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falfhood and the danger of them. Nay, fuppofing only the legal eftablishment of religion, or fome branch of it be attacked; yet the attempt may both be injurious enough to us, and detrimental enough to the public, to deserve a vigorous oppofition. But to fhew paffion and bitterness in any of these cases; to take pleasure in making mens mistakes or defigns thought worse than they are; to judge harfhly of them with respect to another world, or expofe them to ill ufage in this; to refuse them due allowances for human infirmity, or be more backward to own their merits, than to fee their faults: fuch behaviour, inftead of promoting truth, will prejudice the world against it; will give unbelievers dreadful advantages, and for ever prevent that union amongft Chriftians; which would procure us, above all, things, the efteem of men, and the blefling of God.
From these improper methods of fupporting religion, let us now proceed to the proper ones. And they will naturally fall under the general heads of our inftructions and our lives.
Giving instruction requires knowledge. And therefore, as a competent degree of it is justly expected of perfons, before they enter into holy orders: fo, when they enter, the care of making a continual progrefs in it is folemnly promised by them, and covenanted for with them. What may be a very good beginning, is by no means a fufficient stock to go on with; and even that will leffen, if no pains be taken to increase it. Continued application then is a duty of importance. Perfons of lower abilities and attainments are in danger, without it, of being ufelefs and despised and they, who fet out with greater advantages, are bound to endeavour at doing, in proportion, greater fervices to the church of God. Without exception therefore, all who are engaged in fo ferious an employment as ours, if they have any regard either to their duty or their character, muft take care, not to be more remarkable for their diverfions, than their ftudies; nor indolently to trifle their time away, inftead of employing it to good purposes. And though moft parts of learning will be useful to us, and all parts ornamental; yet we must be sure to remember, what we have been folemnly admoniibed of, that no attention to any thing else, ought ever to draw us away from the purfuit of fuch knowledge, as is properly theological. For to excel in other things, and be deficient in that, cannot but caft a grievous reflection; either on us, for not studying what we profefs; or on our profeffion, as having little in it worth ftudying. Our principal bufiness therefore muft be, to obtain a thorough acquaintance with the Chriftian faith: first the grounds, then the doctrines of it. And the previous qualifications for attempting this are, a due knowledge of the rules of right reasoning, and of the moral and religious truths which nature teaches; of the state of the world in its earlier ages, and in that when Chriftianity firft appeared. These preparations being made, the great thing requifite in the next place is a diligent fearch into the holy Scripture. For there it is, that both the authentic fyftem of our belief, and the chief evidence for it, are exhibited to our view. Scripture there.ore, above all things, the Infidel endeavours to ridicule; the mistaken Christian, to wreft in fupport of his errors: and if we defire, either to confute them, or to fatisfy ourselves; our only way muft be, to understand it well. For A 3 which
which end it is quite neceffary, that we make the original language, at leaft of the New Teftament, familiar to us and were that of the Old more commonly ftudied, the advantages would be very confiderable.
In order to fee clearly, on what ground our belief ftands; together with the facred volumes themselves, the writings of fuch learned perfons, as have proved their authority, and vindicated their accounts of things, muft be carefully read; and attentively compared with those objections against them, which have been revived of late, dreffed up with fo much art, and spread abroad with so much diligence. For in our prefent circumstances we are always liable to be attacked: and confider, what an unhappy triumph it would afford, fhould we be found unprovided of a rational defence. It is very true, the general evidence, which we have for our faith, is abundantly fufficient of itself, to overbalance many difficulties concerning it, and ever fo many cavils against it. But yet, our being unqualified to give more particular anfwers, where they can be given; as indeed there are few cafes, where they cannot; may often prove a great reproach to us, and a great ftumbling-block to: others.
