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The Great Needfulness of

Seeking Christ and His Word

rather than

His Competitors and their Flocks.

Being the Conclusion of Sermon 37

By James Renwick.

Canticles 1.7:

Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?

Sermon Text Recording: 48 Min. 17 Sec.

X Editor’s Introduction.

Whose leading and voice do you prefer to follow? — That of the Good Shepherd? or his companions and competitors?  The hearing of unfaithful ministers of religion has often been a stumbling-block to the sheep of Jesus Christ.  After the reformation of religion was overthrown in the late 1600s, and one schism after another divided the churches of the reformation, it became increasingly needful for faithful Christians to consider carefully which ministers they should hear.  At the same time, it became a greater obligation for faithful ministers to pronounce and give instruction about which ministers should or should not be heard.

Seeking to help his Scottish brethren during the era of persecution in the late 1600s, John Brown of Wamphray published reasons why conscientious Christians should not attend the preaching of episcopal curates, and also reasons to decline the preaching of compromised Presbyterians who had been indulged or allowed to preach by the state.  James Renwick, a soon-to-be martyr in the decade following also gave instruction on the matter.

After these men, the Reformed Presbyterians of the 1700s and 1800s also warned of the sin and danger of hearing schismatic preachers or attending heretical teaching.  Their rule against “occasional hearing” of unfaithful teachers became a matter of reproach by a generation of professing Christians who were increasingly indifferent to the importance of sound doctrine, and the danger of unsound doctrine.  On the other hand, others have rushed into extremes, imagining that Gospel instruction by an official ministry is no institution of Christ, or else condemning all pastors and preachers generally, without considering their actual faithfulness individually.

In his own time, Mr. Renwick acknowledged himself as having been once at fault in this last regard: that he had expressed himself as if it were a scandal to hear any of the ministers of Scotland without distinction, or without classing them into several ranks, to be considered and withdrawn from with caution, as necessitating grounds are found for each. (See Shield’s “Life and Death of James Renwick” page 73, edition 1806.)

Consequently, a reader with a hasty disposition is likely to find the method below to be a little tedious.  But it is here Mr. Renwick’s care to give his warnings and exhortations with a caution that both directs believers into sound paths, and also renders to each man his due, neither confounding hirelings with wolves, nor confounding stumbling-shepherds with hirelings.  The same approach will be useful in our own day, and Mr. Renwick’s description of the categories of the “companions” or competitors of Christ will not be unuseful in identifying which parties and ministers should be avoided at present, although particular names of 21st-century schisms could not be listed at the time of this sermon.


A THIRD thing in the words, ye know, was the reason or argument whereby the spouse enforceth her petition; for why, says she, should I be as one that turns aside after the flocks of thy companions?  Many doctrines might be drawn from this; but I shall only lay down this general and comprehensive one.

DOCTRINE. As Christ hath many companions, who may lead away in greater or lesser measure from him; so believers care should be, not to turn aside after them, but to carry a holy indignation against such an evil. {467}

This is all clear from the text; for the bride here supposeth that Christ hath companions, and that they have flocks following them; and her saying, Why should I be as one that turns aside after them? shows her averseness from her iniquity.

In the opening up of the words, I was showing you what was to be understood by companions, viz. Every thing that is set up beside Christ, or esteemed above him, as lust and idols.  (But I shall not go out here upon these, having already insisted upon that doctrine, about setting your love upon Christ.)  Also, everyone that leads people away from Christ, as heretics; and, in general, all who lead people from their integrity, into any course of error or defection from Christ, who are in so far his companions.  But, in speaking a little to the doctrine, I shall endeavor to show you,

I. Some companions that Christ hath in the land, of whom we would beware, and after whom ye would not turn aside.

II. I shall show you somewhat of the necessity of standing at a due distance from their flocks.

III. Some helps to avoid the evil of their way.  And so I shall close.

I. As to the first, viz. These companions, they are indeed of vastly different sorts and sizes; and seeing the bride’s reason here doth comprehend all, whom to follow, were to turn aside:

