« EelmineJätka »
running into higher company, to borrow some consequence, which does not belong to them : but he associated with fishermen, and preferred the company and conversation of an obscure, godly family in Bethany : he chose the little things of this world to confound the great, and foolish things to confound the wise. But alas! Look at those who are called by his name, and see what stirring there is for precedence : What mean, servile endeavours, to procure honour from men, even from people of no judgment; while they neglect the only true honour which cometh from God: who hath far other notions of greatness and importance than those which the fashion of this world hath introduced and established.
And now, having considered the doctrine of selfdenial, so far as the time will permit, I have only farther to observe, that the follower of Christ must be ready to imitate his Master in taking up the Cross : and we may assure ourselves, that the divine providence, with a fatherly attention, never fails to correct those of whose reformation there is any hope. Some, indeed, are left to themselves, little interrupted in the enjoyment of the world: They come into no misfortune like other folk, neither are they plagued like other men. God deliver us from being of that number! For such an exemption, while it seems to be a privilege, is the greatest curse under heaven. Let po good man ever wish to have his portion in this life on the terms of the rich man in the Gospel. Besides this, the best and the wisest have their sins and their follies, which nothing but their own sufferings can cure; and as the Cross of Christ was the remedy for the sins of the world, so every individual must take that Cross from the appointment of God, which
is adapted to his own particular case.
As the occasion may require, we are visited with bodily pain and sickness, loss of wealth or reputation, unmerited
neglect and dishonour, inconstancy of friends, who often stand at a distance, and are least useful, when they are most wanted. And, when God pleases even the refreshments and comforts of the divine presence are withdrawn: the saint complains, like his Saviour on the Cross, that his God hath forsaken him. Such things are necessary for a time, to make us sensible of our own weakness and misery; to punish our past unprofitableness under the means of grace; and to mortify those who have neglected to mortify themselves.
The Cross of Christ was fore-ordained of God, with infinite wisdom, as the proper instrument of his death: and with the like wisdom he appoints the Cross, by which every particular man is to suffer. The precept directs every one to take up his Cross ; not the trouble of another man, but that, which is sent for his own trial, and adapted to his own case. The God, who made him, knows his wants and his feelings, and applies the trial to the proper part. Monastics may whip and scourge themselves, and wear horse-hair garments to afflict their skin: but these are crosses of their own making. The question is, whether a man will take in Faith and Patience, as absolutely necessary to his own good, that Cross, which God's wisdom hath ordained for him, and laid upon him. How common is it for people to complain, that they could have borne
any thing else but that present evil under which they are suffering! God knew that, and therefore he sent it; to punish their sin; to teach them patience; and to make them fly to him for help and support under
the pressing sense of their own weakness. Here our faith is to resign itself, and to say, with the afflicted king Hezekiah,-O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit; so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live!
LEST, BEING LIFTED UP WITH PRIDE, HE FALL INTO THE CONDEMNATION OF THE DEVIL.
1 TIM iii. 6. CONVERTS of little experience in the Christian Faith were disposed to be vain, when they were exalted above their brethren: änd as vanity never fails to weaken the judgment, and put men out of humour with truth, error in doctrine soon follows, when pride has got possession of the imagination. The Tempter defrauds men of truth, as the artful defraud the simple of their money, by flattering them, and suggesting great ideas of their talents and qualifications.
By the condemnation of the devil, in the words of the text, so far as men can fall into it in this life, we must understand that kind of sin, for which the devil himself is under sentence of condemnation. In the
prophecy of Isaiah, his crime is specified, as an aspiring to be equal with God. Amongst other presumptuous expressions to the same effect, he said in his heart, I will be like the Most High. He suggested the same presumptuous thought to our first parents, tempting them to expect that, they might be like Gods, knowing good and evil. The good of the understanding is truth; its evil is falsehood; and if so they were tempted to seek the knowledge of good and evil, that is, of truth and falsehood, independent of God; conse. quently, in opposition to him. The desire of that independence, by which the creature becomes a law
to himself against the Creator, was the root of sin in Lucifer : he tried the same temptation upon man, and it succeeded. It hath prevailed ever since, and will prevail to the end of the world. What was the whole religion of paganism, but a system of faith and worship invented by those who did not like to retain God in their knowledge ; They became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. They became fools by professing themselves to be wise ; and knew nothing of divine things, by pretending to have a source of knowledge within themselves. Whence came all the heresies that infested the Christian church? Not so much from any obscurity in the Gospel, as from the vain reasonings of those, who were too proud to receive it: If any man (says the Apostle) teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine zohich is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing. If we look to the present age, whence comes all the modern opposition against the doctrines of Christianity, but from human philosophy, judging of good and evil by its own light, and proposing new sources of information, with new principles, new duties, and new obligations?
From this view of the text, it offers a very important fact to our consideration: namely, that there is a peculiar sort of wickedness, in which man may be a partaker with the devil. And if so, it is of infinite consequence that we should define it clearly, and ex- . plain it in such a manner as to guard our hearers against it: especially as there is a dangerous mistake gone abroad amongst us, and of which the enemies of our faith are always prepared to take advantage. It has been very falsely supposed, that people may secure to themselves the favour of God, and be in a