Next to the grounds of religion, the doctrines of it, efpecially the more important and difputed ones, ought to be ftudied, with fuch diligence and impartiality, as may best discover to us the nature of every opinion, and the force of every argument: that so we may neither load Christianity with what doth not belong to it: nor betray, inftead of defending it, by giving up what doth; but faithfully keep that which is committed to our trust (c), both entire and unmixed. To fecure this great end, we must ever adhere ftrictly to the word of God, fairly interpreted by the help of all fuch means as Providence hath given us; and careful-. ly avoid, on the one hand, fondness of novelty and on the other, overgreat reverence of antiquity, especially fuch as comes fhort of the earlieft. But against the former of thefe, it is peculiarly needful to caution the rifing generation; whom the rafhnefs of youth, and the petulant fpirit of the prefent age, too often hurries into a ftrange vehemence for any imagination, which they have happened to take up; and prompts them to fly out against established doctrines, without having always the patience even to understand them. Such therefore fhould be exhorted to learn a proper degree, both of filence and fufpence, till cooler thought, and farther inquiry, make them fitter judges of things. But befides thofe controverfies, to which this caution chiefly relates, that between the Papists and us deferves at prefent to be well ftudied, by fuch of you, as live in the neighbourhood of any. For feldom have they fhewn more zeal or more artifice than of late, in their attempts of making profelytes. And therefore it is of great confequence, that we provide ourselves against them, with a fufficient knowledge of their real doctrines, their molt fpecious pleas, and the proper anfwers to them. Another fubject, with which we are concerned to be well acquainted, is what relates to the government and worfhip, difcipline and eltablifhinent of our own church. Different parts of our ecclefiaftical conftitution are frequently cenfured, by different forts of perfons, with very different views; though indeed the
(c) Tim. vi, 20.
the moft oppofite of them have appeared, for fome time, unaccountably difpofed to unite against us; and believers to join with Infidels in ufing their Chriftian brethren ill. It may therefore be of great ufe, to inform ourfelves diligently concerning every thing of this nature, which is fpoken of to our prejudice; and be always ready to fhew the genuine ftate of the cafe, with mildness and fairnefs. But no controverfies, however needful, muft be fuffered to divert our attention from what is of all things the most needful, the ftudy of practical religion, and of the common duties of life. These are the things, which mankind are most apt to fail in, and moft concerned not to fail in: and therefore fpending much time upon them, obtaining a thorough infight into them, and having a deep fenfe of them, is the very foundation of doing good, both to others and to our own fouls.
A competent provifion of knowledge being fuppofed, the next thing is communicating it to those who are under our care, in fuch manner as their circumstances require.
The proofs of religion, both natural and revealed, all men fhould be taught, and efpecially at prefent, in the moft intelligible and convincing manner. As for the objections against either: fuch as it may be fupposed they have thought or heard of, should be diftinctly answered; but the reft obviated only, as occafion offers. For to enter into them farther, would be mifpending time. Next to the truth of religion, they fhould have its importance laid before them. The neceffity of a moral life moft men will own in general terms: only what they are pleased to call fo, is often a very immoral one, both with refpect to their fellowcreatures, and the government of themfelves. But regard to piety is ftrangely loft, even amongst perfons, that are otherwife tolerably ferious. Many have laid afide all appearances of it: and others, who would feem to keep them up, do it with evident marks of indifference and contempt. It fhould therefore be induftrioufly fhewn and inculcated, that an inward fenfe of love and duty to God, founded on juft conceptions of him, and expreffing itself in frequent acts of worship, conftant obedience and refignation to him, is in truth the first and great commandment (d), the principal and moft important of moral obligations. But then, befides thofe inftances of piety, which reafon requires of us, there are others, founded on relations equally real, and confequently deferving equal regard, enjoined by revelation. The utmost care therefore ought to be ufed, confidering the prefent difpofition of the world, to convince men of what moment the doctrines and duties of the Gospel are. To make reason fufficient for nothing in religion, is to overturn every thing. But to infift on its infufficiency for many moft valuable purpofes, which revelation is fully fufficient for, and on the neceffity of obferving whatever God hath thought fit to command, this is doing but common juftice, though a very feasonable piece of justice, to the doctrine of our bleffed Saviour, and the authority of our Maker.
When once men are brought to understand the value of Christianity, the next thing is, to give them a proportionable folicitude for it: to make them obferve, how vifibly the belief and practice of it decay, and how dreadful the confequences must be and are: to fhew them, that reA 4 ligion (d) Matth. xxii. 38.
