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fuit all Cafes. For fometimes, where we are joined in Society with evil Counsellors, if the Society be fuch as that we may lawfully break it off, it is the best way to abandon fuch Society, as soon as we can, and not to expofe our felves to the Danger of being infected by their bad Company or Example. But if it is fuch 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 Mafter, in fuch cafes the pulling out and the cutting off, is no more but the laying afide of their bad Counsel, or not obeying their finful Commands, and the alienating our felves fo far from them, as not to be feduced or influenced with their evil Advice or Example.
To comply then with the Precept of my Text, Interpreted in this Senfe, we are to be guarded against feveral forts of Perfons, 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 A→ theift, 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 Perfon have ever fo many other good Qualities to recommend him, fuch as a pleasant Wit and Facetioufnefs in Converfation, a great Civility and obliging good Humour, and Temper, a great Dexterity and Skill in Bufinefs; nay, a fair outward
outward Shew of good Morals; if he is a Perfor ever fo useful, ever fo neceffary or pleasant to us, yet if he offends us, that is, if he proves the Inftrument or Occafion 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 Converfation, and rather to deny our felves all the Conveniency and Satisfaction we have in him, than to run fuch hazard in our Souls.
(2.) If there are any of those they call BonCompanions, who infinuate themselves into our Company, and flatter and affift us in our vitious Inclinations; who, by their Principles and example, prove Inftrumental in feducing us into the Ways of Wickedness and Vice; as alas! the World is full of fuch Agents for Immorality, these Perfons 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 forfaking their Society.
(3.) Of great Affinity with these, is another fort of Perfons, 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 fo 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 impoffible to reckon up how many ways they are led afide from Duty into the ways of Sin and Death. It is abfolutely neceffary, if we intend to fave our Souls, that we break off all these Criminal At
tachments, 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 poifon all our good Notions and Principles, and bring us to Destruction.
All these we can cut off and caft from us; that is, we can utterly abandon their Society; and it is by much our fafeft Course fo to do: For evil Converfation corrupts good Manners.
But (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 infeparably linked in So ciety, which perhaps we cannot lawfully forfake, fhould prove the Occafion or Inftrument of our Sin; in fuch cases it is fufficient that we lay aside Obedience to that Authority, when it enjoins ill Things, and Compliance with those dear Perfons who would enfnare us in evil Practices; preferving ftill a fuperiour Love to God and our Duty, than to any of thofe Perfons.
2. So much for the beloved Perfons, whofe Society we are to abandon, or at least whose Intereft and Authority we are to reject, when they offend us. Next to the Perfons, there are fome Things which are apt to enfnare us in evil Courses, that may be resembled to right Eyes and right Hands, for their Dearness and Usefulness to us, which must likewife be pulled out and cut off. I fhall give two or three Inftances of this, which will make it plain what I mean, and from a due Obfervation of which, this Doctrine may be eafily applied to all Instances whatsoever.
(1.) One fhall be, a Profitable, but Unlawful Trade or Calling, by which a Man makes indeed V. II. Τ great
great Gain, but is convinced at the fame Time that it engages him in divers finful 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 loofe Confciences have introduced almost into all Trades and Callings, and these, till parted with, engage Men in fuch finful Courses, as prove most pernicious to their Souls.
(3.) The complying out of Interest and against our Confcience, with the finful 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 Byafs us in adminiftring either Commutative or Diftributive Juftice, and engage us either in Sins of Omiffion, or Commiffion.
In fhort, whatever it is that enfnares us in any finful Course or Practice, by any lovely infinuation of Gain, or Honour, or Pleasure; or whatever it is that deters us from our Duty, by any threatning of Lofs, 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 fave 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 Converfation of fuch Perfons and the ufe of fuch Things, though ever fo dear and neceffary, as betray us into finful Courses. And fo I go on
III. The Third Thing which I mentioned as meant by this Advice; namely, the denying of our felves, by laying afide and quitting our Affection
fection to all Beloved Sins; which feem as difficult to part with as a right Eye, or a right Hand. In handling of this Point I fhall do these three Things.
1. I will shew in what refpect 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 finful Courses.
3. How we are to pluck them out, and cut them off.
(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 fo dear unto us, and that we fet our Hearts fo much upon them. I have told you before that the Expreffion is Figurative; now it is very natural to compare any Thing, that we highly value and dearly love, to fuch useful and neceffary Members of the Body, as the Eye or Hand, efpecially the right Eye or right Hand. When God would exprefs his tender care of the People of Ifrael, he fays, He kept them as the Apple of his Eye. Deut. xxxii. 10. And when St Paul would exprefs 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 exprefs 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 exprefs a huge value for a Thing, to fay, I would as foon give one of my Eyes, I would as foon part with my right Hand, as lofe it. In this refpect