Mr. Keith's SERMON, Preach'd on May the 12th, 1700. At Dr. Bedford's Church, BEING Saint George's Butolphs-Lane, by Billings-Gate.

On LƲKE the 1st. and Verse 6th. ‘And they were both Righteous before GOD, walk­ing in all the Commandments and Ordinances of the LORD Blameless.’

☞ You are to take Notice, this is the Genuine Copy.

LONDON, Printed for the AUTHOR; and Sold by most Booksellers of London and Westminster, 1700.

Mr. George Keith's SERMON, &c.

LUKE, 1st. Chap: Vers. 6.

And they were both Righteous before God, walking in all the Commandments and Ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Beloved,

YOU have an Account of a Priest, or Teacher, with his Wife, both which being ancient, and as Saint Luke here saith, Righteous too before God, walking in all the Commandments and Ordinances blameless; yet for all those gay pretences, the Man was turned Infidel, and did, or at least could not believe the Commands and Ordi­nances of the Lord; and so in Justice was stricken Dumb, because he did not believe God's Words, which shall be ful­filled in their season, vers. 20. Now in taking my leave of my Old and well-Beloved Friends, namely the People called Quakers, to which I was once joyned, and made (as Za­charias was) a Teacher among them; and (according to their and my weak Opinion) righteous before God, walk­ing in (as they and I thought) all the Commandments and Ordinances of the Lord blameless, &c. But since growing in Years, so in Knowledge too, being I hope (as Zacharias was) better instructed by the blessed Spirit Gabriel, which stands in the Presence of God, and so comes from him to bring as glad-tydings to me as it did to Zacharias, to strike me for my Infidelity, Dumb; and not able to speak until the time be accomplished, or fulfilled in their Seasons, vers. 19, 20. And some People [...]ted for the man Zacharias, and marvelled; but when he came out he could not speak to them.

Now you, my dearly Beloved, with whom I now travail in this New Birth, to apply this to my self, and you for [Page] your [...], you are [...] Spou [...]e, both [...] and in [...] nay, and also as we then thought, [...] fore God, walking in all the [...] Ordinan­ces of the Lord blameless: but finde it has pleased the Al­mighty to send to me his blessed Spirit, to [...] not duty my but your Infidelity also, that we have not been so Righ­teous as we should have been, as to have had Consciences▪ always void of Offence both towards God and Man; neither have we walked in the Commandments and Ordinances of the Lord blameless: And since God Almighty ha [...] as he did to Zacharias) been pleased to send his blessed Spirit to discover our Errors, (which I must confess were like to the Jews altogether through Ignorance, and so I hope pardon­able) and to shew those glad Tydings, viz. what the real Commandments and Ordinances of the Lord are, that we may walk in them and be blameless.

And since for my Infidelity, the All-wise God suffered me to be struck Dumb, till the accomplished Time and Season, which I hope and find is now; for you are not ignorant that those People, before mentioned, which both you and I had, (being then joyned to) had, (and I hope still have) a tenderness for; they I say, for my Infidelity, by God's per­mission struck me Dumb: So that both in Penstlvania and here, I being Anathamatized, or Excommunicated by them, became as it were to them Dumb, and Speechless; at which you and some others which waited upon me there, marvel­led, as those did at Zacharias, vers. 21, 22, 23. thinking and truly supposing that I (as he) had seen a Vision, or Spirit, which made me, as it did him (depart from them) to his, and mine own House; So that it is no Mystery nei­ther to them nor you, that I was obliged to Teach and Instruct privately in Holes and in Corners, as in this little Hall, &c. But thanks be to God, being by the blessed Spirit better instructed in Righteousness in general, and in all the Commands and Ordinances of the Lord, to be without spot or blame; the Time being accomplished, and my Tongue loosed, to speak of the Righteousness towards Man as well as God, and to walk not as you and I have formerly, not only Ignorantly, but Obstinately, and Maliciously in [Page 4] [...] in all) of the Commandments and Ordinan­ces [...] Lord Blameless.

