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and he had given instances of it before. He does not go about to define or explain it, but appeals to every man's mind and confcience, to tell him what it is. It is not any thing that is difputed and controverted, which fome men call good, and others evil; but that which all are agreed in, and which is univerfally approved and commended by Heathens as well as Christians, that which is fubftantially good, and that which is unqueftionably fo. It is not zeal for leffer things, about the ritual and ceremonial part of religion, and a great strictnefs about the external parts of it, and much nicety and fcrupuloufnefs about things of no moment, as the Pharifees tything of mint, &c. about meats and drinks, and the obfervation of days, and the like; but a pursuit of the weightier things of the law, a care of the great duties of religion, mercy, and juftice, and fidelity; thofe things wherein the kingdom of God confifts, righteousness and peace fuch as thefe the Apostle had inftanced in, as fubftantial and unquestionable parts of goodness, things which admit of no difpute, but do approve themfelves to the reafon and confcience of all mankind; and the practice of thefe he calls following of that which is good.
Be ye followers of that which is good; the word is Antal, if ye imitate the good you fee in others; in one copy the word is nλwral, if ye be zealous of that which is good. And this is not amifs. Zeal about leffer and difputable things is very unfuitable and misbecoming: but we cannot be too earnest, and zealous in the purfuit of things which are fubftantially and unquestionably good; it is good, and will become us to be zealously affected about fuch things. Some things will not bear much zeal, and the more earnest we are about them, the lefs we recommend ourselves to the approbation of fober and confiderate men. Great zeal about little and doubtful things, is an argument of a weak mind, infatuated by fuperftition, or over-heated by enthufiafm: but nothing more, becomes a wife man, than the ferious and earneft purfuit of those things which are agreed on all hands to be good, and have an univerfal approbation among all parties and profeffions of men, how
# See more of this in Sermon 102.
wide foever their differences may be in other matters. This for the qualification fuppofed, If ye be followers of that which is good. I proceed to the
Second thing in the text, the benefit and advantage which may reasonably be expected from it, and that is, fecurity from the ill ufage and injuries of men. Who is he that will harm you, &c. The Apoftle doth not abfolutely fay, none will do it: but he speaks of it as a thing fo very unreafonable, and upon all accounts fo unlikely and improbable, that we may reasonably prefume that it will not ordinarily and often happen. Not but that good men are liable to be affronted and perfecuted, and no man's virtues, how bright and unblemished foever, will at all times, and in all cafes, exempt him from all manner of injury and ill treatment but the following of that which is good, as I have explained it, doth in its own nature tend to fecure us from the malice and mifchief of men, and very frequently does it, and, all things confidered, is a much more effectual means to this end, than any other course we can take; and this the Apostle means when he fays, Who is he that will harm you?
And this will appear, whether we confider the nature of virtue and goodness; or the nature of man, even when it is very much depraved and corrupted; or the providence of God.
I. If we confider the nature of virtue and goodness, which is apt to gain upon the affections of men, and fecretly to win their love and efteem. True goodness is inwardly, efteemed by bad men, and many times had in very great esteem and admiration, even by those who are very far from the practice of it: it carries an awe and majefty with it; fo that bad men are very often with-held and restrained from harming the good, by that fecret and inward reverence which they bear to goodness.
There are feveral virtues, which are apt in their own nature to pervent injuries and affronts from others. Humility takes away all occafion of infolence from the proud and haughty, it baffles pride, and puts it out of countenance. Meeknefs pacifies wrath, and blunts the edge of injury and violence. Suffering good for evil is
apt to allay and extinguifh enmity, to fubdue the rougheft difpofitions, and to conquer even malice itfelf. And there are other virtues which are apt in their own nature to oblige men, and gain their good-will, and make them our friends, and tie their affections ftrongly to us; as courtefy and charity, kindnefs and compaffion, and a readiness to do all good offices to all men; and the friendship, and good-will of others, is a powerful defence against injuries. Every man will cry fhame of those who fhall fall foul upon him that hurts no body. He that obligeth many, fhall have many to take his part when he is affaulted, to rife up in his defence and refcue, and to interpofe between him and danger. For a good man, fays the Apcftle, fome would even dare to die.
