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Christ's patience, and meekness, and charity, the doctrine of this chapter has no recommendation of such sufferings.
You are only here exhorted to bear such injuries and sufferings as make you more like Christ, such as are true instances of that meekness, patience, and charity, which were the principal tempers of his Spirit.
Now be the hardships or self-denials what they will, if they make us more like to Christ, they have done more for us, than all the prosperity in the world can do, and he that defends himself at the expense of any temper, that was the temper of Christ, has done himself an injury, greater than the worst and most powerful of his enemies can bring upon him.
And all this is founded upon this one reason, because there is but one thing needful, the salvation of our souls. It is this that changes the natures of all human things, and makes every thing good or evil only so far as it promotes or hinders this one end of life. The salvation of the world is the only happiness of the world, and he that has secured his share in that, has secured to himself all the joy and gladness that can befal human nature.
A Christian, therefore, that is not content with salvation, that wants to add a worldly joy and pleabure to the great things of religion, is more senseless than the man, that should think he had hard usage to be saved from a shipwreck, unless he was carried. off upon a cedar plank.
Some farther Considerations upon the reasonableness
of Self-denial. DEFORE I proceed any farther in other instances
D of self-denial, it may be proper to show in · what the duty of self-denial is founded, or wherein the reasonableness and necessity of it consists.
Every duty or virtue of the Christian life is founded in truth and reason, and is required because of its fitness to be done, and not because God has power to command what he pleases. .
If we are commanded to be meek and humble, it is because meekness and humility are as true judg· ments, and as suitable to the truth of our state as it is a true judgment, and suitable to the state of every dependent being, to be thankful for mercies.
If we are bid to rejoice, it is at something that is truly joyful ; if to fear, it is to fear something that is really dreadful. Thus we are called to no tempers -but such as are so many true judgments, and as truly founded in the nature and reason of things, as if we were bid to believe two to be the half part of four. - God is reason and wisdom itself, and he can no more call us to any tempers or duties, but such as are strictly reasonable in themselves, than he can act against himself, or contradict his own nature.
As we can say with assurance, that God cannot lie, so we may with the same certainty affirm, that he cannot enjoin any thing to rational creatures, that is contrary to the reason of their nature, no more than he can enjoin them to love things that are not lovely, or hate things that are in their nature not hateful.
When God speaks, we are as sure that infinite reason speaks, as we are sure there is a God.
A little reflection upon this matter, will give us the utmost assurance in such reasonings as this. .
As sure therefore as there is a God, so sure is it, that a religion from God has only reasonable commands to reasonable creatures. No tempers can be imposed upon us by way of task, and imposition, which we might as reasonably be without, if it was not required of us. God can only will, that reasonable creatures should be more reasonable, more perfect, and more like himself, and consequently can enjoin us no duties, or tempers of mind, but such as have this tendency. All his commands are for our sakes, founded in the necessities of our natures, and are only so many instructions to become more happy, than we could be without them.
A good man that enjoys the use of his reason, is offended at madmen and fools because they both act contrary to the reason of things. The madman fancies himself, and every thing about him, to be different from what they are; the fool knows nothing of the value of things, is ridiculous in his choices, and prefers a shell before the most useful things in life.
Now a good man, merely through the love of reason, is offended at their conduct, and would do all that he could to abate the frensy of the one, and the stupidity of the other.
Let this a little represent to us the conduct of God towards, fallen man. God is reason itself; how highly therefore must he be offended at the follies and stupidity of mankind? If a madman seems so unreasonable a creature to us, because he fancies himself to be something that he is not; how unreasonable must fallen man, who is fallen from all true knowledge of himself, appear to him who is infinite reason ?
Again, God is goodness itself; if therefore human goodness is inclined to endeavour the cure of mådmen and fools, must not goodness itself be much
more inclined to correct the madness and folly of fallen man?
We see that men are said to be mad, when they fancy themselves, and the things about them to be different from what they are; they are said to be fools, when they mistake the value of things: now if this be true, as it most certainly is, it may serve to show us, that man in his present state of disorder and ignorance, must appear to God both as fool and mad; for every sinner is truly mad, as he imagines himself, and all things about him, to be what they are not: he is really a fool, as he is ridiculous in his choices, and mistakes the value of things.
Now religion is our cure; it is God's merciful communication of such rules and discipline of life, as may serve to deliver us from the infatuation and ignorance of our fallen state. It is to teach us the knowledge of ourselves, and all things about us, that we may no longer act like madmen; it is to teach us the true value of things, that we may know our good and evil, and not be as idiots in the choice of things.
Now fools and madmen have their paradise, and are pleased with their imaginary happiness; this makes them averse from all methods of cure.
For this reason, God presses his instructions upon us with terrors and threatenings, and makes those virtues which are the natural good and cure of our souls, such duties to him, as he will punish the neglect of them. .
So that the power of God is mercifully employed to move us to such a reasonable way of life, as is necessary for our happiness.
Some people are so weak, as to wonder, what we call sin, should be so odious to God, or what it can signify to God, whether we are wise or foolish.
Let such consider, that God is wisdom and reason itself, and consequently every thing that is contrary to reason and wisdom, is contrary to his nature; so
that a state of sin, is a state of contrariety to God. To ask therefore why God hates all sin, is the same thing as to ask why God cannot tell any sort of lie; it is because every deviation from truth is contrary to his nature, which is truth itself; so every instance of sin, as it is an unreasonable act, is contrary to his nature, who is reason itself.
There is therefore a necessity, from the nature of things, that every creature be delivered from sin, before it can enter into the beatific presence of God; for if God could reward wicked beings, and make them happy by the enjoyment of his presence, he would as much cease to act according to the nature of things, as if he should punish a being that lived in innocence; for to punish innocence, and to reward sin, are equally contrary to the nature and reason of things.
This observation may teach us to admire the excellency of the Christian religion, which restores sinners to God by so great an atonement for sin, and which only admits the repentance and devotion of fallen man, through the merits and mediation of the Son of God.
To return: Let such people also consider, that even reasonable men have a necessary dislike of fools and madmen, they cannot possibly make them the objects of their pleasure and affection.
But now, if some things are so odious in themselves, that even the reason of man cannot but abhor them, how much more odious, how much more contrary to the perfection of the divine nature, must the folly and madness of sin be?
Thus if we consider what reason is in ourselves, that it necessarily dislikes unreasonable persons as well as things; we may have some notion how all sin and sinners, that is, all beings which act contrary to reason, must be in a state of the utmost contrariety to God, who is the highest reason.
God is love, yet it is certain, that he can only love