George Whitefield Sermon 10

A Preservative against unsettled Notions, and want of Principles, in regard to Righteousness and Christian Perfection. Being a more particular answer

to Doctor Trapp's Four Sermons upon the same text.

[Ecclesiastes 7:16, "Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over

wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?"]

To all the Members of Christ's Holy Church.

Dear Fellow Christians,

The great, and indeed the only motive which prompted me to publish

this sermon, was the desire of providing for your security from error, at a

time when the deviators from, and false pretenders to truth, are so

numerous, that the most discerning find it a matter of the greatest

difficulty to avoid being led astray by one or by other into downright

falsehood. There is no running divisions upon truth; like a mathematical

point, it will neither admit of subtraction nor addition: And as it is

indivisible in its nature, there is no splitting the difference, where

truth is concerned. Irreligion and enthusiasm are diametrical opposites,

and true piety between both, like the center of an infinite line, is at an

equal infinite distance from the one and the other, and therefore can never

admit of a coalition with either. The one erring by defect, the other by

excess. But whether we err by defect, or excess, is of little importance,

if we are equally wide of the mark, as we certainly are in either case. For

whatever is less than truth, cannot be truth; and whatever is more than

true must be false.

Wherefore, as the whole of this great nation seams now more than ever

in danger of being hurried into one or the other of these equally

pernicious extremes, irreligion or fanaticism, I thought myself more than

ordinarily obliged to rouse your, perhaps drowsy vigilance, by warning you

of the nearness of your peril; cautioning you from leaning towards either

side, though but to peep at the slippery precipice; and stepping between

you and error, before it comes nigh enough to grapple with you. The happy

medium of true Christian piety, in which it has pleased the mercy of God to

establish you, is built on a firm rock, "and the gates of hell shall never

prevail against it." While then you stand steadily upright in the fullness

of the faith, falsehood and sin shall labor in vain to approach you;

whereas, the least familiarity with error, will make you giddy, and if once

you stagger in principles, your ruin is almost inevitable.

But not I have cautioned you of the danger you are in from the enemies

who threaten your subversion, I hope your own watchfulness will be

sufficient to guard you from any surprise. And from their own assaults you

have nothing to fear, since while you persist in the firm resolution,

through God's grace, to keep them out, irreligion and enthusiasm, falsehood

and vice, impiety and false piety, will combine in vain to force an

entrance into your hearts.

Take then, my dearly beloved fellow members of Christ's mystical body,

take the friendly caution I give you in good part, and endeavor to profit

by it: attend wholly to the saving truths I here deliver to you, and per

persuaded, that they are uttered by one who has your eternal salvation as

much at heart as his own.

"And thou, O Lord Jesus Christ, fountain of all truth, whence all

wisdom flows, open the understandings of thy people to the light of thy

true faith, and touch their hearts with thy grace, that they may both be

able to see, and willing to perform what thou requirest of them. Drive away

from us every cloud of error and perversity; guard us alike from irreligion

and false pretensions to piety; and lead us on perpetually towards that

perfection to which thou hast taught us to aspire; that keeping us here in

a constant imitation of thee, and peaceful union which each other, thou

mayest at length bring us to that everlasting glory, which thou hast

promised to all such as shall endeavor to be perfect, even as the Father

who is in heaven is perfect, who with thee and the Holy Ghost lives and

reigns one God, world without end! Amen, Amen.


Ecclesiastes 7:16, "Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over

wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?"

