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Difadvantage of Christianity it self.
III. What are the Inferences that
I. I am to confider, What just Ground, or Colour there may be for a Complaint of the exceeding Wickedness of Men now under the Christian Difpenfation.
And here, it may with Truth be obferved, to the Advantage of our holy Religion, that, as bad as Men are under it, they would have yet been worse without it; fince, upon a juft Comparison of Chriftians, even in these latter Times, with the Enemies of the Crofs of Christ, it will, I am perfuaded, be found that the Manners of the One are not quite fo Corrupt and Vicious as those of the Other. There may perhaps be fome particular Christians more abandoned to all forts and degrees of Impiety, than any even of the most profligate Heathens (for which Inftan
ces I shall account in what follows :)SER M. But furely Christendom, as to the general State of it, is not equally fcandalous in this refpect, with thofe Parts of the World, that are Strangers to Chrift; thofe Parts of it, I mean, where the Incentives to Luxury, Ambition, and every fort of Vice do equally a
And therefore the aggravating Descriptions that have been given of this Matter, by fome pious and pathetical Pens, are not to be interpreted too ftrictly. The Faults of Chriftians are obvious and manifeft to those of the fame Faith, and ftrike our Imaginations ftrongly on the Account of their Nearnefs: Whereas the Vices of the Heathen World, being practised at a Distance, and coming to our Knowledge by rare and uncertain Reports, do therefore make but faint Impreffions on our Minds,
The Rule, by which Christians are obliged to walk, is fo excellent, and they are thereby fo fully and clearly informed
SERM. formed of the whole Extent of their II. Duty; the promised Affiftances are fo mighty, and the Rewards so vast by which they are animated to Obedience; that their Tranfgreffions, as they are attended with a deeper Guilt, so must needs appear to be of a more prodigious Size, than those of other Men. And it is no wonder therefore, if, on both these Accounts, good and holy Perfons have spoken of them with a particular Degree of Detestation and Hor
And as the Vices of Chriftians are, for thefe Reasons, open and glaring, fo their Virtues oftentimes disappear and lie hid. The profound Humility and Self-denial, which the Chriftian Religion firft enjoined, leads the true Difciples of Christ, in the Exercise of the chief Gospel Graces, to fhun the Applause and Sight of Men, as much as is poffible. Hence, fome of the best Chriftians are leaft known to be fuch, because they make the least Noise and Shew with their Goodnefs. There is
nothing extraordinary, or fingular in SER M. their manner of Life and Behaviour, II. no Oftentation of Sanctity in Look, Word, or Deed. Notwithstanding their Domestick Severities, yet, when they come abroad, they anoint the Head, and wash the Face, that they appear not unto Men to faft. They found no Trumpet before their Alms, or other good Works; but endeavour to perform them with that Secrecy, which our Saviour recommended, when he faid, Let not thy Mat. vi. 3. Right Hand know what thy Left Hand doth.
And of this there is One, though a very late, yet fo remarkable an Instance, that for the Honour of our holy Faith, I think it may deserve to be particularly mentioned; the Inftance, I mean, of the Author of that excellent Book, the Whole Duty of Man, who took not more Care to do good to the World, than he did to conceal the Doer of it; being contented to approve himself to him, and him only, who feeth in fecret, and refolved that the Praise of Men, whether
SERM.ther in his Life, or after his Death, II. fhould be no part of his Reward.
On these, and fuch Accounts as these, I fay, Vice feems to have the Odds of Vertue among those who name the Name of Chrift much more than it really bath. However, after all the Abatements that have been, or can be made in this Cafe, ftill it must be owned, That the Wickedness of Christians is exceeding great, and, confidering the fpecial Helps towards Holiness, which they above the reft of the World enjoy, very amazing. Even good Men, when they find all the powerful Means of Grace proposed in the Gospel, to have fo little Succefs, are apt to be somewhat ftartled at it; and ill Men do not fail to make a very ill Use of it, and to turn it to the Dif advantage of Christianity it self.
II. That they are very unreasonable in fo doing, I am, in the next place, to fhew. For,
1. The holiest and pureft Doctrine imaginable is but Doctrine ftill; it can only