I must not only speak a word of gross heresy, and departing from the fundamentals of salvation, and of the detestable backsliding, as it occurs to this purpose, which hath been carried on in the land now for many years, by wicked and cruel laws: But also, of the defection of others; some of whom otherwise I love, reverence, and esteem, as great and godly.  And,

First, These must be reckoned Christ’s companions, who lead people into a total abnegation or denial of the offices of Christ.  These are gross hereticks indeed, and such are Papists.  They lead people into the abnegation of the prophetical office of Christ, whereby he teacheth by his word and Spirit; for, they prefer and obtrude their own traditions above the word of God; they deny the use of his word to the laity, or these that have no office in their antichristian, ecclesiastic tyranny; holding that ignorance is the mother of devotion: They place an infallibility in their church; some in the Pope alone, whom they will have to be an unerring prophet: some in the pope together with a general council: But, however they may differ about the subject of this infallibility, they generally all hold it to be in their whorish church.  They lead people unto the abnegation of the priestly office of Christ; for, they obtrude upon them the doctrine of self-righteousness, {468} and meriting by their own works, and so they plainly say, That the sacrifice of himself, which Christ once offered for the satisfaction of divine justice, and our reconciliation to God, was in vain.  But I need to use no other argument to confute their doctrine of merit, but to shew you what is required in a work before it can be meritorious.  As,

1. This is required in it, that it be a work merely of the creature’s own working: But no work, or action of a creature can be said to be of their own working, because it is the Lord alone that worketh in them, both to will and to do. [Phil. 2.13.]

2. This is required in it, That it be a work which the worker oweth not, and is under no obligation to do; whereas let a Christian do all the good he can, he is infinitely short of what is due: Let him do his utmost, he is but an unprofitable servant, as our Lord hath taught us. [Luke 17.10.]  I may use a homely comparison: — There is a debtor, and he oweth to his creditor a great sum of money, and he hath nothing to pay with, but his creditor pitieth, and giveth him some pounds or talents to trade withal.  Now, what think ye, doth the poor debtor merit any thing at the creditor’s hand, who bringeth an inconsiderable gain to him, of his own money, after he was turned bankrupt?

3. This is required in it, That there be a proportion between the work and the reward.  Now, what proportion can there be, think ye, between any thing ye can do, and eternal happiness?  Yea, instead of meriting eternal salvation by any good, that is in a good work, there is so much evil in the best of men’s works, as would deserve eternal damnation, if God should enter into judgment with them.  Now, what think ye of the doctrine of merit?  Ye may read the epistle to the Romans, and there ye will see the conceit of it fully and clearly confuted.  I know ye will all profess to be even down against this heresy.  But, ah! many of you are papists in your practice; even as many of you as go about to establish your own righteousness, by resting on your own performances and attainments.

But, moreover, they lead people unto an abnegation or denial of the priestly office of Christ, by setting up other intercessors or mediators beside him, as angels or saints.  They say, that as we cannot have immediate access unto an earthly king without his courtiers, so we are to judge the like in our approaches to God.  But, it is bad arguing from the customs of the courts of men, to the way of our access unto the court of heaven: This is their carnality and ignorance.  Importunity is readily counted impertinency with men, but it is well pleasing unto God. [Luke 11.8,9; Luke 18.1-8.]  Let them pretend what humility or reverence they will, for this their idolatry, their way is condemned, {469} and their practice refuted by the Holy Ghost, Col. 2.18, Let no man beguile you in your reward, in a voluntary humility, and worshipping of angels; intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puft up by his fleshly mind.  We see, Rev. 19.10, and 22.8, when John, through that mistake, fell down at the feet of an angel to worship him, and he peremptorily forbade John, saying, See thou do it not.  And, Acts 10.25,26, When Cornelius met Peter, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him, Peter refused, and said, Stand up, I myself also am a man.  Our Lord shews us, Matth. 4.10, That thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.  It is our comfort that our Mediator, Christ Jesus, knows all our cases and necessities, and that he can sufficiently help them.  He is both our advocate and judge; and we need not fear that our cause shall miscarry with him: And to employ any other intercessors were to give them that worship and glory which is only due unto God, and to derogate greatly from the priestly office of Christ.

