« ElőzőTovább »
Preach'd before the Late
The THIRD SERMON.
PRO V. I. 10.
If Sinners entice thee, confent thou
N Scripture we often find that the Evil Spirits are represented as Tempters, going to and fro in the Earth, and walking up and down in it, feeking whom they may devour; and to that end as furnish'd with all E 2
manner of Wiles and Devices, by which they may enfare and deceive Mankind. They would not be unhappy alone, and therefore bend all their study and cunning to involve Men in the fame Ruin they have plung'd themfelves into.
Yet thefe are not our only Enemies, whom we are to watch against or resist: There are many in our own fhape, who tho their feet are not cloven, yet drive on the fame Design, and are the Devil's Agents, and use their Wit and Parts to fet up his Kingdom in the World, by enticing Men to, and pleading for Sin and Irreligion. And this they do juft for the fame ill-natur'd reafon; namely, to make others as bad as themselves, that they may be alfo as miferable; that this may a little comfort them against the gnawing Fears of future Punishments, that if they fhould chance to befal them, as is threatned, yet they have made fure of Company enough.
And this may afford us one Confideration of no little force to fecure us against the Sollicitations of Sinners, That tho they may pretend to great Love and Kindnefs, and tell us of the Excellency and Bravery of being wicked, and undertake to anfwer all the Scruples and Coynefs of our Confciences; yet the bottom of all is only to engage us in the Perils and dangerous Adventures they have run themselves into: They cannot endure to think, that if the great Doctrines of Religion fhould at last prove true, any should be likely
likely to fare better in the other State than themselves; they hope either by their Num ber to bear down God Almighty to pity and pardon, or at least that when they are fo many, they hall help one another more chearfully to fuffer the worse that can happen to them.
But now would we count it reasonable for a Man to perfuade us to be fick with him? or because he hath undone himself and is loft and ruin'd, that we should therefore bring our felves into the fame Circumftances and Condition? In our temporal Affairs we are not thus eafy and flexible, nor can Men in their Wits by any means be prevailed upon to hazard their Lives and Fortunes for the gratifying the vain Humour of any defperate Pèrfon, who hath forfeited his own; and why then fhould we be fo foolishly foft as to part with all that can be called truly good, and venture our everlasting Concernments and immortal Souls, only to bear those company who are: refolved to be damn'd? Wherefore of old in all places where Civility and good Manners have obtained, fuch as have taken up that vile trade of debauching others, and enticing them to fin, have been always branded with marks of Infamy, and accounted and dealt with as the very Pefts and publick Enemies of Mankind.
But I fuppofe there is not much need of convincing you that it is your Intereft to follow this Advice of the Wife-man. Every one E 3 will
will readily grant that it is good and wholefom Counsel, not to confent to the Enticings of evil and wicked Men; the only difficulty is in the practising of it, especially in a time when Sin is not only grown into Fashion, but into very great Reputation.
It would be well if the fad Complaints of the hideous Degeneracy and Profanenefs of this prefent Age were as unjust as they are frequent; it is the humour of too many to admire and commend all the Perfons that lived, and every thing that was done before they were born, whilft they please themselves in nothing more than in continually lamenting and bemoaning the Sins and Misfortunes of their own days. And whatever times fuch had lived in, 'tis like they would have pick'd out matter of Difcontent, having no better way of fhewing rheir own Wisdom or Goodness than by finding fault with others. But however, thus much is certain, that fince the World is always fo throng'd and thickly beset with wicked Men, (and we have no reafon to doubt but that we at this time have our share of them amongst us) fince the best of us all are fo apt to be mifled, furprized or betrayed into Sin; we have great need, if we would preferve our Innocence, to fortify our Minds with all fuch Confiderations as may help us to understand the restlefs Allurements and fubtle Enticings of thofe, who not only themselves do things that are evil, but rejoice in making others do the fame.
I fhall at this time difcourfe only of these two Ways, by which those that entice Men to vicious Practices ordinarily prevail with them, viz. either by their Example, or elfe by arguing for and excufing of Sin; and shall endeavour to make out how unreasonable it is to be moved by either of them.
I. Confent not when you are enticed to fin by bad Examples. He that is tempted only by his own wicked felf, and drawn away with his own Lufts, doubts oftentimes and is afraid, and fometimes repents and forbears: but when his own inward Propenfions and Inclinations are feconded and back'd with bad Examples, efpecially if they are numerous and given by Men of Authority, Interest and Name in the World; when by them he is encouraged and urged to that which of himself he had no little mind to; then doth Vice become ftrong and triumphant, the Temptation is then at the full height, and it is hard for a Man to stand it out. When thus there is a Confederacy and Combination of Sinners; when Wickedness joins as it were hand to hand, and draws it felf into Leagues; when the Road is fmoothed, and the Paffage made broad and plain by the Tramplings of others before us, then we are in great danger either of being hurried on in the Croud, or elfe of being by degrees inveigled to venture ourselves with thofe to whom we cannot but think we owe a great E 4 regard.