Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

soul. The law of God, which he studies, understands, and observes, makes him wiser than the sages of any age, who have been strangers to pure religion. “ It is deservedly accounted an excellent piece of knowledge,” says Dr. Tillotson, “ to understand the laws of the land, the customs of the country we live in ; how much more to know the statutes of heaven, the eternal laws of righteousness, the will of the universal monarch, and the customs of that country where we hope to live forever ? Far indeed does this knowledge exceed that which is confined to earthly objects, or extends to the whole material system, and embraces as much of it, as any human intellect ever did. It is in its nature sublime, and it prepares a person to intermeddle with all wisdom, to attend with ad. vantage to any science, for which his genius is adapted.

The knowledge of the righteous, in another view, is excellent and important. It is practi. cal, enabling him to choose with wisdom, and act with discretion. He always prefers solid treasures to gilded trifles, eternal felicity in heav. en to momentary pleasures on earth. “Happy is the man that findeth this wisdom, and the man that getteth this understanding. For the

[ocr errors]

85

mercliandize of it is better than the merchandize of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies ; and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her ; and happy is every one that retaineth' her.” This happiness belongs only to the righteous.

But the greatness of his mind is equal to the sublimity of his knowledge. As this is con-. versant with the noblest objects, so his thoughts are elevated above the little things of this world. He would feel himself debased, and find the source of his highest pleasure corrupted, if his mind were much affected by the things that most affect many of the great and the vulgar. Raised in a good measure above the frowns-and flatteries of the world, he directs his thoughts and affections to God, the fountain of felicity, desiring none in heaven or earth in comparison with him. His contemplation of heaven, and the glories of its eternal king, in whose presence he hopes, after passing from this mortal state,

forever to dwell, ennobles his mind, expands his soul, calms his passions, tranquillizes his inward feelings, and prepares him to preserve a dignified moderation and serenity in every vicissitude. “He will not be afraid of evil tidings ; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.”

· This suggests another excellency of the righteous, nearly allied, indeed, to the one already mentioned, but worthy of distinct consideration. It is his magnanimity, his heroick courage, in action and suffering. Illustrious examples of the active and passive courage of the righteous are recorded in the eleventh of Hebrews. Nothing but conscious rectitude and trust in God could have sustained the sufferers, and innparted such dignity to them in their trying circumstances. The fortitude, patience, unshaken resolution, and firmness, of christians, under persecution and torture, have often astonish. ed, sometimes confounded, their enemies.

The righteous is above that meanness of spirit, which induces some, through fear of disgrace, of pain, or of the loss of popular favour, to condescend to practices which their minds cannot justify. He is prepared to hazard every thing, rather than the peace of his conscience, and the approbation of his God; to do and suf

fer any thing, rather than give up his integrity. Surrounded with the greatest imaginable dangers, exposed to the severest trials, he has a resource in himself, and is not greatly moved. “ The righteous is bold as a lion.” No terrours dismay his heart ; for he feels that God is his friend, and the rock of his safety.

As the natural effect of this courage, this magnanimity, he enjoys the most perfect freedom. They who are of a contrary description, an opposite character, are enslaved by their · lusts, passions, and appetites ; and by the

senseless ceremonies and customs of the world. With such persons fashion is the supreme law, as well in respect to their mode of thinking and speaking, and their treatment of religious and moral subjects, as in regard to outward appearance. When fashionable, they pay some external homage to the institutions of religion ; but, let the fashion change, and, though they may feel no real prejudice against religion and its sacred rites, they seldom honour them by their profession and personal attendance, Cusa tom controls the better feelings of the heart, the wiser suggestions of conscience, and keeps them from the house and ordinances of divine worship. But the righteous man feels a dignified freedom from such bondage, a liberty to think and act like a rational creature, accountable.to his Creator. He knows no restraint, but what arises from the law of the Lord, which converts the soul, and from the testimonies of the Lord, which make wise the simple. These, so far as their influence extends, release him from slavery to his lusts and passions, or to the fashions and customs which keep many from their duty, or draw them into the paths of vice.

The servant of sin, hurried into practices that are injurious, and which conscience condemns, is subject to the meanest slavery. “ While such promise liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption ; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage.” Delivered from such wretched servi. tude, such disgraceful fetters, the righteous is become “ the Lord's free man.” Religion moderates the blind passions, corrects irregular affections, restrains unhallowed desires, gives to the soul the enjoyment of itself, makes it master of its own thoughts, and free to choose whatever is right.

To these excellencies we add a meek, charitable, and benign temper of mind. He has not the narrowness of spirit to confine his views to

« VorigeDoorgaan »