I See there is yet, after all the trouble, that your charity to me hath cost you, another occasion and opportunity still behind, ready to tempt you far∣ther to continue your favour to me, in leading me through the 7th Chapter, wherein this Sermon on the Mount, is concluded. You may please therefore to enter upon that. And tell me what you finde espe∣cially considerable in it.
One strict particular Christian precept I find in that Chapter which, be∣fore I told you, will doe well to be added to those many that the former Chapters have afforded; Page 338 and then foure generall ones; and then a conclu∣sion of the whole Sermon.
What is the parti∣cular precept you speake of?
It is set downe positively in the five first verses; and then a limi∣tation, or explication, or caution added to it, v. 6. The precept is Negative, not to judge other men, v. 1.
What is meant by Judging?
1. All rash and temerarious. 2. All severe, unmercifull censures of other men.
What meane you by Rash censures?
Such as are not grounded in any manifest cleare evidence of the fact, but pro∣ceed from my jealous and censorious humour; be∣ing still forward to conclude and collect more e∣vill of other men then doth appeare to me. As 1. When by some indifferent actions done by my fel∣low Christian, and appearing to me; I surmise some other evill thing not farre distant from that, and which may possibly be signified by it, but is not so necessarily. Or 2. When an action of anothers is capable of two interpretations, the one faste∣ning evill upon it, the other not; I take it on the evill side, and censure him for that action for which, perhaps God, the searcher of hearts, will never judge him; or in case God sees it to bee∣vill, but I doe not, then however thus to judge, is in me temerarious judgement. Or 3. When any other man hath done any thing apparently e∣vill, yet from thence to inferre a greater guilt in him then to that action necessarily belongs, as the Page 339 action being perhaps capable of extenuation by circumstances, for me to deprive it of those exte∣nuations, and passe the judgement, which would belong to it absolutely considered. Or 4. Upon the commission of one or more single actions, not sufficient to build up an habit, or argue a malignity in the agent, to censure him as guilty of that habit or that malignity, this is still temerarious judge∣ment; which commonly proceedeth, wheresoever it is, from pride, ambition, vaine-glory, or from en∣vy, malice, uncharitablenesse, and selfe love; from one or more of these; and falls under the judge∣ment due to the suspicious, contumelious, whispe∣rer, busy-body. Quite contrary to that charity that hopeth all things, beleiveth all things, thinketh none evill; to that humility that thinketh better of o∣thers then our selves; that peaceablenesse which Christ commendeth to us; that kindnesse and pit∣tifulnesse in bearing one anothers burthens; and so lessening them, and not making them heavier by our censures.
What meane you by unmercifull censures?
Those which have no mixture of mercy in them, Ja. 2. 13. The precept of forgiving those who have wronged me, is by Christ improved in some kind even to those offences which are done a∣gainst God, so farre as that I be obliged by it to looke upon them in others in the most favourable manner, (as on the other side I should be most se∣verePage 340 in the examining and judging my selfe) and alwaies remit of that rigour and severity which the matter is capable of, as knowing that my owne best actions must be lookt on favourably by God, and not strictly weighed by him, or o∣therwise they will never be accepted by him.
To what purpose is all that which in this matter is added to this prohibition in the rest of this period?
'Tis first, A deterrement from this sinne. 2. A dire∣ction how to avoide it. The deterrement this; to consider how fearefull a thing it were, if God should judge us without mercy; and how reaso∣nable, that he should so doe, if we be so unmerci∣full to other men. The direction, to reflect our eies and censures, every man upon his owne sinnes, and there to busy them in aggravating every mat∣ter into the size that justly belongs to it; by this meanes to pull downe my owne plumes, to abate my proud censorious humours, and then those will appeare but motes in another man, which now doe passe for beames with me. He that is truly humbled with a sence of his owne sinnes, will be willing to winke at faults in another; at least not to improve and enlarge them; not to censure and triumph over them.
What is the limitation, or caution, or explica∣tion of this precept added in the sixth verse?
