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and then say to thyself, shall I allow myself in any impiety or wickedness of life, who pretend to be instructed by that grace of God, which teaches men to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts ? Shall I cherish any sinful passion, who pretend to have mortified all such, and to have put off the old man with his deeds ?
It is not being gilded over with the outward profession of Christianity that will avail us ; our religion must inwardly change us. What the Apostle says concerning circumcision, we may apply to them that are baptised, and make an outward profession of Christianity. Baptism verily profiteth if we obey the gospel; but if we walk contrary to the precepts of it, our baptism is no baptism, and our Christianity is heathenism, Rom. ii. 25. If by our lives and actions we contradict that religion which we profess, we by this very thing prove ourselves to be counterfeits and hypocrites; and that we have only taken up our religion for a fashion, and received it according to custom; we were born in a country where it was reverenced, and therefore we are of it; and the reason why we are Christians, rather than Jews, Turks, or Heathens, is because the Christian Religion had the fortune to come first in our way, and to bespeak us at our entrance into the world.
Are we not ashamed to take up a profession upon such slight grounds, and to wear about us such an empty title? It should make our blood to rise in our faces, to consider what a
a distance there is between our religion and our lives. Justly may it be expected that so perfect an institution as the gospel is, which the Son of God came from heaven to propagate, should make men more strictly holy and virtuous, and set the professors of it at a greater distance from all impurity and vice than ever any institution in the world did. If a man profess any other art or calling, it is expected he should be skilled in it, and excel those who do not pretend to it. It is the greatest disparagement to a physician to say of him, that he is in other respects an excellent man, only he has no great skill in diseases, and the methods of cure; because this is his profession: He might be pardoned for other defects, but the proper skill of his art may justly be expected from him. So for a Christian: to say of him, the worst thing in him is his life; he is very right in his opinions, but he is an ill-natured man, one of very violent passions, he will be frequently drunk, he makes no conscience of his dealings, he is very uncharitable to all that differ from him ; this man is faulty in his profession; he is defective in that which should be his excellency; he may have right opinions in religion; but when all is done there is no such error and heresy; nothing so fundamentally opposite to religion, as a wicked life: a Christian does not pretend to have a better wit, or a more piercing understanding than a Turk
or Heathen; but he professeth to live better than they, to be more chaste, temperate, just, charitable, meek, gentle, loving, and peaceable, than other men; if he fail in this, where is the art the man boasts of? To what purpose is all this stir about the gospel, and the holy doctrine of Christ? If any man profess himself a Christian, and do not live better than others, he is a niere pretender in religion, a bungler in his own art, and unskilled in his proper profession.
Secondly, Consider how great a scandal this must be to our blessed Saviour and his holy religion. The Christian Religion hath undergone many hard censures for the miscarriages of the professors of it; the impieties and vices of those who call themselves Christians have caused many sharp reflections upon Christianity.
If a man designed to do the greatest spite to religion, he could not take a more effectual course to disparage it than by a lewd and debauched life; for this will still be an objection in the minds of those who are strangers and enemies to Christianity: If the gospel were so excellent an institution as it is reported to be, surely we should see better effects of it in the lives of those who profess it; for if there were neither a heaven to be hoped for, nor a hell to be feared after this life, how could many
Christians live worse than they do!
This consideration ought greatly to affect us ; I am sure the Apostle speaks of it with great earnestness ; Many walk of whom I hate told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, who mind eurthly things. Phil. iii. 18. A Jew or Turk is not so great an enemy to Christianity, as a lewd and vicious Christian. Therefore let me beseech Christians, as they tender the honour of their Saviour, and the credit of their religion, that they would conform their lives to the holy precepts of it. It were really better, upon some accounts, that they who are resolved to continue in a vicious course should abandon their profession, than keep on a vizard, which serves to no other purpose but to scare others froin religion.
Thirdly, Let us consider the danger we expose ourselves to by not living answerably to our religion. And this, I hope, may prevail upon such as are not moved by the former considerations. Hypocrites are instanced in Scripture as sinners that shall have the sharpest torments. When our Saviour would set forth the great severity of the Lord towards the evil servant, he expresseth it thus: He shall cut him usunder, and appoint him his portion among hypocrites. Matt. xxv. 51; so that the punishment of hypocrites seems to be made the standard of the highest punishment. Thou
professest to believe in Christ, and to hope in him for salvation, but in the mean time thou livest a wicked and unholy life; thou dost not believe but presume on him ; and wilt find at the great day, that this thy confidence will be thy confusion. He whom thou hopest will be thy advocate and Saviour, will prove thy accuser and thy judge. What our Saviour says to the Jews, there is one that accuseth you, even Moses in whom ye trust, John v. 33, may very well be applied to false Christians; there is one that accuseth you, and will condemn you, eten Jesus in whom you trust.
The profession of Christianity will be so far from securing us from hell, that it will sink us the deeper into it. Many are apt to pity the poor heathen, who never heard of the name of Christ, and sadly to condole their case; but, as our Saviour said upon another occasion, Weep not for them, weep for yourselves : there is no such miserable person in the world as a degenerate Christian, because he falls into the greatest misery from the greatest opportunities of being happy. Dost thou lament' the condition of the most virtuous among the Pagans, and doubt what shall become of them at the day of judgment; and canst thou, who art an impious and profane Christian, think that thou shalt escape the damnation of hell ? Dost thou believe that the moral heathen shall be cast out? and canst thou, who hast led a wicked