Images de page
PDF
ePub

of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The place where he writes this, furnishes a very beautiful consideration. He was then in prison, at Rome, loaded with chains, and deprived of his liberty; yet he speaks as if he were as much at liberty as any man in the world; as able to act as he pleased, and to dispose of himself as ever: he talks of having entered a course, running a race, forgetting things behind, pressing toward those that were before, and, in short, of hoping to gain a prize; all these are actions of a man enjoying full liberty. How could he, who was in a prison, be at the same time on a race-course? how could he run, who was loaded with irons? how could he hope to win a prize, who every day expected a sentence of death? But it is not difficult to reconcile these things: his bonds and imprisonment did not hinder the course of his faith and obedience. His prison was converted into an agreeable stadium, and death for the Gospel might well be considered under the image of a complete victory; for a martyr gains an unfading crown as a reward of his sufferings.

X.

CONSIDER THE PERSONS ADDRESSED.

Let us again take St. Paul's words for an example: Recompense to no man evil for evil, Rom. xii. 17. They, to whom the apostle addressed these words, were Romans, whose perpetual maxim was violently to revenge public injuries, and totally to destroy those who intended to destroy them, or had offered them any affronts; witness the Carthagenians and Corinthians. They totally destroyed Carthage, because she had carried her arms into Italy by Hannibal's means, and had been upon the point of ruining Rome. Corinth they sacked and burnt for having affronted their ambassadors. You may also remark this particular circumstance; that, although the Romans had succeeded in avenging their injuries, and the empire owed its grandeur to such excesses, yet their success did not hinder the apostle from saying, Recompense to no man evil for evil; because neither examples nor successes ought to be the rules of our conduct, but solely the will of God, and the law of Christianity.

[ocr errors]

XI.

EXAMINE THE PARTICULAR STATE OF PERSONS

ADDRESSED.

For example, Recompense to no man evil for evil. St. Paul writes to Romans; but to Roman Christians, who saw themselves hated and persecuted by their fellow-citizens, and, in general, abused by the whole world. Yet, however reasonable resentment might appear at first sight, the apostle would not have them obey such passions as the light of reason, the instinct of nature, and the desire of their own preservation, might seem to excite: he exhorted them to leave vengeance to God, and advised them only to follow the dictates of love. The greatest persecutors of the primitive Christians were the Jews, on whom the Roman Christians could easily have avenged themselves under various pretexts; for the Jews were generally hated and despised by all other nations, and nothing could be easier than to avail themselves of that public hatred to which the religion of the Jews exposed them. Nevertheless, St. Paul not only says in general, render not evil for evil; but, in particular, Recompense to no man evil for evil. As if he had said, Do not injure those on whom you could most easily avenge yourselves; hurt not the most violent enemies of the name of Jesus Christ, and of the Christian profession; not even those who have crucified your Saviour, and every day strive to destroy his Gospel.

XII.

CONSIDER THE PRINCIPLES OF A WORD OR ACTION.

For example, John v. 14. Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. This was the language of Jesus Christ to the man whom he had just before healed of an infirmity of thirty-eight years standing. Him Jesus now found in the temple. It is not imaginable that this meeting was fortuitous, and unforeseen to Jesus Christ: his providence, no doubt, conducted the man that way, directed him to the temple, whither he himself went to seek him. Examine, then, upon what principles Jesus Christ went to seek this miser

able sinner; and you will find, 1. He went in great love to the poor man: he went in that same benevolence which inclined him to do good to all who had need, and in every place that he honoured with his presence. Jesus was, as it were, a public source of benefits; his hands every where bestowed beneficent gifts, and he even sought occasions when they did not present themselves. 2. He went by an engagement of ancient love, which he had made on behalf of this paralytic: his second favour flowed from his first; nor would he leave his work inperfect. Thus, it is said, in regard to his disciples, Having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them to the end. The bounty of Jesus Christ resembles that of his eternal Father, who calls, justifies, and, in the end, glorifies those whom he first predestinated: and on this, as on one of the principal foundations, St. Paul establisheth our hope for the future; God having begun a good work in us, will perform it to the day of Christ: and elsewhere, God is faithful, who hath called you to the fellowship of his Son. 3. It was by a principle of wisdom and foreknowledge that Jesus Christ sought this paralytic patient in the temple, in order to teach him his duty, to furnish him with the means of doing it, and to give him a more particular knowledge of the friend who had healed him; for he well knew that a tender faith, such as that of this man was, had need of fresh and continual aid, as a young plant needs a prop to support it against winds and

storms.