The summe of it is this, that this precept of not judging, is not so unlimited that it should be unlawfull for Page 341 me to censure or thinke evill of any man; as in case he be an open profane person, expressed by a dog or swine, the one a creature so accursed, that the price of him was not to be consecrated; the other so uncleane that, 'twas forbidden to be eaten by the Jewish law, and both of them emblems of an habituall impenitent sinner, 2 Pet. 2. 21. The first, againe, intimating such as barke and rave at all good exhortations; contradicting and blaspheming, Act. 13. 46. The second those, that though they blaspheme not, yet by the impurity of their lives shew the secret content of their heart. This sacred exhortation of not judging, or censuring such as they are not to expect any benefit from; this act of Christian charity is too holy, and sacred a thing to be cast away on such swine and dogges, who are first uncapable of it, then will make such ill use of it; and if in stead of judging the offender, you goe about to exhort with never so much mildnesse, (which is the wisest and most charitable Christian way in this matter) they will contemne your ex∣hortations, and repay them with contumelies in stead of thankes.
But what, may I never passe judgement on another man unlesse it be such a noto∣rious offender?
Yes! If that which you judge in him be (though neither habituall, nor incorrigi∣ble) yet notorious, and evidence of fact make it subject to no mistake of theirs. 2. If you extend that censure no farther, then that fact; or no farther Page 342 then what may from that fact be necessarily infer∣red; 3. If you expresse your judgement or cen∣sure in words, no farther then may agree with rules of charity; As 1. Charity to him either in telling it him your selfe, and seasonably reproving him, or telling it some body else, to that end that he may reprove him. Or 2. Charity to others, that they may be warned and armed, not to be decei∣ved and ensnared by him; Or 3. Charity to the community, that he may not by concealement of some great faults get into such place of judicature &c. where that ravenous humour of his, entring in a disguise of sheeps clothing, may be armed with power to doe more mischiefe. In all which I must be very wary, that under this cloake of charity I doe not carry along a malicious, or proud, or wan∣ton, petulant humour of my owne; or even an ha∣bit of defaming; and flatter my selfe that charity is the onely mover in me all this while.
But can my judgement be forced? My assent or beleife fol∣lowes, and is proportioned to the motives that induce it; As knowledge cannot choose but follow demon∣strative premises, so beleife cannot choose but follow those that appeare most probable; and if I see that by a man by which my discourse leades me to con∣clude him drunke, &c. can I offend in judging him?
If my conclusion be rightly inferred by due premises, and offend not against rules of discourse, I doe not offend in so concluding, or in so judg∣ing, Page 343 so that I keepe it within my owne breast, and do mixe mercy with judgement, i. e. take the more favourable part in judging; for no man is bound not to know what he sees, or not to beleive what seemes to him (judging in simplicity) strongly probable. Nay 2. If he expresse his judgement to him whom he thus judgeth, on purpose to be sa∣tisfied of the truth of his judgement; or, in case it prove true, to admonish; it is still not onely law∣full but commendable. Nay to tell it another to either of these purposes, it will be so also.
But what if I tell it another, not on either of these purpo∣ses, and yet not on any defamatory malicious designe neither?
Though it be not out of any malici∣ous designe, or flowing from any stitch or grudge which I have to that man, yet it may be a defama∣tory designe; for I may have that generall habi∣tuall humour of pride or vaine-glory, that for the illustrating and setting out my selfe in more gran∣deur I may thinke fit to blast and defame every man I meet with; and then that will be sinne e∣nough, though I have no particular malice to that person. But if it be not from any such designe nei∣ther, yet some of this may mingle with it in the a∣ction; Or if neither, then still some other evill may; as that of whispering, curiosity, medling with other mens matters, wantonnesse, vaine desire of * tatling, telling newes, &c. and if any of these be it, then will it be so farre sinfull as the motive or Page 344 cause of it is.
But if still it be seperated from all such sinfull motive, or adherent, and be onely pro∣duced by somewhat neither good, nor evill, (as I con∣ceive it possible that many words of my mouth, as well as thoughts of my heart, and motions of my body, may be neither morally, nor Christianly good, nor evill; and that it is not necessary for them to be designed to any particular Christian end, if onely this generall care be had that they be not against charity or edifi∣cation.) What is to be said of such Judging?
