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do the best we can, to elude the Cavils and Calumnies of evil Men. There are fome who are as ready now to blaf pheme the Ways, as they were of old the Perfon of Chrift and as to thefe, our Endeavour should be to put a Muzzle upon their Mouths, as we do upon fome Creatures, who are too apt both to bark and bite; that is, to cut off all occafion from them that feek occafion, that they may be either afraid or afham'd to speak evil of us.
Laftly, From the People's glorifying and bleffing God upon this Miracle of healing a fick Man, let us learn to give God the Glory of all his Mercies, and to afcribe the Honour due to his Name; particularly, as we are taught by the Gospel for this Day, let us praife God as for the Life and Doctrine, fo for the Miracles of our Bleffed Saviour, which gave the highest Honour and Confirmation to both. Let us frequently meditate on the Number and Greatness of them, the better to raise our Minds to a higher Efteen and Thankfulness for them; that will migh tily conduce to the confirming of us in the Belief of his Doctrine, and to the building of us up more firmly in our moft Holy Faith, and that will bring us at laft to the end of our Faith, even the Salvation of our Soul: Which God. grant, cups a
The EPISTLE for the Twentieth Sunday after
Ephef. v. 1521
See them that ye walk circumspectly, not as Fools, but as Wife, redeeming the time, because the days are evil: Wherefore be ye not unwife, but underStanding what the Will of the Lord is,&c.
E are taught in the Collect for this Day to pray, that we may be kept from all things that may hurt us, that fo being ready both in Body and Soul, we may chearfully accomplish thofe things that God would have done, &c. Which things requiring no mall Care and Diligence to accomplish them,
The Epiftle for the Day begins with an Exhortation to a wife, wary and circumfpect Walking, to prevent the Evils that may otherwife befal us. The Apoftle, in the foregoing part of the Chapter, had minded the Ephefians of the happy Change wrought in them by their embracing the Gofpel, how they were tranflated from Darkness to Light, and from the Power of Satan unto God, and therefore willed them to walk as Children of Light, ver. 8. And because of the many Dangers, Difficulties and Difcouragements they might meet with in the way, he would have them to look warily about them: See then that ye walk cir cumfpectly, &c. Where we have,
Firft, A Caution to look to our Ways, and walk circumfpectly; which being usher'd in with a Note of Attention, See then, fhews it to be a Matter neceffary to be observ'd, and dangerous to be omitted.
Secondly, We have a Pattern or Direction to walk by, exprefs'd both negatively and pofitively; Not as Fool's, but as Wife.
20th Sunday after Trinity. 419 į Thirdly, We have a Way or Means prefcrib'd for our circumfpect Walking; and that is by redeeming the Time.
Fourthly, A ftrong Argument or Motive to perfuade thereunto; and that is, Because the Days are evil. Thefe things, with the good Ufe and Improvement to be made of them, contain the whole of this Day's Epiftle.
First, I begin then with the Caution here given to all Chriftians, See then that ye walk circumspectly, in the Original it is, See how circumspectly ye can walk Where a Chriftian's Life is defcrib'd by Walking, which we know is a progreffive Motion, and implies a continual going forward; 'tis oppos'd to fitting ftill, or indulging to Eafe and Idleness, and fo gives us to understand, that Chriftianity is no idle, lazy or fluggish thing, but confifts in Action, and is ftill moving us forward in the Ways of Holiness and Vertue. Hence we find it fet forth in Scripture by fach Expreffions as imply Activity and Motion: tis fometimes call'd a feeking or fearching after God, which imports Sollicitoufness and Intention, fometimes a preffing forward towards the Mark, which betokens Labour and Difficulty, and engages the whole Man, fometimes again 'tis exprefs'd by a Race, which befpeaks the fwifteft Motion, and requires us not only to walk, but to run the Paths of God's Commandments; laftly, to mention no more, 'tis often conipar'd to a Warfare, which we know calls for our main Strength, and excites the greatest Diligence: all which and other like Expreflions fhew Religion, to be no lazy, but an active and bufy thing, that finds Employment for all our Faculties, and puts us upon the continual Exercife of Vertue and good Works. This is imply'd here in the word Walking, fo often us'd in Scripture to exprefs our Chriftian Courfe.
But how are we here directed to walk? Why, that the next word tells us, See that ye walk circumspectly: The word in the Original is axes, which fignifies an exact, regular and accurate Walking, or a keeping close to the Rule, without tranfgreffing or fwerving from it, either by omitting what it requires, or committing what it forbids. Now here great Care and Circumfpection is neceffary,
tft, To find out the right Way in which we are to walk. 2dly, To walk warily, prudently and inoffenfively in it. And,
3dly, To perfevere and keep in it to the very laft.
