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SERM.Revengefulness that impure Woman V. would be fure to pursue any one,
fhould venture to represent his Guilt to him, and to rouze his fleeping Confcience: And yet none of these frightning Confiderations were able to reprefs his godly Zeal, or to check his Freedom; which he conducted indeed, with great Caution and Prudence, infinuating his Reproofs under the Cover of fome evangelical Doctrines, then propofed by him: However, with so great Force and Succefs, as to strike Confufion and Terror into the Perfon for whom they were intended.
Let us copy the excellent Pattern which this Apoftle hath fet us, by taking all proper Opportunities of fpreading the Kingdom of Christ in the Hearts of Men, and of advancing the Interests of his Gospel. Let us refolve always to do our Duty, and dif charge a good Confcience faithfully, without being deterred by possible Inconveniences or Dangers that may attend us for fo doing; without fuffering
fecular Views, and our own private In-SER M terefts to divert us from purfuing any good Defign, whereby we may reasonably hope to promote the divine Glory, and the Good of Mankind. Let us act in fuch Cafes difcreetly indeed, warily, wifely; but withal couragioufly, zealously, firmly; as difregarding the Fear of Man, when it comes in Competition with the Fear of God. These (I say) are the Intimations, these the Inftructions given us by the Behaviour of St. Paul; when before an oppreffive, a diffolute, and an unbelieving Magiftrate, he took an Occafion to difcourfe of Righteousness, Temperance, and Judgment to come.
In which Difcourfe of his,
II. The fecond Thing obfervable is, his Manner of handling these Subjects; he reafoned: That is, he treated of them in a rational Way; proving from the Nature and Tendency of those Vertues our Obligation to practise them; and inferring from thofe Obligations the Certainty and Neceffity of a future Account, wherein
SERM.wherein Notice fhould be taken how we have, or have not complied with them; and we should be rewarded or punished accordingly. And can any Thing be faid more to the Advantage of a rational Way of evincing the DoArines of Morality, and the Truths of the Gospel, than that St. Paul practifed it? He practifed it, not on this only, but on many other Occafions: In his several Apologies for himself and for his Gospel, recorded in the Acts, throughout his Epiftles fent to the feveral Churches he planted, we find this great Apoftle of the Gentiles continually reafoning; not merely propofing Doctrines in an authoritative Manner, by Virtue of his Apostleship and Commiffion from God, but proving and making good what he proposes by Inference and Argument. Thus he fre quently did, and by fo doing has fanAtified Reason to the Purposes of Religion, and fhewed us that one Sort (indeed the best Sort) of good Preaching, confifts in good arguing.
Some pious and well-meaning Chri- SERM. ftians have a very wrong Notion con- IV. cerning edifying Discourses, and profiting by Sermons. They relifh nothing from the Pulpit, but what is addressed to their Paffions, and fet out with all the Advantages of a popular Eloquence, and moving Delivery. By this Means they find themfelves inwardly affected and warmed; and that heating of their Fancy they esteem and call spiritual Edification. But when any Point of Doctrine is handled in a close and argumentative Manner, it appears flat and unfavoury to them, has nothing in it of the Life and Power of Godliness, and is all mere human Reasoning. But herein they are widely mistaken; for it is a far greater and more useful Work, to inform the Understandings, and convince the Judgments of Men, than to raise their Paffions; and that Difcourfe, which is most inftructive, and beft fupported by Reason, is certainly, if Men attend to it, as they ought, most edifying too. A vehement and voluble Tongue, a lanVol. II. guishing
Though he were spake therefore, with an uncon
SER M. quifhing Tone of Voice, a pious Set of IV. Phrafes, or the like, will very powerfully move the Affections of fome Sort of Hearers; but, the Warmth by that Means raised, is momentary, and vanishing, without any true, found, lasting, fpiritual Improvement. To compass that, the Way, we find, which the mighty and fuccefsful Preacher St. Paul. took, was, to reafon. divinely inspired, and as the Oracles of God, troulable Authority; though he were endued with fupernatural Powers, and could therefore have confirmed the Truth of what he uttered by Miracles; yet in Compliance with the Way in which human Nature, and reasonable Creatures are ufually wrought upon, he reafoned. But these Reflections have been in fome Degree anticipated; and therefore, without enlarging farther upon them, I haften to confider the
III. Third and laft Thing obfervable in the Text, the wonderful Effect that followed upon St. Paul's thus reafoning