« EdellinenJatka »
are such great and just allays of the vain mind, such correctives of pride, that it is strange that any temporal prosperity should occasion swelling arrogance. The psalmist considering the glory of God shining in the heavens, is in an ecstacy at his condescending goodness. " What is man that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man that thou regardest hiin?” His original is from the earth, the lowest element : all that he possesses, to supply his wants and satisfy his desires, is from pure mercy : and the more eminent the advantage of some is above others in this world, the greater are their receipts and obligations : and who would be proud that he is in a mighty debt ? Rich and poor, honourable and mean, are distinctions among men; but in respect to God all are equally mean and low. Neither do these things give any inherent worth, and make persons more acceptable to God. Poor Lazarus who was a miserable spectacle, his body corroded with ulcers, yet had a precious soul under it : the glorious angels descended from heaven to receive it at the point of death, and convey it to the reviving presence of God; but the rich man was cast into hell. Besides, how uncertain are all the admired things of this world!
Is he truly rich whose whole estate lies in a ship abroad, that. is to pass through seas exposed to tempests, and infested with pirates, and runs a double hazard of being robbed or cast away? And the consideration thereof, is a proper argument to cause us to keep a low mind in a high condition. It is the apostle's counsel, “ let the rich," and the great in the world, “ rejoice in that he is made low: because as the flower of the
grass away:” Jam. 1. 10. when the florid beauty is displayed, it presently withers. How many survive their estates and dignities, and by unforeseen revolutions become poor and low. Many that were overflowing in riches and pleasures, are as dry and desolate as the desart. And is it not a disparagement to our reason to admire shadows, and be proud of transient vanities ? But suppose they continue with men here, can they preserve the body from diseases and death, or the soul from oppressing sorrows ? And is it not miserable folly to pride themselves in secular greatness, that is so insufficient to prevent the worst evils ? But especially the consideration how man is vilified by sin, should make him be abased and low in his own eyes. · As that blessed martyr, bishop Hooper, says, ' Lord, I am hell, thou art heaven;
he shall pass
I am a sink of sin, thou art the fountain of holiness.'
And the more gracious and bountiful God is to men, the more sinful should they appear to themselves. Humility discovers our native poverty, in the midst of rich abundance ; our true vileness in the midst of glittering honours, that nothing is ours but sin and misery; and makes us say, with the spirit of that humble saint, we are less than the least of all God's mercies.” Now the more of humility, the more of heaven is in the soul : it is that disposition that prepares it to receive the graces and comforts of the Spirit in an excellent degree. “ God resists the proud;" the self-conceited and aspiring he is at defiance with, « and abhors them;" he justly deprives them of spiritual treasures, who value themselves and bear it high for the abundance of this world : “ but he gives grace to the humble.” The dųe sense of our wants and unworthiness makes us fit to partake of divine blessings.
2. A meek temper and deportment, is an excellent preservar tive from the evil of prosperity. Humility and meekness are always in conjunction, and most amiable in the eyes of God and
“A meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." 1 Pet. 3. 4. They are the brightest jewels that adorn humanity, and shined so gloriously in our blessed Saviour, the supreme pattern of perfection, and are propounded as signally imitable by us. 6 Learn of me for I am meek and lowly.” When he came in his regal office, he is thus described, “ rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion : behold thy king cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation, lowly." Zach. 9. 9. The church is excited to rejoice in his mild monarchy. And christians, who in profession are his disciples, are commanded to be “gentle, and to show all meekness to all men.” Tit. 3. 3. This especially concerns those who are in a superior order: for prosperity is apt to make men insolent and intolerable, and to treat with a haughty roughness those that are below them. But there is nothing more becoming men in prosperity and power, than a sweetness of spirit, not easily provoked by injuries, and easily pardoning them; a gracious condescension expressed in words and actions, even to all inferiors. And especially meekness is necessary in a submissive receiving reproofs for sin, whether by the ministry of the word, or by a faithful friend. Prosperity is never more dangerous, than when sin takes sanctuary in it; when men think riches and power to be a privilege to free them from sound and searching reproof, and damn themselves with less contradiction. And an humble submission, with respect to the authority of God and an ingenuous tractableness, with respect to the sincere affection of those who are faithful in their counsels for our souls, is an eminent instance of meekness, and preserves from the danger of prosperity.
