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in his performance of these, or in his general character and course of life. For tho' tis possible, a man may do any of these things hypocritically, yet if he be not evidently guilty of some indulged, habitual vice, that is inconsistent with sincere religion, or of something peculiarly inconsistent with the goodness of that action we pretend to judge of, we ought in charity to presume the best of him; and that what he does, is not from any secret, corrupt, and wicked principle; but from an honest mind, and consequently his action is goud; and if we judge otherwise of him and it, we judge rashly. Nothing is more hard to pry into, or pronounce upon, than the sincerity of men's hearts, in the discharge of their duty; for we can only hear their words, and see their actions, without a possibility of looking farther into their thoughts, to discover the spring or principle that moves

them. The heart may be deceitful indeed, and desperately wicked; but who can know it? God has told us by the Prophet Jeremy, * I, the Lord, search the heart, I try the reins, even to give to every man, according to his ways. And Solomon acknowledges, that God alone can do this, + For thou, even thou only knoweft the hearts of all the children of men. What inSolence is it then for us to pretend to that, which God alone can do, as well as impertinence to judge of what we cannot know, and uncharitableness to judge hardly, of what we have no apparent reason to censure ! Yet nothing is more common, than this censorious and unchristian practice, of condemning good actions for hypocrisy, especially, where there is a secret spleen to the person that does them.

These five instances I think include all, that is mcant here by rash and severe judging. Let us

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proceed now to the second general head, to conlider,

II. THE necessity of amending our own lives, in order to the reforming of others. This our Saviour directs as a remedy against censoriousness, and were it but effectually put in practice, it would be a certain cure: For we may observe, that, generally speaking, the worst men are the most uncharitable this way. Notorious bad men do it in hopes, that by representing the virtues of good men, to be only grimace and hypocrisy at the bottom, their own wickedness may come off with the better credit; as it may seem impoflible to be really good, and themselves the more generous finners of the two, because they don't so much as pretend to virtue. Proud men, who desire to be thought better than the rest of the world, do it as an easier way to gain a reputation, than by a solid and extraordinary goodness; while all the pretence is, the reformation of those whom they censure; but whoever truly designs that, must begin at home, and resolve to set an example of true goodness in his own character. To be sure, he must not be guilty of as great, or greater sins, than those which he reproves, for it is, (1.) Ridiculous in it felf, for such a man to reprove. Every body he attacks. has a retortion ready for him, and his own conscience will sharpen the iting of it, and the world will laugh at him. For him that has a beam in his own eye, to find fault with a mote in his brother's, is such a visible

a affectation, such an overt-act of hypocrisy, that it looks aukward and monitrous. (2.) The reproofs or censures of such a man, instead of reforming, will really harden the finner. There is a spirit of contradiction in human nature, which strongly inclines and tempts men to grow worse, rather than to amend, when upon the comparison they find



themselves still better men (notwithstanding all their faults) than him who undertakes to correct them. They plainly see, that he does it not from any sense of virtue, or real opinion of the enormity of sin, but to give himself an air of demureness, and to fix a brand of reproach upon them. So that such reproofs entirely lose their effect. And in truth, on the other hand, a man that is given to reproof,

, had need not only to be free from gross and scandalous offences himself, but to be eminent and exemplary in religion; nor only exemplary in a great degree of that particular virtue, the contrary to which he sets himself to correct in others, but to be well versed in all manner of goodness, and governed by a thoroughly christian spirit. Because

whoever undertakes this duty of reproving and reforming, can expect no success, if he do not manage it with judgment, meekness and charity, and ·all these he must be supplied with by religion. (1.) It is to be managed with good judgment. Every sin deserves not the fame measures of reproof: Nor is a person ever reclaim'd from any sin by a reproof improper for it; because it appears in this case, that the reprover is mistaken, and therefore a very improper guide. But now a knowledge of what difference must be made in all our reproofs and admonitions, according to the difference of the sins reproved, is attainable no other way than by a perfect knowledge of our religion, that we may know what is commanded or forbidden; and in a constant practice of all the duties and virtues it requires, that we may know to what degrees they are practicable in this state of infirmity, what may be effected by the assistance of God's holy Spirit, and what grains of allowance must be made for the weakness of human nature; all which will best be learn'd by experience in the course of our own christian warfare, and the observations we make upon our selves.

(2.) Re:

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(2.) Reproof is to be given with meekness; for a passionate, morose, or reproachful way of giving it, will sooner exasperate than reform.' And how shall we attain to such a spirit of meekness as is necessary in this case, but by the effectual influence of religion upon our minds, and a long practised habit thereof, under the conduct of God's holy Spirit, and our own endeavours. (3.) _It is to be done with christian love and charity: For though the rebukes of an enemy out of ill-will to reproach and defame, may notwithstanding help and reform a wise man; yet the generality of mankind are not to be reclaim'd, but by admonitions that sensibly proceed from love; they must be convinced, that what we say is really out of kindness to them, before it will have any good effect or influence upon them, to amend their lives. Now charity is an high attainment; St. Paul tells us, that * Love is the fulfilling of the law; fo that if none but a charitable man can effectually perform this duty, the neceflity of making great advances towards religious perfection in our own lives, in order to the qualifying us for the reforming of others, is very evident. But I shall now haiten to the third and last particular to be considered.


III. The meaning of this advice, of not attempting reproof, where it is not likely to have a good effeet. Our Saviour here forbids to put the Gospel under contempt, or our own persons into danger, by reproving unreasonable and brutish men, fuch as will either despise and ridicule the reproof we give, or hate us for it, and perhaps assault and put us in danger of our lives thereupon: Only here we must take care, that we do not impofe upon our felves with deceitful excuses; and in truth this care ought to be so much the greater, because we are apt to * Rom. xiii. IQ.


be very negligent and backward to this duty of reproof, looking upon it as an irksome and unpleafing thing to tell men of their faults, unpleasing both to our felves and them. Yet is it not better for both to undergo a little trouble in this kind, than perish eternally together; one for continuing in his sin, and the other for not reproving him? We are likewise apt to excufe our felves, by confounding censure and reproof; we would not be thought to be proud, uncharitable and censorious perfons. But is there not a wide difference between pharifaical censure, and the reproofs of christian charity? With such excuses however men often deceive themselves, and neglect their duty; throwing the blame upon the obstinacy of the finner while all the fault is in their own remissness. But if there be really no ground for hope; if the perfon appear to be incorrigible; if he hath frequent, ly rejected our admonitions before, or the reproofs of wiser men; if he be a despiser of all religion; if he be one, who is so far from being likely to be reclaim'd by our reproof, as that he thall laugh at it, or clamour upon us, or affront us for it; we are so far from being required to spend our admonitions upon him, that we are here forbidden fo to do.

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