« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
times, but to seventy times seven-that is, without limitation.
In this the excellency of the gospel is said, by some one, to appear to a remarkable advantage; "That a Christian is as much disposed to love and serve you, when your enemy, as the mere moral man can be when he is your friend.”. This, no doubt, is the tendency of his religion; —but how often, or in what degrees it succeeds, -how nearly the practice keeps pace with the theory, the all-wise Searcher into the hearts of men, alone is able to determine. But it is to be feared, that such great effects are not so sensibly felt, as a speculative man would expect from such powerful motives; and there is many a Christian society, which would be glad to compound amongst themselves for some lesser degrees of perfection on one hand, were they sure to be exempted, on the other, from the bad effects of those fretful passions, which are ever taking, as well as èver giving the occasions of strive: The beginnings of which, Solomon aptly compares to the letting out of waters; the opening a breach which no one can be sure to stop, till it has proceeded to the most fatal events.
With justice, therefore, might the son of Syrach conclude, concerning pride-that secret stream which administers to the overflowings of resentments, that it was not made for man, nor furious anger for him that is born of a woman: That the one did not become his station, and that the other was destructive to all the happiness he was intended to receive from it. How miserably, then must those men turn tyrants against themselves, as well as others, who grow splenetic and revengeful, not only upon the little unavoidable oppositions and offences they must meet with in the commerce of the world, but upon those which only reach them by report; and accordingly tor
ment their little souls with meditating how to return the injury, before they are certain they have received one? Whether this eager sensibility of wrongs and resentment, arises from that general cause to which the son of Syrach seems to reduce all fierce anger and passion, or whether to a certain sourness of temper, which stands in every body's way, and therefore subject to be often hurt; -from whichever cause the disorder springs, the advice of the author of the book of Ecclesiasticus is proper: "Admonish a friend, says he, it may be he hath not done it; and if he have, that he do it not again. Admonish thy friend, it may be he hath not said it; and if he have, that he speak it not again. There is that slippeth in his speech, but not from his heart: And who is he, who hath not offended with his tongue ?"
I cannot help taking notice, here, of a certain. species of forgiveness which is seldom enforced or thought of, and yet is no way below our regard ;I mean the forgiveness of those, if we may be allowed the expression, whom we have injured ourselves. One would think, that the difficulty of forgiving, could only rest on the side of him who has received the wrong; but the truth of the fact is often otherwise. The consciousness of having provoked another's resentment, often excites the aggressor to keep before-hand with the man he has hurt, and not only to hate him for the evil he expects in return, but even pursue him down, and put it out of his power to make reprisals.
The baseness of this is such, that it is sufficient to make the same observation which was made upon the crime of parricide amongst the Gre cians-It was so black,-their legislators did not suppose it could be committed, and therefore made no law to punish it.
Duty of setting Bounds to our Desires.
2 KING 5, IV. 13.
And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or the captain of the host ? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.
HE first part of the text is the words which
his servant Gehazi, as a message of thanks to the woman of Shunem, for her great kindness and hospitality, of which, after the acknowledgment of his just sense, which Gehazi is bid to deliver in the words- -"Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care ;' he directs him to inquire in what manner he may best make a return in discharge of the obligation;" What shall be done for thee? Wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or the captain of the host?" The last part of the text is the Shunamite's answer, which implies a refusal of the honor or advantage which the prophet intended to bring upon her by such an application, which she indirectly expresses in her contentment and satisfaction with what she enjoyed in her present station: "I dwell among my own people." This instance of self-denial in the Shunamite, is but properly the introduction to her story, and gives rise to that long and very pathetic transaction which follows in the supernatural grant of a child, which God had many years denied her ;- -the affecting loss of him as soon as he was grown up, and his restoration to life by Elisha, after he had been some time dead; the
whole of which, tho' extremely interesting, and from such incidents as would afford sufficient matter for instruction, yet as it will not fall within the intention of this discourse, I shall beg leave at this time, barely to consider these previous circumstances of it, to which the text confines me, upon which I shall enlarge with such reflections as occur, and then proceed to that practical use and exhortation which will naturally fall from it.
We find that after Elisha had rescued the distressed widow and her two sons from the hands of the creditor, by the miraculous multiplication of her oil; that he passed on to Shunem, where, we read, was a great woman, and she constrained. him to eat bread; and so it was, that as often as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. The sacred historian speaks barely of her temporal condition and station in life," That she was a great woman," but describes not the more material part of her, her virtues and character, because they were more evidently to be discovered from the transaction itself, from which it appears, that she was not only wealthy, but likewise charitable, and of a very considerate turn of mind.For, after many repeated invitations and entertainments at her house, finding his occasions called him to a frequent passage that way;-she moves her husband to set up and furnish a lodging for him, with all the conveniencies which the simplicity of those times required: "And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of GoD, which passeth by us continually; let us make him a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall, and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick ; and it shall be when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither."- -She perceived he was a holy man ;-she had many opportunities, as he passed by them continually, of observing his be
havior and deportment, which she had carefully remarked, and saw plainly what he was. The sanctity and simplicity of his manners, the seve, rity of his life,- -his zeal for the religion of his GOD, and the uncommon fervency of his devotion, when he worshipped before him, which seemed his whole business and employment upon earth;
-all bespoke him, not a man of this world, but one whose heart and affections were fixed upon another object, which was dearer and more important to him. But,as such outward appearances may,and often have, been counterfeited, so that the actions of a man are certainly the only interpreters to be relied on, whether such colors are true or false;
so she had heard that all was of a piece there, and that he was throughout consistent: That he had never, in any one instance of his life, acted as if he had any views in the affairs of this world, in which he had never interested himself at all, but where the glory of his GoD, or the good and preservation of his fellow-creatures at first inclined him: -That, in a late instance, before he came to Shunem, he had done one of the kindest and most charitable actions that a good man could have done, in assisting the widow and the fatherless ;-and, as the fact was singular, and had just happened before her knowledge of him, no doubt, she had heard the story with all the tender circumstances which a true report would give it in his favor, namely, That a certain woman, whose husband was lately dead, and had left her with her children in a very helpless condition-very destitute-and, what was still worse, charged with a debt she was not able to pay ;— -that her creditor bore exceeding hard upon her, and finding her little worth in substance, was coming to take the advantage which the law allowed, of seizing her two sons for his bondsmen ;-so that she had not only lost her husband, which had made her