These blasphemous papists lead people unto an abnegation of the kingly office of Christ; for they set up the pope, whose name is blasphemy, as head of the church: They reject the doctrine of Christ, and obtrude their own antichristian and heretical traditions: They reject Christ’s institution of his sacraments, turning his baptism unto the vilest superstition, and his supper into the grossest of idolatry, obtruding for it their mass; and asserting the bread and wine to be really transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ; and adding unto these five others of their own carnal and accursed invention.  They reject the worship of Christ, and obtrude their own idolatries, superstitions, and insignificant teaching human ceremonies.  They reject the discipline of Christ, and obtrude their own popish penances, and blasphemous pardons.  They reject the government of Christ, and obtrude their own tyrannical hierarchy, with a monstrous number of antichristian orders.  O! my friends, consider their damnable way, and what a height they are come unto in the land.  Popery hath got up into the throne, and into many places of power and trust.  And ye must resolve either to yield unto their keys, or be pursued by their sword.  Some folk were saying, that through this course of revolt from the Lord, they could never see a head of suffering;[1]; but, if we were come to popery, they would stand then.  O! remember, He that is faithful in little, will also be faithful in much; and he that is unfaithful in little, will not be faithful in much. [cp. Luke 16.10.]  I shall not say, but many that have conformed with prelacy, may suffer ere they embrace popery; but I would have carnal professors, who have been convinced of the evil of prelacy, and yet not {470} thought it to have been a head of suffering, to be afraid to think, how far they may be justly left of God.  Many of you are expecting peace, and gaping after a liberty.  O! infatuated fools! what do ye expect from men, who know not what it is to keep [faith] either to God or man?  What can ye expect from men, whose principles lead them neither to give faith to, nor keep faith with protestants, whom they call hereticks.  It may be observed through the passages of their cruelties and treacheries, that they have had the most bloody designs, when they have given forth liberties, and published proclamations, promises, and protestations of favour: I may instance for this, the bloody and never-to-be-forgotten massacre of Paris, which was carried on in this wise.

The popish French king, that he might ensnare and destroy the protestants, would needs give his sister in marriage to the king of Navarre, a good and protestant prince; making open profession and protestation that he did, not so much give her unto the king, as to the whole protestation church, and that it might be a mean of conciliating an inviolable peace between him and protestants: And the French admiral, Coligne, who had greatly maintained the civil war in France, for the protestant interest, was invited to the marriage, and allowed to bring with him fifty well armed gentlemen for his guard; and kindly welcomed by the French king, who called him father, and gave him an hundred thousand Frenchmen, for the reparation of that loss he had sustained by that war; and in the mean time, by the allowance and instigation of the French king and queen, the duke of Guise assaults the admiral’s chamber in the night, and murders him; And then he, and the duke of Anjou, together with threescore thousand papists, well armed within the city, at the ringing of the royal-bell, killed and massacred the protestants, noblemen, gentlemen, ministers, and commons of all sorts, without any respect to quality, age, or sex; so that in the space of one night, and two days, there were ten thousand cruelly murdered: All the king of Navarre his attendants were killed in this fatal butchery; only himself and the prince of Conde spared, who were threatened either to embrace popery, or lose their lives, who, notwithstanding, remained stedfast in their religion.  I may give you a more recent instance than this; and that is of the Piedmonders, the reliques of the old Waldenses, who this last year, being forced to defend themselves by war against some Savoyan and French forces, did wonderfully prosper and succeed, which the enemy perceiving, did offer peace unto them, and liberty to enjoy their religion and possessions, if they would lay down their arms; which condition, alas! they presently embraced, except a very few: so, their arms being laid down, the treacherous and {471} cruel enemy presently assaulted them, stripping them naked and dragging them into prisons, where many thousands were killed with hunger and cold, and they brought almost to nought.