Righteousness over-much! May one say; Is there any danger of that? Is it

even possible? Can we be too good? If we give any credit to the express

word of God, we cannot be too good, we cannot be righteous over-much. The

injunction given by God to Abraham is very strong: "Walk before me, and be

thou perfect." The same he again lays upon all Israel, in the eighteenth of

Deuteronomy: "Thou shalt be perfect, and without blemish, with the Lord thy

God." And lest any should think to excuse themselves from this obligation,

by saying, it ceased when the old law was abolished, our blessed Savior

ratified and explained it: "Be ye, therefore, perfect, even as your Father

who is in heaven is perfect." So that until our perfection surpasses that

of our heavenly Father, we can never be too good nor righteous over-much;

and as it is impossible we should ever surpass, or even come up to him in

the perfection of goodness and righteousness, it follows in course that we

never can be good or righteous in excess. Nevertheless Doctor Trapp has

found out that we may be righteous over-much, and has taken no small pains,

with much agitation of spirit, to prove that it is a great folly and

weakness, nay, a great sin. "O Lord! Rebuke thou his spirit, and grant that

this false doctrine may not be published to his confusion in the day of


But if what this hasty, this deluded man advances had been true, could

there be any occasion, however, of warning against it in these times, "when

the danger (as he himself to his confusion owns) is on the contrary

extreme; when all manner of vice and wickedness abounds to a degree almost

unheard of?" I answer for the present, that "there must be heresies amongst

you, that they who are approved may be made manifest."

However, this earthly-minded minister of a new gospel, has taken a

text which seems to favor his naughty purpose, of weaning the well-disposed

little ones of Christ from that perfect purity of heart and spirit, which

is necessary to all such as mean to live to our Lord Jesus. O Lord, what

shall become of thy flock, when their shepherds betray them into the hands

of the ravenous wolf! When a minister of thy word perverts it to overthrow

thy kingdom, and to destroy scripture with scripture!

Solomon, in the person of a desponding, ignorant, indolent liver

(resident), says to the man of righteousness: "Be not righteous over-much,

neither make thyself overwise: Why shouldest thou destroy thyself?" But

must my angry, over-sighted brother Trapp, therefore, personate a character

so unbecoming his function, merely to overthrow the express injunction of

the Lord to us; which obliges us never to give over pursuing and thirsting

after the perfect righteousness of Christ, until we rest in him? Father,

forgive him, for he knows not what he says!

What advantage might not Satan gain over the elect, if the false

construction, put upon this text by that unseeing teacher, should prevail!

Yet though he blushes not to assist Satan to bruise our heel, I shall

endeavor to bruise the heads of both, by showing,

I. FIRST, The genuine sense of the text in question.

II. The character of the persons, who are to be supposed speaking

here: And

III. The character of the persons spoken to.

From whence will naturally result these consequences.

FIRST, That the Doctor was grossly (Lord grant he was not maliciously)

mistaken in his explanatory sermon on this text, as well as in the

application of it.

SECONDLY, That he is a teacher and approver of worldly maxims.

