Page images

differs only in degree from joyful assurance, of being in a state of acceptance and salvation. But the Scripture hath not taught us, nor is it safe, to judge of our spiritual condition by any such delightful feeling, instantaneously impressed upon us: for the presumptuous sinner may work himself into the imagination of it, and the modest and humble saint experience it much less strongly. But the rule is, to know ourselves, as well as others, by our fruits *. If our faith work by love t, love of God, love of our neighbour, love of goodness and of heaven, all is well. In these therefore exercise yourselves to make your calling and election sure, and your societies respectable : for if you do these things, ye shall never fall I.

Each of you then be careful separately to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all thingsg. Abstain, not only from all evil, but all appearance of evil ||, lest the name of God be blasphemed through you among the Gentiles (. Be not conformed to this world ** in any thing sinful, ensnaring, suspicious; for such many of the customs of this world are. Avoid unbecoming levities in discourse ; indulgence to the full, or delicacy, in meats and drinks; vain shew and expence in apparel, amusements of bad report or bad example: form your families, as well as yourselves, to seek and set their affections, not on things on the earth, but things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God ft. Yet at the same time recommend your seriousness by as easy and cheerful a deportment as you can ; be gentle [1, be courteous $$, excuse yourselves with civility from what you cannot approve; censure no liberties, that are innocent; and with moderation * Matth. vii. 16, &c. + Gal. v. 6. # 2 Pet. i. 10. ♡ Tit. ii. 10. || 1 Thess. v. 22.

Rom. ii. 24. ** Rom. xii. 2. ++ Col. ii, 1, 2. If Tit. iii. 2. 1 1 Pet. iii. 8.

[blocks in formation]

join gracefully, if possible, in all harmless things, to which propriety invites you. In your dealings and business, be just, sincere, equitable, compassionate : for it is a dreadful prejudice against the Gospel, when they, who distinguish themselves in the profession of it, are thought unfair, indirect, unreasonable, hardhearted. Be also diligent in your vocations, frugal, prudent : for these also are Christian duties : and if, for want of observing them, you fail to thrive tolerably well in the world, all will be imputed to your expence of time, and thought, and money, on your religious meetings and schemes. Besides, you ought both to labour and be saving, that you may have to give to him that needeth*. Infidels are apt to boast of their charity and good-nature : and it concerns us highly not to let them be superior to us in any branch of our Saviour's new commandment, universal love t: but exercise even towards them, who seldom fail to treat us and our holy faith despitefully and contemptuously, as far as they can, all the humanity, candour, and friendliness, that is consistent with being undefiled and separate from sinners 5. Much more be mild towards professed Christians, who seem either on the one hand too rigid, or on the other defective, in faith or practice. Guard yourselves against both extremes : warn them, if properly called to it: but otherwise leave them to their own Master, to stand or fall . Even should any of them be so ill-informed or illtempered, as to think or speak slightly or harshly of you personally, or of your societies; instruct them in meekness ||, if there be hope of setting them right: if not, bear them in silence, and be content with the testimony of a good conscience. * Eph. iv. 28.

| Heb. vii. 26. s Rom. xiv. 4. || 2 Tim. ï. 25.

+ John xiji. 34.

In proportion as each of you singly observes, or transgresses, these Gospel rules, he will bring honour or shame on himself; on the particular body, to which he belongs; on these assemblies in general. And their influencing their members effectually to eminent goodness, is the best, indeed the only strong argument, that you can use to invite others into them. Therefore take especial care, that you may always be able to use that with truth. For this end, beware in the first place of letting your conferences degenerate into form without power *, into lukewarmness and supineness, a name that you live, while indeed you are deadt: and if there have been any tendency this way, remember from whence you are fallen I, be zealous and repent l, and pray God to revive his work in the midst of the years 5. Beware in the next place of running into controversies and disputes. You have wisely guarded against these, by admitting such persons only as are well affected to our present happy establishment in Church and State. Guard against them still further, by avoiding to debate any unnecessary points of any kind. Never indeed slight what God hath plainly taught, but never insist on what he hath not: about all needless questions, allow different opinions amongst yourselves, without talking of them: neither censure those of others, nor press your own. In matters of practical religion indeed, you not only may, but ought to be earnest. Yet even there, despise not good persons of less fervent dispositions; and heat not one another, or yourselves, into unmeaning or injudicious transports; but let your piety be at once an affectionate and a reasonable services. Be mutually helpful, if you properly, can, even in temporal affairs. For the Apostle hath directed us to do good, especially unto them that are of the household of faith* ; and therefore surely to those, whom we have the best ground to think worthy members of that household. But your principal concern, beyond all comparison, is to promote your common good in spirituals: to comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as ye do t: if a man be overtaken in a fault, to restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, each considering himself, lest he also be tempted f: to suffer the word of exhortation ||, and even of rebuke, with patience, according to that of the Psalmist, Let the righteous smite me friendly and reprove me ç, and of Solomon, He that rebuketh a man, shall afterwards

* 2 Tim. iii. 5. + Rev. iii. 1. Rev. ii. 5. || Rev. iii. 19. S Hab. iii. 2.

Rom. xii. 1.

find more favour, than he that flattereth with the tongue 1. Nay, should any one by his behaviour oblige you to have no longer company with him, that he may be ashamed: yet the precepts of Christian charity bind you, not to count him an enemy, but still, so far as there is any room left admonish him as a brother **. But, brethren, though I speak thus boldly to you, at putting you in mind, yet I am persuaded of you that ye are full of goodness, and all knowledge, able to admonish one another tt, without foreign assistance. And therefore I add only my hearty prayers, that your love may abound yet, more and more in knowledge and all judgment: that ye may approve things that are excellent, that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God IT.

+ 1 Thess. v. 11. Gal. vi. 1. || Heb. xiii. 22. Ps. cxli. 5.

Prov. xxviii. 23. ** 2 Thess. iii. 14, 15,

+1 Rom. xv. 14, 15. #1 Phil. i. 9, 10, 11.

# Gal. vi. 10.




PROV. ix. 6.

Forsake the foolish, and live: and go in the way of


These are the words of Wisdom herself speaking in person : and to speak them with effect to the poor of our neighbouring island, that forsaking the fob lies of their ancestors, they may live as men ought; and go in the way of understanding, through the practice of the duties, and enjoyment of the comforts of this world, to the happiness of the next; is the whole intent of the charity, which we are met to promote : the noblest and greatest of the kind, that ever existed.

The kingdom of Ireland is blessed by Providence with all the means of prosperity; and yet the bulk of the people are in a condition very lamentable. With health and strength, they have little or no industry: with capacities like other men, they have little or no knowledge, even of the common arts of life. With

« PreviousContinue »