« PreviousContinue »
especially in the chief and fundamental Serm. Points of our Religion ; and then we shall XVI. be the fitter,
(2.) To consider, whether the Action we are about be lawful, or not, that we do not venture upon any Act which is contrary to the Law of God; and, if we find it upon due Consideration lawful, let us confider,
(3.) WHETHER it is expedient to be done at this Time, or in this place, whether it is comely and of good Report; for not only the Lawfulness, but the Decency and Expediency of an Action, ought to be respected; the Christian Religion teaching us not only to mind those Things which tend to our own Benefit and Satisfaction, but also to those of our Neighbour ; and that we ought to take Care that we do not offend him, but that we endeavour to promote his Good and Welfare with equal Sincerity with our own.
Now such a Confideration as this will very much conduce to our circumspect Walking, for hereby we shall be always found upon our Guard, when our Enemies either endeavour to surprise or openly attack us.
2. A SECOND Rule is that we never be ențiced or frightened to do any Thing con
SÆRM. trary to the Dictates of our own ConscienXVI. ces.
We must use our utmost Endeavours to inform our Consciences, what is our Duty; and, when our Opinions differ from those of other Men, we must always be ready to lend a willing Ear to hearken to their Arguments, to weigh them in the Balance of unprejudiced Reason; and, when we are once convinced on which Side our Duty lies, we must be resalute in the Execution of it, and never by any Means be withdrawn from the Performance of it.
3. Let us frequently look back upon our Actions, and recollect what we have done. Let us every Night, before we go to Sleep, call ourselves to an Account, for what we have done for that Day; every Lord's Day, for the Actions of the Week and every Time we receive the Sacrament, let us consider how we have lived, since we performed this Duty last; and, at the solemn Time of Lent, let us balance the Accounts between God and our own Souls, for the whole Year : That hereby we may know the true State and Condition of our own Souls, how Matters stand between God and us, and whether we are prepared to give up our Accounts with Comfort at the great Tribunal of the Sovereign of the
World. This is a Rule of Life which ISERM.
Actions with fervent Prayers to God, that he would inlighten and inform your Understandings in the Truth, that he would teach you your Duty, and enable you by his Grace to perform it; for, by Praying to God, we do not only incline God to give us his Help and Assistance, but we take the most effectual Means, to infuse and beget in our Souls those Qualities and Graces which we pray for.
I MIGHT set down many more Rules of Practice, but would we but write these four in our Memories, and transcribe them into our Lives, we should soon find the blessed Effects of them. But, alas ! here it is we are wanting ; we know our Duty, we have the Word of God continually founding in our Ears, but we will not obey it. And yet, if we do not thus walk circumspectly, we are taught in the Text, that we shall walk, not as Wisemen, but as
SERM. Fools: Whereas, by living thus circumspect. XVI. ly, we approve ourselves to be wise and
understanding Persons, Men who know where their true Interest lies, and how to prosecute and obtain it. For certainly Religion is the most proper Means to enable us to live happily in this Life; whilst it teacheth us to be content with our Lot and Portion in this World, gives us an Heart to take the Comfort of the good Things which we 'possess, frees us from those Things which four the Enjoyments of Life, and enables us to undergo the severest Afflictions which befall us with Comfort and Satisfaction: And as to another Life, no one will doubt, that Walking circumfpe&tly, in the Ways of Virtue and Piety, is the only Method of preparing ourselves for the Blessedness of Heaven, In a Word, since it is the truest Sign of Wisdom to pursue what tends to our real and lasting Happiness, let me exhort
you in the Words of the Apostle, See then that ye walk circumfpe&tly, not as Fools, but as wise.
EPHES. V. 16.
HIS Epistle was written to theSerm. Inhabitants of Ephesus, the Me- XVII. tropolis of the Lydian and Pro
consular Afia; and so by Consequence to all the other cities of this Province: The chief Design of it seems to be, to inveigh against the Doctrines and Practices of the Gnostic Heretics, who taught that, to avoid Persecution, it was lawful for Christians to join with the Heathens in their idolatrous Worship; and, mistaking the Meaning and Latitude of Gospel Liberty, indulged themselves in all Manner of Licentiousness and Debauchery. In Oppofition to these, the Apostle exhorts the Ephe