« VorigeDoorgaan »
the faints; and will oppose a little ceremony with as much heat as the greatest immorality. In these cases, it is not mens goodness which raisethenmity against them, but their imprudent zealand other infirmities which attend it: but however, bad men are glad to lay hold of these occasions and pretences of enmity, which their indiscretion offers. Good men may be, and frequently are, mistaken in their own opinions and apprehensions of things ; but it is a great mistake to have an equal zeal for little and doubtful things, as for the great and indispensible duties of the Christian life, and yet many times so as to neglect those to a great degree ; and men must blame themselves for the inconveniencies that happen to them for their own indiscretion ; for neither will the nature of the thing bear them out alike, nor will the providence of God be equally concerned to protect men in the following of that, which they through gross mistake, and a heady. conceit of their own knowledge in religion, think to be good, as in the following of that which is really and unquestionably good.
Ill. The enmity of some men against goodness is so violent and implacable, that no innocency, no excellency of goodness, how great foever, can restrain their malice towards good men, or hinder the effects of it, when it comes in their way, and they have power to do them mischief. Against these the providence of God is our best fafe-guard, and it is wisdom, as much as possible, to keep out of their way, and to pray with St. Paul, that we may be delivered from wioked and unrear fonable men. Men of so absurd a mnalice against goodnels, that it is not to be prevented by any innocency or prudence; and so implacable, that there is no way to gain and reconcile them, nor perhaps is it much desirable ; sheir good word would be no credit to us, and their friend. Mip would be pernicious when it cannot be had upon other terms, than of conniving at their faults, and being concerned in their quarrels, and at last quarrelling and breaking with them, unless we will run with them to the fame excess of riot. The friendihip of such men is more terrible than their enmity, and their malice much less to be dreaded than their kindness.
I 2 .
IV. The last and chief exception is that of the cross, when the sufferings and persecutions of good men are neceffary for the great ends of God's glory, for the ad. . vancement of religion, and the example and salvation of others. And with this exception, all the declarations of scripture concerning the temporal prosperity and safety of good men, and all the promises of the New Testament are to be understood. And this exception our Saviour himself exprelly makes, Mark x. 29.30. Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my fake and the goSpel's, but he fall receive an hundred-fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with perfecution; and in the world to come eternal life; that is, fo far as a state of persecution would admit, all these losses should be recompensed to them in this present time; as they were to the Apostles in a remarkable manner : when they who had but lite tle to part with for the gospel, had the estates of Christians laid at their feet and committed to their diposal, for the noblest purposes of charity, and common fupport of Christians, which was as much to them, as if they had been malters of the greatest estates; and what. ever was wanting to any of them in the accomplishment of this promise, was abundantly made up to them in the unspeakable and eternal happiness of the world to come. And this exception the Apostle St. Peter is careful to mention expresly, immediately after the text; for after he had faid, Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good ? he immediately adds, But, and if ye suffer for righteousness fake, happy are ge; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled, but fanctify the Lord God in your hearts; that is, in this case, fear God more than men, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you ; that is, if ye be questioned for being Christians, be ready to own your profession, and . to give a reason of it, so that the Apostle supposeth, that notwithstanding what he had said, that ordinarily it is not in the nature of men to persecute men for true goodness, yet they must not expect to be exempt.
ed from persecution, which was necessary for the establishment of the Christian religion.
In these cases God permits the devil to instigate and exasperate evil men against those that are good, to act beyond their usual temper. Thus God, when he des signed an illustrious example of patience for all ages of the world, he lets loose the devil, not only to stir up his instruments the Chaldeans and Sabeans against Job, but to afflict him immediately himself with bodily pains and diseases. In these and the like cases, the belt of men are exposed to the greatest sufferings. Thus God permitted Socrates, that great light among the Gentiles, and the glory of philosophy, to be cruelly treated and put to death for an example of virtue, and a testimony against their impious and abominable idolatry. And thus likewise when it was necessary for the common salvation of men, and to give the world an example, beyond all exception, of the greatest innocency, enduring the greatest indignities and sufferings with the greatest patience, that one should suffer for all mankind, he per. mitted the best man that ever was; God and goodness incarnate, by wicked hands to be crucified and naine. and afterwards when it was necessary for the propagation and establishment of Christianity in the world, that the truth of it should be sealed by the death of so many martyrs, God was pleased to suffer the rage of bad nien to break out into all manner of violence and cruelty.
But yet notwithstanding these exceptions, those who make it their business to do good, and to excel in those virtues which are apt to win and oblige mankind, may in ordinary cases and times expect great safety and protection against the injuries of the world, for an exemplary piety, and innocency, and goodness ; for, these sayings in the New Testament, that through many tribu. lations we must enter into the kingdom of God, and that whoever will live godly in Jesus Christ must suffer persecu. tion, are not equally to be extended to all places and times ; but more peculiarly to be understood of the first times of Christianity, when the providence of God thought fit to establish the Christian religion upon the innocent lives and patient sufferings of the firit professors of it.
The result from all this discourse is, that we should not be weary of well-doing; but mind and follow the things which are substantially and unquestionably good; not doubting, but besides the infinite reward of it in the orher world, it will ordinarily turn to our great security and advantage in this life, and save us harınless from a great many mischiefs and inconveniencies which others are exposed to. If we endeavour to excel in those Christian virtues which the Apostle mentions before the text, and which he means by our being followers of that which is good, we shall undoubtedly find the comfort of it, in those temporal benefits that will redound to us; for the scripture hath not said in vain, Trust in the Lord and do good, so halt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou malt be fed. Blessed are the meek, for they fall in. herit the earth. Glory, and honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good. That the fruit of righteousnes is fown in peace of them that work peace ; that by well-doing we shall put to filence the ignorance of foolis men; that she kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and that he that in these things serveth Chrift, is accepted of God, and approved of men.
But if we mistake religion, and place it in those things wherein it doth not really confift, in airy notions, and doubtful opinions, in superstitious conceits and praetices, and in a fiery and furious zeal for things of no weight and substance, of no real virtue and goodness; if we be defective in the great virtues of meekness and humility, of peaceableness and charity, of kindness and courtesy, of forbearance and forgiveness, of rendering good for evil, and overcoming evil with good qualities which will universally endear us and recommend us to the favour and protection of God, and to the esteem and good-will of men ; and if instead of these we abound in malice and envy, be proud and conceited, censorious and uncharitable, contentious and unpeaceable, rude and uncivil, impatient and implacable, we must not think it strange, if we be ill treated in this world, not for our goodness, but for our want of it; and we have no reason to wonder, if at every turn we meet with the
inconveniencies of our own heat and indiscretion, of our peevish and morose temper, of our factious and turbu. lent disposition. For this is an eternal rule of truth, As we fow, so shall we reap; every man fhall be filled with his own ways, and eat the fruit of his own doings,
Of diligence in our general and parti
Preached at Whitehall, 1685,
Eccl. ix. 10.
might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge,
MTHese words of the royal preacher are a general
exhortation to diligence and industry, in that
work which is molt proper for us to do in this world. And I shall consider in them these two things.
First, The matter of this advice and exhortation, and that is, that we would use great diligence about those things which are the proper work and employ. ment of this life. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do ; that is, the work which is before thee, which is most proper for thee to propose to thy self, as the great end and design of thy life, the province and charge which is appointed thee. So thai these words, in the full compass and extent of them, may very well comprehend every reasonable purpose and undertaking, whatever is incumbent upon us as a duty, and is inatter of reasonable choice." Do it with all thy might; that