A SERMON Preach'd at the Church of St. Mary le Bow, TO THE SOCIETIES FOR Reformation of Manners, December 26. 1698.

By JOHN HANCOCK, D. D. Chaplain to His Grace the Duke of Bedford.

LONDON, Printed for B. Aylmer, at the Three Pigeons in Cornhil, 1699.

TO THE SOCIETIES FOR Reformation of Manners, In the Cities of London and Westminster.


I Am sensible this Dis­course is too mean to de­serve the good Opinion you seem'd to have of it, when you desir'd it might be Print­ed. [Page]However since you were pleas'd to think, it might be in any measure subservient to that Noble Design you have in hand, I submit to your Judgment; and such as it is, I here present it to your and the Publick View. All I can say for it is, that I hope 'tis hearty (as I my self am) for that good Work you have Ʋndertaken: Which that it may, through the Blessing of God, prosper in your Hands; that you may have all Incouragement from [Page]the Civil Magistrate; that other Places may so far fol­low your Example, that not only this City, but the Na­tion, may find the happy Effects of your Pious Zeal; and that your selves may be rewarded for it, even in this World, as I doubt not you will be in another, is the earnest Desire and Prayer of,

Your Faithful Servant in the Lord, John Hancock.
JER. V. 29.

Shall I not visit for these Things? Shall not my Soul be avenged on such a Nation as this?

IN this Chapter the Prophet makes a very lively Represen­tation, and doleful Complaint, of the general defection of Jeru­salem from their Duty.

This he expresses first in general Terms. Ver. 1. Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a [Page 2] Man, if there be any that executeth Judgment, and I will pardon it.

Which words, I suppose, must be understood as an Hyperbolical Expression, of the great Wicked­ness of that Age. That is, there were very few that lived a Reli­gious Life, in comparison of the very great numbers that gave them­selves up to all Impiety.

And those few that were Religi­ous, were so discouraged, and over­born by the reigning Impieties of the Times, that they durst scarce appear; they were not to be found.

The Case was much the same with respect to Impiety then, as it was with respect to Idolatry in the time of Abab. The Prophet thought there were none that kept to the Worship of God, though God had reserved to himself Seven [Page 3]Thousand that had not bowed the Knee to the Image of Baal.

But though the Prophet could find no Religion in the Streets, and broad Places of Jerusalem, among the Common People, he imputes this in some measure to their Igno­rance; yet it seem'd reasonable he should expect other Things among the more knowing and better sort of People. Ver. 4, 5. Then I said, These are poor, they are foolish; for they know not the way of the Lord, nor the Judgment of their God. I will get me to the great Men, and will speak unto them, for they have known the way of the Lord, and the Judgment of their God: But these have altogether broken the Yoke, and burst the Bonds.

'Tis sad to hear, (and yet more sad it should be suffered,) the Oaths and dreadful Imprecations, that grate our Ears, as we walk the [Page 4]Streets, from the Mouths of the meanest sort of People; but 'tis some Excuse that some of them perhaps know no better. But that the Rich, and wise, and Noble, that have more Knowledge, and better Breeding, should stoop so low, as to be guilty of such mean Vices, is a Wonder, and ought to be for a Lamentation. If such will neither consider their Obligations to God, to their Country, or to their own Honour: If they break the Yoke of God's Law, and burst the Bonds of their great Obligations to him; they as well as others, must one day bear their own burthen.

Then the Prophet gives a black Roll of the Impieties of those Times. Some of which I shall take notice of.

First, Their Idolatry, ver. 7. How shall I pardon thee for this? Thy Children have forsaken me, and [Page 5]sworn by them that are no Gods. God be thanked we have not yet so far forsaken God, as to swear by a false God, (or notwithstanding the late Hopes of our Enemies,) to wor­ship the true God, in an Idolatrous way. But if false and vain Swear­ing, by the Name of the true God, be Crimes of the blackest dye, the one we see, and the other we have reason to fear, have got too great a footing among us.

Secondly, Their Adultery, ver. 7, 8. When I had fed them to the full, they assembled themselves by troops in the Harlots houses. This I doubt is but too true a description of our Times.

But we are called from the Thoughts of this with the ama­zing News of some among us, that are sunk into the deepest mire with the very worst of Heathens, as the Apostle gives their Character, [Page 6] Rom. 1. that are resolved to be Wicked, not only in spight of Rea­son, and Religion, but of Nature too. If any more of these can be discovered, may they receive from the just Indignation of the Civil Magistrate, that Recompence of their Errour which is meet.

