« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
they, were affered, and he could have commanded them, despised the glories of the world, took upon him the form. of a servant ;—and, though equal with Gop,-yet made himself of no reputation,-that he might settle, and be the example of, so holy and humble a religion, and thereby convince his disciples for ever, that neither his kingdom, nor their happiness, were to be of this world. Thus the Jews might have easily argued ; but when there was nothing but reason to do it with on one side, and strong prejudices, backed with interest, to maintain the dispute upon the other-we do not find the point is always so easily determined. Although the purity of our SAVIOUR's doctrine, and the mighty works he wrought in its support, were demonstratively stronger arguments for his divinity, than the unrespected lowliness of his condition, could be against it yet the prejudice continued strong; they had been accustomed to temporal promises; so bribed to do their duty,they could not endure to think of a religion that would not promise as much as Moses did, to fill their -A basket, and set them high above all nations :religion whose appearance was not great and splendid, -but looked thin and meagre ; and whose principles and promises, like the curses of their law,called for sufferings, and promised persecutions.
If we take this key along with us through the New Testament, it will let us into the spirit and meaning of many of our Saviour's replies in his conferences with his disciples, and others of the Jews; so particularly in this place, Matt. xi. when John had sent two of his disciples to inquire, Whether it was he that should come, or that they were to look for another?-Our Saviour, with a particular eye to this prejudice, and the general scandal he knew had risen against his
religion, upon this worldly account,- after a recital to the messengers of the many miracles he had wrought; as that-the blind received their sight, the lame walked,-the lepers were cleansed, the dead raised;—all which characters, with their benevolent ends, fully demonstrated him to be the MESSIAH that was promised them; he closes up his answer to them, with the words of the text, And blessed is he that shall not be offended in me;-blessed is the man whose upright and honest heart will not be blinded by worldly considerations, or hearken to his lusts and prepossessions in a truth of this moment. The like benediction is recorded in the 7th chapter of St. Luke, and in the 6th of St. John:--When Peter broke out in that warm confession of their belief-Lord, we believe,-- we are sure that thou art Christ, the Son of the living GoD:-The same benediction is uttered,-though couched in different words, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona ;for flesh and blood hath not revealed it, but my Father which is in Heaven. Flesh and blood,the natural workings of this carnal desire,-the lust and love of the world, have had no hand in this conviction of thine; but my Father, and the works which I have wrought in his name,-in vindication of this faith, have established thee in it, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.This universal ruling principle, and almost invincible attachment to the interests and glories of the world, which we see first made so powerful a stand against the belief of Christianity, has continued to have as ill an effect, at least, upon the practice of it ever since ;-and therefore, there is no one point of wisdom that is of nearer importance to us,-than to purify this gross appetite, and restrain it within bounds, by lowering our high conceit of the things of this life, and our concern for those advantages which misled the
Jews.To judge justly of the world. must stand at a due distance from it ;-which will discover to us the vanity of its riches and honors, in such true dimensions, as will engage us to behave ourselves towards them with moderation. This is all that is wanting to make us wise and good;--that we may be left to the full influence of religion ;- to which christianity so far conduces, that it is the great blessing,the peculiar advantage we enjoy under its institution,-that it affords us not only the most excellent precepts of this kind, but also, it shows us those precepts confirmed by most excellent examples.-A heathen philosopher may talk very elegantly about despising the world, and, like Seneca, may prescribe very ingenious rules, to teach us an art he never exercised himself:-For, all the while he was writing in praise of poverty, he was enjoying a great estate, and endeavoring to make it greater. But, if ever we hope to reduce these rules to practice, it must be by the help of religion.-If we would find men, who, by their lives, bore witness to their doctrines, we must look for them amongst the acts and monuments of our church,-amongst the first followers of their crucified Master; who spoke with authority, because they spoke experimentally, and took care to make their words good,by despising the world, and voluntarily accounting all things in it loss, that they might win CHRIST.-O holy and blessed apostles !-blessed were ye indeed, -for ye conferred not with flesh and blood,-for ye were not offended in him through any considerations of this world ;ye conferred not with flesh and blood, neither with its snares and temptations.-Neither the pleasures of life, or the pains of death laid hold upon your faith, to make you fall from him.- -Ye had your prejudices of worldly grandeur, in common with the rest of your nation · ∙saw, like them,
your expectations blasted; but ye gave them up, as men governed by reason and truth. -As ye surrendered all your hopes in this world to your faith, with fortitude,-so did ye meet the terrors of the world with the same temper. Neither the frowns and discountenances of the civil powers, neither tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or cold,-ornakedness, or famine, or the sword, could separate you from the love of CHRIST. Ye took up your crosses cheerfully, and followed him;-followed the same rugged way-trod the wine-press after him ;-voluntarily submitting yourselves to poverty,-to punishment, to the scorn and the reproaches of the world, which ye knew were to be the portion of all of you who engaged in preaching a mystery, so spoken against by the world,- -so unpalatable to all its passions and pleasures,—and so irreconcileable to the pride of human reason. So that ye were, as one of ye expressed, and all of ye experimentally found, though ye were made as the filth of the world, and the off-scouring of all things, upon this account;-yet ye went on as zealously as ye set out.--Ye were not offended, nor ashamed of the gospel of CHRIST :-Wherefore should ye?The impostor and hypocrite might have been ashamed-the guilty would have found cause for it --Ye had no cause,-though ye had temptation.-Ye preached but what ye knew, and your honest and upright hearts gave evidence, the strongest,-to the truth of it ;-for ye left all,-ye suffered all,-ye gave all that your sincerity had left you to give. Ye gave your lives at last as pledges and confirmations of your faith and warmest affection for your Lord. Holy and blessed men! ye gave all, when, alas ! our cold and frozen affection will part with nothing for his sake, not even with our vices and follies, which are worse than nothing;-for they are vanity, and misery, and death.
The state of christianity calls not now for such evidences as the apostles gave of their attachment to it. We have, literally speaking,-neither houses, nor lands, nor possessions to forsake ; we have neither wives or children, or brethren or sisters, to be torn from;-no rational pleasureor natural endearments to give up. We have nothing to part with, but what is not our interest to keep,--—our lusts and passions. We have nothing to do for CHRIST's sake-but what is most for our own ;· --that is, to be temperate, and chaste, and just,—and peaceable,--and charitable, and kind to one another. -So that if man could suppose himself in a capacity even of capitulating with GOD, concerning the terms upon which he would submit to his government,-and to choose the laws he would be bound to observe in testimony of his faith ;—it were impossible for him to make any proposals, which, upon all accounts, should be more advantageous to his interest, than those very conditions to which we are already obliged; that is, to deny ourselves ungodliness, to live soberly and righteously in this present life, and lay such restraints upon our appetites, as are for the honor of human nature,— the improvement of our happiness, our health, —our peace,―our reputation and safety. When one considers this representation of the temporal inducements of christianity,and compares it with the difficulties and discouragements which they encountered who first made profession of a persecuted and hated religion; at the same time that it raises the idea of the fortitude and sanctity of those holy men, of whom the world was not worthy,—it sadly diminishes that of ourselves which, though it has all the blessings of this life apparently on its side to support it, yet can scarce be kept alive. And if we may form a judgment from the little stock of religion which VOL. III.