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of the same eternal seed, children of the same heavenly Father, and joint-heirs of the same glorious inheritance. Christian charity hath a more noble principle than the affections of nature, for it proceeds from the love of God shed abroad in believers, to make them of one heart and one soul : and a more divine pattern, the example of Christ, who hath by his sufferings restored us to the favour of God, that we should love one another as he hath loved us. This duty is most strictly enjoined, for without love angelical eloquence is but an empty noise, and all other virtues have but a false lustre; prophecy, faith, knowledge, miracles, the highest outward acts of charity or self-denial, the giving of our estates to the poor, or bodies to martyrdom, are neither pleasing to God, nor profitable to him that does them, 1 Cor. xiii.
Besides, that special branch of love, the forgiving of injuries, is the peculiar law of our Saviour; for the whole world consents to the returning of evil for evil. The vicious love of ourselves makes us very sensible; and according to our perverse judgments, to revenge an injury seems as just as to requite a benefit. From hence revenge is the most rebellious and obstinate passion. An offence remains as a thorn in the mind, that inflames and torments it, till it is appeased by a vindication. It is more difficult to overcome the Spirit, than to gain a battle. We are apt to revolve in our thoughts injuries that have been done to us, and after a long distance of time the memory represents them as fresh as at the first. Now the gospel commands a hearty and entire forgiveness of injuries, though repeated never so often, to “seventy times seven ;” and allows not the least liberty of private revenges. We must not only quench the fire of anger, but kindle the fire of love towards our greatest enemies. I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you,” Matt. v. 44. This is urged from the consideration of God's forgiving us, who being infinitely provoked, yet pardons innumerable faults to us, moved only by his merey, Col. iii. 13. And how reasonable is it that we should at his command remit a few faults to our brethren? To extinguish the strong inclination that is in corrupt nature to revenge, our Saviour hath suspended the promise of pardon to us upon our pardoning others; “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses,” Matt. vi. 14. He that is cruel to another cannot expect mercy, but in every prayer to God, indicts himself, and virtually pronounces his own condemnation.
(4.) The gospel enjoins contentment in every state, which is our great duty and felicity, mainly influential upon our whole life to prevent both sin and misery. " Be content with such things as ye have, for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,* Heb. xiii. 5. It forbids all murmurings against providence, which is the seed of rebellion, and all anxious thoughts concerning things future, “ Take no thought for the morrow,” Matt. vi. 34.-We should not anticipate evils by our apprehensions and fears, they come fast enough; nor retain their afflicting memory to imbitter our lives, they stay long enough; “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Our corrupt desires are vast and restless as the sea, and when contradicted, they betray us to discontent and disobedience. The gospel therefore retrenches all inordinate affections, and vehemently condemns covetousness, as a vice not to be named among saints but with abhorrence. It discovers to us most clearly, that temporal things are not the materials of our happiness; for the Son of God voluntarily denied himself the enjoyment of them. And as the highest stars are so much distant from an eclipse, as they are above the shadow of the earth ; so the soul that in its esteem and desire is above the world, its brightness and joy cannot be darkened or eclipsed by any accidents there. The gospel forbids all vain sorrows, as well as vain pleasures ; and distinguishes real godliness from an appearance, by contentment as its inseparable character ; “ Godliness with contentment is great gain," 1 Tim. vi. 6. When we are in the saddest circumstances, our Saviour commands us to “ possess our souls in patience;" to preserve a calm constitution of spirit, which no storms from without can discompose. For this end he assures us that nothing comes to pass without the knowledge and efficiency, or at least, permission of God ; that the hairs of our head are numbered, and not one falls to the earth without his licence. Now the serious belief of a wise, just, and powerful providence, that governs all things, hatha mighty efficacy to maintain a constant tranquillity and equal temper in the soul amidst the confusions of the world. God “worketh all' things according to the counsel of his own will :" and if we
could discover the immediate reasons of every providence, we cannot have more satisfaction than from this general principle, that is applicable to all as light to every colour, that what God doth is always best. This resolves all the doubts of the most entangled minds, and rectifies our false judgments. From hence a believer hath as true content in complying with God's will, as if God had complied with his, and is reconciled to every condition. Besides, the gospel assures us, that “all things work together for good to them that love God;" for their spiritual good at present, by weakening their corruptions; for affliction is a kind of manage, by which the sensual part is exercised and made pliable to the motions of the Spirit: and by increasing their graces, the invaluable treasures of heaven. If the dearest objects of our affections, the most worthy of our love and grief, are taken away, it is for this reason, that God may have our love himself in its most intense and inflamed degree. And afflictions are in order to their everlasting good. Now