Thirdly, To mention no more, He reflects upon their incorrigible­ness under all God's dealings with them; neither his Judgments, nor his Mercies, had their kindly work upon them. Not his Judgments; ver. 3. Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast con­sumed them, but they have refused to receive Correction. Not his Mer­cies; ver. 24. Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth Rain, the for­mer and the latter Rain in his season.

This is too much our own Case. We see but little effect as to all the [Page 7]various Dispensations of God to these Nations; neither his Mercies have as yet lead us, nor his Judg­ments frighted us unto Repentance.

So that we have just Reason to fear, be may say of us, as he did here of the Jews, Shall I not visit for these things? Shall not my Soul be avenged on such a Nation as this?

Shall I not visit for these things?

When at any time Sin and Impie­ty becomes common and almost uni­versal; When it grows bold and impudent; When Men declare their Sin as Sodom, and hide it not; When they are so far depraved in their Judgments as to defend it, and are come to Sin upon Principles; When they scoff at Religion, and attempt by pouring the utmost Contempt upon it, to drive it out of the World, especially when there is too general an insensibility of the De­bauchery [Page 8]of the Times; we may think it high time for God to ap­pear in vindication of his own Ho­nour, from the Contempt of an un­godly World.

And we may be sure, sooner or later, he will do it. 'Tis very fit we should expect this, whether we consider the Declarations of his Word, or the Methods of his Pro­vidence.

1. The Declarations of his Word. Solomon says, Righteousness will exalt a Nation; but Sin is the Reproach, and will be the Ruine of any People. The Prophet Esay tells the Jews, Isa. 1. If they be willing and obedi­ent, they shall eat the Good of the Land; but if they refuse and rebel, they shall be devoured with the Sword. But Scriptures to this purpose are so numerous, that 'tis needless to insist upon them.

'Tis true the Sins and Impieties of wicked Men, have of themselves (at least many of them) a most per­nicious Influence upon the Publick Good. Saint James tells us, most of those Wars and Confusions, that infest the World, spring originally from Mens Lusts, that war in their Members. For Instance;

A prodigal and profuse way of Living, when it grows in Fashion, begets Poverty; that improves into Discontent; which often ends in some Publick Disturbance. How often do Ambition and Covetous­ness, upon very small occasions, di­sturb Government, and destroy the Peace and Quiet of the World.

But if this were not so, as long as there is a just God in Heaven, the bold Impieties of Men on Earth, must meet with condign Punish­ment. Publick Debaucheries will seldom fail to draw down Publick Judgments.

2. This is agreeable to the Me­thods of God's Providence. The History of all Ages, is but one con­tinued Confirmation of this Truth. We find it has been so, and we may well conclude it will be so still. We read in the Book of Judges, that when the Israelites sin'd against God, he raised up the most con­temptible People to be their Op­pressors. So that as it is very fit that God should, so we see he has, and may be sure sooner or later he will, visit for the Wickedness of a People.

Well if these Things be so, how justly may we of these Nations ex­pect the sharpest Visitation! How may we wonder at the Goodness and Patience of that God that is yet pleased to prolong our Tranquility.

God, after all his other Gracious Dispensations, has lately given us [Page 11]an Happy Peace. He seems incli­ned to try us a little longer, whe­ther the milder Methods of his Mer­cy will work upon us to a general Repentance and Reformation.

But 'tis to be feared we shall do as we have often done before, not become the better, but rather the worse, for his Mercy.

'Twas too obvious to observe, after our Deliverance from the late unhappy Civil Wars, pardon me if I say, we ran mad with our Joy; and too many of us, because Reli­gion had been made a pretence by some, threw off all pretence to it. A sad perversion this of that Good­ness of God, the proper End of which was to ingage us to Obe­dience.

I heartily wish our late Delive­rance, and our present Peace, may have a better influence upon us. As [Page 12]yet God knows there is little sign of it. Scepticism and Impiety go hand in hand, and 'tis to be feared, get ground upon us. If that of the Apostle Phil. 3. were ever true of any Age, I fear it is of this; Mens God is their Belly, their Glory in their Shame, they mind Earthly things. I wish our End may not be Destru­ction too.