Though some other words may perhaps be of this nature, as indifferent as motions, or turnes, or ge∣stures of the body, (and therefore 'tis not without * reason thought, that by every idle word, Mat. 12. 36. Is meant onely every false word as hath beene said) yet perhaps this of judging another will not be of that nature; being subject to more defaults and taints, then most other things; and that which is here indefinitely forbidden; and if it breake forth into words 'tis yet more subject to evill. But if still it be mentioned onely as a relation entire and sim∣ple, of what I saw, and leave the conclusion to o∣thers judgements, and not interpose mine, or one∣ly so farre interpose mine, as to relate truly what conclusion I did then make of it, and what moved me to that conclusion, absteining still most strictly from adding or concealing ought, or doing or say∣ing any thing, that hath any tincture from my owne pride, censoriousnesse, &c. it may still be as Page 355 harmelesse and blamelesse in mee, as writing of the honestest history. But because this is the most that can be lawfull, and still is no more then law∣full, (or not sinfull) not arrived to any degree of morall goodnesse, and because it is very apt to fall into evill, and however, because of the scandall that others may take, who by seeing a godly man take this liberty, may mistake it, and goe farther and fall into sinne, 'twill therefore concerne him to use this sparingly, and deny himselfe that lawfull liberty, if it be but by way of revenge for the unlawfull, which he hath so often taken; and though this he should not be foward to judge a sinne in others, (lest he thus fall into the fooles snare, censure others of censoriousnesse,) yet ought he in this matter to be very watchfull over himselfe, that he offend not with his tongue.
This precept of not judging I cannot without teares and hearty confession of mine owne great guilt in this kinde, teare home with mee; and I feare there are few in this last, and most uncharitable age of ours, who have not had their part in it. I beseech God to reforme it in all our hearts, and joyne this last act of prudence, which this sixth verse hath mentioned, with that simplicity which in the former five was required of us!
[§ 2] You told me that after one particular precept, which you have now explained, there followed some Generall precepts. What is the subject of the firstPage 346 of them?
It is concerning that great busi∣nesse of prayer, in the five next verses 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. considered now, not as a duty of ours toward God, or an act of worship, (as it was considered. c. 6.) but as an engine or artifice, to fetch downefrom heaven the greatest treasures that are there, even that of grace it selfe, or the holy spirit, as appear∣eth by the comparing this place with Luk. 11. 13. and the summe of it is this, that prayer is the key of entrance into the fathers house; that no man shall ever faile of finding & receiving good things, particularly Grace, the greatest good, that askes and seekes and knockes, i. e. useth importunity in prayer, as a child to a father, depending wholly on him; and if he be once, or twice repell'd, re∣turning unto him with humility, and submission, and dependance, and confidence againe, and ne∣ver giving over petitioning, till he obtaines.
What is the next generall Precept?
It is that famous one, that the heathen Emperour is * said to have reverenc't Christ and Christianity for, and that all the wisest men of the Nations have admired for the best and highest rule of cha∣rity to our neighbours, in these words v. 12. [All things whatsoever you would that men should doe to you, do ye even so to them.] Which (saith he) is the law and the prophets, i. e. on which all the duty of charity depends, or wherein the whole law concerning that, is fullfilled.
What is the Page 347 meaning of this Precept?
To love my neigh∣bour as my selfe; or not to suffer my selfe-love to interpose, or make me partiall in judging of my duty to others; but thus to cast, whensoever I do any thing to my brother, would I be well pleased to be so dealt with by any other? Or, if I might have mine owne choice, would not I de∣sire to be other wise used by other men? Or yet farther, that whatsoever usage I desire to meet with, at Gods hands, (which is certainely unde∣served mercy, pardon of trespasses, and doing good to enemies or trespassers) the same I must performe to others, for so this phrase [whatsoe∣ver you would that men should do to you] doth by * an Hebraisme import, [whatsoever you would have done unto you] which is the stile that this precept is ordinarily read in, and then extends to whatever I desire that God or Christ Jesus should do to me, i. e. not only all the Justice, but all the mercy, and goodnesse, and bounty in the world. In which sence it will best agree with the precept of liberality to enemies (with which 'tis joyned Luk. 6. 31.) and the promise of God here to give to every asker, (of which bounty of God's we that are partakers, ought to do the like for our brethren) and be a fit introduction to the ex∣hortation that followes of Christian strictnesse, which seemes to be built on this, and to be but a branch of this great precept; and not a severall Page 358 from it.
What is that Exhortation you meane?
