« PreviousContinue »
Men will be afraid to imitate them, when they who set the Example, get nothing but an ill Name by it : It makes some men think that all Religion is a Cheat, and has nothing but this World at the bottom,when the more zealous men appear in doing good, the more they are suspected of Hypocrify, and worldly Designs.
And thus on the other hand, ( as we know Mankind are very partial in their Affections) when those who do very wicked Actions , shall still be thought good men, and maintain their Reputation in the World, as having the root of the matter in them, though they are not without their Failings; this makes men believe, that they may be good , and yet live wickedly, if they do but take care of their Hearts; and they can easily persuade themselves, that their Hearts are very good.
It were easy to réckop up a great many Mischiefs of this judging MensHearts, especially when Censures fall upon the Ministersof Religion, which weakens their Authority, and Counsels and Examples, and Reproofs'; which was the case of St. Paul himself, who it seems was censured on all hands, but appeals from Man's Judgment to the Judgment of God; With.me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's Fudgment
: yea, I judge not my self : For I know nothing by may self, yet am I not hereby justify’d: but be that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart: and then shall every man bave praise of God, 1 Cor. 4. 3, 4, 5.
Let us then judge of mens Actions according to those Rules of Good and Evil which the Gospel has given us, but leave their Hearts to God,who alone knows the Secrets of Hearts, and who alone can judge them: This is God's Prerogative, and it is Presumption in us to intermeddle with it; and worse than that, it is very dangerous too, with respect to our own Account at the last Judgment, as our Saviour tells us, 7. Mat. 1,2. Judge not, that ye be not judged : For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ge mete, it shall be measured unto you again. . So that if we will judge, we ought to be favourable and charitable in our Judgment; if we desire to be judged favourably by God; And I believe there is none of us but will confess, that we stand in need of a very favourable Judgment; that God should make
great Allowances for the Weakness, Ignorance, Folly, Mistakes, Inadvertencies, Surprizes, Temptations of Human Nature ; and if we are so far from making any favourable allowances for the Miscarriages of our Brethren, that we search into their very Hearts and Thoughts, to find something to quarrel with ; either to aggravate visible Faults; or to turn appearing and visible Virtues into Faults, what may we expect
from the Just and Righteous Judge of the World? • It is a known Rule of Righteousness, To do as
we would be done to ; and all Mankind think it very just, to suffer what we do, to receive the fame measure we mete to others; and therefore we may make a Law to our selves, and by a severe, rigorous, uncharitable Judgment of men, make God, not an Unjust, but yet a Severe and Rigorous Judge of us;
And if he be severe to mark what we have done amiss, who can stand before him?
2dly, As we must not judge mens Hearts and Thoughts, much less must we judge their Final Śtate;
to condemn them to Eternal Miseries, or to ådvance them to Eternal Glories, as we please; for this is to pre-judge the Judgment of God, and to prescribe to him, whom he shall save, and whom he shall damn, by our own byass'd and partial Affections. It becomes us to take care of our own Accounts, and to leave other men to the merciful Judgment of God: It is an argument of a very ill temper of mind, when men are hafty and forward in pronouncing the Sentence of Damnation against others; it looks as if they had a mind such men should be damned; as if they would direct God what to do, left he thould be too merciful : It is enough for us to consider what the Terms of Salvation are, which the Gospel has proposed to us; and to take care to perform these Terms our selves, whether other men have performed them or not, 'tis none of our business to judge ; that God will do when he comes to judge the World : But all pious and charitable Chriftians, who consider what it is to be damned, are very unwilling to pronounce this Sentence upon any man.
Our Church has been extreamly blamed by some men, for that Charity she has expressed in lier Office of Burial,towards all that die in hercommunion,when she teaches us to pray,We meekly beseech Thee, O Father, to raise us from the death of Sin, unto the life of righteousness, that when we shall' ale part this
Life, we,may rest in him, as our hope is this our Brother dotb. And yet it may be the Person then buried, is known to have lived a very wicked and profligate Life: And how can we express our Hope of the Salvation of such a man?
Now the truth is, our Church never intended this Office of Burial for men of Profligate Lives, no more than she intended that such men should live and die in her Communion; for this Office is only for those who die in the Communion of the Church ; and were Church-Discipline duly exercis'd, all fuch notorious Sinners must have been flung out of Church-Communion : And those who raise the Clamour about this, have been one great Hindrance of exercising Discipline, having wcakened the Power and Authority of the Church by their Schisms and Fa&ions : But taking things as they are, I confess I can see no Impiety in it, nor any such mighty Fault as is pretended. The Church does not pretend to judge any'man's Final State, how wicked soever his Life was, that is God's Work, and she leaves them to him ; and what great Fault is it to hope well, when we can't pretend to know enough of the worit of men, especially of the end and conclusion of their Lives, to pass a Final Sentence on them there are a great many degrees of Hope, and one degree but the next remove from Despair ; that is, but the next remove from pronouncing Damnation against them; and if we must not do that, we may say, we hope ftill: Suppose our Hope be no more than a charitable. Wish, how can that offend God that we wish well even to very bad men? An excess of Charity, an Unwillingness that any Man fhould be eternally miserable, is no Fault; I am sure it is a greater to pronounce che final Sentence of Damnation against any Man.
But it is faid, That this encourages his wicked Companions who attend his Funeral
, to hope they may be saved too, though they persist in their Wickedness to the last, as he did. Now indeed what little Matters may encourage such Men in Sin, I cannot say, but there is no reason that a faint and charitable Wish should do this: If they know the Gospel of Christ, they know that he has threatned eternal Damnation against all impenitent Sinners; if they know the Do ctrine of the Church, they know she teaches the very same thing; if they faw their wicked Com panion die, they saw his dying Horrors and Ago? nies too, which few of them die without, if they have any time to consider their State; and when they know and see all this, is there any reason to hope they shall be saved in their Wickedness only because the Church will not Damn them, but reserves them to the Judgment of God, and sends her charitable Wishes after them? At leaft this can be no Encouragement; when they are forewarned before-hand of it.; which is the chief Reason why I take notice of it at this time.
Upon the same Principle; I am not ashamed to own I have always been averse to chat Dis. pute about the Salvation of Heathens; for this is to fit in Judgment on three parts of the World, and I am not the Judge of the World, nor of any part of it; and yet I know not what Character and Censures this plain Confef: I 2