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submit; if others be more prosperous, you will not envy them; but rather will be thankful for what God is pleased to bestow upon them, as well as for what he gives you. No unlawful methods will be used, to alter your present condition, and whatever it is, you will endeavour to make the best of it; remembering, it is what infinite wisdom and goodness have appointed you, and that it is beyond all comparison better than you have deserved; yea, that the very deficiencies and inconveniences of it may conduce to the improvement of your future and complete happiness.
§. 17. With contentment, if you are a disciple of Christ, "you will join patience too," and in patience will possess your soul*. You cannot indeed be quite insensible, either of affiictions, or of injuries: but your mind will be calm and composed under them, and steady in the prosecution of proper duty, though afflictions press, and though your hopes, your dearest hopes, and prospects be delayed. Patience will prevent hasty and rash conclusions, and fortify you against seeking irregular methods of relief; disposing you in the mean time, till God shall be pleased to appear for you, to go on steadily in the way of your duty; committing yourself to him in well doing. You will also be careful, that patience may have its perfect work‡, and prevail in proportion to those circumstances which demand its peculiar exercise. For instance, when the successions of evil are long and various, so that deep calls to deep, and all God's waves and billows seem to be going over you one after another§: when God touches you in the most tender part; when the reasons of his conduct to you are quite unaccountable; when your natural spirits are weak and decayed; when unlawful methods of redress seem near and easy; still your reverence for the will of your heavenly Father will carry it against all, and keep you waiting quietly for deliverance in his own time and way.
N. B. If this chapter seem too long to be read at once, it may properly be divided here.
§. 18. I have thus led you into a brief review of the christian temper, with respect to God, and ourselves: permit me now to add, "that the gospel will teach you another set of very important lessons with respect to your fellow-creatures." They are all summed up in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; and whatsoever thou wouldst, (that is, whatsoever thou couldst in an exchange of circumstances fairly and reasonably desire) that others should do unto thee, do thou likewise
* Luke xxi. 19. 1 Pet. iv. 19. Jam. i. 4. § Psal. xlii. 7. || Rom. xüi. 9.
the same unto them.* The religion of the blessed Jesus, when it triumphs in your soul, will conquer the predominancy of an irregular self-love, and will teach you candidly and tenderly to look upon your neighbour as another self. As you are sensible of your own rights, you will be sensible of his; as you support your own character, you will support his. You will desire his welfare, and be ready to relieve his necessity, as you would have your own consulted by another. You will put the kindest construction upon his dubious words and actions. You will take pleasure in his happiness, you will feel his distress, in some measure as your own. And most happy will you be, when this obvious rule is familiar to your mind, when this golden law is written upon your heart; and when it is habitually and impartially consulted by you, upon every occasion, whether great or small.
§. 19. The gospel will also teach you, to put on meeknesst, not only with respect to God, submitting to the authority of his word, and the disposal of his providence, as was urged before; but also with regard to your brethren of mankind. Its gentle instructions will form you to calmness of temper under injuries and provocations, so that you may not be angry without, or beyond just cause. It will engage you to guard your words, lest you provoke and exasperate those, you should rather study by love to gain, and by tenderness to heal. Meekness will render you slow in using any rough and violent methods, if they can by any means be lawfully avoided; and ready to admit, and even to propose a reconciliation, after they have been entered into, if there may be hope of succeeding. So far as this branch of the christian temper prevails in your heart, you will take care to avoid every thing which might give unnecessary offence to others; you will behave yourself in a modest manner, according to your station; and it will work, both with regard to superiors and inferiors; teaching you duly to honour the one, and not to overbear or overpress, to grieve or insult the other. And in religion itself it will restrain all immoderate sallies and harsh censures; and will command down that wrath of man, which instead of working, so often opposes the righteousness of God, and shames and wounds that good cause, in which it is boisterously and furiously engaged.
§. 20. With this is naturally connected "a peaceful disposition." If you are a christian indeed, you will have such a
* Mat. vii. 12.
† Col. iii. 12.
James i. 20.
value and esteem for peace, as to endeavour to obtain, and to preserve it as much as lieth in you*, as much as you fairly and honourably can. This will have such an influence upon your conduct, as to make you not only cautious of giving offence, and slow in taking it, but earnestly desirous to regain peace as soon as may be, when it is in any measure broken; that the wound may be healed, while it is green, and before it begins to rankle and fester. And more especially this disposition will engage you, to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace+, with all that in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; whom if you truly love, you will also love all those, whom you have reason to believe to be his disciples and servants.
§. 21. If you be yourselves indeed of that number, you will also put on bowels of mercy§. The mercies of God, and those of the blessed Redeemer, will work on your heart, to mould it to sentiments of compassion and generosity, so that you will feel the wants and sorrows of others; you will desire to relieve their necessities, and, as you have an opportunity, you will do good, both to their bodies and their souls; expressing your kind affections in suitable actions, which may both evidence their sincerity, and render them effectual.
