« PreviousContinue »
shalt eat thy bread;" Gen. iii. 19. "And six days shalt thou labor;" Exod. xx. 10. And with quietness men must work, and eat their own bread; and "if any will not work, neither should he eat ;' 2 Thess. iii. 10-12. Abraham, and Noah, and Adam, labored in a constant course of employment. He knoweth that a sanctified calling and labor is a help, and not a hindrance to devotion; and that the body must have work as well as the soul, and religion must not be pretended for slothful idleness, nor against obedience to our Master's will; Prov. xxxi.
2. The weak Christian is here more easily deceived, and made believe that religion will excuse a man from bodily labor; and under the color of devotion to live idly. "They learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle, but tatlers also, and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not; 2 Thess. iii. 8. 1 Tim. v. 13. Slothfulness is a sin much condemned in the Scriptures; Ezek. xvi. 49. Prov. xxiv. 30. xviii. 9. xxi. 25. Matt. xxv. 26. Rom. xii. 11.
3. The seeming Christian in his labor is ruled chiefly by his flesh. If he be rich, and it inclines him most to sloth, he maketh small conscience of living in idleness, under the pretence of his gentility or wealth. But if the flesh incline him more to covetousness, he will be laborious enough; but it shall not be to please God by obedience, but to increase his estate, and enrich himself and his posterity, whatever better reason he pretend.
XLVII. 1. A Christian indeed is exactly conscionable in the duties of his relation to others in the family and place of his abode. If he be a husband, he is loving and patient, and faithful to his wife; if he be a father, he is careful of the holy education of his children; if he be a master, he is just and merciful to his servants, and careful for the saving of their souls; if he be a child or servant, he is obedient, trusty, diligent, and careful, as well behind his parent's or his master's back, as before his face. He dare not lie, nor steal, nor deceive, nor neglect his duty, nor speak dishonorably of his superiors, though he were sure he could conceal it all. For he knoweth that the fifth commandment is enforced with a special promise; Eph. vi. 2. 5. 9. And that a bad child, or a bad servant, a bad
husband or wife, a bad parent or master, cannot be a good Christian; Col. iii. 18. 19, &c. iv. 1. 1 Pet. ii. 18.
2. But weak Christians, though sincere, are ordinarily weak in this part of their duty; and apt to yield to temptations, and carry themselves proudly, stubbornly, idly, disobediently, as eye-servants that are good in sight; or to be unmerciful to inferiors, and neglecters of their souls. And to excuse all this from the faults of those that they have to do with, and lay all upon others; as if the fault of husband, wife, parent, master, or servant, would justify them in theirs; and passion and partiality would serve for innocency.
3. And the hypocrite ordinarily sheweth his hypocrisies by being false in his relations to man, while he pretendeth to be pious and obedient unto God. He is a bad master, and a bad servant, when his filthy interest requireth it, and yet thinketh himself a good Christian for all that. For all men being faulty, it is easy to find a pretence from all men that he doth abuse, to cover the injury of his abuse. Cain, Ham, Eli, Absalom, Judas, &c. are sad examples of this.
XLVIII. 1. A Christian indeed, is the best subject, whether his prince be good or bad: though by infidel and ungodly rulers he be oft mistaken for the worst. He obeyeth not his rulers only for his own ends, but in obedience to God; and not only for fear of punishment, but for conscience sake. He looketh on them in their relations as the officers of God, and armed with his authority, and therefore obeyeth God in them. He permitteth not dishonorable thoughts of them in his heart; much less dare he speak dishonorably of them; Exod. xii. Prov. xxiv. 21. 1 Pet. ii. 13. 17. Prov. viii. 15. Acts xxiii. 4, 5. Eccles. x. 4. 20. He knoweth that every soul must be subject to the higher powers, and not resist; and that there is no power but of God. "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and he that resisteth shall receive to himself damnation ;” Rom. xiii. 1-6. Therefore in all things lawful he obeyeth them. And though he must not, nor will not obey them against God, yet will he suffer patiently when he is wronged by them; and not only forbear resistance by arms or violence, but also all reproachful words, as knowing that the righting of himself is not so necessary to the public order and good, as the honor of his rulers
is. Usurpers may probably charge him to be a traitor, and seditious and rebellious, because he dare not approve of their usurpations; and when several are contending for the government, and in a litigious title the lawyers mislead him, when the controversy is only among them, and belongs to their profession, it is possible he may mistake as well as the lawyers, and take him to have the better title that hath the worse. But in divinity he knoweth there is no controversy whether every soul must be subject to the highest power, so far as he can know it. And that prayer and patience are the subject's arms; and religion is so far from being a warrant to resist, that it plainly forbiddeth disobedience and resistance; and none are more obliged to submission and quietness than Christians are. The spirit of Christianity is not of this world; their kingdom and their hopes are not of this world; and, therefore, they contend not for dignities and rule; much less by resisting or rebelling against their lawful governors. But they are resolved to obey God, and secure their everlasting portion, and bear all the injuries which they meet with in the way, especially from those whom God hath set over them. There is no doctrine that ever was received in the world, so far from befriending seditions and rebellion, as the doctrine of Christ; nor any people in the world so loyal as Christians, while Christianity retained its genuine simplicity; till proud, domineering, worldly men, for carnal ends, pretended themselves to be Christians, and perverted the doctrine of Christ, to make it warp to their ambitious ends. Suffering seemeth not so great a matter to a holy, mortified, heavenly mind, as to tempt him to hazard his salvation to resist it. No man is so likely to be true to kings, as he that believeth that his salvation lieth on it, by the ordinance of God; Rom. xiii. 3. And princes that are wise and just, do always discern that the best Christians are their best subjects; though those that are unbelieving and ungodly themselves, have ever hated them as the greatest troubles of the earth. And it hath ever been the practice of the enemies of Christ and godliness, to do all they can to engage the rulers of the earth against them; and to persuade them that the most godly Christians are persons of disloyal and unquiet minds; and by vexing and persecuting them, they do their worst to make them such as they falsely called VOL. II.