ligion is not the concern of the clergy merely, but the common concern of all men; the great thing, on which public and private happiness depends in this life, as well as eternal felicity in the next: that therefore, if they have any value for these important interefts, they must take the neceffary means of fecuring them: their children, their fervants and dependants must be diligently watched over and inftructed; private devotion must be practifed, family-worship revived, and the fervice of God in the church regularly and seriously attended upon. For laying afide these things hath almost banished religion from amongst us: and nothing, but reftoring them, can bring it back. Piety is indeed feated in the heart but to give it no vent in outward expreffion, is to ftifle and extinguish it. Neglecting the public exercife of religion, is deftroying the public regard to it: and teaching men to defpife their own form of religion, is enough very often to make them despise it under any
Great pains have been taken by our adverfaries to give the world an ill opinion of religious inftruction: and we must take equal pains to give them a good one of it; by reprefenting to them, both the natural influence it hath, and the Divine authority that enjoins it. But after all, the only effectual conviction will be that of experience. And therefore the chief point is, to endeavour that men may feel the benefit of our teach ing: feel at leaft, that it is their own fault, not ours, if they do not become the wifer, the better and happier for it. To this end, we must all dwell often and strongly on the great duties, and great failures of duty, in common life: firft explaining the obligations of religion fo as that they may be practifed; then infifting on it, that they muft: entering into the particulars of each with fuch plainnefs, that every one may clearly fee his own faults laid before him; yet with such prudence, that no one may fo much as imagine himself perfonally pointed at: and taking the ftricteft care, that no part of what we fay may feem in the leaft to proceed from our own paffions, or our own interefts; but all appear evidently. to flow from a true concern for the good of those that hear us. Diligent confideration, what our fubject and our several characters will bear us out in, muft direct us, when to give our judgment with diffidence, when to lay ftrefs upon it: in what cafes to exhort with all lang-juffering (e); in what, to rebuke with all authority (f). But whichfoever we do, neither our language fhould be florid, nor our manner theatrical: for these things only raise an ufelefs admiration in weak perfons, and produce great contempt in judicious ones. Nor yet on the other hand, fhould our expreffions be mean, or our behaviour lifelefs: but both must be fuitable to the employment we are upon; both be fuch as come naturally from the heart of the speaker, and therefore will naturally move that of the hearer.
To this our public teaching it will be a great help, and indeed a valuable part of it, if we perform the feveral offices of our excellent liturgy devoutly and properly neither with an irreverent precipitation, nor a tedious flownels; neither in a flat and languid manner, nor yet with an affected livelinefs, or a vehemence ill-placed or over-done: but fo as
(e) 2 Tim. iv. 2.
Tit. ii. 15.
may best exprefs the fenfe and the importance of what we read; and, by fhewing our own attention to it, engage that of all around us.
Besides our general inftructions, it is very needful, that we give the youth under our care, in particular, an early knowledge and love of religion, that may abide with them; and ftand the trials, to which their riper years will of course be expofed. I hope you are all diligent in that most useful work of catechizing: and have done your utmost to prepare for confirmation, thofe whom you prefent to me. And I earnestly recommend it to you, that the good impreffions, which may well be fupposed to have been made upon their minds at this season, be not suffered. to wear off again; but be improved into fettled habits of religion and virtue, by still farther exhortations, and leading them, as soon as poffible, to the holy communion. But, though all the youth deserve our peculiar attention; yet if any of them be educated in charity-fchools under our inspection, for these we should think ourselves still more nearly concerned, than for the reft; and, by firft taking care, to have them taught whatever is proper, and nothing elfe, then making known the good ma. nagement they are under, put an end to thofe accufations, of their learning idleness and pride, fuperftition and difloyalty; which may have been, fometimes one of them, fometimes another, in fome degree deserved; but have been carried with a wicked industry moft fhamefully beyond truth, and leffened the credit of this excellent inftitution, even with many good perfons, to the great detriment of Chriftianity.
Another very useful method of fpreading the knowledge of religion, and teaching men a ferious regard to it, is by diftributing, or procuring to be distributed, fuch pious books, especially to the poorer fort, as are best suited to their capacities and circumstances. For there is a great variety of them to be had: and at fo very low prices, that much good may be done this way to confiderable numbers at once, in a moft acceptable manner, for a trifling expence.
But nothing will contribute more to make our public instructions effectual, than private converfation, directed with prudence to the fame end. The better we are known to perfons, the greater influence we may hope to have upon them: and the better we know them, the more diftinctly we shall see how to make use of that influence to good purposes. By representing proper truths, at fit times, with a modelt freedom, we may very much abate the prejudices of men, who have any fairness remaining, both against religion and ourfelves at leaft we may prevail on them, for the fake of public order and example, to keep within the bounds of decency; and so prevent their doing harm, if we cannot make them good. Perfons, that err in particular points of doctrine, friendly difcourse may fhew us what led them into their mistakes, and enable us to lead them out again. Such as diffent from our church-government and worship, talking amicably with them, and behaving in the fame manner towards them, if it doth not immediately bring them over, may however bring them nearer to us, both in judgment and affection. Such as are faulty in their moral conduct, ferious and affectionate remonftrances, given in private and kept private, and joined with a tenderness to their characters in public, may often do a great deal towards reforming them: and fooner or later, the feed thus fown may spring up in their hearts, and