ŇAnd if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut if off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.Ó   Matthew 5:29-30

 

In these two verses, our Saviour Christ layeth down a most heavenly instruction for the avoiding of offences; propounding it by way of answer to a secret objection which might be framed, by occasion of His former exposition of this seventh commandment: for having condemned the adultery of the heart, declared by the eye, some man might say, What shall we do with our eyes, if an unchaste look be so dangerous? Our Saviour Christ answers: If thy right eye cause thee to offend, pluck it out; which words must not be taken literally in their proper sense; for this is a rule in the expounding of Scripture, that when the literal sense is against any commandment of the law, then the words must not be taken properly. Now these words in their proper sense, do command a breach of the sixth commandment, which bindeth every man to preserve his own and his neighbourŐs life, and so no man can without sin put out his eye, or cut off his hand.

 

By eye then, we are to understand first, the eye of the body; yet not that only, but any other thing that is dear and precious to us; as our eye, even our right eye is. If it cause thee to offend, that is, cause thee to sin, and to fail in the way of obedience unto GodŐs commandments. Pluck it out, and cast it from thee. These words are a lofty kind of speech called hyperbole, where by thus much is signified: Restrain and govern it most carefully, though it be to thine own great pain, loss and hindrance; for better it is for thee that one of thy members perish, than thy whole body should be cast into hell. These words contain a reason of the former exhortation to this effect: It is better for thee to want the benefit and use of things most precious and dear unto thee in this life, and so to be saved; than by having and using them, to perish for ever. So that the true meaning of this place is this: as if our Saviour had said, Go through the whole course of thy life, and take a view of all thy ways, and therein see what thing is an occasion for sin unto thee; that take heed of, and avoid, though the use thereof be most dear unto thee; for it is better that thou shouldest want the use thereof, and so be saved, than by it to perish eternally in hell.

 

Also if thy right hand make thee to offend, cut it off; for it is better for thee etc. Here the same exhortation and reason is again repeated, which we must not think to be a thing needless and frivolous; for such repetitions in Scripture have special use, to signify that the things so delivered be of special importance worthy of all careful observation and obedience. Now by right hand, here is meant anything that is most profitable unto us, whatever it be, if it cause us to sin against God, it must be avoided, and left off most carefully.

 

By this exhortation of our Saviour Christ, we are taught to carry a strict watch over all ourselves, and over all the parts of our bodies, especially the eye and hands, that they become not unto us occasions of sinning against God.

 

1. And for the government of the eyes, there are two special rules:

 

(1) First, we must use our sight, that is, open and shut our eyes, in obedience unto God. Solomon giving rules for the well ordering of the tongue, sight and foot, saith thus of the eye (Prov. 4:24,25), Let thine eye behold the right, and thy eyelids direct thy way before thee; which words seem to carry this sense: that we should order our sight according to the straight rule of GodŐs Word, for that is the way wherein we ought to walk. Now the necessity of observing this rule may appear by sundry examples: EveŐs looking upon the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6), with desire to eat thereof, against GodŐs commandment, was the door and entrance of that sin into her heart. Was not Ham accursed for looking upon his fatherŐs nakedness (Gen. 9:22,25)? Was not LotŐs wife turned into a pillar of salt for looking backward towards Sodom (Gen. 19:26)? Fifty thousand threescore and ten men of Beth Shemesh were slain for looking into the ark of the Lord, against His revealed will (1 Sam. 6:19). By all which it is plain that we ought to use our sight in obedience to God; for which end, it will be good before we look on anything, to consider whether the same will be for GodŐs glory, the good of ourselves and of our brethren; if it be we may use our sight. If not, we may not use it.

 

(2) Secondly, we must make our eyes, not the weapons of any sin, but the instruments of GodŐs worship and service. This we shall do if we employ them thus: 1. In beholding GodŐs creatures in heaven and earth, that in them we may see GodŐs glory, wisdom, mercy, power and providence, and thereby take occasion to magnify the name of God. 2. In beholding GodŐs judgments very wisely and narrowly, that therein we may see His justice and wrath against sin, and so be humbled in ourselves and certified from sin. 3. In beholding of the elements of GodŐs sacraments, especially the bread and wine in the LordŐs Supper, which be visible words, wherein we may see our Saviour Christ, as it were crucified before our eyes. 4. In using them as instruments of invocation, by lifting them up to heaven (Psa. 123:1,2), to testify the lifting up of our hearts unto God. This use of the eyes nature teacheth us, for whereas other creatures have but four muscles in their eyes, whereby their eyes are turned round about, man only above them all hath a fifth muscle, whereby his eye is turned upward towards heaven. And this which is said for the well ordering of our eyes, must be observed in the rest of the senses, and in all other parts of the body; they must all be employed and set a work in obedience to God, and continually observed, that they become not the weapons of sin, but the instruments of His glory.

 

2. Secondly, this exhortation of Christ must teach us to avoid all the occasions of every sin, though it be with great loss unto ourselves in the things of this life. This is the chief point that our Saviour Christ aimeth at in this place, and therefore it ought with special regard to be learned and remembered. ManŐs nature is like to dry wood, or tow, which will burn so soon as fire is put unto it; give a man the least occasion of any sin, and he is as ready to commit it, as dry wood is to burn, though thereby he do as much as in him lieth, to cast away his own soul for ever. Look therefore as mariners on the seas have constant and continual care to avoid both rocks and sands whereby they may suffer shipwreck; so must we most warily avoid the occasions of every sin. A most worthy example hereof we have in Moses, who was brought up in PharaohŐs court till he was forty years old, where he enjoyed all earthly pleasures and honours that his heart could wish; and so might have continued if he would, for he was the adopted son of PharaohŐs daughter; but yet Moses left them all, and chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God in Goshen, than to enjoy all the pleasures of Egypt (Heb. 11:25,26). And this he did, because they were but the pleasures of sin, which he could not enjoy, unless he would forsake the true fear and worship of God, and all good conscience; and his example we ought to  follow.

 

 

Now that we may avoid all the occasions of sin, and so put in practice this wholesome precept of our Saviour Christ, I will here entreat of the occasions of sin, and shew withal how they may be avoided.

 

By occasion of sin, I mean anything that either of itself, or by manŐs abuse, becomes offensive, and provoketh unto sin. In this large acceptance, an occasion of sin extendeth itself, not only to such things as are evil, but even to things good and commendable in themselves, which by manŐs abuse cause transgression against God. Occasions of sins are twofold: either given or taken.

