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argue, that what Excellencies foever we may fancy in them, yet He who gave them Being, and can be under no Mistakes concerning them, sees nothing there so valuable, as should incline him to spare thein from Ruin and Diffolution.
But, belides that unalterable Decree, which hath doomed these things to cease in themselves, there is another no less unavoidable, which brings them under a necessity of ceasing to Us. For, How continually do we feel them perish in the using? How often Nip through our Fingers, and leave us, at once bereaved of a Possession, we fondly thought fixed and certain, and astonish'd which way we came to be so ? Supposing them, yet farther, to escape the common Methods of deceiving us in that point too; Yet, how short is Our stay with Them, if They were never so firmly disposed to stay with Us? Death, 'tis beyond all doubt, must make an entire Separation. And This is in such swift, such constant Motion towards us, that every one hath so much less behind to enjoy the World in, as Í have now been employing time to prepare him for the leaving it.
And Who that is wise, would place his Affections and Happiness, in That which must forsake him one day, which may do it this very day; In That, which every Moment cuts off a part from, Which often makes it self Wings, and flies away from Him, and which he himself is flying from, as fast as Time can carry him; Aying from it, at the very instant, that he pursues and caresses, and settles his Heart upon it? How vain are such fugitive Objects, in comparison of a certain and enduring Substance? How miserably infatuated those unthinking Creatures, who allow such Trifles, such empty Bubbles, to over-balance a Treasure in Heaven, a Crown incorruptible, and that fadeth not away for ever? Oh that Men were wise, that they would understand this, that they would consider their latter end !
3. Thirdly, From the Two foregoing Reflections, 'tis easy to discern the Reasonableness of those Virtues, which are usually thought so extremely hard of Digestion, Liberal Charity to the Poor, and Suffering for a good Conscience, when God calls us to it. The abridging our Selves even of Superfluous Expences and Pleasures, but more of the common Comforts and Supplies of Human Life, and especially the Giving up All, even that Life it self, for the sake of Religion, are, by the Carnal, the Vain, the Worldly-minded, (that is, in truth, by much the greater part of Mankind) look’d upon as most extravagant Instances of Zeal, and, to speak tenderly, a pious Madness. But, what Absurdity soever Flesh and Sense may apprehend in This, the Gospel sets the matter in a quite different Light; and all the Hardship that assaults us in it, is merely from a Forgetfulness of our Condition in the Present World, and of our Prospects and Hopes in the Next.
1. Suppose, as to the Former of these Cases, the fame Command laid upon Each of us, as on the Rich Young-man in the Gospel; Go, sell that thou hast, and give to the Poor, and thou Malt have Treasure in Hea
This may, at first, sound like a hard Saying. But, if we will sit down, and weigh it nicely, what in truth does it amount to, more than this, that we should do, what every considering Man would desire, and esteem himself happy in a fit Opportunity, to do? To make a Virtue of Necessity, and part with that by Choice, which we must otherwise part with by Constraint: That we would freely give back to Christ, what He first gave Us; what is not in our Power always to keep, and for which, if this be done, he will give somewhat in exchange, better, and not liable ever to be taken away. Were these Earthly, Possessions absolutely at our own Will, the Joys of Heaven should infinitely outweigh them. But, when
the Question is not, Whether we will hold them fast, but, in what manner we will quit them. Whether a Fire, or a Tempest, Deceit or Violence, shall wrest them from us; Or whether we will convert them to generous and holy Uses. Whether a profuse Heir sliall squander them away in Riot and Luxury, and Folly; Or, Whether we will profit our Selves of them, by feeding the Hungry, and cloathing the Naked, Members of our Common Head. To dispute this, is to question, whether Good or Evil, Loss or Improvement, ought to be chosen. For this is a sort of noble Avarice, thus to put Money out to Interest, and, with the perishing Dross of this World, to purchase an everlasting Settlement in the Next.