We want not indeed, in this Age, an useful and practical way of Preaching, and such as may recom­mend it self to the Reason, as well as work upon the Passions of Man­kind. We have the great Things of another World lively laid before us, and the absolute necessity of a good Life dayly prest upon us.

But the Age is Proof against the Voice of the Charmer, charm he never so wisely. We are boldly told by some, they look upon the great Things of our Religion but as [Page 13]idle Tales, with publick allowance. And a great many others, though they do not speak out, yet plainly live, as if they had the same Opi­nion of them.

So that I fear, Infidelity is spread further than we are aware of; and if there should be thus a fault in the Spring, there is like to be no regu­lar Motion in the whole Machine. And no wonder if the generality of Men swim down the stream of Po­pular Wickedness, and follow a Multitude to do Evil.

In such a Case as this, 'tis highly necessary to call in the Assistance of the Civil Magistrate, and 'tis very much his Interest, as well as Duty, to maintain the Cause of Religion, and to punish open and scandalous Impiety.

If the Terrors of the Lord will not prevail with Men to become [Page 14]good Christians, the Terrors of the Law may make them tolerable Men. And though the inflicting of Legal Penalties may not make Men so Good as they should be, yet 'tis something if it restrain them from being so bad as they would be.

Nor does this imply the weak­ness and insufficiency of Religion, that it needs the Support of the Civil Power; but only argues the Corruption of Humane Nature, that will not be kept in Bounds without it.

The Sun is not dark, though Men may shut their Eyes, and not see the Light of it: Nor are Things really sweet to be accounted bitter, because they may taste so to some vitiated Palates.

The great Things of Religion are such as are apt to work upon Rea­sonable Men: But if Men, either [Page 15]through Prejudice, do not believe, or through Carelesness do not con­sider them, no wonder if they do not prevail upon them.

The laying Penalties upon plain and scandalous Sins, is so far from being unsuitable to the Nature of Religion, that it is a Debt the Ci­vil Power owes to the Honour of God, and the Peace of the World.

Saint Paul, Rom. 13. tells us, That Rulers are not a Terror to Good Works, but to the Evil; and that he is the Minister of God, a Revenger to execute Wrath upon him that doth Evil. That is, a good Ruler, one that answers the Design of his Of­fice, will be so.

How this can be, without the enacting and inflicting of some Pe­nalties, something that is terrible to Humane Nature, is not easie to imagine. For the bare Command [Page 16]of them, that we are sure either cannot, or will not hurt us, is not very dreadful.

And here we may thankfully ac­knowledge our Happiness, that the Law is yet a Guard to the Practice of Religion: And the Legislative Power hath given its Testimony, against Vice and Irreligion, by ma­king it Penal to be guilty of it. For this, I may refer you to the ma­ny Acts of Parliament made against Profaneness, particularly that against Swearing, and other Vices, ordered to be read, once a Quarter, in our Churches.

His Majesty likewise hath been graciously pleased to shew His Zeal, for the work of Reformation, not only by issuing out His Royal Pro­clamations, strictly requiring infe­riour Magistrates, to put the Penal Laws, against Vice and Profaneness, in execution: But by recommend­ing [Page 17]it, more than once, to the Con­sideration of the Parliament, to take yet a more effectual Course to stop the Growth of Irreligion.

This so needful work of Refor­mation therefore lies in a manner at our own doors.

Two Things therefore are requi­site in this Case.

  • 1. That those that have any Power or Authority should Con­scientiously use it, to the Counte­nancing of Religion, and to the Punishment of Vice and Profane­ness.
  • 2. That all of us, in our several Stations, and according to our Op­portunities and Abilities, should concur with them, and put our Hands to this good Work.

Under the First Head, I must reckon Parents in the Family, and Inferiour Magistrates in the Com­monwealth.

As to Parents, I cannot forbear to say, I am apt to believe, that their Neglect in the Education of their Children, is one, at least, of the most universal Causes of that Impiety that reigns among us. This (as some Physicians speak of the Natural Body) is that Error in the first concoction, that is not to be throughly amended in the second. When Families, that are the Ele­ments of the Body Politick, are so much neglected, and so far corrupt­ed, the Constitution of it must needs be very crazy. And on the contrary, did Parents take that Care, they ought to give their Children a timely sence of Religion, of their Duty to God and Man, and bring them up in the Nurture and Admo­nition of the Lord, the work of the [Page 19]Civil Magistrate would be in a great measure done to his Hand, and we should need fewer Laws, and less Courage and Resolution in the exe­cution of them.

