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they know not how to sing, that doth not excuse them, unless they have been incapable of learning. As it is the command of God, that all should sing, so all should make conscience of learning to sing, as it is a thing which cannot be decently per." formed at all without learning. Those, therefore, who neglect to learn to sing, live in sin, as they neglect what is necessary in order to their attending one of the ordinances of God's worship. Not only should persons make conscience of learning to sing themselves, but parents should conscientiously see to it, that their children are taught this among other things, as their education and instruction belongs to them.
(3.) Are you not guilty of allowing yourselves in sin, in neglecting to do your part towards the removal of scandals from among us? All persons that are in the church, and the chil. dren of the church, are under the watch of the church; and it it is one of those duties to which we are bound by the corenant which we either actually or virtually make, in uniting ourselves to a particular church, that we will watch over our brethren, and do our part to uphold the ordinances of God in their purity. This is the end of the institution of particular churches, viz. the maintaining of the ordinances of divine worship there, in the manner which God hath appointed.
Examine whether you have not allowed yourselves in sin with respect to this matter, through fear of offending your neighbours. Have you not allowedly neglected the proper steps for removing scandals, when you have seen them; the steps of reproving them privately, where the case would allow of it, and of telling them to the church, where the case re. quired it? Instead of watching over your brother, bave you not rather bid yourselves, that ye might not be witnesses against him? and when you have seen scandal in him, have you not avoided the taking of proper steps according to the case ?
(4.) Art not thou one whose manner it is, to come late to the public worship of God, and especially in winter, when the weather is cold? and dest thou not live in sin in so doing? Consider whether it be a way which can be justified; whether it be a practice which doth honour to God and religion ; whether it have not the appearance of setting light by the public worship and ordinances of God's house. Doth it not show that thou dost not prize such opportunities, and that thou art willing to have as little of them as thou canst ? Is it not a disorderly practice? and if all should do as thou dost, what confusion would it occasion?
(5.) Art thou not one whose manner it commonly is to sleep in the time of public service and is not this to live in a way of sin ? Consider the matter rationally ; is it a thing to be justified, for thee to lay thyself down to sleep, while thou art present in the time of divine service, and pretendest to be one of the worshipping assembly, and to be hearing a message from God? Would it not be looked upon as an high affront, an odious behaviour, if thou shouldst do so in the presence of a king, while a message was delivering to thee, in his name, by one of his servants? Canst thou put a greater contempt on the message which the King of kings sendeth to thee, concerning things of the greatest importance, than from time to time to Jay thyself down, and compose thyself to sleep, while the messenger is delivering his message to thee?
(6.) Art thou not one who is not careful to keep his mi intent upon what is said and done in public worship? Dost thou not, in the midst of the most solemn acts of worship, suffer tby thoughts to rove after worldly objects, worldly cares and concerns, or perhaps the objects of thy wicked lusts and desires ? and dost thou not herein live in a way of sin ?
Self-examination concerning secret sins.
I shall now propose to you to examine yourselves, Whether you do not live in some secret sin ; whether you do not live in the neglect of some secret duty, or secretly live in some practice which is offensive to the pure and all-seeing eye of God. Here you should examine yourselves concerning all secret duties, as reading, meditation, secret prayer; whether you attend those at all, or if you do, whether you do not attend them in an unsteady and careless manner. You should also examine yourselves concerning all secret sins. Strictly inquire what your behaviour is, when you are hid from the eye of the world, when you are under no other restraints than those of conscience, when you are not afraid of the eye of man, and have nothing to fear but the all-seeing eye of God. Here, among many other things which might be mentioned, I shall particularly mention two.
(1.) Inquire whether you do not live in the neglect of the duty of reading the holy scriptures. The holy scriptures were VOL. IV.
surely written to be read; and unless we be Popish in our principles, we shall maintain, that they were not only given to be read by ministers, but by the people too. It dotb not answer the design for which they were given, that we have once read them, and that we once in a great while read something in them. They were given to be always with us, to be continually conversed with, as a rule of life. As the artificer must always have his rule with him in his work; and the blind man that walks must always have his guide by him; and he that walks in darkness must have his light with him; so the scriptures were given to be a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path.
That we may continually use the scriptures as our rule of life, we should make them our daily companion, and keep them with us continually; Josh. i. 8. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt ineditate therein day and night. See also Deut. vi. 6—9. So Christ commands us to search the scriptures, Jobn v. 39. These are the mines wherein we are to dig for wisdom as for hidden treasures. Inquire, therefore, whether you do not live in the neglect of this duty, or neglect it so far, that you may be said to live in a
way of sin.
