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whose duties are to inform and to oblige; which is capable of being turned into darkness ; a very considerable evil, and a great danger of falling into it, 261. The cause of this light's being darkened, is,
I. In general; every thing which either defiles the conscience, 268. or weakens it by putting a bias upon its judging faculty, 271.
II. In particular ; every kind and degree of sin, considered,
1. In the act, 273. And thus every commission of any great sin darkens the conscience, 273.
2. In the habit, 272. And thus the repeated practice of sin puts out its light, 275.
3. In the principle, 272. And thus every vicious affection perverts the judging, and darkens the discerning power of conscience, 277. Such as, 1. Sensuality, 279. by the false pleasures of lust, 281. of intemperance, 283. 2. Covetousness, 285. 3. Ambition or pride, 286. And many others besides, 289.
Thence a man may learn what he is to avoid, that he may have a clear, impartial, and right-judging conscience, 290.
MATTHEW v. 44. But I say unto you, Love your enemies. P. 293. The duty here enjoined by Christ is not opposed to the Mosaic law, but to the doctrine of the scribes and pharisees, 293. For the matter of all the commandments, except the fourth, is of natural, moral right, 293. and there is no addition of any new precepts, but only of some particular instances of duty, 295. with an answer to some objections concerning the commands of loving God with all our heart, 298. and laying down our life for our brother, 299. Then it is proved, that Christ opposed not Moses's law as faulty or imperfect, but only the comments of the scribes and pharisees upon or rather against it, 300. Among
the duties here enjoined by Christ, is to love our enemies, 302. by which,
I. Negatively, 302. is not meant, 1. A fair deportment and amicable language, 302. 2. Fair promises, 305. 3. A few kind offices, 307. But, II. Positively, 309. is meant, 1. A discharging the mind of all the leaven of malice, 309.
2. The doing all real offices of kindness, that opportunity shall lay in the way, 310.
3. The praying for them, 312.
All which are not inconsistent with a due care of defending and securing ourselves against them, 314.
III. This love of enemies may be enforced by many arguments drawn from,
1. Their condition; as they are joined with us in the community of the same nature, 315. or (as it may happen) of the same religion, 316. or as they may be capable, if not of being made friends, yet of being shamed and rendered inexcusable, 317.
2. The excellency of the duty itself, 318.
3. The great example of our Saviour, 319. and that of a king, upon the commemoration of whose nativity and return this sermon was preached, 320.
Lastly, because this duty is so difficult, we ought to beg God's assistance against the opposition which fesh and blood will make to it, 321.
FALSE FOUNDATIONS REMOVED, AND TRUE ONES LAID.
Matth. vii. 26, 27. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and
doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon
the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds
blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. P. 324. Our Saviour teaches us not to build upon a deceitful
bottom, in the great business of our eternal happiness, 325. but only upon practice and obedience: because,
I. That is the best and surest foundation, 326. being, 1. The only thing that can mend our corrupt nature, 326. 2. The highest perfection of our nature, 328.
3. The main end of religion, 329. as the designs of it in this world are the honour of God, 329. and the advantage of society, 330.
II. All other foundations are false, 331. such as 1. A naked, unoperative faith, 332.
2. The goodness of the heart and honesty of intention, 333.
3. Party and singularity, 335. because the piety of no party can sanctify its proselytes, 336. and such an adhesion to a party carries with it much of spiritual pride in men, who naturally have a desire of preeminence, and a spirit of opposition to such as are not of their
337. III. Such false foundations, upon trial, will be sure to fall, 338. which is shewed from,
1. The Devil's force and opposition, 338. which is sudden and unexpected, 339. furious and impetuous, 340. restless and importunate, 341.
2. The impotence and non-resistance of the soul, 342. which is frequently unprepared, weak, and inconstant, 342.
IV. The fall will be very great, 344. being scandalous and diffusive, 344. hardly and very rarely recoverable, 345.
Therefore no man must venture to build his salvation upon false and sinking grounds, 346. but only upon such terms as God will deal with him, viz. a perfect obedience, 348.
A TRUE STATE AND ACCOUNT OF THE PLEA OF A TENDER
1 Cor. viii. 12. But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their
weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. P.350. The apostle treateth of a weak conscience in new con
verts from Judaism (in the 14th of Rom.] and from heathenism [here] 350. in these words ; towards the understanding of which we must know,
I. What a weak conscience is, 353. not that which is improperly called tender, 353. but the weakness here spoken of is opposed to faith, 354. and implies,
1. The ignorance of some action's lawfulness, 356. not wilful, but such a one as is excusable, and the object of pity, 367. arising from the natural weakness of the understanding, or from the want of opportunity or means of knowledge, 357.
2. The suspicion of some action's unlawfulness, 358.
3. A religious abstinence from the use of that thing, of the unlawfulness whereof it is ignorant or suspicious, 359.
II. How such a weak conscience is wounded, 360. viz. 1. By being grieved and robbed of its peace, 360.
2. By being emboldened to act against its present persuasion, 361, either through example, 361. or through a command, with the conjunction of some reward or penalty, 362. descending from a private or a public person, 363.
HI. We may thence infer,
1. That none having been brought up and long continued in the communion of a true church, having withal the use of his reason, can justly plead weakness of conscience, 365.
2. That such a weakness can upon no sufficient ground be continued in, 369.
8. That the plea of it ought not to be admitted in prejudice of the laws, which are framed for the good, not of any particular persons, but of the community, 371. For the ill consequences would be, that there could be no limits assigned to this plea, 371. nor any evidence of its sincerity, 372. and this would absolutely bind the magistrate's hands, 873.
Besides, such pleas are usually accompanied with partiality, 374. and hypocrisy, such as those of the dissenters, 375. which upon the foregoing reasons ought not to be allowed, 376.
CHRISTIANITY MYSTERIOUS, AND THE WISDOM OF GOD IN
MAKING IT so.
1 Cor. i. 7. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery. P. 378.
The apostle's design here is to set forth the transcendent worth of the gospel by two qualifications eminently belonging to it, 378, viz.
I. That it is the wisdom of God, 379. a wisdom respecting speculation, and here principally relating to practice, 379. a wisdom as irresistibly powerful as it is infallible, 380.
II. That this wisdom is in a mystery, 381.
1. In the nature of the things treated of in the Christian religion, 381. which are of difficult apprehension for their greatness, 382. spirituality, 384. strangeness, 385. as may be exemplified in two principal articles of it, regeneration, 387. and the resurrection, 387.
2. In the ends of it, 388. It is as much the design of religion to oblige men to believe the credenda as to practise the agenda ; and there is as clear a reason for the belief of the one, as for the practice of the other, 389. But their mysteriousness, 1. Makes a greater impression of awe, 391. 2. Humbles the pride of men's reason, 394. 3. Engages us in a more diligent search, 396. 4. Will, when fully revealed, make part of our happiness hereafter, 399.
Thence we may learn in such important points of religion,
1. To submit to the judgment of the whole church in general, and of our spiritual guides in particular, 401.
2. Not to conclude every thing impossible, which to our reason is unintelligible, 404.
3. Nor by a vain presumption to pretend to clear up all mysteries in religion, 405.