 

I.

An occasion given is that thing, either word or action, that is evil in itself, the speaking or doing whereof, stirs a man effectually to sin. Occasions given are twofold: either of one man unto another, or of man unto himself.

 

1. The occasions whereby one man may provoke another to sin are many. I will reduce them to six heads:

 

(1) The first is bad counsel, whereby one man persuadeth another unto sin. This is a great cause of much evil in the world. Thus came the fall of our first parents, for (Gen. 3:4,6) Satan persuaded Eve, and Eve her husband. Thus came the crucifying of the Lord of life, for the High Priests and rulers persuaded the people to ask Barabbas, and to destroy Jesus (Matt. 27:20). Hence cometh seeking to wizards. One friend persuades another, for their outward good, as they think. Yea, from this bad counsel comes the common neglect of all good duties in GodŐs worship.

 

(2) The second is consent or approbation of sin; and it is twofold: secret or open.

 

(i) Secret approbation or consent is when men see sin committed, and are not grieved thereat. For this cause the apostle Paul checketh the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:1,2), that they were not sorrowful, but rather puffed up at the fact of the incestuous man; whereby they did in some sort hearten him in his sins. This is a great occasion of sin in our days. The prophet David was of another mind (Psa. 119:136), his eyes gushed rivers of tears because men brake GodŐs laws.

 

(ii) Open approbation of sin is when men do openly countenance sinners and lewd persons, which make profession of bad practices. This is a great occasion of horrible impieties. Hereby the hands of the wicked are strengthened in their wickedness, as the Lord complaineth (Jer. 23:12,17). And this is the sin of this age; for who is so bad that hath not some patron of his evil, and some back friend to soothe him in his sin, which makes sin shameless, and sinners impudent? But all GodŐs children must follow Elisha, who in great fervency of spirit told Jehoram to his face, though he were king, that  (2 Kin. 3:14) if it had not been for the presence of good king Jehosaphat, He would not have looked towards him, nor seen him. The Lord Himself will not take the wicked by the hand, neither can He endure that His children should help the wicked, or love them that hate the Lord (2 Chr. 19:2).

 

(3) The third occasion given, is provocation unto sin, when either by word or deed, men excite or draw on others to some evil; as unto anger, revenge, hatred, to drunkenness or such like; and this is a common fault of those that delight in drunken fellowship.

 

(4) The fourth occasion is neglect of good duties unto our brethren; as of exhortation, admonition, instruction or rebuke. (Josh. 7), Achan stole the execrable thing for himself alone, and yet all the people are charged with that fault and punished for it. The cause was their neglect to keep one another from that sin, according as God had commanded them (Josh. 6:18). This is a great occasion of impiety among us; if neighbour would admonish neighbour, and one brother another, sin would not be so rife as it is. But this duty is not only neglected of private men one to another, but of public persons, who are most bound unto it. The magistrate is negligent in punishing, and the minister in reproving sin; and the master of the family careless in reforming those that are under him, which causeth sin to abound.

 

(5) The fifth occasion given, is evil example in the practice of any sin whatsoever which may be known. This is most dangerous, like unto wildfire, that imflameth all places whereon it lighteth. The truth hereof appears amongst us; for let any one man or woman take up a new fashion in attire, and presently the same is generally received. Let a man invent or sing a lewd song, and presently it is learned of all, even of little children that can scarce speak. Whence also comes it that crawling infants should swear roundly, and frame themselves to all impiety, when they cannot speak readily, but from the bad example of their elders with whom they are brought up? Now among all men, their bad example is most dangerous, who make the greater profession of religion. They are like false lights upon the shore, which lead the ships upon the sands. And therefore such as shew any care or forwardness in holy practice of religion, must have special watch over all their ways, that (if it be possible) they may be blameless both in word and deed; for all men have an eye at them, and the wicked would gladly spy holes in their coat.

 

(6) The last occasion given is the private slandering of GodŐs ministers and the disgracing of their ministry. This is an offence as general as the rest, and it causeth many to condemn the means of their salvation. When men meet together, their common talk is of the ministers, and of their doctrine, not to be edified by mutual conference, but only to disgrace their persons, and to make their ministry contemptible; but they little know what great mischief this causeth, and therefore it ought to be avoided.

 

These are occasions of sinning given by one man to another; for the avoiding whereof, which is the plucking out of the eye and cutting off of the hand here commanded, this rule must be observed: We must hate and eschew the occasion of sin as deadly poison; and esteem those persons that give them unto us, in that regard, as ill as the devil. Thus Christ dealt with Peter, His own disciple, when he went about to hinder Him from doing His FatherŐs will in suffering for our sins; He saith (Matt. 16:23), Come behind me Satan; considering him in that action as if he had been the devil himself; for we must know that the devil comes not only openly unto men, but cunningly conveys himself in these occasions of sin given by others, that thereby he may enter into them for the destruction of their souls. We must endeavour as Paul did (Acts 24:16), to keep a good conscience in all things; that is, to keep ourselves pure and uncorrupt from all the occasions of sin in the world. With a watchful eye against offences must we walk on, in that way that leadeth unto life, eschewing these stumbling blocks which the devil casts in our way by other men; and so shall we obey this good counsel of our Saviour Christ.

 

 

2. The second kind of occasions of sin given are those which a man gives unto himself; and they arise either from his affections, or from his imaginations.

 

(1) First, from manŐs affections arise as many occasions of sin as there be corrupt affections in him; as from corrupt desire ariseth covetousness, which is so great an occasion of sin, that the apostle calls it the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). This draws manŐs heart so much to the world that he can spare no time for the means of his salvation; herewith he is so choked that he never thinketh of repentance till the last gasp. Such another occasion of sin is pride of heart, whereby many give themselves so much to the garnishing of their bodies that they neglect their souls altogether. The like is self-love, whereby men overweening their gifts, think not themselves honoured according to their desert, and so through discontent give themselves to plot and practice much mischief for the advancing of their estate. Of this sort are the Romish priests and Jesuits, as their manifold dangerous attempts against our church and state do evidently declare. And thus we might run through all the affections of manŐs heart, shewing that the corrupt motions thereof are the cause of much sin unto him, and a most dangerous means for the ruin of his soul.