THIRDLY, That he is of course an enemy to perfect righteousness in

men, through Christ Jesus, and, therefore, no friend to Christ: And

therefore, that no one ought to be deluded by the false doctrine he

advances, to beguile the innocent, and deceive, if possible, even the


I. To come at the true sense of the text in question, it will be

necessary to look back, to the preceding verse, where the wise man,

reflecting on the vanities of his youth, puts on for a moment his former

character. "All things, have I seen in the days of my vanity: (and among

the rest) there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and

there is a wicked man who prolongeth his life in his wickedness." Now it is

very plain, that he is not here talking of a man, who is righteous over-

much, in the Doctor's manner of understanding the words, that is, "faulty,

and criminal by excess." For on one side he commends him for being a just

man, and full of righteousness, and yet on the other tells us, that his

righteousness is the shortening of his life. Whereas, had he looked upon

his perishing in righteousness to be an over-righteousness, he would never

have called him a just man. Neither by a wicked man, can he mean a man

given up to the utmost excess of wickedness, since he tells us, that he

prolongeth his life in (or by) his wickedness. Who does not know, that the

excess of almost every kind of vice, is of itself a shortener of life. So

that the whole opposition and contrast lies between a good man, and a bad

man. A good man whose goodness shortens his life, and bad man whose

iniquity lengthens his life, or at least is not excessive enough to shorten

the thread of it. Solomon, absorbed in these reflections, speaks here by

way of prosopopeia, not the sense of Solomon, the experienced, the learned,

the wise; but of the former Solomon, a vain young fellow, full of self-

love, and the strong desires of life. In the quality of such a one then, he

looks with the same eye upon the righteous man, who perishes in his

righteousness, as he would on a wicked one, who should perish in his

wickedness. For it is neither the righteousness of the one, nor the

wickedness of the other, that offends him, but the superlative degrees of

both; which tending equally to shorten life, he looks upon them as equally

opposite to the self-love he fondles within him. And, therefore, he deems

an excess of debauchery as great an enemy to the lasting enjoyment of the

pleasures of life, as an extraordinary righteousness would be. Well then

might he say to the latter, in this character, "Be not over-much wicked,

neither be thou foolish; why shouldst thou die before thy time?" And to the

former: "Be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself over-wise: Why

shouldst thou destroy thyself?"

What wonder then, that a youth of sprightliness and sense, but led

away by self-love to be fond of the pleasures and enjoyments of life, when

attained without hurry, and possessed without risk; what wonder, I say,

that such a youth should conceive an equal dislike to the superlative

degrees of virtue and vice, and, therefore, advise such of his companions

as give into the excess of debauchery, to refrain from it: as it must

infallibly tend to clog their understandings, stupify their senses, and

entail upon their constitutions a train of infirmities, which cannot but

debilitate their natural vigor, and shorten their days? "Be not over-much

wicked, neither be thou foolish: Why shouldst thou die before thy time?"

What wonder, that the same self-love should prompt him to dissuade such of

his friends or acquaintance, as he wishes to have for companions, and

countenancers of his worldly-minded pursuits, from pursuing righteousness

and wisdom to a degree that must destroy in them all taste of earthly

pleasures, and may possibly impair their constitutions, and forward their

end? "Be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself overwise: Why

shouldst thou destroy thyself?"

This is the sense in which Solomon (placing himself in the state of

vanity of his youth) speaks to the one, and the other: to the righteous,

and to the ungodly. This is the true, genuine sense of the letter; and

every other sense put upon it, is false and groundless, and wrested rather

to pervert than explain the truth of the text. O Christian simplicity,

whither art thou fled? Why will not the clergy speak truth? And why must

this false prophet suffer thy people, O Lord, to believe a lie? They have

held the truth in unrighteousness. Raise up, I beseech thee, O Lord, some

true pastors, who may acquaint them with the nature and necessity of

perfect righteousness, and lead them to that love of Christian perfection

which the angry-minded, pleasure-taking Doctor Trapp, labors to divert them

from, by teaching, that "all Christians must have to do with some


Is not the meaning of this text plain to the weakest capacity? I have

here given it to you, as I have it from the mouth of the royal preacher

himself. I have made use of no "philosophy and vain deceit after the

tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ,"

to impose a fleshly sense upon you, for the sense of the word of God. No, I

have given you a natural exposition obvious from the very words themselves.

Hence you may see, my fellow-strugglers in righteousness, how grossly our

angry adversary is mistaken in his explanation of this text. Lord! Open his

eyes, and touch his heart; and convert him, and all those erring ministers,

who have seen vain and foolish things for thy people, and have not

discovered their iniquity, to turn away thy captivity. For they have erred

through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way! The priest and

the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine,

they are out of the way through strong drink, they err in vision, they

stumble in judgment.

It is plain from the words of the text, that the royal Preacher was

speaking in the person of a vain worldling, when he said, "Be not righteous

over-much;" whereby he meant to exhort the truly righteous not to be

dismayed, terrified, or disturbed from their constant pursuit of greater

and greater perfection of righteousness, until they rest in Christ;

notwithstanding the derision, fleshly persuasion, ill-treatment and

persecution of worldly men: Who, one day, repenting and groaning for

anguish of spirit, shall say within themselves, "These were they whom we

had sometimes in derision, and a proverb of reproach. We fools, accounted

their lives madness; and their end to be without honor. How are they

numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints!"

