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religious man, because he is fo zealous for that which they esteem to be fo considerable a part of religion. Nay, such is the horrible partiality and injustice of para ties, that a very bad man that appears zealous for their way, shall easily gain the esteem of a holy and religious man, though he have many visible and notorious faults ; though he be passionate and ill-natured, censorious and uncharitable, cruel and oppressive, sordid and çovetous; when another, who quietly, and without any noise and bustle, minds the substantial parts of religion, and is truly devoted towards God, juft and peaceable, and charitable towards men y meek and humble, and patient, kind and friendly even to these that differ from him, shall bardly escape being censured for a lukewarm, formal, moral man, destitute of the grace of God and the power of godliness.
Sp likewise zeal for or against indifferent circumstances of religion, is another form of godliness which many appear in. And commonly such persons, the more deftitute, they are of true piety and virtue, the greater stir they keep about these things, that they may seem to be something in religion ; just like those, who being conscious to themselves that they are defective in true and useful learning, that they may not seem to be fo, are always troublesome with the shreds and ends of it.
Now, the indifferent circumstances of religion are things which no man, ought to have the face to trouble himself about, that neglects the weighty and substantial duties of it. No man that hath a beam in his own exe, ought to be concerned for the mote that is in his brother's eye. Indeed he that is careful of the main parts of religion, may and ought to be concerned for the other in their due place, so far as the order and decency of God's worship, and obedience to authority, and the peace of Chriftians is concerned in them. But to place all religion in a zeal for or against these things, is one of the thinnest and lightest forms of religion.
VIII. Silliness and freakishness, and either a pretended or real ignorance in the common affairs and concernments of human life.
This may seem at first hearing to be a very odd form of religion, and indeed so it is; yet in several religions,
men have appeared in it with great applause and acceptance. Among the Turks, idiots and madmen are mightily reverenced, .it being always taken for granted that they are inspired. And, among the Papists, the most eminent of their faints, if their legends do not belye then, especially St. Francis and St. Dominick, are magnified scarcely for any other reason, but for faying and doing the most filly and ridiculous things. What can be imagined inore foolish and fantastical than St. Francis's stripping himself of his cloaths, and running about naked ? than his frequent preaching to the birds, and beasts, and fishes ? Was ever any thing more nauseously ridiculous, than his picking up the lice which were beaten off his cloaths, and putting them in his bosom! which is magnified in him as a profound piece of humility; as if nastiness were a Christian grace. These and many more such freaks which are related in his life, as instances of his great fanctity, serve to no other purpose, but to render religion ridiculous to any man of common sense. As if to be a fpiritual man, and a mere natural, were all one, and as if this were a good consequence, that a man cannot chuse but be very knowing in religion, because he is very filly in all other things ; and must needs have abundance of grace, because he hath no wit. It is pity it should be so, but I am afraid it is too true, that the greateft mis. chiefs that have been done to the world, have been done by filly well-meaning inen.
Lastly, Great noise and talk about religion.
This is as empty a form as any of the rest, and yet this does strangely please and satisfy a great many. If a man do but mix something of religion with all his discourses, and be often speaking of God and heavenly things, this passeth for a more than ordinary character of a religious man. And many deceive themselves with it, they have talked of religion so long, till they be. licve they have it.
Not but that this is a good thing, provided it bc ordered with discretion and humility, and be not forced and affected, impertinent and troublesome. But then we must have a great care that other things be answerable. Our lives must justify our godly talk, and our actions must give weight to our words ; for nothing is more odious, than a religious and good discourse from the mouth of a bad man. This made our Saviour so full of indignation against the Scribes and Pharisees ; they were not what they appeared to be in their disa course and outward garb. They said and did not, therefore he compares them to whited walls and painted fepulchres, that were beautiful indeed without, but within were full of all uncleanness and rottenness.
It is true indeed, that out of the abundance of the keart the mouth speaketh; if religion be within, it will appear in mens words as well as actions; this is a fire that will break out : but the best men are very modest, and make little noise, do nothing out of oitentation, and to be taken notice of, and had rather refrain from good words, than to make an unseasonable shew of religion.