(2.) Inquire whether you do not live in some way of secretly gratifying some sensual lust. There are many ways and and degrees, wherein a carnal lust may be indulged; but every way is provoking to an holy God. Consider whether, although you restrain yourselves from more gross indulgencies, you do not, in some way or other, and in some degree or other, secretly from time to time gratify your lusts, and allow yourselves to taste the sweets of unlawful delight.
Persons may greatly provoke God, by only allowedly gratifying their lusts in their thoughts and imaginations. They may also greatly provoke God by excess and intemperance in gratifying their animal appetites in those things which are in themselves lawful. Inquire, therefore, whether you do not live in some sinful way or other, in secretly gratifying a sinful appetite.
Self-examination concerning our temper of mind towards our
Neighbours and our dealings with them.
I would propose to you to examine yourselves, whether you do not live in some way of sin, 1. In the spirit and temper of mind which you allow towards your neighbour.
11.) Do you not allow and indulge a passionate, furious disposition? If your natural temper be hasty and passionate, do you truly strive against such a temper, and labour to govern your spirit? Do you lament it, and watch over yourselves to prevent it? or do you allow yourselves in a fiery temper? Such a disposition doth not become a Christian, or a man. It doth not become a man, because it unmans him; it turns a man from a rational creature, to be like a wild beast. When men
а are under the prevalency of a furious passion, they have not much of the exercise of reason. We are warned to avoid such men, as being dangerous creatures, Prov. xxii. 24. 25. Make no friendship with an angry man ; and with a furious man thou shalt not go, lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.
(2.) Do not you live in hatred towards some or other of your neighbours ? Do you not hate him for real or supposed injuries that you have received from him? Do you not hate bim, because he is not friendly towards you, and because you judge that he hath an ill spirit against you, and hates you, and because he opposes you, and doth not show you that respect which you think belongs to you, or doth not show himself forward to promote your interest or honour? Do you not hate him, because you think he dispises you, has mean thoughts of you, and takes occasion to show it? Do you not hate him, because he is of the opposite party to that which is in your interest, and because he has considerable influence in that party. Doubtless
will be loath to call it by so harsh a name as hatred; but inquire seriously and impartially, whether it be any thing better. Do you not feel iil towards him? Do you not feel a prevailing disposition within you to be pleased when you hear him talked against and run down, and to be glad when you hear of any dishonour put upon him, or of any dis- . appointments which happen to him? Would you not be glad of an opportunity to be even with him for the injuries which he hath done you? And wherein doth hatred work but in such
ways as these?
(3.) Inquire whether you do not live in envy towards some one at least of your neighbours. Is not his prosperity, his riches, or his advancement in honour, uncomfortable to you? Have you not, therefore, an ill will, or at least less good will to him, because you look upon him as standing in your way, you look upon yourself as depressed by his advancement ? And would it not be pleasing to you now, if he should be deprived of his riches, or of his honours, not from pure respect to the public good, but because you reckon he stands in your way? Is it not merely from a selfish spirit that you are so uneasy at his prosperity?
2. I shall propose to your consideration, whether you do not live in some way of sin, and wrong in your dealings with your neighbours.
(1.) Inquire whether you do not from time to time injure and defraud those with whom you deal. Are your ways with your neighbour altogether just, such as will bear a trial by the strict rules of the word of God, or such as you can justify before God? Are you a faithful person? may your neighbours depend on your word? Are you strictly and firmly true to your trust, or any thing with which you are betrysted, and which you undertake? Or do you not by your conduct plainly show, that you are not conscientious in such things?
Do you not live in a careless sinful neglect of paying your debts? Do you not, to the detriment of your neighbour, sinfully withhold that which is not your own, but his? Are you not wont to oppress your neighbour? When you see another in necessity, do you not thence take advantage to screw upon him? When you see a person ignorant, and perceive that you have an opportunity to inake your gains of it, are you not wont to take such an opportunity ? Will you not deceive in buying and selling, and labour to blind the eyes of him of whom you buy, or to whom you sell, with deceitful words, hiding the faults of what you sell, and denying the good qualities of what you buy, and not strictly keeping to the truth, when you see that falsehood will be an advantage to you in your bargain?
(2.) Do you not live in some wrong which you have formerly done your neighbour without repairing it? Are you not conscious that you have formerly, at some time or other, wronged your neighbour, and yet you live in it, have never repaired the injury which you have done him? If so you live in a way of sia.