« AnteriorContinuar »
the Poffibility of overcoming all thefe Difficulties, and obtaining a glorious Victory over all thefe Temptations. Ifhall endeavour to make it appear, That none of those Potent Allurements of the World, arifing from its Profits, Pleafures and Honours, with which the Rich and the Great are fo much enticed, can be able to hinder them from living a Holy and Virtuous Life, if they ftand upon their Guard, making a vigorous Resistance, and daily imploring the Divine Grace to enable them to perfevere in fo doing.
When the Disciples in Matt. 19. were Surprized and Amazed at our Saviour's declaring, how hard it was for a Rich Man to enter into the Kingdom of God, He tells them, that with Men this is impoffible; but with God all things are poffible: Thereby intimating that although the Temptations which Riches occafion are fo many and great, that in Human appearance it hardly feems poffible for a Rich Man to be a fincere Difciple of Chrift, and to prefer Religion and the Rewards thereof before the Advantages of the World; yet by the Grace and Affiftance of God, he may be enabled to conquer all thofe Temptations, and make fo good a ufe of his Earthly Poffeffions, as to become an undoubted Heir of the Kingdom of Heaven. Such indeed is the Impotency and Weakness of our Nature in this degenerate State, fince the Apoftacy of our firft Parents, that no fort of Perfons of what Rank 10ever, whether they be Rich or Poor, Noble or Mean, Young or Old, can by their own Strenght, effectually renounce and reject thofe enticing Baits, which the World without, the Flesh within, or the Devil, both ways, may prefent unto us. But yet the refifting and overcoming the ftrongest and moft violent Temptations, that any Chriftian, of what Quality foever he be, can meet with, is fo far from being an impoffible Atchievement, that there is no more wanting to the accomplishing thereof, but these two Things; First, the hearty and constant imploring the Aid of God's Holy
Holy Spirit; and then the going about this moft necellary as well as difficult Work in good earneft, and vigoroully attempting it with a ftedfaft Refolution, in the diligent ufe of thofe Means (which I fhall afterwards mention) whereby fo noble a Victory may be obtained. For where this Courfe is taken, the Spirit of God will certainly ftrike in with his Supernatural Affiftance, and his Grace will be abundantly fufficient to fortify the fincerely refolved Chriftian against the moft charming Allurements, and to fupport him under and carry him through the hardeft Conflicts. The promife of God's Spirit and the Grace thereof, is one of the most exprefs and moft general Promises of the Gofpel, made to all Ranks and Orders of Men, that are fincere and fervent in Petitioning for it. Our Saviour has affured us, that no Parent can be more ready to give Bread to his hungry Children, than God is to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him. And the greater the Temptations are, to which any fuch Petitioners at the throne of Grace may be expofed, the greater Measure shall they obtain of the Divine Afliftance, to refift and withstand them.
But to give fome visible and undeniable Evidences, that Riches and Honour cannot create any infuperable Difficulties, to obftruct the Practice of Religion, nor any irresistible Allurements to Sin and Vice; I will here produce a Clond of Witneffes, a noble Army of truly Illuftrious Heroes, who (many of them in the very flippery Age of Youth) amidst all the Charms of Worldly Grandeur, and Blandifhments of a profperous State, have firmly maintain'd their Integrity, and conquer'd all the Oppofition they have met with in the Paths of Holiness and Virtue. Of which worthy Patterns I fhall make the larger Collection, partly be cause young Perfons delight in Hiftorical Pallages; but chiefly, becaufe great and good Examples are not only manifeft Proofs of the Poflibility of performing the most difficult Duties, but inftructive and quickG 2
ning Encouragements to fet about them. Whatever hath been once done in fubduing the Violence of irre gular Appetites, and renouncing thofe Pomps, Vanities, and Pleafures by which they are excited, may certainly be done again, if any one will apply himself to it with the like ferions and vigorous Endeavours,which' were used by those that did it before him. And fuch Endeavours will naturally arife from that Emulation, which Illuftrious Examples are apt to excite in every ingenious and generous Mind. I will first mention some Examples of this fort, recorded in the Sacred History, and then defcend to fuch as our own Nation in these laft Ages has afforded.
