Page images

connexion with God, for they are his creatures, the work of his hands made for his glory; they are his images, made after the likeness and similitude of God; they are redeemed by the blood of Jesus who died for all mankind; they are created to be eternally happy with him in heaven; for God wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that be should turn and live. All these considerations shew, that we are bound to have a sincere and fervent love for them, and a charitable zeal for their eternal salvation; and consequently, to have the most tender sympathy and compassion for them, eonsidering the dangerous way they are in for their souls; and this is the radical and essential disposition of our hearts, which we are bound to have towards all mankind, without exception. Of this we have a beautiful example in St. Paul, who thus expresses the dispositions of his heart towards his brethren, the unbelieving Jews: “I speak the truth in Christ,” says he, “I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great sadness and sorrow in my heart: for I wished myself to be anathema (that is a curse) from Christ, for my brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh," Rom. ix, 1.

Now, this sincere love and zeal for their salvation, ought to shew itself principally in these following points : (1.)“ To be always ready to satisfy every one that asketh as a reason of the hope that is in us,"1 Pet. iii. 15. ; that is, to be always willing and ready to explain our holy faith to them, and to shew them the grounds upon which our faith is built, whenever any of them ask us to do so. This should be done with all modesty and mildness towards them, not entering into idle disputes, nor keeping up contentions with heat and acrimony, even though they should be ever so unreasonable in what they say

against us; but after giving an account of the hope that is in us, with lenity and charity, leave the rest to the dispositions of the divine providence: for the Scripture says, “ Avoid foolish questions, knowing that they beget strifes ; but the servant of the Lord must not wrangle, but be mild towards all men, apt to teach, patient, with modesty admonishing them that resist the truth, if, peradventure, God may give them repentance to know the truth, and they may recover themselves from the snares of the devil, by whom they are held captive at will,” 2 Tim. ii. 23.; and “ to walk with wisdom. towards them that are without; so that your speech be always in grace seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every Man," Coloss. iv. 5.

(2.) To be earnest in praying to God for their conversion and salvation, as is expressly commanded in Scripture: “I desire, therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings, be made for all men..., for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God, who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth," 1 Tim. ii. 1. We have a beautiful example of this in the same holy apostle, who full of charity for the salvation of the Jews, pities their mistaken zeal for their own errors, and pours forth the prayers of his heart for them. “Brethren,” says he," the will of my heart indeed, and my prayer to God is for them unto salvation; for I bear them witness that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge, Rom. x. 1.

(3.) To give them good example, by the exercise of good works, and the practice of all Christian virtues. Nothing is of greater efficacy to give others a good opinion of our holy religion, than to

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

live well. This is a living argument, which teaches the most ignorant, and convinces the most obstinate. And hence we find this repeatedly commanded in the Scripture, on purpose to give edification to those who are without, and to excite them to glorify God. “ So let your light shine,' says Jesus Christ himself, “ before men, that they, seeing your good works, may glorify your heavenly Father,” Matth. v. 16. And St. Peter expresses himself thus, on this important duty,

Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, to refrain yourselves from carnal desires, which war against the soul, having your conversation good among the Gentiles; that whereas they speak against you as evil doers, considering you by your good works, they may give glory to God in the day of visitation .... for so is the will of God, that, by doing well, ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men,”1 Pet. ii. 11, 15. St. Paul also requires the same thing, saying, “In all things shew thyself an example of good works, in doctrine, in integrity, in gravity; thy speech sound, that cannot be blamed, that he who is on the contrary part may be afraid, having no evil to say of us,” Tit. ii. 7.

But, (4.) Lastly, If, notwithstanding such pious and edifying behaviour, persecutions and trials should be permitted by the divine providence to come upon us, for his own wise and just purposes, if we should be evil spoken of falsely, if the truths of our holy religion should be calumniated, and our doctrine misrepresented, we must not be surprised nor disheartened; but remember that this is the way the world treated our Lord and Master himself, who foretold that his faithful followers should be treated in the same manner. St. Peter als sures us, that this is one of the sigos of those who

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]


follow sects of perdition, to speak evil of the truth, “through whom,” says he, “the way of truth shall be evil spoken of,” 2 Pet. ii. 2.; and 'St. Jude adds, “ that they blaspheme whatever things they know not.” Jude, 10. Neither ought such trials to diminish, even in the smallest degree, our sincere charity for them, and our desire of their salvation: but rather increase our pity and compassion for their poor souls, and make us more earnest in praying for them, imitating our blessed Saviour, who, on the cross itself, prayed for his persecutors, “ Father," said he," forgive them, for they know not what they are doing." Above all things we must never entertain the least thought of revenge, not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing; for unto this ye are called, that ye may inherit a blessing," 1 Pet. iii. 9. On the contrary, looking on our trials as all disposed and ordered by the hand of God, “without whom not a hair of our head can fall to the ground,” we must “rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer ignominy for the sake of Christ,” Acts v. 41. For,“ if also ye suffer any thing for justice sake, blessed are ye. for it is better doing well (if such be the will of God) to suffer, than doing ill," 1 Peter, iii. 14, 17. And therefore, dearly beloved, think not strange the burning heat that is to try you, as if some new thing happened to you; but if ye partake of the sufferings of Christ, rejoice, that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may also be glad with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, ye shall be happy; for that which is of the honour, glory, and power of God, and that which is in spirit, resteth upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a railer, or a coveter of other men's things; but if, as a

Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name," 1 Pet. iv. 12., always remembering the words of our Lord, “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say all that is evil against you falsely, for my sake; be glad, and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven." Matth. v. 11.

« PreviousContinue »