 

In regard whereof here also we must shew how this eye may be plucked out, and this hand cut off; that is, by what means may we reform out hearts, and stay the rage of our affections, that they cause us not to sin. The way is this: We must mortify and crucify our unruly affections and corrupt desires. And for this end we must put in practice three duties:

 

(i) First, we must believed that we are crucified with Christ; that is, as we conceive ourselves to be in Christ by faith, whereby we have communion with Him; so we must conceive that this communion with Christ is in His death and burial, so as our sinful nature, with all our corrupt affections, were nailed to His cross and buried in His grave, as the apostle shews at large (Rom. 6:3,4 etc.). Now when this persuasion shall take place in our hearts, it will by GodŐs grace keep us  from yielding to corrupt motions and desires, and move us to labour to subdue them daily; for herein stands our assurance that we have fellowship with Christ, when we have fellowship in His death. And therefore as we see malefactors to cease from stealth and robbery, when they are once hanged; so we being crucified with Christ in respect of the old man, must not suffer the same to rule in our affections, or to have force in our members; knowing (as the apostle saith (Rom. 6:6) that our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin; and (Gal. 5:24) that they that are ChristŐs have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts thereof; whereupon He bids us (Rom. 6:11) think that we are dead to sin, meaning with Christ, and so cannot live therein; St John saith (1 John 3:9) He that is born of God, sinneth not, because the seed remaineth in him; that is, true faith assuring the heart that all the benefits of ChristŐs death and passion belong unto him; whereof this is one, that in our nature He suffered death upon the cross, that we by the power of His sufferings might have sin crucified in us, so as it should not reign in us, to bring forth fruits unto death.

 

(ii) Secondly, we must remember GodŐs commandment forbidding every sin, and every wicked lust and affection; and withal we must apply the threatening of His wrath against the same, that thereby our flesh may be subdued.

 

(iii) Thirdly, we must strive against our corrupt motions and affections, not giving them liberty to bear sway in us, but ruling them by meditating in the Word of God, and by prayer for strength of grace to overcome them all; dealing with them as parents do with knives, turning the edges of them before they leave them in the hands of their children, lest they be hurt therewith; as if our love be set upon the world, we must labour to set it upon Christ and His righteousness; and if our hatred be against our brethren, we must labour to set it upon sin, and so for every affection, as joy, fear etc., we must so keep them to their right objects that they may rather further us in well doing, than become in us the occasions of any sin against God.

 

(2) The second kind of occasions of sin which a man giveth to himself arise from his mind and imagination. And they are many, I will note only three:

 

(i) The first is an inward conceit of perfect knowledge touching manŐs duty to God and the way of His salvation. That this is a common conceit in the hearts of the ignorant especially, may appear by this common speech of theirs; that they know as much as any preacher can teach them; for the sum of all (they say) is to love God above all, and my neighbour as myself, and to believe to be saved by Christ. Now this they know as well as the best; and hereupon they become condemners of the preaching of the Word, the ordinary means of their salvation, as of a thing needless and superfluous. This conceit is common among us, and doth much hurt to many a manŐs soul.

 

The way to cut it off is this: The vain man that is puffed up with this conceit must examine himself touching his knowledge, whether it be sufficient to salvation. And for this end he must make enquiry in himself for these two things: (a) First, whether he sees his own natural blindness, and whether he be moved thereby to labour for the knowledge of God and of His will. Where this is wanting, there is nothing but a vain conceit of knowledge. (b) Secondly, whether his knowledge be joined with conversion of heart from sin unto God; and with reformation of life from evil to good. This change of heart and life goeth with all saving knowledge. Now if these be wanting (as undoubtedly they are in all vain persons), then is their knowledge so far from being saving knowledge, profitable to salvation, that it rather turneth to their deeper condemnation.

 

(ii)  The second imagination in man, occasioning him to sin, is the persuasion of his strong faith. The more ignorant sort that want both faith and repentance, will thus brag of their strong faith; that no evil company can hurt them, and hereupon they take occasion to live as they list. But that this is a vain presumption may hereby appear, because (Acts 15:9) true faith purifieth the heart, and (1 John 5:4) strengtheneth a man in life to avoid sin, yea, it ministereth sweet comfort towards the time of death. But usually these men that brag and boast so much of their faith, are corrupt in heart, sinful in life, and fearful in their death; many times despairing of GodŐs mercy; as lamentable experience ofttimes teacheth.

 

The way to cut off this occasion of offence is this: to make a trial in ourselves whether our faith be true and sound or not. This will appear two ways: (a) First by the beginnings and degrees of the works of the Spirit, which go before a true and lively faith, which be three: (1) first, a true sight of our sins, with an apprehension of the wrath of God due for the same; (2) secondly, a true sorrow and grief of heart for offending God by these our sins; and (3) lastly, an hungering and thirsting after the mercy and grace of God in Christ, above all worldly things. Where these things are, there is grace; but where these things are wanting, there is no true faith but a vain presumption. (b) Secondly, faith will appear by the work of love; for in love will faith bring forth all the duties of the moral law, both to God and man. Faith worketh by love (Gal. 5:6), and love is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:10). Now all such persons as stand so much upon the strength of their faith, shall soon find, if they examine themselves by these two rules, that they have nothing in them but a vain presumption, which will turn to their deeper condemnation, unless they repent, and get true faith.

 

(iii) The third imagination causing a man to sin, is a thought of security, whereby he puts far away the evil day; persuading himself that though God will come in judgment against sin, yet it is far off. This was the wicked thought of the Jews, who said (Ezek. 12:27), The wisdom shewed to the prophets were of times afar off, and for many days to come. This conceit is naturally bred in every man, and is the occasion of many foul sins; (Matt. 24:48), The evil servant said in his heart, my master doth defer his coming, and thereupon he takes occasion to smite his fellows and to live lewdly. (Isa. 28:15), The wicked say, we have made a covenant with hell and death, and though a scourge run over and pass through, yet it shall not come at them. And the ungodly that walk after their own lusts, say (2 Pet. 3:3,4), Where is the promise of His coming? And is not this wicked thought rife among us? For God hath now a long time called us to repentance by the preaching of the gospel, and because it takes no place in our hearts, he sends upon us His heavy judgments, as plague, famine, rumours of wars; but yet all this hath not caused us to meet the Lord. Generally that complaint of the prophet may be applied unto us (Jer. 8:6), No man saith, what have I done? Now the cause hereof, is this wicked conceit, whereby we think (Amos 9:10) the evil shall not come nor hasten for us. In this regard, we are like the men of the old world, who would not believe Noah though he preached unto them both by word and deed; and so they knew nothing till the flood came and took them all away. So fearful is it to put away from us the threatenings of GodŐs judgments. And yet this sin takes place not only in the ignorant, but many times in the hearts of GodŐs children.