And now having by the aforesaid Spirit, had a Call to the true Church, which I find has a Righteousness to Men as well as God, and walks in and keeps not only some, but all the Commandments and Ordinances of the Lord blame­less, I must humbly and heartily take leave of this private Place herein Errors have been both (as I must sincerely confess ignorantly, and wilfully broached and taught; but I neither shall, nor will take leave of you my dearly Belo­ved, for whom I have been as it were in Bonds, and tra­vailed, and do now travail that both you and I resorting, and fleeing to the true Church as a Sanctuary, may with old Zacharias, vers. 68. to the 80th. Bless the Lord God which hath visited and redeemed us his People, by raising up an Horn of Salvation for us, that we should be saved from our Enemies, and from the Hand of all that hate us, to serve him for the future without fear, in Holiness and Righteous­ness before Him all the Days of our Lives; for having given a better knowledge of Salvation unto us his People, by the Remission of our Sins, through the tender Mercy of our God, whereby the Day-spring from on High hath visited us, to give Light to them (that is others of our Friends that are left behind) that now (as we once did) sit in Darkness, and in the shadow of Death, and to guide both their and our Feet into the Way of Peace.

Thus having explained the Text, by declaring and com­paring Old Zacharias's Condition with mine own, I come now from the Words so read: First, To declare what the True Church is; which may easily be discovered by the Infallible Marks following. Secondly, What that Righteous­ness is, which makes, and will make any blameless. And, Thirdly, What the Commandments of God were and are. And Lastly, What Ordinances the Lord has appointed in his Church, that all true Christians may walk in, and so observe and keep them, so as to be blameless; and then shall make some Inferences, and Applications from, and of what I have said, &c.—True, since amidst the great diversity and contrariety of Opinions, which at present are in the Christian Church, each entitu [...]ing it self to the true Faith, [Page 5] which as St. [...] seem a matter of extream [...] is [...] true Faith of the Gospel: Yet I [...] and can [...] that the difficulty doth not ar [...]e so much [...] the [...] of the thing, as it doth from Men and Womens [...] Interests and Affections, in disputing about the Faith:

Therefore abstracting from these, I shall now first, by God's assistance, endeavour to set before you the chief [...] racters of a True Gospel Faith, by which you may judge what the True Church is, and where it is to be [...]: Now a Gospel Faith is an Ancient Primitive Faith for Truth you know was from the beginning; yea, divers of the Doctrines with which our Saviour enlightened those that came to [...] were from the Moral Law, before his Personal Appearance: for as he well said, Abraham saw his Day, (that it) his great Truths and Ways: For our Blessed Lord was the Author and Finisher of our Faith, in him it begun, and was consumated in his Personal Teachings and Instructions of his immediate Disciples and Apostles, who by the unerring guide, viz. The Spirit left to us what they had received from him. True, natural Truths are more and more discovered by Time; for many go too and fro, so that Science is increased: But the Divine Truths are most perfect in their Fountain, and Original, they indeed may, and do contract Impurities in their Streams, and remote Derivations. So that the way to discover the Corruptions, is to stand upon the old Ways, and see how it was in the Original or Beginning, whether that Righteousness which is taught, is to Man as well as to God: For a good Conscience must and should be always void of Offence towards both; and whether their walking is, and has been in all the Commandments and Or­dinances of the Lord or no? if it has but been only in some, and not in all, verily it cannot, nay, must not be accounted blameless. So by this first and true Character of a true Church, and Faith, two very dangerous Extreams are con­demned; as first, that of the now Roman Church, whose Do­ctrines and Usages, which are truly denyed by that Church to which I am now joyned; these following are in compa­rison, Novelties and Innovations, viz. their Image Worship, Innovations of Saints, Half Communion, Prayer in an unknown [Page 6] Tongue [...] [...] Infalliability, and Ʋniversality, with [...] &c. which whatsoever they pretend to: I can assure you, many of the Learned Divines of the Church to which I adhere, have proved that all the before menti­oned, were generally unknown in the First, and purest Times and so must be contrary to a Gospel Faith and True Church. The Second on the other Extream is, that Faith of the most of the New Sects is to be Condemned, because of its No­velty, and Innovation: For where was Presbytery, Indepen­dency, Anabaptism and Quakerism of Old? True, I must confess that th [...]e were some such like Heresies swiming in the Brains of some Ignorant, but Conceited Men and Wo­men then; yet never as we Read were they in any general Practise any where: For the Eldest we Read of, were not above Three Hundred Years ago; and some have sprung up even in this last Century or Age; which to my Sorrow and Shame, I must confess my self to have been of: and to have grown and sprung up even from Mine, and others sickle Fancys, and vain Imaginations: And God knows how soon, now even amongst such, and so many Confusions, o­ther new yet unheard of Sects, and Heresies may arise, and all to the further dividing of the true Church by Law Established, and the scandal of Christian Faith and Religion, &c.

