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eft pattern of inoffenfive meekness, Jefus SERM, Chrif himself, with all his gentleneks of Tem
L per and prudence of Conduct, could not live peaceably with all Men. His Fidelity to his Father's cause, and the Interests of Truth and Righteousnefs exposed him to a torrent of Envy, and brought upon him all the ma"lignity and malice of the Jewish Priests and Rulers, who took great Offence at the testimony he bore against the Iniquity of their Conduct.
1. Then, when peace with men Stands in competition with our duty to God, we fhould not be afraid of giving them Offence. This is an adjudged case, a plain determined point; that we ought to please GOD rather than Man, or chufe to offend Man rather than GOD, when we are so unhappy as to be in such a fituation, wherein the offending one of them is unavoidable. These circumftances the Apotles were in when they were charged by the Sanhedrim pever more to preach or teach in the Name of Jesus." To comply with this. command would be a great Offence to God; not to comply, a great Offence to Man. But they made no difficulty of the Alternasive ; being determined at once to obey GOD
SERM. rather than Man; wherein they have laid I. down a rule for us to act by in all like
Nay, in such a cafe, we fhould not only be constant to risk the Displeasure of men, but to suffer the utmost efforts of their ma. lice, rather than deliberately offend the God that made us, as Joseph was, who dared to disobey the wicked command of his Mistress; and the three children that of Nebuchadnezzar. And to this Principle the Martyrs constantly adhered, and chose to endure the greatest sufferings rather than violate their Conscience, and to renounce their Lives before their Religion.
2. Not only the honour of God, but the rights of Conscience, must be maintained as facred, in opposition to all that would invade them, however that opposition may offend them. By the rights of Conscience I mean that
power, which God and Nature have given to every man, to act and think in all matters that concern Religion and his Soul, not according to the authoritative decrees and decisions of men, but according to the dictates and determinations of his own Con
sciences (6) Acts v. 29.
science, Reason and Judgment. Conscience SERM. is not to be controuled by any human Au
I. thority. The very attempt to controul it is insolent and impious. It is flying in the face of the Almighty, and counteracting his own work ; who hath given to Conscience this inviolable prerogative, to be uncontroulable by any thing but his own Almighty Power.
As nothing is more glorious than to suffer Persecution in the Cause of God and Conscience, so nothing is more wicked than to excite it. Nor is it less ridiculous than it is impious. Methods of violence are a very filly way of confuting an Error, as if cruelty were the Parent of Truth ; corporeal Punishment the cure of mental Infirmities; and a man's mind could be enlightened by the flames that consume his Body. Where-ever we see then any marks of such a persecuting spirit (which is ever the off-spring of Superstition and Bigotry, as they are of Pride and Ignorance) we should readily oppoft it; and dare to be advocates for the sacred Rights of Conscience, where-ever we see them arrogantly trampled upon, however we may incur the displeasure of men thereby. For herein we are Advocates for God, for his own
SERM. Wifdom and Workmanships and for that 1.
which is the very foundation of all fincere
Nor are the perverse and unreafonable humours of men to be always submitted to for fear of giving Offence. Where Religion and Conscience are out of the case, there ought indeed to be great Condescension and Compliance for the sake of Peace: nor would it be either wise or charitable to provoke a man of a perverse spirit by a ftiff opposition in little things, even where fact and truth may be against him; which might probably kindle those flames of Contention which we should afterward find extremely difficult to extinguish. For Solomon's Observation is Very just, that the beginning of Strife is dis when one letteth out Water; and the Advice : he gives us thereupon is exceeding wife ; therefore leave off Contention before it be med. dled with (s). But still 1 fay, I see no obli
gation (c) Prov. xvii. 14.
gation a man is under to suffer his reason to SERM. be always controuled, and his understanding
I. to be insulted by a proud and petulant Hus mour. The Truth (especially if it be very plain and important) ought to be fometimes boldly asserted, strongly proved, and closely urged; and the Vanity and Ignorance of the conceited Humourist mortified and expofed. This we sometimes owe to the cause of Truth and common Justice.
Nor ought an uncharitable and fuperftitious spirit to be always indulged, by our abstaining from things in their own nature innocent and indifferent, purely because some persons of that caft are pleased to censure and fake Offence at them: I mean provided those things give no real Offencë, by becoming the occafion of Sin to others. There is no reason, and no end, in being very for licitous to please those who are displeased without reason. If persons will take Okenice wherë none is really given, it is their own fault. It is they that violate the Precept in the Text. For to take Offencé unreasonably is to give it.
4. It is lawful fometimes to give Offence to others for the fake of their good. That is,