Other instances I could give you, but time will not allow.  O! my friends, ye may see how bad it is to trust enemies.  I have observed through several passages of history, that the greatest calamity hath come upon the church, when the enemies pretended and professed that they should have peace and liberty:  And greatest skaith hath come to church by trusting them; therefore, ye would mind our Lord’s warning us to beware of men. [Matth. 10.17.]  O! will ye come to this, friends, not to trust enemies?  When they professed to be friends to us, and did swear to maintain the religion which we own this day, how did they treacherously break the covenant? and from that day, have persecuted us for continuing in the oath of God, which they themselves are obliged to as well as we.  And will ye now trust them when they profess to be adversaries?  When they professed friendship they did not give us peace, and I count it a mark of a spirit plagued of God, to expect it from them now.  No, no: It will be better for you, to be preparing for a bloody winding-sheet; for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of this land, and he will bring a sword upon them, which shall lay cities and countrysides waste and desolate.

Secondly, These must be reckoned Christ’s companions, who lead people unto the abnegation of any one office of Christ, as the prelatick party, who lead people unto the denial of his kingly office.  He is alone king over his own church, Psalm 2.6, I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.  And, Eph. 1.22, All things are under his feet; and he is given to be head over all things to the church.  And accordingly he hath given ordinances to his church, and set officers in her, Eph. 4.11.  1 Cor. 12.28.  But this wicked prelatick party puts him down from his royal throne, and introduces into his church officers that he never appointed: they bring in arch-bishops, bishops, deans, etc. which are among the orders of antichrist; they deny the divine warrant of a ruling elder in the church, and lay him aside from judicatories; they throw all power of government out of the hand of the poor curates, and put that over upon their proud bishops; and they again must be countable to the civil power whose creatures they are; and instead of receiving and observing the full prescriptions which Christ hath given for regulating his ministry, they receive and observe the orders of parliament and council: And so this is not only a diocesan, but also an erastian prelacy.  O! what shall I say! look to them in their entry, and there ye will see them robbers and {472} thieves: Look to them in their doctrine, and there you will see them hugely erroneous: Look to them in their worship, and there you will see them greatly superstitious: Look to them in their government, and there you will see them antichristian: Look to them in their walk, and there you will see them for the most part profane: Look to the cause they propagate, and ye will see that to be black perjury, gross darkness, overspreading profanity, and rebellion against God.  Wherefore, I say, as ye would not incur the wrath of GOD, go not along with the flocks of these companions, but come out from their kirks: And seeing they will go on in an accursed way, let them go alone, we cannot help it; but go not ye along with them.

Thirdly, The spouse having her eye upon every one who might lead her unto any course of error or defection, whoever they were as to their persons and state; therefore, I must here reckon in this third place, these to be, in so far companions of Christ, in respect of their course, who lead people to own what the word of God, and their national church, doth condemn; Ezek. 13.10, They have seduced my people; and one built up a wall, and another daubed it with untempered mortar, Such are these ministers, who counsel or teach the lawfulness, or toleration of hearing curates, these strangers whom Christ’s sheep should not follow, John 10.5, and which is condemned by our covenants and acts of assemblies; or who counsel or teach the lawfulness, or toleration, of paying the cesses, and other exactions to the enemies, which is a seeking their peace and prosperity, forbidden, Deut. 33.6.  And which is a strengthening of the hands of the wicked, that he return not from his wicked way, which is challenged Ezek. 13.22, and which is condemned by the act of our assembly, for censuring compliers with the enemies of this church and kingdom; or, who counsel or teach the lawfulness, or toleration, of swearing sinful oaths, and subscribing the iniquitous bonds of the time; contrary to the word of God, Deut. 7.2, Thou shalt make no covenant with them; and Jer. 4.2, Thou shalt swear the Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness.  And contrary to that act of our assembly, discharging the members of this church [from] the embracing of all new oaths and bonds in the common cause, imposed without the consent of this church, as they would not incur the wrath of God, and the censure of the kirk.  Now these be who they will, ye would not follow for they will lead you from your integrity; Their instruction will cause you to err from the words of knowledge, Prov. 19.27.