True, all These like the Pharisees, may profess a great many Truths of the Gospel Faith, yet for all that, (as their's had) may have too much Leaven to spoil the whole Lump: But as the true Faith was of Old, ever from the begin­ing: So Secondly, it was, and is to be both Pure, and Peace­able; for St. James 3. 17. Assures us, that Wisdom or Truth, which is from above, is first Pure, than Peaceable, Gentle, and easie to be intreated, full of Mercy and good Fruits; without Partiality and without Hypocrisie: teaching and producing Puri­ty, Holiness, and Righteousness in Life and Heart: For the business of it both was, and is to conform us unto Christ, and to make us Holy as he was; and that in all manner of our Conversations, as 1 Pet. 2. 15, 16. And not only Holy, but Peaceable also; for Christ was the Prince of Peace, and his Gospel the Gospel of Peace, and not of Confusion, as is manifested, 1 Cor. 24. from the 33. to the [Page 7] end. For God is not the Author of Confusion, but of [...] As in all Churches of the Saints, let your Women keep Silen [...] in the Churches, for it is not permitted them to Speak: but these are Commanded to be under Obedience, as also saith the Law, &c. By which second Character of a true Church, there are likewire these two aforesaid dangerous Extreams, Con­demned and Confuted: The first of which, viz. Popery, which apparently teaches not only direct Impieties, and Immoralities, by the consequences of its Doctrines; but al­so endeavours to Destroy both, Ecclesiastical and Civil Peace. For First, by their Idollatries, and Invocation of Saints and Angels; which by the Prophets and Apostles, is termed Spiritual Fornication and Whoredom, by Dishon­ouring God's Majesty, and Affronting his Glory: These then must undoubtedly be accounted great Impieties; and likewise their Doctrines and Practices of Deposing and Murthering Princes, by absolving People from their Alle­giance, and dispencing with their Perjuries and Rebellions: all which are verily high Immortalities, and clear contra­ry to the Spirit, and design of the Holy Jesus, which came to redeem unto himself a Peculiar People, zealous of good Works: Nay, besides these, they even strike at the Root and main Design of Christianity, by these following Do­ctrines, which renders Repentance, and Change of Life unnecessary. For as they think, so are apt to believe, that the Favour of God, and Eternal Salvation, may be had upon easier Terms; namely, Crosses, Pilgrimages, Ave Marias, Whipings, &c. Fastings often, with a bare Confession and Absolution: They (I say) do not only think, but also really believe, that these will do their Business; or if these will not, but to Pugatory they must go: Yet these suppose, and verily believe, that if they can but procure Money enough to leave for such a number of Masses and Dirgies; then they shall be secured of being Prayed out thence: So that the greatest design of the Gospel, which is real inward Ho­liness, is Destroyed by them; for they never so much as think of a Necessity of Cutting off right Hands, and pluck­ing out Eyes, that is of Subduing, and rescinding an inor­dinate Appetites and Affections, which are the great di [...] ­culties of Religion; These they account hard Sayings, and [Page 8] cannot endure either to hear of or practise them: Nay, more­ [...]er as for their Unpeaceable Tempers, and Behaviours, both in Spiritual and Temporal, concerns that's Manifested, not only from our own, but Forreign Histories. And the other dangerous Extream is, there are many Sects which Forsooth pretend (as I once did to my Shame be it spoken) to Purity and Spirituality: Saying, That God sees no Sin in his Saints or Elect, they be [...]ng without Sin, a Precious and Choice People; yea, affirming, That God loves not for the sake of Ho­liness and Vertue, but freely (i. e.) for no reason, but meer un­accountable Will: And if it be so, then it's in vain for any to amend their Lives, or to live Soberly, Righteously, and Godly, in order to their acceptance with God: tho' they are contrary in all manner of Conversation; (as may be inferr'd from their Doctrine) yet these have been taught, and so fondly think that by being God's Chosen, or Belo­ved, they shall be saved, which abominable and absurd Do­ctrine, has not only the Malignity of the worst of Popery, but of Heathenism too; for it makes good Works unne­cessary, &c. True, they have a Faith indeed, but it's very Airy, which is only a receiving, trusting, and relying upon Christ by, and in which they do well, being parts of true Faith: But even this the Devils have, and practise, which as St. James 2. 19. 26. tells us, is Dead, and Insigni­ficant alone, to the purpose of Justification, and Acceptance with God.