2. I will make bold to speak a word to those that are subordinate Magistrates in the State. That they would, with Zeal and Vi­gour, put those good Laws we have in execution against the scandalous Vices of the Age. That they would take all Occasions, and lay hold on Opportunities, to stop the Growth of Impiety and Irreligion: At least that, if they think it not incumbent on themselves to seek for Informations, they would readily and chearfully receive them, and not discourage those whose Pious Zeal prompts them to be Instru­mental to bring Enormous Offen­ders to Punishment. And that they would take care to live such inno­cent and inoffensive Lives them­selves, [Page 20]that they may set a good Face upon the Punishment of Of­fenders.

But I will not insist too long on this. I shall only very briefly re­mind them, how much the Honour of God, and of the Government, is concerned in this matter. That they are under the Oath of God. That the execution, and by conse­quence, the good effect of those wholsome Laws we have against Profaneness, lyes in a manner whol­ly in their Hands, and the miscar­riage will, in a great measure, lye at their Doors. That they have an Opportunity of doing an act of the greatest Charity to the Publick; nay, and as it may happen, to the Offenders themselves. And lastly, the immortal Honour that will ac­crue to themselves. If they signa­lize themselves by their Zeal in this good Work, not only this, but the [Page 21]next Generation, may rise up, and call them blessed.

2. It is the Duty of every one of us, in our several Stations, to put our helping Hand to this good Work.

And that we may be the better induced to do this in good earnest, let us be deeply sensible of the Sins of the Times. Let us often think how sad the consequence will be, of such a general defection from the Duties of Religion. Let us be heartily sorry we can do no more toward the Work of Reformation. 'Twas not below David, though a King, even to weep for the Wick­edness of other Men. If we have any sence of Piety to God, we can­not but be heartily concern'd at his Dishonour. If we have any Cha­rity for Men, it cannot but grieve us to see them running so fast, in the ready way, to Ruine and De­struction. [Page 22]If we have any concern for the Publick, we must needs be apprehensive of the Danger we are in, to be overwhelm'd by these Floods of Ungodliness.

If we could do nothing else, yet we should, at least, secretly bewail the Impieties of the Times we live in. But this inward sence will na­turally prompt us to do our best, not only to stem the tide of Sin our selves, but to turn it towards a Re­formation.

(1.) Then let us make a free, open, publick, and avowed Profes­sion of the Truths and Rules of our Religion. We need not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, while we are sure, it is the Power of God unto Salvation. While we have both the Law of God and Man to justifie us, why should not we be as bold for Religion, as the most profest and impudent Sinner [Page 23]can be against it? How indecent is it, while Sin puts on a Whores Forehead, that Religion should creep into a Corner.

Mistake me not, I am not now perswading you to pretend to more than you have, to make an Hypo­critical and Pharisaical Pretence to Piety, but only that you would openly avow the Obligations that lye upon you to an Holy Life. And therefore,

(2.) Be sure your Practice keep pace with your Profession, and that you really be what you pretend to be, Good Christians; and make this appear before the World in the whole tenour of your Conver­sation.

Our Blessed Saviour, who blames the Pharisees, that they did all their Works to be seen of Men (and 'twas no better than Hypocrisie, [Page 24]while their whole Design was the Praise of Men) yet in another place bids us, Let our Light so shine be­fore Men, that they may see our good Works, and glorifie our Father which is in Heaven. That is, be so strict­ly Holy, that the World cannot chuse but take Notice of it; tho' for any value we set upon the Praise of Men, we may not care much whether they do or no.

We see Examples have a mighty Power and Influence upon the Lives of Men. They are apt to follow a Multitude, though it be to do Evil. O that we could once see it as Fa­shionable to be Vertuous and Reli­gious, as it has too long been to be Loose and Vicious; or at least, Ne­gligent and Lukewarm. Let us do God and Religion, and our selves, the Honour, (if I may so speak,) to begin the Mode, and do our best to bring Religion into Fashion.

And who can tell how far some considerable number of Religious Examples, shining as Lights in the midst of this crooked and perverse Generation might enlighten the World.

And though there might some Hypocrisie creep in, yet methinks that is much to be preferred before open Profaneness; and 'twere bet­ter that God and Religion should be (though it were but seemingly) honour'd, by some Pretenders to Religion, than openly affronted by Profane and Loose Men.

