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A59549 Fifteen sermons preach'd on several occasions the last of which was never before printed / by ... John, Lord Arch-Bishop of York ... Sharp, John, 1645-1714. 1700 (1700) Wing S2977; ESTC R4705 231,778 520

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since it is Zeal for God that we are here speaking of it must be something wherein our Duty is concerned that must be the object of our Zeal So that a right Zeal of God implies that we do so well inform our selves of the Nature of our Religion as not to pretend a Religious Zeal for any thing that is not a part of our Religion If our Zeal for God be as it should be it must certainly express it self in matters that are good about such objects as God hath made to be our Duty It is good saith St. Paul to be always zealously affected in a good matter But if we mistake in our Cause if we take that for good which is evil or that for evil which is good here our Zeal is not according to Knowledge Secondly as the object of our Zeal must be according to Knowledge so also the Principle from whence our Zeal proceeds must be according to Knowledge also That is to say We must have solid and rational grounds to proceed upon in our concernment for any thing such as will not only satisfie our selves but all others that are unbyassed In a word such as we can justifie to all the World If it be every Man's Duty as St. Peter tells us it is to be ready to give an Answer to every one that asketh him a reason of the Hope that is in him Then I am sure it is much more every Man's Duty to be able to give a reason of the Zeal that is in him Because this business of a Man's Zeal doth more affect the Publick and is of greater Concernment to it than what a Man 's private Faith or Hope is But yet how little is this considered by many zealous Men among us Some are zealous for a point to serve an Interest or a Faction But this is not to be owned as the ground and reason of Zeal for indeed if it should it would not be allowed of Others are zealous for no other reason but because they find their Teachers or those they most converse with are so They follow the common Cry and examine no more of the matter Others indeed have a Principle of Zeal beyond all this For they are ●●ved from within to stand up for this or the other Cause they have Impulses upon their minds which they cannot resist But that in truth is no more a justifiable ground of any Man's Zeal than either of the former For if these Motions and Impulses that they speak of be from God there will certainly be conveyed along with them such Reasons and Arguments for the thing that they are to be zealous about as will if they be declared satisfie and convince all other reasonable Men as well as themselves For it is a ridiculous thing to imagine that God at this day doth move or impel Men in any other way than what is agreeable to the Reason of Mankind and the Rule of his holy Word And if the Man's Zeal can be justified by either of these there is no need of vouching Inspirations for it Thirdly As the Zeal which is according to knowledge hath a good matter for its object and proceeds from a right Principle So it is also regular as to the Measures of it He that hath it is careful that it do not exceed its due Bounds as the Ignorant Zeal often doth but he distinguisheth between the several objects he is zealous for and allows every one of them just so great a Concernment as the thing is worth and no more If the thing be but a small matter he is but in a small measure concerned for it If it be of greater moment he believes he may be allowed to be the more earnest about it But he looks upon it as a rash and foolish thing and an effect of great ignorance or weakness to be hot and eager for all things alike We should account him not many degrees removed from a Child or an Ideot that upon the cut of a Finger should as passionately complain and cry out for help as if he had broken a Limb. Why just the same Folly and Childishness it is to make a mighty bustle about small matters which are of no consequence in which neither Religion nor the Publick Peace are much concerned as if indeed our Lives and Souls were in danger It therefore becomes all prudent and sober Men to take care that their Zeal do not spend it self in little things that they be not too passionate and earnest and vehement for things that are not worth much contending for If we lay a greater weight upon a Cause than it will bear and shew as much warmth and passion for small matters as if the Fundamentals of our Faith were at stake we are zealous indeed but not according to Knowledge Fourthly The Zeal that is according to knowledge is always attended with hearty Charity It is not that bitter Zeal which the Apostle speaks of which is accompanied with Hatred and Envy and perverse Disputings But it is kind and sociable and meek even to Gainsayers It is that Wisdom which is from above that is first pure then peaceable