« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
praife and approbation, whofe judgment is always according to truth. It is a vain and endless thing to live up to the humours and opinions of men, which are variable and uncertain; but, if we keep fteady to our duty, we live to the confciences of men, which, first or last, will come to themselves, and come over to us, and approve of that which is good. This is, as St Paul speaks, to commend ourselves to every man's confcience in the fight of God.
(3.) Another virtue, for which there is great occafion in human life, and for which our Lord was very remarkable, was his contentedness in a mean and poor condition; and fuch was his condition to the very lowest degree. He was deftitute of the ordinary conveniencies and neceffary fupports of life; he lived generally upon the kindness and charity of others, and when that failed, and he wanted ordinary fupports, as he often did, he was maintained by miracle: And yet, in this mean and neceffitous condition, he had a conftant evennefs and ferenity of mind; he had no anxious care and folicitude upon him, what he should eat, and what he should drink, or wherewithal he should he cloathed; he never murmured at the unequal providence of God, never uttered one difcontented, or envious word at the plenty and prosperity of others; he rather pitied the misfortune of rich and great men, who were expofed to fo many temptations, that it was very hard for them, in his opinion, to be faved; but he enjoyed himfelf, and ferved God, and went about doing good, and depended upon the providence of God for his daily food; and if at any time that was wanting, he tells his dif ciples, that He had meat to eat which they knew not of: for it was his meat and drink to do the will of his Father. By all that appears in the history of his life (and we are fure that it is true) no man was ever poorer, and yet no man ever more contented than he was; which is not only an example of contentedness to thofe, whom the providence of God hath placed in the extremity of meannefs and want, but a much stronger and more forcible argument of contentment in every condition: For dif content is not only the portion of the poor, but of those who have a competency, because they have not plenty ; and,
and, many times, of thofe who have plenty and abundance, because they are wanton and foolish, and know not what they would have; fo that our Saviour, by giving an example of contentment to those of the poorest and meanest condition, hath given it much more to those who are in better circumftances. A narrow fortune is riches in comparison of none; a competency is plenty compared with poverty, and the want of the ordinary accommodations of life. If the Son of God fubmitted to the loweft and pooreft condition, and bore it with fo much evenness and tranquillity of mind; well may we, if God call us to it. If he, that was heir of all things, was deftitute of all things, and well contented to be fo; shall we murmur and repine, if we be in the fame circumstances? If this example be of any force (as it is certainly of the greateft) should the providence of God see fit to reduce us to the loweft condition of want, we have no reafon for difcontent; but if he affords us a competency, we have no colour or pretence for it, unless we think ourselves better than the Son of God, and can claim a greater right to the poffeffions and enjoyments of this world, than he that made it.
Before this example, we might have thought, that poverty and meannefs had been a fign of God's hatred and displeasure, or, at least, an argument of lefs love and regard: But now, that we see him whom God loved infinitely better than any man in the world, to have been one of the pooreft men that ever lived; this is a demonstration, that a man may be entirely beloved of God, though he be in the pooreft and most deftitute condition; for, in fuch a condition he thought fit to place his be loved Son, in whom he was well pleased. And if poverty be confiftent with the highest degree of God's love and favour, we may bear it contentedly; and if there be any reafon for contentment, even in poverty, to be difcontented in any condition that is above it, is fhameful and intolerable. Of fuch force is this example of our Lord, to banish discontent from any condition we are liable to in this world. The.
