Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

sovereign disposer of all things may communicate his blessings by what means, and in any way, he thinks fit. But whatever he effects by the interposition of means, and a train of intermediate causes, he could produce by his own immediate power. He wants not clouds to diffil rain, nor rain, nor human industry to make the earth fruitful, nor the fruitfulness of the earth to supply food, nor food to sustain our life. He could do this by his own immediate power : but he chooses to manifest his providence, power, wisdom and goodness in a variety of instances and dispositions, and yet his power and goodness are not only as much concerned and exercised in this way, as if he produced the end without the intervention of means, but even much more. Because his power, wisdom and goodness are as much exerted and illustrated in every single intermediate step, as if he had done the thing at once, without any intermediate itep at all.! There is as much power and wisdom exercised in producing rain, or in making the earth fruitful, or in adapting food to the nourishment of our bodies ; I say, there is as much power and wisdom exercifed in any one of these fteps, as there would be in nourishing our bodies by one immediate act, without those intermediate means. Therefore, in this method of procedure, the displays of the divine providence and perfections are multiplied, and beautifully diversified, to arrest our attention, exercise our contemplation, and excite our admiration and thankfulness: for thus we see God in a surprizing variety of instances. Nor, indeed, can we turn our eyes to any part of the visible creation, but we see his power, wisdom and goodness in perpetual exercise, every where. In like manner, in the moral world, he chooses to work by means, the mediation of his Son, the influences of his Spirit, the teachings of his Word, the endeavours of apostles and ministers; not to supply any defects of his power, wisdom, or goodness, but to multiply the instances of thein ; to shew himself to us in a various display of his glorious dispensations, to exercise the moral powers and yirtues of all the subordinate agents employed in carrying on his great designs, and to set before our thoughts the most engaging subjects of meditation, and the most powerful motives of action. And this method in the moral world is still more neceflary; because, without the attention of our minds, the end proposed, our fanctification, cannot be attained.

151. But if the agency, or ministry, of Christ, in executing the gracious purposes of God's goodness, be a right appointment, how comes his love and obedience to be a jutt foundation of divinegrace (*); or a proper

expedient

(*) When I say, Christ's love and obedience is a just foundation of the divine grace, I know not how to explain myself better than by the following instance. There have been matters willing, now and then, to grant a relaxation from study, or even to remit deserved punisament, in case any one boy, in behalf of the whole school, or of the offender, would compose and presenc a distich or copy of Latin vet ses. This at once shewed the master's love and lenity, and was a very proper expedient for promoting learning and benevolence in the society of little men training up for future usefulness, and, under due regulations, very becoming a good and wise Tutor. And

one

expedient to communicate it to us? Answ. The Love and Obedience of Christ will appear a very just Foundation of the Divine Grace, and the most proper Expedient to communicate it, and our Redemption by Chrift will ftand in a just, clear and beautiful Light, if we duly consider; that Truth, Virtue, Righteousness, being useful and doing good, or, which is the same Thing, Obedience to God, is the chief Perfection of the intellectual Nature. Intelligent Beings are of all others the most excellent; and the right Use of the Power of Intelligence is the very highest Glory and Excellence of intelligent Beings. Consequently, Righteousness, Goodness and Obedience must be of the highest Etteem and Value with the Father of the Universe, a most pure and perfect Spirit; the only Power, if I may fo say, that can prevail with him, and the only acceptable Price, for purchasing (95) any Favours, or Blessings at his Hands. And it must be the most sublime and perfect Display of his Wisdom and Goodness to devise Methods, and erect Schemes for promoting Righteousness, Virtue, Goodness and Obedience; because this is the mott effectual Way of promoting the truest Excellency's Honour and Happiness of his rational Creatures. For which Reason, he cannot, poflibiy, in any other Way exercise his perfe&tions among the Works of his Hands more nobly and worthily.

152. God graciously intended the future State of the Church should be revealed, for the Benefit and Comfort of his People in succeeding Ages: But then, fome superior Worth must be honoured with this Fas vour; and an heavenly Herald is ordered to proclaim to the whole rational Creation, “Who is worthy ?” Who can produce an Eminence of Character, which God shall esteem proportionable to the Favour? Rev. V. 2. But none could answer the Challenge, but the Son of God. He had Merit sufficient; "he prevailed,” Ver. 5, or excelled so far in real Worth, as to deserve the Benefit. Which moral Eminence is represented by the Emblem of “ a Lamb as it had been sain,” Ver. 6; denoting his perfect Innocence and Purity, his Goodnels and Benevolence, Meekness and Humility, his Submission and Obedience to God, and his steadfast Adherence to Truth and Duty under all Trials, and even in the very Terrors of Death. This is the Worthiness by which he prevailed to open the Book. And the same Worthiness, in the fame Manner, is declared to be the Foundation of our Redemption, Ver. 9; “ Thou art worthy to take and open the Book; for thy Worthiness is equal to a much greater Effect) thou waft lain, and halt redeemed us to God by thy Blood.”

