« VorigeDoorgaan »
ply real neceffities: Tho' fome profper more, yet the distress of fome is greater: Tho' I live more upon providence, yet have not goodness and mercy followed me, and why should I doubt, that in the way of duty they will follow me as long as I live? Tho' I have not every thing I wish for, yet I have more than I deserve at the hands of God. Such confiderations as these are cherished by a difpofition to contentment. It is not a temper to which we are difpofed in our depraved state; it is only to be learned in the school of Chrift; by laying to heart the principles taught by christianity, which are sufficient to animate fuch a temper; by improving every other advantage fit to form a man to it; and by the gracious teaching of the Spirit of God.
If we obferve the various mercies, which actuObligations ally attend us in every state, they will strongly obthereto. lige us to be content. Our circumstances are never fo
low and uneafy in this world, but there are fome mixtures of mercy and favour to be found therein. Tho' we lose fome relation, yet are others left behind. Tho' we meet with some disappointments, yet are we not quite ftript. See if there be no inftances of a ftraiter condition than our own; and is it not ingratitude to God, to overlook the advantageous parts of our condition? Short life, and the approaches of death, fpeak the reasonableness of contentment with our present station: and view the finished mifery of finners, that have fhot the gulph, who have not fo much as a drop of water to cool their tongues; then say, wherefore should a living man complain? Anxiety and uneafiness is not the way to amend our circumstances. Difcontent is not the way to the fa
dangerous. vours of providence, nor leads it to the proper steps for the obtaining our defires, but provokes God to be contrary to us, and difcompofes our fouls; adds the weight of guilt to any burden; ftops the enjoyment of the mercies we have, and our thankfulness for them; and is the parent of many great fins, and a difcouragement to our chriftian profeffion in the fight of all men. The apoftle had learned to be content, in whatsoever ftate he was; not because he could chufe his condition, but becaufe by the grace of God he could be reconciled to any state.
People judge wrong, when they imagine to be affured of content, if they could obtain such a comfort, which their hearts are set upon; for when they are gratified in their defire, a worldly mind will outgrow their attainments, new wants will start up, and they will be as far from fatisfaction as at their first setting out. And tho' a low condition, in itself, may feem to give temptation to difcontent; yet on experience, we find the rich and powerful as frequently ftrangers to an easy mind as those in a mean state; their irregular inclinations, and unbounded defires, are enlarged with their substance, and all they have paffes for nothing, because their distempered appetites will not let them reft in peace. Variety of worldly good will not produce contentment; a fmall unea finess, appetite or paffion not gratified, will take away relish of what is agreeable in life, if headftrong: and no condition can make us happy, unless a foundation be laid for it in the due regulation of our own tempers. There.. fore let us labour to have our minds content in any tisfaction state, and endeavour to fuit ourselves to any con- without condition, and make the best of it; or elfe there is no tent. condition, which will not furnish occafions for discontent and uneafinefs: and above all purfue religious courfes; for
V. We must never expect to be religious till we Diligence. diligently pursue the bufinefs thereof. There are in the course of a chriftian life many duties to be performed, which require pains and care; temptations to be refifted, which will keep us continually upon our guard; and the fcripture frequently calls upon us, to work out our falvation with fear and trembling; that is, with great care and industry; to give all diligence to make our calling and election fure; to follow holiness, to pursue it with great diligence. We can get nothing on any other terms, and we have low thoughts of heaven, if we think any pains too much to obtain it. Religion requires an invincible conftancy to carry us through it, and to make us perfevere in it to the end of our lives. Tho' refolution may make a good entrance, yet we shall run in vain without conftanсу and firmness of mind. Good refolutions are known to cool; but a constant and steady temper of mind will make a man perfevere;
perfevere; and without this no man shall ever reach the state of eternal blifs.