Befides, it is very confiderable, that none of thefe virtues expofe men to any danger and trouble from human laws. When Chriftianity was perfecuted, because it differed from, and oppofed the received religion and fuperftition of the world, it was commonly acknowledged by the Heathen, as Tertullian tells us, that the Chriftians were very good men in all other things, faving that they were Chriftians. When the laws were moft fevere against Chriftians for their meetings, which they called feditious, and for their refufal to comply with the received fuperftition of the world, which they called contempt of the Gods, yet there were all this while no laws made against modefty, and humility, and meeknefs, and kindness, and charity, and peaceablenefs, and forgiveness of injuries. Thefe virtues are in their nature of fo unalterable goodness, that they could not poffibly be made matter of accufation; no government ever had the face to make laws against them. And this the Apostle takes notice of as a fingular commendation, and great teftimony to the immutable goodness of these things, that in the experience of all ages and nations, there was never any fuch inconvenience found in any of them, as to give occafion to a law against them. Gal, v. 22. 23. But the fruit of the fpirit is love, joy, peace, long-fuffering, gentleness, fidelity, meekness, tempe Against fuch things there is no law. So that goodness from its own nature hath this fecurity, that it brings men under the danger of no law.
II. If we confider the nature of man, even where it is very much depraved and corrupted. There is fomething that is apt to restrain bad men from injuring those that are remarkably good; a reverence for goodness, and the inward convictions of their own mind, that those whom they are going about to injure, are better and more righteous than themselves; the fear of God, and of bringing down his vengeance upon their heads, by their ill treatment of his friends and followers; and many times the fear of men, who though they be not good themselves, yet have an esteem for those that are fo, and cannot endure to fee them wronged and oppreffed, efpecially if they have been obliged by them, and have found the real effects of their goodnefs in good offices done by them to themselves.
Befides that bad men are seldom bad for nought, without any caufe given, without any manner of temptation. and provocation to be fo. Who will hurt a harmless man, and injure the innocent? for what caufe, or for what end fhould he do it? he must love mischief for itfelf, that will do it to those who never offered him any occafion and provocation.
III. If we confider the providence of God, which is particularly concerned for the protection of innocency and goodness. For the righteous Lord loveth righteouf nefs, and his countenance will behold the upright. This the Apostle takes notice of, in the verse before the text, as the great fecurity of good men against violence and injury; The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. So that if bad men were never fo ill-difpofed toward the good, and bent to do them all the injury and mifchief they could devife, the providence of God hath a thousand ways to prevent it; and if he pleases to interpofe between them and danger, who can harm them if they would? He can fnare the wicked in the works of their own hands, and make the mifchief which they have devised against good men, to return upon their own heads; he can weaken their hands and infatuate their counfels, fo that they fhall not be able to bring their wicked enterprizes to pafs; he can change their hearts, and turn the fierceness and rage of men against us, into a fit of love and kindVOL. IX.
nefs, as he did the heart of Efau towards his brother Jacob; and their bitterest enmity against truth and goodnefs, into a mighty zeal for it, as he did in St. Paul, who, when he came to Damafcus, fell a preaching up that way, which he came thither on purpofe to perfecute. And this God hath promised to do for good men who are careful to please him. When a man's ways please the Lord, he will make his enemies to be at peace with him.
So that confidering the nature of goodness, and the nature of man, and the providence of God, who is like to harm us, if we be followers of that which is good? none can reasonably do it, and he must be a very bad man that can find in his heart to do it, when there is no caufe, no temptation or provocation to it; and the providence of God, who hath the hearts of men in his hands, and can fway and incline them as he pleafeth, is particularly concerned to preferve good men from harm and mischief.
And yet we are not to understand this faying of the Apostle, as declaring to us the conftant and certain cvent of things, without any exception to the contrary. For good men to appearance, nay thofe that are really fo, and the very best of men, are fome times expofed to great injuries and fufferings; of which I fhall give you an acount in thefe following particulars.
I. Some that seem to be good, are not fincerely fo; and when they, by the juft judgment of God, are punished for their hypocrify, in the opinion of many, goodness feems to fuffer. Some, under a great profeffion and colour of religion, have done very bad things, and when they justly fuffer for great crimes, they call punishment perfecution, and the party, and church which they are of, call them faints and martyrs.
II. Some that are really good are very imperfectly fo, have many flaws and defects, which do very much blemish and obfcure their goodness; they are followers of that which is good, but they have an equal zeal for things which have no goodness in them, or fo little that it is not worth all that stir and buftle which they make about them; and will contend as earnestly for a doubtful, and it may be for a falfe opinion, as for the articles of the creed, and for the faith which was once delivered to