How blind then is the application (not to say perverse) which this

self-wise clergyman makes from the text, to such as, following the advice

of the apostle (Coloss. 3:2) "set their affections on things above, not on

things on the earth." Must hastiness in anger get the better of sense and

truth? Must the people be misled because the pastor cannot, or will not

see? Or must the injunction of Christ, "Be perfect, even as your Father,

who is in heaven, is perfect," give place to the maxim of the heathen

Tully: The greatest reproach to a philosopher, is to confute his doctrine

by his practice; if this be the case, alas, what a deplorable, unspeakably

deplorable condition is that of some Christians? Wherefore, "thus saith the

Lord concerning the prophets who make his people to err, that bite with

their teeth and cry peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they

even prepare war against him: therefore night shall be unto you, that ye

shall not have a vision, and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not

divine, and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be

dark over them.

But I will leave these lovers of darkness, and turn to you, O beloved,

elect of God! I beseech you, by the bowels of Christ, suffer not yourselves

to be deceived by their flattering, sin-soothing speeches. "Be not of that

rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of

the Lord: who say to the seers, see not; and to the prophets, prophesy not

unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits."

Follow not those, who flatter you in the vanities they practice themselves.

O may you never be of the number of those, in the person of whom Solomon

here says, "Be not righteous over-much;" for their character is the

character of the beast.

II. The character of the persons, who are to be supposed speaking here

in the text, is in a word the same with the character of those whom Solomon

here personates: who, as is already shown, are a vain set of men, neither

righteous enough to have an habitual desire of improving virtue to its

perfection, nor quite so flagitious [sinful, unlawful, wicked] as to give

into self-destroying vices: in a word, they are self-lovers, the sole end

of whose pursuits, whether indifferent, bad, or laudable in themselves, is

self-enjoyment. Insomuch that they look upon virtue and vice, righteousness

and wickedness, with the same eye, and their fondness of aversion for both

is alike, as their different degrees appear to be the means to enhance and

prolong the enjoyment of pleasure, or to lessen and shorten those

pleasures. Thus any virtue, while it is kept within such bounds as may

render it subservient to the pleasurable degrees of vice, will meet with no

opposition from them; on the contrary, they will even commend it. But the

moment it becomes a restraint to vice in moderation (if I may be allowed to

make use of terms adequate to their system) from that moment it gives

offense, and they put it in their caveat, "Be not righteous over-much." In

like manner, vice, while confined to certain limits, which rather improve

than obstruct pleasures ,is with them a desirable good; but no sooner does

it launch out into any depth, sufficient to drown and diminish the relish

of those pleasures, than they declare open war against it; "Be not over-

much wicked." And the reason they assign for their opposition in both

cases, is the same: "why shouldst thou destroy thyself? Why shouldst thou

die before thy time?" Such is the prudence of the world, the flesh, and the

devil. Such the maxims of these refined libertines, so much that more

dangerous as they are less obvious; so much the more insinuating, as they

are removed from certain extra-vagancies capable of shocking every man who

has the least sense and delicacy. O Lord, how true is it, that the sons of

darkness are wiser in their generation than the sons of light!

You are not then, beloved in the Lord, to imagine that your greatest

opposition, in struggling for perfect righteousness, is to come from

profligates, from men whose enormous vices create horror even to

themselves: no, your most dangerous, most formidable enemies, are the kind

of men I have painted to you, who render vice relishable with a mixture of

apparent virtue, and clothe wickedness in the apparel of righteousness;

"Beware of them, for they come to you in the clothing of sheep, but

inwardly are ravenous wolves."

This perverse generation will ensnare you into ungodliness, by seeming

oppositions to vice, and allow you to swallow the seemings of virtue and

righteousness like an emetic, only to puke forth the reality of them. They

paint black, white, and the white they convert into black. Not content with

seeming what they are not, they labor to make you, what they are.