them. Even Christ himself was crucified as an enemy to Cæsar, and Pilate driven to it by the noise of them that cried out, that if he let them go he was not Cæsar's friend: John xix. 12. They first tempted him with the question, "Whether it were lawful to pay tribut unto Cæsar ;" Matt. xxii. 17. Luke xx. 22. And though they could this way take no hold of him, yet this was the first article of his accusation: "We have found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar:" Luke xxiii. 2. And how loyal would those rebellious Jews seem, when they thought it the only way to engage the Roman power against Christ? Then they cry out, "We have no king but Cæsar;" John xix. 15. And this was the common accusation against the Christians both by Jews and Gentiles. The language of the Jews you may hear from Tertullus: "We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes;" Acts xxiv. 5. And at Thessalonica, the charge against them was, that they "turned the world upside down, and did all contrary to the decrees of Cæsar;" chap. xvii. 6, 7. And thus the best Christians have by such been slandered from age to age; because the devil and his instruments know not how sufficiently to molest them, except they engage the rulers against them. But yet all this doth not conquer the patience and loyalty of confirmed Christians. They are wiser than that wise man that Solomon saith, "Oppression maketh mad;" Eccles. vii. 7. If usurpers or malicious liars shall a thousand times call them rebellious and seditious, it shall not drive them from their due subjection. They can patiently follow their Lord and the ancient Christians, in the enduring of such slanders, and suffering as enemies to Cæsar, so they do but escape the sin, and be not such as malice calleth them. They had rather die as reputed enemies to government, than to be such indeed. They prefer subjection before the reputation of it; for they look not for their reward from princes, but from God. If they can preserve their innocence, they can bear the defamation of their names, being satisfied in the hopes of the joyful day of the judgment of Christ, which will fully justify them and set all straight. Indeed they know that a state of subjection is easier and safer than places of command;
and that it is easier to obey than govern. And so far are they from envying men's greatness, and from desiring dominions, that they pity the tempted, and dangerous, and troublesome state of those in power, and are thankful to God for their quieter and safer station. They heartily pray for kings and all that are in authority; not that by their favor they may rise to places of wealth and honor, but "that under them they may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty; 1 Tim. ii. 2. Yea, though infidel princes hate and persecute them, they continue to pray for them, and to honor their authority, and will not thereby be driven from their duty. If God cast their lot under infidel, ungodly, and malicious governors, they do not run to arms to save themselves, or save the Gospel; as if God had called them to reform the world, or keep it from the oppression of the higher powers. Nor do they think it a strange, intolerable matter for the best men to be lowest, and to be the suffering side, and so fall to fighting that Christ and the saints may have the rule. For they know that Christ's kingdom is not of this world, (John xviii. 36.); that is not a visible monarchy, as his usurping vicar doth pretend; and that Christ doth most eminently rule unseen, and disposeth of all the kingdoms of the world, even where he is hated and resisted; and that the reign of saints is in their state of glory; and that all God's graces do fit them more for a suffering life, than for worldly power. Their humility, meekness, patience, self-denial, contempt of the world, and heavenly mindedness, are better exercised and promoted in a suffering, than a prosperous, reigning state. think of the holy blood which hath been shed by heathen Rome, from Christ and Stephen, till the days of Constantine; and the far greater streams which have been shed by the bloody papal Rome; wherever they had power, in Piedmont, Germany, Poland, Hungary, in Belgia, England, and in other lands; the thirty or forty thousand murdered in a few days at the Bartholomew massacre in France; the two hundred thousand murdered in a few weeks in Ireland, they are not so unlike their suffering brethren, as to think that striving for honors and command, is their way to heaven. When Christ hath foretold them that self-denial under the cross, tribulation, and persecution, is the common way; (Luke xiv. 26, 27. 29. 33. Acts xiv. 22. John xvi. 33.