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SERM. may sometimes appear to be really much IX. less, and at other times much greater than
it is generally taken to be in the Opinion of fuperficial and ill-judging : Men. And by the same method, some good Actions may appear to be indeed much better than they are commonly thought ; and others not fo good. Thus the Contribution of the
poor Widow's Mite, was a more heroic Act of Charity, in itself, and in the Eye of our Savia our, than it was in the Eyes of others. But the long, formal Prayers of the Pharisees, and their punctilious exactness in Ceremonies, were much less esteemed by him than other Men. The reason is the same in both cases, they judged by outward Appearance, and he judged righteous Judgment.
But if it be a matter of Sentiment about whịch we are to judge, we must endea, vour clearly to understand the Terms of the Proposition in which it is contained, the nature of the Evidence on which it is built, the Arguments brought to prove it, the Objections made against it, and the difference between the Weight of the Arguments on one side, and of the Objections on the other. The difference, I say, of their Weight
not of their Numbers : For one weighty, Serm.
4. Would we judge righteous Judgment,
Pride prompts us to adhere stiffly to all our preconceived Sentïinents, right or wrong; blinds the Eye of the Mind, and bars the Heart against the Entrance of Conviction and new Light, under a false notion, that it is a shame for a Man to be found in an Error, and a fickleness to alter his first Judgment. This puts a stop to all Improvements in true Knowledge, gives him a contempt of all Opinions but his own, and renders him impatient of examining any to the Bottom.
Paffion puts the mind into a Hurry and Ferment; and whilst it.continues under that disorder, it is as incapable of judging or dis
SERM. tinguishing between Truth and Falfhood, IX.
Right and Wrong, as the Palate is of diftinguishing Tastes when the Body is in a high Fever. So that a Man in a Paffion should never believe his own Thoughts; because they will always make a false Representation of things to the Mind.
Party-prejudice is another thing that strongly perverts the Judgment. For how can that man expect to form a righteous Judgment, who is resolved to form none but that which his Party hath formed already for him ; to which he is, at all Events, determined to adhere? This is so far from
permitting him to judge righteous Judgment, that it will not so much as suffer him to examine, in order to form any Judgment at all; nor to consider the Foundation of his own Notions, or of theirs who differ from him. Such a man, instead of trying all things, and holding fast that which is good, tries nothing, but bolds fast that which he hath first feized on, good or bad.
Persons that are governed by such Dispofitions as these can pay no due regard to this Rule of our Saviour : And if we would put it into Practice, we must not only guard
against these irregular Affections, but en- Serm. deavour to cultivate the contrary ; Humility, IX. Meekness, an Openness to Conviction, and a fincere Desire to receive and embrace the Truth as it is in Jesus where ever we find it.
5. It may help us to form a right Judgment of things, to consider the natural Consequences and general Tendency of them. If, for instance, we find that any particular Practice we allow, be: the frequent occafion of Sin, by leading us to a neglect of Duty, or Formality in it, or by tempting us to act out of Character, or by expofing us to bad Company, and bad Examples, which endanger the Peace and Purity of the Mind, that Practice, I say, if it be not unavoidable, appears by this. it's bad tendency to be unlawful. So if any particular Doctrines are plainly dilhonourable to fome or other of the divine Perfections, or have a direct tendency to induce and countenance Licentiousness, Carnality, and Pride, we may be fure they are not the Doctrines of the Gofpel, becaufe thefe do all exalt the honour of every divine -Attribute and tend to make us holy,lfpiritual and humble. But what
SERM. ever Practices or Doctrines have a visible IX. tendency to improve the divine Life in our
Souls, and make us more holy, humble and heavenly, those we may safely pronounce to be right and agreeable to the Will and Word of God.
6. To form a righteous Judgment we must be sure to judge by a right Rule, and take care not to mistake it. In all matters of Religion, the only Rule we have to go by is the Word of God: To which all Parties refer as the Source and Test of their religious Principles; from whence they profess to take them, and by which they are content to try them. To this then must we steadily adhere in opposition to all other Tests and Standards devised by Men.
But we must not only adhere to it, but take care to understand it. For a Rule, though ever so good in itself, can be of no service to us till it be well understood ; it may otherwise be the means of leading us out of the right. Way; and not only so, but of making us confident in the wrong. We must therefore, according to our Saviour's own Direction, search the Scriptures (c);
(c) John V. 39,