Let us then by an open and a­vowed Profession, and Practice of a substantial and unaffected Piety, de­clare against the Wickedness of the Age, and by our Examples, at least, lead the way to a Reformation.

(3.) Let us by our Advice, Ad­monition and Reproof, do what we [Page 26]can to reform others too. 'Tis pity this is so much disused, that it is almost counted a piece of Rude­ness, to make any approaches to­wards it. This Fraternal Correp­tion is very well consistent with Civility, and is an act of the great­est Charity too. Lev. 19.17. Thou shalt not hate thy Brother in thine Heart: Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy Neighbour, and not suffer Sin up­on him. Not to rebuke him, is to suffer Sin upon him; and this is in effect to hate him.

Should we see our Brother infect­ed with a dangerous Disease, it would be very uncharitable not to warn him of it. Should we see him running on a Precipice, Huma­nity would oblige us to stop his course. And yet we can see him infected with the mortal Plague of Sin, and running on the Precipice of Eternal Destruction, and not kindly admonish him of his Danger.

There is scarce any one with whom we converse, but when there is occasion, we might this way be serviceable to Religion. If he be an Inferiour we might rebuke him sharply. If he be an Equal, we might admonish him freely as a Brother. If he be a Superiour, we might at least humbly intreat him as a Father. And this practice would no doubt give some check to Sin and Wickedness.

But it must be confest, that it is not all Sinners that are fit Objects of this compassionate Admonition. There are many too hardy to be dealt with by such mild and gentle Methods. Our Saviour, who no doubt designed we should take all prudent and likely ways to reform our Brother, yet bids us not to cast our Pearls before Swine, lest they trample them under their feet.

This is, I doubt, the Case with too many; and then it very well becomes us to tell it to the Civil Magistrate, whom the Law im­powers and requires to punish Evil­doers.

'Tis true, the Name of Informer sounds somewhat odious, and may seem not very agreeable to the Spi­rit and Temper of a Christian. And indeed to lye at catch, to insnare our Brother, in some minuter things that the Law has made Penal, where the Honour of God, and the Good of Society, are not much con­cern'd, is to be condemned.

But there is a great difference be­tween those Things that have nei­ther Good nor Evil in them, but as the Law commands or forbids them, and those that are Evil in them­selves. Again, there is a conside­rable difference among those things [Page 29]that are Evil in themselves, some are more private, and chiefly affect the Person that commits them; o­thers more immediately tend to de­bauch others, affect Society, and spread Irreligion. Again, some Sins are committed more openly, and consequently are a greater Scandal to Religion, Dishonour to God, and Affront to Authority.

Now in gross and enormous Sins, especially when they are committed openly, and so are a greater Scandal to Religion, when they grow bold and are often repeated, when they spread and grow infectious; then 'tis absolutely necessary, by Tempo­ral Punishments, to put a stop to them. And 'tis for the Honour of God, for the Good of Society, for the Safety of other Men, nay, and may be for the Good of the Offen­ders themselves, that they come un­der the Lash of the Law. And 'tis well becoming the Piety of a Chri­stian, [Page 30]to be Instrumental in bringing them under the Inflictions of Legal Punishments.

Indeed common Swearers, noto­rious Drunkards, Adulterers, and other such like, are mostly got be­yond all milder Methods: They are many times set in the Seat of the Scorners; they despise and laugh at sober Admonitions, and there is no other way to deal with them, but by touching them in their most sensible part. Por if they can but save their Bodies and Estates, they have little care of their Souls.

Now it may be an act of Chari­ty to make such People smart for their Sins. When they are stopt in the career of their Lusts, it may set them a thinking of their Folly, and bring them to a better Mind. Or if it do not, it will at least be some restraint upon their Wickedness.

However this (as I have partly hinted before) is necessary upon ma­ny other accounts.

It is for the Good of the Body Politick that such noxious Humours may be purged out, or kept under, that the whole Mass of Blood be not corrupted. 'Tis for the Honour of God that Justice should be done upon such open and notorious Sin­ners as have highly affronted him, and disparaged Religion. 'Tis ne­cessary to bear Testimony against such crying Sins, that we become not partakers with them; and if possible may prevent those heavy Judgments of God, that we may justly fear may be doomed against the Nation for them, and we are sure are justly deserved by them.

