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case, by Uncharitableness, he fins against S er m. his Brother, and consequently against God. II. For, since the promoting of Virtue and Goodness in the World, is the most important of all things; it becomes us at all times, and in all our Actions, to look upon it as our main End. And though the Perverseness of malicious persons, who are apt to misrepresent things, is by no means an Obligation upon any Good man to forbear doing any thing that he himfelf knows to be innocent; yet the Weakness of fincere and well-meaning Persons, who by relying upon His Example might be led to do what would in Them be Sin, is a very strong reason, (unless he has otherwise some Great Occasion or Necessity of Acting, ) it is (I say) in point of Charity a very strong reason, why he should forbear . doing that which would be so hurtful to Them. Where the thing that gives Offence to Others, and either drives or leads them into Sin, is such as not only upon account of this Circumstance or Consequence, but intrinhcally also and in its own Nature is unlawful; there the Scripture denounces against the Offender the utmost Severity of Woe, as
Ser m. against a presumptuous Dishonourer of II. God: Matt. xviii. 6. Wboso shall offend
one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a milftone were banged about his Neck, and that he were drowned in the Depth of the Sea: Woe un to the World, because of Offences; for it must needs be that Offences come, but Woe to that man by whom the Offence cometh. But where the thing done is innocent in itself, and only by accidental consequence proves an occasion of Sin to Others; yet even There, he who foresees this consequence and takes not care to prevent it; is in Scripture charged with Uncharitableness towards the Soul of his Brother, if it be a Fellow-Christian whom he so causes to offend; or with want of true Concern for the Glory of God, if the Offence be given to an Unbeliever.
As to the Case of Unbelievers; the Apostles thus exhort, i Pet. ï. 12. Have your conversation bonest among the Gentiles; that they may by your good works which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of Visitation. Again, 2 Cor. viii. 21. Provide for bonest things, (that is, things of good reputation as well as law
ful,) not only in the fight of the Lord, but SER M.
fame Apostle explains himself, Col. iv. 5. za Walk in Wisdom towards them that are
As to the case of Fellow-christians ; how the Glory of God is to be promoted, by our behaviour towards Them; by our taking care to avoid even such innocent things, as we see likely to lead any of Them into Sin, and may be forborn without any great inconvenience to Ourselves; the Apostle explains himself at large, by putting a particular and very remarkable instance, in the chapter whereof my Text is a part; and in the eighth chapter of This Epistle; and in the fourteenth chapter to the Romans.
The Case he puts, is, whether it was lawful for Christians to eat of such meats. as the Heathen had facrificed to their Vol. II. D
SER M. Idols. In the present chapter, whereof my Hin, Text is a part, he thus refolves the que
stion, ver. 25, 27. Whatsoever is fold in the shambles, or set before you at a friend's bouse, That eat, asking no question for conscience fake ; i, e. Care not, whether the Heathens have superstitiously offered it to their Idols, or not; For the Earth is the Lord's, and the Fulness thereof; ver. 26. The Meaning is; God made all things, and every creature of His is good, if it be received with Thanksgiving; nor can any man's Folly and Superstition make That to be unclean, which God has made clean to us. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in facrifice unto Idols, ver. 28. then eat not, for his fake that shewed it; that is, forbear Then, out of charity to Him, leaft Your Liberty cause Him to strain his Conscience, and so fall into Sin. And then he sums up all in the words of the Text, Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the Glory of God: Give none Offence, neither to the
Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God.
In the eighth chapter of this epistle, Sermo he again proposes and resolves the same time question : Ver. 4. As concerning the eating things offered in Sacrifice unto Idols, we know that an Idol is nothing in the World, and that there is none Other God but One. Howbeit, faith he, ver. 7. there is not in every man That knowledge : For some with conscience of the Idol unto this hour, eat it as a thing offered unto an Idol; and their Conscience, being weak, is defiled. Wherefore, though in reality, and to a man of understanding, the good creatures of God are not at all the worse, for having by others mens vain and senseless superstition been offered to an Idol; yet take heed, says the Apostle, ver. 9. left by any means this Liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak : For if any man fee Thee which haft knowledge, fit at meat in the Idols temple, shall not the conscience of Him that is weak, be emboldened, (in the original it is expressed very emphatically, shall be not be edified, ) to eat those things which are offered to Idols ? And through Thy knowledge, skall the weak Brother perish, for whom Christ died. And then he concludes, ver. 12. When