« AnteriorContinuar »
soever the world would become, were all men influenced by these principles; yet, since they are not, why must we?” Because the whole can be amended only by the separate amendment of each part. “But, you will say, unless the rest will amend, of which, to speak moderately, there is no likelihood in our time, the wickedness and misery of mankind must, if we are to love them so well, and seek their good so earnestly, occasion us much fruitless pain, innumerable disappointments and melancholy reflections.” Why, so it will, if we engage in too great, or too difficult, or too many undertakings; if we raise our expectations too high; or suffer opposition, either to kindle us into vehemence, or plunge us into despair. But we may go on very comfortably, if we preserve the true temper : exerting a calm settled benevolence on all fit occasions, because we ought; without hoping to succeed very often, or to produce on the whole any remarkable change for the better : but labouring the more constantly for this very reason, that not a little of what we do will, to all appearance, with respect to others, be labour lost. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not, whether shall prosper, this, or that: or whether they both shall be alike good*. But thus much we know however, that the seemingly most unprofitable exercises of kindness will not only be of unspeakable benefit to ourselves in the upshot, which might surely, suffice us, but will prove some means in the hands of divine wisdom for bringing forth at length general good out of all evil. Being therefore thus labourers together with Godt, why should we not be happy in our proportion; as he is perfectly, notwithstanding the i Eccl. xi. 6.
+ 1 Cor. iii. 9.
failure of his gracious purposes towards a world, which he loves infinitely better, than the best of us can? But you will argue further yet : “ Whatever
« Whatever peace we may have within, we shall have none without, but be laughed at for poor tame wretches, and trampled on securely.” No such thing. Though few may imitate you, very few will in earnest despise you, and fewer still attack you in any material point. Love to all men cannot often provoke any man. And in case of assault, you are not forbidden the just methods of self-preservation; you are commanded to be prudent as well as harmless*: you have the laws to protect you : all the good to support you, from inclination; and most of the bad, if for no better a reason, yet lest they should suffer next. You will scruple, I own, taking some advantages, by which they often succeed: but you will also avoid some disadvantages, by which they are often ruined. And, besides human helps, you will have the providence of God on your side, both to defend you and perhaps to reward you openly even here. Or, should he see it best for you to go without temporal recompenses, nay to suffer temporal inconveniences ever so grievous: bear but all patiently from a sense of duty to Him, and be filled with consolation in this world, and assured of glory in that which is to come.
Trust him therefore boldly with the absolute direction of your hearts and lives. Let those, who resolve to be too cunning for their Maker, suppress and extinguish every friendly sentiment in their breasts, be blind and deaf to the distresses of all around them, pursue with unrelenting fervour their own interests,
Matth. X. 16.
their own pleasures, their own schemes of malevolence, hateful and hating one another* But let us be simple concerning evil, and wise only unto that which is goodt: shew mercy with cheerfulness, love without dissimulation, be kindly affectioned, in honour preferring one another, distributing to the necessities of the saints : rejoice with them that rejoice, weep with them that weep; be not high-minded, but condescend to men of low estate I: look with pleasure on the virtues, the accomplishments, the success of others; be slow to believe their faults, think of them with concern, and treat them with mildness: love even our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us, and persecute us. For so shall we be the children of our Father, which is in Heaven; who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust ş.
1+ Rom. xvi. 19. | Rom. xii. 8-16.
Matth. v. 44, 45.
* Tit. iii. S.
MATTH. IV. l.
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilder
ness, to be tempted of the devil.
As the word of God acquaints us with many things of great importance, concerning our present and future condition, which we could not else have known: so it opens to us particularly, a very interesting scene,
, in the discoveries which it makes of our connexions with the inhabitants of the invisible world, both good and bad. Indeed, that various orders of rational beings besides man, and superior to him, exist in this universe, is of itself extremely probable. That some, even of the highest of them, should become wicked, is only a wonder of the same kind, as that too many of the best abilities amongst men should make the worst use of them. That for their wickedness they should be cast down* from their first estatet, and confined to a very different one, is a natural consequence of the divine justice and rectitude. That, though sufferers already for their crimes, they should yet be reserved unto the severer judgment of the great day, is but just the very thing that reason teaches concerning the sinners of the human race also. That they should be desirous in the mean time of seducing us into transgression, is very natural: for we see the profligate amongst ourselves desirous every day of doing the like. That this should be possible for them, * 2 Pet. ii. 4.
+ Jude 6.
is by no means inconceivable: for, since the material frame of our earth is confessedly liable to powerful influences from other parts of the creation, why may not the intelligent natures in it be so too? That evil spirits should be permitted to assault us in a degree consistent with our freedom of will, is evidently as reconcileable both to the holiness and goodness of God, as that we are suffered to tempt one another, often perhaps full as dangerously. That they should be capable of conveying their suggestions to us, and we not know their manner of doing it, can hardly be called strange: for we scarce know the manner how any one thing in the world is done, if we examine it to the bottom; not even how we convey our own thoughts to those with whom we converse. And that we should be exposed to these temptations, without perceiving them to proceed from any such cause, is far from incredible : for we are frequently influenced, and strongly too, by persons of no higher powers and abilities than ourselves, without perceiving that they influence us at all.
But, though every one of these things is rationally supposeable, yet Scripture only can satisfy us, that they are true in fact: and so accordingly it fully doth. For though it tells us, that bad angels are held in everlasting chains under darkness*, it tells us likewise, that our adversary the devil as a roaring lion walketh about, meaning, doubtless, within the extent of his chain, seeking whom he may devour f. And yet, even after the testimony of Scripture given to these doctrines; as they relate to matters which lie out of sight, and therefore affect the mind but faintly, unless the truth and importance of them be carefully impressed upon it, we receive them too commonly • Jude 6.
+ 1 Pet. v. 8.