3. Solemn and affectionate thanksgiving to God for his mercies, sanctifies prosperity. This is the certain consequent of an humble disposition of soul. Pride smothers the receipts of God's favours : thankfulness is the homage of humility. This is infinitely due to God, who renews our lives as often as we breathe, and renews his mercies every moment; yet so unjust and ungrateful are men, especially in prosperity, that they strangely neglect it. From hence are those divine warnings so solemnly repeated to the Israelites, “ when thou shalt have eaten, and art full, then beware lest thou forget the Lord.” Deut. 6. 11, 12. And, “ lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein, then thy heart be listed up, and thou forget the Lord thy God.” Deut. 8. 12. This was the wicked effect of their prosperity : “ according to their pasture so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted, therefore have they forgotten me.” Hos. 13. 6. There is a great backwardness in a carnal heart to thanksgiving for mercies. Prayer in our distress, is a work of necessity, but thankful praise is an act of duty; carnal love is the cause of the one, divine love of the other. Even David how ardently does he excite his soul to the performing this duty; “ bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” Psal. 103. 1, 2. The earnest and repeated address to make a lively and fervent impression upon his soul, is a tacit intimation of the drowsy negligence he found in himself. This duty is spiritual, and to be performed by the soul that is our noble part, and capable to understand our obligations to the divine goodness. Indeed, it is often expressed in the vocal praises of God, Psal. 34. 2. for there is a natural correspondence between the tongue and the heart, as between the hand of a clock, and the motion of the wheels within : but the chief part is performed in the soul, and is only of value and acceptance with God, who is the maker, the searcher, and the judge of our hearts. Therefore the holy psalmist calls “ upon his soul, and all that is within him, every faculty to unite in the praises of God:” the understanding to consider the several arguments of praise and thankfulness, to esteem and to admire the divine goodness, to ascribe the glory that is due to God for his mercies: the memory to register his benefits; the will and affections to love him for his mercies, and above them.
Thankfulness implies a solemn recognition of the mercies of God, with all the circumstances that add a lustre to them, to affect us in as vigorous a manner in our praises for the blessings we enjoy, as we are in our prayers for what we need. Not only signal mercies, but common and ordinary should be continually acknowledged by us. And since our memories are so slippery as to the retaining of favours, injuries are inscribed in marble, benefits written in the dust : we should every day review the mercies we enjoy, to quicken our praises for them, and to make impressions not soon defaced. Thankfulness implies a due valuation of God's benefits: this will be raised, by considering the author, the great God: the meanest mercy from his hand, is a high favour. As the guilt of sin arises from the greatness of the object; though some sins are comparatively small, yet none is in its intrinsic nature a small evil : so though of mercies, some are in comparison eminent, and some are ordinary, yet every mercy is great with respect to the author from whence it comes : and the thankful esteem of mercies, will rise in proportion to the sense of our unworthiness. A constant poverty of spirit in reflecting upon our own vileness, that there is not merely a want of desert in us, with respect to God's blessings, but a desert of his heavy judgments, will heighten our esteem of them. For this end it is very useful, that the prosperous would consider those below them, how many better than themselves are under oppressing wants, tormenting pains, heart-breaking sorrows, whom you may trace by their tears every day; and what free and rich mercy is it, that they enjoy the affluence of all things: this distinguisha ing goodness, should be acknowledged with a warm rapture of affection to the divine Benefactor. To compare ourselves with those that excel us in grace, will make us hunuble, and with those who are below us in outward blessings, will make us thankful.
The prosperous have special obligations to be most conversant in this celestial duty: there are various graces and duties that are only useful in this imperfect state, and shall expire with us : as repentance, faith, hope, patience, &c. the reward of them will be eternal, but the exercise is limited to present life; but love and praise remain in heaven. The saints eternally admire, love, and bless. God for his mercies. And the sincere and constant performance of this duty, is most pleasing to God, and profitable to us : for thankfulness to our blessed benefactor, engages his heart, and opens the treasures of his bounty more liberally to us. The way to obtain new benefits, is not to suffer former favours to be lost in ungrateful oblivion. In short, it is the best and sürest evidence of our thankfulness to God, when his mercies are effectual motives to please him. We cannot always make an actual commemoration of his benefits, but an habitual remembrance should ever be in our hearts, and influential in our lives. lovingkindness is before mine eyes,” (saith holy David) “and I have walked in thy truth;” unfeignedly respected all thy commandments.
4. The fear of God, and a vigilant care to avoid the sins that so easily encompass us, are necessary in prosperity. The secure assist satan in his war against the soul; but watchfulness disarms the tempter. Circumspection is never more a duty, than when pleasures without, and passions within, conspire to betray us.
It is useful to reflect upon the great numbers who have been corrupted and ruined by prosperity: that the vices of the dead may secure the virtues of the living. The “fear of God is clean," effectively, as it preserves from sin. It is Solomon's advice to young men, that enjoy the world in its flower, and in the season of their sinning, that they would remember that God for all their vanities will bring them to judgment. This consideration will be powerful to prevent the risings of the corrupt affections, or to -suppress their growth, and hinder their accomplishment. But with the excellently tempered soul, an ingenuous fear from the consideration of God's mercies, is an effectual restraint from sin. It is said, “ they shall fear the Lord, and his goodness :” fear to offend, and grieve, and lose his goodness. This fear does not infringe the comfort of the soul, but preserve and improve it: servile fear, when the soul is afraid to burn, not to sin, is a judicial forced impression, the character of a slave ; but an ingenuous