Nay, Further you know, that the imputed Righteousness of Christ, is a great Truth, rightly understood: But some Sects abuse it to this false Notion, that all the Righteous­ness which Christ wrought, is formerly and properly theirs, as if they themselves had done it. So they fondly think that by Christ's Holiness, they can, and are made Holy and Righteous, tho' they have none of their own: All which is apparently contrary to that in St. John 3. 9. Liltle Children let no Man deceive you: He that doth Righteousness, is Righteous. So these which I have mentioned, that have such Solifidi­an and Antinomian Notions, by placing (as I did once) their Religion in the Fancy, as the Papists do theirs, in some External Services; do both effectually take away the necessity of a real Reformation, and true Goodness. Nay, [Page 9] I might add a great many more such as their [...] Infirmities; by which they are apt to excuse themsel [...] in their Spiritual Sins, and their Decrying Moraiity, as a dull, low, Graceless Thing; crying up the Immoral pra­ctises of Schisme and Disobedience, which they indulge, and defend themselves in. True, I must confess that there are many misled, abused Persons, of peaceable and quiet Spirits among these Sectaries: So that we as Christians are to pray, and endeavour that such may be regained. And in all Humble submission to my Goverours, If the Grand Council the next Sessions, thinks fit to abate some lesser things in Consideration of such, verily it would (in my weak Judgment in all Christian Countries) be esteemed Charity and Kindness, which I am confident no true Christian either would, or could dislike: But alas, I am not insensible that those which are of the right Sectarian Stamp and Temper, will (as I formerly did) never rest or settle any where, nor be satisfied with any Concession: God Almighty indeed may change their Minds by his Power: But I am afraid nothing less can. So that all, both you, and I, and others of our Church can, and must do, is only to pray to God for the Conversion of such. For we have found, and I have some Reason to think may now find again, as it's feared by woful Experience, that nothing less than the whole Wills of some, and an entire Subjection to their Fancies, have or will content them: for if such were granted all, as they were formerly, we cannot be assured that these would please long; only this we know, that formerly they did not; nay, as St. Jude in his Epistle, ver. 12. saith, such a Whimsicall and Discontented People, are as Clouds without Water, carried about with every Wind: For it is certain, that let the Wind be where it will to Day, none can say from what Point it will blow to Morrow; just thus, as such a People acted by their private Spirit, (as God knows I was once) which is, as observed as little, certain as the Wind; for (as I have found by woful Experience) the Opinions it suggests, are numerous, and all accounted Divine and Sacred, viz. Gospel-Truths, Gospel-Ways, which forsooth, must not be par­ted with: No, in no wise: Yea, all Laws and Constituti­ons of Government must be thwarted, and overthrown ra­ther: [Page] [...], a [...]d all must be Sacrificed to the [...] the Imaginations of such. Oh! what Blessed Do­ [...] and Days can we expect thence? What Peace and Temper have sprung from such Principles, the Histories of Germany, England, and Scotland, make us remember for caution only: So I heartily wish, that no such People in this Age, did or would not remember them so well, as to put them in Practise, which if they do, we have no refuge but to use that daily Petition, and say, Father not ours, but thy Will be done in Earth, as it is in Heaven. Which brings me to the Third and Last particular Mark or Sign, to know a true Church by, and that is, that all which it commands, is both Reasonable and Certain, which the Wiseman al­ludes to Prov. 20. 27. That the Ʋnderstanding of Man, is the Candle of the Lord, the Light of Reason is his Light; with that the true Light hath enlightned every one that cometh into the World: And now one Light should not be contrary to the other; there is, I must confess, a difference in degree, but no opposition of Nature, so Faith and Reason accord: Yea, Faith is an act of Reason, for it's the highest Reason to believe in God, and the belief of our Reason, is an act of Faith, viz. Faith in the Truth and goodness of God, which gives no Man faculties to delude or deceive him: If so be he doth but rightly Exercise and Employ them; yea, by Faith, Reason is further enlightned, and by the use of Reason, Faith is applyed, &c.