To begin with the most Ancient Family that ever was, that of Adam, the Father of all Mankind, and under God the Lord, and Poffeffor of all the Earth. We find that his fecond Son, the Holy and Righte ons Abel, was not Corrupted amidst all the Abundance of this World's Goods. He did not give up himself to Eafe, Softnefs, and Luxury, but to the Innocent Labours of a Paftoral Life: Neither did his Wealth and Plenty make him forgetful of his Creator, but he religiously ador'd him with acceptable Sacrifices of the Firstlings of his Flock, and of the fat and beft thereof. His Faith in God made him fincerely devoted to the Divine Pleafure, and Victorious over the World. For by Faith Abel offered a more excellent Sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained Witness that he was Righteous, Heb. 11. 4. Cain and Abel had the fame Parents, the fame Education, and doubtless for the most part, the fame affluence of Worldly Enjoyments, and the fame Temptations ariling from them, and yet the one proves a Saint, the other a Murderer. So great is the Difference that is made, by the right use and abufe of Things.
We may alfo obferve in the Family of Noah, the other Great Father of all Humane Race after the Flood (among whofe three Sons the whole Earth with
all its Riches was divided) there were the Pious and Bleffed Shem, and Japhet, as well as the Wicked and Curfed Cham The like may be remarked in the Pofterity of the Patriarch Abraham, who in Wealth and Power was not inferior to the Kings and Princes of that Age. And yet as he himself was notwithstanding of the greatest Renown, for his admirable Faith, ready Obedience, and fubmiflive Refignation to the Divine Will, even to the Slaying aud Sacrificing of Ifaac his most beloved Son, when God requir'd it So that this Son of his was a Perfon of eminent Piety, willing to relinquish all the rich and delightful Accommodations and Provifions, with which his Father's great Wealth furnished him; yea, and to part with his own Life alfo, when he understood that there was a Command from God for his being offered up for a Burnt-Offering. For he meekly' fubmitted, without making any Refiftance; though he was strong enough to have done it, being in his twenty fifth Year when his Aged Father bound him and laid him upon the Altar. Whereas his other Son Ifmael, was fo immersed in the love of Earthly Riches, that he could not bear the thoughts of Ifaac's being made his Father's Heir, and thereupon vexed Sarah with his fcornful Mocking and bitter Jeering, to fuch a degree, that the Apoftle calls it a Perfecution, Gal. 4. 29.
Ifaac the Inheritor of Abraham's Piety, as well as his great Eftate, had likewife two Sons, Efau and Jacob, of very different Tempers, and they accordingly made a very different ufe of their large Poffeffions.Efau was a cunning Hunter, a Man of the Field, who eagerly purfoed the Game, followed his Pleafure, and was much addicted to gratify his Senfual Appetite. Of this he gave a notorious Specimen, when coming Home one Day from Hunting, he fo greedily defir'd his Brɔther's red Pottage, that he fold his Birth-right, with all its then Sacred Priviledges, for the obtaining it. But Jacob was in the general courfe of his Life, a fin
cerely honeft and plain-hearted, a moft pious, just, and fober Perfon, as well in his Youth, while he was liberally maintained with all Fulnefs in his Father's House, as afterwards when he came to have fruitful Lands, numerous Flocks, and great Riches, of his
To inftance next in the Sons of Jacob, though the greater part of them wickedly abufed their Affluence and Profperity, fo that their evil Report was no fmall Affliction to the good Old Patriarch: For Reuben defiled his Father's Bed, committing Incest with Bilhah; Simeon and Levi were Brethren in Iniquity, Inftruments of bloody Cruelty towards the Sechemites; Judah left his Father's Houfe, and by confequence the then Church, and Lodging with an Adulamite marries a Canaanitish Woman, against his Father's Confent; and afterwards incestuously pollyted his own Daughter-in-law Thamar. All of them, except Benjamin, were guilty of unnatural and barba rous Inhumanity toward their Brother Jofeph, whom they fold for a Slave. Yet in Jofeph, who could not be withdrawn from his Duty to God, by all the Temptations of the World, we have a noft Illuftrious Example for the Imitation of Noble and Generous Youth. He was neither foftened with Luxury in the midst of Plenty, nor elated with Pride for the fingular Love his Father had to him above his Brethren, nor transported with Vanity at the high Advancement of his own Prophetick Dreams foretold and promifed. No Dangers or Sufferings, no Allurements of Profperity, could break the Courage and Conftancy of his Mind in adhering to Religion and Probity of Manners. In the Houfe of Potipher, where his Prudence, Fidelity, and other Virtues promoted him to the highest Place next. that of his Mafter, his inviolable Chastity made him a glorious and triumphant Conqueror over all the Sollicitations of his Lafcivious Mistress. How bravely did he withstand the