That of a great superlative strictnesse in the wayes of godlinesse; not being content to walke in the broad rode that Jewes and heathens have contented them selves with (not willing to un∣dertake any thing of difficulty for Christs sake, and so by that meanes falling into destruction, but) entering in at the strict gate, and narrow way that leadeth unto life; that way which these ele∣vated precepts have chalk't out to us; and which here it seemes, are not proposed as counsells of perfection, but as commands of duty, without which there is no entring into life, no avoyding destruction.
What now is the third Generall Precept?
It is a precept of warinesse and prudence, to be∣ware of errors, and those whose trade it is to se∣duce us to them, and this in the six next verses, 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. and it belongs not to all deceivers of any kinde, but particularly to such as professe to follow Christ, and yet teach false and damnable doctrine; which, that they may put off to thes auditors the better, they pretend a great deale of holinesse in some other particulars. And the summe of that which he here saith to this purpose, may be reduced to this, Whensoever any false Teacher comes to disseminate his do∣ctrine, the surest way to discerne him will be, to observe the effects and actions discernible in him Page 359 or which are the fruits of his doctrine. If all his Actions, and all the designes and consequents of his Doctrine, be the advanceing of piety, and charity of all kinds, then you may resolve, that he is no such (false, at least dangerous) false Teacher, For 1. the Divell will never assist him or put him upon false Doctrines to such an end, to bring more holynesse, and Christian practice in∣to the world. 2. Such holy Ch••stian practice is not easily built upon any false •octrine, 3. If the Doctrine should chance to be false that bring∣eth forth such wholesome effects, then to him that receiveth it for those effects sake, and other∣wise discerneth not the Doctrine to be false, it may be hoped, (through God's mercy in Christ to our infirmities) it shall not prove dangerous or destructive. But if the consequents or effects that flow naturally from the Doctrines which he brings, be either against rules of piety, or Chri∣stian virtue; As 1. If they tend to the lessening of our love of God; to the aliening our hearts from him, by giving us meane, or unworthy notions of him, contrary to those Attributes of infinite Power, Justice and Goodnesse which we ought to beleive of him; If they tend to the beget∣ting of presumption and security in our hearts, by giving us any ground of hope without purifying, and amending our wicked lives; by leaving no place for feare, whatsoever we do, by making us Page 350 conceit highly of our selves, rely, and trust on, and boast of our owne merits, If they lead us to Idolatry, to the worship of some what else beside the only true God, or to a bare formall outside worship of him. If they open the doore to false or needlesse swearing, or to profanenesse, and neg∣lect of God's service. Or 2. If they tend to diso∣bedience, sedition, rebellion, faction, speaking evill of digni•ies, acts of Jewish Zelots, &c. to the favouring or authorizing of any kinde of lust, of divorces forbidden by Christ, &c. to the nou∣rishing of rash anger, uncharitable (either time∣rarious or unmercifull) censuring, envie, emula∣tion, variance, strife, malice, revenge, contume∣lious speaking, whispering, backbiteing, &c. to the excusing or justifying of piracy, rapine, op∣pression, fraud, violence, any kinde of injustice &c. to the spreading of lies, slanders, defamati∣ons, &c. to covetousnesse, unsatisfiednesse, un∣contentednesse in our present condition, desire of change, casting the crosse on other mens shoul∣ders, that we may free our owne from it; to deal∣ing with others, as we would not be well pleas∣ed to be dealt with our selves; or, in a word, if they tend to the discouragingor discountenancing any Christian virtue set downe in this or any o∣ther sermon of Christ, or by his Apostles, or to the granting any dispensation, or liberty from that Christian strictnesse in these duties, or in Page 351 those other of repentance, selfe-denyall, meeke∣nesse, mercifullnesse, peaceablenesse, &c. by these markes, and characters, you may know this to be a False Teacher. Yet not so farre this, as that whosoever is guilty himselfe of any of these sins, shall be (if he be a Teacher) a false one; for 'tis possible his Doctrine, and Actions may be con∣trary; but that, if these be the fruits, and naturall effects of his Doctrine, then shall his Doctrine be thus condemned; otherwise an ill man he may be, and yeta teacher of truth; a wicked, but not a false Prophet.
But is it not said of these False Pro∣phets that they come in sheepes clothing, which sure signifies their outward actions to be innocent? How then can they be discerned by their fruits?
