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SERM. Establishment to their Utility, and could
claim at the utmoft but an equal Sanctity and Reverence. The Conclusion was, our Instruction from the Lesson in the Text, to hold no Rule of any Positive or Temporary Law of God, whether relating to his Honour and Service, or to the external Government of his People, with such Strictness as would not consist with the Duties or Privileges which flow from the Nature of Mercy, Goodness, Truth, and Justice. At that Time I only named our own Privileges, and prosecuted the Argu- ment as it relates to our Neighbours Be
nefit and our Obligation. To which I : Was determin’d, by the State of the Case which introduced that Text, whereby our Lord acquitted himself of the Injunction to abstain from the Company of Publicans and Sinners, only that he might be at Liberty to labour for the Advantage of their Souls. Accordingly I insisted upon
those Dispensations to Lower Services, which a Call to the Higher gives; and contented myself with setting forth, how the Works of Justice and Charity, in Favour to other Men, took place upon every Competition
of the Circumstantial and Secondary Part Serm. of Religious Appointments,
But the Use our Lord makes of thofe fame Words in my present Text calls upon me to pursue what was omitted concerning Privileges, the Relaxation of such Laws for our own Sakes, and in Merty to ourselves. Indeed one feems to follow from, or rather to be contain'd in the other ; fince Almighty God is equal to All, and what Liberty he grants to my Neighbour, he grants to me. My Love to myself is made the Standard of my Love to him; and then how should I not have the Liberty on my own Account, which I am bound to use on his? Therefore, as you have seen in the ixth of St. Matthew, that a Positive Law of God was well broken by our Saviour, out of Charity to the Souls of the Publicans : Here in the xüth you will see, that another was -well broken by his Disciples in Charity to their own Bodies; and learn to apply to both and many like) Cases one common Vindication, I will bave Mercy, and not Sacrifice.
SERM... But before I proceed to the full Proof II. 'and further Handling of this Matter, I
would, premise some Considerations of the Use and Necessity of opening such a Subject. For some will say, What Need -is there to talk to People of their Liberties or Indulgences in Religious Duties ? Are they not even too quick-lighted at espying them, too favourable Casuists to themfelves, and need no Prompting to underftand the Privilege of their Necessities? Let us rather extend the Limits of Duty something farther, and bind it on something streighter than the Rule itself hath done, to obtain the utmost that's poffible; for after all, Mankind will without doubt in Practice fall too too short of their. Obligations. But this Reasoning ought not to deter us altogether, though it be somewhat fpecious in itself, and rise from a good Intention and Zeal of Piety. For it is not only without any Foundation in the Word of God, but rather by its own Nature contrary to it. And then, for the Consequences of such a Proceeding, there is cause enough to apprehend, they may
be very pernicious, as well in Belief as SERM. Practice.
II. The First and most general of these is, the falling from one Error to another. If People are taught wrong, or must not be untaught their Misconceptions concerning the Bounds of Christian Duty and Liberty; who knows if the Matter will stop where they that cherish such Miftake would have it? It is a common Observation, that Error is of a fruitful Nature ; and most Men understand, that possibly, from one false Conclusion allow'd, a Hundred more may be imposed upon them. And therefore, strictly fpeaking, we cannot admit the vulgar Phrase of an innocent Error. It may indeed be innocent now, and to this Man, and yet be full of infinite Mischiefs to other People, or another Age. Of this they that have any Knowledge in the History of Mankind, or of the Church alone, can give lamentable and numerous Instances ; where the
ry Silence of some, giving Way to the unhappy Warmth of others, THAT has gain's an Establishment, which in a few Years establish'd something else of such a VOL. I.
SERM. Nature as neither dreamt of, but would II.
have given their Lives to prevent. Let us therefore not forget that of Solomon, Buy the Truth, and fell it not ; since without a Spirit of Prophesy we are not able to comprehend the Value of what we fell, and how dearly ourselves or Posterity may pay for the Advantage we now exchange it with.
But though nothing of this should follow, yet the Straining of any Duty above its true Pitch, and excluding the Indulgence which our Lord allows, is apt of itself to create divers Mischiefs very prejudicial, if not ruinous, to our Christian Course. For in the first Place, while fome (as in all Probability many will) understand their Liberty, and act accordingly, which others look upon as a meer Licence of Impiety ; what a Scandal and Breach of Charity; what Reproaches and Divisions may we not apprehend? And would to God we could only reason to inis Purpose, and that his Church did not even now feel and labour under these too certain Consequences.