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unjust and uncharitable Thing to affirm of any that believe that Doctrine, (many of whom are certainly pious and good Men) that they do maintain any such impious and blafphemous Opinions as those that are now mentioned
The Sum of all is, that a Man may believe, a Proposition, and not believe all that follows from it': Not but that all the Deductions from a Proposition are equally true, and equally credible with the Proposition, from whence they are deduced : But a Man may not so clearly fee through the Proposition, as to discern that such Consequences are really deducible from it : So that we are at no hand to charge them upon him, unless he do explicitely own them.
If this Rule were observ'd, our Differences would not make so great a Noise, nor would the Errors and Heterodoxes maintained among us, appear fo monstrous and extravagant; and we should spare a great many hard Words, and odious Appellations, which we now too prodigally bestow upon those that differ from us.
The Fifth Rule is, To abstract Mens Persons from their Opinions ; and in examining or opposing these, never to make any Reflections upon those.
This is a Thing so highly reasonable, that methinks no Pretender to Ingenuity should ever need to be called upon to observe it: For it seems very absurd and ridiculous in any Argument, to meddle with That that nothing concerns the Question. But what do Personal
Reflections concern the Caufe of Religion? Whatever it may be to the Reputation of an Opinion, I am sure it is nothing to the Truth of it, that such or such a Man holds it.
And truly, if Men would leave this Impertinence, we might hope for a better Issue of our Religious Debates : But whilft Men will forsake the Merits of the Cause, and unmanly fall to railing, and disparaging Mens Perjons, and scraping together all the Ill that can be said of them, they blow the Coals of Contention, they so imbitter and envenom the Dispute, that it rankles into incurable Difafters and Heart-burnings.
Christians would do well to consider, that these mean Arts of exposing Mens Persons to discredit their Opinions, are very much unworthy the Dignity of their Profession, and most of all mil-becoming the Sacredness and Venerableness of the Truth they contend for. And besides, no Cause stands in need of them, but such an cne as is extremelybaffled and defperate; and even then, they are the worst Arguments in the World to support it; for quicklighted Men will easily see through the Dust we endeavour to raise; and those that are duller, will be apt to suspect from our being sa angry and so waspish, that we have but a bad Matter to manage.
We should consider, thạt Mens Persons are sacred Things; that whatever Power we have to judge of their Opinions, we have no Authority to judge or censure Them: That to bring Them upon the Stage, and there throw Dirt
on them, is highly rude and uncivil, and an Affront to Human Society, and the most contrary thing in the World to Christian Charity, which is so far from enduring Reproaches and Evil-Speaking, that it obliges us to cover, as much as we can, all the Faults, and even the very Indiscretions of others.
The Sixth and last Thing I shall recommend to you as an Expedient of Peace, is ą vigorous Pursuit of Holiness
. Do but seriously set your-selves to be good, do but get your Hearts deeply affected with Religion as well as your Heads, and then there is no fear but you will be all the Sons of Peace.
We may talk what we will, but really it is our not practising our Religion, that makes us so Contentious and Disputatious about it; It is our Emptiness of the Divine Life, that makes us so full of Speculation and Controverfy: Was but That once firmly rooted in us, these Weeds and Excrescencies of Religion, would presently, dry up and wither; we should loath any longer to feed upon such Husks, after we once came to have a Relish of that Bread.
Ah! How little Satisfaction can all our pretty Notions, and fine-fpun Controversies, yield to a Soul, that truly hungers and thirsts after Righteousness? How pitiful, flatly and insipidly will they taste, in comparison of the Divine Entertainments of the Spiritual Life?
Were wė but seriously taken up with the Substantials of our Religion, we thould not
have leisure for the Talking, Disputing De vinity; we should have greater Matters to take up our Thoughts, and more profitable Arguments to furnish out our Discourses. So long as we could busie ourselves in working out our Salvation, and furthering the Salvation of others, we should think it but a mean Employment to spend our Time in Spinning fine Nets, for the catching of Flies.
Besides, this Divine Life, if it once took place in us, would strangely dilate and enlarge our Hearts in Charity towards our Brethren
i it would make us open our Arms wide to the whole Creation; it would perfectly work out of us all that Peevilhness and Sowrness, and Penuriousness of Spirit, which we do too often contract, by being addicted to a Sect; and would make us Sweet and Benign, and Obliging, and ready to receive and embrace all Conditions of Men. In a word, it would quite swallow up all Distinctions of Parties; and whatever did but bear upon it the Image of God, and the Superscription of the Holy Fesus, would need no other Commendatories to our Affe&tion, but would upon that alone Account, be infinitely dear and precious to us.
Let us all therefore earnestly contend after this Divine Principle of Holiness; let us bring down Religion from our Heads to our Hearts, from Speculation to Practice: Let us make it our Business heartily to love God, and do his Will, and then we may hope to see Peace in our Days.
This, this is That that will restore to the World the Golden Age of Primitive Christianity, when the Love and Unity of the Disciples of Jesus was so conspicuous and remarkable, that it became a Proverb, See how the Christians love one another! This, this is That that will h bring in the Accomplishment of all those glorious Promises of Peace and Tranquility that Christ hath made to his Church: Then shall the Wolf dwell with the Lamb, and the Leopard lie down with the Kid : Then shall not Ephraim envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim ; but we shall turn our Swords into Plough-fbares, and our Spears into Pruning-hooks; and there will be no more consuming or devouring in all God's Holy Mountain.
I should now proceed to the Second General Point in my proposed Method of handling this Text, viz. To set. before you the very great Engagements and Obligations we have upon us to follow after the Things that make for Peace; and that,
1. From the Nature and Contrivance of our
upon this Duty.