Fourthly, I must reckon these to be in so far Christ’s companions, in respect of their course, who lead people to condemn what they are bound to own by the word of God, and {473} by the constitutions, and attained-to reformation of their own church: This is not to hold fast that we have already received, Rev. 5.25; nor to walk by the same rule, and mind the same thing, whereto we have already attained, Phil. 3.16.  Such are these ministers, who counsel or teach people to relinquish any of the truths which we are bound to contend or suffer for, by the objective tie of the word of God, and the subjective tie of our holy covenants; who do condemn the heads of our martyrs’ sufferings: And, who do press a relinquishing and discountenancing of these, who, in their places and stations, are helped more faithfully to carry on the testimony to the reformation: For, as different ages and distinct churches have different and distinct words of testimony, so whatever truths ye are called either to deny, or to suffer, be faithful in them, and count none of them small: It was this for which the church of Pergamus was commended, Rev. 2.13, I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is; and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my truths, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, were Satan dwelleth.  For this also was the church of Philadelphia commended, Rev. 3.8, Thou hast a little strength and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name: And it is added, verse 10, Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them which are upon the earth.  Now these ministers ye are to beware of, and not to follow; they will lead you from your integrity, their instruction also causeth you to err. [Prov. 19.27.]  In these things they bring not the doctrine of the present word of Christ’s patience; and therefore ye are not to receive them, and bid them God speed, in that work of their counselling and teaching, 2 John verses 10, 11.

Fifthly, There are some who may be called indirect or interpretative companions of Christ, in respect of their course: These are they who do not lead people themselves into error or defection; but lay them open, or leave them to be led aside by others.  As

1. They who do not give them warning of the palpable sins and snares of the time; when as a great part of their charge is to keep people right in dangerous times, Eph. 4.12-16.  They are commanded, To cry aloud and not to spare, and to lift their voice like a trumpet, and show people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins, Isa. 58.1.  Paul had another testimony of their conscience than they can have, when he says, Acts 20.20, I have kept back nothing that was profitable unto you; and verses 26,27, I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men; for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God{474} Now, such are these ministers who have not warned people of the sin of prelacy, indulgence, sinful oaths, and bonds, cess, and other sinful exactions: All which have been particularly witnessed against, by so many faithful ambassadors of Christ within this land; but these being so unfaithful for their commission, and highly censurable by an act of assembly, for ambiguous speaking, and not making particular application to the sins of the time, and for defrauding of souls, as being pleasers of men, rather than servants of Christ, I cannot see how ye can, with a safe conscience, follow them; sad experience lets us see the bad consequences of countenancing such; for, thereby people become once indifferent as to the public sins, and then give up contending against them.  And

2. They may be called indirect or interpretative companions of Christ, in respect of their course, who leave the public work, and desist from the exercise of their office.  Paul durst not have done so, for he saith, 1 Corin. 9.16, Though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of, for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.  This is the practice of a hireling, John 10.12.  He that is a hireling, and not the shepherd, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth his sheep and fleeth.  And though some have not altogether forborne preaching, yet the way of their going about it, hath been as the putting a candle under a bushel. Matth. 5.15.  Alas! how little warning hath the land got of the current of the times’ corruptions, these sundry years by-past, when compliance therewith was most pressed, and yielded unto?  I cannot but testify against this, considering what the Lord saith to Ezekiel, chapter 34.2, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?  O that they would consider what is said, Ezek. 33.2.  Now, consider how unfaithful these are in their commission; and that they come under the lash of that censure appointed by the Lord for disorderly walkers, 2 Thess. 3.6, which disorderly walking was their not working, verse 11.  From these we are commanded to withdraw, as verse 6.  For it is a great disorder not to work the work of the Lord.  The greater the work of a man’s calling be, the greater is his scandal in not working it.  I cannot see how ye can countenance them, who are thus chargeable, though they should now preach unto you, until they duly resent their sinful, shameful, and offensive neglect.  Ministers should not carry, as if eventual providence gave them their commission, and preach only in times of least hazard; for, it is given them in commission, to be instant in season and out of season, 2 Tim. 4.2.  There are some appearing more in the public work than formerly; and I wish it be with no eye to this expected liberty.[2]  I know many of you will say, they notice {475} it not, and they come not under the covert and colour of it.  I wish it may be so; and I shall tell you how I think it may be known.