gentle and easie to be intreated It is a Zeal that loves God and his Truth heartily and would do all that is possible to bring Honour and Advancement to them But at the same time it loveth all Men. And therefore in all things where it expresses it self it purely consults the Merits of the Cause before it but lets the Persons of Men alone It is a certain Argument of an Ignorant and ungoverned Zeal when a Man leaves his Cause and his Concernment for God's Glory and turns his Heat upon those that he has to deal with when he is peevish and angry with Men that differ from him When he is not contented to oppose Arguments to Arguments and to endeavour to gain his point by calm Reasoning but he flies out into Rage and Fury and when he is once transported herewith he cares not what undecent bitter Reflections he makes upon all those that have the Fortune to be of a different side But in these Cases Men would do well to remember that the Wrath of Man worketh not the Righteousness of God as the Apostle expresses it All this kind of behaviour favours of the Wisdom of this World which is Earthly and Sensual and Devilish Fifthly and lastly Another inseparable Property of Zeal according to Knowledge is That it must pursue lawful Ends by lawful Means must never do an Ill thing for the carrying the best Cause This St. Paul hath laid down as a Rule to be eternally observed among Christians when in the third of the Romans he declares that their damnation is just who say Let us do evil that good may come Be therefore our Point never so good or never so weighty yet if we use any dishonest unlawful Arts for the gaining of it that is to say If we do any thing which is either in it self Evil and appears
are made it should be at their Peril if they transgressed them supposing Magistrates did their Duty And all this we say is very consistent with that Tenderness and Charity that all Christians and even Magistrates themselves in their private Capacity do owe to mis-perswaded erroneous Consciciences And then Secondly it is to be remembred that that Kindness and Tenderness to mistaken Zealots which we are speaking of from the Text is not to be expressed to all alike but to some more to some less to some perhaps in no degree at all according as the nature and quality of their Errors are and according as the Men that are guilty of them may more or less or not at all be thought to have a real Zeal of God and to act out of Principles of Conscience Thus for instance In the First place Those that set up for Patrons of Atheism or Epicurism that make it their business in their Conversation to expose all Religion and to bring it into contempt that ridicule the Professors of it as a company of easie credulous Men that make no Conscience of blaspheming God and all things Sacred as occasion is given them Why these Men may have Zeal enough for their Opinions and we find that they often have a great deal too much But are such to be treated with that sort of Tenderness and Compassion that we are now speaking of No by no means For they are quite out of the bounds of my Text They have a Zeal indeed but it is not a Zeal for God but for the Devil and the Interests of his Kingdom And if one were to measure the greatness of Crimes by the mischief they do to humane Society I should think that this sort of People were not to expect so much favour and respect from Mankind as some other Malefactors that yet by our Laws are to pay for their offences at no less a rate than their Lives Again Secondly If there be any Men that under a pretence of Religion do teach or encourage or promote any sort of Vice or Immorality or whose Principles do necessarily lead to debauch Mens Manners in the plain matters of Sobriety Chastity Truth or Justice and the like such kind of People are by no means Objects of that Tenderness and Compassion that we are now speaking of For the Laws of Nature as to moral Virtue and Vice are so plainly writ in every Man's heart that he must be supposed to be an Ill Man that can easily entertain any Principle let it come never so much recommended under the Name of Religion that contradicts them And whatever allowance may in charity be made for a Man's mistakes there is no reason that much should be made for his Wickedness Again Thirdly If there be any Men that whilst they express a great Zeal for the Purity of Religion and exclaim against the Corruptions of it as they term them which are introduced into the Publick Establishment and turn every stone to have all things setled in another Method yet all this while God and their own Hearts know that all this Concernment and Zeal of theirs for Religion though it make a great shew is only pretended and that there is another thing that lies at the bottom that is to say Worldly Interest and Dominion and Power which they hope to compass by such a Regulation of Matters as they desire I say if there be any such Men they are likewise no way concerned in that Compassion my Text speaks of For though they