Ift, I fay, Circumfpection is neceffary in feeking and finding out the right Way in which we are to walk; for there are many By-paths of Error and Delufion, in which we may lofe our way and our felves too without a great deal of Care and Diligence. Satan is very busy to blind and mislead us; the World hath many Snares and Temptations to draw us into the broad Way that leads to Deftruction, there are many false Prophets and Teachers gone abroad into the World, who, under a fhow of Strictness, would entice us into Loofenefs and Libertinifm; and our own corrupt and deceitful Hearts are too apt to close in and join with thefe Decievers: and therefore no fmall Care and Diligence is requifite to find out the ftraight Gate, and to walk in the narrow Way that leads to Life, fince our Saviour tells us, that fem there be that find it. He that lofeth his Way will never come to his Journey's end, unless he leave the wrong, and get into the right Path that leads to it. But Errors in Religion are of all others the most fatal and dangerous, for they oftimes endanger the Lofs both of Body and Soul; which fhould teach us to ufe our utmost Care to know the Truth, and to fteer our Courfe aright: and this will be no very difficult Task to an honest and wellmeaning Enquirer, for God hath made the Way of our Duty plain before us; He hath fhewed thee, O Man, what is Good, and what the Lord thy God requires of thee, namely, to do justly, to love Mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God: Mic. 6. 8. Indeed the Ways of Sin and Error are full of Windings and Turnings, and a corrupt Heart, or a falfe Guide, may eafily mislead us; here then are we to use our Care and Circumfpection, to know our Duty, and to guide our Feet into the Ways of Truth and Peace: To which end we are to read and fearch the Scriptures, which are the best Rule to direct us; and having a fure Word of Prophecy, we shall do well to take heed, as to a Light shining in a dark Place. When we have by this means fought and found out the right Way,
2dly, Our next Care and Circumfpection must be to walk warily and circumfpectly in it; and this we fhould the ra ther do, because of the many Dangers and Temptations, which even the beft of Men are expos'd to. He that walks in the midft of Snares had need look well to his going, left he be entrap'd by them; we must be great Strangers to the World, if we obferve not the Artifices of Seducers to draw Men into Errors in Religion, and likewife the Temp
tations of evil Company, to entice them into a Corruption of Manners: Thefe are two dangerous Rocks, to be avoi ded by all that with well to their own Souls, and he that will fail fafely between them, must carefully look about him, that he split not on either. This the Apoftle here intimates to be the Cafe of these Ephefians; they had embrac'd Chriftianity, and fo were in the right Way to Salvation, but they had many Enemies, that fought to corrupt their Faith, or debauch their Manners, and fo were in danger of being loft in the crooked Paths of Sin and Error; and therefore he lets them know, that all their Care and Watchfulness is little enough to provide against them: which is the fame Advice with that of our Saviour, Watch and pray, that ye enter not into Temptation. Mat. 26. 41.
3dly, To walk circumfpectly is to take care to keep in the right Way, and to perfevere in it to the end, not to remit our Diligence, nor grow weary of well-doing: We muft not suffer either the Allurements or Difcouragements of the World to turn us out of the Way, either to the right Hand, or to the left, but muft keep fteadily on without Fickleness or Fainting. 'Tis not enough to begin or fet out at first, but we must hold on, and continue to the laft, if we mean to win the Prize. We shall reap (faith the Apostle) if we faint not, and if we are faithful unto death, we fhall receive a Crown of Life, but if we faint and tire, or lofe our way, we fhall in the end reap nothing but Shame and Confufion,
In fhort, to walk circumfpectly is to look every way about us, that we be not annoy'd on any fide, nor at any time tread awry; 'tis to look upward by hearty and fervent Prayer, and downward by a diligent heeding our Steps: 'tis to look forward by Prudence and Forefight to what is to come, and backward by ferious Reflection and Confideration of what is paft; to look inward, by watching our Hearts, and keeping a Guard over our Thoughts; and outward, by a due regard to our Words and Actions: and laftly, 'tis to look round about us, to prevent Surprize, and to avoid all Affaults. This is the Duty, here requir'd.
Secondly, But what is the Pattern or Precedent here preferib'd? Why that is, Not as Fools, but as Wife. There are fome that wholly neglect their Watch, cafting off all Care and Circumfpection in their Ways, and letting them