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Doubtful Actions Unlawful

Doubtful Actions Unlawful

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Romans xiv. 23. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Romans xiv. 23. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Nov 18, 2013
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DOUBTFUL ACTIOS ULAWFULBY JOB ORTO Romans xiv. 23. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. To " suffer sin upon our neighbour, and not to rebuke him," is, in the judgment of the divine law, to " hate him in our hearts," Lev. xix. 17. If he sinneth ignorantly, it is our duty to inform him; if knowingly, to rebuke him; and this is the best proof of true friendship and a rational love. The Searcher of hearts knoweth that I at all times address you, brethren, from a sincere and fervent concern for your happiness; and never more so, than when I judge it necessary to reprove and rebuke as well as exhort. My design in this discourse is to explain to you that important maxim which the apostle layeth down in the text, and urge your attention to it and remem- brance of it at all times ; as what will be likely to preserve you from many of the temptations of life, and to increase your holi- ness and happiness. As in the apostolic age there were some contentions between the Jewish and gentile converts, about the lawfulness of eating particular kinds of food, St. Paul is, in this chapter, endeavour- ing to heal these contentions, and to promote a peaceful and charitable spirit, and a tender regard to the comfort and edifi- cation of one another. In order to this he lays down some general rules and maxims, which are of great importance and of universal obligation. He gives this reason why they should not censure one another, or impose their own sentiments and practices upon their brethren ; namely, that though the thing in question was either doubtful or indifferent, yet to do it con- trary to a man's own judgment was wrong. " He that doubt- eth," saith he, that is, maketh a difference between the several kinds of food, from a principle of conscience and duty to God, " is damned if he eat," that is, condemned of his own con- science, and exposed to the judgment of God; " because he eateth not of faith," that is, with a firm persuasion of the law- fulness of so doing. And then he adds his reason for that sen-
timent, and lays down a general maxim in the text, that " whatsoever is not of faith is sin." I intend, I. To explain and illustrate this maxim, and II. To add some practical reflections. I. !Zo explain and illustrate the apostle's maxim in the text. The word " faith" in this connexion plainly signifies, a per- suasion of the lawfulness of any action. He that performeth an action without such a persuasion, it is sin ; it is oflensive to God, 120 orton's practical works. and exposeth the offender to his condemnation. There are many practices which are universally allowed to be lawful, and approved as commendable ; many, which eveiy one sees and owns to be wrong and unlawful. The difference of actions is so plain in general, and so naturally and easily perceived by all mankind, that there are very few instances in which the lawful- ness or unlawfulness of an action will admit a doubt. All the open violations of the moral law, the neglect of the most im- portant duties we owe to God, to our neighbour, and to ourselves, every one condemns. But there are some cases in which it may be doubtful whether particular actions are lawful or otherwise; and in such cases the person who acts contrary to his apprehen- sion or suspicion, is guilty of sin. These two remarks will sufficiently illustrate the maxim in the text. 1 . There may be some practices, about the lawfulness of which there may be room to doubt. Concerning which, some, who are sincerely desirous to know and do their duty, may not be able clearly and absolutely to determine whether they are right or wrong. This was the case with regard to the question consi- dered in this chapter; whether such particular food might be lawfully eaten, or whether it were the duty of Christians to ab- stain from it. This doubt sometimes ariseth from the nature of
the things themselves. There may be some lesser matters of the law, concerning which' it may be hard for an honest mind to determine, how far they are at particular times to be observed. It may be difficult to fix a just and determinate boundai-y in some allowable indulgences, and to say when they are moderate and when they are excessive. This doubt may also arise from some ])articular circumstances ; a variety of which may occur, as in the case here stated. A person might lawfully eat any wholesome kind of food, by the allowance of the gospel; but it might be doubtful how far he sliould use that liberty, where either Jews or gentiles might be prejudiced against Christianity, or a fellow- Christian be ensnared by it. It was impossible that the law of God should extend to every minute case, which might be sup- posed to occur, and sometimes doth occur ; and which may create a suspicion in the heart of a Christian of the lawfulness of what he is inclined to do or to enjoy. Sometimes this doubt may arise from ignorance and a want of better information. A person may scruple the lawfulness of some actions or gratifi- cations, which a little more reflection or further information may convince him to be allowable. Sometimes this doubt may arise from observing the behaviour and conduct of others ; espe- cially those of whose integrity and prudence he may have a good opinion. He may imagine an action or indulgence wrong in itself; yet may be led to (jucstion it, when he sees those, for whom he hath an esteem, making no scru|)le of it. This is generally fho case with young people; they are too ready to DIS. XV.] - DOUBTFUL ACTIOS ULAWFUL. 121 fonii themselves upon the model of others, without duly at- tending to the dictates of conscience and the authority of scrip- ture. I observe, 2. Whenever this is the case, a compliance is sinful. He that acteth contrary to his own apprehension, or even suspicion, of the unlawfulness of any indulgence in question, is guilty in the sight of God. Whatever a man doth, which he is not lully persuaded to be lawful, to him it is sin; though to another, who

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