So true Religion, and Reason sweetly agree: For nothing can be Religious that is unreasonable, which made the great Apostle call the Christian Religion a Reasonable Service; Yea, so certain is the true Faith, that those which had it from the Holy Spirit of God, Signed it with their Blood, these speaking as they were inspired: and that they were really so, was no fond Imagination, or bold Presumption: But a Truth assured by these mighty Miracles they were enabled to perform. These are God's Seal, and a grand Confirmation of a Commiisson from him, and to that proof of their Doctrines both Christ, and his Apostles continually Appealed. Here was, and is then the firm reasonable Foun­dation of the Christian certainty: the Truths we are to believe, were confirmed by Miracles, than which there can [Page 11] be no greater Evidence by which last Character these two before cited dangerous Extreams, are Dispised and Condemned: As First, that of Popery, which imposeth on the Minds of Men as Articles of Religion, things that are both Extream Unreasonable, Absurd, and Uncertain, viz. These namely, the Worshipping of invisible Beings by Images of Wood, Stone, or some Mettal, &c. but more especially that Doctrine of Transubstantiation, which is full of Contradictions: Since the asserting that the same Body may be in a Thousand places at once; and that it may be divided into Parts, tho' not into wholes These and a numerous other Absur­dities to the Reason of Mankind, are contained in that senseless Mystery of Transubstantiation, to defend which their Doctors have been, and are forced to deny Reason, and say that the same thing may, and can be, and not be, &c.

