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our Lord : But the Officers, instead of bringe ing their Prisoner, return full of Admiration of him and his Doctrine, and tell their Marters, That never Man spake like this Man. The Pharisees found their Officers were become Believers, and they reproved them, saying, Are ye also deceived? But the only Argument they gave them was this, Have any of the Rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on him? But this people, who knoweth not the Law, are cursed. What Conviction this Argument produced we know not: Silence it produced at least, for we hear of no Reply that the Officers made. In the twelfth of St. John we read, that among the Chief Rulers many believed on Christ, but they did not confess him; and here the Reason is given, they were afraid left they should be put out of the Synagogue.
On the other Side, when the Apostles Peter and John were in Custody, and under Examination of the Chief Rulers, and were commanded to teach no more in the Name of Jesus, they answered boldly, Whether it be right in the Sight of God, to bearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. This Difference of Behaviour is plainly accounted for in the Text. Peter and John considered
what was right in the Sight of Gods the believing Rulers thought on their Interest in the Synagogue, and considered what was right in the Sight of Men. One sought the Praise of God, the other the Praise of Men. How different were their Principles and their Actions; how different also their Rewards! The Dissimulation of the Jews preserved to them a Place in the Synagogue; the generous Confession of the Apostles will give them a Place that shall abide for ever in Glory and Immortality. I proceed now to consider,
Thirdly, How we may examine ourselves upon this Subject, and know whether we receive Honour from Men, or seek the Honour that comes from God only,
All Times do not afford the fame Trials of Faith and Sincerity, yet there is no Time but has fome. If Persecution ceases, Prosperity has its Temptations ; and it is perhaps as hard to deny ourselves the Honours and Glories of the World, as it is to submit to the Affictions of it. St. Paul tells us, that there must be Hereses among us, that they which are approved may be made manifeft. When the Heathens could no longer exercise their Cruelty against Christians, the external Peace of the Church was followed by internal Di
visions and Contentions. The
The great Arian Controversy arose much about the Time that the Empire became Christian, and it yielded as severe Trials to Christians, as they had ever before experienced. The Powers of the Empire were sometimes on one side, and sometimes on the other Side of the Controversy What Influence it had on the Faith of the World, a Man of
moderate Experience in the World may easily collect. I will not carry this Observation into particular Instances, or bring it any nearer to our own Times, than by reminding you, that every Age has afforded this Trial to Christians; and there always is, and will be, Reason for Men, who would guard the Since: rity of their Hearts, to inquire how far they lean to the World, and court its Favours, by the Opinions which they embrace and profess under the Appearance of Religion. Whether your Opinion be true or false, yet if you maintain it in Compliment to the World, you know your Reward, the World must
Your Father, who seeth in secret, has no Reward for such Believers, What the Portion of those must be, who are resolved, at all adventures, to be well with the World, and to give no Offence either to the Great or
to the Wicked by their Virtue or Religion, our Saviour has plainly told us, Wo unto you, when all Men shall speak well of you.
But farther : Times of Ease and Prosperity, though attended with no other Evil, yet naturally abound in Vice, and a Neglect of the Things pertaining to Salvation : And it is counted a very wise Thing to sit still, and give way to the Torrent, and not to create ourselves and others Trouble by opposing a general Corruption: And perhaps it may be wise. But, I beseech you, is it Wisdom towards God, or Wisdom towards the World? Is it seeking that Honour which comes from above, or the Honour which comes from Men? Can you imagine that the Man, who has not Courage enough to venture a little of his Ease and worldly Tranquillity by expressing his Resentment at the Corruptions that surround him, would have Resolution enough to expose his Life in a Day of Trial for the fake of the Religion which he professes ?
Let us examine ourselves on this Head: If we think it an happy Choice to facrifice the Honour of God, and of Religion, to a corrupt Generation, and to skreen ourselves from the Indignation of the World by a professed Indifference, is it not directly preferring the
Good-will of Men to the Good-will of God?
word: Whenever Men act in Opposition to the Truth, or dissemble the Truth in Compliance with the World; when they wink at Iniquity, and make a Way for it to escape with Impunity; when they give Credit to Vice and Irreligion by a professed Indifference, and help to establish Iniquity by affecting to seem easy and contented under the Growth of it: In all these cases, the Words of the Text belong to them; They receive Honour one of another, and seek not the Honour which cometh from God only.