§. 22. As a christian," you will also maintain truth inviolable," not only in your solemn testimonies, when confirmed by an oath, but likewise in common conversation. You will remember too, that your promises bring an obligation upon you, which you are by no means at liberty to break through. On the whole, you will be careful to keep a strict correspondence between your words and your actions, in such a manner as becomes a servant of the God of truth.
§. 23. Once more. As amidst the strictest care to observe all the divine precepts, you will still find many imperfections on account of which you will be obliged to pray that God would not enter into strict judgment with you, as well knowing that in his sight you cannot be justified ||; you will be careful not to judge others, in such a manner as should awaken the severity of his judgment against yourself. You will not, therefore, judge them pragmatically, that is, when you have nothing to do with their actions; nor rashly, without enquiring into circumstances; nor partially, without weighing them attentively and fairly; nor uncharitably, putting the worst construction upon things in their own nature dubious, deciding upon inten
*Rom. xii. 18.
+ Eph. iv. 3.
Psal, cxliii. 2.
1 Cor. i. 2.
¶ Mat. vii. 1, 2.
tions as evil farther than they certainly appear to be so; pronouncing on the state of men, or on the whole of their character from any particular action, and involving the innocent with the guilty. There is a moderation contrary to all these extremes, which the gospel recommends; and if you receive the gospel in good earnest into your heart, it will lay the axe to the root of such evils as these.
§. 24. Having thus briefly illustrated the principal branches of the christian temper and character, I shall conclude the representation, with reminding you of "some general qualifications, which must be mingled with all, and give a tincture to each of them; such as, sincerity, tenderness, zeal, and prudence."
§. 25. Always remember," that sincerity is the very soul of true religion." A single intention to please God, and to approve ourselves to him, must animate and govern all that we do in it. Under the influence of this principle you will impartially enquire into every intimation of duty, and apply to the practice of it so far as it is known to you. Your heart will be engaged in all you do. Your conduct in private and in secret, will be agreeable to your most public behaviour. A sense of the divine authority will teach you, to esteem all God's precepts concerning all things to be right, and to hate every false way*.
§. 26. Thus are you in simplicity and godly sincerity to have your conversation in the worldt. And you are also to charge it upon your soul, to be stedfast and immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord‡. There must not only be some sudden fits and starts of devotion, or of something which looks like it, but religion must be an habitual and permanent thing. There must be a purpose to adhere to it at all times. It must be made the stated and ordinary business of life. Deliberate and presumptuous sins must be carefully avoided; a guard must be maintained against the common infirmities of life; and falls of one kind or of another, must be matter of proportionable humiliation before God, and must. occasion renewed resolution for his service. And thus you are to go on to the end of your life, not discouraged by the length and difficulty of the way, nor allured on the one hand, or terrified on the other, by all the various temptations which may surround and assault you. Your soul must be fixed on this basis, and you are still to behave yourself as one who knows he serves an unchangeable God, and who expects from him a kingdom which cannot be moved.
Psal. cxix. 128. † 2 Cor. i. 12. 1 Cor. xv. 58.
|| Heb. xii. 28.
§. 27. Again. So far as the gospel prevails in your heart, <c your spirit will be tender, and the stone will be transformed into flesh." You will desire, that your apprehension of divine things may be quick, your affections ready to take proper impressions, your conscience always easily touched, and on the whole, your resolutions pliant to the divine authority, and cordially willing to be, and to do, whatever God shall appoint. You will have a tender regard to the word of God, a tender caution against sin, a tender guard against the snares of prosperity, a tender submission to God's afflicting hand in a word, you will be tender wherever the divine honour is concerned ; and careful, neither to do any thing yourself, nor to allow any thing in another, so far as you can influence, by which God should be offended, or religion reproached.
§. 28. Nay more than all this, you will, so far as true christianity governs in your mind, "exert an holy zcal in the service of your Redeemer and your Father." You will be zealously affected in every good thing*, in proportion to its apprehended goodness and importance. You will be zealous, especially, to correct what is irregular in yourselves, and to act to the uttermost of your ability for the cause of God. Nor will you be able to look with an indifferent eye on the conduct of others in this view; but so far as charity, meekness and prudence will admit, you will testify your disapprobation of every thing in it, which is dishonourable to God, and injurious to men. And you will labour, not only to reclaim men from such courses, but to engage them to religion, and to quicken them in it.
§. 29. And once more, you will desire" to use the prudence which God hath given you," in judging what is, in present circumstances, your duty to God, your neighbour and yourself; what will be, on the whole, the most acceptable manner of discharging it, and how far it may be most advantageously pursued; as remembering, that he is indeed the wisest and the happiest man, who by constant attention of thought discovers the greatest opportunity of doing good, and with ardent and animated resolution breaks through every opposition, that he may improve those opportunities.
§. 30. This is such a view of the christian temper, as could conveniently be thrown within such narrow limits; and I hope, it may assist many in the great and important work of self-examination. Let your own conscience answer, how far
Gal. iv. 18.