153. And that the Removal of Evils, or the Donation of Benefits in favour of fome, thou have respect to some fignal Inítance of Righteousness and Obedience performed by another, must be acknowledged a very jutt and proper Method of promoting the moral Good. For, that Happiness should be consequent to Righteousness, Grodness, 2nd Obedience, is perfectly consonant with the Nature of Things. That all Beings, without Exception, Tould practise Righteoufncis is also

true;

one may say, that the kind Verse-maker purchased the Favour' in bith Cafes ; or that his Learning. Ingenuity, Industry, Goodness, and Compliance with the Go:ernour's Will and Pleasure, was a just Ground, or Foundation of the Pardon anal RefreAnment, or a proper Reason of granting them.

Vol. Ill.

Aa

true; because this is the chief Perfection of their Nature. And that the Righteousness of some should redound to the Good of others, is a fit and proper Conftitution, so far as the Quantity of Virtue or Righteousness may thereby be probably increated. (For an unactive, unobedient Reliance upon the Merit of another is absurd: Or, it is not true or right, that I should be finally benefited by the Righteousness of another, while I live wickedly myself.] And the Quantity of Vir. tue may probably be increased several Ways. 1. As this Method will excite the Wife and Benevolent to A&ts of Righteousness and Obedience, by the Prospect of being useful, and procuring Good to others. 2. Hereby illustrious Examples will be proposed for Imitation. 3. Which will be strongly inforced and recommended by the Benefits and Blessings, which are thereby derived to us.

154. Agreeably to this Scheme. Abraham is proposed as a bright Example of Obedience and Reward; and his Obedience is given as the Reason of conferring Blessings upon his Pofterity, and particularly of having the Mefliah, the Redeemer and greatest Blessing of Mankind, descend from him Gen. xxii, 16, 17, 18, “ By myself have I sworn, faith the Lord, for because thou hast done this Thing, and hast not withheld thy Son, thine only Son: That in Blessing I will bless thee, and in Multiplying I will multiply thy Seed as the Stars of Heaven, and as the Sand which is upon the Sea-Thore; and thy Seed shall possess the Gate of his Enemies; and in thy Seed shall all the Nations of the Earth be blefled: Because thou hast obeyed my Voice. Gen. xxvi. 25,“ The Lord said unto llaacz — I will be with thee and bleis thee : And in thy Seed shall all the Nations of the Earth be blessed: Because that Abraham cbeyed my Voice, and kept my Charge, my Commandments, my Statutes and my Laws." Gen. xviii. 26–32, Had but ten righteous Persons been found in Sodom, God, upon Abraham's Intercession, would have spared the City for the Sake of those Ten; probably as they might have proved the Seed and Mcans of Reformation. Moles also, by his Intercesion (in which he performed an Act of Virtue; namely, Faith in the Goodness of God, and Kindness and Compassion for the Ifraelites) made Atonement for their Sin, in the Affair of the golden Calf, and prevented their Destruction, Exod. xxxii. 30, 31, 32. See allo Num. xiv. 20. Phineas likewise, by being zealous for his God, and executing an Act of Justice upon two notorious Criminals,“ turned away the Wrath of God from the Children of Israel; made Atonement for them,” and gained the honourable Entail of the Priesthood on his Posterity, Num. xxv. 11, 12, 13. Deut. iv. 37, “And becaulc he loved thy. Fathers,” for their Piety and Virtue, “therefore he chose their Seed after them, and brought thee outwith his mighty Power out of Egypt," &c. 1 Sam. vii. 8, 9, 10. Job xlii. 7, 8, “ The Lord faid to Eliphaz, My Wrath is kindled against thee and thy two Friends ;--- Therefore go to my Servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a Burnt-offering, and my Servant Job shall pray for you; for him will I accept: Left I deal with you after your Folly," &c. Pfal.cv. 41, 42, 43, ** Me opened the Rock, and the Waters gulhed out, ahey ran in dry Places like a River. For he remembred his holy Promile, and Abraham his Servant. And he brought forth his People with Joy, and his Chofen with Gladness.” Jer. xv. I, * Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moscs and Samuel Atcod before me, yet my Mind could not

be

CH. VIII. We ought to imitate those Acts whereby Christ has Redeemed us. 371. be towards this People.” Ezek. xiv. 13-21, “Son of Man, when the Land finneth against me by trespassing grievously, though these three Men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they should deliver neither Sons nor Daughters, they should deliver only their own Souls by their Righteousness." That Virtue, Righteousness, Goodness and Obedience thould be the Price of Happiness, and procure Blessings to ourselves and others, is a very juit and noble Constitution ; and may not only be seen in such Examples as I have just now mentioned ; but, I make no doubt, takes place throughout the whole rational Universe. Christ, indeed, is a Person of the highest Eminence; and the Effects of his Righteousness are proportionable to his personal Worth and Excellency; and amazingly extensive : But I reckon the Rule, Scheme, and Reason of his Work, and its Effects, is general, and reaches to all rational Beings. For it is consonant to all Reason, that a diligent, humble, and kind Subserviency to the well being of others, should be honoured with Favours from the Fountain of all Good. It is perfectly fit, that illustrious Virtue and Righteousness should be crowned with an extensive Influence; and that the good Effects thereof should reach to many, and be the Occafion and Means of their Happiness. And in our World here we find, in Fact, that it is by Virtue, Self-denial, Integrity, Love and Kindness, studying and labouring to do Good, that we are any of us useful, and a Blesing to ourselves and others. We ourselves bless the Good and Benevolent; and by so doing, judge it is fit and right God should bless them, and make them Blessings. Gen. xii. 2.

