Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

To distribute, is a means to increase riches : it is a rule not only in spirituals, but in temporals ; " as a man sows, so he shall reap,” both in the recompences of justice, and the rewards of mercy: he that sows bountifully, shall reap bountifully. Charity is a productive grace, that enriches the giver more than the receiver. “ Honour the Lord with thy substance, and the firstfruits of thy increase ; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses burst out with new wine.

He that gives to the poor, lends to the Lord :” Prov. 3. 9, 10. he signs himself our debtor for what is laid out for him, and he will pay it with interest ; not only with eternal treasures hereafter, but in outward blessings here. Riches obtained by regular means, are the effects and effusions of his bounty; but sometimes by admirable ways, he gives a present reward, as by his own hand. As there are numerous examples of God's blasting the covetous, either by a gangrene in their estates, that consumes them before their eyes, or by the luxury and profuseness of their children ; so it is as visible he prospers the merciful, sometimes by a secret blessing dispensed by an invisible hand, and sometimes in succeeding their diligent endeavours in their callings.

But it is objected, the liberal are not always prosperous. To this a clear answer may be given.

(1.) External acts of charity may be performed from vicious motives, without a mixture of internal affections, which make them accepted of God.

(2.) Supposing a christian abounds in works of charity, and is not rewarded here, this special case does not infringe the truth of God's promise ; for temporal promises are to be interpreted with an exception, unless the wisdom and love of God sees it better not to bestow them: but he always rewards them in kind, or eminently in giving more excellent blessings. The crown of life is a reward more worthy the desires of a christian, than the things of this world. Our Saviour assures the young man, all, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” Eternal hopes are infinitely more desirable than temporal possessions. The apostle “ charges the rich to do good, to be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up for themselves a good foundation, (not of merit, but assurance) against the time to come, laying hold of eternal life.” { Tim. 6. 18, 19. If I could direct the covetous, how to ex

“ sell change a weight of silver for an equal weight of gold, or a we ght of gold for an equal weight of diamonds, how attentively would they hear, and earnestly follow such profitable counsel? But what comparison is there between earthly and heavenly treasures? Godliness, of which the grace of charity is an excellent part, “ is profitable for all things," it makes our profit eternally profitable. It is the wisdom as well as duty of believers, to lay up treasures, not on earth, the land of their banishment, but in the celestial country, the place of their nativity.

CHAP. III.

Pride considered in its nature, kinds, and degrees. It consists in an immo.

derate appetite of superiority. It is moral or spiritual. Arrogance, vain. glory, and ambition are branches of it. A secret undue conceit of our own excellencies, the inordinate desire of praise, the aspiring after high places, and titles of honour, are the effects of pride. Spiritual pride considered. A presuming upon self-sufficiency to obtain men's ends : a reliance upon their own direction and ability to accomplish their designs, Sios committed with design aod deliberation are from iosolence. A vain presumption of the goodness of men's spiritual estates. Pride is in the front of those sins that God hates. Pride is odious in the sight of men, The difficulty of the cure apparent from many considerations. The proper means to allay the tumour of pride.

Fourthly. Pride of life is joined with the lusts of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes. Pride destroyed both worlds; it transformed angels into devils, and expelled them from heaven; it degraded man from the honour of his creation, into the condition of the beasts that perish, and expelled him from paradise. I will consider the nature, several kinds and degrees of it, and the means to purge us from it.

The nature of this vice consists in an irregular and immoderate appetite of superiority; and has two parts : the one is the affectation of honour, dignity, -and power, beyond their true va

lue and worth; the other is the arrogating them as due to a person beyond his just desert. The kinds of it are moral and spiritual, which are sometimes concealed in the mind and will, but often declared in the aspect and actions. Accordingly it is either arrogance that attributes an undue pre-eminence to a man's self, and exacts undue respects from others; or vain-glory, that affects and is fed with praise ; or ambition, that hotly aspires after high places, and titles of precedency and power : all which are comprised in the universal name of pride.

