Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

pleased himself in person to descend from his throne of majesty; that Paul, who laboured in the gospel more than all the rest of the apostles; that Paul, whose joy and heart's comfort it was to be afflicted for the name of Christ; lastly, that Paul, who for a time was ravished from the earth to the third heaven, after a most inexpressible manner, and there heard things that cannot be uttered: this Paul, I say, shall be your example; who, after all these things, found it yet a convenient motive, and received great encouragement and eagerness to proceed in his most blessed conversation, even from this fear, "lest while he preached to others, himself should become a cast-away.

43. And when fear has done its part, let hope come in; hope of that happy communion, which you shall once again have with those friends, which may be purchased in this life at so easy a rate; hope of that eternal weight and burden of joy and glory, which is reserved in heaven for you, if you hold fast the rejoicing of the hope sta dfast unto the end."* Let a comfortable meditation of these things encourage and hearten you to proceed from one degree of holiness to another, "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the fulness of the stature of Christ" and for an example in this, take that whole cloud of witnesses mustered together in Heb. xi. or, if they will not serve the turn, take an example above all examples, an example beyond all imaginable exceptions, even our blessed

*Heb. iii. 6.

Saviour Jesus Christ himself, concerning whom the author of the same Epistle (it was St. Paul sure) saith, (chap. xii.) that “for the joy that was set before him, he despised the shame, and endured the cross," &c.

44. God knows, we have need of all manner of encouragements, and all little enough for us, so sluggish and immoveable, so perverse and obstinate are we therefore, for God's sake, upon any terms, continue in the service of Christ, make use of all manner of advantages; and though ye find hope or fear predominant in you (these servile affections, as they are commonly called), yet for all that faint not, despair not, but rather give thanks to Almighty God; and God, who sees such good effect of his promises and threatenings in you (of which all the Scripture is full from one end to the other) will in his good time fill your hearts full of his love, even that "perfect love which casteth out fear," and of that perfect love, which shall have no need of hope; he will perfect that his good work in you unto the end.

45. To conclude all, whether ye shall perform this commandment of Christ, or whether ye shall not perform it, it cannot be avoided, everlasting habitations shall be your reward: only the difference is, whether ye will have them of your enemies' providing; whether ye will be beholden to the devil and his angels, your ancient, mortal enemies, to prepare everlasting dwellings for you (and "who can dwell in everlasting fire?" saith the prophet; "who can dwell in continual burnings?") or, whether ye will expect them from the assistance of those just persons whom you have by your good works eternally obliged to you;

1

even those blessed and glorious habitations, which God the Father Almighty hath from the beginning of the world provided and furnished for you; which God the Son, by his meritorious death and passion, hath purchased for you; and for the admission whereunto, God the Holy Ghost hath sanctified and adorned you, that in thankfulness. and gratitude you yourselves may become everlasting habitations, pure and undefiled temples for him to dwell in for ever and ever. Now unto these glorious and everlasting habitations God of his infinite mercy bring us, even for Jesus Christ's sake to whom, with the Father, &c.

SERMON VII.

"And if I have defrauded any man by forged cavillation, I restore unto him fourfold."-LUKE xix. 8.

'THE Son of man (saith our Saviour of himself in the end of this story) is come to seek and save that which was lost" (verse 10.); and how careful and solicitous he was in the discharge of this employment and business, about which his Father sent him, the story of Zaccheus (out of which my text is taken) will evidently and livelily discover: for here we have a man, that among ten thousand one would think, were the most unlikely to become a disciple of Christ, so indisposed he was for such a change, so unqualified in all respects: for first, he was rich, as the third verse tells us; and if that were all his fault, yet in our Saviour's judgment, which was never uncharitable, being so clogged and burdened with these impedimenta, (as even the heathens could call riches) it would be as hard for him to press through and enter in at the strait gate, without uneasing and freeing himself from them, as "for a camel to go through the eye of a needle."

[ocr errors]

2. But, Secondly, These his riches, as it would seem, were scarce well and honestly gotten: for. his trade and course of life was a dangerous trade, obnoxious to great, almost irresistible temptations: a great measure of grace would be requisite to preserve a man incorrupt and undefiled in that course; and so ill a name he had gotten him

self, that all that afterwards saw Christ's familiarity with him, were much offended and scandalized at it for we read in the seventh verse, that when they all saw it, they murmured, saying, that he was gone in to lodge with a sinful man; with one famous and notorious for a great oppressor.

3. Yet, notwithstanding all this, such was the unspeakable mercy and goodness of Christ, that even of this stone, so scorned and rejected of all the people, he raised a son unto Abraham, as we find in the ninth verse. And, to bring this to pass, he took occasion even from a vain curiosity of this Zaccheus, a humour of his, it may be such an one as afterwards possessed Herod, (though, God knows, he had not the same success) namely, to see some strange work performed by Christ, of whom he had heard so much talk. This opportunity, I say, our Saviour took to perform an admirable miracle, even upon the man himself; and that he brought about by as unlikely a course only with inviting himself to his house; by which unexpected affability and courtesy of our Saviour, this so notorious and famous publican and sinner was so surprised with joy and comfort, that presently he gives over all thought and consideration of his trade, as a thing of no moment; and being to receive Christ into his house, and knowing how ill-agreeing companions Christ and mammon would prove in the same lodging, he resolves to sweep it, and make it clean, for the entertaining of him; he empties it of that dross and dung, wherewith before it was defiled; half of his estate goes away at a clap upon the poor, and the remainder, in all likelihood, is in great danger to be consumed by that noble and generous offer, which he makes

« VorigeDoorgaan »