Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.…
I. THE QUALIFICATIONS AND PROPERTIES OF A ZEAL "ACCORDING TO KNOWLEDGE."
1. That our zeal be right in respect of its object; viz., that those things which we are zealous for be certainly good, and that those things which we are zealous against be certainly evil. Otherwise it is not a heavenly fire, but like the fire of hell, heat without light.
2. That the measure and degree of it must be proportioned to the good or evil of things about which it is conversant. That is an ignorant zeal which is conversant about lesser things and unconcerned for greater. A zealous strictness about external rites and matters of difference, where there is a visible neglect of the substantial duties of religion, is either a gross ignorance of the true nature of religion, or a fulsome hypocrisy.
3. That we pursue it by lawful means and ways. No zeal for God and His glory, for His true Church and religion, will justify the doing of that which is morally evil.
II. BY WHAT MARKS WE MAY KNOW THE ZEAL WHICH IS "NOT ACCORDING TO KNOWLEDGE." It is a zeal without knowledge —
1. That is mistaken in the proper object of it; that calls good evil, and evil good.
2. That is manifestly disproportioned to the good or evil of things about which it is conversant, when there is in men a greater and fiercer zeal for the externals of religion than for the vital and essential parts of it.
3. That is prosecuted by unlawful and unwarrantable means, that, e.g., which warrants the doing of evil that good may come.
4. That is uncharitable, and is an enemy to peace and order, and thinks itself sufficiently warranted to break the peace of the Church upon every scruple.
5. That is furious and cruel, that which St. James tells us tends to " confusion and every evil work."
6. A zeal for ignorance. This is a zeal peculiar to the Church of Rome, which forbids people the use of the Holy Scriptures in a known tongue.
1. If it be so necessary that our zeal be directed by knowledge, this shows us how dangerous a thing zeal is in the weak and ignorant. Zeal is an edge-tool, which children in understanding should not meddle withal. Zeal is only fit for wise men, but it is chiefly in fashion among fools. Nay, it is dangerous in the hands of wise men, and to be kept in with a strict rein, otherwise it will transport them to the doing of undue and irregular things. Moses in a fit of zeal let fall the two tables of the law which he had but just received from God. A true emblem of an ungoverned zeal, in the transport whereof even good men are apt to forget the laws of God.
2. From hence we plainly see that men may do the worst and wickedest things out of a zeal for God and religion. Thus it was among the Jews, who engrossed salvation to themselves, and denied the possibility of it to all the world besides, and the Church of Rome have taken copy by them.
3. Zeal for God and religion does not alter the nature of actions done upon that account. Persecution and murder are damnable sins, and no zeal for God and religion can excuse them.
Parallel VersesKJV: Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.