Speech is intended to signify the inward sense of mens minds, but it does not always do fo; men may be full of religious talk, when there is nothing of religion in their hearts, nothing answerable in their lives; men may speak like angels, and yet do like devils.
Therefore let no man deceive himself, or think to deceive others with this appearance of religion : for, let men talk never so piously, every considerate inan knows that there is more of true religion in one good action, than in a thousand good words.
And thus I have done with the first thing, viz, wherein a form of religion doth confift.
Secondly, Wherein the power of godliness doth confift. And because it is very material to be rightly informed in this, I will reduce the several particulars to these four general heads.
1. A due sense of God, and suitable affections towards him.
II. A sincere and diligent use of the means and instruments of religion.
III. A firm and steady resolution of well-doing. .
IV. As the proper and genuine effect of all these, the practice of a good life, in the several parts and inItances of it. Vol. IX,
I. A due sense of God, and suitable affections to. wards him. This is the principle and fountain of all religion, from whence all actions of piety and goodness do spring.
Under this I comprehend a lively sense of God's being ; which the Apostle tells us iš fundamentally necessary to all religion: He that cometh to God muft believe that he is. This is the great spring of all religious motions, and of our dependance upon him, the lively sense whereof will make us humble and thankful, and teachi us to acknowledge him in all our ways, and to refer all our concernments to him ; and of our subjection to him, which will make us obedient to his laws, and submissive to his pleasure ; nothing being more reasonable than that he that gave us our lives should have the entire government and disposal of them ; than that he that made us what we are, should command us what we should do. In short, this comprehends faith in God, or a readiness to assent to what he reveals, with the fear and the love of God, which are the great principles of religion.
II. A sincere and diligent use of the means and instruments of religion, such as prayer, reading, and hearing the word of God, and receiving the facraments. These are the means which God hath appointed for the improving of us in holiness and goodnels; and we sincerely use these means, when we really aim at this end; when we pray, and read, and hear, and meditate on God's word, and receive the sacraments, that we may truly become better, more holy and virtuous in all manner of conversation ; and do not rest in the use of these means, as if a man were a religious and good man, because he prays often, and every day reads the Bible, and goes to all the sermons he can hear of, and takes all occasions to receive the sacrament. The life of re. ligion does not consist in the bare usc of these, but in the real efficacy of them upon our lives. It is a very good caution which St. John gives us, Be not deceived, he that doth righteoufiefs is righteous, even as he is righteous, 1 John iii. 6. Men are apt to impose upon themselves, as if they could be righteous, and approve themselves to God, upon some other terms, whereas
only they that fear God, and work righteousness, are accepted with him.
I do not speak this to undervalue the exercises of religion, but to inform men of the true nature and dehgn of them. Be as diligent as thou wilt in the exercises of piety and devotion, but be fincere in the use of those means; do not satisfy thyself in the performance of those duties, unless thou find the effect of them upon thy heart and life, always remembering, that not the hearers of the word, but the doers of it, are blelled, that the prayer, and all the sacrifices of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord.
III. A firm and steady resolution of well-doing. This is the result of a true and sincere repentance, and the great principle of a new life; and if it be firm and stedfast, it will derive its influence into all our actions; but if it be wavering and inconsistent, it is only the occasion of a religious mood and fit, but not the principle of a religious state. Therefore it concerns us to strengthen this principle, and to be true to it, when we have once taken it up; for whenever we quit it, we break loose from God and religion at once, and cast ourselves back into a much more dangerous state than we were in before.
There is no doubt, but that the devil and our own corrupt hearts will make many assaults upon such a re. folution, and raise all their batteries against it, because it is our main fort, and the great security of our fouls, and so long as we maintain that, we are safe ; and therefore it had need be a mighty resolution that is able to stand out against such opposition.
But what are we that we thould take up such a resolution, and what is our strength! We are weak and unstedfast as water, reeds fhaken with the wind; we are not sufficient of ourselves, as of ourselves, for any thing that is good; the way of man is not in himself, nor is it in man that walks to direct his steps : but we have a greater strength than our own to rely upon, and greater than that of any adverse power that can set itself against us; we have God on our side, and the allistance of his grące to back and fortify these holy resolutions ; so that we have no reason to defpair of success and victory, if