the certain expectation of a blessed issue out of all troubles, is to the heart of a Christian as putting a rudder to a ship, which without it is exposed to the fury of the winds and in continual dangers, but by its guidance makes use of every wind to convey it to its port. Hope produces not only acquiescence, but joy, in the sharpest tribulations, Rom. xii. 12. For every true Christian being ordained to a glorious and supernatural blessedness hereafter, all things that befall him here below as means, are regulated and transformed into the nature of the end to which they carry him. Accordingly the apostle assures us, that our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” 2 Cor. iv. 17. To consider this life as the passage to another that is as durable as eternity, and as blessed as the enjoyment of God can make it, that the present miseries have a final respect to future happiness, will change our opinion about them, and render them not only tolerable, but so far amiable as they are instrumental and preparatory for it. If the bloody, as well as the milky way, leads to God's throne, a Christian willingly walks in it. In short, a lively hope accompanies a Christian to his last expiring breath, till it is consummated in celestial fruition ; so that death itself, the universal terror of mankind, is made desirable as an entrance into immortality, and the first day of our triumph. Thus I have considered some particular precepts of Christ,
which are of the greatest use for the government of our hearts and lives, and the reasons upon which they are grounded to make them effectual. Now to discover more fully the completeness of the evangelical rule, I will consider it with respect to the law of Moses and the philosophy of the heathens.
THE PERFECTION OF THE LAWS OF CHRIST.
The perfection of the laws of Christ will further appear, by comparing them with the precepts of Moses, and with the rules which the highest masters of morality in the school of nature have prescribed for the directing of our lives.
(1.) The gospel exceeds the Mosaical institution,
First; in ordaining a service that is pure, spiritual, and divine, consisting in the contemplation, love, and praise of God, such as holy angels perform above. The temple-service was managed with pomp and external magnificence, suitable to the disposition of that people and the dispensation of the law. The church was then in its infant-state, as St. Paul expresses it, and that age is more wrought on by sense than reason; for such is the subordination of our faculties, that the vegetative act, then the sensitive, then the rational, as the organs appointed for their use, acquire persection. The knowledge of the Jews was obscure and imperfect, and the external part of their religion was ordered in such a manner, that the senses were much affected. Their lights, perfumes, music, and sacrifices, were the proper entertainment of their external faculties. Besides, being encompassed with nations whose service to their idols was full of ceremonies, to render the temptation ineffectual and take off from the efficacy of those allurements which might seduce them to the imitation of idolatry, God ordained his service to be performed with great splendour. Add further, the dispensation of the law was typical and mysterious, representing, by visible material objects and their power to ravish the senses, spiritual things and their efficacy to work
upon the soul. But our Redeemer hath rent the veil, and brought forth heavenly things into a full day and the clearest evidence. Whereas Moses was very exact in describing the numerous ceremonies of the Jewish religion, the quality of their sacrifices, the place, the persons by whom they must be prepared and presented to the Lord; we are now commanded to draw near to God “with clean hands and pure hearts,” and that
men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting," 1 Tim. ii. 8.Every place is a temple, and every Christian a priest, to offer up spiritual incense to God. The most of the Levitical ceremonies and ornaments are excluded from the Christian, service, not only as unnecessary but inconsistent with its spiritualness; as paint, they corrupt the native beauty of religion. The apostle tells us, that human eloquence was not used in the first preaching of the gospel, lest it should render the truth of it uncertain, and rob the cross of Christ of its glory in converting the world ; for there might be some pretence to imagine, that it was not the supernatural virtue of the doctrine and the efficacy of its reasons, but the artifice of orators that overcame the spirits of men. So, if the service of the gospel were made so pompous, the worshippers would be inclined to believe, that the external part was the most principal, and to content themselves in that without the aims and affections of the soul, which are the life of all our services. Besides, upon another account, outward pomp in religion is apter to quench than inflame devotion ; for we are so compounded of flesh and spirit, that when the corporeal faculties are vehemently affected with their objects, it is very hard for the spiritual to act with equal vigour; there being such commerce between the fancy and the outward senses, that they are never exercised in the reception of their objects, but the imagination is drawn that way, and cannot present to the mind distinctly and with the calmness that is requisite, those things on which our thoughts should be fixed. But when those diverting objects are removed, the soul directly ascends to God, and looks on him as the searcher and judge of the heart, and worships him proportionably to his perfections. That this was the design of Christ, appears particularly in the institution of the sacraments, which he ordained in a merciful condescension to our present state; for there is a natural desire in us to have pledges of things promised ; therefore he was plea