(1.) If they have a conscional testimony against it; and in their preaching, warn people what may be the enemies’ bad designs in it, and the sin of any who embrace and accept it.

(2.) If they give a practical testimony against it; that is, if they in their practice observe none of the limitations wherewith that law may be restricted.

Hence I cannot see how the proclamation that did tolerate fire-side preachings, and discharge preaching in out houses and fields, can be testified for by these ministers, who preach ordinarily and habitually in fire houses, yea, let me tell you, that field preachings is a greater testimony than is well-considered; for being discharged [forbidden] by the enemies of our Lord’s crown, it becomes to us a case of confession.  They count it rebellion, we should testify that we hold it is no rebellion; for it is a worshipping and serving of the Lord in that way, which in the present circumstances, is most for the advancement of his kingdom; as is manifest, by far more having access, than otherwise, unto the gospel; yea, it is a practical asserting of this principle, That God is to be worshipped every where, [John 4.21, 1 Tim. 2.8]: That place is an indifferent circumstance in the worship of God; and that we are no more to be restricted now, than in the days of Christ and his apostles.

Now, ye are not to think it strange, that I reckon these who warn not the people of the palpable sins of their day; or, who leave the public work, to be indirect and interpretative companions of Christ, in respect of their course; for supposing that they lead not people to own what they should condemn, or to condemn what they should own; yet they lay people open, and leave them to others to be laid aside: It is to be remembered what our Lord saith, He that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad, [Matt. 12.30]; That is he who doth not what he is called unto, for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, is culpable with its hindrance; the tempers of people wedded and addicted to the carnal interests, are such that they are but wanting for the direct or indirect toleration, or allowing ministers for their own strengthening of their own corrupt courses, that they may go on with the more confidence and less shame: But, I say, these especially, who by office are called to endeavour the preventing of people’s straying, and yet do it not, will be found chargeable with their iniquity.

II. The second thing proponed to be spoken to from these doctrine was somewhat of the necessity of standing at a due distance from the flocks of Christ’s companions, and not turning aside after them.  I hope, I need not shew the necessity of standing aloof from popery, which is a mass and complex {476} of blasphemy, idolatry, heresy, superstition, cruelty, and rebellion.  I hope also, that the duty of leaving the prelates and their curates, is also clear to the most part of you: But, whoever are engaged in, and carrying on a course of defection ought to be discountenanced by you, whatever esteem you may have of their persons.  There are sundry the goodness and graciousness of whose state, we do not doubt, neither are we to meddle with it, for it is the secret of God; but because the badness of their way, we cannot go alongst with them: I say whoever are engaged in, and carrying on a course of defection, these ye ought to discountenance, till they resent and relinquish that way: Somewhat of the necessity of this may appear, from these few things following.

First, It is necessary, lest otherwise ye partake of their sin, 2 John verse 11, He that biddeth them God speed, is partaker of their evil deeds.  There is no other way for you in this day, to be free of strengthening their hands in their evil way.

Secondly, It is necessary, lest otherwise ye receive of their punishment, Lev. 16.14,15,17, If ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments, but break my covenant, I will also do this unto you, I will even appoint over you terror, etc. and ye shall be slain before your enemies: And if ye will not, for all these, hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me, then I will walk contrary unto you, also in fury, and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins: Wherefore, we must come out from amongst them, and not touch the unclean thing, 2 Cor. 6.17.  When we find a curse threatened in scripture, we dare not walk with men in that course, for fear of the threatening.