But Beloved, if neither Reason, nor so much as our Senses may be believed; Pray what assurance can we have of any thing? But Oh! What assurance had [...]: to strengthen his staggering Faith about our Saviour's Resurrection? This only, and that particularly from his Lord, viz. Stretch out thine hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing. Nay, further, the now Roman Church destroys the Ground of Certainty, by an innumerable Company of Lying Wonders; which you may Read of in their Legends, which the Priests do impudently obtrude upon the belief of the silly and ignorant People only for proof, and confirmation of their Religion. But on the other Hand, the Sects and Sepratists being in as dangerous an Extream concerning Faith, &c. For I found, and have now just Reason to acknowledge, that the greatest part of my Religion, when among them, was made up of senseless and absurd Notions, (which I am now ashamed of) they being (as we were wont) set forth in unin­telligible fantastical Phrases; by (as 2 Pet 3. 16. saith) wresting of Scriptures to our own Destruction: tho' I indeed then, (as well as they) accounted it, the heights of Spirituality and Mystery, upon which we valued and boasted our selves, as the only Know­ing and Spiritual People: When as Thanks be to God, it is known now to me, and all discerning Persons that there was, and is nothing in such pretended Heights and Spiritualities, but only vain Imagination and Dreaming; which are dangerous Deceits. For as the Light of Reason and Sense dispels the vain Images of Dreams: So these admitted, would and will cure all Phantasti­cal Impostures and Delusions, for which cause they, as well as I, formerly declared against nothing so vehemently as Reason, un­der the notion of Carnal, and so an Enemy to the Spirit; and the things of it. True, I must needs confess now, that there is a Carnal Reason which is Enmity to Truth and Goodness: But that (as I am rightly inform'd) is not the Reason of our Minds, [Page 12] but our [...], Passions, and corrupt Interests; which is not Reason truly and properly so call'd; no more than an Ape can be call'd a Man: And for want of knowing, and distinguish­ing the things which so differ. Verily, Enthusiasticks rail vio­lently against all Reason, as the grand Adversary of the Truths and Mysterys of the Gospel. Nay, further resolving as I did for­merly, all assurance either into, or upon a bare belief of the Testimony of a private Spirit: For as mine was, so their Ground and Belief of the Scriptures both was, and is this Testimony; and consequently whatsoever is received from hence, bottoms there. The Papists, as it's confest, believe the Scriptures on the Testimony of their Church, but that Sect of which I was with others, believe them on the Testimony of their Spirit: That is in Sober Sadness, by the Suggestions, and Resolutions of their own, viz. they (like silly Women led Captive) believe because they will believe, finding themselve inclined to it: So up­on the same Reason as has been observed; when the Imaginati­on, and Humour (as mine did) alters, they then may, and will cease to believe; or as I do now believe the contrary: I shall not appeal only to my own Experience, but to that in others also. For have not some vastly multiplyed Articles of Faith, by making all their private Opinions sacred, calling them Gospel, and saving Truths; whereas at the best they were but uncertain­ties: For being senseless Imaginations, they are usually false, by which they expose the whole Body of Christian Principles to Suspicion, and so weaken the Faith of some, and destroy that of others. So now having given you the Characters of a true Church; Namely First, that its Articles of Faith and Doctrine are antient, viz. as St. Jude saith, That which was once delivered to the Saints. Secondly, That it's Pure, and Peaceable: And Third­ly, That those things it commands, are both reasonable and cer­tain: And since for all the fine and gay Pretences, I cannot find such a Faith in these two dangerous Extreams, which I have fairly and impartially Examined: I will by God's assistance Ex­amine, and see whether that Church, into which I am now en­tred, being by Law Established, has those Marks and Characters of a true Faith, which I have before described: And First, I am well assured, and so dare boldly assert, that the Church Establish­ed without fondness, or over-weaning, doth profess, and teach the antient Primitive, and Apostolick Faith, having admitted no new things that are contrary to it: For it was reformed ac­cording to the Scriptures, and the Apostolick Rules, and Ways: I say according to the Scriptures, as they were interpreted by the first General Councils and Fathers; those I mean next to the Apostles, whom we ought to believe; for they then assuredly understood what was the Apostles Doctrines, and Ways; nay, [Page 13] the Church is truly and rightly called Protestant, [...] against the Roman and Sectarian Innovations; so according [...] Character must be true.—Secondly, It teaches us Righteousness in ge­neral, namely our duty to God, our Neighbours, and our Selves, in the just Latitude and extent of them: For it has no Shifts, and Evasions of Repentance and Reformation; it allows no hopes of Salvation but upon Gospel terms: It teaches no Practise that is either Impious, or Immo­ral, nor indulgeth any by its Doctrine; perhaps some Rotten Members may wink, and connive at such: For the Church it self tells us that whoso­ever is Evil, must know it, by being Judged and Condemned: Nay, further, the Church leaves no hopes of Salvation, but what is grounded on effectual Repentance, and Reformation; nor imposeth any Articles of belief, as necessary to Salvation, but the antient Creed, and no terms of Communion; but reasonable Orders and Decencies, as are free from all appearance of Idolatry and Superstition, or any thing else that i [...] unlawful; and as to the concerns of civil Peace, the Church with Christ and his Apostles hath taught all active, Chearful and Conscientious Obe­dience, both to God, the King, and also Subordinate Rulers in all law­ful things, and a quiet Submission to the Penalties of not Obeying, when the things required, are plainly or certainly so, to its former Praise, Renown, and Happiness, be it spoken. So Lastly, the Church now Esta­blished, teaches no Opinions that needs such a desperate Course to de­fend them: For all its Articles are reasonable, and may be proved, or defended by Reason against all Athe [...]sts or Infidels, &c. She secures also the certainty of her Faith, by resolving it into the Scriptures, the true Seat of Infallibility; and the belief of the Scriptures (on the other hand) into the Testimony of the Spirit of God, which confirmed it by Mi­racles. So that by these Three Characters, of a True and Gospel Faith, the Church to which I am now joined, doth not only profess, but practise it: True, the best Church and Religion may be discredited by its Pro­fessors, and that the Established Religion as such, is false, can never be wrested out of the Mouths of those of the Church of Rome, and others, which seek and take occasions to Blaspheme it; till such time as the composing our Differences, shall take away that occasion which they have so unhappily given; and we take the Apostles advice, to the Epistle of Phil. 1.29. 28. to stand fast in one Spirit, with one Mind, striving toge­ther for the Faith of the Gospel, and in nothing terrified by our Ad­versaries; which to them is an evident token of Perdition, but to us of Sal­vation, and that of God. I know its possible (some may not only think, but say) that they may maintain Charity, notwithstanding they break Com­munion with an Established Church: But Beloved, give me leave to tell, nay, to assure you that that is next to impossible to be done; for when Men's Differences are about Matters of Religion, then as I know by Experi­ence, Passion is apt to slide under that fair pretext, and lay claim to Con­science it self; so that it becomes a piece of Zeal to be Uncharitable: But give me leave to premise, that it's not sufficient for any Man or Woman's Repose, to say that they are acted by Conscience, which is no other than ones present Perswasion. Conscience it self then must needs lie at the Mer­cy of every thing that has Power to perswade it: and hence oftentimes it comes to pass that whilst Conscience acts such it self, (as I, and I do not doubt but many of you have observed) is acted by Passions, and Weak­nesses, & then what has, must, or will become of the Regularity of what some [Page 14] have [...]. I am fully perswaded, that every Christian detests the [...] of being sawyed in Matters of Religion; either by Interest or P [...]vis [...]ness, or Pride, or Appetites, or Aversions, or something that is and has been either avowedly Evil, or Shamefully Weak.

