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all his foes, triumphant over all injuries without, and all passions within ; for that he can have no enemy, who will be a friend to all, and nothing is able to cross him, who is disposed to take every thing well! how sociable, how secure, how pleasant a life might we lead under thy kindly governance ! what numberless sorrows and troubles, fears and suspicions, cares and distractions of mind at home, what tumults and tragedies abroad, might be prevented, if men would but hearken to thy mild suggestions ! what a paradise would this world then become, in comparison to what it now is, where thy good precepts and advices being neglected, uncharitable passions and unjust desires are predominant ! how excellent then is that doctrine, which brought thee down from heaven, and, would but men embrace thee, the peace and joy of heaven with thee !
If we farther survey the laws and directions which our religion prescribeth concerning the particular management of our souls and bodies in their respective actions and enjoyments, we shall also find that nothing could be devised more worthy of us, more agreeable to reason, more productive of our welfare and our content. It obligeth us to preserve unto our reason its natural prerogative, or due empire in our souls, and over our bodies, not to suffer the brutish part to usurp and domineer over us; that we be not swayed down by this earthly lump, not enslaved to bodily temper, not transported with tumultuary humors, not deluded by vain fancy; that neither inward propensions nor impressions from without be able to seduce us to that which is unworthy of us, or mischievous to us. It enjoineth us to have sober and moderate thoughts concerning ourselves, suitable to our total dependence on God, to our natural meanness and weakness, to our sinful inclinations, to the guilt we have contracted in our lives; that therefore we be not puffed up with self-conceit, or vain confidence in ourselves, or in any thing about us; (any wealth, honor, or prosperity.) It directeth us also to compose our minds into a calm, serene, and cheerful state ; that we be not easily distempered with anger, or distracted with care, or overborne with grief, or disturbed with any accident befalling us; but that we be content in every condition, and entertain patiently all events, yea, accept joyfully from God's hand whatever he reacheth to us.
mandeth us to restrain our appetites, to be temperate in all our enjoyments, to abstain from all irregular pleasures, which are base in kind, or excessive in degree; which may corrupt our minds, or impair our health, or endamage our estate, or stain our good name, or prejudice our peace or repose : it doth not prohibit us the use of any creature, whence we may receive innocent convenience or delight, but indulgeth us a prudent and sober use of them all, with the sense of God's goodness, and thankfulness to him, who bestoweth them on us. Our religion also farther ordereth us (so far as our necessary occasions or duties permit) to sequester and elevate our minds from these low and transitory things, from the fading glories, the unstable possessions, the vanishing delights of this world ; things indeed unworthy the attention, unworthy the affection of an heavenborn and immortal spirit; that we should fix our thoughts, our desires, our endeavors on objects most worthy of them, objects high and heavenly, pure and spiritual, infinitely stable and durable ; not to love the world, and the things therein; to be careful for nothing, but to cast all our care on God's providence; not to labor for the meat that perisheth, not to trust in uncertain riches ; to have our treasure, our heart, our hope, our conversation above in heaven. Such directions our religion prescribeth; by compliance with which, if man be at ait capable of being happy, assuredly his happiness must be attained ; for that no present enjoyment can render a man happy, all experience proclaimeth : the restless motions we continually see, the woful complaints we daily hear, do manifestly demonstrate,
And who seeth not the great benefits and the goodly fruits accruing from observance of these laws and rules ? Who discerneth not the admirable consent of all these particular injunctions in our religion with that general one, · Whatever things are true, whatever things are just, whatever things are honest, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, or any praise, that we should mind such things,' and practice them? Such, and far more excellent than I am able to describe, is the rule of Christian practice; a rule in perfection, in beauty, in efficacy far surpassing all other rules ; productive of a goodness more complete, more lovely, more sprightful than any other doctrine or institution hath been or can be able to bring forth; much exceeding, not only the righteousness of blind Pharisees,' but all the virtue of the most sage philosophers; somewhat in part concurrent therewith philosophy hath descried and delivered ; (it is no wonder it should, since all of it is so plainly consonant to reason ;) yet what philosophy hath in this kind afforded, is in truth, if compared with what our religion teacheth, exceed. ingly meagre, languid, and flat: two words here, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself,' do signify more, do contain in them more sense and savor, to the judgment and relish of a well disposed mind, than the Ethics of Aristotle, the Offices of Cicero, the Precepts and Dissertations of Epictetus, the many other volumes of philosophical morality all put together; in matter our rule is far more rich and full, more sweet and sapid than theirs; in force and efficacy it doth also (as we shall hereafter see) far excel them.