Thirdly, It is necessary that we may thereby propagate the testimony of our day.  I see not how we can carry it on by concurring with these who pervert it, or contradict it, or desert it.

Fourthly, This is a way to obtain the promised mercy, Ezek. 13.23, “ Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations; for I will deliver my people out of your hand, and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”  Some will say, That they who thus discountenance any going on in defection, do take upon them the inflicting of a censure.  But I say, not so; they may testify the sense they have of the equity of the censure, whensoever rightly and duly inflicted: And I may say, upon the other hand, that these who concur with them do rather (according to their way of argumenting) absolve and loose them from a censure; than these who refuse concurrence do inflict it: And it is an act of kindness to discountenance a man, when he goes on in a censurable way: For, it is a mean to reclaim him. {477}

III. The third thing was, some helps to avoid the evil of their ways.  As,

1. Ye are to be afraid of the evil that is in it.  The spouse was thus, when she enforceth her petition with this reason, “Why should I be as one that turns aside by the flocks of thy companions?”  Fear of an ill is a very great help to avoid it.

2. Ye are to be sensible of your propensity to concur with them who are going in a course of defection: This was in the spouse, as is clear both from her suit and argument enforcing it: therefore she seems to have her eyes not mostly upon Christ’s wicked and worse companions; for though she abhorred their way most, yet she would find in herself least propensity to follow it: But upon these, whoever they were after whom she might most readily turn aside.

3. Ye are to have a holy indignation against every evil course of error, and defection: This was in the spouse, for she says, “Why should I be as one that turns aside:”  And in the psalmist, for he says, “I hate every false way.”

4. Ye are to pray to the Lord for leading in right and straight paths; so doth the spouse; her saying, “Tell me where thou feedest, etc.”  And when ye pray, see that your hearts be not cleaving to your own ways, and that you be willing to be determined by God according to his word.

5. Ye are to depend upon Christ for leading: He is given to be a leader unto you, and ye must hang upon him for it: Ye must pray for it, and wait for the return.  O! He is a true guide; he is an unerring guide.  See that ye put yourselves in his leading, who can guide you in the time of greatest distraction, confusion, and darkness; and who can cause you escape snares, and avoid every turning: O! get all of you your love set upon lovely Christ, and let it be your care to eschew sinning; and whatsoever searching time of persecution ye be trysted with [met with], ye shall be led to these cool refreshings, where he makes his flocks to rest at noon.

Now, my friends, I desire you to make a right use of what I have been saying, for, as I dare not study to please men, otherwise I could not be a servant of Christ, so I have neither designed nor desired to irritate any of you: (far be that from me); It is your good I am seeking: But I have studied to sist [summon, present] myself under my master’s eye, and to discharge my duty freely and plainly unto you, that I may have peace, when I shall answer for this night’s work: And I know not how soon it may be.


1. That is to say, through the many previous years of oppression by Charles II and demands of complying with the Episcopal worship, such persons thought there was no “head of suffering’ or matter of testimony-bearing that Christians should consider their duty.  Mr. Renwick anticipates that some such persons would not be able to see a “head of suffering” even if the new demands for compliance by James VII would involve conformity to Papist practice.  If their hearts consult the interest of the flesh when tempted to a lesser sin, it is likely their hearts will still consult the interest of the flesh when tempted to a greater sin.—JTK.

2. During the era of persecution in the second half of the 1600s, various indulgences or opportunities for “liberty” were given by allowance from Charles II and James VII.  The last of these which Renwick had opportunity to testify against was the “Toleration” by James VII.  Although the word “Toleration” sounds appealing to a reader of history, those who lived through the time, and found such state favors to be designed for overthrowing sound religion in culture and society, could take no comfort in the various favors of indulgence and toleration which were promoted.  Sound religion was not helped by them, and too often the moral and religious health of the nation received an injury by them.  This is seen in our own day, when the national policies of “religious freedom” tend to facilitate the growth of irreligion and immorality in nations of people who would much benefit from some moral restraint, positive direction to love their Maker, and informative instruction on how this must be demonstrated.—JTK.