'Tis further to be considered that most Men allow themselves the li­berty of appealing to the Civil Ma­gistrate, upon every little and tri­fling [Page 32]Interest that concerns them­selves: If their Neighbour but touch their Bodies, they call it an Assault and Battery; or if he call them an hard Name, or give them a disparaging or reviling Word, they must presently have the Peace, or the Good Behaviour, or bring an Action against him, or, it may be, send him a Challenge, for Satisfa­ction: But the Sacred Name of God may be daily profaned by Oaths and Hellish Imprecations, his Ma­jesty affronted by the most horrid Blasphemies; and if any call for Justice on such impudent Sinners, there are enough will think him more busie than wife in so doing. This is the grossest partiality, and I doubt such Mens Judgments are too much brib'd and byass'd by their Lusts.

I would ask such Men; do they indeed believe it fit the Magistrate should let every one do what is [Page 33]Good in his own Eyes, affront God and Religion as he pleases?

If it be a Pious Act in the Le­gislative Power to Enact Laws for the Guard of Religion; and in the King, to make choice of such Sub­ordinate Magistrates as will be zea­lous in the execution of them; and in such Magistrates impartially with­out Fear or Favour, to inflict the Penalties by Law appointed on Of­fenders when Information is given; it must equally be so in any private Man to give such Information: For without Information given, there can be none, or very little, execu­tion of the Law; and without that, 'tis all one as if neither Laws were made, nor Magistrates appointed for that purpose. Well then, this work of informing against notorious Sin­ners is so far from being to be bla­med, that (if I may make bold to say so) I think it a defect in our Law, that it is not made Penal not [Page 34]to give Information. We know it is so in cases of Treason; he that does not discover it, is so far a par­taker in it, as to be guilty at least of Misprision of it.

If we were as truly concern'd for the Honour of God, as we justly are for the Honour and Safety of the King, methinks there would some such thing be done. And eve­ry one that hears the horrid Oaths and Imprecations that are so com­mon among us, that knows of those that haunt naughty Houses, or those that make a practice of carousing in Taverns or Ale-houses when they should be at Church, should be lia­ble to some severe Penalties, if they do not give in Information.

It were to be wish'd some such Course could be taken, that a Pious and Sober Man might come in Company, walk the Streets, and go about his Business, without hear­ing [Page 35]God and Religion so impudent­ly affronted as usually they are.

But alas how shall this be done? What single Man dares undertake so hard a Task, or make any at­tempt towards a Reformation? When the Offenders are so many, the work of reforming like to meet with the spight and obloquy of the Bad, the Censure of some of the better fort, and the Approbation and Incouragement of so very few; when there is so general a Slackness in the Magistrates, and such In­sensibility in the People, as to the Work of Reformation, what shall we think of it?

This Work, or Trade, of Refor­mation (pardon me if I call it so; though 'twill be no gainful one to them that take it up) is so new, and out of the common Road, 'tis like to meet with so much opposi­tion from the Devil's Factors, and [Page 36]requires so great a stock of Zeal, and Christian Courage and Resolu­tion, that 'tis never like to thrive in a few single Hands: If ever it be carried o [...] to purpose, it must be by a Company.

What I have already said, abun­dantly justifies the Pious Zeal of those, in and about this City, that have thought of this Expedient, and are in several Societies combined together for the carrying on of so good a Work.

We hope this has, and will, at least in some measure, strike a damp on the daring Impiety of the Times.

The good Example of those who have already begun this Work, may not only incourage others to joyn in it, but may in time spread it self throughout the Nation. And 'tis to be hoped the good Effects of such Religious Combinations as these, [Page 37]will recommend them, in a little time, even to those who have been a little jealous of what might be the Consequence of them.

It is apparent enough there is great need of this, or some such Ex­pedient, to give check to the growth of Debauchery among us.

If I be not much mistaken, there is a sort of Men that are not only resolved to give themselves up to all manner of Wickedness, but make it their Business to proselite all they can to their Irreligion, and to make all they converse with as Bad as themselves.

I have been told there are some Clubs in this City, where the very profest Design of their Meeting is, by obscene Discourse and other ways, to promote Lewdness and Debau­chery. These (if it be true,) are Devilish Combinations indeed; and [Page 38]'tis high time, for those that have a true Zeal for God and for Reli­gion, to joyn their Hearts and Hands to break these Bonds of Wickedness.