 

The way to remove this wicked conceit is to esteem of every present day, as the day of our death, or of the last judgment, and so accordingly to prepare ourselves to die, and to meet God in judgment every day. This thing Moses aimed at, when he prayed to God (Psa. 90:12), to teach him and his people to number their days, that they might apply their hearts unto wisdom; for this persuasion of long life moves many to give themselves to the sins and vanities of this world excessively. We must therefore shake off this vain persuasion, and every day prepare ourselves for death, and for the day of judgment; so shall we number our days aright, and apply our hearts unto wisdom; for this is true wisdom in man: rightly to consider his latter end. And the more near doth this duty concern us, because of the continual intercourse of GodŐs judgments upon us, in famine, plague and pestilence etc., which plainly argues that more heavy judgments are to ensue, unless we prevent the same by speedy and true repentance.

 

II.

Having thus shewed what be the occasions given whereby men are drawn to sin, I come to occasions taken. An occasion of sin, or an offence taken, is when a man of a good thing frames that unto himself which causeth him to sin against God; and so much as in him lieth, to cast away his own soul. These occasions taken arise specially from four heads: first, from the Scripture; secondly, from the doctrine of the church drawn out of Scripture; thirdly, from the state of the church; and fourthly, from the state of the wicked.

 

 

1.  For the first: Though the Word of God be most perfect in every way, both for matter and style, yet hence do many take offence, and that two ways principally; partly from the plainness and simplicity of the Scripture, and partly from the contents thereof.

 

(1) For the first, it is most true that the Scripture style and phrase in many things is plain and familiar, even to the capacity of the simple; yet this is no disgrace to Scripture, but rather an honour, which more setteth out the majesty of GodŐs Word. And yet hereby many take occasion to condemn it, esteeming the study of Scripture too base and shallow, and the knowledge thereof too plain and familiar for their fine wits; whereupon some give themselves to other studies and courses, which might glorify God in this calling. Others also, though they addict themselves unto divinity, yet they more employ themselves in the writings of men for their private studies than in the Word of God; and in their public ministry, they more affect the ostentation of human wit, eloquence and learning, in multiplicity of reading, and set words and phrases, in divers languages, than that plain evidence of the Spirit, which the apostle Paul much commends (1 Cor. 2:4). This also is a great fault in many hearers, that they are more delighted with the vain conceits of men in preaching, than with the pure Word of God, counting basely of that sermon wherein the prophets and apostles are only quoted, but highly advancing that sermon for deep learning which is stuffed with fathers, schoolmen, poets and such like.

 

To cut off this offence: First, the will of God must be considered for the penning and preaching of His Word in plain and simple manner; for herein is that true (1 Cor. 1:27,28), that God hath chosen such things as to the world are foolish, weak, vile and despised, to confound and bring to nought the wise and mighty things of the world. And hereby is also made evident (1 Cor. 2:5) that the faith of GodŐs elect doth not consist in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Again, the preaching of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17) with the wisdom of words, makes the cross of Christ of none effect. Let no man therefore deceive himself, for (v.25) the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God stronger than men. Again, he that doth exercise himself in the Word of God, either privately or publicly, must labour thereby to see his own sins, and GodŐs heavy judgment due unto him for them; and so will he begin to reverence GodŐs Word as the only means of true comfort. The woman of Samaria (John 4:11,12) at the first began to cavil with Christ, when she heard Him talk of the water of life; but so soon as He discovered her sin to her conscience, telling her (v.18) she had had five husbands, and he whom she now had was not her husband; then she left off to cavil, and (vv. 19,29) honoured Him by believing His Word, and causing others to come and believe Him. The Jews (Acts 2:12,13) made light of the giving of the Holy Ghost unto the apostles at the first; but when Peter had pricked their hearts (vv. 36,37,41), they sought unto the Word, and received it with gladness. So the jailer, though overnight he dealt unkindly with the apostles, putting their feet in the stocks in the dungeon (Acts 16:24), yet being stricken with a fear by the opening of the prison doors, he then fell down before them trembling, and asked what he might do to be saved (vv.29,30).

 

(2) Secondly, others take occasion of offence from the contents of the Bible; as when they read of the miracles wrought by the prophets, by Christ and His apostles; they say, the like may be done by magic, and so blasphemously do father upon the Scripture that most wicked practice of sorcery; like to the malicious Jews, who said of Christ that he cast out devils by the power of Beelzebub (Luke 11:15). Other deny the history of Moses to be true by reason of NoahŐs ark, which (say they) as it is described for quantity could not contain a couple of every kind of creatures, with provision and fodder for them, for a whole yearŐs space. Of this opinion was Apelles, an ancient heretic in the primitive church. And many upon this occasion have become atheists, denying the truth of GodŐs Word to their damnation. To these, I answer:

 

(i) First, for the miracles, that no creature, men or angels, is able to do such works as are recorded in Scripture, to be done by the power of God. Christ opened the eyes of one that was born blind (John 9). The devil by his skill, and man by art can do much in curing blindness caused by wounds and diseases, but no power of nature, nor of magic, no not all the power of all angels, is sufficient to procure sight to one that was born blind; that must be done by a power creating, which is in no creature. Again, as histories record, the devil is able to enter into a dead body and cause it to move, and can speak in it; but to raise up one to life that had been dead four days, as Christ did Lazarus (John 11:43,44), is a work that all the devils in hell, nay all the angels in heaven, are not able to do. And for Apelles the heretic, who took occasion from NoahŐs ark to condemn the books of Moses; the answer made to him in the primitive church may serve the turn; to wit, that it was quantity sufficient to contain couples of all kinds of creatures, and provision for a whole yearŐs space: for to omit the height and breadth of it, it was three hundred cubits long (Gen. 6:15), and every cubit (according to the ancient measure) contained nine feet, which in all came to the length of half a mile or more. Again, others say that though every cubit had been but one foot and a half (as our cubits are) yet having three lofts (v. 16), it was of sufficient bigness to contain all kinds of creatures by couples, and provision for them for a yearŐs space. But yet put the case that we could not tell how an ark should be made great enough to contain couples of all kinds of creatures and provision for them; should we thereupon take occasion to condemn the books of God that record the same, and the thing itself? God forbid; nay rather, we must hereby learn to acknowledge and confess our own blindness, and the shallow reach of our own understanding, and so admire the wonderful work of God.