Righteousness and wickedness they interweave in an artful tissue, capable

of deceiving the very elect, and difficult for the most discerning among

them to unravel; as almsgiving and avarice, pride and humility, temperance

and luxury, are dexterously blended together; while as mutual curbs to each

other, they combine to stem the tide of impediments to worldly enjoyment,

which might flow from extraordinary degrees on either side. Thus

"Almsgiving (you are told) is very excellent," and you believe the

proposition, without knowing the particular sense it is spoken in, which

is, that alms-giving is an excellent curb upon avarice, by preserving a

rich man from such a superlative love of money as deprives him of the self-

enjoyment of it. And upon the strength of this belief, the worldly-minded

man, who labors to deceive you, gains credit enough with you to establish

this maxim, that all superlative degrees of alms-giving, are GREAT SINS,

and that a man must never sell all he has and give it to the poor, because

some may have families of their own, and ought to make sufficient provision

for them, according to that proverb, "Charity begins at home;" when no one,

at least scarce any one, is wise enough to know, when he has a sufficiency.

O Lord, which are we to believe, these worldlings, or thee? If thou dost

deceive us, why dost thou threaten us with punishments, if we do not heed

thee? And if the world is deceitful, shall we not flee from it to cleave to


"Pride is a great sin" even with these worldlings, inasmuch as the

external excesses of it, may obstruct the way to many ambitious

terminations of view, and its internal agitations are the destruction of

that peace, to which even self-love aspires; besides, the frequent

extravagancy of its motions may not only be prejudicial to health, but a

shortner of life. And, therefore, no wonder they should object against it,

"Be not over much wicked: why shouldst thou die before thy time?" For this

reason, they look upon a little mixture of humility to be not only

commendable, but even necessary to cub the extravagant follies of an over-

bearing pride. But then a superlative degree of humility, that is, humility

free from the least tincture of pride or vanity, which is the same with

them, as "an over-strained humility, is a fault as well as folly;" because,

forsooth, it is an expediment to the self-enjoyment of the world and its

pleasures; "All Christians must have to do with some vanities, or else they

must needs go out of the world indeed; for the world itself is all over

vanity." `Tis nothing, therefore, surprising, my brethren, to see a man of

this cast of mind making a vain ostentation (act of display, show) of his

little superficial acquaintance, with the ancient Greeks and Romans. What

is this but acting conformably to his own principle, that "all Christians

must have to do with some vanities?" And shall we wonder to hear such a one

prefer their writings, to those of an apostle; or be astonished to see him

wound the apostle with raillery, (good-natured ridicule) through your

sides, for wishing to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified? No,

with him it is consistency to laugh and reprove you out of the perfection

of righteousness, which, however he may play with terms, is with him the

same as being righteousness over-much; but with you it would be

inconsistency, who ought to know no difference between being righteous, and

living in a perpetual, habitual desire of being superlatively so. It is no

more than, than you ought to expect to hear such advocates for the world

cry out to you, "Be not righteous over-much: why should you destroy

yourselves?" But, O Lord, surely this is not the same voice which tells us,

that unless we humble ourselves like unto children, we shall not enter into

the kingdom of heaven, and that he is greatest there, who humbles himself

the most like a child! But what will not men advance who are drunk with

passion, and intoxicated with self-love?

"The vice of intemperance in eating, and drinking, is plain to

everybody," they own. And, therefore, they give it up as an excess which

cannot but tend to the impairing of health, and shortening of life: nay, it

drowns the very relish of pleasure in actual eating and drinking. Hence

will every refined debauchee exclaim against it with Dr. Trapp: "Be not

over much wicked: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" Little sobriety, say

they, is requisite to give a zest to luxury and worldly pleasures. But too

much of it is too much, "to eat nothing but bread and herbs, and drink

nothing but water, unless there be a particular reason for it (such perhaps

as Doctor Cheyne may assign) is folly at best (that is, even though it be

done for Christ's sake) therefore no virtue:" "Be not then righteous over-

much, why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" And if you should answer those

carnally-minded men with the words of the apostle, Rom. 8, "We are debtors,

not to the flesh, to live after the flesh; For if we live after the flesh,

we shall die: but if we, through the spirit, do mortify the deeds of the

flesh, we shall live." If you answer them thus, they will tell you, this is

teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." And it will be to as

little purpose to answer them, with what St. Paul says elsewhere (Rom.

