Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

it would very much contribute to the general happiness of mankind: for this would root out envy and malice from the heart of man; because you cannot envy your neighbour's strength, if he make use of it to defend your life, or carry your burden; you cannot envy his wisdom, if he gives you good counsel; nor his riches, if he supplies you in your wants; nor his greatness, if he employs it to your protection. The miseries of life are not properly owing to the unequal distribution of things; but God Almighty, the great King of Heaven, is treated like the kings of the earth, who, although perhaps, intending wel! themselves, have often most abominable ministers and stewards, and those generally the vilest to whom they entrust the most talents. But here is the difference, that the princes of this world see by other men's eyes, but God sees all things; and therefore, whenever he permits his blessings to be dealt among those who are unworthy, we may certainly conclude that he intends them only as a punishment to an evil world, as well as to the owners. It were well, if those would consider this, whose riches serve them only as a spur to avarice, or as an instrument of their lusts; whose wisdom is only of this world, to put false colours upon things, to call good evil and evil good, against the conviction of their own consciences; and lastly, who employ their power and favour in acts of oppression or injustice, in misrepresenting persons and things, or in countenancing the wicked, to the ruin of the innocent.

Fourthly. The practice of this duty of being subject to one another, would make us rest contented in the several stations of life wherein God hath thought fit to place us; because it would,

}}

in the best and easiest manner, bring us back as it were to that early state of the gospel, when Christians had all things in common. For, if the poor found the rich disposed to supply their wants; if the ignorant found the wise ready to instruct and direct them; or if the weak might always find protection from the mighty; they could none of them, with the least pretence of justice, lament their own condition.

From all that hath been hitherto said, it appears, that great abilities of any sort, when they are employed as God directs, do but make the owners of them greater and more painful servants to their neighbour and the public: however, we are by no means to conclude from hence, that they are not really blessings, when they are in the hands of good men. For, first, what can be a greater honour than to be chosen one of the stewards and dispensers of God's bounty to mankind? What is there that can give a generous spirit more pleasure and complacency of mind, than to consider, that he is an instrument of doing much good? that great numbers owe to him, under God, their subsistence, their safety, their health, and the good conduct of their lives? The wickedest man upon earth takes a pleasure in doing good to those he loves; and therefore surely a good Christian, who obeys our Saviour's commands of loving all men, cannot but take delight in doing good even to his enemies. God, who gives all things to all men, can receive nothing from any; and those among men, who do the most good, and receive the fewest returns, do most resemble the Creator: for which reason St Paul delivers it as a saying of our Savour, that “it is more blessed to give than receive." By this rule, what must become of those things, which the world values as the greatest blessings-riches, power, and the like-when our Saviour plainly determines, that the best way to make them blessings is to part with them? Therefore, although the advantages, which one man hath over another, may

be called blessings, yet they are by no means so in the sense the world usually understands. Thus, for example, great riches are no blessings in themselves; because the poor man, with the common necessaries of life, enjoys more health, and has fewer cares without them. How then do they become blessings? No otherwise than by being employed in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, rewarding worthy men, and, in short, doing acts of charity and generosity. Thus, likewise, power is no blessing in itself

, because private men bear less envy, and trouble, and anguish, without it. But when it is employed to protect the innocent, to relieve the oppressed, and to punish the oppressor, then it becomes a great blessing.

And so, lastly, even great wisdom is, in the opinion of Solomon, not a blessing in itself: for " in much wisdom is much sorrow;" and men of common understanding, if they serve God and mind their callings, make fewer mistakes in the conduct of life than those who have better heads. And yet wisdom is a mighty blessing, when it is applied to good purposes, to instruct the ignorant, to be a faithful counsellor either in public or private, to be a director to youth, and to many other ends needless here to mention.

To conclude: God sent us into the world to obey his commands, by doing as much good as our abilities will reach, and as little evil as our many infirmities will permit. Some he hath only trusted with one talent, some with five, and some

with ten. No man is without his talent; and he that is faithful or negligent in a little, shall be rewarded or punished, as well as he that hath been so in a great deal.

Consider what hath been said, &c,

SERMON IV.

ON

THE TESTIMONY OF CONSCIENCE.

FIRST PRINTED IN 1744.

2 CORINTHIANS, i. 12.

-For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our

conscience.

There is no word more frequently in the mouths of men than that of conscience, and the meaning of it is in some measure generally understood: however, because it is likewise a word extremely abused by many people, who apply other meanings to it, which God Almighty never intended; I shall explain it to you in the clearest manner I am able. The word conscience properly signifies that knowledge, which a man hath within himself of his own thoughts and actions. And because if a man judgeth fairly of his own actions, by comparing them with the law of God, his mind will either approve or condemn him, according as he hath done good or evil; therefore this knowledge or conscience may properly be called both an ac

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »