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suit all Cases. For sometimes, where we are joined in Society with evil Counsellors, if the Society be such as that we may lawfully break it off, it is the best way to abandon such Society, as soon as we can, and not to expose our selves to the Danger
of being infected by their bad Company or Example. But if it is such a Society, which it is not in our Power to abandon at our Pleasure; as it may be the lot of a good Wife to be tied to a bad Husband, and of a good Husband to be tied to a bad Wife, and of a good Son or Servant to be tied to a bad Father or Master, in such cases the pulling out and the cutting off, is no more but the laying aside of their bad Counsel, or not obeying their finful Commands, and the alienating our felves fo far from them, as not to be reduced or influenced with their evil Advice or Example.
To comply then with the Precept of my Text, Interpreted in this Sense, we are to be guarded against several sorts of Persons, who like a Gangrene in the Body, are apt to corrupt and infect our Minds, and we are to cut off that Communication, from whence the Danger proceeds. The thing will be plainer from Examples.
(1.) First then, If there is any Speculative Atheist, Unbeliever, or Heretick, who is endeavouring to corrupt us in our found Principles of Religion, whereby we are endangered, and tempted either to shake off the Fear of God in general, or to be seduced to any particular Vice or dangerous Error , if this person have ever so many other good Qualities to recommend him, such as a pleasant Wit and Facetiousness in Conversation, a great Civility and obliging good Humour, and Temper, a great Dexterity and Skill in Business; nay, a fair outward Shew of good Morals ; if he is a Personi ever so useful, ever so necessary or pleasant to us, yet if he offends us, that is, if he proves the Instrument or Occasion of our falling off from our good Principles, or Virtuous Practice, we are to cut him off: I do not mean to kill him, or hurt him, God forbid; but to shake off his Company and Familiar Conversation, and rather to deny our selves all the Conveniency and Satisfaction we have in him, than to run such hazard in our Souls.
(2.) If there are any of those they call BonCompanions, who insinuate themselves into our Company, and flatter and assist us in our vitious Inclinations; who, by their Principles and example, prove Instrumental in seducing us into the Ways of Wickedness and Vice; as alas ! the World is full of such Agents for Immorality, these Persons likewise, though their Company may be taking and pleasant, yet are carefully to be avoided; our Soul is not to enter into their Secrets; we must shake them off, which cannot be better done than by forsaking their Society.
(3.) Of great Affinity with these, is another fort of Persons, with whom we are eafily enamoured, and bewitched for their Wit and Beauty, and all the other unaccountable Infinuations of Love; those of a different Sex, whom we admire, or who admire us, and have so great a Place in our Affection, that they may well be compared to a Right Eye or a Right Hand. Where Persons are thus entangled in a Criminal Love, it is impossible to reckon up how many ways they are led aside from Duty into the ways of Sin and Death. It is absolutely necessary, if we intend to save our Souls, that we break off all these Criminal Attachments, that we pull out this right Eye, and cut off this right Hand; for otherwise it will quickly infect the whole Body, that is, it will poison all our good Notions and Principles, and bring us to Destruction.
All these we can cut off and cast from us, that is, we can utterly abandon their Society; and it is by much our fafest Course so to do: For evil Conversation corrupts good Manners.
Buť (4.) there are other right Eyes and right Hands which we cannot cut off in that Fashion, e. g. if a Father or Mother, an Husband or Wife, one with whom we are inseparably linked in Soa ciety, which perhaps we cannot lawfully forsake, should prove the Occasion or Instrument of our Sin ; in such cases it is sufficient that we lay aside Obedience to that Authority, when it enjoins ill Things, and Compliance with those dear Persons who would ensnare us in evil Practices; preserving fill a superiour Love to God and our Duty, than to any of those Persons.
2. So much for the beloved Persons, whose Society we are to abandon, or at least whose Interest and Authority we are to reject, when they offend us.
Next to the Persons, there are some Things which are apt to ensnare us in evil Courses, that may be resembled to right Eyes and right Hands, for their Dearness and Usefulness to us, which must likewise be pulled out and cut off. I shall give two or three Instances of this, which will make it plain what I mean, and from a due Observation of which, this Doctrine may be eafily applied to all Instances whatsoever.
(1.) One shall be, a Profitable, but Unlawful Trade or Calling, by which a Man makes indeed I, II.
great Gain, but is convinced at the fame Time that it engages him in divers sinful Practices.
(2.) Unlawful Arts and Ways of getting in a lawful Calling. It would be infinite to reckon up
the many fraudulent Customs, which the Love of Gain, and loose Consciences have introduced almost into all Trades and Callings, and these, till parted with, engage Men in such sinful Courses, as prove most pernicious to their Souls.
(3.) The complying out of Interest and against our Conscience, with the sinful Terms of evil Times, or the finful Humours of the Persons, on whom we depend for their Favour and Support.
(4.) The taking Gifts, Rewards or Services, which Byass us in administring either Commutative or Distributive Justice, and engage us either in Sins of Omislion, or Commiffion.
In short, whatever it is that ensnares us in any finful Course or Practice, by any lovely insinuation of Gain, or Honour, or Pleasure; or whatever it is that deters us from our Duty, by any threatning of Loss, Shame, or Pain; though it be as hard to be parted with as a right Eye, or a right Hand, yet must be parted with, if we intend to save our Souls. So much for the Second Thing, I told you was meant, by the plucking out of the right Eye, and cutting off of the right Hand ; namely, the abandoning the Friendship and Conversation of such Persons and the use of such Things, though ever so dear and necessary, as betray us into sinful Courses. And so I go on to
III. The Third Thing which I mentioned as meant by this Advice; namely, the denying of our selves, by laying aside and quitting our Af
fection to all Beloved Sins; which seem as difficult to part with as a right Eye, or a right Hand. In handling of this point I shall do these three Things.
1. I will shew in what respect these Darling Predominant Sins
may be compared to a right Eye, or a right Hand.
2. How apt our Affections to them are to lead us into sinful Courses.
How we are to pluck them out, and cut them
(1.) First then, Darling Predominant Sins may well be compared to a right Eye and a right Hand, upon
this very Account, that they are so dear unto us, and that we set our Hearts so much upon them. I have told you before that the Expression is Figurative; now it is very natural to compare any Thing, that we highly value and dearly love, to such useful and neceffary Members of the Body, as the Eye or Hand, especially the right Eye or right Hand. When God would express his tender care of the People of Israel, he says, He kept them as the Apple of his Eye. Deut, xxxii. 10. And when St Paul would express the great
Love the Galatians once had for him, he says, they would have plucked out their own Eyes, and have given them to him, Gal. iv. 15. And when the Pfalmift would express one dearly beloved by God, he calls him the Man of his right Hand. Let thy Hand be upon the Man of thy right Hand. Pfal. lxxx. 17. And there is nothing more common in our Ordinary Language, than when we would express a huge value for a Thing, to say, I would as foon give one of my Eyes, I would as foon part with my right Hand, as lose it, In this respect