صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

fering, gentleness, goodness, meekness," as the apostle speaks. It is ordered to the glory of Christ, and honour of Christianity, when, by our moderation, we adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, "being blameless, and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, shining as lights in the world."

For this end it is, that the apostle requireth this moderation of theirs" to be known," not as the philosophers and heathen showed their virtues for vain-glory, ostentation, and interest, as "Gloria animalia, et negociatores famæ," as Tertullian calls them; but that others, "seeing our good works, may glorify God in the day of visitation." For if they who profess obedience to the rule of Christ in the gospel, live dissonantly from the prescripts of that rule; they do not only harden wicked men in their sins, but expose the name of God and his doctrine unto reproach: as the apostle teacheth, Rom. ii. 23, 24. 1 Tim. vi. 1: as Nathan told David, that, by his sin, he had caused the enemies of God to blaspheme.' (2 Sam. xii. 14) So perverse and illogical is malice, as to charge those sins, which are aberrations from the doctrine of Christianity, upon the doctrine itself, as genuine products and consequences thereof. The moralist hath observed, that the antient Grecians called a man pāra, that is, light; teaching him so to live as to be a light unto others. Sure I am, the apostle hath told us, that though we were, by nature, darkness, yet we are light in the Lord;" and therefore should walk as children of light,' and' shine as lights in the world.' (Eph. v. 8. Phil. ii. 5)

Lastly; As it must be known,' so universally known 'unto all men.' It must be without hypocrisy; not attempered to interests and designs, like the devotion of the Pharisees, who, for a pretence, made long prayers; like the civilities of Absalom and Otho, of whom the historian saith, that he did" adorare vulgum, jacere oscula, et omnia serviliter pro dominatione." It must be without partiality, not varied or diversified according to the differences of persons, with whom we have to do. "We Christians," saith Tertullian, “Nullum bonum sub exceptione personarum administramus." It must be known to our brethren, that they may be edified. It must be known to our enemies, that their prejudices may be removed, their mouths stopped, their hostilities abated, and their hearts mollified and persuaded to

entertain more just and honourable thoughts of those precepts of the gospel, by which our conversations are directed.

Many and weighty are the arguments, which might be used to persuade all sober, pious, and prudent Christians unto the practice of this most excellent grace. They may be drawn from our great exemplar and pattern; whom though we find once with a curse against a barren fig-tree, once with a scourge against profaners of his Father's house, once with woes against malicious and incorrigible Scribes and Pharisees, yet generally all his sermons were blessings; all his miracles, mercies; all his conversation meek, lowly, humble, gentle; not suited so much to the greatness and dignity of his divine person, as the economy of his office, wherein he "made himself of no reputation, but took upon him the form of a servant."

From a principal character of a disciple of Christ, humility and self-denial; which teacheth us not only to moderate, but to abandon our own judgements, wills, passions, interests, whenever they stand in competition with the glory of Christ, and welfare of his church, which maketh "the same mind be in us which was in Christ Jesus; to look not every man on his own things, but every man on the things of others." From the credit and honour of Christianity, which is greatly beautified by the meekness and moderation of those that profess it. Hereby we walk worthy of our calling; or as those who make it their work to show forth the worth and dignity of the Christian profession, when we walk in lowliness, meekness, long-suffering, unity, and love.' (Eph. iv. 1, 2,3) As the splendour of a prince's court is set forth by the robes and fine raiments of their servants, (Matth. xi. 8) so the servants of Christ show forth the honour and excellency of their Lord, by being clothed with humility,' (1 Pet. v. 5) and decked with the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.' (1 Pet. iii. 4)


[ocr errors]

From the breaches, divisions, and discomposures, which are at any time in the church or state: towards the healing of which distempers, moderation, meekness, and humility, do exceedingly conduce. Though sharp things are used to search wounds, yet balm and lenitives are the medicines that

a 2 Sam. xiii. 18.

heal them; as mortar, a soft thing, is used to knit and bind other things together. It is observed by Socrates and Nicephorus, of Proclus, patriarch of Constantinople, that being a man of singular lenity and meekness, he did thereby preserve entire the dignity of the church; and, by his special prudence, healed a very great division in the church, bringing back unto communion thereof those, who had departed from it.

