Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

will overtake him at the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God! So miserable a thing is it for a man to be without simplicity and godly sincerity ; for he provokes God by his religion, and by pretending to be nearer heaven than other people, increases his damnation in hell. He fasts and prays, attends diligently upon the sacrament and hearing of the word, and gives away his alms in greater measure than ordinary perhaps ; and all this, for want of an honest and good heart, to no better purpose than to have his portion with hypocrites and unbelievers.

Whatever therefore the wisdom of the world may suggest in favour of subtlety and craft, of thick disguises, fawning smiles, and smooth pretences; of cunning doublings, and giving things a false turn to serve a present interest; that must needs be a very unwise way of proceeding which tends to the ruin of society, and the great dishonour of God, and the man's own irreparable disgrace; and fixes an immortal sting withal in his guilty breast, which he shall always carry about with him, as his inseparable tormentor. Here is misery on all sides; within as well as without; hereafter as well as now; a wounded conscience, and a ruined reputation at present, and endless woe in reversion. It makes God our enemy, almost irreconcilably, and turns us into so many beasts of prey to one another; and thereby renders human life very much like the state of the damned: where, besides an eternal enmity with, and banishment from him who is our chief good, and the perpetual gnawings of the worm of conscience, every one is a devil to his neighbour, and helps to increase his misery.


But now, how lovely does the wisdom that is from above appear in comparison with this !

It is first pure, made up of undesigning simplicity and godly sincerity ; which obliges every man to the utmost integrity and unmixed truth in all his conversation. And then it is peaceable, by consequence; all occasion of contention and strife being removed, where men are strictly just and good : and should it arise through the mixture of selfish principles and worldly wisdom, sincerity and uprightness in the administration of justice soon puts a stop to it, relieves the injured, and punishes the wrongdoer. It is likewise gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

This is the wisdom which St. James tells us is from above, James iii; and simplicity and godly sincerity is a great ingredient in it. How happy should we be if we guided our practice by it! and how wise, consequently, in thus securing to ourselves a constant happiness !

It is a happiness too great indeed to be hoped for, with respect to the generality of the world; which, were it acted by a spirit of simplicity and godly sincerity, would be more like the kingdom of heaven than a state of banishment and probation. But every particular person, however, in whatever station he is, should make it his great endeavour always to have the testimony of a good conscience in this matter, that in simplicity and godly sincerity he hath had his conversation in the world; for that, as it will very much conduce to the public good, so it will be a never-failing spring to himself, of the


most solid joy and lasting satisfaction, in all the various turns and changes of it.

If he prospers, his honour and his plenty, his credit and esteem, have their full relish; not at all embittered with a sense of inward guilt, the lashes of conscience for vile practices, the dread of man's discovery, and dire forebodings of the wrath to come. There is no need of racking, anxious thought which way to compass this or that design, and yet to be unseen in the prosecution of it; for the designs of simplicity and godly sincerity want no covering, no disguises ; but all things move on with evenness, quiet, and satisfaction, and a generous openness and freedom, perfectly easy to the happy man himself, and infinitely taking with every body else. What a flow of joy unspeakable does fill his soul, when looking back upon his actions past, he sees a vein of sincerity run quite through them; and when envy would fain blacken him, and ill tongues begin a loud whisper to his disgrace, can, with good old Samuel, boldly challenge all the world, and say, Behold, here I am: witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith 8 ? The wicked flee when no man pursueth h, says Solomon: a guilty mind betrays itself, imagines its underhand designs and dark intrigues are discovered before they are; and by unusual timorousness, and a disordered look and behaviour, ill men often give the first hint and occasion to suspicion; and then & I Sam. xii. 3.

h Prov. xxviii. 1.


are quite confounded when a home-charge is made : but the righteous are bold as a lion. For what is there that a man of integrity can be afraid of? How undaunted is an untouched conscience ? And with what assurance, and success too, does it defend itself against the most prying and restless malice; and has a double triumph, that within, and another before


So that innocent prosperity may well be looked upon as God's peculiar blessing, and a kind of recovery of paradise : but then, should temptation enter and prevail, and sincerity be lost, all is turned immediately to briers and thorns, to vanity and vexation of spirit.

But should a truly good man fall under crosser circumstances, and be overlooked and neglected, low, and in straits, and a wicked world frowns on him ; yet still his mind is a paradise, nay, a heaven of satisfaction and content. Simplicity and godly sincerity teach him perfect resignation to the all-wise and good providence of God, in whom he entirely confides, believing he knows what circumstances of life are best for him, better than he himself does; and therefore he cheerfully acquiesces in all the divine disposals. They preserve him from taking any unjust methods to raise his fortune, and set him above the base arts which are generally made use of to grow rich and great. So that his conscience being easy, and bearing him a good testimony, that inward tranquillity and peace which he enjoys will make his privacy and meanness more happy, and more honourable too, than the most eminent and gainful stations where these are wanting.

Innocence and contentment make every condition sit easy; and the little that a man thus righteous hath, is far better than great riches of the ungodly.

But besides the meanness of his circumstances, suppose him to be exercised with great afflictions, for many are the troubles even of the righteous, no cordial then like the testimony of a good conscience. That was Job's main comfort amidst all his miseries, and the stinging upbraidings of his pretended friends; and all along his resolution was this, (and the wisest one he could make, and which turned to very good account in the conclusion,) My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me! That he hugged close, as his only comfort and support, when every thing else had failed him : and when he was reviled and reproached, and ill things were thrown upon him, which he knew nothing of; whatever their false tongues might asperse him with, my heart, says he, shall not reproach me as long as I live, for what is the hope of the hypocritek? And so St. Paul in my text, when expecting every minute to be exposed to the fury of wild beasts, could yet rejoice in the testimony of his conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity he had had his conversation in the world.

And when, through age or sickness, a man's life draws near its end, and his past actions recur to his thoughts, and appear as they are, in their proper colours, without those disguises which custom, men's natural temper, and the allurements of present pleasure and advantage put upon them when the evil day seems far off; and when the soul, consequently, feels the genuine effects of virtue or vice respeci Job xxix. xxxi.

k Job xxvii. 5, 6, 8.

« AnteriorContinuar »