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the honours and affluence of the world, as not to be at all uneasy though he has them not; studying how, with a Christian temper, to abound and suffer want, that neither state may surprise him unprepared for it, nor at a loss how to demean himself in it.
I cannot but think every thing beyond this, relating to the present world, to be criminal, and a loving it too much ; and nothing more unbecoming creatures in our circumstances, who deserve nothing but to be miserable, than to be continually aspiring after greatness, and mighty restless and disturbed that this and that degree of wealth and honour is not ours. For what is this but ungratefully to disregard and undervalue the present instances of God's undeserved bounty to us, and, as much as in us lies, impiously to set aside, or arrogantly to impose upon his providence, and give directions to his all-wise disposals ?
Of the kingdom of heaven, indeed, and the crowns and glories there, we are allowed to be ambitious, and may and ought pursue them with the utmost vigour of our souls. He that said, Take heed and beware of covetousness b, has yet commanded us to provide ourselves bags that wax not old, and to lay up a treasure in heaven"; and that for this very reason, that where our treasure is, there our hearts might be also a He that bids us take no thought for to-morrow e, at the same time commands us to seek the kingdom of Godf, and has told us, that he is gone
prepare a place for us there; that where he is, there we may be also 8. As much ambition as we please, and the more the better, when the object is an incorruptible inheritance and an eternal crown of glory that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for ush; but as to the honours and affluence of this world, we must be as indifferent, contented, and resigned as a little child.
d Ver. 34
b Luke xii. 15. e Matt. vi. 34
c Ver. 33 f Ver. 33
g John xiv. 2, 3.
II. Secondly; to become like little children, is not to be puffed up with pride by any of the blessings of God, but always clothed with humility.
The difference of birth and fortune, wit and beauty, and the like, upon which we are so apt to overvalue ourselves when grown, make no alteration in the temper, of a little child. The easiness, and freedom, and good nature, and teachableness, and condescension, which are proper to the state of childhood, are not abated by any thing like this, till the whispers of mercenary servants, or the indiscreet commendations of others they converse with, poison the good disposition, and teach them pride and haughtiness and self-will. A most unhappy alteration, and which must be again rectified, and the soul reduced to its first happy temper, by every follower of Jesus Christ.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, says our Lord, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven i Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest for your souls k. Put on as the elect of God, holy and beloved, meekness and humbleness of mind', says the apostle, and be clothed with humility m, as the proper badge and cognizance of a Christian. And remember who made thee to differ, for what hast thou that thou didst not receive n?
h 1 Pet. i. 4. v. 4. Col. iii. 12.
i Matt. v. 3. m 1 Pet. v. 5.
k Matt. xi. 29. n 1 Cor. iv. 7.
But pride is every thing that is hateful and miserable, and there is nothing branded in scripture with a blacker character. And it is one of the great differences between the nature of God and that accursed spirit the Devil, that the power and wisdom and knowledge of the former is joined with goodness and a love to mankind, and a wondrous condescension in things relating to their happiness; but in the latter all is deeply tinctured with pride and malice and envy, and constantly employed in doing mischief to the world. And this it is that engages men to offer up their devoutest prayers and praises to that most gracious and good Being; and renders the other the hated object of their constant malediction and curse. And what can be a more inexcusable folly, as well as wickedness, than to make ourselves like Lucifer, the calamity of mankind, by the abuse of those very blessings, the due use of which, in a humane, humble way, would in great degrees have resembled us to God? But,
III. Thirdly, to become like little children is to be free from guile and hypocrisy, and hurtful dissimulation, both towards God and man.
In little children nothing is at first more remarkable than a free, undesigning openness of temper, without any colours or disguises put upon it; as they seem so they are, till, by acquaintance with the deceitful world, they learn to gloze and dissemble.
And, indeed, as the way of the world is, nothing sooner lost than sincerity, and nothing harder to recover; and the want of it is the source of most of the miseries of mankind. It renders society a snare, business a trick and a trepan, and religion a
very nothing: whereby a man's whole happiness is ruined, temporal and eternal.
It is true, sincerity does not oblige a man to lay open his breast to everybody, and it is very lawful, and indeed necessary, sometimes to conceal one's designs and purposes, one's sentiments and opinions. But prudent concealment is very far from guile and hypocrisy; the one only hides and covers what it is not fit should be seen, and the other makes a show of what really is not, and thrusts a falsehood upon mankind. And to have any thing to do with people of that trade is the most dangerous thing in the world; and he the most miserable person in it, who has in this manner lost his integrity, and given himself up to the practice of deceit. Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves P, says our Lord : that is, as prudence is very necessary in the management of the affairs of life, so nothing is truly wise and prudent but what is innocent. And the prudence of a man, joined with the sincerity of a little child, is what we are to endeavour after, and makes up the wisdom of a Christian.
IV. In the last place, to be converted, and become like little children, is to be of a forgiving temper, free from malice and revenge.
How little there is of this devilish disposition in little children, every day's observation will tell us. How soon are injuries and wrongs put up and forgotten, and how shortlived the resentment of those harmless emblems of a true disciple of Jesus ! No heartburnings, nor plottings of a mischievous retaliation; but when the first impression is worn off, which generally is very quickly too, all things are in the same state of innocent kindness and endearment as before.
p Matthew x.
How happy would it be for us, could we be children again in this particular! how happy for ourselves, and how happy for all about us! We might very well bear with one another's peevishnesses and mistakes and indiscretions, and little sudden heats, as we do with those of a little child, were we as much strangers to malice and revenge. For it is not the first stirrings of anger, upon our apprehending a thing as harmful and injurious, that is so fatal to mankind, but the suffering it to rankle into implacability. This is that we are so strictly forbidden by our blessed Saviour, and which must be utterly rooted out of the soul of every Christian, who must learn of little children to forget and to forgive.
These are the main strokes in which we are to be converted, and become like little children; and every man's own conscience will inform him, if he will listen to it, how far he is concerned in this great work, of changing and new moulding the temper and disposition of his soul: which certainly is one of the most difficult performances in the world, but yet absolutely necessary to our entering into the kingdom of heaven: for so our Lord expressly says in the text, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
II. Which to evince was the second thing I proposed to do upon this argument.
And, first, it is necessary that we be as free from greedy desires and restless endeavours after the greatness of the world as little children are; for this is the bane of true religion, and will conse