« AnteriorContinuar »
thought proper to decide otlierwi.se; and its false notions of bravery and honour have represented patience and meekness as mean and ridiculous.
Thirdly, When virtue is attended with disgrace and contempt, we must despise such disgrace and contempt, and not be deterred by it from our duty. Here the worldly man is discerned and distinguished from the truly good and great man. The first is a base deserter from virtue; the other takes her part with resolution, and would sooner perish than forsake her.
Lastly, We must not love virtue, for the bare sake of reputation and human esteem: 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.'—He says not, 'that they may give glory to you,' but ' that they may give glory to God.' To do good, purely to be gazed at, and talked of, and applauded, this was the character of the Pharisees, whose vices were real, and whose virtues were imaginary: but had their virtues been as real as their vices, this poor view and narrow purpose would have spoilt them all; and they could only expect their reward where they sought it, that is, from men.
II. 2. The second object of ambition is an honourable rank and station, and places of power, trust, and profit.
The desire and the esteem of these things is not to be accounted irregular, vicious, and unchristian in any person who seeks them, or who obtains them by laudable and honest endeavours, and who shows himself worthy of them, and performs every thing that can justly be expected from one in his situation.
Toil and danger undergone, patience and courage exerted in a good cause and in the defence of our country, prudence and dexterity in the conduct of important and difficult affairs, honesty in offices of trust, and in the management of revenues, skill and integrity in executing the laws and administering justice, an extensive knowledge in letters, arts, and sciences, eminent services done to the Church or State; all these deserve encouragement and reward,—and when thev meet with it, it is the better for the public. These rewards are incitements to activity and industry; and who can blame any person for having them in view? But then the following instructions are necessary to be observed,—though it is not to be expected, that the proud and the presumptuous should pay much regard to them.
No man should set his heart overmuch upon rising, and bettering his condition; because it is ten times more probable that he shall be disappointed, than that he shall succeed.
No man should highly value any temporal advantages; because they are temporal; and because there are higher objects which demand our more serious attention.
No man should desire eminent stations, without comparing his strength with the burden, and having reason to hope that he shall be able to acquit himself, as the laws of God and man require.
No man should be puffed up with power and prosperity; because it is a dangerous state, and an envied state.
All this is the very least and lowest concern of the presumptuous and ambitious, who think themselves fit for every thing that they seek, or that they possess. They never consider, how many good qualities are necessary for a distinguished station. A man, exalted above others, should surpass others in knowledge and abilities; he should be free from pride, wrath, spite, malice, partiality, injustice, rapaciousness, covetousness, laziness, and debauchery; he should have a good understanding joined to a good mind.
Many are found shamefully deficient in all these respects, and this doth much harm both to themselves and to the public. —To obtain power and pre-eminence, they will submit to the meanest servility, to artifices beneath a Christian, beneath a human creature.—To remove and supplant a competitor, they will stick at no lies and calumnies, no base and infamous practices.—They grow worldly-minded, irreligious, and insolent, and commit many sins, from which a lower station would probably have secured them; and by making their fortune they lose their souls.—Let us be ambitious, in a good sense, and endeavour to serve our generation, to promote the glory of God, and the advancement of religion. To accomplish this in any degree, is great and glorious indeed. Our Saviour said of himself, 'Behold a greater than Solomon is here.'—And what was there in this Son of man? Not the worldly power, and wealth, and pomp, and retinue of Solomon; but a Saviour meek and humble, whose office was to save men from their sins, and lead them to happiness. Our Lord said of the Baptist, 'Amongst those who are born of woman, there is not a greater man than he.' And what was he? A prophet, poor, meanly fed, meanly clothed, flung into a jail, bound in chains, and put to death by a detestable tyrant, at the desire of an infamous woman.
Ask St. Paul what it is that makes a Christian to be a great man. He will tell you that it is neither any natural accomplishment, nor any preternatural gift, but Charity. It is 'Charity alone' that makes a man great;—and the reason is this, that the excellence of all things and of all persons is measured by their utility. He who doth the most good, is the greatest %man. Power, authority-, dignity, honours, wealth, and station, these are so far valuable, as they put it into the hands of men to be mure exemplary and more useful, than they could be in an obscure and private life. But then these are means conducing to an end ; and that end is goodness.
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.
Rom. xii. 19.—Patient in tribulation.