But now I shallnot rashly charge any with being swaied with such, tho' I have great Reason to suspect that all these before-mentioned, have found ways to pass into some, nay, I may say, into too many Men and Womens Consciences, and there act as securely as behind a Curtain; yea, even at that time when such were and are ready to detest them in their naked Appearances: To confirm which Truth, I will appeal not only to mine own, but some others undeniable Experiences, themselves being Judges; Nay, have none of you here ever heard of, nor known any who out of Wanto [...]ness of Wit, and Affectation of Singularity, have made a perfect new Model of Christian Religion, by making a God without Eternity, a Sa­viour without Satisfaction, and an Hell without Torments; these forsooth, did first admite their Scheme, and then believed it, and so became Masters of a Sect; and thus their Vanity passed into Conscience. Others there have been, and are of a Moroser Temper and Complexion, which falling as it were into dislike with that Sweetness Christianity obliges to, and those Sacraments and Ordinances which are the Tyes of Union, and that Gospel that so incesantly presses it: These (as I know by former Expe­rience, being one of them) verily have believed that the very Gospel-Institutions are but Types and Shadows; and that every Man and Wo­man has a surer Word of Prophesie within Themselves, and that God must be served without all possitive Commandments or Ordinances, &c. These you (as well as I) know have sprung into a numerous Sect; and thus Completion and Humour have passed, and doth pass into Conscience. Others there are which you cannot but have heard of, whose Covetousness has first inclined them to Teach, and then the Success of their Doctrine has temp­ted them to believe that the Merits of Humane Piety may be transferred from Person to Person, and that the Fruits of Repentance may be pur­chased at a Price: So having let their Minds grow Gross and Carnal, and then finding themselves either too much at Loss in their Devotions, to a Pure and Invisible Being, have introduced sensible Objects of Worship, and humane Mediators, to whom they might address both with more Boldness and Carelesness: And thus both Avarice and Beastiality have passed and do pass into Conscience.

Others there are, and have been, which being fond of some Opini­ons, and having no other Foundation to build upon, have (by their Dreams and vain Imaginations) made them Canonical; and being of a temper more Zealous, and Fierce, and having perswaded themselves that all is Sacred that they do for the Advancement of their own Opini­ons; and so have allowed and practised Persecutions, Murders, and Out­rages; And thought (as Saul, which afterward was named Paul) that in so doing, they did God good Service. Thus Fondness and Cruelty have Passed into Conscience.—Others there are, and have been, which being uneasie in their Worldly Circumstances, and then reflecting upon that Mysterious Intimation that Christ should some time Reign alone upon Earth, have (as they were willing) believed that that Time was near Accomplished, and thereupon have cryed down all Worldly Government as Antichristian, hoping thereby to set up King Jesus, and themselves to­gether; And thus Discontent, has passed into Conscience.—But to be [Page 15] brief. Others there have been, and also are, which have been [...] devoted to an Aversion to the Church established, (as I was) even [...] their Youth, being warned to avoid it, and not to have any particular Communion with it; on the Peril of their Souls, being told (as I was) that it was Antichristian, Popish, Socinian, or Pelagian; being made to believe that it's Monstrous, without ever being suffered to Examine or Understand it; And being thus bred under Masters better skilled in Af­firming than Proving, have been also taught, that the most commendable Faith is that which swallows All Things without any Examination; and that the more Reason one hears against ones Self, the more Meritori­ous is and will be ones obstinacy. And thus not only Curiosity, but Prejudice also, and Cruelty have passed into Conscience.

Now what can or shall I say more, if both Men and Womens Appe­tites, Passions, Follies, Prejudices, Fondnesses, Aversions, Wishes and Dreams, both may and have passed into Conscience, and prescribed and governed there, as by these you may understand; and some, I doubt not, here may by undeniable Experience know; Nay, it has been (by many as well as my self) observed that the Matters which these of the Reformed Church differ about, are very small; and the Animosities both have been and are generally the higher, and greater: For to our Shame be it spoken, the smaller the Distance, or Difference, the wider the Breach; insomuch that most can live more Friendly with an Infidel, that differs in the ob­ject of Worship, than with another Christian that differs only in the Form: The Reason whereof, (as I conjecture, and judge) must be this; That when the Opinions of others are at a great distance from our own, then we look upon them as a simple Perswasion; but when they come near to ours, we look upon such as a kind of Affront, presuming that where the Distance is so little, it is not so much the Matter of Controversie, as the Malice of the Party that keeps up the Difference: So that is a Prejudice which naturally inflames Men and Women to Revenge, and breeds as we find by woful Experience, even a Canker in Religion, which insensibly eats up the Spirit of it, which caused the Princely Prophet to say, Psal. 99. 9. The Zeal of thine House hath eaten me—But waving all this, to proceed to the Second Particular, namely, What that Righteousness is which made, and will make any Blameless? Now give me leave to suppose, that that Man or Woman which breaks Communion with a true Church which is by Law established, tho' they maintain all other Acts of Charity as much as possible, as to bear no Malice to any, to Censure none, to Pray for, and wish well to all; yet I can and must assure you, that indeed is to be Righteous before God; but yet far short of the Duty in keeping all the Commandments, since that Duty of Brotherly Love, namely, that Love which one Christian owes to another, is not expressed; For Brotherly love is not or at least can't be shown but by Communicating in Religious Offices, viz. Breaking of Bread, and in Prayers, as the Primitive Fellowship of Christians is expressed in Holy Scripture; which Offices in all Ages have been looked upon as the necessary Tests and Symbols of Christian Love &c.

