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he who studies only to please himself, can easily bring himself to think as he pleases. A slight argument is sufficient to convince him, who goes more than half-way to meet it; nay, who, rather than stick out, will yield to his appetites, and go the whole length. A person of this sort is of no disposition to continue in, or close with, such principles, as confine him to narrow bounds, and oblige him to pursue happiness, through the eye of a needle.' He is a great man, his taste is exquisite, his appetites strong, his desires high and extensive, and his conscience large. He must have room ; and therefore if his principles are narrow, they must burst and fall off; and such as are more lax and easy must be put on.
Men who live in affluence and ease, and are given up to this world, and the enjoyment of what is here, as they have desires of different sizes, generally adopt proportionable principles; from whence it proceeds, that there are different degrees of latitude in their shemes of thinking. Some retain more, and some less, of religion; but hardly any of them will admit of more than he knows how to reconcile with the plan of life, dictated to him by his pleasures and worldly views. Now all men are pleased with their own ways of thinking, and desire to bring others over to them, or, at least, are willing to defend them; and from defending one's self, to the proselyting of others, there is but one short step. Besides, the same vanity that moves a man to despise an old or common notion, and to beat out new ones, prompts him strongly to spread those of his own invention ; especially if he is any way doubtful of their truth, he can never rest thoroughly satisfied with them, till he hath tried them upon the understanding of other men; and then, if they happen to close with them, although perhaps on his recommendation, or upon motives as weak and bad as bis, yet
this serves to countenance his adherence to them, and he fancies they return upon him with some additional force in the rebound. The men of wealth and figure, who espouse the cause of libertinism, having the advantage of the ground, make easy conquests upon those below them. Their actions preach up infidelity; insomuch that they have no occasion, in order to increase the number of libertines, to say any more than is necessary to make those of the rank below them sensible, that they have very good reasons for being wicked. However, they are seldom content with this. They take a pleasure in shewing how clearly they see into the received errors of former times, and how easy it is for them to discover those truths that have hitherto been concealed. They do this with wit and humour enough to demonstrate any thing; and, as the behaviour of the clergy is too like that of other men, they make it most evident, from the failings of some among that order of men, that they are all perfect monsters ; and that, of consequence, it is impossible they should speak one word of truth, either in or out of the pulpit. They contrive a thousand entertaining stories for this purpose ; and, as to the wit necessary to turn the clergy into ridicule with, they can copy as much in half an hour into their pocketbooks, from any libertine writer, as may serve them for a whole year. It requires but little reading, and no learning, to persecute Christianity through its ministers ; and therefore this is the topic of the young and illiterate libertine, who can see, that a bad action done by a clergyman, refutes his religion; but cannot perceive, that a thousand good ones done, some of them perhaps by the very same clergyman, and the rest by others on whom malice can fix no imputation, redound nothing to the credit of religion. The more learned topics, on which religion may be attacked, become the province of those, who, having little to do, and being in small request among people of their own profession or employment, are always reading on the opposite side to religion, and come in time to be most able antichristians. Having but few opportunities given them of doing mischief in law, physic, or other branches of businesss, they exercise their talents on religion, and the church of Christ. All the opposers, or, I may rather say, maligners, of religion, persecute it as far as the laws of their country will permit; and though, to save appearances, and avoid the dreadful penalties inflicted by law on blasters, they give Christ his title of Saviour, and speak with some decency of his religion, before those men in power, who are known to be Christians, yet they treat both with the utmost indignity and virulence, whenever it is safe for them so to do. As far as in them lies, they use Christ as his first persecutors did. They listen to none but his accusers. They give him his titles, and call him their Saviour ; but it is only by way of accusation. • They hail him' indeed; but then ' they spit upon him. They clothe him with purple too ;' but, at the same time, • they crown him with thorns. They give him drink;' but • it is vinegar and gall.'
Such are the enemies of Christ. Let us now see what sort of friends he hath to espouse him. They also are of the very same kind with those who followed him when on earth.