14:17) "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and

peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost:" They will not blush to tell you, that

"our blessed Savior came eating and drinking, nay worked a miracle to make

wind (at an entertainment) when it is plain there had been more drank than

was necessary." To such lengths does the love of the world hurry these

self-fond, merry-making worldlings! Tell them of self-denial, they will not

hear you, it is an encroachment upon the pleasures of life, and may shorten

it of a few days, which you are never sure of possessing; it is being

"righteous over-much: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" Jesus, you will

say, tells us (John 12:25) "He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he

that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal." But

this and the like, they will inform you, "are hyperbolical phrases." Now

what signifies minding Jesus, when he speaks hyperbolically, that is,

speaks more than is strictly true. Yet, O Lord Jesus, grant us to mind

thee, whatever these worldlings may say; remind us, that if any man will

come after thee, he must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow

thee! O how enlarging is it to the soul, to take up the cross of Christ and

follow him!

But you are charged, ye beloved lovers of perfect righteousness, with

extravagances. You allow of "no sort of recreation or diversion; nothing

but an universal mortification and self-denial; no pleasure but from

religion only:" you teach "that the bodily appetites must not be in the

least degree gratified, any farther than is absolutely necessary to keep

body and soul together, and mankind in being: No allowances are to be made

for melancholy misfortunes, or human infirmity: grief must be cured only by

prayer;" (a horrid grievance this, to such as think prayer burdensome at

best) "To divert it by worldly amusements is carnal." A heavy charge this:

but left it should seem so only to those carnal persons, who are resolved

to give way to their carnal appetites; what you look upon as advisable

only, these perverters of truth insinuate to be looked upon by you as

indispensable duties. And lest prevarication should fail, downright

falsehoods must be placed to your account, "so that to taste an agreeable

fruit, or smell to a rose, must be unlawful with you," however you disown

it. But O, my beloved Christians, be not discouraged from the pursuit of

perfect righteousness by these or such vile misrepresentations. For

"blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and shall say all manner of evil

against you falsely for the sake of Christ Jesus. Rejoice, and be exceeding

glad: For great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the

prophets who were before you."

Thus far, then, may suffice to show clearly with what dangerous views

the worldly-minded men, whom Solomon personates in the text before us, lay

siege to your souls in fair speeches. What I have said, is enough to

convince you, that their character is that of the beast, whom St. John, in

the Revelations, "saw coming up from the sea (that is, the flagitious

[sinful, unlawful, wicked] world) with seven heads." And what shall we say

of a man, a clergyman, who teaches, and is an advocate for their perverse

doctrines? May we not, nay, must we not, for the glory of God, and your

good, inform you, that he is a "Teacher and approver of worldly maxims."

May I not, nay, must I not, give you this caution with the royal preacher:

"When he speaketh fair, believer him not, for there are seven abominations

in his heart?" But how different is the character I have given you, from

the character of the persons to whom the text under consideration is

spoken! That is, the character of all such, as, like you, are resolved

never to rest, `till they rest in Christ Jesus. To show this, I shall now

pass to my third point.

III. To what sort of persons does Solomon in the character of a

worldling address himself, when he says, "Be not righteous over-much,

neither make thyself over-wise: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" Not to

the wicked, `tis plain; for besides that it would have been an unnecessary

precaution, he turns to these in the next verse with another kind of

warning, which however has some analogy with this. "Be not over-much

wicked, neither be thou foolish, why shouldst thou die before thy time?"