I an∣swer first, that the fruits of their Doctrine may be discerned, though their owne evill Actions be dis∣guised, and varnished over. 2. That though their Actions most conspicuous and apparent be good, yet their closer Actions (which may also be dis∣cerned by a strict observer) are of the making of the wolfe, ravenous and evill. 3. That though they begin with some good shewes to get authority, though they enter as sheep, doe some specious acts of piety at first; yet they continue not constant in so doing, within a while put off the disguise, and are discernible.
What now is the fourth or last generall Pre∣cept?
The summe of it is, that it is not the outer Page 352 profession of Christianity or Discipleship, (though that set off by prophecying, doing miracles, &c. in Christs name, i. e. professing whatsoever they doe to be done by Christs power) which will availe a∣ny man toward his account at that great day, without the reall, faithfull, sincere, universall, im∣partiall, performing of obedience to the lawes of Christ.
But can, or doth God permit any wic∣ked man to doe such miracles, &c?
Yes, he may, for the end of miracles, and preaching, &c. being to convince men of the truth of the Doctrine of Christ, that may well enough be done by those that acknowledge that truth, though they live not accordingly; the miracles done by them being not designed by God to the commendation of the in∣struments, but to the perswading of the spectators
[§ 3] Having received from you the full tale of the precepts you proposed, there now remaines onely the conclusion of the whole Sermon to be discharged, and then you have paid me all that your promise hath obliged you to.
It is this, (occasioned by the last precept of doing, as well as professing Gods will) that the profession of Christianity lending a patient eare to those doctrines, will, (if it be, (as oft as it is) trusted to and depended on, to render us acceptable to Christ) prove a very fallacious, and deceitfull hope. Whensoever any storme comes, any shaking disease or affliction, which gives us occasion to awake throughly, and exa∣mine Page 353 our selves to the bottome, we are not then able to retaine any hope or comfortable opinion of our selves, although in time of quiet and tran∣quillity, before we were thus shaken, we could entertaine our selves with such flattering glozes. Hearing of Sermons, and professing of love to, and zeale for Christ, may passe for piety a while, but in the end it will not be so. 'Tis true Christian pra∣ctice, that will hold out in time of triall; and that hope of ours which is thus grounded, will stand firme and stable in time of affliction, and temptati∣on, at the houre of death, and the day of judge∣ment. This doctrine of Christian duty and obedi∣ence is such that can never deceive any man that is content to build upon it. Nor infirmity, nor sin, (committed, but repented of, and forsaken) nor Devill, shall ever shake any mans hold that is thus built; endanger any mans salvation, that lives ac∣cording to the rule of this Sermon; nor shall all the flattering deceitfull comforters of the world, bring in any true gaine to any other.
And it came to passe when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine. For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes.
OHoly Jesu, that camest downe from heaven, and wert pleased to pay that deare ransome on the Crosse for us, on purpose that thou might re∣deeme us from all iniquity, and purify unto thy Page 354 selfe a peculiar people, zealous of good workes, we beseech thee to write thy law in our hearts; that most excellent divine law of thine, that we may see it and doe it, that we may know thee and the po∣wer of thy resurrection; and expresse it in turning every one of us from his iniquities. That we no lon∣ger flatter our selves with a formall externall ser∣ving of thee, with being hearers of thy word, par∣takers of thy Sacraments, professours of thy truth, knowers or teachers of thy will, but that we labour to joine to these an uniforme, faithfull obedience to thy whole Gospell, a ready chearefull subjection to thy Kingdom, that thou maiest rule and reigne in our hearts by Faith; and that we being dead unto sinne and living unto righteousnesse, may have our fruit unto holinesse, may grow in Grace, and in the practicall knowledge of thee Our Lord and Savi∣our Jesus Christ; and at last persevering unto the last, attaine to that endlesse glorious end, the reward of our Faith, the fruit of our labours, the perfection of our Charity, and the crowne of our Hope, an e∣verlasting blessed life of love, and holinesse with thee, O Father of mercies, O God of all consolations, O holy and sanctifying spirit, O blessed Trinity co∣eternall, To which one Infinite Majesty, We most humbly ascribe the honour, glory, power, praise, might, majesty, and dominion, which through all a∣ges of the world have beene given to him which sit∣teth on the Throne to the Holy Spirit, and to the Lambe for evermore. Amen.