155. Nor is this Comparison lessening of the Dignity of our Lord, or any Disparagement of his glorious Work. For it is no Disparagement to the High-priest of our Profession, that we also are “ a royal Priesthood;" that we are “ Priests to God.” It is no ways derogatory even to the most perfect Excellence of the Divine Nature, that Wisdom, Goodness, Justice and Holiness are in Men the same in Kind, though not in Degree, as they are in God. Or, should I account for our Lord's universal Dominion, and his being constituted Judge of the whole World at the last Day, by alledging; that, although all Authority and Judge ment belong to God, yet it is the general Method of his Wisdom, to employ Delegates in the Exercise of his Authority. For we fee in our World, he doth not immediately judge, and punish the Criminals who make themselves obnoxious to the Censures of the Society, but

every where appointed Kings and Governours, Magistrates, fuperior and subordinate, to administer and execute Judgment among Mankind in Affairs relating to Society. What Wonder then, if he has appointed his well-beloved Son, a Being of fo transcendent Excellence, to be the Judge of all, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. This Way of arguing would not lessen our Lord's Authority, but would very justly account for it. Even so it is no Disparagement to the Dignity of our blessed Lord, or to the glorious Work of Redemption,

among Men are found Actions similar to his, both in Nature and Effect.

156. But that which puts the Matter out of Dispute, is our being required, not only to imitate our Lord in other Instances of his Love and Obedience, but in those very Acts whereby he has ransomed, or

A a 2

redeemed

has

that

redeemed us. Mat. XX. 26, 27, 28, “ Whosoever will be great among you," my Disciples, “ let him be your Minister. And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your Servant;" let him deserve his Ho nour by Usefulnels, by affisting and doing Good to all. “ Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministred unto, but to minister, and to give his Life a Ranfom for many.” Our Lord came to serve and affift, to be useful, and do Good to all, with all Humility, Meekness and Gentleness; and even humbled himself, and condefcended fo far, for promoting the Happiness of Mankind, as to lay down his Life to redeem them from Sin and Misery. And he is most honourable and eminent in Christ's King. dom, who comes nearest to bis Example. John xv. 12, 13, - Love one another as I have loved you. Greater Love hath no Man than this, that he lay down his Life for his Friends." 2 Cor. viii. 7, 9, “ Abound in this Grace,” this Act of Kindness to your distressed Brethren ; " for ye know the Grace," the great Love and Goodness, “ of our Lord Jefus Christ, that though he was Rich, yet for your Sakes he became Poor, ' &c. Eph, v. 2, “ Walk in Love, as Christ also has loved us, and given himself for us an Offering, and Sacrifice to God." All this is still more clearly and strongly expressed. 1 John jii. 16, “ Hereby perceive we the Love of God, because he (that is, Jesus Chrift) laid down his Life (: mlhex) for us : And we ought to lay down our lives (17?? 74od:10wr) for thé Brethren,” to promote their Happiness. It is, therefore, fo far from diminishing the Dignity of our Lord, or the Glory of his Work, to produce fimilar Instances among us; that it is made our Duty, by an inspired Apostle, to copy after his Example, even in his Dying for us. Indeed there is 110 Comparison between the Value and Importance of Chritt's Work, and any we can perform. Yet ours, in a much lower Degree, may produce fimilar Efects, and will not fail of being attended with a proportionable Measure of the Divine Blefling.

157. But here I muit put in a Caveat ; namely, that it cannot belong to us to set a Value upon the Obedience and Goodness of fupposed Saints, and then determine how much it shall redound to the Bene fit of ourselves, or others. By no Means. In so doing corrupt Christians have taken a very presumptuous, and unwarrantable Liberty. For this is manifestly to invade the Divine Prerogative, and to take out of his Hands a Work, which, in the Nature of Things, is peculiar to himself alone; and can belong to none, but to the Judge of all the Earth, who only knows the Hearts of all Men, and who alone can truly adjust Rewards and Punilhments. He alone can settle the Value of any Virtue or Righteoufness, and he alone must appoint and bestow the Benefits proper to honour it with : Nor has be given any Man either Capacity or Authority to rate, or estimate the Goodness of other Beings, whether Men or Angels, and then to affign the Benefits

pro per to be bestowed on others on Account thereof: Nor is our Faith and Dependence in Revelation dirested to any other Worthiness (besides the Goodnets of God, but that of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

158. And as the Justness and Truth of Redemption clearly appears in this Light; fo the Propriety of it is no less evident. Had our Re. dempricn bech of a Civil Kind, it might have been effi eted only by

Power

« EdellinenJatka »