Was it then to the righteous, in a common way; that is, to such as content

themselves with the observance of the absolute essentials of God's laws?

Surely our adversaries will not allow this, unless they be of opinion, that

to be righteous at all, is to be righteous over-much. And yet it cannot

possibly be supposed that the persons spoken to, are men perfectly

righteous; since, as I proved to you, in the introduction of this

discourse, till we come up to the perfection of our heavenly father, we can

never be righteous enough, much less perfectly righteous: wherefore, as in

this life, men cannot attain to the perfection of their heavenly father, it

follows in course that the persons here spoken to, cannot be men perfectly

righteous, there being no such men existing; for as St. John saith, "If we

say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

Alas, O Lord, when shall we be delivered from the body of this death?

It remains, that the persons spoken to, in the text, are such only, as

persisting steadfastly in a firm adherence to all the essential laws of

God, content not themselves with the practice of common virtues in a common

degree, but live in a perpetual habitude of desires, struggles, and

yearnings towards an intimate union with Christ, the perfection of

righteousness. They are not of the number of those righteous with

indifference, who would fain blend the service of God and mammon, would

fain have Christ and the world for their masters, and halting between two,

like the children of Israel of old, with their faces to heaven, and their

hearts to the earth, are neither hot nor cold. Alas, would they were cold

or hot! But "because they are luke-warm, and neither cold nor hot, the Lord

shall spew the out of his mouth."

Not so the persons spoken to in my text; not so you, O beloved in God,

who having shaken off the world and worldly affection; to run the more

swiftly after righteousness, hate your own lives for the sake of Christ.

Happy, happy are all you, who put on our Lord Jesus, and with him the new

man! "You are the true circumcision which worship God in spirit, and

rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."

What wonder then, Christians! To you I speak, all ye lovers and

strugglers after the perfect righteousness of your divine Master Christ;

what wonder is it, that you should be charged with enthusiasm, with folly,

with fanaticism and madness? Were not the apostles so before you, when they

preached Christ Jesus? Nay were they not reputed drunk with wine? Can you

be amazed at it in an age, "when all manner of vice abounds to a degree

almost unheard of," when the land is full of adulterers, and because of

swearing the land mourneth. O how is the faithful city become an harlot! My

heart within me is broken, because of the clergy, all my bones shake? I am

like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome; because of the

Lord, and because of the words of his holiness, perverted by this deluded


When the clergy, whom Christ has appointed to teach his people "to

walk before him and be perfect," become teachers of worldly maxims, what

can be expected from the laity? It is notorious, that for the moralizing

iniquity of the priest, the land mourns. They have preached and lived many

sincere persons out of the church of England. They endeavor to make you

vain: (as the prophets did in the day of Jeremiah) they speak a vision out

of their own mouth, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. In a word, "both

prophet and priest are profane, and do wickedness in the very house of the

Lord." Nay, they say still to them who despise the Lord, The Lord hath

said, Ye shall have peace; and they say to every one who walketh after the

imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.

Such is the language, my beloved lovers of Christian perfection, which

the indolent, earthly-minded, pleasure-taking clergy of the church of

England, use to strengthen the hands of evil-doers, that none may return

from his wickedness. Such is the doctrine of the letter-learned divine, who

has dipped his pen in gall, to decry perfect righteousness, and to delude

you from it, with a false application of that text so greatly misunderstood

by him: "Be not righteous over-much, neither be thou over-wise: why

shouldst thou destroy thyself?" But suffer not yourselves, my fellow-

Christians, to be deluded by him. For as I have already shown to you, he is

grossly (Lord grant he was not maliciously) mistaken in his manner of

explaining this text; and so far from making a right application of it

according to the wise, the experienced Solomon's intention, he acts the

character of a vain libertine, full of self-love, and earthly desires, whom

Solomon but personates, to ridicule. But the doctor by realizing that

character is himself, becomes the teacher and approver of worldly maxims,

which he applies to you, on purpose to destroy in you the yearnings after

perfect righteousness in Christ. May I not then, nay, must I not warn you,

my beloved, that this man is an enemy to perfect righteousness in men

through Christ Jesus, and, therefore, no friend to Christ? O that my head

was an ocean, and my eyes fountains of tears, to weep night and day for

this poor creature, this hood-winked member of the clergy.

