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Duty constitutes a principal Part of both Law and Gospel, and is as necessary as the Love of our Neighbour, which is one half of our Duty.
(2.) Let us consider, that the faithful Discharge of this Duty is the principal Thing which makes Conversation useful. There have been many Inventions to make it pleasant and agreeable, but few to make it useful and profitable to the Concerns of our Souls. And indeed, bating those Things which we have described, as comprehended under the Duty of Fraternal Admonition, it will be a very hard Matter, to find much more in Conversation, that tends to our spiritual Benefit. Perhaps it may be said, though we our felves are not directly instructed or admonished in Conversation, yet as the Discourse is often pretty free of those that are Absent, we may indirectly be benefited by the Commendations or Censures of other Mens Actions. It is true, and this, if designed for our Benefit, is one handsome Way of brotherly Admonition. And for that Reason, even this is almost banished out of Conversation ; whatever has a Tendency to awaken our Neighbour to any Sense of his Duty, being thought a Piece of ungenteel Breeding. The only way then to make Conversation useful, especially between intimate Friends, would be to retrieve this much neglected Duty of Fraternal Admonition, and with a true Spirit of Love and Charity to put it in Practice.
(3.) Let us consider, that in fome Respects Fraternal Admonition is a more effectual Inftrument of the Conversion and Sanctification of Men, than even good Books and Sermons; for
they do only in general tell us our Duty, leaving the particular Application to our own Consciences. But this comes closer home, with a Thou art the Man; and something more still, that the World knows our Guilt or Hypocrisie ; which is of great Consideration to induce us to mend our Manners. And therefore the Banishing such an effectual Means of Grace out of the World, or, which is the same thing, the bring, ing it into Desuetude, is a great Wound to Religion, and has a very bad Influence on Christian Morals.
(4.) Let us consider ; That the Practice of this Duty of fraternal Correption would be the Destruction of Flattery, that greatest Bane of Society, which has eaten out all that's good in Conversation. As Flattery conceals Men from them, selves, and represents their Virtues in a magnifying Glass, but their Vices through the other end of the Prospective; fo Fraternal Admonition represents every thing in its true Colours. Flattery feeds Pride and Vanity ; Fraternal Admonition nourishes Humility. Flattery shuts the Door to Repentance and Amendment; Fraternal Admonition is a great Spur to both. Flattery tends to deceive Men, and Fraternal Admonition to bring them to the Knowledge of themselves. Certainly the avoiding so many Mischiefs, and the bringing in so many Blessings, must be an unspeakable Benefit to human Society.
(5.) Fraternal Admonition is one of the greateft Acts of Charity. It is great in respect of the Object of its Care, being the Soul's, and eternal Salvation of Men; and it is great in regard of the Difficulty of it; for I know no Duty requires fo
much Skill and Dexterity, fo much Wisdom and Prudence, fo much Courage and patience, to manage it to good Advantage, as this does. And it is a Duty attended with the greatest and best of Consequences, the right Forming of the Minds and Manners of Men; And therefore it is an Art, which of all other deserves to be the most seriously studied.
(6.) Lastly, It is a Duty, which of all other is the most amply Rewarded. If there be in Heaven, as I do not doubt there are, different Degrees of Glory, one of the highest, I question not, shall be conferred upon them, who prove Inftrumental in the Conversion of many Souls to God, according to that of St. James, in the End of his Epistle : Brethren, if any of you do err from the Truth, and one convert him, let him know, that be wbg converteth a Sinner from the Error of bis Way, fhall save a Soul from Death, and shall bide a multitude of Sins, Jam. v. 19. And that of Daniel, Dan. xii. 3. And they that be wise, skall shine as the Brightness of the Firmament; and they that turn many to Righteousness, as the Stars for ever and ever.
So much for inducing us to set about this difficult Duty of Fraternal Admonition.
I should now, in the last Place, consider the great Prudence here recommended in Administring this Duty; for there are some Men, here compared to Dogs and Swine, so uncapable of admitting it, and who would receive it with so much Contempt and Profaneness, and with fo much Wrath and Indignation, that a great deal of Harm is to be feared, but no Good to be expected from it, when administred to them. And
therefore our blessed and merciful Saviour, in such Cases, doth not require it at our Hands, but exprefly forbids our Administring it to fuch Persons, and on such Occasions: Give not that which is holy unto Dogs, &c. But this is a Subject of that Extent and Difficulty, that though I would very willingly be excused from it, yet having baulk'd none of the Difficulties of this excellent Sermon on the Mount hitherto, I shall choose rather to give it a distinct Consideration by it self, than to leave it thus imperfect. But this will be work for another Day's Meditation.
God bless what we have heard at present, and give us Grace to bring forth the Fruits of it in a good Conversation our selves, and in our zealous Endeavours to reclaim others from the evil of their Ways, that we with them may at last obtain the end of our Faith, the Salvation of our Souls, through the Grace and Merits of our blessed Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Christ. To whom, &c.
M AT. VII. 6.
Give not that which is boly unto the Dogs, nei
ther cast ye your Pearls before Swine, left they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rent you.
The Eighth Sermon on this Text.
AVING in some former Discourses as
gainst Censoriousness and ralh Judgment, both considered the Vice it self here prohibited, and the Reasons suggested in the Text against it, I came at last to the opposite Duty, which I proposed in these Four Particulars :
1. That we should employ our Cenforiousness chiefly against our felves ; by casting out first the Beam out of our own Eye.
II. That we should have charitable Thoughts of our Neighbour, and put the best Construction on his Designs and Actions they are capable of.
III. That in Case of his Sin and Error, we should perform the Office of Monitors to our Neighbour himself, instead of exposing him to others.
These Three I have already considered; now follows,