« AnteriorContinuar »
And first, the keeping innocency, and taking heed to the thing that is right, will bring a man peace and tranquillity in his own breast, as the more immediate result and present reward of it in his passage through this world.
For what can much disquiet him, who always makes it his sincere endeavour to perform that duty which is incumbent on him, to God, his neighbour, and himself: that worships God out of a pure heart fervently; and obeys his will, without reserve, to the best of his ability; and submits to his disposals with the greatest patience and humblest resignation that he is capable of shewing: that is kind and good, just and true, peaceable and useful, in his conversation with men; and, by leading a prudent, sober, temperate life, consults his health and his safety, his credit and reputation in the world ; and by industry in his calling, and a due regard to the obligations that his particular station and circumstances lay upon him, provides comfortably for his family, and preserves, if not improves, that portion of this world's good, which God's good providence has been pleased to bestow upon him: what, I say, can much disquiet so good a man as this ?
With respect to God, his mind is easy, not doubting his favour and good acceptance of him, and the continuance of his blessings to him, because he is not conscious of his wilfully offending him; or if he has, has humbled himself before him by sincere contrition, and such a godly sorrow as hath wrought repentance and amendment. And when, as every good man often does, he examines into his past actions, and calls himself to a serious account how he hath discharged the duty he owes to his great and good Creator, and compassionate Redeemer, he finds, that for the main he has loved and served them sincerely, though not perfectly; that his hearty endeavour has been to honour and obey them, and advance the interest of their heavenly kingdom, and praise and magnify their goodness to himself and all men, and make them the best and most grateful returns that he can; and desires nothing more than to persevere in so doing to the last, and then to be admitted into his divine Master's joy: the answer, as St. Peter calls it, of so good a conscience as this towards God c, must needs fill the soul of the happy man with inexpressible comfort and satisfaction; and drive out all terrifying fears and anxious thoughts relating to his future condition, either in this world or the next; not in the least questioning but he shall still enjoy God's providential care over him, while he shall think fit to continue him here, and partake of his usual bounty in such a measure as he knows to be properest and best for him; and when he shall please to call him hence, nothing doubting but he shall be happy with him in his eternal kingdom.
And should the face of affairs here below be very lowering, stormy, and tempestuous, and affect him, as well as others, in his outward concerns; yet he is a stranger to that amazement and confusion which then fills guilty breasts; and his mind is peaceful and serene, as relying upon the protection of the Most High : according to that of Isaiah, Thou shalt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in theed.
ci Pet. jii. 21.
d Isai. xxvi. 3.
What indeed may not an innocent and upright man hope for from a good and gracious God, who values an honest and true heart above all things. He may, perhaps, permit him to be tried and proved, but it is that afterwards he may shine the brighter. And whatever changes and varieties he may run through in this uncertain state, the effect of unfeigned righteousness must needs be quietness and assurance, at present and for ever e, with respect to God.
And as for men, an inoffensive, honest, useful way of life, cannot but be very endearing to them, and procure their good-will and affection, and consequently quietness and peace. For he that does what good he can to all, and gives nobody any real occasion of disturbance, it would be very hard and unreasonable if he should meet with ill usage himself; and, for the most part, he does not, but his days glide smoothly and silently on to the last, like a clear, deep river, till it falls into the ocean.
I say, it is for the most part so, not always; for sometimes even innocency and uprightness, though the most engaging things that can be, yet expose men to the malice of devilish tempers, that make it their business and delight to speak evil of, and do mischief to, the most eminently virtuous and good. But even then the quiet of their lives is greater than the disturbance of them; and their enemies but very few in comparison with their friends.
In his private conversation he is affable and courteous, free from giving any provocation to any one, speaking civilly to and well of all men, if he can with justice; if not, holding his peace : which prevents the clamours of contention and brawling, defending and proving ; things that when frequent utterly spoil the tranquillity of life. And if people will be so unreasonable as to be quarrelsome for nothing, he puts an end to the dispute by silence, and meekly gives place unto wrath.
e Isai. xxxii. 17.
In his dealings, being exactly just, and taking heed to the thing that is right, he is free from the perplexity and fatigue of lawsuits, unless in his own defence from rapine, oppression, and fraud, and the recovery of what ill men have unjustly detained from and deprived him of: and then, though he is forced to take that course for safety and redress, yet he does it with a placid evenness of spirit, designing nothing but what is righteous and just. Whereas those whose business is to trick and cheat their neighbours cannot escape being full of embroilments and vexations, and of shame and confusion too, when their evil practices are found out and punished.
And as for public peace, with respect to the government under which he lives, he studies to be quiet, and to do his own business; is by no means seditious and pragmatical; but keeping within the bounds of his own duty, without meddling with things that do not belong to him, and finding fault with what he knows little or nothing of; prays for, and endeavours to promote, as much as in him lies, the public tranquillity, submitting to the higher powers in obedience to the command of the supreme Ruler of all; trusting in his all-wise and good providence who is the great Governor among the nations. And then, whatever turns and alterations may be made, a man of integrity and unblemished credit, and whose temper is thus peaceable and quiet, will in all probability live in undisturbed repose, and see those storms fly over him, which fall heavy upon men of another character, and of more turbulent and busy spirits.
But should he chance to suffer, notwithstanding all this, for holding fast his integrity, and taking heed to the thing that is right, he will do it with that sedate calmness and quiet, though steady resolution, as will make even his enemies to be at peace with him, or at least admire him, and take off the edge of their fury against him.
And when in dangerous sickness, or other approach of death, he reflects upon the past conduct of his life, in the several stages and circumstances of it, and the relations he has stood in, and finds that he has all along kept innocency, and taken heed to the thing that is right, the satisfaction he will then feel will be inexpressible. To see a long series of actions run clear; not fouled by guile and hypocrisy, deceit and fraud, or any other baseness whatsoever; and such as, with the usual allowances for the unavoidable frailty and imperfection of human nature, he could justify to all the world; how delightful a prospect must this needs be to him, and how lovely and desirable the condition of so righteous a soul as
s! And those that are themselves strangers to this integrity and uprightness, and engaged in contrary practices, cannot but think those men tremely happy, who then feel the comfort of such inward joys as these.
For when a man is leaving the present world for ever, and has sufficiently seen the vanity and emptiness of it, and is in a condition that renders him