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state, will produce, in the people who submit to such impositions four sad and wretched effects, which will at length, if not prevented by the abused grace and miraculous power of God, end in the overthrow of the nation.
First, It will end in growing ignorance. Ignorance I mean in the mysteries of godliness ; wherein whoever abounds and continues, especially if their ignorance be wilful and affected, mark themselves out for the vengeance of God. Isa. xxvii. 11, “ For it is a people of no understanding; therefore he that made them will have no mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour.” “ In flaming fire taking vengeance on them who know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 2 Thes. i. 8.
Secondly, Blind zeal; which is always a fruit of ignorance, and is like a fire in a wrong place of the house. It is always observed that the most ignorant in the mysteries of gospel religion are the most violent in opposing the spirituality of the gospel, and persecuting the professors and defenders of it. This is by some accounted zeal for the church, and true loyalty to the government : but, whatever such bigotted zealots think or say, time will prove that it is a fire which will bring destruction on the land. Such zeal as this is no better than God-provoking persecution; which, in pretence and colour of serving God, and obeying authority, is a making havock of God's heri
tage in the land. This is a fulfilling the words which Christ foretold in the days of his flesh. “ They shall put you out of the synagogues; yea, the time cometh that whosoever killeth you shall think that he doeth God service.” John xvi. 2. Let such zealots ponder and consider what the meaning of that scripture is, Psal. vii. 13, “ He hath prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.”
Thirdly, Formality in worshipping God. This is ever a concomitant of human impositions in God's worship; and so epidemical is it grown
in England, that it hath not only crept into the purest churches of protestant dissenters, but even into the prayers and sermons of the most orthodox preachers in the nation : and he who sees it not to be so is most certainly a stranger both to his professing neighbours, and likewise to his own spirit. God help us all tơ bewail this God-provoking sin before it prove too late.
There is of late the hue and cry raised against gross immoralities, which, like an overflowing deluge, seems to cover the face of the nation : but there is very little notice taken of that spreading and growing formality, which, like a gangrene, is eating into the very bowels of power and purity of gospel religion. We have all, both nonconformists and conformists, a great and shining name and appearance of being alive to God; but it is greatly to be feared that the most lively protestants in England will be found too, too dead
and lukewarm when Christ comes to scarch England by his fire-like judgments. 2 Tim. iii. 5.
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof."
“ Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” Rev. iii. 1.
It were a mercy to the land if those studies and sermons, which are designed for carrying on a work of reformation, were turned into the right channel, viz. a strenuous and zealous preaching up the nature and absolute necessity of regeneration; ; a thing to which the generality of England's professors are as great strangers as Nicodemus was, John iii. 3. Some have been famed exceedingly, and cried up for nonsuch, when their thunder-like sermons liave startled, and for some time stirred up, gross profanelings to reform their lives; on which very account many now in hell, I question not, and a great many now living, have passed, and do now pass, current for real converts ; whereas they were never brought to know experimentally what true conversion means, or wherein it consists. I have often said that those preachers who make a greater noise than their neighbours in rouzing men up to reformation, leaving them ignorant of the mystery of the new birth, do but fill churches and kingdoms with shining hypocrites. And whether this will not help to ripen a land for judgment I leave to the judicious in Christianity to judge. Not that I design to discourage any from endeavouring to carry on a work of reformation in manners; but my design is rather to
shew and wish that ministers would rather employ their talents in awakening sinners to effectual conversion, leaving that work of external reformation in manner to the civil magistrate, whose work and office it is, Rom. xiii. 3, 4. There is no reformation but that which flows from saving conversion that will meeten sinners for the communion of Christ.
And therefore I humbly conceive it to be a great weakness in the generality of England's ministers, who are called to the pastoral office, that they preach so seldom on, and meddle so little with, the subject of regeneration, or the new birth; an argument, say some, that they are either strangers to the thing themselves, or else that they take for granted that all those they preach to are already in a regenerate state, and so stand in need of building-up sermons only.
To these I would only say, that it will be well for such churches if the same charge brought against the church of Sardis, and the church of Laodicea, be not brought against them, Rev. iii. 1, 2, 17.
Fourthly, Hating, envying, and persecuting, those who differ from them, be they never so holy and upright in their walk and conversation. It is at this day in England as it was of old in Israel ; Ephraim envied Judah, and Judah vexed Ephraim; the ground of which clashing and opposing each other was the difference between them in the matters of God's worship. Ephraim, and the other nine tribes
which joined with him in espousing the idolatries and superstitious inventions of Jeroboam, were by far the greater number, they being ten tribes, and Judah but two; as great odds as are at this day between the imposers of stinted forms of worship, and those who dislike and oppose such unjust impositions. Judah, though by far the smaller number, yet retained the purity of God's worship, refusing to conform to, or to approve of, those idolatries and superstitions of Jeroboam which the ten tribes had fallen in love with; and this was the reason why poor Judah became the object of Ephraim's envy. If this be not the case of nonconformists and conformists in England at this day, I am greatly mistaken. Let those in these kingdoms, who have joined together in espousing the corruptions of the Jeroboam of Rome, and who are yet desirous to retain the name of reformed protestants, ponder most seriously Hosea xi. last verse, Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.” Let all, be their numbers and outward strength ever so great, who envy and persecute the pure worshippers of God, read what the God of truth, who cannot lie, hath said shall come upon them, “ The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim," Isa. xi. 13. When the imposers of stinted forms of worship grow weary and ashamed