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SE R M ON VII.
MAT. VII. 5. And then Malt thou see clearly to cast out the Mote out of thy Brothers Eye. V. 6. Give not that which is boly unto the Dogs,
neither cast ye your Pearls before Swine, left they' trample them under their feet, and turn again and rent you.
The Seventh Sermon on this Text.
AVING formerly divided this Discourse
of our Saviour's against rash Judgments into three Parts; viz.
1. A Prohibition of Censoriousness or rash Judgment.
2. An Enforcement of the Prohibition by feveral Reasons and Arguments.
3. The Antithesis or opposite Duty to this Cenforiousness, or rash Judgment.
We are now come to the last Branch of this Division, the opposite Duty to Cenforiousness; and this, I told you, was comprehended in these Four Particulars.
1. That we should employ our Cenforiousness chiefly upon our felves; that we fhould firft cast out the Beam out of our own Eye.
2. That we should have charitable Thoughts of our Neighbour, and put the best Construction on his Actions they are capable of.
3. That we should perform the office of Monitors to our Neighbour himself, instead of Exposing him to others.
4. That we should use Prudence in such Admonitions, not to throw them away, where they will do hurt; but administer them to such Pera fons, and at such Times, and in such a Manner as is most likely to do good.
Now having at the last Occasion spoke to the first and second of these, our severity in Cenfuring our selves, and our Charity in Censuring others; I proceed now to the third and fourth, namely, The Duty of Fraternal Admonition, and the Prudence we are to use in Administring
III. I begin with the Duty of fraternal Admonition, for which the preceding Censoriousness to our felves, and Charitableness to our Neighbours, are here supposed to be good Dispositions or Qualifications. Now for the Foundation of this Duty from my Text, it is comprehended in this Expression of seeing clearly to caft out the Mote out of our Brother's Eye. For to what Purpose should we see clearly to do this charitable Office to our Neighbour, if we are never to perform it to him? It is likewise implied in the next Expression, forbidding our throwing away of this precious Pearl of Admonition and Reproof upon Dogs and Swine, that is, on Persons who in all Probability will make a bad Use of it'; for this implies, that if the Persons are
not so indisposed, it is our Duty to administer it to them.
In speaking to this Duty of Fraternal Admonition, I shall First endeavour to give you a general Description of it, and of the chief Duties comprehended under it: then shew you the Used fulness of it in a Christian Life ; and this will bring me to the last Thing in the Words; the Prudence to be used in managing it.
1. As to the First, the Description of the Duty of fraternal Admonition; I take it in general to be a friendly Guarding our Neighbour against Sin and Errour: or a Putting him in Mind that he is in it, or at least in Danger of being led into it, and the Directing and Guiding him into the right Way. There are many Branches of this Duty; I shall endeavour briefly to mention the chief of them, for that will go a great way in the right Understanding the Description of the Duty.
(1.) First then, One of the best and safest Ways of Discharging this Duty, is by Fortifying our Brother before-hand against the bypaths of Sin and Errour, which we apprehend he will be in Danger of taking in his Christian Course. This is like furnishing the Traveller, at his firft setting out, with a true Deseription or Map of the Roads, both the right and wrong ones, that he may follow the one, and avoid the other. This I call one of the best and safest Ways of discharging this Duty; for Men receive it with much less Prejudice, and more Goodness of Temper and Disposition, if we give them timely Warning of their Danger, before they actually go astray, than they do when Vol. IV.
we tell them that they are already far gone in a wrong Way, and must either return a great Way directly back; or cross the Country through much greater Difficulties, before they can get into the right Way again. So in our spiritual Course there is no more innocent or ufeful Way pf Spending our Time ; there is no more Edifying Subject of Conversation, than when from an overflowing Fulness of divine Knowledge and Experience in our selves, we give copious Directions to others, well suited to their Capacity and Circumstances, how they may make the Journey of Life most inoffensively. This is what the Apostle St. Paul advises, Col. iii. 16. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all Wisdom ; Teaching and Admonishing one another in Psalms, and Hymns, and spiritual Songs. It is much to be lamented that this edifying Way of Conversation is now so much laid aside among Christians, and that instead of it we run out into a thousand Trifles and Impertinencies, if not worse, Slanders and Calumnies; which instead of helping our Neighbour forward in his Journey heavenwards, lead him into many By-ways, out of which it will require a great deal of Time and Pains to extricate him.
(2.) This first Way is more general; but the Duty of fraternal Admonition doth not reft in Generals. Herein it differs from common Instruction, that it takes more particularly under Confideration the State of the Brother with Relation to those Instructions and Admonitions; as for Example, when we consider the present Temptations to which he is expofed, and fuit our Cautions and Admonitions accordingly, for
Preserving him against the Snares of Sin and Temptation; and when we consider the present Advantage and Opportunities he has for doing good, and put him in mind of them, and stir him up to embrace them. This is that Observing and Confidering one another which the Apostle recommends to the Hebrews, Heb. x. 24. And let us consider one another, says he, to provoke unto Love and to good Works ; not forsaking the Afsemibling of our felves together, as the Manner of fomë is, but Exporting one anotherand so much the moré as ye fee the Day approaching. For whatever that particular Time was, whether the Day of God's Vengeance on the Jews, or any other Time of Trial, it was it seems a Time of great Danger, and therefore the Apostle thought it necessary that the Christians should, by their mutual Exhortations at their Meeting together, fortify and prepare one another for it. And in Order to this, the Observing one anothers Humours, and Tempers, and Infirmities, and Dangers, and Imparting their Cautions, Admonitions, and Advices accordingly, was a great Part of this friendly Duty.
(3.) A Third Piece of this Duty is, in Cafe our Brother has actually betaken himself to any of the By-paths of Sin; and especially if he does not quickly take notice of it himself, and leave it, but goes on securely in it, it is then more than ordinarily necessary that this friendly Monitor should put him in Mind of his Errour, and if he is not sensible of it, should by repeated Importunities jog and awaken him out of this dangerous Lethargy of Sin and InconGideration. And if he finds him difficult of Access upon this