, but his Counsellors too. This is the Design of Solomon's Instructions to us in his Proverbs, where he carries all his Precepts into Life, and speaks to us in the voice of Wisdom, and like a good Preacher Still teacherb the People Knowledge. And St. Paul's two Epistles to Timothy are ftrowed with such Rules and Doctrines, as shou'd be inculcated by every Preacher, for he seems to have writ them for reproof, for corre&tion, for instru&ion in righteousness.
And we may observe, that in other places he proposes to us the tender Manner in which we shou'd infru&t, and in which we shou'd reprove. Rebuke not an Elder, says he, but entreat him as a Father; and sometimes he declares that the Servant of the Lord must be gentle unto all Men, in patience and meekness inftru&ting those that oppose themselves
. From whence we shou'd learn not to sharpen our Discourses with personal Refle&tions, nor mingle out private Passions with the Gospel ; but always shew forth the Heinousness of the Sin, without seeming to know the Simer. This is speaking to the Hearts of all the like Offenders, and corre&ting the Sinner without upbraiding him. St. Paul therefore seldom carries the Reflection fur
ther, than, Thou art inexcufable, 0 Man, whoever thox art, that does the same thing.
And if the Elders shou'd be treated with so much Reverence, we shou'd certainly never put forth our selves in undecent Reflections on those that are Princes and Rulers of the People. Open Railings, harsh Cenfures, evil Surmises, and unjust Insinuations of Faults in others, do not become us in any Place, and much less in the House of God, and when they are levelled against our Rulers, and such as are in Authority over us. For, these sorts of Reproofs and Corrections are only intended to steal away the Heart of the faithful Subje&t, and inflame the Minds of the Weak and the Ignorant ; for which Reason such Insinuations atë highly Criminal ; and those cunning Persons that utter them, are something like Sampson's Foxes; which carried their Firebrands into the neighbouring Fields, and were as Torches in the midst of the Sheaves. For the chiefest Purpose of these Preachers, is rather to inflame than instruit the Hearers; and as they are Criminal under the Christian Difpenfátion, which forbids us to speak evil of Dignities; fo in the Jewish State, they wou'd, in some sense, have been thought guilty of a Breach of that Law of Mofes, which forbids any one 10 kindle à fire on the Sabbath-day.
How far different from this is the Do&trine of St. Paul, who supposes a loyal Heart and a dutiful Affe&tion in every Subje£t; and therefore exhorts Timothy, that firit of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of ihanks, be made for all Men, for Kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honefly.
From whence we may learn, that he does not lead us into Disputes concerning the Power of Kings, and the various Forms and Methods of Government bug only bids us pray for Kings, and those that are in Au
thority under them; concluding with himself, that Prayer is an immediate Address to God, which muft be therefore fincere and unfeigned ; and when it is made for a King or a Prince, the Intention of it muft certainly imply a loyal Disposition of Heart and a willing Obedience antecedent to it; and St. Paul himself seems to assure us that the Effects of it will be Quiet. ness and Peace, and Godliness and Honefly.
These are the great Benefits of Practical Discourses: Therefore I shall proceed, in the Third place, to shew, That we ought to continue in taking Heed unto our selves, and in taking Heed unto our Doctrine.
Nothing but the continuance in Well-doing, can make it the act of a steady, rational, well-weighed Mind. Chance may produce a good Action, or Fear may restrain us from doing an evil one. Private Views, or the defire of Pleafing for a certain time, may force us into a temporary Goodness; but whatever flows from it will be rather esteemed a virtuous A&t, than Virtue it self; for it certainly wants the continuance of it to make it truly good and laudable. Therefore the Testimony of good Men is required of us, before our Admission into Holy Orders: And the time specified denotes not only a virtuous Life and a sober Deportment at that Juncture, but some Tears continuance of it, so that it may ra. ther appear to the World as a settled habit and continuance in Virtue, than any forced restraint on oui Morals; and may rather be thought a natural Dispofition, than any artful Disguise of our felves. And when we are ordained to the Holy Function, the Obligation to a further continuance in Virtue ftill grows more strong and forcible upon us : And altho' we do not daily require the Testimony of Men, yet we shou'd Itill continue in the Pra&tice of Virtue, as if we daily wanted their Testimony. For all Mens private Thoughts bear their inward Teftimony to our Ažtions; and altho' they do not openly declare their Judgement
of us, yet in the secret tribunal of their own Hearts they are always ready to excuse or condemn us.
If we swerve froin our Virtue, and as it were depart from our felves by departing from our former Goodness; it shews either a want of Judgment in taking up our firft Opinions, or a want of Refolution in not maintaining them. It betrays an Unsteadiness. unbecoming a Teacher in that Church which was founded on a Rock. It is a tacit Condemnation of our felves, a Confession of Error, or a Coldness of Love towards our Saviour. And it is better that we bad never known the way of righteousness, than after we have known it, to turn from the holy Commandment delivered to us, and practis'd by us. For this is losing those things which we have already wrought, and subjecting our felves to the Scorn of Men, and to all the Anxieties of a doubtful Mind. We may further observe, that God is unchangeable, and cannot be pleased with any evil Change in his rational Creatures. An uniform Goodness bears some resemblance to the Divine, which is a constancy in shewing Mercy, and one perpetual A&t of Goodness. And if we endeavour to continue in Well-doing, we shall perfect our selves, and rise by degrees from Strength to Strength, and daily add Virtue to Virtue. Therefore we shou'd be regular and constant in the Practice of it, and it shou'd be uniform in all its Parts; for
any one Deficiency, any one faulty Circumstance, de stroys the Value of a good Action, and takes off the sweet favour of it. It is as a poor little Fly, which corrupts and destroys a whole Box of precious Ointment.
We cannot but take notice, how all other Beings in the World proceed in a regular and uniform Course; the Sun keepeth his appointed Seasons, and observeth the time of his going down, The Rivers flow on in their wonted Channels and every thing that acts naturally,a£ts uniformly. Motion will endeavour to continue it felf: C 2
whatever is at Rest, will endeavour to continue in a
may be said indeed, that Man is so far different from himself, that in the progress of Years, every different part of Life brings a new Charaéter with it, and raises up a Set of new Passions, and produces new Inclinations and Tempers. But altho' we are in a changeable state, yet Functions and Offices are fomething permanent ; they are Characters which are af. fix'd to Life, and continue with it. And therefore as the Duties of the Function remain the same, so the Performance of them shou'd continue the same. This is a perpetual demand on our Office, which always requires a uniform Practice suitable to it. Therefore as our Office and its Duties, when joined together, are very pleasant and lovely in our lives; so we shou'd take care that they nou'd never be divided to the end of them ; that even then our Works may follow us.
And if we shou'd continue in Virtue and Goodness, we shou'd certainly continue in good Doctrine. If we rested only in the Traditions of Men, we might be de: ceived in the Delivery of them, and fometimes perhaps vary from our selves, and swerve from our Doctrine. But since the Scriptures are delivered down to us in Writing; the Words eafy, and the Do&trines fix'd;