2. Nor is the Case very different with regard to Suffering for Religion. For, here too the whole turns upon This, Whether we will dedicate to God a Life exposed to Accidents innumerable, and perpetual Decay; and so, by a Free-will Offering make that parting with the World a Martyrdom, which must be a Death however ; Or, whether we chuse to prolong a Life, which every Moment may put an end to, at the Expence of a polluted Conscience, and everlasting Pains. Whether we will die like Christians, and enter upon certain Happiness to Day; Or whether we will run the Hazard of being unspeakably and eternally miserable, by taking up with a bare Possibility, (for 'tis but a Possibility) of living till to mor
But, God be thank’d, this, in Our Age, is feldom the Cafe. And therefore I have a farther Design in vindicating the Equity of Commands, which oblige, even when Matters are come to an Extremity. It is to put you in mind, how justly those Men are condemn'd' to Misery hereafter, who refuse to be happy, upon much easier Terms. For, If it were Wisdom even to leave all and follow Christ; how sense
less, how ungrateful is it, not to allow him part of our A bundance, and give to Piety, what, if with-held, would only minister unto Vanity and Sin? If even Dying for Him, who hath already died for Us, cannot in strictest Reason be declined ; How wretched, how wilful must their Condemnation be, who will not be persuaded to live to Him; and devote their Bodies and Souls a holy Sacrifice, acceptable, and zealous in good Works?
Let us, my Brethren, consider the glorious Hope, that is set before us, of being like him, and seeing him as he is : and let this effectually prevail with us to purify our seloses even as he is pure. As knowing very well, that such a resemblance to him in this present World, is the only possible way of attaining to be made like him, when he Mall appear, in his eternal and glorious Kingdom : where with Thee, O Father, and Thee, O Holy Ghost, be liveth and reigneth ever one God World without end. Amen.
The Sunday called Septuagesima; Or, the Third
Sunday before Lent.
The COLLECT. Lord, we beseech thee favourably to hear the Prayers of thy People, that We, who are justly punished for
our Offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy Goodness ; for the Glory of thy Name, through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, World without end. Amen,
The E PISIL E.
1 Cor. ix. 24.
PARAP H RAS E.
24. The Zeal I urge 24. Now ye not, that they which run in a race upon you, and express
run all, but one obtaineth the prize ? forur in my own Practice, is
obrain. no more, than what the Corinthians have frequent Instances of, upon much nenderer Encouragements. For in the filmian Games, celebrated with you, all the Racers
that ye may
observe the Rules prescribed them, and exert their utmost Vigor , though of all these but One gets what All aim at. Let these Men be your Pattern, and do you run your Christian Race, with an Eagerness that strives to be foremost, and would not be outdone by any engaged in the same Course.
25. And every man that striveth for the mastery is 25. Again, There temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a cor- who contend, in those ruprible Crown, but we an incorruptible.
Games, at Wrestling
and Cuffing, submit to Discipline, debar themselves many Liberties, and undergo great and long HardThips, to prepare them for the Combat. And if they are content to do and suffer so much for a Garland of Boughs, that quickly withers; ought we to decline some Abridgments and Self-denials who expect to be rewarded with a Crown that fadeth not away?
26. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly : so fight I, 26. This is it which not as one that beateth the air :
invigorates me, I know
the Course I make, and keep my Goal in view, like those Grecian Runnners. Nor do I only brandish my Arms in the Air, and act imaginary Conflicts :
27. But I keep under my Body and bring it into fubje- 27. But, like those Elion, left ibat by any means, when I bave preached to Wrestlers and Cuffers, or bers, I my self should be a caft-away.
fight in very good ear
neft with my Adversaries ; this Body of mine, its Appetites and Pallions; and subdue them by Mortification and strict Discipline. Left otherwise I, who (like the Herald in those Games,) proclaim the Terms and the Rewards to Others, should at length, through Sloth or irregular Behaviour, lole all, and have the Prize given at last against my
HE better to discern our Apostle's true Scope
in the Passage now before us, we shall do well to begin our Meditations upon it, with observing the Occasion which introduced this Argument, and the Propriety of those Allusions, wherein the Force of it consists.
1. For the Occasion, First, This seems to have been given, by these Corinthians having consulted St. Paul about some points of Christian Liberty. In these, he fets himself to resolve and direct them, from the beginning of the Seventh Chapter. Among Others, That of eating Meats Sacrificed to Idols is