 

The way to cut off this occasion of offence taken from the Scripture, is first to observe that (howsoever nothing is more repugnant to our natures than the Word of God) yet the same Word of God hath more prevailed with many menŐs hearts, to win the same unto it, than anything in the world besides could ever do. Human writings are far more plausible to natural men than the holy Scriptures of God; for the wisdom of God in Scripture is esteemed foolishness to manŐs natural reason; and yet who did ever cleave fast to the writings of men, as GodŐs children have done to the Word of God, for the testimony whereof they have been and are content to live and die? This thing argueth plainly that there is in Scripture a divine power; for if it had been from man, and against his nature, as it is, man would have condemned it.

 

(ii) Secondly, this must be considered, that the pen-men of holy Scriptures, both the prophets and apostles, have recorded their own faults in penning of it, which plainly argueth that they were penned by holy men of God, according to the direction of the Holy Ghost, and are not the inventions of politic heads to keep men in awe; for then the authors and pen-men thereof would rather have concealed their own faults than have published the same in their own works to their discredit.

 

(iii) Lastly, consider the subject and matter of the whole Bible, to wit, Jesus Christ, who therein hath professed Himself to be the Son of God. Now if Christ had not been very God, and yet should have taken that honour unto Him, then the like judgments would have befallen Him that befell others for the like offence; for none ever took that honour unto them, who were not grievously punished. As was Adam in paradise (Gen. 3:17,23), for seeking to be like unto God; and Herod, for receiving and applying to himself the blasphemous praise of the people crying (Acts 12:22,23) The voice of God and not of man. But howsoever most fearful judgments befell GodŐs enemies that thus sought to rob Him of His honour; yet ChristŐs end was glorious and blessed; which may move us to think highly of Scripture, as of the Word of God.

 

 

2. The second head from whence offences are taken, is the doctrine of the church grounded on the Word of God. The offences hence taken are manifold:

 

(1) First, from a supposed newness of our doctrine. This is taken of the papists, and especially of our own recusants; for they say our doctrine is but of fourscore years continuance, since the days of Martin Luther; avouching also that for the space of fourteen hundred years we cannot bring record of any church that held and professed the doctrine which we now teach and hold.

 

Now for the avoiding of this offence, two points must be remembered:

 

(i) First, that the doctrine of our church for the substance thereof, is the doctrine of the prophets and apostles (Acts 2:42). The doctrine taught by the apostles concerning Christ is made the foundation of the church, and look where this doctrine is rightly held and confessed, there it is an infallible note of a true church. Again, the apostles to justify their doctrine, had recourse to Moses and the prophets, as we may see in the Acts of the Apostles in sundry places (Acts 26:22). Now the doctrine touching Christ held and received in our churches, is confirmed by the testimonies of the prophets and apostles, and therefore for substance and doctrine is theirs.

 

(ii) Secondly, we must know that for the ground and foundation of religion, our churches agree with the churches after Christ, which continued for the space of six hundred years; for we do not only allow of the ApostleŐs Creed, but of the four general councils, and of their confessions and creeds, and that in the same manner and sense which they did; so as the religion of our church is unjustly slandered to be new.

 

(2) The second offence taken from the doctrine of our church is from the supposed strictness and rigour thereof. We teach indeed that a Christian man must wholly deny himself, his own will and desires, and resign himself wholly unto Christ, to be guided by His Spirit according to the direction of the Word. Now hence some would gather that our doctrine permits not a man to laugh, or to be merry, or to do anything for his own delight; and hereupon they grow to contempt of religion, counting the profession and practice thereof preciseness; and therefore they will not be bound unto it, but live as they list; and this is common amongst us.

 

The way to cut off this occasion of offence is twofold:

 

(i) First, we must know that by the doctrine of our church, it is lawful for a man to be merry, if it be in the Lord, Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice (Phil. 4:4). God causeth wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread to strengthen his heart (Psa. 104:15). Again, God doth put most glorious colours, and delightsome smells, into the flowers of the field, no doubt for this end, that man might take his delight therein. Yea, besides the skill of music, God hath given to many a man, a voice more sweet and pleasant than is the sound of any musical instrument, which were to no end, if a man might not therewith cheer up his heart in a moderate delight. Nay, laughter itself is the gift of nature, which was in Adam before his fall, and therefore is lawful. But yet I say, manŐs rejoicing must be in the Lord, to cut off many abuses of delight; for first, there be many that cannot be merry but in the practice of some sin; if there be a thought of God, or of His Word, all their mirth is quashed. But we must endeavour ourselves so to rejoice that God may approve thereof. Again I say, in the Lord; because sin will soonest prevail with a man, when he gives himself to delight and pleasures. This Job knew well, and therefore while his sons feasted each other (Job 1:5), he offered sacrifices for them particularly every day; for (saith he) it may be my sons have sinned and blasphemed God in their hearts.

 

(ii) The second way to prevent the taking of this offence is to resign ourselves wholly unto God, that He may do His whole will in us and upon us; so Christ said to His disciples (Luke 9:23); If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me; this is, wholly resign himself to be guided by me; and (Matt. 13:46) he that would get the precious pearl, must sell all that he hath, and buy it. (Rom. 12:1) We are desired by the mercies of God to give up ourselves, both souls and bodies unto God; whereby we may see that we have just cause to bewail the case and condition of all such as count religion preciseness; for they are like unto Ananias and Sapphira, who brought part of the sale of their possessions unto the apostles, and said it was all. So these men look to be saved by Christ, they hear His Word, and receive His sacraments, and therein make as high a profession as any can do; namely, that they will give themselves wholly to Christ; but when they are out of the assemblies, they shew themselves to have dissembled with God; for they practice no such thing as they made shew of; and therefore they may justly fear lest that befall them in their souls, which befell Ananias and Sapphira in their bodies (Acts 5:5,10), even sudden death; for they are liars unto God Himself.

 

(3) Thirdly, others take offence at the cross, which accompanies sincere profession of true religion. Many like well the doctrine of our religion, but yet they are loath to embrace and to profess the same, lest they should be reproached for it in the world.