In like manner, if you had to examine these words of Jesus Christ to the Samaritan woman, Go and call thy husband, John iv. You might examine the intention of Jesus Christ in this expression. He did not speak thus because he was ignorant what sort of a life this woman lived: he knew that, to speak properly, she had no husband. It was then, 1. A word of trial; for the Lord said this to give her an opportunity of making a free confession, I have no husband. 2. It was also a word of kind reproof; for he intended to convince her of the sin in which she lived. 3. It was also a word of grace; for the cen'sure tended to the woman's consolation. 4. It was, farther, a word of wisdom; for our Lord intended to take occasion at this meeting to discover himself to her, and more

clearly to convince her that he had a perfect knowledge of all the secrets of her life; as he presently proved, by saying, Thou hast well said, I have no husband; for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou hast now is not thy husband.

Were you going to explain the ninth verse of the first of Acts, where it is said, When Jesus was taken up, his disciples beheld him, it would be proper to remark the sentiments of the disciples in that moment, and to shew from what principles proceeded that attentive and earnest looking after their divine Master, while he ascended to heaven.

XIII.

CONSIDER CONSEQUENCES.

Thus, when you explain the doctrine of God's mercy, it is expedient (at least sometimes) to remark the good and lawful uses which we ought to make of it. These uses are, to renounce ourselves-to be sensible of our infinite obligations to God, who pardons so many sins with so much bounty-to consecrate ourselves entirely to his service, as persons over whom he has acquired a new right-and to labour, incessantly for his glory, in gratitude for what he has done for our salvation.

You may also observe the false and pernicious consequences which ungrateful and wicked men, who sin that grace may abound, pretend to derive from this doctrine. They say, we are no longer to consider justice now we are under grace; the more we sin, the more God will be glorified in pardoning us-this mercy will endure all the time of our lives; and therefore it will be enough to apply to it at the hour of death-with many more such false consequences, which must be both clearly stated, and fully refuted.

It is much the same with the doctrine of the efficacious grace of the Holy Ghost in our conversion, for the just and lawful consequences which are drawn from it, are, 1. That such is the greatness of our depravity, it can be rectified only by Almighty aid-2. That we should be humble, because there is nothing good in us-S. That we should ascribe all the glory of our salvation to God, who is the only author of it-4. That we must adore the T

VOL. I.

depths of the great mercy of our God, who freely gave his holy Spirit to convert us.

You must remark at the same time the abuses and false consequences which insidious sophisters draw from this doctrine; as, that since the conversion of men is by the almighty power of God, it is needless to preach his word, and to address to them, on God's part, exhortations, promis, and threatenings- that it is in vain to tell a sinner it is his duty to turn to God, as without efficacious grace (which does not depend upon the sinner) he cannot do it-that it has a tendency to make men negligent about their salvation to tell them it does not depend on their power. These, and such like abuses, must be proposed and solidly refuted.

Moreover, this method must be taken when you have occasion to treat of the doctrines of election and reprobation-the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ's blood-and, in general, almost all religious subjects require it; for there is not one of them all which is not subject to use and abuse. Take care, however, when you propose these good and bad consequences, that you do it properly, and when an occasion naturally presents itself; for were they introduced with any kind of affectation and force; it must be disagreeable.

In general, then, this way of good and bad consequen-. ces ought to be used when there is reason to fear some may infer bad consequences, and when they seem to flow from the text itself; for in this case they ought to be prevented and refuted, and contrary consequences opposed against them.

XIV.

REFLECT ON THE END PROPOSED IN AN EXPRESSION OR AN ACTION.

Although this is not very different from the way of principles, of which we have already spoken, yet it may afford a variety in discussing them.

If, for example, you were speaking of justification, in the sense in which St. Paul taught it, you must observe the ends which the apostle proposed, as-1. To put a just difference between Jesus Christ and Moses, the Law

« PrécédentContinuer »