may be very Zealous yet it is a Zeal for their own secular advantages that acts them and not a Zeal of God If such Men could be known instead of being kindly and charitably thought of for their Zeal in Religion the Virtuous part of Mankind would look upon them as the worst of Hypocrites But since God only knows the Hearts of Men all such pretenders to Zeal for Religion must till we know them also be treated according to the Merits of the cause they pretend to be Zealous for But then Fourthly and Lastly All that I have now said is with respect to those that are out of the limits of my Text such as have no Zeal of God though some of them may pretend it But then as for those that really act out of Principles of Conscience and have a real Zeal of God though in a wrong way These are true Objects of our Tenderness and Compassion though yet in different degrees For according as their Principles and Practices do more or less injure our common Christianity or are more or less dangerous to our Government and Constitution in the same proportion the greater or less Tenderness and Indulgence is to be expressed towards them But most of what concerns this matter being already setled by Law I will not be so bold as to meddle in it and therefore I proceed to the Third Head of my Discourse III. The Third thing I told you we might observe from this Text was this The Apostle's tacit Reprehension of the Jewish Zeal upon this account that it was not according to Knowledge The Use I make of this is that from hence we may be able to gather to our selves a true Rule for the governing our Zeal in matters of Religion and likewise for the judging in others what Zeal is commendable and what is not For be our Zeal of God never so great yet if it be not a zeal according to knowledge it is not the right Christian Zeal And though we see others never so fervent and vehement in pursuing a Religious Cause and that too out of Conscience yet if this Zeal of theirs be not according to knowledge it is a Zeal that justly deserves to be reproved And though both we and they may for our sincerity in Gods Cause expect some Allowances both from God and Man yet neither they nor we can justifie it either to God or Man that we are thus foolishly and ignorantly Zealous I wish this mark of right Zeal that it ought to be according to knowledge were more considered For it seems not often to be thought on by those that are most zealous in their way of what perswasion soever they be This same business of Knowledge is a thing that is most commonly forgot to be taken in as an ingredient or Companion of Zeal in most sort of Professors For as the World goes those Men are generally found to be the greatest Zealots who are most notoriously Ignorant Whereas true Zeal should not only proceed from true Knowledge but should also be always accompanied with it and governed by it But what is it to have a Zeal according to Knowledge What doth this Character of justifiable right Zeal contain in it I answer it must at least contain in it these five following things First To have a Zeal according to Knowledge doth import that we be not mistaken as to the matter of our Zeal that it be a good Cause that we are zealous about And
more loosly But both Parties especially the more moderate of both seem to drive at much-what the same thing though by different ways as appears from this That being interrogated concerning the Consequences of their several Opinions they generally agree in admitting or rejecting the same But Fourthly Another thing that would make for Peace is this Never to charge upon Men the Consequences of their Opinions when they expresly disown them This is another thing that doth hugely tend to widen our Differences and to exasperate Men's Spirits one against another when having examin'd some Opipinion of a Man or Party of Men and finding very great Absurdities and evil Consequences necessarily to flow from it we presently throw all those into the Dish of them that hold the Opinion as if they could not own the one but they must necessarily own the other Whereas indeed the Men we thus charge may be so innocent in this matter that they do not in the least dream of such Consequences or if they did they would be so far from owning them that they would abhor the Opinion for their sakes To give you an Instance or two in this matter It is a Doctrine maintained by some That God's Will is the Rule of Justice or That every thing is therefore just or good because God wills it Those that are concerned to oppose this Doctrine do contend that if this Doctrine be true it will necessarily follow that no Man can have any Certainty of the Truth of any one Proposition that God hath revealed in Scripture because say they his Eternal Faithfulness and Veracity are by this Doctrine made Arbitrary Things Granting now that this can by just consequence be made out yet I dare say those that hold the aforesaid Doctrine would be very angry and had good reason so to be if they were told