 

The way to cut off this occasion of offence is this: we must remember that the cross endured for the gospelŐs sake, especially if we profit by it, is an infallible mark of a child of God. (Heb. 12:7) If ye endure chastening, God offereth Himself unto you, as unto sons; for what son is it whom the father chasteneth not? In reason we find this to be true; for say that two children be fighting in the street, and there comes a man who taketh one of them and beateth him, but the other he lets alone; will not all men say that the man is father to the child whom he beateth? Even so, the Lord for our nurturing, will send crosses upon us, when we embrace His gospel. Now if we shall profit by His corrections, and learn whereby to humble ourselves under His mighty hand, then we begin to receive assurance of His fatherly dealing towards us His sons and daughters; and therefore we must be so far from being hindered in the course of our holy profession by reproaches and crosses, that they must be the means to encourage us therein (Jam. 1:2,3).

 

 

As from the doctrine of the church in general, so from the parts thereof, do many both learned and ignorant take occasion of offence:

 

(1) As first, from the doctrine of GodŐs predestination, whereby we teach that God hath decreed the condemnation of some. This doctrine many do renounce as a doctrine of cruelty, and thereupon frame unto themselves private opinions, which will not stand with the Word of God.

 

The way to avoid this occasion of offence is this: first, to grant unto God Himself so much in this case, as we will yield to mortal man in the like. Among ourselves we allow of this liberty one to another that a man may kill a fly or a worm; and for his lawful use and pleasure kill sheep, oxen and other creatures, and yet be a merciful man; shall we not then allow unto God, that he may glorify His name in the just and deserved condemnation and destruction of His creature? This is less than we grant to men, for a worm is something unto man; but a man is nothing in respect of God. Again, among ourselves, in something we give liberty one to another to do as we will, and yet think the action just and lawful; much more then ought we to give freedom of will unto God in all His actions, without conceit of cruelty in any one of His works; for all His works are done in equity. Secondly, it must be remembered that we teach not that God doth simply ordain some men to hell fire; but touching reprobation, our doctrine is this: that God hath decreed and purposed to glorify His name in the due and deserved condemnation of some; for in manŐs reprobation God hath two actions: First, He decrees to pass by some men without shewing His eternal mercy unto them, and only to declare His justice upon them; then after He decrees, when they are by themselves fallen into sin, to inflict upon them deserved condemnation for the same.

 

The unlearned also, from this doctrine of predestination, take occasion of most fearful falling; for thus they reason: If I be predestinated to salvation, I am sure to be saved, let me do what I will; and if I be predestinated to condemnation, I am sure to be condemned, though I live never so godly; for GodŐs decree changeth not, and therefore I will live as I list. Thus do desperate persons embolden themselves to sin, and to cast away their souls.

 

The way to cut off this offence is this: they must remember that in GodŐs decree, the end, and then means that bring men to that end, go always together; and therefore that such as are ordained to salvation, are ordained to the means thereof; namely, to vocation, justification, and sanctification (Rom. 8:30). The end and the means in GodŐs decree must never be severed. Now righteousness and holiness in Christ, are the means whereby God hath decreed to bring men to salvation; and therefore they sin grievously, that upon the immutability of GodŐs decree, take occasion to live profanely. Hezekiah is sick unto death, yet God promiseth to add unto his days fifteen years (Isa. 38:5). Now if Hezekiah had consulted with these men, they would have told him thus: Be of good cheer O king, neither eat nor drink, nor use anything to cure thy sore, or to preserve life; for thou shalt certainly live fifteen years; God hath said it, and it must be done. But Hezekiah taketh no such course; nay, he useth the means both to cure his sore and to preserve his life. And so did Paul, for his own and others preservation, keep the mariners in the ship (Acs 27:31), who were the means upon the sea to bring them safe to land, though God had given unto him all that sailed with him (v.24).

 

(2) The second special doctrine of the church whereat some take occasion of offence is concerning the fall of Adam; for we teach that God in some sort decreed his fall; whereupon some object that we make God the author of sin considering His decree is unchangeable. Now to prevent this offence, two rules must be remembered:

 

(i) That GodŐs will may be distinguished. It is either general or special. GodŐs general will is that whereby He willeth that sin shall be, by His just permission. But GodŐs special will is the approving will of God, whereby He taking pleasure in anything, will have the same done and brought to pass. Now we say not that God willed AdamŐs fall by His approving will, but only by His permitting will; because it was good in regard of God that man should fall.

 

(ii) We must remember that GodŐs decree went before AdamŐs fall only as an antecedent, not as a cause thereof; for the unchangeable decree and will of God takes not away the liberty of manŐs will, or of the second causes, but only inclineth and ordereth the same as the first and highest cause of all.

 

(3) The third special doctrine of the church whereat offence is taken is this: That man of himself can do no good, but all goodness and grace in man comes from God. Hence our common people take occasion of looseness of life; for tell them that they must repent and believe if they will be saved; their answer is that they do it as well as God will give them grace; all goodness (they say) must come from God; yea, the wiser sort among us will not stick to lay the fault of their loose life on God, who gives them no more grace.

 

But for the avoiding of this occasion of offence, we must know that when we are not able to do our duties as we ought, and to pray, to repent, and believe as God requireth, the fault is in ourselves and not in God; for we were created righteous in Adam, and in him had power and grace to have done whatsoever God required at our hands. But Adam lost this power through his default; and we in him lost it also; and therefore our inability cometh from ourselves. Again, we must consider that God gives grace indeed, yet not miraculously in alehouses and taverns, but then when men use the means to come by grace, and do that which by nature they are able; that is, come and hear the Word attentively, endeavouring to believe and obey the same; for though the good usage of the gifts of nature cannot merit any grace, yet ordinarily we may observe that in the use of means is grace received. (Acts 2:41), at one sermon there were converted three thousand souls amongst the rebellious Jews. (Acts 16:14), LydiaŐs heart was opened in hearing Paul preach; and ordinarily men  are converted in the means; for faith cometh by hearing the gospel preached (Rom. 10:17).

 

(4) The last point of doctrine from whence many take occasion of offence is the doctrine of justification by faith alone, without works. Hence the papists condemn our church as an enemy to all good works; and many hereby take occasion of a lewd life, because good works must not justify them before God. Now to cut off this offence, we must hold and know that good works and faith are disjoined in the work of our justification before God; but they are conjoined in the whole course of our lives and conversation, both before God and man.  No work in man but faith is required to his justification, though in God there be respect to His own free mercy and to ChristŐs merits; but in our lives faith and works go hand in hand together. Now that these may be well distinguished, I shew it plainly: in the fire is both heat and light, yet in the warming of the body the heat hath force only, and not light, though to many other uses it serves necessarily; even so in a child of God are required both faith and works, but to justify him faith only is required, though works be necessary through his whole life; for they justify us before men, and win unto us a testimony of our justification before God, not only in our own hearts, but from the Lord (Jam. 2:21), and therefore we must not content ourselves with a faith in speculation, void of works; but within the compass of our callings, do what good we can for GodŐs glory and the comfort of our brethren.