4. We may hereto annex this consideration, which may pass for another peculiar advantage of our religion, that as it delivereth so excellent and perfect a rule of life, so it delivereth it unto us pure from any alloy debasing, free of any clog incumbering it; for that it chiefly, and in a manner only requireth of us a rational and spiritual service, consisting in performance of substantial duties, plainly necessary or profitable; not withdrawing us from the practice of solid piety and virtue by obligations to a tedious observance of many external rites; not spending the vigor of our minds on superficial formalities, (or busy scrupulosities, as Tertullian termeth them, *) such as serve only to amuse childish fancies, or to depress slavish spirits. It supposeth us men, men of good understanding and ingenuous disposition, and dealeth with us as such; and much more such it rendereth us, if we comply therewith. The ritual observances it enjoineth are as few in number, in nature simple and easy to perform, so evidently reasonable, very decent, and very useful; apt to instruct us in, able to excite us unto, the practice of most wholesome duties : which consideration show
* In Marc. 2.
eth this doctrine to be complete, suitable to the most adult age and best constitution, to the most ripe and improved capacities of man. But farther,
5. Our religion hath also this especial advantage, that it setteth before us a living copy and visible standard of good practice; wherein we have all its precepts compacted as it were into one body, and at once exposed to our view. Example yieldeth the most compendious instruction, together with the most efficacious incitement to action ; but never was there or could be any example in either respect comparable to this ; never was any so thoroughly perfect in itself, so purposely designed, so fitly accommodated for imitation, or so forcibly en gaging thereto, as this: there is not one flaw, one spot, one false or uneven stroke in all this copy, so that we are secure from doing amiss in transcribing any part thereof; it was intended to conduct us through all the parts of duty, especially those which are most high and difficult to our frail and decayed nature, general charity, self-denial, humility, and patience : it was admirably squared for the imitation of all men, the person in whom it shined being, as it were, indefinite, and unrestrained to any single condition; he being in right and power superior to the greatest princes, though according to choice and in outward parts inferior to the meanest subjects; having under his command the largest wealth, although enjoying none; being able readily to procure to himself what glory and respect he pleased, yet pleasing to pass obscure and disregarded; so teaching those of highest rank to be sober and condescensive, those of lowest degree to be patient and content in their respective states; teaching all men not to rest in, nor much to regard, these present things, but singly in all their doings above all things to seek God's honor, with main resolution and diligence to prosecute his service : and as to all degrees, so to all capacities, was his practice suited, being neither austere nor remiss, formal nor singular, careless nor boisterous; but in a moderate, even, and uniform course so tempered, that persons of all callings and all complexions easily might follow him in the practice of all true righteousness, in the performance of all substantial duties toward God and toward man. It is also an example attended with the greatest obligations and inducements to follow it; the great excellency and high dignity of the person, being the most holy, first-born Son of God, heir of eternal majesty; our manifold relations to him, being our Lord and Master, our best friend, our most gracious Redeemer ; the many inestimable benefits received by us from him, all that redemption from extreme misery, and capacity of perfect happiness do import, are so many potent arguments engaging us to imitate him.
6. Farther, our religion doth not only thus truly and fully acquaint us with our duty; but, which is another peculiar virtue thereof, it buildeth our duty on most solid grounds, presseth it with most valid inducements, draweth it from the best principles, and driveth it to the best ends: no philosophy can in any measure represent virtue so truly estimable and eligible, can assign so evident and cogent reason why we should embrace it and strictly adhere thereto, can so well discover or describe the excellent fruits that grow on it, as doth this philosophy of ours, as the ancient Fathers are wont to call it. Other philosophies have indeed highly commended virtue, and vehemently exhorted thereto; but the grounds on which they laid its praise are very sandy, the arguments by which they enforced its practice are very feeble, the principles from which they deduced it, and the ends which they propounded thereto, are very poor and mean, if we discuss them; at least if they be compared with ours : virtue, said they, is a thing of itself, on account of its own native beauty and worth, abstracting from all reward or profit springing from it, very admirable and desirable; it is beside a very pleasant and very useful thing, begetting tranquillity and satisfaction of mind; yielding health, safety, reputation, pleasure, quiet, and other manifold conveniences of life : but can so magnificent and so massy a fabric of commendation stand firm on such foundations as these ? are these principles of love and admiration toward we know not what, these ends of temporal advantage and convenience, so noble or worthy ? are the accommodations of this short and uncertain life a proper encouragement or a just recompense for the laborious achievements of true virtue ? are these weapons sufficient to fortify men, or these discourses able to animate them in resisting the temptations which avert from virtue, or