« السابقةمتابعة »
he was form'd; and that as Job fays of them, the rich and the poor *fball lie down alike in the duft, and the worms fhall cover them; fo they were both made together, and the Lord was the maker of them both. He does not think himself the greater favourite of heaven because he poffeffes fo much more of this world than many others do; he knows that these are not the rewards which God referves for those who love him. Outward mercies and temporal enjoyments are scattered by providence, as it were with a careless hand to good and bad men: for as to fuch things, No man knoweth either love or batred by all that is before them. There is one event to the righteous and to the wicked, to the good and to the clean and to the unclean, to him that facrificeth and to him that facrificeth not, as is the good fo is the finner, and he that fweareth as he that feareth an oath. And he confiders befides, with deep humility and forrow, the many fins he is guilty of before God, and therefore whatever wealth or honour he makes a figure with in the fight of men, he knows he is to ftand or fall to another master, and to be judged at the bar of God by other measures, And fuch a man, as this is properly one of thofe poor in fpirit to whom the kingdom of heaven is promised. Riches indeed, as they are generally ufed, carry with them a very different temper, and render those who poffefs them, liable to great temptations and prejudices against the force of true religion: and for this cause I fuppofe it might be that the Church did anciently require their catechumens to profefs their renunciation of the pomps and vanities of the world, which are the great enemies and corrupters of humility, and thereby declared that none are fit to be members of Chrift, and fubjects of his kingdom, but
*Job xxi. 26. † Prov. xxii. 2.
Ecclus. ix. 12.
fuch as are of humble minds, who tho' they may enjoy many things in the world, are not fo fwell'd and puff'd up with them as to value themselves thereupon. But,
2. THE poor in spirit are fuch as are not covetous in their defire, nor penurious in the ufe, of worldly things; who use the world as if they us'd it not*, and live in it fo as if they did not live upon it. The nearest to him who is fo poor as to have nothing, is he who defires nothing, and uses that he has with indifference and moderation. This man remembers the advice of holy David, † If riches encreafe, fet not your heart upon them; and the reafon given for it by Solomon, For riches make themselves wings, they Fy away as an eagle toward heaven. He remembers that a man's life, his fafety and happiness, *confifteth not in the things which he poffeffeth; and therefore (as our Saviour bids him) he takes heed of, and avoids all covetousness. He makes not gold his hope, nor rejoices becaufe his wealth is great, or that his hand bath gotten much; but his care is to use it well, to be rich in good works, ready to diftribute, willing to communicate to fuch as want what he enjoys, laying up in store for himself a good foundation against the time to come, that he may lay hold on eternal life. He fits loofe to all the enjoyments of this world, as having laid up his treafure in a better place; he is not grafping in his defires, he is not fond of his poffeffions; he does not thirst for more than what he has, nor dote upon even that: for he confiders that the love of the world is the great enemy of religion, and the root of all evil, the mother of falfhood and oppreffion, variance and contention; whereas if men would be but perfuaded to regulate their defires, and to be poor in
I Cor. vii. 31. * Luke xii. 15.
† Pfalm lxii. 10. + Prov. xxiii. 5.
† Job xxxi. 24, 25.
that refpect, the religion of Chrift would have opportunity to enter and take poffeffion of their hearts, the government of the world would be eafy, and charity would cement and bind all relations, and all focieties. It is not neceffary that men be poor, in order to be religious; but it is neceffary that they be not covetous, that their riches do not get the command of their bearts, and they be poor at leaft in their defigns, and defires of, and their affections to this world! This is to be poor in fpirit, but fuch a poverty as has annexed to it the trueft riches, that of contentment and repofe, the communication of the fpirit of Chrift, and the rewards of eternal glory.
3. ANOTHER inftance in the defcription and character of the poor in fpirit, is, that they do thankfully acknowledge the good hand and providence of God in what they enjoy. They look not upon themselves as lords, but stewards; and how great foever their outward circumftances be, their minds are as humble and depending, their hearts as full of gratitude and acknowledgment, as if they liv'd upon the daily alms of heaven, the charity of good men. They confider that God is the great over-ruler and difpofer of affairs, that it is in his power to give and to take away, to dif poffefs the rich and to fupply the needy; that they are ftrangers and pilgrims in this world, have nothing they can truly call their own, because they have every thing they enjoy from God, and not from themfelves; and therefore, as the poor man when he receives an alms, acknowledges the goodnefs of the giver, fo he who is poor in fpirit acknowledges the favour and bleffing of God even in his riches, and thankfully owns his dependance upon him, even for his daily bread. *The Lord
1 Sam. ii. 7.
maketh poor and maketh rich, he bringeth low and lifteth up. *Both riches and honour come of him, he ·reigneth over all, and in his hand it is to make great and to give ftrength unto all.
4. THE fourth and laft line in the defcription of the poor in fpirit, is, that they are fuch as have a readiness and difpofition of mind willingly and chearfully to fubmit to a condition of poverty, when it fhall pleafe God to bring it upon them. They look upon themselves in the world as all men are apt at fome times, viz. in wars or great mortalities, when they ftand ready for any event, and difpofe themselves equally for fuffering as for fafety. And indeed this state of mind is very neceffary for the difciples of Chrift: for befides the evils and accidents which fall upon them in common with other men, they are often called to higher acts of fuffering, and expofed to it upon the very account of their religion. † God tempted Abraham with a command of facrificing his fon, that it might appear that pious father of the faithful had a heart difpofed fincerely to obey his will, and fubmit to his providence, tho' with the lofs of what was deareft to him in this life. Our Saviour alfo has declared, that whofoever does not part with father and mother, wife or children, or any other relation or enjoyment, for his fake and the Gofpel, is not worthy to be his follower.
Which is not fo to be understood as if it were neceffary for all his difciples actually to forfake those relations, and to renounce thofe enjoyments; but to frame their hearts to fuch an indifferency towards them, that if they muft either neglect and omit their duty to him, or fuffer the lofs of all, they fhould readily fubmit to suffering; and
† Gen. xxii. 1, 2, 12.
* 1 Chron, xxix. 12.
that as * Abraham went out from his country and his friends, at the command of God, fo they fhould difengage themselves from all the endearments, which, in that ftate of things, fhall prove obftructions to their duty and their religion. +Whofoever (fays our Saviour) will come after me, let bim deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. Now as poverty is one great inftance of the cross, and fubmitting chearfully to it, as to the will of God, a great degree of felf-denial, we muft not, when it falls in our way, be offended at it; but endeavour continually to prepare our minds for it, and fet our felves to acquire that holy ftrength and fortitude which may enable us to bear it, when God fhall think fit to lay that cross upon our fhoulders. Men generally addict themselves with so much eagerness to the gratifying their humour and their delight, that when it comes to the point of felf-denial and forfaking, they are all diforder'd and paffionate, look upon it as unreasonable and intolerable, they murmur at providence, and #charge God foolishly, and too often chufe with Demas to forfake St. Paul, their Duty and their Saviour, than this prefent world: whereas if they were poor in fpirit, in the fenfe here mention'd, they would make a wifer choice: if they had before wrought themselves (as they fhould do) to a readiness and difpofition to bear the cross, they would find the weight much leffen'd when it should be laid upon them, and fay with holy Job, * Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked fhall I return thither ; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; bleed be the name of the Lord..
* Heb. xi. 8. * job i. 21.
† Mark viii. 34.
# Job i. 22.