 

 

3. The third head from whence offences are taken, is the state of the church:

 

(1) First, in regard of the wants that be in the church, and namely in this our church. Hence sundry men take occasion to condemn our church as no church, our sacraments as no sacraments, our ministers as no ministers, and our people as no Christians; and therefore do separate themselves from our church, as being no true member of the church of God. To prevent this occasion of sinning, three rules must be observed:

 

(i) First, that to believe and confess the doctrine of salvation, taught and delivered by the prophets and apostles, is an infallible and inseparable note of a true church of God; for GodŐs church is nothing else but a company of GodŐs people called by the doctrine of the prophets and apostles unto the state of salvation. This doctrine is the seed of regeneration, whereby men are begotten unto Christ; and it is that sincere milk whereby they are fed and nourished unto eternal life. Now I say that this our Church of England (through GodŐs mercy) doth maintain, believe and profess this doctrine of the prophets and apostles; for the proof hereof, let him that doubteth have recourse to our English confession, and to a book entitled, The Articles of Religion established in the Church of England; in which are set down the foundations of Christian religion allowed and held by all evangelical churches. And further, to shew that this our profession is not in hypocrisy, but in truth; this our church is ready to maintain and confirm the same doctrine by the shedding of their blood, against all foes whatsoever; and this thing indeed hath been the only cause of all our dissensions with the church of Rome. Whereupon we see there is just cause our church should be reputed the true church of God, and a good member of His catholic church.

 

(ii) Secondly, observe the practice of Christ and His apostles towards the church of the Jews, which in their time without all doubt, was exceedingly corrupt; for the office and place of the High Priest was bought and sold, and through ambition and covetousness became annual; yea, there were two High Priests together at one time; all which were against GodŐs ordinance. Again, the Scribes and Pharisees which were the doctors of that church, erred in some fundamental points of doctrine, teaching justification by works; and withal they greatly corrupted the law of God, both by their doctrine and traditions; and the temple became a den of thieves; and yet for all this, Christ did not separate from that church, neither taught His disciples so to do; but was present at their sacrifices and assemblies, and kept His Passover with them; and so did His apostles, till they saw them of obstinacy and maliciousness refuse the grace of God offered unto them in the ministry of the gospel. Now their example must teach us that so long as our church holdeth Christ, we must esteem it to be the church of God, and not for some wants thereof depart from it.

 

(iii) Thirdly, all the Reformed churches in England do with one consent honour our church as a true church of Christ; now their judgment is not slightly to be regarded, but to be preferred far before the rash opinions of private men; for the church hath a gift of discerning in weighty matters: she can judge of books of Scripture, which can be authentical, which not; she can judge of spirits and of doctrines; and therefore also can judge what company of men is a true church and what is not; and this their judgment also must confirm us in this truth, that this our church is a true member of GodŐs catholic church. Now whereas some allege the wants of our church to make it no church; I answer: though I will not excuse any default in it, wherein it is wanting, to that which GodŐs Word requireth, but rather desire that the righteousness thereof may break forth as the light, and salvation thereof as a burning lamp (Isa. 62:1); yet this may be said in behalf of our church, that the wants thereof are not such as do any way raze the foundation of religion, or of GodŐs holy worship, and so cannot make it to cease to be a true church, and therefore none ought to separate from it for such wants; and yet this hindereth not, but that GodŐs servants may in godly manner desire the reformation of things that be amiss; for a good church may be bettered, and we ought to strive after perfection.

 

(2) The second offence taken from the church is from the diversity of opinions that be therein; for hence many reason thus: learned men be of so many opinions, that we know not what to follow; and therefore we will be of no religion, till the truth be established by some general council, and all agree in one.

 

For the avoiding of this offence we must know that though men differ in sundry opinions in the true church of God, yet they all agree in the articles of faith, and in the foundation of GodŐs worship. Their difference is in matters besides the foundation, and therefore it must hinder none from receiving and embracing true religion. Again, it is GodŐs will that there should be diversities of opinions; yea, schisms and heresies in His church, that men might be proved whether they hold the truth in sincerity or not; as we may see (1 Cor. 11:19; Deut.13:1,2). Now in this case JeremiahŐs directions must be observed (Jer. 6:16), Stand in the parting of the ways (saith he) and enquire for the old and ancient way (that is the doctrine of the prophets); what God willeth and commandeth by them, and by His apostles, and that we must follow with all good conscience. This Christ intended when He bade the Jews (John 5:39), Search the Scriptures which testified of Him; and this we must sanctify by earnest prayer, as Cornelius did (Acts 10:1,2).

 

(3) The third occasion of offence taken from the church is the misery thereof; for the state of the church is oftentimes in affliction, because it consisteth of such as are subject to the contempt and reproach of the world. Hence sundry are discouraged from joining themselves truly to the church; and although this occasion of offence be not much among us, save only in reproaches, yet it may be more; and therefore we must learn to prevent it, and to cut it off.

 

The way is this: We must believe and remember that out of the church there is no salvation. In this regards NoahŐs ark was a true type of the church; for as none were saved from drowning that were out of the ark in the general deluge, so none can be saved ordinarily from condemnation who are out of the church; for in the church is GodŐs covenant of grace, with the sacraments, which be the seals thereof. In the church is vocation, justification, sanctification, and the way to glorification; but out of the church are none of all these, and therefore it is said that (Acts 2:47) God added to His church daily such as should be saved. In the church is protection against all enemies, and from all judgments so far forth as shall be for the glory of God and the good of the church; and in a word, in the church is life everlasting; but out of the church is nothing but a fearful looking for of eternal woe and condemnation; and for this cause (Heb. 11:26) Moses chose rather to suffer affliction in GodŐs church, than to enjoy all the pleasures in the world out of it; whose example we ought to follow, and so shall not the misery of the church be any occasion unto us to forsake the same, especially if we consider that the whole world will profit a man nothing, if he lose his soul (Matt. 16:26).