[Text taken from the Epistle for the Day.}
Among all the graces that adorn a Christian soul, like so many jewels of various colours and lustres, against the day of her espousals to the Lamb of God, there is not one more brilliant than this of patience. I shall endeavour to recommend this celestial grace to your esteem, and excite you to the attainment of so invaluable a treasure, by enlarging upon its excellencies. I. In the first place, Patience is a virtue common to us with God. 'Long-suffering' is his darling attribute; and what is dear in his sight, ought not to be less precious in ours. And how marvellous is his patience, who daily pours his blessings on those men, who as daily offend, affront, and dishonour him! For the benefit of the guilty as well as the innocent, of the impious as well as the pious, of the ungrateful as well as the grateful, the seasons take their rounds, the elements wprk together, the light and air exert their kindly influences, the fountains send forth their salutary streams, the corn fields grow yellow, the grapes ripen upon the vines, the boughs of the fruit trees bend down, the groves are clothed, and the pastures flourish. The Gospel is still preached to those who slight it; salvation is still held forth to those, who have so often dashed it from them; Christ is still offered to those, who have blasphemed' him. And although God be provoked every day; although he have the power in his own hands, and the weapons of his indignation are all ready; he defers to strike, if perhaps men may, at length, be led by his long-suffering to repentance; 'because he wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live.' Yet God's blessings are abused to the purposes of luxury and lasciviousness; his truth is denied; his commandments are broken; his Church is persecuted; his ministers are insulted; his Son is crucified afresh; aud his own long-suffering is made an argument against his existence—And he is still patient. What is man, then, that he should complain? II. The patience which we so much admire in God, shone forth yet more amazingly in the person of his Son Jesus Christ. For was ever patience like that patience, which, descending from a throne of glory, bore a long imprisonment in the womb, to sanctify sinners; and lay in a stable, to bring them to a kingdom? Behold the master baptized by the servant; and he who alone could give remission of sins, submitting to be washed, in the laver of regeneration. He fasts forty days, who filleth all things living with plenteousness, and who is himself the bread of life. He endures the temptations of Satan, and answers them one by one from the Scriptures, who could have remanded him to his chains in a moment, by the word of his power. With his disciples he lived, not as their lord but the servant of all. How tenderly did he bear with all their ignorances and infirmities, leading them on gently, as they were able to follow him! And that they might never refuse to do offices of kindness for each other, he washed all their feet, and, amongst them, those of Judas, from whom he meekly received the kiss that betrayed him. How patiently did he endure the contradiction of sinners, and, in his disputes with the Jews, how lovingly did he try to persuadejthe incredulous,
and to melt by kindness the hearts that were hardened! How quietly did he submit to the insolence of the proud, and give place to the fury of the wrathful; desirous, even to his last hour, to save, if possible, those murderers of the prophets, those rebels against their God! But when the time of his passion came, what railing and revilings were patiently heard by him, what mockery and insult patiently suffered! How was lie wounded, who heals every disease! How was he crowned with thorns, who crowns his martyrs with unfading garlands! How was 'lie stripped naked, who clothes the field with flowers, and all the world with robes, and the whole globe with the canopy of heaven, and the dead with immortality!' How was he fed with gall and vinegar, who reaches out to his people the fruits of paradise, and the cup of salvation! Innocent and righteous, nay, innocence and righteousness itself, he was numbered with the transgressors. The truth was oppressed by false witnesses; he was judged who was to judge the world; the Word of God became dumb, as a lamb before his shearers. And when, at the crucifixion, the heavens were confounded, and the earth trembled, and the sun, that he might not be forced to behold the villany of the Jews, withdrew his shining and left the world in darkness; still the blessed Jesus said nothing, and betrayed no emotion of anger, but endured without murmuring all that earth and hell could lay upon him, till he had put the last stroke to this most finished picture of perfect patience, and prayed for his murderers; whom he has been ever since, and is now ready to receive, upon their repentance, not only to pardon, but to a participation of the glories of his kingdom.
III. The patience, thus practised by Christ, is enjoined by his holy Gospel, being indeed the badge of that Gospel, and its professors. For thus saith the blessed Jesus to all his disciples; 'Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old times, Thou shalt love thy neighbour; and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you, that ye may be children of your Father which is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the goed, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.' Is the mind tempted to impatience by the disappointment of its desires and the loss of worldly goods and enjoyments? The Scripture, to eradicate the temp