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tion; anger is eloquent; revenge is sweet. But to stand calm and collected; to suspend the blow, which passion was urgent to strike; to drive the reasons of clemency as far as they will go; to bring forward fairly in view the circumstances of mitigation; to distinguish between surprise and deliberation, infirmity and crime; or if an infliction be deemed necessary, to leave God to be both the judge and the executioner-This a christain should labour after.
His peace requires it. People love to sting the passionate. They who are easily provoked, commit their repose to the keeping of their enemies; they lie down at their feet, and invite them to strike. The man of temper places himself beyond vexatious interruption and insult. "He that hath no rule overhis own spirit, is like a city that is broken down and without walls," into which enter over the ruins, toads, serpents, vagrants, thieves, enemies; while the man, who in patience possesses his soul, has the command of himself, places a defence all around him, and forbids the entrance of such unwelcome company to offend or discompose.
His wisdom requires it. "He that is slow to an ger is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly." Anger resteth in the bosom of fools." Wisdom gives us large, various, comprehensive, sailing-round views of things; the very exercise operates as a diversion, affords the mind time to cool, and furnishes numberless circumstances tending to soften severity. Such is the meekmess of wisdom. Thus candour is the offspring of knowledge.
His dignity requires it. "It is the glory of a man "to pass by a transgression.' "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." The man provoked to revenge, is conquered, and loses the glory of the struggle; while he who forbears, comes off a victor, crowned with no common laurels ; for, "he that is slow to anger is better than the mighty: and
he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city." A flood assails a rock, and rolls off, unable to make an impression; while straws and boughs are borne off in triumph, carried down the stream, "driven with "the wind, and tossed."
It is also required by examples the most worthy of our imitation. What provcocations had Joseph received from his brethren! but he scarcely mentions the crime, so eager is he to announce the pardon: "and he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt: now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life." Hear David they rewarded me evil for good, to the spoiling of my soul. But as for me, when they were sick my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting, and my prayer returned into my own bosom. I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother!" View Stephen, dying under a shower of stones: he more than pardons; he prays; he is more concerned for his enemies, than for himself; in praying for himself, he stood; in praying for his enemies, he kneeled; he kneeled and said, "Lord lay not this sin to their charge." A greater than Joseph, a greater than David, a greater than Stephen, is here. HE endured every kind of insult; but "when he was reviled, he reviled not again when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously."
Go to the foot of the cross, and behold him suffering for us, "leaving us an example " that we should follow his steps." Every thing conspired to render the provocation heinous; the nature of the offence, the meanness and obligations of the offenders, the righteousness of his cause, the grandeur of his person; all these seemed to call for. vengeance. The creatures were eager to punish. Peter drew his sword. The sun resolved to shine on such criminals no longer. The rocks asked leave to crush them.
The earth trembles under the sinful load. The very dead cannot remain in their graves. He suffers them all to testify their sympathy, but forbids their revenge; and lest the Judge of all should pour forth HIS fury, he instantly cries, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." "Here is the patience of" a God.
Christianity a Practical Principle.
All the doctrines of the Gospel are practical principles. The word of God was not written, the Son of God was not incarnate, the Spirit of God was not given, only that christians might obtain right. views, and possess just notions. Religion is something more than mere correctness of intellect, justness of conception, and exactness of judgement. It is a life-giving principle. It must be infused into the habit, as well as govern in the understanding: it must regulate the will as well as direct the creed. It must not only cast the opinions into a new frame, but the heart into a new mould. It is a transforming as well. as a penetrating principle. It changes the tastes, gives activity to the inclinations, and, together with a new heart, produces a new life.
There is a class of visionary, but pious writers who seem to shoot as far beyond the mark, as mere moralists fall short of it. Men of low views and gross minds may be said to be wise below what is written,. while those of too subtle refinement are wise above it.. The one grovel in the dust from the inertness of their intellectual faculties; while the others are lost in the clouds by stretching them beyond their appointed: limits. The one build spiritual castles in the air, instead of erecting them on the "holy ground" of Srip
ture; the other lay their foundation in the sand instead of resting it on the rock of ages. Thus, the superstructure of both is equally unsound.
God is the fountain from which all the streams of goodness flow; the centre from which all the rays of blessedness diverge. All our actions are, therefore, only good, as they have a reference to Him: the streams must revert back to their fountain, the rays must converge again to their centre.
If love of God be the governing principle, this powerful spring will actuate all the movements of the rational machine. The essence of religion does not so much consist in actions as affections. Though right actions, therefore, as from an excess of courtesy they are commonly termed may be performed where there are no right affections; yet are they a mere carcase, utterly destitute of the soul, and, therefore, of the substance of virtue. But neither can affections substantially and truly subsist without producing right actions; for never let it be forgotten that a pious inclination which has not life and vigour sufficient to ripen into act when the occasion presents itself, and a right action which does not grow out of a sound principle, will neither of them have any place in the account of real goodness. A good inclination will be contrary to sin, but a mere inclination will not subdue sin.
The love of God, as it is the source of every right action and feeling, so it is the only principle which necessarily involves the love of our fellow creatures. As man we do not love man. There is a love of partiality but not of benevolence; of sensibility but not of philanthropy; of friends and favourites, of parties and societies, but not of man collectively. It is true we may, and do, without this principle, relieve his distresses, but we do not bear with his faults. We may promote his fortune, but we do not forgive his offences; above all, we are not anxious for his immortal interests. We could not see him want without pain, but we can see him sin without emotion. We
could not hear of a beggar perishing at our door without horror, but we can, without concern, witness an acquaintance dying without repentance. Is it not strange that we must participate something of the divine nature, before we can really love the human ; It seems, indeed, to be an insensibility to sin, rather than want of benevolence to mankind, that makes us naturally pity their temporal and be careless of their spiritual wants; but does not this very insensibility proceed from the want of love to God?
All virtues, it cannot be too often repeated, are sanctified or unhallowed according to the principle which dictates them: and will be accepted or rejected accordingly. This principle, kept in due exercise, becomes a habit, and every act strengthens the inclination, adding vigour to the principle and pleasure to the performance.
Every individual should bear in mind, that he is sent into this world to act a part in it. And though have a more splendid, and another a more obscure part assigned him, yet the actor of each is equally, is awfully accountable. Though God is not a hard, he is an exact Master. His service, though not a severe, is a reasonable service. He accurately proportions his requisitions to his gifts. If he does not expect that one talent should be as productive as five, yet to even a single talent a proportionable responsibility is annexed.
What an example of disinterested goodness and unbounded kindness, have we in our heavenly father, who is merciful over all his works, who distributes common blessings without distinction, who bestows the necessary refreshments of life, the shining sun and the refreshing shower, without waiting, as we are apt to do, for personal merit, or attachment or gratitude; who does not look out for desert, but want as a qual ification for his favours; who does not afflict willingly, who delights in the happiness, and desires the salvation of all his children, who dispenses his daily munificence and bears with our daily offences; who in