From the various vicissitudes and inconstancies of human events; whereby many times it cometh to pass, that things which for the present are judged very needful and profitable, prove inconvenient and dangerous for the future; as Polybius hath observed. Hereby we may, in all conditions, be taught moderation; not to faint or be dejected in the day of adversity, because God can raise us again; nor to swell or wax impotent with prosperity, because God can as easily depress us. It was a wise speech of the Lacedæmonian ambassadors unto the Athenians, in Thucydides, "That they who have had many alternations and vicissitudes of good and evil, cannot but deem it equal to be ἀπιστόταμοι ταῖς εὐπραγίαις, diffident and moderate in their prosperity :" as Cænus the Macedonian said unto Alexander, that nothing did better become him than ἡ ἐν τῷ εὐτυχεῖν σωφροσύνη, as Arrian tells us. And so, on the other hand, this grace of moderation doth so poise and balance the heart with Christian constancy and courage, that it is not easily tossed or overturned by any tempest: but, as they say of the palm-tree, beareth up above all the difficulties that would depressit :—as good Jehoshaphat, when he was distressed with a great multitude of adversaries, said in his prayer to God, "We have no might against this great company that cometh against us, neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon thee.” (2 Chron. xx. 12)

Lastly, From the nearness of Christ, which is the apostle's argument in the text, "The Lord is at hand."- Prope ad auxilium,' near to help us; "The Lord is nigh unto all that call upon him." (Psalm cxlv. 18. Deut. iv. 7) We have no sufficiency of ourselves to improve any talent, to manage any condition, to use our knowledge or liberty, our power or prosperity, to the honour of God, or service of his church; no power to rejoice in adversity, to forgive injury, to correct the exorbitancy of any inordinate and irregular passion.

[blocks in formation]

Only we have a 'Loid near' unto us; his eye upon us to see our wants; his ear open to hear our desires; his grace present to assist our duties; his comforts at hand to support our hearts; his power and providence continually ready to protect our persons, to vindicate our innocence, to allay the wrath, and rebuke the attempts of any that would harm us. This is one principal cause of all our impatience and perturbation, that we are so soon shaken and discomposed with every temptation, so soon opposed with every difficulty, that we do soon despond under every storm, because we do not, with an eye of faith, look up unto God as one that careth for us, and is ever near at hand as a sun and a shield, a sanctuary and a hiding-place, to secure us against all our fears.

'Prope ad judicium,' near to judge us; to take a full and impartial review of all that is done to us, and accordingly to recompense either rest or trouble,' as the apostle speaks. This is a fundamental doctrine which we all avow as an article of the Christian faith, (Acts xvii. 13. Rom. xiv. 10. 2 Cor. v. 10) that Christ shall come as the ordained officer, to whom all judgement is committed, in flaming fire, attended with all the holy angels, (Matth. xxv. 21. 2 Thess. i. 7, 8. Jude x. 14, 15) to give righteous and impartial, and final doom and state unto the everlasting condition of all men. Before whose most dreadful tribunal we must all appear, stripped of all our wealth, honours, dignities, retinues, accompanied with nothing but our consciences, and our works, whether good or evil, to bear witness of us; and there receive a proportionable sentence to the things which we have done; holy men, a sentence of absolution and mercy, for the manifestation of God's glorious grace, when he shall come to be magnified in his saints, and admired in all those that believe:wicked men, a sentence of rejection and everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, for the manifestation of his glorious power and justice; when all the devils in hell and powers of darkness shall be brought altogether, and be trodden down under his feet; when all the low and narrow interests of secular wealth, pleasures, power, and greatness which short-sighted men so passionately dote upon, and so eagerly pursue, shall, to their everlasting disappointment, be swallowed up in the general conflagration, and so vanish for

ever-when the poor and pitiful artifices, whereby angry mortals do countermine and supplant one another, and mutually project each others' vexations, shall, to the confusion of the contrivers, be detected and derided:-In a word, when nothing that ever we have done, shall afford benefit or comfort to us, any further than as it was, with a single and upright aim, directed to the glory of God, and managed by the law of love.

Certainly this is one principal reason of all immoderation amongst men, of despondence in adversity, of insolence in prosperity, of excess in delights, of perturbation in passions, of vindictive retaliations; one principal reason why they do not, with a single eye and an unbiassed heart, manage all their actions and designs to the glory of God, the credit of the gospel, the interest of Christianity, the edification and salvation of the souls of men, but often suffer weak passions, prejudices, interests, to state, model, and over-rule their designs; the reason, I say, of all is, because the terror of the Lord hath not persuaded them, because they are not sufficiently awed with the all-seeing Eye, and near approach of the Lord of Glory; before whom all their ways are naked, with whom all their sins are laid up in store, and sealed amongst his treasures. Let us therefore seriously resolve to regulate all our actions by our great account; to say with Job, "What shall I do, when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him ?" (Job xxxi. 13) He hath entrusted me with many talents, with a rich treasure of power and interest, of wisdom and honour, of wealth and learning; he hath deposited with me the custody of his eternal gospel, the grand interests of the church of Christ, and of the precious souls which he redeemed with his own blood. God forbid that I should ever suffer any immoderate passions, or prejudices, or partialities, or low and narrow interests of mine own, so far to transport me, as that I should betray so great a trust, and provoke the wrath of so holy and just a Judge. God enable me, with that equanimity and singleness of heart, without hypocrisy, and without partiality, with a direct eye to the glory of God, the kingdom of Christ, the edification and peace of his church, the flourishing of his gospel, and the prosperity of the souls of his people,-so to discharge every trust reposed in me, as that I may be able

« السابقةمتابعة »