Give me leave, before I conclude, to give a word of Advice to those of you that are entered into any such Society for Reformation, and it shall be briefly this.

1. That you would be very care­ful how you live your selves. The World will have their Eye upon you: And there will be those that will watch for your halting.

How much would it dishonour God, disparage your selves, and hinder that good Work you go a­bout, if any of you, that pretend to reform others, should at any time be guilty of the same Crimes, or as bad your selves?

2. That you would joyn Pru­dence with your Zeal. Perhaps some would think it more prudent to let the whole Work alone; but this, I hope, you do not think is my meaning: But that you take care to go no further than the Law will back you; and that you would manage every circumstance of your Proceedings with as much Caution and Discretion, as is consistent with the doing of the Work you go about.

3. That you be Impartial in this Business, as to Persons and Parties; and that in your whole procedure you make it appear, as far as may be, that it is not Interest or Facti­on, or private Grudges and Re­sentments, by which you are acted, but by a true and disorder Zeal for God, for Religion, and the Good of your Country; yea, and even of the Offenders themselves.

4. When you have done this, that you would be Humble and Modest, and not presently think too highly of your selves; nor despise others, (so they live well,) as Men of no Religion, because they are not come up to your pitch, or do not shew their Zeal for Religion in the same way with your selves; (nay, tho' they should seem a little jealous of your Societies,) but be content that time should shew (as I hope it will) the Uprightness of your Intentions, and the Wisdom of your Under­takings.

While you observe these, and the like Cautions, that your Christian Prudence may dictate to you, go on in the Name and Strength of God, and be not discouraged by all the Difficulties you are like to meet in your way to Reformation.

The Honour of God, and the Good of Men, the promoting of Religion, and the Safety of your Country (Things so nearly concern'd in this Work of Publick Reforma­tion) are such Great and Glorious Things, as will make an ample amends for all the Expence of Cost or Pains you can be at in the pur­suit of it, and for all the Reproach and Obloquy you can meet with for it.

And such you must expect to meet with; and therefore should make account of it, and prepare for it, and not over-much value what Men may say of you.

Some perhaps will call you busie­bodies; others will tell you 'tis a mean and disparaging Thing to turn Informers; a third sort will think you surly and ill-natur'd Men. [Page 42]These, and the like truly ill-natur'd Imputations, you must expect to meet with, and prepare your selves to bear.

But while you are conscious to your selves, that what you do is not out of any delight in the Suf­ferings of other Men, nor with an Eye to any by and base Interest of your own, but out of pure Zeal for God and Vertue, and Charity to Men, and out of a due sence of the odiousness and danger of those hor­rid Impieties that reign among us; the Conscience of this your Since­rity will bear you up under the ob­loquy and opposition of any that shall appear against you, and you will even rejoyce, as we read the Apostles did, if you should suffer Shame for the Name of God, and the sake of Religion.

If you go on couragiously in this Work, 'tis to be hoped it may be a good step to a General Reforma­tion.

Or if the Wickedness of the Age be grown too big for that, it may abate the Impudence of Sin, and drive the Works of Darkness (where if any where, they ought to be,) into private corners, that Wicked­ness may not any longer, as it has too long done, ride triumphant through our Streets And this will prevent a great deal of the Scandal of it, and be a guard and security to that little Religion that is yet left among us.

Or if this cannot be done, it will be a publick Testimony against the Wickedness of the Age, and we hope may, in part, appease the Wrath of God, and for some lon­ger [Page 44]time prevent his heavy Judg­ments upon the Nation.

Or if the Decree be gone out a­gainst us, and the Case be with us as it was with Judah, that the Re­formation attempted in the Reign of Josiah, could not avert the De­struction doom'd against them for their former Wickedness: Yet it may be hoped, those that have so vigorously appear'd for God and Religion, may deliver their own Souls by their Righteousness.

Or if such an overflowing Scourge must pass through the Land, as will involve the best in the com­mon Ruin, those that have first re­form'd themselves, and done what they could in their several Stations to reform others too, will have the Comfort of it in the Day of Visi­tation. Such Good Men will have an inward Calm and Serenity a­midst [Page 45]the greatest outward Trou­bles here, and their Pious Zeal will meet with an abundant Recom­pence in the World to come, from that God in whose Cause they have appeared. To Him be all Ho­nour, and Glory, now and for ever­more. Amen.


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