 

(4) The fourth offence taken from the church is from the apostasy of some that live in the church; for ordinarily in GodŐs church are many apostates, as in this our church, many that were in times past Protestants, are become papists, some Arians, Sabellians, and some open atheists and blasphemers. Hence many, fearing their falls (as they pretend) dare not join themselves to the truth, and the profession thereof. But to cut off this occasion, two rules must be remembered:

 

(i) First, that the falling away of any man from the truth is the work of God discovering a hidden hypocrite (1 John 2:19). They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but this is come to pass, that it might appear they were not all of us.

 

(ii) Secondly, consider that the beginning and continuance of our religion and salvation stands on GodŐs free election, which is unchangeable; and hereupon must we stay ourselves touching our estate, when we see others fall away (2 Tim. 2:19). Paul comforteth the church, against the fear of grief which they might conceive by the apostasy of Himeneus and Philetus, which were two pillars amongst them, by this rule: The foundations of God remaineth sure, and hath this seal: the Lord knoweth who are His. Now because some might say, God indeed knows it, but we do not; to this (I take it) the apostle answers, when he saith, and let everyone that calls upon the name of the Lord depart from iniquity; as if he should say, Look that you call upon God for grace, and make conscience of all sin, and by this you shall know yourselves to belong to God; which thing when once you know, then stay thereon, for GodŐs calling is unchangeable.

 

Again, as these occasions are taken from the whole church in general, so more especially some take offence from several things therein:

 

(1) As first, from the wants that be in ministers, both for judgment and doctrine. Hence politic carnal men plead thus: Preaching is full of imperfection, therefore men publish their own errors; but the written Word containeth in it the sermons of Christ and of His apostles, which are most perfect; and therefore it is best  to content ourselves with the Scriptures read, and to hear no preaching by men.

 

To cut off this offence, we must remember that the preaching of the Word, though it be by sinful man, is GodŐs holy ordinance, prescribed and enjoined as solemnly as any moral precept is, either against murder, or adultery; for from the beginning, till the Jews came to mount Sinai, God Himself preached to His church, which was then contained in some few families. But from that time, because the people could not abide the voice of God Himself (Deut. 5:25), it pleased Him to ordain the ministry of the Word by the hand of sinful man. Now it being GodŐs own ordinance, unless we will make ourselves wiser than God, we must subject ourselves thereto, with all reverence, albeit it be delivered by sinful man. Thus Cornelius did (Acts 10:33), and the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:13).

 

(2) Secondly, many are offended at the lives of ministers, and from the wants that be in them, whether in deed or in suspicion only, many take occasion to condemn their doctrine; thinking, as the rulers of the Jews said to the blind man (John 9:34), Thou art altogether born in sin, and dost thou teach us?

 

Now to cut off this occasion, two things must be remembered: First, we must distinguish of every minister, and consider in him a double person: both that he is a sinful man, subject to many infirmities, as we ourselves are; and also that he is the LordŐs ambassador, sent in GodŐs name to deliver His will unto us. Now look as we honour the ambassador of a prince, though his person be vile and base; so much more ought we to reverence the ambassador of God Himself, and receive his doctrine, as from God, though for his person he be subject to manifold infirmities. Secondly, we must consider that it is GodŐs will and commandment that though ministers be manifestly faulty and sinful, yet their ministry must be received and obeyed carefully (Matt. 23:23), The Scribes and Pharisees sit in MosesŐ chair (saith Christ), all therefore that they bid you observe, that do, but after their works, do not. (Phil. 1:15) Some preach Christ of envy (saith Paul) and not in sincerity, but yet the apostles rejoiced therein, because Christ was preached every manner of way (v.18). And therefore as we do not refuse meat for our bodies when we be hungry, though a wicked person have dressed it; so must we not refuse or condemn the Word of God, the food of our souls, for the sins of the party that delivereth it.

 

(3) Thirdly, many take offence at the lenity of  the church towards offenders; and for the presence of wicked persons at the LordŐs table, do refuse to communicate with the church. Now albeit men should not be admitted hand over head to the LordŐs table, but scandalous persons ought to be restrained; yet the want thereof ought not to keep the godly from this sacrament; for another manŐs evil conscience cannot defile thy good conscience, another manŐs sin cannot hurt thee, unless thou do some way communicate with him therein. Christ was most careful in His duty than ever man was, and yet He communicated with the wicked Jews, Scribes and Pharisees in the service of God, under the law.

 

 

4. The fourth head from which offence is taken is the state of the wicked, principally in regard of their prosperity. Hence some holy ones suspect their own estate and religion, as either not good, or not regarded of God. This befell David (Psa. 73), when he saw the prosperity of the wicked, and their increase of riches with peace and ease, he said (v.13), Certainly I have cleansed my hands in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. Hence also Jeremiah reasons with God (Jer. 12:1,2), why the way of the wicked should prosper, and they be in wealth that transgress rebelliously. Hence undoubtedly at this day, many call into question the good providence of God.

 

Now the way to cut off this offence is (Psa. 73:17), to enter into the sanctuary of God, as David did; that is, to come to the assemblies of GodŐs people, where the Word is preached; for there a man shall see the manifold reasons why God will have His own people afflicted, and also the fearful end of the pleasures of the wicked; namely, a fitting of them to further destruction.

 

Again, from this same ground, do many rich men take offence; for having the world at will, they bless themselves with this persuasion, that God loves them, and thereupon take occasion to condemn all religion, and to go on in the pursuit of worldly profits and delights. And this is one main cause why among the rich, we have so few good and sound professors; because that from a false ground of outward things, they persuade themselves of GodŐs love and favour.

 

But to cut off this offence, we must remember that manŐs case is the more fearful, when he wants all crosses; for God chastiseth every child whom He receiveth (Heb.12:6), and it is a mark of GodŐs child to be in affliction, if he profit thereby. The stalled ox cometh sooner to the slaughter than the ox that is under the yoke; and the sheep that goeth in fat pasture cometh sooner to the shambles than that which goeth on the bare commons. So oftentimes God fatteth the wicked with the blessings of this life, as He did the rich glutton (Luke 16:25), that He may more justly condemn them in the world to come.

 

Lastly, we must remember what Solomon saith (Eccl. 9:1,2), No man knoweth love or hatred, of all that is before him; that is, of all outward things. All things fall alike unto all, both good and bad; and therefore no man must so bless himself with his outward estate that he be drawn to esteem of religion as a thing needless or superfluous.