Pray you, O true Christians, pray and sigh mightily to the Lord;

importune him in the behalf of this erring pastor; pray that he would

vouchsafe to open the eyes, and touch the stubborn heart of this scribe,

that he may become better instructed. Otherwise, as the Lord said by the

mouth of his true prophet Jeremiah, "Behold, I will feed him with wormwood,

and make him drink the water of gall; for from him is profaneness gone

forth into all the land."

This good, however, hath he done by attempting to show the folly, sin,

and danger of that which he miscalls being righteous over-much, that is,

being superlatively righteous, in desire and habitual struggles; he has

thereby given me the occasion to show you, brethren, in the course of this

sermon, the great and real folly, sin, and danger of not being righteous

enough; which, perhaps, I should never have thought of doing, had not this

false doctrine pointed out to me the necessity of doing it. Thus does the

all-wise providence of God, make use of the very vices of men to draw good

out of evil; and choose their very errors to confound falsehood and make

way for truth. Though this should be more than our angry adversary

intended, yet, Lord, reward him according to his works: and suffer him no

longer to be hasty in his words, that we may have room to entertain better

hopes of him for the future.

Blessed be God for sending you better guides! I am convinced it was

his divine will: our dear fellow-creature, Doctor Trapp, falling to such

errors, has given so great a shock to the sound religion of Christian

perfection, that unless I had opposed him, I verily believe the whole flock

who listened to his doctrine, would have been scattered abroad like sheep

having no shepherd. "But woe to you scribes and Pharisees! Woe be unto the

pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, saith the Lord."

Full well I know that this sermon will not be pleasing to my poor

peevish adversary; but correction is not to pleasure but to profit: few

children can be brought willingly to kiss the rod which rebuketh them;

though, when they become of riper understanding, they will bless the hand

that guided them. Thus shall this angry man, I trust, thank me one day for

reproving him, when his reason shall be restored to him by the light of the

Holy Spirit. O Lord, grant thou this light unto him, and suffer him to see

with what bowels of pity and tenderness I love him in thee, even while I

chasten him.

Neither am I insensible, brethren, how offensive my words will be to

worldlings in general, who loving falsehood better than truth, and the

flesh before the spirit will still prefer the doctor's sin-soothing

doctrines to the plain gospel verities preached by me. O how my soul pities

them. But I have done my duty, I wash my hands, and am innocent of the

blood of all. I have not fought to please my hearers, but have spoken plain

truth though it should offend. For what things were gain to me, those I

counted loss for Christ; and hope I shall ever do so. Not that I presume to

think myself already perfect. But "I press towards the mark, for the prize

of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

None of us, as I before told you, can boast of having attained the

summit of perfection; though, he is the nearest to it, who is widest from

the appetites of the flesh, and he stands the highest, who is the lowliest

in his own esteem: wherefore, as many of us as have made any advances

towards Christ and his kingdom, "whereto we have already attained, let us

walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing."

Walk not then, brethren, according to the ways of the world: but be

followers of Christ together with me. And if any, even an angel of light,

should presume to teach you any other gospel than that which I have here

taught you, let him be accursed. "For you will find many walking, like such

of whom I have told you already, and now tell you weeping, that they are

the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is

their belly: and whose glory is in their shame, for they mind worldly

things. But your conversation is in heaven, from whcnce also you look for

the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change your vile bodies, that

they may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working

whereby he is able to subdue even all things unto himself," even the

stubborn heart of our perverse adversary.

Which God of his infinite mercy grant, &c.