that they did not no nor could not upon their Principles certainly believe the Scripture Some Men think that they can with demonstrative Evidence make out that the Doctrine of God's Irrespective Decrees doth in its Consequences overthrow the whole Gospel that it doth destroy the nature of Rewards and Punishments cuts the very Sinews of Men's Endeavours after Vertue makes all Laws Promises Exhortations perfectly idle and insignificant things and renders God the most unlovely Being in the World Now supposing all this to be true yet it would be a most unjust and uncharitable thing to affirm of any that believe that Doctrine many of whom are certainly pious and good Men that they do maintain any such impious and blasphemous Opinions as those that are now mentioned The Sum of all is that a Man may believe a Proposition and not believe all that follows from it Not but that all the Deductions from a Proposition are equally true and equally credible with the Proposition from whence they are deduced But a Man may not so clearly see through the Proposition as to discern that such Consequences are really deducible from it So that we are at no hand to charge them upon him unless he do explicitely own them If this Rule was observ'd our Differences would not make so great a noise nor would the Errours and Heterodoxes maintained among us appear so monstrous and extravagant and we should spare a great many hard words and odious appellations which we now too prodigally bestow upon those that differ from us The Fifth Rule is To abstract Men's Persons from their Opinions and in examining or opposing these never to make any reflections upon those This is a thing so highly reasonable that methinks no Pretender to Ingenuity should ever need to be called upon to observe it For it seems very absurd and ridiculous in any Argument to meddle with that that nothing concerns the Question But what do Personal Reflections concern the Cause of Religion Whatever it may be to the Reputation of an Opinion I am sure it is nothing to the Truth of it that such or such a Man holds it And truly if Men would leave this Impertinence we might hope for a better Issue of our Religious Debates But whilst Men will forsake the Merits of the Cause and unmanly fall to railing and disparaging Men's Persons and scraping together all the ill that can be said of them they blow the Coals of Contention they so imbitter and envenom the Dispute that it rankles into incurable Distastes and Heart-burnings Christians would do well to consider that these mean Arts of exposing Men's Persons to discredit their Opinions are very much unworthy the Dignity of their Profession and most of all mis-becoming the Sacredness and Venerableness of the Truth they contend for And besides no Cause stands in need of them but such an one as is extremely bassled and desperate and even then they are the worst Arguments in the World to support it for quick-sighted Men will easily see through the Dust we endeavour to raise and those that are duller will be apt to suspect from our being so angry and so waspish that we have but a bad Matter to manage We should consider that Men's Persons are sacred things that whatever power we have to judge of their Opinions we have no Authority to judge or censure Them That to bring Them upon the Stage and there throw Dirt on them is highly rude and uncivil and an Affront to Humane Society and the most contrary thing in the World to Christian Charity which is so far from enduring Reproaches and Evil-speaking that it obliges us to cover as much as we can all the Faults and even the very Indiscretions of others The Sixth and last thing I shall recommend to you as an Expedient of Peace is a vigorous Pursuit of Holiness Do but seriously set your selves to be good do but get your Hearts deeply affected with Religion as well as your Heads and then there is no fear but you will be all the Sons of Peace We may talk what we will but really it is our not practising our Religion that makes us so Contentious and Disputatious about it It is our Emptiness of the Divine Life that makes us so full of Speculation and Controversie Was but That once firmly rooted in us these Weeds and Excrescencies of Religion would presently dry up and wither we should loath any longer to feed upon such Husks after we once came to have a Relish of that Bread Ah! How little Satisfaction can all our pretty Notions and fine-spun Controversies yield to a Soul that truly hungers and thirsts after Righteousness How pitifully flatly and insipidly will they taste in comparison of the Divine Entertainments of the Spiritual Life Were we but seriously taken up with the Substantials of our Religion we should not have leisure for the Talking Disputing Divinity we should have greater matters to take up our Thoughts and more profitable Arguments to furnish out our Discourses So long as we could busie our selves in working out our Salvation and furthering the Salvation of others we should think it