But alas! alas! Division both is, and has been (as I know by Experi­ence) the Mother of a great many Evils: For what an Harvest was, and is it (as I formerly found) to wily Seducers? and what a Rock to un­stable Minds; yea, what a Snare to Itching Ears, and what anopportuni­ty to Men and Women of either wanton or peevish Fancies to sow the Ta [...]es of Confusion: And what a Provocation to God to suffer, that [Page 16] they who can't agree with one another, should sometimes or other be suffered to be devoured one of another.—But Lastly, Some, nay, many pretend that their differing, or dissenting from a true and establish­ed Church, is because they cannot Edifie, as they think, under the Churches Teachers; and that is the chief if not the only Reason, they do, or cannot communicate with her; thinking it almost impossible to edifie as much under her Teachers, as they do under those that seperate from her. And what the true Reason of non-edifying is, I shall now inquire into; and that being now by me perceived, and to you related, I am afraid will prove a very scandalous Reason; for I find that its nothing but Prejudice that hinders their Edification: Prejudice I say, which would hinder some from Edifying, even under the Labours of an Angel: I am well assured that it hindred many from improving under the Labours of a God, much more then under either some Angels or Men; for without all doubt our blessed Lord was a most edifying Preacher, and yet its evident that a great many of those that heard him were never the better, they were indeed such which spread abroad III Characters, and entertained a mean opinion of him, calling him the Carpenter's Son, a Wine-bibber, a Friend of Publicans and Sinners, with which Prejudice they hindred not only them­selves, but also others from edifying.

And to conclude this Second Particuiar of my Text, give me leave once more to tell all such, which (as I once did) do dissent from the Church, in making such slender, but gay, and plausible Pretences, that if they, as I did once, think or imagine that theirs is the right and true Way. To which I Answer, That that is but bare Thought or Imagination, which they (as I once foolishly did) so eagerly contend for; and that which they now have, and do contemn, are all Possitive, and Divine Commands, and Ordinances; nay, were such certain, that the Rules and Ways which they propose were in their judgment, better than those of the established Church, &c. yet they may be as certain that Love and Cha­rity are better than these: And granting that Humane Laws are now dispensable at pleasure; yet I hope that none dare, or will think that the Laws of God (which require an Obedience not only to some Com­mandments and Ordinances, but to all to be blameless) are and may be dispensed with by us. True, all Opinions plead Scripture for what they say and do, and many pretend to Reason, and the most to Antiquity: Ages I must confess alters Judgments, and Affections changes the Thoughts and Imaginations, often shift the Scene, and what some calls Reason, has proved oftentimes a chain of Phantasms; so that often many are guided by Prejudices, and over-ruled by Authority; or formed as I have shewn by Education, and so suck in their Opinions carelesly, or by acci­dent, and are deeply settled before they have examined; yea, when they do examine, its but by halves; For they seeing & know but few things, judge all the rest by those they know and see; so that such do not either seek the Truth at all, or are unable to manage a due and impartial search of it: Or when they stumble upon it, they do not know; or when it is in their sight, they boggle, and are afraid, and so runs away from it, or else begins to daub it with vile Aspersions, whilst they catch only at Shadows, and grow fond of the Images of their own Fancies, crying up those for Truth and Faith: Thus disturbing Societies, and the Peace of Mankind, to gain Credit to their own fond Dreams and Fancies, being confident of their Opinions, and even hating those which are not of their Perswasion. Thus forsaking a certain Duty for some doubtful and foolish Tenets. If these were but considered by all, Fondness towards Opinion would be lessened, and Charity promoted, which is so necessary among all Christians, which that it may come to pass, God grant for Christ's sake: AMEN.

FINIS.

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