1. Pride includes a secret conceit of our own excellencies, which is the root of all its branches. Self-love is so natural, and deeply impressed in the heart, that there is no flatterer more subtle and concealed, more easily and willingly believed, than this affection. Love is blind towards others, and more towards oneself. Nothing can be so intimate and dear, as when the lover, and the person beloved are the same. This is the principle of the high opinion, and secret sentiments men entertain of their own special worth. “ The heart is deceitful above all things," and above all things deceitful to itself. Men look into the enchanting glass of their own fancies, and are vainly enamoured with the false reflection of their excellencies, Self-love hinders the sight of those imperfections, which discovered, would lessen the liberal esteem of themselves. The soul is a more obscure object to its eye, than the most distant stars in the heavens. Seneca tells of some that had a strange infirmity in their eyes, that wherever they turned, they encountered the visible moving image of themselves. Of which he gives this reason; *It proceeds from the weakness of the visible faculty, that for want of spirits derived from the brain, cannot penetrate through the diaphonous air, to see objects; but every part of the air is a reflecting glass of themselves.' That which he conjectured to be the cause of the natural infirmity, is most true of the moral, the subject of our discourse. It is from the weakness of the mind, that the judicative faculty does not discover the worth of others, but sees only a man's self, as singular in perfections, and none superior, or equal, or near to him. A proud man will take

* Infirmavis oculorum, non potest ne proximum ærem perrumpere, sed resistit. Sen. lib. preternat, quest.

a rise from any advantage to foment pride : some from the perfections of the body, beauty or strength; some from the circumstance of their condition, riches, or honour; and every one thinks himself sufficiently furnished with understanding : for reason being the distinguishing excellency of a man from the brutes, a defectiveness in that is very disgraceful and the title of fool, the most stinging reproach ; as is evident by our Saviour's gradation : “Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause is liable to judgment; whoever says Racha,” that expresses his anger contumeliously, “is subject to the council; but whoever shall say fool, shall be punished with hell-fire." Therefore men are apt to presume of their intellectual abilities : one says, I have not learning, as those who are pale with study, and whose lamps shine at midnight, but I have a stock of natural reason; or I have not a quick apprehension, but I have a solid judgment: I have not eloquence, but I speak good sense. The high conceit of men's own worth declares itself several ways : sometimes it is transparent in the countenance ; “ There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes, and their eye-lids are lifted up." Sometimes it is manifest in haughty carriage: if others do not express eminent respects to them, it is resented as a neglect and injury. Their apparel at first made to hide shame, proclaims their pride.

2. An inordinate desire of reputation and praise, is another branch of pride. The desire of praise is sowed in the human nature for excellent ends; to restrain them from those alluring lusts that will ruin their reputation, and to excite them to do things noble and beneficial to the public. Praise, the reward of doing good, is a powerful incentive to improve and secure the civil felicity. The wise king tells us, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” It is a recompence God has promised, “ The upright shall be praised.”

The apostle excites us to strive after universal holiness, by motives froin reputation as well as from conscience; “Whatsoever things are true," for conscience, honest, for fame, “whatsoever are just and pure,” for conscience, “ whatsoever are lovely,” for esteem, “ if there be any virtue in ourselves, and praise from others,” to propagate it, “think on these things.” But the inflamed desire of praise from men, the being incensed against others as envious or enemies that deny it, the assuming it for unworthy causes, (where there is no true virtue, there is no just praise) the terminating it on ourselves, and not transferring it to God, are the effects of a vain-glorious mind. Pride undervalues goodness in itself, and respects it only for the shadow that attends it. Praise is a music so enchanting, that it inclines men to believe that to be true which is pleasing, and which they desire others should believe to be true. A philosopher, when a box of ointment of precious composition was presented to him, feeling his spirits revived with its fragrancy, broke forth with indignation against those effeminate persons that perfume their hair and habits with it for vicious ends, and made the use of it disgraceful. But when praise, that is so sweet and powerful a motive to encourage generous minds to the exploits of virtue, is bestowed on worthless persons, it is more detestable. The poisonous flowers of false praise are pernicious to those who are deceived and pleased with them. It is the infelicity of those who are in the highest dignity, to whom it is uneasy to descend into themselves, and take a sincere serious view of their internal state, and to whom truth is harsh and displeasing, they are in great danger of being corrupted by flatterers. Flattery is the familiar figure of those who address to princes: sometimes by fine fraud and unsuspected artifice they give the countenance of truth to a lie, in representing them to excel in wisdom and virtue. But if princes be so vain-glorious that moderate praise is esteemed a diminution to their greatness, and only the strongest perfumes affect their sense, they will represent them as half deities, as second suns to the world. It was the judicious observation of Galba in his discourse with Piso, whom he designed to be his successor in the empire of Rome. * “We speak with simplicity between ourselves; but others will rather speak with our state than with our persons.” In short, all that have an eminent advantage to bestow favours and benefits are liable to be deceived by flatterers, who are like concave-glasses, that represent small objects in an exorbitant figure: they will feed the humours of those upon whom they depend, and speak things pleasing to them, and profitable to themselves. It is their surest security to

* Etiam ego ac ta simplicissime inter nos hodie loquimur; ceteri libentias cum fortuna nostra, quam nobiscum. Tacit, Hist, 1. 1.

« EdellinenJatka »