(4.) And laft virtue I fhall inftance in, and for the exercife whereof there is very great and frequent occafion
in human life, is patience under fufferings, and fuch a perfect refignation of ourselves to the will of God, that whatever pleaseth him should please us, how distasteful and grievous foever it be. And of this virtue our blessed Saviour was the greateft example that ever was; his whole life, from his birth to his death, was made perfecution and patience, and was a continual exercife of this virtue. There had been great examples, in all ages, of the fufferings and patience of good men, which we might propound to ourselves with great advantage; and fo St James exhorts the Chriftians to do, James v. 10. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of fuffering affliction, and of patience. Job efpecially was a moft eminent example in this kind: Ye have heard, fays he, of the patience of Job. And all these examples are of great use, and confiderable arguments to this virtue; but the pattern of our Lord's fuffering and patience is a greater example, and a more powerful argument than all thefe. His fufferings were far greater than any man's ever were: Never was any forrow like to his forrow, wherewith the Lord afflicted him in the day of his fierce anger: And his pa tience was greater than any man's ever was, not only be cause he fuffered more than any one of the fons of men ever did, but because he fuffered without cause, being perfectly innocent, and free from the leaft perfonal fault and guilt. Well may we bear the indignation of the Lord patiently, because we have finned against him. Whatever we fuffer, our confciences tell us we have deferved it all, and much more, from the hand of God, and that our punishment is always lefs than our iniquities have deferved. Sin is at the bottom of all our fufferings, and if we be buffeted for our faults, we ought to take it patiently. Upon this confideration, St Peter recommends to us the example of our Lord's fuffering and patience, as a powerful argument to work the fame temper and dif pofition in us, 1 Peter ii. 20, 21, 22. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and fuffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For
bereunto were ye called: becaufe Chrift alfo fuffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye fhould follow his Steps, who did no fin. Where the Apoftle infinuates a twofold difference between our Lord's fufferings for us, and ours. He fuffered for us: But we upon our and for our own faults. He was perfectly innocent, he had no fin, and yet he fuffered with fo much patience; much more ought we: For by how much the more guilt, fo much the greater reason for patience; and the more innocent the perfon is that fuffers, fo much the more perfect and commendable is his patience.
So that the greatnefs of our Lord's fufferings, confidered together with his perfect innocency, gives his example a peculiar force and advantage above all other examples whatfoever. And, therefore, the Apostle to the Hebrews, after a great number of examples of the perfecution and patience of the faints in all ages, not content with thefe, he adds that of our Lord, as the most perfect and powerful example of all others, Heb. xii. 1, 2, 3. Wherefore, feeing we also are compaffed about with fuch a cloud of witneffes, let us run with patience the race that is fet before us, looking unto Jefus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was fet before him, endured the cross, defpifing the fhame. For confider him that endured fuch contradiction of finners against himfelf, left ye be weary and faint in your minds. Such contradiction of finners; fuch as no man ever endured; and yet he bore all this, not with a ftoical and ftupid infenfibility, but with a true patience. For no man had greater apprehenfions of fuffering, and a more quick and tender fense of it, than he had. He had not only the more manly virtues of wisdom, and refolution, and conftancy; but was cloathed alfo with the fofter paffions of human nature, meeknefs, and compaffion, and grief, and a tender fenfe of pain and fuffering. He took our infirmities, fays the Prophet, and bore our griefs. And this he expreffed, both in his agony in the garden, and in his behaviour upon the crofs; he did not defpife pain, but dreaded it, and yet fubmitted to it; he did not out brave his fufferings,
but bore them decently; he had a human sense of them, but underwent them with a divine patience, refigning himself abfolutely to the will of God, when he faw them coming: and when they were upon him, expreffing a great fense of pain, without the leaft fign of impatience. And hereby he was a pattern accommodated to the weakest and tendereft of mankind; he did not give us an extravagant example of bravery, and a sturdy refolution; but, which was much fitter for us, of a patient fubmiffion to the will of God, under a great fenfe of fuffering.
Before I come to the fifth and last advantage of our Lord's example, it will be requifite to clear what hath been faid from three or four obvious objections. But this I fhall referve for another discourse.
The life of Jefus Chrift confidered, as our example.
Preached March 25th 1686.
I PET. ii. 21,
-Leaving us an example, that ye fhould follow bis fteps.
The third fermon on this text.
HE example of Chrift is an argument never unfeasonable; and though it be fomewhat foreign to the occafion of this day, yet it will afford us fomething not improper to be confidered by us, concerning the blessed mother of our Lord. I have handled this argument of our Lord's example very largely, and, among other things, have fhewn the manifold advantages of it, in these following refpects:
I. That the example of our Lord is a most abfolute