Some, observing that he produces bread in a miraculous way, and without labour, attend on him for the loaves.' They are very good Christians, if sitting still and eating will make a Christian. As long as either the ministry of Christ, or the laws that annex employments of profit to conformity, can afford to support the professors of Christianity, we shall have professors enough, who will come to the table of God, as it were only for spiritual food; when God, who sees their hearts, knows full well their appetites are set quite another way. There is no sort of compliment, which these parasites of religion, who only come to flatter and eat, are not ready to pay, either to God, or their country's laws, provided they may enrich themselves by so doing. It is this goodly prin: ciple that gives us all our occasional conformists, our annual or mere official communicants; whom, if you follow back from the Lord's table to their own, or to their private lives, you will find utterly divested of all religion; and not a few of them labouring to seduce others from that religion which they have been conforming with for gain. This they do without scruple or shame; yet, if they are put in mind of this scandalous practice by any body, they highly resent it, as an impeachment of their sincerity and hongur. But if these are men of honour and sincerity, as perhaps the present reigning opinion concerning sincerity may be comprehensive enough to take them in, then it seems the names of things are changed, and sincerity stands for hypocrisy, and dissimulation for integrity. There is, I think, no one symptom, by which the extreme iniquity of the times we live in so clearly discovers itself as that no sort of men are more caressed and admired among us, than those who rise to the most beneficial employments in the church, by subscribing articles, and solemnly repeating creeds, which they labour, with all imaginable art and anxiety, to refute through the press, in private conversation, and in the pulpit.
A contention arose among certain of our Saviour's disciples, who should be the greatest; and, although he reproved their ambition, and told them, he who would be greatest among them, ought to be servant to the rest,' proposing his own example to them, 'who, being their Lord and Master, stooped nevertheless to wash their feet, yet this contention is still kept up, and carried very high. There is an infinite struggle among all sorts of Christians for preeminence; but it is not like that among our Saviour's first disciples, in order to be uppermost on earth. The basest arts, the vilest flattery, the utmost contempt of all principle, all duty, all decency, are employed in the pursuit of this end; so opposite to the humility and contentment prescribed by our religion, and so severely branded by the reproofs, the precepts, the example, of our blessed Redeemer. What is highly hurtful to Christianity, the lowest and basest spirits often raise themselves to the highest offices; and that which ought for ever to have remained below, as it was at first, the mere lee and sediment of the church, rises to the top, and covers it with the most filthy kind of scum ; which is continually increasing and thickening, by the attraction of more stuff like itself. This gives our church and our religion a most disagreeable aspect. It keeps up a perpetual ferment throughout the whole; and, for the most part, sets that only in view, which is the least fit to be seen. Now those who never look deeper than the mere surfaces of things, think all is like what they see; or, at least, are willing to think it is; because they are glad to believe the worst, and stand in need of all the wickedness of others, whether real or imputed, to countenance their own. Christianity is no more to blame for the ambition of its professors, than Christ was for that of his immediate disciples. As he reproved the pride of these, so it still condemns the vain glory of those, who, after
renouncing the pomps and vanities of this wicked world' in their baptism, pursue and court nothing else, during their whole lives.
There were such among our Saviour's disciples, as were for' calling down fire from heaven' to consume those, who, on a religious account, had been somewhat unkind to them; and for this piece of spiritual cruelty, they quoted the example of Elias. But our blessed Saviour turned very short
upon them,' and rebuked them, saying, you know not what manner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of man is not come to destroy mens lives, but to save them.' When Peter had, in defence of his master drawn his sword, and smote off Malchus's ear, Christ bid him put up his sword ; told him force was not to be used in the cause of God; that, if it were, he could easily obtain 'twelve legions of angels,' to subdue and destroy his enemies : and that his precept, on that trying occasion, might not go without an example both of his power and pity,' he stretched forth his hand and healed the ear of him' who was come to take
his life. Yet, notwithstanding these instances, and a great deal more to the same effect, strongly set forth in holy Scripture, there are those among Christians, who imagine God stands in need of their assistance ; or, at least, would have the world believe they think so; and are for working the righteousness of God by their own wrath. They will fight and mangle the flesh of other people for God: they will persecute and kill for God: they will in short, do that for God's sake, which God hath severely forbid. But what he hath commanded, namely, that they should do justice, and shew mercy, and walk humbly with God, that they have no inclination to, and would rather sanctify the motions of their own malicious hearts, with the pretence and name of serving God. But this sort of zeal, if it may be so called, instead of doing bonour to God, or promoting any cause of his, furnishes unbelievers with a pretence to blaspheme our religion, to which they wickedly ascribe such effects as are most opposite to its spirit and genius, and such as must be dictated by a spirit like their own; that is, by a dark and infernal spirit. The sin of persecution is very grievous; but surely the persecuting of men's bodies, though by fire and sword, is not a greater sin, than the attributing to Christianity those hardships, which men, on a religious account, have suffered at one another's hands. This is the worst of all persecutions; because its aim and tendency is to destroy that religion, by which only men may be saved : it is a wilful and cruel persecution of souls; and all under the mask of mercy. The great deceiver sends one of his instruments into the church, who takes on him the name of Christ, does a thousand the most scandalous things, and, among others,