When you are about choofing your calling, or engaging in any particular state of life, be not directed by paffion, intereft, or worldly confiderations, but by reafon, by its tendency to promote your falvation, and by the advice of your parents, or pious and faithful acquaintance. Above all things defire of God, that he would teach you to do his will upon earth. Discharge the duties of your calling faithfully. We read of faints in all callings and circumstances of life. Never pretend, that in your condition the difficulties are too great to hinder the work of your falvation: for as the providence of God has placed you in it, he will not fail to fupply you with means neceffary for your progrefs in piety; serve God and faithfully perform the duties of your calling, and you may be fure God will never leave nor forfake you in time of need. Let your endeavours be to improve in all forts of virtue and piety; whoever bend their minds upon heaven are always advancing in paths that lead thereto. They do their duty and strive to perform it after a more perfect manner; they take every opportunity of doing good to the bodies and fouls of men; are upon guard to keep their paffions under good government, and ready to obey all the infpirations of the Holy Ghost, And as this happiness will depend upon growing in grace, and improving in all chriftian virtue, cry out, Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?
tion of a
The foundation of a chriftian life must be laid The founda- in knowledge; our minds must be rightly informchristian life. ed in the particulars of our duty, before it is poffible we should put them in practice. Therefore beg of God to enlighten your mind with the knowledge of his will, that when any difficulty arifes, he would be pleased to make it plain to your understanding. Then having informed the mind with knowledge, the next step must be to How practi practise it. Poffibly if he had bestowed such favours upon others, they would have made a better ufe of them; the Lord has done his part, when he enligthtens our minds, and influences our affections; but it is our bufinefs to walk as the children of light. We shall be answerable
VI. When an opportunity offers of practising an act of mortification, humility, charity, or patience, &c. you may be prevailed upon by a falfe perfuafion, to think that act of virtue cannot be performed at that time; that it is unseasonable, and tho' good in itself, may better be adjourned to another opportunity; and fo, instead of complying with that holy motion, which folicits you to good, by liftening to the deceit of the evil one, you are diverted from it. We must not rely too much upon ourselves, we must in cafes of confcience feek to those who watch over our fouls, the minifters and ftewards of the myfteries of God. We are all apt to be too partial to ourselves, and are too prefumptuous when we lean too much to our own apprehenfions; but the guidance of our pastor is one of the means God affords for our improvement, and his affiftance is very neceffary to preferve us from being impofed upon. And at all times retire into thyself, and examine with what care you perform the obligations you lie under; as whether the fervice of God has the preference in all your actions, or whether floth, or too eager a concern for the things of the world, do not make you omit paying him that devotion and attendance which he requires of us all. In case you have a family under your government, what care do you take in the education of your children, in the instruction of
Hinder'd by temptation.
tation, ale to be conquer
your fervants, and in every thing that relates to the temporal and spiritual affairs thereof? Suppose you have the cure of fouls, what zeal do you fhew, in discharge of your facred office? What concern appears to fave thofe for whom Chrift died on the crofs? Suppofe you are a judge, or civil magistrate, what impartiality in diftributing juftice? What diligence and fidelity in executing the truft committed to you, &c. Whether you take that due care of your own falvation as you ought to do, or whether you mind others, fo as to neglect yourself? Are you careful to make a daily progrefs in virtue? Do you perform all your actions with exactnefs and care? Are the du ties of your state and condition of life difcharged as they ought to be? Whoever cannot answer pertinently to these particulars, may dread a fpiritual floth or neglect of their fouls, and should think upon it betimes, that the apoftle does not in vain call to them in thefe pathetic words, it is high time to awake out of fleep: therefore use all diligence to recover thine innocency; and that faving faith, fo much neglected. Remember that the careless and fecure live in continual hazard of their own eternal lofs; and that if we would be faved, we must continually watch against all temptations: for as the judge of eternal life and death declares; what I fay unto you, I fay unto all, watch.
VII. The duty of watchfulness requires a constant care of our lives and actions, that we be always upon our guard, that we refift the first beginnings of evil, and discover the first approaches of our fpiritual enemy; that we may neither be surprised by his fnares and enticements, nor unprepared to encounter him, whenever he attacks us. In a word, it confists in wifely foreseeing the dangers that threaten our fouls, and then in diligently avoiding the fame. Confequently, except we are very watchful, we Of what be- fhall unavoidably be made a prey. But watchfulnefs avoids dangers, by making ufe of the fittest and propereft means to defeat thofe defigns of the enemy of our falvation, which we have happily found out. Because temptations must be refifted differently, according to their different kinds; for which end God hath provided fuitable degrees of grace to ftrengthen us.